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[Fwd: TMR 08.06.10 Poppe, Christian Russia (Caudano)]

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  • jenne@fiedlerfamily.net
    This should be of interest to members of the list! ... Subject: TMR 08.06.10 Poppe, Christian Russia (Caudano) From: The Medieval Review
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 4 9:38 PM
      This should be of interest to members of the list!

      ---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
      Subject: TMR 08.06.10 Poppe, Christian Russia (Caudano)
      From: "The Medieval Review" <tmrl@...>
      Date: Wed, June 4, 2008 1:14 pm
      To: tmr-l@...

      Poppe, Andrzej. <i>Christian Russia in the Making</i>. Variorum
      Collected Studies Series CS 867. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007. Pp.
      378. $ 124.95. ISBN: 978-0-7546-5911-2.

      Reviewed by Anne-Laurence Caudano
      University of Winnipeg

      <i>Christian Russia in the Making</i> gathers together twelve articles
      written by Andrzej Poppe between 1980 and 2003, two of which are here
      published in English for the first time. With this volume, Poppe
      offers the results of his ongoing studies of Rus' early statehood and
      conversion to Christianity, in the manner of an earlier collection
      published in 1982 (Andrzej Poppe, <i>The Rise of Christian Russia</i>.
      London: Variorum Reprints, 1982). The articles focus on three themes:
      the baptism of Rus' rulers and the Christianisation process; dynastic
      problems in the early history of Rus; and the appearance of religious
      objects with a curious history, such as the Magdeburg doors on St
      Sophia of Novgorod. Studying the early years of the Rus state is a
      difficult task, considering the lack of documentation from this period
      and, when documents exist, their late manuscript tradition. Poppe is
      aware of this problem, and navigates through these pitfalls with
      finesse to (re-)interpret the textual evidence related to, for
      instance, Olga's baptism (such as Constantine VII's <i>De
      Ceremoniis</i> and the <i>Continuation of the Chronicle of Regino of
      Pr|m</i>), Vladimir's decision to take Christianity (for instance in
      Ilarion's <i>Sermon on Law and Grace</i> and in the <i>Memory and
      Eulogy of the Rus Prince Vladimir</i>) and the martyrdoms of Boris and
      Gleb (in the <i>Tale of the Passion of the Holy Martyrs Boris and
      Gleb</i>), to only cite a few. These textual discussions may appear
      technical at times; they are inevitable in the study of Early Rus,
      however. Because a few articles presented in this volume are more than
      fifteen years old, some results have been surpassed or challenged by
      recent discoveries and studies. The author, though, does not hesitate
      to admit that fact (e.g. in the addendum to article II) or to respond
      to these challenges (e.g. in the addenda to article IX). The volume is
      complemented by a useful index of places, names and scholars.

      With "The Rurikid Dynasty or Seven Hundred Years of Shaping Eastern
      Europe" (number I), the volume opens with an informative summary of
      the history of the Rurikid dynasty, from its founder Rurik to the
      accession of the Romanovs. While not particularly insightful, this
      overview is a useful reminder for the non-specialist. Among the twelve
      studies presented here, two are especially engaging, and I wish to
      pursue them. The first (number VII), "Losers on Earth, Winners from
      Heaven. The Assassinations of Boris and Gleb in the Making of
      Eleventh-Century Rus", represents the fruit of a scholarly career
      devoted in part to explain the murder by Sviatopolk of his two younger
      brothers after the death of Vladimir in 1015. The essay is organised
      around three issues: Vladimir's failed attempt to modify the line of
      succession in favour of his younger sons born to the Byzantine
      princess Anna Porphyrogenita; an intermediate period during which the
      names of the two brothers were seemingly forgotten by the members of
      the ruling family; and, finally, Boris and Gleb's accession to
      sainthood in 1072 and the rapid rise of their cult. The analysis of
      the sources describing the veneration of the two martyrs, all written
      around the time of the translation of their relics in 1072, reveals
      how this political event has been re-interpreted in a religious
      fashion, and how "the sacrifice of the princes symbolized Rus'
      transformation into a Christian country with clear ethical and
      religious goals" (166). This, in turn, testifies to Rus' recently
      acquired Christian mentality at the end of the eleventh century.

      Close to this issue, the second article (number VIII), "The Sainthood
      of Vladimir the Great: Veneration-in-the-Making", examines how
      gradually Vladimir, who accepted baptism in 988, came to be venerated
      as a saint and, later, identified as <i>isapostolos</i>, or "performer
      of a work equal to the apostles" (51). In an original way, Poppe
      explores Vladimir's Christianity. This is a complex question since
      most of the sources related to this issue are greatly prejudiced in
      his favour (for instance the "Philosopher's Speech" in the <i>Povest'
      vremennykh let</i>) or against him (e.g. the <i>Chronicle</i> of
      Thietmar of Merseburg). Aspects of the discussion include "the
      decision to place the sarcophagi of Vladimir and Anna under the
      crossing of the Church of the Tithe" (10) and Vladimir's familiarity
      to Christianity from his youth. With the help of texts, onomastics and
      iconography, the study highlights how Vladimir's cult developed during
      the eleventh to thirteenth century, even though the ruler had not yet
      gained formal recognition as a saint. Although one should not look for
      any special ecclesiastical procedure of "canonisation", which did not
      exist in that time and place, this event should be situated between
      1290 and 1311, according to Poppe. Such a "delay in the glorification
      of Vladimir" has been attributed to the overall reluctance of
      Constantinople to recognise local saints (51).

      Other studies are concerned with the conversion of rulers and the rise
      of Christianity in the land of the Rus. In "Once Again Concerning the
      Baptism of Olga, Archontissa of Rus" (number II), the author re-
      examines the evidence related to Olga's baptism. Paying special
      attention to the Ottonian data, Poppe re-interprets the context of
      Olga's visit to Constantinople in 957 and that of the German mission
      to Kiev in 959. The discovery of a palimpsest fragment of the <i>De
      ceremoniis</i> by M. Featherstone clearly questions the results of
      this article, originally published in 1992. Poppe's response in an
      addendum and his reappraisal of the issue show how debated the problem
      remains today (278a-279a). Two more essays focus on the primary
      sources that allude to the conversion of the Rus and its religious or
      political impact at the time. "How the Conversion of Rus Was
      Understood in the Eleventh Century" (number III) gathers evidence from
      Rus' neighbours, while "Two Concepts of the Conversion of Rus in
      Kievan Writings" (number IV) analyses the responses of the Rus
      themselves. It is striking to see the few, if not non-existent,
      reactions of the Byzantines to this event, which Poppe attributes to
      inherent rules of Byzantine courtly historiography. Vladimir's
      conversion is mentioned in Arabic, Armenian and Ottonian historical
      sources, however, where the event acquires a political significance.
      As one may expect, it figures prominently in Rus writings where,
      unsurprisingly, Vladimir is given the initiative for the occasion.
      "The Christianization and Ecclesiastical Structures of Kievan Rus to
      1300" (number V) discusses the difficult question of the penetration
      of Christianity in the land of the Rus. Aspects of this study include
      the evidence for a Christian presence before Vladimir's conversion in
      988; the elaboration of tales of Christianization, for instance the
      tradition of St Andrew's wanderings; and the institutionalization of
      Christianity through the gradual organisation of a Metropolitan See
      and bishoprics. Finally, "Leontios, Abbot of Patmos, Candidate for the
      Metropolitan See" (number VI) draws the portrayal of Leontios as an
      example of, usually little-known, bishops appointed by Byzantium to
      the See of Rus (2).

      The use of the title of "Grand Prince" in Rus is the object of another
      set of studies, "Words that Serve the Authority. On the Title of Grand
      Prince in Kievan Rus" (number IX) and "On the Title of Grand Prince in
      the Tale of Ihor's Campaign" (number X). In them, Poppe analyses the
      references to Rus princely titles in Rus and Byzantine texts. The
      author cautions the use of princely terminology, found in documents
      composed early but preserved in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century
      manuscripts, as evidence for the usage of this titulature already in
      the eleventh century. This, in essence, is the warning given to Martin
      Dimnik in an addendum responding to an article published by the latter
      in 2004 (IX, pages 185a-189a). According to Poppe, there is no
      evidence for the use of this title in Rus before the end of the
      twelfth century.

      The volume ends with the reprint of two articles devoted to intriguing
      religious objects such as the Magdeburg bronze doors of St Sophia in
      Novgord (number XI), or the "So-Called Chersonian Antiquities" (number
      XII). The first offers the curious history of these doors, originally
      cast in Magdeburg in the mid-twelfth century for the Cathedral of
      P?ock (Poland), and of how they came to be mounted in Novgorod in the
      mid-fifteenth century. The second is an enquiry into the circumstances
      that prompted the Rus to call a few religious objects "Chersonian",
      for instance the miracle-working icon of St Nicolas Zarazskij, the
      Magdeburg doors of St Sophia of Novgorod, and shrines found between
      Novgorod and Moscow. In most cases, this qualification did not appear
      before the late fifteenth century and reveals an attempt to appear as
      a legitimate heir to Constantinople by providing these objects with a
      Greek origin.

      <i>Christian Russia in the Making</i> will be welcomed by historians
      interested in medieval statehood formation and religious
      institutionalisation in Eastern Slavic history. While the volume
      appears repetitive and dated at times, a weakness inherent to a
      collection of re-printed articles, it assembles and makes readily
      accessible the more recent work of a prominent scholar of the
      political and religious environment of Early Rus.

      -- Jenne Heise / Jadwiga Zajaczkowa
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