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Rus’ in the ethnic nomenclature of the Povest’ vremennykh let

Rus’ in the ethnic nomenclature of the Povest’ vremennykh let

By Paul Bushkovitch

Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique, Vol.12:3 (1971)

Introduction: The problem of the origin and significance of the term Rus’ in the early history of Russia is normally considered in terms of the Anti-Normannist-Normannist debate on the role of the Varangians in the formation of the Russian state. The debate on the word Rus’ there fore revolves around the question of a Scandinavian or East Slavic origin for the word. However, if the problem of Rus’ is considered rather in terms of the ethnic terminology used by our unique written source for the earliest period of Russian history, the Povesť vremennykh let, the problem becomes considerably more complicated, but perhaps more fruitful. For an analysis of this ethnic nomenclature seems to show that there is a definite correlation between the use of words and the social nature of the tribes, as they are perceived by the Povesť, and that among these tribal names of the Eastern Slavs, the name Rus’ is absolutely unique.

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