The Riurikid Relationship with the Orthodox Christian Church in Kievan Rus

Moscow - RurikidsThe Riurikid Relationship with the Orthodox Christian Church in Kievan Rus

David Siewell,

Western Oregon University: History Department, June 11, (2012)


Prior to the late tenth century, the princes of the Riurikid dynasty were rulers over the loose collection of pagan Slavic tribes and minor city states that were Kievan Rus. However, in a relatively short period, the dynasty had linked itself and its legitimacy to rule to the Orthodox Christian Church centered in Constantinople. Though mostly limited to particular aspects of life, the Riurikid princes seemed willing to relinquish a certain amount of power and wealth to the Church. In certain ways they tried to blur the lines of distinction between Riurikid secular suzerainty and the Church’s spiritual authority. After 988 and throughout the eleventh, twelfth, and early thirteenth centuries, the princes promoted the Church through the granting and sustaining of a special privileged status. They made Church personnel and lands immune from taxation and relinquished jurisdiction in certain areas of law enforcement to the Church as well. The Riurikid princes gave tithes from their own revenue collection and gave up a portion of fees and bloodwites.

The princes’ promotion of the Church was reciprocated by Church officials who, in sermons and chronicles, would elevate the appearance of piety among the members of the dynasty. According to historian Janet Martin, the result of this relationship was that “the Church became a second institution, along with the Riurikid dynasty, that gave shape and definition to the emerging state.” Though it most likely played a role, their relationship with Orthodox Christianity was less about personal piety and more about a pragmatic investment in the future. Once Christianity was adopted, the Riurikid princes, by relinquishing a share of their wealth and governing power to the Church, attempted to create a perceived link between religion and government that would legitimize their claim to rule in the eyes of the population.

Click here to read this thesis from Western Oregon University

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