The Rise and Demise of the Myth of the Rus’ Land
By Charles J. Halperin
ARC Humanities Press
This open-access book examines the concept of the Rus’ Land and how modern Russian nationalism made it the equivalent of “Russia.” It looks at how this myth developed during the medieval and early modern periods.
In this excerpt, Halperin offers his main argument:
I would contend that the Rus’ Land did refer to a country and a people, but the country was defined as the territory ruled by a Volodimerovich prince and the people were defined as the residents of that territory. Therefore, the Rus’ Land served overwhelmingly to elevate the status of the ruler, not the country or the people, but it was still a myth, a myth of the Rus’/ Volodimerovichi princely dynasty. To be a “land” a political entity had to have a Rus’ dynastic line. Moreover, the Rus’ Land did undergo rationalization and rather frequent utilization. Russian nationalist historiography erred in projecting adherence to the myth beyond the elite to the “people,” for which we have no evidence, and in mistaking the myth of the Rus’ Land for a Romantic nationalist reality, as if in all periods the Rus’ Land meant “Russia.”
Who is this book for?
This is a very technical book, examining sources such as chronicles to understand how various parts of Eastern Europe and present-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus viewed their own political entities. It is mostly geared towards scholars of Eastern Europe and Russia. However, the debate over the concept of Rus’ is one of the underlying factors in the current Russian-Ukrainian war, so it can also help people better understand the historical aspects of that conflict.
Charles J. Halperin has been an important historian of medieval Rus’ since the 1980s. He is now an independent scholar and has written several books and dozens of articles. Click here to view his Academia.edu page.
This book is open-access, so you can download PDF files of each chapter via the De Gruyter website.