Origin Stories: The Kyivan Rus in Ukrainian Historiography
by Valur Gunnarsson
The Russians and the Ukrainians, and indeed the Belarusians too, share an origin myth
which reaches back to the legendary Rurik’s founding of the kingdom of the Kyivan Rus However, rather than reaching fruition in the early 20th century, as was the case in much of Central Europe, the origin story was subsumed into the Soviet experiment, and only remerged after 1991. It is still very much a work in progress.
Here we will look at how the founding myth of the Rus has been used in the Ukrainian
nation building project, which will unavoidably lead to comparisons with Russia and, to a
lesser extent, other neighbouring countries such as Poland, Belarus and Lithuania. From the Normanist debate of the mid-18th century to the rise of nationalism in the 19th century and the use of the Rus in the the Soviet Union, we turn to the present with its all its historical complexity and political ramifications regarding the relationship between Ukraine and Russia.
Equal Rites: Parsing Rus’ Gender Values through an Arabic Lens
by Tonicha Upham
By taking a gender studies approach, and considering the construction of “the Other” in an imperial context, the thesis dissects the various characterisations of Rus’ women in Arabic sources. Based on descriptions of the Rus’ by Ibn Faḍlān, Ibn Rusta, al-Istakhrī, al-Mas’ūdī, Ibn Ḥawqal, Marwazī, and Miskawayh, various female archetypes are explored under two broad categorisations: women who become funerary sacrifices, and women encountered in other environments. By foregrounding the presentation of women, the thesis seeks to explore how and why images of the Rus’ were created the way they were by those who considered them distant, exotic, and barbaric.
The West on The North in The East: Western images of the Norse and the Rus’, 800-1250 AD
by Ryan Fenster
While Arabic and Byzantine sources as well as Icelandic Saga references to the Rus have been widely examined, contemporary Latin sources from Western Europe on the subject have received less attention. This thesis examines seven Latin sources, dating from the mid-ninth to the early thirteenth centuries AD; the Annales Bertiniani, the Annales Fuldenses, the Chronicon of Regino of Prüm and Adalbert of Magdeburg, the Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg, the Gesta Hammaburgensis, the Chronica Slavorum of Helmold of Bosau, and the Gesta Danorum. These sources are subjected to Quantitative and Qualitative Data Analysis, looking at the language used to describe both the Norse and the Rus’. The end result finds that the two groups were described in relatively similar terms, and that western attitudes softened towards both over time, as Christianity spread in the North and the East.
The Viking Rus and the Khazars: Points of contact in the 9th and 10th centuries
by Elliot Anning Jones
The Khazar Khaganate was one of the leading powers of south-eastern Europe in the 7th to 9th centuries, holding its own against the Arabs, the Byzantines and the Persians. It is even suggested that they may have played the same role in stopping the northeast expansion of the Arabs as the battle of Tours did in the northwest in 732. The Khazars may equally have played a major role in the Varangian exploits to the east, facilitating their trade across the Caspian as well as the Black Sea. The Rus may have become formal vassals of the Khazars, as their leaders are often referred to as Khagans. Ultimately, the Rus would overthrow the Khazars, ending centuries of co-operation and competition. Here, the sources, most of which were written in Arabic, are re-examined to cast light on the Rus and the Khazars and the interaction between them.