The Origin of Russia

The Origin of Russia

The Origin of Russia

The Origin of Russia

Excerpt

The present work deals with the history of Rus from the 9th to the 14th century. The term "Rus" (the "u" should be pronounced as in "put," while the "s" is soft) is always used in east European sources of this period as well as of later times. There is, however, no counterpart to it in any western language. The name "Russia," finally stabilized during the 18th century and specially connected with Moscow, has an entirely different connotation to that of the old Rus. "Russia" in English, "Russie" in French, "Russland" in German, designates indiscriminately the Kievan State from the 10th to the 13th century, the Grand Duchy of Moscow from the 14th to the 17th century, the Empire of Peter the Great and of his successors from the 18th to the 20th century. This has led to many misconceptions in historical literature and to a great confusion of ideas. Historical research would be facilitated if the relevant terminology were internationally regulated. I, and no doubt many others, had to overcome considerable difficulties in this respect. As the term "Rus" is not generally known, I had to employ in the title of this work the inaccurate term "Russia." Also "Russian" has been used as an adjective to "Rus".

The term "Rus" acquired a variety of meanings in the course of time. In the first part of the book I defined the term for the period from the end of the 10th to the beginning of the 13th century when its meaning can be precisely ascertained. This definition served as the point of departure and the basis for further considerations of the problem in still earlier and, in many respects, more obscure times, i.e. the 9th and 10th centuries (Part II). The results of this research have been checked against the political situation which emerged in the East of Europe during the 13th and 14th centuries, both from the standpoint of the history of Lithuania (Part III) and the history of Moscow (Part IV).

The sources for the problems discussed are on the whole ample, although not equally so in all matters. Of fundamental importance for the origin of the Rus is the famous chronicle known from its initial words as Povest Vremennykh Let, and written early in the 12th century by a monk of the Crypt Monastery in Kiev, "Nestor."

Historical literature on the subject is exceedingly abundant in the quantitative sense. At the same time it is characterized by a great diversity of opinions. We find contradictory views concerning not only details but also questions of basic significance. Whether we consider the controversy about the origin of the Rus or the question of the descent of the Rurik dynasty, the reliability of "Nestor's" Chronicle or the authenticity of the "Tale of the Raid of Igor," the reasons of Moscow's growing ascendancy over the other principalities or the appraisal of the role played by the Tartars in the East of Europe--all these problems provoke animated polemics and diametrically opposed opinions among scholars. This state of affairs is reflected in the present work. The different views of the historians had to be placed before the reader. He also had to be enabled to verify the theses advanced in this book by a return to the texts of the sources. Hence the very large number of footnotes and the abundant bibliography.

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