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Héritages de Byzance en Europe du Sud-Est à l’époque moderne et contemporaine

 | 
Olivier Delouis
, 
Anne Couderc
, 
Petre Guran

Byzantine Culture in Russia: Doesn’t It Lose Something in Translation?

George P Majeska

Résumé

Some sixty years ago the British historian B. H. Sumner noted that Byzantium brought to Russia “five gifts: her religion, her law, her view of the world, her art and writing”. This is essentially the case, but Sumner’s assessment needs much fine-tuning to be a useful historical statement. Some “gifts” were accepted and put to use immediately; others were accepted but adapted more than adopted; yet others were put in storage for a very long time until they seemed to have practical value for the Russians. This paper considers how the Eastern Slavs treated their Byzantine gifts.

Note de l’éditeur

A French translation of this article has been published in Sainte Russie: l’art russe des origines à Pierre le Grand [Exposition du musée du Louvre, Paris, 5 mars-24 mai 2010], ed. Durand Jannic, Giovannoni Dorota and Rapti Ioanna, Paris, 2010, p. 437-442.

Texte intégral

  • 1 It is easy to forget that already in 967-969, for example, Prince Svjatoslav of Kiev considered mov (...)
  • 2 This is, of course, the major thesis of Obolensky Dmitri, The Byzantine Commonwealth. Eastern Europ (...)

1Despite the occasional Russian interventions in the region over history, I doubt that anyone would argue that Russia is an integral part of southeastern Europe. Still, an essay on the adoption and adaptation of Byzantine culture in medieval Russia can serve as a paradigm for the cultural history of the Balkan states in the middle ages.1 The adoption of Byzantine Christianity in Southeastern Europe brought to the region not only the basics of the Christian religion, but the Christian religion in that special form evolved in the Eastern Roman Empire. The church planted here is part of a “cultural package” developed in Constantinople and its empire, only part of which could be absorbed immediately by the newly converted lands. As these Christian nations grew and matured over time, often unknowingly, they picked and chose what appeared to be appropriate elements of the Byzantine cultural package previously held in reserve, as it were. This creative appropriation of aspects of Byzantine civilization, I argue, helps explain the history, not just of medieval Rus’, but also of the smaller nations of Southeastern Europe.2

  • 3 See Poppe Andrzei, “The Political Background of the Baptism of Rus’”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 30 (197 (...)

2When the Byzantine ecclesiastics brought their faith to Rus’ in the last years of the tenth century, their vision of world history was a teleological Christian one that owed much to Eusebius of Caesarea and to the Hebrew idea of the Chosen People. The Byzantine Empire ( “The Empire”) was the potential culmination of the divine plan to redeem the world; it was, in fact, the political incarnation of the Christian Church. It was to redeem the world (whatever that actually meant) that the Roman Empire had been created by God to serve as the vehicle for this redemption, and the Byzantine Empire was simply its Christian extension. Other countries (ruled by mere “kings”, not by the emperor) had no transcendental significance in the great flow of history, except, perhaps, by dint of their relationship to the divinely appointed ruler of the divinely constituted empire and thus to the inexorable march of history. Kingdoms were essentially human creations, not divine creations, although they could be “baptized” into the grand scheme of things by coming into an appropriate relationship with the state destined to be transmuted into the real kingdom of God (as opposed to its current status as “shadow of the kingdom of God” cast onto the material sphere). That is what Prince Vladimir of Kiev was invited to do by marrying the Emperor’s sister and converting his pagan flock in ad 988.3

  • 4 Лаврентьевская летопись (n. 1), cols. 1-5, 7-8; Russian Primary Chronicle (n. 1), p. 51-52.
  • 5 Dvornik Francis, The Idea of Apostolicity in Byzantium and the Legend of the Apostle Andrew, Cambri (...)

3The Russians adopted this vision of their state, at least in some senses; it was part of the cultural package that we can call Byzantine Christianity. But having accepted the Byzantine definition of political importance, the Christian Rus’ also looked for ways to assert their independent importance in world history. The Slavs appear in the enumeration of the descendents of Japheth after the Biblical flood in the Kievan adaptation of the Byzantine chronicle of Hamartolus, for example, and the Slavic language seems to appear in the confusion of the Tower of Babel. Indeed, although the conversion of Rus’ by the Byzantines is a featured event in the so-called Rus’ Primary Chronicle, it is made a sort of historical inevitability by a previous visit to Rus’ territory by the Apostle Andrew, who, we are told, prophesied the rise of a great Christian state in the neighborhood of Kiev.4 Like that of its perhaps overweening mentor, Rus’ Christianity too is of apostolic foundation; the idea is mythological, of course, but so was Constantinople’s claim to foundation by the Apostle Andrew.5 (Perhaps this is, in fact, specifically the source of the Rus’ myth.)

  • 6 Text in Des Metropoliten Ilarion Lobrede auf Vladimir den Heiligen und Glaubensbekenntnis, ed. Müll (...)

4Interestingly, at about the same time that the chronicle was being put in final form, a mere two generations after the official conversion of the Rus’, Hilarion, the future metropolitan of Kiev, a native Slav whose appointment to the Rus’ metropolitan throne casued difficulties with the Constantinopolitan mother Church, eulogized Prince Vladimir as “Baptizer of Rus’” while downplaying the Empire’s role in the event. This, by the way, was in his famous “Sermon on Law and Grace”, a marvel of Byzantine-style rhetoric – in Slavic. But the sermon shows not only that Hilarion had mastered Byzantine oratorical skills, but that he had also mastered Byzantine-style historical discourse. The good cleric compares Prince Vladimir to the very apostles of Christ themselves who had brought the light of faith to various lands (but the Apostle Andrew’s visitation of Constantinople is not on the list). We also learn in the same sermon that Vladimir’s capital city of Kiev was under the special protection of the Mother of God, just as Constantinople was, although the latter fact remains unmentioned.6 Clearly the Rus’ converts have learned to “talk the talk”.

  • 7 Kämpfer Frank, Das russische Herrscherbild von den Anfängen bis zu Peter dem Grossen, Recklinghause (...)

5Their mentors in the Byzantine faith and cultural package viewed Rus’ differently. Just as the church in Rus’ was a mere low-ranked metropolitan province of the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate, so the Grand Prince of Kievan Rus’ ranked in the Byzantine hierarchy of states as a mere archon (a title emperors bestowed on, for example, provincial governors). This rank probably explains the Byzantine ceremonial court dress in which the Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev and his family were depicted on the west gallery parapet in Kiev’s eleventh-century Cathedral of St. Sophia, a work of Byzantine craftsmen.7

6If there could be little dispute about who was on the top of the Christian hierarchy of states in terms of social and political significance vis-à-vis the emperor, the Byzantine system also actually allowed for the possibility of what we might call “charismatic status”. Here the Byzantine authorities were not as much in control of the rules of the game, and here Rus’ would attempt to assert its preeminence. Emperors by dint of their office were regarded as “holy”, or perhaps, better, “sacred”, but it was a kind of institutional holiness; it came with the job, as it were. I know of no Byzantine (or Byzantine-world) rulers before the thirteenth century who were considered as saints and had a genuine cultus except, of course, those rulers who converted the nation like Constantine the Great and, in Rus’, Vladimir. (Later there will be John III Ducas Vatatzes and the “martyred” John IV Laskaris of the Nicaean Empire as well as the saintly rulers of Serbia.) Rus’ would attempt to lay claim to a personal sanctity charisma that followed the office-holder rather than the office.

  • 8 Fedotov George P., The Russian Religious Mind, I, Cambridge Mass., 1946, especially p. 94-110.
  • 9 See, for example, Sizov Evgenij St., “Воображены подобия князей”: Стенопись Архангельского собора М (...)
  • 10 The concept of saintly princes and princely saints in Russia is carefully analyzed in Cherniavsky M (...)

7The tradition began with the first generation of Christian princes. Boris and Gleb were sons of St. Vladimir, the baptizer of Rus’, who dismissed their bodyguards and allowed themselves to be murdered rather than raise their hands against the men sent by their brother, “the accursed Svjatopolk”, who was intent on taking their father’s grand princely throne. Innocent though they were, they willingly accepted their sacrificial deaths – as Christ had accepted His death on the cross. Such was apparently the local interpretation of those terrible events by which the brothers had sought to avoid embroiling the land in internecine strife ( “Blessed are the peacemakers…”). The brothers were acclaimed as saints popularly and eventually, after the demise of Svjatopolk, officially, apparently despite the misgivings of the Greek clergy in Rus’ who must have seen such taking of Gospel precepts of non-resistance to evil at face value as the beginning of the end of civilization as they knew it. Boris and Gleb were classed as “holy passion-bearers” (strastoterpcy), a more or less unique new category of saintliness that combined martyrdom for the content of the faith, if not for the faith itself, with the uncomplaining acceptance of fate. Formal Lives of the Saints (vitae) and liturgical services extolling their virtues were composed in imitation of the liturgical literature of Byzantine saints, and they became the heavenly protectors – and spiritual prototypes – of members of the dynasty.8 Local artists appropriated the available Byzantine iconographic conventions for military saint martyrs and dressed the figures in Rus’ princely dress. These artists, thus, created a new iconography for the new kind of saints, an iconography that became the standard mode of depicting Russian princes through the whole Muscovite period as the frescoes of the great Kremlin cathedrals in Moscow testify.9 The princely saints of the eleventh century will be turned into saintly princes by the twelfth century, assumed to be saints because they are rulers of Christian Rus’, not necessarily because of any actions they took. The personal act of heroic sanctity by Boris and Gleb will be transformed into an assumption of sanctity on the part of anyone who fulfills the same office of prince. The charismatic sanctity of these courageous martyrs will be appropriated by their princely descendents as a personal charisma, not to be confused with the coldly institutional sacred standing of the Byzantine emperors who, then, represent God politically, while the Rus’ princes represent God morally, as do all saints. (That the later princes did not actually believe in their personal sanctity is evidenced by the attempt of so many Muscovite princes to take monastic vows on their deathbeds, believing that monastic tonsure, like baptism, removed all sins.)10

  • 11 See Hurwitz Ellen, Prince Andrej Bogoljubskij: the Man and the Myth, Firenze, 1980.
  • 12 Cf. the “Acathistos Hymn to the Virgin”, at least parts of it written to celebrate Mary’s saving of (...)

8The migration of grand princely rule from Kiev in the South to the Vladimir area in the Northeast in the twelfth century might have been accompanied by a subtle change in national political religious cult. While the political significance of the cathedrals of the two major cities of Kievan Rus’ being dedicated to Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) like the imperial church in Constantinople needs to be studied, it is clear that in the new northeastern configuration of the Rus’ state, the national cult was of the Mother of God. The great cathedral of the capital city of Vladimir-on-Kljazma was dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God and served as the model as well as the namesake of the great coronation cathedral of the later Muscovite tsars in the Kremlin, the Uspenskij Sobor. Indeed, Prince Andrew Bogoljubskij, who was largely responsible for making the Northeast of the land the political center, also seems to have created a Byzantine style cult of the Virgin based on a vision seen by a Byzantine salos (jurodivi; a “fool for Christ’s sake”) in an imperial shrine of the Mother of God in Constantinople. He even set up a special festival for Rus’ in honor of the vision of the Mother of God called “Protection” (or pokrov, after the covering veil) of the Virgin, and an important grand-princely chapel in the Northeast was dedicated to this vision of the Virgin protecting her people.11 One must assume that “her people” were the people of Rus’. One senses here a quiet non-challenging attempt to establish a cult of the Virgin as the protectress of Vladimir land just as she was the acknowledged protectress of Constantinople land.12

  • 13 Text in Barker Ernst, Social and Political Thought in Byzantium from Justinian I to the Last Palaeo (...)

9The period of Mongol rule in Russia certainly complicated Russia’s vision of its political theory and reality by asserting the (apparently legitimate) imperial power of the conquering descendents of Chingis Khan over Russia. One must assume that the Byzantine “tsar”, or emperor, (who was actually in exile in Nicaea) was considered the spiritual suzerain of Russia by dint of this role as protector of the Orthodox Church. The Mongol “tsar” was accepted as the political suzerain of Russia by dint of his control of the occupying army. Curiously, it was the attempt on the part of the Grand Prince of Russia, now resident in Moscow, to end (or perhaps to downplay) the first of these vassal roles that evoked one of the clearest and most cogent statements of the nature of the family of princes in the Byzantine world view. In the mid-1390s Patriarch Anthony IV of Constantinople wrote to the Muscovite Grand Prince, admonishing him for dropping the name of the Emperor from liturgical commemoration, and perhaps even more because of why he did it. He writes, “Son, you are wrong in saying, ‘We have the church but not the emperor’. It is not possible for Christians to have the church and not have the empire. Church and empire have a great unity and community, nor is it possible for them to be separated from one another”. The emperor, he notes, “has a great place in the Church: he is not as other rulers and the governors of other regions are; and this is because emperors, from the beginning, established and confirmed piety in all the inhabited world. They convoked the ecumenical councils; they confirmed and ordered to be accepted the pronouncements of the divine and holy canons concerning true doctrines and the government of Christians. […] He is appointed emperor and autocrat of the Romans, that is, of all Christians”.13

10It is quite likely, of course, that the Muscovite prince knew all of this and just needed to be reminded, and that he returned the Byzantine emperor to liturgical commemoration in the Russian metropolitanate. The didactic letter of the patriarch was not wasted, however. Its message was stored away to be reinterpreted under different circumstances.

  • 14 Повесть о Царьграде (его основании и взятии турками в 1453 году) Нестора Искандера xv века, ed. Arc (...)

11 The circumstances were, obviously, the fall of the empire (and disappearance of the emperor) in 1453, hard on the Byzantine Church’s submission to the Pope at the Council of Florence. First there was no church in Byzantium since the hierarchy had defected to Roman Catholicism and then (and, consequently, the Russians understood) there was no emperor or empire. Although this wasn’t quite what Patriarch Anthony had envisaged half a century earlier, he had been right: one cannot have one without the other. The Church in Muscovy, which had never accepted the church union considered itself the “saving remnant” of the Church (meaning the Orthodox Church to the Muscovites), but the Muscovite sages remembered well that Anthony had reminded them that one cannot “have the Church but not the empire”. Gradually it dawned on Muscovy that if they “had the Church” (and they never doubted that for a moment), then they were “the empire” and their ruler must be the emperor. The logic is quite simple: the Church is eternal, destined to last “unto the ages of the ages”, that is, to the end of time; the only major place it continues unchanged is in Russia; the existence of the Church presupposes an empire as its material environment/embodiment; therefore, Russia, the state harboring the Church, must be the empire. This is the foundation of the idea of “Moscow, the Third Rome”, replacing Constantinople, the “new Rome”, when it fell into the heresy of the old Rome on the Tiber from which it had inherited, in Byzantine thought, the imperial mantle. Obviously, once the Muscovites started to realize the inexorable logic of their “translation” of the basic Byzantine political idea for the post-Byzantine situation, history made sense in a peculiarly “Byzantine” fashion, that is, teleologically. Suddenly, it was clear why God had freed Muscovy from Mongol domination at just about the time that the divine mandate was taken from the traitorous Byzantium; it was to free the Muscovite ruler to become the replacement for the now defunct and dishonored Byzantine emperor as guardian of the Christian flock, as “Emperor and Autocrat”. Had not a Russian witness to the final siege of Constantinople seen a strange light rise from the very dome of St. Sophia and head mysteriously north?14 It had obviously been the Holy Spirit performing the translatio imperii.

12Slowly, but surprisingly confidently, the grand princes of Moscow asserted their new imperial status as successors to the now disappeared line of Orthodox Christian emperors, or tsars, to use the Russian word.

13Given the symbiotic nature of church and state in the Byzantine mentality (so patiently lined out to the Muscovites by Patriarch Anthony), it should not be surprising that the first major step towards assuming Byzantine imperial prerogatives was the tentative statement of the independence of the church of Muscovy from its Byzantine mother church now tainted with what the Byzantine theologians had taught the Slavic converts was called the “Latin heresy”. This step was taken hesitatingly and rather gingerly, but eventually the Muscovites asserted their right to choose their own ruling metropolitan archbishop with no reference to Constantinople. And by the reign of Ivan III ( “the Great”, 1462-1505), Muscovite ambassadors were instructed to demand recognition of the Grand Prince of Moscow as “Tsar”, that is, emperor. How tentative (or perhaps inchoate) was this first public statement of “imperial” rule in Russia is suggested by the fact that the ambassadors were given advice on how to justify the new title. It was still too novel to claim inheritance from Byzantium (or, for that matter, guardianship of the Orthodox Church) as justification for this sonorous title, particularly to the Holy Roman Emperor to whom the ambassadors were accredited; he was very touchy about his title. The Muscovite legates were told to tell the Germans, if asked, that the title derived from the fact that the Muscovite princes were descended from St. Vladimir, who had baptized Rus’. Ivan would never, despite his Byzantine imperial wife, claim to have inherited this imperial role (or his rule) from Byzantium, but the realization was slowly coming that he had somehow inherited what the Byzantine emperor had had: the sacred function of leading the state sanctified by the Church, the divinely established role of guarding and guiding the Church.

14If the appropriate vocabulary was wanting, there were what one might call “semiotic” signals. The grand princely kremlin of Moscow under Ivan the Great took on more and more the aura of a Byzantine-style imperial palace complex with throne and council chambers connected to churches and chapels. The life of the ruler became more liturgized and ritualized than heretofore. Ivan’s wife, Zoe Palaeologos, was probably key here, not in “passing on the imperial torch” (several male members of her family were already trying to sell that flame elsewhere), but in setting the style from her memories of the Byzantine despot court in Mistra, her family home. Her Italian contacts also allowed for the calling of architects from Italy to build palaces and churches for the kremlin rebuilding project to make it more “imperial”. These buildings are among the clearest statements of the subconscious imperial Muscovite vision of itself and the ambiguities of its vision of itself. The Italian architects were instructed to study the great twelfth-century Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin in the city of Vladimir for inspiration, the great church of Andrej Bogoljubskij, who transferred grand princely power to the northeast from Kiev. This order cannot be accidental. The building in Vladimir stood not just as a monument to the temporary greatness of the dynasty of northeast Rus’ and its royal, if not imperial, pretensions, but it also had what Muscovites must have seen as “Byzantine” architecture. Certainly to us this new Moscow church, built to serve as the coronation church of the Russian tsars, looks more “Byzantinish” than Byzantine, but it must have carried two messages at the time: Moscow as the descendent of the Grand Princes of Vladimir and the reappropriation of the Byzantine heritage. What it was not meant to recall was the local architecture of (provincial) Muscovite Russia, derived essentially from (primitive) wooden architecture. Continuity with ancient Rus’ and suggestions of Byzantine tradition (with elements of Venetian sculptural decoration!) – an appropriate milieu for a Muscovite prince to claim the trappings of a Byzantine emperor.

  • 15 Majeska George, “The Moscow Coronation of 1498 Reconsidered”, Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas  (...)

15 It was in this Muscovite approximation of what a Byzantine imperial cathedral would have looked like had it been built in north Russia that Ivan the Great took what many have seen as the ultimate step in asserting Byzantine-style imperial rights: using the medium of the Byzantine ceremony of coronation of a co-emperor to announce and consecrate his chosen successor. But rather than intending to make an imperial statement, this coronation was one of the few ways to “put teeth” into Ivan’s decision to bypass his eldest son for succession (the standard Muscovite practice) and acclaim rather his grandson. How else could Ivan have done this in this pre-literate society given the fact that he had no Mongol suzerain to sanction his acts? But, for our purposes, what is important in this act is that the Byzantine modality of announcing succession and transferring ruling power is the one that the Muscovites adopted when the need arose.15 It came naturally.

  • 16 The Correspondence between Prince A. M. Kurbsky and Tsar Ivan IV of Russia, 1564-1579, ed. and tran (...)

16In the end, however, it was to be Ivan IV ( “the Terrible”, 1533-1584), grandson of Ivan III (but not the one who had been crowned as co-ruler and heir apparent), who was to bring Muscovite absorption of Byzantine imperial ideology to a high plateau. Tutored by the Metropolitan Macarius who was steeped in the lore of the Orthodox Church and its original Byzantine environment, Ivan came to believe that he was, indeed, the divinely appointed emperor of the Orthodox. We have this, we are pretty sure, in his own words in a famous correspondence with the defector to Poland Prince Andrew Kurbsky.16 Ivan’s claims to authentic imperatorate were made as watertight as could be. Metropolitan Macarius recreated a Byzantine imperial coronation with meticulous attention to detail, adopting Byzantine imperial robes for the young Ivan to wear, even working out equivalencies of traditional Muscovite princely garments with Byzantine imperial counterparts so the young ruler could be ceremoniously invested with them. The ceremony was held in the great “Byzantinish” Dormition Cathedral built by Ivan the Great (and Zoe Palaeologus).

  • 17 See Vernadsky George, The Mongols and Russia. A History of Russia, III, New Haven, 1953, p. 386.

17Such a momentous event in the history of Russia as the ruler proclaiming himself appointed by God had to have echoes in the mythic universe of the time. The Byzantine imperial heritage is almost always a constituent of the mythic justification for the appearance of the tsardom of Muscovy, but usually in an indirect way. The coronation crown of the Muscovite tsars, for example, actually a Tatar ceremonial headdress, is called the “Cap of Monomach”, recalling the eleventh-century Byzantine ruler Constantine Monomachus. He sent the crown to the Russian Grand Prince, said the story, in recognition of his defeat on the battlefield by the Russian army.17 Other mythic statements of the power of the Muscovite ruler speak of the Russian ruler wining a magic “Babylonian box” from the Byzantines; the box (made of semi-precious stones) contained the imperial power of the emperor of Babylon, which had devolved on the Byzantine emperor and now went to the Rus’. But in fact, the Muscovite dynasty had just as impressive a heredity as did the East Roman rulers, for the Rus’ princes were descendents of Prus the (hitherto unknown) brother of Caesar Augustus with whom he divided the known world. Prus, the proposed progenitor of the Muscovite princes, got the northeastern part of the known world; Augustus got the rest. There seems, however, to be no place where the Russian tsars speak of themselves as “inheriting” imperial status directly from the Byzantines, and certainly not through the Greek princess Zoe.

  • 18 Uspenskij Boris A., Царь и Патриарх. Харизма власти в России (Византийская модель и ее русское пере (...)

18There is, however, no questions about the new tsar’s imperial status. Ivan the Terrible acts as a emperor: he signs his name as “Emperor and Autocrat” (tsar’ i samoderzhets); he uses Byzantine-looking imperial seals and, shades of Patriarch Anthony’s definition of why emperors are different from other rules, he calls church councils and confirms their decisions.18 As the Patriarch had reminded the Muscovites, “you cannot have the church and not the empire”.

  • 19 On Maximus in Russia, see Sinitsyna Nina V., Максим Грек в России, Moscow, 1977.

19While officially the Muscovites seem to have thought that they had supplanted the Greeks as the chosen people, they never completely forgot that the Greeks were the source of their faith, and they often found themselves looking to “the faithless Greeks” for answers to their questions about how things ought to be. In the late fifteenth century, for example, there was an important dispute about the propriety of monastic foundations, founded for people who had taken a vow of poverty, owning landed property with peasants working it. The two sides argues the correctness of their positions in a very mediaeval way: prooftexting. Both groups went looking in the Byzantine religious books for texts to prove the correctness of their positions. The Greeks, apparently, in one sense had lost their faith (and been punished by the destruction of their empire), but had somehow continued to be a reservoir of correct belief and practice. Interestingly enough, once the decision on monastic properties had been taken in Moscow, it must have been assumed to have been divinely inspired. This assumption might explain the case of Maximus the Greek (Manuel Trivolis, a Greek educated in Renaissance Italy and later a monk on Mount Athos before coming to Moscow to work on translating liturgical books). He was clearly the best educated man in the Muscovy of his time. He knew Byzantine practice intimately and argued against the legitimacy of monastic landholding. But the Russians decided that the opposite was true. Thus Maximus had to be imprisoned in a monastery for the rest of his life;19 the Muscovite view of Byzantine practice was truer than the Byzantine reality.

  • 20 Kartashov Anton V., Очерки по истории Русской церкви, II, Paris, 1959, p. 170-220; Zenkovsky Serge (...)

20 Still, when the Russians needed authoritative texts for their religious books in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, they went back to the fallen Greeks, albeit selectively. A final example of the ambiguity of the relations between the Russians and the Greeks should be the Great Council of Orthodox hierarchs called together in Moscow in the year 1666. There were two main matters on the agenda. Most pressing was the perceived insubordination of Patriarch Nikon, head of the Russian church, to the tsar. For our purposes, however, more important is the second part of the agenda. The representatives of the other Orthodox churches were asked to comment on the correctness of a number of changes in the ritual that the Muscovite church felt were necessary. The assembled foreign hierarchs argued against the necessity of the changes. They were thanked for their opinions, and the Russian church did what it pleased.20 The Russian church apparently felt it had come of age and had itself become the church, “the pillar and ground of truth”.

21The Byzantine seed planted in the Slavic soil of Rus’ had produced a hybrid in the far Northeast of Europe. It would be difficult to look at seventeenth-century Muscovy and see it as a “translated” Byzantine society/civilization. But one can make sense of it as a “translated” civilization with different nuances than the original, but still recognizable if not as Byzantine, perhaps as “Byzantinish”.

  • 21 Sumner Benedict H., A Short History of Russia, New York, 1943, p. 168.

22In a by now classical quotation on the question of Byzantine culture in Russia, the great British historian B. H. Sumner noted that “Byzantium brought to Russia five gifts: her religion, her law, her view of the world, her art and writing”.21 While this statement is an excellent starting point for any discussion of Russian reception of Byzantine culture, it is not a perfect analysis. Some of these “gifts” were quietly returned to the store for something that “fit better”. Others lay in the attic unused until they were needed, and then too, were often exchanged for a “different color”. But the gifts were still very much appreciated.

Notes

1 It is easy to forget that already in 967-969, for example, Prince Svjatoslav of Kiev considered moving his capital to Perejaslavec on the Danube. See Лаврентьевская летопись. Полное собрание русских летописей, I2, Leningrad, 1926, cols. 65-67; The Russian Primary Chronicle. Laurentian Text, trans. and ed. Cross Samuel H., Sherbowitz-Wetzor Olgerd P., Cambridge Mass., 1953, p. 84-88.

2 This is, of course, the major thesis of Obolensky Dmitri, The Byzantine Commonwealth. Eastern Europe, 500-1453, London, 1971.

3 See Poppe Andrzei, “The Political Background of the Baptism of Rus’”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 30 (1976), p. 195-244. On Byzantine imperial ideology see Dölger Franz, Byzanz und die europäische Staatenwelt, Speyer, 1953, and Dvornik Francis, Early Christian and Byzantine Political Philosophy, Washington D.C., 1966, 2 vols.

4 Лаврентьевская летопись (n. 1), cols. 1-5, 7-8; Russian Primary Chronicle (n. 1), p. 51-52.

5 Dvornik Francis, The Idea of Apostolicity in Byzantium and the Legend of the Apostle Andrew, Cambridge Mass., 1958.

6 Text in Des Metropoliten Ilarion Lobrede auf Vladimir den Heiligen und Glaubensbekenntnis, ed. Müller Ludolf, Wiesbaden, 1962.

7 Kämpfer Frank, Das russische Herrscherbild von den Anfängen bis zu Peter dem Grossen, Recklinghausen, 1978, p. 111-116.

8 Fedotov George P., The Russian Religious Mind, I, Cambridge Mass., 1946, especially p. 94-110.

9 See, for example, Sizov Evgenij St., “Воображены подобия князей”: Стенопись Архангельского собора Московского Кремля, Leningrad, 1969, and Kämpfer Frank (n. 7), passim.

10 The concept of saintly princes and princely saints in Russia is carefully analyzed in Cherniavsky Michael, Tsar and People: Studies in Russian Myths, New York, 1969, particularly in the first chapter.

11 See Hurwitz Ellen, Prince Andrej Bogoljubskij: the Man and the Myth, Firenze, 1980.

12 Cf. the “Acathistos Hymn to the Virgin”, at least parts of it written to celebrate Mary’s saving of the Byzantine capital from the Slavs!

13 Text in Barker Ernst, Social and Political Thought in Byzantium from Justinian I to the Last Palaeologus: Passages from Byzantine Writers and Documents, Oxford, 19612, p. 194-195, here adapted.

14 Повесть о Царьграде (его основании и взятии турками в 1453 году) Нестора Искандера xv века, ed. Archimandrite Leonid, Памятники древней письменности и искусства 62, St. Petersburg, 1886; also see in this volume the article by Guran Petre.

15 Majeska George, “The Moscow Coronation of 1498 Reconsidered”, Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 25 (1978), p. 353-361.

16 The Correspondence between Prince A. M. Kurbsky and Tsar Ivan IV of Russia, 1564-1579, ed. and trans. Fennell John L. I., Cambridge, 1963.

17 See Vernadsky George, The Mongols and Russia. A History of Russia, III, New Haven, 1953, p. 386.

18 Uspenskij Boris A., Царь и Патриарх. Харизма власти в России (Византийская модель и ее русское переосмысление), Moscow, 1998.

19 On Maximus in Russia, see Sinitsyna Nina V., Максим Грек в России, Moscow, 1977.

20 Kartashov Anton V., Очерки по истории Русской церкви, II, Paris, 1959, p. 170-220; Zenkovsky Serge A., Русское старообрядчество. Духовные движения xvii века, Munich, 1970, p. 277-331.

21 Sumner Benedict H., A Short History of Russia, New York, 1943, p. 168.

Auteur


Associate Professor emeritus
University of Maryland, College Park

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