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The 'Primary Chronicle' and the Origin of the Kyivan Rus' State

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The twelfth-century Primary Chronicle relates the legendary beginnings of the medieval Rus’ state. It tells of the invitation of Viking leaders to rule East Slavic settlements, of princely skirmishes for the throne of Kyiv, of Rus’ altercations with Byzantium and the Khazars, of the brutal slaying of a prince by a belligerent Slavic tribe, of the revenge of a princess for the murder of her husband, and of the coming of Christianity to Rus’. It is the fundamental text for the study of Kyivan Rus’ history, a discipline that came into being on the basis of the explanation and interpretation of the narratives of this chronicle. The Primary Chronicle still exercises its authority over the way the formation of the Kyivan state is presented in contemporary studies. In his lecture, Dr Oleksiy Tolochko from the Institute of Ukrainian History, National Academy of Sciences, will question the reliance of Kyivan Rus’ history on the Primary Chronicle, and consider if it is possible to move beyond the story penned by a medieval cleric? Dr Tolochko will explore how the first centuries of the emergence of Rus’ in Eastern Europe can be conceived on the basis of other, non-narrative sources.

About the Speaker Dr Oleksiy Tolochko is a leading scholar of Medieval and Early Modern Eastern European history and one of Ukraine’s foremost medievalists, who has taught at such institutions as the National University of “Kyiv Mohyla Academy,” the Central European University, Harvard University, and Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. His books include: Киевская Русь и Малороссия в XIX веке (Kyivan Rus’ and Little Russia in the Nineteenth Century, 2012); Краткая редакция Правды руской: происхождение текста (The Short Redaction of the Rus’ Law: Origins of the Text, 2009); «История Российская» В.Н. Татищева. Источники и известия (‘Russian History’ by Vasilii Tatishchev: Sources and Accounts, 2005); Київська Русь (Kyivan Rus’, 1998); Князь в Древней Руси: Власть, собственность, идеология (Prince in Kyivan Rus’: Authority, Property, and Ideology, 1992). This lecture reflects aspects of his most recent book Очерки начальной Руси (Notes on Early Rus’, 2015).

This talk is part of the Slavonic Studies series.

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