The Reception of Byzantine Culture in Mediaeval Russia: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Reception of Byzantine Culture in Mediaeval Russia

1st Edition

By Francis J. Thomson


416 pages

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Hardback: 9780860786504
pub: 1999-11-28
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It is a truism that Russian culture is based upon the reception of Byzantine culture. However, the question of what was in fact received is the task that Professor Thomson has set in these studies, by means of a detailed examination of the corpus of translations. Down to the 17th century this corpus was essentially made up of works required for the liturgy and the monastic life. Few works of dogmatic theology and virtually no classical or philosophical works were translated, neither was a knowledge of Greek, which would have provided access to the originals, widespread. The result was an unreasoning adherence to ritual forms. Western ideas which began to penetrate into Muscovy in the 17th century were not absorbed by Russian culture but fundamentally reshaped it, and the result led to a schism within the Church. Russia today is Orthodox by religion, but Byzantine culture disappeared with Byzantium. A major section of addenda takes into account the advances in scholarship since the articles were first published.


'Thomson's studies are characterized by consummate erudition, enviably broad linguistic skills ancient and modern, and clarity of expression… a splendid volume, essential to any scholar with even passing interests in East Slavic history or culture before 1700.' Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas. 'Without doubt …a weighty contribution to the study of the mediaeval culture of the Eastern Slavs…To conclude, we must be grateful to the author for his severe, but in many cases justified criticism of the numerous scholarly conjectures, unfounded hypotheses and a priori opinions which abound in Old Slav studies.' Kalbotyra 50 (2), Slavica Vilnensis, 2001 'This is a truly important book for many aspects of Russian, and medieval Slavic, cultural studies.' The Russian Review

Table of Contents

Contents: The intellectual silence of early Russia; The nature of the reception of Christian Byzantine culture in Russia in the 10th to 13th centuries, and its implications for Russian culture; Quotations of patristic and Byzantine works by early Russian authors as an indication of the cultural level of Kievan Russia; The implications of the absence of quotations of untranslated Greek works in original early Russian literature, together with a critique of a distorted picture of early Bulgarian culture; The Bulgarian contribution to the reception of Byzantine culture in Kievan Rus’: the myths and the enigma; ’Made in Russia’. A survey of the translations allegedly made in Kievan Russia; The corpus of Slavonic translations available in Muscovy. The cause of old Russia’s intellectual silence and a contributory factor to Muscovite cultural autarky; The distorted mediaeval Russian perception of classical antiquity: the causes and consequences; Addenda; Index.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General