История (Иностранные студенты) | Кафедра 52 "История"

История (Иностранные студенты)

Students with no winter term attestation!
There are three tasks for you for three sections on PDF.MEPHI.
The results of your work will be marked and will influence on your final assessment.

Lecture 1: Kievan Rus. Early History of the Slavs, the Vikings in Russia (III – IX centuries).

Presentation for the theme:

The earliest identifiable group of people to control the steppe were the Cimmerians, who probably came to the rich, open lands north of the Black Sea from the Balkans. Little is known about them, other than what the Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484–420 B.C.) reported about their language, which indicates their geographic origins, and their ability to make iron tools. It is possible that the Cimmerians were only the ruling class in the region and that most of their subjects were other peoples who had lived there before they arrived and remained after they departed. Such a pattern probably applies to several of the groups that succeeded them. In any event, the Cimmerians asserted their control on the steppe in about 1000 B.C.E. and extended their power eastward to the Caucasus Mountains. Their stay, however, had little impact. If they left behind a legacy, it is in the name of the Black Sea’s Crimean Peninsula—although even that is uncertain.

The Scythians were only one of the many nomad peoples of the steppe. They did not have writing—we know about their language only from the Greeks who traded with them—and so left behind no written records of their deeds. Historians believed that the Scythians produced their finely crafted gold jewelry under the influence of the Greeks, who by the sixth century B.C.E. had established colonies along the Black Sea coast. Scythians were skilled goldsmiths with their own artistic style based on animal motifs.

Scythian control of the steppe lasted until about 200 B.C.E., when the Sarmatians, horsemen from central Asia who had the advantage of the metal stirrup and new weapons the Scythians lacked, defeated them and drove them from the steppe. Four hundred years later, the Sarmatians were themselves displaced and consigned to historical oblivion by the Goths, a Germanic people. They in turn were driven from the steppe around 370 C.E. by the Turkic-speaking Huns, the same fierce group that 80 years later under Attila the Hun (406–453) nearly destroyed Rome. In the middle of the sixth century another Turkic people, the Avars, seized control of the steppe north of the Black Sea.

In the 7th century a new phenomenon emerged on the eastern European part of the Eurasian plain: a relatively well-organized state, the creation of the Khazars, a Turkic-speaking people from central Asia. It eventually extended from the Volga to the Dnieper and well northward from the shores of the Black and Caspian seas and the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains. The Khazar state became wealthy through its control of key trade routes between Europe and the Middle East. Thriving trade led to the building of towns, including the Khazar capital of Itil on the Volga River near the Caspian Sea. One of the most notable features of this state, where numerous cultural groups met and intermingled, was its unusual tolerance. Under Khazar rule Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others were free to practice their religions and live according to their own customs. The Khazar state survived as the leading power on the steppe until it was defeated by a Kievan Russian prince in 966, who thereby added to Kiev’s domains territory along the lower part of the Don River near the Sea of Azov and along the lower Volga. This victory turned out to be very costly for the Russians. The decline and eventual demise of the Khazar state left the invasion route from Asia open to new nomadic groups. They soon surged into the breech; with the Khazars gone the first people to fall victim to these destructive raids were the same Russians who had so recently displaced them.

By the 9th century the East Slavs were well established on the eastern European part of the Eurasian plain. They were mainly farmers and cattle raisers, but they had also founded close to 300 towns and engaged in trade and a wide variety of crafts. Their weak point apparently was political organization, at least according to the Russians who wrote the Primary Russian Chronicle, a document dating from the 12th century that is the earliest known source on Russian history. The Primary Chronicle records that because of continual fighting among the East Slavic tribes, they turned to the Varangians with the following invitation: “Our land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come to rule and reign over us.” Whether this request was ever made is debatable, and it is just as likely that this episode found its way into the Primary Chronicle to legitimize the princely dynasty that established itself among the East Slavs at the time. In any case, it appears that in 862 a group of Varangians led by a prince named Rurik took power in Novgorod, a trading city in the northwest near the Baltic Sea. Twenty years later Rurik’s successor, Oleg (879-912), conquered the more centrally located city of Kiev, which then became the capital of Kievan Rus. Oleg brought other East Slavic tribes under his control, and Kiev became the center of a loose federation of fortified city-states ruled by princes that stretched, so it was said, “from the Varangians to the Greeks,” that is, from the Baltic to the Black seas. Oleg then used his military prowess to win a favorable trade treaty from the Byzantine Empire. Dating from 911, Oleg’s treaty allowed the merchants of Kievan Rus to do business in Constantinople, the Byzantine capital on the Black Sea and by far the largest and wealthiest city in Europe.

The Byzantine Empire was the most powerful cultural influence on its northern neighbor. In 944 Oleg’s successor, Igor (912–945), after a military campaign secured another trade treaty with the Byzantines. His wife, Olga (945–964), further strengthened the realm as regent for a minor son; she later was designated a saint in the Russian Orthodox Church and is Russia’s first famous woman. It was Igor and Olga’s son, Svyatoslav (964–972), who defeated the Khazars in 966. These early rulers solidified the status of the Kievan dynasty, which took its name from Rurik and lasted until the end of the 16th century. Kievan Rus remained a loose federation of princely city-states, with the grand prince of Kiev enjoying an often tenuous status as the leading prince.

    Essential dates and events

  • First half of IX cent. — First mentions about the state of Russia
  • 862 — The beginning of the reign of Rurik in Novgorod.
  • 882 — Unification of Russia under the rule of Knyaz Oleg.
  • 988 — Baptism of Russia.

Topics for reporting:

    1. The internal and international politics of Prince Oleg.
    2. The internal and international politics of Igor.
    3. The internal and international politics of Princess Olga.
    4. The internal and international politics of Svyatoslav.
    5. The internal and international politics of Vladimir.
    6. The internal and international politics of Vladimir Monomakh.
    7. The internal and international politics of Yaroslav the Wise.
    8. When and why did the formation of feudalism among east slavs started?
    9. What were reasons for the formation of the state of Russian land?
    10. Explain the concept of “Military democracy”.
    11. Tell about the meaning of accepting Orthodox Christianity for Russian people.
    12. Name the reasons for the fragmentation of Russia.
    13. What influence did Byzantium had on the culture of Russia?
    14. Confirm with facts the conclusion that Russia was a country of high cultural development.


Lecture 2

In 988 Kiev’s Prince Vladimir (980–1015), after triumphing over his brothers in a civil war, converted to the Greek Orthodox version of Christianity, a choice that reflects Kiev’s close cultural ties with the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople, the center of the Greek Orthodox faith.

The story goes that Vladimir decided to examine the leading religions of the day, and to adopt the least distasteful. His choice fell on Greek Christianity. His envoys had been greatly impressed by the beauty of the Church of St Sophia in Constantinople, the great monument of the Greek Church. Vladimir accepted baptism in return for marriage to the Byzantine Emperor’s sister and proceeded to carry out the forcible conversion of the Russian people (for which he was later canonized). The adoption of Greek Christianity had far-reaching importance for Russia, politically and culturally. Politically, the Greek Church became subservient to the state. Thus in Russia, though bringing with it many of the benefits of Christian thought and ways, the Church did not resist the complete despotism of the temporal rulers; and the acceptance of the Greek faith set the Russian civilization on a different path from that of western Europe, and alienated the Western Slavs of Poland and Bohemia, who joined the Roman Catholic Church.

Christianity soon became a pervading influence in the lives of the Russian people, and on Russian art. Kiev is said to have quickly acquired some 200 churches (mainly wooden structures which have not survived), dominated by the Church of the Holy Wisdom which rivalled St Sophia in magnificence. Vladimir was acclaimed by later churchmen as an ‘apostle among rulers’ who had saved them from the devil’s wiles. Kiev’s citizens were ordered into the Dnieper for mass baptism. The idol of Perun was dragged by a horse’s tail and thrashed with rods, then tossed in the river and kept moving as far as the Rapids. Vladimir ordered wood to be cut and churches put up on the sites where idols had stood; the idols were smashed and icons of saints were installed. The initiatives taken by Vladimir were intended to associate his regime indissolubly with the Christian God and His saints, making promotion of the Church a function of princely rule. And he succeeded in embedding a version of Christianity in the political culture of Rus.

The conversion also gave Kievan Rus its first written language, Church Slavonic, a language closely related to the Russian spoken at the time by the East Slavs and therefore easily understood by them. Church Slavonic was written in an alphabet created by the Bulgarian Orthodox missionary Cyril (hence the Cyrillic alphabet) a century earlier. The sermons, prayer books, and other religious material that the Orthodox churchmen of Kievan Rus produced in Church Slavonic in considerable volume constituted Russia’s first written literature. These religious works complemented the much older East Slavic oral folklore, which included sagas and epic poems called byliny. Kievan Rus also soon produced new secular literary works. The monks who in the early 12th century wrote and compiled sagas such as the Primary Chronicle were churchmen, but their chronicles were in effect secular historical records. These writings constituted some of the first building blocks of Russia’s secular literary tradition, alongside the epic poems that were now written down rather than memorized and works such as the 12th-century “Testament” of Grand Prince Vladimir Monomakh ( 1113–25).

Byzantine Orthodox Christianity also brought with it what became the dominant Russian art form for 700 years: the icon, a religious image painted on wood. The first Russian icon painters learned their craft from the Byzantines, but local artists, operating within rules that dictated what was permissible, soon developed their own styles, turning icon painting into Russia’s national art form. Over time Russian artists used brighter, more luminous colors than their Byzantine teachers, creating images radiating warmth and kindness. Icons not only decorated Russian churches but were found in every Russian home, including peasant huts, where they were kept in a special corner of the main living areas.

The Church of the Holy Wisdom, designed by Greek architects, was built at the behest of Vladimir’s son and successor, Jaroslav the Wise (1019-1054). Jaroslav was the most enlightened ruler during the Kievan era, and under him the predominance of Kiev over the other principalities reached its zenith. He inflicted a crushing defeat of the Pechenegs; and he also established a code of Russian law, and was a patron of ecclesiastical learning and literature. Jaroslav’s death was followed by a long period of dynastic struggles for the grand princedom of Kiev, and a consequent decline in Kiev’s importance. Its last phase of glory was under Vladimir Monomakh (1113-1125), who asserted his authority over the other principalities and recovered some of the eastern borderlands from the nomad Polovtsy (or Kumans) who had replaced the defeated Pechenegs. Kiev’s predominance ended with the death of Vladimir Monomakh, and leadership gradually passed to other principalities in the north-east, notably those of Suzdal and Vladimir.

Essential dates and events


  • 1147 — The first mention of Moscow in the annals./li>
  • 1380 — Battle of Kulikovo
  • 1466-1472 — Journey of the Tver merchant Afanasy Nikitin to India.
  • 1462-1505 — The reign of Ivan III.
  • 1480 — «Standing» on the Ugra of Russian and Tatar troops. End of the Horde yoke.
  • 1497 — Code of Law of Ivan III
  • 1505-1533 — The reign of Vasily III.


Topics for reporting:

    1. What influence did Byzantium had on the culture of Russia?
    2. Confirm with facts the conclusion that Russia was a country of high cultural development.
    3. Try to describe the circumstances of baptizing Kievan Rus in 1088 year.
    4. The main features of the Russian ancient art.
    5. First written Church Slavonic language.
    6. The Primary Russian Chronicle — historical records.
    7. The Church of the Holy Wisdom in Kiev.
    8. Lord Novgorod the Great in X-XII centuries.


All previous themes can be found here

Please, pay attention!
According to our theme all students have to prepare small reports and presentation for the seminar. You may choose from topics which you decide are interesting for you. We will discuss these issues in seminar and your work will be marked.