The Ritualisation of Political Power in Early Rus (10th-12th centuries)

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Vukovic, Alexandra 

This dissertation examines the ceremonies and rituals involving the princes of early Rus’ and their entourage, how these ceremonies and rituals are represented in the literature and artefacts of early Rus’, the possible cultural influences on ceremony and ritual in this emergent society, and the role of ceremony and ritual as representative of political structures and in shaping the political culture of the principalities of early Rus’. The process begins by introducing key concepts and historiographic considerations for the study of ceremony and ritual and their application to the medieval world. The textological survey that follows focusses on the chronicles of Rus’, due to their compilatory nature, and discusses the philological, linguistic, and contextual factors governing the use of chronicles in this study. This examination of the ceremonies and rituals of early Rus’, the first comprehensive study of its kind for this region in the early period, engages with other studies of ceremony and ritual for the medieval period to inform our understanding of the political culture of early Rus’ and its influences. The structure of this dissertation is dictated by the chronology of ceremonies and rituals that structure the reigns of Rus’ princes in literary sources. The first chapter investigates—both comparatively and locally—the development of enthronement rituals depicted in textual sources and on coins. The second chapter focusses on rituals of association that are represented as mediating relations between princes in a non-central functioning dynastic culture. Oath-taking (and breaking) and association through commensality—dining and gift-giving—are examined in terms of historical context and the internal categorisation of associative acts in textual sources from Rus’. The final chapter builds on recent studies of ritualised warfare in early Rus’ and examines the ritualisation of princely movement—the most common action associated with the princes of Rus’ in textual sources—in times of war. The celebration of triumph and princely entry along with ritualised invocations for intercession in war are acts examined—both in textual sources and iconographic artefacts—as rituals of triumphal rulership reflecting both Byzantine and wider medieval culture. This study concludes with a discussion of the themes explored in its three chapters and offers further considerations about the influence of the Church and monastic culture inherited from Byzantium (and developed in Rus’) on the preservation, creation, and promulgation of ritualised political power.

Franklin, Simon
Medieval History, Byzantine History, Slavonic Studies, Early Rus, Eastern Vikings, Ceremony and Ritual
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
Cambridge Commonwealth Trust