Katie Sykes (Cambridge)
Christian Self, Christian Other: Constructing ‘orthodoxy’ in Rus from the 11th century to the 15th century
Supervisor: Prof Simon Franklin
In the aftermath of its conversion under the auspices of the Byzantine Empire in the tenth century, Rus (medieval Russia/Ukraine/Belarus) found itself part of the wider Christian world. The question my study will pose concerns the formulation, by Rus churchmen and monks in the centuries following the conversion, of a religious identity that was not simply Christian, but which was in fact defined relationally, by opposing the predominantly Eastern-rite Christianity of Rus to ‘other’ Christianities (‘Latin’, Armenian, etc.). Through an analysis of texts dating from the 11th to the 15th centuries, I will argue that Rus efforts to delineate and, often, denigrate these groups and their religious practices constitute an attempt to formulate Christian orthodoxy. Indeed, this study will propose that issues of orthodoxy and orthopraxy are vital in maintaining the conceptual boundary between religious ‘self’ and religious ‘other’ in Rus.
The complexities of Rus Christianity and its relationship
to other faiths and denominations have recently come to the fore in
scholarly work on Rus. Furthermore, scholars working on the early
Christian North have recently proposed a new approach to Rus historical
texts such as chronicles, considering them not simply as historical
works to be combed for facts and submitted to textological analysis, but
also as literary texts which formulate religious identities. My study
will adopt this approach in order to examine Rus discourses on
orthodoxy/orthopraxy in relation to other Christianities. In so doing,
it will open up a new dimension to this discussion, and also contribute
to the current interest among scholars of early Christianity in
contextual and discursive understandings of ‘heresy’ and ‘orthodoxy’.