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Culture of Kievan Rus' (9th -11th Centuries), Part 1
November 30, 2014 19:44

The Middle Ages played a special role in the history of the Russian culture. The of the Middle Ages era lasted in Russia longer than in other European countries, and it echoed in Russian culture till the early 19th century, when the "radical" archaism of the province "met" the imagined romanticism of the Middle Ages. 
The foundation to the new era was laid with adoption of Christianity at the end of the 10th century (the year of 989), when the Russian principalities were included into the Byzantine domain and assimilated what was one of the most developed culture types at that time. The choice made by Prince Vladimir had serious grounds; it will not be exaggeration to say that it predetermined the entire further history of the Russian culture. 
Literacy and Education
The adoption of Christianity was followed by boom in the Old Russian culture. Church had an extremely fruitful influence on the cultural construction. The Church Slavonic writing brought from Byzantium and Bulgaria provided the basis for development of the Russian writing system and the Old Russian written language and literature.
Russian monasteries, especially the Kiev Monastery of the Caves became the centres of Old Russian education. The monks collected, copied and translated a great variety of books from the Greek language. Those were the Christian Scriptures, various collections, teachings, legends, and hagiography of saints. The Russian annals were started in the Kiev Monastery of the Caves. The first chronicler was Nestor, who lived in the second half of the 11th century. Throughout centuries his successors wrote down the most important events, having kept various historical events for descendants. Monasteries also gathered large libraries of hand-written books.
Literacy was quite widespread in Kievan Rus'. There were secular, city, church and monastic schools. There were even higher schools, such as educational institutions at the monasteries, such as, for example, the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. The higher schools taught history, geography, philosophy and natural sciences along with church literature. Foreign languages were widely studied and used in the aristocratic milieu.   
The growing literacy was accompanied with the fast rise in Old Russian literature. One should not forget that development of the Russian writing system, which provided the basis for development of Russian literature, was also associated with Christianity. Though writing was known in Russian lands much earlier, it was only after the Christianization of Kievan Rus' that it was widely adopted. Which is more important, it could grow on the fertile soil of the developed cultural tradition of Eastern Christianity. Extensive translated literature became the basis for formation of Russia’s own tradition. 
More than 150 hand-written books of the 11th – 12th centuries have come down to us. One of such books is The Sermon on Law and Grace written by Illarion, who emphasizes the main thought of equality of all the Christian people, irrespective of the time of their Christianization.
Outstanding monuments of Old Russian literature are the Tale of Bygone Years and The Lay of Igor's Campaign. The well-known Russian chronicler tried to research the origin of the Russian people and the Russian state by connecting it with the world history.
The Lay of Igor's Campaign was created at the end of the 12th century by an unknown Old Russian poet, who told about a failed campaign of the Novgorod Prince Igor Svyatoslavovich against the Cumans in 1185. The poet realized that the reasons of failure lied in dissociation of Russia. He saw the salvation of the Motherland in preserving the unity of the Russian people. This work is written in a figurative and lively language, rich in peculiar artistic devices and filled with patriotic pathos. The outstanding literary mastery of The Lay of Igor's Campaign ranks this work among the greatest monuments of world culture.


Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian History     

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