Connected Central European Worlds, 1500-1700

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Volunteers fortifying the Princess Olga Monument in Kyiv, Ukraine © Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Watch Lecture by Christian Raffensperger

"Medieval Origins and Modern Constructs, Rus - Ukraine - Russia"


Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed both countries into the world’s spotlight. One aspect that is becoming particularly clear is the battle that is taking place, and has been ongoing for decades, if not longer, for the ownership of the idea of the history of the region we know as Rus. This talk will discuss the place of Rus in European history, and the ways that modern scholars have minimized that place; the latter fact being directly relevant to the Russian claim on the history of Rus. Perhaps if we can untangle the history of Rus from modern constructs of nationalism, we can see a new picture of Rus that helps us better understand Europe as a whole.  


Christian Raffensperger is the Kenneth E. Wray Chair in the Humanities at Wittenberg University. He is the author of several books including Reimagining Europe: Kievan Rus’ and the Medieval World and Conflict, Bargaining, and Kinship Networks in Medieval Eastern Europe. The larger goal of his work is to demonstrate the interconnectivity of medieval Europe and to break down the barrier between eastern and western Europe created and perpetuated in the historiography.


Yulia Mikhailova, Property, Power, and Authority in Rus and Latin Europe, ca. 1000-1236 (Leeds: ARC Humanities Press /Amsterdam University Press, 2018).

Christian Raffensperger,  “Mykhailo Hrushevsky and the Construction of the Medieval History of Rus’”, Harvard Ukrainian Studies 38:1-2 (2021): 71-86.

Christian Raffensperger, The Kingdom of Rus (Kalamazoo, Mich.: ARC Humanities Press, 2017).

Christian Raffensperger, Reimagining Europe: Kievan Rus’ in the Medieval World, 988–1146 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2012).

Jonathan Shepard, “Rus’” in Christianization and the Rise of Christian Monarchy: Scandinavia, Central Europe and Rus’, c. 900-1200, ed. Nora Berend (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007): 369-416.

Talia Zajac, “The Social-Political Roles of the Princess in Kyivan Rus’, ca. 945–1240,” in A Companion to Global Queenship, ed. Elena Woodacre (Leeds: ARC Humanities Press /Amsterdam University Press): 125–146.

Talia Zajac, “Remembrance and Erasure of Objects Belonging to Rus’ Princesses in Medieval Western Sources: The Cases of Anastasia Iaroslavna’s ‘Saber of Charlemagne’ and Anna Iaroslavna’s Red Gem,” in Moving Women, Moving Objects (400 – 1500), ed. Tracy Chapman Hamilton and Mariah Proctor-Tiffany (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2019): 33–58.


Part of a lecture and discussion series ‘From Kyivan Rus’ to Modern Ukraine: Virtual Conversations on History, Art, and Cultural Heritage’ co-organized in collaboration with Dumbarton Oaks and North of Byzantium.


Return to the lecture series here.