Culture in Post-Keivan Rus

Due to several factors, most of which were a result of the Mongol invasion, there is very little evidence detailing the day-to-day culture which existed in Post-Keivan Rus. What we do have, however, does provide interesting clues about literacy, the arts, and entertainment of the day.

One source is a doodle by a boy distracted in the middle of practicing his alphabet. The boy, Onfim, provides a drawing of an unidentified man atop a horse stabbing another unidentified man lying upon the ground. One of the reasons that this is interesting is its implications about education and literacy of the time. It’s likely that this student was being formally educated from the nature of his work. Because literacy was rare amongst the common people we can assume that he was not being taught in a school-like setting, so he may have been working with a tutor of some sort. Onfim’s education may indicate that literacy was more important to the culture than previously believed, if his parents were concerned enough to start his learning at a young age.

A popular but controversial form of entertainment for the common people was the minstrels, or the skomorokhi. The skomorokhi did a variety of things for the entertainment of others, including animal training, acting, juggling, playing music, and dancing. They were easily identifiable by the bright colors of the costumes that they wore. Though loved by the common people, they were not so popular in the church. In a collection of sermons called the Zlatoust they are condemned for “preparing the road to perdition for themselves and their followers”. Even after being put down by the church their popularity rose still in spite of it. It’s interesting that the people seemed to care more about the entertainment the minstrels provided than the opinion of the church on that form of entertainment, judging from  the fact that the people were still listened to the group that the church looked down on. It’s also interesting that the people who made up the skomorokhi held positions all along the social hierarchy, some being  well off, others being poor.

3 thoughts on “Culture in Post-Keivan Rus

  1. It might be going out on a limb, but have you considered the connection between the entertainment of the minstrels and the rise of “sentimentality” that was slowly creeping into wills? I think it could work to think of the rising importance of emotion and pleasure in Russian society to be a reaction to the end of the Mongol invasions and the sense of relief that accompanied their removal from Rus.

  2. I would agree with your statement that the education of the youth was important to someone and that he revived totalage. I would guess from a actual tutor, if for no other reason then that we know from previous law codes that they existed and were valued enough to be protected.And if they were so valued a hundred years ago then there is no reason to think that they would not still be around.
    On the topic of the minstrels, it would be interesting to see what sort of sermons were being preached in the Orthodox Churches. If the churches were using fire and brimstone sermons and a little bit of torcher then it is much more likely that the peasants would have listened. Also if the church lacked control over the lives of the nobles then their enthusiasm for decadence could have keep the minstrels in business.

  3. As I was reading about the minstrels, I couldn’t help but relate them to modern day professional athletes. Looked down upon by some (“thuggish”, “dangerous”) but loved by the common man, the majority of the population. They are the entertainment of the age, and they will continue to be loved regardless of some people denouncing them.

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