Feodossi’s Enduring Faith and Literacy in Ancient Rus

Christianity’s arrival to Rus was a major event that shaped Russia’s history as we know it today. Its heavy influence is explicitly stated in the Primary Chronicle and had an immense impact on Rus’ society. When Prince Vladimir brought Christianity to Rus, the way people lived their day to day lives changed dramatically. One story that served as a portrayal of an ideal Christian life was the Life of St. Theodosius.

Named Feodosii as a child, Theodosius’s life was devoted to modeling the behavior of Jesus Christ. Born into a family of wealth, Feodosii was a servant of Christ from a very young age. He would wear patched, ragged clothing to humble himself despite his mother insisting on him wearing fine clothes that were available to him. He would not listen to his mother when she said that by being like the poor, he was bringing dishonor to his family name. He would go to church daily and pray as much as possible. Despite being severely abused by his mother when he would do things such as selling bread that he made himself and then giving his profits to the poor, his faith was steadfast. He saw his suffering as something necessary, just as Christ had suffered. 

Despite how extreme and seemingly irrational St. Theodosius’s faith was, it served as an example for society. I don’t think the church expected anyone to completely adhere to this type of lifestyle but was something that it wanted its members to constantly to keep in mind. During times of hardship and tribulation I think this tale could be something to keep in mind and express the idea that suffering is a necessary part of life.

The uncovering of things such as birchbark writings and cathedral grafitti shows that literacy was to some extent prevalent in ancient Rus. The fact that there are writings on things as simple as birchbark leads me to believe that literacy was somewhat prevalent. I don’t think that people with high status would choose to write messages on things so easily accessible. Also, the types of messages seen on some of the barks are very simple further explaining that it could have been a prevalent practice. If literacy was so rare, I feel that more complex and sophisticated messages would have been left behind.