Religion and Pop Culture in Post-Kievan Rus’

Religion had a very prominent role in pop culture in Post-Kievan Rus’, influencing the social structure, everyday life,  and art as well.  Churchmen and high officials were easily threatened of the toppling of the social structure throughout Rus’ and were highly cautious of the entertaining minstrels. The Rus’ minstrels were looked down upon by the church because their performances “caricatured the world around them,” ((Kaiser and Marker 128)) no doubt making fun of the church at times.  But because the church was a part of the elite society, they were able to “[prevent] the minstrels from bequeathing these performances to subsequent generations,” ((Kaiser and Marker 128)) thus displaying the church’s power to the people of Rus’.

Religion was also important in everyday life for the people of Rus’ as displayed by The Last Will and Testament of Patrikei Stroev.  Stroev introduces himself as a “slave of God” ((Kaiser and Marker 130)) and mentions the Holy Trinity throughout his will.  Interesting to note is how the first sentence of the document is as if he were saying the sign of the cross, and beginning to pray “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” ((Kaiser and Marker 130)).

Beyond influencing social structure and everyday life, religion also heavily impacted the art in Rus’, especially the artwork of Andrei Rublev.  Rublev painted to decorate the churches because his “faith overflowed from him, and inspired him in his creative achievement” ((Kaiser and Marker 142)).  Because the themes in his paintings were heavily religious, they were able to “silently [take] part in Orthodox liturgy” ((Kaiser and Marker 142)).  Rublev’s work provides evidence of a cultural awakening in the fourteenth century, after the destruction of the Mongols.

Question to consider:

Why does Stroev begin his will as if he were about to pray by using the sign of the cross?

Works Cited

Kaiser, Daniel H. and Gary Marker. Reinterpreting Russian History: Readings, 860-1860s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.



Daily Life and Culture in Post-Kievan Rus’

Although many aspects of daily life in Post-Kievan Rus’, both during the Mongol invasion and directly after, have been lost in the intervening centuries, scholars have been able to determine several valuable insights into Post-Kievan culture. Literacy was not widespread at all during this time period–even some princes were illiterate. However, “birchbark charters” c. 1220 show us that some non-royal children did learn the alphabet and to write their names. Furthermore, the Mongols, through their violent occupation, destroyed buildings and left little market for artists to sell their goods. However, Andrei Rublev (c. 1370-1430), one of the most famous painters in Russian history, lived during this time and managed not only to create art, but also to develop new strategies and modes of painting. Peasants had few forms of entertainment besides traveling minstrels, who sang, danced, juggled, and tamed animals. The Church managed to destroy most records of these entertainers, but a few of their masks and images of them survive to today.

I found the Novgorod Birchbark Charters particularly interesting. Scholars tend to take them as evidence of children learning to read. However, I wonder how–or even if–scholars are able to determine that the document pictured in our text (p. 129) belonged to a small child versus an adult. To that point, how do they know that the drawing of a man on a horse was Onfim “distracted to depict is how imaginary conquests” (“Evidence for Literary” 128), and not a peasant adult–or even a boyar–drawing a picture of his personal, violent feat? I find it difficult to believe that, in such a largely illiterate society, children would be taught to read and write before adults.

I’d like to know what sort of impact, if any, the Mongols had on literacy in Post-Kievan Rus’. The readings explain how they impacted art and architecture, but what about education? In a broader sense, all of these readings make me wonder if there are still very large gaps in our knowledge of Post-Kievan culture and daily life. What don’t we know?

Revolutionary Popular Thought and Culture in France

The French Revolution transformed France from a society based on the tradition of divine right rule of kings and fixed social status of clergy, nobility, and peasantry, to a new political order based on the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The new political order sought to change virtually everything the monarchy had established. The tax system was abolished and decision-making was taken out of the hands of the monarchy and clergy. The third estate was able to attain the rights to land ownership, which provided financial relief such that a larger more diverse population could now live prosperously. This empowered the people. The popular cultural mindset of the revolution was based on individual freedoms and equality.

The Age of Enlightenment brought significant changes to popular culture. Institutions were confiscated from the church and turned into secular based schools, and churches themselves became temples of reason. The old scientific academies were replaced with ones that used the new scientific method. The metric system was established and days of the week were extended from seven to ten. Society was moving away from a religious based culture to one of reason and virtue.

Music had the most significant influence on the people, and served to propel the revolution. Not only was the song culture a method to build solidarity among the working class and the illiterate, it delivered strong political messages. Songs played a vital roll in unifying the citizenry and ultimately created an early French feeling of nationalism. Music was so easily transferred and contagious that it became a revolutionary weapon. Through music, the people joined forces, regardless of social class, and became united in purpose. Today, the French populace continues to rally through song at social events, and will always find significance in their national anthem, La Marseillaise.