Today, in Kiev, the Local Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (the schismatical body headed by Denisenko: editor’s note) shall gather in honour of the 1,020th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia. However, Philaret, the head of the so-called “Patriarchate of Kiev”, declared on the eve of the session that the council intends “to introduce a ‘correction’ to the concept of ‘Rus’, for today, Moscow says that Rus refers to Russia and not the Ukraine”.
He claims that the correction shall be introduced on the basis of old chronicles, particularly those of Nestor the Chronicler. Various news agencies reported that Philaret said, “Ancient chronicles testify to the fact that in the 9th and 10th centuries Rus included the contemporary Ukraine, a part of Byelorussia, the States, and a part of Poland. There was no such city as Moscow then, but, and today, they (Russians: Interfax) consider themselves Rus, but, this is a perversion of history”.
RG asked specialists in the history of ancient Rus, both Russian and Kievan, to explain the difference between the historical truth and what is simply slippery politics. Yelena Melnikova, the head of the Centre of Eastern Europe in the Ancient and Medieval World of the Institute of General History of the RAN, sighed heavily when she heard that the question was about the authenticity of the references given by Philaret. It was obvious that this was not the first time she has been forced to respond to this query, and she stated that she was uncertain [of what Philaret meant].
“[For Philaret] to introduce a ‘correction’ is strange, putting it mildly. The concept of ‘Rus’ as a united entity was clearly enunciated by the chroniclers, they had no doubts in this, in to contrast to Metropolitan Philaret. The sources, The Primary Chronicle (he (Philaret) does not use the correct name for Nestor the Chronicler’s work) and the Novogorod-I chronicle, which deal with that early period of history and depict the events of the 9th through the 11th centuries, say that ‘Rus’ extended from South Pereyaslavlya (a region south of Kiev on the Dnepr) to Lake Ladoga. No Polish territories were part of this realm.
Moreover, Poland was not a united state; it was the separate principalities of Greater and Lesser Poland. Portions of Byelorussia and the Western Ukraine were part of the Polish domain. Where did the Baltic region fit into this? The Esty, the ancestors of the modern Estonians, were a tributary state of Novgorod, but, they were not considered a part of Rus, properly speaking. In fact, the chroniclers never mentioned them as being part of the land of Rus.
Another question is how the chroniclers separated Upper and Lower Rus. Lower Rus consisted of three main southern principalities, Kiev, Pereyaslovka, and Chernigov. The northern boundary of the latter reached almost to the Oka River. The four main states in the north made up Upper Russia, Smolensk, Vladimir, Suzdal, and Novgorod. Quite often, one finds in the chronicles passages saying, ‘In Upper Russia, this is what happened and this is how it occurred’”.
Pyotr Kotlyar, doctor of historical sciences and corresponding member of the National Academy of Sciences of the Ukraine, also doubted the reasoning of the head of the “Patriarchate of Kiev”.
“Reputable Russian and Ukrainian historians take about the same position on this question. There are no scholarly foundations for Philaret’s position. It is another matter to state that at the beginning of its history, Rus was centred in the south in the regions of Kiev and Chernigov. Everything connected with the word ‘Rus’ is complicated. At first, [in Constantinople], the term was used in reference to the Varangian Guard (that is, ‘Rus’ was Scandinavia), and only later did it pass on to specific Slavic peoples. The book of the Roman Vasileos Konstantinos VII Porphyrogennetos (905-959, ruled 908-959) (one of the best emperors, he influenced Grand Princess St Olga to be baptised: editor’s note), which was translated several times into Russian, describes how Grand Prince Igor of Kiev, in the middle of the 10th century, “together with all the peoples of Rus” travelled about all the Slavic lands tributary to him.
However, as far as names are concerned, the eastern Slavic lands, Russia, the Ukraine, and Byelorussia, were called Rus for quite a long time, approximately until the end of the 12th century. The term, ‘the Ukraine’, came much later, and it arose from a geographical concept (literally, it means ‘at the borders’, in free translation, ‘the border marches’). We must admit that the land was not called ‘the Ukraine’ in the time of Bogdan Khmelnitsky. It was still called ‘the Kievshchyna’. Some claim that the ataman shouted to the Polish ambassadors, ‘I shall expel you from the Ukraine; I shall chase you back to Lvov!’ If we were to follow Philaret’s logic, then, would Lvov be part of the Ukraine?”
Both Professors Melnikova and Kotlyar said that they had never heard of any Russian or Ukrainian historian making such a claim concerning the term “Rus”. Professor Melnikova said, “In my opinion, there has never been a dispute concerning this term. Off the top of my head, I can think of no such case. There were times in history when a land was conquered by another people, who then became the elite, but, the name of the country remained as before. Or, vice versa. It happened thusly in Bulgaria. The Bulgarians, a Turkic people, conquered the Slavs, but, they took on the language and culture of their subjects. However, they gave their name to their state. In England, there was a Celtic population conquered by a Germanic people, who gave the land their name, Anglia (England). France was also a land conquered by Germanic tribes and they gave the land its name. No one resents this in the least”.
11 July 2008
Rossiskaya Gazeta (The Russian Newspaper)
Quoted in Interfax-Religion
This is perhaps a good time to talk of the Roman Empire. That is, the state referred to in the West as the Byzantine Empire. This was the leading state in Europe at the time. Professors Melnikova and Kotlyar, therefore, are specialists in a period when Rus was not only culturally inferior to the Roman state; Rus was also weaker in a material sense to the Empire. Orthodox people should never use the term “Byzantine”, it is a Western coinage. The people of the Empire called their state Vasilea ton Rhomaion (Roman Empire), they were Rhomaioi (Romans), and their culture was Rhomaios (Roman). That is why we should never use the term “Byzantine” in the church sense, for it validates the erroneous Western notion of an “Eastern church”. Ergo, Uniates who call themselves “Byzantine Catholics”, by the very use of that term, confess their subservience to Western (not Orthodox!) terminology and theology.
All Russians acknowledge their debt to the medieval Roman state, church, and culture. Without such, we would be pagans (or Catholics) today. However, this leads to why the Ecumenical Patriarch was the “first amongst equals” at that time. It was not based on anything canonical or scriptural. It was based on the power of the Roman state. When that state collapsed in 1453, the primacy of the EP dissolved as well. Afterwards, Russia assumed the role of leader and protector of Orthodoxy, especially after the apostasy of some of the Roman hierarchy at Ferrara-Firenze in 1448. Many Greek people are convinced that the victory of the Ottomans was made possible by this act of clerical treachery.
Empress St Eirene (?-1134, married the emperor in 1104), the pious and charitable consort of Ioannis II
That is why the present antics of the EP are pathetic and sad. The spiritual authority of the MP is backed by the material power of the Russian state, just as the EP was once backed by the Vasileos and the Roman state. Moscow replaced Constantinople as the axis of the Orthodox world some five centuries ago. Black Bart had best step lightly. Otherwise, he shall end like Isidore, a flock-less cardinal in Rome living on the pope’s largesse.