Islamic travellers in the medieval period encountered tall and fair-haired northerners along the eastern European riverine routes, they called them al-Madjus: ‘fire worshipers’ – a term for heathen. In these accounts the northerners are no longer Vikings but have morphed seamlessly into the Rus. This is the group we will follow. We will look at the term itself, which is intricately linked with modern-day politics. The question of whether the Vikings are the Rus is of national importance in eastern Europe and echoes in the current war in Ukraine. We will examine the relationship of Rus to the Byzantium world and the arrival of Christianity. The creation of this empire, part of European Christendom, has wide and lasting repercussions. Some of its rulers, such as Olga of Kyiv, wife of Prince Igor, son of the legendary Rurik, one of the three brothers who first settled in this region, features in literature, film, games and the contemporary writings. Our chief source is the Russian Primary Chronicle, it portrays Empress Olga of Kyiv as a vicious and devious ruler – indicating no doubt that she was a strong, clever ruler who knew her own mind!
01, 08, 15, 22, 29 Feb, 07, 14, 21 Mar
- The Rus
- historical legancy
At the end of this course, a student should be able to:
- Outline the creation of the kingdom of the Rus
- Evaluate the impact of the idea of the Rus on modern European politics
- Discuss the ongoing power of the idea of the Rus
- Explain why it is important
The following is a selection of recommended texts for those interested in reading further around the course content. We advise that you do not buy books in advance of the course as your tutor will discuss the list and suggest the most relevant reading for particular interests.
Cat Jarman, River Kings (London, 2022)
Christian Raffensperger, The Kingdom of the Rus (Croydon, 2017).
Topic presentations, discussion and follow-up
Linda Doran is a graduate of University College Dublin where she completed her PhD in 2001. She carried out a study of medieval settlement along the valleys of the Barrow, Nore and Suir rivers funded by the Heritage Council of Ireland. She has published numerous papers on settlement and communication routes, is editor of the New Ross section of the Royal Irish Academy’s Irish Historic Towns Atlas and has edited books on medieval lordship (2008) and Glendalough: City Of God (2011). She is a former honorary general secretary of Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland and is a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. She lectures in medieval history in University College Dublin