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“National Identity in Premodern Rus”

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This article is a commentary on some of the conclusions of Serhii Plokhy's The Origin of the Slavic Nations. Premodern Identities in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Plokhy addressed ethnocultural (national) identities and national identity projects from the tenth to the early eighteenth century. This essay is concerned with Kievan Rus', the Mongol impact on the East Slavs, and Muscovite history from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. It offers alternative interpretations both of the historical background which Plokhy outlines for the evolution of East Slavic peoples and of Plokhy's interpretations of various historical, political, religious and literary texts. The chronology of the translatio of the myth of the Rus' Land from Kievan Rus' to Moscow is still a matter of contention. In synthesizing the views of such historians as Edward Keenan and Donald Ostrowski, Plokhy has attributed too much influence to the Mongols on Russian institutional and cultural history. Plokhy has failed to be consistent in his application of Keenan's criticism of sources and Keenan's concept of sixteenth-century Muscovite society and culture. Finally, Plokhy somewhat oversimplifies the cultural heterogeneity of Ivan the Terrible and Ivan the Terrible's Muscovy. These criticisms are a tribute to Plokhy's challenging but inspiring monograph.


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