Eastern European History

(Prof. Dr. Jan Kusber)

Byzantium as Argument: Reasoning on Rule and War by the Tsars Ivan Groznyj, and Mikhail and Alexey Romanov in the 16th and 17th Centuries

The first Muscovite tsar, Ivan IV Grozny, and the first two Romanov tsars created the ideological foundation of the autocracy by producing texts which, in different ways, followed Byzantium as the reference framework. Dealing with Byzantium as a source of legitimacy for rule and war played a changing role, including the distance and reference and going beyond the letter of Philotheus of Pskov (Moscow: the Third Rome), which was initially barely received. Those texts that justified domination and war (for example against Kazan or Poland-Lithuania) should be examined for argumentation strategies, historical references and topoi.


The Muscovite Ruler as Commander in the Field (14th to 16th Centuries)

The Grand Dukes and Tsars of Moscow legitimised their rule through the ceremony of investiture and coronation, as well as through their own generalship, which was staged before the army with calls to fight against the (unbelieving) opponent (e.g., Dmitry Donskoy, Ivan III, Ivan IV ). This PhD thesis will elaborate on the texts that have emerged from these practices and the references to Byzantine models and variants, and also show omissions in the reception history.


Against and With Byzantium: Varangians and Slavs as a Threat to Byzantium in the Reception of Russian Textual and Pictorial Culture in the 18th and 19th Centuries

This PhD thesis will explore the representation of military disputes between Varangian-Slavic warrior societies and Byzantium from the 9th to 12th centuries produced in different media of the textual and pictorial culture of Early Modern Russia. The treatment of the war culture of mobile troops on land and sea will be examined, on the one hand, with regard to literary and historiographical texts and, on the other hand, based on historical paintings from the end of the 18th century to Nikolas Roerich’s famous painting The Slavs on the Dnieper. The focus will be on the question of how the warriors of the Varangian period were idealised and conceptualised in later sources. What attributes were given to the warriors? In the reception, were they considered part of one’s own culture or as ‘others’?