Book Discussion - The Ruling Families of Rus: Clan, Family and Kingdom


The Ruling Families of Rus: Clan, Family and Kingdom

An Online Book Discussion with Christian A. Raffensperger, Donald Ostrowski, Susana Torres Prieto, Olenka Pevny, Frank Sysyn, Tania Plawuszczak-Stech, and Marko Stech

1 February, 2024


This book discussion will centre on the new monograph The Ruling Families of Rus: Clan, Family and Kingdom, by Christian Raffensperger and Donald Ostrowski (The University of Chicago Press, 2023). This volume is described by the publisher as “a new history of the Kyivan Rus, a medieval dynastic state in eastern Europe.”

When Mykhailo Hrushevsky set out to write his History of Ukraine-Rus', he saw it as a challenge to the traditional scheme of Russian history that was based on the Moscow scribes’ charting of the genealogy of the Moscow dynasty. He sought to examine the origins and history of the Ukrainian people and to claim for it the legacy of the early Rus' polity. Christian Raffensperger and Donald Ostrowski aim to revise our vision of the very concept of a Riurikid dynasty prior to the sixteenth century. They ask us instead to look at the families who were the rulers (kniazi) of the land of Rus'; from the time of the clan descending from Volodimer (Volodymyr). Focusing on elite families, they have produced no less of a challenge to traditional Russian history than Hrushevsky did in his time. Their examination of discrete family units, including marriage patterns and ties through the women of the families, remakes our vision of the interrelations of the lands of Rus'; with a broader world for half a millennium. In the symposium, the authors and discussants will take up the argument posed by the monograph and its import in understanding how Rus' was ruled. Appearing at a time when Vladimir Putin’s assault on history has drawn attention to the early history of Rus', this discussion will address items of interest in this new and provocative monograph whereby specialists and the general public alike may enhance their understanding of the medieval polity of Kyivan Rus'.

The monograph The Ruling Families of Rus: Clan, Family and Kingdom will be explored by two experts in the field of medieval studies: Professor Olenka Pevny (University of Cambridge) and Professor Susana Torres Prieto (IE University, Madrid/Segovia). Taking part in the discussion and responding to questions will be the book’s authors, Professor Christian Raffensperger (Wittenberg University) and Dr. Donald Ostrowski (Harvard University). Also participating in the event will be three members of the editorial team of the Hrushevsky Translation Project (HTP, at the CIUS): Professor Frank E. Sysyn (HTP editor-in-chief, who will deliver the introductory remarks); Tania Plawuszczak-Stech (managing editor of volume 2 of Hrushevsky’s “History,” who will moderate the event); and Dr. Marko R. Stech (HTP project manager, who will introduce the online edition of volume 1 of Hrushevsky’s “History”).

This event is a continuation of the series of book discussions and launches of recent publications in Ukrainian studies organized by the Peter Jacyk Centre for Ukrainian Historical Research and CIUS Press. This series concentrates on books in English and Ukrainian sponsored by the Centre, including those published by CIUS Press.

The organizers of this series are Prof. Frank E. Sysyn, director of the Centre; Prof. Yaroslav Hrytsak, director of the Program for the Study of Modern Ukrainian History and Society in Lviv; and Dr. Marko R. Stech, director of CIUS Press and Scholarly Publications. This book discussion is co-sponsored by the Department of History, Classics, and Religion, University of Alberta.