Christianization and Byzantinization of Russia: Transmission of Axial Age Legacies

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Yulia PROZOROVA, Sociological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian Federation
The profound formative influence of Byzantium on the Russian civilizational complex is a widely accepted fact. The paper examines the transmission of Axial Age innovations through the Russo-Byzantine encounters, their adoption, and reception by Russian culture. Christianity emerged after the original epoch of the Axial Age and is considered a “secondary breakthrough” (S.N. Eisenstadt). Christianization and the acquisition of the Byzantine Orthodox framework became a stepping-stone for the formation of the Russian civilizational structures. The diffusion of Byzantine civilization (law, religion and moral doctrines, political and ideological forms, literature, art, etc.) was welcomed by the Russians of the Middle Ages. The main cultural framework, institution, and promoters for the transfer of Axial Age legacies were the Orthodox religion, the Church, clerics and religious philosophers. They spread the new visions on transcendental and the mundane orders that produced a fundamental impact on the spirituality and cultural patterns, economic ethics, political imagination, images of power and authority with continuous effects and far-reaching implications in subsequent centuries. However, in the Russian context, some elements of the Byzantine complex were accepted, some were rejected or transformed. The paper devotes particular attention to the problematic of state formation, political structures and imaginaries that emerged in Russia as consequences of Byzantinization. The Byzantine civilization was more efficiently assimilated in regions characterized by evolving or already established centralized forms of government. The development of monarchical institutions and the acceptance of Byzantine culture were often reciprocal: political centralization paved the way for Byzantinization and vice versa.