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Originally, the name Rus' (Русь) referred to the people, regions, and medieval states (ninth to twelfth centuries) of the Kievan Rus'. In the Western culture, it is better known as Ruthenia from the eleventh century onwards. Its territories are today distributed among Belarus, Ukraine, and a part of the European section of Russia.
One of the earliest written sources mentioning the people called Rus' (as Rhos) dates to 839 in the Annales Bertiniani. This chronicle identifies them as a Germanic tribe called the Swedes. According to the Kievan Rus' Primary Chronicle, compiled in about 1113, the Rus' were a group of Varangians, Norsemen who had relocated somewhere from the Baltic region (literally "from beyond the sea"), first to Northeastern Europe, then to the south where they created the medieval Kievan state. In the 11th century, the dominant term in the Latin tradition was Ruscia. It was used, among others, by Thietmar of Merseburg, Adam of Bremen, Cosmas of Prague and Pope Gregory VII in his letter to Izyaslav I. Rucia, Ruzzia, Ruzsia were alternative spellings. During the 12th century, Ruscia gradually made way for two other Latin terms, "Russia" and "Ruthenia". "Russia" (also spelled Rossia and Russie) was the dominant Romance-language form, first used by Liutprand of Cremona in the 960s and then by Peter Damian in the 1030s. It became ubiquitous in English and French documents in the 12th century. Ruthenia, first documented in the early 12th century Augsburg annals, was a Latin form preferred by the Apostolic Chancery of the Latin Church.
The modern name of Russia (Rossija), which came into use in the 15th century, is derived from the Greek Ρωσία, which in turn derives from Ῥῶς, an early Greek name for the people of Rus'. Rus' as a state had no proper name; by its inhabitants it was called rusĭskaja zemlja (русьская земля) – with rusĭskaja becoming russkaja in Modern Russian –, which translates as "Land of the Rus'". The word rusĭskaja is an adjective: the morpheme -ĭsk- corresponds etymologically to English -ish; -aja marks feminine adjectives (namely, zemlja, "land", is grammatically feminine in Slavic). In similar fashion, Poland is called Polska by its inhabitants, that is, Pol-sk-a, originally being the adjective Polish (land).
To distinguish the medieval "Rus'" state from other states that derived from it, modern historiography calls it Kievan Rus'. Its predecessor, the ninth-century Rus' Khaganate, is a somewhat hypothetical state whose existence is inferred from a handful of early medieval Byzantine and Persian and Arabic sources that mention that the Rus' were governed by a khagan.
According to the most prominent theory, the name Rus', like the Finnish name for Sweden (Ruotsi), is derived from an Old Norse term for "the men who row" (rods-) as rowing was the main method of navigating the rivers of Eastern Europe, and that it could be linked to the Swedish coastal area of Roslagen (the rowing crews) or Roden, as it was known in earlier times. The name Rus' would then have the same origin as the Finnish, Estonian, Võro and Northern Sami names for Sweden: Ruotsi, Rootsi, Roodsi and Ruoŧŧa. It is remarkable enough that the local Finnic and Permic peoples in northern Russia proper use the same (Rus'-related) name both for Sweden and Russia (depending on the language): thus the Veps name for Sweden and Swedish is Ročinma / Ročin, while in the neighboring Komi language the etymologically corresponding term Ročmu / Roč means already Russia and Russian instead.
The Danish scholar Tor Karsten has pointed out that the territory of present-day Uppland, Södermanland and East Gothland in ancient times was known as Roðer or roðin. Thomsen accordingly has suggested that Roðer probably derived from roðsmenn or roðskarlar, meaning seafarers or rowers.[page needed] Ivar Aasen, the Norwegian philologist and lexicographer, noted Norwegian dialect variants Rossfolk, Rosskar, Rossmann.
George Vernadsky theoretized about the association of Rus and Alans. He claimed that that Ruxs in Alanic means "radiant light", thus the ethnonym Roxolani could be understood as "bright Alans". He theorized that the name Roxolani a combination of two separate tribal names: the Rus and the Alans. Rus were closely associated with the Alans in the Sarmatian period.
In Old East Slavic literature, the East Slavs refer to themselves as "[muzhi] ruskie" ("Rus' men") or, rarely, "rusichi." The East Slavs are thought to have adopted this name from the Varangian elite, which was first mentioned in the 830s in the Annales Bertiniani. The Annales recount that Louis the Pious's court at Ingelheim am Rhein in 839 (the same year as the first appearance of Varangians in Constantinople), was visited by a delegation from the Byzantine emperor. The delegates included two men who called themselves "Rhos" ("Rhos vocari dicebant"). Louis inquired about their origins and learned that they were Swedes. Fearing that they were spies for their brothers the Danes, he jailed them. They were also mentioned in the 860s by Byzantine Patriarch Photius under the name, "Rhos."
As for the Rus, they live on an island ... that takes three days to walk round and is covered with thick undergrowth and forests; it is most unhealthy... They harry the Slavs, using ships to reach them; they carry them off as slaves and... sell them. They have no fields but simply live on what they get from the Slav's lands... When a son is born, the father will go up to the newborn baby, sword in hand; throwing it down, he says, "I shall not leave you with any property: You have only what you can provide with this weapon."
This section may stray from the topic of the article.
When the Varangians arrived in Constantinople, the Byzantines considered and described the Rhos (Greek Ῥῶς) as a different people from the Slavs. In his treatise De Administrando Imperio, Constantine VII describes the Rhos as the neighbours of Pechenegs who buy from the latter cows, horses, and sheep "because none of these animals may be found in Rhosia". His description represents the Rus' as a warlike northern tribe. Constantine also enumerates the names of the Dnieper cataracts in both Rhos and in Slavic languages. The Rhos names have distinct Germanic etymology:
- Essoupi (Old Norse vesuppi, "do not sleep")
- Oulvorsi (Old Norse holmfors, "island rapid")
- Gelandri (Old Norse gjallandi, "yelling, loudly ringing")
- Aeifor (Old Norse eiforr, "ever fierce")
- Varouforos (Old Norse varufors, "cliff rapid" or barufors, "wave rapid")
- Leanti (Old Norse leandi, "seething", or hlæjandi, "laughing")
- Stroukoun (Old Norse strukum, "rapid current").
According to the Primary Chronicle, a historical compilation attributed to the 12th century, Rus' was a group of Varangians who lived on the other side of the Baltic Sea in Scandinavia. The Varangians were first expelled, then invited to rule the warring Slavs and Baltic Finns of Veliky Novgorod:
The four tribes who had been forced to pay tribute to the Varangians - Chuds, Slavs, Merians and Krivichs drove the Varangians back beyond the sea, refused to pay them further tribute, and set out to govern themselves. But there was no law among them, and tribe rose against tribe. Discord thus ensued among them, and they began to war one against the other. They said to themselves, "Let us seek a prince who may rule over us, and judge us according to custom. Thus they went overseas to the Varangians, to the Rus. These particular Varangians were known as Rus, just as some are called Swedes, and others Normans and Angles, and still others Gotlanders, for they were thus named. The Chuds, the Slavs, the Krivichs and the Ves' then said to the Rus, "Our land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come reign as princes, rule over us". Three brothers, with their kinfolk, were selected. They brought with them all the Rus and migrated.
The earliest written mention of the word Rus' or Rus'ian/Russian appears in the Primary Chronicle under the year 912. When describing a peace treaty signed by the Varangian Oleg of Novgorod during his campaign on Constantinople, it contains the following passage, "Oleg sent his men to make peace and sign a treaty between the Greeks and the Rus', saying thus: [...] "We are the Rus': Karl, Inegeld, Farlaf, Veremud, Rulav, Gudi, Ruald, Karn, Frelav, Ruar, Aktevu, Truan, Lidul, Vost, Stemid, sent by Oleg, the great prince of Rus', and all those under him[.]"
It can be noted that none of the Rus' names listed are Slavic and few are likely to be Finnic; most or all are Germanic.
However, the Synod Scroll of the Novgorod First Chronicle, which is partly based on the original list of the late 11th Century and partly on the Primary Chronicle, does not name the Varangians asked by the Chuds, Slavs and Krivichs to reign their obstreperous lands as the "Rus'". One can assume that there was no original mention of the Varangians as the Rus' due to the old list predating the Primary Chronicle and the Synod Scroll only referred to the Primary Chronicle if the pages of the old list were blemished.
Other spellings used in Europe during the 9th and 10th centuries were as follows: Ruzi, Ruzzi, Ruzia and Ruzari. But perhaps the most popular term to refer to the Rus' was Rugii, a name of the ancient East Germanic tribe related to the Goths. Olga of Kiev, for instance, was called in the Frankish annals regina Rugorum, that is, "the Queen of the Rugi."
Alternate anti-Normanist theories
A number of alternative etymologies have been suggested. These are derived from the "anti-Normanist" school of thought in Russian historiography during the 19th century and in the Soviet era. These hypotheses are considered unlikely in Western mainstream academia. Slavic and Iranian etymologies suggested by "anti-Normanist" scholars include:
- The Roxolani, a Sarmatian (i. e., Iranian) people who inhabited southern Ukraine, Moldova and Romania;
- One of two rivers in Ukraine, the Ros and Rusna, near Kiev and Pereyaslav, respectively, whose names are derived from a postulated Slavic term for "water", akin to rosa (dew), rusalka (water nymph), ruslo (stream bed). (A relation of rosa to the Sanskrit rasā́- "liquid, juice; mythical river" suggests itself; compare Avestan Raŋhā "mythical stream" and the ancient name of the Volga River, Ῥᾶ Rā, from a cognate Scythian name.)
- Rusiy (Русый), light-brown, said of hair color (the translation "reddish-haired", cognate with the Slavic "ryzhiy", "red-haired", is not quite exact);
- A postulated proto-Slavic word for "bear", cognate with arctos and ursus.
The name Rus' may have originated from the Iranian name of the Volga River (by F. Knauer, Moscow 1901), as well as from the Rosh of Ezekiel. Prof. George Vernadsky has suggested a derivation from the Roxolani or from the Aryan term ronsa[verification needed] (moisture, water). River names such as Ros are common in Eastern Europe.[page needed]
The Russian linguist I.N. Danilevskiy, in his Ancient Rus as Seen by Contemporaries and Descendants, argued against these theories, stating that the anti-Normanists neglected the realities of the Ancient Slavic languages and that the nation name Rus' could not have arisen from any of the proposed origins.
- The populace of the Ros River would have been known as Roshane;
- Red-haired or bear-origined people would have ended their self-name with the plural -ane or -ichi, and not with the singular -s' (red hair is one of the natural hair colors of Scandinavians and other Germanic peoples);
- Most theories are based on a Ros- root, and in Ancient Slavic an o would never have become the u in Rus'.
Danilevskiy further argued that the term followed the general pattern of Slavic names for neighboring Uralic peoples—the Chud', Ves', Perm', Sum', etc.—but that the only possible word that it could be based on, Ruotsi, presented a historical dead-end, since no such tribal or national name was known from non-Slavic sources. "Ruotsi" is, however, the Finnish name for Sweden. Danilevskiy shows that the oldest historical source, the Primary Chronicle, is inconsistent in what it refers to as the "Rus'": in adjacent passages, the Rus' are grouped with Varangians, with the Slavs, and also set apart from the Slavs and Varangians. Danilevskiy suggests that the Rus' were originally not a nation but a social class, which can explain the irregularities in the Primary Chronicle and the lack of early non-Slavic sources.
From Rus' to Russia
In modern English historiography, Kievan Rus' is the most common name for the ancient East Slavic state (usually retaining the apostrophe in Rus', a transliteration of the soft sign, ь) followed by "Kievan Rus'", "Kievan Russia", "ancient Russian state", and, extremely rarely, "Kievan Ruthenia". It is also called the Princedom or Principality of Kiev, or just Kiev.
The vast political state was subsequently divided into several parts. The most influential were, in the south, Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia and in the north, Vladimir-Suzdal and the Novgorod Republic. The southern part fell under Polish and Lithuanian influence; the northern part, under much weaker Mongol influence,[clarification needed] went on to become a loose federation of principalities.
Patriarch Callistus I of Constantinople in 1361 created two metropolitan sees with their own names (in Greek) for the northern and southern parts: respectively, Μεγάλη Ῥωσσία (Megálē Rhōssía, Great Russia) in Vladimir and Kiev and Μικρὰ Ῥωσσία (Mikrà Rhōssía, Russia Minor or Little Russia) with the centers in Galich (Halych) and Novgorodok (Navahrudak).
In the 14th-16th centuries most Russian principalities were united under the power of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, once a part of Vladimir-Suzdal, and formed a large state. While the oldest endonyms of the Grand Duchy of Moscow used in its documents were Rus' (Russian: Русь) and the Russian land (Russian: Русская земля), a new form of its name, Rusia or Russia, appeared and became common in the 15th century. In the 1480s Russian state scribes Ivan Cherny and Mikhail Medovartsev mention Russia under the name Росиа, Medovartsev also mentions "the sceptre of Russian lordship (Росийскаго господства)". In the following century Russia co-existed with the old name Rus' and appeared in an inscription on the western portal of the Transfiguration Cathedral of the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery in Yaroslavl (1515), on the icon case of the Theotokos of Vladimir (1514), in the work by Maximus the Greek, the Russian Chronograph written by Dosifei Toporkov (?–1543/44) in 1516–22 and in other sources.
By the 15th century, the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Moscow had reunited the northern parts of the former Kievan Rus'. Ivan III of Russia was the first local ruler to be proclaimed "Grand Prince of all Rus'" (similarly, see Ivan I of Moscow and the Mongol invasion of Rus'). This title was used by the Grand Dukes of Vladimir since the early 14th century, and the first prince to use it was Mikhail of Tver. Ivan III was styled by Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor as rex albus and rex Russiae. Later, Rus’ — in the Russian language specifically — evolved into the Byzantine-influenced form, Rossiya (Russia is Ῥωσσία (Rhōssía) in Greek).
In 1547, Ivan IV assumed the title of “Tsar and Grand Duke of all Rus'” (Царь и Великий князь всея Руси) and was crowned on 16 January, thereby turning the Grand Duchy of Moscow into Tsardom of Russia, or "the Great Russian Tsardom", as it was called in the coronation document, by Constantinople Patriarch Jeremiah II and in numerous official texts, but the state partly remained referred to as Moscovia (English: Muscovy) throughout Europe, predominantly in its Catholic part, though this Latin term was never used in Russia. The two names "Russia" and "Moscovia" appear to have co-existed as interchangeable during the later 16th and throughout the 17th century with different Western maps and sources using different names, so that the country was called "Russia, or Moscovia" (Latin: Russia seu Moscovia) or "Russia, popularly known as Moscovia" (Latin: Russia vulgo Moscovia). In England of the 16th century, it was known both as Russia and Muscovy. Such notable Englishmen as Giles Fletcher, author of the book Of the Russe Common Wealth (1591), and Samuel Collins, author of The Present State of Russia (1668), both of whom visited Russia, were familiar with the term Russia and used it in their works. So did numerous other authors, including John Milton, who wrote A brief history of Moscovia and of other less-known countries lying eastward of Russia, published posthumously, starting it with the words: "The Empire of Moscovia, or as others call it, Russia..."
In the Russian Tsardom, the word Russia replaced the old name Rus' in official documents, though the names Rus' and Russian land were still common and synonymous to it, and often appeared in the form Great Russia (Russian: Великая Россия), which is more typical of the 17th century, whereas the state was also known as Great-Russian Tsardom (Russian: Великороссийское царствие).
According to prominent historians like Alexander Zimin and Anna Khoroshkevich, the continuous use of the term Moscovia was a result of traditional habit and the need to distinguish between the Muscovite and the Lithuanian part of the Rus', as well as of the political interests of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which competed with Moscow for the western regions of the Rus'. Due to the propaganda of the Commonwealth, as well as of the Jesuits, the term Moscovia was used instead of Russia in many parts of Europe where prior to the reign of Peter the Great there was a lack of direct knowledge of the country. In Northern Europe and at the court of the Holy Roman Empire, however, the country was known under its own name, Russia or Rossia. Sigismund von Herberstein, ambassador of the Holy Roman Emperor in Russia, used both Russia and Moscovia in his work on the Russian tsardom and noted: "The majority believes that Russia is a changed name of Roxolania. Muscovites ("Russians" in the German version) refute this, saying that their country was originally called Russia (Rosseia)". Pointing to the difference between Latin and Russian names, French captain Jacques Margeret, who served in Russia and left a detailed description of L’Empire de Russie of the early 17th century that was presented to King Henry IV, stated that foreigners make "a mistake when they call them Muscovites and not Russians. When they are asked what nation they are, they respond 'Russac', which means 'Russians', and when they are asked what place they are from, the answer is Moscow, Vologda, Ryasan and other cities". The closest analogue of the Latin term Moscovia in Russia was “Tsardom of Moscow”, or “Moscow Tsardom” (Московское царство), which was used along with the name "Russia", sometimes in one sentence, as in the name of the 17th century Russian work On the Great and Glorious Russian Moscow State (Russian: О великом и славном Российском Московском государстве).
Different from other Slavic languages, in the specific case of the Russian language, russkij (русский) refers to both the Rus' people and modern day Russians, rossijskij (российский), with no distinction (deliberately implying[original research?] both to be the same people with the same language — see Russification). In modern Polish the words being ruski (adj. of Rus', Ruthenian, the East Slavs from the historic Kievan Rus') which may equally refer to modern Belarusians, Ukrainians or both, or in a historical context to the people of Kievan Rus'; contrasted to rosyjski (Russian, native to what became of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, developed after the disintegration of the Kievan Rus'). Similarly in other Slavic languages, including modern Ukrainian: rus’kyj (руський) refers to Rus’ (Ruthenian), whereas rosijs’kyj (російський) refers to Russia.
From Rus' to Ruthenia
The southern territories of the Rus' fell under the rule of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13th century. While Russian descendants of the Rus' called themselves Russkiye, the residents of these lands called themselves Rusyny or Ruskiye. The name Ruthenia arises as a latinized form of the name Rus' in Western European documents at about this time.
The territories under Lithuanian rule retained the name Rus' , specifically
- "White Rus" (Ruthenia Alba, Belarus, Ruś Biała)
- "Black Rus" (Ruthenia Nigra, Chorna Rus, Ruś Czarna)
- "Red Rus" (Ruthenia Rubra, Chervona Rus, Ruś Czerwona)
The word "Ukraine" (ukraina) is first recorded in the 15th century Hypatian Codex of the 12th and 13th century Primary Chronicle, whose 1187 entry on the death of Prince Volodymyr of Pereyaslav (aka Volodymyr/Vladimir Monomakh) says “The Ukraina groaned for him”, ѡ нем же Оукраина много постона (o nem že Ukraina mnogo postona).
During a period of cultural revival after 1840, the members of a secret ideological society in Kiev, the Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius, revived the use of the name Ukrayina for the homeland of the "Little Russian" people. They drew upon a name which had been used by 17th century Ukrainian Cossacks. It had earlier appeared on 16th century maps of Kiev and its local area (Kievan Rus'). Ukrayina was originally an Old East Slavic word for a "bordered land" or "a separated land parcel, a separate part of a tribe's territory", attested as far back as the 12th century. See krajina for cognates.
Application of the name "Ruthenia" became narrowed to Carpathian Ruthenia (Karpats’ka Rus’), south of the Carpathian Mountains in the Kingdom of Hungary, where many local Slavs consider themselves Rusyns. Carpathian Ruthenia incorporated the cities of Mukacheve (Rusyn: Mukachevo; Hungarian: Munkács), Uzhhorod (Hungarian: Ungvár) and Prešov (Pryashiv; Hungarian: Eperjes). Carpathian Rus' had been part of the Kingdom of Hungary since 907, and had been known as "Magna Rus'" but was also called "Karpato-Rus’" or "Zakarpattya".
Little Russia, New Russia
In 1654, under the Pereyaslav Agreement, the Cossack lands of the Zaporozhian Host were signed into the protectorate of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, including the Cossack Hetmanate of Left-bank Ukraine, and Zaporozhia. In Russia, these lands were referred to as Little Russia (Malorossiya). Colonies established in lands ceded from the Ottoman Empire along the Black Sea were called Novorossiya "New Russia".
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In the Sarmatian period the Rus' were closely associated with the Alans. Hence the double name Rus- Alan (Roxolani). As has been mentioned,1 ruxs in Alanic means 'radiant light'. The name 'Ruxs-Alan' may be understood in two ways: ... of two clans or two tribes.1 That the Roxolani were actually a combination of these two clans may be seen from the fact that the name Rus (or Ros) was on many occasions used separately from that of the Alans. Besides, the armour of the ...
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- Тихвинский, С. Л., Мясников, В. С. Восток—Россия—Запад: исторические и культурологические исследования. Памятники исторической мысли, 2001 — С. 69
- Хорошкевич А. Л. Русское государство в системе международных отношений конца XV—начала XVI в. — М.: Наука, 1980. — С. 84
- Sigismund von Herberstein. Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentarii. Synoptische Edition der lateinischen und der deutschen Fassung letzter Hand. Basel 1556 und Wien 1557. München, 2007. P. 29
- Advertissement au Lecteur // Jacques Margeret. Estat de l'empire de Russie et grande duché de Moscovie, avec ce qui s'y est passé de plus mémorable et tragique... depuis l'an 1590 jusques en l'an 1606 en septembre, par le capitaine Margeret. M. Guillemot, 1607. Modern French-Russian edition: Маржерет Ж. Состояние Российской империи (Тексты, комментарии, статьи). Ж. Маржерет в документах и исследованиях. Серия: Studia historica М. Языки славянской культуры. 2007. С. 46, 117
- Vernadsky V. Moscow Tsardom. in 2 v. Moscow: Agraph, 2001 (Russian)
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This article lacks ISBNs for the books listed in it. (June 2009)
- "How Rusyns Became Ukrainians", Zerkalo Nedeli (Mirror Weekly), July 2005. Available online in Russian and in Ukrainian.
- "We Are More 'Russian' than Them: a History of Myths and Sensations", Zerkalo Nedeli (Mirror Weekly), January 27 – February 2, 2001. Available online in Russian and in Ukrainian.
- "Such a Deceptive Triunity", Zerkalo Nedeli (Mirror Weekly), May 2–8, 1998. Available online in Russian and in Ukrainian.
- Hakon Stang, The Naming of Russia (Oslo: Meddelelser, 1996).
- Y. M. Suzumov. Etymology of Rus (in Appendix to S. Fomin's "Russia before the Second Coming", available on-line in Russian.)
- P. Pekarskiy. Science and Literature in Russia in the Age of Peter the Great. (St Petersburg, 1862)
- S. M Solovyov. History of Russia since the Ancient Times. (Moscow, 1993)
- E. Nakonechniy. The Stolen Name: How the Ruthenians became Ukrainians. (Lviv, 1998)