1.27 - Rurik, and what was the Tale of Bygone Years, anyway?

Welcome back for 2023. This episode kicks off our chronological look at the rulers of Rus, starting with Rurik. By tradition, Rurik is the founder of the dynasty that came to rule Rus, but our actual knowledge about him and his rule is very limited.

The previous episodes in the short series Before the Rus and Enter the Rus have covered the background for what was going on in and around Rus at the time Rurik is supposed to have become the ruler, so listen to those first if you haven’t already.

Rurik on the “1000 Years of Russia” monument in Novgorod.

We also look at the key (almost) contemporary source of information on the rulers of Rus - the Tale of Bygone Years. We discuss the various versions of the chronicles available today, and the changing ways in which historians have approached their interpretation over the years. Why were the chronicles written and what should we keep in mind when we are reading them?

A miniature from the Radziwill Chronicle. The manuscript contains 600 illustrations of scenes from the chronicle.

What kind of materials are gathered in the chronicles, and how were they selected?

A page from the Laurentian Chronicle, copied by a monk named Lavrenti in 1377.

How can informed analysis of the purposes why the chronicles were written help us parse out what is and isn’t fact? These are all questions we will be returning to regularly as we move through the next couple of centuries. 

We also take a look at what Rus and the rulers of Rus should be called, and discuss why the wrong terms are used more often than the correct ones. 

Listen to Episode 1.27 - Rurik, and what was the Tale of Bygone Years, anyway?  - now on the website, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or YouTube.

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