Chrissy Stroop Profile picture
Jul 28, 2018 31 tweets 7 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
1. Putin calls the conversion of Rus’ “the starting point for the formation and development of Russian statehood, the true spiritual birth of our ancestors, the determination of their identity. Identity, the flowering of national culture and education."

Let’s unpack this quote.
2. Like many official pronouncements of the Russian president (and general secretaries of the Communist Party of the USSR before him), this one is for both domestic and international consumption.

But it might not be for international consumption primarily in the way you think.
3. Yes, Putin uses this rhetoric to signal that Russia is a "Christian country." Of course, the Russian Federation is multiethnic, and the leaders of various faith traditions get trotted out to support the Putinist "traditional values" agenda. But there's more going on here.
4. So what is this baptism of Rus' 988 anniversary all about? Let's do a little history. The polity/proto-state known as Kievan Rus' was established in the 9th century by Vikings referred to as Varangians. The term "Rus'" probably refers to the red hair of these settlers.
5. The Rus' proto-state was a loose confederation of principalities. The grand prince at the head was was initially seated in Kyiv (or Kiev, but as this spelling is a transliteration from Russian rather than Ukrainian, so Kyiv is preferable)--Ukraine's capital today.
5-a. What's the deal with the apostrophe at the end of the word "Rus'"? It stands in a for a diacritical mark that indicates that the final consonant is soft rather than hard. This is technical linguistics stuff that isn't critical for the lay reader, but that's why it's there.
6. So, what was Rus'? Initially, it was a confederation in which Vikings extracted wealth from the local Slavic and Finnic populations. The river system in the area was great for that, given Viking technology. Here's a map shared by Yuri Koryakov to Wikimedia Commons:
7. The Varangian colonizers who had established their trading outposts soon assimilated to the local Slavic culture, and the names of their ruling elites soon become distinctly Slavic--Iaropolk, Sviatoslav, and Volodymyr/Vladimir. Rus' became an essentially East Slavic polity.
8. As such, Rus' is the cradle not only of the future Russian state, but also of Ukraine and Belarus'. The East Slavs had differentiated linguistically and culturally from the South Slavs and West Slavs at this point, but to speak of the East Slavs as "Russians" is appropriation.
9. So, what's all this business about 988 and the conversion of Rus'? Well, as the Rus' polity gained standing, it had to contend with surrounding forces. According to the Primary Chronicle, Rus' sent emissaries to representatives of different religions to decide which to adopt.
10. But the Chronicle account is probably highly embellished, and what was happening was more of a process of diplomacy and proto-international-relations. Adopting a particular religion would also mean choosing alliances in a world of frequent hostile actions and wars.
11. If there's some truth to the Primary Chronicle's account, the Rus' leaders considered Islam, Judaism (the Khazars were an important Jewish power in the steppe at the time), Western Christianity, and Eastern Christianity.
12. Now, Western Christianity and Eastern Christianity had not made their final split at this point (that would happen in 1054), but what became the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches had differentiated considerably in terms of culture and practices.
13. Western Christianity used Latin as a means of communication among the educated. This also served to preserve Classical culture. Eastern Christianity translated the liturgy into local languages, or something close-ish. Choosing Eastern Christianity gave Rus' a written language
14. Oddly enough, Old Slavonic/Church Slavonic is more South than East Slavic, meaning that Russians, Ukrainians, and any literate Rus' (there weren't many) at the time would need special training to read it. Of course, it was much closer than Latin.
15. Byzantine missionaries Cyril and Methodius had developed the language for an earlier failed missionary project in the Czech lands, so Slavonic was sort of recycled and repurposed for the Rus'. Cyril is where we get the term Cyrillic alphabet:…
16. Why choose Eastern Christianity? Well, Byzantium was a nearby power that was still a serious player at that time. It looked to the Rus' elites like a more solid choice than the fragmented medieval West. They couldn't have known it was about to decline, disappearing in 1453.
17. So, anyway, I'm leaving out a lot of details, but Grand Princess and Regent Olga was an early convert to Byzantine Christianity, and she surely influenced her grandson, Grand Prince Volodymyr/Vladimir, who converted the proto-state after sacking the Byzantine city of Kherson.
18. Which he then gave back when he married Anna, a Byzantine princess who had been promised by Emperor Basil II (who might have wanted to renege, which might have inspired the sacking), cementing an alliance with a powerful empire along with the conversion required for that.
19. For their roles in converting Rus' to Eastern Christianity, both Vladimir and Olga are considered not just saints, but even "equal to the apostles," in Eastern Orthodoxy. Their choice had consequences. Rus' got literacy in Slavonic, not Latin, and not Greek.
20. Despite the alliance with Byzantium, the Byzantines didn't feel the need to spread Greek learning, since what Rus' got was translated, and the Rus' didn't show too much interest in a lot of learning anyway. So the heritage of Classical learning didn't make it into Rus'.
21. Scholars debate the significance of that. But now back to what this has to do with Putin's pronouncement. Remember that Rus' was an East Slavic confederation of principalities. Strictly speaking, it wasn't Russian, Ukrainian, or Belorussian.
22. In the twelfth century, with Rus' declining, Grand Prince Adrei Bogolyubsky shifted the center of power from Kiev to the Vladimir-Suzdal area (an area not much more than 100 miles East of Moscow, though there was no Moscow till 1147 and it wasn't important at this time).
23. This move is certainly important for what became Russian history, but I'm not sure we should even speak of Russian history proper until after the Mongol conquest of the 1230s and 1240s ended Rus' sovereignty entirely.
24. Moscow eventually emerged as the power that overthrew Mongol-Tatar rule and "gathered" (read: brutally conquered) "the Russian lands" into a new state, Muscovy, that was recognizably medieval/early modern Russian. It shares in the heritage of Kievan Rus', but so does Ukraine.
25. All this to get to the true thrust of Putin's statement that the conversion of Rus' is “the starting point for the formation and development of Russian statehood." This is a Russian nationalist reading of history projecting Russian statehood into the past in a colonizing way.
26. Putin's statement thus a jab at Ukrainian sovereignty and national self-determination. It's not an unusual interpretation of this history in Russia at all, but given the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the ongoing Russia-supported rebellion in Eastern Ukraine, this matters.
27. Putin's statement is thus a nod not only to the right-wing "traditional values" international (on which see:…), but also to Russian nationalists. And to the world, it says: Ukraine is Russia's sphere of influence, and we'll do what we want there.
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More from @C_Stroop

Oct 1, 2018
1. I just sent out this month's newsletter for all @Patreon patrons who support me with a $5 or higher monthly pledge. If you find my work valuable and would like the inside Stroop scoop, please consider joining them!

#Exvangelical #SundayThoughts
2. At the end of the last academic year, I faced a choice--move back in with my parents in Indiana to pursue the freelance writing and speaking opportunities I was getting more of, or adjunct at the University of South Florida for low pay and no benefits. Or find something new.
3. Here's a thread with some of my life story up to the present. The travel to Austria next spring to do a semester of research mentioned in it fell through despite me having been promised it for years.

Read 15 tweets
Sep 29, 2018
Another reversal of an improvement for LGBTQ acceptance in an evangelical institution (World Vision is the other one I have in mind). Evangelicalism doesn’t change its patriarchal ways. It just casts out the people who would make it better.

#Exvangelical #EmptyThePews #Resist
Of course Wheaton might be the more direct parallel.…

#Exvangelical #EmptyThePews
For more on the authoritarian enforcement of hardline conservative orthodoxy at evangelical colleges, see my latest for @Playboy:…

#Exvangelical #EmptyThePews #SaturdayThoughts
Read 4 tweets
Sep 19, 2018
I also RT requests for financial help fairly often. Unfortunately, many in the #Exvangelical community have needs and are hampered by lack of education, meaningless degrees, or lack of professional experience outside evangelical institutions. The social costs of leaving are high.
I don’t want or expect anyone who can’t afford it to give, and I don’t want anyone to feel obligated; even just RTing those requests is immensely helpful. It is my hope that someday we’ll have some kind of foundation to fund #Exvangelical projects and meet needs. #EmptyThePews
Sometimes crowdfunding is all that stands between an #Exvangelical and homelessness, or being forced to return to a toxic, abusive living situation. That’s the uncomfortable reality. I do make small donations myself to almost every fundraising request I amplify.
Read 4 tweets
Sep 13, 2018
“We have to put citizens at the heart of our response to disinformation.” - Nina Jankowicz (@wiczipedia) at the Indiana Council on World Affairs.
One thing social media sites should be doing is providing a simplified approach to their terms of service so that users can provide informed consent.

Enforcement of terms of service also needs to be consistent, and cannot he left to algorithms alone.
Social media platforms should step up to pay for human processes re: terms of service violations and appeals. Democracy is at stake.

They can also embrace more of an educational role with respect to information literacy.
Read 6 tweets
Sep 7, 2018
September is a big month! I’m at the airport on my way Florida for The #Exvangelical Community: Paths, Projects, Prospects. In the last two days I’ve filed two pieces with editors, and this week I did podcasts w/ @NiceMangos and @kitchencultpod (@haettinger and @mxdarkwater). #FF
Next weekend I’ll be in Charleston, South Carolina to give a talk for @CHShumanists, and am very much looking forward to that! October is also pretty full!

#Exvangelical #EmptyThePews #FridayFeeIing #FF
And next week I’ll also be doing a second podcast episode with @TwistedSisterds! It’ll be my second time on, and I sure had fun last time!

#Exvangelical #FF
Read 4 tweets
Aug 28, 2018
1. A few thoughts on Trump's dinner in honor of evangelicals, which I'll be discussing with @RickSmithShow later. Key context to consider is that fascism is concerned with defining who belongs to "the nation" or "the people," and who doesn't. Internal enemies (Others) are needed.
2. This dovetails neatly with the way in which fundamentalist believers police who does and does not count as a member of their religious confession. This is critical to understanding the Christian Right's politics of "religious freedom":

3. Indeed, as I have written elsewhere, "Fundamentalism is authoritarianism in microcosm, or on the margins. Fascism is essentially fundamentalism in power." The vast majority of white evangelicals are authoritarian and fundamentalist.…

Read 25 tweets

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