An overriding assumption has long directed scholarship in both European and Slavic history: that Kievan Rus’ in the tenth through twelfth centuries was part of a Byzantine commonwealth separate from Europe. Christian Raffensperger refutes this conception and offers a new frame for two hundred years of history, one in which Rus’ is understood as part of medieval Europe and East is not so neatly divided from West.
With the aid of Latin sources, the author brings to light the considerable political, religious, marital, and economic ties among European kingdoms, including Rus’, restoring a historical record rendered blank by Russian monastic chroniclers as well as modern scholars ideologically motivated to build barriers between East and West. Further, Raffensperger revises the concept of a Byzantine commonwealth that stood in opposition to Europe—and under which Rus’ was subsumed—toward that of a Byzantine Ideal esteemed and emulated by all the states of Europe. In this new context, appropriation of Byzantine customs, law, coinage, art, and architecture in both Rus’ and Europe can be understood as an attempt to gain legitimacy and prestige by association with the surviving remnant of the Roman Empire. Reimagining Europe initiates an expansion of history that is sure to challenge ideas of Russian exceptionalism and influence the course of European medieval studies.