Locating Hebrew Rusia: A Problem of Medieval Hebrew Nomenclature

Sara Ben-Isaac's picture
November 19, 2020
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Medieval and Byzantine History / Studies, Modern European History / Studies, Russian or Soviet History / Studies, Languages, Jewish History / Studies

The study of Jewish presence in early Eastern Europe has been severely hindered by the ambiguity of medieval nomenclature for Old Rus'. Some scholars even went so far as to deny any connection between the medieval He-brew term Rusi(’)a(h) (in its graphic variations) and the principalities of Rus’. The present lecture examines this term and others denoting Old Rus' in medieval Jew-ish tradition and traces their historical develop-ment. This helps to resolve a cardinal problem of attrib-ution for the earliest sources attesting to a Jewish pres-ence in Eastern Europe, but also reconstructs the history of an important Hebrew term. This lecture takes account of historical contexts, exegetic traditions, and political and confessional perceptions of Old Rus' on the part of medieval Jews from diverse communities spread across Europe and the Middle East.


The speaker Alexander Kulik is Associate Professor, Chair of the Department of Russian and Slavic Studies, and Grinberg Chair in Russian Stud-ies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has authored four books: Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha (two editions, 2004 and 2005), 3 Baruch: Greek-Slavonic Apocalypse of Baruch (2009), Biblical Pseudepigrapha in Slavonic Tradition (Oxford UP, 2016; with S. Minov), and Jews in Old Rus’: A Documentary History (Harvard UP, forthcoming) and edited seven volumes, among them the collected volume History of the Jews in Russia: From Antiquity to Early Modern Period in the bilingual series with Zal-man Shazar Center (2010) and Gesharim (2010) and the Guide to Early Jewish Texts and Traditions in Christian Transmis-sion (editor-in-chief, with G. Boccaccini, L. DiTommaso, D. Hamidovic, and M. Stone; Oxford UP, 2019). He has founded and head-ed the Brill book series Studia Judaeoslavica.

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