chapter  2
18 Pages

The imperial roots of Soviet Orientology: David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye


Geography has made Russia intimately familiar with the East since its very beginnings.1 The caches of Near Eastern coins dating from as early as the eighth century found on its land testify to a lively Slav intercourse with the Orient even before the rise of Kievan Rus. Commerce, conflict and intermarriage continued to characterize Russia’s relations with its Asian neighbors on the Steppe and beyond after its conversion to Christianity in 988. However, the sparse literature about the East that survived the medieval era was strongly influenced by the mother church in Constantinople. Monastic chronicles and other texts tended to caricature Asians as a sinister other, more in keeping with Byzantine anti-Islamic polemics than physical contact.2