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Controversies over the Cultural Development of Pre-Ninth-Century Slavs

Description: CIUS Seminar Audio Part 1 and 2.

In his presentation entitled, "Controversies over the Cultural Development of Pre-Ninth-Century Slavs," Roman Zurba, an M.A. student in archeology, discussed the Middle Dnieper region as the cradle of Kievan Rus ' . Research on the first millenium A.D. is an important period not only for the study of the origins of Rus', but also for the study of the cultural development of all East Slavic peoples. / Modern archeological controversy on this subject began near the end of the nineteenth century when the archeologist V. V. Khvoika uncovered two hitherto unknown cultures in Kiev Province—the Zarubynetsk (c. 200 B.C.-200 A.D.) and Cherniakhivsk (c. 200 A.D. -500 A.D.). He placed them in a direct cultural link to Kievan Rus’, and thereby formulated the autochthonous theory. This ran counter to the Gothic theory proposed by German and Polish scholars. In 1954, the Cherniakhivsk culture was characterized as multi-ethnic. In formulating these interpretations, researchers all saw the same physical and cultural manifestations. However, their analyses were based on scholarly upbringing, which affected their conceptions. The speaker then outlined the development and vicissitudes of Ukrainian archeology in postrevolution times. Political sanctions against the Kievan school have considerably altered archeological research. However, in spite of purges and the rise of new scholars, Khvoika's theory remains the most vital and workable. / The speaker outlined his view of archeological development in the Middle Dnieper region by interpreting the proto-historic period in terms of North American theory. Here the dominant concept is that of "tradition": a cultural continuum in a geographical area which is characterized by a definite patterning of subsistence practices, technology, and ecological adaptations. In this manner, attention was devoted to the stones-and-bones aspect of the three major cultures—Zarubynetsk, Cherniakhivsk, and early Slav (Penkivsk type) . The example of the archeological site at Horodok was used as a paleo-economic model to polemicize with historians who saw the early Slavs as cattle breeders migrating through eastern Europe. / The concept of autochthonous cultural development in the Middle Dnieper region in the first millenium A.D. was used to outline three major phases: the florescent period, the developed period, and the period of decline. The Zarubynetsk and Cherniakhivsk cultures were tied to the spread of the Celtic renascence and the outward expansion of the Roman empire into Dacia (Romania and Moldavia). The last period corresponded to the decline of the Roman empire and a period of attacks by various steppe peoples, i.e., the Avars. This period strongly resembled the post-Mongol culture in Ukraine with its return to more simple and primitive forms.

Found in CIUS Newsletter Vol 3 Issue 1 (Winter 1978)

Author: CIUS
Publisher: CIUS
Date: September 25, 1978
Contributor: Roman Zurba
Language: English, Ukrainian
Original Format: Magnetic tape, audio cassette





CIUS, “Controversies over the Cultural Development of Pre-Ninth-Century Slavs,” CIUS-Archives, accessed September 21, 2023,
Unless otherwise noted, this work is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license .