This doctoral thesis covers the field of cultural-ideational history and historical theology. The thesis – for the first time in Slovene science – aims at systematically presenting the formation of the Christian culture of the Kievan Rus', the earliest East Slavic state which existed between 10th and 13th century. The time frame of the thesis stretches from the beginning of the 10th to the mid-12th century. The presentation of the aforementioned culture pays special attention to the study of the historical consciousness of the Rus' secular and ecclesiastical elite of the time. The main part of the thesis discusses the four representative historical-religious narrative texts/sources written between the mid-11th and mid-12th century. These are: Sermon on Law and Grace, the chronicle Tale of Bygone Years, the hagiography Lesson on Boris and Gleb, and the travel account Life and Pilgrimage of Daniel, Hegumen of Rus'. The aforementioned texts/sources serve as a basis for the systematization of the notions of the secular and ecclesiastical elite of the Kievan Rus' about the role of their homeland in the world history. The later is, according to the generally accepted medieval Biblical-Christian beliefs, interpreted as the history of »meeting« of the sinful humanity with the salvational »Divine Providence«, i.e. salvation history. In this context, the presentation of the similarities and differences between the general features of the Byzantine culture of that time (»the sender« of Christianity) and the East Slavic perception of history up to the mid-12th century (»the receptor« of Christianity) is also provided.
The Christian faith as the starting point of the high (predominantly literary) culture of the Kievan Rus' was adopted at the end of the 10th century. That was primarily a consequence of the already extensive connections between the East Slavic territory and the Byzantine Empire. It also meant that Kievan Rus' became a region of a long-lasting Byzantine cultural influence – which proved to be crucial not only for the Kievan Rus' period, but also the entire subsequent history of the peoples on the territory of the present-day European Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Nevertheless, the Christian (literary) culture of the Kievan Rus' developed its own features and was thus able to achieve its integration into the common cultural circle of the medieval Orthodox Slavs. The Kievan Rus' high culture was determined by the following three factors: Christian faith, Church Slavic literary-liturgical language and finally its carriers belonging to the educated social elite (princes, bishops, monks). The Christian culture of the Kievan Rus' should be regarded as mostly original – it adopted Byzantine patterns selectively and adjusted them according to the local social circumstances. On the one hand, the Byzantine Empire held prestige in the eyes of the Rus' elite, because it offered an example of how to spread the new faith on the East Slavic soil – on the other, the imitation of Byzantium was limited to several aspects of its culture only, primarily those providing didactical-confessional elements which seemed to be useful in the assimilation of the new ethical-spiritual ideals and forming of patriotic self-affirmation of the Rus' elite. The Rus' selective adoption of the Byzantine culture omitted the philosophical and poetical works from the pagan antiquity, cherished in Byzantium, and also the more complex (early) Byzantine theological tractats. Missionary-didactical »usefulness« thus ousted intellectual »in-depthness«, while at the same time enabled the quantitatively rich translations as well as writing of sermons, liturgical texts and hagiographies, and composing of chronicles.
The selective reception of the Byzantine culture defined the integration of the Kievan Rus' into the context of salvation history. The crucial element of the historical consciousness of the Kievan period elite appears to be the idea about the equal value of all peoples within the Christian ecumene – despite the different age or international reputation of a particular (ethnically or geographically bounded) Christian cultural tradition. Through the earliest original literary works, written between the mid-11th and mid-12th century, the members of the Kievan Rus' elite tried to compose a narrative about their own »heroic« past and the rapidity of the newly-Christianized territory's achievement of the spiritual »maturity« – which was made prominent in the appearence of native saints (Boris and Gleb, Theodosius of the Caves Monastery), virtous Christian rulers (Vladimir Sviatoslavich, Yaroslav the Wise, Vladimir Monomakh), building of magnificent churches, and literary-translation activity. Therefore it comes as no surprise that one of the most notable characteristic of the integration of the Kievan Rus' in the context of salvation history appears to be the lessening of the importance of the »teaching« role of Byzantium and its spiritual superiority. What gave rise to this kind of external expression of one's self-confidence, however, was the fear of lack of own cultural tradition, the »inferiority complex« caused by the fact of late Christianization – as in comparison to the European centers of that time, particulary the Byzantine Empire, despite its large size the territory of the Kievan Rus' was a geographical and cultural periphery. Furthermore, the feeling of inferiority – hidden behind the surface of patriotical self-confidence – does not represent a peculiar feature of the Kievan period only, but rather a common apologetical attitude of the cultural tradition of the Orthodox Slavs in the the Middle ages.