I’m almost finished with the Oksana Zabuzhko novel I mentioned here, and it not only makes me want to study Ukrainian, it got me interested enough in Ukrainian history to buy Paul Robert Magocsi’s A History of Ukraine. I remember when the first edition came out and I saw it in a bookstore near Rockefeller Center, where I worked; I was tremendously impressed, but $35 was way out of my price range, so I just paged through it admiringly. Fortunately, Amherst Books had a used (but unmarked) copy for $10, which happens to be exactly my limit, so I grabbed it. (There is a new edition from 2010, but at $54.95—used copies from $42.72—I’m not even going to waste time thinking about it.) Not only is it comprehensive (784 pages) and well written, it has a wide scope (“While this book also traces the evolution of ethnic Ukrainians, it tries as well to give judicious treatment to the many other peoples who developed within the borders of Ukraine, including the Greeks, the Crimean Tatars, the Poles, the Russians, the Jews, the Germans, and the Romanians”). The Amazon page has a quote from Nicholas Riasanovsky’s review that so succinctly sums up some of the book’s virtues that I’ll just reproduce it:
Professor Magocsi overcame these [problems associated with writing history texts] and still other difficulties extremely well, indeed at times brilliantly. His forty-two unobtrusive, usually page-long maps establish a better graphic setting for history than any other textbook I am acquainted with, thus confirming the distinction the author had already earned with his historical atlases. A remarkable, quite unusual, and very successful aspect of the book is the daring inclusion right in the text (although on a distinctive light grey rather than white background) of numerous documents, eyewitness accounts, and other primary sources as well as occasionally some more specialized explanatory material. The marvel is how well these insertions blend with the basic narrative and support it.
One of those light-gray insertions is an essay on “The Meaning of Rus'” that I’ll quote here to give an idea of the magisterial thoroughness and impartiality with which he discusses contested topics:
Whereas controversy continues to rage over the origin of the term Rus’, there is some consensus as to how the term came to be applied to the territory and inhabitants of the Kievan realm. Initially, the term Rus’ was associated with the ruling Varangian princes and the lands under their control. This meant, in particular, the cities of Kiev, Chernihiv, and Pereiaslav together with the surrounding countryside. The lands within this larger Kiev-Chernihiv-Pereiaslav triangle become the Rus’ land par excellence.
Beginning with Volodymyr the Great in the late tenth century and, especially, Iaroslav the Wise in the eleventh century, there was a conscious effort to associate the term with all the lands under the hegemony of Kiev’s grand princes. To the concept of Rus’ as the territory of Kievan Rus’ was added another dimension by the Christian inhabitants’ description of themselves collectively as Rus’ (the singular of which term was rusyn, sometimes rusych). Nevertheless, while political and cultural leaders from the various principalities (Galicia-Volhynia, Novgorod, Suzdal’, etc.) may have spoken of their patrimonies as part of the land of Rus’, they often referred to Rus’ as simply a roughly triangular area east of the middle Dnieper River surrounding the cities of Chernihiv, Kiev, and Pereiaslav.
Following the end of Kievan Rus’ in the second half of the fourteenth century, the successor states which fought for control of the former realm often used the term Rus’ to describe all the lands that had once been under Kiev’s hegemony. The Lithuanians claimed for themselves and conquered what they described as the Rus’ lands from Polatsk and Smolensk in the north, to Volhynia and Turaû-Pinsk in the center, to Kiev, Chernihiv, Pereiaslav, and beyond in the south. Analogously, the Poles designated Galicia, their mid-fourteenth-century acquisition, as the Rus’ land or Rus’ palatinate (Ziemia Ruska or Województwo Ruskie). By the late sixteenth century, Rus’ had come to mean all the Orthodox faithful and the lands they inhabited in the Belarusan and Ukrainian palatinates of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Finally, the rulers of the principality of Vladimir-Suzdal’ and then Muscovy fused the concept of the Rus’ land with the idea of their own Riuryk dynasty (ostensibly descended from the ninth-century Varangian leader Riuryk). For them, Rus’ meant not only all the lands under Muscovy’s control, but also other parts of the Kievan heritage that awaited acquisition in the future. In short, by the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the idea that Rus’ coincided with all the lands of the former Kievan realm of Iaroslav the Wise and his descendants had become firmly entrenched in the political mind-set of eastern Europe.
Another perspective was that of the Orthodox church and the Byzantine world, of which Kievan Rus’ was a part. From the time of the first appearance of Christianity among the Rus’, the Byzantine Orthodox Church recognized the office of the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’, by which title was meant all the lands of Kievan Rus’. When, in the fourteenth century, Byzantium agreed to the establishment of a second Rus’ metropolitanate, the Metropolitanate of Halych, in Galicia, to complement that of the Kiev metropolitan, by then resident in Moscow, terms were needed to distinguish the two jurisdictions. The region closest to Constantinople, the Galician metropolitanate, with its six eparchies on the southern Rus’ or Ukrainian lands, was called in Byzantine Greek Mikrā Rosiia – inner or Little Rus’; the more distant Muscovite jurisdiction, with its twelve eparchies, became Megalē Rosiia – outer or Great Rus’.
These distinctions were maintained during the political expansion of Muscovy. Beginning in the early fourteenth century, Muscovite rulers styled themselves grand princes, then tsars, of all Rus’ (vseia Rusii), and after the mid-seventeenth century their title was reformulated as tsar of all Great, Little, and White Rus’ (vseia Velikiia i Malyia i Belyia Rusii). During the first half of the eighteenth century, the old term Rus’ was transformed into Russia (Rossiia), when Tsar Peter I transformed the tsardom of Muscovy into the Russian Empire. Henceforth, the terms Little Russia (Malorossiia) and Little Russians were used to describe Ukraine and its inhabitants under Russian imperial rule.
As for the original term Rus’, it was really maintained only in Ukraine’s western lands, Galicia, Bukovina, and Transcarpathia, all of which after 1772 were under Austrian rule. The Greek Catholic church used the term in the title of the restored Metropolitanate of Halych and Rus’ (1808). Even more widespread was the use of the term by the East Slavic inhabitants of Galicia, Bukovina, and Transcarpathia, who until well into the twentieth century continued to call themselves the people of Rus’, or of the Rus’ faith, that is, Rusyns (rusyny, rusnatsi).
Besides the Greco-Byzantine term Rosia to describe Rus’, Latin documents used several related terms – Ruscia, Russia, Ruzzia – for Kievan Rus’ as a whole. Subsequently, the terms Ruteni and Rutheni were used to describe Ukrainian and Belarusan Eastern Christians (especially members of the Uniate, later Greek Catholic, church) residing in the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The German, French, and English versions of those terms – Ruthenen, ruthène, Ruthenian – generally were applied only to the inhabitants of Austrian Galicia and Bukovina and of Hungarian Transcarpathia. For the longest time, English-language writings did not distinguish the name Rus’ from Russia, with the result that in descriptions of the pre-fourteenth-century Kievan realm the conceptually distorted formulation Kievan Russia was used. In recent years, however, the correct terms Rus’ and Kievan Rus’ have appeared more frequently in English-language scholarly publications, although the corresponding adjective Rus’/Rusyn has been avoided in favor of either the incorrect term Russian or the correct but visually confusing Rus’ian/Rusian.
(See this recent post for Tomasz Kamusella’s ideas on “The Change of the Name of the Russian Language in Russian from Rossiiskii to Russkii,” and this old one for more on the Rusyn/Ruthenian language.)