Medieval Rus′

Maintained by: David J. Birnbaum ( [Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 Unported License] Last modified: 2020-08-19T17:10:26+0000

Course description

Russian 2700 (Medieval Rus′) is a survey of the culture of Rus′ and of Russia before the eighteenth century. It concentrates primarily on written materials, with bits of art and architecture tucked in around the edges. Regular course meetings are Monday and Wednesday from 5:00–6:15 over Zoom (coordinates available from the instructor)

About the instructor

David J. Birnbaum
Office: 1228 Cathedral of Learning
Office Hours: TBA


Primary texts

Participants are responsible for the texts in Serge A. Zenkovsky’s Medieval Russia’s epics, chronicles, and tales (New York: Dutton, 1974). Unless otherwise specified, all assigned primary texts must be read from the Zenkovsky collection (i.e., not from other anthologies), so that we will have a common text to discuss (note that editions of Zenkovsky prior to 1974 contain fewer texts than the 1974 edition, and therefore are not acceptable alternatives). Selected texts may be assigned in the original pre-modern Russian; those will be identified, and no prior experience in reading medieval East Slavic texts in the original is assumed or required.

The Библиотека литературы древней руси web site of the Института русской литературы (Пушкинского Дома) РАН contains most of the principal early East Slavic texts in parallel (normalized “old Russian” alongside modern Russian). You are welcome to consult these, if you would like, but you are nonetheless responsible for reading the Zenkovsky versions.

Secondary texts

Literary history

Participants are required to read on their own a comprehensive general history of the literature of early Rus′ of their choice. Suggested literary histories include:

For research on individual topics you should also consult the relevant entries in the multi-volume Slovar′ knižnikov i knižnosti drevnej Rusi (D.S. Lixačev, otv. red.), Leningrad: Nauka, 1987–. The first two volumes (in three parts), which run through the end of the sixteenth century, are available on line at The principal Russian serial publication on early written culture is Trudy otdela drevnerusskoj literatury, available online at

Other historical references

Participants should become familiar with Russian medieval history (political, cultural, etc.). Suggested sources are:

Other materials

Other readings will be scanned and distributed as needed. The person leading the session is responsible for scanning and distributing readings at least one week before the meeting in which they will be discussed.


Components (with percentage of grade):

University policies

All syllabi are required to include the following University policies.

Academic integrity

Students in this course will be expected to comply with the University of Pittsburgh’s Policy on Academic Integrity. Any student suspected of violating this obligation for any reason during the semester will be required to participate in the procedural process, initiated at the instructor level, as outlined in the University Guidelines on Academic Integrity. This may include, but is not limited to, the confiscation of the examination of any individual suspected of violating University Policy. Furthermore, no student may bring any unauthorized materials to an exam, including dictionaries and programmable calculators. To learn more about Academic Integrity, visit the Academic Integrity Guide for an overview of the topic. For hands-on practice, complete the Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism tutorial.

Disability services

If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and Disability Resources and Services (DRS), 140 William Pitt Union, (412) 648-7890,, (412) 228-5347 for P3 ASL users, as early as possible in the term. DRS will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course.

E-mail communication policy

Each student is issued a University e-mail address ( upon admittance. This e-mail address may be used by the University for official communication with students. Students are expected to read e-mail sent to this account on a regular basis. Failure to read and react to University communications in a timely manner does not absolve the student from knowing and complying with the content of the communications. The University provides an e-mail forwarding service that allows students to read their e-mail via other service providers (e.g., Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo). Students that choose to forward their e-mail from their address to another address do so at their own risk. If e-mail is lost as a result of forwarding, it does not absolve the student from responding to official communications sent to their University e-mail address. To forward e-mail sent to your University account, go to, log into your account, click on Edit Forwarding Addresses, and follow the instructions on the page. Be sure to log out of your account when you have finished. (For the full E-mail Communication Policy, go to