Lecture 1. The East European Plain in the Early Medieval Period (6th century CE-10th century CE)

The lecture covers the earliest phase of architectural history in the East European Plain from the end of Antiquity until the end of the 10th century AD. The continuous construction of kurgans (burial mounds) linked the ancient Scythian culture with the architectural production of the Scandinavians, who around the 8th century AD discovered a shortcut from the Baltic to the Black and the Caspian Sea via the network of East European rivers. In the East European Plain the Norsemen of the Baltic were known as the Varangians or the Rus’ – the name later adopted by the Slavs who colonized the region from the southwest. The Slavic population as well as the Turkic people of the Volga region were building log houses and semi-dugouts. Turkic-speaking Khazars of the lower Volga converted to Judaism in the middle of the 8th century AD and in the 830s imported Byzantine engineering and construction expertise to build Sarkel, a castrum-like fortress on Don River. Following this pattern, at the end of the 10th century, the newly baptized princes of Rus’ started to invite Byzantine builders for the construction of masonry churches in their realm. The lecture concludes with a brief survey of topics that will be covered in the module.

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