Sourcing aspects of the reconstruction of the East-Slavs ethnic history in the modern Ukrainian historiography

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Kostiantyn Ivangorodsky


Introduction. The reconstruction of Eastern Slavs’ communities’ ethnic history before the Mongol era is so difficult and complex because of extremely narrow source base. That’s why modern Ukrainian historiography representatives are compelled to offer their own versions either in relation to the Slavs community formation, or directly speaking about the Ukrainians ethnogenesis. However, neither archaeological nor written sources, nor their complex application, yet assist to decide that question, although Ukrainian specialists devote considerable attention and methodological efforts to this.

The purpose of the article is to analyze the validity of the source base at the present stage, which should provide the ethno-historical reconstruction of the East Slavs communities’ formation and development at the pre-Mongol era in the modern Ukrainian historiography framework.

Results. In the process of studying the «East Slavic» medieval ethnological history, Ukrainian scholars traditionally turn to the chronicle tradition, although they realize importance of the other types of sources. Demystification of falsified sources by modern scholars is also very important. Certain skepticism about non-written sources of medieval ethno-history exists in this problem historiography. However, quite often historians are limited by sources’ fragments, while neglecting the establishment of their origin and semantics.

Involvement of archaeological sources in ethno-historical reconstructions requires consideration of the theoretical and methodological specifics of their interpretation. Most Ukrainian archaeologists rightly emphasize that real breakthrough in the expansion of the so-called «early Slavic archeology» source base, as well as its scientific interpretation, took place in the last third of the twentieth century. On the other hand, in recent decades the process of active fieldwork in Ukraine has practically ceased. Unfortunately, anthropology has a lesser source base than archeology. There are no materials for craniology, due to the ritual of fervidation, common for Slavs in the pre-modern period. The main attention of Ukrainian historians regarding the source base of ethno-historical reconstructions is traditionally devoted to the Old-Rusian chronicle and, in the first place, to the «Tale of Bygone Years» However, in contemporary Ukrainian historiography researchers are skeptical in estimation of this work as the historical source.

Conclusion. In contemporary Ukrainian historiography, devoted to the ethno-historical reconstructions of the Eastern Slavs communities’ past, major attention is paid to the problem of ethnological purity of the source base, in particular, in terms of its rethinking. On the other hand, it has to be noted number of theoretical and methodological weaknesses in this perspective, which are related to the strength of ethno-historiographic stereotypes that have developed in relation to this branch at the earlier stages of historical science development in Ukraine.


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