Aleksandr Musin

Aleksandr Musin studied in medieval history and archaeology in Saint-Petersburg University where he took his MA in 1992 with a study on archaeological evidences of Christianization of Eastern Europe.

The first doctoral degree he obtained in Orthodox Theology, Church History and Christian Archaeology from Theological Academy, St. Petersburg, 1995, with a thesis on the mutual relationship between Church, State and Society in 1st-3rd century.  The next PhD was obtained by him at Institute for the History of material Culture, Russian Academy of Sciences, Saint Petersburg, in 1997 with the thesis “Christian material culture of Early Rus’ in 9th-14th century as reflected in burials customs”. The Habilitation thesis was proposed at the same Institution in 2003 and concerned the study of Christian urban medieval Russian communities as Novgorod and Pskov in 11th-15th century in the light of historical and archaeological data.

His dissertations stress the continuity and interrelation of his research interests evaluated from the history of Early Rus’ Christianity and international influences on it to social dimensions of East-European Christian culture. Now they focus on cultural transfers between Eastern Europe, Latin West and Byzantine East, detection of social markers in historical texts and material culture and relationship between history and archaeology. He is also interested in the critics of “Great narratives” and national myths as late medieval (re-) construction of local history, and his approach is based on the reappraisal of contemporary medieval sources: written, material, and visual. His approaches were developed during the realization of different international projects, for example, “In search of a lost Byzantium” (2007),  and “Paganism and Christianity in medieval Russian town through the historical and archeological evidences” (2012).

The important role in his scientific career played the cooperation with the Centre Michel de Boüard, University of Caen, Normandy, France, which resulted in the volume « Vers l’Orient et vers l’Occident: regards croisés sur les dynamiques et les transferts culturels des Vikings à la Rous ancienne », Caen, 2014 and in the exhibition « Russie viking, vers une autre Normandie ? Novgorod et la Russie du Nord, des migrations scandinaves a la fin du Moyen Age (VIIIe-XVe s.) », Musée de Normandie (2011).  Together with Polish colleagues he developed the research project “Between  Romanisation and Romaisation. Poland of Piasts and Rus´ of Riurikids in the process of Europeanization” which resulted in two volumes of “Rome, Constantinople and Newly-Converted Europe: Archaeological and Historical Evidence” (2012).

Now he is Senior Research Fellow at Institute for the History of material Culture, Saint Petersburg. He also gave lectures on history and archaeology at Theological Academy, Petersburg; University of Saint-Petersburg; Russian Humanitarian Academy, Saint-Petersburg; Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv, Ukraine.

Research project: Through the other eye of Europe: Poland of Piast and Rus’ of Ruirikids in East European comparative perspective, 10th – 13th century

Modern researchers perceive medieval Poland predominantly in relation to the Holy Roman Empire. As a result the single-sided approach deprives Poland its originality which derives from the position between Latin Europe and the Byzantine Commonwealth. However, after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Eneas Piccolomini, the future Pope Pius II noticed that Christian Europe ex duobus oculis alterum amisisti. So, the intention of the project is to look at the beginnings of Poland from the Byzantine/Orthodox Europe point of view. In the same time the image of medieval Eastern Europe has seriously changed.

Obviously, the idea of Kievan Rus’ as a clearly identifiable entity with unitary system of law, taxation and culture was only a concept of “the Soviet Union” artificially projected on the past. New researches show its regional differences in culture and social organisation. So, today Clio has to answer the questions: How to study and how to tell the shared past of medieval Poland and Eastern Europe? And should we compare the Piast society to Rus’ of the Stalinist historiography or to its new faces which become more and more apparent? In fact, the project regards the comparative perspective only as a “working tool”, not as a goal of researches. For avoiding any abuse of the retrogressive method it would be reasonable to shift the research focus from historical conditions to their reflections in various forms of the memory in transition.

The project proposes to use multidimensional stereoscopic comparison which comprises horizontal and vertical ties between the descriptions/reflections of processes and events in different categories of written and material sources of various periods, and their perception in medieval and modern historiography. The medieval values and cultural categories become key-points of historical comparative studies which reveal the perception of “other” and that of “themselves”. As a whole, the research proposal intends to explain the Piast society in the terms and categories used in contemporary Eastern Europe and estimate so-called mutual “translatability” of medieval societies that could clarify the birth of Polish-Russian-Ukrainian-Belarusian stereotypes.

The project reorients the scoop from the identity (-ies) to the concept of value orientations which are more appropriated to medieval mentality. The successful outcome of the project could be a contribution for socio-political discourse. The medieval stereotypes in Eastern Europe remain powerful means of the social mobilistaion as its ‘patch dependence’. Common, well-balanced and academically irreproachable judgement of Polish - East European medieval relations where roots of many modern problems of East-Central Europe are is much needed.

Dates of stay: 01 October 2018 - 31 July 2019