The Byzantine Influence on Russia Global History and Geography I name

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The Byzantine Influence on Russia

Global History and Geography I Name: ____________________

E. Napp Date: ____________________
The Byzantines greatly influenced the people of Eastern Europe. The people of Eastern Europe are called Slavs. The Slavs moved from central Asia into the present-day countries of Russia, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, and Poland. The largest group of Slavs was the Russians.
The Slavs admired Byzantine civilization. Around 900 A.D., two monks or members of a religious order, began to preach to the Slavs. The monks, Cyril and Methodius, converted many Slavs to Christianity. The Slavs had no written language. The monks invented an alphabet for their spoken language. This alphabet is called the Cyrillic alphabet. Byzantine Christianity helped bring the people of Eastern Europe together. The Slavs accepted the Eastern Orthodox Church, the religion of the Byzantines. However, most of the rest of Europe belonged to the Roman Catholic Church. This difference isolated the Slavs from the rest of Europe.
The Byzantines traded greatly with Russia. Trade encouraged cultural diffusion. The Russians built their churches to look like Byzantine churches. In addition, the absolute power held by Byzantine emperors became a model for future Russian rulers. The roots of Eastern European culture can be traced to the contributions of the Byzantines.

  1. Who were the Slavs and who were the largest group of Slavs? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  2. Who were Cyril and Methodius and how did they influence the Slavs? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  3. How did the work of Cyril and Methodius isolate the Slavs from the rest of Europe? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  4. How did trade with the Byzantine Empire influence the Russians? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Byzantine Empire does not exist anymore yet its influence survives.

In 1054 A.D., a split occurred in the Christian church. The church in West of the former Roman Empire became known as the Roman Catholic Church. The church in the East became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church.

What caused a split in the Christian church?

  • The Great Schism of 1054 was the split between the Eastern and Western Christian churches.

  • The Pope is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. However, each local Bishop and Patriarch (in charge of a group of Bishops) is responsible for the care of Christians in their Orthodox region.

  • The Roman Catholic Church accepts the doctrine of original sin (all people are born with Adam’s sin of disobeying God). Orthodox Christians do not accept the doctrine of original sin.

  • The Roman Catholic Church accepts the concept of Purgatory or a place where people who have committed small sins go before admission to Heaven. The Orthodox Church does not accept the concept of Purgatory.

  • Orthodox Christians use icons or small pictures of saints and Jesus. Icons help practitioners in prayer and meditation.


  1. What was the Great Schism? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  2. When did the Great Schism occur? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  3. What is a difference between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Christian Church? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  4. How do Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians view purgatory and original sin differently? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  5. What are icons and what is their purpose in the Orthodox faith? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  6. Does it surprise you that the split occurred? Explain your answer. ________________________________________________________

Word Bank:
Roman, Constantinople, Trade, Hagia Sophia, Orthodox Christian, Icons, Alphabet, Byzantine, Justinian, Religion
Historians give 862 A.D. as the date Russia was founded. In that year, Prince Rurik became ruler. His capital was Kiev. It was located on the Dnieper River – one of the main north-south water trade routes. Whoever controlled Kiev controlled Russia’s trade with Constantinople. Centrally located, Kiev became a prosperous trading center, and from there many Russians visited Constantinople. These exchanges led to growing knowledge of Christianity.
King Vladimir I, a Rurik descendant who ruled from 980 to 1015, finally took the step of converting to Christianity not only in his own name but in that of all his people. He was eager to avoid the papal influence that came with Roman Catholicism, which he knew about through the experiences of

the Polish kingdom; Orthodox Christianity gave a valid alternative that still

provided a replacement for animism. Islam was rejected, according to one account, because Vladimir could not accept a religion that forbade alcoholic drink. Russian awe at the splendor of religious services in Constantinople also played a role. Having made his decision, Vladimir proceeded to organize mass baptisms for his subjects, forcing conversions by military pressure. Early church leaders were imported from Byzantium, and they helped train a literate Russian priesthood. As in Byzantium, the king characteristically controlled major appointments, and a separate Russian church institution soon developed.



  1. Why was Kiev a prosperous city? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  2. Why did the Byzantine Empire strongly influence Russia? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  3. Why did King Vladimir reject Roman Catholicism? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  4. Why did King Vladimir reject Islam? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  5. How did King Vladimir “encourage” Russian conversions? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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