Little-known M. Kostomarov: Byzantine Notes between Science, Publicism, and Fiction

Keywords: Mykola Kostomarov, Byzantine Empire, Photius, Slavs, Constantine VII Flavius Porphyrogenitus


A careful review of Kostomarov’s heritage allows us to identify a group of materials of scientific, social, and political nature, in which research attention is focused on Byzantine issues. From this viewpoint, the problem has not been studied. Only a few publications indirectly touch on some of Kostomarov’s studies, where he deals with the past of the Byzantine Empire.

The goal of the paper is to find out the importance of Byzantine issues in the creative heritage of M. Kostomarov, first of all in his scientific, social, and political works. The main objectives are to outline the range of works in which the scholar addresses the episodes from the history of the Byzantine Empire; to analyze the content of these works and their scientific value; to show the process of scholar’s creation of a personal image of the Roman Empire’s history.

For the first time, Kostomarov, a student, addresses the past of the empire on the Bosphorus in the pages of his master’s dissertation, which was devoted to the union processes in southwestern Rus. The Power did not like even the theoretical, indirect adjoining of the theme of the study with the social and political events of the late 1830s. The Minister in St. Petersburg decided to eliminate the printed copies. Local archbishop considered the solitary critical records on the activities of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the text to be inappropriate. In general, in the dissertation Byzantine civilization was presented as the creator of the foundation of the church, state, and cultural life of Rus lands. In the mid-1840s, M. Kostomarov, as an activist of the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood, negatively assessed the place of the ‘Greek Kingdom’ in the linear scheme of human history.

The scholar indirectly addressed the Byzantine issue in a review of Volodymyr Lamanskyi’s study. The reviewer considered that the author of the master’s dissertation was not critical enough while analyzing Byzantine texts about the migration of Slavic peoples in the Empire.

The most notable achievement of M. Kostomarov in the Byzantine field is the work Patriarch Photius and the First Division in the Church (1868). On the one hand, it is a thorough and generally objective critical review of the first volume of the monograph by the German Catholic historian J. Hergenröther. On the other hand, M. Kostomarov also represents a personal view of the events of the middle of the 9th century which took place around the Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople. Ukrainian scholar’s ‘rehabilitation’ of Patriarch Photius is confirmed by modern scientific discourse.

Addressing the Byzantine issue can also be found in the literary works and interest in the monuments of Byzantine-Rus architecture shown in the travel notes of M. Kostomarov.

Thus, Kostomarov’s image of the Byzantine Empire is not entirely self-sufficient. It was formed through the prism of his church, historical and Slavic studies. In his early years, the scholar was uncertain in his attitude to the Byzantine heritage. The later Kostomarov is more objective in his scientific assessments. This allowed the scholar to characterize the multifaceted image of Patriarch Photius more objectively.


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How to Cite
Fayda, O. (2021). Little-known M. Kostomarov: Byzantine Notes between Science, Publicism, and Fiction. Eminak: Scientific Quarterly Journal, (4(32), 211-224.
Historiography, Source Study and Special Historical Disciplines