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The article deals with the genesis of the definition “the paganism of the Eastern Slavs” in the works of Russian historians in the 18th–19th centuries. The author determines the sources of that terminology and considers its methodological and ideological sense. He compares the definitions of Old Russian anti-pagan texts and first Russian scientific works on history and mythology. The medieval literature contained a lot of concepts, but one can’t find their any mention about “paganism” as phenomenon as well as the word “paganism”. Old Russian authors mostly wrote about “pagan people” as social and religious group and gave them the concrete features depending of the context. The awareness with “paganism” as a phenomenon should relate to the scientific works on history and mythology. This definition firstly appeared in the lexicons of E. Veisman and I.K. Adelung with their Russian translation of the Latin “gentile” and German “heidentum”. Also one can find it in the “Russian history” of V.N. Tatishchev who used “Cimbrische Heyden Religion” written by Arnkiel Trogilliusas as one of the important source. However, it took a while to make this definition to become central in the scientific literature. At the beginning of the 19th century, a lot of authors preferred to use the word “basnoslovie”. The definition “paganism” became fundamental with the issue of the great work N.M. Karamsin after all. Such history of this word reveals not only its complexity and ambiguity but the argumentativeness of the traditional view of “paganism” as a product of the church literature only.

Key words: paganism, pagan, Old Russia, myth, mythology, literature

DOI: 10.22250/2072-8662.2019.3.5-20

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About the author 


Alexander A. Lushnikov – PhD (History), Post-Doctoral Associate at the Department of History of Russia,

Local Studies and Teaching History, Penza State University; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.