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Vicky Davis, Central Asia in World War Two: The Impact and Legacy of Fighting for the Soviet Union (London: Bloomsbury, 2023) by Michał Kuryłowicz

“Surprisingly little is known in the West about the role of Central Asia in the Second World War. The region as a whole has been largely overlooked by historians, who have tended, if anything, to concentrate on its centuries-old position at the hub of the ancient Silk Road”(p. 6). It is a paradox that there are so many gaps in our knowledge of the course of World War II, yet the outcome of this greatest conflict of the past century continued to influence the shape of the international system for decades to come into the modern era. At least one of these gaps has been filled by Vicky Davis’ Central Asia in World War Two: The Impact and Legacy of Fighting for the Soviet Union, a brilliant account of the war’s impact on the inhabitants of a region seemingly separated by thousands of miles from the frontlines of the Russian-German conflict.  

Putting into question the distance separating Central Asia from the main theater of the war is justified if we consider that the area of the five republics comprising this region stretches from the Chinese and Afghanistan border in the southeast to the foothills of the Urals and the Volga basin in the northwest. Thus at least during the Battle of Stalingrad, the residents of the western part of the Kazakh SSR directly experienced the proximity of the front and the fierceness of German attacks aimed at disorganizing the Soviet logistics support and hampering the city’s defense: “Only 500 kilometres separated Stalingrad from western Kazakhstan, which came increasingly under threat from German bombers during 1942, bringing the war much closer to home for some”(p. 45). On the other hand, their compatriots from distant villages at the foot of the Tian Shan Mountains, which separate the USSR from China, struggled to obtain any news from the front, as information was not only delayed but also put through the filter of Soviet propaganda.

If these communities had anything in common, it was certainly the shared fate of being the base for the frontline military operations: making Herculean efforts to mobilize manpower and infrastructure to support the fighting army, hosting the masses of people displaced from the European part of the USSR, and re-launching factories evacuated from war-stricken areas. They were also united by being the peripheries, where the colonial attitude of Russians to the indigenous population, derogatorily called “inorodtsy” (lit. “those of different descent”) by no means disappeared after the October Revolution despite lofty claims of the Bolsheviks, and where the forced modernization, implemented by the Soviet authorities already in the 1920s and 1930s, gained new forms of expression and fresh dynamics: “The population was far more exposed to Soviet ideals than ever before, broadcast by the mass media and epitomized by the Russian language and culture imported by evacuees” (p. 7).     

Vicky Davis opens a new chapter in research on World War II behind the frontlines of the Red Army, drawing an apt conclusion on the universality of the war experiences of Central Asia’s inhabitants: “In many ways, though, the experience of Soviet Central Asia was representative of much that happened in the Second World War across all the non-occupied regions of the Soviet Union. With the increased state exploitation of its resources, Central Asia had much in common with Siberia and the Urals”(p. 6).The novel elements of her approach include elements such as specific personal stories from the lives of people who resided in Central Asia from 1941-1945 that illustrate each phenomenon analyzed, among others. Hundreds of people whose wartime adventures the author collected during the four years of working on the book bring into the narrative an element most important in historiography – the translation of key historical moments into the lives of individuals, not just the evolution of political organisms: “It is an analysis of a worldwide conflict as it affected these ordinary citizens of Central Asia on a day-to-day, individual scale”(p. 8). The wartime fates of individuals and entire families that Davis describes reveal also that the notion of a safe existence far away from the frontline was merely an illusion.

Naturally, the conscripted men also had their share of extreme wartime experiences presented in the book. After covering the distances they could hardly imagine before, they usually reached the frontline not only without basic physical training or technological and logistics skills but even without a rudimentary language course: “These naïve young men with little schooling were at first poorly equipped to fight a modern war, barely understood orders shouted or written in Russian and were completely out of their depth living and fighting amongst men from a totally different culture, who often regarded them as outsiders”(p. 42).As they faced the frightening, brutal conflict foreign to them (also with regard to language) and the poorly masked stereotypes about the “wild” inhabitants of Central Asia widespread in the Soviet army, those soldiers became characteristically withdrawn in relations to their Slavic military “comrades”: “Central Asians tended to be quieter and more gentle than Russian troops, keeping themselves to themselves in small ethnic and linguistic cliques. They were distinctly demoralized by the harsh weather conditions at the front, while their poor Russian prevented integration and led to accusations of backwardness – deficiencies for which they were definitely not to blame”(p. 65).

However, the adventures at the front and examples of military heroism, so beloved by the authors of Soviet coursebooks, are not Davis’ main narrative. The overview of military operations in which Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Uzbek soldiers participated is limited to the first of the four parts of the book, while its core are the traumatic experiences of those who stayed behind: families deprived of their main provider; women and children taking up work beyond their strength under pressure of the state apparatus and to the beat of patriotic propaganda; overcrowded towns, facing the subsequent waves of evacuees; distant provinces where forcibly deported communities of “enemies of the state” arrived unexpectedly. The monograph presents a picture of Central Asia fully caught up in the gears of war and bearing its costs while lacking reliable information on how the conflict was unfolding: “As the news from the west became unbearable, very little was published, with much of the front page devoted to provincial reports in the early months of 1942. Very few editions were published in 1942 – either due to the serious shortage of paper, or because the state wished to prevent readers from discovering the true progress of the war and the military failures of the Red Army”(p. 188).

Vicky Davis points to a number of problems generated by the war that so far have not been sufficiently recognized in historiography. She highlights the role of women, both those fighting on the front lines and those bearing the burden of new duties in the absence of their fathers, husbands, and sons. She describes numerous cases of anti-Semitism, of open  resentment against the Jews, coming from the west in fear of the Nazi policy of extermination. She also presents the fates of nations punished for collaboration with Germans and deported to Central Asia, not hesitating to use the strongest words: “The Stalin regime’s campaign of wholesale ethnic cleansing at various stages in the war was no doubt genocidal in character”(p. 307).

The adopted strategy of zooming in on individuals and their personal experiences of the Great Patriotic War does not prevent the author from noticing the most significant social results of the conflict, which are not necessarily negative. Davis repeatedly emphasizes that the four years of war did more for integrating the inhabitants of the region with the rest of the country and for social modernization of the Central Asian republics than the preceding two decades of Soviet rule. 

The accelerated learning of the Russian language in wartime conditions; the raised level of technological knowledge through work in the factories evacuated to Tashkent and Alma-ata; the direct contact with Russian culture and its representatives; finally, the sudden and externally enforced change in the social role of women – all this laid the foundations for the region’s new self-image of itself after 1945: “Having experienced the army and the Slavic culture imported with the evacuees, the population of Central Asia became more cosmopolitan in outlook, encouraged by a higher standard of education and supported by an ongoing campaign of modernization offering more opportunities. By the end of the Second World War the population of Central Asia was better integrated into Soviet society”(p. 212).

The analysis of modernization through war, both in its unintended and government-planned aspect, places Vicky Davis among such authors as David L. Hoffmann, Sheila Fitzpatrick, and Natalya Chernyshova, who established the motif of multi-aspect, top-down social modernization and its impact on the lives of individuals and societies, without including in descriptions and evaluations of the past element of ideologization, so characteristic of Soviet authors. 

While Davis’ work is based on archival materials dating back to the 1940s, it is surprisingly current. The author extrapolates the description of mass movements of people evacuated and deported to Central Asia to the symbolic heritage of the entire region that has been a witness of continuous migrations, both natural and forced: “Mobility has once again become the norm, as many ethnic Russians left Central Asia upon the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. Following them westwards, thousands of indigenous Central Asians became voluntary economic migrants, travelling to Moscow in search of work. (…) It has been followed, however, by a noticeable exodus of Russian citizens into Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, driven by the wish to escape the ramifications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, as the republics of Central Asia continue to offer sanctuary to those fleeing war” (p. 308).

There are further comparisons with today’s Russian-Ukrainian war that come to mind when reading Davis’ book. One such connection between past and present is the depiction of Moscow’s actions, the images of national minorities and prisoners forcibly conscripted and then used as a primary blunt strike force, sent into pointless combat at the frontlines: “Many men and women died a hero’s death. Too many others, though, were deemed to be fit only for cannon fodder”(p. 59).

Lastly, Davis’ work is a testimony to the difficulties encountered during historical research in the post-Soviet area, unwilling to reveal to a foreigner its memory of traumatic past and often hiding the Soviet heritage behind the official stance of the authorities of a given republic. Kyrgyzstan, where Davis collected particularly large number of accounts, is by no means a statistical fluke: “If much of this work focuses on Kyrgyzstan, it is thanks to the wealth of historical material hidden in the Issyk-Kul’ archives: pure gold, in fact! Drawing on these previously undiscovered archival documents, this work reveals the true impact of war in Central Asia”(p. 11). After three decades of shifting transformation directions and ineffective experiments with democracy, this republic undoubtedly still is the door left ajar, enabling researchers to understand the problems of the inhabitants of Central Asia, building their post-Soviet reality. 

Michał Kuryłowicz, PhD, Institute of Russian and East European Studies, Jagiellonian University, Krakow

Call for Papers Hiperboreea: Vol. 11, No. 2 (December, 2024)

Call for Papers
Vol. 11, No. 2 (December, 2024)

Important Dates:

Publication date: December, 2024
Last date for submission: April 8, 2024

This call is only for articles!

Book reviews are now collected for Vol. 12, No. 1 (June, 2025)

Hiperboreea is the journal of the Balkan History Association. It publishes articles in the field of History, written in English and occasionally French, book reviews, and evaluations of scholarly conferences. Our focus is the study of Southeastern Europe, broadly defined as the states situated in the Balkan region. Without limiting its scope to a specific historical period or approach, the journal covers a wide range of topics, such as Cultural History, Political History, Military History, Social History, Economic History, and Archaeology, and encourages work on any historical period and with a multidisciplinary approach.

Hiperboreea is published by the Pennsylvania State University Press. All manuscripts should be prepared according to the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition and submitted through the platform Editorial Manager (Submission Guidelines). The editors will inform authors of the decision on their manuscripts within a few weeks from submission. All articles submitted to our journal are reviewed following a double blind peer-review, which means that the reviewer’s and author’s identities are concealed from each other throughout the review process. Our editorial policy requires at least two reviewers per issue, although it is customary that many more reviewers cooperate on individual articles. Full members of the Balkan History Association will receive printed and electronic copies by virtue of their membership. For non-member subscription prices, please check this link. All electronic issues are available on Scholarly Publishing Collective managed by Duke University Press.

Hiperboreea is one of the few Romanian journals that have built a solid presence in the online environment, being indexed in the following international databases and libraries: Web of Science ESCIScopus, EBSCO, CEEOL, Persée, ERIH PLUSProQuest, Index Copernicus, WorldCatJ-Gate, Regesta Imperii, Columbia International Affairs Online, International Medieval BibliographyInternational Bibliography of Humanism and the Renaissance, Bibliographical Information Base in Patristics, Modern Language Association International Bibliography, etc.

For further details, please email mihaidragnea2018@gmail.com

Sharing this call for papers would be welcomed and highly appreciated.

Looking forward to receive your submission!

Mihai Dragnea, Editor
President of the Balkan History Association

Sofia Kotzabassi (ed.), A Companion to the Intellectual Life of the Palaeologan Period (Leiden: Brill, 2023) by Dimitra Moniou

A Companion to the Intellectual Life of the Palaeologan Period, edited by Professor Sofia Kotzabassi, is a collection of essays that provides a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the intellectual life during the Palaeologan period (1261-1453). The book covers a wide range of topics, including rhetoric, philosophy, autobiography, history, poetry, epistolograply, Monasticism, Hesychasm etc., offering valuable insights into the complexities of Palaeologan scholarship. This makes Kotzabassi’s Companion an enlightening exploration of the cultural landscape during the last centuries of the Byzantine Empire and simultaneously an essential tool for researchers, students, and the general public interested in Byzantine literature and history.

Kotzabassi’s Companion is divided into twelve well-structured chapters, each exploring different aspects of the intellectual life of the Palaeologan period. In the Introduction (pp. 1-14), Kotzabassi, in addition to her contributions as editor, provides a clear and concise overview of the intellectual life of the Palaeologan period, focusing on the role of women, manuscripts as significant factors in the blossoming of the last centuries in Byzantium, the sciences etc. Kotzabassi also points out the role of Byzantine scholarsandtheir profound impact on the renewal and innovation of the long and rich intellectual tradition in Byzantium.

The first chapter by Eleni Kaltsogianni, “The ‘Legacy’ of Aphthonios, Hermogenes and Pseudo-Menander: Aspects of Byzantine Rhetoric under the Palaiologoi,” (pp. 15-75) refers to the fundamental role of rhetoric in Byzantine intellectual life and society in the Palaeologan era. Kaltsogianni concentrates on free-standing rhetorical texts and draws interesting conclusions for this period. According to her remarks, traditional forms continue to serve as the basis for rhetorical composition, while the rhetors of the Palaeologan period re-discovered authors of the Second-Sophistic and brought to light neglected forms. However, it is apparent that during the last centuries of the Byzantine Empire rhetoric assumed a more ‘pragmatic’ role occasionally presenting in a refined way state-of-the art events.

In the second chapter, “Intellectual Pursuits for Their Own Sake”, (pp. 76-111) Sophia Mergiali-Sahas examines five intellectual figures (Theodore Metochites, John Zacharias, Gregory Chioniades, Demetrios Kydones and Manouel Palaiologos), which at a time of irreversible political decline and decay of Empire, flashed about an exaltation and flourishing in learning. According to Mergiali-Sahas their pursuit of learning and mental growth, which go against the main currents of Byzantine traditional scholarship, was an alternative way of life and an exercise in making their life worth living, contributing in a way to the Renaissance.

In the third chapter of the Companion “Continuity and Evolution in Autobiographical Literature” (pp. 112-132), Kotzabassi delves into the autobiography genre during the last centuries of Byzantine Empire. After meticulous research, Kotzabassi refers to the autobiographical works from the early Byzantine period and highlights the way of this genre’s evolution. The chapter also analyzes basic elements in autobiography such as the title, the preface, and the autobiographical confessions with reference to specific authors and texts. Kotzabassi points out an extroversion in the Palaeologan era, evidenced mainly by the large number of copyists’ names on Byzantine manuscripts, which may have been a trend of this period or an interesting change of mentality.

The fourth chapter, “Writing the History of Decline” by Apostolos Karpozilos (pp. 133-171), deals with historiography and historical writing in the Byzantine Empire during the Palaeologan period. The chapter begins by discussing the historical tradition in the Byzantine Empire before the last centuries and then turns to the Byzantine historians of this era (George Akropolites, George Pachymeres, Nikephoros Gregoras, John Kantakouzenos and finally the historians Michael Kritoboulos, Michael Doukas, George Sphrantzes and Laonikos Chalkokondyles), their aims, sources, circumstances and the specific way in which each of them wrote their texts. According to Karpozilos, the historians’ intellectual dependence on the ancient historical texts with their pessimism for the future and the conviction that everything is the result of the divine providence raise the question of how faithfully the events are described.

In the fifth chapter, “Spirituality and Emotion: Poetic trends in the Palaelogan period,” (pp. 172-210), Ioannis Vassis examines the poetry in the Byzantine Empire during the last centuries. The chapter defines the causes and the circumstances of the poetic production in this era and points out the role of the intellectuals who showed off their skills to the members of the elite and their powerful patrons. Vassis deals with the poets who wrote for the court and then turns to specific genres and their writers, such as the Epigram with Manuel Philes, the Autobiography of Theodore Metochites, the poetry in the service of the church or for teaching purposes and other genres such as chronicles, satirical poems, romances etc. Vassis masterfully analyzes the poetry of the late Byzantine era and concludes that all the genres were cultivated with enthusiasm enriching and renewing the traditional characteristics and steadily leading to the Renaissance.

Τhe sixth chapter, “Epistolography, Social Exchange and Intellectual Discourse” by Alexander Riehle (pp. 211-251), examines Epistolography as a means of communication and expression in Byzantine society and a contributing factor to the social exchange and intellectual discourse. Riehle refers to the types of letters that were written in the Byzantine era, their purposes, and the ways in which they were used. The chapter begins with a brief overview of the history of Epistolography and continues with remarks on the theory and terminology. Riehle presents the letters within the microcosm of the Constantinopolitan intellectual elite, the evolution of this genre during the period of Civil Wars and also the letters not only in the last decades of the Empire but also until the 19th century.

In the seventh chapter, “The Reappropriation of Philosophy in the Palaeologan Period”, by Pantelis Golitsis (pp. 252-280), the factors that led to the reappropriation of philosophy, as well as the forms that this reappropriation took are presented. Golitsis notes that philosophy was always present in Byzantine society, but in the Palaeologan period was characterized by two specific features: autonomy and high sophistication. The chapter continues with the byzantine commentaries on ancient philosophical texts, which contributed to the accessibility to this genre and then refers to the efflorescence of philosophy in the last centuries as an essential educative factor for the Byzantine intellectuals. Golitsis also presents the rehabilitation of ancient philosophers by Byzantine authors and concludes that the reappropriation of Philosophy in the Palaeologan era cultivated a new generation of philosophers, such as Nicephoros Blemmydes, George Acropolites, George Pachymeres, Theodore Metochites etc.

In the eighth chapter, “Κόσμου θεωρία: Cosmic Vision and Its Significance in the Works of Theodore Metochites and Other Contemporary Intellectuals” (pp. 281-321), Ioannis Polemis defines the cosmic vision, or the perception of the universe as a unified and organized whole in the Byzantine texts of the Palaeologan period. Polemis analyzes the ways in which Byzantine intellectuals perceived the universe and the role of man in it. The chapter begins with a brief overview of the history of cosmic vision in ancient Greece and then Polemis discussing a number of specific examples of cosmic vision in the works of Theodore Metochites, delves into the ideas of Metochites, who incorporates elements of ancient Greek philosophy and Christian theology and envisioned the universe as a sacred and harmonious whole created by God. Then, Polemis turns to cosmic vision in the works of other contemporary Byzantine intellectuals, such as Nikephoros Gregoras. The chapter, after an overview of cosmic vision in Byzantine thought, concludes that the pessimistic approach to life in Metochite’s works had undoubtedly influenced his contemporary philosophers.

In the ninth chapter ,“Monasticism and Intellectual Trends in Late Byzantium” (pp. 322-344), Demetra Samara and Ilias Taxidis discuss the way in which monasticism influenced the spiritual life of Byzantine society during the last centuries of the Byzantine Empire. The chapter begins with a brief overview of the history of monasticism and then Samara and Taxidis note that monasticism experienced a period of flourishing in the 14th century, as many people sought in monasticism a form of salvation and spiritual elevation in a time of political and social turmoil. The chapter continues with an in-depth presentation of the monastic centers in the Palaeologan era, such as the centers in and outside Asia Minor, and the role of spirituality in Constantinople and Thessaloniki. The authors offer valuable insights into the significant role of monasticism in the dissemination of knowledge and ideas in Byzantine society and generally in the intellectual movement of this period.

The tenth chapter, “The Hesychast Controversy: Events, Personalities, Texts and Trends” by Ioannis Polemis (pp. 345-398), is an in-depth analysis of a significant religious quarrel that took place in the late Byzantine Empire (14th-15th centuries). Polemis delves into the factors that led to the controversy, the protagonists, the basic ideas, the texts that were written, and the aftermath of this controversy. The chapter begins with a brief overview of the history of the Hesychasm, and then the spiritual and political factors are presented, which led to political and religious turmoil. Polemis presents each of the protagonists and points out the significant impact of this controversy, which strengthened the Hesychast tradition and established it as an important aspect of the Orthodox Christian tradition. Polemis draws interesting conclusions not only for the impact of the controversy on the late Byzantine Empire but also for the key role of the Palamas’ original theory about man’s union with God.

In the eleventh chapter, “Working in the Imperial and Patriarchal Chanceries”, by Giuseppe De Gregorio (pp. 399-457), the organization and operation of the imperial and patriarchal chanceries, the offices responsible for the drafting and issuing of official documents in the late Byzantine Empire (13th-15th centuries) are presented. De Gregorio discusses the employees of the chanceries, their duties, and their importance to imperial and ecclesiastical administration. The chapter begins with a brief overview of the history of the chanceries, which had a long history in the empire and had also developed significantly during the 13th century. Next, the author examines different aspects of chanceries such as their use in the service of Rhetoric, and the officials and intellectuals in the Imperial and Patriarchal Chanceries. De Gregorio concludes highlighting the importance of the chanceries to imperial and ecclesiastical administration.

The twelfth chapter, “Public and Private Libraries in Byzantium” by Ilias Taxidis (pp. 458-490), examines the history and operation of public and private libraries in the Byzantine Empire (330-1453). Taxidis discusses the types of libraries (Imperial Library, Monastery Libraries and Private libraries), their resources, and their users. He also notes that libraries were important forms of culture and played a key factor in the dissemination of knowledge and culture in the Byzantine Empire. The chapter, after a multifaceted presentation of the topic, concludes with two maps, where the Libraries in Constantinople and the Monastic Libraries in Asia Minor are shown as well.

Each of the twelve chapters is completed by a bibliography containing the primary sources and secondary literature. The meticulous research and analysis presented in the chapters of the Companion are complemented by a general bibliography (pp. 491-502) and three Indices: an Index of Manuscripts and Documents (pp. 503-506), an Index of Places (pp. 507-509) and finally a General Index (pp. 511-519).

Overall, Kotzabassi’ Companion constitutes a significant and useful collection that thoroughly examines the intellectual and cultural environment during a critical period. The chapters are well-organized, draw upon a wide range of primary and secondary sources, and offer a systematic approach to historical, philosophical, religious, and social dimensions of the Byzantine literature in the Palaeologan era. From the theological debates to the philosophical aspects and the autobiographical texts, each chapter contributes to a rich tapestry of insights, shedding light on the dynamic interplay of ideas that shaped intellectual thought during this time. Furthermore, the Companion’s chapters offer a captivating glimpse into the wealth of ideas and events, showing off the renewal and innovation of this era.

Kotzabassi’s editorial prowess ensures a cohesive narrative, guiding readers through a diverse array of topics, including philosophy, literature, theology, history etc. The editor emerges as a trailblazer, coordinating an exceptional collaborative effort, and her contribution proves pivotal to the success of the book. By examining the intellectual endeavors of key figures, Kotzabassi offers this companion as a valuable resource for scholars, students, and everyone interested in the Byzantine Empire’s intellectual legacy.

In conclusion, A Companion to the Intellectual life of the Palaeologan Period, edited by Sofia Kotzabassi focuses on different fields and their key role in the cultural life of the Palaeologan era, and covers a broad range of topics allowing readers to delve into the details of various facets of the last centuries in Byzantium. It is obvious that Kotzabassi’ s Companion stands as an indispensable addition to the literature on Palaeologan scholarship and elevates our understanding of Byzantine culture to new heights.

Dimitra Moniou, PhD, Assistant Professor of Byzantine Literature, University of the Peloponnese

Bogdan Teodor, Jordan Baev, Matthew Crosston, Mihaela Teodor (eds.), Old and New Insights on the History of Intelligence and Diplomacy in the Balkans (New York: Peter Lang, 2023) by Gordan Akrap

Old and New Insights on the History of Intelligence and Diplomacy in the Balkans, edited by Bogdan Teodor, Jordan Baev, Matthew Crosston, and Mihaela Teodor and published by Peter Lang in the series South-East European History (Vol. 1, editor Mihai Dragnea) is organized into two parts. The first, which consists of six chapters, brings examples from the history of diplomacy and intelligence regarding cultural and human factors. The second part brings us papers about the influence of intelligence agencies and diplomacy on national and international relations. The articles are arranged chronologically, according to the time in which the analyzed activities took place.

The papers cover a wide time frame, from the Venice and Ottoman Empires in the 17th century until the end of the Cold War at the end of the last century. The papers clearly show how the history of the Balkan states and nations is interconnected and burdened by numerous conflicting interests. The Balkan area, a meeting point where different civilizations collide from time to time, has a significant impact on all social, political, security, economic, trade, and educational processes until today. So, the term “Balkanization” (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Balkanization) has its political justification as an example of activities that tends to repeat in other areas.

In terms of content of the published articles, we can read personal testimonies, reflections and experiences of early intelligence officers sent to foreign territories to fulfill various demanding tasks. We witness the challenges they face, the dilemmas that force them to make difficult decisions, and the hidden motives they try to achieve while fulfilling the tasks that others have set for them. The activities of individuals, groups, organizations, and state institutions, as well as the states themselves, which are trying to obtain intelligence to effectively protect their own interests, are presented in these papers. The effectiveness of the mentioned intelligence operations is always difficult to fully verify without a complete review of the archives of the opposing states and organizations at the time. It is also necessary to analyze the archives of those countries from whose territory they operated, as well as the countries towards which the enemy’s activities were directed. Espionage is a hostile activity in relation to the goal of the action. Namely, it is quite certain that certain persons, organizations, and institutions of third countries (from which intelligence operations were conducted) had some opinion and information about these activities on their territory.

These papers shows that diplomatic and intelligence activities are closely related and interdependent. When they are tied into a meaningful part of integrated activities, they can significantly help decision makers. However, when they are not coordinated and when there is a difference in the wishes and desires of various interested parties, internal conflicts occur. In such cases those differences quite often become publicly visible. Then they significantly burden both society and the state. Diplomacy (as an indispensable part of peace processes) negotiates to establish peace with the aim of strengthening one’s own political, economic, and security ties with the support of information obtained through intelligence. This points us to an interdisciplinary approach in the study of the history of international relations, that is, to the model known as new diplomatic history. This is the only way to get to the real cause-and-consequences relationships of individual processes and events from international history, which must be known to avoid their negative consequences in the future.

Starting from the first to the last paper, the historical development of intelligence activities can be traced, from translators (called dragomans in that time) all the way to modern intelligence communities that represent part of the state structure. It is especially important to study early diplomacy because the first forms of intelligence activities can be recognized in these activities.

The first article provides an understanding of the importance of having one’s own translators with the aim of a proper, clear and complete understanding of the other party, while simultaneously collecting information/intelligence about the other party while protecting our own information from possibly more aggressive approaches from those who want to obtain data and information necessary to strengthen their own positions, both in diplomacy and in trade, as well as in all other forms of activity. Translators also held important diplomatic roles, although they were not called diplomats but “dragomans” – practically modern diplomats in conveying important messages between ruling regimes: “this dragomans were used as a messengers of important communications, mediators in peace agreements or negotiations, even as advisers.  (…) They received access to “confidential discussion and to sensitive documents.”

The articles that follow show us how the first diplomats were at the same time intelligence officers and how, over time and through the development of diplomatic relations, intelligence activity also adapted. Diplomacy and intelligence were not only in the hands of diplomats and intelligence officers, but within the working frame of other experts that also participated in the processes of gathering data and information as well as in the processes of strengthening understanding between different parties as one of the diplomatic and intelligence tools.

These papers further show us that there is no such a thing in practice as fabled James Bond stories. The issue of intelligence activities, especially abroad, is directly related to several skills that must be developed in persons preparing for foreign intelligence: an acceptable level of communication skills; knowledge of culture, customs, habits and especially the language used by the inhabitants of the area in which, or towards which, the action is taken; the ability to remember the culture of communication; etiquette; the existence of safe and reliable communication channels for the transfer of information; analytical skills and in-depth knowledge of the thematic area in order to be more efficient in separating the essential from the non-essential information and knowledge; the ability to travel safely and undisturbed, and find adequate accommodation in the areas of operation. The papers also show how important it is to have real and contextual knowledge about the space, people, rules, customs and processes of the territory in which one operates as well as the one towards which one operates. It shows crucial importance of real knowledge.

Moreover, the papers demonstrate the demands of historical research activities that require an in-depth look at certain issues and processes from many different sides, and how much the history of conflicts of different interests is reflected in the actions of different intelligence centers or individuals. And all this is accomplished without introducing personal emotions or unscientifically flattering daily politics.

These papers clearly show how much history repeats itself to those who do not know it. Thus, we witness an analysis according to which it is evident that Russia recruited Serbian agents and sent them to Montenegro, all in order to organize a rebellion against the Montenegrin rulers who were fighting against Russia (page 90-91): “Czartoryski was a member of the Russian foreign Office and was entrusted with the task of organizing a spy network in Montenegro. (…) with the aim of rebelling against Montenegrin Elders: ruler Petarov I Petrović Njegošovi (1747-1830), who dangerously fought Russia alongside the French. Soon more agents came to Montenegro, creating a Balkan bridgehead for Russian spies.”

The twelve chapters of this book clearly show all the complexity of the history of the peoples, nations, and states in the Balkans, how the Balkans was, is and will be – an area where many different interests, ideologies, religions, and social structures collide. How much this area is burdened with the past and emotions, how much it lives on myths and prejudices, are also issues outlined throughout. Without in-depth and contextual knowledge of the real history of the Balkans, it is difficult to understand modern political national and international relations, as well as to foresight the future activities of political, social, religious, and other important actors that can influence reality.

As it occasionally happens in historical analyses, the personal emotional attitudes of individual authors can be clearly observed. As well as the excess of their targeted prejudices that have no basis in historical facts or in previous parts of the paper. In this paper authors wrote a sentence that is completely taken out of the space-time context, which favors the creation of further prejudices. On page 128, the authors state, “Croatian politicians showed their true face”. This shows their non-objectivity and lack of professionalism. Namely, the topic of the article was not Croatian-Serbian relations during the second Yugoslavia, but something quite different. The “Croatian” part of the paper simply is presenting Jovan Dučić as a “key figure” for “Western historical literature”, using mildly pretentious diplomatic language. Namely, Croatian-Serbian relations were full of many challenging processes and events before the second Yugoslavia, as well as after it. Ultimately, among other causes, they led to the bloody disintegration of the third Yugoslavia. Making decisions based on generalization should not be a tool in scientific research, especially of history. Generalization should be avoided, especially those that have no basis in fact.

The presented papers show the extent of intelligence’s role of conducting both gray or secret diplomacy. Therefore, as it was clearly emphasized in the introduction, it is necessary to study international relations through the history of intelligence activities as well because they are strongly interrelated and connected in cause and consequences. In many cases, having background in intelligence history is very helpful for international relations history analysis.

Moreover, some of the articles open up the issue of writing names in foreign languages. Namely, in several articles the names and surnames of historical figures were misspelled. As a rule, the names of persons should be written as they are written in the native language of the person mentioned in the article. If the article contains the names of persons who come from areas, times and countries where the Latin alphabet is not fundamental, it would be good to write those names in English using the English rules for writing personal names. This rule applies to the Latin alphabet and in those cases where the work is written in the same alphabet. In the case when the paper is written in a different script, then it is necessary to write personal names following the rules of writing in the language in which the article is written.

The following errors were found in this book:

Page 67: Ćorće should be written Đorđe; Corcevic should be written Đorđević.

Page 71: it is not general Sergei Tumanov. He is general Simeon Tumanov (Macedonian by ethnicity) as it is correctly written on page 276.

Page 77: it is not Karaćorćević – it should be written as Karađorđević.

Page 88: footnote 6: name is Mate, not Mete.

Page 91: Petar I Petrovć Njegoš, not as it is written.

Additionally, a comment on the chapter written by Krasimira Todorova. In her paper, on page 262, the author mentions the operations “Labrador” and the “Opera” as “operations of Yugoslav Army Counterintelligence (KOS) – (…).” It is important to correct those mistakes that quite often appears in Croatian papers also.

The real name of military institution that was responsible for counterintelligence activities in that period was Uprava za bezbednost Ministarstva narodne odbrane (Department for Security of Ministry of Peoples Defense). KOS is an abbreviation that was used from March 13, 1946 until reorganization in December 14, 1955. KOS was the official abbreviation for the service that existed until 1955 but remained as an acronym in public knowledge.

“Labrador” was a code name for an operation that was initiated at the end of 1989, and the beginning of 1990 still during the existence of Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. The operation was initiated by the head of the State security service of Republic secretariat for internal affairs of the Socialist Republic of Croatia. At that time, the head of the Service, Josip Perković, received an operational information that the Department for Security of Yugoslav MoD has moles within service in Croatia. Internal operation was initiated to check that info. Soon they were confirmed, and the key person was identified. It was Branko Traživuk (his codename as an agent was S3) who was a director of the 2nd department (responsible for fighting against emigrants) of State security service in Croatia and one of the deputies of the head of the service. Surveillance of Traživuk confirmed that he, while he was quite often going around with his dog, had undeclared and covert contacts with officers of Yugoslavian military responsible for counterintelligence activities, with officials from Second detachment of Counterintelligence group (KOG) of Yugoslav army Airforce and Anti-Aircraft defense that had headquarter in Zagreb, Croatia. His dog was a Labrador breed. That is the reason why the operation, whose aim was to identify sources and agents of military counterintelligence service within the institution in Croatia, had that name. After the elections in April 1990, and when the new democratic government was elected, activities to identify and interrupt illegal and counter-Croatian activities intensified. After several terrorist activities that author mentioned in her paper, regular uniformed members of Ministry of Interior initiated operation raid against KOG group headquarter in Zagreb and arrested first group of army officers and their agents. After several terrorist activities that the author mentioned in her paper, Croatian military counterintelligence service, named Sigurnosno – Informativna Služba (Security and Information Service – SIS) and the newly created Service for Protection of the Constitutional Order (Služba za zaštitu ustavnog poretka – SZUP) joined the uniformed police after the operation begun and started to collect significant quantity of KOG documentation that they did not destroyed. They were not informed about the intention of uniformed police to raid this offices and arrest these officers and their agents.

On page 274, footnote 53 of the same paper it is written that “Opera is short for Odeljenje za propagandni I Elektornski rat (Department for Propaganda and Electronic Warfare).” This is not completely true. There is no mention of “Electronic warfare” in this phrase, only the Department for Propaganda Warfare). The group “Opera” was, at the end of 1991, established within the structure of Yugoslav People’s Army Airforce and Anti-Aircraft by the order of commandant general Zvonko Jurjević. With the same order a supervised body was established, “Council for Information and Propaganda Activities”, which consisted of: General Živan Mirčetić (head of the Council), General Vojislav Radović, Colonel Slobodan Rakočević, Colonel Mirko Vučinić, Lieutenant Colonel Marjan Ziherl, and Slavko Malobabić and Radenko Radojčić. More about “Labrador” and “Opera” group was written in Akrap, G. Specijalni rat – Knjiga 3, Večernji list, Zagreb. 2012 (Special Warfare – Book 3), and Akrap, G. Hibridne prijetnje I izazovi – Operacije utjecaja I moderno sigurnosno okružje, Hrvatska sveučilišna naklada, Sveučilište u Mostaru, Zagreb, Mostar, 2023 (Hybrid Threats and Challenges – Influence Operations and Modern Security Environment).

Gordan Akrap, PhD, President of the Hybrid Warfare Research Institute in Zagreb

Georgia Xanthaki-Karamanou, Dionysiac Dialogues: Euripides’ Bacchae, Aeschylus, and Christus Patiens (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2022) by Dimitra Moniou

Georgia Xanthaki-Karamanou’s book, Dionysiac Dialogues: Euripides’ Bacchae, Aeschylus, and Christus Patiens, is a masterful and insightful exploration of the complex and multifaceted world of Dionysus in ancient Greek tragedy. In this meticulously researched work, Xanthaki-Karamanou examines the interplay and the intricate connections between seemingly disparate works: Euripides’ Bacchae, Aeschylus’ fragmentary Dionysiac plays, and the Christian text Christus Patiens. Her analysis unveils the pivotal role of Dionysus and the rich tapestry of religious and cultural dimensions associated with this enigmatic deity in ancient Greek poetry. Besides that, this book delves deep into the rich tapestry of ancient Greek drama and its influence on later religious and philosophical thought.

Xanthaki-Karamanou’s book is divided into two well-structured parts: the reception of Aeschylus’ Dionysiac plays in Bacchae and the refiguration of the latter in the Byzantine drama Christus Patiens. In both sections the common denominator is Euripides’ Bacchae, which is approached as a receiving text in the first unit and as a source text in the second.  After the introduction, where the author presents the aims of her study according to a systematic approach to historical, philological and mythographical data, Xanthaki-Karamanou in the first part refers to the Dionysiac Plays of Aeschylus (the Lycurgeia and the so-called Theban Tetralogy) and Euripides’ Bacchae. In the second part the author refers to two different texts: Bacchae and Christus Patiens, so as to highlight the transplantation of Bacchae into Byzantium, given that Bacchae provides a valuable exemplum for aspects of dramatic technique, plot-patterns, that also exist in a similar way in Christus Patiens. The meticulous research and analysis presented in the book are complemented by four Appendices, a rich and useful Bibliography, and finally the Indices.

Overall, this book offers an illuminating journey through the history and culture of Dionysus, revealing how this god is presented in distinct works and how the pagan play was transformed to bring forward new pillars of thought and innovative values in different cultural and ideological contexts. Xanthaki-Karamanou unravels the intricate web of influences that Dionysus exerts on the characters’ actions and reactions, providing readers with a profound understanding of the god’s role in shaping their destinies. Her analysis goes beyond surface-level comparisons, delving deep into the nuances of each work to reveal their unique perspectives on human nature, religion, and spirituality. She also employs a comprehensive methodological approach, drawing from linguistics, literary criticism, religious studies, and social history, shedding new light on the multifaceted nature of Dionysus as portrayed in these ancient works. It is apparent that Xanthaki-Karamanou’s careful and thorough examination of these texts demonstrates her commitment to rigorous scholarship.

Additionally, Xanthaki-Karamanou meticulously examines the symbolic importance of madness and ecstasy in the context of ancient Greek society, offering fresh interpretations of these themes within the texts. Her scholarship highlights the spiritual dimension of the religious content embedded in these works, making a compelling case for their enduring relevance. It is also noteworthy that through Xanthaki-Karamanou’s expert lens, these themes are not just historical artifacts but mirrors reflecting universal human experiences and enduring questions about faith and the human condition. By providing rich historical and cultural context, she ensures that readers can fully appreciate the significance of these dialogues, even if they are new to the world of ancient literature.

In conclusion, Georgia Xanthaki-Karamanou’s Dionysiac Dialogues: Euripides’ Bacchae, Aeschylus, and Christus Patiens is a magnum opus that elevates our understanding of ancient Greek literature to new heights. Her commendable scholarship, comprehensive methodology, captivating prose, and ability to synthesize diverse perspectives is a testament and breathe life into these ancient dialogues which make this book an essential read for scholars, students of religion, and anyone not only with a passion for thought-provoking literature but also with interest for ancient Greek tragedy, mythology, and religion. This extended review merely scratches the surface of the book’s depth and richness, leaving readers eager to embark on their own transformative journey through the Dionysiac dialogues. It is obvious that this book not only deepens our understanding of these ancient texts but also invites us to engage in timeless questions about the human spirit and the divine. In an era where interdisciplinary research is increasingly valued, Xanthaki-Karamanou’s research stands as a shining example of how a multifaceted approach can illuminate the rich tapestry of ancient literature and culture, making the book a valuable contribution to multiple fields of study.

Dimitra Moniou, Assistant Professor of Byzantine Literature, University of Peloponnese, Kalamata, Greece


Hiperboreea, Vol. 10, No. 1 (2023)

Hiperboreea, Vol. 10, No. 2 (2023)

Alexios G. C. Savvides, Byzantino-Russica: Six-and-a-half centuries of Byzantine-Russian relations (Thessaloniki: K. & M. Ant. Stamoulis Publications, 2018) by Iakovos Menelaou

Alexios Savvides’ Byzantino-Russica: Six-and-a-half centuries of Byzantine-Russian relations covers precisely what the title suggests, and is divided into two segments.

The first part comprises the following sections: the introduction; the Christianisation of the Russians and its importance; The Primary Chronicle or Russian Primary letopis as a source; a chronology of Byzantine-Russian relations; invasions and trade relations before, during and after the Russian Christianisation; the ideology of the “Third Rome” and the Byzantine heritage in Russia; research perspectives on the theory of the “Third Rome”; studies of international bibliography on Byzantine-Russian relations; the study of Russian culture and civilisation in Greece today; Greek translations of works of Russian Byzantinology and their importance. The first part also includes an appendix with the names “Rus,” “Russians,” and “Russia” and a concise chronology covering the years 838/839-1589.        

The second part includes: the introduction; a detailed analysis of research and bibliography on Byzantine-Russian relations and Medieval Russian history; a chronology; and an appendix with the representation of Byzantine-Russian relations in secondary education.

On pages 25-28, the author explains the importance of the Russian Christianisation for World History. Based on current research, the Christianisation of the Russians took place between 987 and 989. The marriage of Grand Prince Vladimir the Great with Anna Porphyrogenita, and Vladimir’s and his people’s Christening are two critical events. However, according to the author, current evidence does not clarify the chronological distance between these occurences. Another important event which needs to be taken into consideration, as the author explains, is the arrival of the Varangians who helped the Emperor Basil II Bulgaroktonos to face the uprisings. Again, current research does not shed light on which event preceded the other. As regards the disagreement on the actual year of the Christianisation, the author explains that scholars of Slavology point to the year 988 or 987, while Byzantinists refer to 988/989 or 989.

On pages 29-31, the author provides some background information on how Vladimir helped the Byzantine Emperor Basil to defeat the revolts, and how the former applied pressure to Basil to keep the agreement.  

On pages 31-32, there is important information about Vladimir’s actions after his Christianisation to impose the new religion on his people. Vladimir accepted the administrative power of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople over the newly established Russian Church. The author cites Dimitri Obolensky and Zinaida Vladimirovna Udaltsova, who also explain that Russia built its culture and new identity on the Byzantine tradition. On page 33, the author cites Enno Franzius, who claims that Byzantine civilisation contributed to the creation of the Russian nation.

The use of the Russian language in Orthodox life is another landmark. On pages 33-34, Savvides refers to Levčenko: the connection of Orthodoxy with the Slavic language meant that the Byzantine Church established the foundations of a Russian spirituality. In an era when the Roman Catholic Church persisted in the use of Latin, the Byzantines allowed the Russians to introduce Christian teaching through the Slavic language. The Byzantine Empire implemented an effective system of foreign policy and church policy, promoting Orthodoxy. 

On pages 37-44, the author explains the importance of The Primary Chronicle, as primary material for the Christianisation of the Russians. Russians’ turn to Christianity changed the whole of Russian History, in a similar fashion to the case of Boris I of Bulgaria and his people.

On pages 45-56, Savvides analyses the chronological framework. He explains that Byzantine-Russian relations precede the Christianisation of the Russians by several years. One can detect the first encounters between the two nations, during the years of the Emperor Theophilos and in particular in 838/839-840-842. During these years one can see the first appearance of Russians in Asia Minor and the Black Sea. Also, in the summer of 860 Rus’ fighters appeared for the first time in Constantinople. Soon after, the Byzantines would start their missionary work with Saints Cyril and Methodius. The author refers to the administrative divisions of thémata as an important measure for the protection of the empire’s borders, and the contribution of the Khazars during the great Russian attack of 860. The author aptly asserts that a comprehensive table of Byzantine-Russian relations should include earlier stages of Christianisation, prior to the official event. However, this is a topic which needs further examination and research. The author also discusses the role of the Patriarch Photios and his missionary work.

The ideology of the “Third Rome” is discussed on pages 79-88, with references to the views of other prominent scholars. As the author aptly notes, this ideology of a “Third Rome” developed after the siege and fall of Constantinople in 1453. Two important primary sources are Nestor Iskander’s Tale on the Taking of Tsargrad and the Russian Narrative on the Siege of Constantinople. The author juxtaposes effectively different views on how far Moscow was a continuation of the Byzantine Empire, giving the reader the opportunity to read them with a critical eye.

On pages 89-94, Savvides deals with the limitations of the theory of a “Third Rome”, and again, juxtaposes views by different scholars on the adoption or rejection of this theory. Especially important is, perhaps, Meyendorff’s view that even after the fall of Constantinople, the Grand Prince of Moscow did not claim to be the successor of the Byzantine Emperor.

On pages 103-106, the author refers to the contribution of university departments and other centres in Greece which focus on Russian studies, Balkanology and Slavology. These are: the Department of the Russian Language, Philology and Slavology at the Philosophical School of the University of Athens; the Hellenic Association for Slavic Studies (Thessalonica); the Department of Language, Philology and Culture of the Black Sea Countries at Democritus University; the Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies at the University of Macedonia; the Greek Committee for South-East European Studies; and the Institute for Balkan Studies, supported by the Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs.         

On pages 269-275, the author gives information about the different textbooks used in History for Secondary Education. The analysis is rather critical of the Greek education system, as according to the author most of these textbooks do not provide sufficient material for study on themes relevant to Byzantine-Russian relations.                                                      

Overall, Alexios Savvides’ book is a comprehensive study which meets its goals. This is a book for academics and specialists in Byzantine and Medieval Studies and for undergraduate and postgraduate students of Medieval History. It is also a very important source for researchers in general and for those who have a personal interest in history.

Iakovos Menelaou, PhD, Balkan History Association

Simon MacLean, ed. and trans., History and Politics in Late Carolingian and Ottonian Europe. The Chronicle of Regino of Prüm and Adalbert of Magdeburg (Manchester: MUP, 2009) by David Kalhous

The Chronicle of Regino of Prüm is one of the key sources for the history of the late Carolingian empire (c. 900). Written from the perspective of Lotharingia and one of the most important Carolingian family monasteries, it provides us with unique insight into the history of the decline of the Carolingians and their realm. The chronicle maintained its popularity throughout the tenth century, when it was continued by Adalbert, later first archbishop of Magdeburg. Relatively rich manuscript transmission of the text confirms its popularity as well. Among other texts, it was also used by Cosmas of Prague at the beginning of the twelfth century as a model for his chronicle, or became a basis of continuation, which is also part of the translation. The importance of the text supported the need for its English translation, which has now been provided by Simon MacLean, renowned scholar in Carolingian studies, and author of a monograph about Charles III. The volume appears in a well-known and useful Manchester series of translations predominantly focused on medieval narrative sources.

The translation includes an extensive introduction of Regino´s life and work, which also places his story and texts into the context of the late Carolingian culture and politics. Regino is introduced not just as a historian, but also active participant in the politics of Lotharingia, being abbot of the important and rich Carolingian monastery Prüm from influential local aristocratic family with links to the Carolingian dynasty. His position, personal and institutional, impacted his fall – as he was indirectly involved in politics, he became a victim of power struggles among the aristocratic kindreds after the death of king Zventibold of Lotharingia and was pushed from his office and replaced by Richar. He later found refuge with archbishop Ratbod of Trier, who installed Regino as an abbot in the monastery of St.-Martin in Trier. Regino wasn’t an author of just one book – during his Prüm abbacy, he organized surveys of extensive monastic estates that still provide us with much valuable information about estate management during the Carolingian era. He also penned a treatise on music, De harmonica institutione, and compiled for his patron, archbishop Ratbod an introduction to the contemporary canon law De synodalibus causis. All of his texts, including the chronicle, were, according to MacLean, intended to improve Regino´s position in contemporary power networks and the chronicle was written as a guide for young Louis IV, the heir to the throne, as well as for his advisors. Through a series of short cautionary and exemplary narratives, mostly related to princes, the chronicle provided Louis IV with examples of good and bad behavior. The chronicle reveals a well-identifiable set of characteristics of an ideal ruler in Regino´s perspective. It also presents Magyars, perceived as an immediate threat in his time, as beatable enemies, and thus provides the intended audience with an optimistic perspective.

MacLean discusses the date of compilation of the chronicle. According to him, it was finished in 908. As it names king Zventibold dead, it must have been written after 900. MacLean is convinced that its compilation is related to the compilation of De synodalibus causis (906). In several manuscripts, it is possible to track authorial changes primarily related to Regino´s deposition.

Although the chronicle is usually labeled as a “world chronicle,” MacLean stresses its specifics within the genre that were not among the most popular in the Carolingian era – there are only four world chronicles written in that time following completely different goals. It is also just one of the two in its genre before 950, which begins with the birth of Jesus Christ instead of with the Creation of the world. Therefore, it is not framed either by the six ages of St. Augustine, or Isidore of Sevilla, nor by four empires. Its scope exceeds local horizons – there is no specific focus on Trier or Prüm in the chronicle, but their heroes are Franks and Carolingians and the rise and fall of their kingdom is placed in a wider context. Instead of world chronicles, Regino found inspiration in the Annales regni Francorum, and some of his main sources were Bede, Paul the Deacon, Pompeius Trogus, and Justin. Another rich source of information was the monastic memory.

Lastly, MacLean also provides the reader with an interesting insight into Regino´s methodology and sources. Regino weighted the witnesses, but he allegedly differentiated between the information gained through his own experience and mediated information. Whether it was mediated orally, or through a written record was in his eyes of no importance. Some of the stories he took over were evidently recorded in the monastery, and some of them were transmitted through the extensive networks related to the vast monastic estates with several enclaves in relatively distant regions, such as Brittany. An important source here was most probably the survey of monastic estates finalized during Regino´s abbacy.

His continuator, archbishop Adalbert of Magdeburg, also belonged to the top echelon of the contemporary elites. He started his career in St.-Maximin, Trier, acted as a missionary bishop in Rus´ and as an abbot of prestigious monastery in Wissenbourg before being installed in the newly established Magdeburg metropolitan seat. He decided to continue Regino´s chronicle after three generations, during his Wissembourg abbacy (966-8). The notes inserted into Regino´s text and related to Trier especially establish Adalbert’s authorship. Though, his focus is – like in Liutprand´s Antapodosis, or in Widukind´s Gesta –  on the Ottonian dynasty – and his continuation is the story of translatio imperii ad Saxones.

The translation is based on the standard edition published by F. Kurze in MGH (1890), although Maclean is aware of its flaws. He agrees with W.R. Schleidgen, who thoroughly analyzed Regino´s chronicle´s manuscript transmission, and found that the inaccurate reconstruction of the stemma did not affect the qualities of the editions except the record to AD 892 and the list of martyrs in Book I. Maclean finds inspiring Schleidgen´s conclusion that the spread of the manuscripts should be read based on a geographical key and that the chronicle was transmitted through the networks of the monastery Gorze and its famous reform movement.

For the translation of the chronicle, Maclean decided to prefer proximity to the original over fluidity. Nevertheless, his translation is readable. Taking in consideration a well-arranged foot-notes apparatus, History and Politics in Late Carolingian and Ottonian Europe provides the reader with a detailed, but user-friendly introduction to Regino´s life and work, and the translation is of very good quality and can be used as a starting point for anyone interested in late Carolingian historiography and politics.

David Kalhous, PhD, Associate professor, Department of Auxiliary Historical Sciences and Archive Studies, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic

Alexios G. C. Savvides, Bosphorus/Bosporos (Boghaz-içi) from Byzantine to Latin and Ottoman Times (4th-15th centuries). Constantinople Viewed from the North-East Water Currents… (Athens: Herodotus, 2020) by Susan Sorek

This work explores in depth the story of the Bosphorus straits area, its history, geography, and topography, in remarkable detail. The area which encompasses the Black Sea with the Sea of Mamarra, was an area that commanded the crossing of two great trades routes in history. It marked the divide between Europe and Asia and is the narrowest navigable channel in the world. It was of strategic as well as economic importance from antique times until the present, and of necessity became a focal point for aggression and conquest from many disparate nations in its long history. The decisive factor was the geographical and strategic position of Constantinople lying in the northern apex of the triangle which included the rich coastline of the eastern Mediterranean.

The first 41 pages deal with relevant quotations, bibliographical and cartographical notes, abbreviations used, and the forward. Here Savvides sets out his agenda which is to concentrate on the history, geography, and topographical context of the Bosphorus.

The work commences with an outline of the Byzantine period, tracing the political and economic role of the area in the Roman and Byzantine world, where Constantinople became a focal point at the heart of the straits. Byzantium, the imperial city may be compared to that of an irregular triangle which occupied the strategic point along the straits, thereby making it a focus for many raids and invasions.

However, although the straits economic importance throughout the Middle Ages has been significantly stressed the Bosphorean role in the transport of food supplies from the north had diminished even before Byzantine Constantinople was selected as the Roman Empire’s new centre of gravity. It was the commencement of eleven and half centuries of Byzantine rule, which was plagued by various incursions including the first raids by the Visigoths in the 3rd/4th centuries and the Muslim invasion of the 7th century. This would be followed by a series of other incursions including the threat from Russia. Eleven and a half centuries of Byzantine rule saw a multitude of incursions, from 10th century onwards Venice, the newly emerging economic centre received concessions in Byzantium and from 12th/13th centuries the Genoese received commercial concessions also. The straits were busy with a variety of different trading countries and so, naturally encouraged more raiding. Maritime trade had opened up considerably because of favourable treaties. However, the area also played a highly symbolic and ideological role as the epicentre of eastern Christianity in the late Roman and Byzantine period.

This was a turbulent period, with power changing hands a multitude of times. Savvides takes us through the period step by step in a concise, yet clear manner and it becomes obvious of the importance of the Straits in the making of the historical context of the period.

Finally in 1253 Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks, the Latin Empire of Baldwin II had exiled Constantinople on the other side of the Bosphorus, after the Crusader invasions of the 11th/12th centuries. Chapter 3 deals with the Ottoman conquest. As the scholar K.M Setton said that this was an inevitability, which brought about the end of an era. In 1452 Ottoman fortresses were built on either side of the straits along the narrowest part of the channel, a channel that had first been ‘conquered’ by the Persian ruler Darius by use of a bridge of boats, almost two thousand years earlier. The Ottomans used the strategic importance of the Bosphorus to expand their regional ambitions and to wrest control of the entire Black Sea area, which they regarded as an Ottoman Lake, as they took control of the two straits. The local inhabitants were extremely alarmed and regarded this invasion which they associated with the advent of the coming of the anti-Christ, and many tried to leave, it was a time of huge disruption. The final chapter 4 is the epilogue which reviews the importance of the straits during the Ottoman empire.

The final part of the work contains the summary, with maps and index. The maps give an added benefit to understanding the changes that occurred throughout the period and in total the work comprises 217 pages.

This is an outstanding book, which clearly shows the importance of the Bosphorus straits throughout history, and a chronicle of it as an economic metropolis which laid the firm foundation of Constantinople. Savvides sets out his agenda clearly at the start and follows it through in a detailed, yet highly readable manner. He manages to explain with clarity some of the more complicated periods of history, for example the period of Heraclius I and II in the 7th century. Always at the heart of the discussion is the role of the Bosphorus in dictating historical events.

 The work fills an especially important niche in the research of this significant area throughout history which still resonates in modern times.

Susan Sorek, PhD, Department for Continuing Education, University of Oxford

Luca Zavagno, The Byzantine City from Heraclius to the Fourth Crusade, 610–1204. Urban Life after Antiquity (Cham: Palgrave, 2021) by Alexandru Madgearu

Over the last two decades, the old conception of the Classical civilization’s decline in the Mediterranean area has become more and more replaced with a different vision that could be summarized as “The Transformation of the Roman World” (which is the title of a series of books that produced substantial contributions to the study of the period between 3rd and 7th centuries). Luca Zavagno, who has already published in the past decade some preliminary studies on the topic at hand, presents us with another work that fits within the existing paradigm of Classical studies, as applied to the evolution of urban life in the eastern part of the Mediterranean.

In the first chapter (“The Byzantine City: A Symphony in Three Movements”) the author lays out the methodological framework for the study of the different transformations of the landscape and functions and structure of the Byzantine cities in Asia Minor, in the islands and in continental Greece. He insists on the definition of the “Byzantine city” as a multifunctional settlement, whose evolution was influenced by the dynamic relations between its social composition and the urban structures. For instance, it was observed that the urban functions were often dispersed in different places (in Epirus, the bishoprics were located in settlements with a hybrid character, between rural and urban). The fluctuating use of the public and private functions of the urban space traced by the archaeological research in different cities attests to the survival of urban life, and contradicts the idea of the constant crisis which would have followed the beginning of the 7th century.

The second chapter (“The Historiography of Byzantine City: Interpretations, Methodology, and Sources”) is a detailed survey of the debates on the fate of urban life between 7th and 13th centuries in the Mediterranean space. The now prevailing opinion contradicts the idea of a decline specific to that period, by including it in a larger perspective of a longue durée of adaptations determined by interactions between the central and local administration, the Church, the hinterland of the cities and the macro-economy of the whole Mediterranean area, in which the Byzantine cities were interconnected. The development from one type of urbanism (Roman) to another one (the early Byzantine) was shaped by the exchange systems of the entire Mediterranean scale, in the same way as the Italian merchant city-states. This process was not a decline, but a transformation, evidenced by the archaeological research which attests to the development of the artisanal and commercial activities in cities like Corinth, Thebes, Monembasia or Athens.

A particular problem is the significance of the names applied to the Byzantine cities, such as polis and kastron. The presence of bishoprics was defining for a polis even if the settlement was in decline, while kastron (used after the 7th century) was specific to any fortified administrative or military center. The presence of a bishop or of churches with relics of patron saints enabled the resilience and development of urban life. They gave spiritual protection to the cities whose strong walls, built in many cases with recycled stones, and not always erected in response to attacks, attest to the need for security for the new kind of urban community. Some data about city life was provided by hagiographies, but the progress of the archaeological research offers now a different view than that proposed by Aleksander Kazhdan in 1954, namely of the decline and revival of the cities in the framework of a feudal system.

The decreasing number of coins is not a testament to collapse, but a lesser need for cash in the new type of settlements and for the new type of military organization, as was demonstrated by Michael Hendy. On the contrary, the study of Byzantine pottery production reveals a flourishing economy, integrated in the Mediterranean space, which contradicts the catastrophic vision supported, for instance, by Clive Foss. Currently, extensive excavations and the refining of ceramics studies are providing a better understanding of the Early Byzantine urban economy. The survival of urban life was enabled by the coastal position which gave to those cities the opportunities to belong to what could be called a Byzantine koine. The development of the urban centers was also stimulated by the presence of the archontes, the local aristocrats, who founded churches, monasteries and other buildings. Their need for various goods determined the growth of trade and artisanal activities in the cities. The Italian city states had a certain influence in this evolution.

In Chapter 3 (“Urbanism in the Byzantine Heartland and the Coastal/Insular koine”),the evolution of urban life in three regions, Anatolia, the Aegean heartland, and the islands or other littoral places, is discussed according to the available literary sources and archaeological excavations. In Anatolia, one of the best researched cities is Amorium, whose importance as theme residence increased after the middle of the 7th century in relation to the needs of defense against Arab attacks. The upper part of the city, soon rebuilt after the siege of 838, remained an important military and economic center until the expansion of the Seljuqs.

Another city from Anatolia, Ancyra, also illustrates the resilience of urban life after the grave Arab attack of 838, while at Amastris the development benefitted from shipping connections. Other Anatolian cities that preserved a high level of urban life were Nicaea, Ephesos and Attaleia. In the Aegean heartland, Thessalonike is impressive for its strong fortification system (several times repaired after earthquakes), but also for the flourishing economic life ensured by the harbor and by the influx of pilgrims. The prosperity increased when peaceful relations were established with the northern Bulgarian neighbors, for whom this city was a marketplace.

Second to Thessalonike in importance, Corinth was a terrestrial and maritime crossroad as well, whose prosperity was preserved during the early and middle Byzantine period, especially as a production center. On a lesser level, Athens and Thebes resisted as administrative and ecclesiastic centers, where the manufacturing activity is documented by the literary sources and archaeological discoveries.

A special case is Monembasia, founded in the 7th century as a refuge place. Its position ensured an important place on the maritime route between west and east, with commercial and military significance. The last section of the chapter presents several cities from the islands of Crete (Gortyn, Eleutherna), Cyprus (Salamis), Sicily (Syracuse, Catania, Palermo) and Sardinia (Cagliari), as well as from the Dalmatian coast (Butrint, Dyrrachium) and Crimea (Cherson). They belonged to what the author calls the “koine of the other sea”, a fragmented periphery of the Byzantine space, which remained more or less under the domination of the empire. The fragmentation of the maritime routes after the 7th century and the frequent Arab raids affected somewhat the economic life of these cities ruled by archontes or by strategoi, but the urban features survived, including artisanal activity (pottery, metal working, constructions).

The general conclusions (chapter 4) summarizes the considerations in regard to the resilience of urban life evidenced by archaeological research even for the worst period of the Byzantine Empire (7th-9th centuries). The reason for the survival of the artisanal and building activity was the presence of the secular and ecclesiastic elites in these cities.

As a general statement, it could be concluded that Luca Zavagno’s book provides a comprehensive critical overview of the research conducted on early Byzantine urban life, as can be seen from the large bibliographies annexed to each chapter. It is obvious that the author was able to manage a large amount of data from differrent regions of the Byzantine area and use them to demonstrate his approach to the problem of the continuity of urban life.  

Alexandru Madgearu, PhD, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Defence Studies and Military History in Bucharest, Romania

Current Issue: Vol. 10, No. 2 (2023)

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