UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


The Social, Religious and Cultural Aspects of Marriage in Early Kyivan Rus', 9th-13th century

13 May 2024, 11:00 am–12:00 pm

Birka oval brooches

A SSEES Research Student seminar with Ellie McDonald-Dick

This event is free.

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Masaryk room
UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies
16 Taviton street

What was expected of a married woman during the early Kyivan Rus' period, from the ninth to thirteenth centuries? What daily tasks, including childcare and economic activity were expected or available for women during this period? What forms did polygamy, concubinage or extra-marital relationships take, how common were these, and what were the differences in status between these types of relationships? How did the Christianisation process in Rus' and Scandinavia change what it meant to be a wife?

This presentation will explore these questions, and present the theoretical framework and methodology which I intend to use to answer them. Incorporating analysis of both archaeological and historical sources, this project will primarily use vignette studies similar to those used effectively in medieval Western Europe to paint a picture of daily life for married women. This project aims to fill a gap in the current literature, which has neglected both pre-Christian religion and cultural attitudes, and the social history of non-elite women in Rus' in order to draw conclusions as to how the cultural shift from paganism to Christianity affected married and family life.


Ellie is a first-year PhD student at UCL SSEES with an academic background in medieval European history (BA, Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic Studies, University of Cambridge and MRes East European Studies, UCL SSEES). Her research focuses on how the Christianisation of Early Kiyvan Rus', Scandinavia and the Baltic affected the daily lives of married women. She is particularly interested in how changes in religion affect the practice of gender roles and family life. Ellie is funded by the SSEES Foundation Scholarship and is supervised by Dr Sergei Bogatyrev (SSEES) and Professor Haki Antonsson (SELCS).

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, Birka Oval Brooches