The acrticle is concerned with the vision of Western Church by rusian bookmen of the 11–12th centuries as it can be studied based on the “anti-latin” sermons, issued by rusian orthodox clergy of the time. These sermons are often regarded as badly composed and epigonic. Systematic comparison of such texts with their most probable prototyes demonstrares however that rusian bookmen were competent enough to extend available information on the West leaning on their own observations and estimations. Our knowledge on political and cultural relations between Rus’ and western Europe extends remarkably when we establish by whom and when the noted amplifications were made.
Crimea was historically a crossroads of civilizations, and in particular in the times of the medieval Genoese and Venetian colonization. The topic of the interactions between the Italian newcomers and the local Greek population was many times addressed in historiography. The predominantly ‘imperial’ and ‘oppressionist’ vision of the Genoese activity on the Black Sea was balanced out in the recent decades by highlighting the facts of collaboration, cooperation, and cultural exchange between the Italians and the Greeks. More attention was given to brokerage, namely the networks of local Greek intermediaries and go-betweens, who helped Italians in their dealings with different languages, traditions, and indigenous peculiarities. Their role was particularly important when they acted as translators and interpreters and assisted the Italian newcomers to navigate in the indigenous society. The Italian domination over the Black Sea did not therefore destroy the older economic structures; instead, as in the case with many other early modern colonial experiences, it relied on them and used them for mutual benefit.
The book focuses on the network of the Genoese colonies in the Black Sea area and their diverse multi-ethnic societies. The Genoese colonies in Crimea existed during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and attracted a broad variety of immigrants from the Mediterranean.
Interactions between various communities of Eastern Christianity are witnessed by many sources. The relationships among them were further strengthened in the wake of the Muslim conquests of the Middle East, when the widespread use of Arabic and frequent migrations contributed to the intensification of contacts. When the Franks arrived in the Middle East, they became a part of this extraordinarily diverse milieu and attracted the attention of Eastern Christian communities. This is witnessed by a series of notes comprising a kind of improvised treatise written by an unknown Arabic-speaking Coptic author. His account will be treated in the following pages. It is worth mentioning that encyclopedic works were quite popular among the Copts in the Middle Ages. One could point out such examples as the comprehensive works by scholars of the famous family of Banū al-ʿAssāl (13th c.), in particular, al-Muʾtaman Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm ibn al-ʿAssāl’s Summa of the foundations of religion, and what was heard of reliable knowledge (Mağmūʿ uṣūl ad-dīn wa-masmūʿ maḥṣūl al-yaqīn). Another example is the encyclopedic work Light [Dispelling] the Darkness and A Clear Explanation of the Liturgy (Miṣbāḥ aẓ-ẓulma wa-īḍāḥ al-ḫidma) by another Arabic-speaking Coptic author Abū ʾl-Barakāt ibn Kabar (d. 1324). Both authors used extensive material coming from diverse Christian (and non-Christian) communities throughout their history.