By Bulent Gokay
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Extra info for A Clash of Empires: Turkey between Russian Bolshevism and British Imperialism, 1918-1923
Identity as interpreted in that context will be subjective, even though the culture in question is liable, as in the case of the Byzantines, to present it within a series of binary oppositions. The reality, as post-colonial theorists argue, is that such identities are ‘hybrid’ in that they come about as the result of complex negotiation through a process of ‘hybridisation’. In the past Byzantium has been seen in a very different way, especially in the Western literary and artistic imagination. 46 Such an idea of Byzantium as unchanging, exotic and ‘different’, that is, different from post-Enlightenment western European culture, has come into being for several reasons.
But it is important to realise that Byzantium was no monolith. Whenever its ‘beginning’ is postulated, whether in the reign of Constantine (sole rule 324–37), or that of Justinian (527–65) or in the seventh century, it came into being as a separate entity slowly, developing out of the existing structures, and it changed shape many times during its long history. The religious life of late antiquity has caught the imagination of many. This was the period during which, with the benefit of imperial support, Christianity gradually came to dominate the empire.
Byzantium could not ignore Russian trade and growing Russian power, and though Russian Orthodoxy developed a distinctively different flavour over the centuries, its roots were and are Byzantine. In staging the baptism of Vladimir, however, Basil was simply pursuing the same strategy as his predecessors of linking Orthodox mission with political interest. TBC02 38 2/8/06, 2:54 PM TBC02 39 IA ALON KEPH K RA IO N O OP NIK LIS KIBYRRHAIOTAI ES TH SAM OS N PO SE NE LO PE 2/8/06, 2:54 PM CYPRUS Tarsos CAPPADOCIA Melitene 400 km LEONTOKOME Map 2 The theme system in the tenth century.
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