Abstract. The article summarizes observations in favor of the thesis that the ByzantineOrthodox tradition, inherited by Ancient Rus’, came into conflict with the “ethnic” definition of “Russianness”; a hypothesis is presented that in this respect the experience of Rus’ (and Byzantium) differed significantly from the experience of “Latin” Europe. Behind these conclusions is the experience of implementing an international research program focused on the functions of Christian traditions in the formation of discourses of protonational self-awareness in the Middle Ages and early New Times. Already in the East Slavic Middle Ages, we see a lot of significant deviations from the Western pattern (“jazyki” instead of “nationes”, “lyudi” instead of “narod” / “populus” / natio / gens etc.). Discourses of “ethnic” self-identification strangely were not developed, and confessional self-identification became more and more widespread. These “deviations” grew in number and deepened in their content in Moscow Rus’ in the 16th – 17th centuries. The “ethnic” understanding of “Russianness” remained marginal; the extra-ethnic attachment to the confessional, dynastic and political-state principles dominated in building selfidentification.
Keywords: ethnos, ethnicity, Slavs, Russian national self-awareness.