The article addresses the problem of incompatibility of modern analytical categories with comprehension of pre-modern history, posing a particular question of whether the political order of Old Rus’ can qualify as a state. Reviewing the features of what is usually called the “ancient Russian state,” the author concludes that the modern concept of the state can only obscure our understanding of medieval political order. The author observes that the use of the modern concept of the state for conceptualization of medieval Russian history led to an assumption that the populace of this political formation can be described in national terms. A contextual perspective on medieval statehood and culture suggests that the dominant identity of this time was not national but rather religious (confessional) or territorial. In a way of conclusion the author calls for the development of a thesaurus of Russian medieval concepts (similar in character to studies in Early modern European conceptual history).