Old Rus’ culture has long been perceived as a given fact, beyond dispute. Its successive connection with authentically Slavic cultures dating back to 700-1000 AD could be clearly traced retrospectively. But archaeological data accumulated over recent decades shows that material from Initial Rus’ (ninth to eleventh centuries) looks more like a heterogeneous conglomerate of different traditions and cultural elements than a stable structure. The key to understanding the process of innovations observed over this period, as well as their cultural and anthropological mechanisms, should be the study of the ‘elite’, a socially superior group of the population. Such a project is now being developed in the Department of Slavic-Finnish Archaeology at IHMC RAS. This review gives the most important results obtained to date, including a modern formulation of the problem in its various aspects, and the latest important publications.