It is an intesting part of the Russian history and apparently not very popular for political reasons. Who founded Russia? The general belief says it were Slavs, but that was not exactly so. It was the Vikings whom Russian earlier history should be thankful to – the first Russian prince was a Sakandinavian named Rurik, but not only that…There is a fasicinating historical material behind.
The Vikings came to Russia through the trade routes from Sweden down the Russian rivers, particularly the Don and the Dnieper, which led south to the markets of Bulgar, Khazaria, Byzantium and the Caliphate. Some reached as far East as the Caspian Sea and as far south as Baghdad. They traded amber, furs, honey, slaves, wax and weapons, for the luxuries of civilization, silk and silver (large hoards of Arab dirhems have been found throughout Scandinavia.)
image via sunnyway
They founded the great cities of Starja Ladoga, Kiev and Novgorod. They were known as Rus, a name whose origins are the subject of some controversy. The majority view seems to be that it is a Finnish name for the Vikings of Sweden, but it seems to have ended up being used to describe all Russians, whether Norse or Slavic. The Rus were described in 922 by the Arab diplomat Ibn Fadlan thus:
“Never before have I seen people of more perfect physique. They are tall as date-palms, blonde and ruddy.”(Roesdahl, 1991)
Interestingly, archeological diggings show that the population in the Russian cities of that time was of Scandinavian background, at the same time the peasants were mostly Slavs.
The social organisation of Russia was rather democratical: The Rus were ruled by Princes, with an advisory body, the Duma, made up of nobles called boyars, who were sometimes more powerful than the Tsar himself. Below these was an assembly of free men, known as the Veche, who could be summoned by any citizen ringing the Veche bell. In Novgorod there was a freely elected burgomaster, known as the posadnik, who ruled with the consent of the Veche and defended the interests of the town against the Prince of Kiev. Novgorod was independent of Kiev, and its relative democracy may be because of its connections with Scandinavia and the merchant towns of Western Europe.
From the early days when the Kievan Rus state was founded, a unique and very interesting situation in the material culture of the East-European peoples occurred, when the local national Slavic and Finnish traditions were just strongly mixed and influenced by the rich cultural products of the Scandinavian military settlements, West European neighbours, the Byzantine civilization and religious mentalities, and of course, the constant cooperation in resisting the Oriental nomadic opponents from the steppes.
To sum it up, Russia has grown and matured under the wildest combination of nations and cultures, what gives her a wired compexity and, at the same time, the mysterious beauty….
P.S. … and I wonder why I feel so much attracted by Scandinavia? 🙂