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Soviet Union


Many ethnically diverse peoples migrated onto the East European Plain, but the East Slavs remained and gradually became dominant. Kievan Rus', the first East Slavic state, emerged in the late ninth century A.D. and developed a complex and frequently unstable political system. Nonetheless, Kievan Rus' flourished until the thirteenth century, when it rapidly declined. A Slavic variant of the Eastern Orthodox religion and a synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures are among its lasting achievements. The disintegration of Kievan Rus' played a crucial role in the evolution of the East Slavs into the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belorussian peoples.

The Peoples of the East European Plain

Long before the appearance of Kievan Rus', Iranian and other peoples lived in the area of the present-day Ukrainian Republic. The most famous of these were the Scythians (ca. 600-200 B.C.), whose stylized animal jewelry can be seen in museums throughout the world. From A.D. 100 to 900, Goths and nomadic Huns, Avars, and Magyars passed though this region but left little of lasting import. More significant was the simultaneous spread of the East Slavs, who were agriculturists and beekeepers, as well as hunters, fishers, herders, and trappers. The East Slavs demographically dominated the region.

Little is known of the origins of the Slavs. Philologists and archaeologists have surmised that they settled very early in the Carpathian Mountains or in the area of the present-day Belorussian Republic. By A.D. 600, they had split linguistically into southern, western, and eastern branches. The East Slavs settled along the Dnepr River and its tributaries and then spread northward to Lake Ladoga and the Neva River Basin, northeastward to the northern Volga River region, and westward to the northern Dnestr and western Bug river basins. In the eighth and ninth centuries, many of the East Slavic tribes paid tribute to the Khazars, a Turkic-speaking people living in the southern Volga and Caucasus regions.

Data as of May 1989