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Soviet Union

The East Slavs and the Varangians

By the ninth century, Scandinavian warriors and merchants, called Varangians, had penetrated the East Slavic regions. According to the earliest chronicle of Kievan Rus', a Varangian named Rurik first established himself in Novgorod ca. 860 before moving south and extending his authority to Kiev. The chronicle cited Rurik as the progenitor of the Rurikid Dynasty. This princely clan was to rule in eastern Europe until 1598. Another Varangian, named Oleg, moved south from Novgorod, expelled the Khazars from Kiev, and founded Kievan Rus' ca. 880. In a period of thirty-five years, he subdued the various East Slavic tribes. In 907 he led a campaign against Constantinople, and in 911 he signed a commercial treaty with the Byzantine Empire on the basis of equality. The new state prospered because it controlled the trade route stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and because it had an abundant supply of furs, wax, honey, and slaves for export.

Historians have debated the role of the Varangians in the establishment of Kievan Rus'. Most Russian--and particularly Soviet--historians have stressed the Slavic influence in the development of the state. Although Slavic tribes had formed their own regional entities by 860, the Varangians undoubtedly accelerated the crystallization of Kievan Rus'.

Data as of May 1989