Early Russian History. Key Issues. Гончарова Л.Ю. - 3 стр.



Chapter 1
Read the text:
"Scratch a Russian and you'll find a Tartar." That is a shibboleth which is
still heard occasionally in this prejudiced modern world. It is intended as an epithet
and a comment on the racial origins of the Russian people. There are no similar
slogans about the origins of Americans because there were no original Americans
aside from the Indians. "Scratch an American and you'll find an Indian" is not a
common saying. This fact points up the difficulty in dealing with the origin of
European and Asiatic states. America came prepackaged from Western Europe.
There is no ancient or even medieval America. We have no problem in tracing the
origin of the American state system. The colonists brought it with them in their
baggage from England.
Not so the Russians. The development of the Russian state was a cumbersome
and difficult process, accompanied by severe and bloody birth pangs. The womb was
the great Russian steppe - the modern-day Ukraine.
A variety of barbaric tribes inhabited those undulating plains and the littoral of
the Black Sea between 1000 B.C. and 600 A.D. None of them formed a permanent,
sedentary state or a recognizably organized society. Nomads do not do such things.
The steppes do not lend themselves to permanent settlements very well. They are
practically indefensible for one thing and ancient peoples were not too thrilled by the
arts and demands of agriculture. So they rode, hunted, fought, slaughtered and
ravaged. It was not only their idea of fun - it was a way of primitive life. Further
north in the forest zone things were different. The Finno-Ugrian tribes did set up
semi-permanent abodes under the trees and near the many rivers of European Russia.
Eastern Slavs and Varangians: a question of political and
cultural influence
The Slavs, an Indo-European group of barbarians first found somewhere near
the Pripet marshes in Western Russia, were the first to form a loose tribal
organization in the sixth century A.D. They began to settle on the land and gradually
consolidated into a single body. This process was hardly done by the time Rurik
seized power and created the first Russian state. It is indeed with Rurik that Russian,
as opposed to tribal, history begins. The Ruriks created a Russian state based on
conquest and slavery, and conquest and slavery remained an essential feature of early
Russian society up to the time of Vladimir I.
There are two important facts about early Russia: the fusion of the Eastern
Slavs into a coherent body in the seventh century; and the appearance of the Normans
and Vikings or Varangians, as the Greeks called them, in the ninth century. These
stormy invaders from the murky northern forests were called Rusi by the East Slavs.