Early Russian History. Key Issues. Гончарова Л.Ю. - 4 стр.



This is how Russia received its name. It was a Scandinavian import like America is
an Italian import. The Rusi Rurik and Amerigo Vespucci have that much in common.
Russia should really be called Eastern Slavonia and America should be called
Indiana. But, unfortunately, history and those who make it are not always particularly
conspicuous for scientific logic.
Nobody knows when or how the slavs separated themselves into West, East,
and South Slavs. And certainly no one knows why this division occurred. In the fifth
and sixth centuries we read in contemporary accounts about Slavs existing and in the
sixth we have evidence that they lived between the Carpathian mountains and the
Dnieper river. By the seventh century they had evolved a higher form of social
organization consisting of families, clans and tribes under a prince or "kniaz". They
settled mostly along river basins. They were held together by a vague kind of
religious mysticism which gave them tribal consciousness. Evidence of this is found
in the early chronicles, which tell the story about the famous and controversial "Rurik
According to the monks who wrote these chronicles the event took place in the
year 862. "Clan rose up against clan, and there was strife between them. Our land is
great and rich, yet there is no order in it." So the Eastern Slavs appealed to the
northern Varangians: "Come, bring order to us and dispose over us."
Many scholars today are challenging the credibility of this legend. Some even
doubt the existence of Rurik. They believe the Chronicle may be wrong about 862 as
the beginning of the Russian state. It existed long before that date. The god-fearing
chronicler was either ignorant or else sought to gloss over the brutal facts of early
Slav history. The Norse certainly played a role in the early commerce and the
establishment of military fortifications in this general area. And they probably did so
before 862. There certainly was much rivalry and warfare throughout the sixth,
seventh, and eighth centuries. The Vikings took part in this strife, usually as
defenders of one tribe or another and thus gradually came to dominate the tribes. This
led to their expulsion from Novgorod, an early Slav center in the north. But tribal
struggles brought renewed chaos and thus led to the "invitation" of a new group of
Norsemen in 862.
Whether Rurik, who was the leader of this new group, used force or not to
establish his control is problematical. The contractual character of the origin of his
rule is admitted by most scholars. Rurik, however, was only one among several
Varangian princes who came to rule the fighting Slavs. His family relationship to two
other well-known Viking characters, Askold and Dir, is not clear. The chief function
of these foreign princes was not administration and the keeping of order as the
Chronicle would have it, but rather that of defense and maintenance of commerce on
the river routes. Florinsky and Kluchevsky agree on this. This defensive function led
to a shift of the center from further south to Kiev, which is a better position from
which to defend the north-south and east-west trading routes. Kiev thus became a
bulwark against invaders from the east like the Pechenegs and their ilk.
In the final analysis it does not really matter whether the Varangians came by
invitation or not unless you are a super-nationalistic Russian, of course. The fact is
they came and they established the first Russian state. This should not be surprising.