Early Russian History. Key Issues. Гончарова Л.Ю. - 5 стр.



The Slavs were engaged in primitive agriculture and forest clearing at the time,
whereas the Vikings were a seafaring people, pirates and traders at the same time.
They were warlike trading fraternities who boldly pursued old and new trading
routes, including the one across Russia. Contemporary authorities call the route "from
the Varangians to the Greeks." The main route started at the Western Dvina, forded to
the Dnieper and than led to the Black Sea and Constantinople, taking the rapids near
present-day Zaporoshe in stride.
The Vikings were Germanics but they did not Germanize the Slavs. There were
too few of them for that. Over the centuries they were completely absorbed by the
Slavs. But they did leave certain important traces behind. They certainly created or
helped create the first Russian state. They left a variety of words and names behind.
They paved the way for the formidable trading activity of Kievan Russia. They
stimulated growth of towns and left their mark on the class structure, on various legal
concepts and institutions. One of these was the "druzhina", the body guard on which
the military supremacy of the rising princely power was based. The "druzhina" later
developed into the famous "boyar" nobility.
First Russian Princes
Kiev eventually overshadowed Novgorod as a political capital, especially
under prince Oleg (d. 912) who brought greater unity between north and south. Oleg
expanded the territory further south towards Constantinople, which he visited in 907
and with which he concluded a trading agreement in 912. Russia was born on the
route between two seas, and foreign trade was, from the beginning, a major factor in
its rise. Thus the cradle of the new realm was in the southwest, on the left bank of the
Dnieper, in the so-called Ukraine, a term meaning marshland or frontier. From the
end of the ninth century, thanks to its excellent location, Kiev became "the mother of
all Russian towns" and the center of the first Russian state.
It was Vladimir I (980-1015) who first, by force and conquest, created a state
out of the tribal groupings. He was one of those rare men of ancient times driven by a
vision of vast political dominion. Like Alexander the Great and his relative
contemporary Charlemagne he used force and trickery to unite a large territory which
collapsed after his death because it lacked the necessary political machinery and
network of communications. Modern dictators have the advantage of these
instruments of power and seem to survive longer. Although Vladimir's personality is
not as well known as Charlemagne's his achievements and accomplishments were
much the same. He was far ahead of his time in his conception of a political structure,
which envisaged the replacement of traditional society characterized by family, clan
and tribe. He wanted a real state held together by force and subjugation. From the
Kievan center he spread his power to the middle reaches of the Dnieper, westward to
the Prut, the San and Carpathians, northeast to the Moskva and the headwaters of the
Don; north as far as Lake Byelo, Lake Ilmen, the western Dvina and the region of
Novgorod; and southward at least as far as the rapids of the Dnieper, which the
traders of Kiev managed in his day to navigate down to the Black Sea and thence to
Constantinople. He left his people with the concept of political unity of the Russian