Early Russian History. Key Issues. Гончарова Л.Ю. - 6 стр.



lands and he reinforced this idea by compelling them to accept Christianity in its
Greek Orthodox form in 988.
But like other great empires which rise rapidly Vladimir's soon collapsed.
Brother struggled against brother for possession of land, all of which was considered
to be the private property of the ruling family. The oldest member of the dynasty, the
so-called vyeliky kniaz or "Grand Duke" resided in Kiev and was supposed to be the
supreme ruler with the rest of his male relatives as his subordinates. The next oldest
member of the family was to succeed the Grand Duke, instead of his son, but it did
not always work that way. Ambition and greed interfered.
So there was nearly constant warfare among the princes. Yaroslav I (1019-54)
and Vladimir Monomakh (1113-25) managed to consolidate their positions
temporarily, but after their death political chaos arose again. This chaos was also
promoted by external threats and invasions by the Khazars, Pechenegs, Polovtsians
and others. These tribes on horseback ravaged the steppes and left Kiev frequently
helpless. These factors brought the Kievan period to an end.
Rulers of principalities moved into the remoter forest regions and stayed away
from Kiev. The population soon began to move northeast as well. Clearing the forest
as they went, they pressed on towards a new kind of life which was hard but safer
than before. This colonization, which began around 1100 and lasted until 1300,
played a major role in shaping the course of Russian history. In many ways parallel to
German colonization in the period 1150-1350, it marked the beginning of the
Moscovite state. So the power of Kiev fell.
In the west Galicia and Volhynia became independent and in latter centuries
these areas became continuous bones of contention among Russia, Lithuania and
Poland. This whole area was not fully embraced again by mother Russia until 1945.
In the north, Novgorod also reasserted its independence. Kiev itself was conquered
by the Tartars in 1240. It never again recovered its political importance, although it
remained a vital commercial and religious center.
Life in Kievan Russia
What was life like during the Kievan period? Hunting, fishing and forestry
were the everyday occupations of most people. They also farmed, mostly organized
by village communes (mir, obshchina), although this is now disputed by some
scholars. From the very beginning there were towns where the merchants and traders
dealt in honey, wax, furs and even wood. The towns also served as forts in time of
war. But a primitive bourgeoisie as it were did not yet really exist despite what
Marxist historians would have us believe.
During the winter months produce was exacted by the prince and his
"druzhina" from the peasant population and large quantities were stored in Kiev. In
the spring these goods were carried down the Dnieper, unloaded and reloaded at the
rapids, and then taken to Constantinople and bartered for other goods or exchanged
for money. The Russians frequently stayed in Constantinople for as long as six
months and kept a considerable permanent trading organization there. All this was
carefully arranged by treaty with the Byzantine emperor. Important as this trade was