Rus' People
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Rus' People
Map showing the major Varangian trade routes: the Volga trade route (in red) and the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks (in purple). Sufficiently controlling strongholds, market places and portages along the routes was necessary for the Scandinavian raiders and traders.
Guests from Overseas, Nicholas Roerich (1899)

The Rus people (Old East Slavic; Modern Belarusian, Russian, Rusyn, and Ukrainian, romanized: Rus'; Old Norse: Garðar; Greek: , romanized: Rhos) were an ethnos in early medieval eastern Europe. The scholarly consensus holds that they were originally Norse people, mainly originating from Sweden, settling and ruling along the the river-routes between the Baltic and the Black Seas from around the 8th to 11th centuries AD. They formed a state known as Kievan Rus', which was initially a multiethnic society where the ruling Norsemen merged and assimilated with Slavic, Baltic and Finnic tribes, ending up with Old East Slavic as their common language. Kievan Rus' stayed a tributary to the Swedish kings into the 11th century.[1]

There is also a set of alternative Anti-Normanist views that are largely confined to a minor group of East European scholars. They are defined in opposition to the idea of a foreign and Germanic influence in the formation of East Slavic society, and considers that the Normanist narrative denies the East Slavic nations the ability to form a medieval state on their own. Especially felt relevant during the war against Nazi Germany, they were encouraged by Stalin and popularised during Soviet times. They reject the account of the invitation of the Norse in the Primary Chronicle and strive to find other origins for the original Rus'.

The narrative about the Rus' is central to 9th through 10th-century state formation, and thus national origins, in eastern Europe (ultimately giving their name to Russia and Belarus). They are relevant to the national histories of Russia, Ukraine, Sweden, Poland, Belarus, Finland and the Baltic states.

Etymology

Europe in the 9th century. Roslagen is located along the coast of the northern tip of the pink area marked "Swedes and Goths".

The name Rus' not only remains in names such as Russia and Belarus, but it is also preserved in many place names in the Novgorod district, and it is the origin of the Greek R?s.[1]Rus' is generally considered to be a borrowing from Finnish Ruotsi ("Sweden"),[1][2][3] which in turn is derived from either from OEN r?þer (OWN róðr[4]), and which referred to rowing, the ship levy, etc., or it is derived from R?þin, the Swedish coastal region Roslagen.[1][2][5] The Finnish and Russian forms of the name with a final -s reveal an original compound where the first element was r?þ(r)s- (before a silent consonant þ is pronounced like th in English thing).[1] The prefix form r?þs- is not only found in Ruotsi and Rus', but also in the modern name for the people of Roslagen - rospiggar[6] which derives from ON *r?þsbyggiar.[7]

Runestones

There is one, probably two, documentations of the name in Old Norse from two 11th c. runic inscriptions that fittingly are located at two extremes of the Route from the Varangians to the Greeks. One of them is roþ on the runestone U 11 in the old Swedish heartland in the Mälaren Valley,[8][9] and the other one was identified by Erik Brate in the most widely accepted reading as roþrslanti on the Piraeus Lion originally located in Athens, where a runic inscription was most likely carved by Swedish mercenaries serving in the Varangian Guard.[10]

History

Map showing Varangian settlement (in red) and location of Slavic tribes (in grey), mid-9th century Khazar influence indicated with blue outline.

Having settled Aldeigja (Ladoga) in the 750s, Scandinavian colonists played an important role in the early ethnogenesis of the Rus' people and in the formation of the Rus' Khaganate. The Varangians (Varyags, in Old East Slavic) are first mentioned by the Primary Chronicle as having exacted tribute from the Slavic and Finnic tribes in 859. It was the time of rapid expansion of the Vikings in Northern Europe; England began to pay Danegeld in 859, and the Curonians of Grobin faced an invasion by the Swedes at about the same date.

It has been argued that the word Varangian, in its many forms, does not appear in primary sources until the 11th century (though it does appear frequently in later sources describing earlier periods). This suggests that the term Rus was used broadly to denote Scandinavians until it became too firmly associated with the now extensively Slavicised elite of Kievan Rus. At that point, the new term Varangian was increasingly preferred to name Scandinavians, probably mostly from what is currently Sweden,[11] plying the river-routes between the Baltic and the Black and Caspian Seas.[12]

Due largely to geographic considerations, it is often argued that most of the Varangians who traveled and settled in the lands of the eastern Baltic, the modern-day Russian Federation, and lands to the south came from the area of modern Sweden.

The Varangians left a number of rune stones in their native Sweden that tell of their journeys to what is today Russia, Ukraine, Greece, and Belarus. Most of these rune stones can be seen today, and are a significant piece of historical evidence. The Varangian runestones tell of many notable Varangian expeditions, and even account for the fates of individual warriors and travelers.

In Russian history, two cities are used to describe the beginnings of the country: Kiev and Novgorod.[13] In the first part of the 11th century the former was already a Slav metropolis, rich and powerful, a fast growing centre of civilisation adopted from Byzantium. The latter town, Novgorod, was another centre of the same culture but founded in different surroundings, where some old local traditions moulded this commercial city into a mighty oligarchic republic of a kind otherwise unknown in this part of Europe. These towns have tended to overshadow the significance of other places that had existed long before Kiev and Novgorod were founded. The two original centres of Rus were Staraja Ladoga and Rurikovo Gorodishche, two points on the Volkhov, a river running for 200 km between Lake Ilmen in the south to Lake Ladoga in the north.[13] This was the territory that most probably was originally called by the Norsemen Gardar, a name that long after the Viking Age acquired a much broader meaning and became Gardariki, a denomination for the entire Old Russian State. The area between the lakes was the original Rus', and it was from here that its name was transferred to the Slav territories on the middle Dnieper, which eventually became Rus' (Ruskaja zemlja).[13] (According to prominent Russian linguist Andrey Zaliznyak, the Novgorod people up until the 14th century did not call themselves Rus', using the term Rus' only for the Kiev, Pereyaslavl and Chernigov principalities.)[14]

The pre-history of the first territory of Rus' has been sought in the developments around the mid-8th century, when Staraja Ladoga was founded as a trading place, serving the operations of Scandinavian hunters and dealers in furs obtained in the north-eastern forest zone of Eastern Europe. In the early period (the second part of the 8th and first part of the 9th century), a Norse presence is only visible at Staraja Ladoga, and to a much lesser degree at a few other sites in the northern parts of Eastern Europe. The objects that represent Norse material culture of this period are rare outside Ladoga and mostly known as single finds. This rarity continues throughout the 9th century until the whole situation changes radically during the next century, when historians meet, at many places and in relatively large quantities, the material remains of a thriving Scandinavian culture.[13] For a short period of time, some areas of Eastern Europe became as much part of the Norse world as were Danish and Norwegian territories in the West. The culture of the Rus' contained Norse elements used as a manifestation of their Scandinavian background. These elements, which were current in 10th-century Scandinavia, appear at various places in the form of collections of many types of metal ornaments, mainly female but male also, such as weapons, decorated parts of horse bridles, and diverse objects embellished in contemporaneous Norse art styles.[13]

The Swedish king Anund Jakob wanted to assist Yaroslav the Wise, Grand prince of Kiev, in his campaigns against the Pechenegs. The so-called Ingvar the Far-Travelled, a Swedish Viking who wanted to conquer Georgia, also assisted Yaroslav with 3000 men in the war against the Pechenegs; however, he later continued on to Georgia.[15] Yaroslav the Wise married the Swedish king's daughter, Ingegerd Olofsdotter of Sweden, who became the Russian saint, Anna, while Harald Hardrada, the Norwegian king who was a military commander of the Varangian guard, married Elisiv of Kiev.[16][17] The two first uncontroversially historical Swedish kings Eric the Victorious and Olof Skötkonung both had Slavic wives. Danish kings and royals also frequently had Slavic wives. For example, Harald Bluetooth married Tove of the Obotrites. Vikings also made up the bulk of the bodyguards of early Kievan Rus' rulers.[18]

Evidence for strong bloodline connexions between the Kievan Rus' and Scandinavia existed and a strong alliance between Vikings and early Kievan rulers is indicated in early texts of Scandinavian and East Slavic history. Several thousand Swedish Vikings died for the defence of Kievan Rus' against the Pechenegs. Anund Jacob, the Swedish king, was referred to as Amunder a Ruzzia by the chronicler Adam of Bremen.[19][20]

Scandinavian sources

When the Norse sagas were put to text in the 13th century, the Norse colonisation of Eastern Europe was a distant past, and little of historical value can be extracted. In the sagas, the area is called Garðaríki, the "realm of cities", where the legendary kings have Norse names, and Snorri Sturluson mentions the name "Great Sweden" (Svíþjóð hin mikla) in Heimskringla. There is, however, more reliable information from the 11th and the 12th centuries, but at that time most of the Scandinavian population had already assimilated, and Rus' referred to a largely Slavic-speaking population.

Slavic sources

The earliest Slavonic-language narrative account of Rus' history is the Primary Chronicle, compiled and adapted from a wide range of sources in Kiev at the start of the 13th century. It has therefore been influential in modern history-writing, but it was also compiled much later than the time it describes, and historians agree it primarily reflects the political and religious politics of the time of Mstislav I of Kiev.

However, the chronicle does include the texts of a series of Rus'-Byzantine Treaties from 911, 945, and 971.[21] The Rus'-Byzantine Treaties give a valuable insight into the names of the Rus'. Of the fourteen Rus' signatories to the Rus'-Byzantine Treaty in 907, all had Norse names. By the Rus'-Byzantine Treaty (945) in 945, some signatories of the Rus' had Slavic names while the vast majority had Norse names.[22]

The Chronicle presents the following origin myth for the arrival of Rus' in the region of Novgorod: the Rus' were a group of Varangians 'who imposed tribute upon the Chuds, the Slavs, the Merians, the Ves', and the Krivichians' (a variety of Slavic and Finnic peoples).

The tributaries of the Varangians drove them back beyond the sea and, refusing them further tribute, set out to govern themselves. There was no law among them, but tribe rose against tribe. Discord thus ensued among them, and they began to war one against the other. They said to themselves, "Let us seek a prince who may rule over us, and judge us according to the Law". They accordingly went overseas to the Varangian Russes: these particular Varangians were known as Russes, just as some are called Swedes, and others Normans, English, and Gotlanders, for they were thus named. The Chuds, the Slavs, the Krivichians and the Ves' then said to the people of Rus', "Our land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come to rule and reign over us". Thus they selected three brothers, with their kinsfolk, who took with them all the Russes and migrated. The oldest, Rurik, located himself in Novgorod; the second, Sineus, at Beloozero; and the third, Truvor, in Izborsk. On account of these Varangians, the district of Novgorod became known as the land of Rus'. [23]

Later, the Primary Chronicle claims, they conquered Kiev and created the state of Kievan Rus' (which was preceded by the Rus' Khaganate).[24][25]

Arabic sources

Ship burial of a Rus chieftain as described by the Arab traveler Ahmad ibn Fadlan who visited north-eastern Europe in the 10th century.
Henryk Siemiradzki (1883)

Arabic-language sources for the Rus' people are relatively numerous, with over 30 relevant passages in roughly contemporaneous sources.[26] It can be difficult to be sure that when Arabic sources talk about Rus they mean the same thing as modern scholars.[27][28] Sometimes it seems to be a general term for Scandinavians: when Al-Yaq?bi recorded R?s attacking Seville in 844, he was almost certainly talking about Vikings based in Frankia.[29][30] At other times, it might denote people other than or alongside Scandinavians: thus the Mujmal al-Tawarikh calls the Khazars and Rus' 'brothers'; later, Muhammad al-Idrisi, Al-Qazwini, and Ibn Khaldun all identified the Rus' as a sub-group of the Turks.[31] These uncertainties have fed into debates about the origins of the Rus'.

Arabic sources for the Rus' had been collected, edited and translated for Western scholars by the mid-20th century.[32] However, relatively little use was made of the Arabic sources in studies of the Rus' before the 21st century.[27][28][33][34][35][36] This is partly because they mostly concern the region between the Black and the Caspian Seas, and from there north along the lower Volga and the Don. This made them less relevant than the Primary Chronicle to understanding European state formation further west. Moreover, imperialist ideologies in Russia and more widely discouraged research emphasising an ancient or distinctive history for Inner Eurasian peoples.[37] Arabic sources portray Rus' people fairly clearly as a raiding and trading diaspora, or as mercenaries, under the Volga Bulghars or the Khazars, rather than taking a role in state formation.[27][36]

The most extensive Arabic account of the Rus' is by the Muslim diplomat and traveller Ahmad ibn Fadlan, who visited Volga Bulgaria in 922, and described people under the label R?s/R?siyyah at length, beginning thus:

I have seen the Rus as they came on their merchant journeys and encamped by the Itil. I have never seen more perfect physical specimens, tall as date palms, blond and ruddy; they wear neither tunics nor caftans, but the men wear a garment which covers one side of the body and leaves a hand free. Each man has an axe, a sword, and a knife, and keeps each by him at all times. The swords are broad and grooved, of Frankish sort. Each woman wears on either breast a box of iron, silver, copper, or gold; the value of the box indicates the wealth of the husband. Each box has a ring from which depends a knife. The women wear neck-rings of gold and silver. Their most prized ornaments are green glass beads. They string them as necklaces for their women.

-- Gwyn Jones, A History of the Vikings[38]

Apart from Ibn Fadlan's account, Normanist theory draws heavily on the evidence of the Persian traveler Ibn Rustah who, it is postulated, visited Novgorod (or Tmutarakan, according to George Vernadsky) and described how the Rus' exploited the Slavs.

As for the Rus, they live on an island ... that takes three days to walk round and is covered with thick undergrowth and forests; it is most unhealthy. ... They harry the Slavs, using ships to reach them; they carry them off as slaves and...sell them. They have no fields but simply live on what they get from the Slav's lands. ... When a son is born, the father will go up to the newborn baby, sword in hand; throwing it down, he says, "I shall not leave you with any property: You have only what you can provide with this weapon."

-- Ibn Rustah [39]

Byzantine sources

Further information: Rus'-Byzantine War and Rus'-Byzantine Treaty

When the Varangians first appeared in Constantinople (the Paphlagonian expedition of the Rus' in the 820s and the Siege of Constantinople in 860), the Byzantines seem to have perceived the Rhos (Greek: ) as a different people from the Slavs. At least no source says they are part of the Slavic race. Characteristically, pseudo-Symeon Magister and Theophanes Continuatus refer to the Rhos as dromitai (), a word related to the Greek word meaning a run, suggesting the mobility of their movement by waterways.[40]

In his treatise De Administrando Imperio, Constantine VII describes the Rhos as the neighbours of Pechenegs who buy from the latter cows, horses, and sheep "because none of these animals may be found in Rhosia". His description represents the Rus' as a warlike northern tribe. Constantine also enumerates the names of the Dnieper cataracts in both rhosisti ('?', the language of the Rus') and sklavisti ('', the language of the Slavs). The Rus' names can most readily be etymologised as Old Norse, and have been argued to be older than the Slavic names:[41][42]

Constantine's form Latin transliteration Constantine's interpretation

of the Slavonic

Proposed Old Norse etymons
? Essoupi "does not sleep" nes uppi "upper promontory"

súpandi "slurping"

Oulvorsi "island of the waterfall" Úlfarsey "Úlfar's island"

hólm-foss "island rapid"

Gelandri "the sound of the fall" gjallandi/gellandi "yelling, loudly ringing"
Aeifor pelicans' nesting place æ-fari/ey-færr "never passable"

æ-for/ey-forr "ever fierce"

? Varouforos it forms a great maelstrom vara-foss "stony shore rapid"

báru-foss "wave rapid"

Leanti "surge of water" hlæjandi "laughing"
Stroukoun "the little fall" strjúkandi "stroking, delicately touching"

strukum, "rapid current"

Western European sources

The first Western European source to mention the Rus' are the Annals of St. Bertin. These relate that Emperor Louis the Pious' court at Ingelheim, in 839, was visited by a delegation from the Byzantine emperor. In this delegation there were two men who called themselves Rhos (Rhos vocari dicebant). Louis enquired about their origins and learnt that they were Swedes (suoni). Fearing that they were spies for their allies, the Danes, he detained them, before letting them proceed after receiving reassurances from Byzantium.[43][44][45] Subsequently, in the 10th and 11th centuries, Latin sources routinely confused the Rus' with the extinct East Germanic tribe, the Rugians. Olga of Kiev, for instance, was designated in one manuscript as a Rugian queen.

Another source comes from Liutprand of Cremona, a 10th-century Lombard bishop who in a report from Constantinople to Holy Roman Emperor Otto I wrote, in reference to the Rhos (Rus'), 'the Russians whom we call by the other name of Norsemen'.[46]

Archaeology

Early 9th-century Khazar coin, found in the Spillings Hoard in Gotland.

The archaeological excavations of 19th century conducted by Count Aleksey Uvarov in the area of Upper Volga and Oka has shown no Slavic-type evidences. For his studies in 1873 Uvarov was awarded the Golden Constantine Medal by the Imperial Russian Geographical Society.

The quantity of archaeological evidence for the regions where the Rus' people were active grew steadily through the 20th century, and beyond, and the end of the Cold War made the full range of material increasingly accessible to researchers. Key excavations have included those at Staraja Ladoga, Novgorod, Rurikovo Gorodischche, Gnëzdovo, Shestovitsa, numerous settlements between the Upper Volga and the Oka rivers. Twenty-first century research, therefore, is giving the synthesis of archaeological evidence an increasingly prominent place in understanding the Rus'.[47][48] The distribution of coinage, including the early 9th-century Peterhof Hoard, has provided important ways to trace the flow and quantity of trade in areas where Rus were active, and even, through graffiti on the coins, the languages spoken by traders.[27]

There is also a great number of Varangian runestones, where voyages to the east (Austr) are mentioned.[49]

Debate on the origins of the Rus'

The historiography of the origins of the Rus' is infamously contentious, due to its perceived importance for the legitimation of nation-building, imperialism, and independence movements within the Slavonic-speaking world, and for legitimating different political relationships between eastern and western European countries. The Rus' feature prominently in the history of the Baltic states, Scandinavia, Poland, and the Byzantine Empire.[27][50][51][52][53][54][55][56] They are particularly important in the historiography and cultural history of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine but have also featured in the history of Poland.[57] Added to these ideological forces is a scarcity of contemporary evidence for the emergence of a Rus' polity, and the great ethnic diversity and complexity of the wide area where Rus' people were active.[58] Notwithstanding the existence of a diverse range of historical debates, contention has centred around whether the development of Kievan Rus' was influenced by non-Slavic, Viking migrants (this idea is characterised as the 'Normanist theory'), or whether the Rus' emerged from autochthonous Slavic political development (known as the 'anti-Normanist theory').[59]

Normanism

The Invitation of the Varangians by Viktor Vasnetsov: Rurik and his brothers Sineus and Truvor arrive to the lands of Ilmen Slavs.

Whereas the term Normans in English usually refers to the Scandinavian-descended ruling dynasty of Normandy in France from the 10th century onwards, and their scions elsewhere in Western Europe, in the context of the Rus' people, 'Normanism' is the idea that the Rus' had their origins among the Normans (i.e. among 'Northmen').[59] However, the term is used to cover a diverse range of opinions, not all of which are held by all Normanists (some, indeed, may mostly exist as accusations about the views of Normanists by polemical anti-Normanists[60]). Nevertheless, an undeniable fact is the close connection of Russia with the Normans, which is confirmed by both extensive Scandinavian settlement in Russia as well as Slavic influences in the Swedish language.[61][62]

From the Tale of bygone years, it is known that among Rurik's entourage were two Swedish merchants Askold and Dir (in the chronicle they are called "boyars", probably because of their noble class). The names Askold (Old Norse: Haskuldr) and Dir (Old Norse: Dyri) are Swedish;[63] the chronicle says that these two merchants were not from the family of Rurik, but simply belonged to his squad.

Því at hánum fylgja
fimm ambáttir,
átta þjónar,
eðlum góðir,
fóstrman mitt
ok faðerni,
þat er Buðli gaf
barni sínu.
[64]

Bond-women five
shall follow him,
And eight of my thralls,
well-born are they,
Children with me,
and mine they were
As gifts that Budhli
his daughter gave.[65]

In the Poetic Edda, the authors describe offerings of eight slave girls to the Valkyrie Brunhild and for the dead hero chieftain Sigurd to enjoy in Valhalla. Similar to those Ibn Fadlan described in his eye witness accounts of the Rus.[66] In Sweden Ship, burials can be found, were several ship burials contain both a female and male person.[67] Archaeologist found a ship grave was containing a horse and dog as a sacrifice in Sweden and with quality weapons.

[68] Swedish Archeologist believes that during the Viking age Scandinavian human sacrifice was still common and that there were more grave offerings for the deceased in the afterlife than earlier traditions that sacrificed human beings to the gods exclusively.[69] The inclusion of weapons, horses and slave girls also seem to have been in practice among the Rus.[70]

Early proponents

The Normanist theory gained prominence in Russia (albeit not under that name) through the German historian Gerhardt Friedrich Müller (1705-1783), who was invited to work in the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1725.[71] Müller built on arguments made by his predecessor Gottlieb-Siegfried Bayer in the papers De Varagis ('on the Varangians', 1729) and Origines russicae ('Russian origins', 1736), and on the Russian Primary Chronicle, written in the 12th century, and covering the years 852 to 1110. At the beginning of an important speech in 1749, later published as Origines gentis et nominis Russorum ('The Origins of the People and the Name of the Russians'), Müller argued that Russia owed its name and early ruling dynasty to ethnically Scandinavian Varangians.[72][73] This statement caused such anger in his Russian audience that he was unable to finish his presentation, and appeals to the president of the Academy and the Empress led to the formation of a committee to determine if his research was "harmful to the interests and glory of the Russian Empire."[74] Before the committee, scathing criticism from Lomonosov, Krasheninnikov, and other Russian historians led to Müller being forced to suspend his work on the issue until Lomonosov's death. It was even thought during the 20th century that much of his research was destroyed, but recent research suggests that this is not the case: Müller managed to rework it and had it reprinted as Origines Rossicae in 1768.[75]

Despite the negative reception in the mid-18th century, by the end of the century, Müller's views were the consensus in Russian historiography, and this remained largely the case through the 19th century and early twentieth centuries.[72][76] Russian historians who accepted this historical account included Nikolai Karamzin (1766-1826) and his disciple Mikhail Pogodin (1800-75), who gave credit to the claims of the Primary Chronicle that the Varangians were invited by East Slavs to rule over them and bring order.[]

The theory was not without political implications. For some, it fitted with embracing and celebrating the multiethnic character of the Russian Empire.[72] However, it was also consistent with the racial theory widespread at the time that Normans (and their descendants) were naturally suited to government, whereas Slavs were not.[77][78][79] According to Karamzin the Norse migration formed the basis and justification for Russian autocracy (as opposed to anarchy of the pre-Rurikid period), and Pogodin used the theory to advance his view that Russia was immune to social upheavals and revolutions, because the Russian state originated from a voluntary treaty between the people of Novgorod and Varangian rulers.[]

Emergence of Western scholarly consensus

During the historical debates of the 20th century, the key evidence for the Normanist view that Scandinavian migrants had an important role in the formation of Kievan Rus' emerged as the following:

In the 21st century, analyses of the rapidly growing range of archaeological evidence further noted that high-status 9th- to 10th-century burials of both men and women in the vicinity of the Upper Volga exhibit material culture largely consistent with that of Scandinavia (though this is less the case away from the river, or further downstream). This has been seen as further demonstrating the Scandinavian character of elites in "Old Rus'".[47][48]

It is also agreed, however, that ancestrally Scandinavian Rus' aristocrats, like Normans elsewhere, swiftly assimilated culturally to a Slavic identity: in the words of F. Donald Logan, "in 839, the Rus were Swedes; in 1043 the Rus were Slavs".[83] This near absence of cultural traces (aside from several names, and perhaps the veche-system of Novgorod, comparable to thing in Scandinavia),[] is noteworthy, and the processes of cultural assimilation in Rus' are an important area of research.[83]

There is uncertainty as to how small the Scandinavian migration to Rus' was, but some recent archaeological work has argued for a substantial number of 'free peasants' settling in the upper Volga region.[84][85]

It is important to note that a number of Anglophone scholars remain equivocal about whether the question of Rus' origins can really be solved, however, either because the evidence is not good enough or because the Rus' were never an ethnic group with a clear point of origin.[27][28][86][87]

Use of Normanism in Nazi Germany

In the earlier 20th century, Nazi Germany promoted the idea that Russia owed its statehood to a Germanic, racially superior, elite.[88] During the Second World War, the German government promised the Fascist Quisling government of Norway territory on the historic Austrvegr, reflecting Quisling's ambition to reenact his Normanist view of Viking history.[89]

Normanism was widely used in Third Reich to prove the superiority of the Germans over the Russians. Adolf Hitler in his work Mein Kampf states that

For the organization of a Russian State structure was not the result of Russian Slavdom's State-political capacity, but rather a wonderful example of the State-building activity of the German element in an inferior race.[90]

Later Heinrich Himmler asserted that Russians are a sub-race:

The Slav is never able to build anything himself. In the long run, he's not capable of it. I'll come back to this later. With the exception of a few phenomena produced by Asia every couple of centuries, through that mixture of two heredities which may be fortunate for Asia but is unfortunate for us Europeans -- with the exception, therefore, of an Attilla, a Ghenghis Khan, a Tamerlaine, a Lenin, a Stalin -- the mixed race of the Slavs is based on a sub-race with a few drops of blood of our blood, blood of a leading race; the Slav is unable to control himself and create order. He is able to argue, able to debate, able to disintegrate, able to offer resistance against every authority and to revolt. But these human shoddy goods are just as incapable of maintaining order today as they were 700 or 800 years ago, when they called in the Varangians, when they called in the Ruriks.[91]

Anti-Normanism

Golden rouble depicting Rurik, issued to mark the 1150th anniversary of the birth of the Russian state.

Proponents of anti-normanism are of the opinion that the old Russian state existed even before the vocation of Rurik.[80] Starting with Lomonosov (1711-1765), East Slavic scholars have criticized the idea of Norse invaders. By the early 20th century, the traditional anti-Normanist doctrine (as articulated by Dmitry Ilovaisky[]) seemed to have lost currency, but in Stalinist Russia, the anti-Normanist arguments were revived and adopted in official Soviet historiography,[92][54] partly in response to Nazi propaganda, which posited that Russia owed its existence to a Germanic ruling elite.[88]Mikhail Artamonov ranks among those who attempted to reconcile both theories by hypothesizing that the Kievan state united the southern Rus' (of Slavic stock) and the northern Rus' (of Germanic stock) into a single nation.[93]

In light of evidence, theories - most of them proposed by Soviet scholars with nationalistic agendas - of a Slav state in the Baltic region attacked by and ultimately absorbing Viking invaders are more likely the product of wishful thinking than of fact.[94]

The staunchest advocate of the anti-Normanist views in the period following the Second World War was Boris Rybakov, who argued that the cultural level of the Varangians could not have warranted an invitation from the culturally advanced Slavs. This conclusion leads Slavicists to deny the Primary Chronicle, which writes that the Varangian Rus' were invited by the native Slavs. Rybakov assumed that Nestor, putative author of the Chronicle, was biased against the pro-Greek party of Vladimir Monomakh and supported the pro-Scandinavian party of the ruling prince Svyatopolk. He cites Nestor as a pro-Scandinavian manipulator and compares his account of Rurik's invitation with numerous similar stories found in folklore around the world.[]

By the twenty-first century, most professional scholars, in both Anglophone and Slavonic-language scholarship, had reached a consensus that the origins of the Rus' people lay in Scandinavia and that this originally Scandinavian elite had a significant role in forming the polity of Kievan Rus'.[80][95][96][97] Indeed, in 1995, the Russian archaeologist Leo Klejn "gave a paper entitled 'The End of the Discussion', in the belief that anti-Normanism 'was dead and buried'". However, Klejn soon had to revise this opinion as anti-Normanist ideas gained a new prominence in both public and academic discourse in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.[98] Anglophone scholarship has identified the continued commitment to anti-Normanism in these countries since the collapse of the Soviet Union as being motivated by present-day ethno-nationalism and state-formation.[99][100] One prominent Russian example occurred with an anti-Normanist conference in 2002, which was followed by publications on the same theme, and which appears to have been promoted by Russian government policy of the time.[101] Accordingly, anti-Normanist accounts are prominent in some 21st century Russian school textbooks.[102] Meanwhile, in Ukraine and to a lesser extent Belarus, post-Soviet nation-building opposed to a history of Russian imperialism has promoted anti-Normanist views in academia and, to a greater extent, popular culture.[103]

Other anti-Normanist interpretations

Obverse of a Ukrainian 1 hryvnia note, first issued in 2006, depicting Volodymyr the Great (c. 958-1015), Prince of Novgorod and Grand Prince of Kiev, who claimed descent from the Rus' Rurik.

There have been quite a few alternative, non-Normanist origins for the word Rus', although none was endorsed in the Western academic mainstream:

  • Three early emperors of the Urartian Empire at Caucasus from 8th to 6th century BC had their names Russa I, Russa II and Russa III, documented in cuneiform monuments.
  • The medieval legend of three brothers, one named Rus, had also its predecessor in very similar legend from ancient Armenians with almost the same classical name (studies by D.J. Marr). Furthermore, Kiev was founded centuries before the Rus' rule.
  • The ancient Sarmatian tribe of the Roxolani (from the Ossetic, ruhs 'light'; R /rusyje volosy/ "light-brown hair"; cf. Dahl's dictionary definition of ? /rus/: ? ?. ? ?. , ?. Rus, fig. world, universe [?: lit. "white world", "white light"]).
  • From the Old Slavic name that meant "river-people" (tribes of fishermen and ploughmen who settled near the rivers Dnieper, Don, Dniester and Western Dvina and were known to navigate them). The rus root is preserved in the modern Slavic and Russian words "ruslo" (river-bed), "rusalka" (water sprite), etc.
  • From one of two rivers in Ukraine (near Kiev and Pereyaslav), Ros and Rusna, whose names are derived from a postulated Slavic term for water, akin to rosa (dew) (related to the above theory).
  • A Slavic word rusy (refers only to hair color -- from dark ash-blond to light-brown), cognate with ryzhy (red-haired) and English red.
  • A postulated proto-Slavic word for bear, cognate with Greek arctos and Latin ursus.

Beyond the Normanist/anti-Normanist debate

The controversies over the nature of the Rus and the origins of the Russian state have bedevilled Viking studies, and indeed Russian history, for well over a century. It is historically certain that the Rus were Swedes. The evidence is incontrovertible, and that a debate still lingers at some levels of historical writing is clear evidence of the holding power of received notions. The debate over this issue - futile, embittered, tendentious, doctrinaire - served to obscure the most serious and genuine historical problem which remains: the assimilation of these Viking Rus into the Slavic people among whom they lived. The principal historical question is not whether the Rus were Scandinavians or Slavs, but, rather, how quickly these Scandinavian Rus became absorbed into Slavic life and culture.[83]

F. Donald Logan

Scholars such as Omeljan Pritsak and Horace G. Lunt offer explanations that go beyond simplistic attempts to attribute 'ethnicity' on first glance interpretation of literary, philological, and archaeological evidence. They view the Rus' as disparate, and often mutually antagonistic, clans of charismatic warriors and traders who formed wide-ranging networks across the North and Baltic Seas.[104][105] They were a "multi-ethnic, multilingual and non-territorial community of sea nomads and trading settlements" that contained numerous Norsemen--but equally Slavs, Balts, and Finns.[104]

Evidence provided by the Primary Chronicle, written some three centuries later, cannot be taken as an accurate ethnographic account; as tales of 'migration' from distant lands were common literary tropes used by rulers to legitimise their contemporary rule whilst at the same time differentiating themselves from their "Baltic" and "Slavic" subject tribes. Tolochko argues "the story of the royal clan's journey is a device with its own function within the narrative of the chronicle. ... Yet if we take it for what it actually is, if we accept that it is not a documentary ethnographic description of the 10th century, but a medieval origo gentis[a] masterfully constructed by a Christian cleric of the early 12th century, then we have to reconsider the established scholarly narrative of the earliest phase of East European history, which owes so much to the Primary Chronicle.[106]

Archaeological research, synthesizing a wide range of 20th-century excavations, has begun to develop what Jonathan Shepard has called a 'bottom up' vision of the formation of the Rus' polity, in which, during the ninth and 10th century increasingly intensive trade networks criss-crossed linguistically and ethnically diverse groups around rivers like the Volga, the Don, the Dnieper. This may have produced 'an essentially voluntary convergence of groupings in common pursuit of primary produce exchangeable for artifacts from afar'.[107] This fits well with the image of Rus' that dominates the Arabic sources, focusing further south and east, around the Black and Caspian Seas, the Caucasus and the Volga Bulghars.[108] Yet this narrative, though plausible, contends with the 'top-down' image of state development implied by the Primary Chronicle, archaeological assemblages indicating Scandinavian-style weapon-bearing elites on the Upper Volga, and evidence for slave-trading and violent destruction of fortified settlements.[109][110]

Numerous artefacts of Scandinavian affinity have been found in northern Russia (as well as artifacts of Slavic origin in Sweden). However, exchange between the north and southern shores of the Baltic had occurred since the Iron Age (albeit limited to immediately coastal areas).[111] Northern Russia and adjacent Finnic lands had become a profitable meeting ground for peoples of diverse origins, especially for the trade of furs, and attracted by the presence of oriental silver from the mid-8th century AD.[112] There is an undeniable presence of goods and people of Scandinavian origin; however, the predominant people remained the local (Baltic and Finnic) peoples.[113]

The increasing volume of trade and internal competition necessitated higher forms of organization. The Rus' appeared to emulate aspects of Khazar political organization--hence the mention of a Rus' chaganus in the Carolingian court in 839 (Royal Frankish Annals). Legitimization was sought by way of adopting a Christian and linguistically Slavic high culture that became the Kieven Rus'.[114] Moreover, there is doubt if the emerging Kievan Rus' were the same clan as the "Rus" who visited the Carolingians in 839 or who attacked Constantinople in 860 AD.[115]

The rise of Kiev itself is mysterious. Devoid of any silver dirham finds in the 8th century AD, it was situated west of the profitable fur and silver trade networks that spanned from the Baltic to the Muslim lands, via the Volga-Kama basins. At the prime hill in Kiev, fortifications and other symbols of consolidation and power appear from the 9th century, thus preceding the literary appearance of 'Rus' in the middle Dnieper region. By the 10th century, the lowlands around Kiev had extensive 'Slavic' styled settlements, and there is evidence of growing trade with the Byzantine lands. This might have attracted Rus' movements, and a shift in power, from the north to Kiev.[116] Thus, Kiev does not appear to have evolved from the infrastructure of the Scandinavian trade networks, but rather it forcibly took them over, as evidenced by the destruction of numerous earlier trade settlements in the north, including the famous Staraja Ladoga.[117]

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  94. ^ Waldman, & Mason 2005, p. 668 "In light of evidence, theories - most of them proposed by Soviet scholars with nationalistic agendas - of a Slav state in the Baltic region attacked by and ultimately absorbing Viking invaders are more likely the product of wishful thinking than of fact."
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  100. ^ Dmitry Nikolayevich Verkhoturov, 'Normanism: What's in a Name?', Valla, 1.5 (2015), 57-65 (esp. 63).
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  102. ^ Artem Istranin and Alexander Drono, 'Competing historical Narratives in Russian Textbooks', in Mutual Images: Textbook Representations of Historical Neighbours in the East of Europe, ed. by János M. Bak and Robert Maier, Eckert. Dossiers, 10 ([Braunschweig]: Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research, 2017), 31-43 (pp. 35-36).
  103. ^ Serhii Plokhy, The Origins of the Slavic Nations Premodern Identities in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 10-48 (esp. pp. 11-12).
  104. ^ a b Pritsak (1981, p. 14)
  105. ^ Lunt (1975, p. 271)
  106. ^ Tolochko (2008, p. 184 & 188, resp)
  107. ^ Jonathan Shepherd, 'Review Article: Back in Old Rus and the USSR: Archaeology, History and Politics', English Historical Review, vol. 131 (no. 549) (2016), 384-405 doi:10.1093/ehr/cew104 (pp. 389-402, quoting p. 397).
  108. ^ Thorir Jonsson Hraundal, 'New Perspectives on Eastern Vikings/Rus in Arabic Sources', Viking and Medieval Scandinavia, 10 (2014), 65-69 doi:10.1484/J.VMS.5.105213 (pp. 70-71).
  109. ^ Jonathan Shepherd, 'Review Article: Back in Old Rus and the USSR: Archaeology, History and Politics', English Historical Review, vol. 131 (no. 549) (2016), 384-405 doi:10.1093/ehr/cew104 (pp. 389-402).
  110. ^ Thorir Jonsson Hraundal, 'New Perspectives on Eastern Vikings/Rus in Arabic Sources', Viking and Medieval Scandinavia, 10 (2014), 65-69 doi:10.1484/J.VMS.5.105213 (p. 71).
  111. ^ Franklin (1996, p. 9)
  112. ^ Franklin (1996, p. 12)
  113. ^ Franklin (1996, pp. 22-25)
  114. ^ Pritsak, p. 31
  115. ^ Tolochko, p. 187
  116. ^ Franklin (1996, pp. 90-122)
  117. ^ Tolochko p. 186

Bibliography

External links


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