The Vikings in Russia

Written for The Viking Network by Irina Morozova & Evgeny Karpov

The beginning of the Russian – Scandinavian relationship dated from the 9th century is described in the Russian Primary Chronicle written by Orthodox monks. At that time, different Slav tribes lived in the North – West of Russia along the Neva and the Volkhov rivers as well as around the lakes Ladoga and Ilmen. The great Russian plain covered with forest and grassland was ideal for hunting, fishery and agriculture. Also it represented real trade crossroads between Northern Europe and Byzantine Empire. That was one of the reasons to build there the town of Novgorod which was a capital of the Old Northern Russia and an important commercial centre.

In 862 the Slavs, exhausted by uninterrupted inter-tribal wars, made the following proposal to the Rus (a name borrowed from the Finns to designate the Swedes): “Our country is rich and immense, but it is rent by disorder. Come and govern us and reign over us”.

Three Swedish Vikings responded and came to Russia. Rurik became governor of Novgorod, Sineus settled down in Beloozerg and Truvor in Izborsk. Two years later Sineus and Truvor both died and Rurik extended his rule over the whole country. Later two of his lieutenants went down to Kiev, nearly six hundred miles away, and conquered it. In 882 Oleg, Rurik’s successor, came to Kiev in his turn. Having established his own leadership over numerous towns and tribes Oleg strengthened considerably the new Russian State and became its master. The new capital, Kiev, little by little became one of the richest towns in Europe.

Rurik’s successors became a ruling dynasty in Russia for more than 700 years.

The Foundation of the Russian State
by Vikings

By Eddi Tomband

So-called Nestor’s chronicle tells:

“In the year 859 the Varjags came over the sea and gathered payment from Estonians, Slovers, Merjans, Vess and Krivetians. In the year 862 they were driven away back over the sea, no payment was given and the Estonians and others ruled themselves. And justice was lost, tribe rose against tribe, great disorder and quarrels arose and they started to fight among themselves.  And they said to one another: “Let us find a Prince, who will rule over us and bring justice”. And they went back over the sea to the Varjags (Varidg). They were also called “Russes”,  like others were called Swealanders, other Norrlanders, others Angles, others Gothtalanders. And they said to the Russes: “Our land is big and wide, but without any order. Come and rule over us and be our Princes!” And three brothers were chosen from among them and they took all the Russes with them and came.

The oldest, Ruierik, stayed in Novgorod, the second oldest Sineus, went to Whitelake, and the third, Truvor, went to Irboska. Russia got its name from these Russes.In two years Sineus and Truvor died and Ruierik took the whole country, giving his men towns; to one Polotsk, to another Rostov, to the third Whitelake. To these towns the Varjags came.

Earlier there lived in Novgorod Slovens, in Polotsk the Krivitch, in Rostov the Merjans, in Whitelake the Vess, in Muron the Muromers. They were all ruled by Ruierik”.

The name of the Scandinavians, “Varjag” comes from the Scandinavian word “var” – “oath”, which the merchants gave to each other to protect themselves.

The Scandinavians were often mercenaries in Europe, also Russian Princes had private armies of Scandinavians, called “Druzina”.

From them began most of the old Russian families. So the Russians got their name from Vikings, who established their state!