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itself, self-sufficient and independent both economically and juridically. The community was the possessor of the soil, which was periodically redistributed among its component members; the separate patriarchal families, and the assembly of the heads of the families was the body that judged and decided all things pertaining to the community. It is thus that we are to understand the apparently contradictory reports of the Byzantine writers, who say, on the one hand, that the Slavs know of no government and do not obey any individual, and on the other hand speak of a popular government that has existed from ancient times, that discusses all things in common, and that has many petty princes at its head.

It is self-evident that a government adapted to the requirements of a village community must assume a different character as soon as the settlement gains in extent and assumes the character of a city. And cities grew up quite early in northern and southwestern Russia. Toward the end of the ninth century Kiev had a wide fame as a large and populous city. Constantine Porphyrogenitus also knows of Novgorod, Smolensk, Linbetch, Tchernigov, Vishgorod, and Vititchev; in the time of Igor more than twenty cities can be named. The question as to the origin of Russian cities has called forth much debate and an extensive literature.

The chief difficulty lies in a proper understanding of the so-called Bavarian geographer, a writer of the ninth or tenth century, who counts, in his description of the northern Slavs, some twenty peoples with more than 3,760 cities. These latter he calls now civitates, now urbes, without indicating that there is any distinction of meaning to be attached to these terms, so that we are left to conclude that both names denote settlements. The present consensus of opinion as to those old Russian cities is as follows:

The old word grad, (now gorod, city) denoted any space surrounded by a palisade or earthworks. Thus there were wooden and earthen cities built for protection in time of war, and every community had its city. But in the regions that offered a natural protection by their inaccessible and swampy character the need for these cities was not so urgent, so that the wooded and marshy north had fewer cities than the open south. Numerous remains of these ancient earth piles enable us to recognise the position and wide extension of these old Slavonic settlements. Sometimes they are circular in form, others consist of a double angular trench with outlying earthworks. These are to be distinguished from the wooden cities, which were originally built for trading purposes, and only later were fenced in and enclosed, so that they could also serve for protective purposes. They were built in favourable situations, adjacent to some trade route. The more complex social relations that grew up in them demanded a more thorough organisation of social and political life, for which the village community did indeed furnish the basis, but which, in the long run, was found to be inadequate. The questions of general interest to the city were settled in the first place by the vetché, which greatly resembled the village gathering of the family elders.

But the need of a power which should decide all questions that might arise while the vetché was in abeyance, was more pressing in the cities, and favoured the development of the power-originally very limited, of the kniazes or princes, who were elective and whose dignity was neither hereditary nor lifelong. The prince did not even have a permanent military following: his dignity was of a purely personal nature. It is certain that not he but the vetché had the power to make laws. Our information concerning the political organisation of the earliest period of Russian history is very scanty, and we know more of what it lacked than of what it possessed. What strikes

us most is the absence of a military organisation. In times of danger, those who could defend themselves took up arms, the remainder fled to places of safety.

Nor can we discern with certainty any social differentiation into classes. On the other hand we know that a thriving trade was being carried on in the ninth century along the route which led from the gulf of Finland through Lake Ilmen to the Dvina and down the Dnieper to the Black Sea and thence to Greece. The oldest wooden cities lay along the famous route of the Varangians to the Greek Empire, along which amidst many dangers, the raw products of the north were exchanged for the finished commodities of the

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south. It is owing to these dangers that the trader had also to be a warrior, and it is into those ancient trade relations peaceful intercourse enforced by warlike means that we are to look for the most important arms of the old Russian state. Who discovered this trade route? We see no compelling reason to deny the honour to the Slavs, although it is established beyond doubt that even before the middle of the ninth century the Northmen reached Byzantium along this route. On the other hand, the marauding and trading expeditions which were carried on by Russians in the tenth century and earlier to the sea of Azov, the Caspian, and further still to the Caucasus and the shores of Persia, emanated from Scandinavians, and not from Slavs.




The religious conceptions of the Russian Slavs were but little developed. All other Aryan peoples, including the western Slavs, excel them in this respect. There was neither a distinct priestly class, nor were there images of the gods, nor were there distinct types of gods. The Arabian travellers almost unanimously ascribe sun worship to the eastern Slavs, and Byzantine writers before the ninth century tell of a belief in a supreme being who rules the universe. It is now generally accepted that this supreme god was called Svarog and was a personification of heaven and light, while sun and fire were regarded as his children. Perun, the thunder god, and Veles, god of herds, both mentioned by the oldest chronicler, must be brought in relation to the sun. But it is highly probable that these two gods were taken over by the Slavs from their Varangian rulers. Water also was regarded as sacred, and, like the forest, it was filled with animate beings which must be propitiated with sacrifices, since they had relations to human beings. Water, fire, and earth were related to death. The russalki, shades of the dead, swam about in the water, and the bodies of the dead were given up to the flames in order to make easier their passage to the realm of the dead (rai). The

[862 A.D.]

slaves, as well as the wife and the domestic animals were burned on the funeral pyre, and cremation was preceded by a feast and games in honour of the dead. But burial also was common.g

We find the Russian Slavs about the middle of the ninth century split up into numerous tribes, settled on the soil and engaged chiefly in hunting and agriculture. A continental people, everywhere confining itself to the inland country, leaving the sea-borders to non-Slavonic tribes. Politically they were in the midst of the transition from the clan organisation to the village community, without any central authority, without any military organisation, and but little able to resist the inroads from north, south, and east, of populations who lived by plunder. The primitive condition of their political organisation, their extreme subdivision into tribes and cantons, the endless warfare of canton with canton, delivered them up defenceless to every invader. While the Slavs of the south paid tribute to the Chazars, the Slavs of Ilmen, exhausted by internecine conflicts, decided to call in the Varangians. "Let us seek," they said, "a prince who will govern us and reason with us justly. Then," continues Nestor,h "the Tchud, the Slavs (of Novgorod), the Krivitchi, and other confederate tribes said to the Varangian princes: Our land is great and has everything in abundance, but it lacks order and justice; come and take possession and rule over us.'


To the elements that have obtained a permanent foothold on the soil of modern Russia and affected the Slavs in a greater or less degree, a new one must now be added in the Varango-Russians. The brave inhabitants of Sweden and Norway, who were known in western Europe under the name of Northman or Normans, directed their first warlike expeditions against their Slavonian and Finnish neighbours. The flotillas of the vikings were directed to the shores of the Baltic, and austrvegr- the eastern routewas the name they gave to the journey into the country of the Finns and Slavs on the gulf of Finland and further inland. Gardar was the name they gave to the Slavo-Finnish settlements, Holmgardar was their name for Novgorod, Kaenungardar for Kiev. Mikligardar, for Constantinople, shows that the Normans first learned to know that city through the eastern Slavs. The Slavs, on the other hand, called those Scandinavians by a name given to them by the Finns Rus. The Scandinavians who sent their surplus of fighting men to Russia and were destined to found the Russian state, lived learn from the form of the names that have come down to us in Upland, Södermanland, and Östergötland, that is, on the east coast of Sweden north of Lake Mälar. In these lands and throughout the Scandinavian north, men who were bound to military chiefs by a vow of fidelity were called vaeringr (pl. vaeringjar, O. Sw. Warung), a name changed by the eastern Slavs into variag. It was these Russo-Varangians who founded the state of Old Russia.9 At the call of the Slavs of Novgorod and their allies, three Varangian brothers, Rurik, Sineus, and Truvor (Scand. Hrurekr, Sikniutr, Thorwardr), gathered together their kindred and armed followers, or drujina, and established themselves on the northern frontiers of the Slavs: Sineus to the northeast, on the White Lake; Rurik, the eldest, in the centre, on Lake Ladoga near the Volkhov River, where he founded the city of Ladoga; and Truvor to the northwest, at Izborsk, near Lake Pskov. The year 862 is usually assigned as the date in which the Varangians settled in Russia, and it is the

- as we

[865-907 A.D.] official year for the founding of the Russian empire; but it is more probable that they had come before that date.

Shortly after their settlement the two younger brothers died and Rurik became sole chief of all the Varangian bands in northern Russia and assumed the title of grand-prince. He now became so powerful that he was able to subject Novgorod, which he made the capital of an empire stretching from the lakes in the north to the sources of the Dnieper in the south. The country drained by that river was also occupied by Varangians, but independently of Rurik. Two chiefs by the name of Askold and Dir (Scand. Höskaldr and Dyri) wrested Kiev from the Chazars and ruled over the Polians, the most civilized tribe of the eastern Slavs. In 865 they led against Byzantium an expedition which consisted of at least two hundred ships, and according to Venetian accounts of three hundred and sixty ships, to which would correspond an army of about fourteen thousand warriors. A tempest arose and destroyed the fleet in the sea of Marmora. The barbarians attributed their disaster to the wonder-working virgin, and it is reported that Askold embraced Christianity. This expedition has a two-fold importance: (1) it gives us the first certain date in Russian history; and (2) it introduced the seeds of Christianity into Russia. In the following year, 866, the patriarch Photius established a bishopric at Kiev.

After the death of his brothers Rurik reigned till his death in 879, when he was succeeded, not by his son Igor (Scand. Ingvarr), but by the eldest member of his family Óleg (Scand. Helge). In 882 he set out from Novgorod with an army composed of Varangians and the subject Slavo-Finnish tribesTehuds, Merians, Vesians, Ilmen Slavs, and Krivitchi-sailed down the upper Dnieper, took Smolensk, freed the Radimichi and the Severians from the yoke of the Chazars and incorporated them in his empire, and finally reached Kiev. Askold and Dir were then got rid of by an act of treachery, and Kiev was made the capital of an empire embracing nearly all the eastern Slavs.

The Treaty with Constantinople

But Kiev was only one of the stages in the southward progress of the Varangians. The great city of the east, Constantinople, was the glittering prize that dazzled their eyes and was ever regarded as the goal of their ambition. Accordingly, in 907, Oleg sailed with a fleet of two thousand boats and eighty thousand men, and reached the gates of Constantinople. The frightened emperor was obliged to pay a large ransom for the city and to agree to a treaty of free commercial intercourse between the Russians and the Greeks. A particular district in the suburbs of the city was assigned as the place of residence for Russian traders, but the city itself could be visited by no more than fifty Russians simultaneously, who were to be unarmed and accompanied by an imperial

Oleg's Varangian guard, who seem to have been also his council, were parties with him to this treaty, for their assent appears to have been requisite to give validity to an agreement affecting the amount of their gains as conquerors. These warriors swore to the treaty by their gods Perun and Volos, and by their arms, placed before them on the ground: their shields, their rings, their naked swords, the things they loved and honoured most. The gorged barbarian then departed with his rich booty to Kiev, to enjoy there an uncontested authority, and the title of Wise Man or Magician, unanimously conferred upon him by the admiration of his Slavonic subjects.

[911-913 A.D.]

The First Written Document of Russian History (911 A.D.) Three years after this event, in 911, Oleg sent ambassadors to Constantinople to renew the treaty of alliance and commerce between the two empires. This treaty, preserved in the old chronicle of Nestor, is the first written monument of Russian history, for all previous treaties were verbal. It is of value, as presenting to us some customs of the times in which it was negotiated.

Here follow some of the articles that were signed by the sovereigns of Constantinople and of Kiev respectively:

II. "If a Greek commit any outrage on a Russian, or a Russian on a Greek, and it be not sufficiently proved, the oath of the accuser shall be taken, and justice be done.

III. "If a Russian kill a Christian, or a Christian kill a Russian, the assassin shall be put to death on the very spot where the crime was committed. If the murderer take to flight and be domiciliated, the portion of his fortune, which belongs to him according to law, shall be adjudged to the next of kin to the deceased; and the wife of the murderer shall obtain the other portion of the estate which, by law, should belong to him.

IV. "He who strikes another with a sword, or with any other weapon, shall pay three litres of gold, according to the Russian law. If he have not that sum, and he affirms it upon oath, he shall give the party injured all he has, to the garment he has on.

V. "If a Russian commit a theft on a Greek, or a Greek on a Russian, and he be taken in the act and killed by the proprietor, no pursuit shall be had for avenging his death. But if the proprietor can seize him, bind him, and bring him to the judge, he shall take back the things stolen, and the thief shall pay him the triple of their value.

X. "If a Russian in the service of the emperor, or travelling in the dominions of that prince, shall happen to die without having disposed of his goods, and has none of his near relations about him, his property shall be sent to Russia to his heirs; and, if he have bequeathed them by testament, they shall be in like manner remitted to the legatee."

The names of Oleg's ambassadors who negotiated this treaty of peace, show that all of them were Northmen. From this we may conclude that the government of the country was as yet wholly in the hands of the conquerors.


Igor, the son of Rurik, who was married to a Scandinavian princess named Olga (Helga), was nearly forty years of age when he succeeded Oleg in 913. He ascended the throne under trying circumstance, for the death of the victor revived the courage of the vanquished and the Drevlians raised the standard of revolt against Kiev; but Igor soon quelled them, and punished them by augmenting their tribute. The Uglitches, who dwelt on the southern side of the Dnieper, contended longer for their liberty against the voyevod Sveneld, whom Igor had despatched against them. One of their principal towns held out a siege of three years. At last they too were subdued and made tributary.

Meanwhile new enemies, formidable from their numbers and their thirst for pillage, showed themselves on the frontiers of Russia: these were the Petchenegs, famous in the Russian, Byzantine, and Hungarian annals, from


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