III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > F. Europe, 461–1500 > 4. Eastern Europe, 1000–1300 > d. Kievan Russia
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
d. Kievan Russia
The eastern Slavs settled on the territory of present-day European Russia from the 5th to the 8th century A.D. In the 8th century some of the eastern Slavs were under the protectorate of the Khazars, an Altaic people who established a strong and prosperous state along the lower Volga. After the end of the 8th century, the northern part of Russia began to be penetrated by the Scandinavian Vikings, called in the old Russian chronicles Varangians or Rus (hence the name of Russia). In the course of the 9th century, the Varangians constantly moved southward along the main waterway leading from the Baltic to the Black Sea, gradually establishing domination over the Slav communities. According to tradition, the Scandinavian chieftain Rurik ruled in Novgorod in the 860s. Later he was recognized as the founder of the Russian princely dynasty.  1
The first recorded appearance of the Russians (Varangians) at Constantinople. This was a raid not unlike those of the Norsemen on Britain and France in the same period.  2
Prince Oleg, who transferred his residence to Kiev on the Dnieper River. Kiev remained the capital of Kievan Russia, a loose federation of territories, until 1169. Oleg also united the eastern Slavs, freed them from Khazar control, and signed a commercial treaty with the Byzantine Empire.  3
The Russians again appeared at Constantinople and extracted trade privileges from the Byzantine emperor. Trade became a leading occupation of the Russian princes, who, with their followers (druzhina), protected the merchant ships. On the other hand, private property appears to have been less developed among the eastern Slavs than in the West.  4
Further trade agreements with the Greek Empire testify to ever closer economic connections and no doubt to an increasing cultural contact.  5
The Russian princess Olga visited Constantinople and was converted to the Christian faith. This was, however, a personal conversion and may in fact have been Olga's second.  6
SVIATOSLAV, the son of Olga. He was the first of the great conquering princes. In 965 he defeated the Khazars on the lower Volga and proceeded to establish a Russian state in place of the Khazar Empire. Called to the Balkans to aid the Greek emperor against the powerful Bulgars, he carried on a successful campaign (967) and decided to establish himself on the lower Danube. At this time his power extended from Novgorod in the north to the Danube in the southwest and to the lower Volga in the southeast. He was forced to abandon Bulgaria in order to resist the Patzinaks (Pechenegs), who had entered southern Russia from the east and were threatening Kiev. Having repulsed them (968), Sviatoslav returned to Bulgaria, but he was no more welcome to the Greeks than were the Bulgars. In 971 he was defeated and driven out by the Emperor John Tzimisces (See 969–72). Sviatoslav was defeated and killed by the Patzinaks on his way back to Kiev (972).  7
With Sviatoslav's death began a dynastic struggle between his sons.  8
The battle ended with the victory of Vladimir the Saint, in whose reign (c. 990) the Russians were converted en masse to Christianity in the Orthodox (Byzantine) form. The Russian church was organized on the Greek pattern and was considered to be under the canonical authority of the patriarch of Constantinople. From this time on, the cultural relations between Constantinople and Kiev were very close.  9
Dynastic conflict between the sons of Vladimir.  10
YAROSLAV (the Wise), the greatest ruler of Russia in the Kievan period. He was successful in the struggle with his brother Sviatopolk, but was obliged to leave to another brother, Mstislav, that part of the principality that lay east of the Dnieper River, until Mstislav's death in 1036. Yaroslav was then supreme ruler of all Russia. Extensive building activity at Kiev (Cathedral of St. Sophia). Religious activity (Metropolitan Hilarion and the Monastery of the Caves). Promotion of education. Revision of the Russian Law (the earliest known Russian law code), under Byzantine influence. Dynastic alliances with western states (Yaroslav's daughter, Anna, married Henry I of France).  11
The period following the death of Yaroslav the Great was one of disintegration and decline. Technically the primacy of Kiev continued and the power remained concentrated in the family of Yaroslav. Actually, however, Kiev continued to decline in importance, and authority came to be divided between members of the princely family according to a system of seniority and rotation, which led of necessity to much dynastic rivalry and countless combinations, sometimes with Poles and Hungarians.  12
At the same time the Kievan state was subjected to ever greater pressure from the nomads (Patzinaks and Cumans) moving into southern Russia from the east. The period also witnessed a shifting of the older trade routes, due to the decline of the Baghdad Caliphate and the conquest of Constantinople (1204) by the Latin crusaders.  13
Emergence of new political centers: Galicia and Volynia in the southwest, principalities characterized by a strongly aristocratic form of government; Novgorod the Great, in the north, controlling territory to the east to the Urals. In Novgorod the assembly of freemen (Vieche) reached its fullest development; Suzdal-Vladimir in central Russia, the precursor of the grand duchy of Moscow. In this region the princely power was dominant, and private property was the least developed.  14
VLADIMIR MONOMAKH, prince of Kiev. His reign marked the last period of brilliance at Kiev.  15
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.