The influence of Viking culture has been largely overlooked despite the fact that the Viking world extended across the entire European continent from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, and many points East and West including modern-day Eastern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, and modern-day America.
|Early on in the ninth century, a group of Swedish Vikings, otherwise known as the Rus, entered the area today known as Russia. At the time the area was largely occupied by several groups of disorganized Slavic tribes. The tribes found themselves constantly at reckless war with one another until they finally called out for guidance. They said to themselves, "Let us seek a prince who may rule over us and judge us accordingly to the law." They hence forth went to the land of the Rus and said, "Our land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come rule and reign over us." (Roesdahl, p. 287). A Rus chieftain named Rurik came to the region and set up a kingdom in Novgorod in the time around 860 AD. The new kingdom thrived, and just a short twenty years later, a successor of Rurik conquered Kiev, a city over 600 miles south of Novgorod. The once jumbled region quickly became unified and seeds of a new empire had been created.|
|There has been much debate as to the exact origin of the Rus. It has been argued that the Rus were Slavic to begin with, but archeological evidence has shown that Rus are clearly Swedish in descent. What baffles many historians is the fact that by the eleventh century the Rus had become Slavic. The Rus who had entered the region had in less than 200 hundred years lost their "Swedishness" and become Slavic, which is typical of Viking behavior in other areas they conquered. The question still remains, however, were the Rus Slavic by nature, or were they Scandinavian who quickly assimilated with the Slavic culture?|
|If you conclude that Rus were indeed Swedish in origin, the claim that the Swedes founded the Russian state has proved to be much debated topic, for the very reasons that are stated in the above paragraph. The creation of a state does not occur overnight. A state gradually evolves over time, and is a combination of events and influences that shape its identity. Was this identity Slavic or Swedish? To ignore the "Swedish factor" (Logan, p. 203) in the creation if the Russian state would be a misrepresentation of history. The Rus influence in early Russian culture was great, and the fact that the origin of the first Russian dynasty stems from Rurik is evidence strong enough to prove this point. Without the leadership of the Rus, Russian history might not be the same, in fact Russian history might not have existed. It may have existed but it might have existed under different terms and cultural influences. It is not a mere coincidence that the word Russia contains the word Rus. The Rus can be remembered for bringing order to an unstable region. Although history, for the most part, has downplayed the influence of the Vikings in their endeavors all over the world, they (the Rus) can be credited with helping the formation of a state that eventually came to play a major role in the history of world.|
|Links: X X X X X X|
Russia has long been a religious nation. Russian Orthodoxy has been for centuries, and still remains, a strong component of Russian society and culture. Although religion was not tolerated under the communist rule, the populace never sacrificed their religion, as many learned to practice their faith in private. When communism fell, Russians regained not only their political freedom, but their religious freedom as well.
|The roots of this strong dedication to Christianity can be traced back to Vladimir, the first Christian grand prince of Russia, who introduced Christianity to his country circa 980. This introduction marked the end of heathenism and the beginning of a rapid conversion to Christianity. Russians embraced this new religion and hailed Vladimir as a savior, eventually canonizing him as a saint. The introduction of Christianity by Vladimir in the 10th century has become a defining moment in Russian history; it has shaped the country's identity as a devout Christian nation.|
|During the 9th and 10th centuries, Russia underwent a Christian infaltration from Byzantium, Bulgaria, and Scandinavia. The Russian Princess Olga became Christian in 955, but it was not until the reign of her grandson, Vladimir, that Orthodoxy would become the state religion of Russia. (Ware, 87) At the beginning of Vladimir's rule, neighboring nations sent ambassadors to Kiev to try to convert Vladimir to their creeds. Vladimir was curious to explore all the religions. He wanted to make a cautious and wise decision that would benefit all his people. Although he traveled and received visitors of many religions, he was only impressed with what the Greek embassy had to offer. (Mouravieff, 12)|
|Along with the Council of the Prince, a council of Vladimir's elders, the prince attended the Divine Liturgy in the church of St. Sophia to observe the religion of Orthodoxy more intimately. It has been said of the Russian ambassadors "That during the Divine Liturgy, at the time of carrying the Holy Gifts in procession to the throne or altar and singing the Cherubic Hymn, the eyes of their spirits were opened, and they saw, as in an ecstasy, glittering youths who joined in singing the Hymn of the Thrice Holy. Being thus fully persuaded of the truth of the Orthodox faith, they returned to their own country already Christians in heart." (Mouravieff, 12) The Council proclaimed: "When we stood in the temple we did not know where we were, for there is nothing else like it on earth...No one who has tasted sweets, will afterwards take that which is bitter: nor can we now any longer abide by heathenism." (Mouravieff, 12)|
|Vladimir was baptized into Christianity, married Anne, a sister of a Greek emperor, and proceeded to introduce Christianity to his country. After returning to Kiev, he destroyed the statues of heathenism. He ordered Peroun, the heathen idol, to be sent down the Dnieper. As the people of Kiev watched, they initially followed their idol down the stream, but realized that it had no power to rescue itself. Vladimir spoke to the people and "all the multitude of the citizens in troops, with their wives and children, flocked to the Dnieper, and without any manner of opposition received Holy Baptism as a nation, from the Greek Bishops and Priests." (Mouravieff, 15) The glory of Vladimir's introduction of Christianity to the Russian people was felt throughout the Russian lands: "Angel's trumpet and Gospel's thunder sounded through all the towns. The air was sanctified by the incense that ascended towards God. Monasteries stood on the mountains. Men and women, small and great, all people filled the holy churches." (Ware, 87)|
|Vladimir proceeded to build churches throughout his kingdom. He imported priests, bishops, icons, and relics; mass baptisms were held in the rivers. (Ware, 87) Vladimir "had the consolation of seeing before his death the fruits of his own conversion in all the wide extent of his dominions." (Mouravieff, 18) Vladimir died in Kiev in 1015. He was buried in a church that he had built, along with his Grecian wife. (Mouravieff, 18) After his death, the complete conversion of Russia was continued by his successors.|
|Christianity in Russia was threatened throughout the centuries by Mongol invasions, and more recently, by communist rule. However, it has survived and Orthodoxy remains at the center of Russian life. Churches are once again filled with parishioners. In a country where harsh weather and oppressive political conditions sometimes leads to depression and withdrawal, the Russian church acts as a source of light and|
|regeneration. It is an outlet which allows the Russian people freedom from the economic and political conditions which surround them. The strong Christianity of Russia is a defining characteristic of the country, and it can be traced back to the acts of Vladimir in the 900's. Christianity was, and continues to be, a source of identity for the country of Russia and its people: |
|Links: X X|
Vladimir was born one of three sons of Sviatoslav, the other two being Oleg and Iaropolk. After the death of Sviatoslav a struggle ensued among his three sons, the first victim of which was Oleg who was slain by Iaropolk. Upon hearing this Vladimir fled to Scandinavia, where he hired Varangian mercenaries, Slavs, Chuds, and Krivichians, and advanced to challenge his brother. The confrontation never occurred however due to the fact that Iaropolk was murdered by Varangian mercenaries. This left Vladimir as the sole ruler of Kiev until his death in 1015.
|The Primary Chronicle is the chief source from which scholars have located information on Vladimir. The chronicle devotes several pages to his character and exploits, yet what emerges is a dichotomy. In effect, a picture is created in which there is not one but two Vladimirs, the Sinner, and the Saint. Vladimir the Sinner was a cruel, treacherous, and devious politician, excessively devoted to drinking and carnal pleasures. For example, in order to satisfy his overwhelming sexual appetite he had seven wives and around 800 concubines. On the other hand, Vladimir the Saint was a forward thinking ruler who constructed churches, established schools, and devoted much of his efforts to the safety, security, and|
welfare of his subjects. A true Christian who lived his life and died in "the Orthodox faith" and became the first national saint of Rus. Vladimir had many successes, however, the most important of these achievements was to accept Christianity from Byzantium.
|In addition to using brute force to consolidate his power over the tribes within his realm, Vladimir adopted a policy that served two goals. The first goal was to integrate the diverse tribes into a single society, the second goal was to introduce a ideology that would legitimize his rule. This policy was the integration of a uniform common religion. What is perhaps less known is that Christianity was not the first attempt of Vladimir to achieve this goal. In the first few years after his ascension in Kiev, Vladimir sponsored the erection of a pagan temple on a hill at the very heights of the city. This temple was dedicated to six gods, each of which represented a sect of the present state. Among these gods were, Perun the god of thunder and war ( a Norse god), Stribog (the Slav gods of the sky), Mokosh, and Dazhboh. This original situation fell to the disapproval of Vladimir and was replaced by Christianity.|
|Christianity was not new to Kievan Rus, in fact it had been known there for at least a century. Vladimirs own grandmother, Olga, had been a Christian, and a Christian church called the Cathedral of St. Elias had been functioning since 944. It should be noted though that Christianity was not a foregone conclusion. Kievan Rus not only harbored Christianity, but with Judaism and Islam as well. A tale from the chronicle relates a story in which Vladimir sent out representatives to investigate all of the options available to the Rus. The tale attributes the rejection of Islam to among other things the fact that Muslims were prohibited from drinking alcoholic beverages. Judaism was rejected as well.|
|"They considered Judaism unacceptable because they found it inexplicable that the God of the Jews, if He were truly powerful and favored His people, would have allowed them to be deprived of a country of their own" (Medieval Russia, Martin).|
|In addition to deciding which major religion to adopt, Vladimir was forced to compare the two versions of Christianity. As it turned out, Vladimirs emissaries reported no glory in the ceremonies of the "German" or European churches. On the other hand when his representatives went to Constantinople and were led by the emperor into "the edifices where they worship their God" they were overcome by the opulent splendor. The emissaries informed Vladimir and his court that, "we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer then the ceremonies of other nations." (A History of Russia, Dmytryshyn)|
|The final argument that persuaded Vladimir to pursue Christianity was not religious but dynastic. Early in 988 envoys of the Byzantine Emperor, Basil II, approached Vladimir for military assistance against Bardas Phocas. In return for this assistance Vladimir was promised the hand of Basils sister Anna, as long as he accepted Christianity. Vladimir jumped on the possibility of having marital ties with the Byzantine throne, and, without much hesitation sent ample troops to Constantinople where they were victorious. Once Basil II was defeated though, he decided not to honor his part of the bargain and Vladimir resorted to war. In 989 his pagan forces occupied much of Crimea and forced Basil to relent thus winning the reluctant hand of Anna.|
|Vladimir returned to Kiev with a new policy to introduce Christianity within his realm. The adoption of Christianity had a profound effect on Kievan Rus. "It turned the face of Kievan Rus from the Muslim East, whose wealth had originally drawn the Rus to the lands of the eastern Slavs, toward Byzantium. The institutions of the Orthodox Church provided, furthermore, a vehicle for the influx of a range of cultural influences into Kievan Rus" (Medieval Russia, Martin). The initial effects of Christianity were seen first however in the architectural landscape of Kiev itself.|
|On returning to Kiev Vladimir ordered the immediate destruction of the pagan idols he had built just a few years before, and in their place he erected a church dedicated to St. Basil. In addition, on the desecrated remains of the former pagans he built a stone church of the Holy Virgin, more commonly known as the Church of the Tithe. There is evidence to suggest that many of the citizens accepted Christianity as a superior religion, but any converted only through the use of fire and the sword. The new religion spread slowly throughout the land in part due to the fact that the Greek and Bulgar priest lacked proficiency in the local language and could not explain the foundations of Christianity to the general masses. Contrary to the torment of the conversion many bright points can be seen in the Kievan Rus transition. In addition to the erection of the Church of St. Basil, and the Church of the Tithe, Vladimir founded clergy run schools, operated weekly banquets, and sent food to the weak and sick who were unable to attend those banquets.|
Genghis Khan was one of the greatest conquerors in the history of world. He was born c. 1167 as the son of Yesugei, chief of a small tribe in northeastern Mongolia. His father was poisoned when Temujin, Genghis Khans name as a youth, was about 10 years old. He tried to become a chief of his tribe; however, nomads would not listen to a youngl eader. A chief from another tribe took over his tribe and captured him. He escaped from the captivity, and then entered the army of Toghri Khan, the most powerful Mongol ruler of the time. Struggle and bloodshed characterized the succeeding years until 1206, when he united the warring Mongol tribes, and was proclaimed Genghis Khan, "universal ruler" of the Mongol chieftains.
|He wanted to conquer China which had always been strongest in the Asian mainland. In 1207, he began the invasions. After defeating the JIN empire in northern China, the Mongols occupied Beijing 1215. Extending their expeditions to the shores of the Caspian Sea, the Mongols totally defeated the Russian army by 1223. The empire established by Genghis Khan eventually extended from the Pacific Ocean in the east to the Black Sea in the west. Its northern and southern borders were from Siberia to the northern borders of Southeast Asia.|
|Mongols moved around to plunder foods and other supplies from other countries because their land was not fitted to raise crops. So, they were good at fighting. However, no one in the history of Mongolia united whole Mongols before Genghis Khan. He could conquer so many countries all over the world because he united intrepid Mongols and he controlled them with brilliant strategies.|
|Although he could not read, he created a system of law that probably represented more than a mere codification of existing practices. He also created a chain of command showing the ranks of soldiers. A lot of his military methods are still used today. He died on August 18, 1227, and was buried in a secret location in Mongolia.|
|No one in the history of the world have conquered many territories as Genghis Khan. Up to 1600s, China was the strongest country in the world. However, he was the first one who ruled whole China from out of Chinese origin. He was the only one that conquered the East and the West. He was the most famous person in the Mongol history.|
The 1995 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia
"Power may justly be compared to a great river; while kept within its bounds it is both beautiful and useful, but when it overflows its banks it is then too impetuous to be stemmed; it bears down all before it, and brings destruction and desolation wherever it comes."--Andrew Hamilton.
Through research, an argument can be made that perhaps one of the cruelest rulers this world has ever known was a product of unfortunate circumstance, disadvantageous surroundings, and a total lack of a disciplined upbringing. The Story of Ivan the terrible is a story of unchecked and absolute power, and unbridled unsurpassed brutality.
Many historians have noted that there was a marked change in the behavior and demeanor of Ivan IV after the year 1553. It is believed that Ivans deep seated paranoia and ruthless leadership, that would later earn him the dubious distinction "Ivan the terrible", were in part due to an illness that he suffered in 1553. One can conjecture that this was the crux of his detestable disposition, but there are certainly other worthwhile arguments to be made. In 1553, Ivans doctors diagnosed his illness as being terminal. This would definitely have a profound affect on anyones psyche. Ivan IV was born into a family of imperialistic and glorified leaders. His grandfather, Ivan the great, was the acclaimed unifier of Russia. Certainly this illness , if terminal, would dash his hopes of greatness and thus leave him with a sense of unfinished business and unfulfilled destiny and a guaranteed place in history. Perhaps his drive to over exceed his predecessors fueled his relentless brutality.
|Upon hearing of his diagnosis, Ivan IV forced the Russian nobles (the boyars) to swear allegiance to the Czar to be, even if the heir to Russia was only a one year old child. He must have feared that his death would bring the end to his dynasty, because there was little chance that the position of Czar would be reserved for this one year old child. He knew that fact all to well. When he was three, his father died. He became an orphan at age seven and a half when his mother died. He would fight the Boyars for control over Russia until he was fourteen and had undeniably become a man.|
|Here is another explanation for the insanity of Ivan. Ivan was conceived when his father was well advanced in years. After the age of 50, conception brings about a much higher rate of birth defects in infancy . The evidence shows that Ivans father was well past the age of 50, and that the son born after Ivan suffered from numerous birth defects. He was born deaf and dumb. Perhaps Ivans thirst for blood stemmed from a mental birth defect.|
|"A violently active, dominating, intrepid, brutal youth--that is what I am after."-Adolf Hitler. It is my belief that his utter brutality that could give rise to such a brutal youth arose from many factors. "The tyrant is nothing but a slave turned inside out." -Herbert Spencer. Being orphaned at such a young age must have caused a tremendous sense of isolation and abandonment that would scar the child forever. Another sign of mental illness that arose in his childhood was a fixation on the torture of animals, an all to common link between many of the worlds most dangerous killers, including Jeffrey Dalmer. At the tender age of twelve, Ivan would stand atop the ramparts that surrounded the Kremlin, whirl a dog or a cat above his head, and then out of pure enjoyment he would cast the animal over the edge. Perhaps if he had a caring mother or father, this problem could have been remedied, but here was no father figure in Ivans life. By the age of fourteen his taste for torture had blossomed into a full grown thirst for homicide. During this time, he associated himself with a an unruly mob consisting of the elitist sons of the Boyars ( the ruling class nobles). Together they would rob, and beat women and children. Ivan was also known at this time to have trampled many a person in Moscows streets with his horse, leaving them either dead or crippled.|
|It is also noted that Ivans mind and body had advanced faster than that of a normal childs. He was a child in a mans body and he had the power, the intelligence and the strength to do what ever he wanted, no matter how devious. "No extraordinary power should be lodged in any one individual."--Thomas Paine|
|Ivan was a man of tremendous drive and ambition. He conquered the remaining Russian principalities and seized absolute control in Russia. To commemorate his capture of Kazan, a Mongol stronghold, he ordained the foremost architects of Europe to erect St. Basils cathedral. It was typical for Ivan to align himself with European architectural style. The building of the cathedral gives us a great understanding of the lengths that Ivan would go to in order to set himself apart from other rulers. He wanted St. Basils to be the worlds most beautiful monument. Upon its completion, he called upon the chief architect. He asked him if he thought that he could ever design anything as beautiful as the Cathedral. Perhaps the architect thought that Ivan wanted him to correct an aspect of the cathedral or maybe he thought that he might be asked to design something else. Either way, his answer was yes, and it was totally wrong, for the Czar promptly had the mans eyes gouged out to prevent him from building anything comparable to St. Basils.|
|This was not the most terrible act of Ivan. In 1582, Ivan had a fight with his daughter-in-law, who was seven months pregnant. The argument was over a dress that he simply felt was unacceptable. In a blind fit of rage, he beat her to such a degree that she had a miscarriage. When Ivans son, the heir to Russia, tried to intervene, he was slain by his own father. In one fatal act Ivan had killed both the Tsar and the Tsaravich to Russia. These murders might be attributable to a tremendous stress that was bearing down on Ivan over his loss in the Livonian war in that same year. During the Livonian war, Ivan would suffer an historic defeat. Swedish and Polish armies not only conquered the far northern territories that he had unified, they also prevented Russia from gaining access to the Baltic. "Victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan." -Count Galeazzo Ciano. This must have been the breaking point for even a disturbed man. His actions, although reprehensible, could certainly be partly attributable to this event|
|Certainly Ivans life was full of unfortunate circumstance that would linger through-out his life. Perhaps some sympathy is due for the devil.|
|Links: X X X X X X X X|
|The Rise of the Russian Nation |
by Benjamin McMillan
Russia has a history that extends further back in history than many nations. The majority of scholars today seldom refer to any event prior to the Romanov Dynasty when referring to Russian “history”. The beginnings of this huge country, however, have their roots in the early ninth century with a congregation of tribes. The most notable was a tribe of Scandinavian peoples known as the Vikings, or as the Russians later referred to them, the Varangians. This band of warriors crossed the Baltic, settling on the shores of modern day Eastern Europe. (Britannica)
|The leader of the Varangians was a warrior known as Rurik, a famously powerful ruler in Viking history. He led a conquest to the city of Novgorod where the Varangians settled. After Rurik’s demise, another warrior named Oleg succeeded him. Oleg was credited with extending the control of the Varangians far to the South (Bucknell). By the close of the ninth century, Oleg had greatly increased the land of the Varangian tribe and had brought the city of Kiev under its control. The Varangians flourished in this city, and it quickly rose to become the major focus of the trading route between Constantinople and Scandinavia. By now the tribe of Varangians had grown to be known as the empire of the Kiev Rus’ (Bucknell).|
|Oleg’s great-grandson, Vladmir I, took the throne in 989 and ruled a kingdom that now stretched as far South as the Black Sea. Vladimir I became a revered figure in Russian history, being credited with the introduction of Christianity into the Kievan Rus’ empire, later diffusing into the Russian nation. This establishment of Christianity led to the alliance of his empire with Constantinople (Britannica).|
|Vladimir I was succeeded by Yaroslav the Wise. Yaroslav’s reign over the Kiev Rus’ marked the pinnacle of that empire’s existence. Yaroslav was responsible for codifying laws, engaging in numerous strategic alliances and encouraging an appreciation for the arts (Bucknell). At the end of his reign, however, Yaroslav divided his kingdom among his children provided that they agree to always cooperate and flourish as one. This was not the case and Kiev Rus’ soon became rife with internal tensions and had broken up into regional power structures soon after the death of Yaroslav. Matters were made worse by the fact that a rival tribe known as the Kipchaks had grown in influence along the Kiev Rus’ border (Bucknell).|
|It was during this time in the 12th century that the word “Moscow” was said to have been used for the first time. One of the regional princes, held a feast at his hunting lodge atop a hill overlooking the convergence of the Moskva and Neglina Rivers, marking the site that would eventually become the most eminent city in the Russian empire (Bucknell).|
The Kingdom of Kievan Rus’ fought viciously against many attackers and remained victorious for many years. This changed, however, when a ferocious new tribe of invaders completely defeated the Kiev Rus’. These warriors were called the Mongols. In 1237 Batu Khan of the Genghis Khan lineage, launched an invasion into Kievan Rus’ from his capital on the lower Volga. Over the next three years the Mongols destroyed all of the major cities of Kievan Rus’ with the exceptions of Novgorod and Pskov (History prior to 1800). For roughly one hundred years Russia faced oppressive taxes from the Mongols which left little money for rebuilding an empire. Those cities to the Northeast were the only ones growing in power because of their distance from the center of the Mongolian empire. Towards the turn of the fourteenth century a city named Moscow began to gain considerable influence in the Russian empire (Bucknell).
|Soon, Moscow had grown strong enough to challenge the Mongols directly. In 1380, a prince named Dimitri Donsky attacked and defeated the Mongols in a legendary battle. Two years later, however, the Mongols struck back and regained control of Moscow for another century until 1480 when Moscow was powerful enough to defeat Mongolian rule for good (Bucknell).|
|The ruler of Moscow at that time was Ivan III, otherwise known as Ivan the Great. Ivan began quickly subjugating all of Moscow’s rival cities until he had effective control over the entire country. There still remained internal tensions, however, until the reign of Ivan the Great’s grandson, Ivan IV. Ivan IV, or Ivan the Terrible, succeeded in unifying the nation of Russia into a single formidable entity (1800). Ivan the Terrible’s father Vasily III was the Grand Duke of Moscow-a title that Ivan himself assumed at the age of three when his father died. His mother died when he was eight leaving him to become tsar at the age of 17 upon which he promptly began consolidating his power and preparing the Russian armies to take revenge on the Mongols (Bucknell). In the year 1552, Ivan the Terrible, conquered Kazan and 4 years later he subjugated Astrakhan, the last of the Mongolian empire. This campaign greatly increased Russia’s empire making it one the mightiest in existence at the time. Ivan the Terrible was also responsible for the colonization of the outer reaches of the Russian empire such as Siberia (Bucknell).|
|Ivan was said to have been quite even tempered in the beginning. However, as he grew older his temper worsened, and by the 1560s he carried out a pretty horrific campaign against the boyars, confiscating their land and executing or exiling those who displeased him (Britannica). Scholars now believe that this erratic behavior was the result of a mental instability that drove him insane. In 1581, in a rage, he struck his son and heir Ivan with an iron rod, killing him. When Ivan the Terrible died in 1584, his son succeeded him but yielded most of the power to his brother-in-law named Godunov. When Fyodor died in the 16th century, Godunov was named tzar but died only a few years later. After a period of political upheaval, Mikael Romonov was declared Tzar of Russia thus ushering in the period of Russian history that is most often the focus of study. (Bucknell).|
2. Russian history prior to 1800
www .dur.ac .ukidm1Owww/Russhist.HTML
3. Chronology of Russian History
www.departrnents.bucknell.edu/russian/chrono 1 .htrnl
4. Bucknell University Russian History Department Page
|Links: X X X|
Designed and maintained by Oldrich Kyn - Copyright © 1997-2005. All rights reserved. Copyrights of signed articles, graphics, sounds and programs is held by the original authors.