Medieval Europe: Russian/Ukranian Trends


Figure 1.--Here are two Russian boys painted as bogatyrs by Elisabeth Merkuriev Boehm (1843-1914). The bogatyr (богаты'рь) were medieval Russian warriors. They were idealized in legend and art, rather like the Western European knight errant.

Russia in the early Medieval era did not exist in any collective sence. There were a number of scattered cities along the major rivers with cultural similaritis as well as trade and cultural, but not political relationships. The history of Russia begins in the 9th century AD as part of the outburst of the Norsemen from Scandanavia that so affected England and Western Europe. Norsemen also moved east. The Varangians from modern Sweden crossed the Baltic Sea and landed in Eastern Europe. The Varangians leader was the warrior Rurik. He was an actual historical figure, although most of what we know about him comes from legend. He led a band of Varangians to Novgorod on the Volkhov River (862). Rurik's descendents became known as the Rus. Rurik's successor Oleg using Novgorod as a base, extended his influence south along rivers which were the principal trade routes at the time. Oleg seized control of Kiev, the most important city on the Dineper (882). This provided the beginning of a unified state based on dynastic rule. Kiev was of special importance. Its strategic location along the Dnipper surounded by rich farm land was a key trading center located between between Scandinavia in the north and Byzantium in the south. Dominated by te Rus, Kiev was an important trading empire which dominated much of European Russia and the Urkraine for three centuries. Vladamir decided that an established religion was necessary for the Kievian state. He reportedly assessed several possibilities before deciding on Greek Orthodoxy. The Rus were on the trading routes connecting Scandinavia and Byzantium as well as Central Asia and the Baltic. Thus ancient Russia was connected with the Far East, the lands of the Mediterranean, Western Europe, Scandinavia. The Mongol invasion disrupted the established commercial routes. There were other shifts in Medieval Russia's trade, but it never ceased completely or for extended periods. Novgorod although defeated by the Mongols was never actually occupied and ruled by the Mongols. Rather Novgorod played tribute to the Mongols. The Mongols also never cut Novogorod from contact and commerce with the West.

Early Medieval Era

Russia in the early Medieval era did not exist in any collective sence. There were a number of scattered cities along the major rivers with cultural similaritis as well as trade and cultural, but not political relationships.

The Rus: Swedish Vikings

The history of Russia begins in the 9th century AD as part of the outburst of the Norsemen from Scandanavia that so affected England and Western Europe. Norsemen also moved east. The Varangians from modern Sweden crossed the Baltic Sea and landed in Eastern Europe. The Varangians leader was the warrior Rurik. He was an actual historical figure, although most of what we know about him comes from legend. He led a band of Varangians to Novgorod on the Volkhov River (862). He became the ruler of the city, although we are not sure he actually conquered the city. Legend suggests that the Sebs invited him. That may or may not be true. It rather sounds like Rurik's descendents legitimizing the dynasty. Based on the Western experience, the Vikings were not the sort of people one invited nor did they require invitations.

Kievian Rus

Rurik's descendents became known as the Rus. Rurik's successor Oleg using Novgorod as a base, extended his influence south along rivers which were the principal trade routes at the time. Oleg seized control of Kiev, the most important city on the Dineper (882). This provided the beginning of a unified state based on dynastic rule. Kiev was of special importance. Its strategic location along the Dnipper surounded by rich farm land was a key trading center located between between Scandinavia in the north and Byzantium in the south. Dominated by te Rus, Kiev was an important trading empire which dominated much of European Russia and the Urkraine for three centuries. Vladimir I ruled a Kiev which dominated a vast area extending south to the Black Sea and Caucasus Mountains, controlling the Dnipper and much of the Volga (989). Vladamir decided that an established religion was necessary for the Kievian state. He reportedly assessed several possibilities before deciding on Greek Orthodoxy. It is likely that trade and diplomacy rather than religiius zeal explained his choice. The choice of Orthodoxy allied him with the rich Byzantine trading center of Constaniople, at the time the richest city in the world and crucial to the Kievian economy. Vladmir apparently rejected Islam, apparently because he did not want to give up alcoholic beverages and was not sure he could bring his people to do so. It was certainly one if not the most important religious decesion of European history. Vladimir's successor Yaroslav the Wise codified laws and promoted the arts. He decided, however, to divide his kingdom among his sons upon his death (1054). Once powerful Kiev son was split with interacine warfare. Gradually regional power centers began to develop, including the once small village of Moscow at the confluence of the Moskva and Neglina Rivers which begins to appear in the historical record (1147). The decline of powerful central rule also exposed the Rus to raids by war-like people from the East which in the 13th century was the Mongols.

European Trade

The Rus were on the trading routes connecting Scandinavia and Byzantium as well as Central Asia and the Baltic. Thus ancient Russia was connected with the Far East, the lands of the Mediterranean, Western Europe, Scandinavia. This included merchants of the Hanseatic Guild which dominated the economic life of northern Europe. the Hansealtic League had a easterly trading post in Novgorod. Russia imported a wide range of products from both Wast and West, including silks, satins, brocades, wool and other rich fabrics, jewelry; goblets and other glass vessels; amphoras filled with wine, olive oil and naphtha; combs made out of boxwood; spices, fruits, nuts. Russia was not just a point of exhange for traders. Russia also exported a range of oroducts, including pelts (a wide variety), wax, honey, slaves, walrus tusks, some finished products such as linen cloth and jewelry. Eventually direct trade relations were established with England, who was interested in timber, rope fibers, tallow, tar (for shipbuilding), fur, and other northern goods.

Mongol Control of Russia (12th-13th Centuries)

The Mongols imposed their control over Russia (1240). The Golden Horde imposed tribute on Russian principslities. The Battle of Kulikovo is seen by historians as the single most important event in medieval Russian history. It was the central event which set the stage for the emergence of Muscovy as the the core of the evolving Russian state. The Russians saw a series of dynastic quarrels after the death of khan Jani Beg (1357) weakening the Goldren Horde. Muscovy's refusal to pay tribute to the Golden Horde caused their leading general, Mamai, to organize a military campaign to bring the Russians in line. To resist the Golden Horde, the Russians needed to unite and combine their forces. Muscovy at the time was a principality, an important one, but only one of many Russian principalities. The resulting battle at Kulikovo was the beginning of the liberation of North-West Russia from Mongol rule. The Battle of Kulikovo was fought September 8, 1380. The Russians led by Dmitry Ivanovich, prince of Moscow and grand prince of Vladimir defeated the Golden Horde. It showed the developing military power of the Russians. After Kulikovo. Muscovy as a result of its military leadership rapidly emnerged as the leading Russian principality.






HBC





Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main national Medieval page]
[Return to the Main Russian page]
[Return to the Main Russian history page]
[Return to the Main Ukranian history page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Art chronologies] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Countries] [Economics] [Material] [Style Index]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]



Created: 8:00 PM 12/5/2004
Last updated: 10:03 PM 1/26/2011