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This webpage reproduces a chapter of

History of the Ukraine
By Dmytro Doroshenko

printed by
The Institute Press, Ltd.
Edmonton, Alberta,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 2

 p17  Chapter I

 * * * *

(The numbers link directly to the sections.)

(1) Geography of the Ukraine. (2) The Prehistoric Period. (3) Greek Colonies on the Shores of Black Sea. (4) The Nomads. (5) Settlement of Slavic Tribes in Eastern Europe. (6) Origin of the Ukrainian State. (7) Scandinavians and Their Part in the Building Up of the Ukrainian State.

 * * * *

1. Geography of the Ukraine.

The influence of geography on the origins and development of group life is now regarded by historians as a proper starting point in the investigation of the history of any national group. The characteristics of the territory on which the ancestors of the Ukrainians originally settled, and on which the Ukrainians continued to live, are distinctive. Geographical factors, therefore, exerted a continuing influence on their history.

The Ukrainians are autochthonous, that is to say, they still inhabit the same territory on which their ancestors settled when first they appeared in Eastern Europe. Very little of the territory originally inhabited has been yielded to strangers and the new territories have all been acquired by colonizing uninhabited areas from which it was not necessary to drive anyone away. Thus the Ukrainian people were not aggressors but peaceful colonizers. At present the Ukrainian ethnographical limits almost coincide with geographical frontiers. In the west it includes part of the Carpathian mountains; in the north it follows more or less the course of the rivers Pripet, Desna and Seim; in the south-west it follows the river Pruth down to the mouth of the Danube; on the south it is bounded by the Black Sea; in the south-east it reaches the Caucasus in the basin of the river Kuban; but in the east it loses itself among the mixed population of the Don and Voronezh provinces.

It could be said in general that the whole geographical position of the Ukraine is determined by the Black Sea  p18 which serves as a geographical, political and economic basis to the Ukrainian territory. All the Ukrainian rivers flow into the Black Sea; only one small part of the Ukrainian territory in the north-west belongs through the rivers San and Western Bug to the northern Baltic slope.

The system of rivers on the Ukrainian territory has had an enormous influence on the life of the population, on the formation of the Ukrainian groups and on the emergence of the Ukrainian State. The Dnieper is the chief artery of the Ukraine. Its waters are collected from wide areas and through its tributaries it communicates with the basins of the Western Dvina, Western Bug, Nieman, Oka and Donets. The middle region of the Dnieper was, as we shall see, the original home of the Ukrainian people. The river Dniester was also very important, being the direct route from the South-west Ukrainian lands to the Black Sea. It was along the rivers which formed the principal highways of trade that the population concentrated. It was on the rivers that the first trading centres or towns grew up. Those who settled far from the rivers lived by growing grain and exploiting the forests, but they still gravitated to the rivers where they found a market for their products. By determining the economic life of the population the river region also constituted a natural unit for political organization. The political divisions of the territory followed closely the basins of the principal rivers, as the earliest Chronicles clearly show, by indicating the rivers along which each of the tribes had settled. The inland position of the Black Sea, however, and dependence on the political power that controlled the straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles, had unfavorable consequences for the ultimate development of the Ukrainian people by making their trade dependent first on the Byzantine rulers and later on the Turks.

Still more unfavorable was the close vicinity in the south-east of the open steppe that from time immemorial served as a direct route for the Asiatic hordes in their invasion to the West.

 p19  In connection with its geological structure, which will not be elaborated here, the territory of the Ukraine is divided, according to the nature of its soil, into two principal zones, the forest in the north and the steppe in the south. The one gradually merges into the other. The soil of the forest zone is not fertile and is less adapted to agriculture though very advantageous to all forms of forestry. The steppe, on the contrary, has rich black soil, the best in Europe; but, open to invasion from the East, it had not the peaceful conditions necessary to the development of agriculture. Almost the whole of Ukrainian history consists of the struggles for possession of the steppe. Shut out in the west by the Carpathian mountains and the neighborhood of organized nations, the expansion of the Ukrainian people was directed towards the east and south-east. But their colonizing here was hindered by the movements of nomadic hordes coming from Asia, and very often the Ukrainians had to abandon for long periods the cultivated territory in the steppe and seek refuge in more protected areas of the forest zone. It was only at the end of the Eighteenth century that these struggles for the steppe came to an end and the Ukrainian plough was able to begin a peaceful cultivation of the rich and fertile lands north of the Black Sea.

This fight of the Ukrainian plough and Ukrainian sword with nomadic Asiatic weapons for possession of the steppe in order to introduce agriculture, lasted for centuries. It passed through all stages of retreat and advance. The Ukrainian historians see in this continuous struggle to maintain agricultural society against Asiatic nomadism one of the leading features of Ukrainian history. It constituted a service rendered by the Ukrainian people to European civilization.

2. The Prehistoric Period.

The ancestors of the present Ukrainians settled on a territory that already possessed a long history. Traces of human civilization have been found here dating from early prehistoric times, that is, from the Palaeolithic or  p20 Old Stone Age. Sites of settlements of later Palaeolithic men with implements made of flint chips and mammoths' tusks and bones, often very artistically ornamented, have been found in several places. The sites which have been most thoroughly investigated are those of Kiev, of Mizen on the Desna near Novgorod Sieversk, of Hontsi on the Sula, in the province of Poltava, of Krivy Rih on the Dnieper. Men of the Neolithic, or New Stone age left many traces found everywhere in the Ukraine. Especially important finds were made about Kiev and along the banks of the Dnieper, and to the west as far as the Carpathian mountains and the lower Danube. This period is especially distinguished by painted pottery consisting of vessels variously shaped. Sometimes they were elaborate in design and richly decorated with the spiral and the meander pattern. This pottery is known in archaeology as Ukrainian or Tripilla type from the place Tripilla on the middle Dnieper where it was mostly found.

Traces of burials of this period show that the cult of the dead was very much developed. On the steppe, from Bessarabia to the Kuban, skeletons are found which have been buried in a crouched position, often colored with red ochre. In south Volynia and in Podolia burials took place on the surface and a barrow was raised over the dead. In Galicia stone sarcophagi were used. Beside the skeleton stone implements, weapons and pottery were found in the tombs. Later and presumably also, to some extent, at the same time, there was the custom of burning the dead. Urns with ashes were found in burial places on the Pripet in Polissia and Volynia and in the basin of the Donets.

The Neolithic age was succeeded by the period of metal implements and weapons. Copper axes and other objects in copper were found in tombs. But most of the finds are from the Bronze age. Later, silver and iron appeared. From the oldest times we find on the Ukrainian territory cross currents of different cultural influences. The Danube civilization left samples of polychromic  p21 pottery while the Caucasian influence is shown in metal objects, weapons, and personal adornments.

The first known group of people on the territory now called the Ukraine occupied it at the beginning of the first millennium B.C. These were the Cimmerian people, probably of Thracian origin. Traces of them are found in the Ukraine in geographical names such as the Cimmerian Bosphorus, a name used by Greek historians for the straits of Kerch, and also in several important archaeological finds. About the Seventh century B.C. they were driven out by the Scythians, probably a people of Iranian origin. These uncouth nomadic Scythians soon assimilated the civilization of Greek origin they found on the shores of the Black Sea while adding to it Iranian and Caucasian elements. Herodotus, a Greek historian of the Fifth century B.C., left us considerable information about the Scyths.​a Tombs of Scythian kings along the banks of the Dnieper and on the shores of the Black Sea have yielded unique treasures in wealth of silver vases, and gold personal ornaments decorated with scenes of the daily life of the Scythians representing the best Greek workman­ship.

3. Greek Colonies on the Shores of the Black Sea.

In the Eighth and Seventh centuries B.C. there had begun the Greek colonization of the shores of the Black Sea. It was Miletus, a rich Ionian colony in Asia Minor, that was first to send colonists. Athens followed the lead. Previous to colonization Greek sea‑farers visited the Black Sea and carried on a lively trade with the northern shores, chiefly in dried fish, though also in metals, gold and iron. Ancient legends of the Argonauts, as well as parts of the Odyssey, witness to these early adventurous journeys. Numerous trading expeditions of the Greeks before the permanent colonies were founded presuppose the existence of a local population with whom they traded and among whom the Greek colonists settled. The chief Greek colonies on the north coast of the Black Sea were:  p22 Tyras, at the mouth of the Dniester; Olbia at the mouth of Dnieper and Boh; Chersonesus and Theodosia in the Crimea; Panticapaeum on the straits of the Cimmerian Bosporus, the present‑day Kerch. This Greek colony became subsequently the capital of the rich and power­ful States of mixed Greek and barbarian population. Further to the east were colonies such as Tanais at the mouth of the Don, Phanagoria, and others less important. The chief objects of Greek export were: slaves, cattle and hides, furs, honey, bees' wax, and salted and dried fish. They imported: woven material, wine, oil, jewelry, artistic pottery, and other objects of cultured life. The Greek colonists not only traded with the local population but founded important industries, cultivated the soil, and introduced the grape vine and different cereals. Life in these colonies in the vicinity of warlike nomads was anything but peaceful. At the end of the Second century B.C. begins the slow downfall of the Greek colonies pressed by the swarms of new‑comers, nomadic tribes pouring from Asia. It is from the Greeks that we possess the earliest information about the land and the population of the South Ukraine.

4. The Nomads.

About the Fourth century B.C. the Scythians were superseded by the Sarmatians, a nomadic and warlike people, undoubtedly also of Iranian origin. They left about 600 topographical names in the South Ukraine as was proved by Professor Vasmer of Berlin.​b The Sarmatians were in their turn succeeded by the Alans, nomads, and also of Iranian origin. Like other nomadic tribes they did not build houses or till the land, but lived in wagons and possessed herds of cattle and many horses. They were probably not the only inhabitants of the country. There is reason to suppose that there was an older population from whom they took tribute.

Generally speaking during the first two centuries A.D. there lived in different places on the present Ukrainian  p23 territory a number of people and tribes known to us only by the names recorded by Greek and Roman authors, and which according to different historians are supposed to be either Thracians, or Celts or Germans. It is, however, certain that Goths, a German tribe, came down in the Third century A.D. from their northern homes and settled between the Carpathians and the Black Sea. Being a warlike people they attacked the Roman provinces on the Danube. The Roman emperor Decius was killed in a battle against them in 251. Twenty years later the Romans were obliged to abandon to them Dacia, their province on the lower Danube (part of present‑day Rumania). About the middle of the Fourth century the Goths were christianized. But in the same Fourth century began the advance from the East of the Huns, people of Turco-Finno-Mongolian origin. About 370 the Huns, after having destroyed the Alans, attacked the Ostrogoths and forced them beyond the Danube. A small section of the Goths was separated and remained for many centuries in the hills of Crimea and in the Taman peninsula.

The Huns did not stay long in the Ukrainian steppes. In the Fifth century under their famous chief Attila, named the "scourge of God", they advanced on Western Europe. After many invasions and battles that led them as far to the West as present France, the Huns were defeated and disappeared as a group.

The Huns were succeeded in the Ukrainian steppes by new nomadic hordes of Turco-Finnish origin, the Bulgarians, and after them by the Avars. The Bulgarians appeared in Europe about the Fifth century. Part of them settled on the Volga and the other part went in the Sixth century westwards and settled on the Danube in the former Roman province of Moesia. The Avars traversed in their turn the Ukrainian steppes and invaded the plains of the middle Danube (present‑day Hungary), from where they continued for a long time to attack Byzantium and other neighboring states.

 p24  5. Settlement of Slavic tribes in Eastern Europe.

From behind this cloudy kaleidoscope of different peoples that move across the steppes, there begin to emerge about the Sixth century the group of Slavic people, who are the direct ancestors of the Ukrainians.

From this short survey of the pre‑Slavic population of the Ukraine, it is evident that this territory on which the Slavic tribes settled in the Sixth century, was a region of cross-currents of political and cultural influences between the East and the West, the North and the South; and that it was also the site of many strata of successive civilizations. This territory had all the possibilities of produ­cing a rich civilization which ultimately could produce an amalgam of two different influences, Eastern and Western, developed on a Slavic basis. Owing, however, to the lack of natural geographical frontiers and the vicinity of constantly moving nomadic Asiatic peoples, the Ukrainians were not allowed to reach the climax of their development, their forces being absorbed in the struggle for sheer existence with the unsettled nomadic steppe.

[image ALT: A map of eastern Europe and western Asia extending from a small part of Sweden in the NW to Azerbaijan in the SE. It shows the entire Black Sea and most of the Baltic and Caspian Seas, and the river systems flowing into them; on this territory 13 Slavic tribes are shown mainly clustered in a north-south strip extending from Latvia to the Black Sea: Slovens, Krivichi, Polochane, Dregovichi, Vyatichi, Radimichi, Sieveryane, Dulibi, Drevlyane, Polyane, Khorvati, Ulichi and Tivertsi. Also shown are 7 non–Slavic tribes: the Variags in Sweden; the Ests, Letts, and Lithuanians on the south coast of the Baltic with the Finns further east; the Bulgarians in the northeast area of the map, and the Khazars between the Donets and the Volga, north of the Caucasus mountains.]

Slavic Tribes in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries

Prehistoric Sites in the Ukraine are indicated as follows:
1, Mizen; 2, Tripolie; 3. Hontsi; 4, Kriviy Rih; and 5, Kiev.

Non-Slavic Tribes are indicated by large type, as "Khazars".

[A larger version, in which the placenames are fully readable, opens here (1.1 MB).]

Still it is a fact that the Ukrainian Kievan State, according to Rostovtsev, the well-known historian of the Eastern Roman Empire, inherited from its predecessors all the features characteristic of the states which grew up before them on this territory in the Classical Age and during the "Great Migration of the Peoples." The people of this state were noted for warlike and commercial character, their desire for the possession of the Black Sea, and their orientation towards the South and the East and not towards the North and the West. Like the civilization of the Cimmerians, of the Scyths, the Sarmatians and the Goths, the civilization of Kiev was a southern civilization penetrated by Eastern elements, an offspring of classical culture in that Greco-Oriental aspect which was characteristic of Byzantium.

The term "East" refers chiefly to Arabic and Persian influences. Concerning Byzantium we must keep in mind that it was at that time the most civilized country of  p25 Europe and Western Asia. For a long time it was thought that the Byzantine civilization was only the rich and fossilized remains of a long dead civilization, a mere outward form without any inner life. But closer acquaintance with Byzantine history leads the historian such as Charles Diehl in his "Histoire de l'empire byzantin", to the conclusion that the time about 867‑1081, when the Kievan State was subject to Byzantine influence, was not only the period of the greatest political power of Byzantium under the Macedonian dynasty, but also a Renaissance period of intellectual and artistic life.

It was at this period that the Ukrainian State in Kiev was mostly subject to the Byzantine influence. It was from this rich spring of civilization, at the height of its religious, literary and artistic revival, that the newly founded state imbibed and easily assimilated the elements of its culture, transforming and adapting them to its own conditions. Thus in the Eleventh century Kiev because of its high level of culture may be considered as one of the most centralized centres of contemporary Europe. This must be kept in mind as we begin to examine the origin of the Ukrainian state.

6. Origin of the Ukrainian State.

When did the Slavic people first appear in Europe? Where was their original home and when did the tribal division take place? These are the questions to which scholars do not give a uniform answer. However, the opinion prevails that the cradle of the Slavic race in Europe is to be sought on the upper and middle Dnieper, that is, in the country now occupied by the White Russians, which are thus the most autochthonous group of all the Slavs.​c From here the Slavic tribes dispersed in different directions: to the west, those who formed afterwards the group of Western Slavs, Czechs, Poles and others; to the south, the Southern Slavs, Serbs, Croats and Slovenes; and to the south-east and east the Eastern Slavic tribes which ultimately became the Ukrainians, the Great Russians and the White Russians.

 p26  Slavs, under the name of Veneds (name of one of the western tribes) are mentioned by the Greek historian Ptolemy in the First century A.D. They are also mentioned by the Roman writers Tacitus and Pliny.​d

The oldest Chronicle of Kiev gives us the following positions of the settlements of the Eastern Slavs in Eastern Europe in the Eleventh century; in the north on the lake Ilmen the Slovens; to the south from them, down to the upper Volga and Dnieper were the Krivichi; on the upper Dvina dwelt the Polochane; in the basin of the upper Oka settled the Vyatichi; to the south-west of them, on the middle Dnieper and its tributary at Sozh, lived the Radimichi; to the west of them and to the north of the river Pripet lived the Dregovichi. All these tribes formed later two great Slavonic peoples: the Great Russians and the White Russians. The tribes which settled to the south of these formed later the Ukrainian people. These included the Drevlyane, settled in the triangle between the Pripet and the river Teteriv; and to the south of them, in the present province of Kiev, the Polyane. On the left bank of the Dnieper in the basin of the river Desna and other eastern tributaries of the Dnieper were settled also the Sieveryane. Between the Boh and the Dniester lived the Ulichi, and between the Dniester and the Pruth the Tivertsi; on the Western Bug were the Dulibi or Volynyane.

Archaeological finds confirm this information from the Chronicle concerning the early settlement of the East Slavic tribes and furnish sufficient material to enable the historians to distinguish even at that early time the three principal groups that became ultimately three different branches, the Great Russians, the White Russians and Ukrainians.

The ancestors of the Ukrainians occupied the lands on the Dnieper and the Dniester immediately after they had been abandoned by the Goths, who moved to the south-west. They took over from the Goths several geographical names which the Goths in their turn had taken from the Iranian population, the Sarmatians. It is possible that  p27 the Slavs found also remnants of the Gothic population. These, however, did not constitute an important strain in the formation of the Ukrainian group.

In the east the new settlers came into contact with a power­ful people of Turkish origin, the Khazars, who founded their state in the Sixth and Seventh centuries on the lower Volga and Don, and attained in the Eleventh century a high degree of political and economic development and culture. It was through the Khazars that the Eastern Slavs carried on trade with the civilized East, the Arabs and the Persians. But the chief importance of the Khazars for the contemporary Ukrainians lay in the circumstance that during several centuries the Khazars formed the protective barrier against the pressure of the nomadic swarms from Asia. Protected thus by the Khazars, the Eastern Slavs had time to develop and to organize themselves into a state. In order to have direct access to the rich sources of the trade in the East, they over­powered and destroyed the Khazars. But in doing so they reopened to nomadic tribes the way to the Ukrainian steppe, and that, as we shall see, had fatal consequences to all Eastern Slavs. The South of the Ukraine was invaded in the Tenth century by the Pechenegs, a Mongolian nomadic tribe who in the Eleventh century were followed by the Polovtsi, a still more power­ful Mongolian tribe. Under their pressure the Slavs on the Don and the lower Dnieper were thrown back to the north.

The presence of the warlike nomadic tribes rendered difficult, if not impossible, the trade with Byzantium and her colonies on the northern shores of the Black Sea, which remained there from the extensive Greek colonization of ancient times.

In the north and north-east the Eastern Slavs were in contact with numerous Finnish tribes, but the settlers in the south and south-east, that is, the ancestors of the Ukrainians, had no direct relations with them. On the other hand, Finnish tribes played a very important part in the formation of the future Great Russian people and its history.

 p28  In the north-west the Eastern Slavs met the Lithuanian tribes. The White Russians were their immediate neighbors.

In the west the Ukrainian tribes were adjacent to the Polish, or as they were called the Lekh tribes. The ethnographical frontier was almost the same then as it is now, though there are proofs that this line was slightly pushed back during historical times to the east, to the disadvantage of the Ukrainians. The same, more or less, must be said about the Ukrainian-Slovakian border in the Carpathians. Here, beyond the Carpathians, the nomadic hordes of the Magyars, people of Finno-Turkish origin, who arrived there from Asia at the end of the Tenth century to join on the plains of the middle Danube the remnants of the Huns and the Avars, found there already Slavic settlements. The political relations with the Magyars began to have importance only in the Eleventh century when their state was organized.

In the south-west the Ukrainians were neighbors to the Rumanians. Here the ethnographical Ukrainian territory suffered important losses. During almost ten centuries of Ukrainian-Rumanian relations the ethnographical line was wavering to the east or to the west, according to the political circumstances. In the Tenth and Eleventh centuries almost the whole of Bessarabia was inhabited by the Ukrainians and belonged to the Kievan political system from which it passed in the Twelfth and Thirteenth centuries to the successors of the Kievan State, the Galician-Volynian princedom.

The Eastern Slavs at that time had still other neighbors, though their home originally was across the water. They settled in small groups on the endless spaces of the East European plain, and played an important part in this history. These were the Norsemen, or as they were called by the Slavs, the Variags or the Varangians, who came from Scandinavia. They were the cement that the consolidated the Eastern Slavic tribes into one political system. It was also they that gave to this state, founded by them in the Eleventh century, their own tribal name  p29 "Russ". This name was applied for a long time to the Kievan State and the people, ancestors of the present Ukrainians, who lived there. Gradually it was extended to other Eastern Slavic groups, Great Russians and White Russians, at the time when they all belonged to the Kievan State.

7. Scandinavians and their Part in the Building Up of the Ukrainian State.

The oldest Ukrainian Chronicle of Kiev and the Chronicle of Novgorod (Great Russian) noted under the year 859: "There came Variags (Norsemen) from beyond the sea and took tribute from the Slavonic and finish tribes." Under the year 862 they wrote: "Variags were driven beyond the sea and the Slavonic tribes began to govern themselves, but there was no order among them; kin rose against kin carrying warfare. Then they took counsel: let us look for a prince who would rule over us and govern us according to the law. Then they sent beyond the sea to the Norsemen, to the Rus — those Norsemen were called Rus, as others are called Swedes, others are called Angles, others again Goths. Thus they told to these Rus: our land is rich and plenti­ful, but there is no order in it: come and rule over us and govern us." "There came three brothers," continues the Chronicler, "Rurik, Sineus, and Truvar with their kindred and took with them the whole Rus. They founded at first three princedoms, in Ladoga, in Belosero, and in Izborsk". "And from those Variags (Norsemen)" finishes the Chronicle, "the Rus Land received its name".

As we see it is a typical dynastic legend concocted undoubtedly at the court of descendants of the conquerors in order to legitimize the origin of the foreign dynasty and to show that they arrived at their power not by conquest, but by election.

But who were these Norsemen, or as the Chronicle calls them "Variags"? The Greeks gave them the same name. There is no doubt whatever that these were foreign folk whose home was in Sweden. The name "Rus" by  p30 which the Chronicle calls the whole tribe who followed their leaders, is preserved to this day in the Finnish name for Sweden, "Ruotsi". Besides quite a number of contemporary Arabian, Byzantine and West European Chronicles and historians give the name "Rus", "Rusios" to a Scandinavian tribe of Vikings and military adventurers.

According to the Swedish historian Arne, trade relations between the Swedes and the Khazars began already in the Eighth century. There have been discovered in Sweden abundant archaeological finds of contemporary Eastern coins which prove that an active trade was carried on by the adventurous Scandinavians across the East European plain. Volga was their highway to the Khazars, to Persia and the Arabs. Trading with Byzantium was carried by way of Dnieper and the Black Sea. According to the Kievan Chronicle "Dnieper was the way from Variags unto the Greeks".

At first the Norsemen settled in small colonies in towns that were trading centres. Later on they came as conquerors and organizers of the Eastern Slavic tribes. It is quite probable that some, even most of these tribes had been already organized into small political communities with local dynasties at their head. Traces of these local dynasties remained in some places as late as the Twelfth century. Probably they were not strong enough, because they did not, for instance, resist the Khazars. Northmen appearing among them had no difficulty in redu­cing the local dynasties to dependence, conquering one tribe after another, and organizing them into one large state with the Scandinavian dynasty of Rurik at their head. Thus should be interpreted the record of the Kievan Chronicle about the formation of the great Slavic State in Eastern Europe. Such interpretation would not contradict the legend created in Kiev two centuries later in order, as we said, to legitimize the dynasty of Rurik reigning at that time in Kiev. We know of several similar instances at the same time in history, of Scandinavians founding states by the conquest of the local population in Normandy, in Sicily, and a little later in England. There  p31 also the conquerors, establishing their dynasties, were assimilated by the conquered population. Moreover, they gave to Normandy their name. This is exactly what also happened in Eastern Europe on the territory of the South-Eastern Slavic tribes, the ancestors of the Ukrainians.

These Scandinavian conquerors, most probably called by the name Rus, were also very soon assimilated by the Slavic population. They were not numerous and probably very little more, if at all, civilized than the Slavic tribes they over­powered. Their superiority consisted in their warlike and adventurous spirit, their initiative, the desire for conquest and domination. It was probably these precise characteristics which Slavic tribes lacked, for they were landtillers, hunters, fishers and peaceful traders. Attracted by the closer vicinity of Byzantium, the rich soil and the milder climate of Ukrainian territory, the conquerors very soon left the northern countries and reduced to dependence the southern Slavic territories. Kiev, the chief town of the Slavic tribe Polyane and already an important trading centre, became the capital of the Scandinavian conquerors. Their tribal name Rus was now applied to their capital, the territory and the whole group of South-Eastern Slavic tribes. Later on the same name Rus spread to all Eastern Slavic tribes. It is true that the Northern Slavs, such as Princedoms of Rostov, Suzdal and others, continued for a long time in their Chronicle to designate by the name "Rus" the present Ukraine, in the first place the Princedom of Kiev, but foreigners gave the name of Rus to all territories that were under the supremacy of the Kievan princes, attaching to this name not national but political and territorial meaning.

After the conquest was accomplished, new Scandinavians continued to come into this land now called "Rus". They came as soldiers of fortune to seek service at the court of the Kievan princes. The body guard of the princes of Kiev was chiefly composed of Northmen. They came also as merchants and settled peacefully. Archaeological excavation on the sites inhabited in the Tenth  p32 century indicate important settlements of Scandinavians. Quite recently there were found and opened about 80 tombs near Chernigov (Chernihiv) the skeletons in armour and other objects showing the presence there of the Scandinavian type like those scattered everywhere on the shores of the Baltic.

The process of assimilation of the Northmen was very rapid. At the end of the Eleventh century only Scandinavian names such as Oleg, Olga, Igor, Svineld, Rognid, Asmund and others remained in use in the families of the ruling dynasty, and in a few aristocratic houses. It is the records of the Chronicles that tell us about their foreign origin which by that time had become quite legendary. Such was the origin of the Ukrainian state.

Thayer's Notes:

a Most of Book IV of Herodotus' Histories is about Scythia; specifically, 4.1‑14, 17‑32, 46‑82, and 99‑117.

[decorative delimiter]

b The Slavist Max Vasmer, the foremost expert on Russian etymology and toponymy in the 20c. A thorough article on him can be read at MigrantKnowledge.Org.

[decorative delimiter]

c For the earliest prehistoric lands of the Slavs, see Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire, I.293‑295.

[decorative delimiter]

d Ptolemy: one mention of Veneti in Italy/Cisalpine Gaul, but a second time (Geog. Book VII) in far northern Transalpine Gaul in what is now Brittany, where they gave their name to today's town of Vannes.

Tacitus: Ann. XI.23 (and the editor's note).

Pliny: There are 17 mentions of Veneti in his Natural History, most of them having to do with Venetia, a part of modern Italy then in Cisalpine Gaul. In H. N. IV.107, however, that tribe is listed among those in Gallia Lugdunensis; in H. N. XXXVII.43, it is associated with Germania and Pannonia in such a way as to suggest that it migrated into Italy from the north; and in H. N. VI.5 Pliny cites Cornelius Nepos as of the opinion that the Veneti came from Paphlagonia, on the central southern shore of the Black Sea.

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Page updated: 12 Jun 22