Varangians

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Varangians

(vərăn`jēənz), name given by Slavs and Byzantine Greeks to Scandinavians who began to raid the eastern shores of the Baltic and penetrate Eastern Europe by the 9th cent. Their leader, RurikRurik
, d. 879, semilegendary Varangian warrior, regarded as the founder of the princely dynasty of Kievan Rus. Rurik and his two brothers, at the head of an armed band, apparently seized Novgorod and nearby districts (c.862).
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, established himself at Novgorod in 862, thus laying the traditional foundation for Kievan RusKievan Rus
, medieval state of the Eastern Slavs. It was the earliest predecessor of modern Ukraine and Russia. Flourishing from the 10th to the 13th cent., it included nearly all of present-day Ukraine and Belarus and part of NW European Russia, extending as far N as Novgorod
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. The Varangians, some of whom were known also as Rus or Rhos, made their way down the Dnieper and established the great trade route from Kiev to Byzantium. In the 9th and 10th cent. they repeatedly threatened Constantinople. During the 10th and 11th cent. they served as soldiers of East Slavic princes, but they gradually merged with the Slavs, adopting Slavic culture. Other Varangians served as mercenary troops to the emperors at Constantinople. Varangian migrations paralleled those of the Norsemen and Vikings in the West.

Varangians

 

(late Greek, Bárangoi, from old Scandinavian, vaeringjar: Norman warriors who served the Byzantine emperors) in Russian sources, the Varangians are first mentioned in the legend of the “calling of the Varangians”—recorded in the Primary Chronicle—with which the chronicle began the history of the Russian land. This legend served as the starting point for the creation of the antiscientific Normanist theory of the origin of the Russian state, which appeared in the 18th century and has been discarded because of its flimsiness. In Rus’ during the ninth through 11th centuries, there were quite a few Varangian warrior-bodyguards serving Russian princes and Varangian merchants involved in trade on the route “from the Varangians to the Greeks.” On a number of occasions, the Kievan princes Vladimir Sviatoslavich and Iaroslav the Wise invited hired detachments of Varangians from Scandinavia and used them in internecine wars and wars against neighboring countries and peoples. Failing to play any substantial role in Russian society, the Varnagian warriors and merchants were rapidly slavicized. During the 12th and 13th centuries, the word “Varangian” was also used in Russian sources to mean “Catholic.” In most Russian written monuments, “Varangians” as a general term for all Scandinavians was supplanted as of the second half of the 12th century by concrete names for different Scandinavian peoples— Svei (Swedes), Murmany (Norwegians)—and by the term Nemtsy, which was general for all western peoples. Up to the 18th century, the Baltic Sea was called the Varangian Sea, after the Varangians.

REFERENCES

Gedeonov, A. Variagi i Rus’, parts 1-2. St. Petersburg, 1876.
Tomsen, V. Nachalo Russkogo gosudarstva. Moscow, 1891. Pages 94-111.
Shakhmatov, A. A. Skazanie o prizvanii variagov. St. Petersburg, 1904.
Grekov, B. D. “O roli variagov v istorii Rusi.” Novoe vremia, 1947, no. 30.
Rybakov, B. A. “Predposylki obrazovaniia drevnerusskogo gosudarstva.” In Ocherki istorii SSSR, III-IX vv. Moscow, 1958. Pages 733-878.
Shaskol’skii, I. P. “Normanskaia teoriia v sovremennoi burzhuaznoi istoriografii.” Istoriia SSSR, 1960, no. 1.
Shusharin, V. P. “O sushchnosti i formakh sovremennogo normanizma.” Voprosy istorii, 1960, no. 8. (Bibliography indicated.)