Swedish Vikings and the Eastern World – Vikings in Russia
There are evidence for that a East Slavic empire was created by Vikings in Russia. A Viking called Oleg in Russian. This information comes from the “The Russian Primary Chronicle” that tells about Oleg and the foundation of Kievan Rus. Oleg took control of Kiev in around 882 and the city/town became the capital of the empire. It should be said though before I continue this text that there are a lot of speculation regarding this matter and controversy. Some view the Swedish Vikings as the origin of the Russian nation, and you can imagine the controversy in that. And also some more background on this story.
VIKINGS/SWEDES IN THE EAST, EARLY SIGNS.
It is known that even before the Viking age (650-800) Scandinavians established colonies at the shores of the Baltic sea at the Grobin (Latvia) and Libau (Latvia). Both these are right by the Lativan coast.
RURIK – THE VIKING WHO TOOK CONTROL OF NOVGOROD.
Rurik established a Viking dynasty in the present-day Russian town of Novgorod. According to the far from accepted “Russian Primary Chronicle” Rurik was invited by the local Slavs to form a new and just government. Perhaps he was not invited but conquered the place.
I will continue by going back to Oleg because he was the inheritor of Rurik.
If we belive that the relationships was based on the Slavs being plundered/conquered we may have reached a conclusion on my question. It is not that easy. The Viking dynasty kept contacts with their ancestral lands but also showed signs of assimilation into Slavic culture. The signs of trade and political exchanges are many. This must be described as signs of good relations.
Finds from the two international Swedish Viking towns of Birka and Sigtuna in present-day Sweden, give a great idea of their connections. There are many objects that are Eastern in style and produced in the east. A lot of the graves are also having non-Viking burial traditions that points towards the east. For example the native areas of the Khazarian Turks and Volga Bulgarians.
RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE SCANDINAVAIAN-RUSSIAN ROYALTY AND THE SWEDISH KINGDOM.
We can see that they had a lot of contact at least in a political context. As an example I will use the Swedish-Russian saint Anna of Novgorod. She is known as Irina in Russia and Ingegärd in Sweden. She was the daughter of the Swedish king Olof Skötkonung that ruled Sweden from 995-1022. Ingegärd was married away in a politically arranged marriage to Jaroslavl I or Jaroslav the wise.
IBN FADLAN AND THE VIKINGS – THE ACCOUNT OF AN ARAB
The Arab Travellers and writers who encountered Vikings did so in Bagdhad and in the Kiev and Novgorod areas. One of them was IBN FADLAN. He and the other Arabs did NOT refer to the Vikings as “Vikings”. Instead they called them “Rus”. That might derive from Routsi that is a Finnish term for Sweden and Swedes. The origin of the word is though very much debated and there is little agreement on its origin.
So if not the Arabs called them Vikings, who did? That is of course another story that will be covered in a future post but I can tell you that it was the English (Anglo-Saxons).
Contrasting with the English accords of Vikings as pillaging barbarians, the Muslim accounts tell that they are well-armed but that their prime reason for going east was trade. Ibn Fadlans Risala contains a very detailed account of the Vikings he meet at the Volga river.
THE VIKING SLAVE TRADE IN EASTERN EUROPE
One of the biggest drivers of economic growth in the Viking age was the slave trade that was active by Vikings and other peoples across Europe and of course, the world. It was a part of daily life back then and not viewed with any disgrace by most peoples. However there existed a divide between Pagans and some Christians. Some Christians disliked the slavery and tried to free fellow Christians from the pagan Vikings.
Eastern European was one of the common origins of Slaves in Viking age Sweden. The Vikings had different words for referring to a slave, one was “Slave” itself, referring to a Slavic person and “est”, referring to a Estonian person. Exactly how many Eastern European Slaves that lived in Sweden during the Viking age and their ethnic origins are hard to say, but we know that the slave trade was very active. The Arab Caliphate are often viewed as the biggest slave owning nation/kingdom/empire of that time and therefore it should have been lucrative for Vikings to kidnap Slavic persons and sell them to Arab merchants.
Archaeologist Stefan Brink.
WHAT ELSE DID VIKINGS TRADE IN THE EAST?
The Vikings wanted for example to have silk garments, luxury objects of gold, oriental spices, and silver coins. The brought furs, amber, skins, walrus ivory.
In closure, was the Viking age relationships better between Russia and Sweden? Well, Russia and Sweden as we know it did not exist, but the relationships seemed to have been better in general. However, the sources are few and does not give a enough detailed information for me or anyone else to be able to conclude this.