The Early East Slavs and Establishment of Kievan Rus

The early East Slavs and Kievan Rus would become the cornerstone of the founding of Russia and religious beliefs that are still found in the Russian culture today. Where and how the East Slavs originated is not known, and the first documentation of their presence starts in 859 A.D. They would establish the region of Kievan Rus and set the stage for many wars and rivalry, and also be ancestors to the greatest and cruelest leaders that Russia has ever seen.

As is known from the Primary Chronicle, the history of the early East Slavs and the establishment of Kievan Rus started when this group began to form tribal unions between the Black Sea and Baltic Sea in the ninth century. There were quite a few tribes that formed across this stretch of land, including the Dulebes, Radimichs, Polans, Slovens and the Ulichs. Together, these tribes formed an East Slavic State, known as Kievan Rus. The East Slavs would later evolve and break up into different groups, known as Ukrainian, Belorussian and Russians. And from the roots of Kievan Rus, Muscovy (Moscow) would rise and lead to the establishment of the Russian Empire. In a nutshell, one could say that the early East Slavs and their Kievan Rus gave birth to Russia.

The tribal centers of the East Slavs were Poltsk, Gnezdovo, Kiev, Izborsk, Sarskoe Gorodishche and Novgorod. The ruling parties of the developing Kievan Rus region fell to three Varangian brothers, namely Sineus, Truvor and Riurik. Each of the brothers was ruler of a specific city, with Novgorod falling to Riurik. Untimely deaths, led to Riurik gaining power of the cities once ruled by his brothers and on his death, leadership fell to his son. Considered to be too young to take on the responsibilities of ruler, Prince Igor was forced to stand down to a replacement named Oleg, until he became of age. Oleg proved to be a strong leader, expanding the territory of the East Slavs. Once he gained control of Kiev, the state of Kievan Rus came into existence.

Prince Igor eventually took his rightful place on the throne and together with his wife, Olga, they ruled the state until he was murdered. Olga ruled in place of her husband, and in 954, she accepted Christianity as her faith, which became the official religion of the state under the rule of Vladimir the Great (980 to 1015). The demise of the Kievan Rus state began with the death of Prince Iaroslav, as he divided the state amongst his sons, who often fought amongst each other and created alliances with outside parties. The wars between the Princes left the state vulnerable to attacks from outsiders and after the capital of Kiev was plundered and taken under the control of Andrei Bogolyubsky in 1169, the state of Kievan Rus could no longer fight off the attacks and invasions, with the Tartars finally overrunning the state, and the era of Kievan Rus coming to an end.


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