Kievan Rus’ History and Interesting Facts

Kievan Rus’ Interesting Facts

What is Kievan Rus? The history of this state still evokes admiration and controversy of historians. Powerful empire, that occupied about 800 thousand km2 and covered the vastest territory of current-day Ukraine, it contains many mysteries and facts that not everyone knows. Let`s find out some interesting facts about the ancient Rus.

The name of the state "Kievan Rus" never existed. It is a fictitious name that was introduced by Soviet historians within the frame of the derussification of the Russian history. The christening of Kyiv dwellers and the whole country remains one of the foremost points under discussion in the history. Many researchers mention that the facts about that era were repeatedly distorted because of social and political transformations, including the religion and Orthodox Church in particular, that strived to consolidate its influence and significance.
map of the world

History of Kievan Rus

It is noteworthy that in the history of Kievan Rus’ three consecutive periods can be distinguished:
- the period of the nascence, formation and evolution of state structures, chronologically it covers the end of the 9th - the end of the 10th century;
- the period of the greatest rise and development of Kievan Rus’ (the end of 10th - the middle of 11th century);
- the period of political fragmentation of Kievan Rus’ (the end of 11th - mid-13th century).
Regarding the history, the princes of Kievan Rus’ started their story from the legendary prince Kiy who is considered to be the founder of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv city. Further, Prince Rurik is mentioned, followed by Askhold and Dir, who were boyars of Rurik and conquered Kyiv. They all were brought down by the prince Oleg, by the order of whom Askhold and Dir were killed.
Normanism (Norman theory) in historiography tells that Kievan Rus has Vikings` roots. The adherers of Norman theory think that the Normans (Varangians) have founded the first states of the Eastern Slavs (Rurik`s state and then Kievan Rus). In 862, the Eastern Slavic tribes approached to the Normans with an offer to rule their lands and to take the prince`s throne (according to “Tale of Bygone Years” chronicles). The Slavic people of the Rus decided to do so in order to stop the internal strives that had been tearing apart Slavic lands. In that way, Prince Rurik became the ruler of Novgorod city and Kievan Rus people.
ancient Kyiv Rus

Kievan Rus Symbolics

Heraldic family emblems – usually bidents and tridents – have begun to appear on the coins, stamps, rings and weapons of the Kievan Russia rulers since the X century. The first picture of bident as a prince`s symbol dates back to the times of Rurik`s son – Igor. Igor`s son Sviatopolk and Sviatopolk`s son Yaropolk continued to use bidents.
As for the flags of Kievan Rus, they were mostly red-colored because it made them easily recognizable in a battle. However, the great Prince Volodymyr has a special emblem: a golden trident on blue background. Probably Volodymyr`s emblem is a prototype of the modern Ukrainian flag.

Kievan Rus Architecture

Before the Christianizing of Rus in 988, the most of buildings here had been built of wood. Wood was used for residential houses as well as for defensive walls. For this reason, ancient Rus houses and fortifications have not survived till our days. Therefore, the history of Kievan Rus architecture has to be learned starting from the end of the X century when the Rus was Christianized and people began to construct stone buildings. By the way, Desyatynna Church in Kyiv (989) is considered as the first stone church of Kievan Rus.


Kievan Rus’ was also famous for its art of weapon masters. On the historians assurances, it was on these lands that for the first time a six-aperture, a bracer, a hook for stretching a crossbow, chain mail with flat rings, a steel mask for horses, spurs with a plate-shaped peak and spurs with a wheel, as well as lamellar armor were created. The level of jewelry work of city masters was not inferior to the creations of world art leaders of that era in Byzantium and the Middle East. Specialists in gold and silver affairs sought to improve the effects of light as much as possible, and therefore the silver was blackened and gilded.
Crafting in Rus’ was popular and of a big demand. A skilled potter or blacksmith could serve three or four settlements. Kievan Rus’ was one of the most "urbanized" countries of Europe at that time: in the 9th -10th centuries there were at least 25 cities, and in the 11th century their number was approaching a hundred. Because of this, in the Scandinavian saga these lands are called Gardarica, a country of cities. The medieval "business" was actively developing - and coins from gold and silver, as well as silver bars - hryvnia, replaced furs in the role of money.
Even before christening in Kievan Rus’ there were many "storytellers", singers who played the harp, sang songs on heroic subjects - campaigns to Byzantium, the Balkans, battles with the invaders, exploits of the people's heroes. Historians also write about even earlier sorrowful songs, in particular about the tragic fate of the Slavic prince Busa of the 4th century, enslaved in a battle with the Goths and painfully killed by them.


Telling about eating and drinking habits in Kievan Rus’ people did not know the vodka and did not produce alcohol. The key alcoholic drinks were kvass, honey and wine. The first was often completely non-alcoholic or with a low degree, it was made from rye bread, getting a drink similar to beer. In the 5th century, a Byzantine traveler recalls it as well as honey. After the baptizing of Rus’ it began to be made in monasteries. Honey was cooked in different varieties for every taste: dry, sweet, with pepper. Boiled honey as a drink was of lower quality. The latter was kept for 10-15 years or more - it was obtained due to the natural fermentation of bee honey with the juice of forest berries. 
men on horses

Traditions and Religion in Kievan Rus

Scientists provide a lot of evidences in favor of literacy presence in Kievan Rus’ long before Cyril and Methodius. In their opinion, local residents wrote "features" and "cuts" - a local version of the runes - with the help of which "they read and guessed." The literacy of the ancient Slavs is also described in Arabic and German sources. Chroniclers reported prophecies on stones, signatures to monuments and a diplomatic mail on "Russian letters".
Introducing family order, prior to christening in the lands of Kievan Rus’, polygamy prevailed, as a rule, there were from two to four wives. According to historians, there was no strict subordination in the family, moreover, "unloved" wives could openly change their spouses or go to another, who promised more attention and love. Mauritius Strategist, a Byzantine historian of the 6th century, was surprised by one of the intimate practices of the Slavs - making love in the water, on a lake or river bank.
One of the first to resent the free morals of young people was Princess Olga, the first of the powers who accepted Christianity.
Nevertheless, for a long time her prohibitions on noisy festivities did not hold out because of the people outrage. It is worth noting that according to one of the legends, Olga and her future husband Ihor met in a low-romantic setting. The prince was on the hunt, crossed the river, while the carrier was Olga, for some reason in men's clothes. Ihor unraveled her disguise and immediately made an immodest offer to a woman, but she daringly refused, saying that she would rather throw herself into the river.
Before the christening of Rus’, a war with Chersonese (Korsun) had taken place, where Vladimir brought priests and shrines, including the revered relics of St. Clement. The treason of the priest Anastas helped him to possess the city, who pointed to Vladimir at the water conduit supplying the city. The prince rewarded the traitor: Anastas became the rector of the Kiev Tithe Church, the icons and utensils in which were conquered in Korsun.
Kievan Rus’ became the first state of the Eastern Slavs, accelerated the overgrowth of the last stage of development of the primitive communal system into a more progressive feudal system. That process created favorable conditions for the development of economy and culture of Kievan Rus.
Kyiv Rus Park
The formation of Kievan Rus’ contributed to the strengthening of the defense capacity of the East Slavic population, preventing its physical destruction by nomads (Pechenegs, Polovtsians, etc.), the Old Rus’ population was formed on the basis of community of territory, language, culture, and mental modes.
In the historical period of Kievan Rus' on the territories of the Dnieper, Galychyna and Volyn, in the Greater Black Sea area as well as in the Azov Sea area, the traditions of independent statehood were laid on the territory of Ukraine. The historical center of the formation of the Ukrainian nationality was the territory of Kyiv region. From the 12th century the name "Ukraine" is distributed on this territory. It was the start of the Ukrainian nation formation.
Photos: googlepictures


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