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Kyiv Rus

The Paleolithic early Stone Age bears witness to human presence on the territory of present-day Ukraine. One of the planets oldest human settlements, separated from our time by 800,000 years, was unearthed in the territory of present-day Ukraine near Korolyove, a village in Transcarpathia. In 1899 the world came to know about the Trypillya culture which appeared in the mid-fourth millennium B. C.

The coming centuries saw the formation of new ethnic and cultural communities in Ukraine. Written sources mention the Cimmerians, the Taurians, the Scythians, the Antes and the Slavs.

Over a thousand years ago, on the vast expanses stretching from the Carpathian Mountains in the west to the Volga-River in the east, from the Black Sea in the south to the White Sea in the north, appeared one of the largest and mightiest medieval powers, Kyiv Rus.

The biggest cities were Novgorod and Kyiv. Both were built on the great river-road, which led from the Baltic to the Black Sea and Constantinople. Merchants carried amber from the shores of the Baltic Sea and sold it at a high price in Constantinople and the Mediterranean lands. That is why this trade route has sometimes been called the amber road.

Varangians who invaded Rus came from Norway. As Nestor says people of Novgorod sent an invitation to a distant Varangian prince called Rurik to come and govern them.

Rurik brought an army with him, and he governed Novgorod and made it strong. Two of his companions, Askold and Dir, went farther down the amber road and became rulers of Kyiv.

In 882, the most legendary Prince Oleh the Seer, Rurik's son, defeated Kyiv Princes Askold and Dir. He rallied round Kyiv the Slavic tribes of Eastern Europe. "Let Kyiv be Mother of Rus cities", he said as the chronicle reads.

Under the first Kyiv Princes Oleh, Ihor and Svyatoslav Kyiv Rus became a strong power in Eastern Europe. In 955, Kyiv Princess Olha was baptized at Constantinopol. The Eastern Orthodox faith was introduced in Rus by Prince Volodymyr the Great. He ruled from 980 to 1015 and replaced the tradional paganism of Slavs with the Byzantine trend of Christianity. The first ceremony of baptism took place in 988.

It was under Prince Volodymyr the Great and Prince Yaroslav the Wise (1019-1054) that Kyiv Rus reached its apex, becoming a major factor in European politics. To ensure the unity of his state, Yaroslav introduced primogeniture.

According to it his eldest son, Iziaslav, was to succeed him as grand prince and ruler of the Kyiv and Novgorod lands. Sviatoslav would rule the Chernihiv land to Murom, and Tmutorokan. Vsevolod would rule the Pereiaslav and Rostov lands; Ihor the Volodymyr-Volynsky land; and Viacheslav, the Smolensk land.

As a result Kyiv Rus would never again be united. In the twelfth century feudal strife split Kyiv Rus into principalities and lands.

Then came the Mongol hordes of Baty Khan, having razed ancient Russian cities to the ground. In 1240 the invaders approached Kyiv. After a long and bloody battle the capital of the early Russian state fell.


 
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