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What Are the Origins of Medieval Kyiv

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It is important to know that medieval Rus’ were divided into several city-state type principalities that aligned and fought each other from time to time. There was no central Rus’ government, although several of the principalities would form federations that were led by the more powerful states. From an early point, it was clear that Novgorod was the preeminent force in the north while Kiev dominated the south.
Kiev was blessed by geography, being located on a navigable river that connected the Rus’ to the Black Sea to the south and the Baltic Sea to the north. The Dnieper River route grew in importance after the Khazar Khanate collapsed in 850, as the Volga River became a chaotic location due to raiding nomadic tribes and generally lawlessness. <ref> Pritsak, p. 270</ref> As the Dnieper trade route grew and became more important in the late 800s, so too did the Rus’ principalities and Rus’ culture became more defined. The exact origin of the term remains elusive, but it was used extensively by the Greeks and Arabs to refer to everyone in southern Russia, regardless if they were of Slavic or Norse ancestry. <ref> Rosedahl, p. 286</ref> According to <i>The Russian Primary Chronicle</i> , the term Rus’ was first used when they raided Constantinople (Tsar’grad).
“In the year 6360 (852), the fifteenth of the indication, at the accession of the Emperor Michael, the land of Rus’ was first named. We have determined this date from the fact that in the reign of this Emperor Russes attacked Tsar’grad, as is written in the Greek Chronicle.” <ref> Cross, Samuel Hazzard, and Olgerd P. Serbowitz-Wetzor, eds, and trans. <i> The Russian Primary Chronicle: Laurentian Text.</i> (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Mediaeval Academy of America, 2012), p. 58</ref>
As the Rus’ cities grew in stature, the unique elements of the people’s culture, especially in government, became standardized. The rulers of the Rus’ cities were princes, and later grand princes, not kings or emperors, and the structure of their society was very different than that of Western Europe. Instead of imposing a feudal society over their dominions as the kings of Western Europe did, the princes of the Rus’ ruled over a society that was very Slavic with some Norse influence. The princes and their families were at the top of the political and social hierarchy and just below them was the upper class, known as the <i>muzhi</i>. An important merchant class called the <i>liudi</i> comprised the “middle class,” while the <i>smerdy</i> were free peasants who worked the land. <ref> Riasonaovsky, p. 49</ref> The composition of the Rus’ system was very Slavic, but the princes had many of the same responsibilities as Norse jarls and kings. Rus’ princes were expected to be wise and brave and to lead their men in Viking raids yearly and to defend their cities and any cost.
===Rurik’s Dynasty Comes to Power in Kiev===

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