Christianization of Kievan Rus'

The Christianization of Kievan Rus' took place in several stages. In early 867, Patriarch Photius of Constantinople announced to other Orthodox patriarchs that the Rus', baptised by his bishop, took to Christianity with particular enthusiasm. Photius's attempts at Christianizing the country seem to have entailed no lasting consequences, since the Primary Chronicle and other Slavonic sources describe the tenth-century Rus' as firmly entrenched in paganism. Following the Primary Chronicle, the definitive Christianization of Kievan Rus' dates from the year 988 (the year is disputed[1]), when Vladimir the Great was baptized in Chersonesus and proceeded to baptize his family and people in Kiev. The latter events are traditionally referred to as baptism of Rus' (Russian: Крещение Руси, Ukrainian: Хрещення Русі) in Russian and Ukrainian literature.

Lebedev baptism
The Baptism of Kievans, a painting by Klavdiy Lebedev

Prehistory

According to the Church Tradition, Christianity was first brought to the territory of modern Belarus, Russia and Ukraine by Saint Andrew, the first Apostle of Jesus Christ. He traveled over the Black Sea to the Greek colony of Chersonesus Taurica in Crimea, where he converted several thousand men to the new faith. Allegedly Saint Andrew traveled also north along the Dnieper River, where Kiev would be founded around the 5th century, and as far north as the future location of Veliky Novgorod. The legendary account of the Rus'ian Primary Chronicle tells that Saint Andrew was amused by the Slavic customs of washing in hot steam bath, banya, on his way.

North Pontic Greek colonies, both in Crimea and on the modern Ukrainian shores of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, remained the main centers of Christianity in Eastern Europe for almost a thousand years. Notable Christian locations there include the Inkerman Cave Monastery, a medieval Byzantine monastery where the relics of St. Clement, the fourth Bishop of Rome, were supposedly kept before their removal to San Clemente by Saints Cyril and Methodius.

Saints Cyril and Methodius were the missionaries of Christianity among the Slavic peoples of Bulgaria, Great Moravia and Pannonia. Through their work they influenced the cultural development of all Slavs, for which they received the title "Apostles to the Slavs". They are credited with devising the Glagolitic alphabet, the first alphabet used to transcribe Old Church Slavonic,[2] Later on their students created the Cyrillic script in the First Bulgarian Empire used now in many Slavic countries, including Russia. After their deaths, their pupils continued their missionary work among other Slavs. Both brothers are venerated in the Ukrainian Catholic and Byzantine Catholic Churches as well as the Orthodox Church as saints with the title of "equal-to-apostles".

Ninth century

PerovVG PervHristianKievGRM
Vasily Perov's painting illustrates clandestine meetings of Christians in pagan Kiev.

The most authoritative source for the early Christianization of Rus' is an encyclical letter of Patriarch Photius, datable to early 867. Referencing the Siege of Constantinople of 860, Photius informs the Oriental patriarchs and bishops that, after the Bulgarians turned to Christ in 863,[3] the Rus' followed suit. As was the case with the Bulgarians, the Patriarch found it prudent to send to the barbarians a bishop from Constantinople.[4]

With some modifications, the story is repeated by Constantine VII in De Administrando Imperio, followed by several generations of Byzantine historians, including John Skylitzes and Joannes Zonaras. That the imperial court and patriarchate regarded the 10th-century Rus' as Christians is evident from the fact that the bishopric of Rus' was enumerated in the lists of Orthodox sees, compiled during the reigns of Leo the Wise and Constantine VII. There is also an argumentum ex silentio: no Greek source recorded the second baptism of the Rus in the 990s.

Tenth century

Whatever the scope of Photius's efforts to Christianize the Rus', their effect was not lasting. Although they fail to mention the mission of Photius, the authors of the Primary Chronicle were aware that a sizable portion of the Kievan population was Christian by 944. In the Russo-Byzantine Treaty, preserved in the text of the chronicle, the Christian part of the Rus' swear according to their faith, while the ruling prince and other non-Christians invoke Perun and Veles after the pagan custom. The Kievan collegiate church of St. Elijah (whose cult in the Slavic countries was closely modeled on that of Perun) is mentioned in the text of the chronicle, leaving modern scholars to ponder how many churches existed in Kiev at the time.

Radzivill Olga in Konstantinopol
The baptism of St. Princess Olga in Constantinople, a miniature from the Radzivill Chronicle

Either in 945 or 957, the ruling regent, Olga of Kiev, visited Constantinople with a certain priest, Gregory. Her reception at the imperial court is described in De Ceremoniis. According to legends, Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII fell in love with Olga; however, she found a way to refuse him by tricking him to become her godfather. When she was baptized, she said it was inappropriate for a godfather to marry his goddaughter.

Although it is usually presumed that Olga was baptized in Constantinople rather than Kiev, there is no explicit mention of the sacrament, so neither version is excluded. Olga is also known to have requested a bishop and priests from Rome.[5] Her son, Sviatoslav (r. 963-972), continued to worship Perun and other gods of the Slavic pantheon. He remained a stubborn pagan all of his life; according to the Primary Chronicle, he believed that his warriors would lose respect for him and mock him if he became a Christian.

Sviatoslav's successor, Yaropolk I (r. 972-980), seems to have had a more conciliatory attitude towards Christianity. Late medieval sources even claim that Yaropolk exchanged ambassadors with the Pope. The Chronicon of Adémar de Chabannes and the life of St. Romuald (by Pietro Damiani) actually document the mission of St. Bruno of Querfurt to the land of Rus', where he succeeded in converting to Christianity a local king (one of three brothers who ruled the land). Alexander Nazarenko suggests that Yaropolk went through some preliminary rites of baptism, but was murdered at the behest of his pagan half-brother Vladimir (whose own rights to the throne were questionable) before his conversion was formalized. Following this theory, any information on Yaropolk's baptism according to the Latin rite would be suppressed by the later Orthodox chroniclers, zealous to keep Vladimir's image of the Rus Apostle untarnished for succeeding generations.[6]

Vladimir's baptism of Kiev

Background

Eggink VelKnVladimir
Ivan Eggink's painting represents Vladimir listening to the Orthodox priests, while the papal envoy stands aside in discontent

During the first decade of Vladimir's reign, pagan reaction set in. Perun was chosen as the supreme deity of the Slavic pantheon and his idol was placed on the hill by the royal palace. This revival of paganism was contemporaneous with similar attempts undertaken by Jarl Haakon in Norway and (possibly) Svein Forkbeard in Denmark. His religious reform failed. By the late 980s he had found it necessary to adopt monotheism from abroad.

The Primary Chronicle reports that, in the year 986, Vladimir met with representatives from several religions. The result is amusingly described in the following apocryphal anecdote. Upon the meeting with Muslim Bulgarians of the Volga, Vladimir found their religion unsuitable due to its requirement to circumcise and taboos against alcoholic beverages and pork; supposedly, Vladimir said on that occasion: "Drinking is the joy of the Rus." He also consulted with Jewish envoys (who may or may not have been Khazars), questioned them about Judaism but ultimately rejected it, saying that their loss of Jerusalem was evidence of their having been abandoned by God.[7]

In the year 987, as the result of a consultation with his boyars, Vladimir sent envoys to study the religions of the various neighboring nations whose representatives had been urging him to embrace their respective faiths. Of the Muslim Bulgarians of the Volga the envoys reported there is no joy among them; only sorrow and a great stench. In the gloomy churches of the Germans his emissaries saw no beauty; but at Hagia Sophia, where the full festival ritual of the Byzantine Church was set in motion to impress them, they found their ideal: "We no longer knew whether we were in heaven or on earth," they reported, "nor such beauty, and we know not how to tell of it."[8]

Baptism of Vladimir

Vasnetsov Bapt Vladimir
The Baptism of Vladimir, a fresco by Viktor Vasnetsov
Храм святого Владимира 4
St. Vladimir's Cathedral in Chersonesus, with the statue of Saint Andrew in the foreground

Foreign sources, very few in number, present the following story of Vladimir's conversion. Yahya of Antioch and his followers (al-Rudhrawari, al-Makin, Al-Dimashqi, and ibn al-Athir)[9] give essentially the same account. In 987, the generals Bardas Sclerus and Bardas Phocas revolted against the Byzantine emperor Basil II. Both rebels briefly joined forces and advanced on Constantinople. On September 14, 987, Bardas Phocas proclaimed himself emperor. Anxious to avoid the siege of his capital, Basil II turned to the Rus' for assistance, even though they were considered enemies at that time. Vladimir agreed, in exchange for a marital tie; he also agreed to accept Orthodox Christianity as his religion and bring his people to the new faith. When the wedding arrangements were settled, Vladimir dispatched 6,000 troops to the Byzantine Empire and they helped to put down the revolt.[10]

In the Primary Chronicle, the account of Vladimir's baptism is preceded by the so-called Korsun' Legend. According to this apocryphal story, in 988 Vladimir captured the Greek town of Korsun' (Chersonesus) in Crimea, highly important commercially and politically. This campaign may have been dictated by his wish to secure the benefits promised to him by Basil II, when he had asked for the Rus' assistance against Phocas. In recompense for the evacuation of Chersonesos, Vladimir was promised the hand of the emperor's sister, Anna Porphyrogenita. Prior to the wedding, Vladimir was baptized (either in Chersonesos or in Kiev), taking the Christian name of Basil out of compliment to his imperial brother-in-law. The sacrament was followed by his marriage with the Byzantine princess.[11] The alleged place of Vladimir's baptism in Chersonesos is marked by St. Vladimir's Cathedral.

Baptism of Kiev

Saint Vladimir Monument erected on Volodymyrska Hill in Kiev near the place of the mass baptism of Kiev people

Володимир Великий
Володимир Хреститель

Returning to Kiev in triumph, Vladimir exhorted the residents of his capital to the Dnieper river for baptism. This mass baptism became the iconic inaugural event in the Christianization of the state of Kievan Rus'.

At first Vladimir baptised his 12 sons and many boyars. He destroyed the wooden statues of Slavic pagan gods (which he had himself raised just eight years earlier). They were either burnt or hacked into pieces, and the statue of Perun — the supreme god — was thrown into the Dnieper.[12]

Then Vladimir sent a message to all residents of Kiev, "rich, and poor, and beggars, and slaves", to come to the river on the following day, lest they risk becoming the "prince's enemies". Large numbers of people came; some even brought infants with them. They were sent into the water while Orthodox priests, who came from Chersonesos for the occasion, prayed.[13]

Церковь Троицы на Борисовских прудах
The Orekhovo-Borisovo Cathedral was built in the 21st century to celebrate the millennium of the Baptism of Rus'

To commemorate the event, Vladimir built the first stone church of Kievan Rus', called the Church of the Tithes, where his body and the body of his new wife were to repose. Another church was built on top of the hill where pagan statues stood before.[14]

Aftermath

Ostromirovo
The Ostromir Gospels, written in the Church Slavonic, one of the first dated East Slavic books.

The baptism of Kiev was followed by similar ceremonies in other urban centres of the country. The Ioakim Chronicle says that Vladimir's uncle, Dobrynya, forced the Novgorodians into Christianity "by fire", while the local mayor, Putyata, persuaded his compatriots to accept Christian faith "by the sword". At that same time, Bishop Ioakim Korsunianin built the first, wooden, Cathedral of Holy Wisdom "with 13 tops" on the site of a pagan cemetery.[15]

Paganism persisted in the country for a long time, surfacing during the Upper Volga Uprising and other occasional pagan protests. The northeastern part of the country, centred on Rostov, was particularly hostile to the new religion. Novgorod itself faced a pagan uprising as late as 1071, in which Bishop Fedor faced a real threat to his person; Prince Gleb Sviatoslavich broke up the crowd by chopping a sorcerer in half with an axe.[16]

The Christianization of Rus firmly allied it with the Byzantine Empire. The Greek learning and book culture was adopted in Kiev and other centres of the country. Churches started to be built on the Byzantine model. During the reign of Vladimir's son Yaroslav I, Metropolitan Ilarion authored the first known work of East Slavic literature, an elaborate oration in which he favourably compared Rus to other lands known as the "Sermon on Law and Grace". The Ostromir Gospels, produced in Novgorod during the same period, was the first dated East Slavic book fully preserved. But the only surviving work of lay literature, The Tale of Igor's Campaign, indicates that a degree of pagan worldview remained under Christian Kievan Rus'.

In 1988, the faithful of the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches which have roots in the baptism of Kiev celebrated a millennium of Eastern Slavic Christianity. The great celebrations in Moscow changed the character of relationship between the Soviet state and the church. For the first time since 1917, numerous churches and monasteries were returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. In Ukrainian communities around the world, members of various Ukrainian churches also celebrated the Millennium of Christianity in Ukraine.

In 2008 the National Bank of Ukraine issued into circulation commemorative coins "Christianization of Kievan Rus" within "Rebirth of the Christian Spirituality in Ukraine" series.[17]

See also

References

  1. ^ Oleg Rapov, Russkaya tserkov v IX–pervoy treti XII veka (The Russian Church from the 9th to the First 3rd of the 12th Century). Moscow, 1988.
  2. ^ Liturgy of the Hours, Volume III, 14 February.
  3. ^ History of the Bulgarians from Antiquity to the 16th Century by Georgi Bakalov (2003) ISBN 954-528-289-4
  4. ^ Photii Patriarchae Constantinopolitani Epistulae et Amphilochia. Eds.: B. Laourdas, L. G. Westerinck. T.1. Leipzig, 1983. P. 49.
  5. ^ Thietmar of Merseburg says that the first archbishop of Magdeburg, Adalbert of Prague, before being promoted to this high rank, was sent by Emperor Otto to the country of the Rus (Rusciae) as a simple bishop but was expelled by pagans. The same data is duplicated in the annals of Quedlinburg and Hildesheim, among others.
  6. ^ Alexander Nazarenko. Древняя Русь на международных путях. Moscow, 2001. ISBN 5-7859-0085-8.
  7. ^ Primary Chronicle, year 6494 (986)
  8. ^ Primary Chronicle, year 6495 (987)
  9. ^ Ibn al-Athir dates these events to 985 or 986.
  10. ^ Golden, P.B. (2006) "Rus." Encyclopaedia of Islam (Brill Online). Eds.: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill.
  11. ^ Lavrentevskaia Letopis, also called the Povest Vremennykh Let, in Polnoe Sobranie Russkikh Letopisey (PSRL), vol. 1, col.s 95-102.
  12. ^ Longsworth, Philip (2006). Russia: The Once and Future Empire from Pre-History to Putin. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 38. ISBN 0-312-36041-X.
  13. ^ Lavrent. (PSRL 1), col. 102.
  14. ^ Lavrent. (PSRL 1), cols. 108-109.
  15. ^ Novgorodskaia tretiaia letopis, (PSRL 3), 208. On the initial conversion, see Vasilii Tatishchev, Istoriia rossiiskaia, A. I. Andreev, et al., eds. (Moscow and Leningrad: AN SSSR, 1962), vol. 1, pp. 112-113.
  16. ^ Arsennii Nasonov, ed. Novgorodskaia Pervaia Letopis: Starshego i mladshego izvodov (Moscow and Leningrad: AN SSSR, 1950), pp. 191-96.
  17. ^ Commemorative Coins "Christianization of Kievan Rus", National Bank of Ukraine web-site, July 2008
863

Year 863 (DCCCLXIII) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.

Artemas

Saint Artemas of Lystra (Greek: Ἀρτεμᾶς) was a biblical figure. He is mentioned in Paul's Epistle to Titus (Titus 3:12).

He is believed to have served as the Bishop of Lystra, and to have been one of the Seventy Disciples.

Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church

The Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which has sometimes abbreviated its name as the B.A.O. Church or the BAOC, is a religious body in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

Belarusian Gothic

Belarusian Gothic (Belarusian беларуская готыка [belaruskaya hotyka]) is the architectural style of ecclesiastical buildings constructed during the 15th and 16th centuries in parts of modern-day Belarus, Lithuania and eastern Poland. Although these buildings have features typical of Gothic architecture such as lofty towers, flying buttresses, pointed arches and vaulted ceilings, they also contain elements not typically considered Gothic by Central and Western European standards.

Christianization of the Rus' Khaganate

The Christianization of the Rus' people is supposed to have begun in the 860s and was the first stage in the process of Christianization of the East Slavs which continued well into the 11th century. Despite its historical and cultural significance, records detailing the event are hard to come by, and it seems to have been forgotten by the time of Vladimir's Baptism of Kiev in the 980s.

Christianization of the Slavs

The Slavs were Christianized in waves from the 7th to 12th century. Though the process of replacing old Slavic religious practices began as early as the 6th century. Generally speaking, the monarchs of the South Slavs adopted Christianity in the 9th century, the East Slavs in the 10th, and the West Slavs between the 9th and 12th century. Saints Cyril and Methodius (fl. 860–885) are attributed as "Apostles to the Slavs", having introduced the Byzantine-Slavic rite (Old Slavonic liturgy) and Glagolitic alphabet, the oldest known Slavic alphabet and basis for the Early Cyrillic alphabet.

Church of Crete

The Church of Crete (Greek: Εκκλησία της Κρήτης) is an Eastern Orthodox Church, comprising the island of Crete in Greece. The Church of Crete is semi-autonomous (self-governing) under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The current Archbishop of Crete is, since 30 August 2006, Irinaios Athanasiadis.

Eastern Orthodoxy in Greece

Eastern Orthodoxy is by far the largest religious denomination in Greece.

Horologion

The Horologion (Greek: Ὡρολόγιον; Church Slavonic: Часocлoвъ, Chasoslov, Romanian: Ceaslov) or Book of hours provides the fixed portions (Greek: ἀκολουθίαι, akolouthiai) of the Divine Service or the daily cycle of services as used by the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches. Into this fixed framework of the services, are inserted numerous parts changing daily.

In its original sense, a horologion (Greek: ὠρολόγιον, "the hour-teller" from ὥρα hṓra "hour" and -λόγιον-logion, "teller") or Latin horologium was any device or structure for keeping time, such as a sundial or the Tower of the Winds in Athens.

List of cultural icons of Russia

This is a list of cultural icons of Russia. It contains the most important symbols of Russia, including its national symbols and symbols associated with various aspects of the Russian culture.

Mavka

Mavka (Ukrainian: Мавка, mavka, навка, navka, нявка, nyavka; Bulgarian: нави, navi (plural) –

from Proto-Slavic *navь 'the dead') is a type of female spirit in Ukrainian mythology. She is a long-haired figure, sometimes naked, who may be dangerous to young men.The spirits known by this term represented the souls of girls who had died unnatural tragic or premature deaths, particularly unchristened babies. Mavkas often appeared in the form of beautiful young girls who enticed and lured young men into the woods, where they "tickled" them to death. Mavkas had no reflection in water, did not cast shadows, and had "no back", meaning that their insides could be seen. (Those were more often called "Nyavka" and they were believed to live in Western Ukraine, which has more dangerous mountain rivers than Central Ukraine, while Mavkas, who were believed to live in Central Ukraine, had their backs.) In some accounts, they were also said to help farmers by looking after cattle and driving out wild animals.

They were believed to live in groups in forests, mountain caves, or sheds, which they decorated with rugs. They made thread of stolen flax and wove thin transparent cloth for making clothes for themselves. They loved flowers, which they wore in their hair. In the spring they planted flowers in the mountains, to which they enticed young men, whom they tickled to death. On Pentecost (known as Mavka's Easter, Ukrainian: На́вський Вели́кдень) they held games, dances, and orgies. A demon accompanied them on a flute or pipes.

To save a dead unchristened baby's soul, one had to throw up a kerchief during Pentecost holidays, say a name and add "I baptise you". A rescued soul would then go to heaven. If a soul lived up to seven years and did not go to heaven, a baby would turn into a mavka and would haunt people.

It is believed that the first mavka (or rusalka) was Kostroma. According to the legend, siblings Kostroma and Kupalo once ran into a field to listen to songs of bird Sirin, but Sirin stole Kupalo and carried him into the Nav. Many years later, one day, Kostroma walked the shore of the river and made a wreath. She boasted that the wind would not blow the wreath off her head. According to the belief, that meant that she would not marry. This boast was not approved of by the gods. The wind became stronger and eventually blew the wreath from Kostroma's head into the water, where it was later picked up by Kupalo, who was nearby in his boat. According to Slavic customs, the one who picks up the wreath must necessarily marry the girl who made it. Kupalo and Kostroma fell in love, and shortly after they were married, without any knowledge that they were brother and sister.

After the wedding, the gods told them the truth. Because they could not be together, Kupalo and Kostroma committed suicide: Kupalo jumped into the fire and died, while Kostroma ran to the forest, threw herself into the forest lake and drowned. But she did not die, she became a mavka. Since then, she walks the shores of that lake. If she should see a young man, she immediately seduces him and pulls him into the water abyss. When Mavka realises that the young man is not her lover, it is too late and the young man has already drowned.

Seeing this, the gods realised that their revenge was too cruel and repented. But to give Kupala and Kostroma a human body again was impossible, so instead they turned them into the yellow-blue flower, in which the fiery yellow color was the color of Kupala, and the blue one, like the waters of a forest lake, was the color of Kostroma. The Slavs gave the name Kupalo-da-Mavka to the flower. Later, in the time of the Christianization of Kievan Rus', the flower was renamed to the Ivan-da-Marya.

Mavkas are depicted in literature, most notably in Lesia Ukrainka's The Forest Song and Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors.

Nepsis

Nepsis (or nipsis; Greek: νῆψις) is an important idea in Orthodox Christian theology, considered the hallmark of sanctity. It is a state of watchfulness or sobriety acquired following a long period of catharsis.

Phronema

Phronema is a transliteration of the Greek word φρόνημα, which has the meanings of "mind", "spirit", "thought", "purpose", "will", and can have either a positive meaning ("high spirit", "resolution", "pride") or a bad sense ("presumption", "arrogance").In the New Testament, the word is used four times in the Saint Paul's Letter to the Romans: twice with "τῆς σαρκός" (of the flesh) and twice with "τοῦ πνεύματος" (of the spirit): "for the mind of the flesh [is] death, and the mind of the Spirit – life and peace; because the mind of the flesh [is] enmity to God ...and He who is searching the hearts hath known what [is] the mind of the Spirit" (Romans 8:6-7,27).

Priesthood (Orthodox Church)

Presbyter is, in the Bible, a synonym for bishop (episkopos), referring to a leader in local Church congregations. In modern usage, it is distinct from bishop and synonymous with priest. It`s literal meaning in Greek (presbyteros) is "elder."

Protosyncellus

A protosyncellus or protosynkellos (Greek: πρωτοσύγκελλος) is the principal deputy of the bishop of an eparchy for the exercise of administrative authority in an Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholic church. The equivalent position in the Western Christian churches is vicar general.

Saint Vladimir Monument

The Saint Vladimir Monument is a monument in Kiev, dedicated to the Great Prince of Kiev Vladimir the Great, built in 1853. It is the oldest sculptural monument, a dominating feature of the Dnieper's banks, and one of the city's symbols.

Varangian Guard

The Varangian Guard (Greek: Τάγμα τῶν Βαράγγων, Tágma tōn Varángōn) was an elite unit of the Byzantine Army from the tenth to the fourteenth century, whose members served as personal bodyguards to the Byzantine Emperors. The Varangian Guard was known for being primarily composed of recruits from northern Europe, including Norsemen from Scandinavia and Anglo-Saxons from England. The recruitment of distant foreigners from outside Byzantium to serve as the emperor's personal guard was pursued as a deliberate policy, as they lacked local political loyalties and could be counted upon to suppress revolts by disloyal Byzantine factions.The Rus' provided the earliest members of the Varangian Guard. They were in Byzantine service from as early as 874. The Guard was first formally constituted under Emperor Basil II in 988, following the Christianization of Kievan Rus' by Vladimir I of Kiev. Vladimir, who had recently usurped power in Kiev with an army of Varangian warriors, sent 6,000 men to Basil as part of a military assistance agreement. Basil's distrust of the native Byzantine guardsmen, whose loyalties often shifted, with fatal consequences, as well as the proven loyalty of the Varangians, many of whom had previously served in Byzantium, led the Emperor to employ them as his personal guardsmen.

Immigrants from Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland kept a predominantly Norse cast to the organization until the late 11th century. According to the late Swedish historian Alf Henrikson in his book Svensk Historia (History of Sweden), the Scandinavian Varangian guardsmen were recognized by long hair, a red ruby set in the left ear and ornamented dragons sewn on their chainmail shirts. In these years, Scandinavian men left to enlist in the Byzantine Varangian Guard in such numbers that a medieval Swedish law, Västergötlagen, from Västergötland declared no one could inherit while staying in "Greece"—the then Scandinavian term for the Byzantine Empire—to stop the emigration, especially as two other European courts simultaneously also recruited Scandinavians: Kievan Rus' c. 980–1060 and London 1018–1066 (the Þingalið).Composed primarily of Norsemen and Rus for the first 100 years, the Guard began to see increased numbers of Anglo-Saxons after the Norman conquest of England. By the time of the Emperor Alexios Komnenos in the late 11th century, the Varangian Guard was largely recruited from Anglo-Saxons and "others who had suffered at the hands of the Vikings and their cousins the Normans". The Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic peoples shared with the Vikings a tradition of faithful (to death if necessary) oath-bound service, and the Norman invasion of England resulted in many fighting men who had lost their lands and former masters and were looking for positions elsewhere.

The Varangian Guard not only provided security for the Byzantine emperors, but also participated in many wars, often playing a decisive role, since they were usually deployed at critical moments of a battle. By the late 13th century, Varangians were mostly ethnically assimilated by the Byzantine Greeks, though the Guard remained in existence until at least mid-14th century. In 1400, there were still some people identifying themselves as "Varangians" in Constantinople.

Varangians

The Varangians (; Old Norse: Væringjar; Greek: Βάραγγοι, Várangoi, Βαριάγοι, Variágoi) was the name given by Greeks, Rus' people, and others to Vikings, who between the 9th and 11th centuries, ruled the medieval state of Kievan Rus', settled among many territories of modern Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, and formed the Byzantine Varangian Guard. According to the 12th century Kievan Primary Chronicle, a group of Varangians known as the Rus' settled in Novgorod in 862 under the leadership of Rurik. Before Rurik, the Rus' might have ruled an earlier hypothetical polity. Rurik's relative Oleg conquered Kiev in 882 and established the state of Kievan Rus', which was later ruled by Rurik's descendants.Engaging in trade, piracy, and mercenary activities, Varangians roamed the river systems and portages of Gardariki, as the areas north of the Black Sea were known in the Norse sagas. They controlled the Volga trade route (between the Varangians and the Arabs), connecting the Baltic to the Caspian Sea, and the Dnieper and Dniester trade route (between Varangians and the Greeks) leading to the Black Sea and Constantinople. Those were the critically important trade links at that time, connecting Medieval Europe with Arab Caliphates and the Byzantine Empire; Most of the silver coinage in the West came from the East via those routes.

Attracted by the riches of Constantinople, the Varangian Rus' initiated a number of Rus'-Byzantine Wars, some of which resulted in advantageous trade treaties. At least from the early 10th century many Varangians served as mercenaries in the Byzantine Army, constituting the elite Varangian Guard (the personal bodyguards of Byzantine Emperors). Eventually most of them, both in Byzantium and in Eastern Europe, were converted from paganism to Orthodox Christianity, culminating in the Christianization of Kievan Rus' in 988. Coinciding with the general decline of the Viking Age, the influx of Scandinavians to Rus' stopped, and Varangians were gradually assimilated by East Slavs by the late 11th century.

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