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Early history of Russia

Vladimir I, also known as Vladimir the Great. He later became St. Vladimir of Kiev. The name Russia comes from the Viking people who arrived at the town of Novgorod (in northwestern Russia) in the 860s. These Vikings were known as the “Varangian Rus”. They settled in the area between Novgorod and Kiev, and it became known as the “land of the Rus”. Under the rule of the Varangian Rurik dynasty, the princely states of Kievan Rus expanded, eventually stretching from the White Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south. Kievan Rus was united for a time under Prince Vladimir I (ruled 980–1015). He became a Christian in 988, and made Orthodox Christianity the official religion of his new state.



Ivan I, Prince of Moscow

Mongol rule

In 1223 Mongols (who were originally from Central Asia) attacked Russia, nearly reaching the capital city of Kiev. In further attacks in 1240 the Mongols sacked the city and devastated much of the land. Russia became part of the Mongol Empire, included in a region known as the “Golden Horde”. The Mongols forced their subject peoples to pay heavy taxes and in 1331 they began to entrust the task of collecting these taxes to the Prince of Moscow, Ivan I. At around the same time, the leader of the Orthodox Christian Church in Russia made Moscow his main centre. Kiev declined as the power of Moscow increased.
A reconstruction of Sarai Batu, the Mongol capital of the Golden Horde. Located north of the southern Russian city of Astrakhan,...Read More >> A reconstruction of Sarai Batu, the Mongol capital of the Golden Horde. Located north of the southern Russian city of Astrakhan, the city of Sarai had a population of around 600,000, and was one of the largest cities in the world at the time.

Defeat of the Mongols

In 987, Prince Vladimir I, who was still a pagan, sent envoys to study the religions of neighbouring countries to help him decide which religion to adopt for Russia. Rejecting Islam because he liked alcohol too much, he eventually settled on Orthodox Christianity.

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