East Central European History – Sept. 25 2012h
Lecture 5: Magyars, Vikings, and the German “Drang nach Osten”, a drive to the East
At the beginning of the 7 century, Muhammad established a new religion which helped the Arabic
tribes unite. A huge, energetic Arabic expansion began. They built a huge empire between Western
border of China and southern border of France. Later on it dithdethintothmaller units.
The center of civilization was moved to the east. In the 8 , 9 , 10 century the most interesting place to
live was Baghdad. At the same time, a conflict started between Christianity and Islam. In early medieval
times, the eastern Mediterranean was the center of Western civilization. Places like England were
absolutely less important.
Many patterns came to Europe from the Middle East and Asia. Trade routes were also very important.
At the beginning of our era, in Alexandria there was a Buddhist colony – there is a theory that Jesus
Christ met some of them and accepted some of their ideas
The Arabs closed the connection to Asia, and had a very strong Empire
They built a powerful economy which established new patterns, a centralized, affluent well organized
state that produced its own currency. Silver currency, which could be found all over Europe, used by
traders – we know, then, that there was contact between the Arabs and Europe
The fact that the Arabs closed the way to the East through the Arabian Peninsula and Africa created new
problems. Traders appeared from Northern Europe who started looking for a bypass to get to Asia
without going through Arabia. They came from Scandinavia – they were the Vikings, Varangians or
The first time Western Europe knew about Vikings was 793, when a group of Vikings attacked Britain.
England had nicer weather which Vikings liked. They then started attacking other parts. In 845 they
plundered Paris, especially France. One French King had an idea to reverse the roles – he invited a
certain Viking named Rolov the Walker to settle in Normandy. It was impossible to find a horse for him
because he was so big. He said, settle down here – you are my vassal, enjoy this land. Because the
Vikings settled here, they could attack other parts of Europe – 1066 they invaded Britain.
They colonized Iceland and Greenland. They went to the West and to the East. There were not many
written sources and archaeological findings are difficult to use for certain applications. Written
documents are more useful to historians.
The basic written source used in Russian history is the Primary Chronicle. Around 1110 or 1120, a monk
named Nestor wrote this chronicle. It became a source of knowledge of early Rus. It has been exploited
by generations of scholars
“The Varangians imposed tribute upon Chuds, Slavs…” they started controlling certain tribes and the
Khazars controlled other tribes from their location in the south
862 – the tributaries of the varangians drove them back beyond the sea and set out to govern
themselves. There was no order. They said to themselves, let us seek a prince who may rule over us…”
They asked the Varangians to come and rule them, a certain tribe of Varangians called Rus
A prince named Riurik established Novgorod – his boyars (nobles) went south to Constantinople, and
came across a city called Kiev, a stronghold of the Khazars. They took Kiev.
Oleg, his successor, killed Askold and Dir and took Kiev as part of Rus.
Soviet historians were angry about the Normanist theory. th th
It seems that there were 2 waves of varangian colonization of this land – the first wave – 8 and 9
century – were traders from Scandinavia and were looking for ways to Central Asia through this land and
established a colony known as Staraya Lagoda, with hundreds of thousands of varangians, equipment,
silver, et cetera
Around mid 9 century, a new wave came and established a kind of state ruled by Varangian warriors,
but they soon assimilated to Slavic people and soon it became a kind of Normanic-Slavic mixture. 839 – before Riurik comes to Novgorod, Swedish Vikings visited France and told the king that they had a
state in Rus. In 860, 200 long boats appeared around Constantinople, and their numbers were shocking
and Greek documents called them Rus
For a long time, Kievan Rus had to fight the nomads coming from Asia until 1241 when Kiev was sacked
by the Mongols.
In Byzantium there