January 31 in Russian history

1714: When Peter I travelled in Europe, he visited Kunstkabineten, or collections of rarities, in various countries. When he came back to Russia, he organized such "cabinet of rarities", Kunstkamera, and ordered to collect various interesting things all over Russia. In 1714, when Russian capital was moved from Moscow to St. Petersburg, the collection was also transferred there and on January 31, it was opened in the Summer Palace. In the times of Peter I, the collection consisted mostly of exotic animals, anatomical anomalies, weapon, ethnografic rarities. The collection grew with time and in 1820s-1830s it was split into a number of museums: Ethnografic, Egyptian, Zoological, Mineralogical and others. In 1878, two of them formed the modern Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, one of the most interesting museums in St. Petersburg.

Russian history 14: Influence of the church on everyday life

The church attempted to raise the authority of the knyaz power, while teaching the knyazes themselves to rule in accordance with the moral principles: "you shall punish the evil and reward the kind." This view was based on the idea that the power of a knyaz, just like any power on Earth, is established by God. Since a knyaz is a servant of God, he should rule by his principles. Equally, the citizens should not plot against the knyaz, but should see him as the lord, chosen by God. The church strongly opposed the paganist position that the knyaz is a warlord, elected for his military talents and receiving a payment for his leadership. When knyazes themselves lost their honor in quarrels and feuds, the church tried to restore peace between them, using Constantinople, where the power of the autocrat was unquestioned, as an example.

Since the people of Rus were united into clans, tribes, guilds, etc., the church formed another similar union, which included the clergy, the people protected by the clergy, and the people who served the church and depended on it. The church protected those who could not take care of themselves -- the poor and the ill. Church also gave protection to the izgoys, who lost the protection of other groups. Izgoys and slaves worked for the church. These people did not depend on knyaz anymore, and depended on the church only, who viewed them as equal christians. There was no slavery in the church: the slaves presented to the church became free men, even though they were obliged to live on the church's lands and work for the church.

The church also influenced the society to improve the family relationships. On the basis of a Greek law, accepted by Russian knyazes, all crimes against religion and moral laws were to be judged by the church, not by knyaz. Such crimes included blasphemy, sorcery, paganist rituals. Also, the judges of the church solved family conflicts. In these conflicts, the clergy tried to eliminate the paganist traditions, like polygamy, brideprice, family violence, etc., using the laws of the Byzantine empire.

Another area of public life where the church objected against cruelty was slavery. The clerics taught the lords to be merciful to the slaves and to remember that the slaves are human beings and christians. They objected not only against murdering of slaves, but also against cruel treatment of them. In some cases, the church demanded certain slaves to be freed. While such moves did not eliminate slavery in itself, cruelty towards slaves began to be seen as a sin. It was not punished by the law, but it was condemned by the church and the society.

Such wide influence of the church was especially strong due to the fact that the power of the knyazes was still insufficiently strong, and the knyazes themselves often led wars between each other, while the power of the metropolitan was centralized and uniform all over Russia. The church gave the first example of monarchy in Russia.


January 30 in Russian history

1489: Muscovy establishes diplomatic relationships with the Holy Roman Empire. During the late XV century, Muscovy had two strong enemies: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman empire, and was looking for allies. To achieve this, Ivan III seeked to establish contacts with other European countries. He signs a treaty with Livonia in 1481, exchanged messages "of brotherhood and union" with Venice (1485), exchanged ambassadors with Austria (1489), signed a treaty with Hungary (1485), agreed on joint military actions against Sweden with Denmark (1481 and 1493). In 1486, a knight from Sylesia, someone Nicholas Poppel, visited Moscow. When he returned from Muscovy, he spoke of the Russian state, whose ruler was "more powerful and rich than the Polish king." It was a surprise for Europe, since the rumors spoke of Russia as a country still in subjugation of either Tatars or Poles. In 1489, Poppel visited Moscow again, this time as an ambassador of the Holy Roman Empire. He and Ivan III signed a treaty and Poppel offered Ivan to accept the title of the king. Ivan III replied: "By God's grace, we have been the lords of our land from the beginning, since our first forefathers, and we have been placed by God, and we never wanted and do not want any other permissions."

1801: Emperor Pavel I signed the Manifesto on the incorporation of Georgia into Russia. In XVI-XVIII centuries Georgia was under constant attacks of Persia and Ottoman empire, especially after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, when Georgia became cut from other Christian countries. Persia tried to eliminate the Georgian population entirely and the Ottomans were Turkifying the population of south-eastern Georgia. In early XVIII century, the Georgian king Vakhtang VI and other Georgian political figures find an asylum in Russia. In the end of 1782, king Erekle II asks Catherine to take Eastern Georgia (kingdom Kartli-Kakheti) under protection and in 1783 the treaty of Georgievsk was signed. Eastern Georgia gave up its autonomy and Russia guaranteed its independence and territorial integrity. Russia promised to increase the number of troops in Georgia, but failed to comply. In 1795, Persia attacked Georgia and sacked Tbilisi. Two Russian battalions retreated, but Russia sent 13,000 soldiers and liberated Georgia. Turkey also gave up all claims. In 1798, Erekle died and his son George XII became the king. Soon, his illness provoked instability in the country, when his son David and his half-brother Yulon contested the throne. Russia backed David and in December 1800 David became the regent of the Eastern Georgia. In January 1801 Russia violated the terms of the treaty of Georgievsk, removed David from power and proclaimed Eastern Georgia a part of the Russian empire. David was brought to St. Petersburg under a military escort, but in Russia he was freed, he settled in St. Petersburg, became a general and an important politician and in 1812 became a senator. In 1810, the Western Georgia (kingdom of Imereti) joined the Eastern Georgia and became a part of Russian empire.


Ukrainian archaeologists find an ancient settlement in Rovno

Last December, when checking the territory before the construction works in a forest near lake Basov Ugol not far from Rovno (Rivno), a group of Ukrainian archaeologists, led by Bogdan Prishchepa, has discovered an ancient settlement. They found pottery, bone and stone ornamentation, flint arrowheads and a place for sacrifices, which contained a bull skeleton. Altogether, about 100 artifacts were found. There are three layers in this settlement. The first one is dated by III millennium BCE, the second -- by III-II centuries BCE and the third one belongs to the Slavic tribes, VIII-X centuries CE. Bogdan Prishchepa assumes that the settlement belonged to the tribes which were predecessors of later Germanic, Baltic and Slavic tribes. He thinks that the find proves the theory that all these ethnic groups originate from the territory of modern Ukraine.

Sources in Russian:

Gazeta in Ukrainian
Novy Region

January 29 in Russian history

1649: Zemsky sobor (Russian parliament) issues the new law code, Sobornoe ulozhenie. By this time Russian legal system includes a lot of outdated and even controversial laws and the new dynasty of Romanovs begins to review the laws. The tsar Alexei I summoned the Zemsky sobor, which elected a commission to prepare and review the laws. The drafts were approved by tsar and the Boyar Duma (an advisory council). By the end of 1648 the draft code was prepared and sent for approval. In 1649, the code was sent to all legal departments as the official law code of the Russian empire.

1710: Peter I introduces the new alphabet, which is to replace the Old Slavonic alphabet. This new alphabet is still used in Russia, with some changes. The new "civil" alphabet looked more like Latin letters.The Old Slavonic alphabet included a number of letters, inherited from Greek language. Some of these letters denoted the sounds absent in Russian language and took slightly different meaning in Russian. As a result, there were pairs of letters with the same meaning. For example, sound [f] was denoted by Greek Θ and Slavic Ф. Sound [o] also had two representations: Slavic О and Greek Ω. Nasal vowels, not used in Russian language, were also excluded from the alphabet.

1860: Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, one of the best Russian writers, was born. A brilliant playwrite and the author of short stories, for all his life he dreamed of writing a novel. It never happened. So what, he is still my favourite writer in the whole Russian literature!

January 27-28 in Russian history

January 27

1756: I cannot start this post with any other date than this: the birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

1871: Alexander II issues a decree allowing women to work in public and state institutions

1944: The siege of Leningrad is totally lifted.

1945: In the course of liberation of Poland, Soviet troops enter the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. The majority of prisoners were relocated to Germany and the Soviet soldiers only find about 3,000 people, who were considered 'useless' by the Nazis.

January 28

1725: (Feb 8 New style) Emperor Peter I died. Probably, the most influential ruler in the Russian history. The author of the "westernization" policy. Creator of the Russian Empire. Builder of the Russian fleet. Victor in many wars, including the war with Carl XII, king of Sweden. Architect of St. Petersburg, Russian "window into Europe". On the other hand, it was he who turned the life of Russian serfs into what became the distinguishing quality of Russian history in the eyes of all foreigners. It was he who killed thousands of people by sending them to forced labor. The people remembered him as the Tsar-Antichrist.

1765: Catherine II issues a decree giving the landowners (pomeshchiki) the right to condemn their serfs to penal servitude.

1783: The same empress, Catherine II, allows private book-printing. 13 years later, in 1796, private publishing houses are prohibited again.

1820: Two Russian ships, Vostok and Mirnyi, captained by Faddey Bellinsgauzen and Mikhail Lazarev, discover Antarctica.


January 26 in Russian history

1525: First printed map of Russia. It was drawn by a geographer Dmitri Gerasimov and was based on the accounts of travellers and merchants and on interviews with them.

1582: The end of the Livonian war. Ambassador of Ivan IV, tsar of Russia, and Stefan Batory, king of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, with help of the papal legatus Antonio Possevino, sign the Treaty of Jam Zapolski in a village Kiverova Gora. Russian ambassadors were duke Yeletsky and book publisher Alferyev. The Livonian war started in 1558 to establish control on the territory of Livonian Confederation (modern Latvia and Estonia). This confederation consisted of a number of German colonies: the Livonian Order, Archbishopric of Riga, Bishopric of Dorpat, Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek, and Bishopric of Courland. In the course of the war Sweden joined the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the accent moved to the territories lying between Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. According to the terms of the 20-year truce, Russia renounced the claims to Livonia and Polotsk, but Poland returned the occupied Russian city of Velikie Luki and stopped the siege of Pskov. Russia lost the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, the only access to the Baltic Sea and regained it only 13 years later, during the Russian-Swedish war of 1590-1595.

1924: The 2nd congress of Soviets renamed Petrograd (ex-St. Petersburg) to Leningrad.

1943: Nikolai Vavilov, a prominent botanist and geneticist, died in a prison in Saratov from dystrophia. Vavilov, born in 1887, graduated from Moscow Agricultural Institute and worked together with the father of genetics, William Bateson, for some years. Vavilov was interested in the origin of cultivated plants, especially the cereal crops. He organized a number of botanical expeditions, created the largest collection of largest plant seeds in the world and was the first to identify the centres of origin of the cultivated plants. He also formulated the law of homologous series in variation. In 1940 he was repressed as a defender of the "bourgeois pseudoscience" genetics. In 1968, the Research Institute of Plant Industry in Leningrad was renamed to the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry.


January 25 in Russian history

1547: Ivan IV becomes the tsar of Russia. While the term 'tsar' has been known for quite a while, Ivan IV was the first Russian ruler to be crowned as the "tsar of all Russia". He became a Grand Prince at the age of three, in 1533, and was crowned at the age of 16. The new title, tsar, had to be acknowledged by other monarchs. Patriarch of Constantinople sent his blessings in 1561, while other monarchs for a long time continued to call the Moscow rulers 'the Grand Princes'. During the first half of his reign, he was heavily influenced by his wife, Anastasia Yurieva (or Koshkina, Zakharieva, Romanova -- it's a long story :)) and a priest named Sylvester. The tsar wanted to devote all his life to serving the people and Sylvester organized a whole circle of nobility who wanted to assist the tsar in improving the life of Russians. Ivan IV updated and re-wrote the sudebnik (the law code), gave self-government to many districts and allowed to elect the local administration and judges, summoned the first Zemsky Sobor, the first Russian parliament. He put an end to the attacks of the last Tatars by seizing their capital Kazan and adjoined huge territories along Volga and Kama rivers to Russia. He had some conflicts with Sylvester and the nobility, who wanted to limit the autocratic power of the tsar, but all went well till 1560, when Ivan's wife died. It was a shock which changed him forever. In 1560, he sends Sylvester and other members of his circle into exile. In 1564, he leaves Moscow, stays in a monastery and sends a letter to Moscow, saying that he had left the capital because the boyars were plotting against him. The people asked him to come back and he agreed at last. He divided the country into "zemshchina" and "oprichnina". The first part was governed by the boyars' Duma, and the second belonged to the tsar exclusively. Oprichnina included the lands which belonged earlier to the most powerful boyars and by taking these lands under his hand Ivan attempted to minimize their influence. In practice, oprichnina turned into a removal and even elimination of many people. His guard, called oprichniki used the power given to them by the tsar to rob and to kill (mostly in aristocratic houses) and enjoyed sadistic orgies. After these atrocities he got his name Grozny, or the Terrible (this translation is not perfect, though). It is important to note, though, that the total number of his victims is estimated to be from 4,000 to 7,000 people, that is, much fewer than many other European monarchs managed to kill. He achieved his goals: the nobility lost their influence almost completely. His death in 1584 became the beginning of a long period of unrest, called the Times of Trouble.

1701: School of mathematical and navigational sciences was founded in Moscow. It was a logical step for Peter I, who wanted to turn Russia into a sea power. Children in the age from 12 to 17 from all social classes could enter the school. In 1715, the elder students moved to St.Petersburg and became the base for the Academy of Sea Guard, now called the St.Petersburg Naval Institute. Among famous graduates of the School were the admirals Kornilov, Nakhimov, Senyavin, Ushakov, Essen, Kuznetsov, Gorshkov and others, explorers Chirikov, Chelyuskin, Laptev, Lisyansky, Kruzenshtern, Nevelsky, Vrangel, etc. Many other graduates became famous in other, non-navy professions: composer Rimsky-Korsakov, writers Stanyukovich and Sobolev, painters Vereshchagin and Bogolyubov, the author of a dictionary of Russian language Dal, constructor of the first aeroplane (well, it was almost an aeroplane) Mozhaisky.

1938: Birthday of Vladimir Vysotsky, a unique poet and singer of the Soviet times. I am afraid that I will not be able to describe the huge role he played in our life in the USSR, so I will simply refer you to web pages. Read about Vysotsky at Wikipedia. Read and listen his verses and songs at the official site. Read the verses here.

1991: My home city got back its original name -- Samara. Since 1935 it was known as Kyibyshev, after the name of Valerian Kuibyshev, a Soviet politician and a Red Army commander. The city was founded in 1586. During the WWII, it was a secondary capital of USSR. The government stayed in Moscow, but many ministeries, foreign embassies, etc., were relocated to Kuibyshev. For many years, Kuibyshev has been an important centre of aerospace industry. A large share of Soviet and Russian spaceships and carriers were built here.


January 24 in Russian history

1776: Well, this is not Russian history, but who cares :). Today is the birthday of Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, a brilliant German writer, who in a purely German manner reconciled romanticism and poetry with satire and humour. Der goldene Topf, Nußknacker und Mausekönig, Klein Zaches, genannt Zinnober, Meister Floh -- these are some of his books I highly recommend you to read. He is one of my favourite writers and I hope you will pardon me this little digression...

1783: Duchess Ekaterina Dashkova is appointed the president of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts and Sciences. Ekaterina Vorontsova was born in 1743 and received a very good education at home: she spoke four languages, studied music, painting, mathematics, natural sciences, etc. In 1759 she made acquaintance with the grand princess Catherine, who became her best friend for years. In the same year, she marries duke Mikhail Dashkov. After the coup d'etat of 1762, when Peter III was dethroned, Catherine became the empress and she rewarded Dashkova for participation in the coup. Dashkova hoped to build a new, better Russia together with Catherine, but the place was already taken by Catherine's favorite Grigory Orlov. In 1764 Mikhail Dashkov died and Ekaterina Dashkova tries to find consolation in family and children. In 1769, she takes a trip to Europe, where she visits universities and academies, theatres and museums. In 1772, she returns to Russia, but in 1775 leaves to Europe again, because her 13-year old son enters the Edinburgh university and she spends 5 years with him in Britain, where she meets with Hume and Adam Smith. They travel all along Europe and meet Diderot, Voltaire, D'Alambert and other famous scientists and philosophers. In 1782, they come back to Russia and Catherine gives her a hearty welcome. Unexpectedly, Catherine offers her to become the president of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, founded on her suggestion. On 24 January, 1783, she officially becomes the first woman in Europe to head an academy. On 30 January, Leonard Euler, the patriarch of the Russian science, introduced her to the academy. In September 1783, she becomes also the president of the Russian Academy of Sciences. During the next eleven years, Dashkova created a fruitful atmosphere in the academy, organized a number of scientific expeditions, created new laboratories, modernized the typography, restored the Botany Garden, built a new building of the Academy. In amazingly short time of five years, the first dictionary of Russian language was prepared (1789-1794). In 1794, a literary magazine published by Dashkova, publishes a tragedy "Vadim of Novgorod" by Khyazhnin. The empress is angered by this antimonarchist play and Dashkova has to retire from all her posts. She died in 1810 in her estate near Moscow.


Russian history 13: Pre-christian life of Slavs

In the times before Christianity, the state did not interfere with the social life public order unless asked by the people. Crime was personal and the punishment was personal, too. A man was protected by his clan or another society, not by the state. People were members of clans, druzhinas, merchants' guilds, etc., and these societies protected their members threatening the offenders with the blood feud. On the other hand, a man exiled from such a society was defenceless. A man without protection of a clan was called "izgoy", "out of life". One church document dated by XII century says:

There are three kinds of izgoys: an illiterate priest's son, a kholop who buys freedom and a merchant who cannot pay his debts. And the fourth izgoy is an orphaned knyaz.

The clan society led to isolation, clans were often at enmity with each other. Hence the tradition of stealing of brides. Later this tradition evolved into paying the brideprice. Polygamy was practiced in almost all Slavic tribes. Legends say that knyaz Vladimir had more than one wife until his conversion to Christianity.

The stratification of the society was primitive. Free people were called "muzhi" ("muzh" in singular) and the slaves were called "chelyad'" ("kholop" for a man or "roba" for a woman in singular). Slaves were treated like cattle: they couldn't have any property, they couldn't witness in a court, they were not responsible for their crimes. Instead, their owner was responsible for what they do, he also could punish them in any way, including death penalty. Free men were protected by their clans and guilds, the only protection for slaves was their master. A freed slave became an izgoy and didn't have any rights.

So, knyaz didn't have the power comparable to that of modern rulers. Citizens were not protected by state, but by autonomous groups. A man not protected by such group, had no protection at all. In families, dominating traditions included polygamy, stealing of brides and brideprice. Slavery was widespread. Personality and human dignity were not valued in the society.

January 23 in Russian history

1589: Until the schism of 1054, there were five patriarchates, but then Rome became a church of its own and only four patriarchs remained: in Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. The Russian orthodox church since knyaz Vladimir was governed by a metropolitan, who was appointed by the patriarch of Constantinople. Since 23 Jan, 1589, the Russian church became a separate patriarchate, Russian metropolitan Job became the first patriarch of Russia.

1681: The first of thirteen Russo-Turkish wars is over (1676-1681). A 20-year truce was signed in Bakhchisaray (Crimea). After the Polish-Turkish war, when the Ottoman empire captured the region of Podolia, Turkey attempted to take the whole Right-bank Ukraine (territory to the West from river Dnieper), using the discontent among the Ukrainians. The joint Russian-Ukrainian army was beaten by Turks and the territory of Ukraine was split between Ottomans and Russia. According to the Bakhchisaray treaty, river Dnieper became the border between the two countries, but they also agreed not to settle between rivers Dnieper and Southern Buh. Crimean Tatars were allowed to live in the steppes on both sides of Dnieper. Cossacks had the right to fish, obtain salt and sail all along the Dnieper and its tributaries.


January 22 in Russian history

1905: (Jan 9 Old Style) The Bloody Sunday. Beginning of the first revolution. In the beginning of January, the workers of Putilovsky factory began a strike, demanding for 8-hour working day, guaranteed minimum salary, abolishment of obligatory overtime, etc. The St. Petersburg committee of bolsheviks called on the workers of St.Petersburg for support of the strike. As a result, more than 150,000 people participated in the general strike. Without newspapers and electricity, the city was paralysed. The governement, trying to regain control, declared martial law and collected around 40,000 policemen and armed soldiers in the city. In spite of the tensions, the workers' committees adopted the plan of a mass peaceful demonstration proposed by a priest Father Gapon. A petition to the tsar was prepared, which included both economical and political requirements: convocation of the Constituent Assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of workers' unions, peace with Japan, separation of church from the state, etc. On the day before the demonstration, the bolsheviks issued a proclamation, saying that the workers will achieve liberation through the armed revolt only, but not by sending petitions. The perspective of a bloodshed was getting more inevitable. A group of intelligentsia, including Maxim Gorky, visited the prime-minister S. Vitte, asking him to do all possible to avoid violence. Vitte sent them to the minister of home affairs Svyatopolk-Mirsky, but he refused to admit them. In the morning of January 22, more than 140,000 people started moving to the tsar's palace. Women and children were put in the front rows to prevent the troops from attacking. At about noon, the cavalry attacked the demonstrants and gunmen started shooting. The wounded were killed by sabres or died under the horses' hooves. Father Gapon fled. Streets were covered with bodies. The official government news reported of 96 killed, but most sources give figures of 1000-4000 killed. As a response to the massacre, the workers started all-Russian strike, where around 440,000 people participated. The revolution began.

1908: Lev Landau, an outstanding Russian physicist, was born. Landau was one of the greatest Soviet physicists and a charismatic personality. The areas of physics where he worked include quantum physics, solid body physics, low temperature physics, cosmic rays, hydrodynamics, elementary particles, plasma and many others. In 1927 he graduated from the Leningrad university. In 1929 he went to Denmark, Britain and Switzerland for traineeship. He worked with Niels Bohr, whom he used to call his only teacher. In 1938, during the Stalin's purges, he was arrested and spent one year in Gulag, but was released after the interference of academician Pyotr Kapitsa. He discovered (or co-discovered)the density matrix method in quantum mechanics, the quantum mechanical theory of diamagnetism, the theory of superfluidity, the theory of second order phase transitions, the Ginzburg-Landau theory of superconductivity, the explanation of Landau damping in plasma physics, the Landau pole in quantum electrodynamics, and the two-component theory of neutrinos. In 1962, he became a Nober Prize laureate for the development of the theory of superfluidity. On the same year he suffered heavily in a car accident and six years later died during a surgical operation. Two most influential parts of his scientific heritage are the Course of Theoretical Physics in ten volumes and the founding of the brilliant scientific school, known as Landau school, which became a legend of the Soviet science.

January 20-21 in Russian history

Sorry for being late, but the week-ends are usually such a busy time...

January 20

1591: Tsar Feodor I Ivanovich, son of Ivan IV the Terrible, the last Rurikid tsar, signed a 12-year truce with Poland. By that time, Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had been competing for a long time for the lands between Moscow and Lithuania, like Smolensk, Polotsk and other important towns. This truce stopped this rivalry for some time and gave a chance to Russia to withstand the attack of the Crimean Khanate. The Crimean Khan signed a treaty with the Swedish king Johan III, and the danger of the simultaneous attack from North and South was imminent. Johan III had about 20,000 people on the Northern borders of Russia, but he didn't want to start a war without the support from Poland. The Crimean Khan attacked Russia with 100,000 people, but due to the truce with Poland, Russia concentrated on this war and after a grave defeat the Crimean Khan left Russia. Johan III, assuming that Russia was weakened by this war, attacked Pskov, but Russian forces drove him away.

January 21

1924: V.Ulyanov (Lenin) died. One of the most controversial figures in Russian history. Born in 1870 in Simbirsk. His elder brother Alexander was executed in 1887 as a participant of a plot against the life of tsar Alexander III. In 1895 Ulyanov founds the Union for Liberation of the Working Class in St.Petersburg. He is immediately arrested and sent to Siberia for three years. He emigrates in 1900. In 1917, after the February revolution, he is allowed to return to Russia where he begins to prepare a new revolution. In October 1917 he leads the October revolution and becomes the chairman of Sovnarkom (the council of people's commissars). The initiator of the Red Terror, the "military communism", liquidation of the oppositional parties. A ruthless leader, but how could he organize a revolt, had it not been for the huge popular support?


Russian history 12: Christian church in early Russia

Christianity brought a number of new institutions to Russia. One of them was the church hierarchy. Russia has got its own metropolitan, appointed by the patriarch of Constantinople. He lived in Kiev and appointed bishops to other cities. During the earlier years, there were five bishops, but later their number grew to fifteen. Churches and monasteries were supervised by these bishops. In this way, the authority of the metropolitan embraced the whole country. Christianity also brought literacy to Russia. The church books were written in Slavic language by St. Cyril and St. Methodius and their Bulgarian followers. So, immediately after the adoption of Christianity, first schools appear in Russia, run by priests. The metropolitan and the clergy in general managed their subordinates according to the laws collected in the book called Nomocanon (called also the Governing Book in Russian). The book included both ecclesiastical laws and some civil laws of the Byzantine emperors. The churches possessed lands, where the clergy used Byzantine laws and customs and established the relations between the church and the peasants, which were typical for Greece.

So, the new religion also brought to Russia new authorities, new education, new laws and traditions. Since the religion itself came from Byzantium, all related customs also had the Byzantine character.

January 19 in Russian history

1171: Knyaz of Kiev, Gleb, younger brother of Andrei Bogolyubsky, dies. The chronicles wrote of him: "if he gave the word, he kept it, he was humble, loved monasteries and monks and was generous with the poor." There were rumours that he was poisoned, but there were no direct evidences to that. Gleb's throne was given to Vladimir Mstislavich, known for his perfidy.

1918: Bolsheviks dissolve the Constituent Assembly. Ever since the revolution of 1905, many political parties, including socialist democrats, demanded for the Constituent Assembly. After the February revolution of 1917, the Provisional Government began the preparations for the elections. In November 1917 (25 Oct., old style), bolsheviks overthrew the Provisional Government. They banned non-socialist press and began political persecutions of other political parties, notably the Constitutional Democrats, but they permitted the elections, which were scheduled by the Provisional Government on November, 12 (old style). The elections gave 380 places in the Constituent Assembly (out of 703) to the non-Marxist party of Socialist Revolutionaries (aka Right SRs), widely supported by peasants, 168 places to Bolsheviks and much smaller number of places to other parties, including Left SRs, associated with the Bolsheviks. On 18 January (6 Jan, old style) a large demonstration supporting the Constituent Assembly took place in Petrograd (ex-St.Petersburg). The demonstration was dispersed by the Bolshevik troops, especially their praetorian guard, Latvian riflemen, who shot many people with machine guns. The Assembly started their work at around 16:00 on 18 January. Bolsheviks commented: "How can you appeal to such a concept as the will of the whole people? For a Marxist 'the people' is an inconceivable notion: the people does not act as a single unit. The people as a unit is a mere fiction, and this fiction is needed by the ruling classes." The Tauride Palace, where the Assembly took place, was blocked by Bolshevik forces, including the Latvian riflemen. Rebellous sailors entered the building, the Bolshevist leaders were present as guests, even though they already decided to dissolve the Assembly. "There is no need to disperse the Constituent Assembly: just let them go on chattering as long as they like and then break up, and tomorrow we won't let a single one of them come in," said Lenin. At about 4:00 am, the guards entered the hall and sailor Zheleznyakov said his famous "Workers don't need your chatter. The guard are tired and want to sleep. I propose to stop the discussions." The Assembly quickly voted for the Law on the Land, for the law proclaiming Russia a democratic federal republic and an appeal to Entente for peace and dispersed. On the next day, the building was locked and Bolsheviks declared the Assembly dissolved. Actually, it was the day when the Civil War began

1980: President of the USA J.Carter declares that the USA will boycott the Olympic games in Moscow.


January 18 in Russian history

1654: Pereyaslav Rada (Assembly) approved the treaty prepared by the Cossack Hetman, Bogdan Khmelnytsky, to re-unite Ukraine with Russia. In the morning the Hetman called the elders' rada (council of the leaders of Cossacks) and after their approval, the open rada assembled and confirmed the decision. The participants included representatives of all areas liberated from Polish troops, people from the town of Pereyaslav and peasants from nearby villages. The Hetman, the Cossack leaders and the people pledged their allegiance to the tsar Alexey I. The Russian government was very careful about the decision and declined the Ukrainian initiative for a number of times before finally signing the Pereyaslav Treaty on March, 14, 1654.

1825: The new building of the Bolshoi Theatre was inaugurated. The theatre was founded in 1776 and they gave performances in Znamensky theatre. In 1780, it was destroyed by a fire and a new theatre, Petrovsky, was designed by Osip Bove. In 1805, this building burnt down, too, and in 1808 the theatre moved to Arbatsky theatre built by an Italian architect Carlo Rossi. The Arbatsky theatre was destroyed when Napoleon took Moscow in 1812. In 1821, Osip Bove started the construction of the new building, designed by Alexey Mikhailov, the rector of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. The Muscovites, impressed by the grandeur of the new building, called it Colosseum. During the first concert on January, 18, 1825, a piece by Russian composers A.Verstovsky and A.Alyabyev, "The Triumph of The Muses", was performed. In 1853, during a fire, the building was damaged, but it was restored in 1856. Now, in 2007, the building is closed for restoration works.

1926: Premiere of "Battleship Potemkin", a film by Sergei Eisenstein. The film is considered one of the most influential films. In 1958, during the World's Fair at Brussels, it was named by experts the greatest film of all time.

1943: The Soviet troops broke the blockade of Leningrad. After a week of fierce fighting, units of Leningrad and Volkhov fronts overcame the German fortifications and opened a corridor to supply the food to the dying city.

1944: Precisely one year later, on January 18, 1944, the siege was ended and the German troops were driven away from Leningrad, after 900 days-long tragedy, one of the most frightening ones in history. From 670,000 to 1,500,000 people died, mostly from starvation and exposure.


Russian history 11: Legend of Vladimir's baptising

About 100 years after the baptising of Russia, a chronicler wrote:

In 968, Bulgarians from Volga were the first to come to Vladimir and they praised their Magometan religion. Then came Germans from the Roman Pope, then came Khazarian Jews and, at last, a Greek philosopher with the Orthodox teaching. Vladimir met them all and sent them all away, except for the Greek. He spoke with the Greek for a long time, gave him rich gifts, but did not convert into Christianity. In the next year (987), Vladimir told this story to his advisors and added that the Greek Orthodoxy was the most interesting. The advisors told knyaz to send ambassadors to other countries so that they would see how other peoples served their gods. The ambassadors visited East and West, but when they came to Constantinople, they were astonished by the beauty of the Greek churches. They said to Vladimir that they don't want to stay pagans, but they want to convert to Orthodoxy. When Vladimir asked his advisors: "Where shall we get baptised?" they replied: "Wherever you say." So, in the next year (988) Vladimir sieged the town Korsun (Chersonesos). He swore that he will convert to Christianity if he seizes the town and he seized it. He sent messengers to Constantinople to emperors Basil and Constantine, threatening to attack Constantinople and demanding their sister Anna to become his wife. The emperors replied that their sister will not marry a pagan and Vladimir agreed to convert. Before the baptism, Vladimir suddenly went blind, but his vision returned during the baptism. He signed peace with the Greeks, returned to Russia and baptised the country.

The legend is based on the real Chersonesos campaign of Vladimir. The Byzantium was at that time threatened by the revolt of Bardas Phokas and the emperors were seeking help from Vladimir. According to the terms of the peace treaty, Vladimir agreed to assist Byzantium against the rebels and obliged to adopt Christianity and princess Anna was to marry him. Due to the Russian interference, Bardas Phokas was killed (988), but the Byzantians failed to fulfil their promises and then Vladimir sieged and seized Chersonesos, the main Greek city in Crimea. He was baptised and in 989 he married princess Anna. It is not clear where and when (988 or 989) he was baptised.

Having returned from Chersonesos, Vladimir began to convert the whole country into Christianity. He baptised Kievans on the banks of Dnieper and its tribute Pochaina. The idols were thrown into the river and churches were built on these places. In other towns, his deputies did the same. In most places, Christianity was adopted peacefully, but, for example, in Novgorod, it was done by force. In other areas, paganism survived for centuries and the old beliefs mixed with the new ones.

January 17 in Russian history

1700: (Julian Jan. 6) Tsar Peter I the Great, who had just returned from Western Europe, decreed that all Russians, except for clerics, had to shave their beards off and to wear short dress instead of the old long one. The new clothes were copied from European fashions: the summer clothes reminded German dress and the winter ones were in the Hungarian style.

1799: Ballerina Avdotya Ilyinichna Istomina was born. Her father was a policeman. Mother died soon. At the age of 6 she entered the St.Petersburg theater college, which was a luck for a girl from a poor family. At the age of 9, she danced for the first time in the ballet 'Zephyr and Flora'. She was the first ballerina to dance sur les pointes, on the toes. She was known not only for her outstanding technique, but also for the purely artistic, dramatic talent. Now, her name is widely known because Pushkin, who admired her, mentioned her name in Evgeny Onegin:

Then with a half-ethereal splendour,
Bound where the magic bow will send her,
Istomina, thronged all around
by Naiads, one foot on the ground,
twirls the other slowly as she pleases,
then suddenly she's off, and there
she's up and flying through the air
like fluff before Aeolian breezes;
she'll spin this way and that, and beat
against each other swift, small feet.

Istomina died from cholera on June, 26, 1848.

1920: Capital punishments outlawed in Soviet Russia.During the rule of Ivan IV the Terrible, death penalty was widely used, around 4000 people were killed (it may be interesting to compare the figure with around 72000 vagabonds hanged by Henry VIII). Boris Godunov swore during the accession to observe a five-year moratorium on death penalty. After these five years, though, he used it often. In the times of Peter I, death penalty was the punishment for 123 various crimes. Peter's daughter, Elizabeth, was the first ruler in Europe who attempted to outlaw the capital punishment. During the period of 1891-1905, it was never used. After the revolutions began, in 1905-1906, about 4000 people were shot. Death penalty was outlawed again in 1917, but not for long, until July, 17. During the Soviet period, death penalty was outlawed three times: Nov.1917-Feb.1918, 17 Jan 1920-11 May 1920, 26 May 1947-12 Jan 1950. Since 1962, death penalty became a punishment for 'economic' crimes. 24000 people were executed during 1962-1990. After the break-up of the USSR, use of capital punishment was dramatically cut (163 executions during 1991-1996). Since 1996, the moratorium was enacted and the death penalty is not used now. However, it is not totally outlawed as yet, unfortunately.


Russian history 10: Christianity in Russia before Vladimir

Insufficiently strong and deep paganist beliefs of Slavs easily mixed and gave way to external religious influences. If Slavs eagerly resorted to Finnish sorcerers and shamans, Christianity affected their minds even stronger. Trade links with Greece provided facilitated the familiarization with the new religion. Varangian merchants and warriors, who visited Constantinople earlier and more often than Slavs, were the first to bring Christianity to Rus. During the rule of knyaz Igor, there was already a church of St. Iliya (Elijah) in Kiev and the chroniclers noted that "many Varangians were Christians." Igor's wife, Olga, was Christian, too. On the other hand, Svyatoslav did not welcome the new religion, and in the times of his son, Vladimir, pagan idols were still standing in Kiev and sometimes even human sacrifices were committed. According to chronicles, in 983, the pagan crowd killed two Varangians, father and son, because the father refused to sacrifice his son. In spite of such persecutions, Kievans knew Christianity and Knyaz Vladimir accepted the new religion consciously, being familiar with its advantages.


Plan for the nearest future

I should have done it earlier, of course :). Below is a list of the chapters of the Russian history course I plan to post in the nearest future. The book includes 9 parts. The first part contains the following chapters (excluding those already posted):

  • 10. Christianity before Vladimir
  • 11. Legend of Vladimir's baptising
  • 12. Christian church in early Russia
  • 13. Pre-christian life of Slavs
  • 14. Influence of the church on everyday life
  • 15. Influence of the church in culture and spiritual life
  • 16. Knyaz Yaroslav the Wise
  • 17. Order of succession after Yaroslav
  • 18. The throne of Kiev from Vladimir Monomakh till 1169
  • 19. Wars against steppe and the decline of the Kiev state
  • 20. Political structure of the provinces of the Kiev state
  • 21. Structure of the population of the Kiev state
  • 22. Russkaya Pravda and civil institutes in Kievan Russia

Russian history 9: Paganism in Ancient Russia

As we have seen, knyaz Vladimir (I use words 'knyaz' and 'king' interchangeably, as etymologically close -- DM) converted to Christianity. This was immediately followed by the total baptising of the whole country.

The paganist beliefs of Ancient Russians are not well known. Russian Slavs worshipped the natural forces and their forefathers.

Among the gods of nature, the most important one was the Sun god, Dazhbog, or Hors, or Veles. It is not clear why he had many names. . Under the name of Dazhbog, he was worshipped as the source of light and warmth. As Veles, he was the god of the cattle. The Great Hors, it seems, was the Sun itself. Another god was Perun, the embodiment of thunder and lightning. Stribog was the god of wind. The sky was called Svarog and was thought to be the Sun's father, this is why Dazhbog had the patronym Svarozhich (son of Svarog). The goddess of the land was named Mat' Syra Zemlya (Mother Wet Land) and she was the mother of the people. But all these personalities were not as elaborate as the characters of, say, Greek mythology. The cult was rather simple, too, there were neither temples nor priests. In some open places, wooden images of gods were established. The rituals were mostly limited to sacrifices, sometimes even human ones. It is interesting that the Scandinavian mythology did not change the Slavic religion at all, in spite of the political influence of the Varangians. The Scandinavian beliefs were not any more clear or strong and the Vikings easily changed their religion to the Slavic paganism or to Christianity. Knyaz Igor and his Varangian druzhina already swore by the name of Perun and worshipped his images.

The cult of the forefathers was developed better than the cult of the nature. The progenitor, called Chur or Rod, was the patron of all his descendants. The female progenitors were called Rozhanitsy and were respected as equals of Chur. When the clan system declined and the families were limited to the people living in one house, the place of the family spirit was taken by a house spirit, Domovoi, who ran the life of the family, while staying invisible. Other spirits included the souls of the dead, who inhabited forests, fields and rivers, and various local spirits, who were the masters of the forests (Leshiy) or rivers, moors, lakes (Vodyanoy). All nature was animated and a large set of holidays had established to worship the nature.

These holidays survived till our days, being adapted to the Christianity. So, for example, Kolyada, the holiday of the winter solstice, became Christmas, the spring festival became Maslenitsa, or Pancake week, Kupala (or the summer solstice) became the Birth of St. John, etc.


Old new year -- Russian second New Year holiday

Yes, we've got two. The first one is on the January, 1, as it might be expected, and the second one is today, on January, 14. Or, rather, on the night between 13 and 14 of January. How's that? The problems began in the 1582, when European countries (well, some of them) began the calendar reform, adopting the Gregorian calendar. The reform moved the days' count backwards for ten days. By the beginning of XX century, most of them reformed their calendars. Except for... Well, you understand :).

By that time, the difference between Julian and Gregorian calendars reached 13 days. So, Russia celebrated the New Year (and Christmas, and other holidays) 13 days later than all other countries. In 1918, at last, the new calendar came to Russia. One of those things we can thank Lenin for. But the Russian church didn't accept this new godless idea and they still live according to the old calendar and celebrate all holidays 13 days later. This controversy was a source of many problems. For example, my grandmother was born on August, 2, 1913, but when should she celebrate her birthday? Our family celebrates both.

This night, January 13-14 is often seen as a strange one, a little bit magic, when anything may happen, when memories, which seemed to be long forgotten, come back to mind, when old friends re-appear. Perhaps, this magic dizzyness is why some over-patriotic politicians came up yesterday with a weird idea to return to the good ol' Julian calendar. What for? Some hard-core orthodoxes insist that the Julian calendar is more correct than the Gregorian (they use the sydereal year to prove their point), but the real reason seems to be very simple: to emphasize the differences between Russia and Europe, to harden the psychological barrier between 'us' and 'them', to increase the isolationism. Frankly, I don't think they'll succeed, so idiotic is the idea.

Who celebrates the Old New Year? Russians, no matter if they are religious or not. Many people in ex-Soviet republics (in Baku, for example). And, funnily enough, North African Berbers :)

Happy New Years!


Interesting pottery found in Novgorod

Last year, Russian archaeologists found two clay pots near Novgorod, in the so called Rurikovo Gorodishche (Roerik's settlement). The pots are dated by I century BCE. One of them, fully ornamented, is basically intact. Similar pottery was found earlier in Svyato-Yuriev and Varlaamo-Hutynski monasteries near Novgorod, but they were much more primitive than the last finds. These pots prove that the territory was inhabited in the earliest times.

Besides pottery, some other interesting finds were made there in 2006, like two seals, made of lead. They were used to seal documents.

During the exploration of Rurikovo Gorodishche, some strange and funny things were found. For example, in 2003, archaeologists found a monkey's skull. They think that the animal was brought to Novgorod in XII century and was an exotic gift to the family of knyaz.

Earliest evidence of modern humans in Europe

The ways taken by anatomically modern human beings when they first came out of Africa, become "curiouser and curiouser". Recent finds at Kostenki site are described in the article published at Eurekalert:

Earliest evidence of modern humans in Europe discovered by international team (follow the link to see photos)

Modern humans who first arose in Africa had moved into Europe as far back as about 45,000 years ago, according to a new study by an international research team led by the Russian Academy of Sciences and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The evidence consists of stone, bone and ivory tools discovered under a layer of ancient volcanic ash on the Don River in Russia some 250 miles south of Moscow, said John Hoffecker, a fellow of CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. Thought to contain the earliest evidence of modern humans in Europe, the site also has yielded perforated shell ornaments and a carved piece of mammoth ivory that appears to be the head of a small human figurine, which may represent the earliest piece of figurative art in the world, he said.

"The big surprise here is the very early presence of modern humans in one of the coldest, driest places in Europe," Hoffecker said. "It is one of the last places we would have expected people from Africa to occupy first."

A paper by Michael Anikovich and Andrei Sinitsyn of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Hoffecker, and 13 other researchers was published in the Jan. 12 issue of Science.

The excavation took place at Kostenki, a group of more than 20 sites along the Don River that have been under study for many decades. Kostenki previously has yielded anatomically modern human bones and artifacts dating between 30,000 and 40,000 years old, including the oldest firmly dated bone and ivory needles with eyelets that indicate the early inhabitants were tailoring animal furs to help them survive the harsh climate.

Most of the stone used for artifact construction was imported from between 60 miles and 100 miles away, while the perforated shell ornaments discovered at the lowest levels of the Kostenki dig were imported from the Black Sea more than 300 miles away, he said. "Although human skeletal remains in the earliest level of the excavation are confined to isolated teeth, which are notoriously difficult to assign to specific human types, the artifacts are unmistakably the work of modern humans," Hoffecker said.

The sediment overlying the artifacts was dated by several methods, including an analysis of an ash layer deposited by a monumental volcanic eruption in present-day Italy about 40,000 years ago, Hoffecker said. The researchers also used optically stimulated luminescence dating -- which helps them determine how long ago materials were last exposed to daylight -- as well as paleomagnetic dating based on known changes in the orientation and intensity of Earth's magnetic field and radiocarbon calibration.

Anatomically modern humans are thought to have arisen in sub-Saharan Africa around 200,000 years ago.

Kostenki also contains evidence that modern humans were rapidly broadening their diet to include small mammals and freshwater aquatic foods, an indication they were "remaking themselves technologically," he said. They may have used traps and snares to catch hares and arctic foxes, exploiting large areas of the environment with relatively little energy. "They probably set out their nets and traps and went home for lunch," he said.

While there is some evidence Neanderthals once occupied the plains of Eastern Europe, they seem to have been scarce or absent there during the last glacial period when modern humans arrived, he said. The lack of competitors like the Neanderthals might have been the chief attraction to the area and the reason why modern humans first entered this part of Europe, Hoffecker said.

"Unlike the Neanderthals, modern humans had the ability to devise new technologies for coping with cold climates and less than abundant food resources," he said. "The Neanderthals, who had occupied Europe for more than 200,000 years, seem to have left the back door open for modern humans. "

The ivory artifact believed to be the head of a small figurine, discovered during the 2001 field season, was broken and perhaps never was finished by the person who began crafting it more than 40,000 years ago, said Hoffecker. "This is a really interesting piece," he said. "If confirmed, it will be the oldest example of figurative art ever discovered."

Buried under 10 feet to 15 feet of silt, the artifacts at Kostenki include blades, scrapers, drills and awls, as well as sturdy antler digging tools known as mattocks that resemble crude pick-axes, he said. Mattocks have been found at other Old World sites and the arctic and were used to dig large pits for the storage of foods and fuel, although traces of such pits have yet to turn up at the lowest levels of Kostenki, he said.

Large animal remains at Kostenki include mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, bison, horses, moose and reindeer. A bone chemistry analysis from 30,000-year-old human remains indicates a high consumption of freshwater aquatic foods -- either water birds, fish, or both -- more evidence for efficient food gathering techniques, he said.

Except for some early sites in the Near East, the oldest evidence modern humans outside of Africa comes from the Australian continent roughly 50,000 years ago, said Hoffecker, who was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2006. Several modern human sites in south-central Europe may be almost as old as Kostenki, he said.

Update:John Hawks' long and interesting comments are here and here.


Russian history 8: Results achieved by the Varangian kings

We have seen that the most important goals of the Varangian kings were:

  • to unite the Slavic tribes;
  • to establish trade routes and to secure them;
  • to protect Russia from outside enemies.

The goods, received as a tribute, were transported to Kiev in spring. The Kievan rulers used these large quantities of goods to trade with Byzantians. Every spring, large caravans of boats gathered in Kiev. Such boat (ladya in Russian or monoxyle in Greek) carried thousands of kilograms of cargo and 40-50 crewmen. Going down the Dnieper, they reached the cataracts, took the cargo and slaves to the dry land and carried them around the dangerous place. While some people carried the cargo, others stood on guard to ward off possible attacks of Pechenegs. The unloaded ladyas passed the cataracts. Having reached the Black Sea, they went to the West, following the Bulgarian banks. When they came to Constantinople, they settled in the suburb called St. Mama and lived there for six months or more. Russian merchants and ambassadors received food from Byzantian stores for free. No more than 50 people were allowed to enter the city itself. So, it was a kind of a Russian fair in the suburbs of Constantinople.

It should be clear now why Oleg named Kiev "the mother of the Russian cities" and why Kiev achieved such prominent position. Kiev was the southernmost Russian city and it served as the main store of the exported goods and the primary market for the imported goods. Kiev was the trade centre of the whole country.

A Body Of A Nomad Found In Permafrost On Altai

Ancient 'warrior' found in permafrost:
RUSSIAN archaeologists have uncovered the 2000-year-old remains of a warrior preserved intact in permafrost in the Altai mountains region, the official Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily says.

The warrior was blond had tattoos on his body. He was wearing a felt coat with sable fur trimmings and was buried in a wooden frame containing drawings of mythological creatures with an icepick beside him, the paper said.

Local archaeologists believe the man was part of the ruling elite of a local nomadic tribe known as the Pazyryk. Numerous other Pazyryk tombs have been found in the area.

“This is definitely a very serious discovery. It's incredibly lucky that the burial was in permafrost so it was very well preserved,” Alexei Tishkin, an Altai archaeologist, was quoted as saying.

The original article adds also that the body was found on the border between the Altai republic (a part of Russian federation) and Mongolia. The local population of the Altai republic are upset by archaeologists 'disturbing' their predecessors and the historians have to explore the surrounding area of Pazyryk, mostly in Mongolia. It seems that the educational level in Altai is dropping faster than in other parts of Russia and Mongolia.

Alexey Tishkin says also that "this warrior is not a Scythian, as many newspapers have reported, he just lived at about the same time as the Scythians did." He doesn't seem to share the common (among the laymen, like me) idea that the Pazyryk people, in spite of their unusual appearance, were Scythians.

Two interesting articles about Pazyryk culture are:

Scythian Contemporaries

Ice Mummies: Siberian Ice Maiden

See also the web-museum of Novosibirsk State University.

More on strange news from Russian archaeologists

It seems that the story is a bit exaggerated, as usual. The settlement at Staraya Maina belongs to Imenkovo culture and it is, probably, the oldest Imenkovo settlement. Some historians think that this culture was a Slavic one.

Actually, there are some grounds for this. When Bulgarians came to the Middle Volga, many earlier cultures, including Imenkovo, were either driven away or assimilated. It is thought that the people of Imenkovo left the region and moved to region between Dnieper and Don, where they formed Volyntsevo culture, very similar to Imenkovo. Volyntsevo culture, as it seems, is a Slavic culture. If so, we could make an assumption that Imenkovo is also a Slavic culture.

The founds made at Staraya Maina, dated by IV CE, could then make it the earliest settlement that can be attributed to Slavs. But there are many scientists who link Imenkovo culture with Turks or Finno-Ugrians. The funny thing is that the former historians are from Kazan and the latter ones are from Hungary...


Russian history 7: History of Varangian kings

There are few reliable facts about the life of Roerik. It is said that first he settled in Ladoga and moved to Novgorod only after his brothers died. There are also stories about a rebellion against him, led by someone Vadim the Brave. Many people fled from Roerik's Novgorod to Kiev which was ruled by two Varangians, Ascold and Dir.

After Roerik's death, his son Igor (Ingvarr in Scandinavian) was a child and Roerik's relative Oleg (Helgi) became a regent. Oleg together with Igor moved southward along the trade route known as "The route from the Varangian to the Greeks," conquered towns Lyubech and Smolensk and went to Kiev. He killed Ascold and Dir and made Kiev his capital city, saying that Kiev will become "the mother of the Russian cities". So, he achieved his first goal, to unite all towns along the trade way under one ruler. From Kiev he continued to conquer other Russian tribes, such as Drevlyans, Severians, Radimichs. He set Russia free from the Khazars and built a number of fortresses along the Eastern border of Russia.

Like his predecessors, Ascold and Dir, Oleg tried to attack Byzantium. In 907, he sieged the town. Greeks payed him a large tribute and signed a peace treaty, which was confirmed in 912. Some folk tales tell a story of this siege and mention that Oleg put his ships on wheels and attacked Constantinople from land, while Greeks expected him from the sea. Oleg created a large country from a number of disjoint tribes, got rid of Khazars and established trade routes with Byzantium.

After Oleg's death, Igor became the ruler. He was not a gifted chieftain and his two most important wars were not successful. In Asia Minor, he lost a sea battle, and in 945, he tried to attacked Constantinople again, but signed a new peace treaty, which is considered to be not as advantegeous for Russians as the previous one. He was killed in the land of Drevlyans, when he tried to collect larger, than usually, tribute.

His wife, Olga (Helga) ruled together with her small son Svyatoslav. According to the Slavs' traditions, widows were highly respected and the position of women was generally better than in the Western Europe. Chroniclers describe her as a wise ruler. Her most important input in history was the acceptance of Christianity.

Olga's son Svyatoslav, unlike previous rulers, had a Slav name, but he was remained a typical Varyag. He spent most of his life in military campaigns. He subjugated Vyatichs, seized main Khazar cities of Sarkel and Itil, triumphed over the tribes of Yas and Kasogs (Circassians), Volga Bulgarians and seized their capital Bulgar. Rus became the leading force on the Northern banks of the Black Sea. But the fall of Khazars strengthened the Pechenegs who soon became the most important enemies of Russia

Byzantians asked Svyatoslav to help them in the war against the Danubian Bulgars. Svyatoslav conquered Bulgaria and stayed there, since he considered Bulgaria his own property. Attacks of Pechenegs on Kiev made him to come back. Olga asked him to stay in Kiev, but he left again to Bulgaria as soon as she died, leaving his sons in Kiev. Greeks, though, didn't want to lose Bulgaria and started a war against Svyatoslav. Emperor John Tzimiskes sieged Svyatoslav in Dorostol and forced him to leave Bulgaria. On the way to Kiev, Svyatoslav's army was attacked by Pechenegs and he was killed near the Dnieper cataracts.

After his death, his three sons, Yaropolk, Oleg and Vladimir, started a bloody strife and Yaropolk and Oleg were killed. During the strife, some Slav tribes seceded from the Kievan Rus and Vladimir had to spend much time to tame them. He also waged wars with Bulgarians and Greeks. During the latter war, he was converted into Christianity.

Russian history 6: Legends about Varangian kings

I omit the first 5 chapters of the book, describing the geographical features of European Russia, tribes inhabiting Russian territory in the prehistoric times, etc.

First Russian historical chronicles, "letopisi", are dated by XI century. The first one, "original chronicle", was compiled by a monk named Nestor from legends and Greek (Byzantine) sources. It described events from the creation of the world to 1074. This letopis was lost, but its copies, added and re-written, became the base for the Tale of The Passing Years, written in Kiev in the early XII century by abbot Sylvester. The Tale was also appended and modified by other chroniclers, but the beginning of these later tales remains the same and describes the legend about the formation of the first Russian state by Varangian (or Varyag) kings.

The legend tells that a long time ago, Varangian kings came to Russia to collect tribute from Slavic and Finnish tribes. Slavs and Finns revolted and forced Varangians to leave the country. Later, though, internal feuds made them to send an embassy to the Varangians and ask them to send a king to Russia: "Our country is rich and large, but there is no order in our lands, so come and be our kings." In 862, according to the chronicles, three brothers came to Russia withtheir families and retinues, known in Russian as "druzhina." These were Roerik (Hroerikr), who settled in Novgorod, Sineus in Beloozero and Truwor in Izborsk (near modern Pskov). After the death of Sineus and Truwor, Roerik becam the only king of the Northern lands.

The legend is not clear and reliable. For example, it is known that 20 years before the arrival of Roerik, a strong tribe of Rus fought with Greeks on the Black sea and attacked Constantinople in June, 860. The legend maintains that Rus was a Scandinavian tribe, while it is known that Greeks and Arabs distinguished between Varangians (Northmen) and Rus, a mixed Scandinavian-Slavic tribe who lived near the Black Sea. These controversies became the source of long discussions between Russian historians, who formed two schools: Normanists and Slavists. The former think that Rus was a tribe of Northmen, while the latter say that the name Rus is Slavic.

Probably, we should assume that the word rus was used to name the Varangian retinues en masse, not only one tribe. Since many Slavs became members of these druzhinas and even formed their kernel, the name was transferred to the Slav warriors and later to the whole land and people.

(posted at Sima Qian Studio)


Strange news: origin of Russians questioned

I haven't checked the Russian sources yet, but couldn't refrain from posting this: Ancient Vishnu idol found in Russian town
MOSCOW: An ancient Vishnu idol has been found during excavation in an old village in Russia's Volga region, raising questions about the prevalent view on the origin of ancient Russia. The idol found in Staraya (old) Maina village dates back to VII-X century AD. Staraya Maina village in Ulyanovsk region was a highly populated city 1700 years ago, much older than Kiev, so far believed to be the mother of all Russian cities. "We may consider it incredible, but we have ground to assert that Middle-Volga region was the original land of Ancient Rus. This is a hypothesis, but a hypothesis, which requires thorough research," Reader of Ulyanovsk State University's archaeology department Dr Alexander Kozhevin told state-run television Vesti . Dr Kozhevin, who has been conducting excavation in Staraya Maina for last seven years, said that every single square metre of the surroundings of the ancient town situated on the banks of Samara, a tributary of Volga, is studded with antiques. Prior to unearthing of the Vishnu idol, Dr Kozhevin has already found ancient coins, pendants, rings and fragments of weapons. He believes that today's Staraya Maina, a town of eight thousand, was ten times more populated in the ancient times. It is from here that people started moving to the Don and Dneiper rivers around the time ancient Russy built the city of Kiev, now the capital of Ukraine. An international conference is being organised later this year to study the legacy of the ancient village, which can radically change the history of ancient Russia. (posted at Sima Qian Studio)

Historian Sergey Platonov

I plan to use this blog to publish a very condensed, sketchy translation of a course in Russian history, written by one of the best Russian historians of the XX century -- Sergey Fyodorovich Platonov. Wikipedia has a very short article about this outstanding personality, but since, in my opinion, he deserves a more detailed biography, I would like to start with a short description of his life.

All articles from this blog will also be posted at Sima Qian Studio history forum.

Sergey Platonov was born in Chernigov, not far from Kiev, on June 16, 1860. In 1878 he entered the St.Petersburg university. In 1888, he published his first large work, where he tried to use Russian folk-tales as a source of new information about the period called the Time of Troubles (the interregnum between 1598-1613), which remained his favourite period for the rest of his life. The work was published both as a thesis and as a monography and received the Uvarov Award of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

In 1899, he became a doctor of sciences and published 'The Time of Troubles' (translation by John T. Alexander published by University Press of Kansas in 1987), an extensive review of the Russian society of the early XVII century.

Platonov became famous when he prepared two history courses: Lectures on Russian history (1899) for universities and a Coursebook on Russian history for schools (1909-1910). For some years, Platonov taught the children of emperor Alexander III, duke Mikhail and duchess Olga. Nikolay II, though, didn't like his works, since they "did not cause love to the fatherhood or the pride of the Russian people." Platonov attempted to avoid the subjective viewpoints of other historians of that period: Kluchevsky's liberalism, conservative monarchism of Ilovaisky, marxism of Pokrovsky. "There is no need to introduce any personal viewpoints into history, since a subjective idea is not a scientific idea."

His opinion of the Bolshevist revolution was negative. The political program of the Soviets is "contrived and utopian," he said. "My worldview was based on Christian morale, positivist philosophy and scientific theory of evolution. Atheism is just alien to me as the religious dogmatism." After the revolution, he worked as the chairman of the Russian administration of archives, director of Pushkin House and the Library of the Academy of Sciences. He published new works about Peter I, relations between Russia and Europe in XVI-XVII centuries, earliest Russian settlements on the banks of the Arctic Ocean, etc.

In 1929, OGPU (ex-Cheka) checked the archives, managed by Platonov and found some documents written by Nikolay II and his brother Mikhail. Platonov was accused of hiding these documents (he reported about them in 1926) and dismissed. Worse than that, in 1930, he was accused of participation in a counter-revolutionary monarchist plot and arrested together with many other famous non-marxist historians.

In August 1931, the main 'criminals' were sentenced to 5 years of exile and deported to Samara, where I live. In 1933, he died here in Samara, but I still do not know where.

(posted at SimaQianStudio)