Little is known about the level of culture of the Eastern Slavs. The general image may be given by analyzing some archaic features of their folklore preserved in the language in the form of ritual songs, funeral weeping, riddles and folk-tales. A number of relic, cultural phenomena of that time are reflected in children's games, which developed adroitness, strength and courage. Some archaeological fragments of the 6th - 7th centuries are the evidence of originality and self-independency of applied art.
Old Russian state appeared as a result of the centuries-old history development of the Eastern Slavs. Evidently, the tribal union of the Polyane was its basis. There were deep historical premises for that time. First of all, more developed, than in other Slavs' lands, complex economy, based on ploughed field farming and domestic cattle breeding, the presence of some fortified settlements with developed crafts and the tribal union, existing for centuries, where one could observe the processes of uniting individual tribes, the formation of the common language, culture, property and social differentiation, the singling out of the primitive communal system the feudal class of the members of prince's armed force (men-at-arms) and the formation of the machinery of power.
One cannot but take into account advantageous geographical situation of Kiev as the center of the Polyans' living on the Dnieper. There was also an external factor - a constant threat from nomads, settled in the steppes. All that led to the formation of a single Old Russian state with its center in Kiev.
Archaeological fragments help to observe the whole process of the feudal class and prince's power forming of Kiev Russia, but it did not stop with the beginning of the state. The prince's armed force barrows in the territories of Smolensk, Chernigov, near Yaroslavl and Kiev date from the 9th - 11th centuries. Alongside with the representatives of the feudal class - members of the prince's armed force - some merchants there were also buried. The prince's armed force barrows were set in the bottleneck of the trade routes, in so-called portage.
Gnezdov barrows near Smolensk were situated at the place of adjoining of the Western Dvina with Dnieper on the route 'from the Varangians to the Greeks'. There was the portage from the Dnieper into the river Lovat. Judging by the coins discovered the route appeared at the beginning of the 10th century. In Gnezdov there was the settlement by the portage, where carpenters, craftsmen, farmers and merchants lived. The burial ground is a vast field of about three thousand barrows. Most of the barrows are not so high, about one meter. But among them there is one, which is of ten meters high. Under it the remnants of the bonfire were discovered, where possibly prince and a few women, perhaps bondwomen were burnt. Some iron plates, swords and a helmet were found safe. Close by it, in a special barrow, a horse was buried. In 700 Gnezdov barrows excavated one and the same ceremony of burial-burning was found. That ceremony was carried out either just on the place of putting up the barrow or somewhere aside. However, there were no things at all in a large number of barrows even the traces of burial. Those barrows were put up in the honour of fighters and travelers, perished in a foreign land.
Fragments of Gnezdov barrows are the evidence of wide trade ties of Russia with Scandinavia, Volga Bulgaria, Iran and Trans-Caucasia. In one of the barrows there were found scales, iron weights and a little bronze lock in the form of a butterfly from Volga Bulgaria. In another one - a beautiful Iranian bronze lamp in the form of a woman's head. Central Asian Dirhem found in barrows and buried treasures were widely used as money in the 9th - 10th centuries. It is interesting to note that in circulation there were whole coins as well as parts of them served as a change.
The description of a Russian merchant's funeral in the town of Bulgar made by an Arab diplomat Ibn-Fadlan was also kept safe. The merchant's dust, according to the description, was put into a boat and then into a bonfire. His things and weapon were put beside him. While burying a horse, a cock and a bull were killed. The loving bondwoman of the late was also killed. All this was burnt and then a huge hill was made over the remnants of the bonfire with a post signed. The description of the funeral coincides with the data of excavation.
Prince's armed force barrows give the supporters of the so-called Norman theory the material to claim that the Varangians and the Scandinavians founded the state in Russia. Actually in the period described there was a trade-route 'from the Varangians to the Greeks' and on the territory of the Eastern Slavs one could find the Norman burials in the barrows of the 8th - 10th centuries, including the prince's armed force barrows as well. However there are no grounds to affirm that the Scandinavians (Varangians) constituted the majority in the ruling class of the Ancient Russia.
The set of things found in various prince's armed force barrows characterize the level of the development of culture, crafts, economic ties and military training. Russian members of the prince's armed force used swords up to a meter in length with a wide edge, a straight cross over in the form of a bar. Those swords were intended for fighting. Along the edge of the sword (in the middle) there was a shallow as a rule. The cross over and the top of the sword were decorated with a silver pattern. But one cannot call those swords the Scandinavian ones. Such kinds of swords were widely spread in Europe including Russia.
The beginning of the written language refers to the epoch of forming a class society. In this connection the finding of the first Old Russian legend is of great value. On the surface of one of the Gnezdov vessels and on an earthenware pot only one word was scratched. Some scientists believe there was mustard in the vessel, others - oil for kindling a funeral fire. The Gnezdov legend proves philologists' conclusion that the Old Russian written language exists since the 10th century. Some ordinary for the 10th century coins and a sword were also found in the same barrow. Probably in that vessel a merchant brought some mustard from the south.
Besides, adornments of bronze and silver for women are also a valuable source of excavation. In various parts of Russia they were different and testify the fact that with the beginning of feudal relations and destroying of old tribal borders the differences in traditional culture went on existing. Russian peasants' head - dress was decorated with metal tabs, temple rings, finger rings and bracelets on the hands. They wore beads of rock crystal and cornelian on the breast.
Farmers constituted the main part of Russian population. However, peasants' settlements are not very well investigated yet, as they did not have the fortifications and many of them were destroyed by later settlements. As a rule, they were situated on the high banks of small rivers on the flood-lands of which there were ploughed fields and meadows. Country settlements were also springing up in watersheds where plots of forest were cultivated. Arable farming was the main occupation of the population. They sowed wheat, rye, oats, barley, peas, lentil and millet. As for industrial crops they cultivated flax, hemp, also cabbage and other vegetables. By fragments of animals' bones it became clear that in the 9th - 12th centuries they bred cows, sheep, pigs and horses. As for birds - hens, ducks and geese were known. A great number of Old Russian sickles, short scythes, corn-crushers, iron tips and tips for soil cultivating tools. The development of agriculture and its technical equipment were closely connected with the development of crafts and exchange of goods.