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The Formation of the Ancient Russian State

For a long period time studying of the problem of the Eastern Slavs State formation was inseparable from 'The Story of Temporal Years', also known as 'The Legend about the Vocation of the Varangian Princes' (or the 'Norman' legend). In the legend it was said about the events of the early 60-s of the 9th century, when there were strong disagreement among several Northern Slavonic tribes (clan against clan). It was possible to settle the conflict only thanks to one of the Varangian princes (konung) - Ryurik, who was the representative of the tribe, (known to the chronicle as ' Russ') and who agreed ' to reign and to own' in Novgorod. Then the two of his boyars Askold and Dir settled down in Kiev, that meant the control of the Varangians over the main Eastern Slavonic centers. According to the chronicle that happened in 862. In twenty years Prince Oleg united the Novgorod and Kiev lands.

The story, discovered by German scientists working in Russia in the first half of the 18th century (G.F. Miller, G.Z. Bayer, A.L. Schletzer) was the basis of the theory, known as Normanism and became the starting point of a long and serious debate, echoing even nowadays.
Scientists (and not only they) split up into two schools of thought on the problem of the Ancient Russian State formation - 'Normanists' and 'Antinormanists'. Some of them (N.M. Karamsin, S.M. Soloviev and others) shared the views of the chronicler, while others disproved a number of facts presented in 'The Story of Temporal Years'. Thus they disproved the origin of Ryurik (he was considered to be either a Slav, or a Finn, or a Goth, etc), then they disproved the origin of the name 'Russ' from the Scandinavian tribe 'Russ' (M.V. Lomonosov was among the most famous Antinormanists). However, nowadays those debates have lost their acuteness (although, from time to time one can find some of their signs, but not in pure scientific literature). Today there has been a shift of emphasis to the real reasons of rising of early state formations, but not to the secondary problems of Ryurik's origin and the tribe's name.

So there exists the problem of real interrelations between the Slavs and their neighbours.
The relations were quite strained. The Slavs were under the attacks from both sides: from the North they were attacked by the Scandinavian tribes and from the South they had to resist the attacks of the steppe nomads. As for the latter, they were not only hostile but even alien to the Slavs in their way of life. But with the Varangians they had common interests: common striving for campaigns to rich estates of the Byzantine Empire for the sake of robbery. In this way they created perfect conditions for concluding some peculiar agreements to establish a certain balance of forces in this part of Europe: the Slavs and the Varangians union aiming at making combined attacks on the Byzantine Empire and resisting to nomads. Of course, that 'agreement' was rather a relative one, as it was 'concluded' under pressure, but nevertheless, the mutual interest of both the Slavs and the Varangians in each other was of no doubt. Moreover, as it is seen from the chronicle, the Slavs' society was more and more plunging into the abuss of conflicts, setting of which was quite difficult. So there was a need in an impartial judge, who could not be suspected in liking for this or that conflicting side.

Thus, the Ancient Russian State appeared as a result of the development of the contradictions inside the Slavs' society that could not be solved inside the society itself and so they had to use some help from without to defend themselves. It is quite natural that it was not the Varangians who founded the Ancient Russian State; we deal with the bilateral (to be more precise - multilateral) process in which both external and internal factors are equal and inseparable from each other. The thing is not in a higher level of culture of this or that people (they are about the same, though they could not be alike, but not on the level of 'higher' - 'lower'), the thing is in uniting of different elements, the synthesis of which generates an absolutely new fusion.

The first rulers of the Ancient Russian State - Ryurik, Oleg, Igor, Svyatoslav, Vladimir I - princes the Varangians by birth, who in their actions actively leant for the Varangian prince's armed forces and often considered Russ as a temporal residence (e.g. Svyatoslav, who dreamt of transferring the capital from Kiev to the Danube). However, gradually, with the penetration of the Slavonic nobility into the prince's armed force surrounding, and also as a result of repulse from the Byzantine Empire, aggressive striving began to weaken, transforming Russia into a self-sufficient and a self-respect state, even for the rulers themselves.

It provided conditions for a gradual formation of Russia as a state structure with its own state functions common to any state. Originally, those functions were extremely primitive and were the continuation of the aims that constituted the basis for the Ancient Russian State formation. They extended far beyond Russia itself.

One of the issues debated is the origin of the name 'Russ'. The most debated one is the hypothesis of its Scandinavian origin. According to a number of researchers' opinion, the word 'Russ' originates from the root 'greblya', meaning - 'rowing'. The Scandinavians took the derivative from this root to name themselves as people rowing round the Eastern Baltic and carrying on a trade with the local population speaking Finnish. The latter used the word to denote the Scandinavians in the form of 'ruotsi'. Then the word was borrowed by the Eastern Slavs and was transformed into 'rus'. With settling of the Varangian princes and the prince's armed force in Kiev the name 'rus' was spread through the territory subjected to them - Russ, Russian land and its population - Russian people.

Some authors suppose a local, Eastern European origin of the ethnonym (according to the name of the river Ros).
There is an opinion of its Iranian, Baltic and Slavonic etymology. Anyway, the term 'rus' appeared in the regions of the Dnieper not with the appearance of Prince Oleg's armed forces at the end of 9th century, but it was fixed here in the middle of the century. It is also necessary to note that the problem of the origin of the name 'rus' is not equal to the problem of the formation of the Ancient Russian State system as a social and political process.

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