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    Exclamation [Preview] The Kievan Rus'

    The Kievan Rus
    Introduction to the History of the Kievan Rus':

    While the lands of the Rus' have been occupied for centuries, their history truly lies within the heart of the Norse people - those who many know today as the Vikings. For many years, the Norse had been terrorizing the known world, raiding and attacking every civilized country in Europe. However, in their search for glory and gold, the Norsemen would create one of the largest and most powerful kingdoms in all of Europe.
    The Early Period

    It is said that the first true Rus' were Swedish of origin, crossing the Baltic Seas in order to find new land and new places to trade. They first settled in a town they called "Aldeigjuborg" near modern day Ladoga. The name came from the Finnish Alode-joki, which meant "lowland river". As the name suggests, the Norse continued their tradition of building a fortified settlement on or near the edge of a river.
    From here, the Norse settlers traded with and ruled over the surrounding tribes of Finns, Balts and Slavs. The Norse enacted tribute from the tribes of the Chudes, Merias, Veses, and Krivichs until the tribes unexpectedly rose up against them and kicked them out of their land. According to the Primary Chronicle, a written history of the Rus', they "…drove the Varangians back beyond the sea, refused to pay them tribute, and set out to govern themselves". Soon, however, they began fighting amongst themselves and invited the chieftain Rorik to rule over them.
    The Rorikid Dynasty

    Although the Primary Chronicle states he is a Varangian, there are many theories of Rorik's origins. His name is written in a number of different languages, such as Old Norse Hrśrekr or Hrřrikr, the Slavic Riurik, or the Germanic Hrodric. One such opposing theory to the Chronicles is that Rorik was actually of Wendish descent - a Slav from the area around Pomerania. Another states that Rorik is actually the same man of Hrörek, a Viking King of Frisia.
    Whatever his origins may be, it is known that upon arriving in 862, he immediately began expanding his rule. In almost no time at all (exact dates are unknown) he ruled over the forts Lyubsha, Áluborg, Duboviki, Sarskoe, Timerevo, and the great city Holmgarđr (modern Novgorod). Rurik remained in rule until he died in the year 879. Oleg, his kinsman, ruled in place of his son Igor (Old Norse Ingvarr) while he was too young to rule.
    The Years of Oleg.

    Oleg proved himself to be a great ruler, expanding his predecessor's territory even more. In the year 882, Oleg attacked and conquered a city ruled by two Norse warlords named Askold and Dir. After gaining the great city of Kiev (called Kśnugarđr in Old Norse), Oleg moved his capitol from Novgorod to there. Kiev soon grew to a rich and prosperous city under Oleg, and continued to expand his rule. In the year 907, he launched a raid from Kiev on the mighty city of Constantinople. When he found the entrance to the Bosporus blocked and the gates to Constantinople barred, he fixed wheels to each of his ships and rolled them to the walls. Oleg nailed his shield above the gates, showing the Romans that the Rus' were dangerous.

    Society and Culture.

    Government and Society.

    1. Khagan
    At the top of the social ladder was the Khagan. A term borrowed from the neighboring Khazar Empire, Khagan can be loosely translated as "King of Kings" in old Turkic. It is thought that the Rus' wished to be as powerful as their neighbors and so copied many of their policies and customs to become more like them. Although the later Rus' rulers would be referred to as "Velikiy knyaz" ("Grand Prince" or "Grand King"), the term Khagan would continue to be used in ceremonies and texts well into the eleventh century. The Khagan ruled over all of the classes, including the lesser princes. One of his jobs was to be the military chieftain. He had the Druzhina at his command for when he wished to march to war, and he could also call the Voi - the general levy - out to war with him. The king was also the religious leader in pagan times, much like the Scandinavian kings. He also had minor administrative duties, although it was mainly watching over the lesser nobility and princes to make sure they did their own duties.

    2. Knyaz
    Underneath the Khagan or king there were the Princes. Although these didn't necessarily have to be related to the king, they did have to be a part of the upper Nobility - who would later be known as the Boyars. First and foremost, they were administrators and governors. The senior princes also served as advisors to the king, in wartime and peace. The Princes each had their following of druzhina, who would often be called upon by the king to march with him into war. The size of the Prince's administrative center would determine the size of the druzhina he had.

    3. Druzhina
    The Druzhina were the landed elites and lesser nobility of the Rus'. Although many of the younger and lower nobles joined a larger druzhina, it was not required to be a noble to join the druzhina. Also, if a man of the druzhina decided to leave, he would not lose his lands as a punishment. The druzhina enjoyed a high social status and a very high pay from their lord, as well as plenty of gifts. Eventually the druzhina became more ethnically diverse, when members of the Slavic tribes and nobles began to join.

    4. Kupets
    Below the druzhina were the middle classes, composed mostly of merchants. As much of the Kievan Rus' wealth was based in trade and their markets, the merchants enjoyed a huge amount of privileges and rights. In their own lands, they were allowed to deal with thieves without involving the authorities. Even the princes invested heavily in the merchant class. Like the Scandinavian vikingr, these men were warriors when they needed to be. As many Roman and Muslim sources state, they wore swords with them at all times. They were often included in the garrisons of towns, since they could afford their own arms and armor.

    5. Liudi (Craftsmen and townfolk)
    Underneath the merchants were the people who made a merchant's job possible; the middle class craftsmen and townsfolk. The Liudi formed the bulk of the population, and were often the largest part of the garrisons and the voi (levy). They were not poor, per say, but certainly not rich. A craftsman could be a merchant as well, but they usually sold their goods to a merchant who could ship it elsewhere. They had a much more considerable weight in politics as well; a prince knew he must meet the approval of the townsfolk and other people in his city, otherwise face certain death. Much like the Scandinavian population to the North, the townspeople met at meetings and voted for any problem that may occur.

    6. Smerdi
    Below the Liudi were the Smerdi - literally, "stinkers" - who were the poorest of the poor in Rus' society. They often were peasants relying on wealthy lords for jobs, food and shelter. They usually practiced sharecropping (cultivating the land of another and taking some of the crops as payment) which would later develop into feudalism. Smerdi were usually left exempt from military unless a dire emergency occurred, because they were often too poor to afford any form of weapon. This meant, however, that they were severely lacking in the rights that their upperclassmen enjoyed. The only class below them were the slaves, but they were left outside of Rus' society.

    From the founding of the Khaganate to their Christianization, the Rus' practiced several different forms of paganism. The Norse elite practiced Norse paganism (called nowadays Ĺsatru) and the Slavic locals still worshiped their ancient gods. After many years, the two began to intermix forming a unique cult to the Rus'. Many of the Slavic and Norse gods could be associated with each other, and so the religions grew together. It is said that the warriors of the army and druzhina continued to worship the high god Odin - the Norse god of Victory - until the late 12th century. In the late 10th century, before Vladimir I of Kiev converted the kingdom to Christianity, he set statues to the many Slavic gods in the courtyard of the palace in Kiev.

    Main Deities:

    The Norse God of Victory, Poetry, War, and Death. He was the chief God of the Norse pantheon, called "Allfather" by the Norse for his hand in the creation of the world. He wields the spear Gungnir, a magic spear that will never miss its target when thrown. He has in his company two ravens - Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory) - and two wolves - Geri and Freki - who scout for him and tell him what goes on in Midgard (our world).

    God of Thunder, Lightning, and Strength. He wields the mighty Mjolnir (Crusher in Old Norse), a hammer that strikes with lightning when thrown. He was the mortal enemy of the Giants, and would do anything he could to smite them down. As such, the people prayed to him for strength and protection.

    The Chief god of the Slavs, Perun was often equated with the Norse Thor or the Baltic Perkunas. He was the God of Thunder and Lightning, like Thor, and constantly battled Veles - the god of the Underworld. He was often symbolized as an eagle, and wielded his powerful ax with great force.

    Svarog :
    Another Slavic god, Svarog was the god of Smithing and marriage. He forged weapons for the gods and helped to solve disputes. In Old Slavic his name is said to mean "quarrel".

    Christianity and the Rus'

    The Rus had come into contact with Christianity much in their pagan years. As traders and merchants, they traveled all over the world, including the lands of the Greeks and the Romans. In the 860's, the Patriarch Photius sent missionaries to the lands of the Rus' to convert them in response to their massive raid on Greek lands. However, in less than 50 years it seems that Christianity was almost entirely forgotten.

    It is said in the Primary Chronicles and in the myths that Christianity came to the Rus' through Vladimir the Great. He felt that the old pagan religions were not sophisticated enough for his great empire, and so decided that he needed a change. He sent envoys to all the corners of the earth to learn of the different religions of the greatest empires. All came back to tell him of the strange things they had seen. One came back from the German Empire and even Rome herself, one came from the Arabs to the South, one from the Jews to the East, and one came from the Roman Empire to the South. The envoy that returned from Germany told him of the boring rituals and the absence of beauty of the Roman Catholic Church. The envoy from the Jews seemed promising, but Vladimir questioned him deeply. Eventually he decided, "The loss of your holy city, Jerusalem, shows me that your God does not truly love you." The envoy from the Arabs began telling of Islam and it's wonderful customs, but about halfway through the tale Vladimir stopped him. He said,
    "No pork? No alcohol? Drinking is the joy of the Rus' and I do not think we can live without it."
    Last, the envoy from the Greek lands came. He said,
    "...And we went into the Greek lands, and we were led into a place where they serve their God, and we did not know where we were, on heaven or on earth; and do not know how to tell about this. All we know is that God lives there with people and their service is better than in any other country. We cannot forget that beauty since each person, if he eats something sweet, will not take something bitter afterwards; so we cannot remain any more in paganism."
    - Russian Primary Chronicle, diplomat speaking to Vladimir I of the Eastern Roman Empire.

    Reality, however, was a little different. During the reign of Vladimir, the Rus' were a fledgling state. Vladimir tried to secure his reign over the rest of the throne rivals, and searched for powerful allies that could help him in his struggles. The Khazars were in decline, the Arabs and Latins were too far away and the nearest power was the Roman Empire, which had common borders with him. He invaded the Roman province of Cherson and occupied its capital for less than a year in 988AD. He demanded only one ransom to return the province to its rightful owners; the sister of the Roman Emperor, Anna. In other times such a request would be the greatest insult to the Emperor but in that year a city called Veroia had fallen in to Bulgarian hands, and the rival to the throne Vardas Phokas reached Chrisopolis across Constantinople and threatened the legitimate Emperor with Saracens to help him in return of Asia Minor lands. Basil II though that if he would ask Vladimir to become a Christian in order to marry his sister Vladimir would deny. But Vladimir saw that opportunity to make his political position even stronger if he would be a brother in law of the most powerful ruler on earth and such a sacrifice was worthy to be made. That decision of his started a limited scale civil war in the Kievan lands but Vladimir was the winner. Vladimir returned Cherson province to Roman Empire after his marriage. To secure his “investment” Vladimir sent a “drusina” (company) of 6000 men to protect the Roman Emperor from his throne rivals. This was the beginning of the famous Varangian Guard.


    Basic Overview.

    The Ancient Rus' military reflects its Scandinavian origins strongly, but with a twist on the usual Viking-style warfare. The early Rus' army is composed mainly of powerful infantry, but with some Slavic auxiliaries - including cavalry. In Viking tradition, warriors fought in a tactical style called the shield wall. The soldiers formed a line, overlapping their shields at chest- and knee-height to form a protective barrier. Most - if not all - infantry would have been trained in this formation, as it was an excellent defense. Projectiles such as rocks, spears and javelins would be thrown at the advancing enemy (or in some cases, the opposing shield wall). Arrows would also be shot at the other side from behind the safety of the shield wall, until the shield walls would slowly advance. Spears and swords were the preferred weapon while in shield wall formation, as axes were hard to swing in such a tight space.

    Although in their later years, the druzhina became mounted and took the form of heavy cavalry, in the time period before the Rus' deployed almost all infantry - so much of their tactics were based on infantry formations and strength of arms.
    Military Composition.

    Druzhina Kagana


    Although the Rus' were mainly composed of the Norse Vikings, they still adopted many of the names of the Slavic peoples they conquered. One of these names was the druzhina - coming from the slavic word drug, which meant "friend". The Druzhina Kagana literally translated to "the Khagan's companions". The druzhina - in its many different forms - made up the bulk of the army while the local Slavic levies were rarely used in true campaigns. The Khagan would have chose his companions from the strongest and most proven warriors of his lands. Although much of his warriors would be armed in the typical chainmail hauberks of his ancestors, through trade with the Romans and other Eastern peoples lamellar became much more common. Only the best could afford this armor, however, so the Khagan's druzhina is one of the few that can potentially own lamellar.
    Although the Norse were quite proficient with the sword and the spear, they were specifically known for one weapon; the powerful Dane ax, a massive two handed ax capable of cleaving man, horse, or shield completely in two. They were so well known for their axes that when the Romans incorporated them into their ranks to form the Varangian Guard, they named them the "axe-bearing foreigners". With their large Dane axes, the druzhina form powerful shock troops - but this isn't their only skill. They are also armed with a sword and a large round shield, giving them the ability to fight in the true style of their ancestors.

    Since the Ancient Slavs came into contact with the Norse people, they have referred to them as varjazi or varęgŭ - a cognate of the Old Norse vćringjar, meaning "sworn person" or "pledge companion". These are the men known from Scotland to the Middle East as the "ax-bearing foreigners". The Roman Empire was impressed by them from the very first time they waged war; so impressed, in fact, that they would go on to create an entire Imperial Guard composed of them. The Varjazi are formed of nobles and men who have left their frozen Scandinavian homelands to travel in the East to find their fortune or a glorious death. They are experienced and wise, as well as very well-armored. Each warrior wears chainmail and a Nordic-style helm, and wields the combination of the axe and shield to deadly effect.

    Another Norse tradition, the Huskarlar (meaning "house man" in Old Norse) were retainers of the Jarl or Prince. In the Norse world, the huskarls were the bodyguards of important people, warriors and could be important people themselves. In the lands of the Rus', the Huskarlar retained their important status, but they were somewhat lower of status than the druzhyna who guarded the King. Because of their high status, their pay was fairly substantial and they used it wisely. They were armored in thick chainmail and strong helmets, and armed with massive Dane axes, in the tradition of their Norse ancestors. As with many of the Rus', their sheer ferocity in battle was enough to terrify even the most fearless Roman general.


    Underneath the noble troops were the part of the lesser druzhina. Their name literally translates to "footmen" in Old Slavic, as most of them did not own a horse. These were young men, usually sons of nobility and the upper classes. They could afford decent armor, usually chainmail but occasionally lamellar as well. In the Rus' traditions a man would be given a sword when he was born, as described by Ibn Rustah: "When a son is born the father will go up to the newborn baby, sword in hand; throwing it down, he says; 'I shall not leave you any property: you have only what you can provide with this weapon!'" The sword was almost a sacred symbol to the Rus', as it indicated a certain social status that the lower classes could only aspire to.


    As with the Peshatsi, these men form the bulk of the druzhina. They are somewhat poorer than the upper level of the druzhina, but still can be much better equipped than the lower classes. They can afford short chainmail shirts and leather armor, and use a combination of spears and large shields. Their name, Bronist'tsi, literally means "armored" in Old Russian, and refers to the fact that these are defensive troops. They should be used as the backbone of any defending Rus' army, forming the main line or the shield wall of the Rus'. Once packed into the shield wall they will not be broken or routed by any troops but the absolute best.

    During the early Middle Ages, archery in Europe began to decline. Archers became the cheapest military units and bows were regarded as little more than peasant weapons. However, in Norse warfare a great archer was revered. The Germanic longbow originated in the cold lands of Scandinavia and as such the men of the North were masters of the bow. As the Swedes, Ruossi and Slavs passed through Russia, they often hunted for the beautiful animal furs that Russia had to offer. In order to hunt, they had to be highly skilled at using the bow. These men were often utilized by the military to support the heavy troops and provide suppressing fire. As all rulers should know; any man, no matter how powerful a warrior he is, can die from a well-placed arrow.


    The Vikingar; the calling card of the Norsemen. The word Vikingr literally came to mean "one who goes on a viking (an expedition)". In other countries, the Vikingar came to be known as pirates, raiders and cutthroats, but they were truly traders, merchants, explorers and warriors. All men in Norse society were trained in warfare, so every man could become a warrior when needed. These men are clothed in chainmail haubergeons over gambeson, and armed with cruel axes ready to bite deep into their foes. These men of the North are hardy and strong, ready to fight for their king at any moment.
    Allied or local troops.

    Khazar Bégleri

    Before the Rus' established their massive kingdom, another group of people aimed to rule over the lands of modern Russia. The Khazar Khaganate once encompassed much of the southern Steppes, eastern Russia, the northern Caucasus and northern Turkey. Their capital was based in the great city of Atil, a massive trade and multi-ethnic center. The Khazars were a sophisticated people, of many different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Through dealings with the Eastern Roman Empire to the west of them and the Arabs to their south, they also developed a strong military base. The ancient Rus' knew of their power and were considered vassals to the Khagan. The Rus' even went as far as copying much of their customs and government in order to become more like them. Eventually, in the year 968, Prince Svyatoslav of Kiev sacked Atil, and sent the Khazar Empire into a downward spiral that they could not return from. These noblemen are remnants of great Khazaria, and are highly trained heavy cavalry. Once their lands have been conquered, they may decide to join with the army of their new rulers.
    Velmozhe (Slavic Nobles)

    Once the Norse settled in Russia and created a kingdom over the Slavs, the old aristocracy was soon replaced by the new Norse elites. Although they remained alive and a part of the kingdom, they were not held as high in society as the Norse were. Much of the eastern Slavs had a lot of contact with Steppe warriors, including the famous Khazars, and the Eastern Romans, and so retained a certain level of horsemanship that the Norse did not have. So, any Slavs who wished a higher standard of life could become a part of the druzhina and fight for his glory. They formed much needed heavy cavalry, clad in heavy chain mail and armed with deadly spears.
    Konnitsa (Tribal Cavalry)


    Before the Norse arrived, the Slavs dealt with many eastern peoples; the Khazars, Avars, Huns, Magyars and Pechenegs raided, terrorized, and - some - even attempted to conquer the Slavs. In dealing with so many cultures centering around horses and cavalry, the eastern Slavs took up the traditions of horsemanship and became excellent riders. Cavalry became natural, and many Slavs began to domesticate their own horses. These men are lower status than the nobles, however can still afford to own their own horse. Being unarmored for the most part, these horsemen are swift and can be quite deadly to archers and fleeing enemies, but should not be kept in melee.

    As the Rus' conquered more and more Slavic tribes, they began to gain more and more tribes providing tribute to them. That tribute could have been anything from furs and trade-able goods to manpower for their wars. These levies would never be a large part of the armies, as the druzhina made up most of the army; but when war was brought to the villages, towns and cities of the Ruslands these men would rise and fight for their homes and families. They are simply armed, with spears and shields, and only armored in padded clothes, but what they lack in arms, they make up for in courage and valour.
    Voje (Slavic Levies)

    As the Rus' conquered more and more Slavic tribes, they began to gain more and more tribes providing tribute to them. That tribute could have been anything from furs and trade-able goods to manpower for their wars. These levies would never be a large part of the armies, as the druzhina made up most of the army; but when war was brought to the villages, towns and cities of the Ruslands these men would rise and fight for their homes and families. They are simply armed, with javelins and shields, and only armored in padded clothes, but what they lack in arms, they make up for in courage and valour. These men are known for their raiding abilities, and a smart Rus' leader will mainly use these men in ambushes. A Slavic warrior's biggest advantage lay in the element of surprise - as the Romans and other adversaries found, by the time they knew of the ambush it was already too late to run.

    Heathen Storm

    Models and textures:
    Leif Erikson: Textures.
    Koultouras: Models and textures.
    Sumskilz: Models and textures.
    Absinthia: Weapon models.
    Matthaeus: Banner textures and weapon models.
    Lord_Calidor: Weapons and weapon textures.
    CounterPoint391 : Sword models.
    DisgruntledGoat : 1066 mod material
    Dome : Horse textures
    Rusichi Total War team: Models,textures,horses and weapons.

    Spesial thanks to:
    Strelac : for his douple weapon animation and advices.

    Useful info additions:

    The World of the Khazars
    By Peter B. Golden, Haggai Ben-Shammai, András Róna-Tas, Mekhon Ben-Tsevi le-ḥeḳer ḳehilot Yiśraʼel ba-Mizraḥ
    Page 245
    Page 255

    Rus Varangians and Birka Warriors

    The Russian Review (July 1977), 249-273
    by Omeljan Pritsak

    Last edited by AnthoniusII; 08-22-2018 at 13:40.


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