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During the 9th century, Scandinavia in northern Europe is populated by, among others, the Vikings, excellent sailors who explore in all directions to plunder but also to develope trade routes.
0850 ± ⪢⪢
To the south is the powerful Byzantine Empire with its capital Constantinople, an important commercial crossroads between East and West. The city is attractive and interests some Vikings also known as the Varangians.
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They go up the rivers with their light boats that they can then carry to the sources of the Dnieper and reach the Black Sea. In Constantinople, they sell mainly furs, honey and slaves captured along the way.
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The trade route develops rapidly attracting many varangian settlers who go founding fortified trading posts. One if them, called Rurik, is said to have founded the principality of Novgorod, becoming the first of a very long Rurik dynasty.
In 882, his heir Oleg leaves with an army and conquers Smolensk and Kiev. He then founds the Kievan Rus' of which he becomes prince. The new state includes mainly Slavic and Finnish tribes.
In the southeast, tensions rise with the rich Khazar kingdom which controls the important Volga trade route.
In 964, Sviatoslav launches a military expedition against it. After subduing the Volga Bulgaria, he destroys Atil, the Khazar capital, and then confirms his domination by subduing the Bulgarian Empire in the Balkans.
But the Khazar Kingdon, weakened, no longer holds back the nomadic tribes of Central Asia which come to settle in the South of the Kievan Rus'. Among them are the Pechenegs who in 972 kills Sviatoslav during an ambush.
The Kievan Rus' is divided between the 3 heir sons and the fratricidal war breaks out. (0977) Vladimir, the prince of Novgorad, flees to Scandinavia where he forms an army of mercenaries.
He returns, seizes Kiev, kills his brother and takes the title of Grand Prince of Kiev.
In the South, the Byzantine Empire already at war with Bulgarians undergoes an insurrection. The emperor asks Vladimir for help and receives 6,000 warriors.
In exchange, Vladimir asks for the hand of the emperor's sister. But to get married, he first has to break with paganism and convert to Christianity.
After his baptism and wedding, Christianity of the Byzantine Rite becomes the official religion of the Kievan Rus', under the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople.
1019~1054 Yaroslav the Wise ⪢⪢
After Vladimir's death, a new fratricidal war breaks out and turns to the advantage of Yaroslav the Wise. During his rein, the territory of the Kievan Rus' continues to expand and the Pechenegs threat is eliminated. #bookmark
In 1054, after tensions between Rome and Constantinople, Christianity is split between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. This further widens the gap between the Slaves of the Kievan Rus' and the Polish Slaves who had converted to Catholicism.
Yaroslav, who has many sons, fears a new fratricidal war after his death. He then decides to divide the Kievan Rus' into several principalities that he shares between his sons in whom he has the most confidence.
The eldest son gets the most important title of Grand Prince of Kiev. After his death, the cadet will take his place and the princes will change thrones.
This new rotating power-sharing agreement will be the root cause for several generations' numerous internal wars that will exhaust and divide the Kievan Rus'.
In Western Europe, the Catholic religion is more and more on the offensive. The Pope launches the Baltic crusades intended to convert the pagan peoples around the Baltic sea. Germans arrive in Riga and begin their conquest.
At the same time, a fourth crusade, initially sent to the Holly Land, is diverted to Constantinople. The city is besieged and then pillaged.
The Byzantine Empire finds itself divided and Kievan Russia loses an important ally.
￫ divert, besiege, pillage
In the east, the Kahn of the Cumans is attacked by unknown knights coming from the far east who are called the Mongols. The Russian princes form a coalition to repel this new threat but they are defeated. #bookmark
The Mongols then move north where they are defeated by the Bulgarians before disappearing. The Russian princes don't know it yet but this was only a small vanguard on the lookout.