Rurik (Roric), Scandinavian Duke


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Rurik (Roric), Scandinavian Duke

  • Born: Scandinavia
  • Married:

  Research Notes:

The earliest generations of the so-called Rurikid family are reconstructed solely on the basis of the sparse information in the Povest' vremennykh let or 'Tale of the Years of Time', better known as the Primary Chronicle and also sometimes known as Nestor´s Chronicle. As pointed out by Franklin & Shepard, the extant manuscripts of the Primary Chronicle which date from the 12th century should not be taken at face value as they must have been compiled from patchy sources of information.... [The] historical existence of Rurik´s supposed son Igor, and Igor´s son Sviatoslav, is corroborated by the De Administrando Imperio of Emperor Konstantinos VII Porphyrogennetos, written in the mid-10th century and therefore contemporary with Sviatoslav´s reign.

The arrival of Scandinavian traders in the territories which later developed into "Rus" should be seen in the context of the Khazar and Pecheneg 9th and 10th century occupations of the area, which would appear to have left little opportunity for the establishment of powerful principalities by Scandinavian newcomers, at least in the open plain lands. Archaeological evidence corroborates Scandinavian presence at Gorodishche, Timerëvo and other Upper Volga sites in the late 9th century. This indicates an increasing, although still limited, number of immigrants tempted no doubt by trading opportunities, but Franklin & Shepard point out that it provides little evidence of organised government.... A Scandinavian-origin trading community at Kiev appears to have been formed during the early 900s as an offshoot of the more northerly settlements, although it is possible that the Khazars still exercised hegemony in this area as late as [930]. The Kiev settlement appears to have developed quickly: the De Administrando Imperio describes the Rus way of life. In 941, it was on the point of launching an attack on Constantinople, and in the late 950s it established diplomatic contacts both with the emperor in Constantinople and with the German emperor.

The titles attributed to the rulers of the Rus principalities are a source of confusion, in particular the use of "Grand Prince/Grand Duke" as opposed to "Prince/Duke", especially in relation to the rulers of Kiev and Vladimir. Chirovsky points out that all Kievan princes were theoretically equal (they are all referred to in the Russian chronicles as "Knyaz", female "Knyaginya") and that Vsevolod III Prince of Vladimir was the first prince to start calling himself "Grand Prince/Duke" ("Veliki Knyaz"). 1


According to the Primary Chronicle 860/62, following a call to "the Varangian Russes [=Scandinavians]…to come to rule and reign over us", Rurik and his two brothers migrated to settle, Rurik the oldest brother settling in Novgorod. Franklin & Shephard comment that "the story [in the Primary Chronicle]…remains highly controversial". The initial Scandinavian settlements seem to have been at Gorodishche, the town of Novgorod (as its name implies) being a new settlement which was probably established nearby in the 950s.

The Primary Chronicle records Rurik´s death in 879. This chronology is dubious when compared with the more robust dates attributable to his supposed grandson Sviatoslav....

The name of Rurik´s wife is not known. 2

  Marriage Information:

Rurik married . . . . . . .


1 Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, Medlands: Russia, Introduction.

2 Ibid., Origins [862] - 1019.

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