The Kievan Rus was a powerful empire during the Middle Ages centered around the city of Kiev. It served as the foundation and beginning of both Russia and the Ukraine. Today Kiev is the capital city of the Ukraine.
The people of Rus were originally Vikings from the land of Sweden who migrated to Eastern Europe in the 800s. They established a small kingdom under the rule of King Rurik. The Rurik Dynasty would rule the Rus for the next 900 years.
Map of the Kievan Rus by Panonian at Wikimedia Commons
Establishment of the Kievan State
In 880, King Oleg moved the capital of the Rus from Novgorod to Kiev. This was the start of the Kievan Rus. King Oleg led the Rus in many conquests including raids against Byzantium and Constantinople. Eventually, Oleg established peace with the Byzantine Empire and the Kievan Rus began to prosper.
The Golden Age of the Kievan Rus began with the rule of Vladimir the Great in 980 and continued through the rule of Yaroslav the Wise. During this time the kingdom experienced prosperity, economic growth, and peace.
Vladimir the Great
Vladimir the Great ruled the Kievan Rus from 980 to 1015. He continued the expansion of the Kievan Rus, uniting many of the Slavic states under one rule. He also converted the Rus to Christianity. This conversion strengthened his ties to Constantinople and the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Yaroslav the Wise
After Vladimir the Great died, his son Yaroslav the Wise became king. The Kievan Rus reached their peak during his reign. Yaroslav married many of his daughters and sons to surrounding nations in order to maintain peace and establish trade relations. He also established a written code of laws, built a library in Kiev, and promoted education among his people.
Yaroslav the Wise by Unknown
The Kievan Rus began to decline after Yaroslav the Wise died. In the 13th century, the Mongols invaded the land and brought an end to the united Kievan Rus.
Interesting Facts about the Kievan Rus
Some of the main exports of the Kievan Rus included honey and furs.
Vladimir the Great considered several religions before converting to Christianity. He didn't think the people would accept Islam because they could not drink wine.
The code of laws used by the Kievan Rus was called the Russkaya Pravda, which means "justice of Rus". It was based on the Justinian Code used by Byzantium.
They were culturally advanced with many people being able to read and write.
At its peak, the Kievan Rus was the largest European state in terms of land area.
The leader of the Kievan Rus was called the Grand Prince of Kiev or the Grand Duke of Kiev.