Writing in 922, Ibn Fadlan described the Rus' ruler (like the Khazar khagan), as having little real authority. Instead, political and military power was wielded by a deputy, who "commands the troops, attacks enemies, and acts as his representative before his subjects." The supreme king of the Rus', on the other hand, "has no duties other than to make love to his slave girls, drink, and give himself up to pleasure." He was guarded by 400 men, "willing to die for him ... These 400 sit below the royal throne: a large and bejewelled platform which also accommodates the forty slave-girls of his harem." Ibn Fadlan wrote that the Rus' ruler would almost never leave his throne and even "when he wants to go riding his horse is led up to him, and on his return the horse is brought right up to the throne." Ibn Rustah, on the other hand, reported that the khagan was the ultimate authority in settling disputes between his subjects. His decisions, however, were not binding, so that if one of the disputants disagreed with the khagan's ruling, the dispute was then resolved in a battle, which took place "in the presence of the contestants' kin who stand with swords drawn; and the man who gets the better of the duel also gets the decision about the matter in dispute."
The dichotomy between the relative powerlessness of the nominal ruler and the great authority of his subordinate reflects the structure of Khazar government, with secular authority in the hands of a Khagan Bek only theoretically subordinate to the khagan, and it agrees with the traditional Germanic system, where there could be a division between the king and the military commander. Moreover, some scholars have noted similarities between this dual kingship and the postulated relationship between Igor and Oleg of Kiev in the early 10th century (compare Askold and Dir in the 9th century). The institution of separate sacral ruler and military commander may be observed in the reconstructed relationship between Oleg and Igor, but whether this is part of the Rus' Khaganate's legacy to its successor-state is unknown. The early Kievan Rus' principalities exhibited certain distinctive characteristics in their government, military organization, and jurisprudence that were comparable to those in force among the Khazars and other steppe peoples; some historians believe that these elements came to Kievan Rus' from the Khazars by way of the earlier Rus' Khagans.
Read more about this topic: Rus' Khaganate
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