Rus' Khaganate - Origin

Origin

The origins of the Rus' Khaganate are unclear. The first Norse settlers of the region arrived in the lower basin of the Volkhov River in the mid-8th century. The country comprising the present-day Saint-Petersburg, Novgorod, Tver, Yaroslavl, and Smolensk regions became known in Old Norse sources as "Garðaríki", the land of forts. Around the 860 Rus', a group of Vikings perhaps from Roden, Sweden, began to rule the area under their leader Rurik. Gradually, Norse warlords, known to the Turkic-speaking steppe peoples as "köl-beki" or "lake-princes", came to dominate some of the region's Finno-Ugric and Slavic peoples, particularly along the Volga trade route linking the Baltic Sea with the Caspian Sea and Serkland.

Omeljan Pritsak speculated that a Khazar khagan named Khan-Tuvan Dyggvi, exiled after losing a civil war, settled with his followers in the Norse-Slavic settlement of Rostov, married into the local Scandinavian nobility, and fathered the dynasty of the Rus' khagans. Zuckerman dismisses Pritsak's theory as untenable speculation, and no record of any Khazar khagan fleeing to find refuge among the Rus' exists in contemporaneous sources. Nevertheless, the possible Khazar connection to early Rus' monarchs is supported by the use of a stylized trident tamga, or seal, by later Rus' rulers such as Sviatoslav I of Kiev; similar tamgas are found in ruins that are definitively Khazar in origin. The genealogical connection between the 9th century Khagans of Rus' and the later Rurikid rulers, if any, is unknown at this time.

Most historians agree that the title "khagan" was borrowed by the Rus from the Khazars, but there is considerable dispute over the circumstances of this borrowing. Peter Benjamin Golden presumes that the Rus' khaganate was a puppet state set up by the Khazars in the basin of the Oka River to fend off recurring attacks of the Magyars. However, no source records that the Rus' of the 9th century were subjects of the Khazars. For foreign observers (such as Ibn Rustah), there was no material difference between the titles of the Khazar and Rus' rulers. Anatoly Novoseltsev hypothesizes that the adoption of the title "khagan" was designed to advertise the Rus' claims to the equality with the Khazars. This theory is echoed by Thomas Noonan, who asserts that the Rus' leaders were loosely unified under the rule of one of the "sea-kings" in the early 9th century, and that this "High King" adopted the title "khagan" to give him legitimacy in the eyes of his subjects and neighboring states. According to this theory, the title was a sign that the bearers ruled under a divine mandate.

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