A summary of the information in the sources regarding the origins of the Kievan state



Written (except PVL)

Primary chron. (PVL)

9th c.-833

esp. coins, indicating Frisian trade in Baltic and inland on rivers; trade to the East via Volga and N. Donets R. Some of this trade to Persia; also to N. Africa.


beg. 820s. Rorik and brothers appear in Danish sources.




Building of Sarkel on Don R. (Byzantine sources)



end of N. African coins, indicating cutting of trade; increase of Arabic coins in Scandinavia; total absence of them at Kiev, but indication of trade route going from Oka into Dnieper below Kiev and around the Crimea into Sea of Azov. Heavy concentration of coins at Riazan' on Oka R.

for 839. Rus' (who were Swedes) in Germany; unable to return home due to disorders along way. Came via Byzantium; have leader named or titled Khagan.

betw. 846 & 885. Rus' trading in swords and furs, enter Black Sea at mouth of Dnieper, go around the Crimea to Sea of Azov, up the Don, across to Volga and to Caspian. Return home same way or up the Don or Donets.

860. Rus' attack Constantinople (this also in PVL but later).

under 854 or 862. Calling of Varangians by Finnic and Slavic peoples in the North; coming of Riurik and his brothers, who settled in Ladoga, Beloozero, Izborsk. Arrival of Varangians in Kiev (Askold and Dir).






 under 880-882. Oleg moves "capital" to Kiev.

10th c., 900-970

Arabic coins at Kiev and on upper Dniepter; in Scandinavia at different places than before. Beginning of Byzantine coin finds all along Dnieper route to Novgorod and Pskov. Evidence of growing trade between Novgorod and south in finds of walnut shells.

ca. 900. Oleg (Helgi) driven out of Denmark.

by 903 (presumably information from preceding century). Rus' (distinguished from the mass of the population, the Saqaliba), on an island (peninsula, area between two rivers) situated so can trade with Khazars and Bulgars. Have a king called Khagan; do not engage in agriculture, but raid, sell furs and slaves; prefer to raid by ship. Receive silver coins as payment. this information presumably comes from those who encountered the Rus' in the Volga region or possibly around Don or Sea of Azov.




921-922. Ibn Fadlan describes the Rus' on the volga at Bulgary. They are traders in slaves and furs (who receive in return Arabic money); they are pagans; they cremate their elite with the ships; they have a fortress of some kind.









  ca. 950. Constantine Porphyrogenitos describes the trade by the Rus. Route from Kiev down the Dnieper, but connecting to Smolensk and Novgorod. Indigenous Slavs (esp. Polianians) tributaries to the Rus'. Distinction between Rus' (Old Norse) and Slavic names for the rapids.

955-957. Ol'ga baptised in Constantinople (also PVL)



904-907. Oleg's attack on Constantinople, from Kiev and using a variety of Slavic and Finnic tribes as allies (NB: The dates and the treaty included in the chronicle are not accurate: the treaty is apparently one that was concluded decades later.)

911/912. Oleg's treaty with Byzantium (no. 2) precisely dated and apparently genuine. Note that the Rus' have Scandinavian names; the subject of the treaty is trade. The location of the "Land of the Rus' is not specified.

913. Igor' begins to rule.






 941. Igor' attacks Byzantium.

944. Igor's treaty with Byzantium. Note predominance of Scandinavian names among the Rus'; the naming of Kiev, Chernigov and Pereiaslavl as key cities of the Rus'; the indication of some Christianization. The subject of the treaty is trade.








978. Vladimir "unites" Kiev and Novgorod.

988/989. Official Conversion to Christianity.

11th c.

Trade to east (Arabic coin evidence) diminishes; Byzantine trade along Dnieper route in full swing.


Relatively detailed information on Kievan "politics," but beginning of precise chronology (to day and month) only ca. 1060--i.e., the point at which regular keeping of chronicle entries seems to have begun.

12th c.


1113-1116. PVL put into "final" form.