The final part of our before the Rus mini-series looks at the first Scandinavian movements into the East.
The first traces of a Scandinavian presence are found around Lake Ladoga, now connected to the Gulf of Finland by the Neva as it flows past St Petersburg, but which was connected directly to the sea in the Middle Ages.
The first Scandinavian permanent settlement was built at Staraya Ladoga, just upstream of the lake. The ruins are seen here against the backdrop of a 12th century fortress built on the site.
Russian Symbolist artist and archeologist Nicholas Roerich had a deep interest in the Varangians and other aspects of Russia’s early history and painted numerous scenes of Lake Ladoga.
The Scandinavians first established trade links with Balts and Finno-Ugrians living throughout the forest zone, trading furs for metalware and glass, and then selling the furs into Western Europe.
With the end of the Arab-Khazar wars, trade links from the south to the forest were restored, bringing Islamic silver north. The Scandinavians began trading with the Mer, a Finno-Ugrian group based at Sarsky Fort on Lake Nero in the upper Volga region, and gradually began to extend their presence southwards.
The site of Sarsky Fort now looks across the lake to the kremlin of Rostov Veliky, one of the old Rus cities.
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