§ 44. The Rūs.
See bibliographic note before § 43. The translation and analysis of the principal Muslim sources will be found in the works of Frähn, Chwolson, Garkavi [commented translations from 26 Muslim authors on the Slavs and Rūs; the text used mostly in older, now superseded editions]; Barthold, Zap., 1895 (Muḥammad 'Aufī); Toumansky, Zap., 1896 (the text and translation of the present chapter); Marquart, Streifzüge, 200-4, 330-53 (Mas'ūdi). The literature in which Muslim data on the Rus' have been utilized is enormous, see V. A. Moshin, Var'ago-russkiy vopros in Slavia, Prague, 1931, x/1-3, pp. 109-36, 343-79, 501-37 (a digest of the more important works on the subject), and his The origins of Rus'. The Normans in Eastern Europe (in Russian), in Byzantinoslavica, Prague, 1931, iii/1, pp. 33-58, iii/2, pp. 285-307. See also Prof. P. Smirnov, The Volga route (in Ukrainian), Kiev, 1926, which particularly deals with the earlier Muslim sources. [Seippel, v.s., p. 427, and Minorsky, Rūs in EI.]
Since the beginning of the seventeenth century the origin of the name
of Russia () has
been the subject of hot discussion in Russian and western European literatures.
Though the geographical names containing the element Rus- or Ros-
may have more than one source, it is certain that the name Rus' as referring
to the founders of the Russian state is of Scandinavian origin. The authentic
Scandinavian form is doubtful (cf. the name of the coast Roslagen)
but even now the Finns call the Swedes Ruotsi and this Finnish form
may have given origin to the Slavonic Rus', as the name of Finland
itself Suomi has become Sum' in Russian. The name Rus'
had the same meaning as the somewhat later Variag (,
i.e., Varęgŭ, ,
referring to the parties of Norman adven-
3. In Arabic is first attested in Bīrūnī, but cf. § 24, 15. [The late Prof. A. A. Shakhmatov, Introduction to the history of the Russian language (in Russian), Petrograd 1916, p. 62, thought that the name Variag "reflected that of the Franks or Frangs, as all the western Europeans in general were called in the Balkans and the Levant, though the ways of the transformation Frang >
§ 44 The Rus 433
turers bound by an agreement or vow (vár). Since the beginning of the ninth century the fluvial system of the present-day Russia and Poland was constantly used by the Normans for their trade and war expeditions, as it appears from the abundant historical, archaeological, and toponymic evidence, cf. lately M. Vasmer, Wikingerspuren in Russland, in Sitz. Preuss. Ak., phil.-hist. Klasse, 1931, pp. 649-74.
The traditional version of the Russian chronicles is that the Variags coming from beyond the sea used to levy tribute on the Čud', Sloveni, Mer'a, and all  the Kriviči [of whom the first and third are undoubtedly Finnish tribes and the second and fourth Slavs]. In A.D. 862 the Variags were expelled beyond the sea, but in their absence internal wars broke out. Therefore the above-mentioned peoples invited the Variags called Rus' and so the viking R'urik (*Hrœrekr) built the town of Ladoga on the Volkhov river and his two brothers occupied the neighbouring country. In 882 R'urik's successor Oleg (*Helgi) occupied the capital of the Dnieper Pol'an'e and this was the beginning of the Russian Kiev state. The Scandinavian element of the new body politic was scarce (court, warriors, and perhaps merchants) and in a century's time the mass of Slav population succeeded in assimilating the strangers, see Niederle, Manuel de l'antiquité slave, Paris, 1923, i, 209. Even Russian chronicles clearly give us to understand that the Rus' were not the first Scandinavian vikings in Eastern Europe. The Byzantine sources know them at least from the earlier part of the ninth century. The most remarkable fact for our purpose is that the Byzantine embassy which in May 839 visited the Emperor Louis the Pious in Ingelheim was accompanied by some men of the people Rhos who were the envoys sent to Constantinople by their king Chacanus and who now wanted to return home; on this occasion it was discovered that the people Rhos was of Swedish origin (gentis esse Sueonum), see V. Thomsen, The Relations between Ancient Russia and Scandinavia, Oxford, 1877, p. 39, cf. Marquart, Streifzüge, 202.
The principal Muslim sources refer to the momentous period of the establishment of the Northmen among the Slavs and it is essential to disentangle the data referring to its successive stages. Our oldest source I.Kh., as already mentioned p. 429,1. 25, mixes up the Rūs with the Slavs and traces their commercial activities between Spain and China. There is no trace in I.Kh. of a Rūs state. He calls the Don (?) "river of the Slavs".
The common source of I. Rusta, Ḥ.-'Ā.,
'Aufī, &c., most
formally distinguishes the Rūs
from the Slavs. The latter, primarily the
Varang are still obscure." Ibid., 68, he says that the Rūs were known long before the so-called "invitation of the Variags". He further gives expression to the view that the Rūs were the earlier Scandinavians established among the Slavonic and Finnish tribes, whereas the Variags represented a new wave of Scandinavian movement.]
1. The Russian word corresponding to "all" is here an evident mistake for the homonymous , the name of another Finnish tribe.
434 Commentary § 44
Western Slavs, are represented as living under their own princes (cf. § 43), whereas the Rūs are described as occupying a damp island which has an area of 3 days by 3 days and lies amid a lake. These data point to the northern lands and seem to refer to the times before the foundation of the Kiev state,  but it is characteristic that in spite of the modest size of the territory the king of the Rūs is given the pompous title of Khāqān Rūs and that according to Gardīzī the island contained a population of 100,000 men (mardum). [Cf. also Yāqūt, ii, 834, where a similar statement is ascribed to Maq., though it is not found in BGA, iii.]
The Balkhī tradition
I.Ḥ.) knows very
little about the [Western] Slavs (Ṣaqāliba)
between whom and the [Volga] Bulghār
it places the Rūs.
Here we have evidently to do with the Kiev period of Russian history. Iṣṭ.,
225-6, distinguishes three "kinds" (ṣinf)
of Rūs. The prince
of those who live nearest to the Bulghār
resides in the town of *Kūyāba,
probably Kiev (Const. Porph., cap. 8,
or ). The
farthest distant Rūs
are called Ṣ.lāwiya,
which looks very much like a parallel form of Ṣaqāliba,
perhaps referring specially to the Sloveni 
of Novgorod among whom the Normans first settled. The third group are the
(many variants) whose king lives in
(many variants). They are the wildest and kill the strangers who would
penetrate into their country from which they themselves export black martens
(tin or lead?) by a waterway. Since Frähn's Ibn Fosslan, Annex
I, p. 162, the name Arthā
has been interpreted as Erz'a, which is the name of one of the two great
divisions of the Mordva (§ 52).  The
Constantinople MS., Iṣṭ.,
226 n, very definitely says that the
"are [or perhaps: trade?] between the Khazar and the Great (a'am)
Bulghār", which eventually
suits  the Erz'a.  If
the interpretation is right it indicates that there existed some Rūs
centre in the Oka region.  Frähn pointed out that at
Oleg's times a lieutenant of his lived in the town of Rostov on the territory of
the Finnish Mer'a, and it is possible to imagine a similar situation obtaining
in the region of the Mordva who, according to Nestor's "Initial" Chronicle,
1. The "island" most probably refers to Novgorod (in Norse Hólmgarðr, i.e. "the island town"), cf. Thomsen, o.c., Marquart, Streifzüge, pp. xxxiv, 201, Westberg, o.c., 1908, iii, 25.
2. I.Ḥ., 285, adds: "and their king is in Ṣ.lā, a town of theirs." The variant might indicate the reading of *č.lāv- (?), which, however, would be inexplicable.
3. According to the Hypatios chronicle the original settlers in Novgorod were Sloveni ().
4. The story of the Arthā killing the strangers might favour the theory that the tribe belonged to the Mordva whose name is supposed to be an Iranian equivalent of the Herodotian , v.i., § 52.
5. If the latter is the Bulghār town on the Volga, but the meaning of the term is not clear, v.i., p. 439, n. 2.
6. Westberg, o.c., 1908, p. 398, attaching too much importance to the export of raṣāṣ, interpreted as "tin", thought as tnat Arthā was Scandinavia! In the Persian translation of Iṣṭ., 226 k, renders . Our §§ 4, 9. and 25, 13. show that arzīz means both "tin" and "lead"; qal'ī which only means "tin" may be an arbitrary addition by the translator who hesitated between the two meanings of arzīz.
7. V.s., p. 217.
436 Commentary § 44
equally paid tribute to the Rūs.  The identification Arthā = Erz'a conflicts with Iṣṭ.'s indication concerning Kūyāba being the nearest to Bulghār, but on the other hand Arthā must have lain to the east of Ṣlāwiya which was the farthest territory of the Rūs (with regard to Bulghār from which the description apparently starts).  [Kūyāba may be the"territory of K.".]
Our text is essentially a rearrangement of the above-mentioned sources.
The dependence on the common source used by I. R. and Gardīzī
appears from the following synoptic table. ['Aufī
in the first part of his report closely follows the same tradition.]
|the Rūs live on a wooded, damp island||D. 100,000 inhabitants ( !)||entirely different (after Iṣṭ.)|
|raid Slavs by sea, sell them to the Khazar and Bulkār||D.||A. victorious over the neighbours|
|no agriculture: import food from the Slav land||D.||country rich in necessaries; Slavs among the Rūs|
|newly born presented with swords||D.||N.|
|no villages *||N.||N.|
|traders in furs||D.||furs|
|neatly dressed ; gold bracelets||D. linen clothes||woollen bonnets [linen mentioned under § 43]|
|kind to slaves and guests||D.||some of the R. practise chivalry|
|numerous towns *||D.||vast country|
|sulaymānian swords||D.||A. valuable swords|
|united against enemies||D.||N.|
|trial by kings; duels||D.||N. tithe to the government|
|physicians powerful||N.||A. physicians respected|
|courageous, enterprising; sailors, not horsemen||N.||A. warlike|
|trousers of 100 cubits||N.||D. as in I.R.|
|nobles buried with all belongings and wives||N.||A. as in I.R.|
* Trace of contradictory sources.
1. The name of the important town of R'azan' may be also connected with Erz'a. The town (first mentioned under A.D. 1095) was founded in the region where the Slav V'atichi (< Vęntiči) lived, but originally (from the 7th to the 9th century) the lands along the Oka probably belonged to the Mordva territory. Cf. V. A. Gorodtsov, The ancient population of the R'azan' province, in Izv. otdel. russ. yazka, 1908, t. 13, pp. 147—9. [However, the Erz'a, at least now, live to the east of the Moksha, v.i., § 52.]
2. Arthā has a variant which suggested to Chwolson the identification of *Abārma with Biarmia (Perm) of the Scandinavian sagas (Anglo-Saxon Beormas, Old Norse Bjarmar, cf. Thomsen, o.c., 31). Eventually this identification would have the advantage of explaining our passage on the Pecheneg mountains (Ural ?) which formed the eastern boundary of the Rūs and of better suiting the list of produce of the territory. Some indirect evidence in favour of Biarmia might be gathered from the fact that Iṣṭ. does not mention the two northernmost
§ 44 The Rus 437
The third source (Balkhī > Iṣṭ.) having supplied our author with the names of the three Rūs territories [shahr, "town or land"] the item on the damp "island" (I.R., Gardīzī, 'Aufī) had to be thrown overboard. The country was then described as "vast" [cf. I.R.'s inconsequent mention of "many towns"] and couched into the habitual frame of boundaries. In the description of the “towns” the details on blades and swords are very probably a simple development of I.R.'s and Gardīzī's item on the sulaymāni swords which the Rūs possess (lahum al-suyūf al-sulaymāniya = va andar miyān shamshīr-i sulaymānī farāvān bāshad). On "Solomonian swords" see the Qor'ān, xxxiv, 10-12, cf. Chwolson, o.c., 195. The detail on Ṣ.lāba is a development of Iṣṭ.'s indication as to its remoteness.
The only original statements which we can squeeze out of our text are those regarding the frontiers of the Rūs and the course of the Rūs river (§ 6, 44.).
The situation of the Rūs country, as understood by our author, appears from the following table:
which must be supplemented by the indications that the Majgharī (§ 23) had the Rūs to their north and west [=NW. ?], and that the Turkish Pechenegs (§ 20) lived to the south of the river Rūthā (sic) and had the Majgharī and the Rūs to their west [resp. to the west and north-west ?]. As the Pechenegs are placed north both of the *Bulghārs (§51) and *Burṭās (§ 52), which peoples were separated by the Volga, it is necessary to admit that the Pechenegs (see note to § 20) lived on both banks of this river. If so, it is difficult to find any other correspondence than the Oka for the river separating the Turkish Pechenegs from the Rūs (v.s., p. 217). The Pecheneg mountains (Ural ?) would then form the Rūs boundary somewhere in the region to the north-east of the Volga.  The latter river itself, at least down to its junction
peoples Īsū (Ves') and Yura (Yugra) of which the first, according to R. Hennig, must be sought near Cherdin () on the Kama, see Der mittelalterl. arab. Handelsverkehr in Osteuropa, in Der Islam, xxii/3, 1935, pp. 239-65. [But cf. Marquart, Arktische Länder, 304, who still follows Frähn's theory according to which the Isū must be placed near Belozero.] In any case the reading Arthā is better attested. Quite lately V. Moshin took Arthā for the Tmutarakan' colony of the Rūs (on the Taman' peninsula, east of the entrance channel of the Azov sea) but this hypothesis goes counter to Iṣṭ.'s indication as to the inaccessibility of the Arthā land, and its exports.
1. See § 5, 19. where a mountain (Urals) is described as stretching between the end of the Rūs and the beginning of the Kimäk. Cf. also the eventual restoration of as *Abārma < Biarmia ?
438 Commentary §§ 44-5
with the Oka, was evidently thought to flow in Rūs territory (§ 6, 44.) but the description of the "Rūs river" (upper Volga)  does not imply that Urtāb, Ṣ.laba, and Kūyāfa stood on its banks. The text only indicates that the river watered their "confines". Their enumeration logically goes in the inverse order to Iṣṭ. who certainly wrote as if he were looking from Bulghār westward. [Urtāb corresponds to , v.s., p. 434.]
In his very interesting work on the "Volga route" Prof. P. Smirnov has
lately advanced the thesis (see his conclusions, o.c., 223-9) tnat before
the foundation of the Kiev state there existed on the middle Volga a Norman
state under a qaghan. To support this theory he very ingeniously
utilized such data as the report on the embassy from the Chacanus
of the Rhos in A.D. 839, the mention of the Khāqān
Rūs in the common
source of I.R.,Ḥ.-'Ā.,
and the item of our source on the Rūs
river. Along the latter he disposed the three towns so that Kūyāfa
(?) comes to occupy the place of the future Nizhni-Novgorod at the junction
of the Oka with the Volga; Ṣ.lāba,
that of the later Yaroslavl, and Arthā
(?) is tentatively sough between the two, perhaps in the Oka basin. This
hypothesis revolutionizes the accepted views on the origins of the Great-Russian
nation. Here is not the place to enter upon its consideration as a new
theory, but as regards the arguments derived from our source (which the
author knew through Toumansky's excerpts) it is to be feared that no particular
and decisive weight can be attributed to a text which is mainly a compilation
and a rearrangement of written sources with a dangerous tendency towards
artificial systematization. 
1. I.Kh., 124, is evidently responsible for the indication that it flows from the Slav territory (see note to § 44).
2. Among other sources Smirnov,
202-7, utilizes Idrīsī,
ii, 401, who adds to Iṣṭ.'s
data some characteristics of the three towns (Ṣ.lāwa
"sur le sommet d'unemontagne"; Arthān
"jolie ville sur une montagne escarpée", at 4 days' distance from the two other
towns, &c.). No trust, however, can be put in these details, for which there is
no authority in the earlier sources. These additions left alone, the three names
of Russian towns were undoubtedly found by Idrīsī
in the traditional sources and must be clearly distinguished from Idrīsī's
original data on his contemporary Rūsiya
ii, 397— 400. Therefore Idrīsī's Kiev
may easily be another avatar of the older .
combines various sources of different epochs and Marquart has shown how
inaccurate ("Schwindelwerk") he is in eastern regions, cf. Ērānšahr,
261-2 (India), Komanen, 102-4 (Central Asia).
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