History 0 - 1.000 AD

The Goths

According to legend the Goths originate from the south of Scandinavia. After the year 0 the Goths were settled on the Polish shores and were labeled by archeologists as the 'Wheel Bark Culture'. During the 2nd and 3rd century extended their lands southwards, across Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. Under Achiulf's and Ermanerick's rule they built a rich culture. They occupied themselves with agriculture but they were also hunter-gatherers. They didn't really have a ruler, but a democratically chosen 'king'. Examples of important families are the Baltha family (Visigoths) and the Amal family (Ostrogoths). In the 4th century the Goths were defeated by the Huns and the Goths subjected themselves to the Huns. A part of the Goths migrated to the Crimea, hence the 'Crimean-Gothic'.

The Huns

When during the 4th century the Huns invaded Europe, they defeated the Ostrogoths and chased other German tribes off into the Roman empire. Attila the Hun became king around 433 AD. Slavs, Goths and Alans submitted under Attila, increasing his power. His empire stretched from the river Rhine to the Caucasus and they went pillaging throughout the western Roman empire and even threatened Rome itself. The eastern Roman empire became tributary to Attila.

But in 451 AD the Huns were defeated by the Romans with Visigoths and Franks in their ranks, led by the great Roman field marshal Flavius Aetius. Attila did attack Rome, but because of a mortal disease spreading through his army, he was forced to retreat. The death of Attila meant the death of the rule of the Huns. In Eastern Europe the Gepids and the Ostrogoths rebelled and defeated the Huns near Nadao in 454 AD The Huns retreated to the lower reaches of the rivers Don and Volga.

In this period the Roman empire also fell apart. The Eastern Roman empire was succeeded by the Byzantium empire (or just 'Byzantium'), while the Western Roman empire was conquered by the Ostrogoths. Their leader, Theodoric the Great, made Ravenna (Italy) the new capital.


The Eurasian Avars were a group of equestrian warrior nomads of Altaic extraction who established an empire spanning considerable areas of Central and Eastern Europe from the late 6th to the early 9th century. They were ruled by a 'Khagan', who led a tight-knit entourage of professional nomad warriors. Although the name Avar first appeared in the mid-5th century, the Avars of Europe enter the historical scene in the mid-6th century AD, having formed as a mixed band of warriors in the Pontic-Caspian steppe wishing to escape Göktürk rule.

Their linguistic affiliation may be tentatively deduced from a variety of sources, betraying a variety of languages spoken by ruling and subject clans. Oghur, a distinct branch of the Turkic languages, figures prominently for the original Avar language. In any event, Slavic ultimately became the lingua franca in the Avar Khaganate.

In 557, the Avars sent an embassy to Constantinople, marking their first contact with the Byzantine Empire, presumably from the northern Caucasus. In exchange for gold, they agreed to subjugate the 'unruly gentes' on behalf of the Byzantines. They conquered and incorporated various nomadic tribes—Kutrigur Bulgars, Onogur or Utigur Bulgars, and Sabirs—and defeated the Antes. By 562, the Avars controlled the lower Danube basin and the steppes north of the Black Sea. By the time they arrived in the Balkans, the Avars formed a heterogeneous group of about 20,000 horsemen. After the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I bought them off, they pushed northwestwards into Germania. However, Frankish opposition halted the Avars' expansion in that direction.

Seeking rich pastoral lands, the Avars initially demanded land south of the Danube River in present-day Bulgaria, but the Byzantines refused, using their contacts with the Göktürks as a threat against Avar aggression. They turned their attention to the Carpathian plain and to the natural defenses it afforded. However, the Carpathian basin was then occupied by the Gepids. In 567, the Avars signed an alliance with the Lombards - enemies of the Gepids - and together they destroyed much of the Gepid Kingdom. The Avars then persuaded the Lombards to move into northern Italy, an invasion that marked the last Germanic mass-movement in the Migration Period.

Continuing their successful policy of turning the various barbarians against each other, the Byzantines persuaded the Avars to attack the Sclavenes in Scythia Minor; their land was rich with goods and had never been conquered before. After devastating much of the Sclavenes' land, the Avars returned to Pannonia after many of the Khagan's subjects deserted to the Byzantine Emperor. By 600, the Avars had established a nomadic empire ruling over a multitude of peoples and stretching from modern-day Austria in the west to the Pontic-Caspian steppe in the east.


The origins of the Magyar lie in the Ural. From at least 2000 BC onwards, the Ugrian speakers became distinguished from the rest of the Uralic community. Judging by evidence from burial mounds and settlement sites, they interacted with the Andronovo culture. In the 4th and 5th centuries AD, the Hungarians moved to the west of the Ural Mountains to the area between the southern Ural Mountains and the Volga River.

In the early 8th century, some of the Magyar (Hungarians) moved to an area between the Volga, Don and the Seversky Donets rivers. The Hungarians around the Don River were subordinates of the Khazar khaganate. Their neighbours were the archaeological Saltov Culture, i.e. Bulgars (Proto-Bulgarians, Onogurs) and the Alans, from whom they learned gardening, elements of cattle breeding and of agriculture. Tradition holds that the Hungarians were organized in a confederacy of seven tribes. The names of the seven tribes were: Jenő, Kér, Keszi, Kürt-Gyarmat, Megyer, Nyék, and Tarján.

Around 830, a rebellion broke out in the Khazar khaganate. As a result, three Kabar tribes of the Khazars joined the Hungarians and moved to the 'Etelköz', the territory between the Carpathians and the Dnieper River. The Hungarians faced their first attack by the Pechenegs around 854, though other sources state that an attack by Pechenegs was the reason for their departure to Etelköz. The new neighbours of the Hungarians were the Varangians and the eastern Slavs. From 862 onwards, the Hungarians (already referred to as the Ungri) along with the Kabars, started a series of looting raids from the Etelköz into the Carpathian Basin, mostly against the Eastern Frankish Empire (Germany) and Great Moravia, but also against the Balaton principality and Bulgaria.


The Khazars were a semi-nomadic Turkic people who created the most powerful state to emerge from the breakup of the western Turkic steppe empire, the Khazar Khanate or Khazaria. Khazaria became one of the foremost trading empire of the medieval world, because it was situated along the important trade route between northern Europe and southwestern Asia. It dominated the western part of the Silk Road and played a key commercial role between China, the Middle East and Kievan Rus. For three centuries (650–965) the Khazars dominated the vast area extending from the Volga-Don steppes to the eastern Crimea and the northern Caucasus.

Khazaria long served as a buffer state between the Byzantine empire and both the nomads of the northern steppes and the Umayyad empire, after serving as Byzantium's proxy against the Sassanid Persian empire. That alliance was dropped around 900. Byzantium began to encourage the Alans to attack Khazaria and weaken its hold on Crimea and the Caucasus, while seeking to obtain a treaty with the rising power to the north, Kievan Rus. Between 965 and 969, Sviatoslav I of Kiev - the Kievan Rus ruler - conquered the capital Atil and destroyed the Khazar state.


Several muslim scholars agree, that these people are a Turkic people. According to Paul Pelliot, they were first mentioned in the Chinese 'Book of Sui' as 'Pei-ju', living east of the Eastern Roman empire. Victor Spinei argues the Pechenegs appear for the first time in a Tibetan translation of a Uyghur text. This discribes a war between the 'Be-ca-nag-' and the 'Hor', in which time they were living along the Syr Darya river.

A coalition between the Oghuz Turks, the Karluks and the Kimaks forced the Pechenegs to move westwards. Around 800 AD they moved to the area between the rivers Ural and Volga. Their new home was caught between the Cumans, the Khazars, the Oghuz Turks and Slavs. They frequently fought wars with the Khazars and their subordinates, the Burtas. The Khazars and the Oguz Turks formed an alliance and attacked the Pechenegs around 850 AD. Overpowered, they were again forced to move westwards and settled between the rivers Kuban and Dnieper, driving the Magyars out.

From the 9th century on, the Pechenegs had an uneasy relationship with the Kievan Rus. Many attacks took place during the following decades, some of which would develop into a full scale war, like the one in 920 AD by Igor of Kiev. Despite these attacks and wars, temporary alliances were made. An example is the campaign against Byzantium in 943 AD. In 968 AD, the Pechenegs sieged Kiev. In 971 AD, a number of Pechenegs joined the Prince of Kiev, Sviatoslav I, in a campaign against Byzantium, but they ambushed and killed him a year later.

Vladimir I of Kiev defeated the Pechenegs and on the site of his victory he built the city of Pereyaslav. In 1036 AD under Yaroslav the Wise's rule, the Pechenegs were completely defeated and the remaining Pechenegs fled towards the Danube, where they lost against the Magyar.


Also referred to as the 'Eastern Polans', not to be confused with the Western Polans, who would found Poland. From the 6th until the 9th century the Polianians lived east and west of the river Dnieper. The word 'polye' or 'поле' means 'field'. Together with other Slavic people like the Drevlyans, Severyans and Radimichans, they inhabited what is now Ukraine. De Dnieper river - also the trade route of the Varangians from Scandinavia to Byzantium - flows right through their territory.

In the 9th and 10th century the Polyanians had well developed agriculture and cattle breeding. They also liked to hunt, fish and keeping wild bees. They also had a variance of crafts, like forging iron and gold, bronze casting and pottery. They lived in houses that were deepened into the ground, liked to wear hand woven clothes and jewelry, cremated their dead and buried the remains in burial mounds, until they were converted to Christianity.

At the beginning of the 9th century, the Polyanians were under the influence of the Khazars and around 880 AD their land was taken by Oleg of Novgorod. The main cities of the Polyanians are Kiev, Vyshorod, Bilhorod (Bilohorodka), Zvenyhorod, Triply and Vasylkiv. The chronicles name the Polyanians as the founders of Kiev. Therefore, they played the most important role in Kievan Rus' emergence. After Igor of Kiev's campaign against Byzantium, 'Polyanians' are no longer spoken of, only 'Kievan Rus'.


After the Varangians (Vikings) were pushed back 'beyond the sea' by Slavic tribes in the north, these tribes started to fight each other. After some time, they invited the Varangians to bring order and lead them. These Vikings settled in Velyky Novgorod in 862 AD with Rurik as their leader. Rurik's brothers Sineus and Truvor settled in Izborsk and Beloozero. They traded with Byzantium along the trade route from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. The river Dnieper was an important part of that trade route.

Click image to enlarge. Map of Rurik's territory. At first he shared it with his two brothers, who were seated in Izborsk and Beloozero, but when they died, Rurik became the sole ruler.

Rurik fought against the Pechenegs and Cumans. Rurik's cousins Askold en Dir took 'a small city on the hill': Kyïv, and attacked Constantinopel, but their fleet was lost in a heavy storm. Rurik died in V.Novgorod in 879 AD. Oleg of Novgorod became the guardian of Rurik's son Igor. A year later he moved to Kyïv, killed Askold en Dir and brought the surrounding peoples under his rule. Tribes living as far away as the river Volga were tributary to him. He proclaimed Kyïv as the mother of all Rus' states. This was the 'birth' of Kyïvan Rus'.

(Source: Wikipedia)


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