Russia-Slavic DNA

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Russia's first unified territory originated west of the Ural Mountains in the region that runs from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea. Hilly grasslands are found in the extreme south of that area. The north, however, is densely forested, flat, and swampy. Slow-moving, interconnecting rivers allow boat travel across these plains in almost any directions. Three great rivers, the Dnieper, the Don, and the Volga, run from the heart of the forests to the Black Sea or the Caspian Sea.

In the early days of the Byzantine Empire, these forests were inhabited by tribes of Slavic farmers and traders. They spoke similar languages but had no political unity. Missionaries from the Byzantine Empire, took their form of Orthodox Christianity to the Slavs. Two of the most successful Eastern Missionaries, Saint Methodius and Saint Cyril, worked among the Slavs in the ninth century. Cyril and Methodius invented an alphabet for the Slavic languages. With an alphabet, Slavs would be able to read the Bible in their own tongues. Many Slavic languages, including Russian, are now written in what is called the Cyrillic alphabet.

Sometime in the 800s, small bands of adventures came down from the north to the land of the Slavs. These Varangians, or Rus as they were also called, were most likely Vikings. The name "Russia" is taken from this group. Eventually, these Vikings built forts along the rivers and settled among the Slavs. Russian legends say the Slavs invited the Viking chief Rurik to be their King. So in 862, he founded Novgorod, Russia's first important city. That account is given in The Primary Chronicle, a history of Russia written by monks in the early 1100's.

Around 880, a nobleman from Novgorod named Oleg moved south to Kiev, a city on the Dnieper River. From Kiev, the Vikings could sail by river and sea to Constantinople. There they could trade for products from distant lands. Kiev grew into a principality, a small state ruled by a prince. As it did, the Viking nobles intermarried with Slavs and adopted many aspects of Slavic culture. Gradually, the line between Slavs and Vikings vanished.