Staraya Ladoga and the Rus Vikings.

"Our land is large and rich, but there is no order in it.
So come and be king and rule over us."
Russian Primary Chronicle

Staraya Ladoga
From the second half of the 9th century onwards, the town of Staraya Ladoga, Russia was known to be home to the Vikings known as the Rus.The town itself was situated on the south of Lake Ladoga and was a vital place in the east/south trade route. It is the only early settlement in Russia to have a seperate Viking cemetery.

Rus Burial Finds
Excavated grave sites show personal items which are similar to those found in regions all over the known viking world. The Hermitage Museum on the banks of the Neva, houses evidence of this. Among the finds - a brooch in the style of Gotland, decorated bone combs the same as those found in Dublin, a needlecase like those of Birka, a shoe identical to one from York, a brooch similar in style as Iceland. Almost all the viking finds at The Hermitage Museum were found at Staraya Ladoga.

Lifestyle of the Rus

The people there were not farmers, but traders and craftsmen, dealing, according to Ibn Rustah (an Arab geographer) who describes the lifestyle of the Rus ...

"They have no villages, estates or fields... their only occupation is trading in sable and squirrel and other kinds of skins... clean in their clothing... gererous with their possessions and treat guests honourably... act handsomely towards strangers and all those who accept their hospitality... "

Although the popular image of the Viking is a ruffian who pillages and loots lands afar, the ideal man was expected to master a wide range of skills - mental, verbal and artistic. Storytelling and skaldic poetry was widely known and practiced. Earl Rognvald (1135-58) from Orkney boasted of his prowess in nine key areas:

"There are nine skills known to me-
At 'tables' I play ably;
Rarely I run out of runes;
Reading, smith-craft, both come ready;
I can skim the ground on skis,
Wield a bow, do well in rowing;
To both arts I can bend my mind:
Poet's lay and harper's playing."

Women enjoyed good standing, particularly legal wives, and had many of the freedoms we share today. They could own land, manage their own property, had complete authority in household matters and could be the initiators in the building of monumental rune stones or commemorative causeways or bridges. Divorce was permissable. Adoption of illegitimate children was an easy process.

All in all, the Viking culture was years ahead of its time.



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