Varangians vərănˈjēənz [key], name given by Slavs and Byzantine Greeks to Scandinavians who began to raid the eastern shores of the Baltic and penetrate Eastern Europe by the 9th cent. Their leader, Rurik, established himself at Novgorod in 862, thus laying the traditional foundation for Kievan Rus. The Varangians, some of whom were known also as Rus or Rhos, made their way down the Dnieper and established the great trade route from Kiev to Byzantium. In the 9th and 10th cent. they repeatedly threatened Constantinople. During the 10th and 11th cent. they served as soldiers of East Slavic princes, but they gradually merged with the Slavs, adopting Slavic culture. Other Varangians served as mercenary troops to the emperors at Constantinople. Varangian migrations paralleled those of the Norsemen and Vikings in the West.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Scandinavian History