Early Glory

The beginnings of human settlement in Ukraine are quite fascinating. The country has rich farmland and other natural resources, and was much contested by warring nomadic tribes, the Greeks and those coming in the Great Migration of Peoples. We don’t know much about this era, unfortunately, because there are very few primary records. The Scythians, a mighty nomadic race, are described by Herodotus and mentioned in the Bible.
But the first real book about Ukraine is the Chronicle of Bygone Years, written in the 11th century by a monk named Nestor. It’s a fascinating tale, but unfortunately the reliability leaves somewhat to be desired. Nestor is the source for the origins of the Rus. According to him, the native Slavs of Ukraine went to a Scandinavian tribe called the Rus and asked them to bring order to their land. Obviously, this theory is much contested, because it suggests that the Slavs could not rule themselves.
And even though there’s definitely some Scandinavian influence in the ruling classes of the Kievan Rus (the empire in Ukraine that formed around the 9th century), real evidence is scarce. And you’ve noticed the big gap between the establishment of the empire in the 9th century and Nestor’s account in the 11th.
In the Kievan Rus’ the inhabitants of Ukraine created the first Russia. The country was known by that name in Latin, the lingua franca of Western Europe at the time. This alone shows the most important point of this series of blogs about the country: it’s very, very complicated. Ukraine wasn’t even a sovereign country for most of recorded history. But there were always some pretty nationalistic natives, more about whom in a later post.
The Kievan Rus’ empire crumbled in the 12th century, and Ukraine entered a new era of being conquered and sacked by different peoples.
This is the first post in a series about Ukraine. I’ll discuss the history of the country, and the origins of the current conflict. Is there a subject you think I shouldn’t miss? Have an opinion about what I’m saying? Please tell me in the comments.

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