THE VIKINGS ABROAD
RUSSIA AND THE EAST
THERE are few features in European geography more remarkable than the network of riverways that traverse the huge extent of Russia and allow light craft to find their way, with only an occasional portage of the boats overland, across the whole length of the country from the Baltic coast far away south to the Black Sea and the Caspian. It was a river-system of more than ordinary commercial importance, as the North Germans had known ever since the Goths had taken up their abode in south Russia, but when the Viking Period begins most of the Goths had long departed from their Black Sea home, and the movement of the Slavs into Russia had further contributed to the breakdown of the old trade with the north; therefore the vikings found profit and adventure in reestablishing this ancient commerce and in so doing they embarked upon what was destined to be the most remarkable and historically important of all the exploits of the Northmen abroad. This was the winning of the Dnieper basin and the foundation of the Russian state.
It was not the work of a single mighty conquest, nor was it even the result of a deliberate and carefully planned campaign of many years' duration; yet it was achieved with almost dramatic suddenness before the ninth century had run its course. Of the first event in this memorable Swedish adventure there is no historical record, but archaeology has made it evident that the tale opens with the establishment of a small Swedish colony in the first decades of the century on the south shore of Lake Ladoga. The stronghold here, Aldeigjuborg, was reached by sailing to the end of the Gulf of Finland, where Leningrad is now, and then down the Neva for some thirty miles into the lake and
SWEDES FOUND ALDEIGJUBORG ON LADOGA, c. 800-5