Vikings and the Rus'

Friday 3 November 2017,
BP Lecture Theatre

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Supported by BP

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In this talk, Curator Thomas Williams, British Museum, discusses how the Vikings helped to shape the modern nations of Russia and Ukraine, bringing the west into contact with the descendants of the Scythians in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

More than a millennium separates the Scythians from the birth of the Russian-speaking nations. The people who gave their name to Russia, the Rus’, were of Viking origin. In the centuries after AD 750, the activities of these traders and travellers gave rise to a new culture in what is now Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Like the Scythians, however, the Rus’ were a warrior culture who buried their dead in mounds, who revelled in precious finery, and whose exploits connected Europe to Central Asia through extensive networks of trade and cultural exchange.

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Gold plaque of a mounted Scythian. Black Sea region, c. 400–350 BC. © The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, 2017. Photo: V Terebenin.