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Prince of Ladoga and Novgorod
1000 Rurik.JPG
Rurik on the monument "Millennium of Russia"
Bornc. 830
Died879 (aged 48–49)
Novgorod, Kievan Rus

Rurik (also Riurik; Old East Slavic: Рюрикъ Rjurikŭ, from Old Norse Hrøríkʀ; Belarusian: Рурык; Russian, Ukrainian: Рюрик; c. 830–879), according to the 12th-century Primary Chronicle, was a Varangian chieftain of the Rus' who in the year 862 gained control of Ladoga, and built Novgorod in the same year. This legendary figure was considered by later rulers to be the founder of the Rurik dynasty, which ruled the Kievan Rus' and its successor states, including the Kingdom of Ruthenia, the Principality of Tver, Grand Duchy of Vladimir, the Grand Duchy of Moscow, the Novgorod Republic and the Tsardom of Russia, until the 17th century.[1]


The only information about Rurik is contained in the 12th-century Primary Chronicle written by one Nestor, which states that Chuds, Eastern Slavs, Merias, Veses, and Krivichs "drove the Varangians back beyond the sea, refused to pay them tribute, and set out to govern themselves". Afterwards the tribes started fighting each other and decided to invite the Varangians, led by Rurik, to reestablish order. Rurik came in 860–862 along with his brothers Sineus and Truvor and a large retinue.

Image of Rurik in the "Tsar's titularnik"

According to the Primary Chronicle, Rurik was one of the Rus', a Varangian tribe likened by the chronicler to Swedes and Gotlanders. The scholarly consensus[2] is that the Rus' people originated in what is currently coastal eastern Sweden around the eighth century and that their name has the same origin as Roslagen in Sweden (with the older name being Roden).[3][4] According to the prevalent theory, the name Rus', like the Proto-Finnic name for Sweden (*Ruotsi), is derived from an Old Norse term for "the men who row" (rods-) as rowing was the main method of navigating the rivers of Eastern Europe, and it could be linked to the Swedish coastal area of Roslagen (Rus-law) or Roden, as it was known in earlier times.[5][6] The name Rus' would then have the same origin as the Finnish and Estonian names for Sweden: Ruotsi and Rootsi.[6][7] Sineus established himself at Beloozero (now Belozersk), on the shores of lake Beloye, and Truvor at Izborsk (or at Pskov). Truvor and Sineus died shortly after the establishment of their territories, and Rurik consolidated these lands into his own territory.

According to the entries in the Radzivil and Hypatian Chronicles[8] under the years 862–864, Rurik’s first residence was in Ladoga. He later moved his seat of power to Novgorod, a fort built not far from the source of the Volkhov River. The meaning of this place name in medieval Russian is 'new fortification', while the current meaning ('new city') developed later.

Rurik remained in power until his death in 879. On his deathbed, Rurik bequeathed his realm to Oleg, who belonged to his kin, and entrusted to Oleg's hands his son Igor, for he was very young. Oleg moved the capital to Kiev (by murdering the then-rulers and taking the city) and founded the state of Kievan Rus', which was ruled by Rurik's successors (his son Igor and Igor's descendants). The state persisted until the Mongol invasion in 1240.

Historicity debate[edit]

Hypothesis of identity with Rorik of Dorestad[edit]

Rorik of Dorestad, as conceived by H. W. Koekkoek

The name Rurik is accepted to be a form of the Old Norse name Hrærekr. This has been taken as evidence that Rurik was in some way ethnically Scandinavian.[9] The only similarly named figure described in the Carolingian Annales Fuldenses and Annales Bertiniani was Rorik of Dorestad (also spelled Rørik, Rörik, Roerik, Hrörek, etc.), a Germanic king from the royal Scylding house of Haithabu in the Jutland Peninsula. Since the 19th century, there have been attempts to identify him with the Rurik of Russian chronicles.

Rorik of Dorestad was a member of one of two competing families reported by the Frankish chroniclers as having ruled the nascent Danish kingdom at Hedeby, and was likely nephew of king Harald Klak. He is mentioned as receiving lands in Friesland from Emperor Louis I. This was not enough for him, and he started to plunder neighbouring lands: he took Dorestad in 850, attacked Hedeby in 857, and looted Bremen in 859, yet his own lands were ravaged in his absence. The Emperor was enraged and stripped him of all his possessions in 860. After that, Rorik disappears from the Western sources for a considerable period of time, while only two years later, in 862, the Russian chronicle's Rurik arrives in the eastern Baltic, builds the fortress of Ladoga, and later moves to Novgorod.

Rorik of Dorestad reappeared in Frankish chronicles in 870, when his Friesland demesne was returned to him by Charles the Bald; in 882 Rorik of Dorestad is mentioned as dead (without a date of death specified). The Russian chronicle places the death of Rurik of Novgorod at 879, three years earlier than the Frankish chronicles. According to Western sources, the ruler of Friesland was converted to Christianity by the Franks. This may have parallels with the Christianization of the Rus', as reported by Patriarch Photius in 867.

The idea of identifying the Rurik of Nestor's chronicle with Rorik of Dorestad of the Carolingian chronicles was revived by the anti-Normanists Boris Rybakov and Anatoly H. Kirpichnikov in the mid-20th century,[10] while modern scholars like Alexander Nazarenko object to it.[11] The hypothesis of their identity currently lacks support among scholars,[12] though support for a "Normannic" (i.e., Norse, rather than Slavic) origin of the Rus' has increased.


In Estonian folklore there is a tale of three brothers, who were born as sons of a peasant, but, through great bravery and courageousness, all later became rulers in foreign countries. The brothers were called Rahurikkuja (Troublemaker), Siniuss (Blue snake) and Truuvaar (Loyal man) (estonianized names for Rurik and his brothers Sineus and Truvor), names given to them by their childhood friend, a blue snake.[13]


Rurik and his brothers Sineus and Truvor arrive at Ladoga by Viktor Vasnetsov

The Rurik dynasty (or Rurikids) went on to rule the Kievan Rus', and ultimately the Tsardom of Russia, until 1598, and numerous noble Russian and Ruthenian families claim a male-line descent from Rurik. The last Rurikid to rule Russia was Tsar Vasily IV (from the House of Shuysky, cadet branch of the House of Rurik), who reigned till 1612.


  1. ^ Christian Raffensperger and Norman W. Ingham, "Rurik and the First Rurikids", The American Genealogist, 82 (2007), 1–13, 111–119.
  2. ^ "The Vikings at home". History Extra. 24 September 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  3. ^ Mark, Joshua J. (3 December 2018). "Kievan Rus". World History Encyclopedia.
  4. ^ Sorabella, Jean (October 2002). "The Vikings (780–1100)". Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  5. ^ Blöndal, Sigfús (1978). The Varangians of Byzantium. Cambridge University Press. p. 1. ISBN 9780521035521. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  6. ^ a b Stefan Brink, "Who were the Vikings?', in The Viking World, ed. by Stefan Brink and Neil Price (Abingdon: Routledge, 2008), pp. 4–10 (pp. 6–7).
  7. ^ "Russ". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 25 July 2018. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  8. ^ Ipat’ievskaia letopis’ 1962:14; Radzivilovskaia letopis’ 1989:16
  9. ^ Omeljan Pritsak, "Rus'", in Medieval Scandinavia: An Encyclopedia, ed. by Phillip Pulsiano (New York: Garland, 1993), pp. 555–56.
  10. ^ Kirpichnikov, Anatoly H. "Сказание о призвании варягов. Анализ и возможности источника". Первые скандинавские чтения, СПб; 1997; ch. 7–18.
  11. ^ Nazarenko, Alexander. "Rjurik и Riis Th., Rorik", Lexikon des Mittelalters, VII; Munich, 1995; pp. 880, 1026.
  12. ^ Andrei Mozzhukhin (5 October 2014). «Рюрик — это легенда» ["Rurik – is a legend"]. Russian Planet (in Russian). Retrieved 12 November 2014. Interview with Igor Danilevsky.
  13. ^ Kampmaa, Mihkel. Majaussi kaswandikud. Tähelepanemise wäärt Eesti muinasjutt. Sakala, no 20, 09.06.1890

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