. . . two greater-than-civilizational stories run through the history of the region: 1) who were the Vikings, really, as defined both by the character of their leadership and the makeup of their complement? And 2) the condition of Russian soil (not so good) and the desirability of one of the world’s great crossroads and agricultural centers. The drive for Ukraine has been always south from today’s St. Petersburg. Boredom, corruption, criminality, greed have indeed enriched Ukraine’s soil over centuries. The inhabitants of the land in the early Byzantine Era had been Turkish (“Turkic”) tribes who chose to declare themselves Jews and probably so in defiance of expanding Christian and Muslim power.
The source I generally cite for Russian history from before the Rus has been Pipes, Richard. Russia Under the Old Regime: The History of Civilization. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974, but I have reached an age where re-reading seems in order while the taking of voluminous notes defies the contemporary zeitgeist, however enamored one may be of 19th and 20th Century methods in scholarship. Informal conversation serves the note as well, and one may indeed “fly” south from St. Petersburg via Google Maps and practically hit Kiev as is being done today but primarily for want of unobtainable pride.
Inspiration for this post: an encyclopedia entry for the “Pereiaslav Treaty of 1654”, which papering relationships into history appears about as confused as today’s Putin.