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Ukraine, History

Saint Volodymyr, Varangian, East Slavs, Volhynia, steppes

Ukraine’s geographic location between Europe and Asia was an important factor in its early history. The steppes were the domain of Asiatic nomads, the Black Sea coast was inhabited by Greek colonists, and the forests in the northwest were the homeland of the agrarian East Slavic tribes from whom, eventually, the Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarusian nations evolved. As the East Slavs expanded, they accepted, in the 9th century, a Varangian (Viking) elite that led them to establish a vast domain, centered in Kyiv (Kiev) and called Kievan Rus. It became one of the largest, richest, and most powerful lands in medieval Europe. In 988 Saint Volodymyr (Vladimir), grand prince of Kyiv, accepted Orthodox Christianity, and in this way brought Kievan Rus under the cultural influence of the Byzantine Empire. Inter-princely feuds, shifting trade routes, and recurrent nomadic attacks weakened Kievan Rus, however, and in 1240 it fell to the invading Mongols. The western principality of Galicia-Volhynia managed to retain its autonomy for about a century thereafter.

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Article key phrases:

Saint Volodymyr, Varangian, East Slavs, Volhynia, steppes, Orthodox Christianity, Byzantine Empire, Black Sea coast, cultural influence, medieval Europe, Vladimir, trade routes, Viking, autonomy, homeland, forests, important factor, Ukrainian, northwest, century, early history, elite, way, Kievan Rus


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