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The Last Vikings: Russian Boat Bandits and the Formation of Princely Power

In: Russian History
Author:
Jukka Korpela Professor of General History, Department of Geographical and Historical Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies, University of Eastern Finland Joensuu Finland

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Abstract

The Viking age ended in the twelfth century in Scandinavia. Rising royal powers recruited most magnates and secured the development of medieval maritime trade. Only a few people who were marginalized to the peripheries turned to piracy. The situation in the Eastern Baltic and along Russian rivers was different. The Viking culture arrived there in the ninth century, but princely power formed late. Control of remote areas was superficial. Raiding by private gangs of young men and warlords continued: this activity was part of the economy and local societies benefited from it. The culture faded away gradually after the late fourteenth century but still in the seventeenth century, dragon ships raided along Siberian rivers. This activity provided the context for the formation of the early modern Muscovite economy, which differed from the West European pattern. This difference is essential to understand the situation in Russia today.

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