Russian history proper, i.e. the history of the state bearing this name, with a dynasty enthroned at Kíev, begins with the three brothers Rurix, Truvor and Sineus, or in Norse, Hrörekr, Thorvardr and Sikniutr. Probably Rurik only followed in the wake of other Norse precessors; but in the year 862 he invaded Russia, occupied Nóvgorod, and sailed down the rivers to Kíev. He retained Nóvgorod for himself, assigning to Sineus Bělo Ozëro, and to Truvor Izborsk. On their death these military outposts reverted to Rurik.
Throughout medieval Russian history there is the same eagerness displayed to gain possession of Kíev. Kíev was the natural mart for the trade of the Volkhov and the Western Dviná; and the master of Kíev had the control of Russian trade. All the other cities depended economically on the good will of Kíev, which soon grew into a rich town with very numerous churches and eight markets. It was the wealth of Kíev that enabled the successors of Rurik to maintain the struggle against the hordes of Asia for three hundred years, despite disaffection within and disturbance without.
Kíev was left in the possession of Askold and Dir, whilst Rurik consolidated his power in the North. Rurik died in the year 879, leaving one son Ígoŕ, a minor, for whom Olég acted as regent.
Olég was the real founder of the Russian state. In 882 he enticed his kinsmen Askold and Dir out of Kíev (which they had released from the Khozar yoke) by means of a treacherous invitation to join him on a trading expedition to Constantinople, and took the opportunity to rid himself of these rivals. He hastened to make Kíev his capital. During his long regency (879-912) Olég subdued the whole of Slav Russia, took Smolénsk and reduced the Drevlyáne, Sěveryáne and Rádimiči to subjection.
He also created for Russia its first international standing as an independent state, in 911 concluding the first commercial treaty with the Greeks, as the outcome of a raid on Constantinople in which the Russian, ships sailed into the harbour and ravaged the environs.
This treaty, of which the text has come down in the Russian Chronicles, is of prime importance. It was drafted in Greek and Russian,--
which proved successful, in the course of which he had established a fortress at Pereyáslavets on the Danube (probably near Marcianople and below Silistria), Svyatosláv decided on pulling these chestnuts out of the fire for himself and Russia; and thus, when their ally was becoming obnoxious, Constantinople suborned the Pečneg allies of the Russians to rise, and attack Kíev and seize the rapids of the lower Dněpr, so cutting off the trade-route to the Black Sea. Svyatosláv, who had been defeated this time at Dristr (or Silistria) hurried back to face the new enemy, but on his way back was beaten and slain. His had was cut off and his skull used by the savage Pečenegs as a drinking-vessel.
But the death of this heroic figure passed almost unnoticed in Russia, which had during all of the reign been left to itself, whilst the monarch was away on his remote schemes of conquest.
Svyatosláv left three sons, Yaropólk and Olég, legitimate by a Scandinavian mother, and a third son, illegitimate, Vladímir, by a Slav serf Malúša. They were all three under age, and the first partition was made to provide them all with territory, Yaropólk the eldest being assigned the capital, Kíev, Olég the region of the Drevlyáne (the land watered by the Pripet’ and neighbouring streams) and Vladímir the North with the capital city of Nóvgorod. Civil war soon ensued; and Vladímir, who, under the tutorship of his maternal uncle, Dobrýnya, had been partly educated in Scandinavia, and had thence brought with him a fresh batch of Pagan Norsemen, in 980 assassinated Yaropólk, who had already dispossessed and killed Olég in 977.
A new epoch may he said to begin with the accession of Vladímir I. The period of expansion and consolidation was over; the Scandinavian ascendancy was at the end; Russia was to become Christian and Slavonic.