ABSTRACT

This chapter presents a historical overview of eastern Scandinavians and western Eurasian steppe people in order to situate the steppe in the history of the Viking world. First, Scandinavian connections with the East are briefly traced from the Migration period. Viking Age connections from as early as the eighth century and Scandinavian settlement in today’s European Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine is described mainly based on the results of archaeological excavations and sporadic written evidence. The geographical and cultural world of the steppes will be introduced, and the main steppe polities’ political, economic, religious, and cultural history will be described briefly. Finally, I end with the initial contacts between the Scandinavian Rus’ and the steppe people in the ninth century. Although the details, alas, lie in the shadows, they paved the way for better documented events of the late-ninth and tenth centuries, which will be explored in the later chapters.