ABSTRACT

This chapter returns to a basic question about Scandinavian, Rus’, and Turkic interactions: How did early medieval Scandinavians and Rus’ communicate with the Turkic-speakers of the steppes? Besides occasional references to linguistic evidence, Muslim, Byzantine, Slavic, and Old Norse written sources describing direct communication between various groups of people in Eastern Europe will be discussed. The accounts show the multiple means of communication that must have been in use: first, communication without speech, second, communication through interpreters, third, communication in an intermediary language, and finally, communication through learning the other’s language. While not denying that the first possibility could occur occasionally during barter transactions (‘silent trade’), there is firm evidence for the widespread use of interpreters of Slavic and Turkic origin, and for the existence of a lingua franca, probably Slavic, in the region. Based on individual examples, careful suggestions will be put forward concerning the fourth scenario. The continuous inflow of various groups from Scandinavia, nevertheless, suggests that these communication channels did not necessarily open in sequence, but were mutually present in the East.