Staraia Ladoga: The Foundation of Russia
On the shores of Lake Ladoga is a settlement that is a key and little-known part of Viking and Russian history. In the 8th century AD, the Slavic site of Staraia Ladoga became the Norse settlement of Aldeigjuborg, as Swedish Vikings took advantage of the settlement’s natural harbor to make it a base for trading and raiding. Ladoga was one of the earliest Viking settlements in Russia and a stepping stone towards the foundation of Russia as a nation.
The Heimskringla and other Norse sources tell how the local, warring Slavic tribes, impressed by the organization and fighting skills of Scandinavian invaders, invited the Vikings to rule over them. A Swedish Viking named Rurik obliged, making Staraia Ladoga his initial base before he and his successors moved onto Novgorod, just south of St. Petersburg and Kiev.
Archaeology on the site shows a sudden appearance of Scandinavian artifacts in Ladoga. Tools, amulets of Odin, and other finds, as well as distinct Scandinavian style Kurgan burials, usually found in Sweden and Denmark, were found dating to the 7th and 8th centuries.
As time progressed, the distinction between these Scandinavian and the local Slavic burials blurred, showing a merging between the two groups. But it was the Vikings who gave their name to the emerging nation. For the Swedish Vikings were known to the Slavs as the Rus-from the Finnish word for Swedes- Ruotsi – that in itself derives from the Swedish word Roor – the term for a crew of oarsmen.