Whether you choose to analyze them from a socio-anthropological or a purely military point of view, the Viking raiders of the 9th century AD are a highly interesting group of war-mongering, blood-drinking maniacs who would just as soon slam your balls shut in a bear trap as eat your eyes out of your face with a grapefruit spoon. Not only were these vicious, merciless sea-pirates from the ball-freezing Northlands so over-the-top hardcore that they had free reign to make the most civilized countries on the Baltic Coast their bitches anytime and anyway they felt like it, but these guys were so proficient in the fine arts of smearing themselves with blood and cream cheese and killing everything in sight that they seriously altered the genetic makeup of Europe forever. With nothing more than broadswords, longships, and a +20 Pillage modifier, the men of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden put the "Saxon" in "Anglo-Saxon", impregnated the coasts of Normandy with the line of hardasses that would produce William the Conqueror, and pillaged so many hot babes from Ireland that nowadays the mitochondrial DNA makeup of Iceland is roughly 50 percent Norse and 50 percent Irish.
The Viking nobleman known as Rurik, which I'm told is apparently some utterly-bastardized derivative of the name Hroerkr somehow, was one in a long line of these massive, badass, face-smashing Norseman who terrorized the countryside with his freakalicious murderous rampages, plundered with a high degree of impunity, enthusiastically destroyed all who opposed him, and accidentally changed the course of European history with nothing more than a battleaxe and a boner – he is the man widely credited with inventing the country of Russia.
I love how "Hroerkr" becomes "Pюpиkъ".
His tale starts back in the 9th century, when Rurik and the Vikings were having a blast sailing their totally rad dragon-headed longships down the twisting waterways of present-day Russia, stopping every so often to bludgeon the holy living bejeezus out of anything stupid enough to be situated on waterfront property. Their basic m.o. was to plunder, incinerate, slaughter people, gank all their valuables, and then go down the Dnieper and sell the captured slaves, furs, and honey off to Constantinople for a one-hundred percent profit – a business plan that worked out rather excellently for these forward-thinking pillagers. When Rurik wasn't terrorizing the Russian countryside, he also made raids into England, Ireland, Normandy, and the Baltic Coasts of Germany (particularly the Rhine region).
Around this time, the most powerful city in the present-day Russia-Ukraine region was the wealthy trading town of Novgorod. Defended by city walls and a well-trained army, Novgorod had been insulated from Rurik's raids, but that of course didn't mean these guys didn't have problems of their own. The short version is that there were like three or four groups of powerful Novgorod businessmen/noblemen all bitching and fighting over the trading rackets, having people shanked in back alleys, talking trash about their enemies on Facebook, and otherwise being total dicks to each other.
Well one day, as it was starting to look like this three-way power struggle for control of the Slavic world's most powerful city was about to boil over into out-and-out badass knife-fighting street violence, one enterprising businessman made a carefully-placed phone call to the most badass human being he could think of – the Viking Rurik. You know, the guy who had been fucking up every other city in Russia with his battle axe, and was feared by cowering peasants from Dublin to Constantinople. The businessman offered Rurik a deal – you come help me take over, and I'll make it worth your while.
WHAT UP I'M HERE FOR THE MONEY
So, a guy who up until this point had been a pretty notorious plunderer and sea-raider in his own right rolled into town to use his powers of crotchal annihilation to settle the dispute and make an assload of gold in the process. He brought with him his two brothers, Sinaus and Truvor, as well as about ten thousand of their closest mead-chugging, axe-swinging buddies.
It didn't take him long for this mercenary Viking army to throw the rival groups out on their still-bleeding assholes. Then, seeing the situation that fate had handed him, Rurik just figured, "hey, what the hell, while I'm here I'll just take over". So in 862, he seized control of Novgorod, declared himself Iron-Fisted Autocrat Now And Forever, and named his new empire after his Viking tribe – Rus. A Novgorodian nobleman named Vadim took exception to this self-inflicted Viking wound and rode out with an army to try and placate Rurik by smashing him in the face with a sword a few bajillion times, but Rurik crunched that dillhole's balls into paste, destroyed the Novgorodian Army, and seized complete and total control over all aspects of Novgorodian life.
I don't get it, but I like it.
By this point in history, Novgorod was already a highly-advanced, incredibly-wealthy city that served as a trade hub between the Arab World, the Byzantines, and even the Chinese Silk Road – the world's three wealthiest and most advanced civilizations at this time in history. Rurik figured, sure, trade is great and all, but think of how much more awesome it would be if there were more than just one city to it, and he immediately put together a huge army and dispatched it out to kick the shit out of everything else in the present-day Ukraine. Rurik's troops headed down the Dnieper from Novgorod aboard 200 longships, where they ran into another powerful Slavic city – Kiev.
They conquered that too.
Then they went even further South, rampaging through the Black Sea in a frenzy of pillaging and sacking, but the party eventually came to an end when they tried to capture Constantinople itself. Sure, you have to admit that it took huge balls to try and conquer the world's most heavily-fortified city with a couple hundred determined Vikings, but the Byzantines had a little thing called Greek Fire that burned the fucking shit out of the Norse warships and sent them all running back to Kiev. The men who had led the attack were so awed by the Greek Napalm that they converted to Christianity and declared Kiev to be an Orthodox Xtian city-state independent of Novgorodian rule, so naturally Rurik was like, "ok jokers, see you in hell biznatch" and had them all whacked and replaced.
The Hammer of the Gods will drive our ships to new lands.
The Viking pirate-raider turned world leader Rurik ruled over Novgorod for fifteen years, implementing Scandinavian laws, and expanding the city-state into a powerful regional empire that would eventually become Russia. He died in 879, left the empire in the hands of his badass warrior-cousin Oleg rather than his 4 year-old son Igor, a move that probably helped cement his dynasty, since most noblemen don't like taking orders from infants.
Rurik's descendants would continue to conquer territory, expanding the new Grand Duchy of Greater Russia from the Baltic to the Black Sea, dominating the country as merciless tyrants for 700 years – a dynasty of neck-punching Tsars that would only end when a dude named Ivan the Terrible broke the succession line by drunkenly beating his kid to death. Rulers of the Russian Empire would claim descent from him throughout the ages, and it is said that every Tsar in history carried with him the same scepter Rurik used to rule over the Novgorodians in 862 AD. Now there's a legacy you can be proud of.
Claire, Israel Smith. The World's History Illuminated. Western Newspaper Syndicate, 1897.
Craughwell, Thomas J. How the Barbarian Invasions Shaped the Modern World. Fair Winds, 2008.
Duczko, Wladyslaw. Viking Rus. Brill, 2004.
Duffy, James P. Czars. Barnes & Noble Publishing, 2002.
Kendrick, T.D. A History of the Vikings. Courier Dover, 2004.
Magocsi, Paul Robert. A History of Ukraine. University of Toronto Press, 2010.
Willcocks, Thomas. History of Russia, from the Foundation of the Empire by Rurik to the Present Time. W. Byers, 1832.
The Complete List
About the Author