Riuryk of Novgorod

Riuryk of Novgorod [Рюрик; Rjuryk] (Рурік, Рюрік; Rurik, Riurik), b ?, d 879 in Novgorod the Great, in northern Rus’. According to the Primary Chronicle Riuryk was a Varangian chieftain who was invited to rule Novgorod in 862, and whose brothers, Sineus and Truvor, were invited to rule Beloozero and Izborsk respectively. Within two years both his brothers were dead, and Riuryk annexed their realms, thereby becoming the ruler of the northern Slavic (Slovene and Krivichian [see Krivichians]) and Finnish (Meria, Chud, and Ves) tribes and territories. According to the Hypatian Chronicle Riuryk ruled in Ladoga before seizing Novgorod in 862, and he suppressed an anti-Varangian uprising there in 869.

An early 12th-century Rus’ chronicler's explanation of the emergence of the ruling dynasty of Kyivan Rus’ as the ‘coming of the Varangians led by Riuryk, his brothers, and his host’ has served as the basis of the Normanist theory of the origin of Rus’. Later Riuryk's son (or grandson), Prince Ihor, became the prince of a separate Kyivan realm to the south and annexed some of the northern tribes to his state, thereby beginning the ruling Riurykide dynasty of Kyivan Rus’.

Some historians (eg, Aleksei Shakhmatov) have accepted the Primary Chronicle's account of Riuryk and believe him to have been an actual historical figure; they have, however, rejected the story of his two brothers. Other historians (eg, D. Likhachev) believe that Riuryk was a legendary or semilegendary figure. Still others (eg, N. Beliaev, P. Kovalevsky, Omeljan Pritsak) believe that Riuryk of Novgorod was the same person as Hroerekr (Rorik), the 9th-century Norse king of Jutland and Frisia, and that widespread myths about him inspired the chroniclers' account of Riuryk as the progenitor of the Riurykide dynasty.

Shakhmatov, A. Razyskaniia o drevneishikh letopisnykh svodakh (Saint Petersburg 1908)
Perfets’kyi, E. ‘Peremyshl’s’kyi litopysnyi kodeks pershoï redaktsiï v skladi khroniky Iana Dlugosha (Opovidannia pro Riuryka, Syneusa i Truvora v skladi zvodu 1100 roku),’ ZNTSh, 147 (1927), 149 (1928), 151 (1931)
Beliaev, N. ‘Rorik of Jutland and Rurik of the Russian Chronicles,’ Saga Book of the Viking Society for Northern Research, 10 (1928–9)

Arkadii Zhukovsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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