The Baltic Region

2022 Vol. 14 №3

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The ‘Route from the Varangians to the Greeks’: truth or fiction



The ‘route from the Varangians to the Greeks’ is widely known and often mentioned in research, popular science and educational literature. Much less often is it mentioned that the existence of the trade route is seriously doubted and needs additional evidence. The discussion about the actuality of a ‘route from the Varangians to the Greeks’ has intensified in the recent decade; it mostly involves historians who draw on chronicles, archive materials and literary sources. Although relevant geographical studies focus on small territories and have a limited scope, only they can give a definitive answer to the question of whether it was possible to sail the rivers of the East European Plain between the Baltic and Black Seas in the 8th-11th centuries AD. Of particular importance are studies on the watersheds marking the principal legs of the route. If the watersheds were traversable, the ‘route from the Varangians to the Greeks’ was navigable, and the impassability of watersheds would preclude navigation along the route. Methodologically, the study employs methods and approaches used in physiographical field studies, which have not been applied earlier to the watershed sections of the ‘route from the Varangians to the Greeks’. The central result of the research is the reconstruction of the hydrological features and hydrographic situation of the watershed between the basins of the Neva (River Lovat) and the Western Dvina (River Usvyacha) during the existence of the ‘route from the Varangians to the Greeks’. This reconstruction and the study of the watershed territories, the system of land communication routes and toponymic features of this territory conclusively demonstrate that the ‘way from the Varangians to the Greeks’, or the Baltic-Black Sea waterway, could actually exist.


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