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The Varangian Guard in the Chronicle of Johannes Skylitzes (12th century)

Waräger (Old Icelandic Væringjar , Old Russian Варяги , Warjagi , Greek Βάραγγοι , Varangoi is) the name given from Scandinavia native traders and warriors that since the 8th century in the area of Dnepr , Dvina , Volga and Don to the Caspian and Black Sea are detected . They are mentioned in Old Russian , Byzantine and Arabic sources and are to be considered as a subgroup of the Vikings .


Activities of the Scandinavians from the 8th to the 10th century

Scandinavian armed men's associations, which were active between the 8th and 12th centuries in the Baltic States and in Eastern Europe, were particularly linked by oaths and oaths as well as common commercial interests .

The Varangians mostly came from the Svear and Gauten tribes in what is now southern Sweden .


The Old East Slavic varęgŭ was derived from the Old Norse væringi , originally a combination of vár “vow” and gengi “companion”, d. H. "Sworn person". Some Russian historians associate the name of the Varangians with the name of the West Slavic tribe of the Wagrians .

From the Varangians to the Greeks

The Varangians used large rivers such as the Volkhov , Neva , Daugava , Volga , Dnepr, and Don to travel in the Eastern European lowlands . Like the other Vikings, the Varangians appeared as traders , warriors and settlers .

During their trade and robbery voyages across the Black Sea , the Varangians came to Constantinople , where they had provided the life guards ( Varangian guards ) of the Byzantine emperors since 988 .

Kievan Rus

The Varangians had been the leaders in the area of ​​the Ilmen Sea Slavs , Tschuden and Kriviches since the 9th century at the latest . Ryurik founded the Rus of Novgorod , his successor Oleg the Kievan Rus .

The Scandinavians residing in the Rus were later no longer called Varangians . The word was only used for strangers, not for locals. Up until the 13th century, new warriors from Scandinavia came to the Kievan Rus as mercenaries. They also provided the bodyguards of Russian princes, the Druzhina .

For a long time it was controversial whether the founding of the Kievan Rus originally goes back to Norman (i.e. Scandinavian) or Slavic groups. Birgit Scholz writes in her dissertation: “The question of the Slavic or Norman roots of the old Russian state has been a political issue of the first order in the relations between German, Scandinavian and Russian historiography since the 18th century, as there are feelings of superiority on the one hand and certain inferiority complexes on the other hand. "

In Arabia and Asia

Recent excavations have shown that - at least in isolated cases - Varangian traders, after they had their goods brought by caravans across the isthmus near Suez to the Red Sea , also appeared in what is now Qatar .

In the 9th century, members of the "Rus" people in Serkland appeared as traveling traders along the Volga trade route. Arab sources indicate that Varangians came to Itil on the Caspian Sea as early as the 9th century , from where the Silk Road to China could be reached, and that they visited Baghdad .


The term was used, among other things, to designate the Russian cruiser Varyag (1899), the unfinished Soviet aircraft carrier of the same name (construction began in 1985) and, during World War II, for a planned division of the Waffen SS .

See also


Web links

Commons : Varangians  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Varangian rune stones for people who traveled to the east are almost only found in Sweden
  2. HS Falk & A. Torp, Norwegian-Danish Etymological Dictionary , 1911, pp. 1403-4; J. de Vries, Old Norse Etymological Dictionary , 1962, pp. 671-2; S. Blöndal & B. Benedikz, The Varangians of Byzantium , 1978, p. 4th
  3. V. Merkulov, "Ostholstein - the home of the old Russian Varangians // Federkiel, 10th edition, 2014, pp. 4-9.
  4. Finno-Ugric tribe
  5. Originally the Baltic region around Polotsk
  6. Vladimir the Great came back from Scandinavia with Varangians around 987; he himself was not one of them
  7. Kapel, 1983
  8. ^ Vikings in the Persian Gulf ; Jnl Royal Asiatic Soc, III Ser., Vol. 17.4, p. 389.
  9. The Vikings ; Was ist Was, Volume 58, p. 32