Old Russian state. It has been glorified in legends and praised in chronicles. The forefathers of the present-day Russians - the Polyans of the River Dnieper and Slovens of the Lake Ilmen, the Kriviches of Polotsk and Vyatiches of the River Oka, and other tribes for centuries had been ploughing, hunting and bee-keeping on their land. As they were defending it from Scandinavian pirates in the north, and nomadic tribes in the south, they gradually united to found in the 10th century a great state ruled by the princes and tribal nobility from Kiev, the "Mother of All Russian Cities", as well as Novgorod, Chernigov, Polotsk, Smolensk and other dependencies. The new state stretched from the Black Sea steppes to the northern seas, and from the Western Dvina and Danube to the Volga.

The people of Rus were pagans, who deified elements of nature: they worshipped and made offerings to Dazhbog, the god of sun and farming, Veles, the god of husbandry and trades, Svarog, the god of sky and fire, Perun, the god of thunder and war, and many other deities. As they sacrificed to the gods what their valuable possessions - furs, cattle and slaves - people hoped to win a better life and wealth in return.

Princes, their seniors and retinues every year made rounds through their fiefs to collect levies from the rural populace and judge in courts. The merchants exported the levies - precious mink, beaver and marten furs - further to the markets of Europe and Asia: Constantinople, Baghdad, Prague and Regensburg. In return they imported textiles, arms, jewellery and wines.

The armies of the Russian princes - Oleg, Igor and Svyatoslav - in the 10th century posed a considerable military force, capable to contest even the mighty Byzantium, whose power spread to the northern shores of the Black Sea. The riches of Old Russia used to astound the imagination of potential conquerors, but all they inevitably suffered defeat, and the expression "to fight with Russia" in the Medieval Europe became a synonym of hopeless enterprise.

With time Russia's system became feudal, based on exploitation of the people by those, who were in favour of the rulers and appropriated the ownership of the land. But as the old proverb says, the rich would have to eat money if the poor did not provide food. It was a Russian ploughman, who toiled to feed and clothe the country. He cultivated rye, wheat, oat and barley, turnip and cabbage, cherries and apples - he knew all the crops of the field, garden and orchard.

Yet, the people were poor, because they were not free. Princes, noblemen and courtiers appropriated their land, as well as a bigger share of the crops in the form of levies and duties. Injustice, poverty, chimney-less dwellings, primitive tools, permanent fear of poor harvest and war ravage were the destiny of the peasants.

Vast arable lands, herds of cattle, courts with valets and serfs, stonewall mansions in the cities, knights' tournaments and solemn sermons, military campaigns and drunken debauchery, judgement and punishment dispensed to the defiant ones - that was the life of those, who built their wealth on the oppression of the peasants. Uproar of the poor and destitute ones against the rich brewed in the cities and villages, and sometimes erupted in the uprising of the urban and country lower classes. Then they would ravage possessions of the landlords, governors, and judges. That used to happen in Kiev, Novgorod, Vladimir, Galich, Smolensk, and other places.

The feudals would then hastily leave their mutual disputes, strifes and wars. With power of sword, pagan gods, and the code of law - The Russian Truth - they were terrorizing, punishing and killing people to enforce law, order and obedience.

The Old Russian state became the cradle of three stems of the Russian people: Great Russian, Minor Russian and White Russian. It left significant incursions in the culture of the settled and nomadic peoples of the Baltic Sea (Lithuanians, Latgalians, Aesti, Ves), North (Vod, Chud, Komi, Nenets), Volga (Mordvinians), Northern Caucasus (Alani, Kasogians), and the Black Sea (Pechenegs, Torks, and Polovtsi).