Most of the information - at least as taught in Russia - related to how Rurik Dynasty became rulers of Rus is based on "Повѣсть времяньныхъ лѣтъ" ("Tale of Bygone Years", aka "Primary Chronicle").

Is there modern historical research into this topic that is based on documents other than that one (e.g. some western documents/accounts, or any non-Slavic ones)?

Rurik Wiki has some hints of possible theories, but doesn't seem to list too many primary references (only some Russian research in the first reference).


I understand that I am taking risk, but there are no such known sources. Let someone prove me wrong. And even in Slavic languages, the Chronicle that you mention seems to be the only source.

Of course the expression "rulers of Russia" that you use, is an anachronism. There was no "Russia", and those Varangian leaders of the time of Rurik did not rule any substantial territory.

Some Islamic and other sources mention a "Kahan of Rus", and some Western sources mention people who came from Constantinople and call themselves Rus, and who were actually Swedes. ("Rus" in these sources is an ethnonym, not a geographic name.) But there are no sources mentioning Rurik, Oleg, Askold or Dir.

Archeology shows that there were Scandinavian settlements in the regions of Novgorod, Kiev and elsewhere.

Byzantine sources show that they attacked Constantinople several times: first time in 860 with unidentified leader, second time in 940 by Igor with whom they concluded a treaty 3 years later. This treaty is preserved in the Chronicle.

The next ruler name from the Chronicle which is confirmed by Byzantine sources is Olga (the wife of Igor who was Rurik's son according to the Chronicle). She visited Constantinople and her visit is recorded by Byzantine historians.


There are a bunch of theories about Rurik and Rus -- and really there is almost no way to get to anywhere near consensus on this. Mostly due to unfortunate dearth of surviving documents on the Russian/Slavic side. Even "Primary Chronicle" is something which was most likely written and then possibly re-compiled at least 200+ years after the events.

E.g., one theory (rather convincing to me, a non-expert) says that Rus was not an ethnonym but the name for the local chieftain's (earl's, prince's) armed retinue (called "druzhina" in Russian) -- which seems to have its roots in the similar name for the Varangian hird (or members of such) used in some Scandinavian/Viking dialect.

Perhaps this book could be of help: Franklin, Simon, and Jonathan Shepherd. The Emergence of Rus 750–1200 (you can get it through Library Genesis website)

  • I'd say, this book confirms the answer given by Alex: The authors sifted through all the available sources dealing with pre 860's Rus (Arabian, Byzantine and other European) and could not even determine the location of the capital, let alone the history of how Ruriks became the ruling elite. Apr 29 '20 at 20:37

I think this list should answer the question.

  • I'm sorry this doesn't answer the question AT ALL. NONE of the sources mentioned there are mentioned to discuss Rurik and Rurikinds (except for a mention of Olga in one which confused her with a German tribe); only Rus as a tribe.
    – DVK
    Feb 24 '13 at 18:05
  • I see - you are interested specifically in Rurik. I thought you were looking to evaluate the broader "Norman theory" question. Feb 24 '13 at 18:38
  • 1
    I think I want it to stay; I now understand that this is not the kind answer you were looking for, so I resign myself to the downvote. Nevertheless, I think the special subject is inextricable from the larger one and I'd rather my reference to the larger issue stayed on the record. Thanks for the suggestion, though. Feb 24 '13 at 19:48
  • 1
    then edit it to be more ontopic so I can undownvote :)
    – DVK
    Feb 24 '13 at 23:11
  • 2
    Don't answer with just a link; fold the relevant information from the linked article into your answer.
    – Joe
    Feb 25 '13 at 21:49

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