During the pre-Christian era the vast territory that became Russia was sparsely inhabited by tribal peoples, many of whom were described by ancient Greek and Roman writers. The largely unknown north, a region of extensive forests, was inhabited by tribes later known collectively as Slavs. These Slavs were the ancestors of the modern Russian people. Far more important to the ancient Greeks and Romans were southern peoples.
In Scythia, an indeterminate region that included the greater part of southeastern Europe and Central Asia. Portions of this region were occupied by a succession of horse-riding nomadic peoples, including, chronologically, the Cimmerians, Scythians, and Sarmatians. In these early times, Greek traders and colonists established many trading posts and settlements, particularly along the north coast of the Black Sea and in Crimea.
Large stretches of open plain facilitated the immigration of outside peoples. Such migrations resulted in successive invasions, the establishment of settlements, and the assimilation of people who spoke different languages. Thus, in the early centuries of the Christian era, Germanic Goths displaced the Asian peoples of Scythia and established an Ostrogothic (eastern Goth) kingdom on the Black Sea. In the 4th century nomadic Huns invaded from Asia and conquered the Ostrogoths. The Huns held the territory constituting present-day Ukraine and most of present-day Moldova until their defeat in Western Europe in the mid-5th century. Later came the Mongolian Avars, followed by the nomadic Asian Magyars, and then the Turkic Khazars, who remained influential until about the mid-10th century.
Meanwhile, during this long period of successive invasions, the Slavic tribes in the area northeast of the Carpathian Mountains had begun a series of migratory movements. As these migrations took place, the western tribes in the region eventually evolved as the Moravians, Poles, Czechs, and Slovaks; the southern tribes as the Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, and a Slavic people who were conquered by but soon assimilated the Turkic Bulgars; and the eastern tribes as a people who later gave rise to the modern Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians. The East Slavs became renowned traders. The systems of rivers and waterways extending through the territory from the Valday Hills facilitated the establishment of Slav trading posts, notably the cities of Kyiv (Kiev), which is the present-day capital of Ukraine, and Novgorod, directly north of Kyiv. Along these waterways the Slavs transported goods between the Baltic and Black seas. "Russia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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