This opening chapter lays out the ancient history of Russian peoples, from 600 BC to 910 AD.
Interesting: The Romans won all the way up to the caucuses, but could go no further north.
This is where things start getting interesting and we see heroism and Christian chivalry emerge from the Russian people, who are setting up their capitol in Kiev (which is the capitol of modern day Ukraine) right off the Daniper River.
In the 880’s, King Oleg sailed down the Daniper to attack Constantinople; instead of fighting him, they paid him tribute. He returns victorious, and lives a long, peaceful reign. Oleg is the “founder” of the Russian kingdom, and united much of Russia under feudalism.
Abbott says something interesting:
His son Igor takes over with his bride Olga. Olga becomes a Christian —> Helen.
From 973 to 1092
Back and forth between squabbling youths, every time a king dies. They raise armies of thousands of men, and have brutal battles for the throne.
Eventually, Vladimir the Great takes the throne, and becomes a Christian, remembering Helen … Russia becomes nominally Christian, specifically – Greek orthodox in 988ish. His nature totally changes; from hundreds of concubines, murder and war, he turns into a peaceful king with a mind to justice and spreading Christian education.
Interestingly enough, during these brutal wars, ghosts were said to be killing people in the streets, and a giant serpent was said to have been seen falling from the sky.
May 19, 1126, King Vladamir (the II) Monomaque dies, leaving an encouraging letter to his children, extolling them to live with Christian virtues.
“The foundation of all virtue is fear of God and love of man. Oh my dear children, praise God and love your fellow man. It is not fasting, it is not solitude, it is not a monastic life which will secure for you divine approval – it is doing good to your fellow creatures alone.”
He goes on to add the following, which displays a sort of proto chivalry, already forming in his Norman kin to the distant west:
“Be a father to the orphans, the protector of widows, and never permit the powerful to oppress the weak. Never take the name of God in vain, and never violate your oath.”
He also warns his sons against idleness, which is the “mother of all vices”, and tells them to love their wives, but not to “let them rule you”.
I’ve tried to find an English translation of his entire letter online, but couldn’t.
After his death there is more war for the kingdom back and forth. Kiev is under constant siege. For a time, Russia is in complete anarchy. The backwoods, little town of Moscow, deep in the interior, becomes important at this time. In the province of Souzdal, ruled by prince Georges. In 1157, he successfully wages war against Kiev, and gains the crown of Russia. But he passes, and his son is quickly disposed; more wars break out for ownership of Russia.
This chapter is full of more strife and conflict, but King Andre of Moscow emerges as a benevolent ruler who strives for peace and really tries to unite all of Russia, promotes Christianity, and development of internal infrastructure.
All Russia unites (briefly) to stave off the hoards of barbarian pirates. They utterly destroy the invading pirates. Immediately after their victory, all the Russian princes go back to fighting. King Andre, through diplomacy and wisdom, manages to bring some measure of stability.
Andre is ultimately killed by 20 assassins, who sneak into his house (a few miles outside of Moscow), and attack him. Andre, even though elderly, managed to knock out one assailant, and in the confusion, caused one of the others to stab their own comrade. Still, they beat him thoroughly. He fought, screaming for guards. The assassins fled, thinking Andre was dead and thinking guards were about to surround them. Andre had only passed out, however. He recovered, grabbed up a sword, and chased the assassins out into the snow. Still, nineteen men to one elderly monarch – they fought, and the first blow chopped off Andre’s arm, the second ran him through, killing him. His last words were “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit …”