Feliks Koneczny


From Ruthenia to Russia

The History


 from a pre-Soviet perspective



Translated into English by Maciej Giertych

Available at eBay (Type in ‘Feliks Koneczny’ into the search box).


Translator’s note.




Part I. Up to the Mongolian invasion.


I. Before the Varangian rule (till the year 862)


II. Ruthenia as the road to Greece (860-1043).


III. Divergence between society and the state (until 1054).


IV. The question of the transversal route across Ruthenia (1054-1174).


V. The preparation of the scission in the eastern Slav lands (1174-1224).


VI. The Tartar invasion and division of the eastern Slav lands (1224-1263).




Part II. The Grand Duchy of Moscow (1263-1449).




VII. Voluntary confirmation of bondage  (1263-1319).


VIII. The economic superiority of Moscow (1320-1359).


IX. The consolidation of Moscow in its distinctiveness (1360-1380).


X. The hoped-for Vilnius Tsardom (1380-1408).


XI. The question of the frontier between two cultures (1408-1449).


The intermediary period (1449-1505).


XII. The taking over of the whole of Zalesye (1449-1489).


XIII. Governor and Tsar of all Ruthenia (1480-1505).




Part III. Moscow Tsardom  (1505-1725).




XIV. The birth of a specific culture (1505-1554).


XV. The struggle over the Baltic (1554-1595).


XVI.  The working towards a union of Poland, Lithuania and-Muscovy (1595-1634).


XVII. The Cossack wars (1634-1682).


XVIII. The second struggle over the Baltic and the bureaucratic reform (1682-1725).




Part IV. The Russian Empire (from 1725).




XIX. The state beyond society (1725-1762).


XX. The partitions of Poland (1762-1796).


XXI. The Napoleonic wars (1796-1815).


XXII. Russian hegemony (1815-1855).


XXIII. Nihilism and Russification (1855-1897)


XXIV. Intermittent blows from Asia and Europe (1898-1914).


Names and place names






            Feliks Koneczny’s (1862-1949) book on Russian history was first published in 1921. The original title was Dzieje Rosji od najdawniejszych do najnowszych czasów [History of Russia from the Most Ancient to the Most Recent Times]. In view of the book being already almost a century old the title had to be changed.


            Koneczny wrote for the Polish intelligentsia of his generation assuming a certain level of general knowledge of languages, culture, geography and history, both Polish and universal. While reading this book it may be helpful to occasionally glance at maps of Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and European Russia, both historical and present day, so as to locate the rivers and towns mentioned in the work.


            As in the previous translations of Koneczny’s works, all additions that come from the translator are given in square brackets [ ]. Where the translator considered it necessary to add some explanation, either in the text or in the footnotes, this is in square brackets. Quotations in other languages are left intact in italics and are followed by an English translation in square brackets. Russian words were given by Koneczny in a Polish transliteration, which is usually understandable to Poles. These words are given in Russian followed by an English translation in square brackets.


                                                                       Maciej Giertych (2018)



            In the spring of 1917 the Warsaw Publishing Company published the first volume of my History of Russia which in 527 pages of the 8th print size covered the time period only up to the year 1449. Before I shall be able to complete this work in the same sort of detail, the need appeared, a very urgent one, to give to our general public a concise overview of the subject – and so this is the genesis of the present book.


            From start to finish this book contains only the results of my own investigations and many years of studies which were conducted and interrupted due to various circumstances of life. This is an abridged version in respect to the former more extensive study, providing here only its backbone. It is an abbreviation of the first volume and a conspectus of further ones published in advance because of the practical needs of the public. For this reason in this volume I have kept to the rule that a presentation of the earlier times is given as briefly as possible and the work expands increasingly as more recent times are dealt with.


            This shortened version is completely void of the so called scientific apparatus; this is left for the more detailed editions in which I shall try to maintain the same method as was used in vol. 1. Whoever is interested in details, deductions, proofs, who likes to ask the question: why? and requires justified answers for it will have to look into the main study and consider the present volume as an introductory reading.



Part I


Up To the Mongolian Invasion



I. Before the Varangian’s Rule (till the year 862)


            The eastern Slav lands are for History – as the science about changes – a most plentiful theme, because probably no other part of the world has undergone so many changes and so radical ones. The history of the Polish lands seems to be unchangeably stable in comparison with the history of Russia! While in our country the forms constantly changed and continue to do so in service to a more of less constant content, the eastern Slav lands in contrast have seen the opposite: the content changed more frequently than the form. There even traditions were in flux, excluding one another.


            The second major difference between the history of Poland and of Russia lies in the basic dissimilitude of the struggle for existence. The Russians even today have not started to work intensively. The perfection of a society necessarily requires a certain degree of tenacity in the struggle for existence, the intensity of which is inescapably tied with intellectual effort. However, the way as life functions in Russia, is such that people are never forced to exert themselves intellectually so as to assure prosperity. Even trade in the eastern Slav lands was not linked to any productivity, to any manufacturing or industry (as was the case in XIV-XVI century Poland). Until the most recent times, trade rather inhibited the development of society, disintegrating it. Life continued there extensively, particularly in the watershed of the Volga, without deepening anywhere.


            Whether the whole eastern Slav lands are to be identified as Russian, that is whether Ruthenia and Russia are the same, or should we contrast these notions, this is a debate that has reached exhaustion and ... it has not led to any practical result. It is an old privilege of life to bypass theories! The present book, deriving from a scientific current and not from any political party will describe the relationship between being Ruthenian and being Russian, in its historical development, i.e. in the manner it was considered by contemporaries in different periods of time. We shall begin our topic from Kiev because the colonists who created the new Ruthenia in the watershed of the Volga (which was later to become Russia) came from the Dnieper river. We therefore need to know what they brought into the northern Finnish-Turanian countries. The scope of the history of Russia in its initial period must therefore cover the whole of the eastern Slav lands.


            The first stimuli for historical appearance in this part of the Slav lands came from the Armenians and Arabs engaged in international trade. They reached these parts of the world from the east moving westwards and finally the Slavs were brought into their sphere. This occurred through the mediation of the Khazars, a Finnish-Ural people who had a semi-settled type of life along the southern Oka, and also through the Bulgarians, a Turanian people who led a nomadic life beyond the middle and lower Volga.


            The initial settlements of the eastern Slavs were within a triangle the base line of which runs more or less from the upper Bug river to Kiev, narrowing suddenly in the northerly direction towards its apex at lake Ilmen. This triangle entered as a wedge between the Finnish-Turanian branch of peoples in the east and the Baltic ones in the west. There in the east, there was a multi-tribe “Yugra”, a swarm of peoples of a very low cultural level extending from the eastern slopes of the Valdai hills all the way to the Urals, from the Arctic ocean to rivers Volga and Kama. (The most primitive among them were the Magyars beyond the Kama). On the other hand the Finnish peoples who lived north of the Valdai hills, east and west of lake Ilmen had a relatively higher level of culture. From the south-western side there were deserted areas which only from the Xth c. onwards became inhabited. On the northwest there were the Baltic peoples (Latvians, Samogitians, Prussians, Lithuanians, Yotvingians.) They also persisted at a lower cultural level in comparison with the eastern Slavs[1]. Thus the eastern Slav people originally did not meet at any point directly with their western (Polish) cousins. Since the whole area of the lower Dnieper river was also sparsely inhabited, the eastern Slav peoples in the initial period of their history were completely isolated both from their western and southern sides.


            Around the year 700 the Khazars discovered again the trade route northwards along the Dnieper river (that was known to the Greeks already in antiquity). They recreated the ancient trading post in a region which had been populated already since Palaeolithic times, as it was convenient for the transfer of goods over the Dnieper and it was a border point of settlement in the region. This place was Kiev. Below Kiev the banks of the Dnieper were empty almost to its delta.


            Mosaic[2] influence coming from Asia Minor and Persia reached the Khazars through the trade routes and later (in mid IXth c.) Christianity also influenced them when trade contacts brought them closer to Byzantium.  Byzantine builders erected for them a new capital on the river Don (Sarkel, next to what today is Bila Vezha). Together with the builders (in the years 857-858) came Constantine of Thessalonica, later known to the whole world under his monastic name of Cyril.


            His missionary activity however did not expand from the Don to the Dnieper river and it is a fact that neither St. Cyril nor his brother St. Methodius – the later apostles of the southern and western Slavs – had in fact anything to do with eastern Slav lands.


            In mid IXth c. a new and very dangerous competitor for trade along the Dnieper river arrived from the north: the Varangians of Scandinavia. Their superiority lay in the fact that they were a sailing people, knowing how to build boats, and thus they were capable of taking over the water routes of the Dnieper and Volga watersheds, while the Finns, the Yugra, the eastern Slavs, the Bulgarians and the Khazars knew only how to construct primitive boats (which were simply carved-out logs)[3] and thus they could not travel far. The expanse of land between the Baltic and Constantinople, for many centuries since the times of ancient Greece, was divided into several intermediate trading regions. It happened for the first time in 838 that someone traversed the entire route. These were messengers of the Scandinavian Swede people, from the tribe Rus.


            Long distance sailing trips were for a long time a question of economic existence for southern Scandinavia. The whole of Western Europe knew the Norse builders of coastal states, called the “Vikings”. Their close relatives were referred to as the “Varangians” in the Dnieper watershed. They had been visiting the lands on the western Dvina and Neva for a long time, but only sporadically, because even having reached lake Ilmen, they did not find much benefit from these expeditions. Having learnt however that somewhere further to the south there are rich countries to which all these northern peoples are supplying furs, they did not rest until they investigated the matter closely, collecting information during several exploratory expeditions, undertaken so as to make geographic discoveries on the Dnieper, Don and Volga rivers and on the Black Sea. They established that lake Ilmen was a key to all the waterways of this part of the world being on the crossroads that link the Baltic Sea with the Black and Caspian Seas, thus Scandinavia with Constantinople and the caliphates of Islamic Asia. Around the year 850 systematic invasions of the Varangians began. They strove to occupy the upper courses of the Dnieper and Volga rivers.


            The Rus people wanted to settle closer to the gold-yielding watercourses and the final destination of their planned expansion was the “golden city” itself: Constantinople. The ?CBL 87 20@O3 2 3@5:8 [journey of the Varangians to the Greeks] began, and it was to be the main theme of the next two centuries.


            The Slav and Finnish peoples around Ilmen allied together against the Varangians, but this was unsuccessful. In the years 859-862 the confrontation was settled in favour of the Rus people and their sailing boats appeared for the first time on the Volga. This is how the history of these lands began, with trade wars. It is not the farmer but the trader who made his historical imprint here.


[1] Until the Polish-Lithuanian Union [1385] there was also no cultural influence of Lithuania over Ruthenia, if anything the opposite was true.

[2] Jewish propaganda reached also the northern neighbourly Burtas people. Even in the XVIth c. there were still quite formal remnants of Mosaic worship there and some vestiges of it persist until today among the sects of the Tambov and Penza governorates. 

[3] Even today it is possible to see such uni-logs in the remote PiDsk regions [of pre-world war II Poland].


Copyright © Feliks Koneczny and Maciej Giertych 2019

Version: 18th March 2019