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The history of Russia began many centuries ago By the 800s Slavic groups had founded many towns in what is now the European part of Russia and Ukraine of which the two most important once are Novgorod and Kiev 1 In 882 a Viking chieftain named Oleg captured the city of Kiev situated on the Dnepr River Kiev became the capital of the state Kievan Rus and extended from the lakes north of Novgorod to south of Kiev Kievan Rus became an important power and was recognized as a cultural and commercial center It had a flourishing trade with the Bezantine Empire with Constantinople as its capital as well as with western European and Asian states The ruler of Kiev came to be called Grand prince and ranked above the other princes of Kievan Rus followed by the retainers of the prince the druzhina With the evolution of the Kievan state the retainers of the prince and the regional nobility fused into a single group named the boyars The chief Kievan political institutions were the office of prince the duma or council of the boyars and the veche or town assembly which have been linked to monarchic aristocratic and democratic aspects of the Kievan state In both justice and administration the prince occupied the key position The Kievan Russsians had two religions in succession paganism and Christianity In about 988 Grand Prince Vladimir of Kievan Rus accepted Eastern Orthodox Christianity from Bezantines 4 The other East Slavs soon followed and a Christian civilization developed 2 Church in Kievan Russia obtained vast holdings of land and pre-empted such fields as charity healing the sick and sheltering travelers in addition to its specifically religious functions The Church also occupied a central position in education literature and the arts Mosaics frescoes and icon-painting flourished in Kievan Russia Even a brief account of Kievan culture indicates the variety of foreign influences which it experienced For example Byzantine influence shapes
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