Platonova, Nadezhda Igorevna. The problem of urbanization in Northern Rus’: memorandum of an archaeologist

Published Date:

For citation: Platonova, Nadezhda Igorevna. The problem of urbanization in Northern Rus’: memorandum of an archaeologist, in Studia Slavica et Balcanica Petropolitana. 2019. № 2. Pp. 109-134. DOI

Title of the article

The problem of urbanization in Northern Rus’: memorandum of an archaeologist


Platonova, Nadezhda Igorevna — Doctor of Historical Sciences, Leading Researcher, Institute for the History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg, Russia, OrcID, Scopus ID: 56511560400, SPIN-code 7744-3372, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In the section Commentarii / Articles
Year 2019 Issue  9 Pages  109-134
Type of article RAR Index UDK; BBK UDK 902; BBK 63.3(2)41 Index DOI  10.21638/11701/spbu19.2019.208

The research was support as part of the RFBR project No. 18-09-40111 (“Antiquities”) “Sociocultural transformations in Eastern Europe and the formation of Russia: new materials, interpretations, generalizations”.

In the 1990s the idea that proximity to trade routes was the main driving force of the process of urbanization of early medieval Rus’ again became dominant in Russia. But speaking of “trade,” as applied to the Viking Age, it is easy to fall into modernization. There was no “free trade” then. In order not to be sold into slavery, the merchant had to be protected by a society with authority in international affairs. It is from this perspective that one should consider the evidence of craft and trade preserved in the layers of early urban settlements. The combination of administrative-organizational and trade-craft factors in their functional spectrum is a key problem to be developed. An important aspect of the problem of urbanization is the study of the socio-cultural and economic base on which cities grew. The process of formation of Slavic central places in the Northwest Russia, which began in the 7th – 8th centuries, was interrupted during the Viking Age. The first “proto-cities” usually appeared in new places. Even where the continuity between the “hillfort” and the “city” was really revealed, the guarantee of this was either a socio-political cataclysm, or the inclusion of this item in the zone of new influence. In itself, the development of local centers can’t be identified with urbanization. The latter meant a radical change in the structure of archaic East European societies. The beginning of movement along the military trade routes, the arrival of Arab silver to the north opened up unprecedented prospects for the implementation of the tributes and products of trade exchange collected in the north. It was then that the first “protocities” emerged. The materials of the earliest Ladoga indicate that the beginning of the mass marketing of craft products to the rural population occurred already at the late 8th – early 9th centuries. For example, the production of glass according to the Eastern recipe was established there for the subsequent production of beads, which were the currency in the purchase of furs. This meant that by the end of the 8th century a fairly stable supply of the necessary components of the technological process from the Middle East was established. This did not testify to individual “trade”, but to the purposeful exploitation of the adjacent territories. One can interpret such kind of central places as administrative and organizational centers of a new type. They should not be confused with either “cities” or “rural places”: this is a special phenomenon in the social culture of Early Middle Ages. Its appearance was impossible without breaking the previous hierarchy of values, authorities, sacred ties. So one shouldn’t be surprised that “smooth continuity” of old and new centers is not observed. Not tribes and ethnic composition but, first of all, social roles were changed (although an influx of paramilitary contingent from the north actually took place). Proto-cities became the epicenters of the formation of new elite and new, Old Rus’ cultural traditions, which then quickly spread to the rural area.


Early Middle Ages, Northern Rus’, urbanization, basic concepts, archaeological data, protocities, administrative centers

Full text version of the article. Article language  Russain
  • Anikovich, Mikhail Vasilyevich. V. Principy arheologii i osnovnye obobshchayushchie ponyatiya: «arheo­logicheskaya epoha», «arheologicheskaya kul’tura», «tekhnokompleks», «istoriko–kul’turnaya oblast’» [The principles of archeology and basic general concepts: “archaeological era”, “archaeological culture”, “techno­complex”, “historical and cultural area”], in Stratum plus. 2003–2004. № 1. Pp. 487–505. (in Russian).

    Arne, Ture. La Suède et l’Orient: études archéologiques sur les relations de la Suède et de l’Orient pendant l’âge des Vikings [Sweden and the East: archaeological studies on the relations of Sweden and the East during the Viking Age]. Uppsala, 1914 (Archives d’études orientales. Vol. 8). 240 р. (in French)

    Artamonov, Mikhail Illarionovich. I. Pervyye stranitsy russkoy istorii v arkheologicheskom osveshchenii [The first pages of Russian history in archaeological coverage], in Sovetskaya Arkheologia. 1990. № 3. Pp. 271–290. (in Russian).

    Avdusin, Daniil Antonovich. Proiskhozhdenie drevnerusskih gorodov (po arheologicheskim dannym) [The origin of the ancient Rus’ towns (according to archaeological data)], in Voprosy istorii. 1980. No. 12. Pp. 24–42. (in Russian).

    Boguslavskiy, Oleg Igorevich. Kompleks pamyatnikov u d. Gorodishche na r. Syas (po rezultatam raskopok 1987–1999 gg.) [The complex of monuments near the village of Gorodishche on the river Syas’ (based on the results of excavations from 1987–1999)], in Stratum plus. 2003–2004. № 5. Pp. 171–243. (in Russian).

    Bulkin, Vasiliy Aleksandrovich, Lebedev, Gleb Sergeevich. Gnezdovo i Birka (K probleme stanovleniya goroda) [Gnezdovo and Birka (On the problem of the formation of the city)], in Kul’tura srednevekovoj Rusi. Leningrad: Nauka Publ., 1974. Pp. 11–17. (in Russian).

    Bulkin, Vasiliy Aleksandrovich; Dubov, Igor Vasolevich; Lebedev, Gleb Sergeevich. Arheologicheskie pamyatniki Drevnej Rusi IX–XI vv. [Archaeological sites of Ancient Rus’ of the IX–XI centuries] Leningrad: Leningrad State University Press, 1978. 150 p. (in Russian).

    Clarke, Helene; Ambrosiani, Bjorn. Towns in the Viking Age. Leicester and London: Leicester University Press, 1991. 207 p.

    Duczko, Wladislaw. Viking Rus’: studies on the presence of Scandinavians in Eastern Europe. Leiden; Bos­ton: Brill, 2004. 290 p.

    Eremeev, Ivan Igorevich. Drevnosti Polockoj zemli v istoricheskom izuchenii Vostochno–Baltijskogo regiona (ocherki srednevekovoj arheologii i istorii Pskovsko–Belorusskogo Podvin’ya) [Antiquities of Polotsk land in the historical study of the East Baltic region (essays on medieval archeology and the history of the Pskov – Belorussian Dvina)]. St Petersburg: Dmitriy Bulanin Publ., 2015. 696 p. (in Russian).

    Eremeev, Ivan Igorevich; Dzyuba, Olga Feodorovna. Ocherki istoricheskoj geografii lesnoj chasti Puti iz Varyag v Greki. Arheologicheskie i paleogeograficheskie issledovaniya mezhdu Zapadnoj Dvinoj i oz. Il’men’ [Essays on the historical geography of the forest part of the Way from the Varangians to the Greeks. Archaeological and paleogeographic studies between Western Dvina and Ilmen lake]. St Petersburg: Nestor- Istoriya Publ., 2010. 670 p. (in Russian).

    Franklin, Simon; Shepard, Dzhonatan. Nachalo Rusi. 750–1200 [The beginning of Rus’. 750–1200 A.D.] (transl. by D.M. Bulanin and N.L. Luzheckaya). St Petersburg: Dmitriy Bulanin Publ., 2000. 622 p. (in Russian).

    Froyanov, Igor Iakovlevich. Kievskaya Rus’. Ocherki social’no-politicheskoy istorii. [Kievan Rus. Essays on socio-political history]. Leningrad: Leningrad State University Press, 1980. 256 p. (in Russian).

    Froyanov, Igor Iakovlevich; Dvornichenko, Andrey Iurievich. Goroda–gosudarstva Drevney Rusi [Towns – states of Ancient Rus’]. Leningrad: Leningrad State University Press, 1988. 269 p. (in Russian).

    Froyanov, Igor Iakovlevich; Mihaylova, Irina Borisovna. Gorod ili protogorod? (ob odnoj naduman­noj istoricheskoj kategorii) [Town or proto-town? (about one far-fetched historical category)], in Ran­nesrednevekovye drevnosti Severnoy Rusi i ee sosedey. St Petersburg: Institute for the History of Material Culture of Russian Academy of Sciences Press, 1999. Pp. 228–236. (in Russian).

    Golovnyov, Andrey Vladimirovich. Kul’tury bol’shih prostranstv Severnoy Evrazii [Cultures of large spaces of Northern Eurasia], in Problemy istorii, filologii, kul’tury. 2009. T. V. Vol. 1. No. 25. Pp. 317–321. (in Russian).

    Goryunova, Valentina Mikhajlovna. Gorodok na Lovati X–XII vv. (K probleme stanovleniya goroda Sever­noy Rusi) [The settlement Gorodok on Lovat’ of the X–XII centuries (To the problem of the formation of towns in Northern Rus’)]. St Petersburg: Dmitriy Bulanin Publ., 2016. 352 p. (in Russian).

    Grekov, Boris Dmitriyevich. Kievskaya Rus’ [Kievan Rus]. Moscow: Gospolitizdat Publ., 1953. 569 p. (in Russian).

    Grigoryev, Aleksandr Vadimovich. Severskaya zemlya v VIII – nachale XI veka po arheologicheskim dan­nym [Seversky land in the VIII – early XI century according to archaeological data]. Tula: Grif i K° Publ., 2000. 263 p. (in Russian).

    Islanova, Inna Vasilievna. Rannesrednevekovye gruppy pamyatnikov na Severo–Zapade Vostochnoj Evropy [Early Medieval Monument Groups in the Northwest of Eastern Europe], in Rannesrednevekovye drevnosti lesnoj zony Vostochnoj Evropy (V–VII vv.). Moscow, 2016. Pp. 136–220. (in Russian).

    Jankuhn, Herbert. Typen und Funktionen vor und frühwildngerzeitlicher Handelsplätzeim im Ostseegebiet [Types and functions before and early wild trading places in the Baltic Sea area]. Wien, 1971. (in German)

    Jones, Gwyn. History of the Vikings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968. 552 р.

    Kirpichnikov, Anatoliy Nikolaevich; Kurbatov Aleksandr Valentinovich. Novye dannye o proiskhozhdenii Ladozhskogo poseleniya i poyavlenii slavyan v Povolhov’e [New data on the origin of the Ladoga settle­ment and the appearance of the Slavs in the Volhov region], in Stratum Plus. 2014. № 5. Pp. 129–136. (in Russian).

    Komar, Alexey Viktorovich. Kiyev i Pravoberezhnoye Podneprovye [Kiev and the Right-Bank Dnieper], in Rus v IX–X vekakh: arkheologicheskaya panorama. Moscow; Vologda: Drevnosti Severa Publ., 2012. Pp. 300–333. (in Russian).

    Kuleshov, Viacheslav Sergeevich. Denezhnoe obrashchenie Novotroickoj obshchiny romencev: kom­pleksy, kategorii i vesovye normy [Money circulation of the Novotroitsk community of Romenskaya cul­ture: complexes, categories and weight standards], in Slavyane Vostochnoj Evropy nakanune obrazovaniya Drevnerusskogo gosudarstva. St Petersburg: SOLO Publ., 2012. Pp. 65–70. (in Russian).

    Kurbatov, Aleksandr Valentinovich. Remeslo rannesrednevekovoj Ladogi [Craft of an early medieval Ladoga], in Novoe v arheologii Staroj Ladogi: materialy i issledovaniya. St Petersburg: Nevskaya Knizh­naya Tipografiya, 2018. Pp. 235–282. (in Russian).

    Kuza, Andrey Vasilievich. Malyye goroda Drevney Rusi [Small towns of Old Rus’]. Moscow: Nauka Publ.. 1989. 168 p. (in Russian).

    Kuz’min, Sergey Leonodovich. Ladoga v epohu rannego srednevekov’ya (seredina VIII – nachalo XII v.) [Ladoga in the early Middle Ages (mid 8th – early 12th centuries)], in Issledovanie arheologicheskih pamyat­nikov epohi srednevekovya. St Petersburg, 2008. Pp. 69–94. (in Russian).

    Lopatin, Nikolay Vladimirovich. O drevnostyah III–V vv. n. e. na yuge Pskovskoj oblasti [About antiquities of the 3rd – 5th centuries A.D. in the south of the Pskov region], in Arkheologiia i istoriia Pskova i Pskovskoi zemli. Materialy 54 zasedaniya. Pskov: Institut of Archeology of Russian Academy of Sciences Press, 2009. Pp. 209–218. (in Russian).

    Lopatin, Nikolay Vladimirovich; Furasyev, Alexey Gennadievich. Severnye rubezhi ranneslavyanskogo mira v III–V vv. n.e. [Northern borders of the early Slavic world in the 3rd – 5th centuries A.D.]. Moscow: Institute of archeology RAS Press, 2007. 252 p. (in Russian).

    Makarov, Nikolay Andreevich. Arkheologicheskiye drevnosti kak istochnik znaniy o ranney Rusi [Archaeo­logical antiquities as a source of knowledge about early Rus’], in Rus’ v IX–X vekakh: arkheologicheskaya panorama. Moscow; Vologda: Drevnosti Severa Publ., 2012. Pp. 64–90. (in Russian).

    Mel’nikova, Elena Aleksandrovna; Petruhin, Vladimir Yakovlevich. Formirovanie seti rannegorodskih centrov i stanovlenie gosudarstva (Drevnyaya Rus’ i Skandinaviya) [Formation of a network of early urban centers and the formation of the state (Ancient Rus’ and Scandinavia)], in Istoriya SSSR. 1986. № 5. Pp. 63–77. (in Russian).

    Mikhaylov, Kirill Alexeevich. Sravnitelnaya topografiya pervykh drevnerusskikh gorodskikh tsentrov IX–X vv. (k yubileyu odnoy statyi) [Comparative topography of the first Old Rus’ urban centers of the 9th –10th centuries (on the anniversary of one article)], in Severnaya Rus i problemy formirovaniya Drevnerusskogo gosudarstva. Sbornik materialov MNK. Vologda, 2012. Pp. 5–20. (in Russian).

    Milyaev, Pavel Andereevich. Izdeliya severoevropejskogo oblika v material’noj kul’ture gorodishcha Lyub­sha IX – nachala X v. (predvaritel’noe soobshchenie) [The artefacts of North European origin in the material culture of the Lyubsha hill-fort of the 9th – early 10th century (preliminary message)], in Élite ou Égalité: Severnaya Rus’ i kul’turnye transformatsii v Evrope VII–XII vv. St Petersburg: Publishing House Branko, 2017. Pp. 225–244. (in Russian).

    Murashyova, Veronika Vladislavovna; Malysheva, Nadezhda Nikolaevna; Frenkel’ Iakov Viktorovich. Issledovaniya pribrezhnoj territorii ozera Bezdonka na pojmennoj chasti poseleniya Gnyozdovskogo arheo­logicheskogo kompleksa [Studies of the coastal territory of Bezdonka Lake on the floodplain of the settle­ment of the Gnezdovo archaeological complex], in Gnyozdovskiy arheologicheskiy kompleks. Materialy i issledovaniya. Moscow, 2018. Pp. 286–339. (in Russian).

    Nosov, Eugeniy Nikolaevich. Problemy proiskhozhdeniya pervyh gorodov Severnoj Rusi [The problems of the origin of the first cities of Northern Rus’], in Drevnosti Severo–Zapada Rossii (slavyano-finno-ugorskoe vzaimodejstvie, russkie goroda Baltiki). St Petersburg: Centr «Peterburgskoe vostokovedenie» Press, 1993. Pp. 59–78. (in Russian).

    Nosov, Eugeniy Nikolaevich; Goryunova Valentina Mikhajlovna; Plohov, Alexey Viacheslavovich. Goro­dishche pod Novgorodom i poseleniya Severnogo Priil’menya (novye materialy i issledovaniya) [The hill-fort near Novgorod and the settlements of Northern coast of Ilmen’ lake (new materials and research)]. St Petersburg: Dmitriy Bulanin Publ., 2005. 403 p. (in Russian).

    Nosov, Eugeniy Nikolaevich; Plohov, Alexey Viacheslavovich; Khvoshchinskaya, Nataliya Vadimovna. Ryurikovo gorodishche. Novye etapy issledovaniy [Rurikovo hill-fort. New stages of research]. St Peters­burg: Dmitriy Bulanin Publ., 2017. 288 pp. (in Russian).

    Nosov, Eugeniy Nikolaevich. Akademik Boris Dmitrievich Grekov — issledovatel’–istochnikoved [Aca­demician Boris Dmitrievich Grekov — source researcher], in Vspomogatel’nye istoricheskie distsipliny. T. XV. Leningrad: Nauka Publ., 1983. Pp. 3–30. (in Russian).

    Oblomskiy, Andrey Mikhaylovich. Kolochinskaya kul’tura [Kolochin culture], in Rannesrednevekovye drevnosti lesnoy zony Vostochnoy Evropy (V–VII vv.). Moscow, 2016. Pp. 10–113. (in Russian).

    Petruhin, Vladimir Iakovlevich; Pushkina, Tamara Anatolyevna. K predystorii drevnerusskogo goroda [To the background of the old Rus’ town], in Istoriya SSSR. 1979. № 4. Pp. 100–112. (in Russian).

    Platonova, Nadezhda Igorevna. Drevnerusskaya kul’tura i drevnerusskaya elita na sovremennom etape issledo­vaniy [Old Rus’ culture and the old Rus’ elite at the present stage of research], in Élite ou Égalité: Severnaya Rus’ i kul’turnye transformacii v Evrope VII–XII vv. St Petersburg: Izd. dom Branko Publ., 2017. Pp. 9–29. (in Russian).

    Platonova, Nadezhda Igorevna. Problems of early medieval Slavonic Archaeology in Russia (a view from St.–Petersburg)? in Post-Classical Archaeologies. 2016. Vol. 6. Pp. 333–416.

    Plohov, Alexey Viacheslavovich. K probleme poyavleniya slavyan v Priil’men’e [To the problem of the appearance of the Slavs in the Ilmen’ coastal territory], in Ladoga i religioznoe soznanie. St Petersburg, 1997. Pp. 105–107. (in Russian).

    Ravdonikas, Vladislav Iosifovich. Die Normannen der Wikingerzeit und das Ladogagebiet. [The Normans of the Viking Age and the Ladoga area]. Stockholm, 1930. 151 s. (in German).

    Ravdonikas, Vladislav Iosifovich. Staraya Ladoga (iz itogov arheologicheskih issledovanij 1938–1947 gg.) [Staraya Ladoga (from the results of archaeological research 1938-1947)] Part I, in Sovetskaia Archeologiia. 1949. XI. Pp. 5–54. (in Russian).

    Reynolds, Susan. Introduction to the History of English Medieval Towns. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977. XIV+234 p.

    Ryabinin, Еugenij; Galibin, Valentin. New Data about the Early bead Making in Ladoga . In Glass Beards. Cultural History. Technology. Proceeding of the Nordic Glass bead Seminar 16–18 October 1992. Lejre. Studies in Technology and Culture. Vol. 2. Lejre: Historical Archaeological Experimental Centre. 1995. Pp. 109–112.

    Ryabinin, Eugeniy Aleksandrovich. Raskopki Lyubshanskogo gorodishcha v Nizhnem Povolhov’e (predvaritel’nye rezul’taty arheologicheskih issledovaniy) [Excavations of Lyubsha hill-fort in the Lower Volkhov (preliminary results of archaeological research)], in Kul’tura, obrazovanie, istoriya Leningradskoj oblasti. Tezisy nauchno-prakticheskoj konferencii. St Petersburg: Vesti Press, 2002. Pp. 53–58. (in Russian).

    Ryabinin, Eugeniy Aleksandrovich; Dubashinskij, Anton Vladimirovich. Lyubshanskoe gorodishche v Nizhnem Povolhov’e (predvaritel’noe soobshchenie) [Lyubsha hillfort in the Lower Volkhov (preliminary communication)], in Ladoga i ee sosedi v epohu srednevekovya. St Petersburg: Institute for the History of Material Culture of Russian Academy of Sciences Press, 2002. Pp. 196–203. (in Russian).

    Sedov, Valentin Vasilievich. Izborsk v rannem Srednevekov’e [Izborsk in the early Middle Ages]. Moscow: Nauka Publ., 2007. 424 pp. (in Russian).

    Senichenkova, Tatyana Borisovna. Keramika Lyubshanskogo gorodishcha [Ceramic pottery of Lubsha hill-fort], in Acta Archaeologica Albaruthenica. Vol. VI. Minsk, 2010. Pp. 68–96. (in Russian).

    Shneevajs, Jens. Rannesrednevekovye gorodishcha severnoj Germanii [Early medieval hill-forts of northern Germany], in Élite ou Égalité: Severnaya Rus’ i kul’turnye transformacii v Evrope VII–XII vv. St Petersburg: Publ. house Branko, 2017. Pp. 198–224. (in Russian).

    Shorohov, Vladimir Andreevich. Predposylki razvitiya vostochnoevropejskoj rabotorgovli v IX – pervoy polovine X v. (po dannym vostochnyh istochnikov) [Prerequisites for the development of the East European slave trade in the 9th – first half of the 10th century (according to Eastern sources)], in Matvey Kuz’mich Lyubavskiy: K 150-letiyu uchenogo. St Petersburg: St Petersburg State University Press, 2013. Pp.195–205. (in Russian).

    Shtykhov, Georgiy Vasilyevich. Drevniy Polock IX–X vv. [Ancient Polotsk of the 9th – 10th centuries]. Minsk: Nauka i tekhnika Publ., 1975. 136 p. (in Russian).

    Tihomirov, Mikhail Nikolaevich. Drevnerusskie goroda [Old Russian towns]. Ed. 2. Moscow: Gospolitizdat Publ., 1956. 475 p. (in Russian).

    Tomsinskiy, Sergey Vladimirovich. Leningradskiy neonormanizm: istoki i itogi [Leningrad neonormanism: sources and results], in Stratum plus. 2014. № 5. Pp. 357–370. (in Russian).


Tags: early Middle Ages, Slavic-Russian archeology, discoveries and hypotheses, urbanization, Northern Rus’, archeological data, protocities, administrative centers