Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Founding of the East-Slavic Kingdom – The Gothic Hypothesis – A Research Project

The Founding of the East-Slavic Kingdom – The Gothic Hypothesis – A Research Project

The Normanists and anti-Normanists have since the 19th century dominated the theoretical debate concerning the founding of the East-Slavic kingdom. There is, however, an alternative theory proposed in the the 1980s by the Swedish scholar and archivist Dr Stefan Söderlind (1911 – 2003).
I have recently in a short article in the American scholarly journal Comparative Civilizations Review (”Svealand, Götaland and the Rise of the East-Slavic Kingdom – Response to Piotr Mutzionak” (No. 73, Fall 2016) presented this theory. The article is available on the internet at

There are influential forces in Scandinavia and Russia supporting the old and in my view somewhat outdated Normanist and anti-Normanist theories. The Söderlind theory would in my view be of benefit to Ukrainian historiography.

In my article I offered some preliminary views. The core of the alternative Swedish theory is that the Goths created a powerful First Great Gothic Kingdom in the east that lasted from the arrival of the the Goths and other East Germanic tribes in the Pontic area in the second half of the 3rd century AD. They showed great military and organizational skill and created a kingdom that reached from the Black to the Baltic Sea. King Ermanarics kingdom was destroyed by the invading Huns at the end of the 4th century AD. The Goths continued to have a seperate organization during Hunnic occupation. After the defeat of the Huns in 450 AD the remaining Goths created a Second Great Gothic Kingdom in the east that was later related to the Kyivan Rus founded in the 9th century. Gothic influence lasted to the invasion of the Mongols in the 1240s. It can be argued that the Russian empire was founded in 1480. Grand Duke Ivan III that year proclaimed Muscovy’s independence of the Mongols.
Dr. Söderlind first presented his theory in English in the article ”The realm of the Rus’ : A contribution to the problem of the rise of the East-Slavic kingdom” in journal Scandinavian Language Contacts, Cambridge University Press, in 1984.

The Gothic hypothesis can be traced back to Friedrich Heinrich Strube de Pyrmont (1704 - 1776), Theophilus (Gottlieb) Siegfried Bayer (1694–1738) and Herbert Gordon Latham (1812 – 1888). Söderlind expanded it to the Red-Blond-People hypothesis. It claiims tha the old forms Rus’ and ٭Rud’ (English red) started to spread among Slavs of the area from circa 150 – 350 AD. The Goths living in the same accepted the name for themselves around 400 – 600. It was borrowed into Arabic as Rūs. The ethnic name Goths has the same root as the ethnic names gautar and gutar in Old Swedish. The Swedish götar and gutar lived in both West and East Götaland and from East Götaland gautar/götar emigrated to the Island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, it should be added.

After having emigrated to the Lower Vistula/Weichsel are in present day Poland the Goths migrated to the area north of the Black Sea in what is today Ukraine. Some of the Goths were driven westward by the Huns. They later became famous for military achievements in Italy and Spain.
The Slavic neighbors called the ruling Goths the Rus or The Red-Blond People.

Söderlind in his original article in English in 1984 suggests the following chronology to explain the rise of the name Rus:
150 – 350 AD
The Slavic name for the Goths is formed. There are two variants from Proto-Slavic stems٭rūsŭ and ٭rūdŭ (red). It is used by the Slavs as ٭Rusi and ٭Rudi (the Red-Blond People).
Circa 450 AD
The Slavic name for the Goths is in common use in the area north of the Black Sea. That includes other East Germanic tribes like the Eruli, who settled east of the Amali Goths.
Circa 400 – 600 AD
The Goths accept the Slavic name for themselves. In the Gothic language the name is ٭RauÞs.
Circa 600 – 800
The Ancient Greeks and the Finno-Ugric tribes in the north borrow the Gothic name for the Rus: Rhōs in Greek, in Estonian Roots (which is also the word for Sweden) and Finnish Ruotsi, likewise the word for Sweden. The Arabs borrow the Slavic name for their Ar-Rus.
Circa 800 – 1100
Both Finns and Slavs start using the name of the Goths also for Sweden. The Nestor Chronicle mentioned the Rus’ being Swedes in 862 AD. In the 9th century the Kyivan Rus was founded.
More information on the project is available from Bertil Haggman on request.
Glimakra, Sweden, in July 2018

Mr. Bertil Haggman, LLM, author
Chevalier, Order of Merit, Ukraine
Member, National Press Club, Sweden

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