Excerpt from the article "New Perspectives on Eastern Vikings/Rus in Arabic Sources" by Thorir Jonsson Hraundal:

Thorir Jonsson Hraundal. Photo: Kristinn Ingvarsson.
Thorir Jonsson Hraundal. Photo: Kristinn Ingvarsson.

The most voluminous and diverse source material on the Scandinavian expansion into Eastern Europe in the ninth and tenth centuries is found in Arabic geographical and historical works from this period, yet this material has traditionally received very limited attention from scholars. The background of this situation is complex and in no small measure due to the fact that the identification of the people named ‘Rus’ or ‘Rusiyyah’ in the medieval Arabic geographical and historical literature has long been disputed, especially whether they are to be regarded as Scandinavian or Slavic. Their name bears an obvious resemblance to that of the predominantly Slavic state that emerged in and around Kiev in the tenth century, known as Rus, which ultimately converted to Orthodox Christianity and became the embryo of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. A perusal of the Arabic sources, however, demonstrates that they mostly concern not the Kievan Rus but rather a distinctively different yet homonymous group (or groups) of people in a much more easterly region. In this article I will outline my position that Rus as a historical entity may be dealt with, broadly speaking, as two distinguishable groups: on the one hand, Kievan Rus; and on the other, what I will term here ‘Volga-Caspian Rus’. In very general terms, I suggest that the Rus in Kiev should be regarded as predominantly Slavic, although incorporating a significant Scandinavian element which gradually diminished in the course of the tenth century. By contrast, the ‘Volga-Caspian Rus’ were predominantly Scandinavian, or Viking, merchants and warriors who eventually disappeared or integrated with local peoples beyond the point of being a distinguishable entity by the early eleventh century.