Economy in Kievan Rus’

From the tenth to thirteenth centuries Kievan Rus’ economy was largely believed to be based on agriculture. There is very little written evidence to support this, however due to the physical evidence of tools such as iron blades and plows, archeologists and historians have determined that agriculture, trade and farming held major importance in society.  However, there is still little evidence to support the theories of whether or not Kievan Rus’ was a commercial society located mainly in towns or if they were an agricultural society that used towns for marketplaces. Archeologists’ findings of the various tools and wares create a broader understanding of how this culture thrived and survived.

Due to the vast differences in climates in Kievan Rus, the use of agriculture and trade as the central part of their economy made sense. People who had settled in southern Rus’ had a greater ability to grow and plant more food, while those in the northern regions had much more difficulty as the dense forests and poor soil quality greatly inhibited agriculture production. This made it imperative for those living in these various regions to adapt and learn to use the land to ensure their success.

The use of livestock as a part of trade and survival is reflected in an earlier reading where early Kievan Rus’ laws seemed to punish and heavily fine those who had stolen or killed a person’s livestock. This clearly shows why such a high emphasis was placed on farming, agriculture, personal property and trade, as they were incredibly important to the survival of the people and the culture. For example, “And if someone plows across the border, or beyond, a border marker carved on a tree then, he is to pay the owner 12 grivnas for the offense. (Reinterpreting Russian History, pg 29)”. Laws such as these reflected the ‘self-help’ idea that ensured personal survival over the overall survival of the community. How can a community truly thrive if the laws protecting the people stem from a self-help ideology that promotes the success of one as opposed to the whole?