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Summary

The book is dedicated to the information preserved in the sagas and skaldic poems on the visits of the four Norwegian kings to Rus, namely Óláfr Tryggvason in 977—986 (Chapter One), Óláfr Haraldsson in 1029—1030 (Chapter Two), his son Magnus from 1029 till 1035 (Chapter Three), and Haraldr Sigurðarson in the early 1030s and in 1043—1044 (Chapter Four).

The circumstances of their appearance in Rus are quite different. According to the sagas, Óláfr Tryggvason, at the age of nine, is rescued from the Estonian captivity by his mother’s brother who comes there to collect taxes for the Russian prince Vladimir Svjatoslavich, ransoms the boy and takes him to Hólmgarör to the court of Prince Vladimir. Óláfr Haraldsson, after having been the king of Norway for fifteen years, flees from his political opponents to the Russian prince Jaroslav the Wise and his wife Ingigerð. After one winter in Rus, he decides to return to his own kingdom and to try to regain his dominion in Norway, but he leaves in keeping of the prince and his wife his six year old son Magnus, who he has come to Rus with. Haraldr Siguröarson, at the age of fifteen, flees to Rus after the battle of Stiklastaöir, stays here for some time, leaves Rus for ten years and serves in the Varangian guard in Constantinople, comes back to Rus, marries Jaroslav’s daughter Elisabeth, and returns to his country to become the king of Norway.

All the four Norwegian kings are seeking a short-time refuge in Rus and obtain it. They are welcomed by the Russian prince and his wife, and are highly honoured and respected here. Óláfr Tryggvason and Magnus Óláfsson are brought up by the Russian prince (Vladimir and Jaroslav, correspondingly). Óláfr Tryggvason, Óláfr Haraldsson, and Haraldr Siguröarson occupy a high position in the Russian military service. All of them leave Rus for their own country in an attempt to gain (or regain) power in Norway. Old Norse sources have reflected the activity of Jaroslav the Wise in the field of foreign affairs: the Russian prince is said to use not only diplomatic means and military support of the Norwegian kings, but also espionage and bribery of the leading chieftains in Norway.

The life of the Norwegian kings in Rus is described in the sagas with great laconicism, and with the help of a set of common phrases. On the one hand, this manifests the lack of concrete information. On the other hand, it reflects the saga authors* tendency to exaggerate the role of a noble Scandinavian outside his own country. Still, the very fact that these four kings had been to Rus (in spite of the absolute ignorance of the Old Russian sources in this matter) can not be denied. A basis for such statement is the existence of skaldic strophes, composed by the contemporary poets, mentioning the four kings’ stay in Rus.

The study of the saga material would not convince us that these stories had not been an invention of saga authors, a literary topos, an element of the positive characteristic of a Viking-king, if there had been no skaldic stanzas within these fragments. But Hallfreðr Vándræða-skáld (ca. 996), Sigvatr þórðarson (1014—1015), Bjarni Gullbrár-skáld (ca 1050), Arnórr Jarlaskáld (ca. 1047), Bplverkr Arnórsson (llth century), Stúfr inn blindi (ca. 1067), and þjódólfr Arnórsson (ca. 1065), all of them, quoted by saga authors, confirm the saga information.

Skaldic poems not only prove certain concrete facts, but also bear a more general information on the character of political contacts between Rus and Norway in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. Their data demonstrate that at this particular period of time the relations between the two countries were no longer a result of military and trade activities of some enterprising individuals or Viking gangs, but started turning into the inter-state contacts.

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