What kind of a city was Kiev in 1240? It had already passed the pinnacle of its tenth and eleventh century glory, but it was still one of the richest and grandest cities of ancient Rus.
This city, which grew up along what was then the most important European trade route, leading “from the Varangians to the Greeks,” from Scandinavia to Byzantium, glistened with golden cupolas and was protected by mighty walls. Kiev was home to Slavs and Scandinavians, Turks and Khazars, and was frequented by travelers from Western Europe and the Arab caliphates. All were amazed by its magnificence and wealth.
By the thirteenth century, the main centers of ancient Russian life had shifted to the northeast. Vladimir and Suzdal had emerged and blossomed, and ships were not traveling down the Dnieper to Byzantium, which had also passed its prime, as often as they once had. Nevertheless, many still saw Kiev as the heart of Rus.
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