The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2015, 95-143

The Role of the Rus’ and the Volga Bulgars in the Import of North-Iranian Dirhams to Europe in the Second Half of the 10th – Early 11th Centuries

R. K. Kovalev

The article discusses the nature of trade relations between Northern Iran and Eastern Europe during the fi rst half of the 10th – early 11th centuries. In addition to exploring these commercial ties, several observations are made regarding the political history of Eastern Europe. The author considers both the patterns of the deposition of North-Iranian dirhams found in Eastern and Northern Europe as well as their chronology of import in the 10th – early 11th centuries. Beginning with 963/64, great numbers of dirhams were regularly issued in Northern Iran and this region was the only area of the Islamic world where these coins circulated. Thus, the southern region of the Caspian Sea was the only source of these coins and all the ones that were found in the North (“Northern lands”) of Europe could only have come from Northern Iran. Interestingly, none of these dirhams were available in the lands of Volga Bulgharia until ca. 980. The absence of those coins in the middle Volga region up to 980 is testimony to the fact that Khazaria, being an intermediary in the trade of Islamic silver, very successfully blocked the transfer of these coins from the Caspian basin up to the collapse of the Khazar state in the 960s under pressure of the Rus’. Between the 960s and ca. 980 it was the Rus’ who came to block Volga Bulgharia from access to these coins. The quite sudden end in the notable fl ow of Northern Iranian dirhams into the western areas of Eastern Europe starting with ca. 980 and their concurrent appearance in large volumes in the middle Volga region seems to bespeak the termination in the direct access of the Rus’ to the Caspian Sea and their replacement by the Volga Bulghars. Henceforth, beginning with ca. 980, the Rus’ had to travel to the middle Volga to access Northern Iranian coins and Near Eastern goods, in general.

Circulation, hoard, dirham, Arab Caliphate, Northern Iran, Rus’, Volga Bulgaria, Khazaria

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