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Journal of Medieval History

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The crimean question, the Black Bulgarians, and

the Russo-Byzantine Treaty of 944
Frank E. Wozniak
Published online: 03 Jan 2012.

To cite this article: Frank E. Wozniak (1979): The crimean question, the Black Bulgarians, and the Russo-Byzantine
Treaty of 944, Journal of Medieval History, 5:2, 115-126

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The Crimean political and militanj clauses of the treaq reflect the
determination of the Byzantines to protect their
Crimean possessions against any real or potential
question, the threat from the Kievan Rus', much as the z~-
struaions of Constantine VII Porplujrogenitus in
the De administrando imperio document a
Black Bulgarians, similar effort with the steppe tribes.
This concernfor the Crimea as well as the fact
that the terms of the treaty made the Rus' into allies
and the Russo- (symmachoi) of the Empire serves as the essen-
tial backgroundfor a possible solution to the some-
what tangential but historiographically important
Byzantine Treaty question of the identzfication of the homeland of the
Black Bulgarians whom the Rus' were to prevent

of 944 from raiding Kherson and the Climata. The Black

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Bulgarians were one of those remnants of an earlier

steppe migration who survived on the steppe between
the Dnieper and Don riversfrom where they rai#ed
Frank E. Wozniak the Crimea. The apparent intention of the Byzan-
tines, as reflected in the treaty, was that the Rus'
were to stop the Black Bulgarians at the Grimean
isthmus from which location the Rus' themselves
would not become an important t,~reat to the
Imperial possessions.
In the treaty of 944 between the Russians and the
Greeks, the clauses which can be referred to as The political clauses of the treaty of 944
political and military have created some important between the Russians and the Greeks have
problems toth in interpretation and implication. always created important difficulties in inter-
The most difficult questions have emerged because pretation. There are particular problems with
the treaty has seemed to imply extensions of Kievan regard to these clauses because they seem to
sovereignty into the Crimea which it appears un- imply extensions of sovereignty on the part of
likely that the Byzantines would have permitted at the Russian prince of Kiev that appear unlike-
any time. In addition, the questions of geography ly for the Byzantines to have permitted at any
and ethnography, connected with the treaty, have time. The questions of geography and eth-
proven di~Ofcultto reconcile with our existing knowl- nography presented by the terms have also
edge of the steppe. proved difficult to reconcile with our existing
In all of its activities related to the steppe in the knowledge of the steppe. But most import-
tenth century, the Empire demonstrated an over- antly therc are the questiens of what exactly
whelming concernfor the safety of Kherson and the the Byzantines sought to achieve by the terms
Glimata in the Crimea which were important as of the clauses and why we are left with such a
hases for Byzantine diplomacy on the steppe. The sense of initial ambiguity about the meaning

Journal of Medieval ttlstory 5 (1979):115-126. ~) North-Holland Publishing Company 115

of certain of the clauses? In particular this sovereignty over the steppe region ofsouthern
paper attempts to provide new insights and Russia. Their hold on the steppe had begun to
new interpretations of elements of Byzantine weaken in the late ninth or early tenth century
foreign policy on the steppe which have here- when they lost control of the area west of the
tofore not been satisfactorily explained. Don to the Pechenegs (Dunlop 1954: 196-9;
An overwhelming concern for the safety of Macartney 1929/30:343--4). The Khazars
Kherson and the Climata in the Crimea was also found their suzerainty on the Crimea
the pervading influence behind the political steppe loosening at much the same time. We
clauses; at the time of the treaty, the defense are unsure of the exact chronology of this
of Byzantine Crimea continued to be of ut- process; but by the late 940% when Con-
most importance in Byzantine diplomacy. stantine V I I turned his literary attention to
This regard for Kherson and its allied cities is the steppe, the Khazars were no longer the
reflected not only in this treaty but also in the indispensabl .~ ally on the steppe that they had
De administrando imperio of Constantine VII once been; rather the Khazars had now been
Porphyrogenitus, which was written at ap- replaced by the Pechenegs as the dominant
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proximately this time (Moravcsik and Jenkins power in the vital steppe region (Moravcsik
1967:52-5, 64-5). In practical terms it was and Jenkins 1967:48-9). The Byzantines
in this treaty with the Rus' that the Greeks favored one power, the Khazars, in the eighth
sought to lessen at least one of the dangers to and ninth centuries to maintain the dynamic
their possessions on the northern shore of the equilibrium on the steppe that their security
Black Sea (Boba 1967: 122-3). in Crimea and their policies on the steppe
The area of the Crimea was apparently required. As is quite evident from the De
quite unstable from the beginning of the cdministrando imperio, the Pecheneg confeder-
tenth century. The principal cause of unrest acy was now the power that mattered among
and instability was the presence of the the peoples of the steppe north of the Black
Pechenegs in the area between the Don and Sea; and the Greeks were urged by Con-
the Danube Rivers (Moravcsik and Jenkins stantine V I I to pursue a policy that would
1967:48-56). The Pechenegs had entered seclre their adherence, however fickle, to
this area in the wake of the Magyars and had By:antine aims and interests in this region
soon expelled the Magyars to beyond the (Moravcsik and Jenkins 1967: 48-9).
Carpathians in tbe 890s. The Pecheneg As for the Crimean steppe and the more
presence on the Souti: Russian steppe was a immediate problem of Byzantine defenses at
serious problem not only for the Greeks but Kherson, the gradual demise of Khazar
also for the Russians, as we know from the control was also felt (Moravcsik and Jenkins
account in the Russian Primary Chronicle for 1967:64-5). The particular problem was who
915 when Igor made peace with them after was going to fill the vacuum ofpower that was
they had raided the land ofRus' (Andrianova- being l&~. Because of the geographical
Perets 1950a:31,228). For the Crimea there location of" the area the answer was two-fold.
seems to have developed a similar threat from SiHce the Byzantines had never shown and
the same period. ,~,d not then show any desire to undertake this
For some centuries the Khazars had held burden directly, there remained either tile

Pechenegs, who controlled the area north of vulnerable than Constantinople, though it
the Crimean isthmus and who were the wa~ not attacked by the Russians until 988.
neighbors of Kherson according to the De The Rassians had already demonstrated a
administrando imperio, or the Russians who had certain interest in the Khersonian fishermen
access to the area by the sea (al-Mas~0di at the mouth of the Dnieper River. The first
1962: 165-7). part oi Article 9 bound the Russians not to
The De admiaistrando imperio explains in harm these people; by this concern for
detail the emperor's instructions on how to ordinary fishermen the Byzantines w,~rt
keep the Pechenegs away from Kherson determined to protect their fishing iz,dustr¢ in
(Moravcsik and Jenkins 1967:48-9, 52-3). the n~rthern Black Sea, particularly in the:
The treaty of 944 expressed the Byzantine rich estuaries. In addition, the Empire wanted
concern over the possibility of a Russian to protect these fishe~men who apparently xl,o
presence in the Crimea (Andrianova-Perets gathered informatio~t for the Byzantine go" :r-
1950a: 37, 234). The terms ofthe treaty sought nor at Kherson. Their principal occupa ion
to forestall such an event since they could not was not intelligence gathering; but the fisher-
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always count on the Pechcnegs to keep the men were often in the Dnieper estua~ wf~eh
Russians within their borders (Moravcsik and was frequented by the Russians, aILd they
Jenkins 1967: 50-3). would have passed on what they had see~l of
That the Russes appeared to have political the Russian presence including their se,ni-
intentions within the Kh,~g~cr, district was permanent landings on the estuarian isl~ ,ds.
evident from the f;"st part o f ~ eighth article Tile Russians; probably suspected this in-
of the treaty. There amve been a number of telligence-gathering segment of the fisher-
explanations as to what exactly was the men's mission and their hara~ment may
situation which precipitated the need for the have arisen in part from this knowledge.
Byzantines to include this clause. Principally, In any case, by 944 the Byzantines were
the discussion has been over whether the aware that the Russians had installed them-
prince of Kiev had established or attempted to selves on what appeared to be a potential b
establish some sort of suzerainty over the permanent basis oa the islands of Belobey and
Byzantine Crimean cities and the vassal St Eleutherius in the estuar~ of the Dnieper
region of the Climata or Gothia (Vasiliev River. As a result the Byzantines sought to
i936:118--9). Byzantine concern over the extend the treaty injunction against the
Russian presence in the northern Black Sea Russians wintering at Constantinople to
~rea was also evident in Article 9, Clauses 1-3, include these islands. The treaty forbade the
where the establishment of the Russians at the Russians to winter on the islands and de-
mouth of the Dnieper represented a danger manded that they return up the river in ~:he
to the Byzantines' mars dausura on the Black autumn. It seems that the Russians had
Sea. The Russian occupation of the two probably begun the more or less regular
estuarian islands provided a possible base for occupation ofthose two hlands in the Daieper
an expedition against Constantinople, as well estuary as bases for the trade to Constan-
as for an attack on Kherson which was much tinople particularly as resting and refitting
closer to the Dnieper estuary an~ more points following the voyage down the Ds~ieper.

A permanent occupation would have facilita- tions to ward off the rigors of winter mid any
ted the trade by providing a ready means for possible hostil,.- threat.
the refitting of the Russian vessels from river The major danger for Kherson from the
travel to the sea voyage and the reverse in the Russes would thus have been fror:l the sea in
autumn, and also served to facilitate Kievan the direction of the Dnieper estu~ay. During
control of the Dnieper route by having firm all the known Russian expeditions to Con-
bases, at Kiev, on the northern edge of the stantinople, no attempt was apparently "aade
steppe, and on the estuarian islands at the belb~'e 988 to secure the Crimea and the
mouth of the Dnieper. Beginning in the 920s, northern Black Sea littoral either for their
the most important problem for the Russian economic wealth or for the purpose ofcreating
merchants was the Pecheneg threat on the a b~e on the Black Sea. This is somewhat
Dnieper (Moravcsik and Jenkins 1967: 60-3), surprising considering contemporaneous Rus-
although the danger was only occasional sian efforts at quasi-colonial establishments in
until the 940s due to reasonably good the ::~uch more distant Caspian region. More
relations between the Russians and the particularly, the Byzantines were probably
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Pechenegs. The establishment of a base at alarmed by the two Russian expeditions of

the estuary would have aided the Russians 913 and 943/944 to the Caspian which sailed
by providing a much needed and secure around the Crimean peninsula without direct-
stopping off point on the voyage to ly threatening it, and then through the Straits
Constantinople. of Kerch to reach Khazar territory (al-M,~ ~-
The regular occupation of the islands ridi 1962: 16:~-7; Ibn Miskawaihi 1921:68--
during the spring and autumn constituted an 73). The Byzantines would have been alert to
apparent Russian effort to establish a semi- the incipient danger presented to Kherson and
permanent base for the refitting and main- the Cliwata.
tenance of the vessels, and produced the From the Russian Pn'nmry Chroniele's repre-
Byzantine concern over the two islands. (The sentation of Russian military efforts until "he
danger of a permanent Russian occupation 960s, there is no reason to assume an overland
was enhanced by the probable presence of the threat to Kherson, since the Russian military
Russian soldiers who convoyed and protected thrust on land was through the forests to the
the ships on the descent and ascent of the ~orth and east and not to the south through
Dnieper. These soldiers did not go to Con- ,he steppe. The Kievan Russians seldom
stantinople but seem to have remained on the nmved far into the steppe other than to make
islands during the summer.) As a result, the retaliatory expeditions oga;:,~,* the steppe
Greeks incorporated a treaty stipulation tribes. Russian military oper~tions halted at
which sought to remove the possibility of the the edge ofthe open steppe, except when they
establishme.ut of a permanent base. The could use a r'-'ver as a transportation system.
pertinent clause demanded that the Russian The Russian presence at the Dniepcr mouth,
occupation remain seasonal, thereby not the apparent attempt to establish a base in
giving the Rus' the opportunity to consolidate the area, and the Russian Caspian expeditions
themselves by a winter's stay with its accom- provide sufficient reason for Byzantine appre-
panying construction of shelter and lbrtifica- hensions over Russian intenticns witheut any

Russian owaland threat being present or was w~t! within the- terms ~ a ~ ~
necemary to motiw, t e a Byzantine reaction. treaty. ~
TLe clame "nor shall th,3t ~ t be sub- In t ~ 56~ dur in~ tb~ wars betwc~ea * ~
jeer to you" presents no evidem~ that the C~pids and ~ L~mb ~ in P a n a m a , the
Russians had occupied or claimed suzerain~ Gepids in the fiz~t w~r s,~L,g|~t ~ h~tp ~"
over any portion of'the Crimea ~ s p e c i ~ l y
the By't.antine region in the scmth. Rather, it The, G e p ~ were ~ ~ ~th~ Erap~ a ~
is a formula to explicate Byzantine sov~ignty n ~ ~ ~ u e ~ t ~ a ~ ~ the tie betw~n
right~ and to formalht ~ t ~ Rmsiar~ the two; httt t ~ Lore ~ta~ were a ~ a | [ ~
against any effort which would jeopardize and a p p a ~ t l y had ~ n , ~ useful to
Byzantine control of the Khersonian theme, By~tir~e inte~'~ th~ n t ~ r ~ p i d i c en¢~
though the Russian ~perience of G ~ k fire mies, As a result the ~antazes ap~rently
in 941 had as much if not more value as a ~lt that tl~y shoutd ai, the Lomtmrtts rather
deterrent. The Greeks held the southern ~ r t than the ~ p i d s . The [w~ntines p ~ e d
of the Crimea and we~ determined that the cons/derab~ number o* ~roo~ to be ~nt into
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emerging Russian power i~ the Black Sea the ~olatile step~ area td" Pannonia but only
should not seek to o~erturn iheir control. On aRer wt:ighing 'he direct ~ f i t s for them-
the other hand, the Byzantines kad to recog- selves. ~ a t ~ ofinternai ~iigkr,~ d i ~ u h i e s
nize the increasing comm~:rdal presence ~" i. lllyricun,, the great portion cf the Byzan-
the Russians in the Black Sea, a',d they sought tine troops {{id not c r ~ the Danube but ~ m e
to gain the cooperation of the Russians in the did go to the ~istance of the Lom~rds,
matter of the salvaging of B~antine ships From this evidence, as well as other from the
which became stranded in the presence of the same and later periods regarding the relation-
Rums; see Article 9 of the treaty. ~hip between the Empire and ar~ allied ~ate,
Turning to the next group of the politic~ I :.he assistance which ~ promised by the
sec,Aons of the treaty, Clause 3 of Article t, ~yzantines to the R..i~n.~ .va~ at least
Clause 4 of Article 9, and Article 13 alon~,I ethnically posfible i~ terms of Byzantine
with the first part ofArticle 8 will he examined diplomatic procedure.
to define the political and military relation- As for the actual likelihoo(i of Byzontine
ships between the Byzantines and the Rus- tr~ps fighting with the Kievan arm'~~, tlmt i~
sians (Andrianova.Perets 1950~:37-..8, 234~ another question. A~ f~r as ~ know, after the
5). If the political clames of the treaty are sixth ¢entury, Byzantine ~ldiers wer~ never
examined in the light of the stonma&oi dispatched into the steppe nort~ of tht Black
relationship between the By~antines a . d an Sea or even outside Khermn except on ene
allied state, they become much clearer, ~ The ~casion: the expedition by [Pc~rong~ to ~.,u,ld
seemingly open.ended commitment of the Sarkel for the Khaza,'s in 838/839 (Wr,zn ak
Greeks to aid the Rt.,~sians, at the end of 1975:56~62), In that in~tance the Byzantines
Article 8, must be juxtaposed to the Russian were unwilling to ~ k any troop~ b,~ond a
commitment to provide troops on request few engineer~ and gome merchant ~hip~ to
to the Byzantine Empire. Such a promise a~sist the Khazars, and it ~eem~ unlikdy that
of military aid on the part of the Byzantines the Byzantines would r;.~k any substantial

body oftroops at any great distance from their are snown to us only through the ahb+e refer-
bases. With the exception of the expedition by ences ~nd fi'om two others in Constantine VII
Petronas in 859, there was no occasion after Porphy~ogenitus' De admiaistrando impm'o
the sixth century when Byzantine troops were (Moravcsik and Jenkins 1967:64-5, 186-7).
employed beyond the imperial frontiers other All efforts to discover their identity and locate
than the military expeditions into Armenia the home ofthis threat to Khersonian security
and the Caucasus Mountains to aid tradi- have been clouded in controversy. As a result
tion,~l Christian vassals. In addition any the following is offered a~ a tentative solution
Byzantine forces sent to Armenia and the based on the logic of the evidence?
Caucasus were within the range of prompt On the steppe north of the Crimea in the
aid by the Byzantine army in Anatolia. In 940s the Peche~eg confederacy dominated
fact the Byzantines were not even disposed in the sitt~ation between the Dniester and the
the tenth century to send troops the relatively Don (Macartney 1929/30:343-4). Their su-
short distance to aid the Bulgars in the defense premacy in this area came from their dis-
of the Danubian fords, though this might placement of the Magyars in the previous
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have prevented Magyar raids on Byzantine century. The activities ofthe Pechenegs in the
Thrace. early tenth century further indicated their
All of which does not mean that the replacement of the Khazars as the suzerain
Byzantines intended to ignore this clause of people on at least part ofthe Black Sea steppe.
the treaty but rather that they would selec- The power of the Khazars had been waning
tively adhere to this part of the treaty as they since the mid-ninth century in the area bet-
always had in their relations with their ween the Dnieper and the Don, though they
sgraraachoi. Because of the obvious concern in maintained some presence in the Crimea into
the treaty of 944 for the protection of Kherson, the early tenth century. The domination of
the Byzantines might have had in mind an the Peehenegs and the Khazars in the area
occasion when 1hey could have expected a north of Kherson and the Climata did not
request for aid frora the Russians; this would preclude the presence of other steppe tribes
have been if the Russians were protecting in the same region whether as nor,,inal vassals
Byzantine interests in the Crimea. or even as independent entities.
In the last part of Article 9 the Byzantines In the seventh century the Bulgarians had
enjoined the prince of Rus' to prevent the lived in the region north of the Sea of Azov
Black Bulgars from injuring the Kherson before their migration to the west and the
district; such a request would ha,+.e provided north (Theophanes 1883a:3,,7). Some Bul-
.~.n occasion for Russian protectior~ of Byzan- garian elements seem to have remained in the
tine interests in the Crimea. Inasn~uch :s the area since al-Mas~ildi in the mid-tenth cen-
Greeks wished the Russians to iwereept the tury refers to Bulgars living on the Volga as
Black Bulgarians before they damaged Byzan- well as on the shores of the Sea of Azov (al-
tine territory, the problem of the identity ot Mas~fidi 1962: 164). Constantine VII refers to
the Black Bulgarians impinges here on the the Bktck Bulgarians by stating that they can
examination of the conditions of the treaty. attack the Khazars and that the Russians
The Black Bulgarians were a steppe tribe, who came from the Dnieper River, which he

wrongly" says flows into the northern side of clear.) The question then emerges ~ t h e exa¢
the Sea of Azov, and pass through to Black l ~ t i o n of the Black Bult~'Jxiam on the shor~
Bulgaria. Khazaria and Syria. s ofthe Sea of Azov, whet her on the Azov stepp
Constantine's gtvgraphy differs here from which ex~e~de~l them *he great bend of the
that of Chapter 9. where he discusses the Dnieper to the Don or in the Crimea itself.
coming of the Run, a m to Comtautinople by P~ncg mzerainty over t ~ Black
way of the DniepeJ, where he has his topog- Bulgarian~ which would be fairly ~rtMn
raphy correct (Moravc~ik and Jenkins they l i ~ ~ t of tbe Don and north of th,
1 9 6 7 : ~ 6 3 ) , ~Vhai Cons,rantine ~ l l ~ ; to be Sea of Azov in the m i d . 9 4 ~ w~uld not have
saying is that the Russians c ~ the steppe, precluded the Black Bulg~,riavk~presenting a
at least in time of peace, f ~ m the great bend threat to Byzantine C,';mea. The Pecheneg
of the Dnieper which here lay north and confederacy was t~mumlly ~ v e ~ i g n from
parallel to the northern shore of the Maeotis; the Don to the Pruth, but they were in ~al and
thus the Russians would probably have been consistent ~ntrol only of the region between
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using the mine route t!,~t the Khersonhe the D n i e ~ r l n d the [h'uth (Macartney
traders u~:l in ~aching the Russians and the 1929/30: 343). The ~ a between the D n i e ~ r
Pechene~ by crossing the Dnieper at the attd the Don was largely a vacuum with the
so-called ford ofVrar (Moraveslk andJenkim Pecht aegs and Khaza~ concentrated beyond
1967:60-i). in this fituatiot~ the Rt~' from e~ch tJ these riven. The intervening territory
Kiev were attempting to t ~ e a more direct seems to have contained remnants of :ribes
route to the Khazars and Syria titan ascending from previous migrations who were domin-
the Dnieper and then descel~,tiing the Volga, ated ia the summer by the Pechenegs when
and at the same time they were avoiding the they erected to the east side of the Daiepcr
Greek.control ed Black Sea and the naviga- (Mor~vcsik and Jenkins 1967:56~7). Pechc-
tion around th- Crimea to reach Khazaria neg suzerainty was thus continually renewed
which so disturbed the Byzantines. but v ,ts of a vat ng intensity correspondint~
Therefore it seems that the Black Bulgarians to the time of the year. It is therefi~rc quit-
were not part of the Khazar confederacy but cottceivable ~hat the Black Bulgars were one
were a threat to the Khazars and that they of those tribal remnants (as mentioned by
lived between the Russians and Khazaria, ~i.Mas'ildi) who had been left behind in the
somewhere between the Dnieper and the Don, wake of the Bulgarian migration ofthe seventh
on the shore of the Sea of Azov. If the Black ~entury and who had survived the vicisfitudes
Bulgarians lived on the shore :)f the Sea of of steppe warfare until the mid-tenth century
Azov to the west of the Don, taey would have on the steppe north of the Sea of Azov ~ t -
threatenet~ the Khazars a~ well as the ween the ,ca and the parallel Dnieper River
Crimean peninsula and Kherson. (That the to the north. The Black Bulgar~ could have
situation around the Sea of Azov was still been nomina~ vassals of the Pechenegs, and
volatile emerges from al-M ts~ildi's (1962: from their location on the ~hore of the Sea of
165) reference to Ghuzz raid~ in winter over Azov they could have attacked the Khazars
the frozen Sea of Azov into Khazaria, whether whetiter beyond the Don or in the Crimea a~td
from north or east of the Sea of Azov was not also ~hreatetaed Kher~oo. There were, a.q a

result, two threats to Kherson and file restore the former equilibrium, s For their
Climata from the north: the Pechenegs, reliance on the Khazars, the Byzantines now
mentioned by Constantine, a:,d the Black had to substitute a complex policy of balanc-
Bulgarians of the treaty of 944, ing threats and friendships among the various
If, therefore, Black Bulgaria was located contending elements on the steppe; the
north of the Crimean isthmus on the Azov Russians, because of their activities in the
steppe, which would have meant that its early tenth century, had now emerged as one
inhabitants would have entered the Crimea of these elements who had to be balanced by
over the two roads through the great forest at complex diplomatic maneuvers.
the isthmus (Moravcsik and Jenkins 1967:48- By the terms of the clause ~oncerning the
9, !86-7), the Byzantines were confronted by Black Bulgarians, the Russians could appar-
the double problem of the Pechenegs and :he ently prevent them from raiding Kherson and
:31ack Bulgarians in the context of a volatile the C]imata. 7 The Russians were most closely
situation on the steppe where the former acqua~.nted with warfare in the forests and
stability of one reliable alliance had been forested steppe around Kiev; in their activities
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replaced by an instability that the relationship on th~ steppe, they remained closely tied to
with the Pechenegs emphasized by Con- the Dnieper River and the northern shore
stantine VII could not resolve. of the Black Sea (Andrianova-Perets 1950a:
The Khazars, at the same time, main- 18-34, 214-31 ; Moravcsik and Jenkins 1967:
tained at least a nominal suzerainty in the 56-63L The B~:antines were also best ac-
Crimean steppe during the 940s, but their quainted with the R~' from their naval
hold had obviously been weakening and they expeditions and :aids on the southern coast
were now no longer capable of preventing of the Black Sea Though ultimately a disaster
raids from north of the Crimea. The Peche- for the Russians, the expedition of 941 had
negs were such a threat to Kherson and the de~nonstrated most significantly the military
Climata according to Constantine VII. The potential of the Rus' when they had held out
value of the Khazar alliance had now passed for several months in western Bithynia
for the Greeks, and Constantine's repeated against the elite Anatolian regiments of the
reference to possible deterrents to the Khazars Byzantine army (Andrianova-Perets 1950a:
confirms this conclusion (Moravcsik and 33, 229-30; Theophanes Continuatus 1838:
Jenkins 1967:62-6). Instead they had been 425; Leo Grammaticus 1842:324). By the
replaced by the Pechenegs as the main terms of the treaty of 944, the Greeks sought
Byzantine ally on the steppe, though the to utilize this naval and military potential of
Greeks had no illusions as to Pecheneg con- the Russians not only in recruiting them iato
stancy (Moravcsik and Jenkins 1967:48-9, their army, but also in the protection of
54-7). The Empire no longer placed any Kherson even though the Rus' themselves
reliance on the ability of the Khazars to potentially threatened this city. It is possible
control the steppe north of the Black Sea, thus that the Russians could have attacked these
upsetting the former balance of nearly two people from the rear by striking out through
centuries. The conditions on the steppe were the marshes a ad forested steppe south of the
unstable and the Pecheneg alliance could not Dnieper. Between this region ard the Maeotis

there was the Azov steppe which the Rus' season; they could remain until the return
apparently crossed in u'ading to Khazaria voyage by the Russian uading fleet "o Kiev
and S~Tia, but usually the Russians did not in the late summer after the peak of the
o?erate militarily on the steppe. The Russ~ raiding periiod (because of the summer's heat
would fight on the steppe, and they were drying up the steppe's natural foal:let);
acquaint.~l with cavalry tactics mad used there would be little danger of the Rua'
them when they were severely threatened by establishing themselves here permaneatly
the Pechenegs as in the 910s and 960s, but since their position and supply lines were at
they preferred on the steppe to follow the the mercy of the Byzantine ship~ in the Black
river routes. Therefore i~ is possible but un- Sea, thus reducing the ~ b i l i t y of a repeti-
likely that the Russians were intended by the tion of the attempted Russian occupation of
Greeks to strike at the Black Bulgarians from the estuarian islands of the lo'~er Dnieper;
the north to divert their attention from Kherson would be protected f~om both the
Kherson. Black Bulgarians and the Pechcnegs who used
A reference in the De admirdarando imperio, this same Ioute; and the location was far
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Chapter ¢2, to the Crimea,~ isthmus being enough from Kherson so as not to increase
forested, leaving only two rot~~es by which the significantly the danger to th~tt city, though
Pechenegs could pass "hrough ~o Kherson, the Khersonian fishermen and salt gatherers
Bosphorus and the regiom~ makes another would be more exposed (but the treat~ already
solution to the problem of the I,iussian deter- had clauses to protect them frog"the Rus').
rence of the Black Bulgarian :i,lds more likely Finally Clause 13, concerning Byzantine
(Moravcsik and Jenkins 1967! 186-7). The military aid to the Rus', becomes much
forest was the environment in which the clearer (Andrianova-Pcrcts 1950a: 38, 235) ;
Russians preferred to fight the :lteppe tribes; for here was a situation anticipated by the
the vegetation restricted the nomads' move- treaty of 944, where the Rus' could request
ments on horse and permitted ambushes to Byzantine military aid, and the Byzantines
be laid by the more infantry-oriented Rus'. could bc expected to provide it under the
In consequence it seems that the best means terms ofa sl/ramachoitreaty. With the Pussians
of the Russes thwarting Black Bulgarians' interdicting the v:mvements 3f tl.e Black
raids was not by a punitive expedition from Bulgarians at the Crimean isthr, ms, the
the north but by blocking the Black Bulgarians Byzantines would ~,ave found little difficulty
on the two roads of the forested Crimean dispatching a tagm ~ or two to the isthmus to
isthmus. The Russians would be in their assist the Rus'. The area was easily accessible
favored terrain for warfare with steppe from Kherson or Cc,nstantinople; the position
peoples; they would have few difficulties of was directly invot,ed in the protection of
transportation to the site since it was only a Byzantine interests in the Crimea, and a
short distance by ~ea from the mouth of the defensive position c n the isthmus was not too
Dnieper; the Rus' could perform this service distant from the Khersonian garrison for
by leaving their men at the isthmus on their further assistance: md as a result this in-
outward voyage to Constantinople in thc volvement did not violate previously e3tab-
spring which was the beginning of the raiding lished parameters for Byzantine policies on

the steppe but rather presented an able Climata and Kherson became too severe
adjustment of these policies to meet the (Moravcsik and Jenkins 1967:48-65). This
c arrent situation. The Russians may not have seems to have been the condition in the mid-
wanted this involvement, but they had little tenth century when the Russians, Black
choice considering the conditions under which Bulgarians and Pechenegs were disturbing
the treatT was concluded. They were, there- the security of Byzantine Crimea. The ob-
fore, obligated t~ prevent Black Bulgarian vious solution, as indicated by inference from
raids against Kherson and the Climata. Constantine, would be to have these three ele-
The Byzantine purpose in the treaty was, ments involved in a series of petty wars that
however, somewhat more involved than would divert their attention from Kherson.
merely stopping raids by the Black Bulgarians Article 13 of the treaty has always proved
and also more subtle than the apparent terms the least difficult of the political clauses to
of the clause might lead one to believe. The interpret (Andrianova-Perets 1950a: 38, 235).
apparent intent was to prevent raids by the This article is one of the critical parts of the
Black Bulgars by making the prince of Kiev symmackoi relationship between the Russians
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responsible for intervening in this matter, but and the Byzantines. By the terms of the article
it seems that the Black Bulgarians were also the Russian prince was to provide as many
vassals or subordinates of the Pechenegs. soldiers as the Byzantine government re-
Russian actions against the Black Bulgarians quired when it requested such assistance. One
would almost certainly draw in the Pechenegs of the main reasons the Byzantines sought to
who were the most dangerous enemy of bring a people into an allied relationship
Kherson (Moravcsik and Jenkins 1967:48-9); with themselves was to secure a source of
therefore the Lyzantines seem to have wanted manpower to help fulfill the constant needs
to entangle the Rus' with the Pechenegs, at of the Byzantine army. From the early tenth
least tangentially, so that the deterrence of century the Russians had appeared as mer-
the Black Bulgarians would as well prevent cenaries in the Byzantine imperial fleet
both Pecheneg and Russian threats to (Constantine V I I Porphyrogenitus 1829:
Kherson by embroiling with each other the 651--4, 660-8, 674-6); but in the 950s,
two most important threats to Kherson. The tagmata of Rus' appeared in Byzantine cam-
vagaries of war were always a concern for paigns in Eastern Anatolia (Vasiliev 1968:
the Greeks~ and the consequences of a war on 352-3, 355). The symmachoi treaty with the
the steppe were particularly uncertain. The Russians was in recognition and anticipation
main thrust of Byzantine diplomacy often of the massive manpower needs of the
seems to have been to dampen dowv instabili- Byzantine army from the 940s onward: the
ties on the steppe to provide an environment change from defensive to offensive operations
that promoted security for Kherson and trade under John Curcuas in Anatolia and the
for the Empire. Yet Constantine VII's con- massive losses in the Bulgarian wars of the
stant references to peoples being able to earlier tenth century meant that the Empire
attack other peoples recognized that wars on had to secure increasingly larger contingents
the steppe were possible and sometimes even of foreign soldiers, not only the Rus' but any
useful to the Greeks if the threats to the and all warriors available for service.

Even in the last polidca! clause ofthe treaty in this treaty of 944). Here they were located on the Sea
of 944 there was a connection with the central of Azov as stated by al-Mas~fidi and implied by
Constantine VII in his mislocation ofthe mouth of the
problem of Byzantine dipI~macy north ofthe Dnieper which interestingly he does not make in
Black Sea: the defense of the imperial position referring to the Russian route from Kiev to Con-
in the Crimea. These clauses can all be best stantinople. Constantine also placed them between
the Russians on the Dnieper and Khazaria, a location
understood on the basis of two dominant also reconcilable with the northwestern part of the
circumstances: this was an allied treaty of a Crimea.
traditional nature between the Byzantine and There remains, however, the te:'ms of the treaty
between the Empire and the Russians that referred to
Kievan governments and the nearly obsessive the Black Bulgarians. Two of our three sources can be
concern of the Greeks to hold and protect the reconciled quite easily wherever we might locate the
Khersonian district which was so valuable for Black Bulgarians, but the demand of the Byzantines
both commercial and diploma i c reasons. that the prince of Kiev prevent raids by the Black
Bulgarians on the Kherson district has considerable
difficulties with the Black Bulgarians located on the
Crimean steppe. How and why were the Russians, who
Notes were basically tied to the Dnieper River route in
the Ukrainian steppe, to intervene in the Crimea,
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x The historiography of this pa~ucular treaty is not especially considering the obsessive fear of the Greeks
as extensive as that on other q at:~tions of Rnsso- for their sovereignty over this region ?
Bsrzantine relations in the tenth ceatur 5, (Levchenko 7 The Byzantines could request Russian aid not
l ,c~56; Sorlin 1961 ; Vcrnadsky 1946; Shestakov 1908). only under this clause but also under Axticle 13 that
a A ~jmrnachoi treaty was similar in terms and required the Russian prince to supply ~lirect military
obligations to a federate treaty o l t'ae later Roman assistance.
Empire; see Jones' explanation os ~:he institution of
federates (1973a:159--60, 185-9, i99-203; 1973b:
61 I-3 ). Literature
a Efforts have been made to expla:in away Clause 8
on logical or linguistic grounds which I do not feel are Andrianova-Perets, V. P. (ed.) 1950a and b. Povest'
necessary (Vernadsky 1946: 257; Shakhmatov 1914: Vremennykh Let. 2 vols. Moskva.
21if.). Boba, I. 1967. Nomads, northmen, and Slavs:
4 Macartney (1931:150-8) and Smirnov (1951) Eastern Europe in the ninth century. Den Haag.
hold that t t e Black Bulgarians are identical with the Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus. 1829, De cere-
Volga Bulgars; however Vasiliev (1936), and Mark- monies aulue Byzantine. Bonn.
wart (1903) locate them between the Dnieper and the Dunlop, D. M. 1954. The history of the Jewish
Don; the nineteenth-century supposition that they Khazars. Princeton.
were located on the Kuban steppe has received little Ibn Miskawaihi (Ahmad ibn Muhammed, Abu'Ali
support since the early twentieth century. called). 1921. The experiences of the nations 5. The
n Constantine very carefully relates this passage eclipse of the Abbasid caliphate. Oxford.
through Black Bulgaria to a voyage down the Dnieper Jenkins, k. J. H. (ed.) 1962. Constantine Porphyro-
River and not to a voyage down the Volga (Moravcsik genitus De administrando imperio (commentary).
and Jenkins 1967: 66-5, 186-7). London.
e It was possible that the Black Bulgarians were Jones, A. H. M. 1973a and b. The later Roman
located in the Crimea in the emerging vacuum being Empire. 2 vols. Second edition. Oxford.
left by the decline of Khazar domination in this region; Leo Grammaticus. 1842. Chronographia Bonn.
the Crimea aad traditionally been the refuge of cast off Levchenko, M. V. 1956. Ocherkii po [ torii russko-
remnants of steppe migrations who survived here for vizantiiskikh otnoshenii. Moskva.
considerable periods as is best exemplified by the Macartney, C. A. 1929/30. The Pechen ~gs. Slavonic
Crimean Goths. A location in the Crimea fits with both and East European review 8: 342-55.
al-Mas~Ctdrs and Constantine VII's references to the Macartney, C. A. 1931. On the black Bulgarians,
Black Bulgarians (which are the only ones besides that Byzantinlsch-neu~,riechische Jahrbfich~r 8: 150--8.

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Constantine Porphyrogenitu~ De administrando
imperio (text and translation). I)umbarton Oaks.
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Shal~hmatov, A. A. 1914. Neskolko zamechanii o
dogovorah s Grekami Olega i Igorio. Zapiski
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Shestakov, S. P. 1908. Ocherld po istorii Khersonesa
v V I - X veka po r. khr. Pamiatnild khristianskogo
Khersonesa g. Moskva.
Smirnov, A. P. 1951. Volzhokie Bulgary. Moskva.
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