The Rus were founded by the Drevliane, Severiane, and Vyatichi tribes, who united and built a city at Kiev, which became their capital. "Rus" means "the men who row" in Old Norse, as their origins were in Scandinavia, and the Vikings settled colonies that became the present-day countries of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. The Chuds, Slavs, Merians, and Krivichs ousted the Varangians and governed themselves, conquering the Rus Khaganate and founding their own kingdom.
The Rus tribespeople attacked Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, in both 860 and 907, and raided into The Balkans. Soon, Byzantine influence replaced their Paganism with Orthodoxy, a form of Christianity, and the Rus converted to this new religion, which is still strong in Ruthenia today. The Kievans had a rich state until the decline of Constantinople's trade, and they fell apart into the city-states of the Duchy of Novgorod, Duchy of Ryazan, Duchy of Moscow, Duchy of Smolensk, Duchy of Oka, Duchy of Kiev, Duchy of Vladimir, and the Volga Bulgars, and fought each other. By 1080, the court of Kiev's chaos ended any chance of peaceful unification, so the Novgoroders, led by Ysevolod I of Novgorod, took over every state, founding a Russian kingdom.
The Kievan Rus were united under Novgorod, but they splintered time and time again. The disunited duchies were swept away by the Mongol Empire, who set up the Golden Horde to govern its territories in Russia from Kiev. Alexander Nevski, a survivor from the Mongol push westwards, fled to Novgorod and became Grand Duke, and bribed the Mongols not to attack. He became ruler of Novgorod, and under his rule he conquered Tovno, a rebellious northern duchy just to the northeast of Novgorod. By the time he died, Novgorod took over Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and parts of the Baltic States and Poland. However, he divided his lands between his sons in 1279 on his deathbed, re-igniting warfare. Only in 1488, when Ivan the Great of Moscow destroyed Novgorod, did Russia achieve unity.