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Nikolai Konstantinovich Rerikh (1874-1947)  Longships Are Built in the Land of the Slavs  Series
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Title: Longships Are Built
Nikolai Konstantinovich Rerikh (1874-1947)
Longships Are Built in the Land of the Slavs
Series "Beginning of Russia. Slavs"
Oil on canvas, 1903 
Museum of Oriental Art, Moscow, Russia

rom earliest times the life of the Slavs has been connected with water. Like most ancient peoples, the Slavs built settlements near rivers and lakes. Fishing provided an important food source and waterways became main transportation arteries. Even in a rough-hewn boat it was easier and safer to travel long distances than it was to cut through a dense forest. 

Boat building techniques gradually improved. The canoe-like vessels of the Slavs, which were originally pushed through the water with punt poles, became considerably faster with the introduction of oars and sails. 

By the seventh century boat construction had sufficiently advanced to allow the Slavs not only to navigate rivers but also to venture into the open seas. They sailed to Thessalonica, Crete, the southern coast of Italy, and, at the very walls of Constantinople, engaged the Byzantines in naval battles. 

Among the most famous of the ancient trade routes was the one called " the Vikings to the Greeks." To a large degree Kiev and Novgorod, the principal cities of Ancient Rus, flourished because they were located along the waterways of this important route. 

For long voyages these early Russians built a light, open vessel called a lodya. The Byzantines called it in Greek monoxile because it was made a single tree, usually the hollowed-out trunk of an oak or linden. Layers of planking were secured to the hull to increase its height and oars were affixed to the planking. A single mast with a square sail made the lodya seaworthy, and it was light enough, when the need arose, for portage. Although it seldom exceeded twenty metres in length, a lodya often held a crew of forty. 

In the ninth century Kievan Grand Prince Oleg, with a fleet of lodyas, launched an attack against Constantinople, called Tsargrad by the Slavs. His victorious campaign proved the might and independence of Kievan Rus. According to the Chronicles, Prince Oleg "hung his shield upon the Gate of Tsargrad" and sailed back to Kiev with the treasures of his conquest.

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Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (1874-1947)  Treasure of the Angels. Mural design  Oil on canvas, 1905  321.5 x 367 cm  Private collectionNikolai Konstantinovich Rerikh (1874-1947)  Longships Are Built in the Land of the Slavs  SeriesNikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (1874-1947)  Uglich. Monastery of the Resurrection.   “Studies  journey through old Russian towns”  Oil on panel, 1904  46 x 83  cm  State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
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