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Biarmland (or Bjarmaland) was a territory in Northern Europe, Northern Russia, mentioned by early European literature, where Finnic Biarmians lived or rather ruled.
The name appears in old Scandinavian literature, possible for the area where Arkhangelsk is presently situated, and where it was preceded by a Biarmian merchant town. The first appearance of the name is in the Voyage of Ohthere, which was undertaken ca 890. According to the story, it was not the first Scandinavian voyage to the Biarmians, and it was explicitly undertaken to purchase walrus tusks from the Biarmians. Biarmland is also used later, maybe not the same Biarmland, both by the German historian Adam of Bremen (ca. 11th c.) and the Icelander Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) in Herraušs (Herraudhs) and Bosa saga, telling its rivers flowing out to Gandvik.
Biarmian god Jomali or Jumala (meaning thunder) is Finnic but the description of him is more Siberian, especially the crown adorned with twelve stars in gold, characteristic to Siberian shaman caps. Olaus Magnus usually put Biarmland near the Perm region (Komi peoples), and Johannes Schefferus (1621 - 1679) argued it was equal to an ancient and larger Laponia. Later more modern researches argues it is presumably associated with Vepses or Karelians and that Tschudins mentioned in Russian chronicles is identical to Biarmians.
It has been considered whether the inhabitants in Biarmland was either displaced by the Russians or assimilated by them. It has been suggested that the Vepses, who remain not far from the hypothetical area are the descendants of the Biarmians, are the only remaining descendants of the Biarmians.
Bureus¹ also argued (Latin) biarmia to be derived from (Finnish) vaaramaa, "mountain ground" (bergstrakt).[¹ either the geographer Andreas Bureus (1571-1646) or linguist Johannes Bureus (1568-1652).]
The Norwegian merchant Ottar (Ohthere) related for king Alfred the Great that he had passed the North Cape and after several days' voyage he arrived at a great river, the Dvina. At the estuary of the Dvina, dwelt the Beormas, who unlike the Sami peoples were sedentary, and their land was rich and populous. Ottar did not know their language but he said that it resembled the language of the Samis (Finno-ugric). The Biarmians told Ottar about their country and other countries that bordered it.
The most well-known expedition was that of Tore Hund (Tore Dog) who together with some friends, arrived in Biarmland, in 1026. They started to trade with the inhabitants and bought a great many pelts, whereupon they pretended to leave. Later, they made shore in secret, and plundered the burial site, where the Biarmians had erected an idol of their god Jomali (Ibmel, cf. (Finnish) Jumala, 'thunder god', see Thor). This god had a bowl containing silver on his knees, and a valuable chain around his neck. Tore and his men managed to escape from the pursuing Biarmians with their rich booty.
The wealth of the Biarmians was due to their profitable trade along the Dvina, the Kama River and the Volga to Bolghar and other trading settlements in the south. Along this route, silver coins and other merchandise was exchanged for pelts and walrus tusks brought by the Biarmians. Further north, the Biarmians traded with the Saami who are said to have been tributaries to the Biarmians.
It seems that also the Scandinavians made use of this trade route, in addition to those that were already travelled by the Varangians. In 1217, two Norwegian traders arrived in Biarmland to buy pelts, and one of the traders continued further south to pass through Russia, in order to arrive in the Holy Land, where he intended to take part in the Crusades. The second trader, who remained, was however, killed by the Biarmians. This caused Norwegian officials to perform a retribution campaign into Biarmland which they pillaged and which gave them rich plunder, in 1222.
This time seems to be the decline of the Biarmians. The arrival of the Mongols to the Russia, undoubtedly contributed to the decline. Even if Biarmland was very distant from the lands plundered by the Mongols, many Biarmians sought refuge in Norway, where they were given land in Malangen , by Haakon IV of Norway, in 1240. More important for the decline was probably that the trade routes had found a more westerly orientation and that the Scandinavians had started to trade with Novgorod instead.
When the Novgorodians founded Velikiy Ustiug , in the beginning of the 13th century, the Biarmians had a serious competitor for the trade. More and more Novgorodian Slavs arrived in the area during the 14th and 15th centuries, which lead to the final submission and assimilation of the Biarmians.
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