Bjarmaland (also spelt Bjarmland and Bjarmia; Latin: Biarmia or
Byarmia; Old English: Beormaland) was a territory mentioned in
Norse sagas since the
Viking Age and in geographical accounts until
the 16th century. The term is usually seen to have referred to the
southern shores of the
White Sea and the basin of the Northern Dvina
River (Vienanjoki in Finnish) as well as, presumably, some of the
surrounding areas. Today, those territories comprise a part of the
Arkhangelsk Oblast of Russia.
1 Norse voyagers in Bjarmaland
3 Origin of the name: the Bjarmians
5 Later use
6 See also
Norse voyagers in Bjarmaland
A Norwegian map of the voyage of Ohthere
According to the
Voyage of Ohthere (c. 890 CE), the Norwegian merchant
Ottar (Ohthere) reported to king
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great that he had sailed
for 15 days along the northern coast and then southwards, finally
arriving at a great river, probably the Northern Dvina. At the
estuary of the river dwelt the Beormas, who unlike the nomadic Sami
peoples were sedentary, and their land was rich and populous. Ohthere
did not know their language but he said that it resembled the language
of the Sami people. The Bjarmians told Ohthere about their country and
other countries that bordered it.
Later, several expeditions were undertaken from
Norway to Bjarmaland.
Eric Bloodaxe made a Viking expedition, as well as Harald II
Norway and Haakon Magnusson of Norway, in 1090.
The best known expedition was that of
Tore Hund (Tore Dog) who
together with some friends, arrived in
Bjarmaland 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 Bjarmians had erected an idol
of their god Jómali. 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 Bjarmians with their rich booty.
Bjarmaland appears in
Old Norse literature, possibly
referring to the area where
Arkhangelsk is presently situated, and
where it was preceded by a Bjarmian settlement. The first appearance
of the name occurs in an account of the travels of Ohthere of
Hålogaland, which was written in about 890.
Permians is already found in the oldest document of the Rus',
Nestor's Chronicle (1000–1100). The names of other Uralic tribes
are also listed including some
Samoyedic peoples as well as the Veps,
Cheremis, Mordvin, and Chudes.
Bjarmaland was also used later both by the German
Adam of Bremen
Adam of Bremen (11th century) and the Icelander Snorri
Sturluson (1179–1241) in Bósa saga ok Herrauðs, reporting about
its rivers flowing out to Gandvik. It is not clear if they reference
Bjarmaland as was mentioned in the Voyage of Ohthere,
however. The name of the Bjarmian god Jómali is so close to the word
for "god" in most
Finnic languages that Bjarmians where likely a
Finnic group. In fact, languages belonging to other language groups
have never been suggested within serious research.
Olaus Magnus located
Bjarmaland in the
Kola Peninsula in his Carta
marina et descriptio septentrionalium terrarum (1539), while Johannes
Schefferus (1621–1679) identified it with Lappland.
Origin of the name: the Bjarmians
Bjarmians cannot be connected directly to any existing group of people
living today, but it is likely that they were a separate group of
Finnic speakers in the
White Sea area. Toponyms and loan words in
dialects in northern
Russia indicate that Finnic speaking populations
used to live in the area. Also Russian chronicles mention groups of
people in the area associated with Finno-Ugric languages.
Accordingly, many historians assume the terms beorm and bjarm to
derive from the Uralic word perm, which refers to "travelling
merchants" and represents the
Old Permic culture. However, some
linguists consider this theory to be speculative.
Recent research on the Uralic substrate in northern Russian dialects
suggests that several other Uralic groups besides the Permians, lived
in Bjarmaland, assumed to have included the Viena Karelians, Sami and
Kvens. According to Helimski, the language spoken c. 1000 AD in the
northern Archangel region, which he terms Lop', was closely related to
but distinct from the
Sami languages proper. That would fit Ottar's
Bjarmian trade reached southeast to Bolghar, by the Volga River, where
the Bjarmians also interacted with Scandinavians and Fennoscandians,
who adventured southbound from the
Baltic Sea area.
The Northern Land (Apollinary Vasnetsov, 1899).
Modern historians suppose that the wealth of the Bjarmians was due to
their profitable trade along the Northern Dvina, the
Kama River and
the Volga to
Bolghar and other trading settlements in the south. Along
this route, silver coins and other merchandise were exchanged for
pelts and walrus tusks brought by the Bjarmians. In fact, burial sites
Perm Krai are the richest source of Sasanian and Sogdian
silverware from Iran. Further north, the Bjarmians traded with
It seems that the Scandinavians made some use of the Dvina trade
route, in addition to the
Volga trade route
Volga trade route and Dnieper trade
route. In 1217, two Norwegian traders arrived in
Bjarmaland to buy pelts; one of the traders continued further south to
Russia in order to arrive in the Holy Land, where he intended
to take part in the Crusades. The second trader who remained was
killed by the Bjarmians. This caused Norwegian officials to undertake
a campaign of retribution into
Bjarmaland which they pillaged in
The 13th century seems to have seen the decline of the Bjarmians, who
became tributaries of the Novgorod Republic. While many Slavs fled the
Mongol invasion northward, to
Beloozero and Bjarmaland, the displaced
Bjarmians sought refuge in Norway, where they were given land around
the Malangen fjord by Haakon IV of
Norway in 1240. More important for
the decline was probably that, with the onset of the Crusades, the
trade routes had found a more westerly orientation or shifted
considerably to the south.
When the Novgorodians founded Velikiy Ustiug, in the beginning of the
13th century, the Bjarmians had a serious competitor for the trade.
More and more
Pomors arrived in the area during the 14th and 15th
centuries, which led to the final subjugation and assimilation of the
Bjarmians by the Slavs.
Quisling regime planned to build Norwegian
colonies in Northern Russia, following a future success of Operation
Barbarossa, and which were to be named Bjarmaland; but these plans
never came to be.
Ancient Germanic culture portal
Ohthere of Hålogaland
^ a b c d e Joonas Ahola; Frog; Clive Tolley, eds. (2014). Fibula,
Fabula, Fact – The
Viking Age in Finland. Vantaa: Studia Fennica.
pp. 195–212. ISBN 978-952-222-603-7.
^ "Mythical Lands of Russia, Part 2: Bjarmia". Russia-InfoCentre
(russia-ic.com). Retrieved 2017-08-31.
^ Ohthere's voyage to Bjarmaland. Original text and its English
^ Angela Marcantonio: The Uralic Language Family: Facts, Myths and
Statistics. Wiley, Hoboken/NJ 2002, p. 21 ff. ISBN 0-631-23170-6
^ a b Steinsland and Meulengracht 1998: 162.
^ Janne Saarikivi: Substrata Uralica. Studies in Finno-Ugric substrate
in northern Russian dialects. Doctoral dissertation. Tartu 2006: 28
^ Saarikivi 2006: 294–295.
^ Helimski, Eugene (2006). "The "Northwestern" group of Finno-Ugric
languages and its heritage in the place names and substratum
vocabulary of the Russian North". In Nuorluoto, Juhani. The
Slavicization of the Russian North (Slavica Helsingiensia 27) (PDF).
Helsinki: Department of Slavonic and Baltic Languages and Literatures.
pp. 109–127. ISBN 978-952-10-2852-6.
^ "Stroganoff - collectors of antiquities in Perm". ARTinvestment.RU.
^ Svetlana Kameneva. "Enigmatic relationship of Ancient Ural Culture
And Sassanid dynasty" (PDF).
Iran Zamin. Vancouver: The Ancient
Iranian Cultural & Religious Research & Development Center. 1
^ Norway's Nazi Collaborators Sought
Russia Colonies. The Associated
Press. Oslo, April 9, 2010 (article on Fox News).
This article contains content from the Owl Edition of Nordisk
familjebok, a Swedish encyclopedia published between 1904 and 1926,
now in the public domain.
Steinsland, G. & Meulengracht Sørensen, P. (1998): Människor och
makter i vikingarnas värld. ISBN 91-7324-591-7
Тиандер К.Ф. Поездки скандинавов в
Белое море. [Voyages of the Norsemen to the White Sea]. Saint
Names in italics are settlements whose Norse names are not recorded
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