By Leon Koczy
Baltic Countries, Vol.2 No.2 (1936)
Introduction: The Baltic was always a scene of activity, and, in consequence all the states surrounding it have striven for dominion over its waters. In prehistoric times it was controlled by the Slavs in the south and by the Scandinavians in the north. Frisian merchants penetrated it, but they were only visitors from outside, while the Prussians, Lithuanians, Courlanders and other tribes settled on the coast from the mouth of the Vistula to the Gulf of Finland appeared only as rovers on the waters of the Baltic, and played no part in its economic history. The Germans were completely cut off from it by Slavonic territory, and as merchants stood far behind the Frisians and Scandinavians. If they reached the coastal markets, it was not by sea.
This state of affairs continued until about the middle of the twelfth century, and evidences of it are to be found in a chain of Norse and Slavonic trading posts. Schleswig-Heitabu in Denmark, Jomsborg-Jumneta and Rerik in the Slavonic area, and further east Trusso and Saeborg, which laterdeveloped into Riga. In default of other evidence, the rich finds of coins furnish evidence that even in those far-off ages the Baltic served the needs of international trade, and had an economic significance comparable to that of the Mediterranean in the south. This was due to the enterprise of the Swedish Varangians, who penetrated in their sailing-boats down the rivers of Old Russia and established commercial relations with Byzantium and the Far East.