Lonely Planet Writer

Belarus adventurers to re-enact Viking age Baltic Sea voyage in replica ship

A group of adventurers in Belarus will re-enact a journey from the Viking age by sailing on a replica of a Viking ship along the Neman River to the Baltic Sea, Belarusian Telegraph Agency (BelTA) has reported. The trip will last three weeks, starting in Hrodna (Grodno)  on 15 May, where the ship will be transported from Nyasvizh .

Hrodna, (Grodno).
Hrodna, (Grodno). Image by Alexxx Malev / CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the people behind this adventure is Artem Leshchina, a member of Naglfar, a historical re-enactment and modelling club from Vitsebsk, who told the agency that similar trips have already happened in ex-Soviet countries but not on distances as long as this journey. The team of rowers has brought together people from different places in Belarus. The vessel they will be travelling in is a replica of an original Viking wooden boat (called drakkar) dating from the 10th century. It’s 14m long and can carry a crew of up to 20 rowers.

The trip will be a fairly accurate re-enactment of the historical period, with the crew wearing Viking-style costumes and carrying axes and swords. Tents for stays along the way will be set up using oars. There will also be exhibition shows during the journey.

Vitebsk, Belarus.
Vitebsk, Belarus. Image by Sergei Kavtaradze / CC BY 2.0

Vikings left a significant mark in the history of Belarus. The early Russian state developed from trade on river routes between the Baltic and Black Seas. Vikings from Scandinavia ventured east of the Baltic Sea, both trading and raiding, from the 6th century AD. The founding of Novgorod in 862 by Rurik of Jutland is traditionally considered as the birth of the Russian state. His successor Oleg became the ruler of Kyiv and this Slavicised dynasty produced rulers in eastern Slavic regions until the end of the 16th century. As for  present-day Belarus, Polotsk in Vitsebsk region was a principality ruled by Norwegian Vikings in the 9th century.