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In the late 1st millennium AD the Varangians (supposedly Scandinavian Vikings), also took part in the forming of Russian identity and the Kievan Rus' state.Orthodox Christian missionaries began arriving from the Eastern Roman Empire in the 9th century, and Kievan Rus' converted to Orthodox Christianity in 988.
Due to the relatively late involvement of Russia in modern globalization and international tourism, many aspects of Russian culture, like Russian jokes and Russian art, remain largely unknown to foreigners.
Russian belongs to the Indo-European language family and is one of the living members of the East Slavic languages; the others being Belarusian and Ukrainian (and possibly Rusyn).
Epic Russian bylinas are also an important part of Slavic mythology.
The oldest bylinas of Kievan cycle were actually recorded mostly in the Russian North, especially in Karelia, where most of the Finnish national epic Kalevala was recorded as well.
In 1934, Maksim Gorky gave a speech to the Union of Soviet Writers arguing that folklore could, in fact, be consciously used to promote Communist values.