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Well, those are historical facts. Not sure about the russians you've met, but they surely have read about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_route_from_the_Varangian... at least. Not to mention https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rurik_dynasty

And you can't really have any talk about Russian state over here without mentioning that 'Russia is still a Byzantine Empire descendant'. Even newspapers usualy mention that: https://www.gazeta.ru/comments/2016/05/30_e_8271917.shtml (in russian, obviously)

Anyway, this topic has lots of material if one is interested.

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