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EARLY RUSSIAFor centuries before this era, Indo-European people called the Slavs had lived in eastern European, very much in the paths of the east to west migrations that scattered them over the years. The Russians were one of these Slavic peoples who intermarried with the Viking invaders and began to organize a large state by the 10th century. The most important early city was Kiev, located in the present-day Ukraine, which built up regular trade and contacts with Constantinople. They adopted the Eastern Orthodox religion, and established the Russian Orthodox Church. The princes of Kiev established firm control over the church, and they made use of the Byzantine legal codes put together by Justinian.Russia, like the rest of Europe, was built on feudalistic ties, and over time the Kievan princes became less powerful than those that ruled Muscovy (Moscow), a province northeast of Kiev. When the Mongols invaded in the 13th century, the Muscovites cast their lot with the inevitable victors, serving the Mongols as collectors of tribute. The Mongols bestowed many favors, and Moscow grew in influence. Once Mongol power weakened, the princes saw their opportunity to rebel, and they seized the territory, calling their leader the "tsar," a derivative of the word "Caesar."THE AMERINDIAN WORLDDuring the period between 600 and 1450 C.E., large empires emerged in the Americas, just as they did in Europe, Africa, and Asia. One group - the Maya - adapted to the jungles of Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula. The two largest organized relatively late in the era: the Aztecs of Mesoamerica, and the Inca of South America.THE MAYAThe Maya civilization flourished between 300 and 900 C.E., occupying present day southern Mexico and Central America. Early on, they were probably dominated by the mysterious people of Teotihuacan, a large city with several impressive temples that controlled central Mexico for many years. They developed agricultural techniques that allowed them to successfully raise crops in the tropics. At first they practiced slash and burn methods, but they learned to build terraces next to the numerous rivers designed to catch the rich alluvial soil. Their agriculturally based civilization thrived, and they eventually built large ceremonial centers.
THE AZTECSCivilizations had long existed in what is now central Mexico before the appearance of the Aztecs. The Olmecs were there by 800 B.C.E., and many groups followed. During the 10th century a powerful group called the Toltecs established new capital near modern Mexico City. The Toltecs came to control much of the area around them, but their civilization fell into decay by the end of the 12th century, just about the time that a new group, the Mexica, began to grow. They eventually became known as the Aztecs, a name meaning "the place of the seven legendary caves," or the place of their origins. The Aztecs migrated into the area and settled in an unusual place: an island in the middle of a swampland of Lake Texococo, a site that the Spanish would later build as Mexico City. There they established the great city of Tenochtitlan, and they