The Ushkuiniks (Russian: ушкуйники) were medieval Novgorodian pirates who led the Viking-like life of fighting, killing, and robbery. Their name derives from “ushkui”, a type of flat-bottom medieval Finnic ship uisk (literally a ‘snake’), which could be easily transported over portages between watersheds.
Although the Novgorodians took part in the Tsargrad expeditions of the 10th century and mounted pillaging raids to Finland in the 12th century (compare Swedish–Novgorodian Wars), the Ushkuiniks first appear in the historical record as an organized force in the 1320s. Arranged in squadrons which could number several thousand, the Ushkuiniks enjoyed the patronage of influential boyar families of Novgorod, who used them to demonstrate Novgorod's military clout to its neighbours and to advance its trade interests in the Volga region.
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