Russian culture grew from that of the East Slavs, with their pagan beliefs and specific way of life in the wooded, steppe and forest-steppe areas of Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Early Russian culture and Slavic people in Russia were much influenced by nomadic Turkic people (Tatars, Kipchaks) and tribes of Iranian origin through intense cultural contacts in the Russian steppe and strongly by Finno-Ugric, Balts and Scandinavians (Germanic people) through the Russian North, as well as by the people of the Byzantine Empire (especially Greeks) with which Old Russia maintained strong cultural links. In the late 1st millennium AD the nordic sea culture of the Varangians (Scandinavian Vikings) and in the middle of the second millennium the nomadic people of the Mongol Empire also influenced the Russian culture. Early Slavic tribes in European Russia were much shaped by the fusion of Nordic-European and Oriental-Asian cultures which formed Russian identity in the Volga region and in the states of Rus’ Khaganate and Kievan Rus’. Orthodox Christian missionaries began arriving from the Eastern Roman Empire in the 9th century, and Kievan Rus’ officially converted to Orthodox Christianity in 988. This largely defined the Russian culture of the next millennium as a synthesis of Slavic and Byzantine cultures. Russia or Rus’ was formed, developed its culture and was influenced through its location by Western European and Asian cultures so that a Russian-Eurasian culture developed.