Russian furs have had a long history before becoming an integral part of the global fur market. Ancient Russians used furs in her household as warm clothes in cold winters and a soft bed to sleep on. Furs in Ancient Rus were an important component of economic activity: the fells of sable, marten, beaver and other fur-bearing animals played a role of payment currency. Fur could be used to pay for any goods, education, church services. Fells were charged as trade and customs duties, fines, taxes.
In Russian history there were known facts, when valuable furs served as an established form of tribute collection. For example, in 883, the conqueror prince Prophetic Oleg imposed a tribute on the tribe of Drevlians in the form of a "black marten" from each household.
Another important guise of fur existence in Russia was a gift. The princes and nobles granted valuable furs for "good deeds." Fur has always been one of the best gifts. On celebrations and holidays, peltries and fur articles — coats, hats — were given as presents to members of princely families, priests, distinguished guests, ambassadors of foreign states. Value of fur was so great that merchants and nobles passed them as heritage from generation to generation. Fur was one of the most important components of the dowry of rich brides.
In X-XI centuries, peltries become for Ruthenians an important element of trade with neighboring countries. Moreover, fur traders were not only merchants, but also boyars and princes. During this period, Kievan Rus was actively trading in furs with the East nations and Byzantium. Over the next two centuries, the merchants laid trade routes to the countries of Western Europe as well.
The main wares in the Middle Ages were martens, beavers, wolves, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, while the trade was carried out mostly in furs brought from the territories belonging to the now modern Ukraine and Belarus. In the XIV century, imported furs fall to the 'foreign' category, as the Belarusian and Ukrainian lands became part of the Polish state, which later united with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
In XV-XVI centuries, imported furs entirely supplanted local goods. A cause for this was impoverishment of local forests —"the animals have deteriorated", as was said in the manuscripts of this epoch. At this time, the collection of taxes in "animal hair" was universally replaced with monetary payment, though the names of furs were still preserved in the names of tax revenues — squirrels, martens, beavers.
In XV-XVI centuries, Russian furs brought from Muscovy were gaining prominence through Ukrainian and Polish merchants in Moldavia, Wallachia, on the Balkan Peninsula, in Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands — under the exact name of "Moscow furs".
Glory of the fur empire was promoted further by the development of Siberia, incredibly rich in valuable species of fur-bearing animals. Addition of this sable paradise to Russia had helped in the XVII century to strengthen positions of Muscovy on the global fur markets and make peltry wares the hallmark of Russian trade, and make Russia itself the largest supplier of fur. This role of the Russian state was retained until the end of the XIX century.
Nowadays, the economic importance of the fur harvesting and fur trade in the scale of the entire economy of the Russian Federation is not big. But it is very important as social factor for remote rural regions of the North, Siberia and the Far East.