The Gusli is one of the oldest musical instruments that have played an important role in the Russian music culture. The Greek historians Theophylact Simocatta and Theophan were the first to mention the gusli. During the war at the end of the 6th century, the Greeks took Slavonic prisoners and found a musical instrument named the Gusli. This corresponds to what the Arabic authors Al-Masudi and Ibn-Dasta mentioned in the 10th century.
Vertkov states that the first mentions of the Gusli date back to 591 AD to a treatise by the Greek historian Theophylact Simocatta which describes the instrument being used by Slavs from the area of the later Kievan Rus' kingdom.
The gusli are thought to have been the instrument used by the legendary Boyan (a singer of tales) described in the Lay of Igor's campaign.
The instruments were used by the wandering Skomorokh musicians and entertainers. Preserved instruments discovered by archaeologists in various digs have between five and nine strings with one example having twelve strings.