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21 min
Kievan Rus
879 - 1240

Kievan Rus

Words: nono umasy


Kievan Rus' was a loose federation in Eastern Europe and Northern Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century. Encompassing a variety of polities and peoples, including East Slavic, Norse, Baltic, and Finnic, it was ruled by the Rurik dynasty, founded by the Varangian prince Rurik. The modern nations of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine all claim Kievan Rus' as their cultural ancestors, with Belarus and Russia deriving their names from it. At its greatest extent in the mid-11th century, Kievan Rus' stretched from the White Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south and from the headwaters of the Vistula in the west to the Taman Peninsula in the east, uniting the majority of East Slavic tribes.






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800 Jan 1

Prologue

Nòvgorod, Novgorod Oblast, Rus


| ©Kings and Generals
ProloguePrologue


Prior to the emergence of Kievan Rus' in the 9th century AD, the lands between the Baltic Sea and Black Sea were primarily populated by eastern Slavic tribes. In the northern region around Novgorod were the Ilmen Slavs and neighboring Krivichi, who occupied territories surrounding the headwaters of the West Dvina, Dnieper, and Volga Rivers. To their north, in the Ladoga and Karelia regions, were the Finnic Chud tribe. In the south, in the area around Kyiv, were the Poliane, a group of Slavicized tribes with Iranian origins, the Drevliane to the west of the Dnieper, and the Severiane to the east. To their north and east were the Vyatichi, and to their south was forested land settled by Slav farmers, giving way to steppelands populated by nomadic herdsmen.


Controversy persists over whether the Rus' were Varangians or Slavs, with the current scholarly consensus holding that they were an ancestrally Norse people that quickly assimilated into Slavic culture. This uncertainty is due largely to a paucity of contemporary sources. Attempts to address this question instead rely on archaeological evidence, the accounts of foreign observers, and legends and literature from centuries later. To some extent the controversy is related to the foundation myths of modern states in the region.


Nevertheless, the close connection between the Rus' and the Norse is confirmed both by extensive Scandinavian settlement in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine and by Slavic influences in the Swedish language. Considering the linguistic arguments mounted by nationalist scholars, if the proto-Rus' were Norse, they must have quickly become nativized, adopting Slavic languages and other cultural practices.


860 Jan 1

Siege of Constantinople

İstanbul, Turkey


Siege of Constantinople
Siege of Constantinople | ©Jean Claude Golvin


The siege of Constantinople of was the only major military expedition of the Rus' Khaganate recorded in Byzantine and Western European sources. The casus belli was the construction of the fortress Sarkel by Byzantine engineers, restricting the Rus' trade route along the Don River in favor of the Khazars. Accounts vary, with discrepancies between contemporary and later sources, and the outcome is unknown in detail. It is known from Byzantine sources that the Rus' caught Constantinople unprepared, while the empire was preoccupied by the ongoing Arab–Byzantine wars and was unable to respond effectively to the attack, certainly initially. After pillaging the suburbs of the Byzantine capital, the Rus' retreated for the day and continued their siege in the night after exhausting the Byzantine troops and causing disorganization. The Rus' turned back before attacking the city itself. The attack was the first encounter between the Rus' and Byzantines and led the Patriarch to send missionaries north to engage and attempt to convert the Rus' and the Slavs.


862 Jan 1

Invitation of the Varangians

Nòvgorod, Novgorod Oblast, Rus


Invitation of the Varangians
The Invitation of the Varangians by Viktor Vasnetsov: Rurik and his brothers Sineus and Truvor arrive at the lands of the Ilmen Slavs.


According to the Primary Chronicle, the territories of the East Slavs in the 9th century were divided between the Varangians and the Khazars. The Varangians are first mentioned imposing tribute from Slavic and Finnic tribes in 859. In 862, the Finnic and Slavic tribes in the area of Novgorod rebelled against the Varangians, driving them "back beyond the sea and, refusing them further tribute, set out to govern themselves." The tribes had no laws, however, and soon began to make war with one another, prompting them to invite the Varangians back to rule them and bring peace to the region:


They said to themselves, "Let us seek a prince who may rule over us, and judge us according to the Law." They accordingly went overseas to the Varangian Rus'. … The Chuds, the Slavs, the Krivichs and the Ves then said to the Rus', "Our land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come to rule and reign over us". They thus selected three brothers with their kinfolk, who took with them all the Rus' and migrated.


The three brothers—Rurik, Sineus, and Truvor—established themselves in Novgorod, Beloozero, and Izborsk, respectively. Two of the brothers died, and Rurik became the sole ruler of the territory and progenitor of the Rurik Dynasty.


879 Jan 1

Foundation of the Kievan state

Kiev, Ukraine


Foundation of the Kievan state
| ©Angus McBride


Rurik led the Rus' until his death in about 879, bequeathing his kingdom to his kinsman, Prince Oleg, as regent for his young son, Igor. In 880–82, Oleg led a military force south along the Dnieper river, capturing Smolensk and Lyubech before reaching Kyiv, where he deposed and killed Askold and Dir, proclaimed himself prince, and declared Kyiv the "mother of Rus' cities." Oleg set about consolidating his power over the surrounding region and the riverways north to Novgorod, imposing tribute on the East Slav tribes.


885 Jan 1

Consolidation

Kiev, Ukraine


Consolidation
Pskov Veche | ©Apollinary Vasnetsov


In 883, Prince Oleg conquered the Drevlians, imposing a fur tribute on them. By 885 he had subjugated the Poliane, Severiane, Vyatichi, and Radimichs, forbidding them to pay further tribute to the Khazars. Oleg continued to develop and expand a network of Rus' forts in Slav lands, begun by Rurik in the north.


The new Kievan state prospered due to its abundant supply of furs, beeswax, honey, and slaves for export, and because it controlled three main trade routes of Eastern Europe. In the north, Novgorod served as a commercial link between the Baltic Sea and the Volga trade route to the lands of the Volga Bulgars, the Khazars, and across the Caspian Sea as far as Baghdad, providing access to markets and products from Central Asia and the Middle East. Trade from the Baltic also moved south on a network of rivers and short portages along the Dnieper known as the "route from the Varangians to the Greeks," continuing to the Black Sea and on to Constantinople.


Kyiv was a central outpost along the Dnieper route and a hub with the east–west overland trade route between the Khazars and the Germanic lands of Central Europe. These commercial connections enriched Rus' merchants and princes, funding military forces and the construction of churches, palaces, fortifications, and further towns. Demand for luxury goods fostered production of expensive jewelry and religious wares, allowing their export, and an advanced credit and money-lending system may have also been in place.


900 Jan 1

Trade Route to the Greeks

Dnieper Reservoir, Ukraine


Trade Route to the Greeks
The Rus trading slaves with the Khazars: Trade in the East Slavic Camp by Sergei Ivanov (1913)
Trade Route to the Greeks


The trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks was a medieval trade route that connected Scandinavia, Kievan Rus' and the Eastern Roman Empire. The route allowed merchants along its length to establish a direct prosperous trade with the Empire, and prompted some of them to settle in the territories of present-day Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. The majority of the route comprised a long-distance waterway, including the Baltic Sea, several rivers flowing into the Baltic Sea, and rivers of the Dnieper river system, with portages on the drainage divides. An alternative route was along the Dniestr river with stops on the Western shore of Black Sea. These more specific sub-routes are sometimes referred to as the Dnieper trade route and Dniestr trade route, respectively.


The route began in Scandinavian trading centers such as Birka, Hedeby, and Gotland, the eastern route crossed the Baltic Sea, entered the Gulf of Finland, and followed the Neva River into Lake Ladoga. Then it followed the Volkhov River upstream past the towns of Staraya Ladoga and Velikiy Novgorod, crossed Lake Ilmen, and continued up the Lovat River, the Kunya River and possibly the Seryozha River. From there, a portage led to the Toropa River and downstream to the Western Dvina River. From the Western Dvina, the ships went upstream along the Kasplya River and were portaged again to the Katynka River (near Katyn), a tributary of the Dnieper. It seems probable that once the route was established, the goods were unloaded onto land transport to cross the portage and reloaded onto other waiting ships on the Dnieper.


907 Jan 1

Rus'–Byzantine War

İstanbul, Turkey


Rus'–Byzantine War
| ©Angus McBride


The Rus'–Byzantine War of 907 is associated in the Primary Chronicle with the name of Oleg of Novgorod. The chronicle implies that it was the most successful military operation of the Kievan Rus' against the Byzantine Empire. Paradoxically, Greek sources do not mention it at all.


That Oleg's campaign is not fiction is clear from the authentic text of the peace treaty, which was incorporated into the chronicle. Current scholarship tends to explain the silence of Greek sources with regard to Oleg's campaign by the inaccurate chronology of the Primary Chronicle.


When his navy was within sight of Constantinople, he found the city gate closed and the entry into the Bosporus barred with iron chains. At this point, Oleg resorted to subterfuge: he effected a landing on the shore and had some 2,000 dugout boats (monoxyla) equipped with wheels. After his boats were thus transformed into vehicles, he led them to the walls of Constantinople and fixed his shield to the gates of the Imperial capital. The threat to Constantinople was ultimately relieved by peace negotiations which bore fruit in the Russo-Byzantine Treaty of 907. Pursuant to the treaty, the Byzantines paid a tribute of twelve grivnas for each Rus' boat.


945 Jan 1

Olga of Kiev

Kiev, Ukraine


Olga of Kiev
Princess Olga meets the body of her husband. A sketch by Vasily Surikov.


Olga was a regent of Kievan Rus' for her son Sviatoslav from 945 until 960. Following her baptism, Olga took the name Elenа. She is known for her subjugation of the Drevlians, a tribe that had killed her husband Igor of Kiev. Even though it would be her grandson Vladimir that would convert the entire nation to Christianity, because of her efforts to spread Christianity through Rus', Olga is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church with the epithet "Equal to the Apostles" and her feast day is 11 July.


She was the first woman to rule Kievan Rus'. Little is known about Olga's tenure as ruler of Kiev, but the Primary Chronicle does give an account of her accession to the throne and her bloody revenge on the Drevlians for the murder of her husband as well as some insight into her role as civil leader of the Kievan people.


967 Jan 1

Sviatoslav's invasion of Bulgaria

Plovdiv, Bulgaria


Sviatoslav's invasion of Bulgaria
Sviatoslav's invasion of Bulgaria


Sviatoslav's invasion of Bulgaria refers to a conflict beginning in 967/968 and ending in 971, carried out in the eastern Balkans, and involving the Kievan Rus', Bulgaria, and the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines encouraged the Rus' ruler Sviatoslav to attack Bulgaria, leading to the defeat of the Bulgarian forces and the occupation of the northern and north-eastern part of the country by the Rus' for the following two years. The allies then turned against each other, and the ensuing military confrontation ended with a Byzantine victory. The Rus' withdrew and eastern Bulgaria was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire.


In 927, a peace treaty had been signed between Bulgaria and Byzantium, ending many years of warfare and establishing forty years of peace. Both states prospered during this interlude, but the balance of power gradually shifted in favour of the Byzantines, who made great territorial gains against the Abbasid Caliphate in the East and formed a web of alliances surrounding Bulgaria. By 965/966, the warlike new Byzantine emperor Nikephoros II Phokas refused to renew the annual tribute that was part of the peace agreement and declared war on Bulgaria. Preoccupied with his campaigns in the East, Nikephoros resolved to fight the war by proxy and invited the Rus' ruler Sviatoslav to invade Bulgaria.


Sviatoslav's subsequent campaign greatly exceeded the expectations of the Byzantines, who had regarded him only as a means to exert diplomatic pressure on the Bulgarians. The Rus' prince conquered the core regions of the Bulgarian state in the northeastern Balkans in 967–969, seized the Bulgarian tsar Boris II, and effectively ruled the country through him.


968 Jan 1

Sviatoslav I conquers the Khazar Khaganate

Sarkel, Rostov Oblast, Russia


Sviatoslav I conquers the Khazar Khaganate
Sviatoslav I of Kiev (in boat), destroyer of the Khazar Khaganate.


The Rus' warlords launched several wars against the Khazar Qağanate, and raided down to the Caspian sea. The Schechter Letter relates the story of a campaign against Khazaria by HLGW (recently identified as Oleg of Chernigov) around 941 in which Oleg was defeated by the Khazar general Pesakh. The Khazar alliance with the Byzantine empire began to collapse in the early 10th century. Byzantine and Khazar forces may have clashed in the Crimea, and by the 940s emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus was speculating in De Administrando Imperio about ways in which the Khazars could be isolated and attacked. The Byzantines during the same period began to attempt alliances with the Pechenegs and the Rus', with varying degrees of success. Sviatoslav I finally succeeded in destroying Khazar imperial power in the 960s, in a circular sweep that overwhelmed Khazar fortresses like Sarkel and Tamatarkha, and reached as far as the Caucasian Kassogians/Circassians and then back to Kyiv. Sarkel fell in 965, with the capital city of Atil following, c. 968 or 969. Thus, the Kievan Rus' would dominate the north-south trade routes through the steppe and across the Black Sea.


Although Poliak argued that the Khazar kingdom did not wholly succumb to Sviatoslav's campaign, but lingered on until 1224, when the Mongols invaded Rus', by most accounts, the Rus'-Oghuz campaigns left Khazaria devastated, with perhaps many Khazarian Jews in flight, and leaving behind at best a minor rump state. It left little trace, except for some placenames, and much of its population was undoubtedly absorbed in successor hordes.


980 Jan 1

Vladimir the Great

Nòvgorod, Novgorod Oblast, Rus


| ©Kings and Generals


Vladimir had been prince of Novgorod when his father Sviatoslav I died in 972. He was forced to flee to Scandinavia in 976 after his half-brother Yaropolk had murdered his other brother Oleg and taken control of Rus. In Scandinavia, with the help of his relative Earl Håkon Sigurdsson, ruler of Norway, Vladimir assembled a Viking army and reconquered Novgorod and Kyiv from Yaropolk. As Prince of Kyiv, Vladimir's most notable achievement was the Christianization of Kievan Rus', a process that began in 988.


987 Jan 1

Creation of the Varangian Guard

İstanbul, Turkey


Creation of the Varangian Guard


As early as 911, Varangians are mentioned as fighting as mercenaries for the Byzantines. About 700 Varangians served along with Dalmatians as marines in Byzantine naval expeditions against the Emirate of Crete in 902 and a force of 629 returned to Crete under Constantine Porphyrogenitus in 949. A unit of 415 Varangians was involved in the Italian expedition of 936. It is also recorded that there were Varangian contingents among the forces that fought the Arabs in Syria in 955. During this period, the Varangian mercenaries were included in the Great Companions.


In 988, Basil II requested military assistance from Vladimir I of Kiev to help defend his throne. In compliance with the treaty made by his father after the Siege of Dorostolon (971), Vladimir sent 6,000 men to Basil. Vladimir took the opportunity to rid himself of his most unruly warriors which in any case he was unable to pay. This is the presumptive date for the formal, permanent institution of an elite guard. In exchange for the warriors, Vladimir was given Basil's sister, Anna, in marriage. Vladimir also agreed to convert to Christianity and to bring his people into the Christian faith.


In 989, these Varangians, led by Basil II himself, landed at Chrysopolis to defeat the rebel general Bardas Phokas. On the field of battle, Phokas died of a stroke in full view of his opponent; upon the death of their leader, Phokas' troops turned and fled. The brutality of the Varangians was noted when they pursued the fleeing army and "cheerfully hacked them to pieces".


These men formed the nucleus of the Varangian Guard, which saw extensive service in southern Italy in the eleventh century, as the Normans and Lombards worked to extinguish Byzantine authority there. In 1018, Basil II received a request from his catepan of Italy, Basil Boioannes, for reinforcements to put down the Lombard revolt of Melus of Bari. A detachment of the Varangian Guard was sent and in the Battle of Cannae, the Byzantines achieved a decisive victory.


988 Jan 1

Christianization of Kievan Rus'

Kiev, Ukraine


Christianization of Kievan Rus'
The Baptism of Kievans, a painting by Klavdiy Lebedev


The Christianization of Kievan Rus' took place in several stages. In early 867, Patriarch Photius of Constantinople announced to other Christian patriarchs that the Rus', baptized by his bishop, took to Christianity with particular enthusiasm. Photius's attempts at Christianizing the country seem to have entailed no lasting consequences, since the Primary Chronicle and other Slavonic sources describe the tenth-century Rus' as firmly entrenched in paganism. Following the Primary Chronicle, the definitive Christianization of Kievan Rus' dates from the year 988 (the year is disputed), when Vladimir the Great was baptized in Chersonesus and proceeded to baptize his family and people in Kiev. The latter events are traditionally referred to as baptism of Rus' in Ukrainian and Russian literature. Byzantine priests, architects and artists were invited to work on numerous cathedrals and churches around Rus', expanding Byzantine cultural influence even further.;


1019 Jan 1

Golden age

Kiev, Ukraine


| ©Kings and Generals
Golden age


Yaroslav, known as "the Wise", struggled for power with his brothers. A son of Vladimir the Great, he was vice-regent of Novgorod at the time of his father's death in 1015. Subsequently, his eldest surviving brother, Svyatopolk the Accursed, killed three of his other brothers and seized power in Kiev. Yaroslav, with the active support of the Novgorodians and the help of Viking mercenaries, defeated Svyatopolk and became the grand prince of Kiev in 1019.


Yaroslav promulgated the first East Slavic law code, Russkaya Pravda; built Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev and Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod; patronized local clergy and monasticism; and is said to have founded a school system. Yaroslav's sons developed the great Kiev Pechersk Lavra (monastery), which functioned in Kievan Rus' as an ecclesiastical academy.


In the centuries that followed the state's foundation, Rurik's descendants shared power over Kievan Rus'. Princely succession moved from elder to younger brother and from uncle to nephew, as well as from father to son. Junior members of the dynasty usually began their official careers as rulers of a minor district, progressed to more lucrative principalities, and then competed for the coveted throne of Kyiv. The Reign of Yaroslav I (the Wise) in Kievan Rus was height of the federation in every respect.


1054 Jan 1

Great Schism

İstanbul, Turkey


Great Schism


The Great Schism was the break of communion which occurred in the 11th century between the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church. Immediately following the schism, it is estimated that Eastern Christianity comprised a slim majority of Christians worldwide, with the majority of remaining Christians being Catholic.


As a result, the trading ties that Yaroslav had cultivated declined - the Latin world saw the Rus as heretics.


1054 Jan 1

Fragmentation and decline

Kiev, Ukraine


Fragmentation and decline
Fragmentation and declineFragmentation and decline


An unconventional power succession system was established (rota system) whereby power was transferred to the eldest member of the ruling dynasty rather than from father to son, i.e. in most cases to the eldest brother of the ruler, fomenting constant hatred and rivalry within the royal family. Familicide was frequently deployed to obtain power and can be traced particularly during the time of the Yaroslavichi (sons of Yaroslav), when the established system was skipped in the establishment of Vladimir II Monomakh as the Grand Prince of Kyiv, in turn creating major squabbles between Olegovichi from Chernihiv, Monomakhs from Pereyaslav, Izyaslavichi from Turov/Volhynia, and Polotsk Princes.


The gradual disintegration of the Kievan Rus' began in the 11th century, after the death of Yaroslav the Wise. The position of the Grand Prince of Kiev was weakened by the growing influence of regional clans. The rival Principality of Polotsk was contesting the power of the Grand Prince by occupying Novgorod, while Rostislav Vladimirovich was fighting for the Black Sea port of Tmutarakan belonging to Chernihiv. Three of Yaroslav's sons that first allied together found themselves fighting each other.


1068 Jan 1

Battle of the Alta River

Alta, Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine


Battle of the Alta River
The field of Igor Svyatoslavich's battle with the Polovtsy | ©Viktor Vasnetsov


The Cumans/Polovtsy/Kipchaks were first mentioned in the Primary Chronicle as Polovtsy sometime around 1055, when Prince Vsevolod drew up a peace treaty with them. In spite of the treaty, in 1061, Kipchaks supposedly breached the earthworks and palisades constructed by Princes Vladimir and Yaroslav and defeated an army led by Prince Vsevolod that had marched out to intercept them.


The Battle of Alta River was a 1068 clash on the Alta River between Cuman army on the one hand and Kievan Rus' forces of Grand Prince Yaroslav I of Kiev, Prince Sviatoslav of Chernigov, and Prince Vsevolod of Periaslavl on the other in which the Rus' forces were routed and fled back to Kiev and Chernigov in some disarray. The battle led to an uprising in Kiev that briefly deposed Grand Prince Yaroslav.


In Yaroslav absence, Prince Sviatoslav managed to defeat a much larger Cuman army on November 1, 1068 and stem the tide of Cuman raids. A small skirmish in 1071 was the only disturbance by the Cumans for the next two decades. Thus, while the Battle of Alta River was a disgrace for Kievan Rus', Sviatoslav's victory the following year relieved the Cumans' threat to Kiev and Chernigov for a considerable period.


1096 Jan 1

Cumans attack Kiev

Kiev Pechersk Lavra, Lavrska S


Cumans attack Kiev
Cumans Attack Kiev | ©Zvonimir Grabasic


In 1096, Boniak, a Cuman khan, attacked Kyiv, plundered the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, and burned down the prince's palace in Berestovo. He was defeated in 1107 by Vladimir Monomakh, Oleg, Sviatopolk and other Rus′ princes.


1136 Jan 1

Novgorod Republic gains independence

Nòvgorod, Novgorod Oblast, Rus


Novgorod Republic gains independence


In 882, Prince Oleg founded the Kievan Rus', of which Novgorod was a part from then until 1019–1020. Novgorod Princes were appointed by the Grand Prince of Kiev (usually one of the elder sons).


The Republic of Novgorod prospered because it controlled trade routes from the River Volga to the Baltic Sea. As Kievan Rus' declined, Novgorod became more independent. A local oligarchy ruled Novgorod; major government decisions were made by a town assembly, which also elected a prince as the city's military leader. In 1136, Novgorod revolted against Kyiv, and became independent.


Now an independent city republic, and referred to as "Lord Novgorod the Great" it would spread its "mercantile interest" to the west and the north; to the Baltic Sea and the low-populated forest regions respectively. In 1169, Novgorod acquired its own archbishop, named Ilya, a sign of further increased importance and political independence. Novgorod enjoyed a wide degree of autonomy although being closely associated with the Kievan Rus.


1147 Jan 1

Moscow founded

Moscow, Russia


Moscow founded


Moscow is founded by Prince Yuri Dolgoruky, a Russian Rurikid prince. The first known reference to Moscow dates from 1147 as a meeting place of Yuri Dolgoruky and Sviatoslav Olgovich. At the time it was a minor town on the western border of Vladimir-Suzdal Principality. The chronicle says, "Come, my brother, to Moskov".


1169 Mar 1

Sack of Kiev

Kiev, Ukraine


Sack of Kiev
Sack of Kiev | ©Jose Daniel Cabrera Peña


A coalition of native princes led by Andrei Bogolyubsky of Vladimir sacked Kiev. This changed the perception of Kiev and was evidence of the fragmentation of the Kievan Rus'. By the end of the 12th century, the Kievan state fragmented even further, into roughly twelve different principalities.


1204 Jan 1

Fourth Crusade

İstanbul, Turkey


Fourth Crusade


The Crusades brought a shift in European trade routes that accelerated the decline of Kievan Rus'. In 1204, the forces of the Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople, making the Dnieper trade route marginal. At the same time, the Livonian Brothers of the Sword were conquering the Baltic region and threatening the Lands of Novgorod. Concurrently with it, the Ruthenian Federation of Kievan Rus' started to disintegrate into smaller principalities as the Rurik dynasty grew. The local Orthodox Christianity of Kievan Rus', while struggling to establish itself in the predominantly pagan state and losing its main base in Constantinople, was on the brink of extinction. Some of the main regional centres that developed later were Novgorod, Chernihiv, Halych, Kyiv, Ryazan, Vladimir-upon-Klyazma, Volodymyr-Volyn and Polotsk.


1223 May 31

Battle of the Kalka River

Kalka River, Donetsk Oblast, U


| ©Kings and Generals
Battle of the Kalka RiverBattle of the Kalka River


Following the Mongol invasion of Central Asia and the subsequent collapse of the Khwarezmian Empire, a Mongol force under the command of generals Jebe and Subutai advanced into Iraq-i Ajam. Jebe requested permission from the Mongolian emperor, Genghis Khan, to continue his conquests for a few years before returning to the main army via the Caucasus. While waiting for Genghis Khan's reply, the duo set out on a raid in which they attacked the Kingdom of Georgia. Genghis Khan granted the duo permission to undertake their expedition, and after making their way through the Caucasus, they defeated a coalition of Caucasian tribes before defeating the Cumans. The Cuman Khan fled to the court of his son-in-law, Prince Mstislav the Bold of Halych, whom he convinced to help fight the Mongols. Mstislav the Bold formed an alliance of the Rus' princes including Mstislav III of Kiev.


The combined Rus' army defeated the Mongol rearguard at first. The Rus' pursued the Mongols, who were in a feigned retreat, for several days, which spread out their armies. The Mongols stopped and assumed battle formation on the banks of the Kalka River. Mstislav the Bold and his Cuman allies attacked the Mongols without waiting for the rest of the Rus' army and were defeated. In the ensuing confusion, several other Rus' princes were defeated, and Mstislav of Kiev was forced to retreat to a fortified camp. After holding for three days, he surrendered in return for a promise of safe conduct for himself and his men. Once they surrendered, however, the Mongols slaughtered them and executed Mstislav of Kiev. Mstislav the Bold escaped, and the Mongols went back to Asia, where they joined Genghis Khan.


1237 Jan 1

Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus'

Kiev, Ukraine


| ©Kings and Generals
Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus'Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus'


The Mongol Empire invaded and conquered Kievan Rus' in the 13th century, destroying numerous southern cities, including the biggest ones Kiev (50,000 inhabitants) and Chernihiv (30,000 inhabitants), with the only major cities escaping destruction being Novgorod and Pskov located on the North.


The campaign was heralded by the Battle of the Kalka River in May 1223, which resulted in a Mongol victory over the forces of several Rus' principalities. The Mongols retreated, having gathered their intelligence which was the purpose of the reconnaissance-in-force. A full-scale invasion of Rus' by Batu Khan followed, from 1237 to 1242. The invasion was ended by the Mongol succession process upon the death of Ögedei Khan. All Rus' principalities were forced to submit to Mongol rule and became vassals of the Golden Horde, some of which lasted until 1480.


The invasion, facilitated by the beginning of the breakup of Kievan Rus' in the 13th century, had profound ramifications for the history of Eastern Europe, including the division of the East Slavic people into three separate nations: modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.


1241 Jan 1

Epilogue

Kiev, Ukraine


Epilogue


The state finally disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of Rus', fragmenting it into successor principalities who paid tribute to the Golden Horde (the so-called Tatar Yoke). In the late 15th century, the Muscovite Grand Dukes began taking over former Kievan territories and proclaimed themselves the sole legal successors of the Kievan principality according to the protocols of the medieval theory of translatio imperii.


On the western periphery, Kievan Rus' was succeeded by the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia. Later, as these territories, now part of modern central Ukraine and Belarus, fell to the Gediminids, the powerful, largely Ruthenized Grand Duchy of Lithuania drew heavily on Rus' cultural and legal traditions. From 1398 until the Union of Lublin in 1569 its full name was the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Ruthenia and Samogitia. Due to the fact of the economic and cultural core of Rus' being located on the territory of modern Ukraine, Ukrainian historians and scholars consider Kievan Rus' to be a founding Ukrainian state.


On the north-eastern periphery of Kievan Rus', traditions were adapted in the Vladimir-Suzdal Principality that gradually gravitated towards Moscow. To the very north, the Novgorod and Pskov Feudal Republics were less autocratic than Vladimir-Suzdal-Moscow until they were absorbed by the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Russian historians consider Kievan Rus' the first period of Russian history.





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