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Polotsk

The principality of Polotsk (or Polatsk) is also sometimes referred to as a duchy or even a kingdom. It was a vassal state which was created within Keivan Rus territories, and which was located to the south-east of Pskov (within modern Belarus). According to the Russian Primary Chronicle. a Varangian (almost certainly a Swede) called Ragnvald Olafsson established himself in Polotsk in the middle of the tenth century, making it one of the earliest Eastern Slav states. Unfortunately, he ran foul of the ruling Rurikid dynasty of Kiev when Vladimir the Great returned from exile in Scandinavia to try to claim the Kievan throne from his brother.

945 - 980

Ragnvald Olafsson / Rogvolod

Varangian founder of the principality.

980

Vladimir the Great returns from exile in Scandinavia to try and claim the Kievan throne from his brother. Seeking an alliance with Ragnvald through marriage to his daughter, Rogneda, her refusal triggers an attack on Polotsk which results in the death of Ragnvald and his son. Rogneda is taken by force to be Vladimir's wife.

Varangian Guards
The Varangian Guards of the Byzantine court in the tenth century were recruited from eastern-travelling Vikings who came to Greece through the lands of the Rus

c.987 - 1001

Iziaslav Vladimirovich

Son of Vladimir of Kiev and first of the Polotsk Rurikids.

1001

Iziaslav predeceases his father which, according to East Slavic house law, means that his descendants forfeit their right to inherit the throne of Kiev.

1001 - 1003

Vseslav Iziaslavich

Son, but omitted from some lists in favour of Briacheslav.

1003 - 1044

Briacheslav Iziaslavich

Brother.

1020

Briacheslav attacks and sacks Novgorod, but on his way back he is cornered at the River Sudoma by the army of his uncle, Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev. Defeated, Briacheslav flees, abandoning his booty from Novgorod, but Yaroslav pursues him and forces him to sign a treaty in 1021 granting him Usvyat and Vitebsk.

1044 - 1068

Vseslav Briacheslavich the Sorcerer

Son. Pronounced prince of Kiev (1068-1069).

1065 - 1067

Intent on staking a claim to the Kievan throne despite his ineligibility, Vseslav begins a campaign to secure Kievan territory. Unable to enter the capital, which is held by Yaroslav's three sons, he attacks Pskov and is repulsed. Between 1066-1067 he attacks and pillages Novgorod, burning the city. The Kievan prince who governs Novgorod, Mstislav, flees to his father in Kiev, and retribution is not long in coming. Kiev's princes join forces and march on Polotsk's south-eastern city of Minsk, sacking it and defeating Vseslav at the Battle of the River Nemiga on 3 March 1067.

1066

Vseslav's Cathedral of Holy Wisdom is completed in Polotsk.

1068 - 1069

Imprisoned in Kiev, Vseslav is freed during an uprising against the ruling dynasty and is proclaimed grand prince of Kiev. Grand Prince Izhaslav flees to Poland and returns months later with an army. Vseslav flees back to Polotsk.

1069

Mstislav Iziaslavich

Son of Grand Prince Izhaslav of Kiev (Turov Rurikids).

1069 - 1071

Sviatopolk Iziaslavich

Brother.

1071

After years of fighting against Vseslav, Grand Prince Izhaslav of Kiev finally secures Polotsk, giving it vassal status.

1071 - 1101

Vseslav Briacheslavich

Restored.

1101

Following Vseslav's death, the greater part of the principality breaks up into smaller states which include the principalities of Druck, Jersika, Koknese (mentioned briefly in 1205 in connection with Riga), Minsk, and Vitebsk.

1101 - 1127

Davyd Vseslavich

1106

The Latgals, Livonians and neighbouring Semigallians have conflicting interests with the Russian principalities of Polotsk, Pskov, and Novgorod, with the latter two making a number of raids on north-eastern Latvia. The first major setback to Russian expansionism is the disastrous defeat of the army led by the sons of Prince Vseslav against the Semigallians. According to a chronicle, Russian losses amount to 9000 men.

1127 - 1128

Boris Vseslavich

1128 - 1129

Davyd Vseslavich

Restored.

1129 - 1132

Iziaslav Mstislavich

Of the Monomashichi Rurikids of Kiev.

1132

Sviatopolk Mstislavich

1132 - 1144

Vasilko Sviatoslavich

Of the Vitebsk Rurikids.

1144 - 1151

Rogvolod Borisovich

Of the Drutsk Rurikids.

1151 - 1159

Rostislav Glebovich

Of the Minsk Rurikids.

1159 - 1162

Rogvolod Borisovich

The Drutsk Rurikids are restored.

1162 - 1167

Vseslav Vasilkovich

Of the Vitebsk Rurikids.

1167

Volodar Glebovich

Of the Minsk Rurikids.

1167 - 1175

Vseslav Vasilkovich

Restored.

1175 - 1178

?

1178 - 1180

Vseslav Vasilkovich

Restored for a second time.

1180 - 1186

?

Restored?

1180s

It is around this time that a short-lived Latgal principality which is subject to Polotsk appears in Gersik, or Gersike, situated on the right bank of the Daugava around 150 kilometres south of Riga. It only has two rulers before being conquered by the Livonian Knights.

1186 - 1215

Vladimir / Volodar Vseslavich

1205

Vetseka is the ruler of the small Polotsk principality of Koknese. According to the (German) sources, Vetseka gives half of his territory to Albert of Riga in return for protection against the duchy of Samogitia and Polotsk itself.

1215

The sovereignty of Polotsk is finally revoked.

1215 - 1222

Boris Vseslavich

Of the Drutsk Rurikids.

1222 - 1232

Sviatoslav Mstislavich

Of the Smolensk Rurikids.

1232 - 1242

Bryachislav Vasilkovich

Of the Vitebsk Rurikids.

1242 - 1263

Polotsk becomes a vassal of the rapidly rising power of Lithuania under its grand duke, Mindaugas. The ruler of the subject Samogitians, Tautvila, controls the principality.

1267 - ?

Iziaslav of Vitebsk?

The first of a series of Lithuanian rulers.

1270/80 - c.1290

Konstantin Tovtivilovich

1290 - 1307

Polotsk is controlled by the archbishopric of Riga, before the brother of Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania secures the principality as a vassal state. Successive Lithuanian rulers help in fending off attacks by the Livonian Knights.

1307 - 1342

Vainius / Voin

Brother of Gediminas of Lithuania.

1342 - 1377

Andrei of Polotsk

Son of Algirdas of Lithuania.

1377

Jogaila of Lithuania forces Polotsk to accept his loyal brother, Skirgaila, in favour of Andrei, whom he sees as a rival.

1377 - 1386

Skirgaila / Ivan

Brother of Jogaila of Lithuania.

1381 - 1385

Jogaila of Lithuania is laying siege to Polotsk in support of Skirgaila when his uncle, Kestutis, removes him from the throne, triggering the Lithuanian Civil War. In 1385, Andrei surrenders his right to rule Polotsk to the Livonian Knights in order that he be protected from his enemies and rule as a vassal on a feudal estate.

1386 - 1387

Andrei of Polotsk

Restored as a vassal of the Livonian Knights.

1387

Jogaila of Lithuania attacks Polotsk and the Livonian Knights do not protect it, virtually gifting it to its attackers.

1387 - 1397

Skirgaila / Ivan

Restored.

1397

The principality is abolished and becomes an administrative division of Lithuania, known as the Polotsk Voivodeship. It shares Lithuania's fate as the grand duchy is united with the kingdom of Poland, and then finally partitioned into extinction in 1795. Today the city of Polotsk forms part of the state of Belarus.

Cross Cathedral, Polotsk
Cross Cathedral in Polotsk was built between 1893-1897 and is part of the St Ephrosinia women's convent