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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe


Novgorod (Rus)

Swedish Viking interest and exploration into the Slavic lands to the east of the Baltic states had been building up for some time. In these lands the Vikings were known by various names, although not by the most popular name of Varangians, a term which seems to have been coined by the Byzantines. Their early presence may have been to head a little-known Rus Khaganate.

Subsequent to this, and led by Rurik, the Rus Vikings who soon ruled the Slavs (a specific, northern Slavic tribe at that time) from their main base at Novgorod in the north seem to have originated on the Roslagen seashore of Uppland. This is not universally accepted, but 'Roslagen' adapted into Slavic easily becomes Rus'.

At the time Roslagen was part of the nebulous territory of Kvenland, being on the border with the northernmost edge of the territory which was inhabited by the Swedes. Swedish and Kven integration in the region had only recently begun by the time of Rurik's birth and the Rus themselves are noted separately from the Swedes who were still members of a specific tribe or early kingdom. Instead of being Swedes, they were probably a 'Vikingised' group of Kvens in Uppland who had adopted some of the culture of the newcomers. Sadly, although modern DNA studies may have confirmed Rurik's Kvenish ethnic origin, his exact tribal origins would seem to be impossible to confirm.

An alternative option for naming the Rus is that the word may originate in the Finnish word for Swedish Scandinavians - Ruotsi - another pointer towards a Finnic origin for Rurik himself. This could have been used by the Rus themselves, or by the eastern Slavs who neighboured Finno-Ugric groups and which would soon be subjects of these Rus.

Prior to the arrival of the Swedish Vikings many of the East Slav tribes had become enforced vassals of the Khazars. The generally peaceful temperament of the Slavic tribes had long made them easy prey for more energetic interlopers (notably, it would seem, the Scythians in the first millennium BC). The Russian Primary Chronicle (RPC) preserves the tradition that the Slavic tribes of what is now northern Russia, in common with their Finnish neighbours, were for some time tributary to the 'Varangians from beyond the sea' (under the Rus khaganate).

Stirred to revolt by the exactions of the latter the Slavs eventually rebelled (this usage would seem to point specifically at the Ilmen Slavs of the north), but were then unable to arrive at any satisfactory inter-tribal understanding. To escape the resulting confusion tradition states that they sent overseas 'to the Varangian Russes' saying "Our land is great and rich, but there is no order in it; come and rule and have dominion over us"'.

This invitation was accepted by Rurik and his brethren, each of whom assumed control over a northern Slavic centre. Rurik himself was at Novgorod, which Scandinavian sources label as Holmgård (today it is better known as Veliky Novgorod). Sineus was at Beloozero (modern Belozersk), and Truvor was at Izborsk. In its simplest terms, this is the narrative of the 'calling of the princes', which has inspired a larger volume of controversial literature than any other disputed point in Russian history.

The names of the three brothers who migrated to Russia are readily reduced to Scandinavian originals as Hroerekr, Signiutr, and Thorwardr. What is more, in the armaments of Oleg (Rurik's successor), Varangians are distinguished from Finnish and Slavic elements. The name Oleg itself corresponds to the Norse Helgi, as does Olga to Helga and Igor to Ingvarr. In the treaty of 912, the chronicle preserves a list of Oleg's retainers, and although the list has been greatly mutilated in transmission not one of the names is Slavic.

The Russian Primary Chronicle is a major source of information on the early states of the Rus. However, much of the earliest material is legendary in nature, seemingly having been collated from various tales and folk memories which were then hung over a framework of dates which were taken from Byzantine sources.

It is only from the accession of Yaroslav 'the Wise' of Kyiv in 1019 that it rests largely on the personal reminiscences of contemporaries of the writers, while only dates after 945 can be trusted. Overall, the text is an homogeneous work which was compiled over a period of several years towards the close of the eleventh and the opening of the twelfth centuries, and it is highly important despite its unreliability in early entries.

The arrival of the Rus

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Keith Matthews, from Gesta Danorum, Saxo Grammaticus, from Viking-Rus Mercenaries in the Byzantine-Arab Wars of the 950s-960s: the Numismatic Evidence, Roman K Kovalev, from The Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian Text), Samuel Hazzard Cross & Olgerd P Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Eds and translators, Mediaeval Academy of America), from Novgorodskaia Pervaia Letopis' Starshego i Mladshego Izvodov, A N Nasonov (Ed, ANSSR, 1950), from The Chronicle of Novgorod 1016-1471, Michell & Forbes (Eds, Translators, Offices of the Society, London, 1914), and from External Links: Rurik of Novgorod and the Varangian DNA, and The Fragmentation & Decline of Kievan Rus, and Encyclopaedia.com, and The Map Archive, and And it was given the name of Kyiv, Oleg Yastrubov, and Encyclopaedia.com.)

c.800 - 862

Original source material which is later used by Arabic writers (lbn Rustah, AI Bakri, and Gur) is generally agreed to have been composed during the second quarter of the ninth century - between about 825-850.

Gotland standing stone
This standing stone was found on the island of Götaland, immediately to the east of modern Sweden, and depicts Vikings with their boats and armaments, which were a development of those of the early Germanic settlers around the Scandinavian coastal regions

This represents the situation at the headwaters of the Volga just before the Rus begin their thrust southwards along the Dnieper, but it also represents the situation before the traditional arrival of Rurik and his brethren. This could be a state of the Ilmen Slavs which is controlled by early Rus, or it could be a broader and very poorly-recorded Rus Khaganate.


The earliest European reference to a potential Rus Khaganate comes from the Frankish Annals of St Bertin. A group of Vikings, who call themselves 'Rhos' (Rus) have visited Constantinople around this year. Fearful of returning home via the steppe which would leave them vulnerable to attacks by the Magyars, they are returning via East Francia.

When questioned by the Emperor Louis 'the Pious' at Ingelheim, they inform him that their leader is known as chacanus (Latin for 'khagan'), and that they live in the north of what is now Russia (which probably means Aldeigja-Ladoga or early Novgorod). Their ancestral homeland, though, is amongst the Swedes.

856 or 860

In the fourteenth year of the reign of Michael III of the Eastern Roman empire (although this produces at least two different dates), Constantinople is attacked by a new enemy - the Rus. The attack comes as a complete surprise to the Byzantines, but it is a clear sign that a new power in Eastern Europe is flexing its muscles. The Russian Primary Chronicle states that the Byzantines are only saved because the weather turns against the Rus fleet and scatters it. The attack has been ascribed to Askold and Dir of Kyiv but without any firm foundation.

Rurik and his kin arrive in Rus lands
Nicholas Roerich's 1901 painting, Overseas Guests is dedicated to the arrival of Rurik and his kin in the lands of the Rus


Whatever the nature of its format, as the Rus Khaganate or some other form of tribal union with a ruling elite, the Slavs are unable to find a method of self-governance which all of them will accept. The result is the 'calling of the princes' and the arrival of Rurik.

Viking interest and exploration into the Slavic lands to the east of the Baltic states has been building up for some time. According to tradition, in this year a Kven Viking named Rurik founds the 'Rus' state with his headquarters at Novgorod and with a population which is made up of East Slav, Finno-Ugric, and Baltic people.

Rurik's brothers, Sineus (Signiutr) and Truvor (Thorwardr), govern the Slav centres at Beloozero (modern Belozersk) and Izborsk (bordering the Aestii) respectively. They both die within a couple of years so that, by about 864, Rurik governs the entire region by himself.

862 - 879

Rurik / Hroerekr

First grand duke (prince). Initially forbade Kyiv principality.

862 - c.864

Sineus / Signiutr

Brother. Governed in Beloozero. Died by 864.

862 - c.864

Truvor / Thorwardr

Brother. Governed in Izborsk. Died by 864.

862 - 879

Rurik is credited with establishing the Rus in the north which soon leads to the rise of the Old Russians (East Slavs ruled by a Scandinavian nobility) as the dominant regional force. Trading centres such as Grodno, Volkovosk, and Novogorodok are founded by the Rus on the former territories of the Lithuanians and the Yotvingians.

Early centres include Novgorod (former centre of the Ilmen Slavs), Polotsk (former centre of the Krivichis), Beloozero (of the Ves'), Rostov (of the Merians), and Murom (of the Muromians). Each of these is assigned a Rus governor who is a follower of Rurik and the Rus nobility soon establishes itself.

Map of Eastern Europe AD 862-882
Tradition states that in AD 862 Rurik was invited to rule at Novgorod, with other Rus princes at Izborsk and Beloozero, and in 882 Oleg seized Kyiv at the heartland of Eastern Slavic tribal lands (click or tap on map to view full sized)


According to the Russian Primary Chronicle (RPC), with Rurik at Novgorod are Askold and Dir (possibly one and the same man if some modern name analyses are to be believed). They are not kin (meaning princes of the blood), but are instead boyars (high nobility).

They obtain permission to go to Constantinople with their families, sailing down the Dnieper to reach the western Black Sea. Along the way they pass a settlement on a hill and are told by the locals that it had been founded by three brothers, Kiy, Shchek, and Khoriv. Since their deaths the inhabitants had been living as vassals of the Khazars.

Askold and Dir remain in the city, gathering together a force of Vikings so that they can establish themselves as the new masters of Kyiv in the land of the Eastern Polans. They do not have Rurik's permission to do this, however.

879 - 912

Oleg 'the Seer' / Helgi

Took Kyiv (882) and made it his capital instead of Novgorod.

880 - 882

Oleg, a kinsman of Rurik and his named successor at Novgorod, gathers together a large force of Rus Vikings, plus men from amongst the Finno-Ugric Chudes and Merians, and the Ilmen Slavs and Slavic Krivichis. He sets out for Smolensk with this multinational force and captures the city. Then he does the same at Lyubech, before reaching Kyiv.

Lihula Castle
Lihula Castle was the first seat of the bishop of Leal (now Lihula) in Estonian lands, with its undoubted mission being to subdue and Christianise the determinedly independent Unguenois. cousins of the Chudes

Askold and Dir are lured out by trickery and are then killed. Oleg seizes the city and declares it to be the mother of the cities of the Rus. He rules there as the chief amongst the Rus princes, holding the throne for the young Igor, son of Rurik.

912 - 945

Igor I / Ingvar

Son of Rurik. In Kyiv. Killed by Drevlians.


It is precisely at the point at which the under-age Svyatoslav I succeeds to the grand principality of Kyiv that an outsider by the name of Rogvolod sets himself up as the ruler of Polotsk. Nothing seems to be known about the establishment of the principality here, but the timing seems to be more than coincidental.

945 - 969

Svyatoslav / Sviatoslav I

Son. In Kyiv. Under-age at accession. Killed by Pechenegs.

945 - 955

St Olga / Helga / Yelena

Mother and regent. Accepted Orthodox Christianity. Died 969.


The Rus conquer the Khazar khanate by defeating their army and capturing their capital at Bela Vezha (Belaya Vezha). This allows Svyatoslav to take control in the lower Volga to the detriment of the Volga Bulgars. The Rus also inherit the Khazar monopoly on trade into the region from Central Asia, in particular from the dominant Samanids.

Khazars in battle
At the peak of its prosperity the nomadic Turkic Khazar state controlled the northern Caucasus, the lower and Middle Volga regions, part of Kazakhstan, and part of what is now Ukraine, including Crimea

969 - 977

Volodymyr / St Vladimir I 'the Great'

Son of Svyatoslav I.


FeatureThe name Vladimir consists of two parts, 'vlad' and 'mir'. While 'mir' can mean 'world' or 'peace', 'vlad' is more interesting. It is probably a Slav corruption of 'galat', a version of 'celt' which was preserved in 'Galicia' (see feature link for more).

977 - 979

Yaropolk / Jaropalk I


979 - 988

Volodymyr / St Vladimir I 'the Great'

Restored. In Kyiv (980). Accepted Orthodox Christianity.


Volodymyr (Vladimir I) returns from exile in Scandinavia to try to claim the Kievan throne from his brother. Seeking an alliance with Ragnvald of Polotsk by marrying his daughter, Rogneda, her refusal triggers an attack on Polotsk. Ragnvald and his son are killed. Rogneda is taken by force to be Vladimir's wife.

During the same period, the Volga Bulgars - still the dominant power along the river - force Rus merchants out of the lower Volga to take control of the rich caravan trade from the east and south.

fl 980s?


Uncle. Ostensibly ruling Novgorod in Vladimir's name.


Either Vladimir appoints his uncle, Dobrynya, to govern Novgorod, or the largely mysterious Dobrynya appoints himself in Vladimir's name. Dobrynya sets up an idol beside the River Volkhov and the people of Novgorod make offerings to it. He is able to pass on the succession for his post to his son and grandson as posadniki, or mayors.

River Kama
The River Kam (Kama) joins the mighty Volga just below the site of Kazan, founded as a border post by the Volga Bulgars to keep a watchful eye on the neighbouring Volga Finnic tribe of the Mari and the Bjarmian Udmurts


Having exiled his wife and her murderous intentions to Polotsk, Volodymyr converts to the Orthodox Christianity of the Eastern Roman empire, after choosing between all of the available options. Allegedly he declines Islam on the basis that it forbids the drinking of wine, but the choice for Orthodoxy is realistically to align Kyiv with the Byzantines and increase Kyiv's riches.

In another development, Volodymyr appoints his son, Mstislav, as the first Rus prince of Tmutarakhan. This is an important trading port which controls the Cimmerian Bosporus, the passage which leads from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. This probably also gives him control (as khagan) of the Yasians and Kasogians who had been conquered around 965 and may also provide some interaction with neighbouring Alania. A grandson, Vysheslav, is appointed prince of Novgorod.

988 - 1010

Viacheslav / Vysheslav

Grandson of Volodymyr. Prince of Novgorod.

1010 - 1034

Yaroslav 'the Wise'

Half-brother of Sviatopolk I 'the Accursed'. Seized Kyiv (1019).


Vladimir of Kyiv appoints his son Boris as his heir, apparently pushing aside his accepted heir, Yaroslav, who is governing the vassal state of Novgorod. Yaroslav refuses to pay tribute and only Vladimir's death prevents a war. Yarolslav goes to war anyway to recover 'his' throne in Kyiv, battling against his half-brother, Sviatopolk. Other brothers - Boris, Gleb, and Svyatoslav - are brutally murdered by Sviatopolk.

Sviatopolk I 'the Accursed'
Sviatopolk saw to the brutal murder of many of his brothers in order to secure his hold on the grand principality but, in the end, the last survivor - Yaroslav of Novgorod - was able to remove him after just four years in command

? - 1022

Konstantin Dobrynich

Son of Dobrynya. Held high influence in Kyiv. Assassinated.


Having been forced to flee from his seat in Kyiv in the face of his half-brother's advance to capture it, Sviatopolk now returns with a force of Pechenegs. Yaroslav meets him on the banks of the River Alta and a long and bloody battle ensures. Towards evening, Yaroslav is victorious. Sviatopolk flees westwards but dies a miserable death, possibly due to injuries inflicted or some form of mental disturbance.


Briacheslav of Polotsk attacks and sacks Novgorod, but on his way back he is cornered at the River Sudoma by the army of his uncle, Yaroslav (now grand prince of Kyiv). 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.

1030 - 1031

Yaroslav leads a campaign into the Estonian lands and conquers the south-eastern parish of Tartu. In the following year, he also gains Galicia from Poland.

1034 - 1052

Vladimir II 'of Novgorod' / Holti

Son of Yaroslav. Predeceased his father.

1052 - 1054

Izhaslav / Izyaslav / Iziaslav I

Brother. In Kyiv (1054). Deposed by the 'Kievan Uprising'.


With the death of Yaroslav the Wise of Kyiv, the last vestiges of more intimate relations between the Rus and their original homeland in Scandinavia have been lost. His division of the succession weakens Kyiv, effectively by creating rival principalities for each of his sons, although Kyiv still exerts a degree of control over them.

Map of Eastern Europe AD 1054-1132
The death of Yaroslav 'the Wise' in 1054 saw the end of the descent of Rurikid power via agnatic seniority. His division of the succession weakened Kyiv by creating what soon turned out to be rival principalities for each of his sons (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Succession in the Rurikid (Ryurikovich) dynasty has followed agnatic seniority. Now the dynasty divides into three branches on the basis of descent from three successive ruling grand princes, all of them being the sons of Yaroslav: Izhaslav, Svyatoslav, and Vsevolod. All three rule Kyiv itself in succession.

At the same time the church enters a period of schism which soon becomes permanent. The Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic) churches are based in the Constantinople of the Eastern Roman empire and in Rome respectively. Kyiv naturally sides with Constantinople but is no longer welcome as a trading partner of Rome's adherents, hurting it badly.

1054 - 1067

Mstislav I

Son of Izhaslav. Fled. Later prince of Polotsk (1069).

1054 - 1057


Son of Konstantin? Posadnik.

1065 - 1067

Intent on staking a claim to the Kievan throne despite his ineligibility, Vseslav of Polotsk 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 Kyiv, and retribution is not long in coming. Kyiv'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.

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

1067 - 1078

Gleb I Sviatoslavish

Son of Svyatoslav (Kyiv 1073). Also in Tmutarakan. Expelled.

1069 - 1071

After years of fighting against Prince Vseslav of Polotsk, Izhaslav of Kyiv finally secures control of the rival principality, giving it vassal status. Vseslav's ambition has been his undoing and now he is unable to hold onto power even in his own lands. The Mstislav who had been forced to flee Novgorod in 1067 is given Polotsk to rule as a Rus vassal. Vseslav is able to re-secure his own status in 1071, and Izhaslav's expulsion by his own brother in 1073 introduces political instability in Kyiv which prevents any fresh attempts to control Polotsk.

1078 - 1088

Sviatopolk / Svyatopolk

Son of Izhaslav of Kyiv. In Polotsk (1069). In Kyiv (1093).

1088 - 1094

Mstislav II 'the Great'

Son of Vladimir II of Kyiv. Previously in Rostov.

1094 - 1095


Son of Svyatoslav II of Kyiv.


Toward the close of the year, David leaves Novgorod for Smolensk. The Novgorodians seek out Mstislav, the son of Vladimir, and raise him as their prince in Novgorod, at the same time instructing David never to return.

1095 - 1117

Mstislav II 'the Great'

Restored by the Novgorodians. Grand prince of Kyiv (1125-32).


The Lats, Livs, and neighbouring Semigallians have conflicting interests with the Rus principalities of Polotsk, Pskov, and Novgorod, with the latter two making a number of raids on what is now north-eastern Latvia. The first major setback to Rus expansionism is the disastrous defeat of the army led by the sons of Prince Vseslav against the Semigallians (Zimegola, according to the Russian Primary Chronicle). According to the chronicle, Rus losses amount to 9,000 men.

Map of the Baltic tribes around AD 1000
By about AD 1000 the final locations of the Baltic tribes were well known by the Germans who were beginning their attempts to subdue and control them, although the work would take a few centuries to complete and the Lithuanians would never be conquered by them (click or tap on map to view full sized)


The reunification of the principality of Kyiv is achieved upon the death of Sviatopolk, when his troublesome cousin, Vladimir Monomachus, is able to secure the throne and end years of on-off internecine conflict. Unfortunately for Kyiv, this new-found unity does not survive Vladimir. The rival Rus principalities are now too strong and too independent to be contained.

1117 - 1132

Vsevolod Mstislavich / 'Gabriel'

Son. In Pereslavl (1132) & Pskov (1137).


Sviatopolk Mstislavich

Brother. In Polotsk (1132) but expelled.


Mstislav 'the Great' is known as Harald in Norse sagas, possibly a nickname which alludes to his maternal grandfather, Harold II of England. After a lifetime spent fighting the Cumans, Estonians, Lithuanians, and Polotsk for ascendancy, his death effectively ends the unity of the Kievan Rus state. It is torn apart by various competing claims.

Mstislav's son, Iziaslav, has been governing Polotsk before briefly being replaced by Sviatopolk and then by the Vitebsk Rurikids under Vasilko Sviatoslavich. Novgorod's rulers are no longer hereditary but are invited and often expelled or dismissed on a semi-arbitrary basis.

Battle of Hastings section of the Bayeux Tapestry
The Battle of Hastings section of the Bayeux Tapestry shows King Harold II being struck in the eye by an arrow (centre). For some time many thought this to be one of his bodyguard but it is now generally accepted to be the king himself

1133? - 1136

Vsevolod Mstislavich / 'Gabriel'

Restored. Dismissed by Novgorodians. In Pskov (1137).


As Kyiv has declined so Novgorod has been able to become increasingly independent in its own actions, seemingly supported by the largely unchronicled Vasilko Sviatoslavich of Polotsk. Now Novgorod revolts and removes itself from even nominal Kievan control. Instead it establishes itself as a republic which is sometimes known as 'Lord Novgorod the Great'.

The Novgorodians invite and dismiss a series of princes over the next two centuries in order to govern Novgorod rather than ruling it. While the veche, or electing authority, maintains supreme nominal power some powerful leaders are still able to assert a strong agenda over the objections of the people.

Republic of Novgorod / 'Lord Novgorod the Great' (Rus)
AD 1136 - 1327

From the mid-ninth century Rus Vikings soon ruled the Eastern Slavs from their main base at Novgorod in the north. They may also have participated in the preceding Rus Khaganate, although details regarding this are highly obscure. A Rus prince by the name of Oleg, a kinsman of Rurik, captured Kyiv in 862, making this the principle seat of Rus activities for the next three hundred years. Subsequently governed by the Rurik dynasty, the city became the heart of a grand principality and the guiding power in the Rus conquest of the east.

Novgorod was quickly regarded as a lesser holding, although still an important one. Kyiv remained the principle seat of the Rus until 1169 when the city was sacked and the seat officially moved northwards to Vladimir. The gradual dilution of power between Kyiv and the increasingly influential lesser grand duchies made such a loss of overall power inevitable. Novgorod itself had gradually weakened Kyiv's hold over it. The boyars had eroded the power of Novgorod's prince to their own benefit, and by about 1136 they turned the position of prince of Novgorod into an elected position rather than an unquestioned hereditary one.

The veche, or electing authority, now maintained supreme nominal power, although some powerful leaders were still able to assert a strong agenda over the objections of the people. The use of 'republic' to describe Novgorod begins at this point, although the question of whether it was ever a true republic is still being debated. With the nobles in firm control, it seems not to have been one in the true democratic sense.

The Russian Primary Chronicle is a major source of information on the early states of the Rus. However, much of the earliest material is legendary in nature, seemingly having been collated from various tales and folk memories which were then hung over a framework of dates which were taken from Byzantine sources. It is only from the accession of Yaroslav 'the Wise' of Kyiv in 1019 that it rests largely on the personal reminiscences of contemporaries of the writers, while only dates after 945 can be trusted. Overall, the text is an homogeneous work which was compiled over a period of several years towards the close of the eleventh and the opening of the twelfth centuries, and it is highly important despite its unreliability in early entries.

The arrival of the Rus

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Keith Matthews, from Gesta Danorum, Saxo Grammaticus, from Viking-Rus Mercenaries in the Byzantine-Arab Wars of the 950s-960s: the Numismatic Evidence, Roman K Kovalev, from The Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian Text), Samuel Hazzard Cross & Olgerd P Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Eds and translators, Mediaeval Academy of America), from Novgorodskaia Pervaia Letopis' Starshego i Mladshego Izvodov, A N Nasonov (Ed, ANSSR, 1950), from The Chronicle of Novgorod 1016-1471, Michell & Forbes (Eds, Translators, Offices of the Society, London, 1914), and from External Links: Worldstatesman, and Rurik of Novgorod and the Varangian DNA, and The Fragmentation & Decline of Kievan Rus, and Encyclopaedia.com, and The Map Archive, and And it was given the name of Kyiv, Oleg Yastrubov, and Encyclopaedia.com.)

1136 - 1138

Sviatoslav II Olgovich

Son of Oleg I of Chernigov. In Novgorod-Seversky (1139).


Not long after arriving in Novgorod, Sviatoslav Olgovich marries a local woman. Their son will be Prince Igor Svyatoslavich 'the Brave', later prince of Putivl (1164-1180), Novgorod-Seversk (1180-1198), and Chernigov (1198-1201 and 1202). He is the famous subject of a heroic poem regarding his largely successful campaigns against the Cumans.

Kipchak mounted warrior
An illustration of a mounted Kipchack warrior (the Cumans were very similar, and perhaps even the same people), typical of the waves of westward migrants who swept in from the Kazak steppe during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, largely pushed that way by the sudden creation of the Mongol empire


Sviatopolk Mstislavich

Recalled. Removed.

1138 - 1140

Rostislav Yuryevich

Son of Yuri Dolgorukiy of Rostov-Suzdal. Left post.

1140 - 1141

Sviatoslav II Olgovich

Recalled by boyars. In Belgorod Kievsky. Died 1164.


Sviatoslav III Vsevolodovich

Later in Kyiv (1174, 1177, & 1182). Died 1194.

1141 - 1142

The slow collapse of the Kievan Rus has created a host of minor principalities across the territories formerly controlled by Kyiv, and Halych (Galicia) proves to be one of the most important of these, along with Novgorod and Rostov-Suzdal.

In 1142, Volodymyrko Volodarovych (1104-1152), a descendant of Vladimir I of Kyiv, unites the principalities of Przemysl, Terebovlya, and Zvenyhorod into a single state called Halychyna. He transfers the capital from Zvenyhorod to Halych, where he and his first Rurikid dynasty expand the settlement.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1000
This map of Scandinavia around AD 1000 shows the extent of the Swedish kingdom (click or tap on map to view full sized)

The First Novgorod Chronicle notes the first conflict between Swedes and the people of Novgorod after a century or so of peace due to dynastic marriages. Both sides are vying for dominance of the Gulf of Finland, and this first-known case of hostilities is directed against merchants from Novgorod, presumably for infringing on Swedish trading territory. A long-running series of tit-for-tat raids and attacks follows.

1141 - 1142

Rostislav Yuryevich

Restored by Yuri Dolgorukiy. Expelled.

1142 - 1148

Sviatopolk Mstislavich

Restored for a second time. Died 1154.

1148 - 1154

Yaroslav II Iziaslavich

Son of Izhaslav II of Kyiv (1154). Also in Kyiv (1174-75).


Rostislav I Mstislavich

Son of Mstislav the Great. Abandoned Novgorod to seize Kyiv.


David I Rostislavich

Son. Kicked out by indignant populace.


Yuri Dolgorukiy of Rostov-Suzdal and Izhaslav II of Kyiv have done little in recent years but drive each other out of Kyiv. Now Izhaslav has died and his uncle and co-ruler in Kyiv, Viacheslav, has followed him very soon afterwards.

Yuri Dolgorukiy of Vladimir
Legendary founder of Moscow, Yuri Dolgorukiy also created a Rus power centre in the north which would eventually form the heart of the Romanov empire

The Old Russian unified state is breaking up into numerous principalities which are constantly arguing and fighting amongst themselves. With Rotislav of Novgorod seizing Kyiv in this year, Yuri Dolgorukiy in Rostov-Suzdal is creating a dynasty which will strongly challenge Kyiv for superiority. Importantly, Rotislav's abandonment of Novgorod in favour of Kyiv allows Yuri's son, Mstislav, to be chosen by the former city's populace as their ruler.

1155 - 1158

Mstislav Yurevich

Son of Yuri (George) I Dolgorukiy of Rostov-Suzdal.

1158 - 1160

Sviatoslav Rostislavich

Brother of David I.

1160 - 1161

Mstislav Rostislavich 'the Eyeless'

Brother. Blinded by Vsevolod III 'Big Nest' of Kyiv.

1161 - 1168

Sviatoslav Rostislavich

Recalled. Died 1170.

1168 - 1170

Roman Mstislavich 'the Great'

Later prince of Volodymyr, Halych, and II of Kyiv.


Having failed in an attempt to seize Novgorod, Andrey Bogolyubskiy redirects his forces to sack Kyiv. The seat of the grand prince is moved to Vladimir-Suzdal while a reduced Kyiv is gifted with Gleb as its ruler, Andrey's younger brother. This ends Kyiv's pre-eminence as the principle city of the Rus, and trade with the Eastern Romans is also in decline, weakening its income. Apart from attempting to control Kyiv through his proxy, Andrey concentrates on building up Vladimir and improving its defences.

Gleb of Kyiv marries Iziaslavna of Chernigov
Gleb of Vladimir, known sometimes as Gleb of Kyiv, was in fact Gleb Yurievich, a son of Yuri Dolgorukiy, shown here on the occasion of his marriage to Iziaslavna of Chernigov

1170 - 1171

Rurik Rostislavich

Brother of Sviatoslav. Rurik II of Kyiv. Died 1215.

1171 - 1175

Yuri Andreevich I Bogolyubsky

Son of St Andrey (I) Bogolyubski of Vladimir-Suzdal. Expelled.

1174 - 1175

Andrey Bogolyubski, prince of Vladimir-Suzdal and father of Yuri Andreevich I Bogolyubsky, prince of Novgorod, is murdered in his bed by a gang of twenty unhappy boyars (nobles) at his suburban residence of Bogolyubovo. The result is - in 1175 - that Yuri Andreevich is rejected by the boyars and is expelled from Novgorod.


Sviatoslav Mstislavich

Son of Mstislav Rostislavich 'the Eyeless'. Died after 1175.


Having been forced to leave Vladimir due to the opposition of boyars who are unhappy at the city's sudden rise to pre-eminence at the expense of Rostov and Suzdal, Mikhail, half-brother of St Andrey (I) Bogolyubski, now returns. His seat has been taken by his nephew, Yaropalk Rostislavich, son of the late Rostislav Yuryevich, former prince of Novgorod (1139). Yaropalk is defeated and Mikhail regains control - only to die the following year. Yaropalk himself is able to gain the seat at Novgorod in 1178, albeit briefly.

1175 - 1176

Mstislav Rostislavich 'the Eyeless'

Accepted back by Novgorod.


The Eastern Romans are defeated by the Seljuqs of Rum at the Battle of Myriocephalon. The empire enters a period of uncertainty and gradual decline which also affects its allies. Kyiv is especially weakened by the continuing drop in trade goods, reducing its own wealth and importance even further than has already been the case.

The Battle of Antioch on the Meander in 1211
The Battle of Antioch on the Meander in 1211 ended the threat to Eastern Romans which had been posed by the sultanate of Rum, with peace being agreed afterwards and good relations being maintained for over a generation

1176 - 1177

Yaroslav Mstislavich 'the Red'

Son of Mstislav Yurevich (in Novgorod in 1155).

1177 - 1178

Mstislav Rostislavich 'the Eyeless'

Accepted back again by Novgorod. Died.


Iaropolk / Yaropolk II Rostislavich

Son of Rostislav I Mstislavich (1154). In Vladimir (1174).

1178 - 1179

Roman Rostislavich

Brother. Previously in Kyiv (1171-1173 & 1175-1177).

1179 - 1180

Mstislav Rostislavich 'the Brave'

Brother. In Belgorod (1161), Toropets (1167), Smolensk (1175).

1179 - 1180

Towards the end of 1179 and into the winter of 1180, Mstislav Rostislavich leads his Novgorodian forces against the Finno-Ugric Chudes. It is certainly not the first such campaign against the Chudes but it seems that they are capable of defending themselves. Mstislav returns to Novgorod only to die in the spring (cause seemingly unrecorded).

1180 - 1182

Vladimir Sviatoslavich / Boris

Son of Sviatoslav III of Kyiv (1174). Gomiy (1164). Expelled.


The removal of Rurik II Rostislavich (formerly of Novgorod) and his replacement by the returning Sviatoslav III (also formerly of Novgorod, although it had briefly been his son, Vladimir, who had been accepted as prince) finally brings some stability to the merry-go-round of grand princes in Kyiv. His unbroken reign of twelve years is the longest since that of Vladimir II Monomachus in 1113-1125, made easier by the fact that he no longer has to continuously fend off Yaroslav II.

A reconstruction of medieval Kyiv
Kyiv's great territory, its competing junior princes, and its exposure to successive waves of mounted invaders from the eastern steppe eventually resulted in the decline of Keivan Rus power overall, not just in Kyiv itself

1182 - 1184

Yaroslav Vladimirovich

Son of Vladimir III Mstislavich of Kyiv (1171). Rejected.

1184 - 1187

Mstislav Davidovich

Son of David Rostislavich.

1187 - 1196

Yaroslav Vladimirovich

Recalled and rejected.

1189 - 1210

A year after Hungarian rule is apparently established, the principality of Halychyna is formed (or recognised), although no longer under Hungarian control. It is more likely that it is re-formed under Vladimir II after the succession problems of 1187-1190. Oleh Nastasyich is rejected by the boyars in favour of his half-brother, Vladimir, although Roman Mstislavich 'the Great', formerly prince of Novgorod, is another contender, with the three vying closely in contention between 1188-1190.


According to the chronicle of Novgorod, 'coastal Estonians' - undoubtedly the people of Saaremaa - sail their six snäckas (shown as шнекъ in the chronicle, a Scandinavian type of vessel) to Lake Peipus where they are defeated and killed by the people of Pskov. This would appear to be another smash-and-grab raid, although one which goes disastrously wrong.


The boyars of Novgorod reject Yaroslav Vladimirovich for a second time, although Prince Vsevolod 'Big Nest' of Vladimir-Suzdal refuses their request to send a son or other prince to act as the city's figurehead. The city's governing body instead uses its own recently-appointed right to select its own prince. It chooses Yaropolk Yaroslavich, son of Yaroslav II of Chernigov. He lasts for six months before being rejected.

Viking remains found on Saaremaa
Two ships were filled with Viking warriors who were killed in battle between AD 700-750, as uncovered by archaeologists on the island of Saaremaa in 2008 and proof of a Viking raid more than a century before the Vikings are thought to have been able to sail across such distances


Yaropolk III Yaroslavich

Son of Yaroslav II of Chernigov.

1197 - 1199

Yaroslav Vladimirovich

Recalled for a second time.

1199 - 1201

Finally securing Halych in 1199, Roman 'the Great', prince of Volynia (Volodymyr-in-Volynia), forms the second Rurikid dynasty by uniting Halychyna and neighbouring Volynia to create the principality of Halych-Volynia. This survives for a century and-a-half, although not necessarily united under one ruler. In 1201 Roman captures the once-mighty Kyiv (where he is known as Roman II).

1199 - 1205

Roman Mstislavich 'the Great'

Prince of Novgorod, Volodymyr, Halych & Kyiv.


Although Roman Mstislavich 'the Great' is acclaimed as prince of Novgorod, some lists place Sviatoslav Vsevolodovich in the post from 1200. Both are possible, however, if Roman either remains an overlord while concentrating on his new positions in the south and west, or if he is quickly replaced in Novgorod.

1200 - 1205

Sviatoslav III Vsevolodovich

Son of Vsevolod 'Big Nest'. Later in Vladimir-Suzdal (1246).


According to the (German) sources, Vetseke of Koknese gives half of his territory to Albert, bishop of Riga, in return for protection against the duchy of Samogitia and the principality of Polotsk. During a raid by the Order of the Knights of the Sword he is captured and delivered in chains to Riga, where the bishop sets him free. Returning to his capital, Vetseke burns down both it and his fortress and retreats to Novgorod.

Koknese Castle
The modern ruins of Koknese Castle which was built under the orders of Prince-Bishop Albert in 1209 as a symbol of his gained domination of the region (External Link: Creative Commons Licence 2.0 Attribution-NonCommercial Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0))

1205 - 1214

Roman Mstislavich 'the Great' is defeated by Andrew II of Hungary, who claims the title king of Galicia and Lodomeria. The princes between 1205 and 1213 are all vassals of Hungary.

1205 - 1207

Konstantin Vsevolodovich

Brother. Later in Vladimir-Suzdal (1216).

1207 - 1210

Sviatoslav III Vsevolodovich


1208 - 1210

The Estonian counties fight various battles to regain lost land from invading forces, ending in their biggest victory at the River Ümera. It is around this time that an Estonian chief named Lembitu emerges from Lehola (land of the Sakalans in the central-south of modern Estonia). He makes an attempt to unite the various Finnic tribes in Estonia to fight against the Order of the Knights of the Sword and German crusaders, raising an army which raids south and east, reaching Pskov in the territory of Novgorod, below Lake Peipsi.

1210 - 1215

Mstislav Mstislavich 'the Bold'

Brother of Vladimir of Polotsk.


Having shown their own disdain for crusader demands, the Unguenois are faced with an all-out war by the combined forces of the crusaders from Riga and the Lets, their traditional southern enemies. Only months after being besieged and starved by Mstislav of Novgorod and Vladimir of Polotsk in 1210, Otepää is burned by the crusaders.

The Unguenois and Sakalans unite to retaliate. Let territory is raided and the most implacable of their enemies are burned in a like-for-like reprisal. The bishop of Riga is forced to sue for peace, establishing an uneasy settlement between the two sides.

The inclusion of Riga in the Hanseatic League in 1282 would have accelerated its development as an important trading town with vital seaward - and river - connections to Europe

1215 - 1216

Yaroslav III Vsevolodovich

Brother of Sviatoslav III. Later III in Vladimir-Suzdal (1238).

1216 - 1218

During his short reign, Konstantin of Vladimir-Suzdal (prince of Novgorod in 1205) undertakes several campaigns against the Volga Bulgars. The fortress of Nizhny Novgorod is founded by him along the Volga as a defensive structure in case of reprisal attacks by the Bulgars, while he attempts to install a brother, Yaroslav Vsevolodovich, in Novgorod to secure control there (Yaroslav finally secures this seat in 1222, and succeeds Konstantin and Yuri in Vladimir-Suzdal in 1238).

1216 - 1217

Mstislav Mstislavich 'the Bold'


1217 - 1218

Sviatoslav Mstislavich

Son of Mstislav III 'the Old' of Kyiv (1214).

1218 - 1221

Vsevolod Mstislavich



The Unguenois rebel against their German overlords. They are encouraged by the Sakalians who send them the bloody swords of Germans they have killed. The Unguenois decide to side with Novgorod, with the result that the Rus princes of Polotsk, Novgorod, and Suzdal send around twenty thousand men to their aid. Prince Vyachko of Koknese is left in charge of the Unguenois and any other Estonians who will submit to him.


Vsevolod Yurevich

Son of Yuri (George) II of Vladimir-Suzdal (1212).

1221 - 1223

Yaroslav III Vsevolodovich

Recalled. Left to seize Volokolamsk.

1221 or 1223

With the Mongol threat looming ever larger and Khwarazm having been defeated, a large Mongol force under Subedei continues north into territory around the Caspian Sea and into the lands of the Rus. An opposing Rus and Kipchak coalition is headed by Mstislav 'the Bold' of Tmutarakan, Chernigov, and Halych, Mstislav III 'the Old' of Kyiv, Daniel of Galicia (Halych), Mstislav II Svyatoslavich of Kozelsk (?), Novgorod-Seversk, and Chernigov, and Khan Koten of the Kipchaks.

The Battle of the River Kalka
The Battle of the River Kalka in 1221 or 1223 (both dates are reported) was a valiant Rus effort to stem the westwards tide of Mongol advance, but due largely to the refusal of Mstislav 'the Bold' to wait for all of his allied forces to assemble before leaping into battle, it opened the gates to full invasion

At the Battle of the River Kalka (or Khalka) they face - but greatly outnumber - a large force led by the able Mongol generals, Subedei and Jebe. Mstislav 'the Bold' attacks before the rest of the Rus forces are ready and is defeated, resulting in defeat for the rest of them too. Ironically, Mstislav 'the Bold' escapes with his life, while Khan Koten makes a retreat into Hungary where he is murdered by the nobility there. Daniel is wounded, and Mstislav 'the Old' is murdered after being captured.

Subedei extends his expedition farther to attack the Volga Bulgars before he returns to Mongolia in one of the greatest exploratory campaigns of the era.

1223 - 1224

Vsevolod Yurevich


1224 - 1226

St Michael II

Son of Vsevolod IV 'the Red'. Vassal of Yuri II of Vladimir.


German crusaders recapture all of the rebellious Estonian provinces and Vetseke of Koknese is reduced to holding just the Unguenois centre at Tharbata. Bishop Hermann of Buxhoeveden takes control of Ugaunia from his base in Dorpat while the Order of the Knights of the Sword is granted control of Sakala.

Tharbata is conquered later in 1224 and all of its Unguenois and Rus defenders are killed, Vetseke included. Bishop Hermann begins fortifying Otepää and Tarbatu, selecting the latter to be his residence. The bishop and his Unguenois subjects continue to fight frequently against Novgorod until they are defeated (in 1242).

Livonian Knights
The Livonian Knights - otherwise known as the Livonian Brethren of the Sword, the Order of the Knights of the Sword, or more simply as the 'Order' or 'Brethren' - did the dirty work of extinguishing resistance to the German crusaders and their imposition of order on the Estonian and northern Balt tribes

1226 - 1228

Yaroslav III Vsevolodovich


1228 - 1229

St Aleksandr Nevsky

Son of Yaroslav II of Vladimir-Suzdal (1238). Departed.


St Michael II

Recalled. In Kyiv (1238). Fled. Restored 1241.

1229 - 1230

Rostislav Mikhailovich

Son of St Michael of Chergigov. Later ruler (1241-1242).

1230 - 1236

Yaroslav III Vsevolodovich

Recalled. In Kyiv & Vladimir (1238).


The Pope endorses the Northern Crusades to Christianise the Baltic peoples, and in this year he asks the Order of the Knights of the Sword to aid the semi-Christianised Finns in their fight against the Orthodox Rus of the Novgorod republic.

1236 - 1240

St Aleksandr Nevsky

Recalled for the first time.

1237 - 1240

Batu Khan of the Golden Horde begins the invasion and conquest of the lands of the Rus, with Subedei agreeing to accompany him. They cross the Volga and, having been refused in their demand that Yuri II of Vladimir submits, they take the city of Riazan after a five-day catapult assault.

Batu Khan
Batu Khan extended the borders of Mongol power into the lands of the Rus, bringing them under the domination of the Golden Horde for a century

Then they take Kolumna and Moscow, defeating and killing Yuri at the Battle of the River Sit, whilst leading the most powerful force in the northern half of the Rus lands (Yuri's death means he is succeeded by his brother Yaroslav, but it also seemingly signals the point at which the first prince of Moscow appears, this being Yaroslav's son, Mikhail). During the invasion, Kyiv is conquered by Danylo Romanovych of Halych-Volynia, creating another target for a Mongol attack.

Cumans, Kipchaks, and other nomadic groups flee the Rus lands to seek refuge in Hungary. As Batu Khan sees these people as his subjects, news of their departure is not welcomed and plans are laid to pursue them. Novgorod survives the tidal wave of conquest because the Mongols are unable to find a route through the marshes.

Instead, they attack Kozelsk, which inflicts an unusual defeat on their vanguard before falling. Its entire population is slaughtered as an example. Kyiv also falls after a brave defence, even though Prince Michael of Kyiv flees beforehand. The city is largely destroyed.

1240 - 1241

Denmark attacks Novgorod to the east of its lands in North Estonia. Apart from teaching Novgorod a lesson and perhaps winning some territory, the Finno-Ugric Votians are also targeted as the Danes want their territory. Overall, though, the campaign fails to gain any territory at all. In fact, Novgorod is able to launch a reprisal attack.

Tartu's Dome Church ruins, Estonia
Tartu's modern ruins of the Dome Hill Church or cathedral date back to 1234, when a stone fortress replaced the original wooden one of the Unguenois (click or tap on image to view full sized)

1240 - 1241

Andrey Yaroslavich

Brother. Later in Vladimir (1249).

1241 - 1252

St Aleksandr Nevsky

Recalled again. Also in Kyiv (1246) & Vladimir (1253).

1241 - 1242

Vladimir-Suzdal is now tributary to the Golden Horde Mongols under Batu Khan and Subedei, and it is the great khan's mother who poisons Prince Yaroslav in 1246. The two Mongol leaders turn their attention westwards in 1241. They invade Halych-Volynia in revenge for its capture of Kyiv, capturing the capital and destroying the cathedral. Then they invade Poland and Hungary.

Both are conquered, with European defeats at Liegnitz and the River Sajo. Austria, Dalmatia, and Moravia also fall under Mongol domination, and the tide seems unstoppable. However, the death of Ogedei Khan causes the Mongols to withdraw, with Batu Khan intent on securing his conquests in the lands of the Rus.

Also in 1242, on 5 April, Bishop Hermann and his Unguenois forces are defeated along with the Teutonic Knights by the prince of Novgorod, Alexander Yaroslavitz Nevsky, during the Battle of the Ice on Lake Peipsi. This halts the eastwards advance of the German crusaders and fixes Dorpat's border along Peipsi, where it remains to this day (with later Soviet era modifications). Nevsky will later be the prince of Vladimir (see below).

Tartu's Dome Church ruins, Estonia
Tartu's modern ruins of the Dome Hill Church or cathedral date back to 1234, when a stone fortress replaced the original wooden one of the Unguenois (click or tap on image to view full sized)

1252 - 1255

Vasily Alexandrovich


1252 - 1253

Grand Prince Andrey of Vladimir (and former prince of Novgorod in 12140) allies himself with other princes of the western Rus in a move against the domination of the Golden Horde. Batu Khan sends out a punitive expedition which causes Andrey to flee first to Pskov and then to Sweden, and the population of Vladimir are punished for the crimes of their master. The Livonian Knights prevent the Mongols from advancing any farther north, while Alexander Nevsky is installed as the new grand prince of Vladimir.

1255 - 1256

Yaroslav IV

Brother of Aleksandr Nevsky of Kyiv & Vladimir.

1256 - 1257

Vasily Alexandrovich


1257 - 1259

St Aleksandr Nevsky

Recalled once more. Also in Kyiv & Vladimir. Died 1263.

1259 - 1263

Dmitry Alexandrovich / Demetrius

Son. Also in Pereslavl.


Aleksandr Nevsky's death means that his two year-old son, Daniel, inherits the smallest and least significant of his domains in the form of the newly-created duchy of Moscow. Daniel of Moscow, or Daniil Aleksandrovich, is claimed by some modern scholars to be the first prince of Moscow, although that is not the case. He is, however, the first prince of a duchy of Moscow.

Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn, Estonia
The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky in Tallinn, Estonia, was built in 1894-1900, with the sainted Nevsky having been honoured for halting in 1242 the further eastwards advance of the German crusaders in the Baltics (click or tap on photo to read more on a separate page)

1264 - 1272

Yaroslav IV

Recalled. Also in Kyiv & Vladimir from 1263.

1272 - 1273

Dmitry Alexandrovich / Demetrius


1273 - 1276

Vasily of Kostroma / Basil

Brother of Aleksandr Nevsky. In Vladimir-Suzdal (1272).

1274 - 1275

Smolensk is the last of the independent principalities of the Rus, but it now falls to Mongke Temur of the Golden Horde. The following year he defends his Rus vassals by dispatching a Mongol-Rus force to ward off the Lithuanians, an action which is requested by Duke Lev I of Halych-Volynia.

1276 - 1281

Dmitry Alexandrovich / Demetrius

Recalled. Also in Vladimir-Suzdal (1276).

1281 - 1285

Andrey Alexandrovich

Brother. Andrey III of Vladimir (1281).

1285 - 1292

Dmitry Alexandrovich / Demetrius

Recalled. Also restored in Vladimir-Suzdal (1283).

1292 - 1304

Andrey Alexandrovich

Recalled. Also restored in Vladimir-Suzdal (1293).

1304 - 1314

St Michael / Mikhail of Tver

Son of Yaroslav III. In Vladimir-Suzdal (1304).

1314 - 1315

Afanasi Danilovich

Son of Daniel of Moscow.

1315 - 1316

St Michael / Mikhail of Tver

Recalled. Executed by Golden Horde (1318).


The princes of Moscow and its subsidiary states have been receiving the support of Ozbeg Khan, partially because the khan's sister, Konchaka, is married to Yuri Danilovich of Moscow. The princes of Moscow are opposed by the princes of Tver, their westward-leaning relatives, and it is the most senior of these, Mikhail of Tver, who defeats Yuri at a village named Bortenevo. Mikhail also manages to capture Konchaka, who subsequently dies in his keeping.

Prince Michael of Tver
The Mongols maintained their dominance of the Rus with bloodletting where necessary, burning and destroying towns which stood against them and executing Prince Michael

Yuri announces to Ozbeg that Konchaka had been poisoned, so he and Mikhail are summoned to the Golden Horde's capital of Sarai for trial. Mikhail is found guilty and is beheaded the following year, while the yarlik (effectively a patent of office for the title of 'Grand Prince of Vladimir') is granted to Moscow.

1316 - 1322

Afanasi Danilovich


1318 - 1322

The sons of Mikhail of Tver, Dimitry (or Dmitri) and Alexander Mikhailovich, fight a series of battles against Yuri Danilovich of Moscow. By intriguing with the royal court of the Golden Horde, Dmitry manages to gain the yarlik for Vladimir in 1322, removing it from Yuri's control.

1322 - 1325

Yuri (I) / Georgiy Danilovich

Brother. Also prince of Moscow (1303-1325).

1325 - 1326

The metropolitan of Kievan Rus moves his seat in 1325 from Vladimir to Moscow, making it clear that he regards Moscow as the principal city of the grand duchy of Vladimir. The city of Vladimir is reduced in importance by the move.

Yuri Danilovich of Moscow is killed by Dmitry in the same year, before he can clear his name and regain the yarlik. Ozbeg of the Golden Horde arrests Dimity for the murder and executes him in 1326.

1325 - 1327

Alexander Mikhailovich

Son of St Michael of Tver. Vladimir (1326). Later in Pskov.

1327 - 1328

Baskaki Shevkal, cousin to Ozbeg Khan, is killed in Tver along with his Tartars and rebellion is ignited against the Golden Horde's overlordship. Grand Prince Alexander Mikhailovich is forced to flee, first to Novgorod which refuses him, and then to Pskov. Not only does Pskov welcome him - it makes him the ruling prince.

Berdi Beg coins
This Russian imitation is of a coin issued (possibly) during the short-lived khanate of Berdi Beg (1357-1359), the victim of an all-too-familiar assassination in the Blue Horde

The Golden Horde sends an expedition which consists of fifty thousand Mongol-Tartars and Muscovites led by Ivan Danilovich, brother and successor of Yuri. The uprising in Tver is brutally suppressed, and Ozbeg appoints Ivan as grand duke of Vladimir in 1328. Ivan's seat, though, is in Moscow, which now means the end of Vladimir as a city which carries any meaningful authority. Novgorod too is now a Muscovite Vassal.

Republic of Novgorod (Muscovite Vassal) (Rus)
AD 1327 - 1478

The various Rus settlements and trade routes were initially founded during the ninth century. Led by Rurik, the Rus Vikings soon ruled the Eastern Slavic tribes from their main base at Novgorod in the north. In the mid-ninth century Kyiv was captured by a Rus prince by the name of Oleg, a kinsman of Rurik who moved the capital here. He declared Kyiv to be the mother of the cities of the Rus, with the result that Novgorod became sidelined to an extent.

The gradual dilution of power between Kyiv and the increasingly influential lesser grand duchies eventually fractured the Old Russian state into a checkerboard of competing powers and allegiances. Novgorod was part of this, having gradually weakened Kyiv's hold over it. The boyars of the city had also eroded the power of Novgorod's own prince to their benefit, and by about 1136 they turned the position of prince of Novgorod into an elected position rather than an unquestioned hereditary one and the principality into a form of republic of Novgorod. The veche, or electing authority, maintained supreme nominal power, although some powerful leaders were still able to assert a strong agenda over the objections of the people.

Since then both Novgorod and later Kyiv suffered from a seemingly never-ending merry-go-round of changing rulers, many often lasting for less than a year before being replaced and then returning once or more times over subsequent years. Only the arrival of the Mongols in the middle of the thirteenth century halted the chaos. Suddenly all of the Rus principalities had an enemy which was bigger than its own collective forces. Conquest followed, and vassal status thereafter, with the Golden Horde sometimes selecting the new ruling prince.

Rebellion against the horde in 1327 changed things. It was brutally repressed, but this act meant that the princes of Moscow now utterly dominated the northern Rus principalities. They were Novgorod's overlords too. At the same time the position of elected prince was abolished (Moscow's prince was, in effect, Novgorod's prince whether Novgorod liked it or not). Very few of the city's governors - or posadniki - seem to have been recorded, at least in the English language, so only a few are shown below in black text while the ruling prince of Moscow is shown in grey text. The archbishops shared in terms of power and authority, but marking a distinction between the duties and reach of one office and the other seems to be impossible.

The arrival of the Rus

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Keith Matthews, from Gesta Danorum, Saxo Grammaticus, from Viking-Rus Mercenaries in the Byzantine-Arab Wars of the 950s-960s: the Numismatic Evidence, Roman K Kovalev, from The Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian Text), Samuel Hazzard Cross & Olgerd P Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Eds and translators, Mediaeval Academy of America), from Novgorodskaia Pervaia Letopis' Starshego i Mladshego Izvodov, A N Nasonov (Ed, ANSSR, 1950), from The Chronicle of Novgorod 1016-1471, Michell & Forbes (Eds, Translators, Offices of the Society, London, 1914), from V L Ianin and the History of Novgorod, V L Ianin & Lawrence N Langer (Slavic Review Vol 33, No 1, Mar 1974), and from External Links: Worldstatesman, and Rurik of Novgorod and the Varangian DNA, and The Fragmentation & Decline of Kievan Rus, and Encyclopaedia.com, and The Map Archive, and And it was given the name of Kyiv, Oleg Yastrubov, and Encyclopaedia.com, and Chronology of Novgorod's Political History.)

1328 - 1341

Ivan I / Ivan Kalita / Ivan Danilovich

Grand duke of Moscow and prince of Novgorod.

1341 - 1353

Simeon 'the Proud'

Grand duke of Moscow and prince of Novgorod.

al 1342 - 1350

Fedor Danilov

Posadnik. Briefly fled the city. Deselected.


Ontsifor Lukinich enters the historical record in this year thanks to the death in battle of his father, after having led troops into the Dvina Land. This area to the east and the associated 'Land Beyond the Portages' is nominally Novgorodian territory but is largely unincorporated and semi-wild.

Seventeenth century impression of Novgorod
The Novgorod detinets (from an Old Slavic word to refer to a kremlin or medieval town centre which is also present in Polish as dziedziniec) as shown on a surviving fragment of a seventeenth century Russian icon known as Our Lady of the Sign

A faction in Novgorod blames Fedor Danilov, accusing him of an organised murder of the elder Lukinich, so he is forced to flee to Koporye. The situation quickly calms down and order is restored. Fedor returns to his position and Ontsifor is regarded with some suspicion.


Back in favour once again, Ontsifor Lukinich is one of several leaders of Novgorodian troops against Magnus VII of Norway and II of Sweden. The Scandinavian king is conducting a series of campaigns of conquest against the Finno-Ugric Izhorians along the River Neva (to the immediate east of today's St Petersburg).

The campaign also threatens the fortress of Oreshek on the same river (today's Shlisselburg). Ontsifor and his colleagues manage to clear the area, causing the Scandinavians heavy casualties. The fortress still falls, later in the year.

1350 - 1354

Ontsifor Lukinich / Lukich

Posadnik. Stepped down. Died 1367.


Five years after completing his term of office as the posadnik for Novgorod, Ontsifor Lukinich also completes his reform of the office. The city gains a ruling collective, along with an increased number of posadniki who govern all levels of society and business.

Modern Novgorod
Today known as Veliky Novgorod, the city contains the preserved medieval town centre and defensive walls which would have been very familiar to its fourteenth century residents

1353 - 1359

Ivan II 'the Fair'

Grand duke of Moscow and prince of Novgorod.

1359 - 1389

Demetrius / Dmitry Donski

Grand duke of Moscow and prince of Novgorod.

1389 - 1425

Basil / Vasily I

Grand duke of Moscow and prince of Novgorod.

1416 - 1417

A major reform of the process of electing the new posadnik removes the one year term of office and replaces it with a six-month term The single holder is increased to three so that several boyars (nobles) can share power even if they have not been so successful in the election process. Novgorod seems to be weakened by the changes, especially when it comes to providing military leadership.


The Teutonic Knights officially cede Samogitia to Lithuania under the terms of the Treaty of Melno. In the same year, Vytautas of Lithuania accepts an offer by the Hussites to take the crown of Bohemia, and sends his deputy, Zygmunt Koribut, there. By now he has already raided the Rus, and subordinated Novgorod and Pskov, and even Moscow comes under Lithuania's influence in 1425. Vytautas is also acknowledged by the khans of Tatar.


Another six posadniki are added, making it clear that a real oligarchy has been established. Individual posadnik seals are now less important, with an all-Novgorodian seal being developed. Indications are that power is increasingly held in hands of a few wealthy elite families. They control the office of tysiatskii (the officer in charge of the city's militia) and now take over functions which had previously been handled by the merchant-controlled tiun' courts.

1409 Lithuanian uprising in Samogitia
The 1409 uprising in Teutonic-held Samogitia was a very fresh memory by the time the region was transferred to the control of the Lithuanians in 1422

1425 - 1433

Basil / Vasily II 'the Blind'

Grand duke of Moscow and prince of Novgorod.

1433 - 1434

Yuri (II) of Zvenigorod

Grand duke of Moscow and prince of Novgorod.


The archbishop's palace is built in Novgorod. It houses meetings of the 'Council of Lords', comfortably accommodating fifty to sixty men. This figure is in keeping with the expansion of the posadnichestvo.

1434 - 1435

Vasily Kosoy 'the Cross-Eyed'

Grand duke of Moscow and prince of Novgorod.

1435 - 1445

Basil / Vasily II 'the Blind'

Grand duke of Moscow and prince of Novgorod.

1438 - 1439

Isaac Boretsky

Posadnik. Married to Marfa Boretskaya.

1445 - 1446

Dmitry Shemyaka

Grand duke of Moscow and prince of Novgorod.

1446 - 1462

Basil / Vasily II 'the Blind'

Grand duke of Moscow and prince of Novgorod.


Isaac Boretsky

Posadnik for a second time. Died 1460s.

1462 - 1478

Ivan III 'the Great'

Grand duke of Moscow and prince of Novgorod.

1470 - 1471

After years of simmering tension between the aggressively expansionist Ivan 'the Great' and the state of Novgorod which is refusing to be acquired by Moscow, Ivan launches a campaign. Defeat in 1471 at the Battle of the River Shelon forces Novgorod to abandon attempts to seek Lithuania's protection and to cede to Ivan a considerable swathe of its territory.

Ivan III tears up the Mongol demand for tribute
Ivan III of Moscow tears up the Mongol demand for tribute in 1480 in front of his own court and the Mongol messengers, ending once and for all Mongol dominance over the Rus

Having been involved in the movement against Moscow, the widowed Marfa Boretskaya sees one of her sons executed by Ivan. Marfa herself is eventually taken to Moscow along with her grandsons (in 1478) where her fate is uncertain.

1477 - 1479

Taking offence at the apparent repudiation of his authority, Novgorod once again finds itself being attacked by Ivan. With no allies and its city surrounded by Moscow's armies, Novgorod surrenders entirely. Over eighty percent of its vast and largely empty or tribal Finno-Ugric territories are taken by Ivan, with half of that being shared out amongst his allies. Revolts in 1478 and 1479 sees the richest of Novgorod's noble families being forcibly shipped to Moscow and other key cities. The city's greatness is at an end.

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