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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe

 

Principality of Polotsk (Rus)
AD 945 - 1242

It was Swedish Viking exploration into Slavic lands which resulted in the founding of various Rus settlements and trade routes. Led by Rurik, these Rus Vikings soon ruled the Slavs from their main base at Novgorod in the north and they quickly began exploring southwards to expand their trading routes. In the mid-ninth century the Eastern Polans settlement of Kyiv was captured by a couple of Rus boyars and then by a Rus prince by the name of Oleg, a kinsman of Rurik who moved the capital there from Novgorod, declaring Kyiv to be the mother of the cities of the Rus. Other Rus centres soon emerged within this unified Old Russian state.

The principality of Polotsk (or Polatsk, in the land of the Polochans) is also sometimes referred to as a duchy or even a kingdom. It was essentially a Rus satellite state which was created within the Old Russian state. Located to the south-east of Pskov, within modern Belarus, and counting Minsk as its second city, it essentially provided the foundational basis for modern Belarus. According to the Russian Primary Chronicle. a 'Varangian' (almost certainly a Swede) by the name of Ragnvald Olafsson (Slavicised as Rogvolod) established himself in Polotsk in the middle of the tenth century, making it one of the earliest Eastern Slav states outside of Novgorod and Kyiv. It seems he did this as an outsider, not part of the core Rus group or a direct Rurikid relative.

Unfortunately, Ragnvald ran foul of the ruling Rurikid dynasty of Kyiv when Vladimir the Great returned from exile in Scandinavia to try to claim the Kievan throne from his brother. Polotsk, though, had long been a Rus centre. Before the arrival of the Rus in the mid-ninth century it had been the tribal centre of the Slavic Krivichis. When the northern Slavic tribes had, according to tradition, invited Rurik and his brethren to command them in 862, he had made Novgorod his capital and had installed his own Rus governor at Polotsk.

From the beginning of the initial post-Hunnic Slavic expansion phase up to the formation of the three earliest Rus-Slavic states - Novgorod, Ryazan, and Kyiv - in the ninth century and even several centuries later, there were a considerable number of Balts in what is now Belarus and in the west of greater Russia. The process of Slavicisation which began perhaps even before the fifth century BC and Herodotus' recording of some vaguely Slavic tribes (such as the Androphagi and Budini) managed to continue into the nineteenth century AD. Belarussians borrowed many words, most of them in daily usage, from the Lithuanian peasant vocabulary. The ethnography in the districts of Kaluga, Moscow, Smolensk, Vitebsk, Polotsk, and Minsk to the middle of the nineteenth century is highly indicative of the Baltic character. Indeed, Slavicised eastern Balts make up much of the population of modern Belarus and part of the greater Russian territory.

The Russian Primary Chronicle is a major source of information on the early states of the Rus. 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 was only from the accession of Yaroslav 'the Wise' of Kyiv in 1019 that its content rested largely on the personal reminiscences of contemporaries of the writers. 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.

(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 And it was given the name of Kyiv, Oleg Yastrubov, and The Fragmentation & Decline of Kievan Rus, and Encyclopaedia.com, and The Map Archive, and How DO you pronounce Kyiv, anyway? (University of Kansas News Service on YouTube), and The Balts, Marija Gimbutas (1963, previously available online thanks to Gabriella at Vaidilute, but still available as a PDF - click or tap on link to download or access it), and Familypedia.)

945

It is precisely at the point at which an under-age boy 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.

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)

945 - 980

Ragnvald Olafsson / Rogvolod

Rus founder of the principality. Killed by Vladimir the Great.

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. The badly-treated Rogneda is taken by force to be Vladimir's wife, with her first-born son being Iziaslav Vladimirovich.

980 - c.987

Vladimir I 'the Great'

In Kyiv. Married Rogneda. Gave Polotsk to her and first son.

c.987

Although written well after events, a saga relates that Rogneda, captured, raped, and forced to bear the children of Vladimir 'the Great', still does not forget the wrongs which have been done to her. Her plot to have her eldest son, Iziaslav, kill Vladimir is uncovered, so Norse custom is invoked whereby both are exiled to the land of the woman's family, this being Polotsk.

c.987 - 1001

Iziaslav Vladimirovich

Son of Vladimir 'the Great' & Rogneda. First Polotsk Rurikid.

1001

Iziaslav predeceases his father, although he has managed to established the autonomy of his principality. According to East Slavic house law, his early death means that his descendants forfeit their right to inherit the throne of Kyiv. Even so, Iziaslav's son still manages to inherit Polotsk, although he seems to be missing from some lists which show his brother ruling the principality from 1001.

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

1001 - 1003

Vseslav Iziaslavich

Child son. Omitted from some lists in favour of Briacheslav.

1003 - 1044

Briacheslav Iziaslavich

Brother. Acceded very young. Died aged about 47.

1020 - 1021

Briacheslav attacks and sacks Novgorod, but on his way back he is cornered at the River Sudoma by an army which is led by his uncle, Yaroslav the Wise of Kyiv. Defeated, Briacheslav flees, abandoning his booty from Novgorod. However, Yaroslav pursues him and forces him to sign a treaty in 1021. He is granted Usvyat and Vitebsk, which appears to be a strange act if in fact he had been defeated.

1044 - 1068

Vseslav Briacheslavich 'the Sorcerer'

Son. Prince of Kyiv (1068). Fled Kyiv. Dethroned in Polotsk.

1065 - 1067

Intent on staking a claim to the Kievan throne despite his ineligibility, Vseslav begins a campaign to secure Kyivan 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.

1066

Whilst Vseslav is busy attempting to secure the Kievan grand principality, his Cathedral of Holy Wisdom is completed in Polotsk. It will serve as the location of his final resting place in 1101.

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)

1068 - 1069

A large number of nomads known as Polovcians attack the lands of the Kievan Rus. Izhaslav, Svyatoslav, and Vsevolod meet them close to the Al'ta (River Alta). They join battle in the dead of night but the Rus come off worst and are forced to flee. The Polovcians are given free reign to attack Rus lands and an uprising by the disgruntled Rus against their inactive prince (Izhaslav) forces him to flee to Poland.

The same uprising frees Vseslav and he is proclaimed grand prince of Kyiv. However, Izhaslav returns months later with an army and Vseslav flees back to Polotsk. Even there, though, he is unable to hold onto power. The Mstislav who had been forced to flee Novgorod in 1067 is given Polotsk to rule as a Rus vassal.

1069

Mstislav Iziaslavich

Son of Izhaslav of Kyiv (Turov Rurikids). Formerly in Novgorod.

1069 - 1071

Sviatopolk Iziaslavich

Brother, & vassal of Kyiv. Novgorod (1078). Kyiv (1093).

1071

After years of fighting against Grand Prince Izhaslav of Kyiv and his vassal rulers of Polotsk, Vseslav is able to re-secure control of his own principality. Izhaslav's expulsion by his own brother in 1073 introduces political instability in Kyiv which prevents any fresh attempts to control Polotsk.

1071 - 1101

Vseslav Briacheslavich 'the Sorcerer'

Restored. Died after a quieter late period of rule.

1101

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

Vseslav's eldest son, Roman, gains Drutsk but appears to die early, possibly even before his father's death. Rogvolod, a younger brother, inherits (with him possibly also being the Boris - a baptismal name - of what had previously been thought of as another son). Gleb gains Minsk, Davyd gets Polotsk, Sviatoslav gains Vitebsk, and Rotislav possibly gains Lukoml.

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))

1101 - 1127

Davyd Vseslavich

Son. Exiled by the veche.

1106

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 which is led by the sons of Prince Vseslav against the Semigallians (Zimegola, according to the Russian Primary Chronicle). Again according to the chronicle, Rus losses amount to nine thousand men.

1127

Davyd Vseslavich is exiled by the veche, the principality's assembly. His time away is relatively brief, however, before he is able to return to reclaim his possessions in 1128.

1127 - 1128

Boris Vseslavich / Rogvolod?

Brother. Formerly in Drutsk. Died.

1128 - 1129

Davyd Vseslavich

Restored. Exiled to Byzantium where he died.

1129 - 1132

Iziaslav Mstislavich

Son of Mstislav 'the Great'. In Kyiv (1146). Died 1154.

1132

Sviatopolk Mstislavich

Brother. In Novgorod. Last ruler governed by Kyiv. Expelled.

1132

Mstislav 'the Great' of Kyiv 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. Mstisslav's son, Iziaslav, has been governing Polotsk before briefly being replaced by Sviatopolk and then by the Vitebsk Rurikids under Vasilko Sviatoslavich.

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

1132 - 1144

Vasilko Sviatoslavich

Of the Vitebsk Rurikids. Grandson of Vseslav Briacheslavich.

1136

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'.

1144 - 1151

Rogvolod Borisovich

Of the Drutsk Rurikids. Unseated by Rostislav Glebovich.

1151 - 1159

Rostislav Glebovich

Of the Minsk Rurikids.

1159 - 1162

Rogvolod Borisovich

Restored. Defeated by Volodar Glebovich.

1162 - 1167

Vseslav Vasilkovich

Of the Vitebsk Rurikids. Son of Vasilko Sviatoslavich.

1167

Volodar Glebovich of Minsk opposes Vseslav with an army which consists of a large number of Lithuanians. Vseslav is defeated and flees to Vitebsk. After being accepted by the Polotsk veche, Volodar pursues until he learns that Roman Rostislavich, prince of Smolensk, is coming to the aid of Vitebsk. Then he returns to his own lands around Vitebsk, leaving Polotsk to Vseslav.

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)

1167

Volodar Glebovich

Of the Minsk Rurikids. Brother of Rostislav Glebovich.

1167 - 1175

Vseslav Vasilkovich

Restored. Unseated by an unknown Rurikid prince?

1169

As the conclusion of another destructive round of internecine fighting from 1167, Kyiv is sacked by the forces of Andrey Bogolyubskiy of Vladimir-Suzdal. The seat of the grand prince of the Rus is moved to Vladimir while 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 Byzantines is also in decline, weakening its income.

1175 - 1178

?

Unknown.

1178 - 1180

Vseslav Vasilkovich

Restored for a second time.

1180 - 1186

Boris Davydovich

Father possibly Davyd Vseslavich, but uncertain.

1180s

It is around this time that a short-lived Lat 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 Order of the Knights of the Sword. In the same period the Lithuanians refuse to continue to serve as mercenaries of Polotsk and instead begin to form their own state.

1186 - 1215

Vladimir / Volodar Vseslavich

Brother of Mstislav of Novgorod. Prince of Vitebsk.

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.

River Daugava
The River Daugava, which reached down to Polotsk and beyond, was an important border between the tribal Lats and the pre-kingdom Lithuanians

1210

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 'the Bold' of Novgorod and Vladimir of Polotsk, Otepää ( now in Estonia) is burned by the crusaders, although the Unguenois and Sakalans unite to retaliate.

1215

To the west of Polotsk, the Unguenois fight on in their ongoing feud against the Lets, but face intensive reprisal raids. Just about all Unguenois regions and settlements are burned down or otherwise attacked. The onslaught forces the Unguenois to submit entirely to Riga, accepting baptism in return for protection. When Vladimir of Polotsk hears this he attacks the Unguenois, forcing a German defence and fortification of Unguenois lands. The Unguenois are now firmly aligned with the crusaders in Riga and the bishop in Dorpat.

The sovereignty of Polotsk is finally revoked by the Rus, probably upon the death of Volodar Vseslavich. It has already splintered into many minor states, has been fought over for a century, and is becoming increasingly influenced and then dominated by Lithuanians.

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)

1215 - 1222

Boris Vseslavich

Of the Drutsk Rurikids.

1220

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.

1222 - 1232

Sviatoslav Mstislavich

Of the Smolensk Rurikids.

1227

Sviatoslav Mstislavich, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall regarding the diminishing Rus influence on the western city of Polotsk and unable to foresee a time at which the principality will be reconstituted, now agrees a treaty with the city of Riga by which authority over Polotsk is transferred.

1232 - 1242

Bryachislav Vasilkovich

Of the Vitebsk Rurikids.

1242 - 1263

With Batu Khan of the Golden Horde already having begun an invasion of Rus lands, Polotsk becomes a vassal of the rapidly rising power of Lithuania under its grand duke, Mindaugas. The soon-to-be ruler of the subject Samogitians, Tautvila, controls the city and its remaining lands.

Lithuanian Principality of Polotsk
AD 1242 - 1397

The early Rus city of Kyiv was raised in 882 to the rank of mother city of all the Rus and the seat of the ruling grand principality. Eastern Polans had already settled the region, and they participated in the creation of the principality, primarily as subjects of the early Rus nobility and the first Rurik dynasty which had emerged from Novgorod. The city of Kyiv soon established itself as a major Rus power, becoming the guiding force in the Rus conquest of the east in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries.

A Swedish Viking by the name of of Ragnvald Olafsson (Slavicised as Rogvolod) established himself in Polotsk in the middle of the tenth century, making it one of the earliest Eastern Slav states outside of Novgorod and Kyiv (albeit one with a very strong Balt heritage). It seems he did this as an outsider, not part of the core Rus group or a direct Rurikid relative. His principality of Polotsk was essentially a Rus satellite state. Located to the south-east of Pskov, within modern Belarus, and counting Minsk as its second city, it provided the foundational basis for modern Belarus.

Unfortunately, Ragnvald ran foul of the ruling Rurikid dynasty of Kyiv. He was soon killed and his principality usurped by the ruling Rurikids. His grandson by his captive daughter inherited Polotsk and ruled a stable principality for several generations until infighting amongst the Rus began to destabilise the Old Russian state. Following the death in 1101 of Vseslav Briacheslavich 'the Sorcerer', the greater part of Polotsk broke up into smaller states which include the principalities of Drutsk (Druck), Jersika, Koknese, Minsk, and Vitebsk. The death in 1132 of Mstislav 'the Great' of Kyiv effectively ended the unity of the Kievan Rus state itself. It was torn apart by various competing claims.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Keith Matthews, from Viking-Rus Mercenaries in the Byzantine-Arab Wars of the 950s-960s: the Numismatic Evidence, Roman K Kovalev, and from External Links: Worldstatesman, and The Fragmentation & Decline of Kievan Rus, and Encyclopaedia.com, and The Map Archive, and The Balts, Marija Gimbutas (1963, previously available online thanks to Gabriella at Vaidilute, but still available as a PDF - click or tap on link to download or access it), and Familypedia, and Principality of Polotsk (Tacitus.nu).)

1242 - 1254

Mindaugas

Grand duke and king (from 1253) of Lithuania.

c.1245 - 1249

Tautvila / Tovtivil

Samogitian governor of the principality on behalf of Lithuania.

1248 - 1249

Mindaugas commands Tautvilas, Edivydas, and Vykintas of the subject Samogitians to capture the Rus principality and city of Smolensk. They are promised with being able to keep what they conquer.

Sarmogitia on a map
Early Samogitia is shown on this old map, clearly differentiated from Lithuania proper and resting on the shores of Mare Sarmaticum (the Baltic Sea)

The prince of Moscow, Mikhail Khorobrit (with a debatable level of authority), is defeated and killed on the banks of the River Protva, but they in turn are defeated by the resurgent Sviatoslav III of Vladimir-Suzdal.

Mindaugas subsequently seizes their land and property for direct Lithuanian control, with the three failed would-be conquerors fleeing to Daniel of Galicia (Halych) in 1249 (he is Tautvilas' brother-in-law). The four of them form a powerful coalition with the main body of Samogitians, along with the Livonian Order, and Vasilko of Volhynia to oppose Mindaugas. He, however, outmanoeuvres them both militarily and politically by agreeing terms with Riga and the Order so that he will be crowned king.

1252

Edivid

Governor of the principality on behalf of Lithuania.

1252 - 1253

Grand Prince Andrey of Vladimir 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.

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)

1253 - 1254

Mindaugas is crowned king of Lithuania, subsequently transferring part of the Samogitian territories to the Livonian Knights as a means of ensuring peace. Daniel of Galicia (Halych) and Tautvilas of the Samogitians both recognise him in 1254 and come to terms. The latter is given Polotsk to command in return for accepting peaceful terms.

1254 - 1263

Tautvila / Tovtivil

Previously governor for Mindaugas. Now prince? Killed.

1256 - 1262

Svintorog

Governor of the principality on behalf of Lithuania.

1260 - 1263

The Samogitians inflict a severe defeat on a joint army of Livonian Knights and Teutonic Knights at the Battle of Durbe in 1260 (now in south-western Latvia). Mindaugas is encouraged by his nephew, Treniota, to support the resulting rebellions against Teutonic rule, and Treniota organises military campaigns into Livonia until his own position has been strengthened. Then in 1263 he assassinates his uncle, returns the Lithuanians to paganism and takes over their governance. Tautvila is killed by Treniota.

1262

However, whilst he does still govern Polotsk, Tautvila's key task is to secure a trading route along the Daugava to the upper Dnieper and then on to Kyiv. In 1262 he manages to capture a key point on this route in the form of Vitebsk from the dukes of Novogrudok. He subsequently places his son, Constantine, there (Konstantin Tovtivilovich 'the Armless').

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

1263 - 1264

Treniota

Son of Vykintas of Lithuania. Usurped the throne. Killed.

1263 - 1267

Gerden

Governor of the principality on behalf of Lithuania.

1264

Treniota's brief - pagan - reign of Lithuania is ended by the late Mindaugas' younger son, Vaisvilkas. He too reigns only briefly, although for three times as long as the treacherous Treniota.

1264 - 1267

Vaisvilkas

Son of Mindaugas of Lithuania. Assassinated by Halych.

1267 - ?

Iziaslav Briachislavich

In Vitebsk (1264). Ruthenian?

1270/80 - 1290?

Konstantin Tovtivilovich 'the Armless'

Son of Tovtivil (?), but identity highly questionable.

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 and Kyiv.

1290 - 1307

Polotsk is controlled by the archbishopric of Riga, before the brother of Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania resecures the principality as an integral part of Lithuania. Successive Lithuanian rulers help in fending off attacks by the Livonian Knights who had secured it for Riga in the first place.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1300
By around AD 1300 the Swedes and Norse had taken full control of southern Scandinavia, while Lithuania was beginning to extend its influence greatly towards the east and south-east, across the fractured western Rus lands of Ruthenia (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1307 - 1342

Vainius / Voin

Brother of Gediminas of Lithuania. Died.

1316 - 1342

Liubart Voinovich

Son. Killed in battle against the Livonian Knights.

1321

In or around this year (the dating is uncertain as the various chronicles which cover this event are only written down afterwards), Lithuania meets the Rus in battle. Prince Stanislav Ivanovich, otherwise unmentioned in records, is allied to the principalities of Pereyaslavl and Bryansk under Oleg and Roman respectively, but their joint forces are defeated at the Battle of the River Irpin. Kyiv now falls under Lithuanian influence, although the city itself successfully withstands a siege.

1323

The Golden Horde Mongols have begun to perceive the growing power of the Lithuanians as a direct threat to their hegemony over the Rus. As a result, the subservient Muscovites of Vladimir are soon granted extra powers to counter this threat.

Grand Prince Simeon the Proud of Moscow
Simeon Ioannovich, playing a delicate balancing game between enemies to the east of Moscow and those to the west, possessed a strong character which was apparent in a number of Moscow's ruling princes, earning him the epithet 'the Proud'

1341 - 1377

Grand Duke Algirdas expands his Lithuanian territory further eastwards, bringing it into renewed conflict with Moscow. Prince Simeon 'the Proud' has been granted extra powers by his overlord, Ozbeg Khan of the Golden Horde specifically to counter the Lithuanian threat.

1342 - 1377

Andrei Olgerdovich of Polotsk

Son of Algirdas of Lithuania. In Pskov (1342). Claimed throne.

1362 or 1363

The Battle of Blue Waters in either autumn 1362 or winter 1363 takes place on the banks of the River Syniukha, a tributary of the Bug in modern Ukraine. Grand Duke Algirdas and his Lithuanian army decisively defeats the Golden Horde. The victory delivers Kyiv very firmly into Lithuanian hands, along with a large swathe of modern Ukraine and access to the Black Sea. Algirdas places his son Vladimir in command in Kyiv.

1377

Jagiello of Lithuania forces Polotsk to accept his loyal brother, Skirgaila, in favour of another brother, Andrei, whom he sees as a rival. Indeed, Andrei has already lodged his own claim to succeed their late father.

1377 - 1381

Skirgaila Olgerdovich / Ivan

Brother of Jagiello of Lithuania. Lost Polotsk to civil war.

1381

Jagiello 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. Andrei Olgerdovich almost immediately regains control of Polotsk thanks to Kestutis, but no longer necessarily on behalf of the Lithuanian throne. Now he is a vassal of the Livonian Knights.

1381 - 1387

Andrei Olgerdovich of Polotsk

Restored, as a vassal of the Livonian Knights. Captured.

1385 - 1386

The Union of Kreva (Krewo) is agreed in 1385, by which Jagiello of Lithuania consents to convert to Catholic Christianity and undertake to convert his subjects in return for the hand in marriage of Jadwiga of Anjou, the heiress of the Polish crown.

Jagiello of Lithuania and Poland, Central Park statue, NY
Jagiello of Lithuania, king of Poland, is memorialised in statue form in New York's Central Park, NY, USA (External Link: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International)

Jagiello adopts the Polish baptismal name of Wladyslaw, founding in 1386 the Polish Jagiellan dynasty and initiating a personal union of the Polish and Lithuanian crowns. His brother, Vladimir Olgerdovich, from his base in Kyiv swears his allegiance. However, 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.

1387

Jagiello of Poland and Lithuania attacks Polotsk and the Livonian Knights do not protect it, virtually gifting it to its attackers. The personal union between the grand duke of Lithuania and the queen of Poland had been designed primarily to end crusading attacks into Lithuania itself, but it is also beginning to reap rewards further afield. Andrei Olgerdovich is captured and imprisoned and Polotsk is handed back to Skirgaila.

1387 - 1397

Skirgaila Olgerdovich / Ivan

Restored. In Kyiv (1394). Regent for Lithuania.

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 is 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