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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe

 

Ukraine

Literally 'the borderland' for much of its existence - the meaning behind its name - Ukraine has long been a meeting point for east and west. It has witnessed the flourishing of tribal states which originated in Central Asia and medieval European principalities which ventured eastwards from the Vistula and the mouth of the Danube. Western Ukraine was the meeting point between the Neolithic farmer cultures (beginning with the Sesklo culture and ending with the Cucuteni-Tripolye around 3000 BC) and the forager cultures of the Pontic-Caspian steppe which flourished under the Yamnaya horizon.

Partly counted as Scythia by ancient authors (a designation which mostly included central and eastern Ukraine), the south-western areas could be included as domains of the various Thracian tribes and peoples, most notably the Getae. Study of Slavic languages has produced no clear area of origin for the Slavs who occupied much of Ukraine, but a general consensus agrees that western and central Ukraine could be included in this region.

There is no archaeological evidence of a Scandinavian origin for the Przeworsk culture to the north of western Ukraine, but there is some evidence of an undetermined connection between north-western Europe (Jutland, Holstein, Mecklenburg) and central Poland, western Ukraine, and Moldova at the crossover from Early Pre-Roman Iron Age into the late period, during the second half of the third century BC. The nature of this connection is still the subject of study by a good many scholars from many northern and Eastern European countries, but it would seem to offer tentative support for a migration of early Germanic tribes from Jutland and surrounding environs. In time some of them would filter down towards western Ukraine - most especially the mighty Goths who would control a vast swathe of Ukraine for a couple of centuries (albeit under Hunnic control for approximately half that time).

Following the twilight of the Gauls (whose easternmost remnants survived in Galicia) and the 'Migration Period' which covered Gothic control, Ukraine was certainly home to some of the earliest Slav states, and the flourishing grand principality of Kyiv in the tenth and eleventh centuries made it an important focus of East Slavic cultural development. Fragmentation in the thirteenth century saw it divided and contested by various states, and the Cossack Hetmanate republic emerged in central Ukraine in the seventeenth century. The region only gained more permanent borders during the Soviet period, and independence as a sovereign nation of Ukraine followed in 1991 upon the collapse of that regime.

Steppe plains of Ukraine

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Jes Martens and Edward Dawson, from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, from the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopaedic Dictionary (1906), from History of the World: Volume 7, Arthur Mee, J A Hammerton, & Arthur D Innes (1907), from The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, Jordanes, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from A Genetic Signal of Central European Celtic Ancestry, David K Faux, and from External Links: Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe (Nature.com), and Indo-European Chronology - Countries and Peoples, and Indo-European Etymological Dictionary, J Pokorny.)

c.3000 BC

A date of around 3000 BC is generally used as the probable point at which Indo-Europeans begin to separate into definite proto languages which are not intelligible to each other. A western group will evolve into Celtic, Italic, and other possible minor branches, while a proto-Germanic branch heads towards the north-west and the Baltic coastline.

Perhaps initially part of the same movement, or a second wave of movement, the proto-Balts and proto-Slavs form a 'North Indo-European' group which largely remains in what is now Ukraine and south-western Russia.

Central Asia Indo-European map 3000 BC
By around 3000 BC the Indo-Europeans had begun their mass migration away from the Pontic-Caspian steppe, with the bulk of them heading westwards towards the heartland of Europe (click or tap on map to view full sized)

An eastern branch - or perhaps a branch which remains on its steppe homeland for another millennium or so and which therefore becomes an eastern branch by default because the rest have headed off west - who apparently call themselves Arya or something similar eventually form the ancestors of much of India's modern population, plus the various branches of Indo-Iranians.

1100s BC

Iron appears in Central Europe, but not until the eighth century does it revolutionise men's lives and only then does it reach Northern Europe. Even then iron is still extremely rare in the Baltic area (until the sixth century BC), and the general cultural level continues to have an almost pure Bronze Age character. The dividing line at about the end of the eighth century BC signifies a change in culture due not so much to technological innovations as to new historical events - the Scythians suddenly expand out of the Pontic steppe region.

The Bronze Age is still a rather obscure period in the area between eastern Lithuania and Latvia and the Oka river basin in central Russia. From pottery remains in fortified hill top villages it can be seen that, during the end of the second millennium BC and the beginning of the first, a cultural differentiation gradually takes place, and before the beginning of the Early Iron Age several local groups have formed.

Map of Scythian Lands around 500 BC
Scythian warriors
The appearance of ferocious mounted Scythian warriors in the lands to the south of the Balts must have instilled a sense of worry and fear in many groups, but the Balts always managed to remain independent of their control (although armour such as that pictured here certainly did not appear so early), while above is a map showing the Scythian lands at their greatest extent (click or tap on map to view full sized)

One of these is closely related to the Brushed Pottery culture in the form of the Milograd group of southern Belarus and the northern fringes of what is now western Ukraine. Another is the Plain Pottery group which occupies the Desna, upper Dnieper, upper Oka, and upper Don basins in central Russia. The last of those, in the basins of the Desna and upper Don, is known more specifically as the Bondarikha for the Late Bronze Age centuries and Jukhnovo for the Early Iron Age and the first centuries AD.

c.400 BC

The Celts of the La Tčne culture arrive in Bohemia and southern Poland, the northern limit of Celtic expansion, although there remains the question of where the Belgae and Venedi are located. The same expansion also stops the Pomeranian Face-Urn culture from expanding any further south. Western and southern Poland have also been disrupted by Scythian raids, but these suddenly drop off around 400 BC, leaving the Face-Urn culture free to expand instead across the entire Vistula basin and to reach the upper Dniester in Ukraine, thereby bypassing the La Tčne Celts.

c.250 BC

Germanic settlements have spread only a little farther south-westwards along the North Sea coastline, and eastwards into the heart of modern Poland and northern Germany. One exception to this is the tribe of the Bastarnae. They have already reached the Balkans by this time.

Between this point and the beginning of the first century AD, Germanic expansion and migration continue this slow progression, extending into modern Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, and southwards towards modern Switzerland, central Germany, and Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary. All the while, Celtic tribes are being edged out or absorbed.

Belgae
Many Belgic groups showed marked Germanic influences, so were they Celts with German words and warriors, or Germans with Celtic words and warriors? The truth probably lies somewhere in between

c.AD 225 - 250

During this period the Goths continue a long, slow migration south-eastwards from the southern Baltic coastline, entering what is now Moldava and western Ukraine. Defeating the Spali, the Goths form a loose hegemony over the tribes of the region, almost certainly including the Bastarnae, and can perhaps include the nearby Gepids as allies, or at least friendly neighbours.

It is only at this time, once the tribe has wandered into a Roman sphere of influence, that the Goths begin to enter the historical record in any great depth. Archaeology supports the migration if not the name of its leader, showing a southwards drift for the Willenberg culture until it merges with the indigenous Zarubintsy culture in Ukraine to form the Chernyakhiv culture.

270s

The death of Cannabaudes of the Goths precipitates a major shift in the balance of power in Eastern Europe. The appearance of the Gepids to fill the vacuum drives a wedge between the Tervingi branch of the Goths (led by the Balti Goths), west of the Dniester, and the Greutungi (led by the Amali Goths), east of the Sea of Azov. The Tervingi consolidate their realm between the Dniester and the Danube in modern western Ukraine, and become known to the Romans as the Visigoths. The Greutungi, or Ostrogoths, remain to the east of the Dniester, in eastern Ukraine and southern Russia.

375

The invading Huns subjugate the Ostrogoths and Heruli in the vast territory they occupy in what is now Ukraine and areas of southern Russia, creating a vast kingdom of their own which survives until the death of Attila in 453.

Map of Eastern Europe AD 450-500
Soon after the middle of the fifth century AD the Hunnic empire crashed into extinction, starting with the death of Attila in 453. His son and successor, Ellac, was killed in battle in 454, and the Huns were defeated by the Ostrogoths in 456, ending Hunnic unity (click or tap on map to view full sized)

453 - 456

The death of Attila in 453 leads to his sons fighting each other for control, and the Hun confederation begins to dissolve as a cohesive entity. The following year, the core Hunnic lands are conquered by the Gepids, scattering them, and within two years Attila's sons have been routed by the Ostrogoths. The Slavic tribes, liberated by this victory and militarised by the Huns, begin an outwards expansion.

Two main branches emerge: the Kutrigurs and the Utigurs, A third grouping, the Altyn Ola, may be a division of the Kutrigurs. It is referred to in some sources but its existence cannot be fully confirmed, so perhaps it is merely a more westerly extension of the Kutrigurs. It remains on the northern side of the Black Sea, in modern Ukraine, and west of the River Don.

5th century

The strong cultural centre of the Baltic tribes comes under threat from around the end of the fourth century or in the early part of the fifth century, as eastern Slav expansion reaches them in what is now western Russia. The gradual influx of Slavs continues right up until the twelfth century and onwards.

It seems that the area between Kyiv and Novgorod is occupied in consecutive waves by different tribal groups between the fifth and eighth centuries. Early traces of Slavs - identified with the Krivichis Slavics - in the north are found in the area of Pskov, east of Estonia and Latvia and south of Lake Peipus in the basin of the River Velikaja.

Szybowcowa Hill in Lower Silesia
Slavs occupied areas of Europe that had previously been home to the Germanic Vandali and the Celtic Naharvali before them, including the rolling hills of Silesia

Grand Principality of Kyiv / Kiev (Rus)
AD 882 - 1169

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.

The Eastern Polans tribe of West Slavs had already settled around Kyiv (Kiev is an older and now-invalid translation of the Slavic name). Perhaps it was they who were responsible for founding the original sixth century settlement. It was also they who participated in the creation of the principality of Kyiv, primarily as subjects of the early Rus nobility. They are not to be confused with the Western Polans. Although it was already an important settlement of the Eastern Polans, Kyiv was captured by - according to legend - Askold and Dir, a couple of Rus boyars (high nobility but not princes).

The settlement was on the main north-south trade route which was being used by the Vikings to reach the rich markets of Constantinople, and controlling Kyiv would mean controlling this trade. It was too rich a prize for them, though. They were soon dispossessed by a Rus prince by the name of Oleg, a kinsman of Rurik who moved the capital here from Novgorod. Subsequently governed by the Rurik dynasty, the city of Kyiv became the heart of a grand principality. Historians also refer to this as Kievan Rus or the grand principality of Rus. It remained the principle seat of the Rus until 1169 when the city was sacked and the seat officially moved northwards to Vladimir. The Rurik dynasty of Kyiv was effectively succeeded in the Ukraine region by the principality of Halych-Volynia in 1199, which had its own, second Rurik dynasty.

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' 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.

(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).)

856 or 860

In the fourteenth year of the reign of Michael III of the Byzantine 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.

Kiy, Shchek, Khoriv, and Lubed, the first three being the mythical founders of Kyiv
Kiy, Shchek, and Khoriv (with Lubed, right) were the mythical founders of the Slavic settlement of Kyiv, for which occupation began around the fifth century AD

c.862?

The aforementioned Askold and Dir are, according to the Russian Primary Chronicle (RPC), with Rurik at Novgorod. They may even possibly be 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.

? - 882

Askold / Oskold / Haskuldr

A Rus boyar (lord) of Novgorod. Seized Slavic Kyiv. Killed.

? - 882

Dir / Dayr

Co-ruler (or the same person?). Killed.

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.

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. At first (at least) Kyiv may remain a vassal of the Khazars.

882 - 912

Oleg 'the Seer' / Helgi

Took Kyiv and made it his capital instead of Novgorod.

894 - 895

The Byzantines have arranged for the Magyars to attack the Volga Bulgars in an increasingly active struggle for control and influence on the steppe. In return the Bulgars arrange to have the Pechenegs lead another attack against the Magyars. With no room for manoeuvre, the Magyars are forced to take flight and again they migrate westwards, passing close to Kyiv as they do so.

At the end of 895 they invade the Carpathian basin, advancing towards the Danube. In doing so they sweep away Avar control of the region and lay the foundations of a state which maintains approximately the same core territory thereafter.

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)

911 - 912

Armed conflict occurs between the Rus and Byzantines in 911, after which the two sign a treaty late in the same year. This stipulates that the Rus are invited to participate in the imperial armies as paid mercenaries. Extant documents do indeed begin to speak of a Varangian-Rus presence in Byzantine military service, starting in 911-912 when seven hundred Rus (Rhos) are recruited as naval troops in the unsuccessful imperial expedition against Arab-held Crete. For this service they are paid one kentenarion, equivalent to thirty-two kilograms, perhaps of gold.

Curiously, however, there seems to be no apparent numismatic record in the lands surrounding the armed conflict of 911 to show that the mercenaries have brought back their rewards. This could be proof that the Byzantines are maintaining a mid-fifth century ban on silver and gold being exported from the empire into barbarian lands.

912 - 945

Igor I / Ingvar

Son of Rurik. Less capable than Oleg. Killed by Drevlians.

945 - 972

Svyatoslav I / Sviatoslav

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

945

It is precisely at the point at which an under-age boy succeeds to the grand principality 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 - 955

St Olga / Helga / Yelena

Mother and regent. Accepted Orthodox Christianity. Died 969.

c.965

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

Svyatoslav goes on to conquer the Yasians (of the Taman-Kuban region around the River Kuban which empties into the Sea of Azov) and the neighbouring Kasogians (the latter being better known today as the Cherkess Caucasians of the area around Krasnodar). The Viyatihs are conquered in the following year. They occupy territory around Ryazan, immediately to the south-east of modern Moscow and previously beyond the eastern limits of Rus territory. Their conquest means that Kyiv now controls the eastern bank of the River Don at its headwaters.

967

Around a decade after her own conversion to Christianity when visiting Constantinople, the late Grand Princess Olga's pagan son now fights against the Danubian Bulgars at the request of the Byzantines, who promise an advance payment of fifteen hundred pounds of gold.

968

The Pechenegs invade Rus territory for the first time, besieging Kyiv with a large army. According to tradition they are tricked into raising the siege by local forces who then assure them that Svyatoslav himself has just arrived to finish the job. The Pechenegs withdraw in good order without having fought anybody.

970 - 971

Svyatoslav finally breaks the long peace with the Byzantines which had been encouraged and supported by his late mother (who has only just died). He launches an invasion of the lower Danube in 970 and engages the Byzantine armies there in major battles between then and 971. Unfortunately for him, the forces of Emperor John I Tzimisces are stronger than his.

Pechenegs
The Pechenegs, mounted, are shown slaughtering the 'skyths' of Svyatoslav I, during the dangerous early years of the Rus when their power was limited - Svyatoslav himself was killed by Pechenegs

973 - 980

Yaropolk / Jaropalk I

Son of Svyatoslav I.

980

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 through marriage to his daughter, Rogneda, her refusal triggers an attack on Polotsk which results in the death of Ragnvald and his son. Rogneda is taken by force to be Vladimir's wife. During the same period, the Volga Bulgars force Rus merchants out of the lower Volga to take control of the rich caravan trade from the east and south.

980 - 1015

Volodymyr / St Vladimir I 'the Great'

Brother. Accepted Orthodox Christianity.

981 - 982

Galicia is mentioned by Nestor, who describes the passage of Volodymyr in 981 as he enters into Poland and claims this region for his own. This would seem to be the Lyakhs whom the RPC states that he defeats, taking their towns of Peremyshl, Cherven, and others, all of which are subject to the Rus (at least until 1018). In the same year, the Viyatihs are conquered (again - see circa 965 above) and tribute is imposed upon them. The Viyatihs revolt in 982 but are quickly defeated.

It has to be suspected that the first element of the name shown here as Volodymyr/Volodimir (or Vladimir in current greater Russian usage) is a name which has been borrowed from the eastern Celts (in the form of the Venedi - see also AD 982 below). 'Volod' or similar is the Celts' own ethnonym in its early form, before a 'g' or 'k' are added to turn it into 'Galat' (see Galatians) or 'Kelt'.

Carinthia
The modern southern Austrian region of Carinthia marked the upper edge of the Adriatic hinterland which was first occupied by Celts towards the end of the fourth century BC, and it is from these early arrivals that the Galatians and Scordisci seem to have sprung

FeatureBoth of these forms seem originally to have had a 'w' at the beginning in place of the 'g' or 'k', producing 'Walad' or 'Walat' as the original ethnonym in the east. As a name it probably starts out by referring to someone who is Celtic, or half Celtic. Then it falls into general use. Plenty of people are named Francis without being French, for a parallel example (see also feature link for the evolution of the Celtic ethnonym in Central Europe).

982

References to Vnnd.r and N.nd.r. in 982 and 1094 respectively remark upon a Christian 'nation' of Rum which is located between the lands of the 'Madjgharî' and the MIRV (M.rdât). The Pechenegs lie to the east (around the north-west corner of the Black Sea coast), while above them and leading north-eastwards are the Kievan Rus and the Volga Bulgars respectively. The references are Arabic, hence their obliqueness when written in English.

The Madjgharî are the Magyars, former Asiatic horsemen who now control the Dacian lands and early Hungary. Rum is Rome, although the people are not specifically being labelled as Romans - they are simply more civilised than their neighbours in terms of being settled farmers with an element of presumed sophistication. The MIRV are Moravians, living to the north, but seemingly not yet having fully migrated far enough to settle next to the more westerly Bohemians, although their territory has already been annexed to Bohemia. The Vnnd.r are tentatively linked to the Venedi. Their location between the Moravians and Magyars places them in modern northern Romania and western Ukraine, probably close to the thirteenth century city of Lviv in the former region of Galicia.

Western Ukraine
Western Ukraine covers the modern Volyn, Ivano-Frankovsk, Lvov, Rovno, Ternopol, and Chernovtsy regions, and its sweeping plains and gentle hills would have provided perfect farming territory for any Venedi which settled here

983

Volodymyr marches against the Yotvingians (or Yatvingians, as shown in the RPC). They are conquered and their territory is seized, although the RPC does not categorically state that it is all Yotvingians who are conquered and all of their territory that is taken: the text is replete with apparent conquests and then repeated 'conquests' of the same people some years later.

The next target for Volodymyr in 983 is the Radimichs. He meets them River Pishchan' and overcomes them. The Radimichs are counted as a division of the Lyakhs (possibly to be identified as Poles). They had migrated eastwards to settle in regions which lay alongside the Rus lands, and now they are forced to pay tribute to the Rus.

988

Having exiled his wife and her murderous intentions to Polotsk, Volodymyr converts to the Orthodox Christianity of the Byzantine 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 the same year, Volodymyr dispatches four or six thousand (sources vary) Varangians to Constantinople at the request of the emperor. This is the first resumption of the supply of Varangian-Rus troops since Grand Prince Sviatoslav's attack of 970-971. With this supply of men the Byzantines are able to establish the Varangian Guard. In effect, the guard is the formalisation of the Byzantine practice of using Varangians which goes back at least to 911.

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

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.

1014

Volodymyr appoints his son Boris as his heir, apparently pushing aside his accepted heir, Yaroslav, who is governing the vassal state of Novgorod (with its subsidiary city of Rostov). Yaroslav refuses to pay tribute and only Volodymyr'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.

1015 - 1019

Sviatopolk I 'the Accursed'

Son (debatable). Died fleeing towards Poland.

1018

A peace treaty is signed in Budziszyn between Boleslaw I of Poland and Emperor Heinrich II (Henry II the Saint) - ratifying Poland's control over Lusatia and Meissen (as well as Galicia). In the same year, Germany and Hungary support an expedition against Kyiv, and Boleslaw defeats his son-in-law's enemy there, taking over 'Grody Czerwieńskie'. This is possibly the Cherven towns which include the town of Peremyshl of the Lyachs which had been conquered by St Vladimir the Great of the Rus in 981.

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

In the same year the Rus internal civil war rumbles on, with Yaroslav managing to secure Kyiv. Sviatopolk strikes back with support from his father-in-law, the same Bloeslaw I  who has taken Grody Czerwieńskie. Yaroslav's retaliatory strike forces Sviatopolk to seek refuge amongst the Pechenegs.

1019 - 1054

Yaroslav I 'the Wise'

Half-brother. Grand prince of Novgorod. Seized Kyiv.

1019

Sviatopolk returns with a force of Pechenegs and Yaroslav meets him on the banks of the River Alta. A long and bloody battle ensures in which, towards evening, Yaroslav is victorious. Sviatopolk flees westwards but dies a miserable death, possibly due to injuries inflicted or some form of mental disturbance. Yaroslav's victory over his half-brother is thanks in large part to his loyal Novgorod subjects. He rewards them with numerous freedoms and privileges, laying the foundations for the later Novgorod republic.

1020

Prince Briacheslav of Polotsk attacks and sacks Novgorod, but on his way back he is cornered at the River Sudoma by Yaroslav's army. 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.

1024

While Yaroslav is at Novgorod, Prince Mstislav, son of Volodymyr, leads an army to the gates of Kyiv from his base at Tmutarakhan. The inhabitants of Kyiv will not allow him entrance into the city so he departs to seize the town of Chernigov - the second largest urban location within Rus territory.

An artist's recreation of medieval Chernigov
The Rus city of Chernigov (modern Chernihiv in Ukraine) stands on the banks of the River Desna, having been founded prior to its first historical mention in 907

He assumes the title prince of Chernigov (the first to do so) and rules over the local Severians as well as maintaining his control of Tmutarakhan. Yarolslav immediately attacks him but is fended off and has to relinquish all territory to the east of the Dnieper. Only Mstislav's death around 1035 allows the Rus territories to be reunited.

1024

Mstislav 'the Brave'

Brother. Rebelled. Became prince of Chernigov. Died c.1035.

1030 - 1031

Yaroslav leads a campaign into the Estonian lands and conquers the south-eastern parish of Tartu. The native fortress of Tarbatu is replaced by a new Kievan fortress built in its place, which is named Yuryev or Jurjev. The Kievan rulers then collect tribute from the surrounding ancient Estonian county of Ugaunia. The following year, Yaroslav also gains Galicia from Poland.

1036

While Yaroslav is in Novgorod to oversee the installation of his son, Vladimir, as prince there, the Pechenegs attack Kyiv in large numbers. Yaroslav hurries south with his army and confronts the enemy at the spot on which the metropolitan church of St Sophia later stands. The battle is hard-fought but Kyiv gains the upper hand and the Pecheneg forces are scattered with great casualties being suffered.

1054 - 1068

Izhaslav / Izyaslav / Iziaslav I

Son of Yaroslav. Deposed by the 'Kievan Uprising'.

1054/1055

With the death of Yaroslav, 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.

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.

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)

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 Byzantium 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.

c.1061

The south-eastern Estonian territory of Tartu is lost when a Kievan chronicle notes that the fortress of Yuryev - which had been built around 1030 - is burned down by a tribe of Ugaunians (Chudes in the Slavic language) and/or Sosols. In the same year the pagan Polovcian nomads (Cumans or Kipchaks in other records) invade Rus lands for the first time led by their prince, Iskal. Izhaslav's brother, Vsevolod, goes out to fight them but is defeated. Despite their victory, the Polovcians retire.

1065 - 1067

Intent on staking a claim to the Kievan throne despite his ineligibility, Prince 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. Vseslav is subsequently imprisoned in Kyiv.

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

1068

A large number of Polovcians attack the land of Rus and 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 forces him to flee to Poland. The same uprising frees Vseslav of Polotsk and he is proclaimed grand prince of Kyiv. However, Izhaslav returns months later with an army and Vseslav flees back to Polotsk.

1068 - 1069

Vseslav Briacheslavich

Prince of Polotsk. Fled in the face of Izhaslav's return.

1069 - 1073

Izhaslav / Izyaslav / Iziaslav I

Restored after returning with a fresh army to reclaim throne.

1069 - 1071

After years of fighting against Prince Vseslav of Polotsk, Izhaslav 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.

1073 - 1076

Svyatoslav / Sviatoslav II

Brother. Usurped the principality. Died.

1073

Svyatoslav and his brother, Vsevolod, unite against Izhaslav. The latter is forced to abandon Kyiv, leaving it to Svyatoslav and Vsevolod. Izhaslav flees to Poland with the intention of recruiting supporters there but is instead relieved of much of his treasure and is expelled from Polish lands too.

Kyiv hoard
The Kyiv hoard, which shows Byzantine influence alongside further development by Kyiv's craftsmen, was found opposite St Michael's Monastery, dated to about 1075-1125

1076 - 1077

Vsevolod

Brother and co-usurper in 1073.

1077

Now having gained Polish support, Izhaslav returns to face Vsevolod in battle for control of Kyiv. The two reach an understanding (the RPC does not mention the details) and Izhaslav is peaceably able to reclaim Kyiv while Vsevolod settles in Chernigov.

1077 - 1078

Izhaslav / Izyaslav / Iziaslav I

Restored for a second time. Killed at Chernigov.

1078

Vsevolod battles the Polovcians and their Rus allies, Boris (son of Vyacheslav) and Oleg, around Chernigov but is defeated. He falls back to Kyiv to unite with Izhaslav. They return to Chernigov with a combined army to find that the inhabitants have barricaded themselves inside. The city is taken by storm before Boris and Oleg attack the Kievan forces. Boris is killed in the fighting while Oleg escapes, but Izhaslav is also killed. Oleg is later captured by the Khazars and is sent in chains to Constantinople.

1078 - 1093

Vsevolod

Restored following his brother's death. Died.

1093 - 1113

Sviatopolk II Iziaslavich

Son of Izhaslav. Formerly in Polotsk (1069).

1096 - 1097

In 1096 Cumans and Kipchaks (largely one and the same people according to details shown for the later Blue Horde and White Horde) attack Kyiv. The following year the Council of Lyubech amends the succession rule and divides Rus into several regional autonomous principalities which each have equal rights to when it comes to obtaining the throne in Kyiv.

Kipchak mounted warrior
An illustration of a mounted Kipchack warrior, 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

1104

In March Prince Yaroslav, a cousin of the grand prince, fights against the Uralic-speaking Mordvins (Mordva according to the RPC) of the middle Volga but is defeated. In August of the same year, Sviatopolk restores Yur'ev which the Polovcians had burned.

1113

The reunification of the principality is achieved upon the death of Sviatopolk, when his troublesome cousin, Vladimir, 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, and Vladimir himself has already strengthened his own powerbase in Rostov-Suzdal.

1113 - 1125

Vladimir II Monomachus / Waldemar

Son of Vsevolod. m Gytha, daughter of Harold II of England.

1113

Vladimir is known as Monomachus or Monomakh, the progenitor of the Monomakhoviches dynasty of Rus. The descendants of a junior prince from the branch of Oleg I of Chernigov are known as the Olgoviches. The 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 is preserved in the name Galicia (amongst many others which have not survived).

According to Saxo Grammaticus, Vladimir marries the exiled Gytha, daughter of the late King Harold II of England. Their descendants lead to Margaret of Oldenburg, who marries James III of Scotland. For this reason, all British monarchs from James I of England are descended from Harold II. Queen Isabella, consort of Edward II, is also a direct descendant of Gytha, introducing an Anglo-Saxon bloodline into the Plantagenet kings.

Henry II Plantagenet
Henry II, Plantagenet king of England and Normandy, son of Empress Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou, died having added half of France to his possessions, making him one of the most powerful rulers in Western Europe

1125 - 1132

Mstislav I 'the Great'

Son. Mstislav II of Novgorod. Nicknamed 'Harald'.

1132

Mstislav 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.

1132 - 1139

Yaropolk II

Brother. Half English.

1133 - 1176/77

FeatureKyiv again conquers the Estonian country of Tartu and builds it up to become the largest Rus settlement in Ungenois territory. In the second half of this century, possibly after the departure of the Kievans, a wooden church is built in Tartu and is dedicated to St John the Baptist.

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'.

1139

Viacheslav I

Brother. Half English. Driven out by Vsevolod. Returned 1150.

1139 - 1146

Vsevolod II

Son of Oleh Svyatoslavich of the Vitebsk Rurikids (Chernigov).

1142

The slow collapse of the Kievan Rus has created a host of minor principalities across the territories formerly controlled by Kyiv, and Halych 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 (Galicia). He transfers the capital from Zvenyhorod to Halych, where he and his first Rurikid dynasty expand the settlement.

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)

1146

Igor II

Brother. Chosen successor. Driven out 2 wks later. Died 1147.

1146 - 1149

Izhaslav / Iziaslav II

Cousin. Son of Mstislav 'the Great'. Driven out by Yuri.

1147

The Eastern Galindians have already been recorded by Rus chroniclers as the Goliadj (in 1058), and now find themselves to be the target of a Rus campaign. There appear to be no further mentions of them by the Rus but their eventual absorption into later Russian society probably takes several more centuries.

In the same year Yuri Dolgorukiy, a prince and soon to be ruling prince of Rostov-Suzdal, meets Sviatoslav Olgovich, prince of Belgorod Kievsky (and formerly of Novgorod), in the otherwise unknown Moskva (Moscow). At this time Moskva is a minor town on the western border of Rostov-Suzdal, although Yuri Dolgorukiy is sometimes claimed as its founder - he certainly founds several fortresses and towns in the sparsely-populated north-eastern lands of the principality, and in 1156 he fortifies Moskva too. Sviatoslav is the exiled brother of Igor II of Kyiv and a supporter of Yuri's attempt to seize Kyiv.

1149 - 1150

Yuri I Dolgorukiy 'Long-Armed'

Son of Vladimir II. Driven out by Izhaslav. In Rostov-Suzdal.

1150

Izhaslav / Iziaslav II

Restored with Viacheslav's support. In Polotsk (1129).

1150

Viacheslav I

Uncle. Restored after being driven out in 1139. Co-ruler.

1150 - 1151

Yuri I Dolgorukiy 'Long-Armed'

Restored.

1151 - 1154

Izhaslav / Iziaslav II

Restored for a second time. Died.

1150 - 1154

Viacheslav I

Restored alongside Izhaslav and again co-ruler. Died.

1154

Yuri and Izhaslav have done little but drive each other out of Kyiv. Now Izhaslav has died and Viacheslav has followed him very soon afterwards. The Old Rus unified state is breaking up into numerous principalities which are constantly arguing and fighting amongst themselves. With Rotislav seizing Kyiv in this year, Yuri Dolgorukiy in Rostov-Suzdal is creating a dynasty which will strongly challenge Kyiv for superiority. Rotislav's own reign is brief, as are those of his many and varied successors over the next couple of decades.

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

1154

Rotislav I Mstislavich

Son of Mstislav I. Prince of Novgorod (1154). Ruled for 1 week.

1154 - 1155

Izhaslav / Iziaslav III

Son of Davyd Sviatoslavich of Chernigov.

1155 - 1157

Yuri I Dolgorukiy 'Long-Armed'

Restored for a second time. Died (poisoned?).

1157 - 1158

Izhaslav / Iziaslav III

Restored.

1157 - 1159

Mstislav II

Son of Izhaslav II. Prince of Volynia.

1159 - 1161

Rotislav I

Restored.

1161

Izhaslav / Iziaslav III

Restored for a second time.

1161 - 1167

Rotislav I

Restored for a second time.

1167

Another destructive conflict which revolves around Kyiv breaks out following the death of Rostislav Mstislavich. When the young Mstislav Izyaslavich, prince of Volynia, attempts to seize the city a coalition of princes opposes him. Led by Yuri's son, Andrey Bogolyubskiy of Vladimir-Suzdal, this represents the more senior eligible princes but also includes the sons of the late Rostislav and the princes of Chernigov.

1167 - 1169

Mstislav II

Restored. Deposed by Prince Andrey Bogolyubskiy.

1169

As the conclusion of the events of 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.

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

(Later) Grand Principality of Kyiv / Kiev (Rus)
AD 1169 - 1321

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. The Eastern Polans tribe had already settled in the Kyiv region (Kiev is an older and now-invalid translation of the Slavic name), and perhaps they were responsible for founding the original sixth century settlement. They certainly participated in the creation of the principality of Kyiv, primarily as subjects of the early Rus nobility.

In the mid-ninth century Kyiv was captured by - according to legend - Askold and Dir, a couple of Rus boyars (high nobility but not princes). The prize was too rich for them - they were soon dispossessed by a Rus prince by the name of Oleg, a kinsman of Rurik who moved the capital here from Novgorod, declaring Kyiv to be the mother of the cities of the Rus. 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.

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 had made such a loss of overall power inevitable. The Rurik dynasty of Kyiv was effectively succeeded in the Ukraine region by the principality of Halych-Volynia in 1199, which had its own, second Rurik dynasty.

Despite much of its early material being composed from semi-legendary material, the Russian Primary Chronicle is a major source of information on the early states of the Rus. It was only from the accession of Yaroslav 'the Wise' 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).)

1169

Gleb

Son of Yuri Dolgorukiy. Junior to his brother in Vladimir.

1170

Mstislav II

Previously grand duke in 1169. Restored. Died 1172.

1170

Little seems to be recorded of the internecine fighting between Gleb of Vladimir and the Dolgorukiy-allied faction on the one hand and the deposed Prince Mstislav II and his Kyiv-based supporters on the other hand.

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

Mstislav now returns briefly from exile in Constantinople to regain his seat, but loses it again in the same year. He dies in 1172 without regaining it again, but his side of the opposition continue to fight for and claim control of Kyiv.

1170 - 1171

Gleb

Restored. Died.

1171

Vladimir III Mstislavich

Son of Mstislav I 'the Great' (ruled 1125).

1171

Michael I

Half-brother of Gleb. In Vladimir (1175-1176).

1171 - 1173

Roman I

Son of Rotislav I (ruled 1154). Quickly ousted.

1173

Two princes of Smolensk capture Kyiv and forcibly install one of the younger sons, Vsevolod III 'Big Nest', of the prolifically son-spawning Yuri Dolgorukiy as its new grand prince. His ransom is paid a year later and he is set free to return to Vladimir.

1173

Vsevolod III 'Big Nest'

Brother of Michael I. In Vladimir (1176-1212). Freed to leave.

1173

Rurik II

Brother of Roman I. Previously in Novgorod (1170).

1174

Sviatoslav III

Son of Vsevolod II. Contested against Yaroslav II.

1174 - 1175

Yaroslav II

Son of Izhaslav II (ruled 1154). In Novgorod (1148-1154).

1175 - 1177

Roman I

Restored. In Novgorod (1178).

1176

The Byzantines 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

1177 - 1180

Sviatoslav III

Restored. Contested against Yaroslav II.

1180

Yaroslav II

Restored. Contested against Sviatoslav III. Died?

1180 - 1182

Rurik II

Restored.

1182

The removal of Rurik II and his replacement by the returning Sviatoslav III (formerly of Novgorod) 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.

1182 - 1194

Sviatoslav III

Restored for a second time, now power-sharing. Died.

1182 - 1194

Rurik II

Restored for a second time, now power-sharing.

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. Its future will be heavily tied to that of Kyiv.

1194 - 1202

Rurik II

Now sole ruler following Sviatoslav's death.

1199 - 1201

Finally securing Halych in 1199, Roman Mstislavich 'the Great', prince of 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 he captures the once-mighty Kyiv (where he is known as Roman II). Initially, Igor III is placed in command there.

River Dniester at Halych
The Dniester in Galicia was where the city of Halych was founded (now in Ukraine), gaining its name from the region as a whole and therefore preserving the memory and probable integration of Celtic people into the later Slavic population

1202

Igor III / Ingvar

Son of Yaroslav II. In Volodymyr (1207). Ousted by Rurik.

1203 - 1206

Rurik II

Restored for a third time.

1203 - 1205

Roman II Mstislavich 'the Great'

Prince of Novgorod, Volodymyr, Halych, and Kyiv.

1204 - 1206

Rotislav II

Son of Rurik II. Co-ruler.

1205

Roman Mstislavich 'the Great' of Novgorod, Volodymyr, Halych, and Kyiv is defeated by Andrew II of Hungary, who claims the title king of Galicia and Lodomeria (Halychyna and Volodymyr). Halych remains a Hungarian vassal until 1213.

1206 - 1207

Vsevolod IV 'the Red'

Son of Sviatoslav III.

1207 - 1210

Rurik II

Restored for a fourth time. Died a captive in Chernigov.

1210 - 1212

Vsevolod IV 'the Red'

Restored.

1212 - 1214

Igor III

Restored. Ceded control to his ally, Mstislav III.

1214 - 1223

Mstislav III 'the Old'

Son of Roman I. In Pskov, Smolensk, & Belgorod. Died.

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 land 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, 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 - 1235

Vladimir IV

Brother of Rotislav II. In Pereyaslavi & Smolensk.

1235 - 1236

Izhaslav / Iziaslav IV

Son either of Vladimir Igorevich or Mstislav.

1236 - 1238

Yaroslav III

Son of Vsevolod III 'Big Nest'. In Novgorod & Vladimir (1238).

1237 - 1239

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. Then they take Kolumna and Moscow, and defeat the grand duke of Suzdal leading the most powerful force in the northern half of the Rus lands. Prince Michael of Kyiv flees before the invasion can reach him, ostensibly to seek help in Hungary.

1238 - 1239

St Michael II

Son of Vsevolod IV 'the Red'. In Novgorod. Force to flee.

1239

Rotislav

Prince of Smolensk. Seized Kyiv. Captured by Danylo.

1239 - 1240

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.

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

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.

1239 - 1240

Danylo Romanovych / Daniel of Galicia

Son of Roman II 'the Great'. Ruled Halych-Volynia.

1240

Having ostensibly rescued Kyiv from domination by Rotislav of Smolensk, Danylo Romanovych of Halych-Volynia has left his voivode, Dmytro, in charge there while he campaigns in the turbulent Rus lands. Unfortunately Kyiv falls to the Mongols after a brave defence is offered. The city is largely destroyed.

1241

The Golden Horde Mongols under Batu Khan and Subedei turn their attention westwards. They invade Halych-Volynia in revenge for its capture of Kyiv, taking the capital and destroying the cathedral in 1241. 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.

1241 - 1243

St Michael II

Restored. Executed for his Christianity by Tatars.

1243 - 1246

Yaroslav III

Restored. Also ruling Vladimir. Poisoned by Mongols.

1246 - 1263

St Aleksandr Nevsky

Son. In Novgorod & Vladimir (1253). Vassal of Golden Horde.

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)

1263

Lithuanian expansion has stalled until Duke Gediminas gains power, but then expands beyond all recognition. Much of this expansion is into 'Ruthenia', a Latinisation of 'Rus', the now-Lithuanian-controlled Slavic lands to the east of Lithuania itself. Ruthenia now forms parts of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, with minor extensions into Poland and Slovakia.

1263 - 1271

Yaroslav IV

Brother. In Tver (1247). In Vladimir (1263). Lost Novgorod.

1268

With both German crusaders and Lithuanians from the Baltics impinging on the territories of the various Rus principalities which are still vassals of the Golden Horde, Khan Mongke Temur sends troops to Novgorod to eject the Livonian Knights.

1271 - 1301

Lev I Daniilovich / Leo

Son of Danylo Romanovych. In Halych-Volynia. Died.

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.

1293 - 1301

Lev regains Volynia, temporarily reuniting it to Halych, along with his holdings in Kyiv. Following his death, the joint principality of Halych-Volynia begins to decline.

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

1301

Siveria Olgovichi

Unknown? Died.

1301 - 1321

Stanislav Ivanovich

Parentage uncertain. Fled following defeat by Lithuania.

1302

The death of Ivan of Pereslavl, ally and nephew of Daniel of Moscow, means that Daniel himself is granted control of all of Ivan's territories, including Pereslavl-Zalessky itself, on the east bank of the Dnieper in modern Ukraine.

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 Kyiv 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.

Lithuanian Principality of Kyiv / Kiev
AD 1321 - 1470

The early Rus city of Kyiv (Kiev is an older and now-invalid translation of the Slavic name) was raised in 882 to the rank of mother city of all the Rus and the seat of the grand principality of Kyiv. Eastern Polans had already settled the Kyiv 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.

Kyiv remained the principle seat of the Rus - albeit an increasingly contested and weakening seat - 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 had made such a loss of overall power inevitable. A second Rurik dynasty soon emerged in nearby Halych-Volynia in 1199, one of the very grand duchies of lesser standing which had made the last century of Kievan dominance so fragile.

Since then Kyiv had 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.

It was growing Lithuanian pressure which ended this process, suddenly incorporating Kyiv into Lithuanian domains around 1321 (the precise date is uncertain). A line of governing princes of Kyiv followed, usually appointed by Lithuania's grand duke or inheriting the position by descent. This period, though, is less well documented. The names and dates of the ruling princes around the end of the fourteenth century and the beginning of the fifteenth are barely ascertainable, let alone detailed to any great level.

(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), 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).)

1321 - 1324

Mindaugas Holshanski

Lithuanian regent for Duke Gediminas.

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.

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)

1324 - 1331

Algimantas-Michael (Michael III)

Son and Lithuanian regent. Baptised as Michael.

1330 - 1331

Lithuania defeats the boyars of the Muscovite Rus and reoccupies Kyiv and its surrounding territory. The loss of this vassal state by the Golden Horde removes not only it from their control, but also cuts off Wallachia whose ruler, Basarab I, effectively becomes independent, although this has increasingly been the case for several years.

However, despite this setback, Ozbeg Khan of the horde is still able to threaten the Bulgars, Byzantium, and the Lithuanians themselves. In 1331, Kyiv is once again under the control of a member of the Rurik dynasty - in the form of the Olgovich branch - with Fyodor being the prince of Putivl.

1331 - 1362

Fyodor / Fiodor / Teodoras

Son of Ivan. A Rurik. Paid tribute to Golden Horde.

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.

1357 - 1359

With the assassination of Jani Beg, the political cohesion of the Golden Horde begins to disintegrate. Berdi Beg is probably behind Jani Beg's death, and his reign as khan is not universally accepted. The khanate goes from being able to claim titular dominance over the three ulus (Blue Horde, White Horde, and Chaghatayids) and actual dominance over the Rus to internecine warfare and the possibility of complete dissolution.

Mongols of the Golden Horde
The Mongols maintained their dominance of the eastern Rus with bloodletting where necessary, burning and destroying towns which stood against them

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.

1362/63 - 1394

Vladimir Olgerdovich

Son of Grand Duke Algirdas of Lithuania. Prince of Kyiv.

1378 - 1380

The Blue Horde is heavily defeated by the Muscovites under Prince Demetrius Donski at the Battle of the River Vozha. Two years later the horde is defeated again by the Rus, at the Battle of Kulikovo. While putting together a retaliatory force the horde is defeated yet again, this time by the White Horde in a battle on the banks of the River Kalka. The once-powerful Blue Horde is fully reunited with the White Horde to form a greater Golden Horde.

1382

Now resurgent under the leadership of Toqtamish Khan, the Golden Horde defeats the Muscovites in retaliation for their attack against the Blue Horde. This delays the Muscovite search for independence.

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 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.

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)

1392 - 1394

In his role as great prince of Lithuania, Vytautas begins a programme of replacing the regional dukes with regents in an attempt to centralise the state. The programme swiftly turns into the systematic removal of all dukes, not just disloyal ones.

In 1393, Volodymyr-Volynskyi is confiscated from Feodor, son of Liubartas, while Novhorod-Siverskyi is taken from Kaributas, and Vitebsk from Švitrigaila. In 1394, Vytautas and Skirgaila Ivan of Samogitia march against Vladimir in Kyiv. He surrenders without offering battle to be replaced by Skirgaila himself while Vladimir is moved to the principality of Slutsk.

1394 - 1397

Skirgaila Ivan

Former governor of Samogitia. In Polotsk. Regent for Lithuania.

1397 - 1398?

Ivan Olshanski

Son of Algimantas (1324). Regent for Lithuania.

1398? - c.1422

Andrew

Son. Regent for Lithuania.

c.1422 - c.1432

Michael IV

Brother. Regent for Lithuania.

1427

Following the assassination of Baraq of the Golden Horde, his rival Dawlat Berdi establishes a base in the Crimea, which he is able to defend even against an attempted invasion by Ulugh Muhammad in 1430. This defeat is claimed as the reason for the otherwise mysterious death of Vytautas 'the Great' of Lithuania in his role as Ulugh's main supporter. However, despite the best attempts by Dawlat, he is never entirely able to defeat Hajji Giray, a powerful local khan who goes onto establish his own independence as the first khan of the Crimea.

Crimean Tartars fight Cossacks
Tartars of the Crimean khanate fight Cossacks from the Ukrainian steppe, a scene that would be repeated many times over the course of the khanate's three hundred year-plus existence

1429 - 1430

At the assembly of eastern and Central European leaders, held in Lutsk (now in Ukraine but at this time part of Lithuania), Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund von Luxembourg offers Lithuania a crown. In 1430, protests are made by the Polish Royal Council in their efforts to deny Lithuania crown status. Poland refuses passage to the emperor's envoys and their offering of a crown to Lithuania.

The coronation of Vytautas in Vilnius fails. On 27 October, Vytautas dies (or is killed). His remains are entombed in Vilnius Cathedral (then known as St Stanislaus' Church). Jagiello grants the title of great prince of Lithuania to his brother, Swidrygiello.

c.1433 - c.1435

Michael V Boloban

Son of Simonas. Regent for Lithuania.

1430 - 1432

Swidrygiello (otherwise known as Boleslav) attempts to implement the Lithuanian goal of achieving a coronation. However, he is forcibly removed from power due to the efforts of Polish politicians. He is forced to retreat eastwards, finding protection in Polotsk and using his only secure holdings in Kyiv and Volynia. In the end he proves to be too old (at seventy or eighty) to continue to fight.

1432/35? - 1440

Boleslav / Swidrygiello

Son of Duke Algirdas. Former duke of Lithuania.

1440

Alexander Olelkovich is the son of Olelko Volodymyrovych of Slutsk-Kapyl who himself is the son of Vladimir Olgerdovich, former prince of Kyiv in 1363-1394. He is able to restore the family's hold on Kyiv for the Lithuanian crown.

Muscovite-Lithuanian Wars
Moscow fought a series of wars against the then-dominant Grand Duchy of Lithuania & Ruthenia (the latter being western Rus) during the fifteenth century, but Moscow's eventual victory would present it with new threats, such as the Tartars of the powerful Crimean khanate (click or tap on image to view full sized)

1440 - 1454

Alexander Olelkovich

Grandson of Vladimir Olgerdovich. In Slutsk-Kapyl.

1454 - 1470

Simeon / Simon Olelkovich

Son. Last Prince of Kyiv. Died.

1470

The death of Simeon, prince of Kyiv, is used by Lithuania as an opportunity to terminate that rank and the independence which has come with it. The principality is transformed into a voivodeship - a governorship - with Simeon's son being granted the principality of Pinsk in compensation for the loss of his Kievan inheritance.

Lithuanian Voivodeship of Kyiv / Kiev
AD 1470 - 1569

Having become the mother city of all the Rus and the seat of the grand principality of Kyiv (Kiev is an older and now-invalid translation of the Slavic name) in 882, the city soon established itself as a major Rus power, becoming the guiding force in the conquest of the east in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries. It remained the principle seat of the Rus - albeit an increasingly contested and weakening seat - until 1169 when the city was sacked and the senior Rus seat officially moved northwards to Vladimir.

The gradual dilution of power between Kyiv and the increasingly influential lesser grand duchies had made such a loss of overall power inevitable. A second Rurik dynasty soon emerged in nearby Halych-Volynia in 1199, one of the very grand duchies of lesser standing which had made the last century of Kievan dominance so fragile. After that Kyiv suffered from an ongoing series of short-lived periods of governance. It was the advancing threat of the Mongols in the middle of the thirteenth century which 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.

It took growing Lithuanian pressure to ended this process, with the grand duchy suddenly incorporating Kyiv into Lithuanian domains around 1321 (the precise date is uncertain). The Lithuanians found their strength at just the right time, with the eastern Rus states already having been conquered by the Mongols and the western ones destabilised, weak, and disorganised, and often themselves paying tribute to the Mongols. The Lithuanian principality of Kyiv was a little tenuous at first despite a resounding Lithuanian victory in battle. Kyiv seemingly slipped out of its grasp around 1331, but was resoundingly secured following another victory in battle in 1362.

A series of Lithuanian princes ruled thereafter, but Lithuanian administration of its dependencies was becoming increasingly centralised. In 1470, with the death of the last prince of Kyiv, Simeon Olelkovich, the opportunity was taken to convert Kyiv's status to that of a voivodeship - a governorship. The Eastern Orthodox faith of the Olelkovich princes could have provided an additional reason, as could their closeness to the grand princes of Moscow who were currently threatening Lithuania's eastern border. There was a gap between the first and second governors due to local resistance and the ongoing Tartar threat, while some governors have little or no English-language details available.

(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 Encyclopedia Lituanica, Sužiedėlis Simas (Ed, Boston, 1970-1978), from Chodkevich, Mykolas Biržiška (Lithuanian Encyclopaedia Vol 5, Spaudas fondas (Press Fund), 1937, in Lithuanian), 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 Internet Encyclopaedia of Ukraine, and Polish History Wiki (in Polish).)

1471 - 1475

Martynas Goštautas

Grand marshal of Lithuania. First voivode. Later in Trakai.

1471 - 1475

Martynas Goštautas is initially unable to take up his office due to local resistance against the imposition of a voivode and Kyiv's downgrading from the seat of a principality. The city has to be captured by force of arms in the same year. Goštautas also fails to repel a Crimean Tartar invasion in 1474. Still unable to encourage support from local dignitaries and the local population, he resigns from office in 1475.

Map of the Tartar Khanates AD 1500
The Mongol empire created by Chingiz Khan gradually broke up over the course of three hundred years until, by around AD 1500, it had fragmented into several more-or-less stable khanates that each vied with the others for power and influence, while having to fend off the growing power of the Ottoman empire to the south and Moscow Sate (Muscovy) to the north - in the end it was an unwinnable fight (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1480 - 1482

Ivan Chodkiewicz

Ruthenian noble. Captured and died.

1480 - 1482

In alliance with Khan Mengli Giray of the Crimean Tartars, Moscow's Ivan III refuses tribute to the Great Horde. The latter, now allied to Lithuania, attempts an invasion of Moscow's territory but this fails. The independence of Moscow is confirmed.

The Tartars do, however, capture Ivan Chodkiewicz and his family in 1482, taking them hostage. Ivan himself dies before he can be ransomed as, possibly, does an unnamed daughter, but his wife and two other children do get to return home after their ransoms are paid.

1483/86 - 1492

Jerzy Pac

Lithuanian nobleman. Died 1505/1506.

1492 - 1505

Dymitr Putiatycz

Died 1505.

1505

The Polish constitution of 31 May - the Nihil novi - eliminates royal legislative powers. The king is no longer allowed to issue laws which regard matters that are not directly related to the king's interests, his estates, or his own servants or staff (plus the country's Jewish population), without the approval and agreement of the nobility who are to be represented through two legislative chambers.

1505 - 1508

Jerzy Montowtowicz

Details unavailable.

1507

A charter is issued to assure the local nobles that they bear the right to occupy administrative posts within the voivodeship. In realty, however, the majority of important posts are taken by Lithuanians.

The death of Sigismund II
The death of Sigismund II Augustus, the last hereditary Lithuanian ruler of Poland as depicted by Jan Matejko, which signalled the end of Lithuania's independence from Poland

1508

Jan Gliński

Details unavailable.

1508 - 1511

Jerzy Holszański

Details unavailable.

1511 - 1514

Jerzy Radziwiłł

Polish-Lithuanian nobleman. The Lithuanian 'Hercules'.

1514 - 1541

Andrzej Niemirowicz

Lithuanian-Ruthenian nobleman.

1542 - 1544

Jan Holszański

Details unavailable.

1545 - 1555

Fryderyk Proński

Lithuanian nobleman. Died in Vilnius (1555).

1555 - 1558

Hrehory Chodkiewicz

Lithuanian-Ruthenian nobleman.

1559 - 1569

Konstanty Wasyl Ostrogski

Lithuanian-Ruthenian nobleman. Retained post after 1569.

1569

The union of Poland and Lithuania, the Lublin Union, already existing in fact if not name for over a century, is formalised. Sigismund becomes king of Poland-Lithuania. The 'United Commonwealth of the Two Nations', or Rzeczpospolita, forms a golden age of joint Polish and Lithuanian governance of a huge swathe of Eastern Europe, stretching as far as Kyiv to the south-east (despite Russian claims that the city belongs to them as part of its Rus inheritance).

Polish-Lithuanian Voivodeship of Kyiv & Zhytomyr
AD 1569 - 1793

Previously the seat of the grand principality of Kyiv (Kiev is an older and now-invalid translation of the Slavic name), the city of the same name became a major Rus power. It remained the principle seat of the Rus - albeit an increasingly contested and weakening seat - 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 had made such a loss of overall power inevitable.

After that Kyiv suffered from an ongoing series of short-lived periods of governance until the Mongol advance gave the Rus principalities 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. It took growing Lithuanian pressure to ended this process, with the grand duchy suddenly incorporating Kyiv into Lithuanian domains around 1321 (the precise date is uncertain). The principality of Kyiv was downgraded in 1470 to the voivodeship of Kyiv. The move may have been partially political, but Lithuania was steadily centralising anyway, while it grew ever close to Poland.

The Union of Kreva (Krewo) had been agreed between Queen Jadwiga of Poland and Grand Prince Jagiello of Lithuania as the only certain way to halt the crusading attacks on Lithuania by Poland, the Teutonic Knights, and Moscow. The union included the offer of the Polish throne in return for the Christianisation of the Lithuanians. In 1386 Jagiello became king of Jagiellan Poland in a personal union of crowns between the two countries. Nearly two centuries later, the Union of Lublin (otherwise referred to as the Accord of Lublin), was a formal joining together of Poland, Lithuania, and Ruthenia (including the now Polish-Lithuanian voivodeship of Kyiv), plus Livonia, Polotsk, and Samogitia. The union was ratified on 4 July 1569 by Sigismund II Augustus, king of Poland and grand duke of Lithuania.

Bringing into practice the terms of the union meant establishing what is generally known as the 'Commonwealth of Poland', although its more technically-correct name would be the 'United Commonwealth of the Two Nations', transposed into Polish as Rzeczpospolita, or Rech Pospolitaya. This era is largely seen as a golden age in Polish history, while marginally less so to a Lithuania which became increasingly sidelined in terms of importance in the union. Sigismund II became the first ruler of a fully united Poland and Lithuania, although the form of the union was more that of a federal state, with a jointly elected leader who would be crowned in Kraków. This state would have a joint senate and unified international politics. Lithuanian landowners received the right to own land in Poland, and vice versa. Both states preserved their own treasuries, state officials, separate armies, and military hierarchy.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Keith Matthews, from Encyclopedia Lituanica, Sužiedėlis Simas (Ed, Boston, 1970-1978), from A History of Poland from its Foundation, M Ross, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), from The Formation of Muscovy 1304-1613, Robert O Crummey, from The Annals of Jan Długosz (English abridged version by Maurice Michael, with commentary by Paul Smith, IM Publications, 1997), from Herbarz polski, Vol 10, Adam Boniecki (Warsaw, 1907, in Polish), from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), and from External Links: Worldstatesman, 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 Internet Encyclopaedia of Ukraine.)

1569 - 1608

Konstanty Wasyl Ostrogski

Lithuanian-Ruthenian nobleman. Retained post from 1559.

1605 - 1618

The Polish-Muscovite War is triggered (also known as the Polish-Russian War or, in Poland-Lithuania, the Dimitriads). It forms an eastwards extension of the ongoing struggle of wills with Sweden, as both sides make the most of the dynastic problems of the Russian czarate which are known internally as 'The Times of Troubles'. The fighting is not continuous, and the sides switch constantly as objectives and opportunities evolve.

Michael Romanov
Michael Romanov was the first Russian czar of the House of Romanov, but it would be his successors who turned the czarate of the Russias into an empire

The Russians themselves spend a good deal of the conflict fighting one another, both with and without Swedish or Polish allies, and the aristocracy of the Polish commonwealth also lead their own private or mercenary armies against targets of their choosing as they attempt to expand into czarate territory. The war is not formally declared by Poland until 1609, with Sweden's formal involvement taking place as part of the Ingrian War (1610-1617).

1608 - 1618

Stanisław Żółkiewski

Senior Polish noble. Died in battle in 1620.

1617 - 1618

The wars against Sweden and Poland-Lithuania are quickly ended by Russia's Czar Michael I with the signing of the Peace of Stolbovo (17 February 1617) and the Truce of Deulino (1 December 1618) respectively. The latter achievement allows the return of Michael's father from exile.

1619 - 1628

Tomasz Zamoyski

Senior Polish-Lithuanian noble. Died 1638.

1629

Aleksander Zasławski

Senior Polish-Lithuanian noble. Died in office.

1629 - 1630

Stefan Chmielecki

Senior Polish noble. Died in office.

1630 - 1649

Janusz Tyszkiewicz

Senior Polish noble. Died in office.

1650 - 1653

Adam Kisiel / Kysil

Ruthenian noble. Died in office.

1654 - 1655

Poland-Lithuania is dragged into the Russo-Polish War over the control of Kyiv, in the Polish Commonwealth's far eastern territories. Russian troops seize the most important centres of the Lithuanian grand duchy - Smolensk, Vitebsk, Mogilev, and Minsk - and for the first time in Lithuanian history Vilnius is occupied, followed shortly afterwards by Kaunas and Grodno. The commonwealth's king is exiled between September and November in 1655.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1660
Changes in Scandinavia in the seventeenth century saw the gradual fading of its Nordic empire in eastern lands and the Baltic territories, and the rise of the Russian empire (click or tap on map to view full sized)

The turning point in relations between the Ottomans and Russia comes at the same time, upon the union of the Dnieper Cossacks with Russia. This presents the Crimean khanate and the Ottoman empire with a formidable challenge to their influence and claims of suzerainty over the Ukrainian steppe.

1655 - 1658

Stanisław Rewera Potocki

Polish noble. Died 1667.

1658 - 1659

Jan Zamoyski

Polish noble. Died 1665.

1659 - 1664

Jan Wyhowski / Ivan Vyhovsky

Previously hetman of the Cossack Hetmanate (1657-59).

1664 - 1665

Stefan Czarniecki

Polish noble. Died 1665 after gaining promotion.

1665 - 1668

Michał Stanisławski

Last Poland-Lithuania governor in Kyiv.

1667

The city of Kyiv is handed to Russia (or more specifically its allied Cossack Hetmanate) under the terms of the Treaty of Andrusovo which guarantees thirteen years of peace between the two sides in the Russo-Polish War. As the capital of the Poland-Lithuanian voivodeship, Kyiv is now replaced by Zhytomyr which lies father to the west of Kyiv, roughly 120 kilometres from the Dnieper.

The transfer of Kyiv is intended to last for two years as the city lies on the right bank of the Dnieper and therefore is eligible to remain a Polish possession. The transfer, though, becomes permanent, with Russia paying a compensatory fee in 1686. This period of Ukrainian history is often termed 'The Ruin' as it serves to fatally weaken the Cossack Hetmanate in what is now eastern Ukraine as well as tipping the balance of power against Poland.

Early modern Zhytomyr
Legendarily founded in 884 by Zhytomyr, a prince of the Drevlians, the city which bears his name is first mentioned in 1240, became the Polish capital of its half of Ukraine in 1667, and even today houses the country's largest Polish community

1668 - 1681

Andrzej Potocki

First Poland-Lithuania governor to serve full term in Zhytomyr.

1678

The rapid growth of Russian territory finally prompts a serious Ottoman campaign to expel the Russians from Kyiv's border territory which lays between them. A large Ottoman army is sent against them, supported by Crimean Tartar cavalry.

The offensive culminates in the siege of the strategic city of Cihrin (now Chyhyrin on the Dnieper in modern Ukraine, almost midway between Crimea and Kyiv). Russian attempts to relieve the city fail, and the Ottomans are able to secure a favourable treaty. However, although the Russians are temporarily pushed back, continued warfare along the Polish frontier forces the Ottomans to discontinue their Ukraine campaign.

1682

Feliks Kazimierz Potocki

In Zhytomyr. Promoted to Krakow voivode. Died 1702.

1682 - 1684

Stefan Niemirycz

In Zhytomyr. Details unavailable.

1684 - 1702

Marcin Kątski

Polish noble. In Zhytomyr. Died 1710.

1702 - 1744

Józef Potocki

Polish noble. In Zhytomyr. Highly political. Died 1744.

1709 - 1710

Peter the Great defeats and effectively destroys the Swedish empire at the Battle of Poltava, in Ukraine in 1709, during the Great Northern War. The Swedish army is forced to surrender at Perevolochna. The following year, the Russian empire gains control of Finland, Estonia, and Livonia.

1735 - 1739

The recent Ottoman-Persian War and the subsequent peace treaty results now in the Austro-Russo-Turkish War (1735-1739). The main excuse for the war is continued raiding for slaves by the Crimean khanate on the Cossack Hetmanate of what is already becoming known as Ukraine (the 'borderland'), and a Crimean military excursion into the Caucuses.

Siege of Azov 1736
The Siege of Azov in 1736 was part of the greater Austro-Russo-Turkish War (1735-1739) and saw the Russians capture the Ottoman fortress of Azov for a second, and final, time

The Russians plunge deep into poorly-defended Crimean territory, burning as they go. Even the Ottoman fortress at Azov is captured, so that the caliph at Constantinople is forced to remove Crimean khans Qaplan Giray I (in 1736) and Fetih Giray II (in 1737) from their positions for their failures.

Plague also sweeps through the combatants, sometimes reducing the fighting to little more than minor border skirmishes. Austria's own participation in the war against the Ottomans in 1737 ends in several Austrian defeats.

1744 - 1756

Stanisław Potocki

Polish noble. In Zhytomyr. Was in Smolensk. Died 1760.

1756 - 1772

Franciszek Salezy Potocki

Polish noble. In Zhytomyr. Died 1772.

1764

The imperial province of Novorossiya (New Russia) is formed along the central northern area of the Black Sea coast (part of modern Ukraine). The province is a merging of several military districts along with the Cossack Hetmanate in order to improve and increase Russian control of the region as part of the ongoing process of impinging upon Ottoman territory to the south.

1765

The region of Sloboda Ukraine, or 'free frontier guards of the borderland', lies in the north-east of modern Ukraine and south-western Russia. Having developed and expanded between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it is now formalised within the Romanov-controlled Sloboda Ukraine governate.

Torelli Stefano's Allegory of Catherine the Great's Victory over the Turks and Tatars
Torelli Stefano's Allegory of Catherine the Great's Victory over the Turks and Tatars was painted in 1772, combining images of concrete historical personages with figures from the artists' free-flying imagination - the painting was commissioned to glorify the victory of the Russian army in the first Russo-Turkish War (1768-1774) and Catherine the Great is portrayed as the goddess Minerva in a triumphal chariot (click or tap on image to view full sized)

1768 -1774

The First Russo-Turkish War is part of Catherine the Great's move to secure the conquest of territory on Russia's southern borders. Following the repression of revolts in Poland-Lithuania, Russia becomes involved in chasing rebels across the southern border into Ottoman territory. The Ottomans imprison captured Russian forces, effectively declaring war.

Despite being slow to mobilise, in 1774 Russia wins Kabardia (in the northern Caucuses), part of the Yedisan between the Bug and Dnieper (now covering south-western Ukraine and south-eastern Moldova (southern Transnistria), and the Crimea. Georgia also joins the Russian empire as a client kingdom while the khanate of Crimea is granted nominal independence.

1772 - 1785

Stanisław Lubomirski

Polish noble. In Zhytomyr. Died 1793.

1772

The First Partition of Poland-Lithuania takes place on 5 August, removing large swathes of the commonwealth from Polish control. Royal Prussia together with Warmia and parts of Great Poland (Wielkopolska) are taken by Prussia (as West Prussia). Parts of Little Poland (Malopolska) and Red Ruthenia (Rus Czerwona) are taken by Austria, which forms the kingdom of Galicia & Lodomeria. Polish Livonia (Latgallia) and Lithuania are taken by Russia.

Allenstien's Old Town
The city of Olsztyn (or Allenstein in German) was seized by Prussia in the 1772 partition of Poland-Lithuania, but Russia and Austria also seized their own prizes

1785 - 1791

Józef Gabriel Stempkowski

Polish noble. In Zhytomyr. Died 1793.

1791

On 3 May, the Polish constitution gives formal sanction to the union with Lithuania, removing the process of electing kings and making the crown hereditary again under the Saxon dynasty. The commonwealth is rapidly dying though, so the sanction has little real effect.

1791 - 1793

Antoni Protazy Potocki

Polish noble. In Zhytomyr. Post terminated. Died 1801.

1793

The Second Partition of Poland-Lithuania is carried out on 23 January. Great Poland and parts of Mazovia go to Prussia while Russia gains Podolia (which is attached to Ukraine), Volhynia, and more of Lithuania.

From 1791, Russia has operated an area known as the Pale of Settlement. Initially this had been small, but it increases greatly from 1793 and the Second Partition. By the mid-nineteenth century it incorporates modern Belarus (eastern Poland at the time), eastern Latvia, Lithuania, the province of Bessarabia (modern Moldova), and western Ukraine. Having formerly been citizens of the defunct commonwealth, the Jewish population of the 'Pale' is restricted from moving eastwards into Russia proper.

1794 - 1914

The Polish Uprising of 1794 (otherwise known as the Second Polish War or the Kościuszko Uprising) is fought against Russian and Prussian hegemony. Instead it largely brings about the termination of the state. In 1795, the Third Partition of Poland-Lithuania is enacted on 7 January. It removes both states entirely from the map. Much of Ukraine is absorbed directly into the Russian empire, while Austria holds the westernmost territories (largely grouped into the vassal kingdom of Galicia & Lodomeria).

Prussians at the Battle of Jena in 1806
The late Frederick the Great's army was still a formidable fighting machine in 1794, although it would be thoroughly beaten in just a month of campaigning in 1806 by Napoleon Bonaparte, losing the descisive battle of Jena (shown here)

The majority of what today forms Ukraine is divided between the governorates of Chernihiv (or Chernigov, an outdated, Russian variation of the name), Kharkiv, Kyiv (or Kiev, formed in 1708), Podillia (or Podolia), and Volyn (or Volhynia). In 1764 the governate of Kyiv is replaced by that of Little Russia until 1781. Various other organisational changes take place over the succeeding one hundred and thirty-three years.

Eastern Ukraine, formerly Cossack and Tartar territory, is gradually turned over to farming, while Ukraine as a whole is incrementally urbanised and industrialised. Catherine the Great and her successors encourage immigration by various European groups to offset the Turkic population which had settled during Ottoman control of the Black Sea coast.

1914 - 1917

Having jointly guaranteed in 1839 to support the neutrality of Belgium, when the country is invaded by Germany, Britain, France, and Russia are forced to declare war against imperial Germany and Austria at midnight on 4 August 1914 in what becomes known as the Great War or First World War.

Belgium refugees in 1914
Belgian refugees (looking surprisingly jolly) were photographed here in 1914, on the road between Malines and Brussels while they attempted to outrun the invading imperial German army

Ukrainians fight for both sides, with their population having been divided between Austrian-controlled lands and Russian-controlled lands. Austria's Ukrainian Legion is formed to fight the Russians, but it later forms an important part of Ukraine's own defence against both Bolsheviks and Poland.

Russia's February Revolution of 1917 begins with riots in Petrograd over food rations and the conduct of the war against Germany, and it ends with the creation of a Bolshevik Soviet republic following the October Revolution. Mismanaging their own administration of the country and badly handling the war effort, the Bolsheviks start to lose control of some of Russia's imperial dominions, and the former empire slides into civil war. Several Ukrainian republics emerge, with the Ukrainian People's Republic being internationally recognised.

Ukrainian People's Republic
Incorporating Ukrainian State & West Ukrainian People's Republic
AD 1917 - 1920

Starting out as a Slavic settlement which was quickly conquered by the Rus of Novgorod, the grand principality of Kyiv (Kiev is an older and now-invalid translation of the Slavic name), became a major Rus power until 1169, when the city was sacked and the seat officially moved northwards to Vladimir. After that Kyiv suffered from short-lived periods of governance until the Mongol advance changed the situation. Lithuania incorporated Kyiv into its domains around 1321, downgrading the principality in 1470 to the voivodeship of Kyiv as Lithuania itself became increasingly dominated by Poland. The Union of Lublin in 1569 was a formal joining together of Poland, Lithuania, and Ruthenia (including the now Polish-Lithuanian voivodeship of Kyiv), plus Livonia, Polotsk, and Samogitia.

The October Revolution of 1917, which replaced post-imperial Russia's unstable republican government, created a communist state. However, the Bolsheviks swept away the old administrative order in favour of regional 'soviets'. The new government, far from stable itself, also badly handled what remained of Soviet Russia's First World War effort, holding out for a beneficial peace agreement with Germany and being forced instead to accept the harsh terms of the Brest-Litovsk treaty.

As a result of that and far too many reforms in too short a period, Russia began losing control over many of its outlying states and provinces, including of course those which had been handed over to Germany under the terms of the treaty, such as Bessarabia, Byelorussia, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Russian Poland, and western Ukraine, plus Crimea, the industrial Donetz basin and, on 8 May 1918, the Don. It took the collapse of imperial Germany and three long years of civil war before the Russian empire could be reborn under Soviet control.

Socialist control of Ukraine had been instigated in March 1917, immediately after Russia's February Revolution. In reaction to the October Revolution, the Ukrainian People's Republic was declared on 20 November 1917 as part of a federal Russian republic (effectively the anti-communist side of the approaching civil war). A rival communist Ukrainian People's Republic of Soviets was established in Kharkiv in the east, in December 1917, two days after the city has been occupied by the Bolsheviks. The situation escalated when Kyiv declared Ukrainian independence from Moscow on 22 January 1918, and it only became more messy and complicated as further events unfolded. Successive republics are shown below in bold text.

(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 Encyclopedia Lituanica, Sužiedėlis Simas (Ed, Boston, 1970-1978), from Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Europa Publications (Eds, Taylor & Francis Group, 1999), from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), 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).)

1917 - 1918

The socialist Ukrainian People's Republic lasts between its formation in March 1917 and April 1918. Then the socialist authority which is wielded by this republican government is suspended. The government is overthrown by a pro-German 'Ukrainian State', commanded by Pavlo Skoropadskyi following his election as hetman by a peasant's congress.

Symon Petliura with Ukrainian troops in May 1920
A later dominant leader of the directorate of the Ukrainian People's Republic, Symon Petliura stands with Ukrainian troops in Kyiv in May 1920, prior to the Ukrainian-Polish 'Kyiv Offensive' which would ultimately fail

He is a descendant of Ivan Skoropadskyi, a hetman of the Cossack Hetmanate, with Pavlo's own 'election' being very much in the same style as those former elections to leadership. However, his position is not a universally-mandated one, but is imposed.

1918

Pavlo Skoropadskyi

'Hetman of Ukraine'. Descendant of Ivan Skoropadskyi.

1918

On 1 November 1918 the West Ukrainian People's Republic is declared in eastern areas of the former satellite kingdom of Galicia & Lodomeria. Its ruler is the dictator (his official title from July 1919), Yevhen Petrushevych, who sets about attempting to form a Galician Ukrainian state.

In touch with the provisional Czechoslovakian government, a Czech Legion of 40,000 Czech former prisoners of war in Ukraine organises itself to evacuate to France via Vladivostok, where it is hoped it will join the allied forces on the Western Front. Although the force initially maintains neutrality between the Bolsheviks (from Kharkiv in the case of Ukraine) and the White Russians (generally - but not universally - allies of Kyiv) in the civil war, attempts by the Bolsheviks to disarm them leads to the Czech Legion taking command of the entire Trans-Siberian railway and cutting off Siberia and the Urals from Soviet control.

Prague in October 1918
October 1918 was a month of turmoil and rapid change in the collapsing empire of Austria-Hungary, with this photo of Prague capturing a mass rally in support of Czech independence

This allows White Russian forces to assemble under Admiral Kolchak and to pose a severe threat to Moscow's authority (in the end, the Czech Legion is extracted by a joint American-Japanese bridgehead established at Vladivostok in 1920).

1918 - 1919

Yevhen Petrushevych

Dictator in eastern Galicia. Unified with socialist Ukraine.

1918

Skoropadskyi's rule lasts until later in November 1918 and the First World War armistice in Europe, although in that time he has largely rid Ukraine of communist forces. Then a month-long Ukrainian civil war sees a socialist rebellion replacing his now-unbacked government with the re-established Ukrainian People's Republic.

1919 - 1920

The West Ukrainian People's Republic under its dictator, Yevhen Petrushevych, joins the directorate of the people's republic as part of the terms of a resolution following the unification of the two Ukrainian states on 22 January 1919.

At the same time, the Russo-Polish War is ignited between Poland and Ukraine on one side and the Soviets on the other over the creation of the Second Polish Republic and the somewhat uncertain borders on its eastern flank. Polish leader Józef Piłsudski considers this the best opportunity to restore Poland to its former greatness, and he leads his troops into both Vilnius (part of the fairly brief Polish-Lithuanian War) and Kyiv, occupying western Ukraine.

The Ukrainian side of the conflict is also known as the Russo-Ukrainian War (or Soviet-Ukrainian War in attempts to remove 'Russia' from any Soviet-related activities), Kyiv falls to the Bolsheviks in February 1919 while Ukraine is also being pushed in from the west by the Poles. The troops of the former West Ukrainian People's Republic join the republic's own forces in June 1919, having already lost Galicia.

Russo-Polish War
Polish Renault FT-17 tanks during Operation Winter, Poland's joint operation with the republic of Latvia and Ukrainian forces during autumn 1919

Red Guard forces are largely pushed out of Ukraine in the summer and autumn by White Guard forces. Then disease breaks out and frequent Red Guard counter-attacks mean that Kyiv cannot be recaptured and held by the directorate. Instead it is pushed far back during a counter-offensive. Latvia is drawn into the conflict in September 1919 when it takes part with Poland in Operation Winter, which results in a joint victory at Daugavpils (Dyneburg) in Latvia on 15 January 1920.

1920 - 1921

The short-lived Galitzian Socialist Soviet Republic is declared at Ternopol in eastern Galicia, and the Polish-Lithuanian War is briefly fought over control of Vilnius. With Poland the victor, the equally short-lived 'Republic of Central Lithuania' is formed (later to be transformed into a Polish voivodeship).

Ukraine's directorate forces are pushed entirely out of Ukraine during the spring of 1920 and into extended Polish territory. Now largely united with Poland, both forces again advance. A ceasefire is agreed with the Soviets in October 1920 and Vilnius is regained (to be held until 1939).

The Peace of Riga is signed on 18 March 1921, which formally divides disputed territory between the Soviets and Poles, with the area which forms modern Belarus effectively split in half. Galicia remains within the new Poland (modern western Ukraine), and the easternmost parts of Lithuania also remain part of Poland. Western Ukraine is divided between Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, while eastern Ukraine is drawn into the Soviet-controlled Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Kyiv, Ukraine, in 1920
Kyiv was all-too-briefly liberated from the Soviet forces in late spring 1920, but a Red Army counter-offensive thrust out the socialist forces and retained a large area of Ukraine under Soviet control

1922 - 1924

The victorious Bolsheviks form the Soviet Union with the unification of the former empire's various new republics into the Russian socialist republic. The other founder members are the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (eastern Ukraine), and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Lenin is confirmed as the union's leader, but his death in 1924 leaves a troika (triumvirate) collective leadership in place. The central committee's general secretary, Joseph Stalin, quickly suppresses his opposition which is headed by Leon Trotsky, sometimes violently. He assumes leadership of the union, still as general secretary (although he assumes the dual role of Soviet premier from 1941).

Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic
AD 1922 - 1991

The grand principality of Kyiv (Kiev is an older and now-invalid translation of the Slavic name), became a major Rus power in the ninth century, lasting until 1169, when Vladimir gained ascendancy. A century later the arrival of the Mongols changed things, with western Rus lands, including Kyiv, largely falling to Lithuania (around 1321). The principality was downgraded in 1470 to the voivodeship of Kyiv as Lithuania itself became increasingly dominated by Poland. The Union of Lublin in 1569 was a formal joining together of Poland, Lithuania, and Ruthenia (including the now Polish-Lithuanian voivodeship of Kyiv).

The fall of Poland-Lithuania at the end of the eighteenth century saw Romanov Russia gain control of the majority of Ukraine, but the October Revolution of 1917 created a communist state. However, Bolshevik changes were too heavy-handed and sudden. The new government, far from stable itself, also badly handled what remained of Russia's First World War effort. As a result it began losing control over many of its outlying states and provinces. It took the collapse of imperial Germany and three long years of civil war before the Russian empire could be reborn under Soviet control.

Socialist control of Ukraine had been instigated in March 1917, immediately after Russia's February Revolution. In reaction to the October Revolution, the Ukrainian People's Republic was declared on 20 November 1917. A rival communist Ukrainian People's Republic of Soviets was established in Kharkiv in the east, but this was quickly expelled from the country. The situation escalated when Kyiv declared Ukrainian independence from Moscow on 22 January 1918. The civil war lasted until 1920 from Ukraine's standpoint, by which time all but the westernmost portions of the country were under confirmed Russian control.

Soviet Ukraine was organised into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. In this form it was one of the founder members of the Soviet Union, albeit as a puppet state. The capital initially was Kharkiv, but in 1934 this was changed to Kyiv. Ruling leaders of the Soviet Union are shown in light grey.

(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 Encyclopedia Lituanica, Sužiedėlis Simas (Ed, Boston, 1970-1978), from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), 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).)

1918 - 1924

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov / Lenin

Bolshevik & Soviet leader. Confirmed 1922. Died.

1922

The victorious Bolsheviks form the Soviet Union with the unification of the former empire's various new republics with the Russian republic. The other three signatories are the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Lenin and the October Revolution
Vladimir Lenin was the figurehead of the October Revolution and also its key instigator and controller, but the revolution plunged Russia into three years of bitter civil war

1924 - 1953

Joseph Stalin

Soviet leader (in the role of general secretary). Died.

1927

With western Byelorussia and Ukraine still within the Second Polish Republic, an early phase of liberalisation is turning towards repression and Polish nationalism, while the very same process is also taking place in Germany, albeit with more dramatic results.

Belarussians and Ukrainians have generally been refused the right of undertaking any free national development. A Belarusian organisation by the name of the Belarusian Peasants' and Workers' Union is now banned, and opposition to the Polish government is met by state repression, more so in Ukraine which is much more politically active than Byelorussia.

In Soviet Ukraine, a process of Ukrainisation is underway, with ethnic Ukrainians being placed in leading positions and the Ukrainian language being pushed to the fore. This progression lasts until 1932 and the great famine of Joseph Stalin's dictatorship.

1932 - 1933

Less than a decade of Stalin's economic changes, plus the imprisonment of millions of people in correctional labour camps and a brutal reorganisation of agricultural practices, results in a catastrophic famine throughout the Soviet empire. The 'breadbasket of Europe', Ukraine, is especially badly hit, with the famine being known as the Holodomor, 'extermination by hunger'. Other Soviet states also suffer, such as Armenia, but perhaps not quite as badly.

Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin, who was born in Georgia, led the Soviet Union away from its initial idealistic concept of equal citizenship for all and instead instituted a brutal regime of fear

1939 - 1940

The Nazi German invasion of Poland on 1 September is the trigger for the Second World War. With both France and Britain pledged to support Poland, both countries have no option but to declare war on 3 September, although nothing can be done to alleviate Poland's suffering at the hands of the invaders. As part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviets invade Poland from the east on 17 September, and they annexe western Ukraine and west Byelorussia on 28 September.

On 6 October the last Polish troops surrender, but thousands of Poles, both military and civilian, escape the country to form Polish units with the allied powers, including Polish Navy vessels which serve in the Atlantic and fighter pilots who help defend Britain during the Battle of Britain. The German-occupied zone of Poland, which includes Danzig, Pozen, Silesia, and West Prussia, is partly annexed to Germany. Six days later, the remaining sections of Poland are formed into the 'General Government for the Occupied Polish Territories' which, on 31 July 1940, is re-titled the 'General Government'.

1940

Russia seizes Bessarabia, between the rivers Dniester and Prut, before Rumania can become an active ally of Nazi Germany. The seizure is made under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The industrialised territory to the east of the Dniester, generally known as Trans-Dniester or the Dniester region, is taken from Ukraine and combined with Bessarabia to form the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.

1941

Germany takes over the Soviet-occupied areas on 21 June 1941. These are divided between the General Government and the Reichskommissariat Ostland and Ukraine. On 1 August, Eastern Galicia is added to the General Government.

Berlin 1945
Poet Yevgeny Dolmatovski recites his works on Berlin's Pariser Platz just a few days after the German surrender - a remarkable poetry recital with the bullet-riddled Brandenburg Gate flanked by ruins and two tank barrels hovering above the heads of soldiers

1945

With the troops of Soviet Russia now thick on the ground in Eastern Europe, Stalin organises the formation of pro-communist governments in many of the region's states. Czechoslovakia's brief 'Third Republic' is quickly snuffed out and a communist republic replaces it. The former Czechoslovakian region of Sub-Carpathian Rus joins the Ukrainian SSR and never returns to Czechoslovakian rule.

1953 - 1964

Nikita Kruschev

Soviet leader (as first secretary & premier). Died 1971.

1954

Crimea, until now an autonomous republic, is attached to Ukraine, a gift by the new post-Stalin controllers of the Soviet empire. The peninsula had largely been independent territory under the Crimean khanate while technically being subject to Ottoman control. Under Russian and Soviet control between 1783 and 1954 it had been shuttled between no less than fourteen administrative bodies, including the Ukrainian People's Republic.

1964 - 1982

Leonid Brezhnev

Soviet leader (as general secretary). Died in office.

1982 - 1984

Yuri Andropov

Soviet leader (as general secretary). Died in office.

1984 - 1985

Konstantin Chernenko

Soviet leader (as general secretary). Died in office.

1985 - 1991

Mikhail Gorbachev

Soviet leader (as general secretary and president).

1986

On 26 April 1986 the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine suffers a catastrophic meltdown. The disaster immediately rings alarm bells around the world but the Soviet government attempts to invoke a cover-up. About eight per cent of Ukraine's territory is contaminated by the resultant radiation cloud, while the majority of the fallout takes place over neighbouring Byelorussia. Millions suffer as a result, not least those closest to the explosion who are quickly and painfully killed by radiation-induced illnesses.

Chernobyl, a few weeks after the meltdown
The greatest nuclear-related disaster of the twentieth century aside from the twin detonations at Nagasaki and Hiroshima was the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine which sent out a great cloud of radiation across areas of central and Eastern Europe

1991

On Christmas Day the USSR's President Gorbachev announces the termination of the Soviet communist state. The Soviet republics become independent sovereign states (if they had not already become so since 1989), including Belarus, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, North Ossetia, Poland, Romania, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

Many of those lying further east (outside of Europe) elect to join the new Confederation of Independent States - still strongly controlled from Moscow. Cuba, a staunch Soviet ally, suffers badly from the fall of its only supplier of oil and many major foodstuffs. Ukraine is reborn as an independent democratic republic, albeit retaining its communist-era constitution until 1996.

Modern Ukraine
AD 1991 - Present Day

Today Ukraine is a unitary republic governed under a semi-presidential system which is moving increasingly towards strengthening ties with the rest of Europe outside Russia. Its capital is the former Rus capital of Kyiv (the twentieth century translation of the Slavic name as 'Kiev' is now outdated). It is neighboured to the west by landlocked Moldova and by Romania both via its Black Sea corridor and in western Ukraine, where it also borders Hungary and Slovakia. To the north-west it borders Poland, and to the north Belarus and Russia, with the latter also surrounding it to the east.

The city of Kyiv was already an important settlement in the ninth century AD. According to the Russian Primary Chronicle, two boyars by the name of Askold and Dir sailed down the Dnieper from Novgorod. With a force of Vikings behind them, they took control of a settlement on a hill and freed the locals from Khazar dominance. In 882, Oleg, the new ruler of Novgorod, embarked on a campaign which saw him capture the early settlements of Smolensk and Lyubech. Upon reaching Kyiv he slew the upstart boyars who thought they could found their own state, and declared Kyiv to be the mother of the cities of the Rus. He subsequently ruled there as the chief amongst the Rus princes, beginning a line of grand prices who would dominate Rus affairs for over two and-a-half centuries.

Referring to the modern state as 'The Ukraine' is incorrect both grammatically and politically, as confirmed by Oksana Kyzyma of the embassy of Ukraine in London: 'Ukraine is both the conventional short and long name of the country. This name is stated in the Ukrainian "Declaration of Independence" and its constitution.' The use of the article relates to the time before independence in 1991, when Ukraine was a republic of the Soviet Union, known as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Since the expiration of the Soviet system it should be merely Ukraine, especially as there is no definite article in the Ukrainian or Russian languages.

There is another theory about why 'The Ukraine' crept into the English language. Professor Anatoly Liberman of the University of Minnesota who specialises in etymology is of the opinion that those who called it that in English must have known that the word meant 'borderland', so quite naturally they referred to it as 'the borderland'. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukrainians probably decided that the article denigrated their country (by identifying it as part of Russia) and abolished 'the' while speaking English, so now it is simply Ukraine. As well as being a form of linguistic independence in Europe, it is also hugely symbolic for Ukrainians.

As Europe's second largest country, Ukraine is a land of wide, fertile agricultural plains, with large pockets of heavy industry in the east. While Ukraine and Russia share common historical origins, the west of the country has closer ties with its European neighbours, particularly Poland thanks especially to the Commonwealth period. An illustration of the shared heritage of this region is Galicia, which today is split between south-eastern Poland and western Ukraine into the provinces of Westgalizien and Ostgalizien respectively, with the Pripet marshes immediately to the east (now in Belarus).

Eastern Ukraine became heavily industrialised in the twentieth century and contains a significant population of ethnic Russians, especially in the easternmost regions of Luhansk and Donetsk where Russian is the dominant language. A wide swathe from Kharkiv to Odessa speaks both languages while the north and west of Ukraine is largely ethnically Ukrainian. Ukraine's southernmost region is Crimea, which has a sixty per cent Russian population.

Steppe plains of Ukraine

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Report for Selected Countries and Subjects, World Economic Outlook Database, October 2014, and the UN Data Country Profile, and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and Christianity faces biggest schism in a millennium (The Week), and Ukraine announces independent Orthodox church (The Guardian), and Eastern Ukraine on peacekeeping duties (The Guardian), and How DO you pronounce Kyiv, anyway? (University of Kansas News Service on YouTube).)

1991 - 2004

Following independence from the former Soviet empire on 24 August 1991, the new country's first president is former Communist Party official, Leonid Kravchuk. He presides over the rapid economic decline and runaway inflation which is affecting most of the former Soviet states. His successor, Leonid Kuchma, oversees a steady economic recovery, but is accused by the opposition of conceding too much to Russian economic interests.

Opposition grows, further fed by discontent at controls on media freedom, manipulation of the political system, and cronyism. The attempt by the authorities to rig the 2004 presidential elections leads to the 'Orange Revolution', with reference to the colour of the main opposition movement.

2004 - 2008

Mass protests, a revolt by state media against government controls, and the fracturing of the governing coalition brings in European Union mediation and a re-run of the election. The euphoria of the Orange Revolution protesters gives way to disappointment as its leaders squabble once in power.

Orange Revolution
The Orange Revolution was an almost nationwide upsurge of anti-corruption feeling which delivered Ukraine its first truly free and fair democratic elections

A fragile alliance of anti-Kuchma forces unites behind the winner of the presidential elections, pro-western former prime minister, Viktor Yushchenko. He succeeds in carrying out some democratic reform, but moves towards Nato and EU membership are slowed by divided public opinion in Ukraine and western reluctance to antagonise a resurgent Russia. Rivalry with his prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, sours into open antagonism, and neither prove able to cope with the worldwide economic downturn after 2008. Their opponent in the Orange Revolution, Viktor Yanukovych, wins the 2010 presidential election.

2008 - 2013

Viktor Yanukovych swiftly re-orientates foreign and trade policy towards Russia and clamps down on media freedom. He also has various opponents, most prominently former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, imprisoned following trials which are seen by many as being politically-motivated. Ukraine depends upon Russia for its gas supplies and forms an important part of the pipeline transit route for Russian gas exports to Europe.

Moves to reach an association agreement with the EU - seen as a key step towards eventual EU membership - again fuels tensions with Russia. The government's decision to drop the agreement brings tens of thousands of protesters out onto the streets in November 2013.

2013 - 2014

The mass protests in Kyiv eventually force the collapse and flight of the Yanukovych government after four months of violent chaos. Moscow reacts to Ukraine's domestic turmoil by sending troops to annexe the former Soviet territory of Crimea while stoking separatist sentiment in eastern Ukraine. With the election of the pro-western Petro Poroshenko as president of Ukraine in May 2014 and parliamentary elections in October which consolidate the grip on power by the president's political allies, Kyiv is now firmly western-leaning.

Ukrainian separatists
The separatists in eastern Ukraine were carrying weapons, using equipment, and even had troops which were supplied directly from Russia, although Russia continued to deny any involvement

The pro-Russian separatist eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk form their own republican governments and, with military aid from Russia, manage to hold onto a core territory in the face of Ukrainian attempts to end the rebellion. A ceasefire deal is signed in September 2014, leaving the situation unresolved and likely to harden into a de facto separation given time. Some fighting continues, although not on the scale seen previously.

On 23 December 2014, Ukraine's parliament takes a big step towards joining Nato by voting to revoke the non-aligned status which, effectively, had been forced upon it by Russian pressure in 2010. The vote is passed easily, by 303 votes to eight.

2018 - 2019

Ukraine secures approval from the global head of Orthodox Christianity in Istanbul (Constantinople) to create its own Orthodox Church structure which is independent of Russia's patriarchate for the first time since 1686.

The change is politically driven, and is largely due to Russia's occupation of Crimea, its invasion by proxy of eastern Ukraine, and many years of bullying and interfering in Ukrainian affairs, and it sparks the expected negative reaction in Moscow. The division of Russian and Ukrainian churches is made official by Istanbul in January 2019, just in time for the Orthodox Christmas celebrations.

Ukraine's Orthodox church splits with Moscow in 2018
Ukrainians gathered in Kyiv in 2018 in a show of support for the decision to detach the country's Orthodox church establishment from Moscow's increasingly belligerent control

2022

On Monday 22 February, after months of increasing pressure from his side, President Putin takes the politically manipulative step of formally recognising as independent states the Russian-created breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. They are now - according to Moscow - to be known as the Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics.

Almost immediately afterwards, Putin orders Russian troops which had been massing along Ukraine's borders (and even its Belarussian border) to enter Ukraine on a 'peacekeeping' mission. Initial thoughts are that Luhansk and Donetsk are to be secured so that they can later be 'allowed' to apply to join the Russian federation. The invasion, though, comes from all along the Russian border, including occupied Crimea, and targets several cities, including Kyiv.

The scale of Ukrainian resistance surprises and delays the Russian forces, while Belarus is also included in the unprecedented international backlash against an increasingly isolated Russia. Realising that a swift victory has become impossible but refusing to back down, Putin directs his forces to undertake a slow and brutal siege-warfare approach which devastates Ukrainian cities. By then Ukraine's popular President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, former actor and comedian, has long since won the hearts and support of much of the rest of the world.

A Russian tank burns in Ukraine in 2022
Despite outnumbering the more lighty-armed Ukrainian forces by at least three-to-one, Russian forces continued to suffer far heavier casualties, with tank losses surprisingly high as Ukrainian units undertook ambushes against them