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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe



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 that 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 culture. 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 to 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 Kiev 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 followed in 1991 upon the collapse of that regime.

(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), and from The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, Jordanes.)

Steppe plains of Ukraine

Grand Principality of Kiev (Rus)
AD 882 - 1239

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 as Varangians, a term that seems to have been coined by the Byzantines. Led by Rurik, the Rus Vikings who soon ruled the Slavs (a specific, northern Slavic tribe at that time) from 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 Kvenland, being on the border with the northernmost edge of the territory that 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 it 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 would soon be subjects of these Rus.

The Eastern Polans tribe of West Slavs had already settled around Kiev. 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 Kiev, 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, Kiev 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 that was being used by the Vikings to reach the rich markets of Constantinople, and controlling Kiev 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 Kiev 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 Kiev 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 that 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 toward 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), 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.)

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 Kiev but without any firm foundation.

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


According to the Russian Primary Chronicle (RPC), with Rurik at Novgorod are that same Askold and Dir (possibly one and the same man if some modern name analyses are to be believed). They are not kin (meaning princes of the blood), but are instead boyars (high nobility). They obtain permission to go to Constantinople with their families, sailing down the Dnieper to reach the western Black Sea. Along the way they pass a settlement on a hill and are told by the locals that it had been founded by three brothers, Kiy, Shchek, and Khoriv. Since their deaths the inhabitants had been living as vassals of the Khazars. Askold and Dir remain in the city, gathering together a force of Vikings so that they can establish themselves as the new masters of Kiev 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 Kiev. Killed.

? - 882

Dir / Dayr

Co-ruler. Killed.


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 Kiev. 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) Kiev may remain a vassal of the Khazars.

882 - 912

Oleg 'the Seer' / Helgi

Took Kiev 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 Kiev 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 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 Kiev 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 - 955

St Olga / Helga / Yelena

Mother and regent. Accepted Orthodox Christianity. Died 969.


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

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 Kiev now controls the eastern bank of the River Don at its headwaters.


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.


The Pechenegs invade Rus territory for the first time, besieging Kiev 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.

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

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.

973 - 980

Yaropolk / Jaropalk I

Son of Svyatoslav I.


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.

FeatureIt 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 that 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'. Both 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).


References to Vnnd.r and N.nd.r. in 982 and 1094 respectively remark upon a Christian 'nation' of Rum that 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 Bulgars of the Volga 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 that settled here


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 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.


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 Kiev with the Byzantines and increase Kiev'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 are the formalisation of the Byzantine practice of using Varangians that goes back at least to 911.

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.


Volodymyr appoints his son Boris as his heir, apparently pushing aside his accepted heir, Yaroslav, who is governing the vassal state of Novgorod. Yaroslav refuses to pay tribute and only Volodymyr's death prevents a war. Yarolslav goes to war anyway to recover 'his' throne in Kiev, 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.


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 Kiev, 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 Kiev. 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 Kiev.


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.


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.


While Yaroslav is at Novgorod, Mstislav leads an army to the gates of Kiev from his base at Tmutarakhan. The inhabitants of Kiev 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. 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.


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.


While Yaroslav is in Novgorod to oversee the installation of his son, Vladimir, as prince there, the Pechenegs attack Kiev 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 Kiev 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.


With the death of Yaroslav, the last vestiges of more intimate relations between the Rus and their original homeland in Scandinavia has been lost. His division of the succession weakens Kiev, effectively by creating rival principalities for each of his sons, although Kiev 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 Kiev 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 Kiev 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. Kiev naturally sides with Constantinople but is no longer welcome as a trading partner of Rome's adherents, hurting it badly.


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 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 Kiev, and retribution is not long in coming. Kiev's princes join forces and march on Polotsk's south-eastern city of Minsk, sacking it and defeating Vseslav at the Battle of the River Nemiga on 3 March 1067. Vseslav is subsequently imprisoned in Kiev.


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 Kiev. 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 Kiev that prevents any fresh attempts to control Polotsk.

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

1073 - 1076

Svyatoslav / Sviatoslav II

Brother. Usurped the principality. Died.


Svyatoslav and his brother, Vsevolod, unite against Izhaslav. The latter is forced to abandon Kiev, 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.

1076 - 1077


Brother and co-usurper in 1073.


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

1077 - 1078

Izhaslav / Izyaslav / Iziaslav I

Restored for a second time. Killed at Chernigov.


Vsevolod battles the Polovcians and their Rus allies, Boris (son of Vyacheslav) and Oleg, around Chernigov but is defeated. He falls back to Kiev 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


Restored following his brother's death.

1093 - 1113

Sviatopolk II

Son of Izhaslav.

1096 - 1097

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

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


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.


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 Kiev, this new-found unity does not survive Vladimir. The rival Rus principalities are now too strong and too independent to be contained.

1113 - 1125

Vladimir II Monomachus / Waldemar

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


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 that 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.

1125 - 1132

Mstislav I 'the Great'

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


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

FeatureKiev 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.


As Kiev has declined so Novgorod has been able to become increasingly independent in its own actions. 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'.


Viacheslav I

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

1139 - 1146

Vsevolod II

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


The slow collapse of the Kievan Rus has created a host of minor principalities across the territories formerly controlled by Kiev, and Halych proves to be one of the most important of these, along with Novgorod and Vladimir-Suzdal. In 1142, Volodymyrko Volodarovych (1104-1152), a descendant of Vladimir I of Kiev, 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.


Igor II

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

1146 - 1149

Izhaslav / Iziaslav II

Cousin, and son of Mstislav the Great. Driven out by Yuri.


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.

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)

In the same year Yuri Dolgorukiy, prince of Vladimir-Suzdal, meets Sviatoslav Olgovich, prince of Belgorod Kievsky, in the otherwise unknown Moskva (Moscow). At this time Moska is a minor town on the western border of Vladimir-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 Moska too. Sviatoslav is the exiled brother of Igor II of Kiev and a supporter of Yuri's attempt to seize Kiev.

1149 - 1150

Yuri I Dolgorukiy 'Long-Armed'

Son of Vladimir II. Driven out by Izhaslav.


Izhaslav / Iziaslav II

Restored with Viacheslav's support.


Viacheslav I

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

1150 - 1151

Yuri I Dolgorukiy 'Long-Armed'


1151 - 1154

Izhaslav / Iziaslav II

Restored for a second time. Died.

1150 - 1154

Viacheslav I

Restored alongside Izhaslav and again co-ruler. Died.


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


Rotislav I

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


1157 - 1159

Mstislav II

Son of Izhaslav II. Prince of Volynia.

1159 - 1161

Rotislav I



Izhaslav / Iziaslav III

Restored for a second time.

1161 - 1167

Rotislav I

Restored for a second time.


Another destructive conflict which revolves around Kiev 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. Removed by A Bogolyubskiy of Vladimir-Suzdal.


As the conclusion of the events of 1167, Kiev 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 Kiev is gifted with Gleb as its ruler, Andrey's younger brother. This ends Kiev's pre-eminence as the principle city of the Rus, and trade with the Greeks is also in decline, weakening its income.

1263 - 1323

Lithuanian expansion stalls until Gediminas comes to the throne, 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. By 1323, the Golden Horde Mongols begin to perceive the growing power of the Lithuanians as a direct threat to their hegemony over the Rus. As a result, the subservient Muscovites are soon granted extra powers to counter this threat.


Lithuania defeats the boyars of the Rus and occupies Kiev 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.


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.

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.


The union of Poland and Lithuania, the Lublin Union, already existing in fact if not name for over a century, is formalised. Sigismund II Augustus 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 Kiev to the south-east (despite Russian claims that the city belongs to them).


The first modern-era wave of Jewish migrations back to Palestine begins with an event known as the First Aliyah. The Jews are fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe, most notably in the territories of the Russian empire under Alexander III and his imposition of anti-liberalisation reforms. These may be partially the result of the Polish-Lithuanian January Uprising of 1863.

Russia operates an area known as the Pale of Settlement, largely territory to the west which has been acquired from the former Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. Today this forms Russia's western border region, and from 1791-1793 it has incorporated modern Belarus (eastern Poland at the time), eastern Latvia, Lithuania, the province of Bessarabia (modern Moldova), and western Ukraine. The Jewish population of the 'Pale' are restricted from moving eastwards into Russia proper and are now being discouraged from remaining in the western border regions of the empire.

1903 - 1914

The Second Aliyah to Palestine is triggered in 1903 by an anti-Jewish riot in the city of Kishinev (modern Chişinău), the capital of the province of Bessarabia (modern Moldova), part of the Russian empire. Something like 40,000 Jews settle in Palestine, although only half remain permanently. Many others, evicted from their settlements in the 'Pale' head towards western Poland or America (something that is dramatically highlighted, if with a touch of artistic licence, in the film musical, Fiddler on the Roof, 1971. which has its final scenes set in 1905).


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 with is much more politically active than is Byelorussia.

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


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.


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.


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.


On Christmas Day Communist USSR 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 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.

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. 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.

Referring to the modern state as 'The Ukraine' is incorrect both grammatically and politically, said 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 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.

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. 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.

(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).)

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 that 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 that 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, clamps down on media freedom, and has various opponents, most prominently Yulia Tymoshenko, imprisoned following trials that are seen by many as being politically-motivated. Ukraine depends on 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 Kiev 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 Russian 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 that consolidate the grip on power of the president's political allies, Kiev is now firmly Western-leaning.

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.

Ukrainian separatists
The separatists in eastern Ukraine carry weapons, use equipment, and even have troops that are supplied directly from Russia, although Russia continues to deny any involvement

On 23 December 2014, Ukraine's parliament takes a big step towards joining Nato by voting to revoke the non-aligned status that, 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, but it still sparks a 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.