Mission of the INFO.FAN
Головна » Yaroslav the Wise » Domestic policy » Internecine war 1015-1019
13 мин
Scheme - the second strife in Old Rus
Scheme – the second strife in Old Rus

Reasons and background

There are several main reasons that pushed Vladimir the Great’s heirs to engage in internecine warfare:

  • Polygamy of Prince Vladimir – many of his sons were born to different women, which increased their hostility towards each other. (Svyatopolk was born to a concubine who was the former wife of Yaropolk, whom Vladimir had ordered to kill.)
  • Svyatopolk’s Polish connections – some researchers suggest that Prince Svyatopolk fell under the influence of his wife, the daughter of the Polish prince Boleslaw, and her spiritual advisor Reichenbern. The young prince was promised help from Poland if he agreed to turn Kievan Rus away from Christianity towards Catholicism.
  • The general trend for large feudal states to disintegrate into personal principalities led by the recently deceased supreme ruler’s (prince, king, emperor) children, with subsequent power struggles among them.

The murder of princes Boris, Gleb, and Svyatoslav

After the death of Prince Vladimir on July 15, 1015,, vyatopolk, with the help of loyal Vyshhorod boyars, established himself in Kiev and declared himself the new Kiev prince. Boris, who led the princely retinue, despite the pleas of his comrades, refused to confront his brother. The father’s warriors left him, and he remained with his closest men.

According to the official history, Svyatopolk informed Boris of his father’s death and offered to live in peace with him while simultaneously sending hired assassins to kill his brother. On the night of July 30, Prince Boris was killed along with his servant, who attempted to defend him.

After that, hired assassins caught up with Prince Gleb near Smolensk, and the Drevlyan prince Svyatoslav, who tried to flee to the Carpathians with his seven sons, perished in battle against a large detachment sent to pursue him.

Svyatopolk Vladimirovich "The Cursed" (Art. V. Sheremetiev. 1867)
Svyatopolk “The Cursed”
(Art. V. Sheremetiev. 1867)

Svyatoslav’s death and the struggle for power between Vladimir Svyatoslavich’s sons deprived the Carpathian Croats of their last ally, and the valleys of Borzhava and Latoritsa were annexed by the Hungarians.
Gleb Vladimirovich - a fragment of the icon
Gleb Vladimirovich – a fragment of the icon

More info

Boris Vladimirovich - a fragment of the icon
Boris Vladimirovich – a fragment of the icon

More info

The official version of Svyatopolk’s guilt in fratricide was later disputed based on surviving and translated Norwegian sagas (about Eymund). Considering the fact that according to the chronicles, Yaroslav, Briachislav, and Mstislav refused to recognize Svyatopolk as the legitimate prince in Kiev, and only two brothers – Boris and Gleb – declared their loyalty to the new Kiev prince and pledged to “respect him as their own father,” it would be very strange for Svyatopolk to kill his allies. However, Yaroslav, whose descendants had the opportunity to influence the writing of chronicles, was very interested in eliminating competitors on the way to the Kiev throne.

The struggle between Yaroslav and Svyatopolk for the Kiev throne

1016 – battle of Lyubech

In 1016 Yaroslav led a 3,000-strong Novgorod army and hired Varangian squads against Svyatopolk, who called for the help of the Pechenegs. The two armies met on the Dnieper near Lyubech, and for three months, until late autumn, neither side risked crossing the river. Eventually, the Novgorodians did so and won the battle, as the Pechenegs were cut off from Svyatopolk’s forces by a lake and could not come to his aid.

The battle between the brothers Yaroslav and Svyatopolk near Lyubech (1016). Radziwill Litopis.
The battle between the brothers Yaroslav and Svyatopolk near Lyubech (1016). Radziwill Litopis.
Battle of Lyubech (1016). Pechenegs, cut off by the lake from the allies. Radziwill Chronicle.
Battle of Lyubech (1016). Pechenegs, cut off by the lake from the allies. Radziwill Chronicle.

1017 – siege of Kyiv

In the following year of 1017 (6525), at the instigation of either Svyatopolk or Boleslav (historians’ opinions differ, in chronicles his name is “Buricleif”), the Pechenegs launched an attack on Kiev. The Pechenegs attacked with significant force, while Yaroslav could only rely on remnants of the Varangian squad led by konung Eymund, Novgorodians, and a small Kiev detachment. According to Scandinavian sagas, Yaroslav was wounded in the leg during this battle. The Pechenegs managed to break into the city, but a powerful counter-attack by the elite squad, after a heavy and bloody battle, turned the Pechenegs to flee. In addition, large “wolf pits” dug and camouflaged on Yaroslav’s orders played a positive role in defending Kiev’s walls. The besieged Kievans made a sally, and during the pursuit, they captured Buricleif’s banner.

1018 – Battle on the Bug River
Svyatopolk and Boleslav the Brave capture Kyiv

In 1018, Svyatopolk, who was married to the daughter of the Polish king Boleslaw the Brave, gained the support of his father-in-law and once again assembled troops to battle Yaroslav. Boleslaw’s army, in addition to Poles, included 300 Germans, 500 Hungarians, and 1,000 Pechenegs. Yaroslav, on the other hand, gathered his forces and marched towards them. As a result of the battle on the Western Bug River, the army of the Kiev prince was defeated. Yaroslav fled to Novgorod, and the road to Kiev was open.

On August 14, 1018, Boleslaw and Svyatopolk entered Kiev. The circumstances of Boleslaw’s return from the campaign are unclear. The Tale of Bygone Years speaks of the expulsion of the Poles as a result of an uprising by the people of Kiev, but Thietmar of Merseburg and Gallus Anonymous write the following:

Boleslav the Brave and Svyatopolk at the Golden Gates of Kyiv
Boleslav the Brave and Svyatopolk at the Golden Gates of Kyiv

“Boleslaw put one of his Russian relatives in Kiev in his place and himself, with the remaining treasures, began to gather in Poland.”

Boleslaw received Cherven’s Cities as a reward for his help (an important trading hub on the way from Poland to Kiev), the Kiev treasury, and many captives, as well as, according to the Chronicle of Thietmar of Merseburg, Predslava Vladimirovna, Yaroslav’s sister, whom he took as a concubine.

Meanwhile, Yaroslav prepared to flee “over the sea.” But the Novgorodians chopped up his boats and persuaded the prince to continue his struggle against Svyatopolk. They raised money, made a new treaty with the Varangians of the Konung Eymund, and armed themselves.

Battle on the Alta River

Battle of Alta (1019). Radziwill Chronicle.
Battle of Alta (1019). Radziwill Chronicle.

In the spring of 1019, Svyatopolk fought a decisive battle with Yaroslav on the Alta River. The chronicles do not provide the exact location and details of the battle. It is only known that the battle lasted all day and was extremely fierce. Svyatopolk fled through Berestye and Poland to Czechia. On the way, suffering from illness, he died.

«Svyatopolk arrived with the Pechenegs in great force, and Yaroslav gathered a multitude of warriors and went out against him to the Alta River. They went towards each other, and the field of the Alta River was covered with a multitude of warriors. … And at sunrise, both sides clashed, and there was a fierce battle, such as had never been on the Rus’. They grasped each other by the hands and fought three times, so that blood flowed through the lowlands. By evening, Yaroslav put on his coat and Svyatopolk fled.»

Yaroslav the Wise once again took Kiev, but his position was precarious, and the prince had yet to prove his own right to rule the capital of Kievan Rus.

Results and Outcomes

  • In 1019, Yaroslav the Wise occupied the Kiev throne.
  • The princes Boris, Gleb, and Svyatoslav were killed.
  • After his defeat, Svyatopolk fled and died somewhere between Czechia and Poland.
  • The Cherven cities came under the control of Poland.
  • Polish King Boleslav I captured many prisoners, treasury, and sisters of Yaroslav the Wise in Kiev.
  • The Polotsk and Tmutarakan principalities declared their independence from Kiev.
  • The events resulted in the overall devastation of the cities and territories involved.

Section “Yaroslav the Wise”

Rate this article - help the project
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Опубликовано: 25.02.2023
Изменено: 25.02.2023