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Short biography

Rogneda of Polotsk
Rogneda of Polotsk
Rogneda was the Polotsk princess, daughter of Prince Rogvolod. After the defeat of his father and the capture of Polotsk by the troops of Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavich, she was forcibly taken as his wife (she became the third wife after the “Czech” and the Greek Preface – the wife of the murdered Vladimir Yaropolk).

In the marriage of Rogneda and Vladimir, 6 children were born, including Izyaslav, the ancestor of the Izyaslavichi Polotsky dynasty, and Yaroslav the Wise, who won in the confrontation for the Kiev throne with other descendants of the Grand Duke Vladimir.

Conflict between Rogneda and Vladimir

Matchmakers of Vladimir Svyatoslavich at Rogvolod (left); Rogvolod talking with Rogneda (right). (Miniature of the Radziwill Chronicle, XV century)
Matchmakers of Vladimir Svyatoslavich at Rogvolod (left); Rogvolod talking with Rogneda (right).

(Miniature of the Radziwill Chronicle, XV century)

A few years after the death of Prince Svyatoslav Igorevich, a struggle broke out between his elder sons Yaropolk and Oleg, as a result of which Oleg died during the Kyiv capture of the city of Ovruch. When the news of this came to Novgorod, Dobrynya, to save his young nephew, fourteen-year-old prince Vladimir, fled with him overseas. But two years later, the mature Vladimir returned to Novgorod with the Varangian squad, drove out the commanders of Yaropolk from the city, announcing that he would fight for the great reign.

The Principality of Polotsk at that time was the center of the lands of the Slavic tribal union of the Krivichi, which blocked almost the entire ancient path “from the Vikings to the Greeks”, and therefore the Prince of Polotsk had serious incomes, was influential and powerful.

Unfortunately, for the beautiful princess, or in pursuance of her fate, both rival brothers-princes, sent matchmakers to Rogvolod Polotsky to ask for the hands of his only daughter.

Resentment of Vladimir

The Lavrentievsky Chronicle reports that Rogneda was declared the bride of Yaropolk Svyatoslavich, Grand Duke of Kyiv. The brother of Yaropolk Vladimir, former prince of Novgorod, received a humiliating refusal: the princess considered it unacceptable to marry the concubine’s son, whom Vladimir was.

Offended by her words “I don’t want to take off the boots from the son of a slave girl” , Vladimir with an army of Novgorodians, Varangians, Chuds and Krivichs came under the walls of Polotsk when Rogneda was about to be brought to Yaropolk. Rogvolod came out against him, but was defeated in battle and closed in the city. In the spring of 978, Polotsk was taken by storm.

Prince of Polotsk Rogvold and his daughter Rogneda (collection "Great and glorious people of the Belarusian land)
Prince of Polotsk Rogvold and his daughter Rogneda

In revenge for the insult, Prince Vladimir decided to humiliate and dishonor the family of Rogneda and, on the advice of his uncle and mentor Dobryni, raped Rogneda in front of her parents, after which Prince Rogvolod, his wife and sons were killed. At the same time, according to legend, Rogneda received the name of Gorislav.

Then Vladimir with the troops continued the campaign to Kyiv. By deceit, Vladimir lured Yaropolk out of the besieged city, and when his brother arrived for negotiations, two Varangians “raised him with their swords in his bosoms.” From this moment, Vladimir becomes the Grand Duke of Kyiv.

Vladimir the Great
Vladimir the Great

Murder at the behest of Vladimir of his brother Yaropolk (Radzivilov Chronicle)
Murder at the behest of Vladimir of his brother Yaropolk
(Radzivilov Chronicle)

According to the Tale of Bygone Years, the wife of Yaropolk was a Greek nun captured by his father Svyatoslav – she was pregnant at that time, and Prince Vladimir also made him his wife. Svyatopolk the Accursed, born by her, was recognized by Vladimir as a son, but he did not consider the Grand Duke to be his father.

Rogneda’s attempt on Vladimir

After the assertion of Vladimir on the throne of Kiev, Rogneda was settled near Kiev – on Lybed, where the village of Predslavino was formed (the name is associated with the name of the daughter of Rogneda – Predslava).

The Tale of Bygone Years conveys the way of life of Vladimir before baptism:

Vladimir was defeated by lust, and he had wives […], and he had 300 concubines in Vyshgorod, 300 in Belgorod and 200 in Berestov, in the village that is now called Berestovoye. And he was insatiable in fornication, bringing married women to himself and molesting girls.

Rogneda's assassination attempt on Vladimir, Izyaslav on the left. Miniature of the Radziwill Chronicle, XV century.
Rogneda’s assassination attempt on Vladimir, Izyaslav on the left. Miniature of the Radziwill Chronicle, XV century.

It is not surprising that according to the Rodziwill Chronicle, around 987, Rogneda decided to kill her husband. According to legend, Vladimir arrived once in the village of Lybedi, and at night, when he was sleeping, she wanted to kill him, but the prince woke up at the last moment and grabbed a hand with a knife brought over him.

According to the laws of that time, death was the punishment for the attempt on her husband – Vladimir ordered her to prepare for the execution, which he wanted to make with his own hands.

Rogneda's assassination attempt on Vladimir. B. A. Chorikov. 1836.
Rogneda’s assassination attempt on Vladimir. B. A. Chorikov. 1836.

Izyaslav protects for his mother

The enraged Vladimir ordered his wife to dress her best clothes and took up the sword, but their firstborn, Izyaslav, came running to the cry and defended his mother also with a sword in his hands. Vladimir could not kill Rogneda in front of his son: “… and he lowered his sword; and called the boyars, and told them everything ”.

Бояре посоветовали:

“Do not kill her for the sake of this child, but raise up the fatherland of her father, and give her with your son”.

Subsequently, the act of Izyaslav became the plot for paintings and poems, and a monument to the Princess of Polotsk and her son was created in Zaslavl.

Vladimir settled Rogneda and Izyaslav in their Polotsk land – a city in the upper reaches of the Svisloch River, named after the son of the defender Izyaslav. This predetermined the rule of Izyaslav in Polotsk and the formation of the Polotsk branch of the Rurikovich. The princes of this branch considered themselves Rogvolodovy grandchildren – on the female side, and by inheritance from Rogvolod.

The fate of Rogneda

In 989, Vladimir, having adopted Christianity, was married in Korsun with the Byzantine princess Anna. On the way back to Kiev, he sent to tell his first wife Rogneda:

“Now, having been baptized, I must have one wife with whom I entered into a Christian marriage; you choose your husband from my boyars whom you wish. ”

The answer of Rogneda, which she ordered to convey to Vladimir, was included in the annals:

“I am the natural princess, she was, and I will remain … And if you have received holy baptism, then I can be the bride of Christ.”

Vladimir and Rogneda. A. P. Losenko. 1770. Oil.
Vladimir and Rogneda. A. P. Losenko. 1770. Oil.

Vladimir and Rogneda. (thin. N.I. Dudchenko, 2002)
Vladimir and Rogneda. (thin. N.I. Dudchenko, 2002) Disclosure of the theme of the baptism of Russia. Rogneda, this is the past, the spiritual. Anna is the future. The magus pauses the movement, giving time to Vladimir to make the most correct decision.

Rogneda was tonsured a nun by the name of Anastasia. According to the relatively late Tver Chronicle, this decision supposedly so impressed Yaroslav, who was present during the conversation, that he was cured of paralysis, only lameness remained. The sad fate of the mother, of course, left an imprint on Yaroslav – he, unlike Vladimir’s father, was not inclined to polygamy and condemned the extradition of girls without their consent. So, in the articles of the Charter of Prince Yaroslav Vladimirovich, punishment was imposed on parents who did not reckon with the free will of the bride in matters of marriage, not only in those dramatic situations where girls committed suicide because of involuntary marriage, but also in those cases “if a girl wants for a husband, but father and mother will not let her”.

Rogneda Rogvolodovna probably died in the city of Izyaslavl around the year 1000. The place of her burial is unknown. In 1866, a crypt with rich decoration was found near the village of Chernitsa. A.M.Sementovsky suggested that this is the burial place of Rogneda.
Prince Gleb Minsky Coin of Belarus
Prince Gleb Minsky
Coin of Belarus

Children of Rogneda and Vladimir

Izyaslav I Vladimirovich – the eldest son of Vladimir the Baptist and Rogneda became the ancestor of the dynasty of princes of Polotsk.

Yaroslav the Wise

Vsevolod Vladimirovich – Rogneda’s third oldest son from Vladimir received Volyn’s inheritance with a center in Vladimir.

Predslava Vladimirovna – in the internecine struggle of the brothers Vladimirovich in 1015-1019 she acted on the side of brother Yaroslav the Wise.

Premislava Vladimirovna – information is practically not preserved.

Mstislava Vladimirovna -is mentioned among the three daughters of Vladimir taken as concubines by the King of Poland Boleslaw I the Brave in 1018.

Brothers and sisters
Yaroslav the Wise

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Опубликовано: 18.12.2019
Изменено: 12.08.2022