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Thread: Полоцкая летопись - history of the Principality of Polotsk

  1. #1
    Chronicler of the Light Jedrek's Avatar
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    Полоцкая летопись - history of the descendants of jarl Rogvolod

    Welcome!

    Well... It seems CKII hooked me up better than any other Paradox game, save for HoI1 and EU2. So, naturally, I decided to try out writing an AAR. I think this may be a completely different experience than writing a DH or EU2 one, since I feel CK is much closer to Sims series (no offence ) than to other Paradox strategies. But well... We'll see how things settle out, won't we?

    As of technical issues - I'll try to combine several styles of wiritng. I personally dislike purely gameplay AARs, but on the other hand I realise storytelling is time consuming, both for the writer and the reader, so I'll try to balance the things out. I've chosen the Principality of Polotsk mostly because of my Belarusian history lecturer - a native Belarusian and patriot who was able to show me how much Polotsk differed from Kiev, despite both being usually considered parts of the medieval Rus.

    OK, so let's get started! All feedback will be greatly appreciated

    Полоцкая летопись
    Polotskaya letopis'



    Table of contents:

    Chapter I:
    Всеслав II Брячиславич, "Мудрый" (Vseslav II Briachislavich, "The Wise"), 1044 - 1102
    1.1: Polotsk among other Russian principalities
    1.2: The Monophysist heresy
    1.3: Правда Всеслава

    Chapter II:
    Роман Всеславич (Roman Vseslavich), 1102 - 1115

    Chapter III:
    Федот Романович, "Несчастливый" (Fedot Romanovich, "The Ill-Fated"), 1115-1118
    3.1: Fedot's rule
    3.2: The prince's death

    Chapter IV:
    Андрей Федотович (Andrei Fedotovich), 1118 - 1128

    Chapter V:
    Федот II Андреевич (Fedot II Andreevich) 1128 - 1155
    5.1: The regent
    5.2: The prince
    5.3: The tsar

    Chapter VI:
    Андреи Федотович, "Тихий" (Andrei Fedotovich, "the Silent"), 1155-1200
    6.1: The consolidation
    6.2: Отец севера
    6.3: The shadow behind the throne

    Chapter VII:
    Володар Алексеевич, "Смелый" (Volodar Alexeievich, "The Bold"), 1200-1225
    7.1: Царский веч
    7.2: The nobles' downfall
    7.3: The Mongols

    Chapter VIII:
    Алексей Володарович, "Великий" (Alexei Volodarovich, "the Great"), 1225-1276
    8.1: The Dark Days
    8.2: Turning the Tide
    8.3: Between Two Emperors

    Chapter IX:
    Litvian state and culture in the second half of the XIII century
    Last edited by Jedrek; 10-10-2012 at 16:26.

  2. #2
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    Chapter 0:
    Introduction


    The Medieval Rus was a collection of petty states, united only by a feeble felling of unity coming from a common ancestor - the legendary jarl Rurik. Through the first two centuries of statehood this seemed enough to keep the Kievan Rus a coherent and stable political force. This, however, ended in 1054 with the death of prince Yaroslav the Wise. His will divided the state between his sons, effectively ending the period of unity and stability.

    Things were different in Polotsk, however. Rulers of this domain derived their ancestry not from Rurik, but from another Scandinavian warlord, Rogvolod, who was believed to rule in Polotsk in the middle of the X century. Rogvolod was killed by Vladimir the Great in 978, and his only child - Rogneda - was taken by Vladimir as concubine. The conquered prinicipality has not been integrated into the unified Rus. Instead, Vladimir put his and Rogneda's son - Iziaslav - on the throne. Folllwing Vladimir's death in 1015, Iziaslav's son, Briachislav, proclaimed sovereignity, thus restoring his great-grandfather's state.

    Yaroslav's death meant that the last direct threat to Polotsk's sovereignity has vanished. But did it mean a period of peace and stability for the restored principality?

    Chapter I:
    Vseslav II Briachislavich "the Wise" (1044 - 1102)

    1.1: Polotsk among other Russian principalities



    Vseslav II was born as the only child of prince Briachislav. He was only 14 when he took the throne. Written accounts about his early life are very scarce, with the most commonly known piece coming from Nestor's Primary Chronicle:

    And in the same year [1044] died Briachislav, son of Iziaslav, grandson of Vladimir, father of Vseslav, and his son Vseslav sat on his throne, his mother bore him using sorcery. When his mother bore him, he had a язвено (yazveno) on his head, and his mother was told: "Put this язвено on him, let him carry it until death" And Vseslav carries it until today; that is why he does not care about bloodshed.

    This short note sparked several interesting assumptions. The most popular one was that Vseslav was in fact a sorcerer, using magic and dark arts to deal with political opponents. One popular legend even says that Vseslav was capable of transforming himself into a wolf and that in such form he roamed his lands, spreading fear and satisfying his bloodlust.

    Regardless of such rumors, one cannot deny the overally positive outcome of the first two decades of Vseslav's rule. Written documents indicate an intensive correspondence between the court at Polotsk and other grand centres of the Christian world - Constantinople, Kiev, Rome or Paris. Economically, control over the important waterway of Dvina made trade flourish, turning towns like Vitebsk and Dvinsk (Baltic Daugavpils) into major centres of commerce and artisancraft.


    The Polotskian branch of the Rurikovich dynasty


    Vseslav's five sons were married into several major European dynasties, furthering the political influence of the restored principality. In 1069, Vseslav's oldest son and heir, Gleb married Ingerid, the daughter of the Danish king Svend II - thus forging a short-lived, yet fruitful alliance against the Baltic pagans. Vseslav's other daughters-in-law came from Greek nobility - in 1071 Roman married Theophano Phokas, in 1076 Davyd married Sophia Komnena, in 1081 Sviatoslav married Anna Doukas and finally in 1082 Rogvolod married Beatrice of Chaldea. Thus, the Polotskian branch of the Rurikovich dynasty became tied with doukes of Charsianon, Armeniacon, Nicaea and Chaldea respectively. The reinforced ties with Constantinople were a mixed blessing, however; the brides brought with them respected scholars and theologians, who however in turn brought not only valuable tomes of wisdom and faith, but the seed of Monophysitist heresy as well.

    Politically speaking, Vseslav's rule can hardly be considered a peaceful one. Encouraged by Svend II's crusade against the Baltic pagans, prince Vseslav made an energetic dash towards Dvina's estuary. Between 1067 and 1080, four campaings against the Balts took place. The principality annexed the region between the Dvina estuary and the western coast of the Chud lake. The last campaign of 1080 brought the conquest of isles Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, effectively securing the Dvina-Baltic trade route. One should note, however, that the war against the pagans was by no means easy; during the very first campaign of 1067-1068 the Lithuanians, acting as allies to defending Latgalians, invaded Polotsk and attempted to lay siege upong the capital city. The Russian army, led by boyar Matvei, managed to intercept them en route, thus repelling the invasion. The fall of Latgalian strongholds later that year meant the end of the war, preventing the pagans' return.



    As of relations with the other Russian prinicpalities, Vseslav realised that anyone controlling Kiev and dominating the former domain of Yaroslav the Wise will soon become a direct threat to Polotsk as well. Thus, Vseslav intervened into Rurikovichs' internal struggles several times, always supporting the seemingly losing side. He was also active during wars against the nomadic Cumans, although his role was ambiguous, at best.

    In 1070, Kievan prince Iziaslav Yaroslavich asked for Vsevolod's help against Vsevolod Yaroslavich, the prince of Rostov, and his Yatvingian allies. The war ended in 1073, with both the Rostovians and Yatvingians defeated by the Kievo-Polotskian coalition. The decisive battle was the battle of Novogrudok in April 1071; the Polotskian forces, led by Vseslav himself and aided by the Pecheng mercenaries, managed to defeat the core of Yatvingian army, thus opening the way towards pagan strongholds south of Neman river.



    Peace was not long, however; when Iziaslav and Vseslav marched towards Tver and Rostov, the pagan Pechengs invaded Iziaslav's lands from the south. The nomads quickly advanced north, pillaging the belt of land from Torki to Turov, and crossed the Pripyat river, thus invading Vseslav's domain. In October 1073, the hastly mustered Polotskian forces attempted to stem the tide near the town of Borisov, but have been soundly defeated. Luckily for Vseslav, the nomads did not attempt to advance further north; instead they retuned to the southern bank of Pripyat, continuing their march across the steppe.



    The battle of Borisov marked an end to the first period of Polotskian activity in relations with the Yaroslaviche (descendents of Yaroslav the Wise).

    The second period began in 1082, when the war erupted between Iziaslav and the Sviatoslav Yaroslavich, prince of Ryazan and future tsar of Bulgaria. Vseslav once again pledged his support to Iziaslav. The war ended as fast as it began, though; within less than a month Iziaslav died, and his son Ingvar bargained a peace between his realm and Ryazan. This allowed Sviatoslav to concentrate on the eastern direction, furthering the conquest of Bulgaria. Ryazanian forces have not been stopped even by the seemingly overwhelming Cumans. Although the nomads managed to plunder several towns and even get as far as the city of Smolensk, they failed to break Sviatoslav's power.

    Four years after Iziaslav's death, Vseslav switched sides and attempted to intervene on behalf of a rebellious noble, boyar Alexandr of Korsun, who attempted to overthrow prince Ingvar. However, before Vseslav forces could have been mustered, Ingvar managed to capture Alexander and sieze Korsun, preventing Polotskian direct interference.

    A second chance to weaken the southern neighbour appeared in 1089, when princess Darya of Galich took up arms and declared independence from Ingvar's domain. Ingvar's forces, still spread thin after Alexandr's rebellion and yet another war with the Pechengs, had little chance of resisting a double assault; in 1091, Ingvar accepted Darya's terms, with Vseslav becoming a guarantor of peace.

    Sources indicate that Vseslav did not limit himself to warfare and open politics. Chronicler Prokop from Kiev Pechersk Lavra mentioned the following in the beginning of the XII century:

    Vseslav Briachislavich, a sorcerer and fearsome warrior, feared his enemies even in his sleep, even if they were far away. And since many enemies he had, his fear was great and sharp as a sword. Many venerable christians in Polotsk have seen dark fumes and flames spitting out of Vseslav's residence at night. And the fumes spread throughout Russia and killed his enemies. Thus died prince Iziaslav Yaroslavich in Kiev in 1082, and Mstislav Iziaslavich in Novgorod in 1085, and Sviatoslav Yaroslavich in 1101, the tsar of Bulgaria

    Putting accusations of sorcery aside, one cannot doubt that Vseslav might have employed some behind the scenes techniques to dispose of potential enemies and rivals. Izisalav's death is a well established fact - he died of natural reasons, peacefully in his sleep, with his sons accompanying him in his quarters. Mstislav and Sviatoslav's deaths seem far more suspicious, however. Especially Sviatoslav's case is worth noting; the newly crowned tsar of Bulgaria, conqueror of the so-called Kama Bulgars and perhaps the most renewed Rurikovich of his time, was captured by the Cumans during a campaign of 1099. He spent two years as Cuman prisoner and died during an attempted jailbreak, reportadely shot with a bow to his back. Potential Vseslav's involvement has never been proved, although, taking into account that Sviatoslav was succeded by underage Yemelian Sviatoslavich, such weakening of the Bulgarian state would indeed serve Vseslav's interests well.

    Finally, it should be noted that Vseslav was incapable of preventing two events that put Polotsk in an uneasy situation. First, the so-called Hungarian Norhtern Crusade of 1090-1092 resulted in Novgorod and Lithuania being integrated into the Arpads' kingdom. Second, a simultaneous campaign of prince Vladimir of Rostov against the Samoyed pagans and the following integrations of their vast territory greatly increased the principality's potential. By the end of XI century, he started styling himself "the tsar of Rus'". Thus, three large entities appeared north and east of Polotsk. But it was a threat the aging Vseslav could not fight with. He died in September 1102, aged 72 years old, after almost 60 years of reign.


    The political map of northeastern Europe in 1102, the year of Vseslav II's death
    Last edited by Jedrek; 12-07-2012 at 00:41.

  3. #3
    Kudos for using Russian.

  4. #4
    Captain Saber's Avatar
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    goodluck, is your goal unification of Rus, or are you settling for a smaller kingdom?
    "One man or a thousand foot, makes not difference to a knight"-French before Courtrai

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    @ Christes II -> Thanks I've been studying this language for over 4 years... It's high time I started using it publically

    @ Saber -> We'll see. Polotsk belongs de jure to the Kingdom of Lithuania, so I guess this crown is the easiest one to obtain. As of becoming the Empire of Russia... Well, we'll see. A Belarusian-orientated Russian state would be an interesting twist of history, indeed.
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    nice opening, very clear and well presented ... & its good to see another Rurikovich AAR
    Remember, whatever the question, the answer on 18 September is Yes ...

  7. #7
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    1.2 The Monophysist heresy

    Monophysism is a Christian heresy that belivies that Jesus Christ doesn't have two equal natures - a divine and human ones - but instead has a single, divine-human, nature, in which the divinity became superior to humanity. Rejected by the Chalcedonian Council of 451, this concept became an official heresy, leading to the first severe split within the Church. Among the Oriental Orthodox Churces (not to be confused with Eastern Orthodox Christianity, born in 1054), who rejected the council's decision are, for example, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church and The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

    The first large batch of Moniphysist heretics came to Polotsk in 1076 with princess Sofia Komnena, daughter of Isaakos, doux of Armeniacon. Initially the monophysist community was a small one - limited to a handful of Greek scholars and monks who accompanied Sofia in her journey north - but their activities soon expanded. The conquest of Latgalian lands and destruction of the pagan temples created a religious vaccum in the north - one that was quickly filled by the heretics.

    As of 1081, when Anna Doukas came to Polotsk as wife a to Sviatoslav Vseslavich, the monophysists owned temples in towns of Dvinsk and Vseslavl, as well as a mission on Saaremaa. Their influence stretched as far as Vseslav's residence in Polotsk - it is believed that Anna Doukas was the one responsible for conversion of Sviatoslav. Their two childer - Veleslava and Matvei - have also been baptised according to monophysist rite. Some sources also indicate that at that time the majority of Polotskian population at least sympathised with the heretics. At least one monophysist mass is known to take place in 1081 within the walls of St. Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk.


    St. Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk, state from around the XIV century

    This was however the peak of monophysist expansion during Vseslav II's reign. In 1079, a group of fanatical preachers managed to stir up several hundred citizens of Polotsk and direct them towards the small (below one hundred) group of Kievan soldiers, camping just outside the town walls. The force, supposed to take part in an expedition against the Baltic pagans, was literally massacred by the enraged mob. The preachers' motives are unclear - but the most probable explanation is that they feared that Kievans might be used by Vseslav to expel the heretics from Polotsk. Ironically, it was this very action that convinced Vseslav that the heretics are, in a long run, a negative force that should be wiped out.

    The official Orthodox Church was provided with additional fundings and soon monophysist temples in Dvinsk, Vseslavl and Yuriev became dwarfed by newly built orthodox churches. The centre of the so-called "Baltic mission" became the Holy Trinity Church (Russian Церковь Святой Троицы, Cerkov' Sviatoy Troitsy) in Dvinsk. In more distant lands, like on the coast of Chud lake or the island of Saaremaa, the Church supported the establishemnt of small monasteries, which have proven to be very effective in furthering the pagans' and heretics' conversion. As of the beginning of the XII century, the monophysists have once again became a small and insignificant group in the principality, with the sole exception of the islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, where their communities thrived, reiforced by exiles from the mainland. Also, Sviatoslav Vseslavich and his wife have proven to be staunch defenders of the heresy, with their high status protecting them from the official Church's wrath. The aging Vseslav, pretty much occupied with intrugies against other Rurikovich princes, was also not so eager to stir up conflicts within his own family.

  8. #8
    Chronicler of the Light Jedrek's Avatar
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    1.3 Правда Всеслава

    In 1088 Vseslav celebrated the 44th anniversary of his rule. A huge feast has been called in Polotsk, with his sons and grandchildren attending. At this very celebration, Vseslav has officialy declared his will, or, as it is more widely known in history, Правда Всеслава (Pravda Vseslava, Vseslav's Truth) - a document of vast importance for the future of the principality.

    Like many other written documents on medieval Russian history, Pravda Vseslava is known only from written accounts, younger codexes and other, indirect, sources. Still, it is possible to reconstruct its rough contents.

    The whole document was divided into three chapters (Russian глава - glava, plural glavy). The first one was a short compilation of princely laws and regulations. The second one contained laws that regulated succession of rule, while the last chapter divided the Polotskian domain between Vseslav's five sons.

    The laws were mostly repetition of the ones established in the much older codification - the Russkaya Pravda, made in the late years of Yaroslav the Wise's rule. Traditional Slavic law was still mixed with remnants of Nordic influences. One clearly visible change was a far more strict approach towards religion. Monophisism has been strictly condemned, and several laws were to be applied differently to followers of different creeds.


    Yaroslav the Wise holding the Russkaya Pravda, illustration from XIX century


    The change of succession system was a thorough one. Traditional Russian law forsaw an even division of prince's domain between his sons; this resulted not only in fragmentation of territory, but also led to bloody succession wars - just like the ones following Vladimir the Great or Yaroslav the Wise's death. In order to prevent such situation from happening again, all Vseslav's sons, as well as their successors, were supposed to swear fealty to the sole prince of Polotsk. Each domain was to be inherited by its ruler's oldest living son, bringing this system close to classic Western primogeniture succession.

    The said domains were established as follows: the largest one - Отеческая земля (Otecheskaya zemlya, Father's land) - was to remain under the prince's rule as the principality's core. This domain consisted of lands laying alongside Dvina, including the towns of Polotsk, Dvinsk and Vseslavl. Each son recieved a small domain on the principality's frontiers - Gleb was given the town of Vitebsk, Roman became the lord of Minsk, Davyd recieved the northern stronghold of Yuriev, Sviatoslav was given supervision over the Saaremaa, while the youngest Rogvolod recieved Orsha. Apart from that, each domain was supposed to pay one tenth of its income to the prince - kind of a vassal tax.

    It is clearly visible that the princely domain was designed to be strong enough to defy even a coalition of younger brothers. Although Vitebsk, Minsk and Orsha were rich and prosperous cities on their own, they were still dwarfed by Polotsk. Control over the Dvina meant control over the trade. The stronghold of Vseslavl, arguably the strongest fortress on the Baltic eastern coast, guaranteed that the potential rebels would have great difficulties in organising overseas support for their cause. Still, as it became clear during Vseslav's successors' rule, the system was far from being a fail safe one.

    The first test came in 1099, with Vseslav's successor's death. Prokop of Kiev described this event as follows:

    In 1099, a great shadow fell upon Polotsk, for Gleb Vseslavich, the prince of Vitebsk, died. There was great mourning and lament, for Gleb was Vseslav's favourite son, and he inherited many of his features, although he did not dare to meddle with the dark arts. They had hunted together, they had feasted together and they had fought together in Vseslav's many wars, until Gleb lost his left arm and right leg to the Pechengs at Borisov. It is said that this very wound was his demise; for some say that dark fumes from Vseslav's rooms might have opened and poisoned the wounds




    According to the Pravda, Gleb's sole child Alexandra was exluded from inheritance. Thus, the successor became Roman of Minsk, Vseslav's second son. On a hastly organised ceremony in Polotsk, the three sons renewed his oaths to Vseslav and his new heir. It is possible that it was the first time conflicts between the brothers became apparent; Sviatoslav might have opted for removing laws discriminating monophisists, while other brothers might have clashed over who should take over late Gleb's domain. Vseslav's decision was however final - Alexandra was given rule over her father's land as an equal to her uncles, even though she was excluded from succession.

    Back then, Vseslav's authority alone was enough to keep the young wolves at bay. Three years later, however, Roman of Minsk had to face another test, this time without his father's support.

  9. #9
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    Chapter II:
    Roman Vseslavich (1102 - 1115)




    The first event of Roman's sovereign rule was the so-called council of Polotsk - the meeting of all five Vseslav's descendants. Oaths of allegiance have been renewed - but they have soon proven to be mere declarations, not supported by reality. Perhaps the only thing trully agreed upon was the succession of Minsk - the town with its surrounding was ceded to Roman's oldest son, Fedot.

    The first one to break the oaths and attempt to seize Vseslav's throne was, not surprisingly, Sviatoslav. Under his supervision, Saaremaa and Hiiumaa became a safe haven for Polotskian monophisists, especially after Vseslav's efforts resulted in them being almost completely expelled from the mainland. In years 1103-1104 Sviatoslav attempted to invade central Polotskian lands, claiming Vseslav's inheritance to be his own, but his efforts have been foiled at the walls of Vseslavl. A punitive expedition, led by Roman himself, conquered both islands and imprisoned Sviatoslav.

    Sviatoslav's failrue and imposing orthodox rule over the islands did not end the conflict, though. In 1105, probably due to Rogvolod of Orsha's pressure, Roman released Sviatoslav, who quickly mustered his followers in Saaremaa and once again proclaimed sovereignity. This time, however, he had a strong ally; while Roman's forces were busy relieving once again besieged Vseslavl, Rogvolod and his army entered the princely domain, laying siege upon Polotsk itself. This time the war lasted for three years, ending with Roman's complete victory. Sviatoslav was stripped of his titles and returned to the deepest cells of the Polotskian dungeon, while beaten Rogvolod was forced to renew his oaths to Roman in a humiliating ceremony. The new ruler of Saaremaa became Roman's second son, Vysheslav. His rule was short, however; severe coastal climate took its toll on the physically weak prince, who gave up the ghost in 1109. The islands returned under direct princely supervision.



    With internal resistance finally broken, Polotskian attention could once again have been turned outwards. As early as 1104, during his first campaign against Sviatoslav, Roman attempted to soldify his position along the Baltic coast. His forces invaded a southern, rebelious province of Danish Estonia. Following a brief siege, the local nobles swore fealty to Roman. Relations between the orthodox prince and catholic counts have been by no means easy. Tensions led to an open revolt in 1114, supported and aided by the Danes. The indecisive battle of Üxküll, where Danish forces won a phyrric victory over the Polotskian army, resulted in the Scandinavians recognising Roman's conquest. Catholic count Gorm, who led the nobles against the Russians, was stripped of his titles and thrown into the dungeon. His lands were given to Roman's grandson, Andrei Fedotovich.



    In 1109, Roman attempted to extend his rule over the Swedish controlled Courland. This plan, however, has proven to be an utter failrue; facing duke of Courland's sudden and unexpected death in a battle against the king of Sweden and the subsequent threat of a full-scale Swedish retaliatory invasion, Roman had to give up his ambitions.

    It also seems that Roman did his best to uphold the delicate art of political intrigues, practiced by his father. His target became the young tsar of Bulgaria, Yemelian Sviatoslavich Slabyi ("the ill-ruler"). Although the contemporary chroniclers could not prove Roman's involvement in his sudden death, it is now believed that Iziaslav Ruslanovich, the Bulgarian spymaster officialy blamed for Yemelian's death in 1113, was in fact acting on Roman's orders. Yemelian's death (according to the legend, caused by a viper's bite) meant yet another regency, throwing the tsardom into a period of instability.

    Roman's aim differed from his father's, though. Vseslav considered weaking his neighbours as a guarantee of peace. Roman believed such actions to be an instrument of political expansion. Surprisingly, his ally in this plan was no one else than his youngest brother Rogvolod. According to surviving correspondence between the siblings, Yemelian's death was to sparkle a succession war within the Bulgarian tsardom, which was then to be used by Roman and Rogvolod to seize the disputed lands around the town of Mstislav. The plan was, however unintentionally foiled by the catholic lords of Livonia, who rose up in a Danish-backed revolt just before Roman could have invaded the Bulgarian frontier.

    It is unknown whether Roman planned to reutrn to his expansive plans after dealing with the rebels. His ambitious political game has been unexpectadly cut short in 1115, when the 60 years old prince died in his sleep.


    Map of northeastern Europe in 1115, year of Roman Vseslavich's death

  10. #10
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    Chapter III:
    Fedot Romanovich "The Ill-Fated" (1115 - 1118)

    3.1: Fedot's rule



    Born in 1074, Fedot did not recieve a fief of his own until he was 27, when he inherited his father's lands around Minsk. Throughout Roman's reign, he was overally a loyal vassal - he never rejected any of his father's call to arms - although not quite an obedient son. The main point of divergence between him and the prince was the outlook on Chruch; Fedot tended to be more tolerant when it came to religious matters, opposing his grandfather and father's strict view towards the catholics and monophysists. Chronicles mention two occasions - in 1102 and 1106 - when Fedot attempted to mediate in the largely religious conflict between Roman and Sviatoslav - although both times those attempts failed. The only time when Roman and his son honestly stood side by side against the infidels was in 1114, when Fedot's regiment saved Roman from certain doom at Üxküll.

    Not surprisingly, Fedot's first act as prince of Polotsk was declaring an amnesty towards Sviatoslav and Gorm. This show of mercy, however, came too late for Sviatoslav - exhausted and devastated by six years in deepest dungeons, he collapsed upon hearing about his nephew's decision. Gorm, however, departed to his Danish homeland, when he died peacefully several years later.

    Being a gregarious, yet paranoid person, Fedot believed the best way to prevent his uncles and cousins from scheming would be to keep them as close as possible. An attempted second princely Council of Polotsk in 1116 ended in mixed results, however. Although majority of his vassals accepted the invitation and appeared in princely residence, three of them - Alexandra Glebovna of Vitebsk, Vseslav Davydowich of Yuriev and Andrei Fedotovich of Livonia - refused to appear in Polotsk. The eldest son's absence was a bitter blow on the cheek for Fedot.

    Overally speaking, the balance of Fedot's inaguration was far more positive than Roman's. Not only none of his vassals attempted to challenge his authority, but the political climate was far more promising. The Bulgarian tsardom was still destabilised by Yemelian's death, and Rogvolod of Orsha was eager to cooperate with his nephew to accomplish what Roman could have not done.

    In 1117, the Polotskian troops entered Bulgarian territory and laid siege upon the town of Mstislav. This time, however, luck turned away from Fedot; during a particularly ferocious summer storm in August, Rogvolod's tent was struck by a lightning. Vseslav II's last living son perished in the subsequent fire. Having no legal grounds for continuing the campaign, Fedot had to retreat in shame. A blessing in disguise, Rogvolod's son and successor, Rodislav, swore fealty to Fedot without any hesitation.

    Not wasting any time, Fedot commenced preparations for another campaign, this time in the west. Using his father's old claim on Courland, he mustered his forces along the Dvina as soon as news of yet another succession war in Sweden reached Polotsk in early 1118. On his way to the assembly point, located at the feet of the stronghold of Vseslavl, Fedot recieved news about a pagan uprising in Livonia. Realising that Andrei's forces alone might turn out to be insufficient to put down the infidel rebellion, he march northwards to deal with the threat and join up with his son's regiments. This decision decided the fate of the whole Courland campaign.


    Northeastern Europe in 1118

  11. #11
    Chronicler of the Light Jedrek's Avatar
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    3.2 The prince's death


    Boris Borisovich had to admit that the last pagan group fought valliantly, despite being vastly outnumbered. Many brave voins1 have died in an attempt to break their defences - but in the end, the infidels simply had to cave in. The field was covered in dead bodies, with only a handful of surviving defenders visible in the far, trying to make a desperate dash into the forest. Boris forbade his people from chasing them down; the forests were still pagans' lands, and enterning them so close to the sunset would be suicidal.

    He turned his sight eastwards. Shortly before noon, prince Fedot Romanovich departed there with his personal regiment, hoping to join up with his son, Andrei, and mount an attack against the rebels' centre. Boris' task was tying down the enemy's right, reportedly stronger, flank. And he managed to do so splendidly. The pagans were either dead or in retreat. All he had to do now was to simply wait for the knyaz'2 to return.

    Yet time flew by, sun began to set, and there was no sign of the prince's return. Boris decided to send two horsemen to climb the nearest hill and make watch - but even they couldn't sight the princely banner flying anywhere. Nor could they hear any noise, which would surely come if the prince was coming through the forest.

    Slowly Boris started to worry. No, it was impossible for the prince to be defeated. But could have he fallen into an ambush? Maybe the pagans were stronger than Andrei Fedotovich's messengers reported? Leaving camp and coming to the prince's aid was out of question - no sane man would dare wading into the forest at dusk. But... Maybe, if he led only a small force, he would be able to make it, without being noticed by the pagans...

    He managed to gather a handful of men - barely two dozens. The rest was either afraid of the pagans, or - Bozhe3! - scared of devilish creatures that were supposed to roam the forests at night. Cowardly fools... He would have understood if they were peasant children. But they were voins! Men of steel and valour! The druzhina4!

    He left his second-in-command, Vladimir Ivanovich, to oversee the camp in case of prince's return from some unexpected direction. Then he departed, leading his two dozens into the dense forest. Sun was just above the horizon, barely seen through the leaves.

    He met the front guard sooner than he would expect - after wading barely three hundred arshins5 into the forest. They were blood-soaked and weary. The Polotskian coat of arms - a charging horseman - was barely seen due to the amount of blood spilt on their clothes.

    "Slava!" Boris greeted them "I am glad to see you back. Where is the prince? Is Andrei Fedotovich with him?"

    "The prince is on a glade, some way behind us" Replied the footman "We were sent by prince Andrei to see if the way to your encampment is clear"

    "Yes it is. We have just left in search of you" Boris frowned at them. Why did this man just refer to Andrei Fedotovich as 'prince'? They also seemed... Devastated? Not just weary - devastated, as if something dealt a blow into their very soul...

    Anxious, Boris rushed forward. He had to see by himself, this was just impossible...

    He had heard the prayer long before he reached the glade. It was the panikhida6. When he finally got to the glade, the priest was just finishing the last sentence. Boris jumped off his horse, tears in his eyes.

    Fedot Romanovich was laying upon the princely banner, his eyes closed. His chest was wrapped in blood-soaked rags, dark-brown in the falling twilight. When Borish got closer, he saw that the right half of his beloved prince's face was a bloody mess, empty eye socket glaring into space.

    He fell to his knees, unable to speak. Apart from his liege's body, he could see only one thing - Andrei Fedotovich, towering above them in the last rays of setting sun. The young prince's face was fierce, his eyes burning with anger.


    The Knight at the Crossroads, by Viktor Vasnetsov

    * * *


    The exact circumstances of Fedot's death are unclear. What seemed to be but a brief skirmish with the pagans turned into a bloody battle, with young Andrei Fedotovich being unable to aid his father in time. Two outlooks on this question have developed in Russian historiography. According to one point of view, Fedot's death was merely a result of an unlucky coincidence - the unexpected pagan ambush was combined with Andrei's reinforcements being bogged down in a swamp, unable to reach the main force in time. The second school however believes that Andrei Fedotovich might have chosen such route on purpose, hoping that his father would indeed die in combat. Regardless of how in fact it was, one thing is certain - Fedot has well deserved his "unlucky" nickname.

    Glossary:
    1 -> воин, warrior
    2 -> князь, prince
    3 -> Боже, from Бог, God
    4 -> дружина, company
    5 -> аршин, unit of distance, roughly equal to 0,7 metre
    6 -> панихида, an orthodox requiem prayer
    Last edited by Jedrek; 01-08-2012 at 13:10.

  12. #12
    Chronicler of the Light Jedrek's Avatar
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    This concludes the first half of the century for my principality How do you like it so far? I find it a bit worrisome that the only comments so far are the ones posted before I even started posting the AAR itself ^^'
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  13. #13
    I like it

  14. #14
    Nicely written.

  15. #15
    Chronicler of the Light Jedrek's Avatar
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    Chapter IV: Andrei Fedotovich (1118 - 1128)



    Rapid and unexpected as it may seem, Andrei's ascencion came without any serious pertubation. Once again, the landlords assembled in Polotsk to take part in funeral ceremonies, and then swore fealty to their new overlord. Paradoxally, third such ceremony in little more than 15 years soldified the succession's mechanism. Pravda Vseslava became a law both in letter, as in action.

    The first year of Andrei's rule was rather peaceful. The Courland campaign has been cancelled and the assembled troops have been dispersed. The only Rurikovich who opposed the prince's decision - Vseslav Davydovich of Yuriev - died fighting the highwaymen in his province. It is unclear whether Andrei was involved - but, judging by Bulgarian tsars' fates during his predecessors' raign, we may safetly assume the prince was not an innocent bystander.

    Andrei's reign saw the extinction of the monophysist influence on Saaremaa and Hiiumaa. Remaining under prince's direct administration since 1109, the islands saw a plenty of orthodox missions being set up - resulting in reduction of heretic holdings to a handful of isolated pockets. The last monophysist church has been closed and demolished in 1122, after prince's forces put down the last heretic uprising.

    In foreign relations, Andrei continued his father's hostile policy against the Bulgarian tsardom. Following Rodislav Rogvolodovich's death in 1120, his daughter Xenia approached Andrei, asking for assistance in one more push towards the disputed lands of Mstislav. The internal situation in Bulgaria was by no means stable; although the feud with the self-proclaimed prince of Novgorod-Seversky resulted in the rebellious principality's subjugation, news of the tsar's brutality sparked yet another rebellion - this time in Chernigov. Grabbing this opportunity, Andrei and Xenia forged a risky plan.

    Throughout 1120, Andrei and Chernigovian prince Mitrofan conducted secret talks, preparing a joint strike against Bulgaria. This alliance became formalised in December, when prince Andrei entered Chernigov leading his troops, officially declaring himself as Mitrofan's supporter. The alliance has been soldified by leaving his second son, Putiata in Chernigov under Mitrofan's supervision. In exchange, Andrei's eldest son, Fedot, was betrothed to Mitrofan's second ally against the tsar, princess Xenia of Smolensk.

    The war lasted for four years, despite Andrei and Mitrofan's numerical advantage. The only major engagement - the battle of Kozelets in 1122 - resulted in tsar Mstislav retreating the strongholds of Bryansk and Novgorod-Seversky, which in turn have been besieged by the princely coalition. The peace was achieved in 1124, mostly due to exhaustion than military advantage. The prolonged use od Kievian mercenaries depleted Andrei's coffers, abd the damage done to fields caused starvation throughout western Bulgaria. With Chernigov, Smolensk and Bryansk snatched from his control, the tsar had to recognise the rebellious princes' sovereignity, in exchange for returning the stronghold of Bryansk.



    It should be noted that the whole alliance with Mitrofan was just a part of Andrei and Xenia's greater plan. In 1128, having refilled his coffers and renewed the contract with Kievians, the Polotskian prince put the second phase into motion.

    One August night, Putiata was secretly abducted from Chernigov and quickly evacuated via Dnieper to Minsk. With his son's safety ensured, Andrei led a force of almost 4000 men into Chernigovian territory. Riding alongside him was Xenia Rodislavovna, anxious to complete her grandfather's dream.

    But bad luck struck once again. Not surprisingly, the princes of Galich and Volhynia interpreted Andrei's actions as treason and sided with Mitrofan. The prince of Polotsk had to retreat back into his territory. The attacker became the defender.

    Not wishing to fight the whole coalition at the same time, Andrei decided to strike first - and attempted to ambush Volhynian prince Iziaslav Ingvarovich near the small town of Molodechno. Having over twice the numerical superiority, the Polotskian forces achieved a swift victory. Yet its taste was bittersweet, at best. Euphrosyne of Polotsk, saint nun and granddaughter of Vseslav II through his late son Gleb, described the battle in her brief Polotskian Chronicle:


    A proud man, Andrei Fedotovich met a grim fate. For during a battle with Iziaslav Ingvarovich, his horse was struck with an axe, and fell upon its raider. And he remained there for the rest of the battle, until the sun set and the flowing blood covered his body. And although there were many prayers and much lamentation, there was no hope; both his legs have been crushed. And he died in infamy a few days later, his son by his side. Just as he was by his father's side when he died in battle. But this time the son's hands were not tainted with blood; for the child was merely thirteen years old


    Northeastern Europe in 1128

  16. #16
    Chronicler of the Light Jedrek's Avatar
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    @ Cleomenes & CB60 -> Thanks for encouragement
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  17. #17
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    Moving along at a steady pace. I hope to be caught up on the story by tomorrow.
    "When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer..."


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  18. #18
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    This is really good. Like the way that you've written most of it so far - as if its a history of Polotsk. I started a Polotsk dynasty recently and I'm intrigued to see how you go!

  19. #19
    Chronicler of the Light Jedrek's Avatar
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    Chapter V: Fedot II Andreievich (1128 - 1155)

    5.1: The regent

    Andrei's unexpected death might have put the whole principality into jeopardy. Fedot was only 13 years old and although Pravda obliged all the vassals to pledge fealty to their liege despite his age, the real power in Polotsk was represented by the regent - Davyd Vseslavich of Yuriev. It was his duty to quell any potential distress in the realm - which was even more crucial due to the ongoing war against Bulgaria.

    One particularlly resentful noble was Vyshli - an orthodox Latgallian convert and a very popular commander among the Balts fighting in Polotskian ranks. According to the sources, he initially staunchly refused to acknowledge Davyd's regency, clearly aiming towards replacing him as the power behind the jubvenile prince. He was ulitmatly appeased when Davyd granted him control over the isles of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa - effectively making Vyshli the sole master of Polotskian trade. Nevertheless, the war effort has been saved from potential revolt.

    Realising the realm would not survive should the war last too long, Davyd strived towards a single, decisive battle with the princely coalition. Such battle took place at Mogilev, where the Polotskian forces, supported this time by Bulgarian mercenaries, decimated a combined, Chernigo-Volhynian army, led by prince Iziaslav II. This coincided with yet another Cuman expedition against the Russians - which forced Chernigov to acknowledge the conquest of Mstislav.



    Davyd was aware that constant infighting between the Russian rulers in long run served only one person; the Cumanian khan Könçek. Under his rule, the Cumans waged a series of successful wars against the Russians, decimating the Bulgarian armies several times. The greatest blow, however, came in 1130; with the Chernigovian army defeated after the battle of Mogilev, Cuman khan Könçek send his hordes towards Chernigov and Kiev. Prince Mitrofan surrendered quickly; the defenders of Kiev decided otherwise.

    The Polotskian Chronicle describes the fate of Kiev as follows:

    And the great army fell upon the city, as locust falls upon a vast field of grain. And although the true Kievians fought valiantly, they failed; for God has punished them for fighting with their brothers in faith. And the gates have fallen, and the walls have been razed. Not even holy places have been spared; even the Saint Sophia bet her doom, as the infidels burnt it to the ground and took the gold. The cries and lamentations have been heard throughout Russia. And Dnieper flew red with blood of the innocent and the warriors


    Khan Könçek, known in Russia as Бич степи (Bich stepi, literally "Scourge of the steppe")


    Indeed, the destruction was horrible. Once the proud capital of Vladimir and Yaroslav's realm, Kiev has been reduced to a pile of rubble. The destruction of St. Sophia was a particularly severe blow - the symbiolical end of Kiev's role as the capital of Russia. Even today, Kiev is but a shadow of its former glory, eclipsed by cities that took over as centres of Russian political and cultural life.

    Another Cuman expedition in 1134 razed the historical capital of Bulgaria - the city of Bolgar on the eastern outskirts of Mstislav's tsardom. In the same year, the famous icon of Christ Pantocrator came to Polotsk, probably evacuated from the devastated Chernigov. The miraculous image became a sacred relic, and a symbol of preservation of faith against the pagan invaders.



    It is known that Davyd attempted a reconciliation with Mstislav; in 1130, just after the fall of Kiev, he pledged Polotskian support in a renewed war against the prince of Novgorod-Seversky, as well as broke the betrothal between Andrei and Xenia of Smolensk. It is also possible that Davyd, Iziaslav II and Mstislav planned a joint campaign to reclaim Kiev. Those plans, however were quickly cut short once Fedot II came of age in 1131.

  20. #20
    Chronicler of the Light Jedrek's Avatar
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    @ cm_spitfire -> That's my aim. Although I get quickly bored with AARs written in a single style, thus I try to incorporate chronicles. I also hope the experiment with a novel-like subchapter was a successful one ^^'

    @ Machiavellian -> Here you have another part, enjoy
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