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Thread: Полоцкая летопись - history of the Principality of Polotsk

  1. #21
    Chronicler of the Light Jedrek's Avatar
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    5.2: The prince

    Fedot's ascencion marks an end to reconciliatory politics of regent Davyd. Although the ruler of Yuriev retained his position as voievoda (Russian воевода, literally "the one who leads the war", roughly equivalent to western marshal), his influence on foreign policy has been curbed by the now de facto ruler.



    Fedot returned to Vseslav the Wise's tradition of choosing brides from members of high-ranking noble families. Fedot's wife became Margarita Komnena, daughter of the doux of Armeniacon. His sisters - Gorislava and Alexandra became wifes of Byzantine emperor Joannes II (1140) and Finnish prince Bo (1142), while his brothers - Putiata and Vseslav - got married with Sofia Rostislavna (1138), daughter of Russian tsar Rostislav I and with Dobromila Premyslid (1139), cousin to king Svatopluk I of Bohemia. Thus, Fedot attempted to weave a net of dynastical alliances, which as we will see, has proven to be most valuable in the realm's most critical moment in the first half of the XII century.

    In internal politics, Fedot attempted to curb the landlords' power and influence. His first target became Xenia Rodislavovna, who, after the acquisition of Mstislav became arguably the strongest noble in Polotsk, second only to the prince himself. In 1137, she was imprisoned by Fedot and stripped of all her titles, possibly due to involvement in a plot to overthrow the prince's rule and install herself as a princess of Smolensk1. This show of force consolidated Fedot's rule, allowing him to push towards external goals in later part of his reign.

    Another notable event is the return of Saaremaa to princely domain. In 1131, Vyshli died in a storm while travelling between his islandic holdings. Shortly after, his only child and heir, the one-year old Svarnas - passed away in sleep. Although no solid proof exists, there are reasons to believe that episkop Matvei, bishop of Saaremaa was involved in both deaths, acting on Fedot's orders. It is an established fact that isolated pockets of monophysist heresy existed on Saaremaa as far as the middle of XII century, and it is only natural that the Church would look with suspicion on non-Russian (thus, "uncertain") orthodox converts, who might one day turn to heresy. Nevertheless, the extinction of Vyshli's line meant the islands' return to princely domain.

    In 1140, Polotskian troops intervened in a war between Xenia of Smolensk (Fedot's former fiance) and tsar Mstislav of Bulgaria. In a brief skirmish, the numerically superior Polotskian army defeated Xenia's troops and laid siege upon Smolensk, forcing the rebellious boyarina to submission.

    Fedot's main goal, however, laid in the west. Just like his grandfather, Fedot II dreamt of expanding his influence on the Batlic coast. A chance to do so appeared in 1141, when the Swedish king Kettilmund Erikson was attacked by Jacek, king of Poland2. Fedot II used this opportunity to push forward his claim towards the duchy of Courland. Hastly mobilised, the Russian troops first invaded Mazovia, using their superior numbers to assault weakly garrisoned castles in Grodno, Płock and Czersk. In 1142 they relocated north, barely defeating the Swedish reinforcements in Courland in the battle of Bauska. Defeated on both fronts, the Swedish king had no option, but to accept Fedot's demands - the duchy of Courland became part of the Polotskian realm. Fedot's brothers Putiata and Vseslav became overseers of the newly conquered province.



    1 -> The Smolenskian title was a complex question between 1137 and 1147; although Xenia Lvovna reigned in Smolensk, the title circled between her, Xenia Rodislavna, Fedot II Andreievich and Mstislav of Bulgaria, before it was finally awarded by Fedot II to Kirill Trondovich, grandson of Gleb Vseslavich.

    2 -> The war was a result of dynastical union between the Polish queen Samboja and Swedish king Erik. After Erik's death in 1137, the Swedish throne has been inherited by his and Samboja's son Kettilmund, who, after his mother's death in 1139, added the duchy of Mazovia to his holdings. However, the lords of Poland opposed Kettilmund's claim and after putting Jacek Kmita on the throne forced him to attack Kettilmund to reclaim the lost province. The war ended after Kettilmund's death in battle in 1144, with Mazovia remaining under Swedish control.
    Last edited by Jedrek; 05-08-2012 at 22:01.

  2. #22
    Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni MRAKoris's Avatar
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    Jedrek,

    панихида

    nice AAR

  3. #23
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    5.3: The tsar

    The annexation of Courland marked a turning point in Polotskian history. The inclusion of a relatively densly populated, non-Russian region, combined with an effective orthodox mission programme (which resulted in conversion of the majority of Livonian population in the 1130s) resulted in the slow evolution of Polotskian society, creating a mixture unlike any other in eastern Europe.

    Religion became the defining attribute of the emerging society. Even though Russian remained the language of the court, the prince's palace was open to anyone - Russians, Letgallians and Lithuanians alike. Rural areas and lower nobility remained largely Baltic-speaking, which forced the court to adapt dual language in administration. The translation of Pravda Vseslava is perhaps the first written account on Baltolithuanian language.

    Vyshli of Saaremaa's case, although short-lived, is a fine example of those changes. It should also be noted that Vyshli's case introduced a new rank into the Polotskian nobility - the kunigas. Derived from Baltic word meaning "ruler", kunigas was the title awarded to Vyshli as "a subject to the prince, yet a sovereign of his lands". In other words, kunigas became a description of the lower feudal rank, simmilar to western count or graf.

    This was but one aspect of the process, however; orthodox expansion into Baltic lands resulted in new towns and strongholds being erected. Founded in 1143, the town of Andrieev guarded the Dvina estuary from the western bank, serving together with Vseslavl as a reinforced "gate to Polotsk".

    Soon this new mixture produced another result; a drift from princely, purely Russian Polotskian identity towards a broader, more complex entity. Territorial expansion in Russia proper also contributed to the process; with towns of Vitebsk, Andrieev, Yuriev, Minsk or Mstislav slowly catching up with Polotsk in size and influence, the princely authority began a slow decline. Although Xenia Rodislavovna's challenge has been defied, there was no guarantee that Fedot's power would remain as it was.


    The growth of towns attracted merchants, speeding up the evolution of the feudal system


    To counter this tendencies, Fedot began preparations for arguably the most important decision of his reign; the royal coronation.

    The word kunigas was not the only contribution of Latgallian and Lithuanian converts to the Polotskian culture. Despite their tribal differences, those peoples retained a feeling of cultural unity - something they managed to implement into Polotskian culture. The orthodox clergy was the first to realise this potential; they just replaced Baltic language with the orthodox faith.

    The other remaining component of the new concept was the idea of Litva. First mentioned in 1008 in Annals of Quedlinburg, the name [i]Litua]i\ was initially attributed to a vague territory, inhabited by Baltic peoples. The redefinition of this concept is usually attributed to monk Ieroni of Orsha, who wrote in the famous letter to Fedot II in 1141:

    Many scholars have riddled on the pagans and their fates; whether they are all capable of accepting the true Faith, whether they are humans just as true Russians and so on. However, all those wise men failed to notice one particularly interesting property of those pagans, one the Russian people seem to lack. The sense of unity, the solidarity and strenght, flowing from their common ancestry and roots. If such petty attachment bears such strenght, how strong would be a unity in God? For all humans share the same goal, striving towards salvation regardless of birth, speech or ancestry. We are all children of God, we all speak thanks to Divine wisdom and we are all His creations. Alas, we must unite, if we want to be spared from hellish flames.

    On the 10th of July 1144, the town of Polotsk witnessed the first royal coronation. Among the guests were not only all the landlords, but also the tsar of Russia, Vladimir II, and the doux of Armeniacon and Fedot's father-in-law in one person, Manuel Komnenos. The patriarch of Constantinople, Kalinikos, personally crowned Fedot as a ruler "equal to all the kings", confirming Byzantine support for the ambitious monarch. Fedot's official title became "Tsar of Litva" (Царь Литвы, Tsar' Litvy), signifying his equality with rulers of Russia and Bulgaria. Most Western chroniclers sticked to Latin translation - "King of Lithuania".


    Tsar Fedot's coronation


    Following the coronation, a huge council was held in Polotsk, with all the vassals attending. There, the reorganisation of the realm took place. Three princes have been created: Danil Romanovich in Livonia, Vseslav Andreievich in Courland and Kiril Trondovich (grandson of Gleb Vseslavich) in Vitebsk. New princes swore their fealty to tsar Fedot and took immidiate responsability over the local kunigas. Thus concluded the first grand reform since Vseslav II's times.

    In foreign policy, Fedot pursued the aggressive policy of the pre-coronation period. In 1145, he supported his brother-in-law, Bo of Finland, in an unsuccessful revolt against king Ture II of Denmark. The main direction, however, remained in the west and southwest.

    The death of khan Knek in 1143 meant the end of Cuman superiority. Power struggles diluted the khanate's power, ending its pressure over the Russian states. Using this moment of freedom, tsar Fedot initiated an invasion of Hungarian-controlled Lithuania in 1147, using the turmoil caused by the death of king Salamin in 11301. A curious exchange took place - Imre, Hungarian duke of Lithuania, simply abandoned the province, dedicated to finally seizing his father's throne. His reign has proven to be short lived, however; he died in a Lithuanian-sponsored assassination in 1149, leaving the throne open for his daughter, Natalie. Yet another succession crisis allowed the Russians to launch next expedition to Lithuania, expanding the orthodox control over the region.

    The conquered lands became a site of expansion for the new Russo-Baltic people; pagan strongholds, like the ancient fort of Jurbarkas, have been razed and replaced by new ones, the most famous of which became Vladimir-on-the-Nieman (Владимир-на-Немане, Vladimir-na-Nemane). The now-famous city of Romanov has been built upon the ashes of the pagan town of Kernave, and the idyllic Kovna once was a prospering Lithuanian town called Kaunas. Orthodox churches have been erected, monasteries established, and soon the new faith began expansion among the inhabitants, furthering the integration of newly conquered lands. It should be noted that the Hungarians never considered those lands to be of much importance - which only made subsequent orthodox subjugation even easier.


    The town of Romanov, surrounded by forts


    Secured in the west, tsar Fedot once again turned east, against the Bulgarian realm. The conflict began when Kiril Trondovich, the prince of Vitebsk was attacked by tsar Fedot in years 1147-1148, probably because he resisted an attempt to revoke his title and be replaced with tsar's son, Andrei (born in 1134). He fled to Bulgaria, where he became the prince of Smolensk. This was the cause of yet another war, this time waged between 1150-1151. Out of three major battles, the one of exceptional importance was the battle of Sakolniki, which resulted in death of over 4000 men on both sides - half the fighting force. The aging tsar Mstislav had to accept Fedot's claim on Smolensk, with Andrei becoming the new prince.



    Seeing his power rising rapidly, Fedot attempted to consolidate his state. Yet another noble council was called, this time in Vladimir-na-Nemane, which accepted the greatest legal reform since Yaroslav the Wise's times; the introduction of the so-called The Great Truth (Великая правда, Velikaya Pravda). This act not only revised the older Vseslav II's codex, but also introduced new regulations - such as obliging the princes to provide a stable ammount of levy to the tsar, and a de jure confirmation of the primogeniture succession's procedures. Orthodoxy has been confirmed as the only legal creed, although monk Ieroni's views have also been included; the pagans were to be encouraged to convert by peaceful means whenever possible.

    To strenghten Litva's international position, Fedot pursued an active marriage policy; Andrei has been married to Maria Hvide, the daughter to the catholic duke of Samogitia. Andrei's younger sister Olena (born 1137) became wife of prince Igor Gavrilovich of Novgorod-Seversky. Interestingly, the eldest children, Darya (born 1133) has never been taken into account, for she was born with "little intellect and of miserable appearance".

    This brief period of peace ended in 1154; Hungarian queen Natalie used the time spent by Fedot to forge an alliance with Danish king Ture II, which has been soldified by their marriage. Then, using count Neils of Pskov and Narva's claim on the city of Polotsk, they launched a combined attack upon the tsardom. Depleted from constant warfare, tsar Fedot had little hope of survival; we know that against could only field some 6 thousand troops over 10 thousands Danish soldiers (not taking the Hungarian and mercenary reinforcements into account). The invasionary army landed in Livonia and quickly advanced along the Dvina, laying siege upon the capital. It seemed the Lithuanian tsardom would become yet another ephemeral state, founded and destroyed by a single man's ambitions.

    With his court evacuated to Vseslavl along with the army, tsar Fedot forged a risky plan; by using extraordinary taxes, ransoming prisoners evacuated from polotskian dungeons and countless other means, he raised enough funds to organise yet another assassination attempt - this time against the troublesome count. The plan succeeded - but the victory was bittersweet. For on the very same day the Danish troops started retreating, the dead body of tsar Fedot has been found in Vladimir, where he relocated his troops in case the assassin failed to do his job. A dagger's handle protured from his chest, and his sheets have been "soaked with blood so much, they resembled the Tsargorodian2 purple".


    Northeastern Europe in 1155


    So, the war ended inconclusively; lacking the reason to wage war, Ture II had to leave Lithuanian soil. Natalie failed to accomplish her goal - reacqusition of lost lands. Tsar Fedot paid the ultimate price for saving his realm - a feat which is remembered in patriotic ceremonies until today.

    1 -> Four kings occupied the Hungarian throne between 1130 and 1149; Andrs II (1130-1131), Gabor (1131), Orban (1131-1147) and Imre (1147-1149).

    2 -> Rus. Царгород, "The Tsar's City"
    Last edited by Jedrek; 04-08-2012 at 09:42.

  4. #24
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    Great work! This is an aar that needs more attention!
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  6. #26
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    I really dig this AAR! The history style and the maps and pictures are great!
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  7. #27
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    Chapter VI: Andrei Fedotovich, "the Silent"

    6.1: Consolidation

    Although Andrei was only 20 years old when he ascended to the throne, he has already proven himself to be a completely different person than his father. Sources often compare those two personalities; an ambitious, warlike Fedot and peaceful, trusting Andrei. Like most generalisations, such summaries are rather superficious, yet they do convey the general truth.



    The nobles were quick to exploit Fedot's unexpected death and his successor's peaceful attitude; Kiril Trondovich demanded control over Minsk and Orsha, while Xenia Lvovna threathened Andrei with war, should she not be granted the prinicpality of Smolensk. The ambitious princess was not easily satisfied, however; her strive to undermine Andrei's rule and possibly revoke the Great Truth led to a brief war of 1162-1163, which resulted in a stalemate after a bloody clash between the rebels and the loyalists at the fields of Orsha.

    Luckily for the young tsar, Kiril Trondovich turned out to be easier to appease, becoming one of tsardom's most loyal vassals in this time of crisis. The threat sparked on the other side of the realm, though; in 1166 Danil Romanovich, the prince of Livonia, started secret negotiations with Hungarian queen Natalie, hoping to overthrow Andrei and replace him as the sole ruler of Litva. In response, the tsar mobilised his regiments and attempted to force Danil's surrender. Not surprisingly, Danil (who was also Andrei's voievoda) refused to give in, starting yet another civil war. The bloodbath of Bolovsk resulted in Andrei's victory and siege of Danil's holdings, but the tsar once again failed to secure a decisive victory. Natalie Arpad intervened on his co-conspirator's behalf, laying siege on the stronghold of Toropets. In February 1167 Andrei accepted a compromise; Danil was pardoned and retained all his holdings, while Natalie acquired the disputed Toropets.



    Following those setbacks, Andrei turned inwards, aiming to strenghten his domain internally. An impressive road construction project has been initiated, and considerable amount of gold has been poured into construction of training grounds, blacksmiths and armourers' workshops. Hoping to extend his manpower base, Andrei issued two decrees (rus. грамота, gramota) - the Decree of Municipal Regiments (Грамота о посадских полках, Gramota o posadskikh polkakh) in 1170 and the Decree of Church Regiments (Грамота о церьковных полках, Gramota o tserkovnykh polkakh) in 1180 - which obliged the brughers and clergy to field additional troops in case of war. All those investments have greatly increased Litvian military power; Fedot Andreievich was capable of fielding six thousand troops against king Ture II, while Andrei had over sixteen thousand troops at his disposal by the end of his reign.

    Historians agree that year 1170 may be considered the end of the first period of Andrei's reign. The so-called consilidation period (rus. Период укрепления, Period ukreplyenniya) ended with a swift removal of both Xenia Lvovna and Danil Romanovich; both dissentful nobles have been arrested in summer 1170, using Andrei's expanded personal regiments. Andrei punished them both harshly; stripped of their titles, they soon died of starvation and disease in Polotskian dungeons. Xenia's son, Lev Mikhailovich, became the new prince of Smolensk, while Davyd Vseslavich, the count of Derpt, was granted the principality of Livonia. The new voievoda became Afanasiy of Velikie Luki, one of the most prominent figures of the loyalist camp. With both opponents swiftly dealt with, tsar Andrei could have finally fully concentrate on external issues.

  8. #28
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    A military powerhouse rises in the Baltic! Very exciting material, indeed.

    I wish you the best of luck in removing the Scandinavian and Hungarian presence from the Baltic. It all belongs to Mother Litva!
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  9. #29
    Chronicler of the Light Jedrek's Avatar
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    6.2: Отец севера

    Although Andrei's hands were largely tied before 1170, several attempts to extend foreign influence have been made. Interestingly, it was the time when Litva reached its furthest extend; in 1155 Afanasiy of Velikie Luki, threathened from the north by the catholics of Novgorod, pledged his fealty to the tsar. Between 1156 and 1167 the lands of Toropets have also been a part of Litva, conquered briefly by prince Kiril of Vitebsk and later lost to queen Natalie of Hungary.

    Andrei's court conducted an intensive dynastical policy, outclassing even his great ancestor Vseslav II. Interestingly, the first dynastical alliance forged was possible thanks to Andrei's largely overlooked and forgotten sister Darya, who married the Polish king Jacek I Kmita in 1156. However, all three children born from this marriage met a grim fate; the only daughter Pechna died unmarried at the age of 21, while her two brothers Sędziej and Mikołaj died in 1178 and 1179, in the depths of the Cracow dungeons after an unsuccesful palace coup against their half-brother, king Jacek II. Darya herself did not live up to see this tragedy; she died during a plague of 1170.

    Ture II's death in 1170 meant the weakening of the Danish-Hungarian alliance - an opportunity Andrei was quick to exploit. Seeing this as an opportunity to counterbalance Danish power in the Baltic, he approached king Emund II of Sweden. The forged alliance was sealed in 1171 by a marriage between Emund and Andrei's oldest daughter, Euphrosyne (born 1155). The alliance has been further soldified in 1172, when Andrei's forces sailed to Sweden to aid Emund against jarl Bjrn. The Litvian forces defeated the usurper at Kuusito, saving Emund's reign in its direst moment.



    Another opportunity to curb Danish influence came in 1177, when king Erik II's infant successor and grandson to Ture II, Ture III Eriksson, accepted Andrei's proposal to marry Euphrosyne's sister, Dobrava (born 1160). With kings of both Denmark and Sweden being Andrei's son-in-laws, the northern frontier seemed secure. What was more, both royals treated Andrei with great respect, thus granting him the nickname "Father of the North" (rus. Отец севера, Otec severa). The strenght of this alliance became apparent in 1181, during a brief and unsuccessful attempt to reclaim Toropets; Ture III agreed to help Andrei against the Danish king's cousin and Natalie's daughter, Sigrid.

    Nevertheless, Andrei's success has proven to be short-lived; Euphrosyne quickly converted to catholicism, adopting the Nordic name Helga, thus jeopardizing relations with her father. She died in 1191, giving birth to just one daughter, Ingfrid.

    Dobrava's perspective initially seemed to be far better; she remained true to the orthdox faith and even gave birth to Ture's son and successor, Erik. Her untimely death in 1182, however, made courts in Polotsk and Roskilde fall apart. Even though Ture III agreed to betrothal with Dobrava's youngest sister, Sbyslava (born 1181), the political developments quickly made this initiave obsolete. Instead, Andrei turned to Estonian duke Halfdan Halvorsson, who married his daughter Agafya (born 1171) in 1187.

    Last two daughters - Gradislava (born 1162) and Praskovya (born 1175) were married to grandsons of Byzantine emperor Ioannes II Doukas - Laurentios and Konstantinos. The latter case was especially a sign of Litva's rising importance - the emperor not only allowed Konstantinos to marry matrilinearly, he also gave his permission for the grandson to leave the Empire and travel to the distant court in Polotsk.

    Finally, Andrei's only son Alexei (born 1158) was married to Małgorzata Kmita - the eldest child of king Jacek II - in 1176. The marriage has soon proven to be a successful one - Małgorzata agreed to convert to orthodoxy and adapt a Russian name Milana. In the later phase of Andrei's reign, the pair would rise to unprecedented influence.

    Militarly speaking, Andrei's reign can be divided into two periods as well. Until 1170, foreign expeditions were rare and far between, and often met with bad luck. A brief intervention into a war between Alexandra Alexeievna and the rebellious nobles of Peremyshl in 1160 met an abrupt end when a plague struck the camping troops. In 1163, Andrei attempted to join the coalition against the excommunicated prince of Volhynia, Iziaslav III Ingvarovich. However, his involvement turned out to be brief as well, as soon a far more important target presented itself.

    In 1164 the Lithuanian-born count Ringaudas Arpad, revolted against queen Natalie. Andrei was quick to act; a brief siege of stronghold of Vilkaviskis left the last independent part of non-orthodox controlled Lithuania in ashes. In 1165 construction works began; the catholic and pagan strongholds have been replaced by orthodox ones. Vilkaviskis became Sheimensk (named for the nearby river Sheimena), and the village of Trakai was renamed to Bolotsk (lit. trakas = rus. болото, boloto = swamp). The newly acquired province was reffered to as Zanemanie (rus. Занемание, Land beyond the Neman).


    The castle of Bolotsk - view from the XIX century


    In the south, the vast Cuman territory started shattering. Following the death of khan Gzi, the Cuman state was led by a series of infants, which led to furious infighting and power struggle. In 1173, during the reign of infant khan Bor II, the Litvian state intervened in the conflict, claiming the territories of the former Principality of Chernigov. The bloody war laster for over 4 years and resulted in the Cumans - represented by Gzi's wife and his childern's regent Terke - surrendering the disputed territories to the Litvians.


    The battle of Roslavl of 1173 has proven to be decisive for the war effort; the Cumans have been rendered unable to muster another creadible fighting force for another four years, giving the Litvians free reign in the steppe


    However, this was not the Cumans' greatest worry; their state collapsed completely in 1181, when Persian shahanshah Hooshyar destroyed the nomads' armies and integrated most of their territory into his empire. Thus, the once-invincible behemot of the steppes has been replaced by a mosaic of petty states, squeezed between two new powers - the Persians and the Byzantines. A strong neighbour has been replaced by a true colossus - stretching from the Indian Ocean in the south to the Urals in the north.




    The first phase of Persian conquest; until the end of the XII century, the invaders managed to subjugate all the post-Cuman territories up to northern wastelands

  10. #30
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    6.3: The shadow behind the throne

    It may seem paradoxal that a tsar of such a long reign, who conducted so successive dynastical policy, has earned the nickname "The Silent". This seemingly contradictory situation becomes less mysterious if we look upon Andrei's reign after 1180 as a diarchy, with Andrei being less a sovereign ruler, and more an executor of his son's politics.

    Alexei Andreievich first came to power in 1177, when, after the war against the Cumans, he was granted the Principality of Chernigov. He and his wife Milana Iakinfovna (ne Małgorzata Kmita) have soon proven to be competent administrators of the newly conquered lands - as well as very ambitious ones.

    With his new holdings secured, Alexei became a frequent guest in Polotsk - which by itself wouldn't be surprising, considering he was the only son and heir to the tsar - but which becomes far more interesting, if we look upon the string of unexplained deaths among Litvian nobles that begins with Alexei's ascencion to the princely title.

    In 1180, Vitebskian prince Yuriy Kirilovich dies on a hunting trip. This accident might have slipped in history like countless others, but taking into account that Yuriy was a staunch opponent of Andrei's military reforms, as well as the fact that his death paved the way for Andrei to force the Gramota o tserkovnykh polkakh, we see that this event fits into a larger whole.

    In 1183 king Ture III is stabbed to death while visiting the Nordborg castle in southern Jylland. Once again no solid proof of Litvian involvement exists, apart from fragments of correspondence between Andrei and several Danish nobles, including Niels Eriksson, the lord of Nordborg. Those letters contained a proposition of renewal of the Litvo-Danish alliance, with Ture's infant son, Erik (born 1180), marrying Andrei's youngest daughter Sbyslava. Apparently, this plan backfired; the Danish nobles turned down Litvian offer as soon as Ture's death has been confirmed and Erik crowned as Erik III.

    The deterioration of relations between Denmark and Litva had one more source; in 1182 the excommunicated queen of Hungary, Sigrid Nataliesdotter, has been defeated by Holy Roman Emperor Lothar III. With Sigrid being childless, the title passed to Natalie's oldest living descendant - Ture. Even though the Hungarian nobles strongly opposed the Danish rule, quickly knocking the union into chaos, the perspective of yet another encirclement from west, south and north (Ture inherited his aunt's holding in Novgorod as well) was most likely enough for the Litvians to push for such a violent solution. The ultimate splintering between Polotsk and Roskilde happened in 1188, when Andrei openly supported Estonian jarl Halfdan against Erik III.

    In 1184 Alexei was given command over Litvian troops that invaded Iziaslav III's domain in an attempt to claim the principality of Volhynia for Agafiena Iziaslavna, daughter of Iziaslav II and Iziaslav III's aunt. It was the time of trial for Andrei's military reforms - and a time of triumph as well. The decisive battle of Lyubech saw the coalition of Russian rulers - including the tsars of Bulgaria and Rus - defeated by the combined Litvo-Polish forces. The peace treaty of 1187 deprived Iziaslav III of Volhynia, which became a separate principality under Andrei's supervision. The initialy separate principality acquired a link to the rest of Litva in 1199, when Andrei's forces supported the turovian claim of Iziaslav III's daughter, Irina.



    1191 brought a victorious end to jarl Halfdan's rebellion against king Eric. The Danish king lost any direct connection between his domain and the principality of Novgorod, and the Litvian tsar secured his northern border. But the true political game was yet to happen...

    By marrying Jacek II's eldest daughter, Alexei forged close ties with the court in Cracow. It is know that king Jacek respected his son-in-law, and often invited him on feasts and celebrations. This allowed Alexei to build a network of influence, which has proven to be most useful in his master plan - the acquisition of the throne in Poland.

    Between 1191 - 1198 five members of the Kmita dynasty - Małgorzata's younger sister Judyta, their brothers Jacek, Wanko and Wielisław, as well as Judyta's son Świętopełk - died in various circumstances - in hunting accidents, strangled in their sleep by unknown assassins, poisoned and so on. All those cases had one common factor - they occured shortly after Alexei's departure from Cracow. Apparently, the mastermind behind this plan became apparent after Świętopełk's death. King Jacek issued a death warrant on Alexei, and knights of Poland have been sent to capture the culprit, dead or alive.

    In this dire moment Alexei was provided a hideout by his apparent accomplice who avioded detection so far, the Swedish-born spymaster of Poland, Pedar Ivarsson. Sneaked out of Poland, Alexei prepared one more plot - this time aimed against the aging Jacek II. On the 13th of October 1198, a well-paid assassin stabbed the venerable king to death. He failed to escape, however - and what had been found along with his dead body shook the court like an earthquake. It is unknown what exactly was he carrying - but it was enough to clear Alexei of all suspicion and put all blame on Pedar Ivarsson. The Swede has been imprisoned and executed, becoming the last victim of Alexei's plot.

    With his father ruling in Polotsk and his wife crowned in Cracow, Alexei effectively became the ruler of the two states in all but title. However, his rapid rise to power came to an abrupt end; in 1199 he, along with his father, got injured in a battle of Jarocin against Przemysław IV, duke of Wielkopolska, who refused to acknowledge Małgorzata's ascencion to the throne. Andrei managed to recover; his son, however, died of infection.



    The beloved son's death was the last, final blow to the already old and fragile tsar. It is known that the death of his second wife, Yekaterina of Chachersk in the beginning of 1199 devastated the monarch. According to the sources, his health quickly deteriorated, and he gave up the ghost on the 15th of May 1200, after over 45 years of reign. The silent tsar and the plotting shadow behing the throne have both died shortly before achieving their ultimate goal.


    Central Europe in 1200. Note the expanded Persian empire to the east
    Last edited by Jedrek; 05-09-2012 at 02:40.

  11. #31
    Is that the Byzantine Empire in Sweden?

  12. #32
    Chronicler of the Light Jedrek's Avatar
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    @ Germanpeon -> We will see... Volodar has a very promising legacy to uphold

    @ Hydroloc -> Don't ask. They appeared some time after Euphrosyne's death and my lost of interest in Swedish affairs. Same goes for my province in the east - I see no reason to keep it and will gladly give it up as soon as possible.
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  13. #33
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    I usually like well written history book AARs, and this one is no different.
    Good work!

  14. #34
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    VII
    Vsevolod Alexeievich "The Bold" (1200 - 1225)


    7.1: Царский веч

    Unlike his father, Volodar was by no means a titan of intellect. According to the sources, the young heir indulged himself in simple, rather mindless activities - like hunting or tourneys - and showed little interest in the state affairs. The nobles believed his younger brother - Yaroslav, born in 1195 - to be a far more promising tsar, but the Pravda was ruthless - the laws of succession were to be upholded, regardless of anyone's opinion.



    But the nobles have found their own way; an informal circle of advisors, known as the Tsarskiy Vech (Царский веч, roughly translated as Tsar's Assembly) has been formed, consisting of the most influential nobles of the realm; velikiy pisar' (великий писарь, chancellor) Avgust Chshak of Volhynia, voyevoda Igor of Kovna, podkomoriy (подкоморий, steward) Terentii of xkll and metropolit Igor of Bolovsk. This circle was completed by Dmitriy of Rezhitsa - an enigmatic personne of uncertain past, who possibly was responsible of maintaining a network of contacts and agents, established by Alexei.



    The Vech was de facto power behind Volodar's first years of reign. It was voyevoda Igor who took over the troops in Poland after Alexei and Andrei's death and led them to the crushing triumpf over the rebellious nobles. It was Terentiy who gathered funds to renovate the Sophia of Polotsk and restore Fedot II's famous holy icon of Christ Pantokrator to their former glory. Finally, it were the nobles who put the most vicious plan into action; the assassination of queen Małgorzata/Milana of Poland.

    In January 1203, queen Małgorzata was found death in her bed chamber in Wawel castle, Krakw, becoming the last descendant of Jacek II Kmita to meet her faith in such way. The late queen's close advisors quickly recognised the culprit; however, the Polish levies were depleated after four years of resistance against Małgorzata and her orthodox court and they did not stand a chance against Volodar's regiments. Przemysław IV of Wielkopolska has been imprisoned, and silesian duke Mściwuj killed on the battlefield. On the 27th of July patriarch Dionysos II crowned Volodar as tsar (under the Polish name Wołodar) in Wawel Cathedral. Even though the catholic bishop of Krakw, Wincenty, was present during the ceremony and even allowed to bless the new ruler, the catholic uproar was great.

    But the Vech already had the solution; in August 1203 a special law, Usmirennaya Gramota (Усмиренная грамота, Polish Gramota Pacyfikacyjna, English Pacification Law) has been published, allowing landlords to use any force neccessary to punish their subjects if needed. Conflicts between a vassal and his liege were no longer to be investigated by Jacek II's Koronna Izba Sądowa (English Crown Judical Chamber) - the first royal court in Central Europe - which was soon disbanded completely. Additionally, Litvian nobles recieved key Polish territories. Terentiy became the duke of Mazowsze, while Gleb Afanasievich of Velikie Luki became duke of Małopolska. Finally, metropolit Igor initiated an intensive campaign to support conversions, giving out privileges for abandoning the catholic Church in orthodoxy's favour.

    In foreign politics, Volodar's reign brought a continuation of wars against the Danes and - surprisingly - Estonians. The Litvians aided Russian tsarina Yefimiya Rostislavna in her attempted conquest of Toropets in 1204. The Danish defeat convinced duke Avgust to pursue his own goals - leading to the successful invasion of Samogitia and its incorporation after the battle of Russ in November 1206. The newly conquered territory was subject to policy simmilar to the one used in Lithuania - the pagan stronghold of Ragnit has been razed and replaced with Neman castle, while the cities were renamed and their inhabitants forced to convert to orthodxy. The whole province - now named Scalviya, after a slavonised name of its original inhabitants - was given to Praskovya Andreievna.



    The Vech also steered Volodar's policy towards further consolidation of Russian lands. In 1207 the tsar's forced have overthrown the excommunicated prince Danil of Smolensk, replacing him with his underage son, Lev III. Later that year the independent principality of Pinsk has been incorporated, and finally in years 1210 - 1217, the Litvians campaigned successfully to retake the Cuman controlled lands south of Turov. The nomads have been decimated, and lands as far as Peremyshl, Galich and Terebovl incorporated into the Litvian state. The capture of Kiev was a feat of symbolical nature - even though the city was a shadow of its former self, its restoration to the orthodoxy has confirmed the position of Litva as the primary power of eastern Europe.

    Such rise could not have come without huge internal changes however. The nobles' policy - expansionism, promotion of the orthodox faith and using Volodar as a puppet to further their own goals - has ultimately proven to be their downfall.
    Last edited by Jedrek; 04-09-2012 at 00:24.

  15. #35
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    7.2: The nobles' downfall

    The erosion of the Vech's power was slow and gradual, but, as it turned out, inevitable. The first element of the this process was - pradoxally - the success of metropolit Igor's prozealite policies. Tempted by promised priveliges, numerous Polish families decided to convert. Among those nobles was a young, yet ambitious woman - Scholastyka Brzeska. It is unknown how she appeared in Polotsk - although we may safetly assume that she moved there along with the rest of her family. We do know for sure, however that around 1205 she was presented to tsar Volodar - possibly as a perspective spouse to one of the Vech's members.

    However, Scholastyka - or Sofia Pelkovna, for such name she adopted after conversion - turned out to be much more cunning than her supposed protectors. Within less than a year she manged to build her own network of acquitances on the royal court - ultimately outsmarting the Vech. She might even be resposible for the demise of Volodar's first wife - Yevdokia Andreievna - in 1206, although the dominant view is that she the late tsarina has been murdered on Dmitriy of Rezhitsa's behalf. Nevertheless, it was Sofia who replaced Yevdokia by Volodar's side - thus becoming the second power behind the throne.



    Her position soldified in 1208 with the birth of her first child - Milana - Sofia moved on to deal with the Vech. In 1211, she inspired Volodar to remove Avgust from the council, and replace him with Lampert, kunigas of Peremyshl. The already venerable boyar died the next year, and his son, Avgust Avgustovich, refused to swear fealty to the tsar "until he recieves what his father was shamefully deprived of". A full scale civil war has been avoided only thanks to Avgust Avgustovich's early death of pneumonia in 1212.

    With Avgust dead and Terentiy busy in Mazowsze, the Vech's power started to tremble. It has ulitmately collapsed in 1216, when Volodar himself, perhaps for the first time in his life, refused to follow metropolit Igor's advice and decided to nominate a new bishop against Igor's wish. The conflict might have been resolved peacefully - if it wasn't for Sofia's intervention. In a masterful show of diplomacy, she convinced the patriarch to remove Igor from office, installing a new, less ambitious priest in his place. The only member of the Vech still in Polotsk, Dmitriy of Rezhitsa, quickly switched sides, openly supporting the new metropolit. The shadow council has been destroyed physically in 1217, when prince Terentiy has been imprisoned and executed for suspected treason and conspiration with the catholics.

    While Sofia was indeed a skilled and ambitious schemer, her goals were much closer to Volodar's - thus, we may safetly assume that the tsar's actions post 1216 were mostly his own, with Sofia aiding him, but not quite steering the course of events.

    In 1220 the long-time ally to Litva, Byzantine emperor Laurentios Doukas, has passed away, leaving the Empire in the state of crisis, with the muslim armies pushing deeper and deeper into Armenia. In the north, the pontic vassals to the Empire were also in disarray, their power on the steppes weak and not consolidated. This presented Volodar with an excellent opportunity to soldify his gains in the south - or so it seemed.

    In 1221 the Litvian armies crossed the vague border, marching towards the town of Korsun and laying siege. In the north, princess Agafia Rodislavovna of Livoniya declared her support for the Byzantines, effectively forcing Volodar to wage a two-front war.

    In 1222-1223 the Litvians scored two decisive victories; first at Dvinsk in the north, then against the Greek relief force coming to aid the besieged Korsun. The fortress has surrendered, allowing Volodar's forces to advance forward, against the town of Kaniv. But then fortune turned away from Volodar's favour.

    In 1224 the Byzantines finally transported the bulk of their forces across the Black Sea and defeated Volodar in two battles of Kaniv - first in March, then in November. Although numerically superior, the Litvian tsar's forces have been overcome by a combination of misfortune, weather and Byzantine technological superiority. It is known that several villages have been burnt to the ground when the Byzantine Greek fire went out of controll during the battle, consuming vast area before it was finally put down.



    In March 1225 Volodar was forced to accept the inevitable; with his levies depleated, Korsun and Kaniv lost and the Byzantine army en route to besiege Kiev, he invited the emperor's envoy to peace talks. The Treaty of Kiev, restored the territorial status quo ante bellum. Volodar was obliged to pay a tribute to the Emperor. In exchange, the Byzantines recognised his title as the Tsar of Ruthenia. The coronation ceremony was held on the 22nd of June, with Volodar and Sofia crowned by metropolit Sviatoslav. A new regalia - the so-called Troynaya korona (Тройная корона, Triple crown) - has been used during the ceremony, representing the unification of three realms under Volodar's rule.

  16. #36
    Chronicler of the Light Jedrek's Avatar
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    @ Dovahkiing -> Thank you, I hope you like the two new updates

    Beat 1750 views, woohoo! Taking advantage of the opportunity, I'd like to thank all my readers (or should I say: lurkers? ), who have read and (hopefully) enjoyed this story so far. Remember, I'd love to hear any feedback, even the most critical one. With so few comments I sometimes fear that my style is too hard and tiring to read and enjoy, but I don't really know how to improve it, if that's the case...
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  17. #37
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    7.3: The Mongols

    The defeat at Kaniv was not the only reason behind Volodar's quick backing off from the war. In fact, there was one, much more pressing matter - the invasion from the East.

    It is known that the Vech was aware of the new power rising on the Great Steppe as soon as the beginning of the second decade of the XIII century. However, this information has most likely been overlooked. In fact, when the news of Mongolian invasion of Persia reached Polotsk, most of the nobles rejoiced - hoping that Hooshyar's successors would grind their forces to death, repeling the invaders. In 1224, however, situation changed dramatically. The so-called Golden Horde, led by khagan Chiledu, crossed the Ural mountains in spring and struck the weakened Persian state from the north. Within less than a year, the Mongols obliterated the muslim armies and carried on west, towards the Russian states.



    At the hastly called council of Smolensk in January 1225, three tsars - Volodar of Litva, Yefimia of Russia and Dobrynia of Bulgaria - forged an alliance, aimed at stopping the invaders. The united Russian forces were to converge at the town of Nizhny Novgorod and then march against the Mongols, seeking a decisive battle.

    Litvian forces finished mobilising in June and began their march east, towards Nizhny Novgorod. However, little did Volodar know of the tragedy that took place in the north. The Mongolians seemed to have anticipated the Russian plans - and dispersed their tumens in an attempt to cripple the Russians levies before their muster. The plan worked splendidly - the whole army has been massacred without a chance to concentrate, and when the Mongolians reassembled their forces, their numerical superiority over the remaining allied regiments was overwhelming.

    On the 6th of August 1225, the concentrated Mongolians struck against the united Litvo-Bulgarian force under Volodar and Dobrynia's command at Roslavl. In perhaps the grimmest battle in Russian history, the horde obliterated the defenders. Dobrynia was captured, and heavily wounded Volodar had to flee the battlefield with a handful of men.



    The following two years have seen the Mongolians given free reign over eastern Europe. The horde has swept through the principalities of Minsk, Smolensk and Chernigov, burning the cities to the ground. Polotsk was miracullously spared - which the Litvians attributed to the miraculous icon of Christ Pantokrator. Voievoda Igor attempted mustering the armies once again - but the Mongols utilised the very same tactic as in Russia, decimating small regiments while they were still en route to their destinations.

    As the contemporary chronicle says:

    The towns have been burnt and the cities razed. Only churches, protected by holy icons and the saints, survived. Men have been slaughtered, and there wasn't any village in Litva that was not crying with blood

    Eliminating Litva as a threat, the Mongols turned back east. In 1226 they executed tsar Dobrynia and subdued his domain, after which they moved against Yefimia, burning the royal palace in Toropets and the Saint Sophia of Novgorod. In 1227-1228 the triumphant horde campaigned against duke Halfdan of Estonia, gaining a stable access to the sea.


    The Golden Horde in 1228


    But tsar Volodar did not live up to see this; he died on the 18th of Novermber 1225, probably because of an infected wound gained during the battle with the Mongolians. Let us hear the chronicler once again:

    And on the 15th of November, tsar Volodar departed for the House of Lord. And many dark signs appeared on the skies, wild beasts roamed the forests and fear reigned from Warta to Dneper. Litva and Poland and Russia mourned after the bold hero, who stood up against all invaders and who always defended the faith.

  18. #38
    Watcher on the Walls Dovahkiing's Avatar
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    oh no! the horde is here!
    So that child duke is king now? (unless he's not a kid anymore)

  19. #39
    Chronicler of the Light Jedrek's Avatar
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    Yup. Sometimes I decide I should take a screen much later than it should have been done - thus we have a semi-spoiler of Alexei Volodarovich. Just as in the last screen in Andrei's chapter depicts Volodar as the ruler And finally, someone has commented! This threat is not visited by spambots alone! XD <dances>
    Last edited by Jedrek; 06-09-2012 at 01:20.
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  20. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedrek View Post
    Finally, Andrei's only son Alexei (born 1158) was married to Małgorzata Kmita - the eldest child of king Jacek II - in 1176. The marriage has soon proven to be a successful one - Małgorzata agreed to convert to orthodoxy and adapt a Russian name Milana.
    Hmm, this new name feels... very Italian and non-orthodox
    Quote Originally Posted by Jedrek View Post
    the village of Trakai was renamed to Bolotsk (lit. trakas = rus. болото, boloto = swamp)
    That must be quite a posh village. Google search indicated that a lot of people in Russia simply call their villages "boloto", without the "-sk".
    Last edited by Cuke; 06-09-2012 at 13:06. Reason: extra quote

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