DISTRIBUTION OF RUSSIA INTO PRINCIPALITIES-UNITY IN DIVISION.
THE period that extends from 1054, the year of Iaroslaf's death, to 1224, the year of the first appearance of the Tatars, or to take the French chronology, from the reign of Henry I. to the death of Philip Augustus, is one of the most confused and troubled in Russian history. As the barbarian custom of division continued to prevail over the Byzantine ideas of political unity, the national territory was ceaselessly partitioned.
The princely anarchy of Eastern Europe has its parallel in the feudal anarchy of the West. M. Pogodine reckons during this period, sixty-four principalities which had an existence more or less prolonged, 293 princes who disputed the throne of Kief and other domains, and eighty-three civil wars, in some of which the whole country was engaged. There were besides foreign wars to augment this immense heap of historical facts. Against the Polovtsi alone the chroniclers mention eighteen campaigns, while these barbarians made no less than forty-six invasions of Russia. It is impossible to follow the national chroniclers in the minute details of their annals; we will only treat of the principalities which lasted some time, and the facts which were the most important.
The ancient names of the Slav tribes have everywhere disappeared, or only remain in the names of some of the towns, for example that of the Polotchanes in Polotsk, and that of the Severians in Novgorod Severski. The elements of which Russia was now composed were no longer tribes, but principalities. We hear no more of the Krivitches or the Drevlians, but of the principalities of Smolensk and Volhynia. These little States were perpetually dismembered at each new partition between the sons of a prince, and then were reconstituted to be divided anew into appanages.
Notwithstanding all these vicissitudes, some of them main. tained a steady existence, corresponding to certain topographi. cal or ethnographical conditions. Without speaking of the distant principality of Tmoutorakan, situated at the foot of the Caucasus in the centre of Turkish and Circassian tribes, and reckoning eight successive princes, the following are the great divisions of Russia from the11th to the 13th century:
1. The principality of Smolensk occupied the important territory which is, as it were, the central point in the mountain system of Russia. It comprehends the ancient forest of Okof, where three of the largest Russian rivers, the Volga, the Dnieper, and the Dwina, take their rise. Hence the political importance of Smolensk, attested by all the wars to gain possession of her; hence, also, her commercial prosperity. We must observe that all her towns were built on one or the other of these three great rivers ; all the commerce, therefore, of ancient Russia passed through her hands. Besides Smolensk, we must mention Mojaïsk, Viasma, and Toropetz, which was the capital of a secondary principality, the property of two celebrated princes, Mstislaf the Brave (Khrabryi) and Mstislaf the Bold (Oudaloï).
2. The principality of Kief was Rouss, Russia in the strict sense of the word. Her situation on the Dnieper, the neighborhood of the Greek Empire, the fertility of the Black Land, for long secured to this State the supremacy over the other Russian principalities. On the south she bordered directly on the nomads of the steppe, against whom her princes were forced to raise a barrier of frontier towns. They often took these bar. barians into their pay, granted them lands, and constituted them into military colonies. The principality of Peréiaslavl was a dependence of Kief ; Vychegorod, Bielgorod, Tripoli, Torchesk, were at times erected into principalities for princes of the same family.
3. On the tributaries of the right bank of the Dnieper, notably the Soja, the Desna and the Seïme, extended the two principalities of Tchernigof, with Starodoub and Loubetch; and of Arovgorod-Severski, with Poutivl, Koursk, and Briansk. The principality of Tchernigof, which reached towards the Upper Oka, had therefore one foot in the basin of the Volga; her princes, the Olgovitches, were the most formidable rivals of Kief. The princes of Severski were always occupied with their ceaseless wars against the Polovtsi, their neighbors on the south. It was a prince of Severski whose exploits against these barbarians formed the subject of a sort of chanson de geste, the Song of Igor, or the Account of the Expedition of Igor (Slovo o polkou lgorévié.)
4. Another principality, whose very existence consisted in endless war against the nomads, was the double principality of Riazan and Mourom. Her principal towns were Riazan, Mourom, Peréiaslavl-Riazanski, situated on the Oka, Kolomna at the junction of the Moskowa with the Oka, and the Pronsk on the Prona. The Upper Don formed its western boundary. This principality was placed in the very heart of the Mouromians and Mechtcheraks, Finnish tribes. The reputation of her inhabitants, who were reckoned warlike in character, and rough and brutal in manners, was no doubt partly the result of the mixture of the Russian race with the ancient inhabitants of the country, and of their perpetual and bloody struggle with the nomad tribes.
5. The double principalities of Souzdal, with their towns of Souzdal, Rostof, Iourief-PoIski on the Kolocha, Vladimir on the Kliazma, Iaroslavl, and Peréiaslavl-Zaliesski, were situated on the Volga and the Oka amongst the thickest of northern forests, and in the middle of the Finnish tribes of Mouromians, Merians, Vesses, and Tcheremisses. Although placed at the furthest extremity of the Russian world, Souzdal exercised an important influence over it. We shall find her princes now establishing a certain political authority over Novgorod and the Russia of the Lakes, the result of a double economic dependence ; now intervening victoriously in the quarrels of the Russia of the Dneiper. The Souzdalians were rough and warlike, like the Riazanese. Already we can distinguish among these two peoples the characteristics of a new nationality. That which divides them from the Kievians and the men of Novgorod- Severski, occupied like themselves in the great war with the barbarians, is the fact that the Russians of the Dnieper sometimes mingled their blood with that of their enemies, and became fused with the nomad, essentially mobile Turkish races, whilst the Russians ,of the Oka and the Volga united with the Finnish tribes, agri. cultural and essentially sedentary. This distinction between the two foreign elements that entered the Slav blood, had doubtless contributed to the difference in the characters of the two branches of the Russian race. From the 11ith to the 13th century, in passing from the basin of the Dneiper to the basin of the Volga, we can already watch the formation of Great and Little Russia.
6. The principalities of Kief, Tchernigof, Novgorod-Severski, Riazan, Mourom, and Souzdal, situated on the side of the steppe with its devastating hordes, formed the frontier States, the Marches of Russia. The same rôle, on the north-west oppo. site the Lithuanians, Letts, and Tchouds, fell to the principality of Polotsk, which occupied the basin of the Dwina; and to the republican principalities of Novgorod and Pskof on the lakes Ilmen and Peïpus. To the principality of Polotsk, that of Minsk was attached, which lay in the basin of the Dnieper. The possession of Minsk, thanks to its situation, was often disputed by the Grand Princes of Kief. To Novgorod belonged the towns of Torjok, Volok-Lamski, Izborsk, and Veliki-Louki, which were at times capitals of particular States.
South-east Russia comprehended -- 1. Volhynia in the fan-shaped distribution of rivers formed by the Pripet and its tributaries, with Vladimir-in-Volhynia, Loutsk, Tourof, Brest, and even Lublin, which is certainly Polish. 2.. Gallicia proper, or Red Russia, in the basin of the San, the Dniester, and the Pripet, whose ancient inhabitants the White Croats seemed to have sprung from the stock of the Danubian Slavs. Her chief towns were Galitch, founded by Vladimirko about 1144, Peremysl, Terebovl, and Zvenigorod. The neighborhood of Hungary and Poland gave a special character to these principalities, as well as a more advanced civilization. The epic songs speak of Gallicia, the native land of the hero Diouk Stepanovitch, as a fabulously-rich country. The Tale of the Expedition of Igor gives us a high idea of the power of these princes. "Iaroslaf Osmomysl of Gallicia!" cried the poet to one of them, "thou art seated very high on thy throne of wrought gold; with thy regiments of iron thou sustainest the Carpathians; thou closest the gates of the Danube ; thou barrest the way to the king of Hungary; thou openest at thy will the gates of Kief, and with thine arrows thou strikest from afar! "
The disposition of these fifteen or sixteen principalities con. firms all that we have said about the essential unity of the configuration of the Russian soil. Not one of the river-basins forms an isolated and closed region. There is no line of heights to establish barriers between them or political frontiers. The greater number of the Russian principalities belong to the basin of the Dneiper, but extend everywhere beyond its limits. The principality of Kief, with Peréiaslavl, is nearly the only one completely confined within it; but Volhynia puts the basin of the Dnieper in communication with those of the Bug and the Vistula, Polotsk with the basins of the Dnieper and the Dwina, Novgorod-Severski with the basin of the Don, Tchernigof and Smolensk with the basin of the Volga. Water-courses every. where established communications between the principalities.
Already Russia, though broken up into appanages, had the germs of a great united empire. The slight cohesion of nearly all the States, and their frequent dismemberments, prevented them from ever becoming the homes of real nationalities. The principalities of Smolensk, Tchernigof, and Riazan have never possessed as definite an historic existence as the duchy of Bretagne or the county of Toulouse in France, or the duchies of Saxony, Suabia, and Bavaria in Germany.
The interests of the princes, their desire to create appanages for each of their children, caused a fresh division of the Russian territory at the death of every sovereign. There was, however, a certain cohesion in the midst of all these vicissitudes. There was a unity of race and language, the more sensible, notwithstanding all-dialectic differences, because the Russian people was surrounded everywhere, except at the south-west, by entirely strange races, Lithuanians, Tchouds, Finns, Turks, Magyars. There was a unity of religion ; the Russians differed from nearly all their neighbors, for in contrast with the Western Slavs, Poles, Tcheques, and Moravians, they represented a particular form of Christianity, not owning any tie to Rome, and rejecting Latin as the language of the Church. There was the unity of historical development, as up to that time the RussoSlavs had all followed the same road, had accepted Greek civilization, submitted to the Varangians, pursued certain great enterprises in common-such as the expeditions against Byzantium and the war with the nomads. Finally, t here was political unity, since after all in Gallicia as in Novgorod, on the Dnieper as in the forests of Souzdal, it was the same family that filled all the thrones. All these princes descended from Rurik, Saint Vladi. mir, and Iaroslaf the Great. The fact that the wars that laid waste the country were civil wars, was a new proof of this unity. The different parts of Russia could not consider themselves strangers one to the other, when they saw the princes of Tchernigof and Souzdal taking up arms to prove which of them was the eldest, and which consequently had most right to the title of Grand Prince and the throne of Kief. There were descendants of Rurik who governed successively the remotest States of Russia, and who, after having reigned at Tmoutorakan on the Straits of lenikale, at Novgorod the Great, at Toropetz in the country of Smolensk, ended by establishing their right to reign at Kief. In spite of the division into appanages, Kief continued to be the centre of Russia. It was there that Oleg and Igor had reigned, that Vladimir had baptized his people, and laroslaf had established the metropolis of the faith, of arts, and of national civilization. It is not surprising that she should have been more fiercely disputed than all the other Russian cities. Russia had many princes; but she had only one Grand Prince (Veliki- kniaz)-the one who reigned at Kief. He had a rec. ognized supremacy over the others which he owed not only to the importance of his capital, but to his position as eldest of the royal family. Kief, the mother of Russian cities, was always to belong to the eldest of the descendants of Rurik; this was the consequence of the patriarchal system of the Slavs, as was the custom of division. When the brand Prince of Kief died, his son was not his rightful heir; but his uncle or brother, or which ever of the princes was the eldest. Then the whole of Russia, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, held itself in readiness to sup. port the claims of this or that candidate. It was the same with the other principalities, where the possessors of different appanages aspired to reign in the metropolis of the region. The civil wars, then, themselves strengthened the sentiments of Russian unity. What were they, after all, but family quarrels ?
When his own death took place (1078), his son Sviatopolk did not succeed him immediately. It was necessary that all the heirs of laroslaf should be exhausted. Vsevolod, a brother of Isiaslaf, whose daughter married the Emperor Henry IV., or Henry V. - it is not quite certain which-reigned for fifteen years (1078- 1093)- In accordance with the same principle, it was not the son of Vsevolod, Vladimir Monomachus, who succeeded his father; but after the crown had been worn by a new generation of princes, it returned to the blood of Isiaslaf. Vladi. mir Monomachus made no opposition to the claims of Sviatopolk Isiaslavitch. "His father was older than mine," he said, "and reigned first in Kief," so he quitted the principality which he had governed with his father, and valiantly defended against the barbarians. But everyone was not so respectful to the national law as Vladimir Monomachus.
Two terrible civil wars desolated Russia in the reign of the Grand Prince Sviatopolk 1093- 1113): one about the principality of Tchernigof, the other about Volhynia and Red Russia. Sviatoslaf had enjoyed Tchernigof as his share, to which Tmoutoraken in the Taurid, Mourom and Riazan in the Finn country, were annexed. Isiaslaf and Vsevolod, Grand Princes of Kief, had despoiled the sons of Sviatoslaf, their brother, depriving them of the rich territory of Tchernigof, and only leaving them Tmoutorakan and the Finnish country. Even Vladimir Monomachus, whom we have seen so disinterested, had accepted a share of the spoil. The injured princes were not people to bear this meekly, especially the eldest, Oleg Sviatoslavitch, one of the most energetic men of the 11th century. He called the terrible Polovtsi to his aid, and subjected Russia to frightful ravages. Vladimir Monomachus was moved by these misfortunes ; he wrote a touching letter to Oleg, expressing his sorrow for having accepted Tchernigof. At his instigation a Congress of Princes met at Loubetch, on the Dnieper (1097). Seated on the same carpet, they resolved to put an end to the civil wars that handed the country as a prey to the barbarians. Oleg recovered Tchernigof, and promised to unite with the Grand Prince of Kief and Vladimir Monomachus against the Polovtsi. The treaty was ratified by the oath of each prince, who kissed the cross and swore, " That henceforth the Russian land shall be considered as the country of us all ; and whoso shall dare to arm himself against his brother becomes our common enemy."
In Volhynia, the prince, David, was at war with his nephews, Vassilko and Volodar. The Congress of Loubetch had divided the disputed territories between them, but scarcely was the treaty ratified when David went to the Grand Prince Sviatopolk and persuaded him that Vassilko had a design on his life. With the light faith habitual to the men of that date, the Grand Prince joined David in framing a plot to attract Vassilko to Kief on the occasion of a religious fête. When he arrived he was loaded with chains, and the Grand Prince convoked the boyards and citizens of Kief, to denounce to them the pretended projects of Vassilko. " Prince," replied the boyards, much embarrassed, " thy tranquillity is dear to us. Vassilko merits death, if it is true that he is thine enemy; but if he is calumniated by David, God will avenge on David the blood of the innocent." Thereon the Grand Prince delivered Vassilko to his enemy David, who put out his eyes. The other descendants of Iaroslaf I. were indignant at this crime. Vladimir Monomachus united with Oleg of Tchernigof, his ancient enemy, and marched against Sviatopoll:. The people and clergy of Kief succeeded in preventing a civil war between the Grand Prince and the confederates of Loubetch. Sviatopolk was forced to disavow David, and swear to join the avengers of Vassilko. David defended himself with vigor, and summoned to his help, first the Poles, and then the Hungarians. At last a new congress was assembled at Vititchevo (1100), on the left bank of the Dnieper, a town of which a deserted gorodichtché is all that now remains. As a punishment for his crime, David was deprived of his principality of Vladimir in Volhynia, and had to content himself with four small towns. After the new settlement of this affair, Monomachus led the other princes against the Polovtsi, and inflicted on them a bloody defeat ; seventeen of their khans remained on the field of battle. One khan who was made prisoner offered a ransom to Monomachus ; but the prince showed how deeply he felt the injuries of the Christians-he refused the gold, and cut the brigand chief in pieces.
When Sviatopolk died, the Kievians unanimously declared they would have no Grand Prince but Vladimir Monomachus. Vladimir declined the honor, alleging the claims of Oleg and his brothers to the throne of Kief. During these negotiations, a sedition broke out in the city, and the Jews, whom Sviatopolk had made the instruments of his fiscal exactions, were pillaged. Monomachus was forced to yield to the prayers of the citizens. During his reign (I 113-1125) he obtained great successes against the Polovtsi, the Patzinaks, the Torques, the Tcherkesses, and other nomads, He gave an asylum to the remains of the Khazars, who built on the Oster, not far from Tchernigof, the town of Belovega. The ruins of this city that remain to-day prove that this Finnish people, eminently perfectible, and already civilized by the Greeks, were further advanced in the arts of construction and fortification than even the Russians themselves.
According to one tradition, Monomachus also made war on the Emperor Alexis Comnenus, a Russian army invaded Thrace, and the Bishop of Ephesus is said to have brought gifts to Kief, among others a cup of cornelian that had belonged to Augustus, besides a crown and a throne, still preserved in the Museum at Moscow under the name of the crown and throne of Monomachus. It is at present ascertained that they never belonged to Vladimir, but it was the policy of his descendants, the Tzars of Moscow, to propagate this legend. It was of consequence to them to prove that these ensigns of their power were traceable to their Kievian ancestor, and that the Russian Monomachus, grandson of the Greek Monomachus, had been solemnly crowned by the Bishop of Ephesus as sovereign of Russia.
The Grand Prince made his authority felt in other parts of Russia. A Prince of Minsk who had the temerity to kindle a civil war, was promptly dethroned, and died in captivity at Kief. The Novgorodians saw many of their boyards kept as hostages, or exiled. The Prince of Vladimir in Volhynia was deposed, and his states given to a son of the Grand Prince.
Monomachus has left us a curious paper of instructions that he compiled
for his sons, and in which he gives them much good advice, enforced by examples
drawn from his own life. " It is neither fasting, nor solitude, nor
the monastic life, that will procure you the life eternal-it is well- doing.
Do not forget the poor, but nourish them. Do not bury your riches in the
bosom of the earth, for that is contrary to the precepts of Christianity. Be a father to orphans, judge the cause of widows
yourself.... Put to death no one, be he innocent or guilty, for nothing
is more sacred than the soul of a Christian . . . . . Love your wives, but
beware lest they get the power over you. When you have learnt anything useful,
try to preserve it in your memory and strive ceaselessly to get knowledge.
Without ever leaving his palace, my father spoke five languages, a thing
that foreigners admire in us. . . I have made altogether twenty-three
campaigns without counting those of minor importance. I have concluded nineteen
treaties of peace with the Polovtsi, taken at least 100 of their princes
prisoners, and afterwards restored them to liberty; besides more than 200
whom I threw into the rivers. No one has travelled more rapidly than I.
If I left Tchernigof very early in the morning, I arrived at Kief before
vespers. Sometimes in the middle of the thickest forests, I caught wild
horses myself, and bound them together with my own hands. How many times
I have been thrown from the saddle by buffaloes, struck by the horns of
the deer, trampled under foot by the elands 1 A furious boar once tore my
sword from my belt; my saddle was rent by a bear, which threw my horse down
under me! How many falls I had from my horse in my youth, when, heedless
of danger, I broke my head, I wounded my arms and legs! But the Lord watched
Vladimir completed the establishment of the Slav race in Souzdal, and founded a city on the Kliazma that bore his name, and that was destined to play a great part. Such, in the beginning of the 12th century, when Louis VI. was fighting with his barons of the Isle de France, was the ideal of a Grand Prince of Russia.
WARS BETWEEN THE HEIRS OF VLADIMIR MONOMACHUS - FALL OF KIEF.
Of the sons of Vladimir Monomachus, George Dolgorouki became the father of the Princes of Souzdal and Moscow, and Mstislaf the father of the Princes of Galitch and Kief. These two branches were often at enmity, and it was their rivalry that struck the final blow at the prosperity of Kief. When Isiaslaf, son of Mstislaf (1146-1154), was called to the throne by the inhabitants of the capital, his uncle, George Dolgorouki, put forward his rights as the eldest of the family. Kief, which had been already many times taken and re-taken in the strife between the 0lgovitches (descendants of Oleg of Tchernigof) and the Monomachivitches (descendants of Vladimir Monomachus), was fated to be disputed anew between the uncle and the nephew. It was almost a war between the Old and New Russia, the Russia of the Dnieper and that of the Volga. The Princes of Souzdal, who dwelt afar in the forests in the north-west, establishing their rule over the remnants of the Finnish races, were to become greater and greater strangers to Kievian Russia. If they still coveted the " mother of Russian cities," because the title of Grand Prince was attached to it, they at least began to obey and to venerate it less than the other princes.
George Dolgorouki found an ally against Isiaslaf in one of the Olgovitches, Sviatoslaf, who thirsted to avenge his brother Igor, dethroned and kept prisoner in Kief by the Grand Prince. The Kievians hesitated to support the sovereign they had chosen; they hated the Olgovitches, but in their attachment to the blood of Monomachus, they respected his son and his grandson equally. " We are ready," they said to Isiaslaf, " we and our children, to make war on the sons of Oleg. But George is your uncle, and can we dare to raise our hands against the son of Monomachus ? " After the war had lasted some time, a decisive battle was fought. At the battle of Peréiaslavl, Isiaslaf was completely defeated, and took refuge, with two attendants, in Kief. The inhabitants, who had lost many citizens in this war, declared they were unable to stand a siege. The Grand Prince then abandoned his capital to George Dolgorouki and retired to Vladimir in Volhynia, whence he demanded help from his brother-in-law, the King of Hungary, and the kings of Poland and Bohemia. With these reinforcements he surprised Kief, and nearly made his uncle prisoner. Understanding that the national law was against him, he opposed eldest with eldest and declared himself the partisan of another son of Monomachus, the old Viatcheslaf, Prince of Tourof. He was proclaimed Grand Prince of Kief (1150-1154), adopted his nephew Isiaslaf as his heir, and gave splendid fêtes to the Russians and Hungarians. George returned to the charge, and was beaten under the walls of Kief. Each of these princes had taken barbarians into his pay : George, the Polovtsi; Isiaslaf the Black Caps, that is the Torques, the Patzinaks, and the Berendians.
The obstinate Prince of Souzdal did not allow himself to be discouraged by this check. The old Viatcheslaf, who only desired peace and quiet, in vain addressed him letters, setting forth his rights as elder. "I had already a beard when you entered the world," he said. George proved himself intractable, and went into Gallicia to effect a junction with his ally, Vladimirko, Prince of Galitch. This Vladimirko had violated the oath he had taken and confirmed by kissing the cross. When they reproached him, he said, with a sneer, " It was such a little cross." To prevent this dangerous co-operation, Isiaslaf, without waiting the expected arrival of the Hungarians, began the pursuit of George, and came up with him on the borders of the Rout, a small tributary of the Dnieper. A bloody battle was fought, where he himself was wounded and thrown from his horse, but the Souzdalians and their allies the Polovtsi were completely defeated (1151). Isiaslaf survived this victory only three years. After his death and that of Viatcheslaf, Kief passed from hand to hand. George ended by reaching the supreme object of his desires. He made his entry into the capital in 1155, and bad the consolation of dying Grand Prince of Kief at the moment that a league was being formed for his expulsion (1157). " I thank Thee, great God," cried one of the confederates on learning the news, "for having spared us, by the sudden death of our enemy, the obligation of shedding his blood!"
The confederates entered the town ; one of them assumed the title of Grand Prince, the others divided his territories. Henceforth there existed no Grand Principality, properly speaking, and with the growing power of Souzdal, Kief ceased to be the capital of Russia. A final disaster was still reserved for her.
In 1169, Andrew Bogolioubski, son of George Dolgorouki and Prince of Souzdal, being disaffected to Mstislaf, Prince of Kief, formed against him a coalition of eleven princes. He confided to his son Mstislaf and his voïevode Boris an immense army of Rostovians, Vladimiris, and Souzdalians to march against Kief. This time the Russia of the forests triumphed over Russia of the steppes, and after a three days' siege Kief was taken by assault. "This mother of Russian cities," says Karamsin, "had been many times besieged and oppressed. She had often opened her Golden Gate to her enemies, but none had ever yet entered by force. To their eternal shame, the Victors forgot that they too were Russians I During three days not only the houses, but the monasteries, churches, and even the temples of Saint Sophia and the Dime, were given over to pillage. The precious images, the sacerdotal ornaments, the books, and the bells, all were taken away."
From this time the lot of the capital of Saint Vladimir, pillaged and dishonored by his descendants, ceases to have a general interest for Russia. Like other parts of Slavonia, she has her princes, but the heads of the reigning families of Smolensk, Tchernigof, and Galitch assume the title, formerly unique, of Grand Prince. The centre of Russia is changed. It is now in the basin of the Volga, at Souzdal. Many causes conspired to render the disaster of 1169 irremediable. The chronic civil wars of this part of Russia, and the multitudes and growing power of nomad hordes, rendered the banks of the Dnieper uninhabitable. In 1203 Kief was again sacked by the Polovtsi, whom the Olgovitches of Tchernigof had taken into their pay. On this soil, incessantly the prey of war and invasion, it was impossible to found a lasti