[excerpted from Alfred Rambaud, Russia, Leonora B. Lang, tr., vol. 1 (New York: Collier, 1900), pp. 84-89]


AFTER the fall of the grand principality of Kief, Russia ceased to have a centre round which her whole mass could gravitate. Her life seemed to be withdrawn to her extremities ; and during the fifty four years which preceded the arrival of the Mongols, all the interest of Russian history is concentrated on the principality of Souzdal, on that of Galitch, and on the two republics of Novgorod and Pskof.

George Dolgorouki was the founder of Souzdal, but we have seen him expend all his energy in securing possession of the throne of Kief. His son Andrew Bogolioubski was, on the contrary, a true prince of Souzdal. From him are descended the Tzars of Moscow; with him there appears in Russian history quite a new type Of prince. It is no longer the chivalrous lighthearted careless kniaz, in turn a prey to all kinds of opposing passions, the joyous kniaz of the happy land of Kief- but an ambitious, restless, politic, and imperious sovereign, going straight to his goal without scruple and without pity. Andrew had taken an aversion to the turbulent cities of the Dnieper, where the assemblies of citizens sometimes held the power of the prince in check. In Souzdal, at least, he found himself in the centre of colonists planted by the prince, who never dreamed of contesting his authority: he reigned over towns which for the most part owed their existence to his ancestors or himself. During the lifetime of his father George, he had quitted the Dnieper and his palace at Vychegorod, had established himself on the Kliazma, bringing with him a Greek image of the mother of God, had enlarged and fortified Vladimir, and founded a quarter that he called Bogolioubovo.

When after the death of George the grand principality be. came vacant, he allowed the princes of the south to dispute it among themselves. He only wished to mix with their quarrels as far as would suffice for the recognition of his authority, not at Kief, but at Novgorod the Great, then bound by the closest ties to Souzdal. He established one of his nephews as his lieuten. ant at Novgorod. A glorious campaign against the Bulgarians increased his reputation in Russia. He deserved more than anyone to be Grand Prince of Kief, but we have seen that he preferred to pillage it-that he preferred a sacrilegious spoil to the throne of Monomachus.

After having destroyed the splendor and power of Kief, and guided by the sure instinct that afterwards led Ivan the Great and Ivan the Terrible against Novgorod, he longed to subdue the great republic to a narrower dependence. " The fall of Kief," says Karamsin, " seemed to presage the loss of Novgorod liberty; it was the same army, and it was the same prince (Mstislaf Andreievitch) who commanded it. But the Kievians, accustomed to change their masters-to sacrifice the vanquished to the victors-only fought for the honor of their princes, while the Novgorodians were to shed their blood for the defence of the laws and institutions established by their ancestors." Mstislaf, who had forced the princes of Smolensk, Riazan, Mourom, and Polotsk to join him, put the territories of the republic to fire and sword, but only succeeded in exasperating the courageous citizens. When fighting began under the walls of the town, the Novgorodians, to inflame themselves for the combat, reminded each other of the pillage and the sacrilege with which their adversaries had polluted the holy city of Kief. All swore to die for St. Sophia of Novgorod ; their archbishop, Ivan, took the image of the Mother of God and paraded it with great pomp round the walls. It is said that an arrow shot by a Souzdalian soldier having struck the image of the Virgin, her face turned towards the city, and inundated the vestments of the archbishop with miraculous tears. Instantly a panic seized the besiegers. The victory of the Novgorodians was complete; they slew A multitude of their enemies, and made so many prisoners, that according to the contemptuous expression of their chronicler, "You could get six Souzdalians for a grivna (1170)." Their dependence on Souzdal for corn soon forced them to make peace. They abandoned none of the ancient rights of the repub. lic, but of "their own free will," according to the consecrated expression, they accepted as sovereign the prince nominated for them by Andrew of Souzdal.

Andrew about this time lost his only son, his heir. Mstislav. The knowledge that in future he would be working for his collateral relatives no whit diminished his ambition or his arrogance. The princes of Smolensk, David, Rurik, and Mstislaf the Brave, could not endure his despotic ways, and, in spite of his threats, took Kief. The Olgovitches of Tchernigof, delighted to see discord kindled between the descendants of Monomachus, incited Andrew to revenge this injury. So he sent a herald to the princes of Smolensk, to say to them, " You are rebels; the principality of Kief is mine. I order Rurik to return to his patrimony of Smolensk, and David to retire to Berlad; I can no longer bear his presence in Russia, nor the presence of Mstislaf, the most guilty of you all."

Mstislaf the Brave, say the chroniclers, " feared none but God." When he received Andrew's message, he shaved the beard and hair of the messenger, and answered him : " Go, and repeat these words unto your prince - 'Up to this time we have respected you like a father, but since you do not blush to treat us as your vassals and common people, since you have forgotten that you speak to princes, we mock at your menaces. Execute them-we appeal to the judgment of God.` " The judgment of God was an encounter under the walls of Vychegorod, besieged by more than twenty princes, allies or vassals of Andrew of Souzdal. Mstislaf succeeded in dividing the assailants, and completed their defeat by a victorious sortie, 1173.

When Andrew came to establish himself in the land of Souzdal, the inhabitants themselves elected him their prince, to the exclusion of other members of the family. But this enemy of municipal liberty had no intention of fixing his residence either at Rostof or Souzdal, the two most ancient cities of the principality, which had their assembly of citizens, their vetché. From the beginning he conceived the project of raising above them a new town, Vladimir on the Kliazma, considered by Rostof and Souzdal merely a subject borough. To give a plaus. ible pretext to this resolution he had his tent pitched on the road to Souzdal ten versts from Vladimir, and installed himself there with his miraculous image of the Virgin which came from Constantinople, and was, we are assured, the work of St. Luke. The next day he announced that the Mother of God had appeared to him in a dream, and had commanded him to place her image, not at Rostof, but at Vladimir. He was likewise to build a church and a monastery to the Virgin on the spot where she made herself manifest; this was the origin of the village of Bogolioubovo. Andrew preferred Vladimir to the old cities, but it was in his house at Bogolioubovo, that he best liked to live, He tried to make of Vladimir a new Kief, as Kief herself was a new Byzantium. There were at Vladimir a Golden Gate, a Church of the Dime consecrated to the Virgin, and numer. ous monasteries built by the artists summoned by Andrew from the West.

Andrew sought the friendship of the priests, whom he felt to be one of the great forces of the future. He posed as a pious prince, rose often by night to burn tapers in the churches, and publicly distributed alms in abundance. After a victory over the Bulgarians of the Volga, he obtained leave from the Patriarch of Constantinople to establish a commemorative feast. It happened that on the same day that Andrew triumphed over the Bulgarians, thanks to the image of the Virgin, the Emperor Manuel had won a victory over the Saracens by means of the true cross and the image of Christ represented on his standard. One anniversary served for both victories of orthodoxy, and Vladimir was in harmony with Byzantium. Andrew was anxious to make Vladimir a metropolitan city. At the same time that he robbed Kief of the grand principality, he would have deprived her of the religious supremacy of Russia, and given his new city the spiritual as well as the temporal power. This time the patriarch refused, but the attempt was one day to be renewed by the princes of Moscow.

What more particularly proves this prince-who had risen from the conception of appanages to that of the Indivisible modern state-to have been superior to his century, to have had sure instincts as to the future, is that he declined to share his dominions with his brothers and nephews. In spite of the tes. tamentary directions of George, he expelled his three brothers from Souzdal, and they retired with their mother, a Greek princess, to the court of the Emperor Manuel. It appears that this measure was advised by the men of Souzdal. The subjects then had the same instinct of unity as the prince. If he broke with the patriarchal custom of appanages, and wished to reign alone in Vladimir, he broke equally with the Varangian tradition of the droujina ; he treated his men, his boyards, not as companions, but as subjects. Those who refused to bow to his will had to leave the country. We may say that Andrew Bogolioubski created autocracy 300 years before its time. He indicated in the 12th century all that the Grand Princes of Moscow had to do in the 15th and 16th centuries, to attain absolute power. His mistrust of municipal liberty, his despotic treatment of the boyards, his efforts to suppress the appanages, his proud attitude towards the other Russian princes, his alliance with the clergy, and his project of transporting to the basin of the Oka the religious metropolis of all the Russias, are the indications of

a political programme that ten generations of princes did not suffice to carry out. The moment was not yet come ; Andrew had not enough power, nor Souzdal resources enough to subjugate the rest of Russia. Andrew succeeded against Kief, but he endured a double check from Novgorod the Great, and from Mstislaf the Brave, and the princes of the south. His despotism made him terrible enemies. His boyards, whom he tried to reduce to obedience, assassinated him in his favorite residence of Bogolioubovo (1174).


The death of this remarkable man was followed by great troubles. The common people attacked the houses of rich men and magistrates, gave them up to pillage, and committed so many murders that to establish quiet the clergy were forced to have a procession of images. The unpunished murders show how premature was the autocratic attempt of Andrew. His succession was disputed between his nephews and his two brothers Michael and Vsevolod, who had returned from Greece. The nephews were supported by the old cities of Rostof and Souzdal, which were animated by a violent hatred of the parvenue city of Vladimir, that had torn from them the title of capital, and had taken up the cause of Michael and Vsevolod. " The Vladimirians," said the Rostovians, " are our slaves, our masons ; let us burn their town, and set up there a governor of our own." The Vladimirians had the advantage in the first war, and caused Michael, the elder of Andrew's brothers, to be recognized Grand Prince of Souzdal. At his death the Rostovians refused to recognize the other brother Vsevolod, surnamed the Big-Nest, on account of his numerous posterity. They resisted all proposals of compromise, declaring that " their arms alone should do them right on the vile populace of Vladimir." It was, on the contrary, the vile populace of Vladimir who put the boyards of Rostof in chains. The two ancient cities were forced to submit; Vladimir remained the capital of Souzdal. Vsevolod (117612112) managed to secure himself on the throne by defeating the princes of Riazan and Tchernigof. He extended his influence to the distant Galitch, and contracted matrimonial alliances with the princes of Kief and Smolensk. He reduced the Novgorodians to beg for one of his sons as their prince. "Lord and Grand Prince," said the envoys of the republic to him, " our country is your patrimony ; we entreat you to send us the grandson of George Dolgorouki, the great-grandson of Monomachus, to govern us." The princes of Riazan having incurred his displeasure, he united their states to his principality. Riazan rebelled, and was reduced to ashes, and the inhabitants trans. ported to the solitudes of Souzdal. This prince, who has like. wise been called "The Great," exhibited in his designs the prudence, the spirit of intrigue, constancy, and firmness which characterized the princes of the Russia of the forests. At his death (1212) the troubles began again. Dissatisfied with his eldest son Constantine, prince of Novgorod, Vsevolod had given the grand principality of Novgorod to his second son, George II. Constantine had to content himself with Rostof ; a third brother, Iaroslaf, prince of Peréiaslavl-Zaliesski, had been sent to Novgorod.

Iaroslaf quarrelled with his turbulent subjects, left their town and installed himself at Torjok, a city in the territory of Novgorod, where he betook himself to hindering the passage of the merchants and boyards. Their communications with the Volga were intercepted ; he prevented the arrival of corn, and reduced the town to starvation. The Novgorodians were obliged to eat the bark of pines, moss, and lime-leaves. The streets were filled with the bodies of the wretched inhabitants, which the dogs devoured. Iaroslaf was implacable. He persisted in remaining at Torjok, refused to return to Novgorod, and arrested all envoys sent to him. He treated Novgorod as his father had treated Rostof and Souzdal. But help arrived to the despair. ing citizens in the person of a prince of Smolensk, Mstislaf the Bold, son of Mstislaf the Brave. " Torjok shall not hold her. self higher than Novgorod," he cried ; "I will deliver your lands and your citizens, or leave my bones among you." Thus Mstislaf became prince of Novgorod ; and as he saw that the Grand Prince of Vladimir supported his brothers, be sought an ally in Constantine of Rostof, who was discontented with his inheritance. The Novgorodian quarrel speedily expanded into a general war, and Mstislaf contrived to make Souzdal the scene of strife. Before a battle he tried to effect a reconciliation between the two princes of Vladimir and Rostof. But George answered, "If my father was not able to reconcile me with Constantine, has Mstislaf the right to judge between us ? Let Constantine be victorious and all will be his." This strife be. tween the three sons of Big-Nest had all the fierceness of fraternal warfare. Before the battle George and Iaroslaf issued orders that quarter was to be given to no one, to kill even those who had " embroideries of gold on their shoulders ; " that is, the princes of the blood. Already they had decided on the partition of Russia. But the troops of Novgorod, Pskof, and Smolensk attacked them with such fury that those of Souzdal and Mourom gave way, and it was the soldiers of Mstislaf who in their turn gave no quarter. Nine thousand men were killed and only sixty prisoners taken. George threw off his royal clothes, wore out the strength of three horses, and with the fourth just managed to reach Vladimir. (Battle of Lipetsk, near Peréiaslavl-Zaliesski, 1216.) Constantine then became Grand Prince of Vladimir, and ceded Souzdal to his brother George. laroslaf was obliged to renounce Novgorod, and release the captive citizens.

At the death of Constantine (1217) George regained the throne of Vladimir. Under him the expeditions against the Bulgarians of the Volga and the Mordvians were continued. These expeditions were organized both by land and water; the infantry descended the Oka and the Volga in boats, the cavalry marched along the banks. They attacked and burnt the wooden forts of the Bulgars, and destroyed the population.

During a campaign, conducted by George in person along the whole length of the Volga, he noticed a small hill on its right bank, near its junction with the Oka. Here, in the midst of Se Mordvian tribes, he founded Nijni-Novgorod (1220). A Mordvian tradition gives its own account of this important event. " The prince of the Russians sailed down the Volga ; on the mountain he perceived the Mordva in a long white coat, adoring her god ; and he said to his warriors, I What is that white birch that bends and sways up there, above its nurse the earth, and inclines towards the east ? ' He sent his men to look nearer, and they came back and said, ' It is not a birch that bends and sways, it is the Mordva adoring her god. In their vessels they have a delicious beer, pancakes hang on sticks, and their priests cook their meat in caldrons.' The elders of the Mordva, hearing of the Russian prince, sent young men with gifts of meat and beer. But on the road the young men ate the meat and drank the beer, and only brought the Russian prince earth and water. The prince was rejoiced at this present, which he considered as a mark of submission of the Mordva. He continued to descend the Volga : where he threw a handful of this earth on the bank, a town sprang up: where he threw a pinch of this earth, a village was born. It was thus that the Mordvian land became subject to the Russians."