Svyatoslav I

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(c. 942972), son of Igor and Olga; nominal grand prince of Kiev.

Svyatoslav I Igorevich became the nominal grand prince of Kiev in 945, after his father Igor's death. He expanded Kievan Rus to its furthest limits, but overreached himself and failed to consolidate his rule. Svyatoslav was the first prince with a Slavic name, but he remained a Varangian at heart and refused to adopt Christianity.

According to the Primary Chronicle, he assumed power between 956 and 964 when his mother, the regent, was deposed. Around 963 he attacked the Khazars on the lower Don and eventually destroyed their state and opened the steppe to other nomads. He also defeated the Vyatichi and the Volga Bulgars in the northeast, and the Yasians (Ossetians) and Kasogians (Cherkasses) in the Kuban region. His southeastern campaigns took him to the Caspian Sea. He thus secured control of all the trade routes between the Dnieper and the Volga. In 967 he captured northern Bulgaria and made Pereyaslavets his headquarters. The Pechenegs attacked Kiev in 968, forcing him to return home and drive them into the steppe. At that time he partitioned Rus between his sons: Yaropolk received Kiev, Oleg the Derevlyane, and Vladimir Novgorod. He then returned to Pereyaslavets, which he proposed to make his capital. He campaigned against the Greeks in Bulgaria and Thrace until 971, when Emperor John I Tzimisces forced him to accept humiliating peace terms. While Svyatoslav was returning to Kiev in 972, the Pechenegs attacked and killed him. They used his skull as a drinking cup.

See also: kievan rus; pechenegs; primary chronicle; rurikid dynasty; vladimir, st.; yaropolk i


Vernadsky, George. (1948). Kievan Russia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Martin Dimnik