Vladimir Monomakh

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(10531125), one of the ablest grand princes of Kiev and the progenitor of the Monomashichi of Vladimir in Volyn, Smolensk, and Suzdalia. Born Vladimir Vsevolodovich, he inherited his sobriquet "Monomakh" from his Greek mother, a relative of Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus.

In reporting his early career in his autobiographical "Instruction" to his sons, Monomakh writes how his father Vsevolod, a son of Yaroslav Vladimirovich the Wise, had him administer Pereyaslavl, Rostov, Smolensk, Turov, and Novgorod, and how he campaigned against Polotsk and the Czechs. In 1078, when Vsevolod became grand prince of Kiev, he transferred Monomakh from Smolensk to Chernigov, therewith depriving his nephews, Svyatoslav's sons, of their patrimony. In 1093, when his father died, Monomakh declined the Kievans' invitation to be their prince, evidently not wishing to violate the ladder system of succession allegedly introduced by Yaroslav the Wise. He deferred to his genealogically elder cousin Svyatopolk Izyaslavich, with whom he formed an alliance against the Polovtsy. The latter attacked the cousins, inflicted a crushing defeat on them, and then intensified their raids on Rus.

In 1094 Oleg Svyatoslavich and the Polovtsy evicted Monomakh from Chernigov, forcing him to occupy his father's patrimony of Pereyaslavl. Because Oleg refused to join him and Svyatopolk against the nomads, the two drove him out of Chernigov. After Oleg fled to Murom, where he killed Monomakh's son Izyaslav, Monomakh wrote him an emotionally charged letter (the text of which survives) pleading that he be pacified. Oleg responded by pillaging Monomakh's Suzdalian lands. In response, Monomakh's son Mstislav of Novgorod marched against Oleg, defeated him, and forced him to attend a congress of princes in 1097 at Lyubech, where Oleg submitted to his cousins. Soon afterward, Svyatopolk broke the Lyubech agreement by having Vasilko Rostislavich of Terebovl blinded. Monomakh therefore joined his cousins, the Svyatoslavichi of Chernigov, against Svyatopolk, and the princes met at Uvetichi in 1100 to settle the dispute. After that, all the cousins, led by Monomakh, campaigned successfully against the Polovtsy in 1103, 1107, and in 1111, when they inflicted a crushing defeat on the nomads at the river Don.

After Svyatopolk died in 1113, Monomakh hesitated to occupy Kiev, but the citizens rioted, allegedly forcing him to assume power. He thus preempted the Svyatoslavichi who were higher in seniority. After occupying the throne he issued laws, the so-called "Statute of Vladimir Monomakh," to alleviate exorbitant interest rates on loans and to stop other abuses. During his twelve-year reign Monomakh continued his campaigns against the Polovtsy, and in 1116 he captured three of their towns on the river Don. He also waged war against the Poles, the Chud, the Lithuanians, and the Volga Bulgars. He devoted much of his energy to consolidating his rule by evicting disloyal princes from their domains and replacing them with his men. Thus, before his death, in addition to Kiev he controlled Pereyaslavl, Smolensk, Suzdalia, Novgorod, Vladimir in Volyn, Turov, and Minsk. Moreover, he hoped to secure his family's supremacy in Rus by persuading the Kievans to accept his eldest son Mstislav and his heirs as their hereditary dynasty. By doing so, he attempted once again to break the system of lateral succession to Kiev allegedly instituted by Yaroslav the Wise. He died on May 19, 1125.

See also: grand prince; kievan rus; novgorod the great; polovtsy; yaroslav vladimirovich


Dimnik, Martin. (1994). The Dynasty of Chernigov, 10541146. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.

Franklin, Simon, and Shepard, Jonathan. (1996). The Emergence of Rus, 750-1200. London: Longman.

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

Martin Dimnik