Yaroslav Vladimirovich

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(c. 9801054), Yaroslav "the wise"; grand prince of Kiev which he secured for his family; the main agent of the so-called Golden Age of Kievan Rus.

Yaroslav's father was Vladimir Svyatoslavich, the Christianizer of Rus, and his mother was Princess Rogneda of Polotsk, of Scandinavian ancestry. Vladimir first sent Yaroslav to Rostov, but around 1010 transferred him to Novgorod. While there, he developed close ties with the townspeople and the Varangians of Scandinavia. He also minted coins and issued two charters granting the Novgorodians special privileges. In 1014 Yaroslav rebelled against his father by refusing to pay the annual tribute. He summoned Varangians to help him fend off the expected punitive attack, but before Vladimir could set out from Kiev, he died. Svyatopolk, his eldest surviving son succeeded him and decided to consolidate his rule by eliminating his half-brothers, beginning with Boris, Gleb, and Svyatoslav.

After Yaroslav learned of his father's death and Svyatopolk's treachery, he marched south with the Varangians and the Novgorodians. In 1016 his forces confronted Svyatopolk and the Pechenegs around Lyubech and defeated them. Svyatopolk fled to the Poles, and Yaroslav occupied Kiev. In 1018, however, Svyatopolk returned with his father-inlaw, Boleslaw I, and forced Yaroslav to flee to Novgorod. In 1019, after the king returned home, Yaroslav evicted Svyatopolk from Kiev once again and occupied it a second time. Nevertheless, his rule was not secure. Taking advantage of his absence from Novgorod, Bryacheslav Izyaslavich of Polotsk captured the town and took many captives, forcing Yaroslav to attack him and free the Novgorodians. A greater threat to his power came in 1024, when Yaroslav's brother Mstislav of Tmutarakan attempted to take Kiev from him while he was looking after northern affairs. Yaroslav brought the Novgorodians against Mstislav, but the latter defeated him at Listven west of Chernigov. All the same, Mstislav did not occupy Kiev but took Chernigov and the entire left bank of the Dnieper. In 1026, therefore, Chernigov and Kiev became two autonomous domains, with Yaroslav, the elder brother, enjoying seniority in Kiev. When Mstislav died without an heir around 1034, Yaroslav repossessed Chernigov and the left bank. After he imprisoned his only surviving brother Sudislav, he became sole ruler of the entire land except for Polotsk, which remained independent of Kiev.

Yaroslav also waged war against external enemies. In the early 1030s he recaptured the Cherven towns that Boleslaw I had seized. In the 1040s he strengthened his ties with Casimir I by forming marriage alliances with him and by sending him military aid. He was also the first prince of Kiev to form marriage ties with the Germans and the French. He was married to Ingigerd, the daughter of the King of Sweden. In the 1030s and 1040s he expanded Novgorod's western and northern frontiers into the neighboring lands of the Lithuanians and the Chud, where he founded the outpost of Yurev (Tartu). To the south, Yaroslav encountered no serious aggression from the Pechenegs after 1036, when they failed to capture Kiev. In 1043, however, he organized an unsuccessful expedition against Constantinople. Historians do not concur on his motive for attacking the Greeks. Nevertheless, he restored good relations with them and concluded a marriage alliance with the imperial family three years later.

Yaroslav made Kiev his political and ecclesiastical capital and strove to make it the intellectual, cultural, and economic center in imitation of Constantinople. He founded monasteries and churches such as the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev, the metropolitan's church. Around 1051, evidently in an unsuccessful attempt to assert the independence of the Church in Rus from Constantinople, he appointed Hilarion as the first native metropolitan of Kiev. Yaroslav promoted the writing and translation of religious and secular texts, assembled a library, and brought scribes and master builders from Byzantium. His secular building projects, such as the new court and the defensive rampart around Kiev, its Golden Gate adorned with a chapel, enhanced the capital's prestige. Yaroslav issued a Church Statute and the first version of the first written code of civil law (Russkaya Pravda ). He bequeathed to each of his sons a patrimonial domain. In an effort to ensure a peaceful transition of power in the future, and to keep the land unified, Yaroslav issued his so-called Testament. In it he outlined the order of succession to Kiev that his sons and their descendants were to follow. He designated Izyaslav, his eldest surviving son, as his immediate successor. Yaroslav died on February 20, 1054, and was buried in the Cathedral of St. Sophia.

See also: cathedral of st. sophia, kiev; grand prince; kievan rus; hilarion, metropolitan; mstislav; novgorod the great; pechenegs; svyatopolk i; vikings; vladimir, st.


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Dimnik, Martin. (1996). "Succession and Inheritance in Rus' before 1054." Mediaeval Studies 58:87117.

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

Martin Dimnik