« PreviousContinue »
Iziaslav left nothing unattempted to regain his position. He had escaped with his treasure into Poland, but Boleslav was unwilling to renew his former adventure. The German king Henry IV, whom Iziaslav met at Mainz in January, 1075, was more favourably disposed and sent an embassy to Sviatoslav; but it accomplished nothing. Iziaslav also entered into negotiations with pope Gregory VII, to whom he sent his son Iaropolk. The pope hoped to be able to annex Russia to the western church, and even went so far as to grant it to Iaropolk as a fief from the holy see.
But meanwhile Sviatoslav died (1076) and Vsevolod, a man whose mild character did not exclude the possibility of a peaceful settlement, became grand prince. Boleslav now lent troops to Iziaslav (1077), and though Vsevolod marched against him with an army of his own, yet they soon came to terms. Iziaslav was to be reinstated grand prince for the third time, while Vsevolod was to retire to Tchernigov, in return for which he was secured in the succession. Thus Iaropolk's plans came to naught, and with them the hope of a reunited church.
However, Vseslav of Polotsk did not yet give up his ambitious designs. Foiled in his attempt on the throne of Kiev, he tried to create an empire for himself in the Russian north, and it required three campaigns of the southRussian princes to annul his plans. It was during these wars that Vladimir Monomakh, son of Vsevolod and son-in-law of King Harold of England, first distinguished himself, though not in a glorious manner. He was the first Russian prince to engage in a domestic quarrel the Polovtsi, with whose aid he ravaged the city and principality of Polotsk. Vseslav died in 1101 as prince of Polotsk, and his memory lived long after him in the traditions of the people, by whom he was regarded as a sorcerer. The Song of Igor tells how he accomplished in one night a march from Kiev to Tmoutorakan, and how he could hear at Kiev the ringing of the church bells as Polotsk.
Russian dynastic conditions had now been restored to the legal order, and there seemed nothing left to disturb the tranquillity. But the cupidity of the grand prince soon brought on new dissensions among the members of the house of Rurik. Viatcheslav and Igor died at an early age, leaving minor sons whom their uncle refused to provide with appanages. They therefore tried to gain their right by force. Boris, a son of Viatcheslav, temporarily got hold of Tchernigov, but being unable to maintain himself in that city he fled to Tmoutorakan, the last refuge of all the discontented. There he was soon joined by his brother Gleb, who was expelled by Iziaslav from Novgorod, and by another brother from Volhinian Vladimir, both of whose appanages were divided among the sons of Iziaslav and Vsevolod. In the civil war which followed, the nephews at first had the advantage and captured Tchernigov; but they were defeated in a decisive battle fought near that city on the third of October, 1078. Both the grand prince Iziaslav and Boris fell, and Oleg was obliged to flee once more to Tmoutorakan.
Iziaslav was succeeded by Vsevolod, whose reign (1078-1093) was even more unfortunate than his brother's had been. He too favoured his own sons and those of Iziaslav at the expense of his other nephews and in consequence the sons of Sviatoslav and Igor and of his nephew Rostislav waged against him unremitting warfare with the aid of the Polovtsi and Chazars, who wasted the country. Vsevolod's attempt in 1084 to conquer Tmoutorakan, the breeding-place of revolts, failed miserably. Finally even Iaropolk, the son of Iziaslav, who had received so many favours from his uncle, revolted against him and was assassinated during the war. In those days of turmoil and confusion, even old Vseslav ventured forth once more from Polotsk and plundered Smolensk. The grand prince was ill most of the time at Kiev and the conduct of his affairs lay in the hands of his son Vladimir Monomakh.
Vsevolod died April 13th, 1093, leaving two sons, Vladimir Monomakh, who held Tchernigov, and Rostislav, who held Pereiaslavl. He was succeeded
by Sviatopolk, the second son of Iziaslav, who was the rightful successor after the death of his brother Iaropolk, who, it will be remembered, was assassinated. Monomakh could easily have made himself grand prince, for he was the most popular of the princes and gained great fame in his campaigns against the Polovtsi, whom he defeated twelve times during the reign of his father; but he was anxious to avoid violating the law of succession and thus inviting civil war.
Sviatopolk's reign began with a violation of the law of nations by imprisoning ambassadors of the Polovtsi, who had come to negotiate a treaty with him. In retaliation the nomads invaded the country, and with so great a force that Vladimir and Rostislav, who had come to the aid of the grand prince, advised him to purchase peace from the enemy. He paid no heed to them, but the event soon justified the prudence of their counsel. In the battle of Tripole, fought on May 23rd, 1093, the Russians sustained a disastrous defeat.
Rostislav was drowned, while Sviatopolk and Vladimir saved themselves by flight. The next year's campaign against the Polovtsi was equally disastrous, and Sviatopolk returned to Kiev with but two companions. Tortchesk was compelled to capitulate, and the nomads returned to the steppe rich with booty and prisoners Sviatopolk now bought peace and took to wife a daughter of the Polovtsian khan. They returned, however, the same year under the leadership of Oleg, son of Sviatoslav, who had stayed till now in Tmouto
[1097-1110 A.D.] rakan and thought the moment opportune for enforcing his undoubted rights upon Tchernigov, which had been the original seat of his father as the second son of Iaroslay, and which was held by Monomakh, who was the son of Iaroslav's third son.
Oleg, was therefore, no Isgoi and would not be treated as such. When he appeared before Tchernigov, Monomakh had only a small band with him, and after a siege of eight days was compelled to evacuate the city and retire to Pereiaslavl, where he had to defend himself during the next three years against continual irruptions of the Polovtsi. The refusal of Oleg to join in a combined campaign of the princes against the Polovtsi, and the sudden capture of Smolensk by his brother David, gave the occasion for a general war that lasted two years and covered the whole territory of Russia, from Novgorod to Murom and thence to the steppe, and in course of which one son of Monomakh fell in battle, while two other sons suffered a decisive reverse at the hands of Oleg. Finally, a congress of princes was held at Lubetz, in the territory of Tchernigov, for the settlement of all existing disputes. The result of its deliberations was that the grand prince was to retain Kiev and Turov, while to Vladimir were assigned Pereiaslavl, Smolensk, and Rostov; Novgorod to his son Mstislav, and Tchernigov with all its dependencies to the sons of Sviatoslavl - Oleg, David, and Iaroslav. The latter thus gained possession of the greater part of Russia. There still remained to be satisfied the three Isgoi, Volodar, and Vassilko, sons of Rostislav, and David, son of Igor. Of the former two, Volodar received Peremishl, Vassilko received Terebovl, while Vladimir in Volhinia was given to David. Polotsk remained in the hands of Vseslav.
The congress of Lubetz (1097) brought a respite to the sorely tried Russian north, but the south was soon subjected to new calamities. Vassilko, son of Rostislav, was revolving in his mind extensive plans of conquest in Poland, among the Danubian Bulgarians, and finally against the Polovtsi. He had begun making extensive preparations, and had taken into his pay several nomad hordes. David of Volhinia, who was ignorant of Vassilko's plans, became alarmed at these warlike preparations, began to suspect a conspiracy between Monomakh and Vassilko, and succeeded in inoculating the grand prince with his own alarms and suspicions. Vassilko was allured to Kiev to attend a religious festival, and there he was captured, thrown into chains, dragged to Bielgorod, and blinded in an unspeakably cruel manner. The horror of the bloody deed resounded throughout Russia. Monomakh united his forces with those of his old enemies, the sons of Sviatoslav, and marched upon Kiev. The grand prince tried to clear himself of blame and throw the guilt upon David, and peace was arranged through the mediation of the metropolitan of Kiev and of Monomakh's mother.
The grand prince took upon himself the obligation to revenge the outrage on Vassilko, who was surrendered to Volodar; and David was obliged to flee to Poland (1099). The grand prince annexed David's territory, and then turned, most unjustifiably, against the sons of Rostislav. Defeated by Volodar, he formed an alliance with Koloman, king of Hungary. The alliances now assumed a most unexpected and distorted character. David united with the Rostislavitchi and with Buiak, khan of the Polovtsi; and at Peremishl defeated the grand prince and his allies. The war, the horrors of which were increased by repeated raids of the Polovtsi, seemed to draw out without end or aim, when finally Monomakh convoked a second congress of the princes, which met in August, 1100, at Uvetitchi, on Kievan territory. The result of its deliberations was that only a few towns of Volhinia were left to David, the
[1111-1116 A.D.] greater part of the principality being transferred to Iaroslav, son of Sviatopolk; while the Rostislavitchi were to remain in the undiminished possession of their territories.
Thus order was restored for some time, but the direction of affairs really passed out of the hands of the grand prince into those of Monomakh. Under his leadership the Russian princes were now united against the Polovtsi, and there ensued a series of campaigns of which no clear account has come down to us. The Russians generally had the upper hand, but for a long time the balance wavered, and the enemy seemed so dangerous to the princes that, following the example of Sviatopolk, they entered into matrimonial alliances with him. Thus Monomakh, as well as the two sons of Sviatoslav, David and Oleg, took Polovtsian wives for their sons. But the year 1111 witnessed a decisive campaign, in which Monomakh is again seen at the head of the Russian princes. After crossing the Dnieper and the Vorskla, the Russians pressed on into the enemy's country as far as the Don. Two Polovtsian cities were taken, and one was reduced to ashes; the Don was crossed, and on March 24th and 26th a great battle was fought. The Russians were on the Sula, the last tributary of the Don before reaching the sea of Azov, in a most unfavourable position and surrounded from all sides by the Polovtsi. But the scales were turned when the drujinas of David and Monomakh, which had been kept all the time in the rear, made a terrific onset on the exhausted enemy, who fled in panic. According to tradition, angels preceded the Russians and smote the Polovtsi with blindness.
Vladimir Monomakh (1113-1125 A.D.)
After a reign filled with civil war and misfortune Sviatopolk died (April 16th, 1113), and all eyes turned toward Monomakh. Legally, however, the throne belonged to his cousin Oleg, son of Sviatoslav, and Monomakh seemed at first resolved to recognise his superior right. But the Kievans were determined to accept no one but Monomakh, and an uprising of theirs, which was directed primarily against the Jews, whom Sviatopolk had employed for fiscal purposes, but which threatened to assume larger dimensions, induced him to yield to the universal demand. Thus the race of Sviatoslav - otherwise called the Olgovitchi-was excluded, and Monomakh succeeded in bringing a large part of Russia under his house. During his reign he continued the wars against the Polovtsi, as well as against the Finns in the north and east, and the Poles in the west. The steppe was cleared so thoroughly that tradition, with its customary exaggeration, says that he forced the Polovtsi back into the Caucasus.
His relations with the Byzantine Empire have not yet been sufficiently cleared up. He himself was the son of a Byzantine princess, and his daughter Maria was married to Leo, son of the unfortunate emperor Romanus Diogenes, who was blinded in 1071 and banished to an island. Leo then made an attempt at revolt against Alexius Comnenus, but was poisoned in 1116. Vladimir now espoused the cause of Leo's son Basil and sent an army to the Danube, which returned without accomplishing its purpose. According to a later tradition, which arose under the influence of Moscow, the emperor Alexius Comnenus, in order to put an end to the devastation of Thrace by the Russian troops, sent to Vladimir a diadem and other imperial insignia through Neophyte, metropolitan of Ephesus, who put the diadem on Vladimir's head and called him czar. But contemporary accounts tell us nothing of all this, and it is inherently improbable that Byzantium would bestow
[1122-1125 A.D.] upon the Russian grand prince, who was no longer formidable, a title whose exclusive possession it so jealously guarded. On the other hand, it is known that in 1122, or six years after the supposed campaign to Thrace, a granddaughter of Monomakh was married to a prince of the house of Romanus.
But the greater portion of Monomakh's military activity fell into the reigns of his two predecessors. He was in his sixty-first year when he became grand-prince, and he naturally avoided all fighting as far as it could be avoided, employing force only when requisite to maintain his position as overlord of Russia. As far as circumstances permitted, he was a prince of peace, and a number of most important legislative measures are attributed to him, especially the laws relating to usury and to the half-free (zakupi). Russia had suffered very severely from the civil wars and the raids of the Polovtsi, and men of small property were reduced to extreme poverty. Being unable to maintain themselves on their wasted lands, they went to live in large numbers on the estates of the rich, who sought to reduce them to absolute slavery, or else they borrowed money at usurious rates and soon sank into a servile condition. To remedy this ruinous state of affairs, Monomakh reduced the rate of interest from 120 per cent. to 20 per cent., and decreed that one who had paid one year's interest according to the old rate, was thereby absolved from his debt. He also ordered the expulsion of the Jews from the whole of Russia. But the problem of the zakupi could not be solved in this summary fashion. According to the regulations adopted they were to be regarded as free men who had become bound to the soil by contract, but who retained the right to acquire property and were not subject to the master's jurisdiction. A half-free man loses his freedom only when he attempts to escape from his master. It was also fixed what payments and services he was to render, and it was made impossible for the lord to reduce him to a condition of unrestricted serfdom.
Monomakh died in 1125, at the ripe age of seventy-three. He has left us a curious paper of instructions to his sons, which dates from 1117, and in which he gives them much sound advice, enforced by examples from his own life.c
The "Instruction" of Vladimir Monomakh
The grand prince begins by saying that his grandfather Iaroslav gave him the Russian name of Vladimir and the Christian name of Vasili, and his father and mother that of Monomakh; either because Vladimir was really through his mother the grandson of the Greek emperor Constantine Monomachus, or because even in his tenderest youth he displayed remarkable warlike valour. "As I draw near to the grave," writes he, "I give thanks to the Most High for the increase of my days. His hand has led me to a venerable age. And you, my beloved children and whosoever reads this writing, observe the rules set forth in it. When your heart does not approve them, do not condemn my intentions, but only say: The old man's mind was already weakened." Having described in their chief features, and for the greater part in the words of the Psalmist, the beauty of the works and the goodness of the Creator, Vladimir continues:
"O my children! give praise to God and love also mankind. Neither fasting, nor soltitude, nor monastic life shall save you, but good deeds. Forget
[They were during the Middle Ages the representatives of the money-power throughout Europe- a foreign element in the "natural economy" of that time. Hence the universal hatred against them.]