Prince Yaroslav the Wise
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Portrait from Tsar titular list, 1672г.
Yaroslav the Wise
Portrait from Tsar titular list, 1672г.
Yaroslav Vladimirovich (nicknamed the Wise) is one of the sons of Grand Duke Vladimir Svyatoslavich the Grand (the Baptist) from the Polotsk princess Rogneda Rogvoldovna, who was forced to marry him. After the death of Vladimir in 1015, an internecine war broke out between his sons from different wives for the right to the throne of Kiev. As a result of several years of confrontation in 1019, Yaroslav the Wise gained the upper hand and became the ruler of Kiev.

During his reign, he again forced the tribes of Chud, Yem, Yatvyagov, and Lithuania to pay tribute to Kiev, strengthened the north-western borders of Kievan Rus, returned Cherven cities, repelled the Pecheneg raid on Kiev in 1036, and concluded a number of dynastic marriages with the ruling dynasties of European countries.

Only one large-scale event ended with a serious failure – a campaign against Constantinople in 1043.

In the domestic politics of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, several key points should be highlighted: the publication of the first surviving Russian set of laws – the Russian Truth, the church Statute (drawn up jointly with Metropolitan Hilarion), the development of education, the construction of new cities and temples.

Before his death, Yaroslav the Wise divided power between his sons – Izyaslav, Svyatoslav, and Vsevolod. The period of peaceful rule of the brothers is called by historians “Triumvirate of Yaroslavsons”, it existed for 19 years, after which it collapsed and the princes again began internecine.

The reign of Yaroslav the Wise – the flourishing of Kievan Rus

The Rostov period (c. 988-1010) and the beginning of the Novgorod (from 1010 to 1014) period of the reign of Prince Yaroslav left very little evidence, which is not surprising – he was sent to reign in Rostov by his father about 9 years old, and most of his administrative functions have performed by specially assigned people.

By this time refer the “Legend of the construction of the city of Yaroslavl” – according to legend, Yaroslav traveled along the Volga from Novgorod to Rostov, while hunting on the shore was attacked by a bear, which the prince killed with an ax. After that, on an inaccessible cape above the Volga, Yaroslav ordered to build a small wooden fortress, named after him.

Memorial sign on the legendary place of foundation of Yaroslavl
Caption: “At this place in 1010 Yaroslav the Wise founded Yaroslavl”

Power struggle and holding Kiev throne

In 1014, Prince Yaroslav refuses to pay tribute to his father, Kiev Prince Vladimir the Great. Presumably, this was due to the intentions of Vladimir to transfer the throne to one of his younger sons, Prince Boris, who was previously entrusted with the command of the Kiev guard squad. Yaroslav began to prepare for armed confrontation with his father and hired the Vikings.

Prince Vladimir was going to punish his son and even prepared troops for the march, but fell ill and died in 1015.

After the death of Prince Vladimir, his eldest son Svyatopolk, who had previously been imprisoned by his father for an attempted coup and released shortly before these events, was supported by his followers and declared himself a new Kiev prince.

Схема - путь Ярослава Мудрого к киевскому престолу
Схема – путь Ярослава Мудрого к киевскому престолу

Internecine between Yaroslav the Wise and Svyatopolk the Cursed
1015-1019

During the further struggle for power between the heirs of Vladimir the Great, Kievan Rus plunged into internecine wars. The main opponents, Yaroslav and Svyatopolk, fought each other with varying success:

  • 1015 – Princes Gleb, Boris and Svyatoslav are killed
  • 1016 – Battle of Lyubech (Yaroslav wins)
  • 1017 – Svyatopolk, together with the mercenaries from Pechenegs, besieged Kiev (Unsuccessfully)
  • 1018 – Svyatopolk, together with the Polish king Boleslav I, defeated Yaroslav in a battle on the Bug River and occupied Kiev
  • 1019 – Jaroslav wins the battle on the Alte River
Схема - вторая усобица на Руси
Схема – вторая усобица на Руси

As a result, Yaroslav the Wise won and drove out Svyatopolk, later called the Accursed, but the price of victory was high – the Cherven cities were lost, many Kiev residents, including Yaroslav’s sisters, became Polish captives, and the lands on which the brothers fought each other, came to desolation.

Conflict with Bryachislav Polotsky

In 1021, Yaroslav’s nephew, Prince of Polotsk Bryachislav Izyaslavich, attacked Novgorod, takes captives a lot of people and bootу.

According to official history, Yaroslav caught up with a nephew on the river Sudome and was able to take away the loot, put a relative to rout. The following year, the princes made peace, in which the city of Vitebsk and Usvyat were transferred to Bryachislav under control.

According to the Eidmund Saga, everything happened much less favorably for Prince Yaroslav the Wise: he soldiers of Bryachislav were able to capture Yaroslav’s wife, Ingigerd, and after that, the Kiev prince was forced to give several cities to his nephew.

More about the conflict

Conflict with Mstislav Tmutarakansky

In 1023 Yaroslav left Kiev to pacify the insurrection that broke out near Suzdal. His brother, Tmutarakan prince Mstislav decided to take advantage of this and, together with a large army, first approached the walls of Kiev, but did not besiege the city for a long time and instead took Chernigov.

Yaroslav gathered the squad and spoke out against his brother, but was defeated. Mstislav proposed to make peace and divide the land along the Dnieper River.

In 1026, the brothers-princes made peace in Gorodets, and later they are together have returned the Cherven cities from a power of Poland in 1031.

More about the conflict

Briefly about foreign policy

After making peace with his brother Mstislav, Yaroslav the Wise begins again to claim for tribute to the tribes that came out of obedience during the civil strife of 1015-1019, and also pays closer attention to the western and southern direction.

The defeat of the Pechenegs during the siege of Kiev in 1036 and the unsuccessful march on Constantinople (also called the war with Byzantium) in 1043 deserve special attention. In addition, Yaroslav has concluded marriages with the rulers of neighboring countries, which helped to strengthen the influence of Kievan Rus in Europe.

The main foreign policy events are listed in the table below:

Внешняя политика князя Ярослава Мудрого - карта
Внешняя политика князя Ярослава Мудрого – карта

Table “the main events of foreign policy of Yaroslav the Wise”

Brief description of domestic policy

According to various sources, in 1016 or 1036, Yaroslav the Wise compiled a set of laws and judicial norms called the Truth of Yaroslav. This document is one of the oldest Russian codes of criminal law that have come down to us.

Also, together with Metropolitan Hilarion, whom Prince Yaroslav appointed without the consent of the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Church Statute was issued.

The prince paid attention to the promotion of education – a school was opened in Novgorod, a translation and census of books was organized at the Sofia Cathedral (founded in honor of the defeat of the Pechenegs near Kiev in 1036), and later appeared an extensive library.

Общая схема внутренней политики Ярослава Мудрого
Общая схема внутренней политики Ярослава Мудрого

As the military campaigns were carried out successfully, the prince strengthened the borders — new fortress cities appeared on the border territories.

Results of the reign

  • The price of receiving of the Kiev throne for Prince Yaroslav was the land of Chernigov Russia lost during the civil strife of 1015-1019, and which were returned after a truce with Prince Mstislav and joint campaigns to Poland in 1030-1031.
  • The development of education has become another stone in the foundation of the future Slavic culture.
  • The construction of new cities in the acquired territories and the fortresses of the Poros line provided additional state protection against future invasions of nomads.
  • “Truth of Yaroslav” and “Church Statute” are new milestones at the stage of development of civil and ecclesiastical law.
  • The influence of Kievan Rus in the directions north and northeast is strengthened.
  • Renewed relations with Poland, the captives and the cities of Cherven, captured by Boleslaw I returned.
  • Dynastic marriages were concluded with the kings of France, Poland, Hungary, and Norway, as well as the family of the emperor of Byzantium – increasing the prestige of Kievan Rus in Europe.
  • Repelled the Pecheneg raid on Kiev – more these tribes did not disturb the south-eastern borders of the state

Family and personal life

Ingigerd, daughter of Sweden’s first Christian king Olaf Shyotkonung and Queen Astrid, became the wife of Yaroslav in 1019.

Children of Ingigerdy and Yaroslav the Wise

Some sources claim that Ingigerda taught her children Scandinavian languages, and they knew the sagas. In total, nine children were born in the Ingigerdy and Yaroslav family:

Sons

Vladimir Yaroslavich
Izyaslav I Yaroslavich
Svyatoslav II Yaroslavich
Vsevolod Yaroslavich
Vyacheslav Yaroslavich
Igor Yaroslavich

Daughters

Anastasia
Elizabeth
Anna

Kievan Rus after Yaroslav the Wise
Triumvirate Yaroslavsons

Before his death in 1054, Prince Yaroslav instructed his children to live peacefully, without quarrels and strife, and also divided the land between them, appointing Izyaslav as the elder. Soon, two younger sons, Igor and Vyacheslav, died and the actual power was concentrated in the hands of Svyatoslav, Izyaslav and Vsevolod (the eldest son Vladimir died before the death of Yaroslav himself).

Up until 1073, the brothers ruled together, this period was called by the historians “The Triumvirate of Yaroslavichi”. Unfortunately, the children of Yaroslav, like the two generations of rulers of Kievan Rus before them, did not preserve peace within the state, and from 1073 they again began internecine wars.

The image in the culture and memory of generations

The personality of Yaroslav the Wise left a more than significant mark in the history of modern Russia and Ukraine. Over the past centuries, many paintings, films and monuments dedicated to the prince were created.

Why and for what Yaroslav was called Wise?

Old Russian chroniclers raise the theme of the wisdom of Yaroslav, starting with “praise for the books”, placed under the year 1037 in the Tale of Bygone Years, which, according to their legends, was that Yaroslav was wise because he built the temples of Saint Sophia in Kiev and Novgorod, that is, he dedicated the main temples of the cities of Sofia – the wisdom of God, to which the main temple of Constantinople is dedicated. Thus, Yaroslav declareted that the Russian church stands on a par with the Byzantine church. Having mentioned wisdom, the chroniclers, as a rule, reveal this concept, referring to the Old Testament Solomon.

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