Kyiv principality

Kyiv principality. The central principality in Kyivan Rus’. It was formed in the mid-9th century and existed as an independent entity until the mid-12th century, when it became an appanage principality. Its basic territory consisted of the area of Right-Bank Ukraine inhabited by the Polianians and Derevlianians. The Prypiat River usually formed the northern boundary, the Dnipro River the eastern, and the Sluch River and Horyn River the western. The southern boundary was the most dynamic; at times it was as far south as the southern Boh River and Ros River, while at other times (end of the 11th century) it stopped at the Stuhna River. Kyiv, the capital of the principality, lay on the crossroads of the trade routes from north to south and east to west that joined Asia to Europe. This favorable location fostered the development of trade and the prosperity of the principality. The oldest cities were Kyiv, Vyshhorod, Ovruch, and Bilhorod.

Kyiv principality in the 10th–12th centuries was the political center of Kyivan Rus’. At first, the senior member of the Riurykide dynasty inhabited its throne with the title grand prince. Beginning in the mid-11th century, however, a combination of factors initiated a long period of decline. The Cumans, who settled on the steppes south of Kyiv at this time, disrupted the flow of trade to the south and east and began a series of devastating attacks on Kyiv that lasted for over a century and a half. Moreover, the shift in international economic patterns, which accompanied the decline of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire, saw new trade routes opened that bypassed Kyiv entirely. Finally, the long period of internecine war for control over Kyiv between the various branches of the Riurykide dynasty who had established themselves in the other principalities of Rus’ destroyed the political stability in Kyiv and precipitated further economic decline. Kyiv principality lost its leading position and the political center of Kyivan Rus’ moved west to the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia. The Mongol invasion in 1240 caused enormous destruction throughout Kyiv principality, but it continued to exist. In 1362 it fell under the rule of Lithuania and became an appanage principality in the Lithuanian-Ruthenian state, ruled by princes of the Gediminas family. In 1394 Lithuania abolished the principality and transformed it into a vicegerency. In 1440, Kyiv principality was restored, but in 1471 it was finally transformed into Kyiv voivodeship.

At first, Kyiv principality was ruled by the direct descendants of the Riurykide dynasty: Prince Oleh (882–912), Prince Ihor (912–45), Princess Olha (945–62), Sviatoslav I Ihorovych (962–72), Yaropolk I Sviatoslavych (972–80), and Volodymyr the Great (980–1015). After Volodymyr's death began the struggle between the various brothers and cousins that characterized the rest of the history of the principality. Although Yaroslav the Wise's reign as the undisputed prince of Kyiv (1036–54) briefly stopped these conflicts, his plan to divide political power between his sons and to re-establish the rotational system of rule, where the senior heir of the entire dynasty would rule in Kyiv, greatly fostered political instability. The Liubech congress of princes in 1097 formally recognized the independent patrimonies of the branches of the family, specifying, however, that each would recognize the primacy of Kyiv. Unfortunately, this proved to be unenforceable, and the struggle for control over Kyiv continued. Without a secure ruling family of its own, Kyiv's throne changed hands numerous times and the principality declined both economically and politically.

Under Volodymyr Monomakh (1113–25) some stability in Kyiv was re-established, but after his death the Romanovych house of Galicia-Volhynia, the Olhovych house of Chernihiv, the Vsevolodovych house in Rostov-Suzdal, and others resumed their destructive wars for control of Kyiv. The city was sacked numerous times by the competing armies, and a succession of princes held sway in the principality, often intermittently: Vsevolod Olhovych (1139–46), Ihor Olhovych (1146–7), Iziaslav Mstyslavych (1146–54), Viacheslav Volodymyrovych (co-ruler with Iziaslav), Yurii Dolgorukii (1154–7), Iziaslav Davydovych (1157–62), Rostyslav Mstyslavych (1159–67), Mstyslav Iziaslavych (1167–9), Hlib Yuriiovych (1169–71), Roman Rostyslavych (1172–6), Sviatoslav III Vsevolodovych (1176–94), Riuryk (Vasylii) Rostyslavych (1194–1204, 1205, 1207–10), Roman Mstyslavych (1204), Vsevolod Sviatoslavych Chermny (1206, 1210–12), and Mykhailo Vsevolodovych (1238–9, 1241–6). (For bibliography, see Kyivan Rus’.)

Arkadii Zhukovsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]

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