Mykhail Vsevolodovych

Mykhail Vsevolodovych [Myxajil Vsevolodovyč], b August 1179, d 20 September 1246 in Sarai, near Astrakhan. Kyivan Rus’ prince of Chernihiv; son of Vsevolod Sviatoslavych Chermny of the Olhovych house. After the death of Volodymyr Sviatoslavych at the Battle on the Kalka River in 1223, Mykhail assumed the throne of Chernihiv and began a campaign of territorial aggrandizement. He gained control of Novgorod the Great and waged an ongoing struggle for Kyiv and princely Halych, particularly against Danylo Romanovych. With the help of Iziaslav Volodymyrovych, Mykhail succeeded in taking Kyiv in 1236, but his tenure was short-lived. He fled to Hungary after the Mongols captured Chernihiv in 1239, thereby escaping the sack of Kyiv in 1240. He returned to Kyivan Rus’ in 1241 in an attempt to regain his possessions, and went to Sarai in 1246 to obtain a patent to rule from Batu Khan. The Mongol leader had Mykhail executed, probably for not surrendering Kyiv and possibly (according to some chronicles) for ordering the death of Mongol envoys sent in 1239 to negotiate a peace with him. Popular perception attributed his execution to a refusal to participate in pagan rites, and a cult developed around Mykhail as a staunch defender of Orthodoxy. The veneration accorded him eventually brought about his canonization by the Russian Orthodox church and the transfer of his remains to Moscow during the 16th century, an act that was also motivated by the intention to propagandize the political and religious continuity between Kyivan Rus’ and Muscovy. A book about Mykhail, by M. Dimnik, was published in Toronto in 1981.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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