Polatsk principality

Polatsk principality. A principality founded in the 10th century on the territory of present-day northern Belarus, inhabited by the Slavic Polochanians (Krivichians). The capital was Polatsk. Other important towns were Minsk, Vitsebsk, Iziaslav, Drutsk, Lahoisk, Lukoml, Svislach, Braslau, and Barysau. The principality's economic importance derived from its connection via the West Dvina and the Neman rivers to the centers of Baltic trade. Grand Prince Volodymyr the Great of Kyiv conquered the principality in the late 10th century, killed its ruler, Rogvolod (Rahvolod), and married Rogvolod’s daughter, Rohnida (Rahneda, Rogned). The principality's population was subsequently Christianized, and a bishopric was established in Polatsk. Volodymyr and Rohnida's son, Iziaslav, inherited the principality. Iziaslav's son, Briachyslav (Brachyslau, 1001–44), attained independence from Kyiv in 1023, but struggle for control of the principality with Kyiv continued. Briachyslav's son, Vseslav (Usiaslau, 1044–1101), began a war with Kyiv in 1065, but he was routed by Iziaslav Yaroslavych and imprisoned in Kyiv. In 1068 Kyiv's inhabitants rebelled against Iziaslav Yaroslavych and installed Vseslav on the Kyivan throne (see Kyiv Uprising of 1068–9), but a year later Vseslav was forced to abandon Kyiv by the forces of Iziaslav Yaroslavych and his cousin Bolesław II the Bold of Poland and to return to Polatsk. Thereafter Polatsk principality remained independent of Kyiv. Internecine struggles among Vseslav's six sons arose after his death, however, and the principality was consequently divided among them and their many sons into feuding appanages. Mstyslav I Volodymyrovych was the last Kyivan grand princeto attempt to annex the principality. He conquered it in 1130, but soon thereafter it regained its independence. In the second half of the 12th century the principality came under the domination of the northern Rus’ princes of Smolensk. In the 13th century it suffered invasions by the Livonian Knights and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which asserted its political control over Polatsk and annexed it in 1307. Under Lithuanian rule the principality retained a measure of autonomy until 1385.

Danilevich, V. Ocherk istorii Polotskoi zemli do kontsa XIV stoletiia (Kyiv 1896)
Alekseev, L. Polotskaia zemlia (ocherki istorii severnoi Belorussii) v IX–XIII vv. (Moscow 1966)
Shtykhov, G. Goroda Polotskoi zemli (IX–XIII vv.) (Minsk 1978)

Mykhailo Zhdan

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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