Russian history 18: The throne of Kiev from Vladimir Monomakh till 1169

The election of Vladimir Monomakh was accepted not only by the people, but also by other knyazes, who felt threatened by Monomakh's wealth and power. He had the abilities to keep them from mutiny and to keep the Polovtsian (Kipchak) nomads at a safe distance. His personal qualities are discovered in his own writings quoted by chroniclers. These are his messages to his children and to knyaz Oleg Svyatoslavich. In the letters to the children he teaches them to be hospitable and generous, to work and not to rely on the servants, to believe in God and to live as the Christians should.

The accession of Vladimir Monomakh violated the established order of succession and after his death the enmity between the branches of the knyazes families began. Kiev was inherited by his sons instead of his brothers and turned into the property of Monomakh family. After Vladimir's eldest son, Mstislav (1125-1132), his brothers inherited Kiev. Quite soon they began to compete for the throne and the children of Oleg Svyatoslavich, knyazes of Chernigov, often attacked them and occupied Kiev for a number of times. One of Oleg's children, Vsevolod Olgovich, was especially successful and controlled Kiev till his death. After this feud, however, Monomakh's descendants retained the town. The most influential of them were Monomakh's grandson Izyaslav Mstislavich and his son Mstislav Izyaslavich.

After the conflict with Oleg's sons was over, they had to fight with their own close relatives, Monomakh's younger son Yuri Dolgorukiy (Long-Handed) and Yuri's son Andrei Bogolyubski. At the end, Andrei Bogolyubski became the ruler of Kiev in 1169. By this time, though, the situation in Rus changed significantly and Andrei preferred to leave Kiev and stayed in his homeland, knyazhestvo of Rostov-Suzdal. Burnt and sacked, Kiev was given to one of Andrei's vassals.

The inability of knyazes to establish and to observe the order of succession led to incessant feuds and to the decay of the knyazes' clan into independent and hostile branches. Every branch owned a part of Rus: Olgoviches, sons of Oleg, owned Chernigov and Ryazan, elder Monomakhoviches -- Smolensk, Pereyaslavl and Volyn lands, younger Monomakhoviches -- Rostov and Suzdal. Polotsk since the times of Vladimir the Saint (great grandfather of Monomakh) belonged to a separate branch of the clan, successors of Izyaslav, son of Vladimir the Saint and his pagan wife Rogneda. All of them wanted to come into possession of Kiev. Obviously, the knyaz of Kiev lost his position of the leader of the clan and neither other knyazes, nor independent cities submitted to them. Every branch of the clan had their own "grand prince" and every town tried to avoid the control of the knyazes and to become a free town.

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