Russian history 23: New states in Rus and their new enemies in XIII century

By the end of the XII century the decline of Kiev became obvious and the population began to look for better places, trying to escape from the Polovtsians' raids and knyazes' wars. The directions they fled most often were the west, to the Karpatian mountains, and north, the area of dense forests inhabited by the tribes of Vyatiches, and even further to the north, to the so called Zalesye (land behind the forests) on the upper and middle Volga. By the XIII century, in the frontier areas of Rus, three new national centres are formed: Veliky Novgorod, which became autonomous, new city Vladimir, founded in Rostov-Suzdal province, and Galich on river Dniester. The most stable of them was Vladimir, which united the northern tribes. Galich was the weakest and was soon occupied by foreigners. These three cities differed in the form of government. Novgorod was ruled by veche, and eventually turned into a republican state. In Vladimir, the monocratic power of the knyaz was developing. Galich was ruled by the aristocracy — the boyars. In Kiev, these three powers, veche, knyaz and boyars, were in the state of unstable balance and permanent conflict, but now each of them was developing freely in their part of Rus. This led to the differences in the history of these three parts.

At about the same time, new enemies appeared. The place of Polovtsians was taken by Tatars, who came from south-east. In the nort-west, Germans began the expansion into Lithuania and Rus. They formed new colonies in the mouthes of rivers Western Dvina, Neman and Vistula. Further to the north, near Gulf of Finland and river Neva, Swedes kept attacking the lands of Novgorod. Under the pressure of Germans, Lithuanians began to unite and move eastward, entering and robbing Russian cities. Novgorod repelled the Swedish attacks, but the south-western areas along river Dniester were subjugated first by Tatars and later by Lithuanians. Eastern Russia was devastated by Tatars. The knyazes, who were able to unite the forces of Rus to withstand the enemies, became the heroes of those times — Alexander Nevsky in the northern Rus, Daniil Galitsky in the southern Rus and knyaz of Pskov Dovmont, a Lithuanian by origin.

This period was the transition from the history of Kievan state to the histories of the three states which replaced Kiev: Novgorod state, grand duchy of Vladimir and the grand duchy of Lithuania.

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