Russian history 32: Provinces of Volyn' and Galich, their unification

At about the same time when Suzdal was growing in the north-east, provinces of Volyn' and Galich began to develop fast in the opposite end, in the south-west. Around 1200, they united and formed one strong duchy.

The duchy of Volyn' and its capital city Vladimir Volynski occupied lands on the right bank of the Western Bug, the upper Pripyat and Southern Bug. It was named after the ancient town Volyn' and the tribe of volynians (aka dulebs). Since the ancient times the duchy submitted to the knyaz of Kiev, but in the mid-XII century a separate dynasty is formed by the successors of the elder son of Vladimir Monomakh. Famous knyaz Izyaslav Mstislavich (see chapter 18) stayed in Volyn' and from here he, like his son Mstislav Izyaslavich did later, attacked Kiev. So, the knyazes of Volyn', like their brothers and uncles from Suzdal, made Volyn' their own land and attempted to adjoin Kiev. Son of Mstislav Izyaslavich, Roman Mstislavich, was especially successful. Not only did he take Kiev, but he also united his duchy with the neighbouring duchy of Galich.

The duchy of Galich consisted of two parts: the mountainous parts and the lowlands. The former was situated on the eastern slopes of Carpathian mountains and its capital was Galich on river Dniester. The latter part was spreading northwards and was called "towns of Cherven", after an ancient city Cherven. Located in the outskirts of Rus, the land of Galich was never very attractive for the knyazes. On the other hand, Poles, Ugrians and steppe nomads often attempted to subjugate these towns. So, the Kievan knyazes usually sent young knyazes to Galich, those who had no other place in Rus. In the end of XI century, the congress of Lyubech agreed to give Galich to two knyazes-izgoys, Vasilko and Volodar, great-grandsons of Yaroslav the Wise. Since then, the Galich outskirts became a duchy of its own. Volodar's son Volodimerko (died in 1152) united all towns under his hand and made Galich the capital of the duchy. He expanded its territory and increased the population by attracting settlers from other areas. For the duchy, he played the same role that Yuri Dolgorukiy played for Suzdal. Treacherous and cruel Volodimerko left no good memories after himself. The unification of the duchy was continued by his son Yaroslav, nicknamed Osmomysl (roughly translated as "has-eight-thougts"), who ruled in 1152-1187. Settlers came to Galich not only from Rus, but also from the west, from Poland and Hungary. The fertility of the land and the location of the territories between Western Europe and Rus were quite attractive. The Tale of Igor's Campaign names Yaroslav one of the two strongest knyazes together with Vsevolod the Big Nest. Yaroslav had diplomatic relations with Hungary, Bulgaria, Byzantine empire, he influenced the political affairs of Kiev, especially till Andrei Bogolyubski came to Kiev.

After the death of Yaroslav Osmomysl his dynasty ended and the throne was taken by the knyaz of Volyn' Roman Mstislavich (1199) and Galich and Volyn' became one united duchy. The state strengthened even more under Roman's son, Daniil Romanovich (see chapter 37).

The rise of Galich lands, just like the rise of the duchy of Rostov and Suzdal, was explained by the influx of settlers. The political situation of Galich, though, was less stable. First, the neighbours of Galich were not weak tribes, but strong militant peoples: Ugrians, Poles and Lithuanians. When not in war with them, knyazes of Galich often allied with them. These foreign countries kept an eye on the events in Galich and were always ready to pick the weakening power (and sometimes they succeeded, as we will see later). Second, the monocracy of the knyazes was contested in Galich by the strong nobility: boyars and druzhina. Even strong knyazes, like Osmomysl and Roman, had to reckon with the boyars. Knyaz Roman attempted to suppress the opposition by brute force, but failed. After the Roman's death the boyars took active part in the feuds which weakened the duchy of Galich and Volyn'.

The proximity of strong foreign countries and the oligarchy of boyars were the main reasons for the failure of Galich and Volyn' to form a strong united country. After a period of glory in XII-XIII centuries the duchy began to decline and was conquered by Poland and Lithuania.

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