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Principality of Vladimir-Suzdal[1]
Grand Principality of Vladimir[2]
Владимиро-Су́здальское кня́жество
Vladimiro-Suzdal'skoye knyazhestvo
  Principality of Vladimir-Suzdal within Kievan Rus' in 1237
StatusPrincipality within Kievan Rus' (until 1238)
Vassal state of the Golden Horde (from 1238)
CapitalVladimir on the Klyazma
Common languagesOld East Slavic
Russian Orthodox
GovernmentMonarchy (Principality)
Grand Prince 
• 1157–1175 (first)[citation needed]
Andrey Bogolyubsky[citation needed]
• 1328–1331 (last)[citation needed]
Alexander of Suzdal [ru][citation needed]
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kievan Rus'
Grand Duchy of Moscow
Principality of Tver
Principality of Nizhny Novgorod-Suzdal
Today part ofRussia

Vladimir-Suzdal (Russian: Владимирско-Су́здальская, Vladimirsko-Suzdal'skaya), formally known as the Principality of Vladimir-Suzdal[1] or Grand Principality of Vladimir[2] (1157–1331) (Russian: Владимиро-Су́здальское кня́жество, romanizedVladimiro-Suzdal'skoye knyazhestvo, lit.'Vladimiro-Suzdalian principality'; Latin: Volodimeriae[3]), also as Suzdalia[4] or Vladimir-Suzdalian Rus',[5] was one of the major principalities emerging from Kievan Rus' in the late 12th century, centered in Vladimir-on-Klyazma. With time the principality grew into a grand principality divided into several smaller principalities. After being conquered by the Mongol Empire, the principality became a self-governed state headed by its own nobility. A governorship of the principality, however, was prescribed by a jarlig (declaration by the Khan) issued from the Golden Horde to a Rurikid sovereign.


Rostov principality

The early Rostov principality occupied a vast but sparsely populated territory in the northeast of Kievan Rus', approximately bounded by the Volga, Oka, and Northern Dvina rivers. According to the archaeologist Andrei Leontiev [ru], who specializes in the history of the region, the Rostov land until the 10th century was already under the control of Rostov city, while Sarskoye Gorodishche was a tribal centre of the native Merya people. In the 10th century, an eparchy was established in Rostov. At that time Rostov was the major centre of the Eastern Orthodox Christianity in the region dominated mostly by paganism. Until the 11th century, Rostov was often associated with Novgorod.[citation needed]

The first known administrator in the Rostov region mentioned in the Primary Chronicle sub anno 988 was Yaroslav the Wise, appointed by his father Volodimer I of Kiev.[6] In 1024, there was reportedly a famine in the area, and a revolt stoked up by pagan sorcerers was suppressed by Yaroslav personally.[6] Upon his death in 1054, Vsevolod Yaroslavich received the Principality of Pereyaslavl including the lands of Rostov.[6] Little is known about the region until the 1090s, except that the town of Yaroslavl had been founded upon the upper Volga by 1071, and that Vladimir Monomakh ordered a church to be built in Rostov.[7]


  Rostov-Suzdal in c. 1100

At the 1097 Council of Liubech, Monomakh became prince of Pereyaslavl, including Rostov, for which he made an appanage for his sons.[7] From that time onwards, the Rostov region was a point of contention between the Monomakhovichi of Pereyaslavl and the Sviatoslavichi of Murom.[8] Control of the upper Volga river was particularly important, as it was the primary route for trade between Volga Bulgaria to the east and Veliky Novgorod to the west.[9] Intercepting that commercial shipping for their own profit was tempting for the Monomakhovichi, but also risky, as it provoked hostilities with both the Bulgars and Novgorodians.[9]

It seems that by the year 1108, Monomakh's sixth son Yuri Dolgorukiy, who resided in the town of Suzdal', was the prince of Rostov.[10] In the same year, he supposedly founded the fortified outpost of Vladimir (Volodimer) on the Klyazma, to control that river and defend against raids of the Volga Bulgars who had attacked in 1107.[8] In 1120, Yuri conducted a military campaign against Bolghar territory.[11]

During the 11th and 12th centuries when southern parts of Rus' were systematically raided by Turkic nomads, their inhabitants began to migrate northward. In the formerly wooded areas, known as Zalesye, many new settlements were established.[citation needed] The foundations of Pereslavl, Kostroma, Dmitrov, Moscow, Yuriev-Polsky, Uglich, Tver, Dubna, and many others were assigned (either by chronicle or popular legend) to G, whose sobriquet ("the Long-Armed") alludes to his dexterity in manipulating the politics of far-away Kiev. Sometime in 1108 Monomakh strengthened and rebuilt the town of Vladimir on the Klyazma River, 31 km south of Suzdal. During the rule of Yuri, the principality gained military strength, and in the Suzdal-Ryazan war of 1146, it conquered the Ryazan Principality. Later in the 1150s, Yuri occupied Kiev a couple of times as well. From that time the lands of the northeastern Rus' played an important role in the politics of Kievan Rus'.[citation needed]

Rise of Vladimir

Yuri's son Andrey Bogolyubsky significantly increased Vladimir's power at the expense of the nearby princely states, which he treated with contempt.[citation needed] When grand prince Rostislav I of Kiev died in 1167, a succession crisis broke out in which Andrey argued that, according to the emergent tradition of the Principality of Pereyaslavl being the domain of the crown prince of Kiev, his brother Gleb ought to be enthroned.[12] After burning down Kiev, then the metropolitan seat of Rus', in 1169, he enthroned his younger brother. For Andrey, his capital of Vladimir was a far greater concern, as he embellished it with white stone churches and monasteries. Prince Andrey was murdered by boyars in his suburban residence at Bogolyubovo in 1174.[citation needed]

After a brief interregnum, Andrey's brother Vsevolod III secured the throne. He continued most of his brother's policies and once again subjugated Kiev in 1203. Vsevolod's chief enemies, however, were the Southern Ryazan Principality, which appeared to stir discord in the princely family, and the mighty Turkic state of Volga Bulgaria, which bordered Vladimir-Suzdal to the east. After several military campaigns, Ryazan was burnt to the ground, and the Bulgars were forced to pay tribute.[citation needed]


Main article: Battle of Lipitsa

The 1212–16 war of succession fragmented Vsevolod's lands:
  Inherited by Konstantin of Rostov
  Inherited by Yaroslav of Suzdal

Vsevolod's death in 1212 precipitated a serious dynastic conflict. His eldest son Konstantin gained the support of powerful Rostovan boyars and Mstislav the Bold of Kiev and expelled the lawful heir, his brother George, from Vladimir to Rostov. George managed to return to the capital six years later, upon Konstantin's death. George proved to be a shrewd ruler who decisively defeated Volga Bulgaria and installed his brother Yaroslav in Novgorod. His reign, however, ended when the Mongol hordes under Batu Khan took and burnt Vladimir in 1238. Thereupon they proceeded to devastate other major cities of Vladimir-Suzdal during the Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus'.[citation needed]

Under Mongol suzerainty

Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir was built in 1158–1160 and functioned as the mother church of Kievan Rus' in the 13th century.

While heavy tribute payments and the initial Mongol invasions did manage to cause much destruction to Vladimir-Suzdal, rule under the Mongols also brought wealth to the region, as Vladimir was able to access the Mongol's lucrative patronage of oriental trade.[13]

None of the cities of the principality managed to regain the power of Kievan Rus' after the Mongol invasion. Vladimir became a vassal of the Mongol Empire, later succeeded by the Golden Horde, with the Grand Prince appointed by the Great Khan. Even the popular Alexander Nevsky of Pereslavl had to go to the Khan's capital in Karakorum to be installed as the Grand Prince in Vladimir. As many factions strove for power, the principality rapidly disintegrated into eleven tiny states: Moscow, Tver, Pereslavl, Rostov, Yaroslavl, Uglich, Belozersk, Kostroma, Nizhny Novgorod, Starodub-upon-Klyazma, and Yuriev-Polsky. All of them nominally acknowledged the suzerainty of the Grand Prince of Vladimir, but his effective authority became progressively weaker.[citation needed]

By the end of the century, only three cities — Moscow, Tver, and Nizhny Novgorod — still contended for the title of Grand Prince of Vladimir. Once installed, however, they chose to remain in their own cities rather than move to Vladimir. The Grand Duchy of Moscow gradually came to eclipse its rivals. When the metropolitan of Kievan Rus' moved his chair from Vladimir to Moscow in 1325, it became clear that Moscow had effectively succeeded Vladimir as the chief centre of power in the north-east remnant of Kievan Rus'.[citation needed]


Suzdalian period

Further information: White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal

The veneration of the Theotokos as a holy protectress of Vladimir was introduced by Prince Andrew, who dedicated to Her many churches and installed in his palace a revered image, known as Theotokos of Vladimir.

As part of the Christian world, Rus' principalities gained a wide range of opportunities for developing their political and cultural ties not only with Byzantium but with the European countries, as well. By the end of the eleventh century, Rus' gradually fell under the influence of Roman architecture. Whitestone cathedrals, decorated with sculpture, appeared in the principality of Vladimir-Suzdal due to Andrey Bogolyubsky's invitation of architects from "all over the world". These cathedrals, however, are not identical to the Roman edifices of Catholic Europe and represent a synthesis of the Byzantine cruciform plan and cupolas with Roman whitestone construction and decorative technique. This mixture of Greek and Western European traditions was possible only in Kievan Rus'. One of its results was a famous architectural masterpiece of Vladimir, the Church of Pokrova na Nerli, a symbol of cultural originality of Suzdalia.[citation needed]

In the early Middle Ages, Rus' principalities were similar to other European countries culturally and in historical development. Later on, however, the Rus' polities and Europe began diverging due to a number of factors. The East-West Schism of 1054 was one of the reasons for this. Barely noticeable in the eleventh century, it became very obvious two centuries later during the resistance of the citizens of Novgorod to the Teutonic Knights. Also, by the middle of the twelfth century, the dominating influence of the Kievan Rus’ (some historians do not consider it possible to even call it a state in the modern sense of the word) began to wane. The famous Theotokos of Vladimir, an icon of the Virgin Mary, was moved to Vladimir. From this time on, almost every principality began forming its own architectural and art schools.[citation needed]

The invasion of Batu Khan and subsequent domination of Rus' lands by the Golden Horde was also a turning point in the history of Russian culture and statehood. Mongol rule imposed its principles of state on the northeastern Rus' principalities, which were very different from those of Western Europe. In particular, Russia adopted a principle of universal subordination and undivided authority.[citation needed]

Muscovite period

Rus' was only able to recover from the consequences of the Mongol invasion by the late thirteenth century. The first areas to recover were Novgorod and Pskov, which had been spared the Tatar raids. These city-states, with parliamentarian rule, created an original kind of culture under some influence from their western Baltic neighbours. In the early fourteenth century, leadership in the northeastern lands was transferred from the Principality of Vladimir to Moscow, which, in turn, would fight for leadership against Tver for another century. Moscow was a part of the Vladimir lands and functioned as one of the border fortresses of north-eastern Rus'. In 1324, Metropolitan Peter left Vladimir and settled down in Moscow, thus, transferring the residence of the Russian Orthodox Church (Metropolitan Maximus had moved the residence from Kiev to Vladimir not long before, in 1299). In the late fourteenth century, the principal object of worship of the "old" capital—the icon of the Theotokos of Vladimir—was transferred to Moscow. Vladimir became a model for Muscovy.[citation needed]

Emphasizing the succession, Muscovite princes took good care of Vladimir's sacred places. In the early fifteenth century, Andrei Rublev and Prokhor of Gorodets painted the Assumption (Uspensky) Cathedral. In the mid-1450s, they restored the Cathedral of St. George in Yuriev-Polsky under the supervision of Vasili Dmitriyevich Yermolin.[14] The architecture of Muscovy and its surrounding lands in the fourteenth to early fifteenth centuries, usually referred to as early Muscovite architecture, inherited the technique of whitestone construction and typology of four-pillar cathedrals from Vladimir. Art historians, however, notice that early Muscovite architecture was influenced by the Balkans and European Gothic architecture.[citation needed]

Russian painting of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries is characterized by two major influences, namely those of Byzantine artist Feofan Grek and Russian icon-painter Andrei Rublev.[15] Feofan's style is distinguished by its monochromatic palette and uncommon expressiveness of laconic blots and lines, which send a message of a complex symbolic implication, close to the then widely-spread doctrine of hesychasm, from Byzantium. The soft-coloured icons of Rublev are closer to the late Byzantine painting style of the Balkan countries in the fifteenth century.[citation needed]

The late fourteenth century was marked by one of the most important events in Russian history. In 1380, Dmitry Donskoy and his army dealt the first serious blow to the Golden Horde. Sergii Radonezhsky, the founder and hegumen of Troitse-Sergiyev monastery, played an exceptional role in this victory. The name of Saint Sergii, who became the protector and patron of Muscovy, has an enormous significance in Russian culture. Radonezhsky himself and his followers founded more than two hundred monasteries, which would become the basis for the so-called "monastic colonization" of the little-developed northern lands. The Life of Sergii Radonezhsky was written by one of the outstanding writers of that time, Epifaniy the Wise. Andrei Rublev painted his Trinity, the greatest masterpiece of the Russian Middle Ages, for the cathedral of Sergii's monastery.[citation needed]

Mid-fifteenth-century Muscovy is known for bloody internecine wars for the Moscow seat of the Grand Prince. Ivan III managed to unite the Russian lands around Moscow (at the cost of ravaging Novgorod and Pskov) only by the end of the fifteenth century, and put an end to Russia's subordination to the Golden Horde after the Great standing on the Ugra river of 1480. The river was later poetically dubbed the "Virgin Belt" (Poyas Bogoroditsy). This event marked the birth of the sovereign Russian state, headed by the Grand Prince of Moscow.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ a b Martin 2007, pp. 103, 149.
  2. ^ a b Martin 2007, pp. xix, xxi, 190, 194, 196, 202, 207–208, 230, 232, 234.
  3. ^ Introduction into the Latin epigraphy (Введение в латинскую эпиграфику).
  4. ^ Martin 2007, p. 110.
  5. ^ Buckley, Mary E. A. (2018-01-11). The Politics of Unfree Labour in Russia: Human Trafficking and Labour Migration. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 34. ISBN 9781108419963. OCLC 992788554.
  6. ^ a b c Martin 2007, p. 42.
  7. ^ a b Martin 2007, p. 42–43.
  8. ^ a b Martin 2007, p. 43, 62.
  9. ^ a b Martin 2007, p. 77.
  10. ^ Martin 2007, p. 43.
  11. ^ Martin 2007, p. 62.
  12. ^ Martin 2007, p. 124.
  13. ^ Halperin, Charles J. (1985). Russia and the Golden Horde: the Mongol impact on medieval Russian history. Internet Archive. Bloomington : Indiana University Press. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-253-35033-6.
  14. ^ Воронин, Н. Н. (1974). Владимир, Боголюбово, Суздаль, Юрьев-Польской. Книга-спутник по древним городам Владимирской земли. (in Russian) (4th ed.). Moscow: Искусство. pp. 262–290. Retrieved September 16, 2011.
  15. ^ Lincoln, W. Bruce (1998). Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of a Thousand Years of Artistic Life in Russia. Viking. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-670-87568-9.