Young Folks' History of Russia - Nathan Dole

The Rival Princes of Suzdal and Galitch

The death of this premature autocrat was followed by great troubles and riots. The courtiers plundered his palace and carried off all his gold and silver and his fur-lined robes; the common people broke into the houses of the rich and committed many murders; the magistrates were powerless to restrain them, and the clergy were obliged to parade the sacred images about the streets to restore order. As Andrew left no children the throne of Suzda1 was disputed by his brothers and nephews who had returned from Constantinople.

The ancient cities, envious of the upstart capital, formerly a mere borough dependent upon them, upheld the nephews. Vladimir took the part of Andrew's brothers. The men of Rostof said, —

"We will destroy the city of Vladimir, we will reduce it to ashes, we will make their generals prisoners; they shall be our servants and our serfs."

But in the war which followed, the new city was victorious, and caused Andrew's brother Michael to be recognized as grand prince.

The same trouble arose at his death; the men of Rostof refused to obey the second brother, who was surnamed Big Nest, from his large family. They declared that their arms alone should do them justice upon the vile populace of Vladimir. A second time the men of Vladimir were successful. Big Nest mounted the throne and reigned six and thirty years.

This prince, who has likewise been called "the Great," showed in his acts" the foresight, the spirit of intrigue, the constancy and firmness" which marked the Russian princes of the northern forests. He reduced proud Novgorod to ask for his son, Constantine.

"Lord and Grand Prince," said the envoys of the city to him, "our country is thy inheritance; we beg thee to send us the grandson of George Long-Hand, the great-grandson of Monomak, to be our prince."

He added the states of Riazan to his domains, burned its capital, and transplanted the inhabitants to the wilds of the North. He was connected by marriage with many powerful princes.

After his death the quarrels began anew. Three of his sons kindled a general civil war which was remarkable for its savage cruelty. The order was that no quarter be given, and that the princes of the blood, "those with embroideries of gold upon their shoulders," should be cut down without mercy. At the battle of Lipetsk nine thousand Battle of men were killed, and only sixty prisoners were taken. Big Nest's second son, George, disguised himself and escaped by hard riding. He wore out three horses, and on a fourth just managed to reach Vladimir. A turn in fortune, however, the next year made him grand prince.



George was full of enterprise, and made many expeditions by land and along the Volga against the Bulgars, whose wooden forts and villages he burned. During one campaign in which he swept the whole length of the great river, he noticed a hill not far from where the Oka and Volga join their waters and make an inland lake. Here he founded a city which he called Nether Newborough, or Lower Novgorod, which afterwards became famous as the seat of the great Year Market, or fair. It often drew three hundred thousand visitors from the merchant lands of Europe and Asia .

A tradition kept by the tribe of Mordva, in whose midst the new town was built, commemorates this event: "The Prince of the Russias was sailing down the Volga. On the mountain he saw the Mordva, in long white coats, adoring their god, and he said to his warriors,—

"What are those white birches that bend and sway up there above the nurse, the earth, and bow toward the east?'

"And he sent his men to look closer, and they came back, and said,—

"'They are not birches bending and swaying; it is the Mordva worshipping their god. In their vessels they have delicious beer; omelets hang from sticks; in pots their priests are cooking meat.'

"And when the elders of the Mordva learned of the coming of the Russian prince they sent young men with beer and meat; but on the way the young men ate the meat and drank the beer, and to the Russian prince they brought only earth and water. The prince rejoiced at this gift and considered it a sign of submission on the part of the Mordva. He continued his voyage down the Volga; where he threw on the bank a handful of this earth a town was born; where he threw a pinch. of this earth a village was born. Thus the Mordvan land was conquered by the Russians."

The Princes of Western Russia

The, Tartars put an end to George's plans of conquest; but before entering upon the details of this era of barbarian invasion it will be well. to look at Western or Red Russia, taken from Poland by Fiery Fame, and left by his grandson, Monomak. to George Long-Hand's elder brother. With the decline of Kief, caused by the feuds between Suzdal and Galitch, the unity of Russian history was broken. The title of grand prince, formerly borne only by the rulers of Kief, was taken also by the rival families of Tchernigof and Smolensk, of Galitch and Suzdal. Three centuries later Moscow became the centre about which the empire of all the Russias was formed.

Red Russia, or Galitch, was famous for its fabulous wealth and strength. An early poet, the son of the founder of its capital, sings of one of its princes:—

"Thou art seated very high on thy throne of wrought gold;

With thy regiments of iron thou upholdest the Carpathians;

Thou closest the gates of the Danube,

Thou barrest the way to the King of Hungary,

At thy will thou openest the gates of Kier;

From afar thou strikest with thy arrows."

Here from early times the nobles had more power than the princes who were elected by an assembly and kept the crown by its consent. When the prince celebrated in the poem neglected Olga, his lawful wife, the nobles waxed indignant, burnt his favorite alive, and obliged him to proclaim Olga's son, Vladimir, as his heir.

Vladimir became prince, but surpassed his father in wickedness, and seeing that he was in danger from his angry people he took his family and his treasures and fled to Bela, King of Hungary, who raised an army with which to restore the fugitive to the throne. But when the king saw how rich and beautiful Galitch was, he wanted the country for himself. He threw Vladimir into prison and raised his own son, Andrew, to the throne. The nobles soon rebelled at the heavy Hungarian yoke, drove out the strangers, and recalled Vladimir, who had escaped to the court of Frederic Red Beard.

After his death the warlike and energetic Roman of Volynia determined to mount the throne of Galitch, and with an allied army furnished by the King of Poland he entered the principality and reduced the proud nobles to terms. He promised to pardon such fugitives as would return, but when he had them in his power he accused them of plotting; and saying, "To eat a drop of honey ill peace you must first kill the bees," he gave them over to the most horrible tortures, quartering them, burning them, burying them alive, and riddling them with arrows. Their estates he took for himself.

"Roman the Great, the Autocrat of all the Russias," as he was called, fought many battles with the Kumans and the Lithuanians. After one of his victories over the latter he harnessed his prisoners to the plough and drove them across the fields. "Evil art thou, Roman, thou ploughest Lithuania," says the proverb, and long after his day Lithuanian mothers used his terrible name to frighten their children. He mixed in the civil wars of Russia and was victorious; he gave the throne of Kief to his son, Venging Fame.

The chronicle says of him:—

"He walked in the way of God, cut in pieces the heathen, flung himself like a lion upon the infidels, was savage as a wildcat, destructive as a crocodile, swooping upon his prey like an eagle."

The Pope sent him missionaries, who said,—

"Be a convert to the Catholic faith, and by the sword of St. Peter thou shalt be a great king."

Roman drew his own sword, and answered proudly,—

"Has the Pope a sword like mine? While I wear it by my side I need not the blade of another."

At last, in a war with Poland, his zeal carried him. too far away from his army and he was overpowered and killed.

As Roman's son, Daniel, was a young boy and his mother had not the strength to be his regent, Red Russia at once fell a prey to terrible factions. The Poles and Hungarians tried to get the upper hand; Venging Fame the Rash, of Smolensk, son of "the Brave," came in search of adventure and drove out the Hungarians. He took the title of Prince and married his daughter to Daniel, to whom he gave Volynia. The two princes were immediately involved in a war with Poland, in which Daniel showed great valor. After the death of his father-in-law he became Prince of Galitch and ruled with a firm hand. The Tartars, whom he was one of the first to beard, drove him from the throne and covered his country with ruins.

When the scourge had passed he returned, and by an offer of great privileges he induced a host of Germans, Armenians, and Jews to fill the voids in his population. By this measure he stimulated commerce and industry. The Jewish element thus introduced proved, as everywhere else in the world, to be alien and hateful to the natives, and ever since there have been periodical outbreaks of persecution against the Jews in Polish Russia, arising from the envy of their great financial success, and from their exactions.

Daniel promised the Pope of Rome that he would do his best to help unite the two churches, and he offered to join in the crusade against the Tartars. The Pope wrote him an affectionate letter calling him his dear son, gave him the title of King, and sent him a crown and sceptre. He was solemnly crowned by the Abbot of Messina. He did not fulfil his engagements, however, and the new Pope overwhelmed him with reproaches and threats, but he still kept the title of King Daniel took an active part in the wars of Europe, but he was not able to hold his own against the Tartars. He was obliged to dismantle his fortresses and submit to the horde.

"Thou hast done well to come at last," said the khan, who treated him honorably, and gave him wine to drink when he saw that the sour milk of the Tartars was not to his taste.

The civil wars of his youth, his struggle with the hordes of Asia, his dealings with the West, make the story of his checkered career one of the most romantic in Russian history. A chronicler describes how "the Hungarians admired the order that reigned among his troops, the magnificence of the prince, his Greek habit, embroidered with gold, his sabre, and his arrows, his saddle, enriched with jewels and precious metals richly chased." "No prince," says a French writer, "better deserved to free Southern Russia, but his activity and talents struggled in vain against the fate of his country." After his death Galitch passed to different princes of his family and was finally absorbed into the Kingdom of Poland.