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Grand Dukes of Kievan Rus

Rurik , d. 879, semilegendary Varangian warrior, regarded as the founder of the princely dynasty of Kievan Rus. Rurik and his two brothers, at the head of an armed band, apparently seized Novgorod and nearby districts (c.862). According to unreliable early accounts, they had been invited by the local Slavs. Rurik's successors founded the powerful Kievan state, which lasted until the 13th cent. The house of Rurik also came to rule the grand duchy of Moscow, and later all Russia, until the death of Feodor I in 1598.

Oleg or Oleh , d. c.912, founder of Kievan Rus. Succeeding his kinsman Rurik as leader of the Varangians at Novgorod, Oleg led forth his retainers to seize Kiev (c.879). He made Kiev his capital and set about uniting the Slavic tribes along the Volkhov-Dnieper waterway, freeing them from the overlordship of the Khazars. Oleg concluded commercial treaties with the Byzantine Empire in 907 and 911, making trade with the empire a major factor in the Kievan economy and opening the path for Greek Christian cultural penetration. Oleg was succeeded by Igor.

Igor or Ihor , d. 945, duke of Kiev (912–45), successor of Oleg as ruler of Kievan Rus. According to the Russian Primary Chronicle, a medieval history, Igor was the son of Rurik, founder of the Russian princely line. Igor's expedition (941) against Constantinople was routed by the Greeks, and in 945 he concluded a new commercial treaty with the Byzantines. He was killed by rebellious Slavic tribespeople while attempting to collect tribute. His wife, St. Olga or Olha, served as regent for their son Sviatoslav after Igor's death.

Sviatoslav or Svyatoslav , d. 972, duke of Kiev (945–72), son of Igor and of St. Olga. His mother acted as regent for him until c.962, when he came of age. During his reign, which was spent in conquests, he created an empire that stretched from the Volga to the Danube. By 965 he had defeated the Volga Bulgars and the Khazars, thus bringing under Kievan control the entire area of the Volga River. Then, as an ally of the Byzantine Empire, which was at war with the Bulgars, Sviatoslav defeated the Bulgars of the Danube (968) and further extended Kievan control in the Balkans. He was forced to give up the Balkan lands (971), however, in a war with the Byzantine emperor John I. On his way back to Kiev, Sviatoslav was slain by the Pechenegs (or Patzinaks).

Vladimir I , Volodymyr I, or Saint Vladimir,d. 1015, first Christian grand duke of Kiev (c.980–1015); son of Sviatoslav. In 970, Vladimir was sent by his father to govern Novgorod. After Sviatoslav's death Vladimir vied with his two brothers, Yaropolk and Oleg, for the succession. About 980, he defeated his brothers and became grand duke of Kiev. During his reign he conquered and united under Kievan Rus distant Slavic tribes and waged successful wars on the Lithuanians, the Bulgars, and the Byzantines in Crimea. At first a fervent pagan, he converted to Christianity, probably influenced by the political and economic advantages of an alliance with Byzantium. His baptism, in 988 or 989, was followed by his marriage to Anna, sister of the Byzantine Emperor Basil II. After the wedding he returned Kherson (in Crimea) to Byzantium. Vladimir renounced his profligate ways and made Greek Orthodox Christianity the religion of his people. He devoted the remainder of his life to the building of churches, including the splendid Cathedral of the Tithes (989), and to the establishment of schools and libraries. He also enacted several statutes concerning the legal status and courts of the church.

Yaroslav (Yaroslav the Wise), 978–1054, grand duke of Kiev (1019–54); son of Vladimir I. Designated by his father to rule in Novgorod, he became grand duke of Kiev after defeating his older brother Sviatopolk, who succeeded Vladimir I. A shrewd statesman, he consolidated the power and prestige of Kievan Rus. He regained W Galicia from the Poles (who had obtained it in return for supporting Sviatopolk), crushed (1036) the Pechenegs (nomadic invaders), and suppressed rebellions by Lithuanian and Finnish tribes. In 1043 he organized the last Russian campaign against Constantinople, in which his troops were routed. At home he encouraged learning, codified laws, erected magnificent buildings and churches, including the famous Cathedral of St. Sophia, and founded (1039) a patriarchate in Kiev. Yaroslav was in close contact with European dynasties; his daughters were married to Harold III of Norway, Andrew I of Hungary, and Henry I of France. Before his death Yaroslav divided his kingdom among his heirs, designating the oldest, Iziaslav, as grand duke of Kiev. The others were told to obey Iziaslav as they had their father, but civil war ensued.

Vladimir II (Vladimir Monomakh) or Volodymyr II,1053–1125, grand duke of Kiev (1113–25); son of Vsevolod I, prince of Pereyaslavl and grand duke of Kiev (ruled 1078–93). On his father's death he became prince of Pereyaslavl, but supported his cousin Sviatopolk for grand duke of Kiev in order to avoid warfare among the princes of Russia. Vladimir gained popularity as a result of his successful campaigns (1103 and 1111) against the Cumans, nomadic invaders who were a constant threat to Russian lands. When Sviatopolk died Vladimir succeeded him. Under his reign the state flourished and grew in power. He enacted social legislation, extended colonization in the northeastern forests, and built new towns.

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