PERIOD OF STATEHOOD (879-1360)
PERIOD OF STATEHOOD (879-1360).
Silver coins of Volodymyr the Great with his coat of arms on the reverse side.
The Kyivan State proper was established by prince Olekh in 879. He
conducted military expeditions to the shores of Caspian Sea and raided
He was followed, in 912, by prince Ehor, who not only continued
external raids but also had to fight insubordinate tribes of Ulitchs and
Derevlans. He died during a battle with Derevlans in 945.
His wife Olha revenged his death by brutal suppression of
Derevlans. In 964 she became a Christian and established her son
Svyatoslav on throne.
Svyatoslav was able and courageous prince; he fought Asian hordes
in the East and conducted raids on Bulgaria. He divided his state
between his sons, then continued with his expeditions and battles. When
he died in 972 during battle with Pechenegs, his sons started to fight
between themselves, often with help from their enemies.
In 980, prince Volodymyr defeated all his brothers and unified the
country into one powerful state with Kyiv as capital. He adopted
Christianity in 988 and started to convert population, who then
worshiped Pagan gods, to Christian Religion. Force was often used
against those who resisted. He produced silver and gold coins with his
portrait on one side and trident on the reverse side ( such special form
of trident is Coat of Arms of present day Ukraine). In History he is
known as Volodymyr the Great or Saint Volodymyr. During his reign,
pillaging Pecheneg hordes defeated Khazars, pushed out Hungarian hordes
from southern steppes and became a menace to the state; Volodymyr
started to fortify Kyiv against them. After his death in 1015 fighting
and assassinations between his sons ensued, resulting in victory for
prince Yaroslav in 1019.
Yaroslav the Great consolidated nearly whole of his father's
territory, defeated Pechenegs and became one of the most powerful rulers
in Europe. A church hierarchy was established, headed (at least since
1037) by the metropolitan of Kyiv, who was usually appointed by the
patriarch of Constantinople. Yaroslav promoted family ties with other
kingdoms, built many churches, improved Kyiv's fortifications,
introduced laws and established courts.
However, same as his forefathers, he divided the country between
his sons, who after his death in 1054 started to fight among themselves
and divide their land between their sons. This resulted in small
principalities who not only fought each other, but also had to defend
themselves from marauding Turkish and Polovetsian hordes, who plundered
In 1097 all princes agreed to stop fighting between themselves. In
1103 they united their forces under leadership of prince Monomakh (one
of the grandsons of Yaroslav the Great) and defeated Polovetsian hordes.
However constant warfare weakened country's economic strength and caused
near collapse of cultural and political system of Ukraine.
After death of Monomakh in 1125 Ukraine remained fragmented into
numerous principalities, having their own customs and rules, with only
nominal allegiance to the Prince of Kyiv ( this position was occupied by
sons of Monomakh on rotational basis). Gradually Kyiv lost it's power
and influence; many principalities separated.
An outstanding chronicle of events was compiled in Old Church
Slavonic language by Venerable Nestor in 1136.
In 1169 prince Andrey Bogolyubski conquered and destroyed Kyiv and
established his capital in Vladimir near present site of Moscow, thus
originating present Russian state.
The Ukrainian princes continued to struggle on against Polovtsi.
One particular battle led by Prince Ehor in 1185 was enshrined in a poem
"Slovo o Polku Ehorevim" (The Tale of Ehor's Regiment).
Western parts of Ukraine - Halych (Galicia) and Volynj (Volhynia) -
free from Polovetsian raids, gradually emerged as leading
principalities. Prince Roman ruled there in 1199. His sons succeeded
in uniting both principalities into one rich and powerful state.
About year 1220, when a new horde of Mongols and Tatars invaded
Ukraine, the princes have reached some sort of accommodation with
Polovtsi and fought together to expel this new horde. They succeeded at
first but, toward the end of year 1240, Tatars returned and besieged
Kyiv. On 16th December 1240 they conquered, plundered and ruined the
city. Afterward they moved westward, plundered Halych, Poland and
Hungary then in 1245 they returned and occupied eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Prince Danylo (son of Prince Roman) established himself
in Halych and his brother Vasylko in Volynj. Together they managed to
keep Tatars away from their principalities. Danylo founded city Lviv in
1250 as a defense site against Tatars. In 1253 he accepted the royalcrown from the pope and effected a short-lived church union with Rome.
After Danylo died in 1264, his sons continued to rule in peaceful
coexistence with Tatars. In 1303 they created a separate archbishopric
office in Halych, responsible to Byzantine, because in 1299 Kyivan
archbishopric seat was moved to Moscow.
The dominant prince was Danylo's son Lev; he died about year 1300.
His son Yuriy again united Halych and Volynj principalities with Lviv as
capital. He was a mighty and just ruler; the country was rich and
peaceful under his rule.
After Yuriy, his two sons ruled till about 1320. They both died
without leaving male successors. This created unstable situation and
internal power struggle, which was exploited by neighboring countries -
Poland, Hungary and Lithuania - in their efforts to occupy this part of
Ukraine. Local boyars and People's Councils tried to resist by
accepting princes from other dynasties and countries and by forming
alliances with Lithuanians and even Tatars, but in 1349, Polish king
Kazimyezh managed to occupy Halych and part of Volynj. About same time,
Lithuanian princes intensified their takeover of eastern principalities
of Ukraine; about year 1360 the Prince of Kyiv was overthrown.
Thus Ukraine was partitioned between Poland and Lithuania with
Tatar Golden Horde remaining in some parts of southern steppes and the