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Yaroslav the Wise

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Yaroslav the Wise

Yaroslav the Wise
Grand Prince of Kiev and Novgorod
Forensic facial reconstruction
Reign 1019–1054
Predecessor Sviatopolk the Accursed
Successor Iziaslav I
Prince of Rostov?
Reign 978–1010
Prince of Novgorod
Reign 1010–1019
Spouse Ingegerd Olofsdotter, later Irene-Anna (a daughter of Olof Skötkonung)
Issue see the main article
Full name
Yaroslav Vladimirovich
Dynasty Rurikid
Father Vladimir the Great
Mother Rogneda of Polotsk by the Primary Chronicle
Born ~978
Died 20 February 1054 [aged ~76]

Yaroslav I, Grand Prince of Rus', known as Yaroslav the Wise or Iaroslav the Wise (Old East Slavic: Гюрьгi, Gjurĭgì).

A son of the Varangian (Viking)[2][3] Grand Prince Vladimir the Great, he was vice-regent of Novgorod at the time of his father’s death in 1015. Subsequently, his eldest surviving brother, Svyatopolk the Accursed, killed three of his other brothers and seized power in Kiev. Yaroslav, with the active support of the Novgorodians and the help of Varangian mercenaries,[4] defeated Svyatopolk and became the Grand Prince of Kiev in 1019. Under Yaroslav the codification of legal customs and princely enactments was begun, and this work served as the basis for a law code called the Russkaya Pravda ("Rus Truth [Law]"). During his lengthy reign, Rus' reached the zenith of its cultural flowering and military power.[4]

Rise to the throne

The only contemporary image of Yaroslav I the Wise, on his seal.

The early years of Yaroslav's life are shrouded in mystery. He was one of the numerous sons of Vladimir the Great, presumably his second by Rogneda of Polotsk, although his actual age (as stated in the Primary Chronicle and corroborated by the examination of his skeleton in the 1930s) would place him among the youngest children of Vladimir. It has been suggested that he was a child begotten out of wedlock after Vladimir's divorce from Rogneda and marriage to Anna Porphyrogeneta, or even that he was a child of Anna Porphyrogeneta herself. Yaroslav figures prominently in the Norse Sagas under the name of Jarisleif the Lame; his legendary fabulosity (probably resulting from an arrow wound) was corroborated by the scientists who examined his remains. In his youth, Yaroslav was sent by his father to rule the northern lands around Rostov but was transferred to Novgorod, as befitted a senior heir to the throne, in 1010. While living there, he founded the town of Yaroslavl (literally, "Yaroslav's") on the Volga. His relations with his father were apparently strained, and grew only worse on the news that Vladimir bequeathed the Kievan throne to his younger son, Boris. In 1014 Yaroslav refused to pay tribute to Kiev and only Vladimir's death prevented a war.

During the next four years Yaroslav waged a complicated and bloody war for Kiev against his half-brother Sviatopolk, who was supported by his father-in-law, Duke Bolesław I Chrobry of Poland. During the course of this struggle, several other brothers (Boris, Gleb, and Svyatoslav) were brutally murdered. The Primary Chronicle accused Svyatopolk of planning those murders, while the Saga of Eymund is often interpreted as recounting the story of Boris's assassination by the Varangians in the service of Yaroslav.

Yaroslav defeated Svyatopolk in their first battle, in 1016, and Svyatopolk fled to Poland. But Svyatopolk returned with Polish troops furnished by his father-in-law, seized Kiev and pushed Yaroslav back into Novgorod. Yaroslav at last prevailed over Svyatopolk, and in 1019 firmly established his rule over Kiev. One of his first actions as a grand prince was to confer on the loyal Novgorodians (who had helped him to gain the Kievan throne), numerous freedoms and privileges. Thus, the foundation of the Novgorodian republic was laid. For their part, the Novgorodians respected Yaroslav more than they did other Kievan princes; and the princely residence in their city, next to the marketplace (and where the veche often convened) was named Yaroslavovo Dvorishche ("Yaroslav's Court") after him. It probably was during this period that Yaroslav promulgated the first code of laws in the East Slavic lands, "Yaroslav's Justice" (now better known as Russkaya Pravda, "Rus Truth [Law]").


Coins of Yaroslav and his descendants represent the trident.
Ivan Bilibin's artwork of Yaroslav I

Leaving aside the legitimacy of Yaroslav's claims to the Kievan throne and his postulated guilt in the murder of his brothers, Nestor the Chronicler and later Russian historians often presented him as a model of virtue, styling him "the Wise". A less appealing side of his personality is revealed by his having imprisoned his youngest brother Sudislav for life. Yet another brother, Mstislav of Tmutarakan, whose distant realm bordered the Northern Caucasus and the Black Sea, hastened to Kiev and, despite reinforcements led by Yaroslav's brother-in-law King Anund Jacob of Sweden (as Jakun - "blind and dressed in a gold suit"),[5] inflicted a heavy defeat on Yaroslav in 1024. Yaroslav and Mstislav then divided Kievan Rus' between them: the area stretching left from the Dnieper, with the capital at Chernihiv, was ceded to Mstislav until his death in 1036.

In his foreign policy, Yaroslav relied on the Scandinavian alliance and attempted to weaken the Byzantine influence on Kiev. In 1030, he reconquered Ugaunia to pay annual tribute.

In 1043, Yaroslav staged a naval raid against Constantinople led by his son Vladimir and general Vyshata. Although the Rus' navy was defeated, Yaroslav managed to conclude the war with a favourable treaty and prestigious marriage of his son Vsevolod to the emperor's daughter. It has been suggested that the peace was so advantageous because the Kievans had succeeded in taking a key Byzantine possession in Crimea, Chersones.

To defend his state from the Golden Gates of Kiev have been perished during the Mongol invasion, but later restored.

Yaroslav was a notable patron of book culture and learning. In 1051, he had a monk Ilarion proclaimed the metropolitan of Kiev, thus challenging old Byzantine tradition of placing Greeks on the episcopal sees. Ilarion's discourse on Yaroslav and his father Vladimir is frequently cited as the first work of Old East Slavic literature.

Family life and posterity

Eleventh-century fresco of St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev representing the daughters of Yaroslav I, with Anna probably being the youngest. Other daughters were Anastasia, wife of Andrew I of Hungary; Elizabeth, wife of Harald III of Norway; and possibly Agatha, wife of Edward the Exile.

In 1019, Yaroslav married Ingegerd Olofsdotter, daughter of the king of Sweden, and gave Ladoga to her as a marriage gift.

The Saint Sophia Cathedral houses a fresco representing the whole family: Yaroslav, Irene (as Ingegerd was known in Rus), their five daughters and five sons. Yaroslav had three of his daughters married to foreign princes who lived in exile at his court:

Yaroslav had one son from the first marriage (his Christian name being Ilya (?-1020)), and 6 sons from the second marriage. Apprehending the danger that could ensue from divisions between brothers, he exhorted them to live in peace with each other. The eldest of these, Vladimir of Novgorod, best remembered for building the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod, predeceased his father. Three other sons—Iziaslav, Sviatoslav, and Vsevolod—reigned in Kiev one after another. The youngest children of Yaroslav were Igor (1036–1060) of Volyn and Vyacheslav (1036–1057) of Smolensk. About the last one there are almost no information. Some documents point out the fact of him having a son Boris who challenged Vsevolod sometime in 1077-1078.


Sarcophagus of Yaroslav the Wise

The sarcophagus of Yaroslav the Wise was uncovered in St. Sophia Cathedral. As been known except own dust of prince in 1939 there were displayed the remains of unknown woman without head and the man’s skull, which possibly belonged to the famous ruler’s son. This time in the tomb, that had been uncovered at court, medical experts and anthropologists presence, there was nothing but a chest with prince ashes. Skeletons that mentioned in a record of 1939 disappeared.[6]


Four different towns in four different countries were founded by and named after Yaroslav: Yaroslavl (in today's Russia), Yuryev (now Tartu, Estonia) and another Yuryev (now Bila Tserkva, Ukraine (Yuriy was Prince Yaroslav's baptismal name), Jarosław in Poland. Also, following the Russian custom of naming military objects such as tanks & planes after historical figures, the helmet worn by many Russian soldiers during the Crimean War was called the "Helmet of Yaroslav the Wise". It was the first pointed helmet to be used by any army, even before German troops wore pointed helmets.

In 2008 Yaroslav was placed first (with 40% of the votes) in their ranking of "our greatest compatriots" by the viewers of the TV show The Greatest Ukrainians.[7] Afterwards one of the producers of The Greatest Ukrainians claimed that Yaroslav had only won because of vote manipulation and that (if that had been prevented) the real first place would have been awarded to Stepan Bandera.[8]

Yaroslav. Tysyachu let nazad is a 2010 film based on his early life as a regional prince on the fronter. It is available with English subtitles as Iron Lord.


See also


External links

  • Encyclopedia of Ukraine
  • Yaroslav I Genealogy
  • Novgorod the Great


  1. ^ Also known as Jarisleif I. See Google books
  2. ^ Companion to the Calendar: A Guide to the Saints and Mysteries of the ... - Mary Ellen Hynes - Google Břker. Retrieved 2012-04-07. 
  3. ^ National geographic - Henry Gannett, Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, Melville Bell Grosvenor, National Geographic Society (U.S.), John Hyde, John Oliver LaGorce - Google Břker. Retrieved 2012-04-07. 
  4. ^ a b "Yaroslav I (prince of Kiev) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2012-04-07. 
  5. ^ Uplysning uti konung Anund Jacobs Historia utur Ryska Handlingar in Kongl. Vitterhets Historie och Antiquitets Akademiens Handlingar, Stockholm 1802 p. 61
  6. ^
  7. ^ Yaroslav the Wise - the Greatest Ukrainian of all times, Inter TV (19 May 2008)
  8. ^ BBC dragged into Ukraine TV furore, BBC News (5 June 2008)
Yaroslav I the Wise
Born: 978 Died: 1054
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Prince of Rostov
Succeeded by
Boris Vladimirich
Preceded by
Vyachelav Vladimirich
Prince of Novgorod
Succeeded by
Vladimir Yaroslavich
Preceded by
Sviatopolk I Vladimirich
Grand Prince of Kiev
Succeeded by
Iziaslav I Yaroslavich
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Sviatopolk I
Grand Prince of Kiev
Succeeded by
Mstislav of Chernigov
Preceded by
Vysheslav Vladimirovich
2nd in line to Grand Prince of Kiev
Succeeded by
Mstislav of Chernigov
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