The Rurik dynasty, or Rurikids, was a dynasty founded by the Varangian prince Rurik, who established himself in Novgorod around the year AD 862. The Rurikids were the ruling dynasty of Kievan Rus', as well as the successor principalities of Galicia-Volhynia, Vladimir-Suzdal, the Grand Duchy of Moscow, the founders of the Tsardom of Russia, they ruled until the Time of Troubles, following which they were succeeded by the Romanovs. They are one of Europe's oldest royal houses, with numerous existing cadet branches; as a ruling dynasty, the Rurik dynasty held its own in some part of Russia for a total of twenty-one generations in male-line succession, from Rurik to Vasili IV of Russia, a period of more than 700 years. The Rurikid dynasty was founded in 862 by a Varangian prince. Folk history tells of the Finnic and Slavic tribes in the area calling on "'the Varangians, to the Rus' … The Chud, the Slovenes, the Krivichi and the Ves said "Our land is vast and abundant, but there is no order in it.
Come and reign as princes and have authority over us!"' Three brothers came with'their kin' and'all the Rus' in response to this invitation. Rurik set up rule in Novgorod. There is some ambiguity in the Primary Chronicle about the specifics of the story, "hence their paradoxical statement'the people of Novgorod are of Varangian stock, for they were Slovenes.'" However, archaeological evidence such as "Frankish swords, a sword chape and a tortoiseshell brooch" in the area suggest that there was, in fact, a Scandinavian population during the tenth century at the latest. There have been some suggestions that Rurik and his brothers might have been of Finnish or Estonian descent. In Estonian folklore there is a tale of three brothers, namely Rahurikkuja and Truuvaar, who were born as peasants, but through bravery and courageousness all became rulers in foreign countries. Rurik and his brothers founded a state that historians called Kievan Rus′. By the middle of the twelfth century, Kievan Rus′ had dissolved into independent principalities, each ruled by a different branch of the Rurik dynasty.
The dynasty followed the izgoi principle. The Rurik dynasty underwent a major schism after the death of Yaroslav the Wise in 1054, dividing into three branches on the basis of descent from three successive ruling Grand Princes: Izyaslav and Vsevolod. In addition, a line of Polotsk princes assimilated themselves with the princes of Lithuania. In the 10th century the Council of Liubech made some amendments to a succession rule and divided Ruthenia into several autonomous principalities that had equal rights to obtain the Kiev throne. Vsevolod's line became better known as the Monomakhovichi and was the predominant one; the line of Svyatoslav became known as Olegovychi and laid claim to the lands of Chernihiv and Severia. The Izyaslavychi who ruled Turov and Volhynia were replaced by a Monomakhovychi branch. "The Rurikid dynasty… attempted to impose on their diverse polity the integrative concept of russkaia zemlia and the unifying notion of a "Rus′ people". But "Kievan Rus′ was never a unified polity.
It was a loosely bound, ill-defined, heterogeneous conglomeration of lands and cities inhabited by tribes and populous groups whose loyalties were territorial." This caused the Rurik dynasty to dissolve into several sub-dynasties ruling smaller states in the 10th and 11th centuries. These were the Olgoviches of Severia who ruled in Chernigov, Yuryeviches who controlled Vladimir-Suzdal, Romanoviches in Galicia-Volhynia; the Olgoviches descended from Oleg I of Chernigov, a son of Sviatoslav II of Kiev and grandson of Yaroslav the Wise. They continued to rule until the early 14th century when they were torn apart by the emerging Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Grand Duchy of Moscow; the line continued through Oleg's son Vsevolod II of Kiev, grandson Sviatoslav III of Kiev, great-grandson Vsevolod IV of Kiev and great-great grandson Michael of Chernigov, from whose sons the extant lines of the Olegoviches are descended, including the Massalsky, Baryatinsky and Obolensky, including Repnin. Vsevolod I of Kiev was the father of Vladimir II Monomakh, giving rise to the name Monomakh for his progeny.
Two of Vladimir II's sons were Mstislav I of Yuri Dolgorukiy. The Romanoviches were the line of Roman the Great, descended from Mstislav I of Kiev through his son Iziaslav II of Kiev and his grandson Mstislav II of Kiev, father of Roman the Great; the older Monomakhovychi line that ruled Principality of Volhynia, they were crowned kings of Galicia and Volhynia and ruled until 1323. Romanovychi displaced the older line of Izyaslavychi from Turov and Volhynia as well as Rostyslavychi from Galicia; the last were two brothers of Romanovychi and Lev II, who ruled jointly and were slain trying to repel Mongol incursions. The Polish king, Władysław I the Elbow-high, in his letter to the Pope wrote with regret: "The two last Ruthenian kings, firm shields for Poland from the Tatars, left this world and after their death Poland is directly under Tatar threat." Losing their leadership role, however, continued to play a vital role in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Most notably, the Ostrogski fa
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth – formally, the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and, after 1791, the Commonwealth of Poland – was a dual state, a bi-confederation of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch, both King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. It was one of the largest and most populous countries of 16th– to 17th-century Europe. At its largest territorial extent, in the early 17th century, the Commonwealth covered 400,000 square miles and sustained a multi-ethnic population of 11 million; the Commonwealth was established by the Union of Lublin in July 1569, but the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania had been in a de facto personal union since 1386 with the marriage of the Polish queen Hedwig and Lithuania's Grand Duke Jogaila, crowned King jure uxoris Władysław II Jagiełło of Poland. The First Partition of Poland in 1772 and the Second Partition of Poland in 1793 reduced the state's size and the Commonwealth collapsed as an independent state following the Third Partition of Poland in 1795.
The Union possessed many features unique among contemporary states. Its political system was characterized by strict checks upon monarchical power; these checks were enacted by a legislature controlled by the nobility. This idiosyncratic system was a precursor to modern concepts of democracy, constitutional monarchy, federation. Although the two component states of the Commonwealth were formally equal, Poland was the dominant partner in the union; the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was marked by high levels of ethnic diversity and by relative religious tolerance, guaranteed by the Warsaw Confederation Act 1573. The Constitution of 1791 acknowledged Catholicism as the "dominant religion", unlike the Warsaw Confederation, but freedom of religion was still granted with it. After several decades of prosperity, it entered a period of protracted political and economic decline, its growing weakness led to its partitioning among its neighbors during the late 18th century. Shortly before its demise, the Commonwealth adopted a massive reform effort and enacted the May 3 Constitution—the first codified constitution in modern European history and the second in modern world history.
The official name of the state was The Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Latin term was used in international treaties and diplomacy. In the 17th century and it was known as the Most Serene Commonwealth of Poland, the Commonwealth of the Polish Kingdom, or the Commonwealth of Poland, its inhabitants referred to it in everyday speech as the "Rzeczpospolita". Western Europeans simply called it Poland and in most past and modern sources it is referred to as the Kingdom of Poland, or just Poland; the terms: the Commonwealth of Poland and the Commonwealth of Two Nations were used in the Reciprocal Guarantee of Two Nations. The English term'Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth' and German'Polen-Litauen' are seen as renderings of the Commonwealth of Two Nations variant. Other names include the Republic of Nobles and the First Commonwealth, the latter common in Polish historiography. Poland and Lithuania underwent an alternating series of wars and alliances during the 14th century and early 15th century.
Several agreements between the two were struck before the permanent 1569 Union of Lublin. This agreement was one of the signal achievements of Sigismund II Augustus, last monarch of the Jagiellon dynasty. Sigismund believed, his death in 1572 was followed by a three-year interregnum during which adjustments were made to the constitutional system. The Commonwealth reached its Golden Age in the early 17th century, its powerful parliament was dominated by nobles who were reluctant to get involved in the Thirty Years' War. The Commonwealth was able to hold its own against Sweden, the Tsardom of Russia, vassals of the Ottoman Empire, launched successful expansionist offensives against its neighbors. In several invasions during the Time of Troubles, Commonwealth troops entered Russia and managed to take Moscow and hold it from 27 September 1610 to 4 November 1612, when they were driven out after a siege. Commonwealth power began waning after a series of blows during the following decades. A major rebellion of Ukrainian Cossacks in the southeastern portion of the Commonwealth began in 1648.
It resulted in a Ukrainian request, under the terms of the Treaty of Pereyaslav, for protection by the Russian Tsar. Russian annexation of part of Ukraine supplanted Polish influence; the other blow to the Commonwealth was a Swedish invasion in 1655, known as the Deluge, supported by troops of Transylvanian Duke George II Rákóczi a
Zbaraski was a princely family of Ruthenian origin in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland domiciled in Volhynia. The name is derived from the town of the core of their dominions, they were the Gediminids descended from Kaributas. The line ended with their assets overtaken by their agnates, the Wiśniowiecki family. A branch of the princes Nieświcki family; the Zbarski family used the Korybut coat of arms. Siemion "Starszy" Zbaraski, married Katarzyna Cebrowska z Cebra h. Hołobok, the founder of the Princes Zbaraski line Andrzej Zbaraski, married Helena Herburt h. Herburt Mikołaj Zbaraski, starost of Krzemieniec, married NN Kozica and Hanna Branković Janusz Zbaraski, voivode of Bracław, married Princes Hanna Czetwertyńska h. Pogoń Ruska Jerzy Zbaraski, castelan of Kraków, the last male representative of the Zbaraski family Krzysztof Zbaraski, Great Koniuszy of the Crown Stefan Zbaraski, voivode of Witebsk and Troki, married Hanna Zabrzezińska h. Leliwa, Nastazja Mscisławska h. Pogoń Litewska and Dorota Firlej h.
Lewart Piotr Zbaraski, married Barbara Jordan h. Trąby Barbara Zbaraska, married voivode of Lublin Count Gabriel Tęczyński h. Topór Jerzy Zbaraski, married Szczęsna Nasiłkowska h. Półkozic and Barbara Kozińska Władysław Zbaraski, starost of Botok, married Zofia Przyłuska h. Lubicz Małgorzata Zbaraska, married Stanisław Czermiński z Czermina h. Wieniawa Elżbieta Zbaraska, married Wacław Bawor h. Złota Wolność and Walenty Wkryński h. Grzymała Michał Zbaraski Wiśniowiecki, brother of Siemion "Starszy" Zbaraski the founder of the princes Wiśniowiecki line House of Porycki House of Woroniecki Zbaraski in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5. Michał Czechowski. "Zbarasccy, Wiśniowieccy, Woronieccy: family tree schema" Marek, Miroslav. "Genealogy of Wiśniowiecki-Zbaraski family". Genealogy. EU
Kremenets is a city of regional significance in the Ternopil Oblast of western Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Kremenets Raion, lies 18 km north-east of the great Pochayiv Monastery; the city is situated in the historic region of Volhynia. According to some sources the Kremenets fortress was built in the 8th or 9th century, became a part of Kievan Rus'; the first documented reference to the fortress is given in a Polish encyclopedic dictionary written in 1064. The first reference to Kremenets in Old Slavic literature dates from 1226 when the city's ruler, Mstislav the Bold, defeated the Hungarian army of King Andrew II nearby. During the Mongol invasion of Rus in 1240-41, Kremenets was one of few cities that Batu Khan failed to capture. In 1382, after the death of Louis I of Hungary, Lithuanian duke Liubartas captured Kremenets from the Kingdom of Hungary; the city obtained Magdeburg rights in 1431, in 1569, after the Union of Lublin, it became part of Crown of Poland, known as Polish: Krzemieniec.
In the fall of 1648 Cossack Colonel Maxym Kryvonis surrounded the Kremenets fortress. In October, after a six-week siege, the royal garrison surrendered; as a consequence of the fighting, the fortress was damaged and was never rebuilt. In 1795 Kremenets was annexed by the Russian Empire following the Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, it remained a part of Russia until World War I. During 1917-1920 Kremenets 7 times passed from hand to hand; the authorities Ukrainian state - Ukrainian People's Republic - it was subject to early 1918 to June 1919. In 1921, following Peace of Riga, the town returned to Poland, was part of Volhynian Voivodeship. In the interwar period, Kremenets was famous for its renowned high school, Liceum Krzemienieckie, founded in 1803 by Tadeusz Czacki. According to the 1931 Polish census, the town had a population of 19,877, with 8,428 Ukrainians, 6,904 Jews, 3,108 Poles and 883 Russians. In 1934, upon initiative of Ludwik Gronowski, teacher of the Kremenets High School, Volhynian School of Gliding Sokola Góra was opened 14 kilometers from Kremenets, in the village of Kulików.
Among its students was the daughter of Jozef Piłsudski, Jadwiga Piłsudska. In September 1939, the Polish government was temporarily located in Kremenets, which during this time was subject to heavy aerial bombing until captured by invading Soviet forces on 17 September. By the government had evacuated Kremenets and was on its way to neutral Romania. On July 28, 1941, most of the teachers of the Krzemieniec High School were arrested by the Germans, who used a list provided to them by local Ukrainians. By the end of the month, 30 teachers and members of Polish intelligentsia were murdered at the so-called Hill of Crosses. During the restoration of Ukrainian statehood in 1991, was restored Kremenets Botanical Garden, created Kremenetsko-Pochaivskiy State Historical-Architectural Reserve, opened Kremenetskiy Regional Humanitarian Pedagogical Institute n. Shevchenko, Kremenetskiy Regional Museum Juliusz Slowacki, increasing the flow of tourists. In 1991 at the Teachers College Shevchenko created a modern Kremenets Lyceum.
Jews are known to have settled in the Kremenets area as early as 1438, when the Grand Duke of Lithuania gave them a charter. However, in 1495, Lithuania expelled its Jews until 1503. A Polish Yeshiva, operated in Kremenets during the 15th and 16th centuries; the Jewish community prospered through the 16th century. Around the middle of the century, rabbinical representatives of the Kahals of Poland began gathering at the great Fairs to conduct the business of the Jewish communities; these conferences became known as the Council of the Four Lands. Volhynian representatives were from Kremenets. Khmelnytsky's Cossack uprising against the Polish land owners from 1648 through 1651, followed by the Russian-Swedish wars against Poland-Lithuania from 1654-1656, devastated the Jewish population of western Ukraine. Many Jews, many of which were stewards magnates, were murdered. Jews were not allowed to rebuild their destroyed homes. Kremenets never again regained its former importance. All, left as the Russians took control in 1793 was "an impoverished community of petty traders and craftsmen."In 1747, Kremenets was the site of a well-publicized blood libel trial in which 14 Jews were accused of murdering a Christian to obtain blood for making matzo – a false accusation dating back to the Middle Ages.
The incident began when an unidentified corpse was found near an inn and curious townsfolk gathered around to view the body. When some Jews joined the crowd, the corpse began to bleed, thus supernaturally demonstrating their guilt. Twelve of the Jews confessed under torture. Most were gruesomely executed by being flayed and impaled while still alive, by orders of the Christian civil authorities. Jewish life revived and Kremenets became a secondary center of Haskalah in Eastern Europe in the period 1772 through 1781. By the end of the 19th century, Jews once again were active in the economic life of the town in the paper industry and as cobblers and carpenters, they exported their goods to other towns in Poland. Under Polish rule, in the early 1930s, two Yiddish periodicals were published, they merged in 1933 into Kremenitser Lebn. The Nazis destroyed the Jewish community of Kremenets. Except for those who left Kremenets before the war and 14 survivors, all 15,000 Jews who liv
Podlachia or Podlasie, is a historical region in the eastern part of Poland. Between 1513 and 1795 it was a voivodeship with the capital in Drohiczyn. Now the part north of the Bug River is included in the modern Podlaskie Voivodeship with the capital in Białystok; the region is called Podlasie, Podlasko or Podlasze in Polish, Palenkė in Lithuanian, Padliašša in Belarusian, Pidljasije, Pidljaššja or Pidljaxija in Ukrainian, Podljas’e in Russian, "Podlyashe" in Yiddish, Podlachia in Latin. There are two opinions regarding the origin of the name of the region. People derive it from the Slavic word les or las meaning "forest", i.e. it is an "by the wood" or "area of forests", making Podlachia close in meaning to adjacent Polesia. The theory has been questioned, as it does not properly take into consideration the vowel shifts "a" > "e" > "i" in various Slavic languages. The second opinion holds that the term comes from the expression pod Lachem, which may be translated as "under the Poles"; some claim it to mean "under Polish rule", though in the Middle Ages Podlachia was only under Polish rule, since 1446 until 1569 the area belonged to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
A better variant of this theory holds that the name originates from the period when the territory was within the Trakai Voivodeship of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, along the borderline with the Mazovia province a fief of the Poland of the Piasts and on part of the Kingdom of Poland of the Jagiellons. Hence pod Lachem would mean "near the Poles", "along the border with Poland"; the historical Lithuanian name of the region, Palenkė, has this meaning. Podlachia is divided along the Bug River, at which the traditional capital Drohiczyn lies, into northern and southern parts; the former is included in the modern-day Podlaskie Voivodeship with its capital at Białystok. Sometimes, Siedlce has been considered the capital of the region. Throughout its early history, Podlachia was inhabited by various tribes of different ethnic roots. In the 9th and 10th centuries, the area was inhabited by Lechitic tribes in the south, Baltic tribes in the north, Ruthenian tribes in the east. Between the 10th and 14th centuries, the area was part of the Ruthenian principalities and Polish and Mazovian Piast states.
The area became a part of the Medieval Slavic territory of Cherven Cities. In the 14th century the area was annexed by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, though on it still fell under Mazovian Piast rule. In 1446, Podlachia became part of the Grand Duchy, but since 1496 southwestern parts of Podlachia and since 1501 the northern part used Polish law instead of Lithuanian. In 1513 King Sigismund I the Old formed the Podlaskie Voivodeship. In 1566, the southeastern part of Podlachia became part of the newly formed Brest Litovsk Voivodeship as the Brest Litovsk County. In 1569, after the Union of Lublin, Podlasie was ceded to the Kingdom of Poland, it was the northernmost part of the Lesser Poland Province of the Polish Crown. The voivodeship was divided in three lands: the Drohiczyn and Bielsk Land. In the 18th and 19th century the private town of Białystok became the main center of the region, thanks to the patronage of the Branicki family and the textile industry development. After the Third Partition of Poland in 1795, Podlachia was divided between the Kingdom of Prussia, the Habsburg Monarchy and the Russian Empire.
In 1807, the western part of Podlachia became part of the Duchy of Warsaw, a semi-independent Polish entity, while the eastern part including Białystok fell under Russian rule. In the 19th century the region was a stronghold of Polish resistance against Russian rule; the last partisan of the January Uprising Stanisław Brzóska operated here until 1865. He was hanged publicly by the Russians in Sokołów Podlaski in May 1865. Poland regained Podlachia after restoring independence in 1918. Podlachia is the land of the confluence of cultures – Polish and Belarusian – and is indicative of the ethnic territories limits. East of Podlachia lie ethnically non-Polish lands. Today, Polish is spoken in western and southern Podlachia, while Belarusian in eastern areas; until the 19th century, Podlachia was populated by the Polish-speaking yeomanry and Ruthenian Greek-Catholics speaking a dialect related to modern Ukrainian – the so-called Khakhlak dialect, which derived its name from a derogatory term for Ukrainians.
In the 19th century, the inhabitants of Podlachia were under the rule of the Russian Empire, with southern Podlachia constituting a part of Russian-controlled Congress Poland. After 1831, Russian authorities forbade the Greek-Catholic faith in northern Podlachia and it disappeared from the area. In 1875, Russians forbade this rite in the southern portion as well, all Greek-Catholic inhabitants were forced to accept the Eastern Orthodox faith. However, the resistance of the local people was strong and Ruthenian speakers from this area rejected the separation from the Pope. In 1874, blessed Wincenty Lewoniuk and 12 companions were killed by Russian soldiers in Pratulin. In reaction to these measures, the Ruthenians of southern Podlachia began to identify themselves with the national movement of the Roman Catholic Poles. To preserve the full communion with
Jeremi Wiśniowiecki nicknamed Hammer on the Cossacks or Iron Hand, was a notable member of the aristocracy of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Prince of Wiśniowiec, Łubnie and Chorol in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the father of the future King of Poland, Michael I. A notable magnate and military commander with Ruthenian and Romanian origin, Wiśniowiecki was heir of one of the biggest fortunes of the state and rose to several notable dignities, including the position of voivode of the Ruthenian Voivodship in 1646, his conversion from Eastern Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism caused much dissent in Ruthenia and Ukraine. Wiśniowiecki was a successful military leader as well as one of the wealthiest magnates of Poland, ruling over lands inhabited by 230,000 people. Jeremi Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki was born in 1612, his father, Michał Wiśniowiecki, of the Lithuanian-Ruthenian Wiśniowiecki family, died soon after Jeremi's birth, in 1616. His mother, Regina Mohyła was a Moldavian-born noble woman of the Movilești family, daughter of the Moldavian Prince Ieremia Movilă, Jeremy's namesake.
Both of his parents were of the Eastern Orthodox Church rite. Orphaned at the age of seven, Wiśniowiecki was raised by his uncle, Konstanty Wiśniowiecki, whose branch of the family were Roman Catholics. Jeremi attended a Jesuit college in Lwów and in 1629, he traveled to Italy, where he attended the University of Bologna, he acquired some military experience in the Netherlands. The upbringing by his uncle and the trips abroad polonized him, turned him from a provincial Ruthenian princeling into one of the youngest magnates of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1631 Wiśniowiecki returned to the Commonwealth and took over from his uncle the management of his father's huge estate, which included a large part of what is now Ukraine. In 1632 he converted from Eastern Orthodoxy to Catholicism, an action that caused much concern in Ukraine, his decision has been analyzed by historians, criticized in Ukrainian historiography. The Orthodox Church feared to lose a powerful protector, Isaiah Kopinsky, metropolitan bishop of Kiev and a friend of his mother, unsuccessfully pleaded with him to change his mind.
Jeremi would not budge although he remained on decent terms with the Orthodox Church, avoiding provocative actions, supported his uncle and Orthodox bishop Peter Mogila and his Orthodox Church collegium. Wiśniowiecki's courtier and first biographer, Michał Kałyszowski, counted that Jeremi participated in nine wars in his lifetime; the first of those was the Smolensk Campaign of 1633–34 against the Tsardom of Russia. In that war he accompanied castellan Aleksander Piaseczyński's southern army and took part in several battles, among them the unsuccessful siege of Putyvl; the following year he worked with Adam Kisiel and Łukasz Żółkiewski, commanding his own private army of 4,000. As his troops formed 2/3 of their army, despite being the most junior of commanders, had much influence over their campaign. Lacking in artillery, they failed to take any major towns, but ravaged the countryside near Sevsk and Kursk; the war ended soon afterward, in May 1634 he returned to Lubny. For his service, he received a commendation from the King of Poland, Władysław IV Vasa, the castellany of Kiev.
After the war Wiśniowiecki engaged in a number of conflicts with neighbouring nobles. Jeremi was able to afford a sizable private army of several thousands, through the threat of it he was able to force his neighbours to a favourable settlement of disputes. Soon after his return from the Russian front, he participated on the side of the Dowmont family in the quarrel over the estate of Dowmontów against another magnate, Samuel Łaszcz, located on his lands. Around 1636 the Sejm opposed the marriage of King Władysław IV Waza to Anna. Following this, Jeremi distanced himself from the royal court, although he periodically returned to Warsaw as one of the deputies to the Sejm from the Ruthenian Voivodeship. Soon afterward, Jeremi himself married Gryzelda Zamoyska, daughter of Chancellor Tomasz Zamoyski, on 27 February 1639, on Gryzelda's 16th birthday. At that time Wiśniowiecki engaged in a political conflict over nobility titles, in particular, the title of prince; the nobility in the Commonwealth was equal, used different and non-hereditary titles than those found in rest of the world.
Wiśniowiecki was one of the chief participants in this debate defending the old titles, including that of his own family, succeeding in abolishing the new titles, which gained him the enmity of another powerful magnate, Jerzy Ossoliński. Other than this conflict, in his years as a deputy, Jeremi wasn't involved in any major political issues, only twice he served in the minor function of
Algirdas was a ruler of medieval Lithuania. He ruled the Lithuanians and Ruthenians from 1345 to 1377. With the help of his brother Kęstutis he created an empire stretching from the present Baltic states to the Black Sea and to within fifty miles of Moscow. Algirdas was one of the seven sons of Grand Prince Gediminas. Before his death in 1341, Gediminas divided his domain, leaving his youngest son Jaunutis in possession of the capital, Vilnius. With the aid of his brother, Kęstutis, Algirdas drove out the incompetent Jaunutis and declared himself Grand Prince in 1345, he devoted the next thirty-two years to the development and expansion of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Two factors are thought to have contributed to this result: the political sagacity of Algirdas and the devotion of Kęstutis; the division of their dominions is illustrated by the fact that Algirdas appears exclusively in East Slavic sources, while Western chronicles describe Kęstutis. Lithuania was surrounded by enemies; the Teutonic Order in the northwest and the Golden Horde in the southwest sought Lithuanian territory, while Poland to the west and Muscovy to the east were hostile competitors.
Algirdas held his own acquiring influence and territory at the expense of Muscovy and the Golden Horde and extending the borders of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the Black Sea. His principal efforts were directed toward securing the Slavic lands which were part of the former Kievan Rus'. Although Algirdas engineered the election of his son Andrew as Prince of Pskov and a powerful minority of Novgorod Republic citizens supported him against Muscovy, his rule in both commercial centres was precarious. Algirdas occupied the important principalities of Bryansk in western Russia. Although his relationship with the grand dukes of Muscovy was friendly, he besieged Moscow in 1368 and 1370 during the Lithuanian–Muscovite War. An important feat by Algirdas was his victory over the Tatars in the Battle of Blue Waters at the Southern Bug in 1362, which resulted in the breakup of the Kipchaks and compelled the khan to establish his headquarters in the Crimea. According to modern historians, "For Gediminas and Algirdas, retention of paganism provided a useful diplomatic tool and weapon... that allowed them to use promises of conversion as a means of preserving their power and independence".
Hermann von Wartberge and Jan Długosz described Algirdas as a pagan until his death in 1377. Contemporary Byzantine accounts support the Western sources, his pagan beliefs were mentioned in 14th-century Byzantine historian Nicephorus Gregoras' accounts. After his death, Algirdas was burned on a ceremonial pyre with 18 horses and many of his possessions in a forest near Maišiagala in the Kukaveitis forest shrine located at 54°55′42″N 25°01′04″E, his alleged burial site has undergone archaeological research since 2009. Algirdas' descendants include the Trubetzkoy and Sanguszko families. Although Algirdas was said to have ordered the death of Anthony and Eustathius of Vilnius, who were glorified as martyrs of the Russian Orthodox Church, the 16th-century Bychowiec Chronicle and 17th-century Hustynska Chronicle maintain that he converted to Orthodox Christianity some time before his marriage to Maria of Vitebsk in 1318. Several Orthodox churches were built in Vilnius during his reign, but assertions about his baptism are uncorroborated by contemporary sources.
Despite contemporary accounts and modern studies, some Russian historians claim that Algirdas was an Orthodox ruler. The Kiev Monastery of the Caves' commemorative book, underwritten by Algirdas' descendants, recorded his baptismal name as Demetrius during the 1460s. Following Wojciech Wijuk Kojałowicz and Macarius I, Volodymyr Antonovych writes that Algirdas took monastic vows several days before his death and was interred at the Cathedral of the Theotokos in Vilnius under the monastic name Alexius. Algirdas balanced himself between Muscovy and Poland, spoke Lithuanian and Ruthenian and followed the majority of his pagan and Orthodox subjects rather than to alienate them by promoting Roman Catholicism, his son Jogaila ascended the Polish throne, converted to Roman Catholicism and founded the dynasty which ruled Lithuania and Poland for nearly 200 years. Algirdas is widely honoured in Belarus as a unifier of all Belarusian lands within one state, a successful military commander and ruler of medieval Belarus.
A monument to him has been erected in Vitsebsk in 2014, as part of the celebration of the city's 1040th anniversary. Algirdas was Duke of Vitebsk for over 20 years before becoming Grand Duke of Lithuania. Gediminids House of Algirdas – Algirdas' family tree