Борис Бурда
Author: Boris Burda
Journalist, writer, bard. Winner of the «Diamond Owl» intellectual game «What? Where? When?»
Liberal ArtsNomina
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ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Grand Prince of Kyiv Danylo Halytskyi – the first king of Rus (Part I. Before Kalka)

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Grand Prince of Kyiv Danylo Halytskyi - the first king of Rus (Part I. Before Kalka)
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Danylo Romanovych (1204-1264) – Prince of Galicia, Prince of Volyn, Grand Duke of Kyiv, King of Rus, politician, diplomat and commander, son of Roman Mstislavich (from the senior branch of the Monomakhovichi) and Anna-Euphrosyne.




Are there many original plots in the world for a literary work, especially a large genre? They say that some French abbot simply counted them – it turned out about two hundred. And the fact that there are more novels is just their small variations.

One of the most popular plots for any prose: stories, novellas, but best of all for novels, is the story of how the hero at the beginning of the work suffers a failure and defeat, becomes a victim of intrigues, or is simply deprived of everything, but by the end he wins back everything he lost and becomes a winner.

Examples of such plots are countless – for example, The Three Musketeers. The protagonist of this cycle enters the plot with eleven crowns in his pocket on a horse of a fantastic suit, for which he eventually receives three more crowns – forty-two livres, if you count three livres per crow. Further we read that the price of a normal horse is about 20 times higher. But what a success at the end of the story!

In The Count of Monte Cristo everything is the same, only cooler. The poor sailor was arrested during his own engagement and thrown into a dark dungeon, where he remains for 14 years. But after that, it tells how he rose and took revenge on his enemies, after which he sailed into the misty distance with a beautiful girl.

Better yet, remember Dickens’s The Adventures of Oliver Twist – there the hero, due to the atrocities of negative characters, almost from the moment of birth falls into a terrible English workhouse, but then regains his worthy position in society … that is, there are plenty of examples …

No less adventurous and tragic novel is the biography of one of the most famous princes of Kyivan Rus – there is a high position from childhood, and his deprivation due to the intrigues of enemies, and a long, which took decades, return of the unjustly taken away. Read it – it will be interesting.




The father of our hero had a great many titles, which he either acquired or lost – for any prince of pre-Mongol times, this is a common thing. He was even a great Kyiv prince – though not for long. But he was Prince of Volyn for 35 years – with one short break.

After the death of the Galician ruler Vladimir Yaroslavich, the only son of Yaroslav Osmomysl mentioned in the The Tale of Igor’s Campaign, it was he, the Volyn prince Roman Mstislavich, who took possession of Halych – a holy place is never empty. So he became the prince of Galicia-Volyn.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Grand Prince of Kyiv Danylo Halytskyi - the first king of Rus (Part I. Before Kalka)
Roman Mstislavich

The origin of his wife, Princess Anna-Euphrosyne, scientists have not yet argued. Most researchers consider her a Byzantine princess, the daughter of Emperor Isaac II Angel. After the capture of Constantinople by the crusaders, she fled to the same faith in Rus.

The children of this couple had not had time to really grow up when Roman Mstislavich suddenly, for some reason, quarreled with his old allies – the Polish princes Leszek White and Konrad Mazowiecki. At first, he even took two Polish cities, but after that he broke away with a small squad from the main forces, was suddenly attacked by the Poles and died.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Grand Prince of Kyiv Danylo Halytskyi - the first king of Rus (Part I. Before Kalka)
Leszek Beliy




His son Danylo Romanovych was only 4 years old at the time of his death – not a very favorable age for running the state. Moreover, when his father died in battle, leaving the principality without a leader, but with outright ill-wishers nearby.

The neighboring princes-allies could somehow help out – if there were any. Anna-Euphrosyne, in an attempt to protect her helpless son, entered into an agreement with the King of Hungary Andras II, who had his own views on Halych. There are medicines that are worse than the disease …

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Grand Prince of Kyiv Danylo Halytskyi - the first king of Rus (Part I. Before Kalka)
Andras II

However, at first, the Hungarian garrison really was a certain protection for the young prince, but not for long. The first attempt to expel Danylo was repulsed, but the second was successful – Andras was simply paid to stop defending the prince, and his lands were seized.

The sons of Roman Mstislavich with their mother, which is funny, found refuge with Leshek Bely, the Polish prince, in the fight against whom Roman Mstislavich died. In those romantic times, allies so often became enemies, and vice versa, that this is not even surprising.




And who got the principality? Even two principalities, Halych and Volhynia, were united only by Roman Mstislavich, and their connection was not strong yet. The answer to this question is interesting, because the new princes of Volhynia and Halych are well known – but not from historical writings.

For example, you most likely not only saw, but also heard the one who took the Galician reign from Danylo, who sings a love duet with the daughter of the Polovtsian Khan, who captivated him and his father, in a tenor voice. Vladimir, the son of Prince Igor, is he!

And his brother Svyatoslav just at that time seized the reign in Volyn. Their third brother, Rostislav, was also noted, who conquered Zvenigorod – now a small village near Lviv, and in those days – an important fortified city. However, they rejoiced early, but more on that later …

Their father, Prince Igor Svyatoslavich, we know well from one of the most significant works of Old Rusn literature – The Tale of Igor’s Campaign. An interesting protagonist in this work – led the troops against the obviously superior enemy forces, without warning the allies, was defeated, taken prisoner, from which he barely escaped … Miracle!

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Grand Prince of Kyiv Danylo Halytskyi - the first king of Rus (Part I. Before Kalka)
Prince Igor – was he like that?

Generally speaking, the Olgovichi, the clan to which Prince Igor and his sons belonged, clearly did not differ in their peacefulness and negotiability – they quarreled with almost everyone, including their own allies and each other. It usually ends badly …




Quite quickly, the quarrelsome Olgovichi began to dog among themselves. Roman Igorevich was able to throw his brother out of Halych and take his place. Did they understand that such toys are dangerous? I’m afraid that it’s unlikely – even the presence of a number of applicants did not embarrass them.

Alexander Vsevolodovich, who ruled in the city of Belz, entered the game – now it is also a small town in the Lviv region, and once, like Zvenigorod, it was a quite significant city with fortifications. Danylo was a cousin – but how much did that mean?

Success accompanied his weapons – also because Leszek Bely and Konrad Mazovetsky, who killed Roman Mstislavich, were his allies, caring for the rights of Danylo and his brother Vasilko. Watch carefully who is fighting for whom – everything changes often, and it is easy to get confused.

He captured Vladimir-Volynsky, the capital of the Volyn principality, and Anna-Euphrosyne was able to return there. Danylo and Vasilko, the children of Roman Mstislavich, had a chance to return at least part of their former possessions. Vasilko was even planted to reign in Berestye – at the age of seven …

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Grand Prince of Kyiv Danylo Halytskyi - the first king of Rus (Part I. Before Kalka)
Vladimir-Volynsky. Reconstruction




Apparently, the boyars in Halych were completely in favor of the children of Roman – the Olgovichi, with their characteristic “tact” and “tolerance”, had time to quarrel with almost the entire local establishment. It was not possible to hide it – everything had gone too far and patience was running out.

The Igorevichs chose the most dangerous of all the options for opposing such an attitude – to grab, imprison and execute (however, who doubted?). The level of atrocities manifested could shock even the public of the early 13th century, not spoiled by excessive humanism.

The chronicle says that more than 500 people died – obviously only more or less prominent persons were included in the account. Were there many more of them in general in Halych? The reaction of the boyars who escaped execution was predictable – they fled to Hungary and called on Danylo Romanovych to reign.

A lot of people united against the Olgovichi, who were annoying to all neighbors: Hungarians, Poles, Peresopnytsia prince Mstislav Nemoy, supporters of the surviving Galician boyars … Naturally, the Olgovichi could not resist – they were defeated, and Svyatoslav and Roman were captured.

The captured princes were brutally dealt with – they were hanged. This is the only case of the execution of princes, except for Prince Igor, Olga’s husband, who was killed by the Drevlyans. I’m not going to approve of that, but I suspect they did their best. And Danylo became the prince of Galician.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Grand Prince of Kyiv Danylo Halytskyi - the first king of Rus (Part I. Before Kalka)
Danylo Galitsky, sculpture


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Do not overestimate the strength of Danylo’s position – by the way, he is only ten years old. Only the Hungarian army left Halych, the local boyars immediately asked the mother of Danylo Anna-Euphrosyne from there – they decided that it would be easier for them to talk to the child themselves.

Danylo reacted to this in a childish way, but sincerely – he burst into tears and was about to leave Halych with his mother. When the boyar tiun tried to return him, the child suddenly drew his sword and struck the tiun’s horse. But his mother convinced him to return to Halych, considering it less dangerous.

When the Hungarian king returned Anna-Euphrosyne, the disgruntled boyars were invited to Halych to reign Mstislav the Mute, and Danylo and his mother had to flee to Hungary. A year later, the boyars expelled Mstislav the Mute, and Vladislav Kormilichich became prince, a man who was not from a princely family at all – an event in Rus of that time was unique! But it suited the Hungarians …

Now Leszek Bely and the Poles stood up for Danylo – he even went to Halych, but could not take it. As a result, the Poles and Hungarians agreed to give Halych to the Hungarian prince Koloman, five years old, but compensated for this by giving up the Volyn principality to Roman’s children – even so …




Now a new character, quite noticeable in history, comes into play – he and Danylo are depicted side by side on the Millennium of Rus monument. This is the prince of Novgorod, and later the Galician, the grandson of Yaroslav Osmomysl Mstislav UdatnyI (in modern language – lucky).

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Grand Prince of Kyiv Danylo Halytskyi - the first king of Rus (Part I. Before Kalka)
Yaroslav Osmomysl

Danylo is his relative, although not very close. However, in the relationship of the princes of that time, family ties could mean with equal probability liking, hatred and complete indifference. As the nomadic neighbors said, “the stone has no lived, and the khans have no family ties.”

Mstislav eventually captured Prince Koloman and, after long negotiations with the Hungarian king Andras, achieved the fact that he himself became a Galician prince. The matured Danylo even led the defense of Halych during his siege by the Hungarians, but strictly under the command of a noble relative.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Grand Prince of Kyiv Danylo Halytskyi - the first king of Rus (Part I. Before Kalka)
Mstislav UdatnyI

However, the Volyn principality was entrenched in Danylo – it’s already good! Mstislav preferred to deepen their family alliance by marrying Danylo to his own daughter Anna. Danylo ruled Volhynia, gradually fought with his neighbors and, like Mstislav, had no idea how everything would change …




In 1223, the Polovtsians called the princes of Kyivan Rus for help – they were threatened by unknown but innumerable (according to them) hordes from the east. The Polovtsian Khan Kotyan said to the princes, “Today we have been defeated, and tomorrow you will be defeated.” Unfortunately, he was absolutely right.

But his rhetoric convinced the princes, and a large army of Rusichis (as it turned out, at least more than twice the number of the enemy) began to advance towards the unknown enemy. Mstislav and Danylo led the Volynians and Galicians to battle, hoping for a great victory.

Before a military contact, the opponents sent ambassadors to the princes, convincing them that they were not enemies to them, but were only going against the Polovtsians, and even offering an alliance. They could simply be refused, but the princes ordered to kill them, which was already considered a shameful and unworthy deed. Then they would regret it, but only it wouldl be too late …

The huge Rusn-Polovtsian army advanced. Crossing to the left bank of the Dnieper, they defeated the enemy’s forward detachment, its commander was killed. When they reached a small river, they dealt with another vanguard and prepared for battle. The river was called Kalka.




The princes were sure that they would shower the enemy with hats, and did not even agree on a single command. While the people of Kyiv were building a camp on the western bank of the river, the Galicians and Volynians had already moved to the other side – whoever seizes the booty first, that belongs to that!

At first, the enemy retreated, but hardly just like that – a false retreat was a well-developed technique. And then the main forces of their opponents, the Mongols, fell upon the princely vanguard. The Rusichi rushed to flee, and Danylo only after the battle noticed that he was wounded by a spear.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Grand Prince of Kyiv Danylo Halytskyi - the first king of Rus (Part I. Before Kalka)
Battle of Kalka

However, Danylo and Mstislav UdatnyI were still lucky – they were able to escape. Those who were captured after the fall of the camp had worse – they were laid on the ground, boards were laid on them and crushed, feasting on them in honor of the victory. They considered the murder of the ambassadors a meanness and cruelly avenged it.

But the conquerors did not go further – they returned to their steppes. And the surviving princes for some reason decided that this story was over – well, some locust swooped down, devoured what they could, and scattered away to no one knows where, they would never return. Did they regret this decision later?


Read Part II


All illustrations from open sources

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