Борис Бурда
Author: Boris Burda
Journalist, writer, bard. Winner of the "Diamond Owl" intellectual game "What? Where? When?"
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ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Yaroslav the Wise – the great ruler of Kievan Rus’ (Part II. Prince)

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Yaroslav the Wise - the great ruler of Kievan Rus' (Part I. Knyazhych)
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The Polish king was a serious opponent of Yaroslav – the nickname Brave is not given just like that. True, he tried to negotiate with Yaroslav, wooing his sister Predslava, but was refused – even at that time his reputation was out of hand.

The offended Boleslav gathered an army and, together with Sviatopolk, went to Kiev. In the decisive battle on the Bug River, his army suddenly attacked Yaroslav with such energy that the defeat was complete. Yaroslav miraculously escaped and with only four warriors rushed to Novgorod.

Boleslav and Sviatopolk entered Kiev, Predslava became a prey of war and suffered a worse fate – violence and death in captivity. Sviatopolk sat on the Kiev throne, Polish and other troops of Boleslav remained in the city – for his own peace of mind – and behaved as troops usually behave in a foreign city. The people of Kiev did not like it, but who asked them?

Sviatopolk, with his characteristic feeling of gratitude, saw this as an opportunity to rush the king to return home. Poles began to be secretly killed on the streets of Kiev – apparently, at his instigation. Boleslav held out for 10 months until he decided that was enough.

His return to Poland was more of a triumph than an escape – he took out huge wealth and several thousand prisoners, some of whom were able to return home only after about 20 years. And Sviatopolk remained on the Kiev throne, but with practically no treasury – it played a role.




Yaroslav ran to Novgorod and immediately began looking for a ship for further escape – he was afraid that Sviatopolk would overtake him in Novgorod, and was going to run at least to the Normans, and maybe even further. He completely despaired and lost all hope.

But the Novgorod mayor Konstantin Dobrynich (the son of that same Dobrynya Nikitich) and all Novgorodians together with him had their own opinion on this matter. They chopped down with axes all the ships that Yaroslav had already prepared for flight, and demanded that he continue to fight.

Moreover, they themselves imposed an unprecedentedly huge voluntary tax on themselves: 4 hryvnias from the common people, 10 hryvnias from the elders and 18 hryvnias from the boyars (the hryvnia kun is about 51 grams of silver, so more than a kilogram came out of the boyar) – to hire troops and other military needs.

Boleslav’s attempts to negotiate the exchange of his daughter for Yaroslav’s wife and sister did not end with anything. I am afraid that due to the fact that Yaroslav has outlined a more profitable marriage with the daughter of the king of Sweden Ingigerd – you can think whatever you want, he a very strong ally.

At the disposal of Yaroslav was a large, well-financed and well-organized army of Normans and Novgorodians, with whom he rushed to his rival Sviatopolk, who was left without money, frightened off the allies and annoyed the people of Kiev.




Sviatopolk did not even linger in Kiev – the attitude of the people of Kiev changed dramatically, and he clearly understood that he could not resist. The road was familiar to him – to the old allies, the Pechenegs. It is awful to direct nomads to Russian cities, but he had to do something – after all, it was the last chance!

The battle took place near the river Alta, near which Sviatopolk killed Boris. This memory gave Yaroslav’s fighters additional strength, as avengers for the prince and fighters for truth. What started on Alta should have ended on Alta. So in the end it happened.

Sviatopolk was defeated, it made no sense for him to run to the Pechenegs – they did not need such an ally for nothing. He rushed to the west and disappeared along the way – perhaps somewhere between the Czech Republic and Poland (taking into account what was then said “between Lyakhy and Chekhy” instead of “God knows where).

Sviatopolk remained in history with the nickname The Cursed, that is, similar to Cain, who also killed his brother (however, he surpassed Cain three times, killing three brothers at once). And Yaroslav without any problems took the Kiev throne, which no one else seriously encroached upon during his lifetime.




But claims immediately arose against his right to dominate not only in Kiev, but in all of Kievan Rus. First of all, his next brother – Mstislav Vladimirovich the Udaliy. The one that killed the Kasog prince Rededey in a duel (and agreed to fight without weapons … hmmm!).

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Yaroslav the Wise – the great ruler of Kievan Rus’ (Part II. Prince)
Nicholas Roerich. Combat between Mstislav and Rededey. 1943

Mstislav was the prince of Tmutarakan (now Taman), but in 1024, when Yaroslav pacified the rebellion in Suzdal, Mstislav tried to seize Kiev with a quick blow. The number did not work, and Mstislav occupied Chernigov – they say, and that is bread. Of course, Yaroslav could not like it.

Having hired the Varangians in Novgorod, Yaroslav tried to drive Mstislav away, but at Listven, near Chernigov, he lost the battle to him and fled to Novgorod, where he spent more time in general than in Kiev. There he recruited the Varangians again and returned to the capital city.

Correctly assessing the situation, the prince preferred a bad peace to a good quarrel. He concluded an agreement with Mstislav, according to which the Dnieper became the border between them – the right bank to Yaroslav, and the left one to Mstislav. Was it defeat and retreat? Rather, a far-sighted decision …

Mstislav continued to live dashingly and belligerently, fought with the neighbors of Tmutarakan, Shirvans and Derbentians, with rather variable success, and in 1036 he died while hunting. His heir died two years earlier than his father, and the Left Bank returned to Yaroslav, and without a war.




In the same year 1036, Yaroslav defeated the Pechenegs and, as many believe, founded the Cathedral of St. Sophia in honor of the victory. Now there is evidence that the cathedral began to be built a little earlier – well, maybe. Look how it looked then – it was then rebuilt more than once.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Yaroslav the Wise – the great ruler of Kievan Rus’ (Part II. Prince)
Model-reconstruction of the original appearance of the Hagia Sophia/wikipedia.org

He also completed the expansion of the city boundaries of Kiev, begun under Vladimir. It was under him that the Lyadsky Gate, the Zhidovsky Gate were erected (very interesting in the light of the current disputes about indigenous peoples) and the very same Golden Gate, recently practically replaced by a remake.

He built not only houses and gates, but even cities. Both the city of Gyurgiv (now – Belaya Tserkov) and the city of Korsun (now – Korsun-Shevchenkovsky) were founded under him. And a number of cities, including Chernigov, Pereyaslav, Vladimir-Volynsky, he considerably expanded and strengthened.

In 1931 he also founded the city of his own name – Yaroslav – on the left bank of the San, now located in Poland. After the death of Boleslav the Brave, dynastic disputes began there, and Yaroslav did not miss the opportunity to take the cities captured by Boleslav from Poland.

There is one more city founded by Yaroslav, about which not everyone knows that it was named in his honor. The fact is that he gave it a name in honor of his baptismal name George – this is the city of Yuryev, founded after a successful campaign against a chud. Then they called him Dorpat, and now it is Tartu.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Yaroslav the Wise – the great ruler of Kievan Rus’ (Part II. Prince)
Yuriev, now – Tartu/varandej.dreamwidth.org




A victorious campaign against the Poles, a successful war with Chud – was Yaroslav a great general? There are some doubts … He fought a lot, but the results of his military campaigns, to put it mildly, are ambiguous. Let’s take a closer look at this, without anger and attachment.

It was just mentioned that he, quite possibly, began to erect Saint Sophia in honor of the victory over the Pechenegs. Let me remind you that he defeated them more than once – they were Sviatopolk’s constant allies. But where are these Pechenegs now, where is their state, who remembers them, except Putin?

A successful campaign against the Chud was mentioned, in 1038 there was a campaign against the Yatvag, in 1042 his son Vladimir defeated the Yam (and then there was a big horse death during the campaign). Who without Google can say where this pit lived and what kind of tribe it was? Nobody mentions these Ugro-Finns after the XII century …

In 1043, he tried to repeat the success of his predecessor Oleg the Prophet (by the way, in Byzantine sources there is not a word about him – why would that be?) And went to Byzantium. The results were more than deplorable: many soldiers were captured or died. I wonder who was expecting otherwise?

Remember,Yaroslav lost key battles with both Sviatopolk and Mstislav. However, over time, I was able to change the results in my favor. But this is no longer a military decision, but rather a political one – he waited for the moment, found allies, showed due patience.

Yes, and successful actions against Poland, as a result of which Yaroslav returned the cities taken away by Boleslav, became possible thanks to the correct choice of the moment, the use of the opponent’s internal complications. The conclusion suggests itself: he was not a military man, but a serious politician.

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A lot speaks about Yaroslav’s outstanding political abilities – first of all, his ability, even after serious failures, to turn the tide in his favor. But there is one more piquant detail – his family affairs did not interfere with his policy, rather the opposite.

With his first wife, the Scandinavian Anna, of course, it turned out badly – she died in Boleslav’s captivity, but he could do little about it. But his second wife Ingigerda played a significant role in improving his relations with neighbors, not only personally, but also through her children.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Yaroslav the Wise – the great ruler of Kievan Rus’ (Part II. Prince)
Alexey Trankovsky. Yaroslav the Wise and the Swedish princess Ingigerda/wikipedia.org

Their daughter Elizabeth became the object of desire of the future king of Norway, Harald Harderode (from delicacy this nickname is translated “Severe”, but “Bloodthirsty” is more accurate). At first she refused him, but she could not resist the man who had composed a whole poetic cycle The Visas of Joy about her.

Another daughter, Anastasia, married the King of Hungary Andras I. And now in the village of Tihany on the shore of Lake Balaton there is a church named in their honor and a monument to them. Unfortunately, Andras lost the dynastic war for the throne with Bela’s brother and reigned for a very short time.

But Anna Yaroslavna, the wife of Henry I of France, is known more than others. Her descendants are all the Tudors and Bourbons, Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, Elizabeth II and Harald V of Norway, Winston Churchill, George Washington, Otto von Bismarck, Cardinal Richelieu and, imagine, even Barack Obama (through his white mother).

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Yaroslav the Wise – the great ruler of Kievan Rus’ (Part II. Prince)
A fresco from the Hagia Sophia in Kiev, representing the daughters of Yaroslav the Wise/wikipedia.org

Yaroslav made good arrangements for his sons: Vsevolod married the daughter of Konstantin Monomakh, Izyaslav – the sister of Casimir I of Poland Gertrude, Svyatoslav – the Austrian princess Ode … In general, Yaroslav became the father-in-law and parent-in-law of a significant part of Europe.




One of the most important components of a successful state is fair, understandable and responsible justice. Yaroslav’s ancestors, from Rurik to Vladimir, among other princely functions, carried out the court – according to their own understanding and ancient customs, and not according to written laws.

The large and developed state of Yaroslav already needed another court. And Yaroslav gave such a court to the state, having approved the first written code of laws in the history of Rus’ – Rus’ Justice. It was quite at the level of contemporary European collections of laws.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Yaroslav the Wise – the great ruler of Kievan Rus’ (Part II. Prince)
Alexey Kivshenko. Reading to the people of Rus’ Justice  in the presence of Grand Duke Yaroslav. 1880/wikipedia.org

Russkaya Pravda (Rus’ Justice) did not provide for the death penalty (although it allowed the caught thief to be killed on the spot). For the most serious crimes (murder without a pretext and arson), they were subjected to “flood and plunder” – the criminal was enslaved, and his property was plundered by everyone.

Blood feud for murder was allowed only to the closest relatives, otherwise the murder was punished with a vira – a large fine. The higher the position of the murdered person in society, the larger the fine was. And if the murderer was not caught, the community paid a “wild virus” – a fine to the prince, so that in the future they would be better watched.

Of course, these were laws far from modern ones, in which even “God’s judgment” was spelled out – a test with water or a red-hot iron. Still, there is no doubt that an imperfect law is better than the absence of a law. So it was a great merit of Yaroslav.

For this, he could well have been nicknamed Yaroslav the Wise, but during his lifetime they did not. Most likely, they began to call him so only in the 19th century through the efforts of Karamzin. And during his lifetime, the Scandinavian neighbors called him Yaroslav the Miser – because he was reluctant and paid little to the skalds who glorified him. However, this is also wisdom – not to spend money on purchased praise.




Having been a prince for many years, Yaroslav died in Kiev in 1054, at a very respectable age for those times. He, like his wife Ingigerda, who died four years earlier, in holy baptism Irina, was buried in St. Sophia Cathedral, in the six-ton ​​marble tomb of St. Pope Clement of Rome, which his father Vladimir took from the conquered Chersonesos.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Yaroslav the Wise – the great ruler of Kievan Rus’ (Part II. Prince)
Sarcophagus of Yaroslav the Wise, Kiev/wikipedia.org

After his death, the situation in Russia became somewhat more complicated. He did not allocate an heir to the throne, but distributed his possessions to his sons – each his own principality. Under him, the so-called ladder law was finally established, when not the eldest son, but the younger brother was considered the heir.

This system eventually led to the fact that the principalities that were part of Russia sharply isolated themselves, the role of the grand duke became formal, wars between Rus’ princes became the norm, and as a result, the horde was met not by a whole Rus’, but by separate principalities. The result is known.

Even before the war, the tomb of Yaroslav was opened, and the famous anthropologist Gerasimov made his portrait – you can see. Indeed, Yaroslav turned out to be lame – his right leg was longer than his left. Perhaps this is a consequence of the disease – Legg-Calve-Perthes disease.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Yaroslav the Wise – the great ruler of Kievan Rus’ (Part II. Prince)
Reconstruction of Gerasimov/wikireading

At the moment, the remains of Yaroslav have disappeared. It is suspected that in 1943 they were taken out by representatives of the UGCC, and they are now in the United States. Quite surprising – why keep them secret? But so far there is no information about this at all.




Blessed Prince Yaroslav began to be venerated in Rus’ immediately after his death. But he was not formally included among the saints. Only in 2004 was he was included in the calendar of the UOC-MP, and in 2008 he was canonized by the UOC-KP. So now he is also a holy noble prince – according to all the rules.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Yaroslav the Wise – the great ruler of Kievan Rus’ (Part II. Prince)
Holy blessed prince Yaroslav/wikipedia.org

They honor him even now – monuments to him have been erected in Kiev, Sumy, Belaya Tserkov, Chernigov, Kharkov and Yaroslavl. Universities in Kharkov and Novgorod are named in his honor. In Ukraine, his portrait is placed on a two-hryvnia banknote, and the Order of Yaroslav the Wise is a state award.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Yaroslav the Wise – the great ruler of Kievan Rus’ (Part II. Prince)
Order of Yaroslav the Wise 5th degree/wikipedia.org

He was also placed on the Russian thousand rubles, and in Ukraine he was twice dedicated to commemorative coins – 2 and 10 hryvnia. A number of films are dedicated to him, the opera “Yaroslav the Wise” by Julius Meitus and even a cantata by Alexander Rosenblat for soloists, chorus and orchestra in 11 parts.

In general, he was not an easy person and quite important in history. Not as unambiguous as they say in school textbooks, but such people, as described there, do not exist in nature at all. All people are complex and ambiguous, and it is not easy to assess everyone – it takes a lot of time.

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