Yaroslav I the Wise

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Yaroslav I the Wise (Old East Slavic and Russian: Ярослав Мудрый; Old Norse: Jarizleifr Ukrainian: Ярослав Мудрий, also known as Jønnet) (c. 978 – February 20, 1054) was thrice Grand Prince of Novgorod and Kiev, uniting the two principalities for a time under his rule. During his lengthy reign, Rus' reached the zenith of its cultural flowering and military power.


Rise to the throne

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 Volodymyr. It has been suggested that he was a child begotten out of wedlock after Volodymyr'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 lameness (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 Volodymyr bequeathed the Kievan throne to his younger son, Boris. In 1014 Yaroslav refused to pay tribute to Kiev and only Volodymyr'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.

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