Note: Corrections made in transcription are listed at the end of the file.
The Monarchies of Continental Europe
THE EMPIRE OF RUSSIA
From the Remotest Periods to the Present Time
JOHN S. C. ABBOTT
BOSTON: GRAVES AND YOUNG, 24 CORNHILL.
The world is now too busy to read voluminous history. The interminable details of battles, and the petty intrigues of courtiers and mistresses, have lost their interest. In this volume it has been our object to trace perspicuously the path which Russia has trod from earliest infancy to the present hour. The career of this empire has been so wild and wonderful that the historian can have no occasion to call in the aid of fancy for the embellishment of his narrative.
The author has not deemed it necessary to incumber his pages with notes to substantiate his statements. The renowned Russian historian, Karamsin, who wrote under the patronage of Alexander I., gives ample authentication to all the facts which are stated up to the reign of that emperor. His voluminous history, in classic beauty, is unsurpassed by any of the annals of Greece or Rome. It has been admirably translated into French by Messrs. St. Thomas and Jauffret in eleven imperial quarto volumes. In the critical citations of this author, the reader, curious in such researches, will find every fact in the early history of Russia, here stated, confirmed.
There are but few valuable works upon Russia in the English language. Nearly all, which can be relied upon as authorities, are written either in French or German. The writer would refer those who seek a more minute acquaintance with this empire, now rising so rapidly in importance, first of all to Karamsin. The "Histoire Philosophique et Politique de Russie Depuis les Temps les Plus Recules Jusqu'au Nos Jours, par J. Esneaux," Paris, five volumes, is a valuable work. The "Histoire de Russie par Pierre Charles Levesque," eight volumes, is discriminating and reliable. The various volumes of William Tooke upon Russian history in general, and upon the reign of Catharine, contain much information.
It is only since the reign of Peter the Great that Russia has begun to attract much attention among the enlightened nations of Europe. Voltaire's life of this most renowned of the Russian sovereigns, at its first publication, attracted much notice. Since then, many books have been written upon fragments of Russian history and individual reigns. From most of these the author has selected such events as have appeared to him most instructive and best adapted to give the reader a clear conception of the present condition and future prospects of this gigantic empire. The path she has trod, since her first emergence into civilization from the chaos of barbarism, can be very distinctly traced, and one can easily count the concentric accretions of her growth. This narrative reveals the mistakes which have overwhelmed her with woe, and the wisdom which has, at times, secured for Russia peace and prosperity.
In writing these histories of the monarchies of Continental Europe, the author has no wish to conceal his abhorrence of aristocratic usurpation. Believing in the universal brotherhood of man, his sympathies are most cordially with the oppressed masses. If the people are weak and debased, the claim is only the more urgent upon the powerful and the wise to act the part of elder brothers, holding out the helping hand to those who have fallen. The author feels grateful for the reception which the first number of this series, the Empire of Austria, has received from the American public. He hopes that this volume will not prove less interesting or instructive. In the course of a few months it will be followed by the History of Italy.
PARENTAGE AND BIRTH OF RUSSIA.
From 500 B.C. to A.D. 910.
Primeval Russia.—Explorations of the Greeks.—Scythian Invasion.—Character of the Scythians.—Sarmatia.—Assaults Upon the Roman Empire.—Irruption of the Alains.—Conquests of Trajan.—The Gothic invasion,—The Huns—their Character and Aspect.—The Devastations of Attila.—The Avars.—Results of Comminglings of these Tribes.—Normans.—Birth of the Russian Empire—The Three Sovereigns Ruric, Sineous and Truvor.—Adventures of Ascolod and Dir.—Introduction of Christianity.—Usurpation of Oleg.—His Conquests.—Expedition Against Constantinople.
GROWTH AND CONSOLIDATION OF RUSSIA.
From 910 to 973.
Expedition to Constantinople.—Treaty with the Emperor.—Last Days of Oleg.—His Death.—Igor Assumes the Scepter.—His Expedition to the Don.—Descent Upon Constantinople.—His Defeat.—Second Expedition.—Pusillanimity of the Greeks.—Death of Igor.—Regency of Olga.—Her Character.—Succession of Sviatoslaf.—His Impiety and Ambition.—Conquest of Bulgaria.—Division of the Empire.—Defeat, Ruin and Death of Sviatoslaf.—Civil War.—Death of Oleg.—Flight of Vladimir.—Supremacy of Yaropolk.
REIGNS OF VLADIMIR, YAROSLAF, YSIASLAF AND VSEVOLOD.
From 973 to 1092.
Flight of Vladimir.—His Stolen Bride.—The March Upon Kief.—Debauchery of Vladimir.—Zealous Paganism.—Introduction of Christianity.—Baptism in the Dnieper.—Entire Change in the Character of Vladimir.—His Great Reforms.—His Death.—Usurpation of Sviatopolk the Miserable.—Accession of Yaroslaf.—His Administration and Death.—Accession of Ysiaslaf.—His Strange Reverses,—His Death.—Vsevolod Ascends the Throne.—His Two Flights to Poland.—Appeals to the Pope.—Wars, Famine and Pestilence.—Character of Vsevolod.
YEARS OF WAR AND WOE.
From 1092 to 1167.
Character of Vsevolod.—Succession of Sviatopolk.—His Discomfiture.—Deplorable Condition of Russia.—Death of Sviatopolk.—His Character.—Accession of Monomaque.—Curious Festival At Kief.—Energy of Monomaque.—Alarm of the Emperor At Constantinople.—Horrors of War.—Death of Monomaque.—His Remarkable Character.—Pious Letter To His Children.—Accession of Mstislaf.—His Short But Stormy Reign.—Struggles For the Throne.—Final Victory of Ysiaslaf.—Moscow in the Province of Souzdal.—Death of Ysiaslaf.—Wonderful Career of Rostislaf.—Rising Power of Moscow.—Georgievitch, Prince of Moscow.
MSTISLAF AND ANDRE.
From 1167 to 1212.
Centralization of Power At Kief.—Death of Rostislaf.—His Religious Character.—Mstislaf Ysiaslavitch Ascends the Throne.—Proclamation of the King.—Its Effect.—Plans of Andre.—Scenes At Kief.—Return and Death of Mstislaf.—War in Novgorod.—Peace Concluded Throughout Russia.—Insult of Andre and Its Consequences.—Greatness of Soul Displayed By Andre.—Assassination of Andre.—Renewal of Anarchy.—Emigration From Novgorod.—Reign of Michel.—Vsevolod III.—Evangelization of Bulgaria.—Death of Vsevolod III.—His Queen Maria.
THE GRAND PRINCES OF VLADIMIR, AND THE INVASION OF GENGHIS KHAN.
From 1212 to 1238.
Accession of Georges.—Famine.—Battle of Lipetsk.—Defeat of Georges.—His Surrender.—Constantin Seizes the Scepter.—Exploits of Mstislaf.—Imbecility of Constantin.—Death of Constantin.—Georges III.—Invasion of Bulgaria.—Progress of the Monarchy.—Right of Succession.—Commerce of the Dnieper.—Genghis Khan.—His Rise and Conquests.—Invasion of Southern Russia.—Death of Genghis Khan.—Succession of His Son Ougadai.—March of Bati.—Entrance into Russia.—Utter Defeat of the Russians.
THE SWAY OF THE TARTAR PRINCES.
From 1238 to 1304.
Retreat of Georges II.—Desolating March of the Tartars.—Capture of Vladimir.—Fall of Moscow.—Utter Defeat of Georges.—Conflict of Torjek.—March of the Tartars Toward the South.—Subjugation of the Polovtsi.—Capture of Kief.—Humiliation of Yaroslaf.—Overthrow of the Gaussian Kingdom.—Haughtiness of the Tartars.—Reign of Alexander.—Succession of Yaroslaf.—The Reign of Vassuli.—State of Christianity.—Infamy of Andre.—Struggles With Dmitri.—Independence of the Principalities.—Death of Andre.
RESURRECTION OF THE RUSSIAN MONARCHY.
From 1304 to 1380.
Defeat of Georges and the Tartars.—Indignation of the Khan.—Michel Summoned To the Horde.—His Trial and Execution.—Assassination of Georges.—Execution of Dmitri.—Repulse and Death of the Embassador of the Khan.—Vengeance of the Khan.—Increasing Prosperity of Russia. —The Great Plague.—Supremacy of Simon.—Anarchy in the Horde.—Plague and Conflagration.—The Tartars Repulsed.—Reconquest of Bulgaria.—The Great Battle of Koulikof.—Utter Rout of the Tartars.
DMITRI, VASSALI, AND THE MOGOL TAMERLANE
From 1380 to 1462.
Recovery of Dmitri.—New Tartar invasion.—The Assault and Capture of Moscow.—New Subjugation of the Russians.—Lithuania Embraces Christianity.—Escape of Vassali From the Horde.—Death of Dmitri.—Tamerlane—His Origin and Career.—His Invasion of India.—Defeat of Bajazet.—Tamerlane Invades Russia.—Preparations for Resistance.—Sudden Retreat of the Tartars.—Death of Vassali.—Accession of Vassali Vassilievitch.—The Disputed Succession.—Appeal to the Khan.—Rebellion of Youri.—Cruelty of Vassali.—The Retribution.
THE ILLUSTRIOUS IVAN III.
From 1462 to 1480.
Ivan III.—His Precocity and Rising Power.—The Three Great Hordes.—Russian Expedition Against Kezan.—Defeat of the Tartars.—Capture of Constantinople By the Turks.—The Princess Sophia.—Her Journey To Russia, and Marriage With Ivan III.—Increasing Renown of Russia.—New Difficulty With the Horde.—The Tartars invade Russia.—Strife On the Banks of the Oka.—Letter of the Metropolitan Bishop.—Unprecedented Panic.—Liberation of Russia.
THE REIGN OF VASSILI.
From 1480 to 1533.
Alliance With Hungary.—A Traveler From Germany.—Treaty Between Russia and Germany.—Embassage to Turkey.—Court Etiquette.—Death of the Princess Sophia.—Death of Ivan.—Advancement of Knowledge.—Succession of Vassili.—Attack Upon the Horde.—Rout of the Russians.—The Grand Prince Takes the Title of Emperor.—Turkish Envoy to Moscow.—Efforts To Arm Europe Against the Turks.—Death of the Emperor Maximilian, and Accession of Charles V. to the Empire of Germany.—Death of Vassili.
IVAN IV.—HIS MINORITY.
From 1533 to 1546.
Vassili At the Chase.—Attention To Distinguished Foreigners.—The Autocracy.—Splendor of the Edifices.—Slavery.—Aristocracy.—Infancy of Ivan IV.—Regency of Helene.—Conspiracies and Tumults.—War with Sigismond of Poland.—Death of Helene.—Struggles of the Nobles.—Appalling Sufferings of Dmitri.—Incursion of the Tartars.—Successful Conspiracy.—Ivan IV. At the Chase.—Coronation of Ivan IV.
THE REIGN OF IVAN IV.
From 1546 to 1552.
The Title of Tzar.—Marriage of Ivan IV.—Virtues of His Bride.—Depraved Character of the Young Emperor.—Terrible Conflagrations.—Insurrections.—The Rebuke.—Wonderful Change in the Character of Ivan IV.—Confessions of Sin and Measures of Reform.—Sylvestre and Alexis Adachef.—The Code of Laws.—Reforms in the Church.—Encouragement To Men of Science and Letters.—The Embassage of Schlit.—War With Kezan.—Disasters and Disgrace.—Immense Preparation For the Chastisement of the Horde.—The March.—Repulse of the Tauredians.—Siege of Kezan.—Incidents of the Siege.
THE REIGN OF IVAN IV.—CONTINUED.
From 1552 to 1557.
Siege of Kezan.—Artifices of War.—The Explosion of Mines.—The Final Assault.—Complete Subjugation of Kezan.—Gratitude and Liberality of the Tzar.—Return To Moscow.—Joy of the inhabitants.—Birth of An Heir To the Crown.—Insurrection in Kezan.—The Insurrection Quelled.—Conquest of Astrachan.—The English Expedition in Search of a North-East Passage to India.—The Establishment at Archangel.—Commercial Relations Between France and Russia.—Russian Embassy to England.—Extension of Commerce.
THE ABDICATION OF IVAN IV.
From 1557 to 1582.
Terror of the Horde in Tauride.—War with Gustavus Vasa of Sweden.—Political Punctilios.—The Kingdom of Livonia Annexed to Sweden.—Death of Anastasia.—Conspiracy Against Ivan.—His Abdication.—His Resumption of the Crown.—Invasion of Russia by the Tartars and Turks.—Heroism of Zerebrinow.—Utter Discomfiture of the Tartars.—Relations Between Queen Elizabeth of England, and Russia.—Intrepid Embassage.—New War with Poland.—Disasters of Russia.—The Emperor Kills His Own Son.—Anguish of Ivan IV.
THE STORMS OF HEREDITARY SUCCESSION.
From 1582 to 1608.
Anguish and Death of Ivan IV.—His Character.—Feodor and Dmitri.—Usurpation of Boris Gudenow.—The Polish Election.—Conquest of Siberia.—Assassination of Dmitri.—Death of Feodor.—Boris Crowned King.—Conspiracies.—Reappearance of Dmitri.—Boris Poisoned.—The Pretender Crowned.—Embarrassments of Dmitri.—A New Pretender.—Assassination of Dmitri.—Crowning of Zuski.—Indignation of Poland.—Historical Romance.
A CHANGE OF DYNASTY.
From 1608 to 1680.
Conquests by Poland.—Sweden in Alliance with Russia.—Grandeur of Poland.—Ladislaus Elected King of Russia.—Commotions and insurrections.—Rejection of Ladislaus and Election of Michael Feodor Romanow.—Sorrow of His Mother.—Pacific Character of Romanow.—Choice of a Bride.—Eudochia Streschnew.—The Archbishop Feodor.—Death of Michael and Accession of Alexis.—Love in the Palace.—Successful intrigue.—Mobs in Moscow.—Change in the Character of the Tzar.—Turkish invasions.—Alliance Between Russia and Poland.
THE REGENCY OF SOPHIA.
From 1680 to 1697.
Administration of Feodor.—Death of Feodor.—Incapacity of Ivan.—Succession of Peter.—Usurpation of Sophia.—Insurrection of the Strelitzes.—Massacre in Moscow.—Success of the Insurrection.—Ivan and Peter Declared Sovereigns under the Regency of Sophia.—General Discontent.—Conspiracy against Sophia.—Her Flight to the Convent.—The Conspiracy Quelled.—New Conspiracy.—Energy of Peter.—He Assumes the Crown.—Sophia Banished to a Convent.—Commencement of the Reign of Peter.
PETER THE GREAT.
From 1697 to 1702.
Young Russians Sent to Foreign Countries.—The Tzar Decides Upon a Tour of Observation.—His Plan of Travel.—Anecdote.—Peter's Mode of Life in Holland.—Characteristic Anecdotes.—The Presentation of the Embassador.—The Tzar Visits England.—Life at Deptford.—Illustrious Foreigners Engaged in His Service.—Peter Visits Vienna.—The Game of Landlord.—Insurrection in Moscow.—Return of the Tzar, and Measures of Severity.—War with Sweden.—Disastrous Defeat of Narva.—Efforts to Secure the Shores of the Baltic.—Designs Upon the Black Sea.
CONQUESTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS OF PETER THE GREAT.
From 1702 TO 1718.
Peter takes Lake Lagoda and the Neva.—Foundation of St. Petersburg.—Conquest of Livonia.—Marienburg Taken by Storm.—The Empress Catharine.—Extraordinary Efforts in Building St. Petersburg.—Threat of Charles XII.—Deposition of Augustus.—Enthronement of Stanislaus.—Battle of Pultowa.—Flight of Charles XII. to Turkey.—Increased Renown of Russia.—Disastrous Conflict with the Turks.—Marriage of Alexis.—His Character.—Death of his Wife.—The Empress Acknowledged.—Conquest of Finland.—Tour of the Tzar to Southern Europe.
THE TRIAL AND CONDEMNATION OF ALEXIS, AND DEATH OF THE TZAR.
From 1718 to 1725.
The Tzar's Second Visit to Holland.—Reception in France.—Description of Catharine.—Domestic Grief.—Conduct of Alexis.—Letters from His Father.—Flight To Germany.—Thence to Naples.—Envoys Sent to Bring Him Back.—Alexis Excluded from the Succession.—His Trial for Treason.—Condemnation and Unexpected Death.—New Efforts of the Tzar for the Welfare of Russia.—Sickness of Peter.—His Death.—Succession of the Empress Catharine.—Epitaph to the Emperor.
THE REIGN OF CATHARINE I., ANNE, THE INFANT IVAN AND ELIZABETH.
From 1725 TO 1769.
Energetic Reign of Catharine.—Her Sudden Death.—Brief Reign of Peter II.—Difficulties of Hereditary Succession.—A Republic Contemplated.—Anne, Daughter of Ivan.—The Infant Ivan Proclaimed King.—His Terrible Doom.—Elizabeth, Daughter of Peter the Great, Enthroned.—Character of Elizabeth.—Alliance with Maria Theresa.—Wars with Prussia.—Great Reverses of Frederic of Prussia.—Desperate Condition of Frederic.—Death of Elizabeth.—Succession of Peter III.
PETER III. AND HIS BRIDE.
From 1728 TO 1762.
Lineage of Peter III.—Chosen by Elizabeth as her Successor.—The Bride Chosen for Peter.—Her Lineage.—The Courtship.—The Marriage.—Autobiography of Catharine.—Anecdotes of Peter.—His Neglect of Catharine and his Debaucheries.—Amusements of the Russian Court.—Military Execution of a Rat.—Accession of Peter III. to the Throne.—Supremacy of Catharine.—Her Repudiation Threatened.—The Conspiracy.—Its Successful Accomplishment.
THE CONSPIRACY; AND ACCESSION OF CATHARINE II.
From 1762 to 1765.
Peter III. at Oranienbaum.—Catharine at Peterhof.—The Successful Accomplishment of the Conspiracy.—Terror of Peter.—His Vacillating and Feeble Character.—Flight to Cronstadt.—Repulse.—Heroic Counsel of Munich.—Peter's Return to Oranienbaum.—His Suppliant Letters to Catharine.—His Arrest.—Imprisonment.—Assasination.—Proclamation of the Empress.—Her Complicity in the Crime.—Energy of Catharine's Administration.—Her Expansive Views and Sagacious Policy.—Contemplated Marriage with Count Orlof.
REIGN OF CATHARINE II.
From 1765 to 1774.
Energy of Catharine's Administration.—Titles of Honor Decreed to Her.—Code of Laws Instituted.—The Assassination of the Empress Attempted.—Encouragement of Learned Men.—Catharine Inoculated for the Small-Pox.—New War with Turkey.—Capture of Crimea.—Sailing of the Russian Fleet.—Great Naval Victory.—Visit of the Prussian Prince Henry.—The Sleigh Ride.—Plans for the Partition of Poland.—The Hermitage.—Marriage of the Grand Duke Paul.—Correspondence with Voltaire and Diderot.
REIGN OF CATHARINE II.
From 1774 to 1781.
Peace with Turkey.—Court of Catharine II.—Her Personal Appearance and Habits.—Conspiracy and Rebellion.—Defeat of the Rebels.—Magnanimity of Catharine II.—Ambition of the Empress.—Court Favorite.—Division of Russia into Provinces.—internal Improvements.—New Partition of Poland.—Death of the Wife of Paul.—Second Marriage of the Grand Duke.—Splendor of the Russian Court.—Russia and Austria Secretly Combine to Drive the Turks out of Europe.—The Emperor Joseph II.
TERMINATION OF THE REIGN OF CATHARINE II.
From 1781 to 1786.
Statue of Peter the Great.—Alliance Between Austria and Russia.—Independence of the Crimea—The Khan of the Crimea.—Vast Preparations for War.—National Jealousies.—Tolerant Spirit of Catharine.—Magnificent Excursion to the Crimea.—Commencement of Hostilities.—Anecdote of Paul.—Peace.—New Partition of Poland.—Treaty with Austria and France.—Hostility to Liberty in France.—Death of Catharine.—Her Character.
THE REIGN OF PAUL I.
From 1796 to 1801.
Accession of Paul I. to the Throne.—Influence of Hereditary Transmission of Power.—Extravagance of Paul.—His Despotism.—The Horse Court Martialed.—Progress of the French Revolution.—Fears and Violence of Paul.—Hostility to Foreigners.—Russia Joins the Coalition Against France.—March of Suwarrow.—Character of Suwarrow.—Battle on the Adda.—Battle of Novi.—Suwarrow marches on the Rhine.—His Defeat and Death.—Paul Abandons the Coalition and Joins France.—Conspiracies at St. Petersburg.
ASSASSINATION OF PAUL AND ACCESSION OF ALEXANDER.
From 1801 to 1807.
Assassination of Paul I.—Implication of Alexander in the Conspiracy.—Anecdotes.—Accession of Alexander.—The French Revolution.—Alexander Joins Allies Against France.—State of Russia.—Useful Measures of Alexander.—Peace of Amiens.—Renewal of Hostilities.—Battle of Austerlitz.—Magnanimity of Napoleon.—New Coalition.—Ambition of Alexander.—Battles of Jena and Eylau.—Defeat of the Russians.
REIGN OF ALEXANDER I.
From 1807 to 1825.
The Field of Eylau.—Letter to the King of Prussia.—Renewal of the War—Discomfiture of the Allies.—Battle of Friedland.—The Raft at Tilsit.—Intimacy of the Emperors.—Alexander's Designs upon Turkey.—Alliance Between France and Russia.—Object of the Continental System.—Perplexities of Alexander.—Driven by the Nobles to War.—Results of the Russian Campaign.—Napoleon Vanquished.—Last Days of Alexander.—His Sickness and Death.
From 1825 to 1855.
Abdication of Constantine.—Accession of Nicholas.—Insurrection Quelled.—Nicholas and the Conspirator.—Anecdote.—The Palace of Peterhof.—The Winter Palace.—Presentation at Court.—Magnitude of Russia.—Description of the Hellespont and Dardanelles.—The Turkish Invasion.—Aims of Russia.—Views of England and France.—Wars of Nicholas.—The Polish Insurrection.—War of the Crimea.—Jealousies of the Leading Nations.—Encroachments.—Death of Nicholas.—Accession of Alexander II.
PARENTAGE AND BIRTH OF RUSSIA.
From 600 B.C. to A.D. 910.
Primeval Russia.—Explorations of the Greeks.—Scythian Invasion.—Character of the Scythians.—Sarmatia.—Assaults upon the Roman Empire.—Irruption of the Alains.—Conquests of Trajan.—The Gothic Invasion.—The Huns.—Their Character and Aspect.—The Devastations of Attila.—The Avars.—Results of Comminglings of these Tribes.—Normans.—Birth of the Russian Empire.—The Three Sovereigns Rurik, Sineous and Truvor.—Adventures of Ascolod and Dir.—Introduction of Christianity.—Usurpation of Oleg.—His Conquests.—Expedition Against Constantinople.
Those vast realms of northern Europe, now called Russia, have been inhabited for a period beyond the records of history, by wandering tribes of savages. These barbaric hordes have left no monuments of their existence. The annals of Greece and of Rome simply inform us that they were there. Generations came and departed, passing through life's tragic drama, and no one has told their story.
About five hundred years before the birth of our Saviour, the Greeks, sailing up the Bosphorus and braving the storms of the Black Sea, began to plant their colonies along its shores. Instructed by these colonists, Herodotus, who wrote about four hundred and forty years before Christ, gives some information respecting the then condition of interior Russia. The first great irruption into the wastes of Russia, of which history gives us any record, was about one hundred years before our Saviour. An immense multitude of conglomerated tribes, taking the general name of Scythians, with their wives and their children, their flocks and their herds, and their warriors, fiercer than wolves, crossed the Volga, and took possession of the whole country between the Don and the Danube. These barbarians did not molest the Greek colonies, but, on the contrary, were glad to learn of them many of the rudiments of civilization. Some of these tribes retained their ancestral habits of wandering herdsmen, and, with their flocks, traversed the vast and treeless plains, where they found ample pasture. Others selecting sunny and fertile valleys, scattered their seed and cultivated the soil. Thus the Scythians were divided into two quite distinct classes, the herdsmen and the laborers.
The tribes who then peopled the vast wilds of northern Europe and Asia, though almost innumerable, and of different languages and customs, were all called, by the Greeks, Scythians, as we have given the general name of Indians to all the tribes who formerly ranged the forests of North America. The Scythians were as ferocious a race as earth has ever known. They drank the blood of their enemies; tanned their skins for garments; used their skulls for drinking cups; and worshiped a sword as the image or emblem of their favorite deity, the God of War. Philip of Macedon was the first who put any check upon their proud spirit. He conquered them in a decisive battle, and thus taught them that they were not invincible. Alexander the Great assailed them and spread the terror of his arms throughout all the region between the Danube and the Dnieper. Subsequently the Roman legions advanced to the Euxine, and planted their eagles upon the heights of the Caucasus.
The Roman historians seem to have dropped the Scythian name, and they called the whole northern expanse of Europe and Asia, Sarmatia, and the barbarous inhabitants Sarmatians. About the time of our Saviour, some of these fierce tribes from the banks of the Theiss and the Danube, commenced their assaults upon the frontiers of the Roman empire. This was the signal for that war of centuries, which terminated in the overthrow of the throne of the Caesars. The Roman Senate, enervated by luxury, condescended to purchase peace of these barbarians, and nations of savages, whose names are now forgotten, exacted tribute, under guise of payment for alliance, from the proud empire. But neither bribes, nor alliances, nor the sword in the hands of enervated Rome, could effectually check the incursions of these bands, who were ever emerging, like wolves, from the mysterious depths of the North.
In the haze of those distant times and remote realms, we catch dim glimpses of locust legions, emerging from the plains and the ravines between the Black Sea and the Caspian, and sweeping like a storm cloud over nearly all of what is now called Russia. These people, to whom the name of Alains was given, had no fixed habitations; they conveyed their women and children in rude carts. Their devastations were alike extended over Europe and Asia, and in the ferocity of their assaults they were as insensible to death as wild beasts could be.
In the second century, the emperor Trajan conquered and took possession of the province of Dacia, which included all of lower Hungary, Transylvania, Moldavia, Wallachia and Bessarabia. The country was divided into Roman provinces, over each of which a prefect was established. In the third century, the Goths, from the shores of the Baltic, came rushing over the wide arena, with the howling of wolves and their gnashing of teeth. They trampled down all opposition, with their war knives drove out the Romans, crossed the Black Sea in their rude vessels, and spread conflagration and death throughout the most flourishing cities and villages of Bythinia, Gallacia and Cappadocia. The famous temple of Diana at Ephesus, these barbarians committed to the flames. They overran all Greece and took Athens by storm. As they were about to destroy the precious libraries of Athens, one of their chieftains said,
"Let us leave to the Greeks their books, that they, in reading them may forget the arts of war; and that we thus may more easily be able to hold them in subjection."
These Goths established an empire, extending from the Black Sea to the Baltic, and which embraced nearly all of what is now European Russia. Towards the close of the fourth century, another of these appalling waves of barbaric inundation rolled over northern Europe. The Huns, emerging from the northern frontiers of China, traversed the immense intervening deserts, and swept over European Russia, spreading everywhere flames and desolation. The historians of that day seem to find no language sufficiently forcible to describe the hideousness and the ferocity of these savages. They pressed down on the Roman empire as merciless as wolves, and the Caesars turned pale at the recital of their deeds of blood.
It is indeed a revolting picture which contemporaneous history gives us of these barbarians. In their faces was concentrated the ugliness of the hyena and the baboon. They tattooed their cheeks, to prevent the growth of their beards. They were short, thick-set, and with back bones curved almost into a semicircle. Herbs, roots and raw meat they devoured, tearing their food with their teeth or hewing it with their swords. To warm and soften their meat, they placed it under their saddles when riding. Nearly all their lives they passed on horseback. Wandering incessantly over the vast plains, they had no fixed habitations, but warmly clad in the untanned skins of beasts, like the beasts they slept wherever the night found them. They had no religion nor laws, no conception of ideas of honor; their language was a wretched jargon, and in their nature there seemed to be no moral sense to which compassion or mercy could plead.
Such were the Huns as described by the ancient historians. The Goths struggled against them in vain. They were crushed and subjugated. The king of the Goths, Hermanric, in chagrin and despair, committed suicide, that he might escape slavery. Thousands of the Goths, in their terror, crowded down into the Roman province of Thrace, now the Turkish province of Romania. The empire, then in its decadence, could not drive them back, and they obtained a permanent foothold there. The Huns thus attained the supremacy throughout all of northern Europe. There were then very many tribes of diverse names peopling these vast realms, and incessant wars were waged between them. The domination which the Huns attained was precarious, and not distinctly defined.
The terrible Attila ere long appears as the king of these Huns, about the middle of the fifth century. This wonderful barbarian extended his sway from the Volga to the Rhine, and from the Bosphorus to the shores of the Baltic. Where-ever he appeared, blood flowed in torrents. He swept the valley of the Danube with flame and sword, destroying cities, fortresses and villages, and converting the whole region into a desert. At the head of an army of seven hundred thousand men, he plunged all Europe into dismay. Both the Eastern and Western empire were compelled to pay him tribute. He even invaded Gaul, and upon the plains of Chalons was defeated in one of the most bloody battles ever fought in Europe. Contemporary historians record that one hundred and six thousand dead were left upon the field. With the death of Attila, the supremacy of the Huns vanished. The irruption of the Huns was a devastating scourge, which terrified the world. Whole nations were exterminated in their march, until at last the horrible apparition disappeared, almost as suddenly as it arose.
With the disappearance of the Huns, central Russia presents to us the aspect of a vast waste, thinly peopled, with the wrecks of nations and tribes, debased and feeble, living upon the cattle they herded, and occasionally cultivating the soil. And now there comes forward upon this theater of violence and of blood another people, called the Sclavonians, more energetic and more intelligent than any who had preceded them. The origin of the Sclavonians is quite lost in the haze of distance, and in the savage wilds where they first appeared. The few traditions which have been gleaned respecting them are of very little authority.
From about the close of the fifth century the inhabitants of the whole region now embraced by European Russia, were called Sclavonians; and yet it appears that these Sclavonians consisted of many nations, rude and warlike, with various distinctive names. They soon began to crowd upon the Roman empire, and became more formidable than the Goths or the Huns had been. Wading through blood they seized province after province of the empire, destroying and massacring often in mere wantonness. The emperor Justinian was frequently compelled to purchase peace with them and to bribe them to alliance.
And now came another wave of invasion, bloody and overwhelming. The Avars, from the north of China, swept over Asia, seized all the provinces on the Black Sea, overran Greece, and took possession of most of the country between the Volga and the Elbe. The Sclavonians of the Danube, however, successfully resisted them, and maintained their independence. Generations came and went as these hordes, wild, degraded and wretched, swept these northern wilds, in debasement and cruelty rivaling the wolves which howled in their forests. They have left no traces behind them, and the few records of their joyless lives which history has preserved, are merely the gleanings of uncertain tradition. The thinking mind pauses in sadness to contemplate the spectacle of these weary ages, when his brother man was the most ferocious of beasts, and when all the discipline of life tended only to sink him into deeper abysses of brutality and misery. There is here a problem in the divine government which no human wisdom can solve. There is consolation only in the announcement that what we know not now, we shall know hereafter. All these diverse nations blending have formed the present Russians.
Along the shores of the Baltic, these people assumed the name of Scandinavians, and subsequently Normans. Toward the close of the eighth century, the Normans filled Europe with the renown of their exploits, and their banners bade defiance even to the armies of Charlemagne. Early in the ninth century they ravaged France, Italy, Scotland, England, and passed over to Ireland, where they built cities which remain to the present day. "There is no manner of doubt," writes M. Karamsin in his history of Russia, "that five hundred years before Christopher Columbus, they had discovered North America, and instituted commerce with the natives."
It is not until the middle of the ninth century, that we obtain any really reliable information respecting the inhabitants of central Russia. They are described as a light-complexioned, flaxen-haired race, robust, and capable of great endurance. Their huts were cheerless, affording but little shelter, and they lived upon the coarsest food, often devouring their meat raw. The Greeks expressed astonishment at their agility in climbing precipitous cliffs, and admired the hardihood with which they plunged through bogs, and swam the most rapid and swollen streams. He who had the most athletic vigor was the greatest man, and all the ambition and energy of the nation were expended in the acquisition of strength and agility.
They are ever described as strangers to fear, rushing unthinkingly upon certain death. They were always ready to accept combat with the Roman legions. Entire strangers to military strategy, they made no attacks in drilled lines or columns, but the whole tumultuous mass, in wild disorder rushed upon the foe, with the most desperate daring, having no guide but their own ferocity and the chieftains who led small bands. Their weapons consisted of swords, javelins and poisoned arrows, and each man carried a heavy shield. As they crossed the Danube in their bloody forays, incited by love of plunder, the inhabitants of the Roman villages fled before them. When pursued by an invincible force they would relinquish life rather than their booty, even when the plunder was of a kind totally valueless in their savage homes. The ancient annals depict in appalling colors the cruelties they exercised upon their captives. They were, however, as patient in endurance as they were merciless in infliction. No keenness of torture could force from them a cry of pain.
Yet these people, so ferocious, are described as remarkably amiable among themselves, seldom quarreling, honest and truthful, and practicing hospitality with truly patriarchal grace. Whenever they left home, the door was unfastened and food was left for any chance wayfarer. A guest was treated as a heavenly messenger, and was guided on his way with the kindest expressions for his welfare.
The females, as in all barbaric countries, were exposed to every indignity. All the hard labor of life was thrown upon them. When the husband died, the widow was compelled to cast herself upon the funeral pile which consumed his remains. It is said that this barbarous custom, which Christianity abolished, was introduced to prevent the wife from secretly killing her husband. The wife was also regarded as the slave of the husband, and they imagined that if she died at the same time with her husband, she would serve him in another world. The wives often followed their husbands to the wars. From infancy the boys were trained to fight, and were taught that nothing was more disgraceful than to forgive an injury.
A mother was permitted, if she wished, to destroy her female children; but the boys were all preserved to add to the military strength of the nation. It was lawful, also, for the children to put their parents to death when they had become infirm and useless. "Behold," exclaims a Russian historian, "how a people naturally kind, when deprived of the light of revelation can remorselessly outrage nature, and surpass in cruelty the most ferocious animals."
In different sections of this vast region there were different degrees of debasement, influenced by causes no longer known. A tribe called Drevliens, Nestor states, lived in the most gloomy forests with the beasts and like the beasts. They ate any food which a pig would devour, and had as little idea of marriage as have sheep or goats. Among the Sclavonians generally there appears to have been no aristocracy. Each family was an independent republic. Different tribes occasionally met to consult upon questions of common interest, when the men of age, and who had acquired reputation for wisdom, guided in counsel.
Gradually during the progress of their wars an aristocracy arose. Warriors of renown became chiefs, and created for themselves posts of authority and honor. By prowess and plunder they acquired wealth. In their incursions into the empire, they saw the architecture of Greece and Rome, and thus incited, they began to rear castles and fortresses. He who was recognized as the leading warrior in time of battle, retained his authority in the days of peace, which were very few. The castle became necessary for the defense of the tribe or clan, and the chieftain became the feudal noble, invested with unlimited power. At one time every man who was rich enough to own a horse was deemed a noble. The first power recognized was only military authority. But the progress of civilization developed the absolute necessity of other powers to protect the weak, to repress crime, and to guide in the essential steps of nations emerging from darkness into light. With all nations advancing from barbarism, the process has ever been slow by which the civil authority has been separated from the military. It is impossible to educe from the chaos of those times any established principles. Often the duke or leader was chosen with imposing ceremonies. Some men of commanding abilities would gather into their hands the reins of almost unlimited power, and would transmit that power to their sons. Others were chiefs but in name.
We have but dim glimpses of the early religion of this people. In the sixth century they are represented as regarding with awe the deity whom they designated as the creator of thunder. The spectacle of the majestic storms which swept their plains and the lightning bolts hurled from an invisible hand, deeply impressed these untutored people. They endeavored to appease the anger of the supreme being by the sacrifice of bulls and other animals. They also peopled the groves, the fountains, the rivers with deities; statues were rudely chiseled, into which they supposed the spirits of their gods entered, and which they worshiped. They deemed the supreme being himself too elevated for direct human adoration, and only ventured to approach him through gods of a secondary order. They believed in a fallen spirit, a god of evil, who was the author of all the calamities which afflict the human race.
The polished Greeks chiseled their idols, from snow-white marble, into the most exquisite proportions of the human form. Many they invested with all the charms of loveliness, and endowed them with the most amiable attributes. The voluptuous Venus and the laurel-crowned Bacchus were their gods. But the Sclavonians, regarding their deities only as possessors of power and objects of terror, carved their idols gigantic in stature, and hideous in aspect.
From these rude, scattered and discordant populations, the empire of Russia quite suddenly sprang into being. Its birth was one of the most extraordinary events history has transmitted to us. We have seen that the Normans, dwelling along the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic, and visiting the most distant coasts with their commercial and predatory fleets, had attained a degree of power, intelligence and culture, which gave them a decided preeminence over the tribes who were scattered over the wilds of central Russia.
A Sclavonian, whose name tradition says was Gostomysle, a man far superior to his countrymen in intelligence and sagacity, deploring the anarchy which reigned everywhere around him, and admiring the superior civilization of the Normans, persuaded several tribes unitedly to send an embassy to the Normans to solicit of them a king. The embassy was accompanied by a strong force of these fierce warriors, who knew well how to fight, but who had become conscious that they did not know how to govern themselves. Their message was laconic but explicit:
"Our country," said they, "is grand and fertile, but under the reign of disorder. Come and govern us and reign over us."
Three brothers, named Rurik, Sineous and Truvor, illustrious both by birth and achievements, consented to assume the sovereignty, each over a third part of the united applicants; each engaging to cooeperate with and uphold the others. Escorted by the armed retinue which had come to receive them, they left their native shores, and entered the wilds of Scandinavia. Rurik established himself at Novgorod, on lake Ilmen. Sineous, advancing some three hundred miles further, north-east, took his station at Bielo Ozero, on the shores of lake Bielo. Truvor went some hundred miles further south to Truvor, in the vicinity of Smolensk.
Thus there were three sovereigns established in Russia, united by the ties of interest and consanguinity. It was then that this region acquired the name of Russia, from the Norman tribe who furnished these three sovereigns. The Russia which thus emerged into being was indeed an infant, compared with the gigantic empire in this day of its growing and vigorous manhood. It embraced then but a few thousand square miles, being all included in the present provinces of St. Petersburg, Novgorod and Pskov. But two years passed away ere Sineous and Truvor died, and Rurik united their territories with his own, and thus established the Russian monarchy. The realms of Rurik grew, rapidly by annexation, and soon extended east some two hundred miles beyond where Moscow now stands, to the head waters of the Volga. They were bounded on the south-west by the Dwina. On the north they reached to the wild wastes of arctic snows. Over these distant provinces, Rurik established governors selected from his own nation, the Normans. These provincial governors became feudal lords; and thus, with the monarchy, the feudal system was implanted.
Feudality was the natural first step of a people emerging from barbarism. The sovereign rewarded his favorites, or compensated his servants, civil and military, by ceding to them provinces of greater or less extent, with unlimited authority over the people subject to their control. These lords acknowledged fealty to the sovereign, paid a stipulated amount of tribute, and, in case of war, were bound to enter the field with a given number of men in defense of the crown. It was a system essential, perhaps, to those barbarous times when there was no easy communication between distant regions, no codes of laws, and no authority, before which savage men would bow, but that of the sword.
At this time two young Norman nobles, inspired with that love of war and spirit of adventure which characterized their countrymen, left the court of Rurik at Novgorod, where they had been making a visit, and with well-armed retainers, commenced a journey to Constantinople to offer their services to the emperor. It was twelve hundred miles, directly south, from Novgorod to the imperial city. The adventurers had advanced about half way, when they arrived at a little village, called Kief, upon the banks of the Dnieper. The location of the city was so beautiful, upon a commanding bluff, at the head of the navigation of this majestic stream, and the region around seemed so attractive, that the Norman adventurers, Ascolod and Dir by name, decided to remain there. They were soon joined by others of their warlike countrymen. The natives appear to have made no opposition to their rule, and thus Kief became the center of a new and independent Russian kingdom. These energetic men rapidly extended their territories, raised a large army, which was thoroughly drilled in all the science of Norman warfare, and then audaciously declared war against Greece and attempted its subjugation. The Dnieper, navigable for boats most of the distance from Kief to the Euxine, favored their enterprise. They launched upon the stream two hundred barges, which they filled with their choicest troops. Rapidly they floated down the stream, spread their sails upon the bosom of the Euxine, entered the Bosporus, and anchoring their fleet at the mouth of the Golden Horn, laid siege to the city. The Emperor Michael III. then reigned at Constantinople. This Northmen invasion was entirely unexpected, and the emperor was absent, engaged in war with the Arabs. A courier was immediately dispatched to inform him of the peril of the city. He hastily returned to his capital which he finally reached, after eluding, with much difficulty, the vigilance of the besiegers. Just as the inhabitants of the city were yielding to despair, there arose a tempest, which swept the Bosporus with resistless fury. The crowded barges were dashed against each other, shattered, wrecked and sunk. The Christians of Constantinople justly attributed their salvation to the interposition of God. Ascolod and Dir, with the wrecks of their army, returned in chagrin to Kief.
The historians of that period relate that the idolatrous Russians were so terrified by this display of the divine displeasure that they immediately sent embassadors to Constantinople, professing their readiness to embrace Christianity, and asking that they might receive the rite of baptism. In attestation of the fact that Christianity at this period entered Russia, we are referred to a well authenticated letter, of the patriarch Photius, written at the close of the year 866.
"The Russians," he says, "so celebrated for their cruelty, conquerors of their neighbors, and who, in their pride, dared to attack the Roman empire, have already renounced their superstitions, and have embraced the religion of Jesus Christ. Lately our most formidable enemies, they have now become our most faithful friends. We have recently sent them a bishop and a priest, and they testify the greatest zeal for Christianity."
It was in this way, it seems, that the religion of our Saviour first entered barbaric Russia. The gospel, thus welcomed, soon became firmly established at Kief, and rapidly extended its conquests in all directions. The two Russian kingdoms, that of Rurik in the north, and that of Ascolod and Dir on the Dnieper, rapidly extended as these enterprising kings, by arms, subjected adjacent nations to their sway. Rurik remained upon the throne fifteen years, and then died, surrendering his crown to his son Igor, still a child. A relative, Oleg, was intrusted with the regency, during the minority of the boy king. Such was the state of Russia in the year 879.
In that dark and cruel age, war was apparently the only thought, military conquest the only glory. The regent, Oleg, taking with him the young prince Igor, immediately set out with a large army on a career of conquest. Marching directly south some hundred miles, and taking possession of all the country by the way, he arrived at last at the head waters of the Dnieper. The renown of the kingdom of Ascolod and Dir had reached his ears; and aware of their military skill and that the ranks of their army were filled with Norman warriors, Oleg decided to seize the two sovereigns by stratagem. As he cautiously approached Kief, he left his army in a secluded encampment, and with a few chosen troops floated down the stream in barges, disguised as merchant boats. Landing in the night beneath the high and precipitous banks near the town, he placed a number of his soldiers in ambuscade, and then calling upon the princes of Kief, informed them that he had been sent by the king of Novgorod, with a commercial adventure down the Dnieper, and invited them to visit his barges.
The two sovereigns, suspecting no guile, hastened to the banks of the river. Suddenly the men in ambush rose, and piercing them with arrows and javelins, they both fell dead at the feet of Oleg. The two victims of this perfidy were immediately buried upon the spot where they fell. In commemoration of this atrocity, the church of St. Nicholas has been erected near the place, and even to the present day the inhabitants of Kief conduct the traveler to the tomb of Ascolod and Dir. Oleg, now marshaling his army, marched triumphantly into the town, and, without experiencing any formidable opposition, annexed the conquered realm to the northern kingdom.
Oleg was charmed with his conquest. The beautiful site of the town, the broad expanse of the river, the facilities which the stream presented for maritime and military adventures so delighted him that he exclaimed,
"Let Kief be the mother of all the Russian cities."
Oleg established his army in cantonments, strengthened it with fresh recruits, commenced predatory excursions on every side, and soon brought the whole region, for many leagues around, under his subjection. All the subjugated nations were compelled to pay him tribute, though, with the sagacity which marked his whole course, he made the tax so light as not to be burdensome. The territories of Oleg were now vast, widely scattered, and with but the frailest bond of union between them. Between the two capitals of Novgorod and Kief, which were separated by a distance of seven or eight hundred miles, there were many powerful tribes still claiming independence.
Oleg directed his energies against them, and his march of conquest was resistless. In the course of two years he established his undisputed sway over the whole region, and thus opened unobstructed communication between his northern and southern provinces. He established a chain of military posts along the line, and placed his renowned warriors in feudal authority over numerous provinces. Each lord, in his castle, was supreme in authority over the vassals subject to his sway. Life and death were in his hands. The fealty he owed his sovereign was paid in a small tribute, and in military service with an appointed number of soldiers whom he led into the field and supported.
Having thus secured safety in the north, Oleg turned his attention to the south. With a well-disciplined army, he marched down the left bank of the river, sweeping the country for an hundred miles in width, everywhere planting his banners and establishing his simple and effective government of baronial lords. It was easy to weaken any formidable or suspected tribe, by the slaughter of the warriors. There were two safeguards against insurrection. The burdens imposed upon the vassals were so light as to induce no murmurings; and all the feudal lords were united to sustain each other. The first movement towards rebellion was drowned in blood.
Igor, the legitimate sovereign, had now attained his majority; but, accustomed as he had long been, to entire obedience, he did not dare to claim the crown from a regent flushed with the brilliancy of his achievements, who had all power in his hands, and who, by a nod, could remove him for ever out of his way.
Igor was one day engaged in the chase, when at the door of a cottage, in a small village near Kief, he saw a young peasant girl, of marvelous grace and beauty. She was a Norman girl of humble parentage. Young Igor, inflamed by her beauty, immediately rode to the door and addressed her. Her voice was melody, her smile ravishing, and in her replies to his questionings, she developed pride of character, quickness of intelligence and invincible modesty, which charmed him and instantly won his most passionate admiration. The young prince rode home sorely wounded. Cupid had shot one of his most fiery arrows into the very center of his heart. Though many high-born ladies had been urged upon Igor, he renounced them all, and allowing beauty to triumph over birth, honorably demanded and received the hand of the lowly-born yet princely-minded and lovely Olga. They were married at Kief in the year 903.
The revolution at Kief had not interrupted the friendly relations existing between Kief and Constantinople. The Christians of the imperial city made great efforts, by sending missionaries to Kief, to multiply the number of Christians there. Oleg, though a pagan, granted free toleration to Christianity, and reciprocated the presents and friendly messages he received from the emperor. But at length Oleg, having consolidated his realms, and ambitions of still greater renown, wealth and power, resolved boldly to declare war against the empire itself, and to march upon Constantinople. The warriors from a hundred tribes, each under their feudal lord, were ranged around his banners. For miles along the banks of the Dnieper at Kief, the river was covered with barges, two thousand in number. An immense body of cavalry accompanied the expedition, following along the shore.
The navigation of the river, which poured its flood through a channel nearly a thousand miles in length from Kief to the Euxine, was difficult and perilous. It required the blind, unthinking courage of semi-barbarians to undertake such an enterprise. There were many cataracts, down which the flotilla would be swept over foaming billows and amidst jagged rocks. In many places the stream was quite impassable by boats, and it was necessary to take all the barges, with their contents, on shore, and drag them for miles through the forest, again to launch them upon smoother water; and all this time they were exposed to attacks from numerous and ferocious foes. Having arrived at the mouth of the Dnieper, they had still six or eight hundred miles of navigation over the waves of that storm-swept sea. And then, at the close, they had to encounter, in deadly fight, all the power of the Roman empire. But unintimidated by these perils, Oleg, leaving Igor with his bride at Kief, launched his boats upon the current, and commenced his desperate enterprise.
GROWTH AND CONSOLIDATION OF RUSSIA
From 910 to 973.
Expedition to Constantinople.—Treaty with the Emperor.—Last Days of Oleg.—His Death.—Igor Assumes the Scepter.—His Expedition to the Don.—Descent upon Constantinople.—His Defeat.—Second Expedition.—Pusillanimity of the Greeks.—Death of Igor.—Regency of Olga.—Her Character.—Succession of Sviatoslaf.—His Impiety and Ambition.—Conquest of Bulgaria.—Division of the Empire.—Defeat, Ruin and Death of Sviatoslaf.—Civil War.—Death of Oleg.—Flight of Vlademer.—Supremacy of Yaropolk.
The fleet of Oleg successfully accomplished the navigation of the Dnieper, followed by the horse along the shores. Each barge carried forty warriors. Entering the Black Sea, they spread their sails and ran along the western coast to the mouth of the Bosporus. The enormous armament approaching the imperial city of Constantine by sea and by land, completely invested it. The superstitious Leon, surnamed the Philosopher, sat then upon the throne. He was a feeble man engrossed with the follies of astrology, and without making preparations for any vigorous defense, he contented himself with stretching a chain across the Golden Horn to prevent the hostile fleet from entering the harbor. The cavalry of Oleg, encountering no serious opposition, burnt and plundered all the neighboring regions. The beautiful villas of the wealthy Greeks, their churches and villages all alike fell a prey to the flames. Every species of cruelty and barbarity was practiced by the ruthless invaders.
The effeminate Greeks from the walls of the city gazed upon this sweep of desolation, but ventured not to march from behind their ramparts to assail the foe. Oleg draw his barges upon the shore and dragged them on wheels towards the city, that he might from them construct instruments and engines for scaling the walls. The Greeks were so terrified at this spectacle of energy, that they sent an embassage to Oleg, imploring peace, and offering to pay tribute. To conciliate the invader they sent him large presents of food and wine. Oleg, apprehensive that the viands were poisoned, refused to accept them. He however demanded enormous tribute of the emperor, to which terms the Greeks consented, on condition that Oleg would cease hostilities, and return peaceably to his country. Upon this basis of a treaty, the Russian array retired to some distance from the city, and Oleg sent four commissioners to arrange with the emperor the details of peace. The humiliating treaty exacted was as follows:
I. The Greeks engage to give twelve grivnas to each man of the Russian army, and the same sum to each of the warriors in the cities governed by the dependent princes of Oleg.
II. The embassadors, sent by Russia to Constantinople, shall have all their expenses defrayed by the emperor. And, moreover, the emperor engages to give to every Russian merchant in Greece, bread, wine, meat, fish and fruits, for the space of six months; to grant him free access to the public baths, and to furnish him, on his return to his country, with food, anchors, sails, and, in a word, with every thing he needs.
On the other hand the Greeks propose that the Russians, who visit Constantinople for any other purposes than those of commerce, shall not be entitled to this supply of their tables. The Russian prince shall forbid his embassadors from giving any offense to the inhabitants of the Grecian cities or provinces. The quarter of Saint Meme shall be especially appropriated to the Russians, who, upon their arrival, shall give information to the city council. Their names shall be inscribed, and there shall be paid to them every month the sums necessary for their support, no matter from what part of Russia they may have come. A particular gate shall be designated by which they may enter the city, accompanied by an imperial commissary. They shall enter without arms, and never more than fifty at a time; and they shall be permitted, freely, to engage in trade in Constantinople without the payment of any tax.
This treaty, by which the emperor placed his neck beneath the feet of Oleg, was ratified by the most imposing ceremonies of religion. The emperor took the oath upon the evangelists. Oleg swore by his sword and the gods of Russia. In token of his triumph Oleg proudly raised his shield, as a banner, over the battlements of Constantinople, and returned, laden with riches, to Kief, where he was received with the most extravagant demonstrations of adulation and joy.
The treaty thus made with the emperor, and which is preserved in full in the Russian annals, shows that the Russians were no longer savages, but that they had so far emerged from that gloomy state as to be able to appreciate the sacredness of law, the claims of honor and the authority of treaties. It is observable that no signatures are attached to this treaty but those of the Norman princes, which indicates that the original Sclavonic race were in subjection as the vassals of the Normans. Oleg appears to have placed in posts of authority only his own countrymen.
Oleg now, as old age was advancing, passed many years in quietude. Surrounded by an invincible army, and with renown which pervaded the most distant regions, no tribes ventured to disturb his repose. His distance from southern Europe protected him from annoyance from the powerful nations which were forming there. His latter years seem to have been devoted to the arts of peace, for he secured to an unusual degree the love, as well as the admiration, of his subjects. Ancient annalists record that all Russia moaned and wept when he died. He is regarded, as more prominently than any other man, the founder of the Russian empire. He united, though by treachery and blood, the northern and southern kingdoms under one monarch. He then, by conquest, extended his empire over vast realms of barbarians, bringing them all under the simple yet effective government of feudal lords. He consolidated this empire, and by sagacious measures, encouraging arts and commerce, he led his barbarous people onward in the paths of civilization. He gave Russia a name and renown, so that it assumed a position among the nations of the globe, notwithstanding its remote position amidst the wilds of the North. His usurpation, history can not condemn. In those days any man had the right to govern who had the genius of command. Genius was the only legitimacy. But he was an assassin, and can never be washed clean from that crime. He died after a reign of thirty-three years, and was buried, with all the displays of pomp which that dark age could furnish, upon one of the mountains in the vicinity of Kief, which mountain for many generations was called the Tomb of Oleg.
Igor now assumed the reins of government. He had lived in Kief a quiet, almost an effeminate life, with his beautiful bride Olga. A very powerful tribe, the Drevolians, which had been rather restive, even under the rigorous sway of Oleg, thought this a favorable opportunity to regain their independence. They raised the standard of revolt. Igor crushed the insurrection with energy which astonished all who knew him, and which spread his fame far and wide through all the wilds of Russia, as a monarch thoroughly capable of maintaining his command.
Far away in unknown realms, beyond the eastern boundary of Russia, where the gloomy waves of the Irtish, the Tobol, the Oural and the Volga flow through vast deserts, washing the base of fir-clad mountains, and murmuring through wildernesses, the native domain of wolves and bears, there were wandering innumerable tribes, fierce, cruel and barbarous, who held the frontiers of Russia in continual terror. They were called by the general name of Petchenegues. Igor was compelled to be constantly on the alert to defend his vast frontier from the irruptions of these merciless savages. This incessant warfare led to the organization of a very efficient military power, but there was no glory to be acquired in merely driving back to their dens these wild assailants. Weary of the conflict, he at last consented to purchase a peace with them; and then, seeking the military renown which Oleg had so signally acquired, he resolved to imitate his example and make a descent upon Constantinople. The annals of those days, which seem to be credible, state that he floated down the Dnieper with ten thousand barges, and spread his sails upon the waves of the Euxine. Entering the Bosporus, he landed on both shores of that beautiful strait, and, with the most wanton barbarity, ravaged the country far and near, massacring the inhabitants, pillaging the towns and committing all the buildings to the flames.
There chanced to be at Constantinople, a very energetic Roman general, who was dispatched against them with a Greek fleet and a numerous land force. The Greeks in civilization were far in advance of the Russians. The land force drove the Russians to their boats, and then the Grecian fleet bore down upon them. A new instrument of destruction had been invented, the terrible Greek fire. Attached to arrows and javelins, and in great balls glowing with intensity of flame which water would not quench, it was thrown into the boats of the Russians, enkindling conflagration and exciting terror indescribable. It seemed to the superstitious followers of Igor, that they were assailed by foes hurling the lightnings of Jove. In this fierce conflict Igor, having lost a large number of barges, and many of his men, drew off his remaining forces in disorder, and they slowly returned to their country in disgrace, emaciate and starving. Many of the Russians taken captive by the Greeks were put to death with the most horrible barbarities.
Igor, exasperated rather than intimidated by this terrible disaster, resolved upon another expedition, that he might recover his lost renown by inflicting the most terrible vengeance upon the Greeks. He spent two years in making preparations for the enterprise; called to his aid warriors from the most distant tribes of the empire, and purchased the alliance of the Petchenegues. With an immense array of barges, which for leagues covered the surface of the Dnieper, and with an immense squadron of cavalry following along the banks, he commenced the descent of the river. The emperor was informed that the whole river was filled with barges, descending for the siege and sack of Constantinople. In terror he sent embassadors to Igor to endeavor to avert the storm.
The imperial embassadors met the flotilla near the mouth of the Dnieper, and offered, in the name of the emperor, to pay the same tribute to Igor which had been paid to Oleg, and even to increase that tribute. At the same time they endeavored to disarm the cupidity of the foe by the most magnificent presents. Igor halted his troops, and collecting his chieftains in counsel, communicated to them the message of the emperor. They replied,
"If the emperor will give us the treasure we demand, without our exposing ourselves to the perils of battle, what more can we ask? Who can tell on which side will be the victory?"
Thus influenced, Igor consented to a treaty. The opening words of this curious treaty are worthy of being recorded. They were as follows:
"We, the embassadors of Igor, solemnly declare that this treaty shall continue so long as the sun shall shine, in defiance of the machinations of that evil spirit who is the enemy of peace and the fomenter of discord. The Russians promise never to break this alliance with the horde; those who have been baptized, under penalty of temporal and eternal punishment from God; others, under the penalty of being for ever deprived of the protection of Peroune; of never being able to protect themselves with their shields; of being doomed to lacerate themselves with their own swords, arrows and other arms, and of being slaves in this world and that which is to come."
[Footnote 1: One of the Gods of the Russians.]
This important treaty consisted of fourteen articles, drawn up with great precision, and in fact making the Greek emperor as it were but a vassal of the Russian monarch. One of the articles of the treaty is quite illustrative of the times. It reads,
"If a Christian kills a Russian, or if a Russian kills a Christian, the friends of the dead have a right to seize the murderer and kill him."
This treaty was concluded at Constantinople, between the emperor and the embassadors of Igor. Imperial embassadors were sent with the written treaty to Kief. Igor, with imposing ceremonies, ascended the sacred hill where was erected the Russian idol of Peroune, and with his chieftains took a solemn oath of friendship to the emperor, and then as a gage of their sincerity deposited at the feet of the idol their arms and shields of gold. The Christian nobles repaired to the cathedral of St. Elias, the most ancient church of Kief, and there took the same oath at the altar of the Christian's God. The renowned Russian historian, Nestor, who was a monk in the monastery at Kief, records that at that time there were numerous Christians in Kief.
Igor sent the imperial embassadors back to Constantinople laden with rich presents. Elated by wealth and success, the Russian king began to impose heavier burdens of taxation upon subjugated nations. The Drevliens resisted. With an insufficient force Igor entered their territories. The Drevliens, with the fury of desperation, fell upon him and he was slain, and his soldiers put to rout. During his reign he held together the vast empire Oleg had placed in his hands, though he had not been able to extend the boundaries of his country. It is worthy of notice, and of the highest praise, that Igor, though a pagan, imitating the example of Oleg, permitted perfect toleration throughout his realms. The gospel of Christ was freely preached, and the Christians enjoyed entire freedom of faith and worship. His reign continued thirty-two years.
Sviatoslaf, the son of Igor, at the time of his father's unhappy death was in his minority. The empire was then in great peril. The Drevliens, one of the most numerous and warlike tribes, were in open and successful revolt. The army accustomed to activity, and now in idleness, was very restive. The old Norman generals, ambitious and haughty, were disposed to pay but little respect to the claims of a prince who was yet in his boyhood. But Providence had provided for this exigence. Olga, the mother of Sviatoslaf, assumed the regency, and developed traits of character which place her in the ranks of the most extraordinary and noble of women. Calling to her aid two of the most influential of the nobles, one of whom was the tutor of her son and the other commander-in-chief of the army, she took the helm of state, and developed powers of wisdom and energy which have rarely been equaled and perhaps never surpassed.
She immediately sent an army into the country of the Drevliens, and punished with terrible severity the murderers of her husband. The powerful tribe was soon brought again into subjection to the Russian crown. As a sort of defiant parade of her power, and to overawe the turbulent Drevliens, she traversed their whole country, with her son, accompanied by a very imposing retinue of her best warriors. Having thus brought them to subjection, she instituted over them a just and benevolent system of government, that they might have no occasion again to rise in revolt. They soon became so warmly attached to her that they ever were foremost in support of her power.
One year had not passed ere Olga was seated as firmly upon the throne as Oleg or Igor had ever been. She then, leaving her son Sviatoslaf at Kief, set out on a tour through her northern provinces. Everywhere, by her wise measures and her deep interest in the welfare of her subjects, she won admiration and love. The annals of those times are full of her praises. The impression produced by this visit was not effaced from the popular mind for five hundred years, being handed down from father to son. The sledge in which she traveled was for many generations preserved as a sacred relic.
She returned to Kief, and there resided with her son, for many years, in peace and happiness. The whole empire was tranquil, and in the lowly cabins of the Russians there was plenty, and no sounds of war or violence disturbed the quiet of their lives. This seems to have been one of the most serene and pleasant periods of Russian history. This noble woman was born a pagan. But the gospel of Christ was preached in the churches of Kief, and she heard it and was deeply impressed with its sublimity and beauty. Her life was drawing to a close. The grandeur of empire she was soon to lay aside for the darkness and the silence of the tomb. These thoughts oppressed her mind, which was, by nature, elevated, sensitive and refined. She sent for the Christian pastors and conversed with them about the immortality of the soul, and salvation through faith in the atonement of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The good seed of Christian truth fell into good soil. Cordially she embraced the gospel.
That her renunciation of paganism, and her confession of the Saviour might be more impressive, she decided to go to Constantinople to be baptized by the venerable Christian patriarch, who resided there. The Christian emperor, Constantine Porphyrogenete, informed of her approach, prepared to receive her with all the pomp worthy of so illustrious a princess of so powerful a people. He has himself left a record of these most interesting ceremonies. Olga approached the imperial palace, with a very splendid suite composed of nobles of her court, of ladies of distinction, and of the Russian embassadors and merchants residing at Constantinople. The emperor, with a corresponding suite of splendor, met the Russian queen at a short distance from the palace, and conducted her, with her retinue, to the apartments arranged for their entertainment. It was the 9th of September, 955. In the great banqueting hall of the palace there was a magnificent feast prepared. The guests were regaled with richest music. After such an entertainment as even the opulence of the East had seldom furnished, there was an exchange of presents. The emperor and the queen strove to outvie each other in the richness and elegance of their gifts. Every individual in the two retinues, received presents of great value.
The queen at her baptism received the Christian name of Helen. We do not find any record of the ceremonies performed at her baptism. It is simply stated that the emperor himself stood as her sponsor. Olga, as she returned to Kief, with her baptismal vows upon her, and in the freshness of her Christian hopes, manifested great solicitude for her son, who still continued a pagan. But Sviatoslaf was a wild, pleasure-seeking young man, who turned a deaf ear to all his mother's counsels. The unbridled license which paganism granted, was much more congenial to his unrenewed heart than the salutary restraints of the gospel of Christ. The human heart was then and there, as now and here. The Russian historian Karamsin says,
"In vain this pious mother spoke to her son of the happiness of being a Christian; of the peaceful spirit he would find in the worship of the true God. 'How can I,' replied Sviatoslaf, 'make a profession of this new religion, which will expose me to the ridicule of all my companions in arms?' In vain Olga urged upon him that his example might induce others to embrace the gospel of Christ. The young prince was inflexible. He made no effort to prevent others from becoming Christians, but did not disguise his contempt for the Christian faith, and so persistently rejected all the exhortations of his mother, whom he still tenderly loved, that she was at last forced to silence, and could only pray, in sadness, that God would open the eyes and touch the heart of her child."
The young prince having attained his majority in the year 964, assumed the crown. His soul was fired with the ambition of signalizing himself by great military exploits. The blood of Igor, of Oleg and of Rurik coursed through his veins, and he resolved to lead the Russian arms to victories which should eclipse all their exploits. He gathered an immense army, and looked eagerly around to find some arena worthy of the display of his genius.
His character was an extraordinary one, combining all the virtues of ancient chivalry; virtues which guided by Christian faith, constitute the noblest men, but which without piety constitute a man the scourge of his race. Fame was the God of Sviatoslaf. To acquire the reputation of a great warrior, he was willing to whelm provinces in blood. But he was too magnanimous to take any mean advantage of their weakness. He would give them fair warning, that no blow should be struck, assassin-like, stealthily and in the dark.
He accustomed his body, Spartan-like, to all the fatigues and exposures of war. He indulged in no luxury of tents or carriages, and ate the flesh of horses and wild beasts, which he roasted himself, over the coals. In his campaigns the ground was his bed, the sky his curtain, his horse blanket his covering, and the saddle his pillow; and he seemed equally regardless of both heat and cold. His soldiers looked to him as their model and emulated his hardihood. Turning his attention first to the vast and almost unknown realms spreading out towards the East, he sent word to the tribes on the Don and the Volga, that he was coming to fight them. As soon as they had time to prepare for their defense he followed his word. Here was chivalric crime and chivalric magnanimity. Marching nine hundred miles directly east from Kief, over the Russian plains, he came to the banks of the Don. The region was inhabited by a very powerful nation called the Khozars. They were arrayed under their sovereign, on the banks of the river to meet the foe. The Khozars had even sent for Greek engineers to aid them in throwing up their fortifications; and they were in an intrenched camp constructed with much military skill. A bloody battle ensued, in which thousands were slain. But Sviatoslaf was victor, and the territory was annexed to Russia, and Russian nobles were placed in feudal possession of its provinces. The conqueror then followed down the Don to the Sea of Azof, fighting sanguinary battles all the way, but everywhere victorious. The terror of his arms inspired wide-spread consternation, and many tribes, throwing aside their weapons, bowed the neck to the Russian king, and implored his clemency.
Sviatoslaf returned to Kief with waving banners, exulting in his renown. He was stimulated, not satiated, by this success; and now planned another expedition still more perilous and grand. On the south of the Danube, near its mouth, was Bulgaria, a vast realm, populous and powerful, which had long bid defiance to all the forces of the Roman empire. The conquest of Bulgaria was an achievement worthy of the chivalry even of Sviatoslaf. With an immense fleet of barges, containing sixty thousand men, he descended the Dnieper to the Euxine. Coasting along the western shore his fleet entered the mouth of the Danube. The Bulgarians fought like heroes to repel the invaders. All their efforts were in vain. The Russians sprang from their barges on the shore, and, protected by their immense bucklers, sword in hand, routed the Bulgarians with great slaughter. Cities and villages rapidly submitted to the conqueror. The king of Bulgaria in his despair rushed upon death. Sviatoslaf, laden with the spoils of the vanquished and crowned with the laurels of victory, surrendered himself to rejoicing and to all the pleasures of voluptuous indulgence.
From these dissipations Sviatoslaf was suddenly recalled by the tidings that his own capital was in danger; that a neighboring tribe, of great military power, taking advantage of his absence with his army, had invested Kief and were hourly expected to take it by assault. In dismay he hastened his return, and found, to his inexpressible relief, that the besiegers had been routed by the stratagem and valor of a Russian general, and that the city and its inhabitants were thus rescued from destruction.
But the Russian king, having tasted the pleasures of a more sunny clime, and having rioted in the excitements of sensual indulgence, soon became weary of tranquil life in Kief. He was also anxious to escape from the reproof which he always felt from the pious life of his mother. He therefore resolved to return to his conquered kingdom of Bulgaria. He said to his mother:
"I had rather live in Bulgaria than at Kief. Bulgaria is the center of wealth, nature and art. The Greeks send there gold and cloths; the Hungarians silver and horses; the Russians furs, wax, honey and slaves."
"Wait, my son, at least till after my death," exclaimed Olga. "I am aged and infirm, and very soon shall be conveyed to my tomb."
This interview hastened the death of Olga. In four days she slept in Jesus. She earnestly entreated her son not to admit of any pagan rites at her funeral. She pointed out the place of her burial, and was interred with Christian prayers, accompanied by the lamentations and tears of all the people. Sviatoslaf, in his foreign wars, which his mother greatly disapproved, had left with her the administration of internal affairs. Nestor speaks of this pious princess in beautiful phrase as the morning star of salvation for Russia.
Sviatoslaf, having committed his mother to the tomb, made immediate preparations to transfer his capital from Kief to the more genial clime of Bulgaria. Had he been influenced by statesmanlike considerations it would have been an admirable move. The climate was far preferable to that of Kief, the soil more fertile, and the openings for commerce, through the Danube and the Euxine, immeasurably superior. But Sviatoslaf thought mainly of pleasure.
It was now the year 970. Sviatoslaf had three sons, whom he established, though all in their minority, in administration of affairs in the realms from which he was departing. Yaropolk received the government of Kief. His second son, Oleg, was placed over the powerful nation of Drevliens. A third son, Vlademer, the child of dishonor, not born in wedlock, was intrusted with the command at Novgorod. Having thus arranged these affairs, Sviatoslaf, with a well-appointed army, eagerly set out for his conquered province of Bulgaria. But in the meantime the Bulgarians had organized a strong force to resist the invader. The Russians conquered in a bloody battle, and, by storm, retook Peregeslavetz, the beautiful capital of Bulgaria, where Sviatoslaf established his throne.
The Greeks at Constantinople were alarmed by this near approach of the ever-encroaching and warlike Russians, and trembled lest they should next fall a prey to the rapacity of Sviatoslaf. The emperor, Jean Zimisces, immediately entered into an alliance with the Bulgarians, offering his daughter in marriage to Boris, son of their former king. A bloody war ensued. The Greeks and Bulgarians were victors, and Sviatoslaf, almost gnashing his teeth with rage, was driven back again to the cold regions of the North. The Greek historians give the following description of the personal appearance of Sviatoslaf. He was of medium height and well formed. His physiognomy was severe and stern. His breast was broad, his neck thick, his eyes blue, with heavy eyebrows. He had a broad nose, heavy moustaches, but a slight beard. The large mass of hair which covered his head indicated his nobility. From one of his ears there was suspended a ring of gold, decorated with two pearls and a ruby.
As Sviatoslaf, with his shattered army, ascended the Dnieper in their boats, the Petchenegues, fierce tribes of barbarians, whom Sviatoslaf had subdued, rose in revolt against him. They gathered, in immense numbers, at one of the cataracts of the Dnieper, where it would be necessary for the Russians to transport their boats for some distance by land. They hoped to cut off his retreat and thus secure the entire destruction of their formidable foe. The situation of Sviatoslaf was now desperate. Nothing remained for him but death. With the abandonment of despair he rushed into the thickest of the foe, and soon fell a mangled corpse. How much more happy would have been his life, how much more happy his death, had he followed the counsels of his pious mother. Kouria, chief of the Petchenegues, cut off the head of Sviatoslaf, and ever after used his skull for a drinking cup. The annalist Strikofski, states that he had engraved upon the skull the words, "In seeking the destruction of others you met with your own."
A few fugitives from the army of Sviatoslaf succeeded in reaching Kief, where they communicated the tidings of the death of the king. The empire now found itself divided into three portions, each with its sovereign. Yaropolk was supreme at Kief. Oleg reigned in the spacious country of the Drevliens. Vladimir was established at Novgorod. No one of these princes was disposed to yield the supremacy to either of the others. They were soon in arms. Yaropolk marched against his brother Oleg. The two armies met about one hundred and fifty miles north-west of Kief, near the present town of Obroutch. Oleg and his force were utterly routed. As the whole army, in confusion and dismay, were in pell-mell flight, hotly pursued, the horse of Oleg fell. Nothing could resist, even, for an instant, the onswelling flood. He was trampled into the mire, beneath the iron hoofs of squadrons of horse and the tramp of thousands of mailed men. After the battle, his body was found, so mutilated that it was with difficulty recognized. As it was spread upon a mat before the eyes of Yaropolk, he wept bitterly, and caused the remains to be interred with funeral honors. The monument raised to his memory has long since perished; but even to the present day the inhabitants of Obroutch point out the spot where Oleg fell.
Vladimir, prince of Novgorod, terrified by the fate of his brother Oleg, and apprehensive that a similar doom awaited him, sought safety in flight. Forsaking his realm he retired to the Baltic, and took refuge with the powerful Normans from whom his ancestors had come. Yaropolk immediately dispatched lieutenants to take possession of the government, and thus all Russia, as a united kingdom, was again brought under the sway of a single sovereign.
REIGNS OF VLADEMER, YAROSLAF, YSIASLAF AND VSEVOLOD
From 973 to 1092.
Flight of Vlademer.—His Stolen Bride.—The March Upon Kief.—Debauchery of Valdemar.—Zealous Paganism.—Introduction of Christianity.—Baptism in the Dnieper.—Entire Change in the Character of Valdemar.—His Great Reforms.—His Death.—Usurpation of Sviatopolk the Miserable.—Accession of Yaroslaf.—His Administration And Death.—Accession of Ysiaslaf.—His Strange Reverses.—His Death.—Vsevolod Ascends the Throne.—His Two Flights to Poland.—Appeals to the Pope.—Wars, Famine And Pestilence.—Character of Vsevolod.
Though Vlademer had fled from Russia, it was by no means with the intention of making a peaceful surrender of his realms to his ambitious brother. For two years he was incessantly employed, upon the shores of the Baltic, the home of his ancestors, in gathering adventurers around his flag, to march upon Novgorod, and chase from thence the lieutenants of Yaropolk. He at length, at the head of a strong army, triumphantly entered the city. Half way between Novgorod and Kief, was the city and province of Polotsk. The governor was a Norman named Rovgolod. His beautiful daughter Rogneda was affianced to Yaropolk, and they were soon to be married. Vlademer sent embassadors to Rovgolod soliciting an alliance, and asking for the hand of his daughter.
The proud princess, faithful to Yaropolk, returned the stinging reply, that she would never marry the son of a slave. We have before mentioned that the mother of Vlademer was not the wife of his father. She was one of the maids of honor of Olga. This insult roused the indignation of Vlademer to the highest pitch. Burning with rage he marched suddenly upon Polotsk, took the city by storm, killed Rovgolod and his two sons and compelled Rogneda, his captive, to marry him, paying but little attention to the marriage ceremony. Having thus satiated his vengeance, he marched upon Kief, with a numerous army, composed of chosen warriors from various tribes. Yaropolk, alarmed at the strength with which his brother was approaching, did not dare to give him battle, but accumulated all his force behind the ramparts of Kief. The city soon fell into the hands of Vlademer, and Yaropolk, basely betrayed by one of his generals, was assassinated by two officers of Vlademer, acting under his authority.
Vlademer was now in possession of the sovereign power, and he displayed as much energy in the administration of affairs as he had shown in the acquisition of the crown. He immediately imposed a heavy tax upon the Russians, to raise money to pay his troops. Having consolidated his power he became a very zealous supporter of the old pagan worship, rearing several new idols upon the sacred hill, and placing in his palace a silver statue of Peroune. His soul seems to have been harrowed by the consciousness of crime, and he sought, by the cruel rites of a debasing superstition, to appease the wrath of the Gods.
Still remorse did not prevent him from plunging into the most revolting excesses of debauchery. The chronicles of those times state that he had three hundred concubines in one of his palaces, three hundred in another at Kief, and two hundred at one of his country seats. It is by no means certain that these are exaggerations, for every beautiful maiden in the empire was sought out, to be transferred to his harems. Paganism had no word of remonstrance to utter against such excesses. But Vlademer, devoted as he was to sensual indulgence, was equally fond of war. His armies were ever on the move, and the cry of battle was never intermitted. On the south-east he extended his conquests to the Carpathian mountains, where they skirt the plains of Hungary. In the north-west he extended his sway, by all the energies of fire and blood, even to the shores of the Baltic, and to the Gulf of Finland.
Elated beyond measure by his victories, he attributed his success to the favor of his idol gods, and resolved to express his homage by offerings of human blood. He collected a number of handsome boys and beautiful girls, and drew lots to see which of them should be offered in sacrifice. The lot fell upon a fine boy from one of the Christian families. The frantic father interposed to save his child. But the agents of Vlademer fell fiercely upon them, and they both were slain and offered in sacrifice. Their names, Ivan and Theodore, are still preserved in the Russian church as the first Christian martyrs of Kief.
A few more years of violence and crime passed away, when Vlademer became the subject of that marvelous change which, nine hundred years before, had converted the persecuting Saul into the devoted apostle. The circumstances of his conversion are very peculiar, and are very minutely related by Nestor. Other recitals seem to give authenticity to the narrative. For some time Vlademer had evidently been in much anxiety respecting the doom which awaited him beyond the grave. He sent for the teachers of the different systems of religion, to explain to him the peculiarities of their faith. First came the Mohammedans from Bulgaria; then the Jews from Jerusalem; then the Christians from the papal church at Rome, and then Christians from the Greek church at Constantinople. The Mohammedans and the Jews he rejected promptly, but was undecided respecting the claims of Rome and Constantinople. He then selected ten of the wisest men in his kingdom and sent them to visit Rome and Constantinople and report in which country divine worship was conducted in the manner most worthy of the Supreme Being. The embassadors returning to Kief, reported warmly in favor of the Greek church. Still the mind of Vlademer was oppressed with doubts. He assembled a number of the most virtuous nobles and asked their advice. The question was settled by the remark of one who said, "Had not the religion of the Greek church been the best, the sainted Olga would not have accepted it."
This wonderful event is well authenticated; Nestor gives a recital of it in its minute details; and an old Greek manuscript, preserved in the royal library at Paris, records the visit of these ambassadors to Rome and Constantinople. Vlademer's conversion, however, seems, at this time, to have been intellectual rather than spiritual, a change in his policy of administration rather than a change of heart. Though this external change was a boundless blessing to Russia, there is but little evidence that Vlademer then comprehended that moral renovation which the gospel of Christ effects as its crowning glory. He saw the absurdity of paganism; he felt tortured by remorse; perhaps he felt in some degree the influence of the gospel which was even then faithfully preached in a few churches in idolatrous Kief; and he wished to elevate Russia above the degradation of brutal idolatry.
He deemed it necessary that his renunciation of idolatry and adoption of Christianity should be accompanied with pomp which should produce a wide-spread impression upon Russia. He accordingly collected an immense army, descended the Dnieper in boats, sailed across the Black Sea, and entering the Gulf of Cherson, near Sevastopol, after several bloody battles took military possession of the Crimea. Thus victorious, he sent an embassage to the emperors Basil and Constantine at Constantinople, that he wished the young Christian princess Anne for his bride, and that if they did not promptly grant his request, he would march his army to attack the city.
The emperors, trembling before the approach of such a power, replied that they would not withhold from him the hand of the princess if he would first embrace Christianity. Vlademer of course assented to this, which was the great object he had in view; but demanded that the princess, who was a sister of the emperors, should first be sent to him. The unhappy maiden was overwhelmed with anguish at the reception of these tidings. She regarded the pagan Russians as ferocious savages; and to be compelled to marry their chief was to her a doom more dreadful than death.