The Grand Prince of Kiev (sometimes grand duke) was the title of the monarch of Kievan Rus', residing in Kiev (modern Kyiv) from the 10th to 13th centuries.[citation needed] In the 13th century, Kiev became an appanage principality first of the grand prince of Vladimir and the Mongol Golden Horde governors, and later was taken over by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.[citation needed]

Grand Prince of Kiev
First monarchOleg the Wise
(first undisputed "Prince of Kiev")[1]
Yaroslav the Wise
(first undisputed "Grand Prince of Kiev")[2]

Rus' chronicles such as the Primary Chronicle are inconsistent in applying the title "grand prince" to various princes in Kievan Rus'.[3] Although most sources consistently attribute it to the prince of Kiev,[3] there is no agreement which princes were also "grand prince", and scholars have thus come up with different lists of grand princes of Kiev.[4]



Regnal list in the opening lines of the Khlebnikov Codex: 'In Kiev, the first to begin reigning together were Dinar and Askold, after them came Olga, after Olga Igor...'[5]

According to a founding myth in the Primary Chronicle, Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv and their sister Lybid co-founded the city of Kiev (Kyiv), and the oldest brother Kyi was "chief of his kin" (Old East Slavic: кнѧжаше в родѣ, romanized: knyazhashe v rodie).[6] Some western historians (i.e., Kevin Alan Brook) suppose that Kiev was founded by Khazars or Magyars. Kiev is a Turkic place name (Küi = riverbank + ev = settlement).[7] At least during the 8th and 9th centuries Kiev functioned as an outpost of the Khazar empire (a hill-fortress, called Sambat, "high place" in Old Turkic). According to Omeljan Pritsak, Constantine Zuckerman and other scholars, Khazars lost Kiev at the beginning of the 10th century.[8][9]

At some point, Rurik, a Varangian prince, allegedly founded the "Rurik dynasty" (named after him in the 16th century) in 862 through the "calling of the Varangians", but he is considered to be a legendary, mythical and perhaps even entirely fictional character by modern scholars.[a] The Primary Chronicle never calls Rurik a prince of Kiev; the passage wherein Oleg "sat in Kiev" (Old East Slavic: понелѣже сѣде въ Кыевѣ, romanized: ponelѣzhe sѣde v" Kyyevѣ) makes no mention of Rurik, suggesting the author was 'more interested in the first Rus' ruler to reside in Kiev than with any founder of a dynasty'.[12]

Kiev was captured by Askold and Dir, whose existence is also debatable, and are called "boyars" who "did not belong to [Rurik's] family" by the Primary Chronicle.[13][1] According to some Russian historians (i.e., Gleb S. Lebedev), Dir was a chacanus of Rhos (Rus khagan).[14] Thomas Noonan asserts that one of the Rus "sea-kings", the "High king", adopted the title khagan in the early 9th century.[15] Peter Benjamin Golden maintained that the Rus became a part of the Khazar federation, and that their ruler was officially accepted as a vassal khagan of the Khazar Khagan of Itil.[16]

Before the mid-15th century, no historical source claims that Rurik founded a dynasty;[17] the Hypatian Codex of c. 1425 began its list of knyazi of Kiev with "Dir and Askold", then "Oleg", then "Igor", up to 1240, and does not mention Rurik anywhere.[18] Similarly, the Khlebnikov Codex starts with a regnal list stating: 'In Kiev, the first to begin reigning together were Dinar and Askold, after them came Olga, after Olga Igor, after Igor Sviatoslav, (...)'.[5] There is no mention of a "Rurik"; instead, the list starts with "Dinar and Askold".[19] Unlike Hypatian's second place for Oleg the Wise,[18] however, Khlebnikov appears to assert Olga of Kiev succeeded them, and preceded her own husband Igor of Kiev.[5]

First princes

Askold and Dir are narrated to have been killed in 882 by Oleg, the first "prince" (knyaz) of Kiev according to the Primary Chronicle, but not yet a "grand prince" (velikiy knyaz).[1][12] His relation to Rurik is debatable, and has been rejected by several modern scholars.[20] Although later Muscovite chroniclers would call Oleg a "grand prince" and Kiev a "grand principality" (Old East Slavic: великое княжение, romanized: velikoe knyazhenie), the earliest sources do not.[21] Whereas the reconstructed original Greek text of the Rusʹ–Byzantine Treaty (907) calls Oleg a μεγας ἄρχων or "great archon" ("ruler"), the Old East Slavic translations found in the Laurentian Codex and Hypatian Codex do not.[22] On the other hand, only when the Byzantine emperors Leo VI the Wise, Alexander and Constantine VII are called "the Great", Oleg is also called "the Great".[22] Dimnik (2004) argued it should thus be read as "the Rus' prince Oleg the Great" instead of "Oleg the grand prince of Rus'".[22] Similarly, the only occasions Igor of Kiev is ever called velikiy knyaz in the Primary Chronicle (six times) are all found in the Rusʹ–Byzantine Treaty (945), where the Greek emperors are also called k velikiy tsesarem Grech'-skim ("to the great Greek caesars").[22] The same happens when, after Sviatoslav's invasion of Bulgaria, the 971 peace treaty is recorded; it is the only place in the Primary Chronicle where Sviatoslav I is named a velikiy knyaz.[22] Most significantly, the Nachal'nyy svod (found only in the Novgorod First Chronicle) never mentions any of these peace treaties, and never calls Oleg, Igor or Sviatoslav a velikiy knyaz.[23] According to Dimnik (2004), this means that Greek scribes added the word "great" to the princely title, whereas the Rus' themselves did not, except when translating these three treaties from Greek into Slavic.[23]

Yaropolk I of Kiev and Volodimer I of Kiev are both steadily referred to as just a knyaz by the Novgorod First Chronicle and the Laurentian and Hypatian Codices.[24] There is one exception: the Hypatian Codex writes Volodimir knyaz velikii ("Volodimir the grand prince") when reporting the latter's death; because the Hypatian Codex is the latest source of the three (compiled c. 1425), this is probably a later interpolation.[24] A Paterik of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra of the early 13th century also calls Volodimer a velikiy knyaz, but that was written two centuries after his death, and may not necessarily describe how he was known while alive.[25] The oldest surviving source available is Hilarion of Kiev's Sermon on Law and Grace (c. 1040s), which calls Volodimer a kagan (a Khazar title) rather than a knyaz.[25] Some scholars have suggested that this indicates Kievan Rus' had won its independence from the Khazars in the early 10th century, and had inherited the title of kagan from them, before exchanging it for knyaz later.[25] The Church Statute of Prince Volodimir starts with "Behold, I, Prince Vasilii, called Volodimir," (Old East Slavic: Се аз, князь Василий, нарицаемыи Володимир, romanized: Se yaz, knyaz' Vasilii, naritsayemy Volodimir,[26]), but later in the text he interchangeably calls himself knyaz and velikiy knyaz, and the earliest copy of this document is from the 14th century, so it is difficult to say what the lost original text said.[26] Since chroniclers also regularly referred to Volodimer as velikiy without mentioning his title – the reason why he has become known to history as Volodimer "the Great" – suggests that this adjective was not part of his title, but a sobriquet or nickname, that was also applied to other monarchs or clerics around him.[27]

Velikiy knyaz Yaroslav and descendants

Sviatopolk I of Kiev was never called velikiy knyaz ("grand prince") in any source.[28] Moreover, he has been stigmatised by chroniclers with the nickname "the Accursed" or "the Damned" (okayannyy) because of how he violently rose to power in the war of succession following Volodimir's death in 1015.[28] On the other hand, Yaroslav the Wise is the first widely attested velikiy knyaz ("grand prince") in virtually all sources of the second half of the 11th century, and surviving copies of the Church Statute of Prince Yaroslav also strongly suggest he applied the title to himself while he was alive.[29] Dimnik (2004) concluded that by the end of Yaroslav's reign in the third quarter of the 11th century, he was regularly calling himself and being called the velikiy knyaz of Kiev, and the competing titles of kagan and tsar had decisively lost in favour of velikiy knyaz as the preferred appellation of the Kievan monarch.[30] The velikiy knyaz was designated by genealogical seniority and given the right to reign from Kiev – the grand principality superior to all other principalities in the realm – over all other princes descended from Yaroslav.[31] The reason why the system of succession did not always work as Yaroslav intended was because some princes simply usurped power through a coup d'état at the court in Kiev.[32] The 1097 Council of Liubech upgraded the dynastic capitals of the inner circle of senior princes to grand principalities as well, but still acknowledged the superiority of Kiev.[32]

It was not until the Sack of Kiev (1169) by Andrey Bogolyubsky of Vladimir-Suzdal that the grand princes of Vladimir launched a fierce competition with the grand princes of Kiev over who had primacy over the entire realm.[32] Since then, the phrase "velikiy knyaz of Kiev" was merely titular, and chroniclers applied the symbolic title of velikiy knyaz to Kiev or Vladimir on the Klyazma according to whomever they favoured.[32] In practice, the military supremacy of any particular prince – especially from Vsevolod the Big Nest onwards – would determine whether the other princes would or would not acknowledge him as "grand prince".[33] After the Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus' and Sack of Kiev in the late 1230s and 1240s, the khans of the Golden Horde "in effect, terminated the office of the velikiy knyaz' of Kiev and conferred political supremacy on their puppet in Vladimir."[34]

Princes of Kiev

Name Lifespan Ruled From Ruled Until Notes
Oleg[35] ?–912/922/940s[35] 881/2 or 889[36] 912/922/940s[35] First knyaz ("prince") of Kiev.[1][12] Relation to Rurik and Igor is disputed.[35] Date of accession is unclear in the Primary Chronicle.[36]
Date of death is disputed:
Igor of Kiev ?–945 912 945 son of Rurik according to Primary Chronicle, but many scholars doubt or reject this claim.[b]
Olga of Kiev ?–969 945 962 (regent-consort)
Sviatoslav I[38] 942–972 962 972 son of Igor
Yaropolk I (Jaropolk)[39] 958 (960?)–980 972 980 One of Svyatoslav's two sons
Volodimir I "the Great" 958–1015 980 1015 One Svyatoslav's two sons; in 988 baptized the Rus'. The earliest sources call him just knyaz ("prince") or kagan, and nickname him Volodimir velikiy ("Volodimir the Great"); later sources also call him velikiy knyaz ("grand prince").[40]
Sviatopolk I "the Accursed"[c] 980–1019 1015 1019 origin is debatable. Is never called velikiy knyaz ("grand prince") in any source.[28]

Grand princes of Kiev

Name House Lifespan Ruled from Ruled until Notes
Yaroslav the Wise Volodimerovichi[10] 978–1054 1019 1054 son of Vladimir the Great, jointly with Mstislav in 1024–36.
First widely attested velikiy knyaz ("grand prince") in virtually all contemporary sources.[2]
Iziaslav I[41] Volodimerovichi[10] 1024–1078 1054 1073[41] son of Yaroslav, first time (in 1068/69 lost state power to Polotsk princes)
Sviatoslav II[41] Volodimerovichi[10] 1027–1076 1073[41] 1076[41] son of Yaroslav
Vsevolod I


1030-1093 1076 1077 son of Yaroslav, first time
Iziaslav I[41] Volodimerovichi[10] 1024–1078 1077[41] 1078 second time,[41] in 1075 Pope Gregory VII sent him a crown from Rome
Vsevolod I Volodimerovichi[10] 1030–1093 1078 1093 second time
Sviatopolk II Iziaslavichi 1050–1113 1093 1113 son of Iziaslav I
Vladimir II Monomakh Monomakhovychi 1053–1125 1113 1125 son of Vsevolod I
Mstislav I of Kiev[42] Monomakhovychi 1076–1132 1125[42] 1132[42] son of Vladimir II
Yaropolk II[43] Monomakhovychi 1082–1139 1132[42] 1139[44] brother of Mstislav I
Viacheslav I Monomakhovychi 1083–1154 1139 1139 brother of Yaropolk II (first time)
Vsevolod II[44] Olgovichi ?–1146 1139[44] 1146 son of Oleh Svyatoslavich
Igor II Olgovichi ?–1147 1146 1146 brother of Vsevolod II
Iziaslav II Iziaslavichi (Monomakh) 1097–1154 1146 1149 son of Mstislav I (first time)
Yuri Dolgorukiy Yurievichi (Monomakh) 1099–1157 1149 1151 (first time)
Viacheslav I Monomakhovychi 1083–1154 1151 1154 (second time) jointly
Iziaslav II Iziaslavichi 1097–1154 (second time) jointly
Rostislav I Rostislavichi (Monomakh) 1110–1167 1154 1154 brother of Iziaslav II (first time)
Iziaslav III Olgovichi ?–1162 1154 1155 (first time)
Yuri I Dolgorukiy[44] Yurievichi 1099–1157 1155[44] 1157[44] (second time)
Iziaslav III Olgovichi ?–1162 1157 1158 (second time)
Rostislav I[44] Rostislavichi 1110–1167 1158[44] 1167[44] (second time) jointly with Iziaslav III in 1162
Mstislav II Iziaslavichi ?–1172 1167 1169 son of Iziaslav II (first time)
Gleb[44] Yurievichi ?–1171 1169[44] 1169 son of Yuri Dolgorukiy (first time)
Mstislav II Iziaslavichi ?–1172 1170 1170 (second time)
Gleb Yurievichi ?–1171 1170 1171 (second time)
Vladimir III Mstislavich Monomakhovychi 1132–1171 1171 1171 son of Mstislav I the Great. Reigned 5 February – 10 May 1171.[45]: 306–307 
Michael I Yurievichi ?–1176 1171 1171 half-brother of Gleb
Roman I Rostislavichi ?–1180 1171 1173 son of Rostislav I (first time)
Vsevolod III the Big Nest Yurievichi 1154–1212 1173 1173 brother of Michael I
Rurik Rostislavich Rostislavichi ?–1215 1173 1173 brother of Roman I (first time)
Sviatoslav III Olgovichi ?–1194 1174 1174 son of Vsevolod II (first time)
Yaroslav II Iziaslavichi ?–1180 1174 1175 son of Iziaslav II (first time)
Roman I Rostislavichi ?–1180 1175 1177 (second time)
Sviatoslav III[44] Olgovichi ?–1194 1177[44] 1180 (second time)
Yaroslav II Iziaslavichi ?–1180 1180 1180 (second time)
Rurik Rostislavich Rostislavichi ?–1215 1180 1182 (second time)
Sviatoslav III Olgovichi ?–1194 1182 1194 (third time)
Rurik Rostislavich Rostislavichi ?–1215 1194 1202 (third time)
Igor III Iziaslavichi ?–? 1202 1202 son of Yaroslav II (first time)
Rurik Rostislavich Rostislavichi ?–1215 1203 1206 jointly (fourth time)
Roman II the Great Romanovichi (Iziaslavichi) 1160–1205 son of Mstislav II, jointly (1203–05)
Rostislav II Rostislavichi 1173–1214 son of Rurik Rostislavich, jointly (1204–06)
Vsevolod IV the Red Olgovichi ?–1212 1206 1207 son of Sviatoslav III (first time)
Rurik Rostislavich Rostislavichi ?–1215 1207 1210 (fifth time)
Vsevolod IV the Red Olgovichi ?–1212 1210 1212 (second time)
Igor III Iziaslavichi ?–? 1212 1214 (second time)
Mstislav III Rostislavichi ?–1223 1214 1223 son of Roman I
Vladimir IV Rostislavichi 1187–1239 1223 1235 brother of Rostislav II
Iziaslav IV Olgovichi or
1186–? 1235 1236 son of Vladimir Igorevich or Mstislav
Yaroslav III Yurievichi 1191–1246 1236 1238 son of Vsevolod the Big Nest (first time)
Michael II Olgovichi 1185–1246 1238 1239 son of Vsevolod IV (first time)
Daniel of Galicia Romanovichi 1201–1264 1239 1240 son of Roman the Great
appointed Voivode Dmytro as his governor, while residing in Halych

Overview of princely branches of Kiev (1019–1169)

Princely branches of Kiev from Yaroslav the Wise until 1169
Yaroslav the Wise
Sviatoslav IIVsevolod I
Olgovichi of Chernigov
Oleg I of Chernigov
Davyd of ChernigovMonomakhovichi
Vladimir II Monomakh
Vsevolod IIIgor IIIziaslav IIIMstislavichi
Mstislav I
Yaropolk IIViacheslavYurievichi of Suzdalia
Yuri Dolgorukiy
Sviatoslav IIIIzyaslavichi of Volhynia
Iziaslav II
Rostislavichi of Smolensk
Rostislav I
Vladimir IIIAndrey
Mstislav II

Princes of Kiev after the Mongol conquest of Kiev

Due to the Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus' 1240, Michael of Chernigov left Kiev to seek military assistance from King Béla IV of Hungary. During that time, Prince Rostislav of Smolensk occupied Kiev, but was captured the same year by Daniel of Galicia who placed his voivode Dmytro to govern Kiev on his behalf while he resided in Halych. Being unsuccessful in Hungary, Michael visited Konrad I of Masovia. Receiving no results in Poland, he eventually asked Daniel of Galicia for asylum due to the Mongol invasion. Since the 14th century, the principality of Kiev started to fall under the influence of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1299, the Metropolitan of Kiev Maximus moved his metropolitan see from Kiev to Vladimir-on-Klyazma. In 1321, after the battle on the Irpin River, Gediminas installed Mindgaugas, one of his subjects from the house of Olshanski, a descendant of the family of Vseslav of Polotsk that was exiled to the Byzantine Empire. In 1331, Kiev was once again taken by a member of the Siverski house (Olgovichi branch), the prince of Putivl. After Grand Duke Algirdas defeated the Golden Horde at the Battle of Blue Waters in 1362, he incorporated Kiev and its surrounding areas into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Name House Lifespan Ruled from Ruled until Notes
Michael II Svyatoslavichi (Olgovichi) 1185–1246 1241 1243 (second time)
Yaroslav III Yurievichi (Monomakh) 1191–1246 1243 1246 (second time)
Alexander Nevsky Vladimirsky (Monomakh) 1220–1263 1246 1263 son of Yaroslav III
Yaroslav IV Vladimirsky (Monomakh) 1230–1271 1263 1271 brother of Alexander
Lev Galicia (Monomakh) 1228–1301 1271 1301 son of Daniel
Iziaslav IV Vladimirovich Siverski (Olgovichi) ?–? 1301 ?
Stanislav Ivanovich Siverski (Olgovichi) 1228–1301 ? 1321
Mindaugas Holshanski Alšėniškiai ?–? 1321 1324 son of Holsha Romanovich
Algimantas-Michael Alšėniškiai ?–? 1324 1331[46] son of Mindaugas
Fyodor (Teodoras) Siverski (Olgovichi) ?–? 1331 1362 son of Ivan
Vladimir V Algirdaitis Gediminids ?–? 1362 1394 son of Algirdas
Skirgaila Gediminids 1354–1397 1395 1397 son of Algirdas
Ivan Olshansky Alšėniškiai ?–? 1397 c. 1402 son of Algimantas (in 1404–11 Jurgis Gedgaudas as voivode)
Andrew Alšėniškiai ?–? c. 1412 c. 1422 son of Ivan
Michael IV Alšėniškiai ?–1433 c. 1422 c. 1432 son of Ivan
Michael V Boloban Alšėniškiai ?–1435 c. 1433 c. 1435 son of Simonas
Boleslav (Švitrigaila) Gediminids 1370–1452 1432 1440 son of Algirdas
Alexander-Olelko Olelkovich ?–1454 1443 1454 son of Vladimir
Simeon Olelkovich Olelkovich 1418–1470 1454 1470 son of Alexander

See also


  1. ^ Christian Raffensperger (2012, 2017), Ostrowski (2018), Halperin (2022).[10][11]
  2. ^ Including Hrushevsky (1904), Vernadsky (1943), Riasanovsky (1947), Paszkiewicz (1954), Franklin and Shepard (1996).[20]
  3. ^ The Old Slavonic is Свѧтопълкъ in the Cyrillic alphabet, the modern Ukrainian is Святополк, Polish is Świętopełk, Czech is Svatopluk, and Slovak is Svätopluk. Reconstructed, his name is Sventopluk. More commonly, his name is given in its Latin and Frankish equivalents: Suentopolcus, Suatopluk, Zventopluk, Zwentibald, Zwentibold, Zuentibold, or Zuentibald.


  1. ^ a b c d Dimnik 2004, p. 259.
  2. ^ a b Dimnik 2004, p. 264–265, 306.
  3. ^ a b Dimnik 2004, p. 253.
  4. ^ Dimnik 2004, p. 253–254.
  5. ^ a b c Jusupović 2022, p. 12.
  6. ^ Cross & Sherbowitz-Wetzor 1930, p. 54–55.
  7. ^ "An Introduction to the History of Khazaria".
  8. ^ Pritsak, Omeljan (1981). The origin of Rus. Cambridge, Mass.: Distributed by Harvard University Press for the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.
  9. ^ Zuckerman, Constantine (2007). The Khazars and Byzantium – The First Encounter. In The World of the Khazars: New Perspectives – Selected Papers from the Jerusalem 1999 International Khazar Colloquium, eds. Peter Benjamin Golden, Haggai Ben-Shammai, and András Róna-Tas, pp. 399–432. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Halperin 2022, p. viii.
  11. ^ Ostrowski 2018, p. 47.
  12. ^ a b c Ostrowski 2018, p. 32.
  13. ^ Cross & Sherbowitz-Wetzor 1930, p. 60.
  14. ^ Duczko, Wladyslaw (2004). Viking Rus: Studies on the Presence of Scandinavians in Eastern Europe. Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. ISBN 90-04-13874-9
  15. ^ Noonan, Thomas (2001). The Khazar Qaghanate and Its Impact on the Early Rus' State: The translatio imperii from Itil to Kiev. Nomads in the Sedentary World, Anatoly Mikhailovich Khazanov and Andre Wink, eds. p. 76-102. Richmond, England: Curzon. ISBN 0-7007-1370-0
  16. ^ Golden, Peter Benjamin (1982). The Question of the Rus' Qaganate. Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi. pp. 77–92
  17. ^ Ostrowski 2018, p. 30–31.
  18. ^ a b Ostrowski 2018, p. 36.
  19. ^ Jusupović 2022, p. 12–13.
  20. ^ a b Ostrowski 2018, p. 30–31, 39.
  21. ^ Dimnik 2004, p. 259–260.
  22. ^ a b c d e Dimnik 2004, p. 260.
  23. ^ a b Dimnik 2004, p. 260–261.
  24. ^ a b Dimnik 2004, p. 261.
  25. ^ a b c Dimnik 2004, p. 262.
  26. ^ a b Dimnik 2004, p. 262–263.
  27. ^ Dimnik 2004, p. 263–264.
  28. ^ a b c Dimnik 2004, p. 264.
  29. ^ Dimnik 2004, p. 264–265.
  30. ^ Dimnik 2004, p. 306.
  31. ^ Dimnik 2004, p. 306–307.
  32. ^ a b c d Dimnik 2004, p. 307.
  33. ^ Dimnik 2004, p. 307–308.
  34. ^ Dimnik 2004, p. 308.
  35. ^ a b c d Ostrowski 2018, p. 42–44.
  36. ^ a b Ostrowski 2018, p. 44.
  37. ^ a b c Ostrowski 2018, p. 42–43.
  38. ^ Leszek Moczulski (2007). Narodziny Międzymorza. Bellona. p. 475.
  39. ^ Ярополк is modern Ukrainian, Jaropełk is Polish, Jaropluk is Czech, Jaropelkas is Lithuanian, Iaropelkos is Greek, Jaropolk is German and Swedish.
  40. ^ Dimnik 2004, p. 261–264.
  41. ^ a b c d e f g h Martin 2004, p. 32.
  42. ^ a b c d Martin 2004, p. 102.
  43. ^ Martin 2004, p. xvii, 102.
  44. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Martin 2004, p. xvii.
  45. ^ Makhnovets, Leonid (1984). "Літопис Руський. Роки 1169 — 1174" [Rus' Chronicle. Years 1169–1174.]. (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 4 June 2024.
  46. ^ "Розділ 4.1. Леонтій Войтович. Князівські династії Східної Європи". Retrieved 12 April 2018.