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The Vladimir-Suzdal Principality ( , Vladimiro-Suzdal'skoye knyazhestvo) or Vladimir-Suzdal Rus’ ( , Vladimirsko-Suzdal'skaya Rus’) was a principality which succeeded Kievan Rus' as the most powerful Rus' state in the late 12th century and lasted until the late 14th century. Traditionally perceived as a cradle of the Great Russian language and nationality, Vladimir-Suzdal gradually evolved into the Grand Duchy of Moscow.


The principality occupied a vast territory in the North-East of Kievan Rus', approximately bounded by the Volga, Oka and Northern Dvina. In the 11th century, the local capital was Rostov the Greatmarker, and other important towns included Suzdalmarker, Yaroslavlmarker and Belozerskmarker.

Vladimir Monomakh, on securing his rights to the principality in 1093, moved the capital from Rostov to Suzdal. Fifteen years later he strengthened and rebuilt the town of Vladimirmarker on the Klyazma River, 31 km south of Suzdal. His son George I the Long-Armed moved the princely seat to Vladimir in 1157. The boyars of Rostov and Suzdal, however, were reluctant to concede supremacy, and a brief civil war followed.

In the mid-12th century, when southern parts of Rus' were systematically raided by Turkic nomads, their inhabitants began to migrate northward. In the formerly wooded areas, known as Zalesye, many new settlements were established. The foundations of Pereslavlmarker, Kostromamarker, Dmitrovmarker, Moscowmarker, Yuriev-Polskymarker, Uglichmarker and Tvermarker were assigned (either by chronicle or popular legend) to George I, whose sobriquet alludes to his dexterity in manipulating politics of far-away Kievmarker.


Principality of Vladimir-Suzdal (Rostov-Suzdal) within Kievan Rus' in the 11th century
George's son Andrew the Pious significantly increased Vladimir's power at the expense of the nearby princely states. Andrew treated some other centres of power (such as Kiev) with contempt. After burning down Kiev (then the metropolitan seat of Rus) in 1169, he refused to accept the Kievan throne for himself, enthroning his younger brother there instead. His capital of Vladimir was for him a far greater concern, as he embellished it with white stone churches and monasteries. Andrew was murdered by boyars in his suburban residence at Bogolyubovomarker in 1174.

After a brief interregnum, Andrew's brother Vsevolod III secured the throne. He continued most of his brother's policies, and once again subjugated Kiev in 1203. Vsevolod's chief enemies, however, were the Southern Ryazan Principality, which appeared to stir discord in the princely family, and the mighty Turkic state of Volga Bulgaria, which bordered Vladimir-Suzdal to the east. After several military campaigns, Ryazan was burnt to the ground, and the Bulgars were forced to pay tribute.

Vsevolod's death in 1212 precipitated a serious dynastic conflict. His eldest son Konstantin, gaining the support of powerful Rostovan boyars and Mstislav the Bold of Kiev, expelled the rightful heir, his brother George, from Vladimir to Rostov. Only six years later, upon Konstantin's death, did George manage to return to the capital. George proved to be a shrewd ruler who decisively defeated Volga Bulgaria and installed his brother Yaroslav in Novgorodmarker. His reign, however, ended in catastrophe, when the Mongol hordes under Batu Khan took and burnt Vladimir in 1238. Thereupon they proceeded to devastate other major cities of Vladimir-Suzdal during the Mongol invasion of Russia.

Mongol yoke

Neither Vladimir, nor any other of the older cities of the principality, managed to regain the power of the Great Rus after the Mongol invasion. The principality became a vassal of the Mongol Empire (later succeeded by the Golden Horde), the Grand Prince being appointed by the Great Khan. Even the popular Alexander Nevsky of Pereslavl had to go to the Khan's capital in Karakorummarker in order to be installed as the Grand Prince in Vladimir. As many factions strove for power, the principality rapidly disintegrated into eleven tiny states: Moscow, Tvermarker, Pereslavl, Rostov, Yaroslavl, Uglich, Belozersk, Kostroma, Nizhny Novgorodmarker, Starodub-upon-Klyazma, and Yuriev-Polsky. All of them nominally acknowledged the suzerainty of the Grand Prince of Vladimir, but his effective authority became progressively weaker.

By the end of the century, only three cities — Moscow, Tver, and Nizhny Novgorod — still contended for the grand princely title. Their rulers, once installed as grand princes of Vladimir, typically chose to remain in their own cities rather than moving to Vladimir. The Grand Duchy of Moscow gradually came to eclipse its rivals. When the metropolitan of all Rus moved his chair from Vladimir to Moscow in 1325, it became clear that Moscow had effectively succeeded Vladimir as the chief centre of power in the north-east and the rest of the Rus.

Grand Princes of Vladimir-Suzdal

See also

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