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The Empire of Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 503 pages of information about The Empire of Russia.

We have now but a long succession of conspiracies, insurrections and battles.  In one of these civil conflicts, Ysiaslaf, at the head of a formidable force, met another powerful army, but a few leagues from Kief.  In the hottest hour of the battle a reckless cavalier, in the hostile ranks, perceiving Ysiaslaf in the midst of his infantry, precipitated himself on him, pierced him with his lance and threw him dead upon the ground.  His body was conveyed in a canoe to Kief, and buried with much funeral pomp in the church of Notre Dame, by the side of the beautiful monument which had been erected to the memory of Vlademer.

Ysiaslaf expunged from the Russian code of laws the death penalty, and substituted, in its stead, heavy fines.  The Russian historians, however, record that it is impossible to decide whether this measure was the dictate of humanity, or if he wished in this way to replenish his treasury.

Vsevolod succeeded to the throne of his brother Ysiaslaf in the year 1078.  The children of Ysiaslaf had provinces assigned them in appanage.  Vsevolod was a lover of peace, and yet devastation and carnage were spread everywhere before his eyes.  Every province in the empire was torn by civil strife.  Hundreds of nobles and princes were inflamed with the ambition for supremacy, and with the sword alone could the path be cut to renown.  The wages offered the soldiers, on all sides, was pillage.  Cities were everywhere sacked and burned, and the realm was crimsoned with blood.  Civil war is necessarily followed by the woes of famine, which woes are ever followed by the pestilence.  The plague swept the kingdom with terrific violence, and whole provinces were depopulated.  In the city of Kief alone, seven thousand perished in the course of ten weeks.  Universal terror, and superstitious fear spread through the nation.  An earthquake indicated that the world itself was trembling in alarm; an enormous serpent was reported to have been seen falling from heaven; invisible and malignant spirits were riding by day and by night through the streets of the cities, wounding the citizens with blows which, though unseen, were heavy and murderous, and by which blows many were slain.  All hearts sank in gloom and fear.  Barbarian hordes ravaged both banks of the Dnieper, committing towns and villages to the flames, and killing such of the inhabitants as they did not wish to carry away as captives.

Vsevolod, an amiable man of but very little force of character, was crushed by the calamities which were overwhelming his country.  Not an hour of tranquillity could he enjoy.  It was the ambition of his nephews, ambitious, energetic, unprincipled princes, struggling for the supremacy, which was mainly the cause of all these disasters.

CHAPTER IV.

YEARS OF WAR AND WOE.  From 1092 to 1167.

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