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.
Vsevolod has the reputation of having been a man of piety. But he was quite destitute of that force of character which one required to hold the helm in such stormy times. He was a man of great humanity and of unblemished morals. The woes which desolated his realms, and which he was utterly unable to avert, crushed his spirit and hastened his death. Perceiving that his dying hour was at hand, he sent for his two sons, Vlademer and Rostislaf, and the sorrowing old man breathed his last in their arms.
Vsevolod was the favorite son of Yaroslaf the Great, and his father, with his dying breath, had expressed the wish that Vsevolod, when death should come to him, might be placed in the tomb by his side. These affectionate wishes of the dying father were gratified, and the remains of Vsevolod were deposited, with the most imposing ceremonies of those days, in the church of Saint Sophia, by the side of those of his father. The people, forgetting his weakness and remembering only his amiability, wept at his burial.
Vlademer, the eldest son of Vsevolod, with great magnanimity surrendered the crown to his cousin Sviatopolk, saying,
“His father was older than mine, and reigned at Kief before my father. I wish to avoid dissension and the horrors of civil war.”
He then proclaimed Sviatopolk sovereign of Russia. The new sovereign had been feudal lord of the province of Novgorod; he, however, soon left his northern capital to take up his residence in the more imperial palaces of Kief. But disaster seemed to be the doom of Russia, and the sounds of rejoicing which attended his accession to the throne had hardly died away ere a new scene of woe burst upon the devoted land.
The young king was rash and headstrong. He provoked the ire of one of the strong neighboring provinces, which was under the sway of an energetic feudal prince, ostensibly a vassal of the crown, but who, in his pride and power, arrogated independence. The banners of a hostile army were soon approaching Kief. Sviatopolk marched heroically to meet them. A battle was fought, in which he and his army were awfully defeated. Thousands were driven by the conquerors into a stream, swollen by the rains, where they miserably perished. The fugitives, led by Sviatopolk, in dismay fled back to Kief and took refuge behind the walls of the city. The enemy pressed on, ravaging, with the most cruel desolation, the whole region around Kief, and in a second battle conquered the king and drove him out of his realms. The whole of southern Russia was abandoned to barbaric destruction. Nestor gives a graphic sketch of the misery which prevailed: