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Mykola Zharkikh (Kyiv)

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The vagabond prince (1239-1241)

Nicholas Zharkikh

Shortened text of the section. Full text in ukrainian version.

Yes, if it were possible to stop time, if not for good, then at least for 10 or 20 years, then the reign of Michael Vsevolodovych in Kyiv, and his son Rostislav in Galicia, could become a model of stability and (perhaps) prosperity. But in the conditions of general anarchy, time does not slow down, but seems to speed up…

The new "empire of the Olgovychs" of the model of 1238 turned out to be no more stable than the "empire" of the model of 1206. In a couple of months, approximately in the fall of 1238, Rostislav lost Halych.

The Tatars struck the second blow against the possessions of the Olgovychs – in they 1239 year destroyed Chernihiv. It would seem that the presence of two neighboring principalities under the rule of representatives of the same family of Olgovychs should have contributed to the unification of their efforts against the enemy – but we do not see anything of the kind.

When leaving Kyiv, Michael had no idea that he was leaving the last city where he had any power. He thought that the circumstances that were unpleasant for him would change into more useful ones, and – paraphrasing the people of Novgorod – he would find the principality for himself with his title of prince. But it didn’t turn out that way…

The same can be said about the motives of Daniil’s behavior as about the motives of Michael – he was also a veteran of Kalka and was just as afraid to fight against the Tatars.

Having performed such a glorious state-building act as leaving the capital of Rus’ to fend for itself in front of the enemy onslaught, Danylo returned to his safe (as he thought) Volyn (Kyiv – 450 km – Volodymyr; March 1240).

And at the very moment when Danylo could have triumphed – his enemies were crushed and humbled, and he united three principalities under his rule – at this very moment the news came that the Tatars had destroyed Kyiv and were now going to Volhynia…

Flee! Here our state-makers rushed to flee, but if Michael and Rostislav fled from the Tatars in a disorderly and shameful manner, Danylo and Vasylko fled honorably and solemnly.

Michael fell not only from the social top to the social bottom, but also from the Upper Kyiv Mountain down to the island. The visible territorial change was the counterpart of the change in the social state, which in itself is not visible.