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The Campaigns of Duke Svjatoslav
By Rider, 12 July 2007; Revised
Category: Medieval Europe: Military History
The Dukes had continually improved the armament and discipline of the armies. When Duke Svjatoslav, the son of Igor and Olga, took up ruling, he was given an army that was in fine shape and a druzhina that would go through fire and water after its leader. Svjatoslav was a clever man. He was not overly confident, a trait that has doomed many commanders, but he was careful and he liked warring. While on campaigns, he slept and lived as any of his men, allowing no comforting circumstances. He had no pointless items of equipment and he sometimes warned his enemies before he attacked. Duke Svjatoslav ruled the Kievan Rus state from around 963 to 972.
On one of his first campaigns, he conquered the Vjatich people, who lived near the River Okaa, and moved forward to Volga, there crushing the Volga Bulgars. After that, he swept over the Khazar state destroying several important cities and bringing much wealth along from those. Soon he wanted to move west to the Balkans, but, first, regrouped in Kiev.
The Byzantine Emperor then asked Svjatoslav to launch a strike against the First Bulgarian Empire. Svjatoslav carried out the campaign, that was partly funded by the Byzantine Empire, with utmost skill. He defeated the Bulgarian Khan, Boris II, and occupied Bulgaria entirely. The Byzantines had bought the Pechenegs to assault Kiev while Svjatoslav wasn’t there, but their attack failed.
Soon, Svjatoslav understood the manipulations of the Byzantines and formed a large force, also made up of other conquered peoples and allies, such as the Pechenegs and the Bulgarians. The campaign started well. They laid siege to Adrianopolis, but were later defeated near Arcadiopolis. Soon, the Byzantines regrouped once again and laid siege to several important centers in Bulgaria, forcing Svjatoslav to leave those lands. Svjatoslav headed back to Kiev.
However, the Byzantines, knowing very well that Svjatoslav would sooner or later strike them again, gave some money to the Pechenegs for ambushing the Kievan army on its return. The ambush took place on the River Dnepr cataracts. Most of the army fell, as did the Duke. It is said that the Pecheneg prince, who was at the head of the attack, took the skull of Svjatoslav and carved it into a cup for himself.