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The Principality of Galicia-Volhonia (or Volhynia)
By Rider, 2 February 2007; Revised
Category: Medieval Europe: Political History
The Old Russian state included the south-western lands by the tenth century. These lands were wanted for their riches; the fields were fertile and the crops were heavenly. There were large flocks of animals and the rivers were full of fish.
Different types of handcraft had developed – especially, the lands were known for well-made jewelry of silver, gold, bone, sea rivershells and glass. There were more than 80 cities on these lands and the traders were in lively relations with neighbouring princedoms and lands far more distant. Salt was transported to the whole of southern Russia from these areas. The trading way from Galic to Kiev was known as ’the Salt Road’.
Two princedoms appeared in South-Western Russia. One of them was known as Galicia (with it’s capital at Galic) and the other as Volhonia (with the capital at Vladimir by the Volõn). During the late 12th century, the Kniaz (or Prince) of Volhonia, Roman Mstislavich, campaigned against Galicia, in 1199, and he was victorious. Both princedoms were united under a single ruler from then on.
The borders of the princedom expanded from the Black Sea to the Danube, encompassing modern Moldavia. In the west, the border went over the Carpathians.
One of the largest internal problems for the princedom were the rebellious boyars, who didn’t often like the actions of the kniaz. Roman sought to end this and, in parts, he succeeded. He killed off some of the boyars, others left the country, and some surrendered. Yet, Kniaz Roman was killed on one of the campaigns and some of the power shifted back into the hands of the boyars. Feudal civil wars were extremely random. Many foreign neighbours were called in for assistance, to usurpt the princedom.
The difficult situation was used by enemies instantly. Polish and Hungarian forces intruded with the support of the Catholic Church. They conquered large lands and many cities. This period lasted around forty years and a large part of the populace suffered, many died.
The cities started fighting their own wars against the boyars and foreign enemies. They got their troops from rallied levies. The cities gave their support to Kniaz Daniil Romanovich, the son of Roman Mstislavich. After long years spent fighting, Daniil got an opportunity to besiege Galic. Despite the objections of local boyars, the people of the city opened the gates to Daniil.
Yet, the situation of the Princedom was not good. Soon the Mongols would assault, and, in recent light of Polish and Hungarian invaders and civil strifes of the boyars, the Princedom was weak to withstand the assault.
South-western Russian lands were developed in several different arts; architecture, handicraft and painting were common. On the banks of Dnestr, the walls, towers and churches of Galic arose. A chronicler once said that Galic hosted a magnificent palace that belonged to the kniaz. Around thirty stone structures have been discovered from Galic. These are thought to date from the 1180’s to the 1220’s.
Writing books and manuscripts by hand was highly developed. The books were illustrated with magnificent drawings and they were golded and decorated with jewels. The chronicles of these lands portrayed their kniaz’ as fiercesome warriors and defenders of the land against the boyars and foreign enemies.