The Principality of Vladimir-Suzdal

  By Rider, 2 November 2006; Revised

Juri Dolgoruki
Juri Dolgoruki

The Principality of Vladimir was very important in the few centuries after the weakening of the power of the Grand Prince in Kiev. The Principality would more correctly be called as the Principality of Vladimir-Suzdal, for it was made up of two territories, Vladimir and Suzdal, and the prince governed them both. The principality was situated around the River Volga, Lake Beloje was completely inside the territories of Vladimir-Suzdal and in the northeast the territories went as far as North-Dvina. Most of those areas were covered in large thick forests. The two oldest cities of the principality were Rostov and Suzdal.

The prince that won Vladimir her independence is known as Juri Dolgoruki and he was the son of Vladimir Monomachos. Juri Dolgoruki even tried to conquer such territories as Novgorod and Kiev, both of which failed. Also, the city of Muscowy (or Moscow) was inside the territories of Vladimir-Suzdal.


People have lived at the site, where  Moscow now is, for thousands of years before the 12th century. It is now thought that a settlement of Slavic origins was there before any city was founded.

The first written mention of Moscow comes from 1147 when it is told that Juri Dolgoruki called his ally, the prince of Tshernigov. A large feast was held then. During those times, Moscow was just a very small town, with the castle (Kremlin) and the outer city for merchants and peasants. The Kremlin was protected from two sides by the rivers of Neglinka and Moscow, and from the third side by a large and deep moat.


The Growing Power of Vladimir-Suzdal

The capital of the principality was the city of Vladimir beside River Kljazma. A successor of Juri Dolgoruki, named Andrei, built himself a castle near it and named it Bogoljubov (the nickname of the prince comes from the name of the castle). Andrei Bogoljubski took the title of the Grand Prince of Vladimir. In 1169 he conquered Kiev but never chose it as his residence. Andrei was quite cruel and he wanted more and more power. The boyars were never happy with how Andrei governed and killed him.

Soon after the death of prince Andrei, a new prince emerged. He was called Vsevolod the Big Nest because he had a large family and lot of children. He tried to govern as Andrei had, but he managed to keep the boyars loyal. It has been told that the army of Vsevolod was so large that  it could put oars over Volga and empty the Don of water using helmets.

The standing of the principality grew along with its influence... In 1221, the Grand Prince had a castle and city built at the place where River Okaa came into contact with Volga. The city was called Nizhni Novgorod, and its citizens hoped it would grow as wealthy as Novgorod was. The princes conquered the tribes along the mouth of Volga and violently converted them to Orthodox Christianity.


Usually, culture differed from principality to principality due to the normally hostile relations between different princes. A lot in common was maintained due to the one Orthodox Church that was in the Rus states. Most of the cities were bordered by rivers and high walls. The gates of Vladimir were, for example covered with gold and therefore called the Golden Gate. Above the gate, there was a high tower. In the center of the town, there were the houses of the prince and churches that all were covered with golden copper. The plazas were all of stone.

As in many other places, the churches were of that kind, that they could easily be turned into forts that could withstand the enemy in need. The two most important churches in Vladimir were the church of Dmitrijevo and the church of Uspenski. They both are built on a hilltop with a view to the river. The church of Uspenski is especially high and the towers are seen from quite far away.