Gedimidas of Lithuania was born circa 1275 to Budvydas (?-c1296) and died 1341 of unspecified causes. He married Wida of Courland . He married Jewna of Polotsk (c1280-c1344) .

Gediminas (ca. 1275 – 1341) was Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1315 or 1316[1][2] until his death. He is credited with founding this political entity and expanding its territory which, at the time of his death, spanned the area ranging from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.[3][4] Also seen as one of the most significant individuals in early Lithuanian history, he was responsible for both erecting the capital of Lithuania, and the establishment of a dynasty that can be traced to other European monarchies such as Poland, Hungary and Bohemia.

Gediminas was also the forefather of the Gediminid dynasty, which ruled the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1310s or 1280s to 1572.

Gediminas' origins are unclear, but recent research suggests that Skalmantas, an otherwise unknown historical figure, was Gediminas' grandfather or father and could be considered the dynasty's founder.[5] Because none of his brothers or sisters had known heirs, Gediminas, who sired at least twelve children, had the advantage in establishing sovereignty over his siblings. Known for his diplomatic skills, Gediminas arranged his children's marriages to suit the goals of his foreign policy: his sons consolidated Lithuanian power within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, while his daughters established or strengthened alliances with the rulers of areas in modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Poland.[6]

As part of his legacy, he obtained a reputation of being an inveterate pagan who diverted attempts in Christianizing his country to a political benefit against his enemies, after negotiations with the Pope and other Christian states.

Gediminas the Grand Duke of Lithuania Reversum

Modern Litas commemorative coin dedicated to Gediminas


Gediminas' normal Latin style is as follows:

  • Gedeminne Dei gratia Letwinorum et multorum Ruthenorum rex[7]

Which translates as:

  • "Gediminas, by the grace of God, of the Lithuanians and many Rus'ians, king"[7]

In his letters to the papacy in 1322 and 1323, he adds Princeps et Duke Semigallie (Prince and Duke of Semigallia).[8] In contemporary Low German he is styled simply Koningh van Lettowen, mirroring the Latin Rex Lethowye(both "King of Lithuania").[7] Gediminas' right to use Latin rex, which the papacy had been claiming the right to grant from the 13th century, was controversial in some Catholic sources. So for instance he was called rex sive dux ("King or Duke") by one source; Pope John XXII, in a letter to the King of France, refers to Gediminas as "the one who calls himself rex". However, the pope did call Gediminas rex when addressing him (regem sive ducem, "king or duke").[8]


Mi83 Grand Duke Gediminas (issued 1920)

Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas on stamp. Issued on August 25, 1920.


Gediminas was born in about 1275.[9] Because written sources of the era are scarce, Gediminas' ancestry, early life, and assumption of the title of Grand Duke in ca. 1316 are obscure and continue to be the subject of scholarly debate. Various theories have claimed that Gediminas was either his predecessor Grand Duke Vytenis' son, his brother, his cousin, or his hostler.[10] For several centuries only two versions of his origins circulated. Chronicles—written long after Gediminas' death by the Teutonic Knights, a long-standing enemy of Lithuania—claimed that Gediminas was a hostler to Vytenis;[5] according to these chronicles, Gediminas killed his master and assumed the throne. Another version introduced in the Lithuanian Chronicles, which also appeared long after Gediminas' death, proclaimed that Gediminas was Vytenis' son. However, the two men were almost the same age, making this relationship unlikely. Recent research indicates that Gediminids' ancestor may have been Skalmantas. In 1974 historian Jerzy Ochmański noted that Zadonshchina, a poem from the end of the 14th century, contains a line in which two sons of Algirdas name their ancestors: "We are two brothers – sons of Algirdas, and grandsons of Gediminas, and great-grandsons of Skalmantas." This discovery led to the belief that Skalmantas was the long-sought ancestor of the Gediminids. Ochmański posited that the poem skipped the generation represented by Butvydas, and jumped back to the unknown ancestor. Baranauskas disagrees, believing Skalmantas was Butvydas' brother rather than his father, and that Vytenis and Gediminas were therefore cousins.[5]

Grand Duke Vytenis' origins are relatively well-established; he was the son of Butvydas, who was Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1291 to 1295. No consensus exists about the identity of Butvydas' father. While some genealogies give Traidenis as the ancestor,[11] this has been described as unlikely: the later marriage of Gediminas' daughter Eufemija and Traidenis' great-grandson Boleslaw-Yuri would have violated canon law, since the two would have been related by blood, and this violation would likely have been noticed by the pope.[12]

Recent research indicates that Gediminids' ancestor may have been Skalmantas. In 1974 historian Jerzy Ochmański noted that Zadonshchina, a poem from the end of the 14th century, contains a line in which two sons of Algirdas name their ancestors: "We are two brothers – sons of Algirdas, and grandsons of Gediminas, and great-grandsons of Skalmantas."[5] This discovery led to the belief that Skalmantas was the long-sought ancestor of the Gediminids.[12][13] Ochmański posited that the poem skipped the generation represented by Butvydas, and jumped back to the unknown ancestor. Baranauskas disagrees, believing Skalmantas was Butvydas' brother rather than his father, and that Vytenis and Gediminas were therefore cousins.[5]

Gediminas became the Grand Duke in 1316 at the age of 40 and ruled for 25 years.[14]


Lithuania Raudone Gediminas Oak

An oak in Raudone under which Gediminas is reputed to have been mortally wounded.


It is uncertain how many wives Gediminas had. The Bychowiec Chronicle mentions three wives: Wida of Courland, Olga of Smolensk and Jewna of Polotsk, who was Eastern Orthodox and died in 1344 or 1345.[15] Most modern historians and reference works say Gediminas' wife was Jewna, dismissing Vida and Olga as fictitious, since no sources other than this chronicle mention the other two wives.[16] The historian S. C. Rowell argues that Gediminas' wife was a local pagan duchess, on the grounds that his marriage to a princess from a neighboring land would have been noted in other contemporary sources, and that the reliability of the Bychowiec Chronicle has been questioned.[17]

An argument has been advanced that Gediminas had two wives, one pagan and another Orthodox. This case is supported only by the Jüngere Hochmeisterchronik, a late-15th century chronicle, mentioning Narimantas as half-brother to Algirdas.[17] Other historians support this claim by arguing this would explain Gediminas' otherwise mysterious designation of a middle son, Jaunutis, as his succession would be understandable if Jaunutis were the first-born son of Gediminas and a second wife.[18]

Children and grandchildren

Because none of Gediminas' siblings had strong heirs, Gediminas and his children were in a favorable position to assume and consolidate power in the Grand Duchy. Gediminas had at least five daughters and seven sons, whose shrewd marriages helped to consolidate and expand the Grand Duchy's influence to areas east and west of Lithuania. Those marriages speak to Gediminas' diplomatic talent in building alliances with the neighboring states that shared his goals to destroy the Teutonic Order and contain the growing power of Moscow and Poland.[17] The marriages of Gediminas' sons helped to consolidate the dynasty's power over various territories already within the Grand Duchy, while his daughters' and granddaughters' marriages worked to strengthen Lithuanian relationships with neighboring powers.[6]


Galicia-Volhynia map

Map of Galicia–Volhynia. Two of Gediminas' children, Liubartas and Eufemija, were involved in succession disputes over Galicia–Volhynia

In 1320 his oldest daughter Maria married Dmitri of Tver, ruler of a Russian principality. The marriage took place soon after Mikhail Yaroslavich, Dmitri's father, was killed; his sons were searching for strong allies against Yuri of Moscow, their principal competitor for the throne of Vladimir and All Rus'.[6] After 1327 Lithuania began to supplant Tver as Moscow's chief rival for supremacy in the Rus'. When Tver sought to rival Moscow, it needed an alliance with Lithuania.[19] Dmitri was killed in 1325 and Maria never remarried. Maria's brother-in-law, Alexander I of Tver, nevertheless maintained friendly relationships with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and his daughter Uliana married Algirdas, the son of Gediminas, who continued the Gediminid line.[6] The cooperation between Lithuania and Tver lasted well into the 15th century.[6]

Aldona (baptized as Ona or Anna; her pagan name is known only from the writings of the 16th century chronicler Maciej Stryjkowski[20]) married Casimir III of Poland, son of Władysław I of Poland, when he was 15 or 16 years old. The marriage took place on either April 30 or October 16, 1325, and was a purely political maneuver to strengthen the Polish–Lithuanian coalition against the Teutonic Knights[21] (an alliance foreshadowing the Union of Krewo in 1385 and the Union of Lublin in 1569, with the latter resulting in a stable and powerful new state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth).[20] This preliminary coalition was short-lived, collapsing in about 1330, but there is no evidence of military conflict between Poland and Lithuania while Aldona was alive.[21]

The marriage into the Lithuanian dynasty that had ruled since about 1289 might have lent legitimacy to the rule of Władysław I of the Piast dynasty, who was crowned in 1320, replacing the Přemyslid dynasty.[17] But Aldona died unexpectedly at the end of May 1339 and was buried in Kraków. Aldona had two daughters: Elisabeth (d. 1361) married Duke Bogislaw V of Pomerania and Cunigunde (d. 1357) married Louis VI the Roman, the son of Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor, and [22] Elisabeth's daughter, Elizabeth of Pomerania, was the fourth wife of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor.

Gediminas' daughter Elzbieta married Wacław of Płock, one of the dukes of Masovia in modern-day eastern Poland. Her second name is recorded in writings by Maciej Stryjkowski as Danmila and Teodor Narbutt as Damila. It has been suggested these names are misread versions of Danutė,[23] a name derived from Daniel. Another interpretation is that historians confused Danutė of Lithuania, daughter of Kęstutis, with Elzbieta.[24] As an alliance, the marriage was significant because passages to and from western Europe had to pass through Masovia; it can be seen as an attempt to revive Grand Duke Traidenis' and his daughter Gaudemunda's link with Mazovia in the 1270s.[6] The marriage's importance is attested by Elzbieta's dowry: 720 Kraków silver marks and nine marks of gold – three times more than an ordinary recorded dowry of the time.[6] This marriage probably took place about 1316, when Gediminas supported Wacław of Płock during a civil war in the divided Duchy of Mazovia.[6] After Wacław of Płock's death in 1336, Elzbieta managed her own wealth. She is mentioned for the last time in 1361, when her brother Kęstutis escaped from Marienburg and sought refuge at his sister's house; historians put her date of death at around 1364.[23] In 1337 Elzbieta's daughter Anna, first mentioned in late 1323, married Henry V of Żagań, in modern-day western Poland. Her son Bolesław III or Bolko died without a male heir in 1351 and his land was divided among other dukes.[22]

Eufemija (also known as Marija, Ofka, and Anka) married Bolesław Jerzy II of Galicia, in 1331. The marriage was engineered in 1323 when the brothers Lev and Andrew of Galicia were slain without leaving heirs. Instead of replacing them with his own son Liubartas and risking a war with Poland, Gediminas forged a compromise with Władysław I of Poland.[25] Both parties agreed to install Bolesław, cousin of Władysław I and nephew of Gediminas' son-in-law Wacław of Płock, with the marriage to take place later. Bolesław at the time was fourteen years old.[25] In this way the war for control of Galicia–Volhynia was postponed until after Bolesław's poisoning in 1340; control of the area was not stabilized until 1370.[26] According to Teodor Narbutt, Eufemija was drowned beneath the ice of the Vistula River on February 5, 1342, in order to keep her out of the succession disputes.[6]

Aigusta was baptized as Anastasia in order to marry Simeon of Moscow in 1333;[6] he became Grand Prince of Moscow in 1341. There is no direct evidence that she was a daughter of Gediminas, but because the marriage was high-profile, most historians have concluded that she was a member of Gediminas' family.[23] The marriage had great potential because Lithuania and Moscow were fierce rivals for supremacy in Ruthenia, but conflicts broke out again in 1335, just two years after the marriage.[6] Her two sons Vasilei and Konstantin did not survive infancy; her daughter Vasilisa married Mikhail Vasilevich of Kashin, a Tverite prince opposing Lithuania.[27] Her brother Jaunutis sought her help when he was deposed by Algirdas in 1345. Immediately before her death on March 11, 1345, Aigusta became a nun. She was buried within the Moscow Kremlin at a monastic church whose construction she had sponsored.[27]

It is possible that Gediminas had two more daughters. According to Maciej Stryjkowski, one of Gediminas' daughters was married to David of Hrodna, his favorite war leader.[28] However, some historians disagree with the conclusion that David was Gediminas' son-in-law, expressing skepticism about the reliability of Stryjkowski's sources.[29] The existence of another daughter, or possibly another sister, has been hypothesized based on the list of Metropolitan Theognostus' property published in 1916. The list contains a note describing Andrei Mstislavich, Duke of Kozelsk (ruled ca. 1320 — 1339), as Gediminas' son-in-law.[30] On the other hand, the Ruthenian word ziat' (зять) can mean either "son-in-law" or "sister's husband". Hence Andrei of Kozelsk could have been Gediminas' brother-in-law. [31]


Lithuanian state in 13-15th centuries

Expansion of the Lithuanian state during the 13th-15th centuries

The chronicle of John of Winterthur contains a reference to Gediminas' eight sons.[28] The names of seven sons can be found in various written sources, while the identity of the eighth remains disputed. Alvydas Nikžentaitis suggests that this son was the Duke of Trakai who perished in 1337 near Veliuona.[28] Duke of Trakai was an important position held either by the Grand Duke himself or his second-in-command. Therefore 18th- and 19th-century historians believed that it was Gediminas himself who died in Veliuona,[32] which still advertises itself as the place of Gediminas' burial. Nikžentaitis further postulates that the name of the unknown son might have been Vytautas, as records mention a young and powerful Yuri, son of Vytautas and deputy of Andrei of Polotsk|Andrei, son of Algirdas. Yuri died in 1348.[33] His high position in youth could easily be accounted for by being a grandson of Gediminas.[28] However, others dispute these theories, arguing that the note in John of Winterthur's chronicle was misinterpreted.[34]

It is unclear why, but Jaunutis, a middle son not mentioned in any written sources before the coup d'état accomplished by his brothers, was designated by Gediminas as his heir in Vilnius and consequently became the Grand Duke.[35] His brother Kęstutis, Duke of Trakai, was assisting him in Samogitia. Despite help from Narimantas, Jaunutis was deposed by his brothers Algirdas and Kęstutis in 1345, just four years after Gediminas' death.[35] Jaunutis tried, but failed, to solicit help from his brother-in-law Simeon of Russia and was baptized as Iwan in the process. He was forced to reconcile with Algirdas and in compensation received the Duchy of Zasłaŭje, which he ruled until his death in 1366.[36]

Several sons of Gediminas continued his male line, but it was Algirdas who continued the main Gediminid line. Before deposing his brother Jaunutis in 1345, he ruled Kreva and, despite remaining pagan, married Maria, a daughter of the last prince of Vitebsk.[17] After 1345 he became the Grand Duke of Lithuania and shared his power with his brother Kęstutis. Their successful collaboration is celebrated in Lithuanian historiography, and gave rise to a much debated theory that a tradition of co-rule or diarchy in Lithuania was customary and arose as early as 1285.[28] The Grand Duchy experienced its greatest expansion during their reign. While Algirdas was mostly active in the east, Kęstutis occupied himself by managing the Duchy's interactions with the Teutonic Knights, Poland, and other western European entities.[37] In 1350 Algirdas contracted a second marriage with Uliana of Tver; he chose their son Jogaila as the next Grand Duke. In 1385 Jogaila opened a new chapter in the history of Lithuania by converting the country to Christianity and signing a personal union with Poland, becoming King of Poland. This Polish–Lithuanian union, in various forms, survived until the third partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795. Jogaila's branch of the Gediminids is known as the Jagiellon dynasty.

Algirdas the Grand Duke of Lithuania Reversum

Commemorative silver coin (50 litas) with a modern portrait of Algirdas, Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1345–1377

Kęstutis, Duke of Trakai, despite exercising considerable autonomy while controlling the western provinces of the duchy, was loyal to Algirdas and acknowledged his superiority. Kęstutis was a devoted pagan and dedicated his life to defending Lithuania from the Teutonic Knights. A popular romantic legend arose about his marriage to the pagan priestess Birutė of Palanga. They had seven or eight children, including Vytautas (c1350-1430)Vytautas the Great.[22] After Algirdas' death in 1377, his son Jogaila became the Grand Duke. At first Kęstutis and his son Vytautas acknowledged Jogaila's rule, but after Jogaila signed the controversial Treaty of Dovydiškės with the Teutonic Knights, Kęstutis seized Vilnius and became the Grand Duke in late 1381. In August 1382 he was imprisoned in Kreva and died there.[38][39] Vytautas continued his fight for supremacy, and the conflicts between the descendants of Algirdas and Kęstutis lasted well into the 15th century.[40]

Manvydas inherited the territories of Kernavė and Slonim from his father.[34] Little is known about him, and he died soon after Gediminas. It is believed that he was killed in the Battle of Strėva in 1348 along with his brother Narimantas.

Narimantas was baptized as Gleb and went on to rule Pinsk, Polotsk, and – as his patrimony by invitation of Novgorod's nobles – Ladoga, Oreshek and Korela.[41] He initiated a tradition of Lithuanian mercenary service north of Novgorod on the Swedish border that lasted until Novgorod's fall to Moscow in 1477[42] and helped keep Moscow at bay.[43] In 1345 Narimantas became the strongest supporter of his deposed brother Jaunutis and went to Jani Beg, Khan of the Golden Horde, to ask for support against Algirdas and Kęstutis. There are rumors that Narimantas married a Tatar princess, but they lack credibility.[19] After a few years the brothers reconciled, and it is believed that Narimantas led the Battle of Strėva in the name of Algirdas and died there. He left behind three to five sons who founded Russian princely families, including Kurakin and Galitzine.[41]

Karijotas (c1307-c1361)Karijotas was baptized as Mikhail and inherited Navahrudak in Black Ruthenia. In 1348 he was sent by Algirdas to Khan Jani Beg to negotiate a coalition against the State of the Teutonic Order, but was handed over to Moscow for ransom.[19] He died about 1363. It is uncertain how many children he had: the number varies between four and nine.[44]

Liubartas (baptized Dymitr) was Gediminas' youngest son. In the early 1320s he married a daughter of Andrew of Galicia and ruled Lutsk in eastern Volhynia.[26] After Andrew's and his brother Lev of Galicia's deaths about 1323, Galicia–Volhynia experienced a power vacuum. Rather than promoting Liubartas and risking a war with Poland, Gediminas married his daughter Eufemija to Boleslaw-Yuri II of Galicia. War with Poland was thereby postponed until 1340. The Galicia–Volhynia Wars were settled after 1370, when Poland received Galicia, while Lithuania retained Volhynia.[26] Liubartas died around 1385, having ruled Volhynia for roughly sixty years. He had three sons.

Choice of religion

He inherited a vast domain, comprising not only of Lithuania proper, but also of Samogitia, Navahrudak, Podlasie, Polotsk and Minsk.[45] However, these possessions were all environed by the State of the Teutonic Order and the Livonian Order, which have long been the enemies of the state.[1] Gediminas allied himself with the Tatars against the Teutonic order in 1319.[46]

Grand Duchy of Lithuania Rus and Samogitia 1434

Position of Grand Duchy of Lithuania in Eastern Europe until 1434.

The systematic raiding of Lithuania by the knights under the pretext of converting it had long since united all the Lithuanian tribes, but Gediminas aimed at establishing a dynasty which should make Lithuania not merely secure but powerful, and for this purpose he entered into direct diplomatic negotiations with the Holy See as well. At the end of 1322, he sent letters to Pope John XXII soliciting his protection against the persecution of the knights[47], informing him of the privileges already granted to the Dominicans and Franciscans in Lithuania for the preaching of God's Word.[48] Gediminas also asked that legates should be dispatched to him in order to be baptized.[49] This action was supported by the Archbishop of Riga Frederic Lobestat.[50] Following these events, peace between the Duchy and the the Livonian order was eventually conducted on 2 October 1323.[51]

On receiving a favorable reply from the Holy See, Gediminas issued circular letters, dated 25 January 1325, to the principal Hansa towns, offering a free access into his domains to men of every order and profession from nobles and knights to tillers of the soil.[52][47] The immigrants were to choose their own settlements and be governed by their own laws. Priests and monks were also invited to come and build churches at Vilnius and Navahrudak. In October 1323, representatives of the archbishop of Riga, the bishop of Dorpat, the king of Denmark, the Dominican and Franciscan orders, and the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order assembled at Vilnius, when Gediminas confirmed his promises and undertook to be baptized as soon as the papal legates arrived. A compact was then signed at Vilnius, in the name of the whole Christian World, between Gediminas and the delegates, confirming the promised privileges.[53]

Thus his raid upon Dobrzyń, the latest acquisition of the knights on Polish soil, speedily gave them a ready weapon against him. The Prussian bishops, who were devoted to the knights, questioned the authority of Gediminas letters and denounced him as an enemy of the faith at a synod in Elbing; his Orthodox subjects reproached him with leaning towards the Latin heresy, while the pagan Lithuanians accused him of abandoning the ancient gods. Gediminas disentangled himself from his difficulties by repudiating his former promises; by refusing to receive the papal legates who arrived at Riga in September 1323, and by dismissing the Franciscans from his territories. These apparently retrogressive measures simply amounted to a statesmanlike recognition of the fact that the pagan element was still the strongest force in Lithuania, and could not yet be dispensed with in the coming struggle for nationality.

Peace agreement between Gediminas and Order

A peace agreement between Gediminas and the Order

At the same time Gediminas privately informed the papal legates at Riga through his ambassadors that his difficult position compelled him to postpone his steadfast resolve of being baptized, and the legates showed their confidence in him by forbidding the neighboring states to war against Lithuania for the next four years, besides ratifying the treaty made between Gediminas and the archbishop of Riga. Nevertheless, disregarding the censures of the church, the Order resumed the war with Gediminas by murdering one of his delegates sent to welcome the Grand Master for his arrival to Riga in 1325.[50][54] He had in the meantime improved his position by an alliance with Wladislaus Lokietek[55], king of Poland, and had his daughter Aldona baptized for the sake of betrothing her to Władysław's son Casimir III.[56]

An alternative view of these events was proposed by an American historian Stephen Christopher Rowell, where he believes that Gediminas never intended to become a Christian himself, since that would have offended the staunchly pagan inhabitants of Žemaitija and Aukštaitija. Both the pagans from Aukštalija and the Orthodox Rus' threatened Gediminas with death if he decides to convert, where a similar scenario also happened to Mindaugas (c1200-1263)Mindaugas, which he desperately wanted to avoid.[57]

His strategy was to gain the support of the Pope and other Catholic powers in his conflict with the Teutonic Order by granting a favourable status to Catholics living within his realm and feigning a personal interest in the Christian religion. While he allowed Catholic clergy to enter his realm for the purpose of ministering to his Catholic subjects and to temporary residents, he savagely punished any attempt to convert pagan Lithuanians or to insult their native religion. Thus in about 1339-40 he executed two Franciscan friars from Bohemia, Ulrich and Martin, who had gone beyond the authority granted them and had publicly preached against the Lithuanian religion. Gediminas ordered them to renounce Christianity, and had them killed when they refused. Five more friars were executed in 1369 for the same offence.

Despite Gediminas' chief goal to save Lithuania from destruction at the hands of the Germans, he still died as a pagan reigning over semi-pagan lands. Also, he was equally bound to his pagan kinsmen in Samogitia, to his Orthodox subjects in Belarus, and to his Catholic allies in Masovia.[53] Therefore, it is still unclear whether the letters sent to the Pope were an actual request for conversion or simply a diplomatic maneuver.[58]

Incorporation of Slavic lands


Gediminas Castle in Lida (reconstruction).

While on his guard against his northern foes, Gediminas from 1316 to 1340 was aggrandizing himself at the expense of the numerous Slavonic principalities in the south and east[59][4], whose incessant conflicts with each other wrought the ruin of them all. Here Gediminas triumphal progress was irresistible; but the various stages of it are impossible to follow, the sources of its history being few and conflicting, and the date of every salient event exceedingly doubtful. One of his most important territorial accretions, the principality of Halych-Volynia, was obtained by the marriage of his son Liubartas with the daughter of the Galician prince.


Gediminas Tower named after the founder of Vilnius, although it was built considerably later.

From about 23 km (14 mi) south west of Kiev, Gediminas resoundingly defeated Stanislav of Kiev and his allies in the Battle of the Irpin River. He then besieged and conquered Kiev sending Stanislav, the last descendant of the Rurik Dynasty to ever rule Kiev, into exile first in Bryanskand then in Ryazan. Theodor, brother of Gediminas, and Algimantas, son of Mindaugas from the Olshanski family, were installed in Kiev. After these conquests, Lithuania stretched as far as to the Black Sea.[60]

While exploiting Slavic weakness in the wake of the Mongol invasion, Gediminas wisely avoided war with the Golden Horde, a great regional power at the time, while expanding Lithuania's border towards the Black Sea. He also secured an alliance with the nascent Grand Duchy of Moscow by marrying his daughter, Anastasia, to the grand duke Simeon of Moscow. But he was strong enough to counterpoise the influence of Muscovy in northern Russia, and assisted the republic of Pskov, which acknowledged his overlordship, to break away from Great Novgorod.

Domestic affairs and death

His internal administration bears all the marks of a wise ruler. He protected the Catholic as well as the Orthodox clergy; he raised the Lithuanian army to the highest state of efficiency then attainable; defended his borders with a chain of strong fortresses and built numerous castles in towns including Vilnius.[61] At first he moved the capital to the newly built town of Trakai, but in c. 1320 re-established a permanent capital in Vilnius.[62]

Gediminas died in 1341[46][63], presumably killed during a coup d'état.[63] He was cremated as a part of a fully pagan ceremony in 1342, which included a human sacrifice, with favourite servant and several German slaves being burned on the pyre with the corpse.[64] All these facts assert that Gediminas most likely remained entirely faithful to his native Lithuanian religion, and that his feigned interest in Catholicism was simply a ruse designed to gain allies against the Teutonic Order.

He was succeded by one of his sons, Jaunutis, who was unable to control the unrest in the country[65], for which he ended up deposed in 1345 by his brother Algirdas.[66]


He was a founder of a new Lithuanian dynasty; the Gediminids, and laid the foundations of the state's expansion while sometimes referred as the "true" state founder.[1]

In modern belief, he is also regarded as founder of Vilnius, the modern capital of Lithuania. According to a legend, possibly set in 1322 while he was on a hunting trip, he dreamt of an iron clad wolf, who stood on a hill, howling in an odd manner. He consulted his vision with his priests and decided to build a fortification on the confluence of rivers Vilnia and Neris, where the place of his vision was pointed out.[67][68][62] This event inspired the Romantic movement, particularly Adam Mickiewicz, who gave the story a poetic form. [69]

Gediminas is depicted on a silver Litas commemorative coin, issued in 1996.[70]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Plakans 2011, p. 51
  2. ^ Christiansen 1980, p. 154
  3. ^ Pelenski 1998
  4. ^ a b Bugajski 2002, p. 125
  5. ^ a b c d e (Lithuanian) Baranauskas, Tomas (1996-11-23). "Gedimino kilmė". Voruta 44 (278). Retrieved on 2007-03-10. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Rowell, S. C. (1994). Lithuania Ascending: A Pagan Empire Within East-Central Europe, 1295–1345. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought: Fourth Series. Cambridge University Press. pp. 89–93. ISBN 978-0-521-45011-9. 
  7. ^ a b c Rowell 1994, p. 63
  8. ^ a b Rowell 1994, p. 64
  9. ^ Tęgowski 1999, p. 15
  10. ^ Vjachaslaў Nasevіch. Gedzіmіn // Vjalіkae knjastva Lіtoўskae: Эncыklapedыja. U 3 t. / rэd. G. P. Pashkoў і іnsh. T. 1: Abalenskі — Kadэncыja. — Mіnsk: Belaruskaja Эncыklapedыja, 2005. S. 519.
  11. ^ (Russian) rukovoditel' avtorskogo kollektiva P. Ch. Grebel'skij (1995). Families of the Nobility of the Russian Empire. Second Volume. Princes. St. Petersburg: Vesti. p. 26. ISBN 5-86153-012-2. 
  12. ^ a b Rowell, S. C. Lithuania Ascending, pp. 52–55
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External links

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Preceded by
Monarch of Lithuania
Succeeded by


Offspring of Gedimidas of Lithuania and Wida of Courland
Name Birth Death Joined with
Algirdas (1296-1377) 1296 Lithuania May 1377 Maišiagala Maria Yaroslavna of Vitebsk (c1300-c1348)
Uliana Aleksandrovna of Tver (c1325-1392)
Kęstutis (c1297-1382) 1297 15 August 1382 Kreva, Grodno Region, Belarus Unknown
Birutė of Palanga (c1320-1382)
Jaunutis (1298-1366) 1298 1366
Maria of Lithuania (1300-1349) 1300 1349 Dmitri Mikhailovich of Tver (1299-1326)
Elzbieta of Lithuania (1302-c1364) 1302 1364 Wenceslaus of Płock (c1293-1336)
Manvydas of Lithuania (c1304-1348) 1304 2 February 1348
Narimantas (c1306-1348) 1306 2 February 1348 Anna-Yelizaveta Vasilkovna (c1307-1345)
Mariya Ordynskaya (1313-c1360)
Karijotas (c1307-c1361) 1314 1361
Aldona of Lithuania (c1309-1339) 1309 26 May 1339 Casimir III the Great of Poland (1310-1370)
Liubartas of Lithuania (c1310-1383) 1310 1383 Anna of Volyn (c1320-c1345)
Agafia Konstantinovna of Rostov (c1330-c1360)
Eufemija of Lithuania (1316-1342) 1316 1342 Boleslaw-Yuri II of Halych (1308-1340)
Aigusta of Lithuania (c1320-1345) 1320 11 March 1345 Simeon Ivanovich of Moscow (1316-1353)



Footnotes (including sources)



Offspring of Budvydas (?-c1296) and unknown parent
Name Birth Death Joined with
Vytenis of Lithuania (?-1316) 1316
Gediminas of Lithuania (c1275-1341) 1275 1341 Wida of Courland
Olga of Smolensk (c1280-1344)
Jewna of Polotsk (c1280-c1344)
Fyodor of Kiev (c1277-c1360) 1277 Lithuania 1360
Vainius of Polotsk (c1280-c1340) 1280 1340
Margiris of Samogitia (c1285-1336) 1285 1336 Punia, Lithuania
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