Svyatopolk I Vladimirovich the Accursed Rurik of Kiev, Prince of Turov and Pinsk,
Grand Prince of Kiev, was born circa 980 to Vladimir I Svyatoslavich of Kiev (c958-1015) and A Greek nun and died 1019 of unspecified causes. He married Daughter of Bolesław I the Brave (c995-1018) .

Matejko-chrobry at Kiev (Kijow)

Sviatopolk (in red) with Boleslaw the Brave at the Golden Gate in Kiev

Svyatopolk I Vladimirovich (Svyatopolk the Accursed, the Accursed Prince) (Ukrainian: Святополк Окаянний|; Russian: Святополк Окаянный, Svyatopolk[1]) (c. 980 – 1019) was the Prince of Turov and Pinsk (988–1015) and Grand Prince of Kiev (1015–1019) whose paternity and guilt in the murder of brothers are disputed.

Early life

Sviatopolk silver srebrenik

Svyatopolk's silver srebrenik (silver coin)

Svyatopolk's mother was a Greek nun captured by Svyatoslav I in Bulgaria and married to his lawful heir Yaropolk I, who became Prince of Rus in 972. In 980, Yaropolk's brother Vladimir had him murdered, and the new sovereign raped his predecessor's wife, who soon gave birth to a child. Thus, Svyatopolk was probably the eldest of Vladimir's sons.

When Svyatopolk was eight years old, Vladimir put him in charge of Turov and later arranged his marriage with the daughter of the King of Poland Bolesław I the Brave. The young princess came to Turov together with Reinbern, the Bishop of Kolberg (now Kołobrzeg). Dissatisfied with his father and encouraged by his own wife and Reinbern, Svyatopolk began preparations for war against Vladimir, probably counting on support from his father-in-law. Vladimir soon discovered Svyatopolk's intentions, however, and threw him, his wife and Reinbern in prison. Reinbern died in prison.

Biography according to domestic sources

Not long before Vladimir's death, Svyatopolk was freed from prison and sent to govern the town of Vyshgorod several miles from Kiev. When Vladimir died in 1015, Svyatopolk's courtiers concealed his father's death from him to prevent him from claiming the Kievan throne. When Svyatopolk learned his father's demise, he seized power in Kiev almost immediately.


Coins of Yaroslav and his descendants represent the trident.

The citizens of Kiev did not show much sympathy for Svyatopolk and, therefore, he decided to distribute presents in order to win them over. Then, he decided to rid himself of his brothers, Boris and Gleb, and Svyatoslav, whose claims for the Kievan throne threatened his power. Boris presented most danger to him because he had been in charge of Vladimir's druzhina (personal guards) and army, and enjoyed the support of the citizens. He sent the boyars of Vyshgorod to execute his brother. Boris and his manservant were stabbed to death when sleeping in a tent. The prince was discovered still breathing when his body was being transported in a bag to Kiev, but the Varangians put him out of his misery with the thrust of a lance.

Svyatopolk's cold-blooded reprisal earned him the nickname of the Accursed. The news of this triple murder reached Svyatopolk's younger brother Yaroslav, Prince of Novgorod, who decided to go to war against Svyatopolk with the support from the citizens of Novgorod and the Varangians. The battle took place in 1016 not far from Lyubech, near Dnieper River. Svyatopolk was defeated and fled to Poland.

In 1018, he returned to Rus', defeated Yaroslav and seized Kiev. Bolesław I the Brave and his army remained in Rus' for several months, but later left for Poland. On his way to Poland, Bolesław seized some of the Cherven Cities.

Meanwhile, the posadnik Konstantin Dobrynich and other citizens of Novgorod persuaded Yaroslav to go to war against Kiev once again. Svyatopolk was defeated and fled to the steppes. Soon he returned with the Pecheneg army and attacked Yaroslav in the Battle of the Alta River, but was once again defeated and fled to Poland, eventually dying on his way there. Svyatopolk might have been killed by a descendant of Valuk Conqueror (Wallux dux Winedorum)[2] who in 1018 helped him and his step-father Bolesław in expedition against Yaroslav.

Biography according to foreign sources

Sviatopolk I Forgiven

Svyatopolk I Forgiven

During the last century, the traditional account of Svyatopolk's career has been somewhat modified. It has been argued that it was Boris who succeeded Vladimir in Kiev, while Svyatopolk was still in prison. One Norse saga called Eymund's saga (a part of Yngvars saga víðförla), with remarkable details, puts on Yaroslav the blame of his brother Burizlaf's murder. This Burizlaf, however, may be Svyatopolk (whose troops were commanded by the Polish king Bolesław the Brave; the latter name is also rendered as Burizlaf in some sagas) as well as Boris. Therefore, it has been suggested that Svyatopolk ascended the throne after Boris's assassination and tried to fence off Yaroslav's attacks as well as to punish his agents guilty of Boris's murder.

The chronicle of Thietmar of Merseburg, who died in 1018, could have been regarded as the only contemporary and unbiased account of events, if it were not for the fact that Thietmar's data could have been supplied by Svyatopolk himself during his brief exile at the Polish court. Unfortunately it can be interpreted ambiguously as far as the question of Svyatopolk's guilt is concerned. One place in his chronicle can be understood (although this is not necessary) as telling that Svyatopolk escaped from Kiev to Poland immediately after his father's death. But Thietmar states that Bolesław the Brave first supported his son-in-law against Yaroslav in 1017, which is the date, according to the Russian Primary Chronicle, of Svyatopolk's first defeat by Yaroslav. Preparing a campaign against Kiev, Bolesław abruptly stopped a successful war against the German Emperor Henry II. So, it is unlikely that Svyatopolk had been present at his court since 1015, which is an assumption often made by the historians who consider Yaroslav guilty of Boris and Gleb's murders.

Note that his father is uncertain. His mother was a Greek nun who had been married to Yaropolk, but was raped by his half-brother Vladimir after his death.


Zaślubiny Świętopełka

"Wedding of Svyatopolk" by Jan Matejko, 1892

See also


  1. ^ The Old Slavonic is Свѧтопълкъ in the Cyrillic alphabet, the modern Ukrainian is Святополк, Polish is Świętopełk, Czech is Svatopluk, and Slovak is Svätopluk. Reconstructed, his name is Svętopŭlkŭ, from svętŭ, holy, and pŭlkŭ, host. More commonly, his name is given in its Latin and Frankish equivalents: Suentopolcus, Suatopluk, Zventopluk, Zwentibald, Zwentibold, Zuentibold, or Zuentibald.
  2. ^ Słownik starożytności słowiańskich. T. 2. Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 1965, s. 382.

Svyatopolk I of Kiev
Born: 979 Died: 1019
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Prince of Turov and Pinsk
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Vladimir Svyatoslavich
Grand Prince of Kiev
Succeeded by
Yaroslav Vladimirovich


Offspring of Vladimir I Svyatoslavich of Kiev (c958-1015) and Olava (c960-c995)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Vysheslav Vladimirovich of Novgorod (c977-c1013) 977 1013 Novgorod

Offspring of Vladimir I Svyatoslavich of Kiev (c958-1015) and Unnamed Greek nun
Name Birth Death Joined with
Svyatopolk I Vladimirovich of Kiev (c980-1019) 980 1019 Daughter of Bolesław I the Brave (c995-1018)

Offspring of Vladimir I Svyatoslavich of Kiev (c958-1015) and Rogneda Rogvolodovna of Polotsk (962-1002)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Izyaslav Vladimirovich of Polotsk (c978-1001) 978 1001
Yaroslav I Vladimirovich of Kiev (c978-1054) 978 20 February 1054 NN
Ingegerd Olofsdotter of Sweden (1001-1050)
Mstislav Vladimirovich (c982-c982) 982 982
Mstislav Vladimirovich of Chernigov (c983-1036) 983 1036 Chernigov, Chernihiv Rayon, Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine Anastasia
Vsevolod Vladimirovich of Volhynia (c984-1013) 1084 1113
Predslava Vladimirovna (c983-c1025) 983 1025
Premyslava Vladimirovna (c985-1015) 985 1015
Mstislava Vladimirovna (c986-c1030) 986 1030

Offspring of Vladimir I Svyatoslavich of Kiev (c958-1015) and Malfrida (c965-1000)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Svyyatoslav Vladimirovich of the Drevilians (c982–1015) 982 1015 Skole, Skole Rayon, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine

Offspring of Vladimir I Svyatoslavich of Kiev (c958-1015) and Adela
Name Birth Death Joined with
Boris Vladimirovich of Rostov (986-1015) 986 24 July 1015
Gleb Vladimirovich of Murom (987-1015) 986 1015
Stanislav Vladimirovich of Smolensk (c988-c1015) 988 1015
Sudislav Vladimirovich of Pskov (c992-1063) 992 1063

Offspring of Vladimir I Svyatoslavich of Kiev (c958-1015) and Anna Porphyrogenita (963-1011)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Theofana Vladimirovna of Kiev (c990-c1020) 990 1020 Ostromir Konstantinovich (c995-c1060)

Offspring of Vladimir I Svyatoslavich of Kiev (c958-1015) and Unknown von Schwaben (-)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Maria Dobroniega of Kiev (c1011-1087) Casimir I of Poland (1016-1058)
Agatha Vladimirovna of Kiev (c1014-c1070) 1014 1070 Edward Æþeling of England (1016-1057)

Offspring of Vladimir I Svyatoslavich of Kiev (c958-1015) and unknown parent
Name Birth Death Joined with
Pozvizd Vladimirovich (c985-c1030) 985 1030


Footnotes (including sources)

‡ General