Rusian genealogy

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Rogned′ [1]

b. unknown – d. 1000 [2]


Volodimer Svjatoslavič is probably the most well known of the Rusian rulers. Despite the semilegendary founder Rjurik, Volodimer was really the historical ancestor of the Rjurikids who ruled until the Time of Troubles. Volodimer had many children, as the chronicles record. These children had various mothers, the identities and statuses of whom are largely unknown. The PVL mentions one, Rogněda, by name, and the rest by ethnonym only.“From her [Rogněda] was born four sons Izjaslav, M′stislav, Jaroslav, Vsevolod and two daughters. From the Greek woman, Svjatopolk. From a Bohemian woman Vyšeslav, from another Svjatoslav and M′stislav. And from the Bulgarian woman Boris and Glěb.” [6] The status of these women is unknown. The English translation of the PVL in translating this same passage calls Rogněda “his [Volodimer's] lawful wife,” though it appears that this is actually a plural designation for the women that are about to be listed. [7] In many places these women are called “wives of Volodimer,” perhaps because they are separated off from the “concubines” (“nalozhnitsi”) of which multiple hundreds are mentioned (though not by name or ethnonym) in the same PVL entry. [8] The status of marriage in a pagan society is hard to judge for modern scholars because our sources have come down to us with a Christian filter, of whatever thickness, and our modern definition of marriage is largely a Christian one. Earlier in the chronicle it is stated that Volodimer wanted to take Rogněda for his wife—which would have gained him an alliance with a powerful non–Rjurikid Rusian ruler—but that she refused. [9] Volodimer reacted negatively to this, sacked her father’s lands, and took Rogněda. Ostrowski’s paradosis says that he took her as his wife (“zhene”), [10] however alternate manuscripts have the passage as, “he took [her] for himself.” [11] Rogněda is the only one of Volodimer's pagan wives to rate a separate story, including the title “wife” in the chronicles, and there is, most likely, a very simple reason for this—Rogněda was the mother of Jaroslav “Mudryi.” It would be better in the worldview of the Christian chroniclers were Jaroslav to have been born of a wedded couple, rather than of Volodimer and one of his many concubines. Whether he actually took her as wife, mistress, or concubine or if he would have even distinguished between the three is impossible to know at this remove with the documents available. However, there is one marriage, by Christian standards, that is undisputed in all sources, and that is his marriage to Anna Porphyrogenita.

The marriage of Volodimer to Anna Porphyrogenita was the first foreign dynastic marriage in Rusian history and was responsible for bringing Rus′ into the Christian medieval world. The circumstances of the marriage are well known and are discussed in detail elsewhere. Here, we will simply address the implications regarding the dynastic marriage itself.

Anna was the sister of the Byzantine emperors Basil II and Constantine VII and the daughter of the Byzantine emperor Romanus II. She was desired as a marital partner by both the Ottonian and Capetian royal houses, which sent embassies or wrote letters to her brothers to attempt to gain an alliance with the Byzantine Empire. [12] While both of those houses had longer histories than the Rjurikids, only Rus′ offered what Basil II needed when he needed it: troops, especially troops that would come and serve and then go home, with little, if any, chance of turning into an occupying force. The agreement made between Basil II and Volodimer was the prototypical dynastic marriage. Both sides had something the other wanted and they made an agreement to exchange them. Binding the agreement was a part of what Volodimer wanted—a dynastic marriage with a Byzantine porphyrogenita princess, the most eligible bachelorette in the medieval world. The other thing Volodimer wanted came along with Anna and that was large–scale recognition of his entry into the family of Christian kingdoms. [13] With the agreement made, Anna was able to come to Rus′ and marry Volodimer and provide Rus′ with a physical reminder, a porphyrogenite princess residing in Kyiv, of their new status.

This dynastic marriage, as most were, was part of an agreement between the two parties involved, but it was not the agreement that many later historians and scholars have characterized it as. This was not the final goal of the Rusian rulers, but merely a beginning. It was also not unification with Byzantium. Instead, it was one dynastic tie, albeit the best one that could be made in all of Europe at that time. Even without unification, it did not bring Rus′ into, more strongly into, or partly into the orbit of Byzantium. Instead the marriage brought Rus′ into the family of Christian kingdoms in which Byzantium played a major role. Because Rus′ had married so advantageously, they did not marry again with Byzantium for more than fifty years.

Byzantine princesses were trained as diplomats, and maintained a loyalty to their own families even when married in a foreign land, [14] so it seems likely that Anna exercised or attempted to exercise some influence on her own or Byzantium’s behalf during her lifetime in Rus′. Unfortunately there is no evidence to indicate that influence or any evidence that she was active in any way. After the PVL’s description of her arrival, the only other mention of her in Rusian chronicles is at her death in the year 1011. [15] The most likely reason behind this is a combination of the distaste of the chroniclers for writing the deeds of women and the fact that the chronicle was not begun until nearly sixty years after her death. There is mention in the chronicle, however, of the retinue that Anna brought with her, which contained many dignitaries and priests from Byzantium. [16] This delegation has been assumed to have been part of the Byzantine Christianization of Rus′, but much of the Christianization seems to have been done by Chersonite priests. Anna's entourage was just that, hers. Most foreign princesses who participated in dynastic marriages took with them an entourage, [17] and this was Anna's. Understanding of these priests as part of Anna's entourage helps unravel the mystery of whether Anna's priests or Chersonite priests were the ones Christianizing Rus′.

After Anna went to Rus′ she passed out of the purview of the Byzantine chronicles [18] and the Rusian chronicles have very little to say of her beyond the Christianization story. Thus there is no record of her having any children. Some have thought that they might have had a daughter [19] or that Dobronega/Maria might have been her daughter, [20] , but there is no conclusive proof in these matters, and the majority of Volodimer's children were born before his marriage to Anna. As she did not have children, it made it harder for her legacy to endure in Rus′, and with no one with sufficient cause to uphold it, she passed slowly out of the chronicle.

The possibility has been raised that Volodimer remarried after Anna's death in 1011, four years before his own death in 1015. This idea originally comes from Thietmar of Merseburg who, in relating Bolesław Chrobry’s capture of Kyiv in 1018, mentions a stepmother of Jaroslav residing in Kyiv. [21] . It seems clear from such a statement that a wife of Volodimer was alive in 1018, and the PVL clearly records Anna's death in 1011, so there is the possibility that he remarried. Baumgarten believed this woman was then the mother of Dobronega/Maria, but there is no positive evidence to support this view other than dating her life back from her marriage and guessing her age. [22] He also came to the conclusion, along with others, that the wife was a German princess and that this marriage created a tie between the Rjurikids and the German emperors. [23] Unfortunately, there is very little proof behind the idea. The woman he suggests was the daughter of Cuno von Ennigen. She is mentioned in Thietmar’s Chronicon, but disappears before reaching Rus′, and no marriage with Volodimer or connection to Rus′ is mentioned. [24] . As it stands, it appears that Volodimer did remarry, but that the identity of the woman is a mystery.

As the progenitor of the dominant, and only at the time, line of Rjurikid rulers, Volodimer set the tone for his children and grandchildren through his actions. Volodimer married a Byzantine princess to bring his kingdom into accord with the Christian kingdoms of the rest of Europe, but he married all of his children to royalty from European countries to his west. His actions established many precedents for the future of Kyivan Rus′, including the focus of their dynastic marriage policy and their political orientation on the kingdoms to their west.


  1. Name: PVL s.a. 980.[↑]
  2. Birth/Death: PVL s.a. 1000.[↑]
  3. Father: PVL s.a. 980.[↑]
  4. Mother: unknown.[↑]
  5. Marriage to Volodimer Svjatoslavič: PVL s.a. 980.[↑]
  6. The Povest′ vremennykh let: An Interlinear Collation and Paradosis. Compiled and edited by Donald Ostrowski, with David Birnbaum and Horace G. Lunt. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004) [henceforth PVL], s.a. 980.[↑]
  7. Samuel Hazard Cross and Oleg P. Sherbowitz–Wetzor, ed., The Russian Primary Chronicle (Cambridge, Mass.: The Mediaeval Academy of America, 1953), 94.[↑]
  8. PVL, s.a. 980.[↑]
  9. PVL, s.a. 980[↑]
  10. PVL, s.a. 980[↑]
  11. PVL, s.a. 980. See specifically line 76:12 where the various redactions are shown.[↑]
  12. Thietmar of Merseburg, bk. 7, chap. 72, for Otto I’s attempts. Adalbert Davids, “"Marriage Negotiations between Byzantium and the West and the Name of Theophano in Byzantium (Eighth to Tenth Centuries),"” in The Empress Theophano: Byzantium and the West at the Turn of the Millennium, ed. Adalbert Davids (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 109, for Robert of France’s attempt.[↑]
  13. By my use of “family” here I do not reference the Byzantine imperial concept of a family of rulers with the emperor at its head. I am simply referring to the kingdoms that have been converted to Christianity.[↑]
  14. There has been a little bit written about this in recent years. See Judith Herrin, "Theophano: Considerations on the Education of a Byzantine Princess," in The Empress Theophano: Byzantium and the West at the Turn of the First Millennium, ed. Adalbert Davids (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); and Cecily Hilsdale, "Diplomacy by Design: Rhetorical Strategies of the Byzantine Gift" (Dissertation, University of Chicago, 2003), for examples.[↑]
  15. PVL, s.a. 1011[↑]
  16. PVL, s.a. 988.[↑]
  17. This is discussed in detail elsewhere. See, for example, Raffensperger, Reimagining Europe.[↑]
  18. John Skylitzes mentions that Anna and Volodimer are married and that Volodimer and Basil II are thus related. John Scylitzes, Ioannis Scylitzae Synopsis historiarum, ed. Ioannes Thurn, Corpus fontium historiae Byzantinae (Berolini: De Gruyter, 1973), 336, 354, 367.[↑]
  19. Poppe believes that he has found a daughter of Volodimer and Anna married to a posadnik of Novgorod. A. Poppe, “"Feofano Novgorodskaia,"” Novgorodskii istoricheskii sbornik 6, no. 16 (1997).[↑]
  20. Pčelov states that the Gustynskaja letopis′ and Jan Długosz both make the statement that Dobronega is Anna’s daughter. E. V. Pčelov, Genealogija drevnerusskix knjazei (Moscow: Rossiiskij gosudarstvennyi gumanitarnyi universitet, 2001), 207. However, I have been unable to find any mention of this in Długosz. Jan Długosz, Annales.[↑]
  21. Thietmar of Merseburg, bk. 8, chap. 32[↑]
  22. Baumgarten, “"Généalogies,"” 7–8, table I.[↑]
  23. Most recently, E. V. Pčelov, “"Pol′skaja knjagina – Marija Dobronega Vladimirovna,"” in Vostočnaja Evropa v drevnosti i srednevekov′e, ed. V. T. Pašuto (Moscow: RAN, 1994), 32.[↑]
  24. Thietmar of Merseburg, bk. IVII. [↑]