Rusian genealogy

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N. N. daughter of Tugorkhan of Polovtsy

b. unknown – d. 1125 [1]


Unrelated to the disputed parentage of ?Svjatopolk are his own marital questions. Baumgarten lists three marriages for Svjatopolk, or at least three women whom he was with at some time. [5] The first was a concubine, the second was a daughter of Tugorkhan, and the third was a woman identified as “Barbe Comnène,” presumably the daughter of a Comneni emperor of Byzantium. [6] This idea of a Comnena marrying a Rusian ruler stems from a twelfth–century German chronicle, the Ortliebi Zwifaltensis Chronicon, in which it says that a Byzantine emperor gave his daughter in marriage to a king of the Rusians. [7] An editor’s note identifies the king as Svjatopolk, but here there is no mention of which Byzantine emperor it was. Alexander Kazhdan addresses this marriage briefly in his look at “Rus′–Byzantine Princely Marriages,” and finds that the assumption among historians was that the emperor was Alexius Comnenus, and that in fact he had no daughter named Barbara. [8] The attribution of the name Barbara first appears only in the seventeenth century, connected with the relics of the Christian martyr Barbara. [9] It seems unlikely that such a marriage would have occurred at this time without any corresponding record in either Byzantium or Rus′, and so must be dismissed.

The evidence for Svjatopolk’s concubine is also thin, but seems much more reasonable, though Baumgarten’s assertion that all of the children were born from an “ancienne concubine” is unacceptable. [10] Baumgarten has this concubine dying in 1094 or earlier, and then has Svjatopolk going on to have two more marriages and live another nearly twenty years. Jan Długosz wrote explicitly that M′stislav Svjatopolčič was the son of Svjatopolk and a concubine and that Jaroslav was his brother, [11] while M′stislav is placed by Baumgarten outside of the rest of the children and thus presumably prior to the arrival of the “ancienne concubine. “ancienne concubine.”. [12] Both of these writings probably draw, in their own way, on the account of the “Blinding of Vasil′ko” in the PVL, where M′stislav is referred to as the son of a concubine (naložnitsa) and Jaroslav a few sentences later is simply the “son of Svjatopolk.” [13] Adding fuel to this fire is Długosz’s confusion of dates, where he places the union of Tugorkhan’s daughter and Svjatopolk in 1086, [14] thus giving Svjatopolk eight fewer years with his concubine. As there is so little evidence here, the best course seems to be to acknowledge that Svjatopolk had at least one concubine that bore him a child or children, specifically M′stislav. Concubinage was well known in Rus′ and medieval Europe in general, if not always accepted. The identity of the mother of Svjatopolk’s other children is unknown, but using tentative birth dates for the women based upon their marital dates, we can postulate that Marija and Brjačeslav were born of the daughter of Tugorkhan, while the other children came from a previous relationship. What that relationship was, or who it was with, are still unknown. The situation is complicated further by the PVL referring to Jaroslav simply as the “son of Svjatopolk," after the reference to M′stislav as the son of a concubine.Sadly, our sources do not provide us with an answer, or even enough material to conjecture.

Svjatopolk’s first known marriage was with a daughter of Tugorkhan, which the PVL dates to 1094 as part of a peace arrangement with the Polovcans. [15] As the PVL was already a living document at this date, it seems more likely to be correct than Długosz’s 1086 date, which is from a much later source. This dynastic marriage sealed the agreement with the Polovcians in ways that a simple handshake deal could not;such marriages were beginning to be used more often for Rusian agreements with the steppe peoples at this time, as they had been with Christian kingdoms for over a century. This system, and the peace, broke down only two years later when Tugorkhan, identified in the PVL as Svjatopolk’s “test′” (wife’s father, father–in–law), attacked Perejaslavl. [16] He was killed in the fighting and Svjatopolk brought his body back to Kyiv for burial because of his familial connections to him. [17] This shows that despite the Tugorkhan's disregard for this particular agreement, Svjatopolk acknowledged his kin obligations, and perhaps would have honored the agreement he had made, as he treated his father–in–law’s body with respect. As has been shown with reference to Kazhdan, the marriage to Barbe Comnène most likely did not occur, thus the listing for the death of “kniagyni Sviatopolčaja” in 1125 [18] seems to be for this steppe princess, barring another marriage about which nothing is known. The question of which children belong to which woman is a question that is impossible to answer with the available evidence. The PVL occasionally mentions parentage, such as in the case of Volodimer’s children, but we have not been so fortunate for information on the parentage of Svjatopolk’s many children.

The question of what is marriage occurs in regard to this union between Svjatopolk and the daughter of Tugorkhan as well. The Hypatian chronicle says that Svjatopolk “poja sobě ženu” (took as wife) the daughter of Tugorkhan, and that has been the accepted state of affairs. [19] However, Długosz says that Svjatopolk took her “in consortem,” [20] not in uxorem, or in matrimonium as a wife, but as a “sharer” or “partner,” a consort. The existence of the two statements in regard to the union presents an interesting question, but unfortunately one that cannot be definitively answered. Długosz, though writing from many sources, wrote much later than these events, and he may have interpreted them through his own cultural lens in which a Christian Rusian could take a pagan steppe princess as a consort but not as a wife, but we have no way of knowing. However, the question is one that should be open for consideration since so little is known about marriages between pagans or of pagans with Christians, except the Church’s prohibition on the latter.


  1. Birth/Death: Laurentian Chronicle, s.a. 1124.; Hypatian Chronicle, s.a. 1125.[↑]
  2. Father: Laurentian Chronicle, s.a. 1096.[↑]
  3. Mother: unknown.[↑]
  4. Marriage to Sviatopolk Iziaslavich Michael: Hypatian Chronicle s.a. 1094.[↑]
  5. Baumgarten, “"Généalogies,"” 10–11, table II.[↑]
  6. Ibid., 10. #3.[↑]
  7. D. Ottone Abel, ed., Ortliebi Zwifaltensis chroniconOrtliebi Zwifaltensis chronicon, vol. 10, Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptores (Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Avlici Hahniani, 1852), 90–92.[↑]
  8. Kazhdan, “"Rus′–Byzantine Princely Marriages in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries,"” 419.[↑]
  9. Ibid.[↑]
  10. Baumgarten, “"Généalogies,"” 10, #11–17.[↑]
  11. Długosz, Annales, 183.[↑]
  12. Baumgarten, “"Généalogies,"” 10, #10.[↑]
  13. PVL, s.a. 1097[↑]
  14. Długosz, Annales, 157.[↑]
  15. PVL, s.a. 1094.[↑]
  16. PVL, s.a. 1096.[↑]
  17. PVL, s.a. 1096.[↑]
  18. Hypatian Chronicle, s.a. 1125; Laurentian Chronicle, s.a. 1124.[↑]
  19. PVL, s.a. 1094.[↑]
  20. Długosz, Annales, 157.[↑]