Папярэдняя старонка: Краўцэвіч А.К.

Mindauh. The Birth Of The State   

Аўтар: Krautsevich Ales,
Дадана: 30-11-2007,
Крыніца: Minsk, 2005.

The Lives Of The Grand Dukes Of Lithuania

The book describes the activities of Mindauh, the first Grand Duke of Lithuania. this story about the creation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with its capital in Navahradak was written by Ales Krautsevich, Doctor of History, and is based on real events researched by scholars.

Table of contents

  1. Lithuania - The Land Of Forests
  2. Career Of An Ancient Warrior
  3. The Birth Of The Grand Duchy. First Challenges
  4. The Kingdom Of Lithuania (1253 -1260)
  5. The Deep Is Done
  6. Milestones In Mindauh's Life Story

Sometimes historians say that history is created by nations. We can either agree or disagree with it, but one thing is certain: the immediate decisions (including those of vital character for whole nations) are taken by concrete persons. The individuality of such a person leaves its unique imprint on the course of the historical process, gives it just this existing and no other form of realisation. A personality in history has always been something interesting and attractive. It seems to me that the unknown to Belarusians history of the state From which the present-day Belarusian nation was born may become more familiar to us if we relate it to the lives and fates of the rulers -- the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. 'Haspadar' was the name for a sovereign. From it comes the word 'spadar', which is a polite form of Addressing people in the modern Belarusian language. In the same manner, from the titles of kings in different nations there appeared Corresponding forms of address: «pan» -- for Poles and czechs, "signore" and «senor» -- for italians and spaniards, respectively, «monsieur»--for frenchmen and so on.

Ales Krautsevich

Mindauh is a legendary figure of Belarusian history the first Grand Duke of Lithuania, the first and the last king of Lithuania (1). Born at the turn of the 12th century (the exact date is unknown), murdered in 1263. Came of a rich Balt family (2), which had its estates in the Lithuanian lands (3).

From an early age he took an active part in armed pillage raids of ancient Lithuanians on Poland, Rus' and neighbouring Baltic tribes. He managed not only to come off intact in that perilous trade, but became one of the foremost war leaders. He was gifted with excellent military and diplomatic skills and notable for his tough and determined character.

It was he who was chosen by the rulers of the rich city-state of Navahradak, when in the fifth decade of the 13th century Mongol tumens (4) drowned in blood and set on fire the whole southern and Eastern Rus', and there was a dire need for a person capable of organising defence for Paniamonne (the Nyoman basin area) from the ruthless Asian invaders.

Thus, Mindauh became the founder of a new state -- the Grand Duchy of Lithuania -- the cradle of the present-day Belarusian and Lithuanian peoples. A barbarian and a pagan, he contributed to the creation of a great Christian state, being among the first to become aware of the vital necessity to establish contact with West-European civilisation.

The time of birth of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania fell at the end of the fourth decade of the 13th century Mindauh was a very important person in this process, not the only one and, apparently, not the most important one, as it had all started long before his birth -- several Centuries earlier...

Lithuania - The Land Of Forests

At the end of the 10th century AD (namely in 988) a major event happened in the life of Eastern Slavs. The Kiev Prince Vladimir (krasnoye solnyshko) introduced Christianity on the territories subject to him. The new belief in one cod, Lord Jesus, came «from the East» -- from Byzantium, and it was not by chance. The Byzantine, or otherwise Eastern Roman, Empire was the world's largest centre of civilisation. The high level of economic life, the refined culture, the majestic architecture, the wealth of many cities (the largest, richest and most glorious being the capital city of Constantinople, or Tsar-city as Slavs used to call it) -- all this caused the admiration and envy of the neighbouring barbarian peoples. The might of the Byzantine army served as a safe barrier to its jealous neighbours. People always want to take after the rich and the mighty therefore, the neighbouring peoples, including Slavs (such as Serbs, Bulgarians, Rusins), strove to adopt the way of life and the culture of Romans-Byzantians.


Adopting the new religion, Rus' joined other countries of Christian civilisation. It was not an easy task though to explain this to common people. They refused to understand why their Prince wanted so much to be like a Constantinople basileus (5) and why he would have to abjure the gods that had been worshiped f0r generations: Vyales, Khors, Dazhboh, Stryboh and the foremost among them Piarun.

However, as history shows, Princes were not in the habit of delivering long speeches in Order to explain something to their subjects or to persuade them of something. The new religion was introduced in a resolute and invasive manner. None was asked what they thought or considered right to carry out baptism by water, people were driven in swarms into rivers. Ancient sacred places -- heathen temples -- were razed Easternal holy fires trampled down, and the wooden idols of old-time gods crushed, slashed to pieces, burned, set afloat -- probably, as a part of the ceremony of baptism. A Kiev chronicler narrated about the introduction of the new belief in Novgorod as follows: «Putiata baptised with a sword, Dabrynia baptised with fire".

it is clear that there were cases of disagreement, resistance and open rebellion. they were often led by heathen priests -- votaries, who were in charge of worshipping old gods and guarding their everlasting peace. the Prince's troops, made up of professional and well-armed warrior knights, easily did away with crowds of peasants. For the displeased and the unsubdued (dissidents, as they would be called nowadays) there was only one efficient way of opposition to flee as far as possible, where Christianity had not reached yet...

Just then, at the end of the 10th century, far off to the north of Kiev land, on the vast tracts scarcely populated and covered with thick forests, where the Nyoman flows with its numerous tributaries -- the Losha, the Ousa, the Ousha, the Biarezina, the Serviach, the Molchadz, the Viliya, the Shchara, the Zalvinka, the Ros', the Kotra and other rivers, there appeared a couple of Slavic settlements. Some of their names passed through the whole history of Belarus and are well-known to us today; Navahradak, Harodnia, Vaukavysk, Slonim (6).

During the half a century which passed after the last war academic archaeologists have extensively excavated in these towns on the sites where the first settlements were located. These settlements survived in the memory of people under such names as «Stary zamak» and «Novy zamak» (in Harodnia), «Zamkavaya hara» and «Maly zamak» (in Navahradak), «Zamchyshcha» (in Slonim), «Shvedskaya hara» i «Zamchyshcha» (in Vaukavysk). Thanks to the analysis of the huge Number of the obtained artefacts scientists found out that the first dwellers, who founded these settlements at the end of the 10th century, were Eastern Slavs, namely Dryhavivhes and Volynians.

Noteworthy is the fact that the earliest findings connected with the Christian religion (such as crosses, stone icons, plates with Christian images), were encountered in the occupation layer only starting with the second half up to the end of the 11th century that is to say almost a century after the establishment of Christianity in Rus'. And this solid material evidence speaks for the idea that it were heathen Slavs who came to Paniamonne at the end of the 10th century escaping the violence against their belief it is clear that eventually Christianity came here as well, but the local pagan religion lived in the minds of the local population for a long time after that and left a strong imprint on local traditions and customs. Researchers suppose that this imprint can even be traced in local Christian temples. For example, the 12th century stone churches in Harodnia (only one of which survived-- the well-known Kalozha, the church of Barys and Hleb on the bank of the Nyoman) are famous for their wall decorations, rich in colour and grafted supposedly under the influence of local heathen traditions.

Slavs (Dryhavivhes and Volynians) advanced gradually toward paniaminne from the prypiats, up along its tributaries: the Liasnaya, the Yaselda, the Bobryk, the Tsna, the Lan', the Sluch. Passing the watershed between the Nyoman and the prypiats, the migrants came close to the left tributaries of the Nyoman -- the Ros', the Zalvianka, the Shchara, the Biarezina, and moving down the current they reached the Nyoman proper -- the grand Belarusian river to be. These lands were sparsely populated by the Baltic tribe of Yatvingians, who were locally called Dainova. Paniamonne was just a part of the ethnic territory of Yatvingians. The main land of Yatvingians was located farther westward (in present-day Bialystok province in Poland). Until today villages Yatsviaz and Dainova can be found on the territories of habitation of this long ago perished people.


On the banks of the Nyoman heathen Slavs encountered heathen Balts. Scientists believe that this wasn't their first encounter. The earliest traces of Slavic settlements in Paniamonne are dated by archaeologists about the 7th century AD. These traces were left by Small groups of Dryhavivhes and Polatsak Kryviches, who occasionally reached here from the south and the east at the end of the 10 th century though, eastern Slavs came in greater numbers -- and there appeared the so-called colonization wave.

In ancient times and in the Middle Ages colonization of new territories was often accompanied by violent conflicts with the indigenous population. For example, many German towns in the eastern part of Germany and those in Prussia were founded on the sites of the conquered and annihilated Slavic and Baltic settlements. Among such towns is the capital of modern Germany -- the city of Berlin. On the territory of Belarus, including that of Paniamonne, the Slavic colonization of which began in the 6-7th centuries AD developed in an absolutely different way -- a peaceful one, and was not followed by extermination or extrusion of the natives. The local population being scanty and sparse, and the colonists coming small in numbers, there was sufficient room for everyone to live.

At first there might have occurred conflicts. It is clear that few would like someone to come and settle in one's forest, on one's land, which from times immemorial belonged to one's tribe. But there was so much land and forest, and there lived so few people, that there was no need to fight whatsoever. In primeval forests of Paniamonne, here and there divided by glades, marshes and swamps, there was enough space for everyone. The migrants did not capture the habitable areas populated by the Balts, but founded their settlements on free hills and clearings. All you needed was the will and the power to tackle the dense forests. Take up as much place as you wish, burn out the forest, grub up stumps, plough up the soil, and the ashes of the forest-clearing fire are a ready-made fertiliser. In this way there appeared «lyada» -- a spot recovered from the forest today in Paniamonne area, even in those places where there is little forest left, one can quite often come across villages called lyada or lyady, which give pin-point reference to the origin of these communities. It is even believed that the town of Lida (one of the largest in Harodnia region) sprung up in the same place where an ancient forest village of lyada had been, the name being slightly modified in the course of the centuries.

Slavs were at a higher level of social evolution than the local Balts. They already had their own written language and feudal state organisation, mastered complicated crafts and were good at building towns. The local Balts soon understood that they could make friends with the newcomers and that it was worth trading with them. Slavic craftsmen were skilled in making beautiful things with excellent operating characteristics. In a neighbouring Slavic community one could get a consummate tool or arms made of hardened steel: a sharp and durable sickle, a scythe, an excellent knife or a sword. Nobody could outstrip an artisan Rusin in shaping on the potter's wheel practical, fine and at the same time strong and robust clay cruses and crocks.

Trade is the best medium of peaceful contacts. The locals soon perceived and gradually started to imbibe the Slavonic (Rusin or otherwise Old Belarusian) language, some of them moved to the towns that had been founded by Slavc, got married to Rusin girls, and local maidens wed young Rusins. The newcomers in their turn got acquainted with the local culture, adopted the tools, ways of house-keeping and house-building that conformed most to the natural conditions of the area. Slavic artisans mastered the skill of producing Baltic adornments, distinctive in shape and ornamental pattern, that were in great demand among the local women of fashion.

Data of linguistics and archaeology speak of the fact that for a long time Paniamonne was inhabited by a mixed Balto-Slavic population. studying the toponymical (7) materials linguists arrived at the conclusion that as of today in Paniamonne among a large number of Slavic names of settlements, places, rivers there have been preserved quite a few toponyms of Baltic origin, that came to us from the middle ages. Side by side with the villages that have typically Slavic names, as for example, Kurylavichy, Miliavichy, Mal'kavichy, there are those with Baltic names, as for example, Bershty, Bakshty, Zhodishki, Dzevianishki, Kotchyna, Bykshtava etc.

The advance of Slavic migrants took place mainly along the rivers, and away from these paramount ancient routes, in the watersheds, there remained groups of Balts, at times of a quite considerable size. Some of these «islands» existed for rather a long time. The most famous one is a small area in the vicinity of Dziatlava, where at the end of the 19th century the villagers could speak with each other one of the dialects of Lithuanian, notwithstanding the fact that the rest of the neighbouring villages spoke Belarusian.

If we take a map of Paniamonne and mark in different colours the discovered and explored by archaeologists settlements of the 9-13 centuries that were inhabited by Balts and Slavs, it will be clearly seen that they are situated alternately scattered in blots over the whole Paniamonne. Alll the towns here were of Slavic origin (Harodnia, Navahradak, Vilnia, Vaukavysk, Slonim and others), and the vicinity was made up of village communities: Slavic, Baltic and village: with mixed population. In the north, closed to Aukstaitija (the eastern part of the present-day republic of Lithuania), there were more Baltic settlements, whereas in the south, near the border with the main lands of eastern Slavs there were primarily Slavic ones.

The most protruding into the Baltic territory happened to be the city of Vilnia in the north, founded by the Kryviches upon the picturesque hills along the banks of the Viliya, and in the north-west -- Harodnia founded by Dryhavivhes upon the river Nyoman. Between the two rivers, Nyoman and Viliya, just between Harodnia and Vilnia, remained a patch of Baltic (Lithuanian) lands, which wedges into Belarusian borders, as can be seen today.

The territory with mixed population was named by scholars a «contact zone» between Balts and Slavs. In medieval times it was situated somewhere between Mensk and Vilnia and was a long strip of land about 200 km wide that stretched for almost five hundred kilometers, like from Biarestse to Braslau in Vitsebsk region.

That contact zone was not something permanent and immovable. Slowly but steadily it moved to the north and north-west. That movement was very well described by a specialist who studied it -- the linguist Hvedar Klimchuk: «for a number of centuries up to the beginning of the 20th century and in some places even later that contact zone was moving gradually to the north-west first of all in the districts neighbouring it the Lithuanian population learned the Belarusian language and became bilingual. Secondly in many places of the zone itself the Lithuanian language was gradually losing its ground to Belarusian». In that way the ethnic territory of Belarusians grew.

That movement continued even in our times. In mid-fifties of the 20th century ethnographers registered its manifestations at the present-day border between Lithuania and Belarus. Residents of the border villages told the scholars that their parents had spoken Lithuanian but they themselves did not know that language and spoke Belarusian. As one man said: «the old ones spoke Lithuanian. My father was a pure Lithuanian but you can tell me any lie in Lithuanian, i do not understand it absolutely".

The result of the Balto-Slavic contacts was the growth of Belarusian ethnic territory which in the 19th century covered the major part of Vilnia region.

* * *

Somewhere at the end of the 10th century Slavs crossed the Nyoman and met new Balt tribes that owned lands along the middle reach of the Viliya and called themselves Litva or Lithuanians. Further to the north and west there were other Balt tribes: Nalshany, Dzyavoltva, Zhemaits. At first Slavs could not distinguish between them and started calling the whole new land by the name of the border tribe -- Lithuania. Other eastern Slavs as well as Poles, Germans and later the whole Europe took this name from Belarusians. Scholars noted that the appearance of such names -- alaethnicons (the name of a people that was given to it by other peoples) when a country is named after its border tribe is a worldwide practice.

The names of two neighbouring Baltic lands -- Livonia and Prussia -- appeared in the same way German missionaries and merchants sailed by the Baltic sea to the estuary of the . Western Dvina at the end of the 12th century the first people they met there were livs and the whole country got the name after that tribe --Livonia (Livland). The same happened to Prussia -- the country got its name after the tribe of Prusi that lived on the border with Poland.

The first written evidence of Lithuania dates beck to the 11th century and its earliest mention is connected with the description of the death of the well-known Christian missionary, saint Bruno. In the annals (yearly description of events) of the town of Kvedlinburg it is written that the saint Bruno accepted martyrdom from pagans in 1009 «at the border of Rus' and Lithuania". The first chronicle of eastern Slavs «tale of bygone times» based on old oral legendry mentioned «Litva» among the tribes that paid tribute to Rus' and had their own language.

All upper and middle Paniamonne, namely Navahradak, Harodnia and Vilnia lands, was called «Lithuania» in Rus', though together with Balts there also lived Slavs. If someone from Rus' went to Paniamonne to the Slavic towns of Navahradak or Vaukavysk for trade or other business he used to say: «i am going to Lithuania" and that very Lithuania became the core and later the central region of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, of the state that laid foundation to the present-day Belarusians and Lithuanians. Today this area is called by historians the historic Lithuania. In Paniamonne itself people still for a long time remembered the first Baltic Lithuania on the banks of the Viliya.

Later when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania annexed enormous territory from the Baltic to the black seas the word Lithuania cot a new meaning becoming the name of that largest European state. Its people were called Litvins or Lithuanians irrespective of the fact if they were Balts or Slavs and irrespective of the place they lived in. In the country itself they still called Lithuania the upper and middle Paniamonne or Navahradak, Harodnia, Vilnia and part of Mensk lands. It that way it was distinguished from other parts of the state -- Rus' (Polatsak and Mahileu), Zhemaitia, Podlasie (in the West Bug basin), Palesse, Padolle, Halich-Volynia and Kiev lands.

The language of the majority of Lithuanian population (and of the whole state as well) was called Rusin (according to the modern terminology -- Old Belarusian). At the same time part of the Balts in Lithuania, especially in its northern part -- Aukstaitija, kept their language called Lithuanian. The language that was very close to the Aukstait language was used also by Zhemaitia people. Erasmus Vitelius, the secretary of the Grand Duke Alexander, said about those Balts in 1501 in a speech to the Pope: Lithuanians who became catholics have not lost their language but more often use the Russian (i.e. Belarusian) language because it is nicer and easier». So in that way the historic Lithuania was being created.

In the middle of the 13th century when the process of the creation of a state started at Paniamonne here still lived mixed Balto-Slavic population and the process of Balto-Slavic contacts was very active. The creation of a new state was closely connected with that process and was going on under its strong and beneficial influence. The previous two-century experience of peaceful cooperation turned out to be very helpful when there arose a need to create a new state organisation to defend the common native land from tatars and crusaders.

Researchers have often expressed an opinion that in Paniamonne in Harodnia and Navahradak as well as in the nearby Polatsak in the 12th-13th centuries there were written chronicles, but not a single local chronicle has been found yet. Polatsak chronicles have not been preserved either. That is why scholars have to gather the information about the local events from the chronicles of the neighbouring lands --first of all from Kiev, Novgorod and Halich-Volynia. A lot of interesting information about the early years of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania can be found in German chronicles from Livonia and Prussia. Some information about Paniamonne events of the 13th century can be found in Polish, Hungarian and other European chronicles.

In general there are rather few facts about the 13th century, the time when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was formed. Chroniclers of the neighboring countries first of all wrote about their own lands and mentioned Lithuania only in special cases. For example, when their countries were at war with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania or if there were some extraordinary events in Lithuania: an internecine war, baptism, crowning or murder of the Grand Duke.

Starting from the 12th century information about events in Paniamonne started to appear in eastern Slavic, first of all in Kiev, Chronicles. Mostly they were notes about the town of Harodnia and Harodnia principality in 1116 the chronicles mention Prince Usevaladka -- the great Grandson of Yaroslav i -- who married Agafia, the daughter of the famous Vladimir Monomakh. The note of 1128 names Usevaladka as the Prince of Harodnia. At that time Harodnia principality was politically dependent on Kiev that very Usevaladka and later his sons Barys, Hleb and Mstsislau participated in military expeditions organized by Kiev Princes. In 1144 Vsevolod of Kiev married two daughters of Usevaladka of Harodnia to Princes of Charnihau and Turau.

In that way the chronicle acknowledged that in the 12th century there existed in Paniamonne an eastern Slavic state -- Harodnia principality that was included into the political system of Kievan Rus'. Taking, into account that Harodnia was an eastern Slavic town in the depth of ethnic Baltic territory we can state for sure that Harodnia principality consisted of territories populated by both Balts and Slavs.

The first and only mentioning of the participation of Harodnia troops in a march against Lithuania Ordered by Kiev is also dated 1132. It is not known where the united troops headed by the Kiev Prince Mstislau went but we can assume that Usevaladka of Harodnia did not fight against his local Balts. Probably that unsuccessful expedition (Kiev troops were beaten on their way back) was directed further north from Harodnia. Historic sources do not give any other information about Balto-Slavic conflicts in Paniamonne for several centuries to come.

In the following 13th century chroniclers wrote more about Navahradak, probably because that town became the largest and the richest one in Paniamonne. Long-continued archeological excavations (from 1956 till the beginning of the 80-s of the 20th century) discovered a very interesting local culture, the unusual richness of which surprised even archeologists. The most impressive is the coverage of trade connections of medieval Navahradak -- from Rus' and Baltic lands to western Europe and middle east: Byzantium, Syria, Iran.

The person whose destiny was to become the creator and founder of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was born in Lithuania long after pagan Slavs came here. At least two centuries passed since then and a lot of things changed. Paniamonne was populated more densely, in its southern part the Slavic as well as the Baltic population adopted Christianity (from the second half of the 11th century). At the time when Mindauh came to this world there existed a very active economic life and it were the rich Paniamonne towns that became the backbone of his state. But we shall tell about it a bit later...

Career Of An Ancient Warrior

In the 80-s of the 12th century annals and chronicles noted a considerable growth of military activities of ancient Lithuanians. Military croups of Balts -- the Lithuanians mentioned in chronicles, started to go pillaging in all directions from their native Paniamonne. On the basis of the chronicles historians made a supposition that Lithuanians at that time moved to a new stage of the development of the primitive society -- the socalled period of the military democracy, the harbinger of the appearance of a state. At that time war becomes the main occupation for men. They spend a lot of time in military actions the main purpose of which is the capture of booty in the form of material values: expensive items, Slaves and animals, food.

The democracy was in the fact that the main decisions regarding the life of a tribe were made at general meetings of free warriors. But it was not always possible to conduct such meetings during a military action when the enemy was nearby and it was necessary to make the right decision -- to fight to run or to negotiate. That is why there was elected a chief who could take control during such an important and dangerous event as a military action.

Those people who had authority among their tribesmen and had already shown their experience in military art became military chiefs. The tribe's chief or some competent warrior could lead the troops. Everything depended on trust: someone could lead a dozen of his friends, others led hundreds and thousands of warriors. But large troops were rare, they were gathered only during the most important events or for defence from powerful enemies. It is difficult to manage a large army, it is not fast and maneuverable on the go when everything depends on the speed and the surprise of a maneuver.

Mostly small and maneuverable troops capable of long and fast marches went on such expeditions. They appeared out of the blue on the enemy's territory, robbed whatever and whoever they could and tried to disappear as quickly but having the burden of the loot and the prisoners, the warriors were not as maneuverable as at the beginning. Often the pillaging troops themselves became victims of the revenge of local people who organized a chase, ran down the robbers and took back the booty.

Interesting descriptions of such campaigns were found in the «Livonian Chronicles» by the Latgal (Latvian) priest and the famous Baltic chronicler of the 13th century Henric Latvian. For example, in the winter of 1205 one of the chiefs of the Semigal tribe persuaded his allies, Livonian Germans, to lay an ambush against Lithuanian troops when they retumed from their expedition to the lands of ests. The Lithuanian warriors were walking along a winter road one after another, falling in each other's footsteps, with the prisoners (about one thousand) in the middle. The Lithuanian scouts noticed fresh tracks on the snow and stopped, sensing danger. By and by the rest caught up with them and they gathered in a large crowd. The Semigals saw from their ambush that there were very many Lithuanians and were afraid to start the fight the Lithuanian warriors were attacked by the armored German knights. The surprise attack played its role and the Lithuanians started to run in all directions. Then the Semigals found their courage and entered the fight a lot of Lithuanian warriors as well as Est prisoners were killed. After that the winners returned to their villages. The Semigals brought on their sledges the heads of the killed Lithuanians.

Novgorod chronicles say that in 1245 Prince Alexander Yaroslavovich (Nevski) learned about the Lithuanian attack on Novgorod lands and raised his troops. He caught up with the enemy near Toropets and killed many of them including 8 toparchs (chiefs). It seems that several Lithuanian troops headed by their chiefs went to that unfortunate expedition.

The famous Pskov Prince of the 13 th century Daumont -- Mindauh's killer -- stood out in fights with Lithuanians. A Lithuanian by birth he ruled in Nalshany and in 1265 ran away to Pskov from the revenge of the Grand Prince Voishalk. He was baptized as tsimafei and served well his new land becoming famous in fights against his former countrymen. Soon after coming to Pskov Daumont marched against his native country and according to Pskov chronicles «captured Lithuanian land, his native country and Princess Gerdzeneva, he captured her children and the whole principality, and came back with many prisoners...".

To live by war is a profitable business but a very dangerous one. One could gather a fortune in a couple of successful attacks and then lose his life in one unfortunate expedition. Only the strongest the most talented and luckiest survived. By and by some chiefs amassed considerable material wealth and became influential people. Supported by their faithful troops, teams of professional warriors, they turned into real rulers of some territories. It looks that Mindauh's father had a similar career. Later our character took after him.

Belligerent Lithuanians understood the benefits of good neighbourship only to well. They maintained friendly relations and were never at war with the nearest to Paniamonne eastern Slavic lands -- Turau-Pinsk and Polatsak. In different chronicles in several dozen notes about military expeditions of Lithuanians against Baltic lands, Poland, Halich-Volynia, Kiev, Smolensk, Great Novgorod, Pskov, not a word is said about attacks against Pinsk, Turau, Polatsak to say nothing about Navahradak, Harodnia and other Belarusian towns situated in the Balto-Slavic contact zone.

Ancient Lithuania was as if surrounded by a «safety belt» of neighbouring peaceful lands through which Lithuanians could easily go during their expeditions and come back home. The enemy who wanted revenge had certain difficulties in getting to Lithuanian villages as they had to go for at least a couple of hundreds of kilometers through those lands that were friendly to Lithuanians. The neighboring Slavs also valued their peaceful relations with the Balts. They let Slav troops pass through their territory and when occasion offered they were even eager to join them. For example, Polatsak people did this in 1198 and in 1258 when they went together with Lithuanian troops against their adversary -- Smolensk. In 1203 the leud of Polatsak, Prince Usevalad from Gerzike together with an allied Lithuanian troop turned up unexpectedly near Riga, took cattle from the fields and captured two priests who were cutting wood together with pilgrims. In 1245 the Prince of Pinsk secretly sent a messenger to warn a Lithuanian troop about the arrival of Halich-Volynian army.

Successful Baltic warriors sold their military booty or «lupy» in Old Belarusian in the nearest towns of Paniamonne. Lithuanian chiefs were interested not only in Slaves and cattle but also in expensive things from far away: valuable arms, good wine, expensive cloth, exquisite jewelry, utensils for food and drink. One could get this all in the Slavic towns of Paniamonne, the tradesmen of which had contacts with almost all Europe and Middle East.

Some of such things were found during archeological excavations in Navahradak. Jewelry, sophisticated glassware from Western Europe, Byzantium, Syria, Iran -- it all was a real luxury and cost a fortune at that time. Local Slav masters were also good. In Navahradak archeologists excavated a whole section of jewelers who specialized in golden jewelry it seems they could find rich customers and profited well from them. Some houses in this part of the town were two-storied, had frescoes on the walls and glass windows -- a very rare case and an extreme luxury at the time! Navahradak of the 13 th century became the richest town of Paniamonne. Vilnia -- the future capital of the Grand Duchy was then far behind it.

We know little about Mindauh's father, apparently he was a rich and influential man. A 13th century chronicler noted that Zhemaitia envoys trying to please Mindauh said: «your father was a mighty ruler and no one was equal to him in Lithuania". The father's name remains unknown though later chroniclers (of the 15 th -16 th centuries) called him Rynhold. But in the documents of the 13th century there was no such person mentioned that is why contemporary historians acknowledge this name as a mythical one, invented by chroniclers of later time.

There is not much information about Mindauh either. Almost all of it is about his state activities and very seldom about him as a person. It is not known when he was born, what height he had, of what build he was, what were his voice, the color of his hair and his eyes like. By the way, all known portraits of Mindauh as well as of other Grand Princes after him till Yahaila are just a fruit of imagination of artists. We can judge about Mindauh's personality, his character, upbringing and other things taking into consideration the little information we have about his origin, occupation, actions and deeds.

The father's wealth and authority secured Mindauh's high position in the society from the very moment of his birth. Nevertheless in accordance with medieval practice the boy himself had to prove his value as a warrior and a military chief in dangerous military expeditions. As we know, unlike wealth and origin, one's character and intelligence are not always inherited from one's parents. But in this case the son not only measured up to his father but surpassed him greatly.

There is no doubt that Mindauh was a person with a vivid individuality so it was not by chance that he was elected a Prince by the people of Navahradak. His unconventional and thoroughly calculated political and diplomatic decisions played a great role in the process of state construction. It was not by chance that chroniclers of the time wrote more about him than about other Princes. Though there is very little information about Mindauh there is still much more than about those who came after him: Voishalk, Tranyata, Traiden, Vitsen.

There is no doubt that from his early childhood Mindauh was taught military art -- a warrior's son was being prepared for wars. A Prince's son had no problem with nourishment unlike the majority of medieval people who ate little and often had to starve. So we can assume that he had a good physical training and even if he was not large in built (medieval people were mostly small) at least he had to have an aristocratic posture characteristic of people who are used to ruling others. At his father's court, the court of a rich and influential Balt nobleman, the boy enjoyed care and respect such people get used to giving Orders from very early childhood and usually consider it absolutely natural that their wish is a command for all people around them.

A 13th century chronicler from Volyn stated that when Mindauh «began to rule alone in the whole Lithuanian land, he became very proud and put on airs and placed nobody at the same level with himself». Such behavior is characteristic of people hungry for power in all epochs and especially in medieval times with their cult of physical power, especially if a ruler is not burdened with too much culture and civilization. Having killed and chased away his blood relatives-adversaries Mindauh gained power in complete accord with the traditions of his epoch. He was surely a person hungry for power and ready to pay a high price for it he surely loved to use this power as in events of capturing other men's wives (we shall talk about it later). Even at an early age Mindauh was one of five «senior» Lithuanian Princes.

One is struck with the knowledge and precision with which this seemingly barbarian and pagan man managed to orient himself in sophisticated international politics introducing his country and himself into the world of European civilization. Of course Mindauh had wise advisers, and he himself was not a complete savage, free from any influence of civilization. He must have learned certain things during expeditions to rich Christian lands. The acquaintance of his ancestors and himself with east Slavic culture left its trace as well. One of the 13th century authors, a missionary monk who was present at Mindauh's coronation wrote about the easiness of preaching Christianity among Yatvingians, Lithuanians and Nalshany because they «were brought up by Christian wet nurses from the cradle». It is quite possible that Mindauh could read and write (in cyrillic of course because at the time Balts did not have any written language).

There is no doubt that Mindauh was a great statesman but somehow his personality does not cause any special interest he is a typical representative of a medieval monarch who spent more time in wars than in peacefully managing his country lust for power and readiness to do anything for it are common for people with immature spiritual life. Such behavior does not demand either special intellect or considerable spiritual development of the self (another example is Voishalk, Mindauh's son). Vice versa, the lower the intellect the more vivid is such lust for power. Mindauh was more talented and luckier than other chiefs, had a better start for his career. The Lady History made it so that his personal interests coincided with the most important need of Paniamonne -- organization of a strong state. It is because of this coincidence as well as of favorable external conditions that the state was a success and Mindauh took an honorable place in the pantheon of heroes of our history.

He laid the basis of orientation of Lithuania towards Western Europe. But he did it under the pressure of circumstances not understanding the real meaning of this strategic civilization choice. He adopted the catholic faith and accepted a crown from the Pope but some years later he renounced the baptism and it seems that he never paid much attention to his title of a king.

Today Mindauh is praised in Lithuania as a great Lithuanian patriot and they call him the builder of the first Lithuanian state. In Belarus he is sometimes shown as an outstanding Belarusian statesman. But in the 13th century the present Lithuanian and Belarusian peoples did not exist Mindauh could not possibly know that seven centuries after his death there would emerge Lithuanian and Belarusian states, so he could not spend his life creating them. He was building his state from materials at hand and in the place where it seemed possible -- in the Balto-Slavic contact zone. He was building it for himself and for his children, taking advantage of the opportunity and the circumstances.

In this construction he used the material that was at hand. Among his closest allies there were both Balts and eastern Slavs. For example, a chronicle mentions Mindauh's waywode Astafi Kanstantsinavich from Ryazan (he may have left his land during a Tartar raid). Nearby there were ready examples of statehood in the form of the local eastern Slavic principalities with their developed state institutions and systems of feudal hierarchy so Mindauh imbibed them completely the cultured and developed Rusin language was at hand and it was suitable for serving that statehood, so it became the state language of Lithuania.

Mindauh's name in written sources (the Halich-Volynia chronicle) was mentioned for the first time in 1219 in the description of the peace agreement between a group of Balt princes and the Halich-Volynia state. Mindauh was mentioned as the fourth among five «senior» Princes. We can assume from here that in 1219 he was old enough. Knowing the date of his death (1263) and taking into consideration the fact that it was not a natural death we can say that Mindauh was born not earlier than on the verge between the 12th and the 13th centuries. In the same document a chronicler added that Mindauh killed prince Vishymunt Bulevich «and took his wife and killed his brothers Edzivil, Sprudeik».

It is known that Mindauh owned his own castle -- «hrad» in the language of a Slavic chronicle or «burg» as it is written in a German chronicle. The chronicle says that during the war with Halich-Volynia Mindauh locked himself «in hrad varut». Historians assumed that the name of his family castle was «Varuta». But other scholars offer to read this part of the text as «in hrad in Ruta». There is no agreement between historians regarding the place where this «hrad» was situated. During the second half of the 19th- 20th centuries scholars named about a dozen places in Lithuania and Belarus where Mindauh's caste could have stood. Some of these places are situated at least two hundred kilometers away from each other.

It is obvious that the fortifications of Mindauh's castle were wooden and have not survived till our time. The only thing that could have remained -- the hill with traces of defence graffs and walls. But there are several dozens of such hills in northern Belarus and Lithuania. The field of search is a bit narrowed by the fact mentioned in the chronicle that Mindauh ruled in the Lithuanian land. That was the southernmost part of Aukstaitija and its border with Navahradak lands was along the Nyoman river. That means that Mindauh's castle stood somewhere in the interfluve of the Nyoman and its largest tributary -- the Viliya. And here we have much fewer hills with ruins.

The largest and most beautiful of them is the township near the town of Halshany in Ashmyany district built on the highest hill with an unusual name «Ship». The ideally preserves land walls over which it is difficult to get even now, the place on top covered with crass from which the area is seen for dozens of kilometers. According to the results of archeolocical excavations there was a feudal castle here in the 13th century the local legend connects it with the enemy of Mindauh -- Prince Daumont but the legend can be wrong (as it often happens) and we know well that Daumont ruled in Nalshany, far to the north from here.

During tourist trips to Halshany i have often seen how school pupils react when we take them to the Ship's tor. Agitated by the climb they run to the edge of the castle's ground and suddenly fall silent stunned by the surprising magnificence of the view. Right under their feet there is a number of round hills of different height cut by picturesque valleys and colored in soft and gentle greens and grays typical for this part of the globe only it is here at the top of the medieval caste that one feels most acutely the contact with a bygone epoch. And it is not really difficult to imagine how Mindauh himself -- the first Grand Duke of Lithuania admired his native land from here seven centuries ago...

The Birth Of The Grand Duchy. First Challenges

By the beginning of the 13th century there had passed more than two hundred years since eastern Slavs started to live in Paniamonne. Over this time there had appeared a local system of relations between people from different tribes. Eastern Slavic towns-states (the richest and the most influential of them being Navahradak) lived together peacefully and cooperated to mutual benefit with Balt tribal organizations, within which the influence of militant chiefs grew gradually the town craftsmen provided necessary things for townspeople and dwellers of nearby villages. Rich merchants went to long and dangerous trips to get rare and expensive goods in Kiev, Polatsak, great Novgorod, over the black or the Baltic seas. Balt warriors took their military trophies to towns to exchange them for necessary goods or luxurious things: expensive arms, educated Slaves, thoroughbred horses, jewelry, extraordinary foreign things.

Their chiefs were fighting and dying in endless military expeditions. Those who managed to survive collected fortunes, built and strengthened their castles, multiplied their troops and gradually took hold of the neighbourhood. The fact that the Halich-Volynia chronicle mentions «senior Princes» shows that some of the chiefs managed to surpass others in wealth and power. The echo of such competition can be heard in the German chronicle of the time. For example, in the description of Zhamoits saying to Mindauh that his father was a «great chief» and had no one equal to him in Lithuania.

Evolution of a primitive community into a state takes a lot of time. Decades pass in enmity and fights, adversaries carefully watch each other making and breaking temporary unions not to allow any of the competitors to rise. No one wants to give way but sooner or later in the group of the strongest there should appear a person who by force and trickery would surpass the adversaries, capture their castles and lands and thus would lay foundations of a state. Further success depends on many different factors: the favourable situation in the country itself (would the heirs of the unifier fight each other, would the children of his enemies become very strong) and the situation abroad (if neighbouring countries would have enough strength to strangle the young state -- their unwanted adversary).

In Paniamonne like in all other Balt lands the Baltic state proper did not manage to appear because there was no time for it extraordinary events of the 13th century interrupted the process of state-building -- the major being active German armed colonization of the Baltic lands. First the inhabitants of lower Padzvinne and Prussia bore the brunt of the Germans. While they were fighting, Paniamonne had some time (several decades) to organize the defense.

Another threat appeared suddenly from the south-east from the Black Sea steppes. Ruthless, excellently organized Asian conquerors -- Mongols -- defeated Polavtsy in one quick battle and reached Rus' borders. In 1223 the united army of Russian Princes went to the steppe and was beaten hollow on the banks of the Kalka river. The victorious khan Ordered to make a platform on the bodies of the killed Russian Princes and had a feast of victory on it the road to Rus' was open but for unknown reasons the Mongols turned back to Asian steppes. At the time the tragedy disappeared as quickly as it had come.

For some time there was no news about Mongols but fifteen years later they returned, that time for good. In 1238 it took them several weeks to devastate the land of Vladimir and Suzdal with fire and sword. In 1239 they destroyed Perayaslau and Charnihau. A year later it was Kiev's turn. After several weeks' siege, an attack and desperate fighting in the streets this rich and glorious Slavic town was robbed and completely destroyed. Several dozens of thousands of its residents were killed, others were captured. The Pope's ablegate (8), a franciscan Plana Karpini visited Kiev six years after the pillage and left the following note: «when we were riding there we saw a lot of human sculls and bones in the fields. This town used to be large and populous but now it is completely destroyed. Now there are barely two hundred buildings there and the people are in captivity».

In 1241 -- 1242 Batu khan led his invincible tumens with battles through Halich-Volynia lands, Malopolska, Hungary and reached the Adriatic shores. Blarestse that was situated near Paniamonne fell victim to Mongols. One of the Tartar troops drifted to the north off the main line of the expedition and came here. After that a chronicler wrote that Princes «Danila and Vasilka... Could not co out into the field because of the stench from lots of dead bodies...». That time the tragedy passed Lithuania by, just touched on the border, breathed hot air into the face. But it was unwise to hope for continuation of peaceful life. All major trade connections in the south were broken. The Tartar army could appear in Paniamonne any moment now.

In the steppes near the Black Sea Batu khan created an enormous Mongol and Tartar state. The golden tent in the main quarters of the khan was called a «horde» and the state got its name after the tent -- the Golden Horde. Mongol presence in Rus' became a constant and dangerous reality Prince of Halich-Volynia Danylo Romanovich had to go to Mongol capital in 1246 and he had to kneel to ask the khan for a tag allowing him to rule his own state. Khan's permission saved Halich-Volynia principality for the time being and for several decades it remained the strongest state in Rus'. Though dependent on Tartars, this eastern Slavic state participated in European politics and laid claim for the rule over Paniamonne.

Today when we know the development of historic events we can say that the extreme external danger in the middle of the 13th century turned out to be a real Chalenge of History to Paniamonne community everything and in particular the very existence of local community depended on whether a certain Answer would be given. Paniamonne people (both Balts and Slavs) faced the necessity to create a powerful state organization capable of defending them from external enemies and such a state appeared thanks to the coincidence of several positive factors.

Because of its fortunate geographic position Paniamonne lay aside from the main directions of Tartar expeditions. Another threat from the north-west appeared several decades later. The Teutonic Order came to the western border of Paniamonne only in 1283 because for half a century the knights had to crush the defense of Prussian people. In the north the Livonian Germans were also busy with wars against local tribes, between themselves and against the neighbouring Pskov and Novgorod republics. In the south Halich-Volynia Princes lived under the constant threat of Tartar invasion and did not have enough power to stop the creation of a Paniamonne state though they did everything they could to do it between the beginning of the 40-s and the beginning of the 80-s of the 13th century Paniamonne got a relatively quiet period of time that was enough to formulate the Answer to the Chalenge of History.

In Paniamonne itself there were ready examples of statehood in the form of local eastern Slavic principalities, as well as good military organizers -- chiefs of Balt troops. The experience of two hundred years of peaceful cooperation between Balts and Slavs came in handy as well. The construction of the new state started with the political union of the richest east Slavic town-state i Navahradak) and the most powerful Balt chief (Mindauh). As a result of the agreement signed between Navahradak and Mindauh the latter became the Prince of Navahradak (Navahradak lands included also Slonim and Vaukavysk and possibly Harodnia).

History did not preserve any information on how Navahradak people negotiated with Mindauh. It is not known who initiated the process, we do not know the circumstances and details of the negotiations. At that time our ancestors did not have a habit of putting such agreements on paper as legal documents. An agreement was strengthened with an oral oath, Christians swore on the Bible, pagans swore with their gods. But there is no doubt that such a union was created because the chronicles of the time prove its activities.

For a long time historians discussed the circumstances under which Mindauh appeared in Navahradak. Back in the 19th century there appeared a version (today it is officially accepted in Lithuania) that Mindauh became the Prince of Navahradak capturing the town and its lands by force. But there is a question why then Navahradak people supported such a Prince and fought together with him against Halich-Volynia Princes, against their congeners-Rusins? They could have easily opened the town gates when Halich-Volynia army came near and freed themselves from the pagan Prince. But the actions of Navahradak people as well as of other Belarusian towns in Paniamonne show clearly that those Rusins did not pay much attention to ethnical or Christian ties. They were more concerned about their own interests which were defended by Mindauh and not by a co-religionist and Rusin Halich-Volynia Prince Danylo Romanovich.

The Belarusian scholar Mikola Ermalovich created his own model of the events of that time. He concluded that Mindauh came to Navahradak as a runaway defeated in an internecine war in Lithuania. Navahradak people gave him money and troops and Mindauh went to capture his native land -- Lithuania -- for them, being a paid Navahradak Prince. According to Ermalovich that Lithuania was an island of Balts in a sea of Belarusians and was situated between Navahradak, Maladzechna, Mensk, Kletsk and Slonim (9). The scholar concluded that the mentioned capture of the land was the beginning of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. So according to Ermalovich Lithuanians did not invade Belarusians but on the contrary, Navahradak people got hold of Balts' Lithuania. And because that old Lithuania was situated on the territory of today's Belarus all those historic events belong to Belarusian history only and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a Belarusian state from the very beginning.

This reconstruction of events by Ermalovich contradicts the views of Lithuanian historians but both versions have something in common -- their authors see the relations between Slavs and Balts as strictly hostile. But other specialists -- linguists and archeologists, as a result of a long-term research in Paniamonne, the place where the state appeared, came to the conclusion that the relations between Balts (ancestors of Lithuanians) and Slavs (ancestors of Belarusians) were of a peaceful character. We spoke about their development in the previous chapter of the book.

The state was created on the basis of cooperation but not of armed conflict unification of two major forces of Paniamonne -- the most important Paniamonne town and one of the most powerful Balt kunigas -- gave the allies a possibility to unite all upper and middle Paniamonne into a single state. First its territory comprised Navahradak lands and Mindauh's native lands in Lithuania. The first action of the allies was the operation on annexation of the rest of Lithuania to the new state (about 1248). Though there is very little written evidence about those events we can see the birth of a new state on the basis of the Slavic Halich-Volynia chronicle and the German senior Rhymed Livonian chronicle. Comparing information from different sources we can even find the approximate date of the creation of the union between Navahradak and Mindauh which means to find the beginning of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

In 1238 Navahradak was still ruled by a Prince with a Slavic name Izyaslau and Mindauh was probably ruling some part of Lithuanian lands (those on the Viliya river). Under the date of 1238 the chronicler wrote that the Prince of Halich-Volynia Danylo Romanovich «got Lithuania of Mindauh, Izyaslau of Navahradak, against Konrad (Mazowsze Prince -- A.K.)». The same Halich-Volynia chronicle informs us that around 1248 Mindauh chased from the Lithuanian land his nephews Tautsivil and Erdzivil and captured their lands. The nephews ran to Vladimir-Volynski to ask Romanovichi Princes for help the Halich-Volynia Princes took the runaways and immediately started active diplomatic and military preparations for the war with Mindauh. Soon, in winter of 1249-1250 Halich-Volynia troops went on their first military expedition against Mindauh but the aim of their expedition was Navahradak! That means that Mindauh was already in Navahradak and the operation of 1248 against his relatives. Competitors and capturing of their lands was the first action of his union with Navahradak people and the first political action of the new state. That is why we can assume 1248 to be the date of the beginning of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

The quick and openly hostile reaction of Romanovichy Princes towards the seemingly family conflict tells of the seriousness of the intention of Halich-Volynia Princes to keep their influence in Paniamonne by way of liquidation of the local state-building center. To do this they decided to break the traditionally friendly relations with Mindauh that had lasted for almost three decades starting back in 1219 when Mindauh participated in peace talks with Halich-Volynia. Later in 1238 as we have mentioned, Danylo Romanovich got military help from Mindauh against Konrad of Mazowsze. In 1245 Romanovichy looked for the military support in Lithuania again and according to a chronicler «Mindauh sent help». So it looked quite natural that during his conflict with his nephews in 1248 Mindauh asked Romanovichy not to accept or help the fugitives. But Halich-Volynia Princes not only refused their old friend but gathered troops and went against him. They were afraid to lose Paniamonne lands for good.

By Order from Romanovichy Zhemaitia Prince Vikint rose Yatvingia and half of Zhemaitia against Mindauh. The Livonian Order (10) also decided to go against Mindauh and Livonian master wrote to Prince Danylo: "We shall make peace with Vikint for you though he killed a lot of our brethren". Mazowsze Princes also agreed to support Halich-Volynia but they did not send the promised troops. The preparation for the war took about a year and in the winter of 1249-1250 there took place the above mentioned expedition to Navahradak lands.

It is interesting that the participants of that war did not consider their ethnical ties to be so important as some of the contemporary scholars want them to be. Slavic towns of Paniamonne supported actively the Balt Prince Mindauh and fought against their Slavic congeners and co-religionists -- the people of Halich-Volynia. Pinsk Princes who were Slavs sent a message to a Lithuanian troop about he arrival of Halich-Volynia army, in other cases Halich-Volynia people «forced» Pinsk people to participate in the expedition to Paniamonne. Balts -- Zhemaits and Yatvingians, who were close to Mindauh by blood and faith, were fighting against him for the Slavic state of Halich-Volynia.

The winter expedition of 1249-1250 started a five-year war that became the first serious trial for the young state. Halich-Volynia troops divided into three groups: one headed by Vasilyok went to Vaukavysk, another headed by Danylo's son (probably Roman) went to Slonim and Danylo himself went to Zdzitau. The army devastated the neighbourhood but did not take a single town (the chronicler does not say a word about that) and then turned south going home, to Halich-Volynia.

In 1250 the allies started a new expedition to Paniamonne. That time it was an organized invasion from two opposite directions. From Volyn there moved Tautsivil with his troops strengthened by groups of Rusins and Polovtsy. Simultaneously the Livonian army headed by the Master Andreas von Stirland entered Paniamonne from the north. The Livonian chronicle states that the knights were going to Lithuania via Nalshany and towards Mindauh's castle (burg). The Halich-Volynia chronicler wrote only one sentence about the military actions: «There was a lot of fighting between them». Tautsivil did not come back to Halich-Volynia from that expedition but went to Riga where he was respectfully met by Germans and baptized into the Catholik faith.

The young Paniamonne state surrounded by enemies (in the south -- Halich-Volynia principality in the west -- Yatvingia, in the north-West - Zhemaitia, in the north -- Livonia) had to fight them all alone and found itself in a very difficult situation. The way out of this complicated situation was found with the help of diplomacy Mindauh sent an embassy to the Livonian Order Master that informed him about the wish of the Prince to be baptized into the catholik faith. As the Order was an organization created especially for baptizing Baltic pagans landmaster Andreas von Stirland accepted this request and started preparations for baptizing the ruler of Lithuania. So the Livonian Order was turned into an ally of the Paniamonne state.

Mindauh was the first to use the efficient diplomatic trick that was later often used by his successors. Grand Lithuanian Dukes Vitsen, Hedimin, Alherd, Keistut, Yahaila in the most difficult moments of fighting the Teutonic Order declared their wish to accept the catholic faith to ease if for a short time the military pressure of crusaders. The rulers of the Order could not ignore their loud requests or they would lose the reputation of promoters of faith in the eyes of Christian Europe. That reputation gave them very important military help in the form of European knights-volunteers. Military successes of the small Order depended a lot on the participation of troops of knights from different European countries that every year went to the Baltic to save their souls in wars for Christianity with pagans. The Pope equaled those expeditions to the crusades to Palestine, the aim of which was to free Christian shrines from the Muslim power.

Mindauh's baptism took place at the beginning of 1251. There is no information about the location of the event but historians believe that the ceremony took place in the cathedral of the capital of the state -- Navahradak. The service was conducted by the priest of the Livonian Order father Christian. Master Andreas arrived with a large escort to participate in the ceremony together with Mindauh there were also baptized his two younger sons Rukl and Repekl, his wife Marta (his elder son Voishalk had already been baptized an Orthodox Christian) and his closest people -- «a lot of pagans» (multi paganorum) as the Pope's bull (11) states. Immediately after the ceremony Mindauh sent a special embassy to the Pope with letters in which he informed him about his baptism and asked the Catholic Pontiff to accept him together with the whole country under the wing of the Catholic Church. The Pope expressed his agreement in the specially prepared bull.

Peace with the Livonian Order weakened the coalition that was hostile to Mindauh. After the baptism of the Grand Duke the Livonian troops fought at the side of the Paniamonne state. But this first and maybe the most difficult war was ended by the young state only several years later. In 1251 Tautsivil headed another expedition against Lithuania. The united army of Zhemaits, Yatvingians, Rusins (from Halich-Volynia) and Polovtsy moved against Mindauh again. He chose not to fight in the field but remained in his stronghold. Describing this episode of the war a chronicler mentioned the name of that castle --«hrad named Varuta» (in the other version Ruta). Many historians consider that «hrad» to be Mindauh's ancestral castle and till our days disagree about its whereabouts.

The siege was unsuccessful. At night Mindauh sent his troops for a surprise attack at the besiegers' camp and «drove Rus' and Yatvingians away». The following day Germans went out of the castle and were attacked by Rusins, Polovtsy and Yatvingians. The chronicler says: «in the morning the Germans went out with arbalests, and Rus' with Polovtsy armed with arrows and Yatvingians with sulitsas (12) moved at them and they were running around the field as if playing». The united army did not seize the «hrad» and returned to Zhemaitia to Vikint's lands.

Mindauh in his turn «gathered a great force», moved to Zhemaitia and came to Vikint's castle. Tautsivil with Zhemaits, Volynians and Polovtsy went against him. According to a vague entrance in a chronicle a Polovets wounded a horse under Mindauh or even the Prince himself in that battle. The allies lost Prince Vishymont, maybe the very Vishymont Bulevich whose wife had been taken away by Mindauh (according to the chronicle of 1219). After the battle Mindauh returned to his land.

In the winter of 1251-1252 the Halich-Volynia army with an additional troop of Polovtsy moved to Paniamonne again heading for Navahradak. The army was led by Prince Danylo Romanovich himself. In Pinsk he forced the local Princes to participate in that expedition against their will. A chronicler wrote: «Pilnsk Princes played tricks and were taken to the war by force». With the help of the details of this expedition it is possible to understand the tactics of wars of that time. Military actions were conducted in the form of sudden short attacks the aim of which was to devastate the enemy's territory and to seize its strengthened towns and castles. After several days or weeks of fighting the army returned home with trophies. The preparation for such expeditions was made in secret trying to attack the enemy's territory suddenly so that its residents would not able to gather an army or prepare for defence in castles.

That time the sudden attack failed. At the border of Pinsk and Navahradak lands near the Z'yata lake (near the present village of Kalonsk, Ivatsevichi district) the Halich-Volynia army met the Lithuanian patrol, chased it till the Shchara river but did not manage to catch or destroy the Lithuanian troop the army stopped then and had a military council. The army refused to go further because there was no hope for a surprise attack, «they know about us» the warriors said. Prince Danylo convinced his warriors with threats and talks to go on but the expedition was not a great success. They burned some villages, took some prisoners and returned home. The standard phrase of the chronicler: «the following day they captured the whole Navahradak land and returned to their homes» says that the Halich-Volynia army did not seize any big stronghold. The troop of Yatvingians that was going to help them could not get to the meeting point because of a heavy snowfall.

In 1252 the Halich-Volynia army led by Danylo's brother Vasilka and son Roman managed to seize Harodnia (most probably the unfortified part of the town). The other troop from Halich-Volynia headed by Danylo Romanovich himself was fighting the Lithuanian lands at the same time. In the description of this expedition Navahradak was named a Lithuanian town for the first time. The chronicler wrote that Danylo Romanovich went against Lithuania, against Navahradak». In return Mindauh sent his army headed by his son (most probably Voishalk) to Halich-Volynia, that army devastated the neighborhood of Turyisk.

At the same time Mindauh was very active in the diplomatic field to end that difficult war as soon as possible. His envoys came to Danylo Romanovich with an offer of peace and suggested strengthening it by the marriage between Danylo's son and Mindauh's daughter. It also turned out that Mindauh had got to his side Yatvingians and Zhemaits, strictly speaking by bribing their chiefs -- «he convinced with a lot of silver». So Tautsivil had to run from Zhemaitia (it was he who brought the news to Halich-Volynia). But that time Danylo Romanovich did not accept Mindauh's offer.

Though Mindauh managed to break up the hostile coalition, it did not mean the end of the war. In 1252 Danylo Romanovich led his army to Navahradak again. Chronicles keep silence about the results of that expedition.

It should be mentioned that Paniamonne was only one of many directions of foreign policy activities of Halich-Volynia Princes who participated actively in big European politics. In 1247 or 1248 the Pope offered Danylo Romanovich to accept a king's crown and sent that crown to Halich-Volynia. In the summer of 1253 Prince Danylo in agreement with the hungarian king moved to Silesia and in that expedition there participated Mindauh's exiled nephews Tautsivil and Erdzivil and in the autumn of the same year Danylo was crowned in Drachichyn (today this town is on the Polish territory). It is interesting to note that his enemy, the Great Lithuanian Duke Mindauh was crowned after the Pope's offer the same year. It looks as if they wanted to outrun each other but later events showed that neither Lithuania nor Halich-Volynia remained kingdoms.

The war ended in 1254 with a peace agreement the conditions of which were more beneficial for Halich-Volynia principality the peace agreement was sped up by the problems of Romanovichy Princes. In 1254 Tartars attacked Halich-Volynia, and Romanovichy's old enemy, Prince Izyaslau Mstsislavavich suddenly captured Halich. According to the peace agreement with Lithuania Voishalk in the name of his father surrendered Navahradak to Danylo's son Roman and in his own name surrendered Slonim and Vaukavysk. The agreement was strengthened by the marriage of Mindauh's daughter to Shvarn, Danylo's youngest son. Halich-Volynia principality strengthened its position in Paniamonne but did not manage to eliminate the new local state. Mindauh stood the first challenge.

Thanks to the description of that agreement we can learn a bit about the political system at Paniamonne at the very beginning of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Mindauh was the ruler of the state and had his court in Navahradak. Voishalk ruled two other important towns of Slonim and Vaukavysk (it is unknown whom Harodnia belonged to).

After the end of the war, as a result of the agreement, Roman Danylovich became the Prince of Navahradak. When Roman's father needed military help he contacted his son directly and Roman came to him with his Navahradak troop and six months later in a similar situation Mindauh sent Roman to Danylo with Navahradak warriors. We can thus assume that Mindauh kept his position of the ruler but his power over Roman was rather nominal. The chronicle mentions also Princes subordinate to Roman -- Hleb of Vaukavysk (Roman married his daughter) and Izyaslau of Svislach. We can assume that they were representatives of Slavic Princely families who had lost their lands when Mindauh started to rule Navahradak but now they got their positions back.

Voishalk did not participate in the new system of relations. He took the vows and became a monk. Probably such decision was more acceptable to him than the position of a Prince with no principality it also satisfied Romanovichy Princes because it meant that Voishalk cave up active secular and state activities. But ten years later he returned to the state activities because of the sudden death of his father.

The war with Halich-Volynia principality did not stop the development of the new state, it just slowed down for a while. The Union between Balts and Slavs proved its vitality.

The Kingdom Of Lithuania (1253 -1260)

Mindauh's baptism, his friendship with the Livonian Order helped Lithuania to withstand the war with the southern neighbour. Later it turned out that the Grand Duke's Catholicism (though a temporary one) had a great importance for the state and influenced greatly the lives of all its peoples. Mindauh made the first step on the way of making his country closer to the West European civilization. A chronicler wrote about Mindauh that «his baptism was adulatory (false -- a. K.)» and later he did return to pagan beliefs, but the foundation was laid though it took more than a hundred years for orientation towards Europe to take the form of a real political decision, which was done by the Grand Duke Yahaila

Mindauh started a rather active epistolary intercourse with Popes in connection with his baptism, coming under Roman Curia and what's more important with his coronation. We do not have Mindauh's letters but we can guess about their content from the replies to them of Roman Pontiffs Innocent IV and Alexander IV that are kept in archives.

The most important event of the first though short diplomatic contact of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with the spiritual head of the west was Mindauh's coronation. A special embassy from Mindauh asked the Pope for the permission to crown the newly baptized monarch and the pontiff cave his approval. Pope Innocent IV started a serious preparation for the event he sent special bulls to the heads of the dioceses nearest to Lithuania -- to Kuron and Ezel (13) bishops to support that action and help with its implementation. The Pope named as his representative Heinrich the bishop of Kholm (14). Who had to conduct the coronation in the name of the pontiff.

But the preparation took several years. Maybe the war of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania against Halich-Volynia principality stood in the way, or maybe Mindauh himself did not pay much attention to such formality as the title of a king. Nevertheless, the coronation took place in 1253. We do not know about the exact place of the event (same as with the place of baptism) though scholars have a document left by the witness of the ceremony, a Catholik monk- missionary this document -- description of lands» was found not long ago really -- in 1979 by an American historian in Dublin (Ireland). The author was a missionary to Paniamonne at the time of Mindauh's coronation and he even managed to attend it unfortunately that monk whose name we do not know, did not give us any new information in his description of lands. His notes were made in the second half of the 13 th century and once again prove that Lithuania bordered on Rus', that they had active contacts and that it was easy for missionaries to bring Christianity to local pagans -- Yatvingians, Lithuanians, Nalshany as «from the cradle they were brought up by Christian wet nurses». Such sources are found very rarely and researchers hoped to find some new information in the "Description of Lands". Just by mentioning the place of coronation the author could have helped to solve the old debate of the scholars about the location of the first capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Though today historians tend to think that the most important town of Paniamonne -- Navahradak -- was the capital, there is no direct information about that.

Lithuanian envoys were coming home from the Pope and on their way stopped by in Riga. When the Landmaster of the Livonian Order learned about the Pope's permission for Mindauh's coronation, he ordered to make two crowns (one for the future king and the other for the queen) and to decorate them with precious stones. Then the Landmaster and the Pope's representative bishop Heinrich who came to Riga took them to Lithuania it is known that the coronation took place but we do not have a description of that event nevertheless, there is a possibility to reconstruct that event in detail, which was done by the Lithuanian historian Zyanonas Lvinskis. The thing is that we have quite a number of detailed descriptions of coronations of other European monarchs. All of them were organized by the Pope and resembled each other even in the smallest detail.

Mindauh's coronation took place in a sanctuary, maybe even in an Orthodox church (at the time there were no Catholik churches in Paniamonne). Probably that was the stone church of Boris and Hleb in Navahradak built in the 12th century it is still there though is looks very different after the reconstructions of the 16th and the 17 th centuries (Navahradak, Pashtovaya street).

We can imagine what was going on there on that summer day of 1253 Anno Domini ... The whole square in front of the church and the nearby street is filled with a large and noisy crowd. Armed warriors stand in two rows making a corridor from the street to the church entrance. The solemn procession appears in view. It stretches as a long chain from the street to the church gate. Flags and clothes of priests embroidered in gold and silver, monks in long gowns with hoods -- brown of the Franciscans and white of the Dominicans. Bishop Heinrich is at the head of the procession in his complete solemn attire appropriate to his position. Behind him there are two of his aids --Bishops of Kuron and ezel -- who lead the future king. When the head of the procession approaches the church gate the air is filled with elevated and mysterious sounds of a Latin hymn. Behind the doors in the church's darkness the multicolored majolica (15) floor is glowing in the light of many candles.

Mindauh is led to the altar, he kneels, then lies on the carpet near the stairs of the altar. The secular ruler shows his humbleness to the ruler of heaven by lying under the latter's throne. Bishop Heinrich raises his hands above the Lithuanian and says loudly: «God, save the king!» Mindauh rises slowly and sits on the throne of the king, his queen sits to his left the coronation mass begins. Everything is thought out to the last detail. Each participant is at his,her designated place. The queen all the time remains on her throne to the left of the throne of the king.

Mindauh stands up slowly from the throne, his shoulders are covered with the royal mantle, and he is led to the altar. He lies down again on the floor forming a cross with his outstretched hands. The choir is singing a liturgy all the time finishing each verse in a thankful payer to God: «We thank You, hear us!». Mindauh asks the bishop to bless him and sanctify him as a king. The songs stop, Mindauh stands up and the bishop asks him six important questions in front of the altar: if he is going to be a wise ruler, if he will defend Christianity, if he will be a fair monarch, if he will care for his state, if he will care for the poor and orphans and if he will obey the Pope and Holy Roman Catholic Church. According to the tradition every question had to be answered three times in Latin: «fiat, fiat fiat». But those who did not know latin could answer in their own language. Most probably that was also Mindauh's case.

After the blessing prayer the most important part of the ceremony started -- Anointing (that is why often monarchs are called «The Anointed Ones»(16) . Bishop Heinrich anointed the head, the breast and the shoulders of the king with the holy oil. After that they started to dress Mindauh into the royal robes. After he was given the royal sword, the pin for the royal mantle, the Anointed one received the attributes of royal power: the scepter and the orb, and the crown was put onto his head.

On Mindauh's seal, the imprint of which came to us from 1255, he is shown with all regalia: the scepter and the orb in his hands, the crown on his head (it is impossible to see his face as artists of that epoch never showed the real face of people and the person on coins and seals was just a symbol of monarchy). The Senior Livonian Rhymed chronicle informs that the Landmaster of the Livonian Order Andreas von Stirland put the crowns on the heads of Mindauh and his wife. Maybe that really was the case because the coronation took place thanks to the Landmaster. His participation in the event was not considered to be correct in Riga, there the authorities thought that a more obedient Tautsivil would have been a better bet.

We don't know if Mindauh himself understood completely the importance of the event both for himself and for the state as a whole. It looks that he did not and he could not know at the time that he laid foundation of a new epoch in the country's history further events showed that for him it was just a diplomatic act that helped him to have good relations with the Order, a strong, and dangerous neighbor, in difficult times. As soon as the danger passed that friendship was no more interesting for Mindauh. When seven years after his coronation Zhemaits defeated the crusaders near the Durbe lake Mindauh broke relations with them and renounced Christianity but nevertheless soon after his baptism and coronation Mindauh started to act actively to continue the dynasty he wrote a letter to the Pope to crown one of his sons. Most probably he meant the next son after Voishalk (who was a monk at the time), Rukel. The Pope expressed his agreement in the bull of March 6, 1255 but we do not know if that ceremony took place.

Such was the beginning of a short (till 1260) history of the Lithuanian kingdom. The rulers that followed Mindauh sometimes called themselves kings in the documents written in latin (like Hedimin) but were never crowned. Their title became «the Grand Duke» and the state (in the short variant) was called the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Rus' and Zhemaitia that title can be found in the documents written in the 14th -- 16 th centuries. The appendices «Rus'», «Zhemait», «Inflant» appeared in the title of the ruler after the new lands were added to the Paniamonne state. For example, the name «Rus'» was for the first time introduced to the title of Hedimin when Polatsak and Vitsebsk lands were included into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

The history of the first Catholik bishop's office in Lithuania was also short when the Pope learned about Mindauh's baptism he wrote a letter on july 17, 1251 to the bishop of Kholm Ordering to find a good candidate for the first bishop of Lithuania. The priest of the Livonian Order Christian became that bishop Mindauh himself asked the Pope to make Christian the bishop consecration was assigned to the main Baltic priest in accordance with the church hierarchy -- Albert, the archbishop of Riga. But during the ceremony Albert made the new bishop swear allegiance to him and not to the Pope. In his letter Mindauh asked the pontiff to accept the new bishop's office under the direct jurisdiction of the apostolic capital and the Pope wrote a special bull on it the consecration took place about 1253-1254 and in the same 1254 Mindauh gave to Christian some lands in Zhemaitia -- the layer of ardent pagans who in fact never belonged to Mindauh's state. Historians believe that the new bishop never had a chance to visit «his» lands. Maybe such a present from Mindauh can be seen as a sign of a not very good attitude towards the new religion. Polish chronicles inform us that approximately at the same time the head of Polish Catholic church --the archbishop of Gnezno -- nominated for the Lithuanian bishop a certain Dominican monk vit but as Mindauh officially supported the bishop Christian , in 1255 Pope Alexander IV freed vit from his bishop's office.

The brethren of the Livonian Order wanted to use their friendship with Mindauh with as much benefit as possible. Mindauh had to pay for their support in the war against Halich-Volynia principality for their help in his baptism and crowning. The knights wanted Mindauh to give them some lands, he agreed and signed the documents for the lands that again did not belong to him and which the knights had to conquer. But Livonians were satisfied because they received from a legal Christian monarch, accepted by the Pope (and not from a pagan) official documents for the territories that were very important for them. The title of a Christian king gave legal power to the documents signed by Mindauh in the eyes of the whole Europe. The granted lands were situated between Livonia and Prussia and the joining of the territories of the Prussian and Livonian branches of the Teutonic Order was a major strategic task of the crusaders (by the way, they did not manage to complete the task). Mindauh's grants could be presented to the Pope and European monarchs and they could start gathering European knights for the holy war for baptizing and capture of pagan lands.

Researches discussed the authenticity of those documents which reached us as 14 th century copies. At last part of them were accepted as authentic and some false, faked by the Teutonic Order. For example, the document about the whole of Lithuania coming under the Order in case Mindauh had no heirs is an obvious fake. Crusaders from the Teutonic Order often falsified such documents to use them later for their territorial claims. The tradition of making written legal acts came to Europeans from the Roman Empire in the early medieval epoch but became widely used in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania only by the end f the 15 th century.

It was virtually unknown in the Eastern Europe at that time. Agreements were oral, Christians gave oaths on the Bible, pagans according to their traditions. If we take into consideration the psychology of a medieval person we cannot say that falsification of the documents by the crusaders can be seen as a proof of their immorality for a person of that epoch truth was not in the reality but in what should be in accordance with god's law. The Teutonic Order spreading its power over the pagan lands conducted its holy mission -- to bring there the «light of Christianity» and the means that led to that aim were not important.

In total there are known ten such documents-privileges given by Mindauh, of them four (some say even more) turned out to be fake. But those fakes were made at approximately the same time and are also valuable historical sources. The original documents are:

  • The privilege of 1253 issued to merchants of the town of Riga for free trade in Lithuania;
  • The privileges giving to the Livonian Order the lands in Zhemaitia (1253) lands of selonia (1255), lands of Dainova, skalovia and Zhemaitia (1259);
  • The letter to the Pope asking to approve of the gift of selonia (1255);
  • The gift of lands to the bishop Christian (1254).

The friendship between Mindauh and the crusaders did not last long. As soon as the positions of the Teutonic Order in Baltic lands became weaker Mindauh broke up with it and most probably with Christianity.

By the end of Mindauh's rule the position of crusaders in Baltic lands became so bad that the very existence of the Teutonic Order was questionable. The beginning of the crisis was the terrible defeat of the Order's army together with Danish and Pskov troops by Zhemaits near the Durbe lake in 1260. In Prussia seemingly defeated local tribes immediately rose the anti-Order insurrection. The Order's fate hung in balance, knights were staying in their castles besieged by the locals. The uprising continued till 1274 and was suppressed only thanks to the constant inflow of troops from Europe.

According to the Rhymed Livonian chronicle Mindauh broke his friendship with the Order under the pressure of Zhemaits who promised to accept his rule over their lands in return. The contacts with the Roman Curia also stopped and «the Lithuanian Kingdom» ceased to be. Mindauh could not support those contacts without the Order's help or did not see any future in them. And here he was greatly mistaken. His baptism and coronation became the first steps on the road to Europe, the first display of a strategic choice that decided the fate of the country and peoples that lived there for many centuries to come. Mindauh's contemporaries and descendants did not understand the real meaning of the civilized choice, though, and often backed away from it in favor of temporary tactical benefits as did Mindauh himself but he did the most important thing -- he laid the foundation of it all...

The Deep Is Done

The breach of friendly relations with the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order became possible also because the threat for Lithuania from Halich-Volynia state weakened considerably Romanovichy Princes did not want to break peace with Lithuania any more, their influence in Paniamonne was renewed after the war of 1249-1254 and their state had enough of other foreign policy problems. The major of them was dependence on Mongols. It was the khan -- the suzerain of Halich-Volynia Princes who made them break peace with Lithuania.

Tartars very carefully watched over the foreign activities of the strongest Rus' state and when necessary were destroying it in 1258 its territory was all of a sudden invaded by a large Tartar army headed by waywode burundai who said to Danylo Romanovich: «I'm going against Lithuania, if you are at peace with me, come with me». At that time Danylo's son Roman was ruling Navahradak and only nominally was under Mindauh. Danylo of course did not want to start a war against his own son. But it was impossible to refuse because then the Tartars instead of Lithuania would devastate his own state. The only thing he could do was to refuse to participate in the expedition himself. Danylo claimed to be ill and sent his brother Vasilka instead.

The expedition was a short one. Tartar and Halich-Volynia troops devastated Lithuania as a hurricane and turned back. A chronicler wrote that during that expedition Roman Danylovich was captured by Voishalk, and Vasilka had no luck looking for his nephew all over the upper Paniamonne. The sources do not mention Roman any more, so it looks that he was captured and killed.

In 1259 Tartars threatening Halich-Volynia with war made the Princes destroy fortifications of their towns and the country became defenceless before the Tartar cavalry these events changed the political situation in Paniamonne a lot -- the Grand Duchy of Lithuania didn't depend on its southern neighbor any more. The weakened Halich-Volynia principality tried later to return its influence over Paniamonne but without success. Starting from 1258 if Halich-Volynia troops went against Paniamonne it was always together with Tartars, maybe because they did not have enough power of their own.

The Paniamonne state gradually became stronger and was able to conduct active offensive operations. In june 1262 the troop sent by Mindauh quickly covered about 300 kilometers of Mazowsze and by surprise seized Mazowsze Prince Zemavit together with his son Konrad in Yazdave (today's Warsaw). Zemavit was killed and Konrad was taken to Lithuania as a prisoner. In the same year Mindauh's troops in revenge for the attack of the Halich-Volynia army headed by Vasilka Romanovich devastated the enemy's land near Kamen'.

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania conducted successful wars in the north. In 1262 Mindauh formed a union with great Novgorod against the Livonian Order. The same year together with the army of Zhemaitia Prince Tranyata Mindauh organized an expedition against Wenden -- the capital of the Livonian Order.

Such foreign policy activities demonstrate that the young state at the beginning of the 60-s of the 13th century fifteen years after being created and by the end of the rule of its first Prince, proved to the neighbours its vitality and was standing on its feet who could know that new challenges awaited it in the near future, this time within the country itself the domestic crisis started with Mindauh's murder.

According to the Halich-Volynia chronicle the Grand Duke himself was to blame for his violent death. The event that was the direct cause of his death shows us his character. He was a good military leader, an excellent politician and a diplomat but in his psyche he remained a person of his time and origin. A warrior hardened in battles, a person in the transition period from the primitive to medieval state, a savage who was surely far away from culture and civilization.

A chronicler wrote that when Mindauh's wife died he invited to the funeral her sister, married to the Nalshany Prince Daumont after the funeral Mindauh did not let the woman go explaining to her that his wife in her deathbed supposedly Ordered him to marry her sister «because another woman would not look after the children that well». Daumont from Nalshany, her husband, was greatly offended but had to hold his tongue «because his power was small and the other's large».

But Daumont was also a man of his time, time when revenge for an offence was considered a must he secretly entered a plot against Mindauh with Prince Tranyata. The opportunity offered itself in the autumn of 1263 when Mindauh sent his troops to Bryansk. Daumont had to participate in the expedition as well but he suddenly turned back, attacked Mindauh's court and killed him together with his youngest sons Rukel and Repekel.

Mindauh's death started a domestic crisis in the country that lasted for several years. His murder caused several others and the deed of his life was in danger. But the country survived. First of all, external circumstances helped. The Livonian Order was still weak after the defeat of 1260, the PRussian branch of the Order was busy with liquidation of the uprising of local tribes and the final colonization of Prussia (till 1283). Another dangerous neighbor -- Halich-Volynia principality -- was weakened by Tartars and was of no great threat secondly, the foundation of the young state -- the political union of rich towns and strong kunigas -- proved to be strong and sturdy that union of Balts and Slavs which united the most powerful political forces of Paniamonne went through the whole time of the birth and making of the state and was always renewed with each new generation. Only the dramatis personae changed.

Mindauh's murder brought the crisis of his state. But his main deed had a long life to live. The state created by Mindauh did not die, it survived domestic troubles and fights with external enemies. After his death the state lived for more than five centuries, for 532 years to be exact...

* * *

Very few written sources of the epoch in which Mindauh lived and acted survived till our time, but the unusual personality of this man left a vivid imprint even there. It turned out that we know about Mindauh much more than about all other Grand Dukes of Lithuania of the 13 th century taken together. Mindauh's deeds and his personality were known- far beyond the country's borders, seemed important and interesting for his contemporaries and that is why Mindauh got into all eastern Slavic chronicles and into many European chronicles. This fame is surely connected with the main deed of his life -- participation in the creation of one of the largest European states.

Mindauh's life story shows that he was a man of his epoch -- medieval warrior capable of cruel and sometimes insane deeds. One of them caused his murder. He didn't manage to create a dynasty his two youngest sons died together with him, his elder son Voishalk was killed several years later.

Today Mindauh is a national hero in Lithuania and is almost forgotten in Belarus. The only place in our country where Mindauh is remembered today and even young children can tell about the deeds of the Prince is his capital city the first capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania -- Navahradak. Maybe these children, when they grow up, will help to erect a monument to the father of Belarusian-

Lithuanian statehood, and the figure of Mindauh in complete armor will stand where it really belongs -- on the main square of the Belarusian town of Navahradak.

Web-master's notes:

  • Mindauh in Belarusian language, Mendog in Polish
  • Yahaila in Belarusian language. Jagello in in Polish

Milestones In Mindauh's Life Story

  • End of the 12 th century -- beginning of the 13 th century -- birth.
  • 1219 -- in an agreement with Halich-Volynia Princes named among five of the most powerful kunigas of Lithuania.
  • 1248 -- became Prince of Navahradak and placed under his control the Lithuanian land, thereby laying the foundation to the creation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
  • 1251 -- baptised as a Roman Catholik.
  • 1253 -- crowned king upon the Pope's fiat (the coronation most probably took place in Navahradak).
  • 1248--1254 -- the great Duchy of Lithuania wages war against the principality of Halich-Volynia.
  • 1263 -- Mindauh assassinated.


  1. The original territory of the gdl, which was comprised of the lands Navahradak, Harodnia and Vilnia, and partially the land of Mensk, is meant here. Another name for this territory is historical Lithuania of the 13-19 th centuries.
  2. Balts -- a scientific term to designate the croup of tribes and peoples, who spoke (or speak) Baltic languages; their main habitat is the Baltic sea area. Today Lithuanians and Latvians are the Baltic peoples. In ancient times there existed tribal unions of Prusi, yatvincians, curonians, selonians, galindians.
  3. The Lithuanian land -- the territory in the middle reaches of the Viliya river, where in the 10-12 th cc. Lived the Baltic tribe of Litva. The Lithuanian land was a Baltic region bordering on Rus', that is why eastern Slavs first came into contact with the tribe of Litva. Hence other kindred Baltic tribes of dziavolyva, Nalshany, etc. Were referred to as Lithuanians. The Lithuanian land gave name to the main region of the state (i.e. Historical Lithuania).
  4. Tumen was a part of decimal system used by huns and Mongols for their army tumen is an army of 10,000 soldiers.
  5. Basileus -- the title of a Byzantine emperor.
  6. Today's official names of these towns are of Polish origin: Navahrudak from «Nowogrodek», Hrodna from «Grodno» etc. (in the same way we have Minsk in place of the Belarusian variant - Mensk).
  7. Toponymy -- part of the linguistics that studies geographical names -- tomonyms.
  8. Ablegate -- a diplomatic representative of the Pope.
  9. The majority of historians including the author of this book consider such description of Lithuanian borders erroneous. In reality Lithuanian lands were situated in the middle reach of the Viliya.
  10. The Livonian Order -- a branch of the Teutonic Order in Livonia (contemporary latviaand part of estonia). In Belarusian historiography the names «inflanty» and «inflant Order» are also used.
  11. Bull -- that was the name of the Pope's round stamp which hung from the letters of the Catholik pontiff, so the letters themselves were called «bulls».
  12. Sulitsa -- a spear with a short shaft designed mostly for throwing.
  13. Kuronia -- the district at the Baltic shore (latvia); ezel -- estonian island in the Baltic sea (today saaremaa).
  14. Kholm -- town in Prussia, now belongs to Poland.
  15. During the excavations of 1961--1962 archeolocists found the walls of the original 12 th century church and also the rest of the floor, made of colored majolica tiles.
  16. We can be absolutely sure that Mindauh underwent that ceremony because in one of his documents he says that he was anointed as the Lithuanian king and crowned with the royal crown.
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