Battle of Lipitsa
The Battle of Lipitsa was the decisive battle in the succession struggle over the Grand Princely throne of Vladimir-Suzdal
The Vladimir-Suzdal Principality or Vladimir-Suzdal Rus’ was one of the major principalities which succeeded Kievan Rus' in the late 12th century and lasted until the late 14th century. For a long time the Principality was a vassal of the Mongolian Golden Horde...

 following the death of Vsevolod the Big Nest. In the battle, fought on April 22, 1216, the forces of Mstislav the Daring
Mstislav the Bold
Mstislav Mstislavich the Bold was one of the most popular and active princes of Kievan Rus' in the decades preceding Mongol invasion of Rus. He was the maternal grandfather of Alexander Nevsky and the prince Leo of Galicia....

 and Konstantin Vsevolodovich
Konstantin of Rostov
Konstantin Vsevolodovich was the eldest son of Vsevolod the Big Nest and Maria Shvarnovna.In 1206 and 1207, he was the prince of Novgorod. In 1207, his father sent him to rule the towns of Rostov and Yaroslavl...

 defeated those of Konstantin's younger brothers Yuri Vsevolodovich
Yuri II
Yuri II , also known as George II of Vladimir or Georgy II Vsevolodovich , was the fourth Grand Prince of Vladimir who presided over Vladimir-Suzdal at the time of the Mongol invasion of Russia.He was the third and best-loved son of Vsevolod III and Maria Shvarnovna.He first...

 and Yaroslav. Konstantin took the throne of Vladimir and reigned as grand prince until his death two years later.

The large-scale battle typifies fratricidal strife that sapped the strength of the successor states to Kievan Rus before the Mongol invasion. The detailed account first appeared in the older redaction of the Novgorodian First Chronicle and later in the Novgorodian Fourth Chronicle the Sofia First Chronicle
Sofia First Chronicle
The Sofia First Chronicle is a Russian chronicle associated with the St. Sophia Cathedral, Novgorod, Russia. Its copies exist in two versions: Early Redaction , which ends by 1418 and Later Redaction , with sporadic additions up to 1471, and up to 1508 in one of the copies.Together with the...

and elsewhere.


The Novgorodian First Chronicle relates that Mstislav the Bold
Mstislav the Bold
Mstislav Mstislavich the Bold was one of the most popular and active princes of Kievan Rus' in the decades preceding Mongol invasion of Rus. He was the maternal grandfather of Alexander Nevsky and the prince Leo of Galicia....

 launched his campaign against his son-in-law, Yaroslav Vsevolodovich
Yaroslav II of Vladimir
Yaroslav II , Christian name Theodor was the Grand Prince of Vladimir who helped to restore his country and capital after the Mongol invasion of Russia.-Prince of Pereyaslav:...

 on March 1, 1216, leading a Novgorodian army
Novgorod Republic
The Novgorod Republic was a large medieval Russian state which stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Ural Mountains between the 12th and 15th centuries, centred on the city of Novgorod...

 into his own districts around Lake Seliger
Lake Seliger
Seliger is a lake in Tver Oblast and, in the extreme northern part, Novgorod Oblast of Russia, in the northwest of the Valdai Hills, a part of the Volga basin. Absolute height: 205 m, area 212 km², average depth 5.8 m....

 at the head of the Volga
Volga River
The Volga is the largest river in Europe in terms of length, discharge, and watershed. It flows through central Russia, and is widely viewed as the national river of Russia. Out of the twenty largest cities of Russia, eleven, including the capital Moscow, are situated in the Volga's drainage...

, where they were told "Go out foraging but take no heads." Sviatoslav Vsevolodovich
Sviatoslav Vsevolodovich of Vladimir
Sviatoslav Vsevolodovich of Vladimir was the Prince of Novgorod and Grand Prince of Vladimir-Suzdal ....

, the fourth son of Vsevolod the Big Nest, invested Rzhevka with 10,000 men, but Mstislav and Vladimir of Pskov broke the siege with, according to the chronicle, a mere 500 men and Sviatoslav fled.

After this encounter, Mstislav joined up with Vladimir of Smolensk
Smolensk is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River. Situated west-southwest of Moscow, this walled city was destroyed several times throughout its long history since it was on the invasion routes of both Napoleon and Hitler. Today, Smolensk...

 and advanced toward Pereiaslavl
Pereslavl-Zalessky or Pereyaslavl-Zalessky , is a town in Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia, located northeast of Moscow on the main Moscow Yaroslavl road and on the shores of Pleschevo Lake. It was called Pereyaslavl until the 15th century. The town is located on the southeastern shore of the Lake...

. At this same time, detachments of Yaroslav Vsevolodovich's troops attacked a small force led by one of Mstislav's lieutenants (Yarun) near Torzhok
Torzhok is a town in Tver Oblast, Russia, famous for its folk craft of goldwork embroidery. Population: Torzhok has twenty-two large and medium-sized industrial enterprises. Two of them are especially significant...

, between Tver' and Novgorod, but Yaroslav's forces were beaten off. The survivors reported to Yaroslav who then attacked towns along the Volga before turning back to muster forces from Novgorod and then joining Yuri and Sviatoslav at Pereislavl. These forces mustered along the Kzha River.

Mstislav joined Konstantin and "the two Vladimir's" and mustered their forces on the Lipitsa River and sent a sotnik (a commander of 100) to Yuri saying they had no quarrel with him, but Yuri stood by his brother, Yaroslav. Mstislav also asked that the Novgorodians and men of Novy Torg that were part of Yaroslav's army be released and allowed to return home so that brothers and sons would not fight each other, as much of Mstislav's army was also Novgorodian. Mstislav offered peace as long as Yaroslav would return Mstislav's Novgorodian districts, but Yaroslav would not sue for peace.

The battle

The Novgorodian First Chronicle and other chronicle accounts do not relate the precise battle array (the account was written by a monk who was not familiar with strategy or tactics). The battle begins with the Novgorodians telling Mstislav that they did not want to fight on horseback but on foot, as their fathers had at an earlier battle. This pleased Mstislav (fighting on horseback may have implied a willingness to flee the battle on horse rather than standing to fight). The Novgorodians then threw off their horse breeches riding boots and ran into battle barefoot. With "the help of Saint Sophia (Holy Wisdom)
Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod
The Cathedral of St. Sophia in the Kremlin in Veliky Novgorod is the cathedral church of the Archbishop of Novgorod and the mother church of the Novgorodian Eparchy.-History:...

," the Novgorodians drove off Yaroslav and Yuri, and the number of those killed was said to have been "countless."

The aftermath

Yaroslav fled to Pereiaslavl and cast the Novgorodians in his army into a pit or into prison there, where large numbers of them died. Mstislav entered Pereiaslavl and the town and princely residence caught fire (the chronicle does not say if it was intentionally set alight or not). Yuri parleyed with Mstislav and agreed to withdraw from the city the following day. He withdrew to Radoliv while Mstislav and his Novgorodian army placed Konstantin on the throne in Vladimir after which Mstislav returned to Novgorod with the remnant of the Novgorodian army.

Location of the battlefield

The location of the battlefield was a matter of some contention until 1808, when a peasant woman from Lykovo near Yuriev-Polsky on the Koloksha River discovered an ancient gilded helmet with an image of St. Theodore, the patron saint of Yaroslav Vsevolodovich. The helmet has been preserved in the Kremlin Armoury
Kremlin Armoury
The Kremlin Armory is one of the oldest museums of Moscow, established in 1808 and located in the Moscow Kremlin .The Kremlin Armoury originated as the royal arsenal in 1508. Until the transfer of the court to St Petersburg, the Armoury was in charge of producing, purchasing and storing weapons,...


As a piece of rare workmanship, the helmet is usually attributed to Yaroslav. Indeed, the chronicler noted that Yaroslav had fled the battlefield without his armour and arrived in Vladimir having nothing on but a shirt. Actor Nikolai Cherkasov
Nikolai Cherkasov
Nikolay Konstantinovich Cherkasov , was a Soviet actor and a People's Artist of the Soviet Union.-Career:He was born in Saint Petersburg . From 1919 he was a mime artist in Petrograd's Maryinsky Theatre, the Bolshoi Theatre, and elsewhere...

, when playing the part of Yaroslav's son Alexander Nevsky
Alexander Nevsky
Alexander Nevsky was the Prince of Novgorod and Grand Prince of Vladimir during some of the most trying times in the city's history. Commonly regarded as the key figure of medieval Rus, Alexander was the grandson of Vsevolod the Big Nest and rose to legendary status on account of his military...

 in the eponymous film
Alexander Nevsky (film)
Alexander Nevsky is a 1938 historical drama film directed by Sergei Eisenstein, in association with Dmitri Vasilyev and a script co-written with Pyotr Pavlenko, who were assigned to ensure Eisenstein did not stray into "formalism" and to facilitate shooting on a reasonable timetable...

, wore a replica of this helmet.
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