Michael of Chernigov
Saint Michael of Chernigov or Mikhail Vsevolodovich (c. 1185 - Saray, September 20, 1246) was a Rus'
Rus' (people)
The Rus' were a group of Varangians . According to the Primary Chronicle of Rus, compiled in about 1113 AD, the Rus had relocated from the Baltic region , first to Northeastern Europe, creating an early polity which finally came under the leadership of Rurik...

 prince (a member of the Rurik dynasty
Rurik Dynasty
The Rurik dynasty or Rurikids was a dynasty founded by the Varangian prince Rurik, who established himself in Novgorod around the year 862 AD...

). He was grand prince of Kiev (1236–1240, 1240, 1241–1243); and he was also prince of Pereyaslavl (1206), of Novgorod-Seversk
Principality of Novgorod-Seversk
The Principality of Novgorod-Seversk was a medieval Rus' principality centered on the town now called Novhorod-Siverskyi. The principality was aligned to the Principality of Chernigov. It may have been created in 1139, the date of one modern authority...

 (1219–1226), of Chernigov (1223–1235, 1242–1246), of Novgorod
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...

 (1225–1226, 1229–1230), and of Halych (1235–1236).

Archaeological evidence reveals that Chernigov towns enjoyed an unprecedented degree of prosperity during his period which suggests that promoting trade
Trade is the transfer of ownership of goods and services from one person or entity to another. Trade is sometimes loosely called commerce or financial transaction or barter. A network that allows trade is called a market. The original form of trade was barter, the direct exchange of goods and...

 was a priority for him. Commercial interests, in part, also motivated him to seize control of Halych
Halych is a historic city on the Dniester River in western Ukraine. The town gave its name to the historic province and kingdom of Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia, of which it was the capital until the early 14th century, when the seat of the local princes was moved to Lviv...

 and Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

 because they were channels through which goods from the Rhine valley and Hungary
Kingdom of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary comprised present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia , Transylvania , Carpatho Ruthenia , Vojvodina , Burgenland , and other smaller territories surrounding present-day Hungary's borders...

 passed to Chernigov (today Chernihiv in Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

). He also negotiated commercial treaties and political alliances with the Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 and the Hungarians.

He alleviated the tax burden of the Novgorodians
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...

 and granted their boyar
A boyar, or bolyar , was a member of the highest rank of the feudal Moscovian, Kievan Rus'ian, Bulgarian, Wallachian, and Moldavian aristocracies, second only to the ruling princes , from the 10th century through the 17th century....

s greater political freedom from the prince. He was the last autonomous senior prince
Rota System
The rota system, from the Old Church Slavic word for "ladder" or "staircase", was a system of collateral succession practiced in Kievan Rus' and later Appanage and early Muscovite Russia, in which the throne passed not linearly from father to son, but laterally from brother to brother and then to...

 of Kiev, where he was deposed not by a more powerful prince but by the invincible Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...


On the eve of Mongol invasion, he was one of the most powerful princes in Rus’
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

. He has been accused of ineffective leadership because he failed to unite the princes of Rus’ against the invaders; in defense it must be pointed out that this was an impossible task.

Mikhail was the first prince of the Olgovichi (the dynasty of Chernigov) to become a martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

 according to the commonly understood meaning of the word: he underwent the penalty of death for persistence in his Christian faith. He and his boyar Fedor (Theodore) were tortured and beheaded by the Tatars.

They later became known as "The Passion-Sufferers of Chernigov" and "The Miracle-Workers of Chernigov".

His early life

He was the only known son of prince Vsevolod Svyatoslavich
Vsevolod IV of Kiev
Vsevolod IV Svyatoslavich the Red was a Rus' prince . His baptismal name was Daniil...

 (who later became grand prince Vsevolod IV the Red of Kiev), by Anastasia, the daughter of grand duke Casimir II of Poland
Casimir II the Just
Casimir II the Just was a Lesser Polish duke at Wiślica during 1166–1173, and at Sandomierz since 1173. He became ruler over the Polish Seniorate Province at Kraków and thereby High Duke of Poland in 1177; a position he held until his death, interrupted once by his elder brother and predecessor...

. The patrimonial domain of his father was located in the northwestern part of the Vyatichi lands
The Vyatichi or Viatichi were a tribe of East Slavs who inhabited a part of the Oka basin.The Primary Chronicle names a certain tribal leader Vyatko as the forefather of the tribe, but the modern etymology places the word as a cognate to Veneti and Vandals. The Vyatichi were mainly engaged in...

 where he undoubtedly spent his childhood.
When Mikhail was a child, he suffered from a paralyzing illness
Paralysis is loss of muscle function for one or more muscles. Paralysis can be accompanied by a loss of feeling in the affected area if there is sensory damage as well as motor. A study conducted by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, suggests that about 1 in 50 people have been diagnosed...

. His grandfather, grand prince Svyatoslav III Vsevolodovich
Sviatoslav III of Kiev
Sviatoslav III Vsevolodovich , Prince of Turov , Vladimir and Volyn , Pinsk , Novgorod-Seversky , Chernigov , Grand Prince of Kiev...

 of Kiev gave much wealth to churches in unsuccessful attempts to obtain a cure. Finally, he heard of the miracle-worker Nikita
Nikita Stylites
Venerable Nikita Stylites, a saint of 12th century Russia, led a dissolute life in his youth. However, upon entering a church on a certain occasion he heard the words of the Prophet Isaiah 'Wash you , make you clean;' with this a profound conversion was effected in his soul.Thus converted Nikita...

 living in the Monastery of St. Nicetas at Pereyaslavl-Zalessky in Suzdalia
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...

. The prince, accompanied by boyars, rode to the town and arrived at the monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

’s pillar. The stylite gave his staff to one of his boyars to take to the prince; Mikhail took hold of it, was cured, and walked to the miracle-worker’s pillar for his blessing
A blessing, is the infusion of something with holiness, spiritual redemption, divine will, or one's hope or approval.- Etymology and Germanic paganism :...

. Following his cure, he gave a generous benefaction to the monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 and ordered a stone cross to be erected, according to one source on May 16, 1186, on the spot where he was cured. Although the event is reported only in late sources and embellished with pious details, the account has a ring of truth.

In the summer of 1206, his father seized Kiev, sent his posadnik
Posadnik was the mayor in some East Slavic cities or towns. Most notably, the posadnik was the mayor of Novgorod and Pskov...

to all the Kievan towns, and forced grand prince Rurik Rostislavich
Rurik Rostislavich
Ruryk Rostislavich , Prince of Novgorod , Belgorod Kievsky, presently Bilohorodka , Grand Prince of Kiev , Prince of Chernigov...

 to withdraw to Vruchiy
Ovruch is a city in the Zhytomyr Oblast of northern Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Ovruch Raion . The current estimated population is around 17,000 . It is home to Ovruch air base....

 (today Ovruch in Ukraine). Vsevolod Svyatoslavich also evicted 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:...

 (son of grand prince Vsevolod Yuryevich of Vladimir
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...

) from Pereyaslavl, and gave the town to Mikhail. However, Rurik Rostislavich was determined to regain control of Kiev, and expelled Vsevolod Svyatoslavich with relative ease. Rurik Rostislavich also ordered Mikhail, who had only a small retinue
A retinue is a body of persons "retained" in the service of a noble or royal personage, a suite of "retainers".-Etymology:...

 at his disposal, to vacate Pereyaslavl, and thus he withdrew to his father in Chernigov. Some time in the summer of 1207, his father occupied again Kiev, but in October, Rurik Rostislavich rode to Kiev, drove out Vsevolod Svyatoslavich for the second time and occupied the town; Mikhail accompanied his father from Kiev.

No sources report Mikhail’s marriage, but evidence suggests that he married Elena Romanovna (or Maria Romanovna), a daughter of prince Roman Mstislavich
Roman the Great
Roman Mstislavich , also Roman Mstyslavych or Roman the Great, was a Rus’ prince, Grand Prince of Kiev ....

 of Halych in 1210 or 1211.

In June of 1212, prince Mstislav Romanovich
Mstislav III of Kiev
Mstislav Romanovich the Old , Prince of Pskov , Smolensk , Belgorod , Halych and Grand Prince of Kiev...

 of Smolensk
Principality of Smolensk
The Principality of Smolensk was a Kievan Rus' lordship from the eleventh to the fifteenth century...

, prince Mstislav Mstislavich the Bold of Novgorod and prince Ingvar Yaroslavich
Ingvar of Kiev
Ingvar Yaroslavich , Prince of Dorogobuzh, Prince of Lutsk, Grand Prince of Kiev , Prince of Volodymyr-Volynskyi . Son of Yaroslav Izyaslavich, great-grandson of Vladimir Monomakh....

 of Lutsk launched a major offensive against Vsevolod Svyatoslavich who confronted the attackers at Vyshgorod
Vyshhorod is a city in the Kiev Oblast , in central Ukraine. It is the administrative centre of the Vyshhorodskyi Raion , and is located along the Dnieper River upstream from the national capital, Kiev...

. However, the Rostislavichi occupied Kiev. Vsevolod Svyatoslavich fled from Kiev, probably accompanied by Mikhail, for the third time and sought safety in Chernigov where he died sometime in August of 1212. Mikhail probably inherited Bryn, Serensk, and Mosalsk
Mosalsk is a town and the administrative center of Mosalsky District of Kaluga Oblast, Russia, located west of Kaluga. Population: First attested in 1231 , it became the center of one of the Upper Principalities in the 14th century...

 from his father.

When his uncle Gleb Svyatoslavich
Gleb Svyatoslavich (Prince of Chernigov)
Gleb Svyatoslavich was a Rus' prince . His baptismal name was Pakhomy. He was prince of Kaniv , of Belgorod , and of Chernigov . He helped to pay for the Church of St...

 died between 1215 and 1220, and Mstislav II Svyatoslavich
Mstislav II Svyatoslavich (Prince of Chernigov)
Mstislav II Svyatoslavich was a Rus' prince . His baptismal name was Panteleymon. He was probably prince of Kozelsk , of Novgorod-Seversk , and of Chernigov...

 moved to Chernigov, Mikhail, because of his status as the second in seniority, probably occupied Novgorod-Seversk.

In the spring of 1223, a strong Mongol cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 corps under the command of Jebe
Chepe Noyan was one of the prominent Noyans of Genghis Khan. His clan was Besud, which belonged to the Taichud tribe, which was at the time of Genghis Khan under Targudai Khiriltug's leadership....

 and Subutai
Subutai was the primary military strategist and general of Genghis Khan and Ögedei Khan...

 which had been sent by Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan , born Temujin and occasionally known by his temple name Taizu , was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death....

 to reconnoiter the “western lands” entered the land of the Cumans
The Cumans were Turkic nomadic people comprising the western branch of the Cuman-Kipchak confederation. After Mongol invasion , they decided to seek asylum in Hungary, and subsequently to Bulgaria...

. Unable to withstand the onslaught, the Cumans fled to Rus’ warning the princes that if they refused to send aid the same fate would befall them. At the war council of the Rus’ princes it was decided not to wait for the coming of the Tatars but to attack them deep in the Cuman steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

s. Mikhail also attended the meeting. The united forces of the princes went down the river Dnieper, and the first skirmish took place on the banks of the river. In this vanguard battle Mstislav Mstislavich the Bold succeeded in defeating a detachment
Detachment (military)
A detachment is a military unit. It can either be detached from a larger unit for a specific function or be a permanent unit smaller than a battalion. The term is often used to refer to a unit that is assigned to a different base from the parent unit...

 of Mongol troops.

Crossing the Dnieper, their armies marched through the steppes for 8 days before they met the main Mongol force
Battle of the Kalka River
The Battle of the Kalka River took place on May 31, 1223, between the Mongol Empire and Kiev, Galich, and several other Rus' principalities and the Cumans, under the command of Mstislav the Bold and Mstislav III of Kiev...

 at the banks of the Kalka River. There was no unity of command in the Russian army. The results were disastrous: after the battle, a number of princes (including Mstislav II Svyatoslavich of Chernigov) perished during the flight.

Prince of Chernigov and Novgorod

Mikhail was probably among the first survivors who returned to Chernigov. The chronicles do not tell us that Mikhail replaced Mstislav II Svyatoslavich as prince of Chernigov, but later evidence reveals that after his uncle’s demise he sat on the throne of his father and grandfather in the Holy Saviour Cathedral. The ceremony probably took place around June 16. Because princes of his generation predeceased him and had no heirs, Mikhail, in his capacity as senior prince, assumed control over a number of their domains. This accumulation of territories made him the largest landowner in the land.
At that time, the Novgorodians acknowledged grand prince Yuri II Vsevolodovich of Vladimir as their overlord, but they frequently challenged his appointment of princes. In 1224, his son, Vsevolod Yuryevich had to flee from Novgorod. It appears that Mikhail was already in Vladimir on the Klyazma
Vladimir is a city and the administrative center of Vladimir Oblast, Russia, located on the Klyazma River, to the east of Moscow along the M7 motorway. Population:...

 when Yuri Vsevolodovich learnt of his son’s flight. Yuri Vsevolodovich threatened the Novgorodians to attack; in response, they confirmed their loyalty to him but made a pact to die in the defense of the Cathedral of St. Sofia
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:...

. Yuri Vsevolodovich, therefore, proposed that they accept Mikhail as prince. The Novgorodians agreed and, in March of 1225, Mikhail occupied Novgorod. Nevertheless, Yuri Vsevolodovich demanded the sum of 7,000 novuyu as a fine from the citizens and confiscated their goods.

Mikhail went to Novgorod, where he acted as Yuri Vsevolodovich’s appointee and not as an autonomous ruler, with the intention of returning to Chernigov. One of his most important tasks was to recover the Novgorodians’ wares that Yuri Vsevolodovich had confiscated at 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...

 and in his own domain. Before departing from Novgorod, Mikhail invited the townsmen to send merchants to Chernigov and declared that their lands and his would be as one. After he departed from Novgorod, the veche
Novgorod veche
According to the traditional scholarship, the veche was the highest legislature and judicial authority in the Republic of Novgorod until 1478, when Novgorod the Great was brought under the direct control of Grand Prince Ivan III ....

sent its request for a prince to Yuri Vsevolodovich’s brother, prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich of Pereyaslavl Zalesskiy
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:...


About a year after Mikhail returned to Chernigov, it appears he became involved in a dynastic dispute: Oleg Svyatoslavich of Kursk prepared to wage war on him. The available evidence suggests that the bone of contention was Novhorod-Siverskyi
Novhorod-Siversky is a historic city in the Chernihiv Oblast of Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Novhorod-Siversky Raion, and is situated on the bank of the Desna River, 330 km from the capital, Kiev, and 45 km south of the Russian border. Current estimated population:...

. It is noteworthy that the chroniclers accuse neither Mikhail nor Oleg of wrongdoing which suggests that each had a just cause. During the winter of 1227, Yuri Vsevolodovich, and his nephews (prince Vasilko Konstantinovich of Rostov and prince Vsevolod Konstantinovich of Pereyaslavl) came to help Mikhail against Oleg Svyatoslavich; in addition to them, Metropolitan Kirill I of Kiev also helped to reconcile Mikhail with Oleg who evidently became the prince of Novgorod Seversk.
In 1228, grand prince Vladimir III Rurikovich
Vladimir III Rurikovich
Vladimir IV Rurikovich , Prince of Pereyaslavl , Smolensk and Grand Prince of Kiev . Son of Rurik Rostislavich....

 of Kiev summoned Mikhail and attacked the latter’s brother-in-law, prince Daniil Romanovich of Volodymyr-Volynskyi
Volodymyr-Volynsky is a city located in Volyn Oblast, in north-western Ukraine. Serving as the administrative centre of the Volodymyr-Volynsky District, the city itself is also designated as a separate raion within the oblast...

, who had seized the towns of Lutsk
Lutsk is a city located by the Styr River in northwestern Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Volyn Oblast and the administrative center of the surrounding Lutskyi Raion within the oblast...

 and Chertoryysk, in Kamenets
Kamyanets-Podilsky or Kamienets-Podolsky is a city located on the Smotrych River in western Ukraine, to the north-east of Chernivtsi...

. However, they failed to take Kamenets whose ability to withstand the siege is all the more impressive because Vladimir III Rurikovich allegedly attacked with all his allies.

In December of 1228, the common people of Novgorod rose up in arms against tysyatskiy Vyacheslav and appointed Boris Negochevich in his place, and invited Yaroslav Vsevolodovich to return according to a new agreement. They insisted that he abide by all their terms and by all the laws of Yaroslav the Wise; he also had to cancel the zaboshnitse (a special tax levied on churches which also served as warehouses), and to stop appointing his judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

s in the Novgorodian lands. On February 20, 1229, therefore, Yaroslav Vsevolodovich’s sons (Fedor Yaroslavich and Aleksandr Yaroslavich
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...

) fled to their father. The Novgorodians got word to Mikhail, and he set out for Novgorod upon receiving the invitation; he arrived in Novgorod around the beginning of May.

Mikhail and the townsmen introduced measures to waken Yaroslav Vsevolodovich’s power: the veche appointed Vnezd Vodovik as the new posadnik and also removed his other administrators. After levying heavy fines on Yaroslav Vsevolodovich’s supporters, the Novgorodians used the money for the benefit of the entire community by paying for the construction of a new bridge.

Mikhail’s pro-Novgorod legislation included granting the town officials some of the prince’s power: he permitted the boyars to appoint their own judges. He also abrogated the zabozhnitse, placed a moratorium on the payment of tribute for five years on those peasants who had fled to other lands and agreed to return to their Novgorodian homes, and lessened the tax burden of the common people. After spending some three months in Novgorod, Mikhail returned home. When he departed from Novgorod, he designated his son Rostislav Mikhailovich to remain as his lieutenant, and on returning to Chernigov he took with him prominent Novgorodians.

In May of 1230, he returned to Novgorod where he installed his son on the throne. Before departing, he promised the Novgorodians to return with troops by September 14. On December 8, the Novgorodians forced Rostislav Mikhailovich to flee to his father on just the feeble pretext that Mikhail had promised to bring troops by September 14, but it was already December and he had not come. In this way Yaroslav Vsevolodovich’s supporters evicted the Olgovichi from Novgorod, as it turned out, for the last time. They summoned Yaroslav Vsevolodovich and he came on December 30. Meanwhile, a core of dissenters found refuge with Mikhail; to secure his hegemony over Novgorod, therefore, Yaroslav Vsevolodovich had to stop Mikhail from giving them support.

Prince of Chernigov and grand prince of Kiev

In the summer or autumn of 1231, Mikhail waged war against grand prince Vladimir III Rurikovich of Kiev who sent an appeal for help to Daniil Romanovich (Mikhail’s brother-in-law). We are told that Daniil Romanovich came and pacified the two princes.

In the autumn of 1231, Yaroslav Vsevolodovich attacked the northwest district of the Vyatichi lands. He set fire to Serensk (which was most likely the administrative center of Mikhail’s patrimony), but when he besieged Mosalsk, he failed to take it. Yaroslav, however, refused to conclude peace which signaled to Mikhail that he was prepared to pursue his objective until Mikhail expelled the Novgorodian fugitives from his lands. Towards the end of 1231 Vnezd Vodovik died in Chernigov; Mikhail had been bound to support Vodovik owing to their mutual oath
An oath is either a statement of fact or a promise calling upon something or someone that the oath maker considers sacred, usually God, as a witness to the binding nature of the promise or the truth of the statement of fact. To swear is to take an oath, to make a solemn vow...

s, and Vodovik’s deaths released him from that obligation. Therefore, tysyatskiy Boris Negochevich and his band left Chernigov before Easter of 1232.

In 1232, troops sent by Vladimir III Rurikovich pursued and captured the princes of Bolokhov who had invaded Daniil Romanovich’s lands and handed them over to the latter. Mikhail and prince Iziaslav Vladimirovich
Iziaslav IV Vladimirovich
Iziaslav IV Vladimirovich , was the Prince of Terebovlya and Novgorod-Seversky and Grand Prince of Kiev . He was the son of Vladimir Igorevich....

 of Putyvl threatened to attack Daniil Romanovich if he refused to release them. Although Vladimir Rurikovich renewed his pact with Daniil Romanovich, Mikhail and Iziaslav Vladimirovich continued waging war against them. In January of 1235, Vladimir Rurikovich and Daniil Romanovich attacked Chernigov, plundered the environs and set fire to the outer town hoping to make Mikhail submit. He, however, promised Daniil Romanovich many gifts if he would desert Vladimir III Rurikovich. Daniil Romanovich agreed and attempted to persuade Vladimir to lift the siege; but Mikhail sallied out of Chernigov at night, caught Daniil Romanovich’s troops by surprise, and killed many of them. His brother-in-law barely escaped and was forced to withdraw to the Kievan land.

Mikhail waited until Iziaslav Vladimirovich brought the Cumans and then rode in pursuit. The two sides clashed near Torchesk
Torchesk was a medieval town, located between today's villages of Olshanytsia and Sharky in Kiev Oblast of northern Ukraine some east of Bila Tserkva....

 where Vladimir Rurikovich and Daniil Romanovich were defeated, and the former and many boyars were also taken captive. Meanwhile, Mikhail’s allies took Kiev where he evidently made the German
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 merchants, who had come to Kiev via Novgorod, pay redemption-fees for their goods, and then appointed his puppet, Izyaslav Mstislavich (one of the Rostislavichi) to the throne.
At an undisclosed date after Daniil Romanovich returned to Halych from his defeat at Torchesk, its boyars rebelled and forced him to flee to Hungary. Towards the end of September, Mikhail occupied Halych, while his comrade-in-arms, Izyaslav Vladimirovich seized Kamenets. In the spring of 1236, Mikhail attacked Daniil Romanovich in Volhynia
Volhynia, Volynia, or Volyn is a historic region in western Ukraine located between the rivers Prypiat and Southern Bug River, to the north of Galicia and Podolia; the region is named for the former city of Volyn or Velyn, said to have been located on the Southern Bug River, whose name may come...

. In addition to his own retinue, he was probably accompanied by Galician
Halych is a historic city on the Dniester River in western Ukraine. The town gave its name to the historic province and kingdom of Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia, of which it was the capital until the early 14th century, when the seat of the local princes was moved to Lviv...

 boyars, the princes of Bolokhov, and troops from the Kievan land. He also sent Izyaslav Vladimirovich to bring the Cumans; and finally, he summoned duke Konrad I of Masovia
Konrad I of Masovia
Konrad I of Masovia , from the Polish Piast dynasty, was the sixth Duke of Masovia from 1194 until his death and High Duke of Poland from 1229 to 1232.-Life:...

 (his maternal uncle) who had broken off friendly ties with Daniil Romanovich. The size of his attacking force suggests that he intended to capture his brother-in-law’s capital of Volodymyr-Volynskyi. However, the Cumans plundered the Galician lands forcing Mikhail to abandon his campaign.

Meanwhile, king Béla IV of Hungary
Béla IV of Hungary
Béla IV , King of Hungary and of Croatia , duke of Styria 1254–58. One of the most famous kings of Hungary, he distinguished himself through his policy of strengthening of the royal power following the example of his grandfather Bela III, and by the rebuilding Hungary after the catastrophe of the...

 renewed his father
Andrew II of Hungary
Andrew II the Jerosolimitan was King of Hungary and Croatia . He was the younger son of King Béla III of Hungary, who invested him with the government of the Principality of Halych...

’s pact with Mikhail, and seemingly relinquished his claim to Halych and also agreed to give Mikhail military aid. At the beginning of the summer of 1236, Daniil Romanovich and his brother Vasilko Romanovich rallied their troops to march against Mikhail. However, he barricaded himself in Halych with his retinue, the local militia, and a contingent of Hungarians. Dissuaded from taking Halych, they sought to assuage their frustration by seizing its northern outpost of Zvenigorod
Zvenigorod is an old town in Moscow Oblast, Russia. Population: -History:The community has existed since the 12th century, although its first written mention is dated 1338. The town's name is based either on a personal name or on a hydronym Zvenigorod is an old town in Moscow Oblast, Russia....

, but its citizens repelled the attack. After the Hungarian troops had departed, Daniil Romanovich tried again; Mikhail attempted to placate his brother-in-law by giving him Przemyśl
Przemyśl is a city in south-eastern Poland with 66,756 inhabitants, as of June 2009. In 1999, it became part of the Podkarpackie Voivodeship; it was previously the capital of Przemyśl Voivodeship....

 whose inhabitants had supported him in the past.

Meanwhile, grand prince Yuri II Vsevolodovich of Vladimir and Daniil Romanovich formed a pact, forced Vladimir Ryurikovich, who had replaced Izyaslav Mstislavich, to vacate Kiev, and appointed Yury Vsevolodovich’s brother Yaroslav Vsevolodovich to the town. The latter arrived in Kiev around March of 1236; but he failed to consolidate his rule and returned to Suzdalia. After appointing his son to rule Halych, Mikhail came to Kiev where he entered uncontested. Soon after occupying Kiev, he and his son attacked Przemyśl and took it back from Daniil Romanovich. The people of Halych, however, summoned Daniil Romanovich around 1237, and installed him as prince; Mikhail’s son fled to king Béla IV and all the boyars of Halych submitted to Mikhail’s brother-in-law.

The Mongol invasion of Rus’

In the winter of 1237, Batu Khan
Batu Khan
Batu Khan was a Mongol ruler and founder of the Ulus of Jochi , the sub-khanate of the Mongol Empire. Batu was a son of Jochi and grandson of Genghis Khan. His ulus was the chief state of the Golden Horde , which ruled Rus and the Caucasus for around 250 years, after also destroying the armies...

 came to the frontiers of Ryazan
Ryazan Principality
The Grand Duchy of Ryazan existed from 1078 when it was separated from the Chernigov Principality as the provincial Murom Principality.-Prior to the invasion of Batu Khan:...

; it is possible that Prince Yury Ingvarevich of Ryazan sent his brother, Ingvar Ingvarevich to Chernigov to seek help from Mikhail, but he sent no troops to the beleaguered princes. On December 21, the Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 took Ryazan, and they plundered the treasures of the inhabitants including the wealth of their relatives from Kiev and Chernigov.
In March of 1238 the Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

, who had routed Yuri II Vsevolodovich’s troops and killed him, continued their march, and in the Vyatichi lands they came upon the town of Kozelsk
Kozelsk is a town in Kaluga Oblast, Russia, located on the Zhizdra River , southwest of Kaluga. Population: -History:The town of Kozelsk was first mentioned in a chronicle under the year of 1146 as a part of Principality of Chernigov...

, and they struggled 7 weeks to crush it. Archaeological evidence reveals that Mikhail’s domains of Mosalsk and Serensk suffered the same fate.

The second phase of the Mongol invasion began early in 1239; on March 3 one contingent took Pereyaslavl and set fire to it. Not long after Pereyaslavl fell, it would appear, Mikhail went to Kamenets, and organized a general evacuation of his retinue from Kiev. However, Yaroslav Vsevolodovich in Suzdalia got word of his destination; he besieged Kamenets, captured Mikhail’s wife, and seized much booty, but Mikhail escaped and returned to Kiev. When Daniil Romanovich learnt that his sister (Mikhail’s wife) was being held captive, he asked Yaroslav Vsevolodovich to send her to him.

In the autumn of 1239, the Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

, who had occupied Chernigov on October 18, sent messengers to Kiev proposing peace, but Mikhail refused to submit. During the first half of 1240, we are told, Batu Khan sent Möngke
Möngke Khan
Möngke Khan , born Möngke, , was the fourth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire from July 1, 1251 – August 11, 1259. He was the first Great Khan from the Toluid line, and made significant reforms to improve the administration of the Empire during his reign...

 to reconnoiter Kiev; when his messengers came to Mikhail for the second time seeking to coax him into submitting, he defied the khan
Khan (title)
Khan is an originally Altaic and subsequently Central Asian title for a sovereign or military ruler, widely used by medieval nomadic Turko-Mongol tribes living to the north of China. 'Khan' is also seen as a title in the Xianbei confederation for their chief between 283 and 289...

 by putting his envoys to deaths. The forces in Rus’ on whom Mikhail could still rely were his own druzhina
Druzhina, Drużyna or Družyna in the medieval history of Slavic Europe was a retinue in service of a chieftain, also called knyaz. The name is derived from the Slavic word drug with the meaning of "companion, friend". -Early Rus:...

and the Kievan militia, and therefore he fled to Hungary.

In the chaos that preceded the invasion of the west bank of the river Dnieper, minor princelings and boyars took advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves to seize power: Rostislav Mstislavich seized Kiev, but he was evicted by Daniil Romanovich.

Meanwhile, Mikhail had arrived in Hungary where he attempted to arrange a marriage for his son Rostislav Mikhailovich with the king’s daughter. In the light of Mikhail’s plight, Béla IV saw no advantage to forming such an alliance and evicted Mikhail and his son from Hungary. In Mazovia
Mazovia or Masovia is a geographical, historical and cultural region in east-central Poland. It is also a voivodeship in Poland.Its historic capital is Płock, which was the medieval residence of first Dukes of Masovia...

, Mikhail received a warm welcome from his uncle, but he decided that the expedient course of action was to seek reconciliation and sent envoys to his brother-in-law. Mikhail pledged never again to antagonize Daniil Romanovich and forswore making any future attempts on Halych. Daniil Romanovich invited him to Volhynia, returned his wife, and relinquished control of Kiev. In the face of the Mongol attack, however, Mikhail did not return to Kiev but allowed his brother-in-law’s men to remain there.

Towards the end of 1240, Batu Khan encircled Kiev with his troops, and the town fell on December 6. On learning Kiev’s fate, Mikhail withdrew from Volhynia and for the second time imposed himself on his maternal uncle’s good graces. When, however, the Mongols also threatened Mazovia, he traveled west to Wrocław in Silesia
Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland, with smaller parts also in the Czech Republic, and Germany.Silesia is rich in mineral and natural resources, and includes several important industrial areas. Silesia's largest city and historical capital is Wrocław...

. As his caravan pressed northwest, it came to Środa
Sroda Slaska
Środa Śląska is a town in Lower Silesian Voivodeship, in south-western Poland. It is the seat of Środa Śląska County, and of the smaller administrative district called Gmina Środa Śląska. Prior to 1945 it was in Germany...

, where the local inhabitants attacked Mikhail’s train; they plundered his goods and killed a number of his people including his granddaughter. The Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 invaded Silesia, and after the invaders had passed through Volhynia and the Polish lands, Mikhail returned to Mazovia.

His last years

Some time in the spring of 1241, he considered it safe to go home. He stopped at the devastated town of Volodymyr-Volynskyi
Volodymyr-Volynsky is a city located in Volyn Oblast, in north-western Ukraine. Serving as the administrative centre of the Volodymyr-Volynsky District, the city itself is also designated as a separate raion within the oblast...

, rode northeast to Pinsk
Pinsk , a town in Belarus, in the Polesia region, traversed by the river Pripyat, at the confluence of the Strumen and Pina rivers. The region was known as the Marsh of Pinsk. It is a fertile agricultural center. It lies south-west of Minsk. The population is about 130,000...

, and then traveled down the river Pripyat
Pripyat River
The Pripyat River or Prypiat River is a river in Eastern Europe, approximately long. It flows east through Ukraine, Belarus, and Ukraine again, draining into the Dnieper....

 to Kiev. Unable to return to his court on the citadel because Batu Khan’s official had presumably occupied it, he took up residence on an island near the podol’
The Podil or Podilskyi Raion is a historic neighbourhood and an administrative raion in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Kiev, the birthplace of the city's trade, commerce and industry...

. Significantly, Batu Khan’s man did not challenge his arrival thereby indicating that the Mongols were willing to let refugee princes return to their ravaged towns without obstruction.

On learning that Béla IV had given his daughter in marriage to his son, Rostislav Mikhailovich (who had fled to the Hungarians) in 1242, Mikhail believed that his efforts to form an alliance with the Árpád dynasty
Árpád dynasty
The Árpáds or Arpads was the ruling dynasty of the federation of the Hungarian tribes and of the Kingdom of Hungary . The dynasty was named after Grand Prince Árpád who was the head of the tribal federation when the Magyars occupied the Carpathian Basin, circa 895...

 had finally been realized. He therefore rode to Hungary expecting to negotiate the agreements that normally accompanied such and alliance. However, his hopes were dashed: the king and his son rebuffed him when he came to the king’s court. Mikhail, greatly angered by his son, returned empty-handed to Chernigov.

Meanwhile, Batu Khan commanded all the princes to visit Saray and pay him homage
Homage (medieval)
Homage in the Middle Ages was the ceremony in which a feudal tenant or vassal pledged reverence and submission to his feudal lord, receiving in exchange the symbolic title to his new position . It was a symbolic acknowledgment to the lord that the vassal was, literally, his man . The oath known as...

. Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich of Suzdalia was the first to respond to the summons: at the beginning of 1243, he traveled to Saray, where Batu Khan appointed him senior prince in Rus’. After returning to Suzdalia, he sent his commander to rule Kiev. Accordingly, some time during the second part of that year, Mikhail abandoned his court on the island below Kiev and returned to Chernigov. But even there his authority was insecure: like all the other princes of Rus’, he had to obtain Batu Khan’s patent (yarlik) to rule his patrimony.

His martyrdom and his cult

By the end of 1245, only Mikhail from among the three senior princes had not yet kowtowed to the conqueror. In the end, Mikhail went in time to pre-empt a Mongol
Mongol Empire
The Mongol Empire , initially named as Greater Mongol State was a great empire during the 13th and 14th centuries...

 punitive strike against his domain; his grandson, Boris Vasilkovich of Rostov accompanied him.

When they arrived at Saray, Batu Khan sent messengers to Mikhail’s camp instructing him to worship according to the laws of the Mongols
Tengriism is a Central Asian religion that incorporates elements of shamanism, animism, totemism and ancestor worship. Despite still being active in some minorities, it was, in old times, the major belief of Turkic peoples , Bulgars, Hungarians and Mongols...

 by bowing to the fires and idols
Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god, or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard to created forms other than God. In all the Abrahamic religions idolatry is strongly forbidden, although...

. Mikhail agreed to bow to the khan, but he insulted the Mongol by refusing to obey his command to worship idols. Enraged by the prince’s retort, Batu Khan ordered that he be put to death. He was slaughtered by Doman of Putivls, and Fedor his boyar was killed after him. The Novgorod First Chronicle
Novgorod First Chronicle
The Novgorod First Chronicle or The Chronicle of Novgorod, 1016-1471 is the most ancient extant chronicle of the Novgorod Republic. It reflects a tradition different from the Kievan Primary Chronicle...

, the oldest chronicle reporting his death narrates that their bodies were thrown to the dogs; but as a sign of divine favor, their bodies remained unmolested and pillars of fire hovered over them.

The chronicle narrative accounts show that the people of Rus’ acknowledged Mikhail and Fedor as martyrs immediately after their deaths. Accordingly, their bodies were later brought to Chernigov and entombed in a side-chapel dedicated to them (The Miracle-Workers of Chernigov) in the Holy Saviour Cathedral.

His wife survived him and promoted his cult. His daughter Maria and her sons, Boris and Gleb Vasilkovich, inaugurated the Feast of the Miracle-Workers of Chernigov, on September 20, and built a church in their honor. Her sister, Feodula who had become the nun
A nun is a woman who has taken vows committing her to live a spiritual life. She may be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live her life in prayer and contemplation in a monastery or convent...

 Evfrosinia also advanced his cult to judge from a 17th-century account which reports the existence of a wooden chapel in Suzdal dedicated to them.

The cult was approved in 1547. When Chernigov was occupied by the Poles in 1578, Ivan IV the Terrible
Ivan IV of Russia
Ivan IV Vasilyevich , known in English as Ivan the Terrible , was Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 until his death. His long reign saw the conquest of the Khanates of Kazan, Astrakhan, and Siberia, transforming Russia into a multiethnic and multiconfessional state spanning almost one billion acres,...

 had the relic
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial...

s of the two saints taken to Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

, where they were placed in the cathedral of Saint Michael the Archangel. In times of oppressions particularly, these martyrs have been regarded by the Russians as their special representatives before God.

Marriage and children

#1210/1211: Elena Romanovna (or Maria Romanovna), a daughter of prince Roman Mstislavich of Halych
Roman the Great
Roman Mstislavich , also Roman Mstyslavych or Roman the Great, was a Rus’ prince, Grand Prince of Kiev ....

 and his wife, Predslava Rurikovna of Kiev
  • Feodula Mikhailovna (1212–1250); she became nun and adopted the religious name of Evfrosinia;
  • Duke Rostislav Mikhailovich of Mačva (after 1210 / c. 1225 - 1262);
  • Maria Mikhailovna (? - December 7/9, 1271), wife of Prince Vasilko Konstantinovich of Rostov;
  • Prince Roman Mikhailovich of Chernigov and Bryansk
    Roman Mikhailovich (Prince of Chernigov)
    Roman Mikhailovich the Old was a Rus' prince . He was prince of Chernigov , and of Bryansk .-His life:...

     (c. 1218 - after 1288 / after 1305);
  • Prince Mstislav Mikhailovich of Karachev and Zvenigorod (1220–1280);
  • Prince Simeon Mikhailovich of Glukhov and Novosil;
  • Prince Yury Mikhailovich of Torusa and Bryansk.

Nicolas Baumgarten in his Généalogies et mariages occidentaux des Rurikides russes du Xe au XIIIe siècle (Orientalia christiana 9, no. 35 (1927)) includes a very interesting appendix (translated in full below) with regard to the Princes of Chernigov. Essentially, the four princes—Roman, Simeon, Mstislav, and Iurii—claimed in most published Russian genealogies past and present (Dolgorukov, Vlas'ev, Ikonnikov, Ferrand, Dumin & Grebel'skii, etc.) as sons of St. Michael of Chernigov and as the progenitors of numerous princely families, are apparently not to be found in any original historical document. They appear for the first time in the genealogies composed—or more likely contrived—in the 16th century. (The 16th century witnessed a spate of fanciful genealogical aspirations among European royal and noble families. The Habsburgs claimed descent from Julius Caesar’s cousin Sextus (among others); the Bagratids of Georgia, from the biblical King David; the Lévis-Mirepoix, from cousins of the Virgin Mary; and the Muscovite tsars, from Augustus Caesar).


His descendants

In the second half of the 19th century, many branches stemming form Mikhail flourished: the Boryatinskie, the Gorchakov
Gorchakov, or Gortchakoff , is a Russian princely family of Rurikid stock, descended from the Rurikid sovereigns of Peremyshl, Russia.-Aleksey Gorchakov:The family first achieved prominence during the reign of Catherine II...

y, the Dolgorukie
Dolgoroukov is the name of a princely Russian family Dolgorukovs of Rurikid stock. Descendants of Mikhail of Chernigov, they took their name from one prince of Obolensk, whose sobriquet was Dolgorouky, or "Long-Armed" in Russian, alluding their lineage to the ancient Persian monarchy. Among its...

, the Eletskie, the Zvenigorodskie, the Koltsovy-Mosalskie, the Obolenskie
Obolensky is the name of a princely Russian family of the Rurik Dynasty. The family of aristocrats mostly fled Russia in 1917 during the Russian Revolution...

, the Odoevskie, and the Shcherbatovy.


  • Dimnik, Martin: The Dynasty of Chernigov - 1146-1246; Cambridge University Press, 2003, Cambridge; ISBN 978-0-521-03981-9.
  • DiPlano Carpini, Giovanni (Author) - Hildinger, Erik (Translator): The Story of the Mongols whom We Call the Tartars; Branden Publishing Company, Inc, 1996, Boston, MA; ISBN 0-8283-2017-9.
  • Thurston, Herbert, S.J. (Editor): Butler’s Lives of the Saints - September; Burns & Oates / Search Press Limited, 1999; ISBN 0-86012-258-1.
  • Vernadsky, George: Kievan Russia; Yale University Press, 1948, New Haven and London; ISBN 0-300-01647-6.
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