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Prince Vseslav Bryachislavich can be called one of the most mysterious rulers. For less than a year he held the throne of Kiev, but he ruled in Polotsk for more than half a century. The story of this man still excites the minds of researchers. What is special about it and why is Vseslav called the Prophetic or the Wizard?
Marked with a sign
Amazingly, the very beginning of the life of the future prince is shrouded in secrets. It is known that the son of Prince Bryachislav was born with an ulcer, and the magi helped the prince at birth.
In the "Tale of Bygone Years" the author notes that the mother (and her name has not survived in history) was advised to keep the "ulcer" that was on the child's head - from now on it will be his amulet.
What does this mysterious word mean? There is no definite opinion here. Some historians believe that it could have been a birthmark, others that there were remnants of the placenta on the head of the newborn, which, according to the customs of that time, were preserved and used as an amulet protecting from any misfortune. By the way, Vseslav's contemporaries believed that such a "mark" could be a sign of a sorcerer, and therefore did not hesitate to "christen" the prince a werewolf or a sorcerer.
Reign in Polotsk
In 1044, after the death of his father, Vseslav inherited the Polotsk throne. The young prince begins to act actively, moving towards the Western Dvina. At the same time, Vseslav conquers the local peoples - Livs, Semigallians and Curonians. Vseslav did not stop, and within a few years the lands of the Baltic peoples, Latgalians and villages, were under his rule, on the territory of which large fortified cities were being built. The "Tale of Bygone Years" indicates that during the reign of Vseslav, Polotsk grew, and the power of the prince went far to the north-west.
These facts alone show that the prince was a confident and strong man. That is why he sets himself the main task - to get Kiev. It was not just a thirst for power, Vseslav considered himself the heir of Vladimir the Great, and therefore it was he who could legally inherit power in the Kiev principality. Only three more contenders were aiming at such a "tidbit" at that time - the Yaroslavich brothers, who were organizing an unspoken alliance, either supporting or fighting with each other. True, at the beginning of his reign in Polotsk, there were quite friendly relations between Vseslav and the princes.
Strife and war
What caused the discord between the princes? In my opinion, the belligerent and aggressive policy of Vseslav. Probably, the Yaroslavichs not only protected their own lands from the raids of the Polotsk prince, but also saw him as a serious enemy. Vseslav was indeed a cunning and dexterous ruler. He learned in advance that the Yaroslavichs were going to enlist the support of Sweden, and therefore, with the help of proxies, he was organizing pagan riots in this country (the historian Jan Paversky writes about this in his works).
Despite his dexterity, Vseslav failed to predict the insidious plan of the Yaroslavichi. They cunningly lure their nephew to the city of Orsha for negotiations, where they grab him and send him to prison (a chop - without doors and any exits). A very effective way to get rid of the enemy, isn't it? However, such behavior of the princes, in particular Izyaslav, who occupies the Kiev throne, causes indignation of the people.
The situation reaches a critical point when Izyaslav and his brothers are defeated on the Alta River. The cowardly escaped princes, hiding in Kiev, become the cause of the popular revolt.And Vseslav, mind you, although in a dungeon, he still enjoys authority among the people of Kiev. Then the people in revolt went to the blockhouse and freed the imprisoned prince.
Izyaslav runs to his nephew who rules in Poland, and Vseslav Bryachislavich is proclaimed the Prince of Kiev. But the forces of the opponents, reinforced by Polish troops, are stronger than the new prince. Vseslav was forced to leave Kiev and return to Polotsk, having ceded the coveted city to his opponents. As the chronicles clarify, Vseslav ruled in Kiev for no more than 7 months, and therefore did not have time to accomplish anything significant.
Did the return of Vseslav mean a quiet life for his people? Unfortunately no. The vengeful Izyaslav expels him from Polotsk, making his sons princes. But the Kiev prince again did not take into account the fact that the people of Polotsk were always on the side of Vseslav. This is precisely what plays in the favor of the prince, who returns with his retinue and takes his city, where he continues to rule successfully.
I want to note that the history of Vseslav is filled with mystical events that are described in the chronicles. On the eve of the confrontation with the Yaroslavichs (which then promised nothing), in 1063 the Volkhov River suddenly changed the direction of its course. Then the wise wise men noted that this sign promised trouble for Novgorod, which was located not far from the river. It was this city that became one of the arenas of the clashes between Vseslav and the Yaroslavichs. Even modern scientists cannot refute the fact of such behavior of river waters - this phenomenon really has a completely scientific explanation.
Another harbinger of troubles was the red star described in the annals, which burned for a long time in the sky on the eve of the capture of Novgorod by Vseslav. By the way, these events are colorfully described by "The Lay of Igor's Campaign", where the Polotsk prince is spoken of as a sorcerer who can take the form of a wolf. Of course, this is fiction, but doesn't such an artistic rethinking emphasize the power of Vseslav?
But the last years of his life Vseslav, as historians believe, spent in the monastery. Why did Vseslav take monastic vows: did he want to atone for past sins or did he just want to be closer to God? This, like much of the prince's life, will remain a mystery.
People tend to exaggerate what they cannot simply explain. I think this was exactly the case with the "werewolf" Vseslav, who amazed his contemporaries with his dexterity and luck, which did not give him long power in Kiev, but saved his life.
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