This vast region of Eurasia has been home to countless peoples and nations. This page is devoted to the Great Principalities located within current Russian territory.

Presently this covers: Azov, Beloozero, Bryansk, Dmitrov, Gorodets-Meshcherskiy, Gorodets-Radilov, Kasimov, Kazan (incl. the Volga Bulgars), Kursk, Ladoga, the Moscow Patriarchate, Murom, Muscovy, Nizhny-Novgorod, Novgorod (the Great), Pskov, Riazan (new), Riazan (old), Rostov, Rostov-Borissoglebsk, Rostov-Ustretensk, Russia (a general survey), Smolensk, Suzdal, Tver, Viatka, Vladimir, and Yaroslavl.

See also: Belarus, the Caucasus, Central Asia - West, Crimea, Minor Russian States, Mongols, Nomads, and Ukraine.


AZOV A town in the delta of the Don River, a short distance from the eastern end of the Sea of Azov, and about 15 miles (25 km.) southwest of Rostov. Azov is one of the oldest towns within Russian territory; it was founded by Greek colonists in the 6th century BCE. The town has lost most of it's purpose to newer Rostov as a result of the gradual silting of the channel.

BELOOZERO On the southern shore of Belo Ozero (White Lake), about 250 miles (400 km.) east of St. Petersburg and roughly 310 (500 km.) miles north of Moscow, in Vologda oblast. A Principality 1238-1280, a Grand Principality 1284-1339, a Principality (1339-1389) and sub-Principality (1389-1486) under Moscow.

BRYANSK Modern center of Bryansk region in Russia. It was a possession of elder line of Chernigov branch of the Rurikovich dynasty, but in the late 13th century Bryansk passed to princes of Smolensk. In the mid 14th century princes of Chernigov ruled again in Bryansk but soon it joined Lithuania.

DMITROV A town in modern Moscow oblast of the Russian Federation, 30 miles (50 km.) north of Moscow. A Grand Principality 1246-1334 (within the Tatar hegemony); After the death of Theodore, Muscovy bought the rights to this principality from the Tatar khan Jani-Beg, but native princes ruled there until 1364 as prince-governors. A Principality within Muscovy 1334-1389; from 1389 Dmitrov was ruled by princes from Moscow branch of Rurikovich dynasty as a sub-Principality until 1533.

GORODETS-RADILOV A town in modern Ivanovo oblast of Russia, 110 miles (180 km.) east of Ivanovo. Intermittently a lesser Grand Principality 1246-1395; a sub-Principality within Muscovite control 1401-1419.

KASIMOVA city about 160 miles (260 km.) east-southeast of Moscow. The name "Kasimov" didn't become current until the 15th century; earlier the place was called Gorodets-Meshcherskiy.

KAZAN A city about 400 miles east of Moscow. Founded in the 13th century by the invading Horde, it became a Russian vassal in 1469. It threw off Russian suzerainty in 1504. Its final conquest in 1552 is seen by Russians as something of a watershed, in that the reconquest of a Mongol stronghold immediately after the establishment of the Czarist Empire (1547) is regarded as putting a seal of legitimacy on the new state. It is also something of a gateway into Siberia, being only 300 miles or so from the Urals.

KURSK Modern center of Kursk oblast of Russia, roughly 225 miles south of Moscow and an equal distance east of Kiev. Kursk is well-remembered in recent Russian history as the site of one of the largest tank battle in history, pitting Soviet vs. Nazi troops against each other in 1943.

LADOGA (Staraya Ladoga; Aldeigjuborg) A town in northwestern Russia on Lake Ladoga, to the east of modern St. Petersburg. Staraya Ladoga began as a trading settlement for various Finnic peoples. Though the popular view of northeastern Europe in that period is one of barbarism, Staraya Ladoga was probably quite cosmopolitan, with traders coming from as far away as Britain, Scandinavia, Byzantium, Khazaria and even Persia. The town was under Norse control from around 750 (possibly much earlier). Staraya Ladoga is generally regarded as the origin point for the Rus state. Although its early history is highly speculative, I have briefly outlined some of the current theories below.

MOSCOW; the Patriarchate Although this archive is mainly concerned with temporal sovereignty, some discussion of ecclesiastic authorities is inevitable, and in the case of the Primates of Russia, far more necessary than normal. Knyazy, Tsars, and Commissars may come and go, foreigners may invade only to be washed away again, but the Russian Orthodox Church has been the essence of what has kept this culture vibrant and alive through every time of trouble. Here is a note on the leadership of the church since the establishment of the Metropolitan Bishops in Moscow, under the Mongols. (For the secular rulers of Moscow, see just below, under Muscovy). For listings of the Four Primates of the Greek Orthodox Church, go to the Eastern Patriarchates page.

MUROMA city 150 miles east of Moscow.

MUSCOVY From a small trading post on the Moskva River, Moscow city has grown to become one of the worlds leading metropoli. For the Ecclesiastic leaders of Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church, see above, Moscow.

NIZHNY NOVGOROD Modern Nizhegorod, near the confluence of the Volga and Oka. A Grand Principality during the Tatar era.

NOVGOROD The oldest of the Mediaeval Russian states, this was the first city occupied by the Rus. Novgorod is also the only Russian state to have avoided vassalage to the Mongols.

PSKOV At the southern end of the Peipus-Pskov Lake system at the southeast corner of Estonia, about 150 miles (240 km.) southwest of St. Petersburg, and 100 miles (160 km.) west-southwest of Novgorod. Originally Pleskov, now the modern center of Pskov oblast of Russian Federation. It was a principality in the 1st half of 11th century and then joined to Novgorod. Sometimes Pleskov was ruled by separate princes, but often it was ruled directly from Novgorod until the mid 13th century when the city began accepting as rulers princes exiled from their possessions. Each exiled prince that went to Pleskov could be proclaimed prince there (if principal throne wasn't occupied by other prince) but in any case he could get honorary reception and live there without fear for his life. From 1348 Pleskov became fully independent from Novgorod. Then Pleskov became an ally of Moscow in its conflict with Novgorod. In 15th century Pleskov often asked Moscow for princes from local Muscovite nobility. In 1510 Pleskov was joined to Muscovy and became part of united Russian state.

RIAZAN (New) Previous to the Mongol subjugation, this town (about 100 miles southeast of Moscow) was a sub-principality usually under the authority of (Old) Riazan, and known as PEREYASLAVL. After Old Riazan's obliteration in 1237, this place took on the name and traditions of the Riazan lordship, under Tatar tutelege, until being absorbed by Muscovy at the beginning of the 16th century.

RIAZAN (Old)An early Russian Principality, one of great power and influence in central Russian territory. In 1237, the town was destroyed and its population annihilated by the advancing Mongol Horde. Regional control was assumed by neighbouring Pereyaslavl, 25 miles to the northwest, which assumed the titles and name of Riazan (see just above), under Mongol authority. In the 14th century, the site of the old town was re-occupied, and saw a brief re-emergence of local autonomy at the end of the 15th century, before being absorbed by Muscovy.

ROSTOV Not to be mistaken for the large port at the eastern end of the Sea of Azov, this Rostov is located in Yaroslavl Oblast, about 125 miles northeast of Moscow.

RUSSIA A general survey of the modern state, including the leaders of the Soviet Union and the latest republic. Note well; although the state may fairly be thought to have emerged in 1547 with the coronation of John as Tsar (Caesar) of All the Russias, the Russian Empire per se does not technically commence until the assumption of the titles of Imperator and Autocrat by Peter the Great in 1721. NOTE: I cannot resist mentioning that Georgi Lvov was a direct descendent of Theodore Rostislavich the Black, Prince of Smolensk; in other words, the more-or-less immediate successor to the last of the Romanovs was... a Rurikovich.

SMOLENSK To the Tatars 1239-1340, Muscovy 1340-1386, Lithuania 1386-1401

SUZDALIn modern Vladimir oblast. A Principality within the orbit of Kiev from 1134, it became a Grand Principality from 1212.

TVERCenter of modern Kalinin region of Russia. One of the most powerful Russian principalities whose rulers ingaged in considerable conflict with Moscow for seniority over Russian lands.

VIATKA In the far northeast of European Russia, below Samoyed territory and not especially distant from the Urals.

VLADIMIR One of the primary cities of Mediaeval Russia, the chief city, in fact, from 1169 to 1240. Located about 100 miles (160 km.) east of Moscow.

YAROSLAVLModern center of Yaroslavl oblast of the Russian Federation. Always a Grand Principality, at first it was a possession of an intermediate line of Rostovian Rurikoviches but then it was inherited by a junior line of Smolenian princes, descendants of Gr. Pr. Theodore the Black of Smolensk and Yaroslavl.