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Algirdas of Lithuania was born circa 1296 in Lithuania to Gediminas (c1275-1341) and Jewna of Polotsk (c1280-c1344) and died May 1377 in Maišiagala of unspecified causes. Ancestors are from Belarus, Lithuania.

Algirdas (Belarusian: Альгерд, Polish: Olgierd) (c. 1296 – May 1377) was a monarch of medieval Lithuania. Algirdas ruled the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1345 to 1377, which chiefly meant monarch of Lithuanians and Ruthenians. With the help of his brother Kęstutis, who defended the western border of the Duchy, he created a vast empire stretching from the Baltics to the Black Sea and reaching within fifty miles of Moscow.

Algirdas kunigaikštis

Grand Duke of Lithuania Algirdas by Alexander Guagnini

Background

Algirdas was one of the seven sons of the Grand Duke Gediminas. Before his death in 1341 Gediminas divided his domains, leaving the youngest son Jaunutis in possession of the capital Vilnius, with a nominal priority. With the aid of his brother Kęstutis, Algirdas drove out the incapable Jaunutis and declared himself a Grand Prince in 1345. Thirty two years of his reign (1345–1377) were devoted to the development and expansion of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Algirdas has managed to make it one of the greatest states in Europe and the largest in the continent.

Two factors are supposed to have contributed to achieve this result; the extraordinary political sagacity of Algirdas and the life-long devotion of his brother Kęstutis. A neat division of their dominions is illustrated by the fact, that Algirdas appears almost only in East Slavic sources, whereas the Western chronicles are aware of mostly Kęstutis. The State of the Teutonic Order in the north and the Tatar hordes in the south were equally bent on the subjection of Lithuania, while Algirdas' eastern and western neighbors the Grand Principality of Moscow and Poland generally were hostile competitors.

Expansion of Lithuania

Algirdas not only succeeded in holding his own, but acquired influence and territory at the expense of the Grand Principality of MoscowMuscovy and the Golden Horde, and extended the borders of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the northern shore of the Black Sea. Principal efforts of Algirdas were directed to securing the Slavonic lands which had been a part of the former Kievan Rus. He ensured the election of his son Andrei as the Prince of Pskov, and a powerful minority of the citizens of the Novgorod Republic held the balance in his favor against the Muscovite influence, however his ascendancy in both these commercial centres was at the best precarious.

Algirdas occupied the important principalities of Smolensk and Bryansk in the western Russia. Although his relations with the grand princes of Moscow were friendly on the whole, as he has married two Orthodox Russian princesses, this did not prevent him from besieging Moscow in 1368 and again in 1372, both times unsuccessfully.

An important feat of Algirdas was his victory over the Tatars in the Battle of Blue Waters at the Southern Bug in 1362. It resulted in breaking up of the powerful Kipchak horde and compelled the khan to migrate still farther south and establish his headquarters for the future in the Crimea. Indeed, but for the unceasing simultaneous struggle with the Teutonic knights, the burden of which was borne by Kęstutis, some historians think that Lithuania, not Muscovy, would have become the dominant power of the Eastern Europe.

Religion and death

Modern historians argue, that "For Gediminas and Algirdas, retention of paganism provided a useful diplomatic tool and weapon... that allowed them to use promises of conversion as a means of preserving their power and independence".[1] According to Hermann von Wartberge and Jan Długosz, Algirdas remained a pagan until his death in summer 1377. Contemporary Byzantine accounts also support the Western sources: Patriarch Neilos described Algirdas as fire-worshipping prince;[2] another Patriarch Philotheos excommunicated all Ruthenian noblemen, who helped impious Algirdas.[3] Algirdas' pagan faith also went into the 14th Byzantine historian's Nicephorus Gregoras' accounts.[4]

Algirdas was burned on a ceremonial pyre together with 18 horses and many of his possessions in a wood near Maišiagala[5] most probably in Kukaveitis forest shrine located at 54°55′42″N 25°01′04″E / 54.92833, 25.01778.[6] His proposed burial site is undergoing archaeological research since 2009.[7] His descendants include the noble families of Troubetzkoys, Czartoryskis, and Sanguszkos.

In retrospect Algirdas appeared to the Orthodox faithful of Ukraine and Belarus as a champion of Orthodoxy. The 16th-century Bychowiec Chronicle and 17th-century Hustynska Chronicle maintain that he converted to Orthodox Christianity at some point prior to his marriage to Maria of Vitebsk in 1318. Although several Orthodox churches were indeed built in Vilnius during his reign, later assertions about his baptism find no corroboration in sources dating from Algirdas' life, leading most scholars to reject them as spurious. Despite the contemporary accounts, as well as modern studies,[8][9] some Russian historians, such as Batiushikov, claim that Algirdas had been an Orthodox ruler.

Nevertheless, the dubious tradition about Algirdas' Orthodox conversion lived on. The commemoration book of the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, underwritten by Algirdas' descendants, recorded his baptismal name as "Demetrius" as early as 1460s. Following Wojciech Wijuk Kojałowicz and Macarius I, Volodymyr Antonovych writes that Algirdas took monastic vows several days before his death and was interred at the Cathedral of the Theotokos, Vilnius under the monastic name Alexius.

Algirdas is said to have ordered the death of Anthony, John, and Eustathius of Vilnius, who were later glorified as martyrs of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Assessment

Algirdas the Grand Duke of Lithuania Reversum

Litas commemorative coin with an image of Algirdas

Algirdas wisely vacillated between Muscovy and Poland, spoke Lithuanian and amongst others the Ruthenian language, and was more inclined to follow the majority of his pagan and Orthodox subjects rather than to alienate them by promoting Roman Catholicism. His son Jogaila, however, ascended the Polish throne, converted to Roman Catholicism and founded the dynasty which ruled Lithuania and Poland for nearly 200 years.

See also

References

General
Inline
  1. ^ Muldoon, James. Varieties of Religious Conversion in the Middle Ages. University Press of Florida, 1997. Page 140.
  2. ^ F. Miklosich, J. Mūller. Acta Patriarchatus Constantinopolitan. Vienna, 1862, Vol. 2, p.12
  3. ^ F. Miklosich, J. Mūller. Acta Patriarchatus Constantinopolitan. Vienna, 1862, Vol. 1, pp. 523-524
  4. ^ I. Bekker. Nicephori Gregorae Historiae Byzantinae. Bonn, 1829, Vol. 3 pp. 517-520
  5. ^ "He was cremated with the best horses, clothes, resplendent in gold and girdled with a gilted silver belt and was covered with a gown woven of beads and gems", Marija Gimbutas has observed.
  6. ^ (Lithuanian)Vykintas Vaitkevičius, Kukaveičio šventvietės mįslės in Šiaurės Atėnai 2008-05-02
  7. ^ Lokalizavo kunigaikščio Algirdo palaikų kremavimo vietą. retrieved on 2009-05-22
  8. ^ Contributed by Antoni Prochaska, Jan Ochmanski, Gotthold Rhode, Marija Gimbutas, Edvardas Gudavičius etc.
  9. ^ Mažeika, Rasa (1987). "Was Grand Prince Algirdas a Greek Orthodox Christian?". Lituanus 33 (4). Retrieved on 2007-09-06. 
Preceded by
Jaunutis
Grand Prince of Lithuania
13451377
Succeeded by
Jogaila



Children


Offspring of Algirdas of Lithuania and Maria Yaroslavna of Vitebsk (c1300-c1348)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Andrei Olgierdovich of Polotsk (1325-1399) 1325 12 August 1399
Dmitri Olgierdovich of Bryansk (c1330-1399) 1330 12 August 1399 Anna Ivanovna of Drutsk (c1335-c1375)
Anna Aleksandrovna of Ryazan (c1328-c1390)

Vladimir Olgierdovich of Kiev (c1330-1398) 1330 1398 Kiev, Ukraine Anna NN

Konstantin Olgierdovich Chartorysky (c1332-c1388) 1332 1388
Fyodor Olgierdovich (c1333-1404) 1333 1404
Feodora Olgierdovna (c1336-c1375) 1336 1375 Svyatoslav Titovich Karachevsky (c1310-c176)

Agrypina Olgierdovna (c1337-1393) 1337 1375 Boris Konstantinovich of Suzdal (c1322-1394)

Offspring of Algirdas of Lithuania and Uliana Aleksandrovna of Tver (c1325-1392)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Kenna Olgierdovna (1351-1368) 1351 1368 Casimir IV of Pomerania (1351-1377)

Eufrosyne (c1352-1405) 1352 5 December 1405 Oleg Ivanovich of Ryazan (1335-1402)

Skirgaila (1354-1394) 1354 11 January 1397 Kiev, Ukraine
Koribut (c1355-c1404) 1355 1404 Anastasia Olgovna of Ryazan

Fyodora (c1357-1477)
Simeon Lengvenis (c1358-1431) 1358 19 June 1431 Maria Dmitriyevna (c1376-1399)
Anastasiya Dmitriyevna (c1378-c1430)

Elena of Lithuania (c1360-1438) 1360 1438 Vladimir Andreyevich of Serpukhov (1353-1410)

Jogaila (c1362-1434) 1362 Vilnius, Lithuania 1 June 1434 Gródek Jagielloński, Horodok Rayon, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine Jadwiga of Poland (c1374-1399)
Anne of Cilli (1380-1416)
Elisabeth of Pilica (1372-1420)
Sophia of Halshany (c1405-1451)

Maria Olgierdovna (c1363-c1400) 1363 1400 Vaidila (c1355-1381)
David of Gorodetsk

Karigaila (c1364-1390) 1364 16 September 1390 Vilnius, Lithuania
Mingiełło (c1365-1382) 1365 1382
Alexandra of Lithuania (c1368-1434) 1368 Vilnius, Lithuania 19 January 1434 Płock, Płock County, Masovian Voivodeship, Poland Siemowit IV of Mazovia (c1353-1426)

Katarzyna (c1369-1422) 1369 1422 John II. of Mecklenburg-Stargard (c1367-1416)

Vygantas (c1372-1392) 1372 28 June 1392 Jadwiga of Opole (c1376-c1391)

Švitrigailo (c1373-1452)   1373 10 February 1452 Lutsk, Lutsk Rayon, Volyn Oblast, Ukraine
Jadwiga (c1375-1407) 1375 1407 Jan III of Oświęcim (1366-1405)

Siblings


Offspring of Gedimidas of Lithuania and Wida of Courland
Name Birth Death Joined with
Algirdas (1296-1377) 1296 Lithuania May 1377 Maišiagala Maria Yaroslavna of Vitebsk (c1300-c1348)
Uliana Aleksandrovna of Tver (c1325-1392)

Kęstutis (c1297-1382) 1297 15 August 1382 Kreva, Grodno Region, Belarus Unknown
Birutė of Palanga (c1320-1382)

Jaunutis (1298-1366) 1298 1366
Maria of Lithuania (1300-1349) 1300 1349 Dmitri Mikhailovich of Tver (1299-1326)

Elzbieta of Lithuania (1302-c1364) 1302 1364 Wenceslaus of Płock (c1293-1336)

Manvydas of Lithuania (c1304-1348) 1304 2 February 1348
Narimantas (c1306-1348) 1306 2 February 1348 Anna-Yelizaveta Vasilkovna (c1307-1345)
Mariya Ordynskaya (1313-c1360)

Aldona of Lithuania (c1309-1339) 1309 26 May 1339 Casimir III the Great of Poland (1310-1370)

Liubartas of Lithuania (c1310-1383) 1310 1383 Anna of Volyn (c1320-c1345)
Agafia Konstantinovna of Rostov (c1330-c1360)

Karijotas (c1307-c1361) 1314 1361
Eufemija of Lithuania (1316-1342) 1316 1342 Boleslaw-Yuri II of Halych (1308-1340)

Aigusta of Lithuania (c1320-1345) 1320 11 March 1345 Simeon Ivanovich of Moscow (1316-1353)

Residences

Footnotes (including sources)

Contributors

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