High Middle Ages
Part 2 (1183-1283)
In the winter of 1183-1184 the Lithuanians organised their first raid on Ruthenian lands (Polotsk and Pskov). The permanent Lithuanian expansion began (it was the first sign of the existence of the Lithuanian state).
In 1185 the Lithuanians devastated Livonia. The frightened Lyvians agreed to allow Meinhard, a German missionary, to build two brick castles in Livonia. At the same time, the Ikskile diocese, later to become the Riga diocese, was established. Thus the German domination over Livonia began.
In the winter of 1190 Rurik Rostislavich marched on Lithuania but came to a stop in Pinsk and
In 1191 the dukes of Polotsk and Novgorod planned attack on Lithuania.
However, they did not fulfil their plan.
In 1192 the Polish sovereign Casimir the Just organized a punitive attack against the Yatvingians, as they used to plunder the Polish lands (possibly together with the Lithuanians).
In 1193 Rurik Rostislavich planned the second attack on Lithuania but retreated at the demand of Svyatoslav, the other duke of Kiev.
In 1196 the Yatvingians attacked Volhynia (a duchy in Ruthenia).
In 1198 the aim of the Velikye Luki castle (on the southern border of Novgorod land) was pointed out in the Novgorod chronicle: to "defend Novgorod against Lithuania". In the autumn of the same year the Lithuanians together with warriors from Polotsk made a raid on Velikiye Luki.
In 1201 the Lithuanians made a peace treaty with the bishop of Riga (the first known international agreement of Lithuania).
In 1202 the bishop of Riga established the Order of the Knights of the Sword.
In 1213 the Lithuanian "ruler and senior" perished in a battle
against the Knights of the Sword near Lielvarde.
At the beginning of 1214
there perished in Livonia the other ruler of Lithuania - Stekšys (Stecse).
In 1219 a peace
agreement was reached between Lithuania and Volhynia. There were 5 elder and 16
common dukes, representing the Lithuanian side. The first of the elder
dukes was Živinbutas, probably the successor of Stekšys. The other 4 elder
dukes (2 pairs of brothers) were probably the sons of the two previous
rulers who perished in Livonia. Mindaugas was one of them.
On April 23, 1228 Konrad, Duke of Masovia, granted the land of Kulm to the Teutonic Order (the Knights of the Cross). It became a base to the conquest of Prussia.
On February 19, 1236 Pope Gregor IX announced the first crusade against Lithuania.
On September 22, 1236
the Lithuanians defeated the Knights of the Sword in the battle of
Šiauliai. Master Volkwin and 48 knights were killed.
On May 14, 1237 Pope Gregor IX united the Knights of the Cross and Knights of the Sword.
In 1238 Mindaugas was documented as the ruler of Lithuania.
1239-1248 was the period
with the highest frequency of attacks on Ruthenia by Lithuania, which was taking advantage of Ruthenia's weakened condition after the Tartar invasions. At this time Lithuania took control of Black Ruthenia with the castle of Novogrudok.
In June 1245 the emperor Friedrich II gave permission to the Teutonic Order to conquer and rule Curonia, Lithuania and Semigallia.
In 1248 Mindaugas sent the sons of his brother, Tautvilas and Gedivydas, and the brother of their mother, Vykintas, to fight against Smolensk. They defeated the army of the duke Michael of Moscow, who was killed in the battle near Protva but soon were defeated near Zubtsov by the dukes of Suzdal. Mindaugas decided to expel the defeated dukes from Lithuania.
In 1249 Tautvilas, Gedivydas and Vykintas fled to Daniel, the duke of Volhynia. Daniel helped them to organize a coalition against Mindaugas and attacked Black Ruthenia. In the meantime, Vykintas managed to bribe the Yatvingians and half of the Samogitians, and come to an agreement with the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order.
In 1250 the Livonian army attacked the lands under the rule of Mindaugas. Tautvilas had joined them and
had himself christened in Riga. Mindaugas, however, bribed Andrew of Stirland, the Livonian Land Master.
In the spring 1251 Andrew of Stirland christened Mindaugas, and drove Tautvilas out of Riga. Tautvilas attacked Mindaugas, who had decided to defend himself in the castle of Voruta. Mindaugas had successfully repelled the attack with the assistance of the Teutonic Knights and soon defeated Tautvilas in Samogitia.
On July 17, 1251 Pope Innocent IV recognised Lithuania as a state within
the political system of the Catholic Europe, and delegated the Bishop of Kulm to crown
Mindaugas as the King of Lithuania.
On June 29 or July 6, 1253 the coronation of Mindaugas and his wife Martha (Morta) was held, probably at Latava manor. At the time of his coronation Mindaugas was compelled to grant a part of Samogitia and Yatvingia to the Livonian Order in return for its support. A
document certifying Mindaugas’s donation was issued "in Lettowia in curia nostra" (see source). Lettowia stream and Lettow hillfort were mentioned in the
descriptions of the 14th century boundaries of Selonia and are identical with Palatavys hillfort
and Latava village and stream in Anyksciai region, Lithuania (this is the only hint about the place of coronation). In time this donation was further enlarged.
In August or September 1253 Albert, the Archbishop of Riga, consecrated Christian, a member of the Livonian Order, as the Bishop of Lithuania. Christian had to make an oath to the Archbishop of Riga, but as the Livonian Order was in disagreement with the Archbishop, it provided assistance to Mindaugas for achieving cancellation of this oath by the Pope. In 1254 Christian was
once again consecrated bishop. He became now directly subordinate to the Pope.
In 1254 a peace
agreement between Lithuania and Volhynia was made.
In January 1256 the Samogitians, under the leadership of Duke Aliminas, raided Curonian lands, then under Livonian rule.
In the spring 1257 the Samogitians negotiated a 2-year cease-fire with the Livonian Order, following successful battles.
In 1259 the battles between the Samogitians and the Knights of the Cross were renewed. Mindaugas, in the meantime, had been striving to retain friendly relations with the Order, particularly after the Tartars had plundered his lands during the winter. He even granted the whole
of Samogitia to the Order on August 7th. At about the same time, the Samogitian army of 3000 attacked Curonian lands and defeated the Livonian Knights in the battle of Skuodas. 33 knights perished. This victory prompted the Semigallians to begin an insurrection against the Livonian Order, which lasted from 1259 to 1272.
On July 13, 1260 the Samogitians crushed the joint forces of the Prussian and Livonian Knights of the Cross in Curonian lands near Durbe lake. Livonian Land Master Burchard of Hornhausen, Prussian Land Marshall Botel, and 150 knights were killed. This was the greatest defeat, suffered by the Order during the 13th and 14th century. It gave rise to battles for liberation throughout the whole
of the Baltic lands, ruled by the Teutonic Order, including the Great Prussian Insurrection, which lasted from 1260 to 1274.
In the autumn 1261 Mindaugas, convinced by his military commander Treniota, took the Samogitions under his own jurisdiction,
rejected Christianity, and entered into a war with the Order. Unfortunately, the war effort did not go well, and Mindaugas blamed Treniota.
In the autumn 1263
Treniota conspired with Duke Daumantas of Nalšia, and murdered Mindaugas.
Treniota then declared himself to be the Grand Duke of Lithuania.
In the spring 1264
the servants of Mindaugas murdered Treniota. Vaišalgas (Vašelga), a son of
Mindaugas, who had converted to the Orthodox Christian faith and become a
monk, was declared the Grand Duke of Lithuania. With the help of the Dukes
of Volhynia, he suppressed the resistance in Lithuania.
In 1265 Daumantas fled to Pskov. There, he had himself baptized, was elected the Duke of Pskov, and ruled successfully until his death in 1299. He was declared a saint for his merits to Pskov.
In 1267 Vašalgas had
returned to the monastery and passed the rule over Lithuania to Shvarno,
the husband of his sister and son of Daniel, the Duke of Halich-Volhynia.
On December 9, 1267
Lev, the bother of Shvarno, murdered Vaišalgas, because he had not been
granted the rule over Lithuania.
In 1269 Traidenis came into power in Lithuania. In the early years of his rule he
maintained friendly relations with Lev, who had murdered Vaisalgas. Therefore we may guess, that he was a rival
to Mindaugas and his family. Traidenis actively fought the Teutonic Order and was actively supporting the other Balts (the Prussians, the Yatvingians and the Semigallians) against it.
On February 16, 1270 the Lithuanians defeated the Livonian Knights of the Cross in the battle of Karusa in Estonia. Livonian Land Master Otto of Luttenberg and 52 knights were killed.
On March 5, 1279 Traidenis smashed the Livonian knights near Aizkraukle (at the Daugava river), while they
were retreating after the raid on Lithuania. Livonian Land Master Ernest of Rassburg and 71 knight perished.
In 1281 Traidenis died and was succeeded by Daumantas.