Annie Lee | Jan 18, 2023

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Olgerd (Z.-Russian Olgerd, lit. Algirdas, circa 1296 - 24 may 1377) - Grand Duke of Lithuania, son of Gedimin, brother of Keistut, during his rule from 1345 to 1377 greatly expanded the borders of the state.

There are two main versions about the origin of the name Olgerd. According to one, the name Olgerd (lit. Algirdas) comes from the Lithuanian words alga - reward and girdas - rumor, news and literally means famous by reward. The name is derived from the ancient Germanic roots adal - noble and gar - spear and means a noble spear, according to another interpretation.

At the moment, there is no consensus among Russian scholars about the accentuation of the name Olgerd. In Polish, the stress always falls on the penultimate syllable, that is, in this case, on -o-. In the Russian literature, the accent in the name Olgerd was traditionally put on the second syllable: it occurs, for example, in Pushkin. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, the Soviet Encyclopedic Dictionary, the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary and some other sources also put the stress on the second syllable. On the other hand, modern publications - The Great Encyclopedic Dictionary and Gorkin's Biographical Encyclopedic Dictionary - stress the first syllable.

About 1318 Olgerd married the daughter of the Vitebsk prince Maria Yaroslavna. He lived and reigned in Usvyaty. In 1341 together with his brother Keistut he was invited by the Pskov citizens to defend the Pskov lands against the Livonian knights. He refused an offer to become the prince of Pskov, but left his son Andrei to the city. He owned the town of Krevo and the lands, which stretched up to the river Berezina. After the death of his father-in-law Yaroslav became the prince of Vitebsk.

After the death of Prince Gedimin the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was divided among his seven sons and his brother Warrior. The youngest of Gedimin's sons, Evnutius, sat in the capital city of Vilna. According to Vladimir Antonovich he was not a grand duke: all sons of Gedimin preserved their complete independence and none of them enjoyed seniority. In 1345 Keystut, by prior agreement with Olgerd, occupied Vilna and ceded the Vilna lands to Olgerd. The brothers allotted to Eunuch Zaslavl, three days' journey from Vilna.

Olgerd promoted the construction of Orthodox churches in the city (in the first half of the 1340s the city had a monastery, in which Gedimin's sister lived. The Pyatnitskaya church is believed to be founded in 1345, and Prechistenskaya in 1346; the Holy Trinity church was built after the meeting of the Orthodox with Olgerd.

Olgerd and Keistut made a treaty, according to which the brothers were to maintain a close alliance and friendship, and divide all new acquisitions equally. Olgerd took the princely throne in Vilna, while Keystut took the residence of the submonarchs in Troki. The new order met with no serious resistance from the appanage princes, except for unsuccessful attempts of Eunutius and Narimunt to find support abroad.

Lithuania's struggle with the crusaders was chiefly led by Keistut. Olgerd directed all his efforts to expand the borders of the Lithuanian state at the expense of the Russian lands and to strengthen the Lithuanian influence in Novgorod, Pskov and Smolensk. Pskovites and Novgorodians maneuvered between Livonia, Lithuania and the Horde, but in the end a Lithuanian party was formed in Novgorod, which was inferior in importance and influence to the party in Moscow, but nevertheless represented a significant counterbalance to it. However, when the actions of the Moscow party intensified in Novgorod, Olgerd undertook a military campaign against Novgorod. The Novgorod army dared not answer with a battle, and the enraged mob, which laid the blame for the Lithuanian invasion on the governor Eustathius and massacred him.

Olgerd gained much more influence in Smolensk. He acted as defender of the Smolensk prince Ivan Alexandrovich, and obliged him to act in concert with him. Ivan Alexandrovich's son, Svyatoslav, was already in a position of complete dependence on the Lithuanian prince: he was obliged to accompany Olgerd in his campaigns and provide the Smolensk army to fight with crusaders. Svyatoslav's slightest evasion of these duties entailed Olgerd's campaign to the land of Smolensk and its devastation.

In 1350 Olgerd married for the second time, the daughter of the Tver prince Alexander Mikhailovich (killed in the Horde, along with his eldest son Fyodor), Princess Ulyana. When a dispute arose for the Tver reign between the Kashinsk prince Vasily Mikhailovich and his nephew Vsevolod Alexandrovich Kholmsky, the side of the first was supported by Grand Duke Demetrius of Moscow, the second by Olgerd.

The aspirations of Olgerd, a Christian and married first to a princess from Vitebsk and then to a princess from Tver, were focused on freeing the Russian regions from the power of the Golden Horde and gaining influence in the Russian lands.

Around 1355 Olgerd "conquered" Bryansk, after which he subordinated many others from the Chernigov-Northern Princedom. All Chernigov-Seversk lands Olgerd divided into three independent destinies: to his son Dmitry he gave Chernigov and Trubchevsk, to Dmitry Koribut junior - Bryansk and Novgorod-Seversk, to his nephew Patrikei Narimuntovich - Starodub Seversk.

In 1362 Olgerd defeated three Tatar princes of the Crimean, Perekop, and Yambalutsk hordes on the banks of the Blue Waters (the left tributary of the Southern Bug), who were trying to reassume the Podol land, which had been conquered from them by Olgerd's father, Gedimin. In the hands of Olgerd was a complete control over a vast expanse of land - the whole left half of the Dniester basin, from the mouth of the Seret River to the Black Sea, the entire basin of the Southern Bug, the Dnieper estuaries and the space upstream of the Dnieper to the influx of the Ros River.

The Black Sea coast in the area of modern Odessa for quite a long time became Lithuanian. Feodor, who reigned in Kiev in the 1320s, was replaced by Olgerd's son Vladimir. For the possession of Volyn Olgerd had to endure a bitter struggle with the Polish king Casimir III. At first, the Lithuanian army advanced considerably in Volhynia, but soon the Polish king went on the counter-offensive, and later undertook a joint campaign with Hungary and Masovia. Under the command of Louis of Hungary, a large army invaded the Principality of Troc and nearly forced the baptism of Olgerd's brother, Keistut. On his way to the place of baptism, however, he fled. The conflict lasted with rare truces, with Volhynia and baptism at stake, which European monarchs were stubbornly trying to get from the Lithuanian princes. The long-lasting dispute was only ended in 1377, under Louis, Casimir's successor. Through the intermediation of Keystut Olgerd and Louis, a treaty was concluded by which the principalities of Beresti, Vladimir and Lutsk were recognized as belonging to Lithuania, while the lands of Kholm and Belzsk were ceded to Poland.

Yavnutius, who was overthrown by Olgerd, fled to Smolensk in 1345 and then to Moscow. However, in 1348 Smolensk sent an army to help Olgerd against the crusaders (Battle of Streva). In 1349 Olgerd married the daughter of Alexander Mikhailovich of Tver, and Mikhail Vasilyevich of Kashin married the daughter of Semyon Ivanovich the Proud. This defined alliances for the next 30 years, the confrontation between Lithuania and the Grand Duchy of Moscow intensified. In 1351 Semyon the Proud stood on the river Ugra for 8 days, and achieved the destruction of the union of Smolensk with Lithuania, so even Olgerd in 1356 took not only Bryansk, to which Smolensk princes had rights, but also Smolensk's Rzhev. In the same year, Olgerd's nephew Dmitry Koriatovich married Ivan Ivanovich's daughter. In 1359 Olgerd seized Smolensk's Mstislavl. By 1370 Smolensk was again within the sphere of Olgerd's influence, and by 1375 he left it again.

In 1368 Olgerd invaded Moscow (the armies of Tver and Smolensk joined Lithuania this time) and, having broken the advance regiment of voivode Dmitry Minin at Volok Lamsky near the river Trosna, besieged Moscow, but, after standing for three days near the Kremlin, returned back. Historians speculate that the future Grand Duke of Lithuania, Vitovt, son of Keistut, received his baptism of arms in this campaign when he was only eighteen years old. On the way back, the Lithuanian army plundered the Russian lands through which it passed. As a result of the campaign of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Olgerd against Moscow in 1368, the Grand Duke of Moscow Dmitry Ivanovich refused to interfere in the affairs of Tver. Mikhail returned to Tver as Prince, and disobedient vassal Jeremiah was handed over to him. The disputed lands receded to Tver.

Olgerd also invaded Odoevskoe principality and defeated the local Russian army on the river Holoholne, near the settlement of the same name. From the Odoyevo principality Olgerd went to the land of Kaluga, where in the town of Obolensk he killed the local prince Konstantin Ivanovich.

In 1370 Olgerd again went to Moscow at the request of Mikhail Tversky, defeated by Dmitry Ivanovich, undertook an unsuccessful siege of Volokolamsk, stood by the Kremlin walls, but concluded a truce for six months and went back to Lithuania, and the agreement was secured by a dynastic marriage: Dmitry's cousin Vladimir Andreevich married Yelena, Olgerd's daughter.

The campaign of 1372 ended with an unfavorable truce for Lithuania in Lubutsk. It resulted from the defeat of the Lithuanian vanguard received from the troops of Prince Dmitry of Moscow. Dmitry, entrenched in a wooded area, defeated both Olgerd and the Tver armies that had joined him. Olgerd was forced to accept the conditions he offered. Dmitry insisted that Michael of Tver had to return to Dmitry all occupied Moscow towns, while Olgerd was not to intercede for him: all complaints against Tver prince must be resolved by Khan's court. After this truce Lithuanian influence on Tver finally fell.

Olgerd's will sowed confusion in Lithuania, as he bequeathed his part of the Grand Duchy (Vilna), not to his eldest son (respectively, by his first wife), but to Jagaila, the favorite son by his second wife.

"Chronicle of Bychovets", Gustynskaya Chronicle and "Velvet Book" say that Olgerd adopted Orthodoxy and the Orthodox name Alexander even before his marriage to Maria Yaroslavna, that is, before 1318; but there is information that he was baptized and accepted the schema only before his death. A third version says that he was baptized for the sake of marrying a Russian princess, but after he became grand duke, he at times departed from Orthodoxy for political reasons. It is known that he allowed several temples to be built - two in Vitebsk and one in Vilna in the name of the Holy Martyr Paraskeva (Pyatnitskaya church). V. B. Antonovich ("History of the Lithuanian Duchy", 98) accepts the news of the Bykhovets chronicle and of the Gustynian Chronicle, with an interpretation by Albert Vijuk-Kojalovich ("Historia Lituanae"), that Olgerd attempted to make his conversion to Orthodoxy not public, but private, and therefore unspoken.

In 1347, according to some sources, three Christians, later canonized by the Orthodox Church - Anthony, John, and Eustaphius of Lithuania (known as the Vilna martyrs), were cruelly executed.  In the Moscow state the guilt of martyrdom of these martyrs was named Grand Duke Olgerd, which is in contradiction with the early texts of "Lives of Vilna martyrs", with the chronology of events of 1340th known to scientists, with information about Orthodoxy of Olgerd Gediminovich and his family.

The relationship between Olgerd and Metropolitan Alexius of Kiev was complicated. Thus in 1359 Alexius, who was on his way to Kiev, was arrested by order of Olgerd and did not return to Moscow until 1360. Later tensions between Olgerd and Alexius subsided somewhat, but periods of relatively peaceful relations between them were short-lived.

In 1371 Olgerd Gediminovich asked Patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople for a special metropolitan in Kiev with authority over Smolensk, Tver, Novosil Minor Russia and Nizhny Novgorod

"The "Livonian Chronicle" by Hermann of Wartberg asserts that Olgerd died as a pagan and his funeral was performed in accordance with the Lithuanian pagan rite: "At his funeral, in accordance with Lithuanian superstition, a solemn procession was performed, with the burning of various objects and 18 war horses. In this case some researchers note that the Livonian Order, hostile to Lithuania, was interested in Olgerd being considered a pagan. The dead prince among other grand dukes was included in the vault of the Kievo-Pechersk Lavra as "prince great Olgerd, named in holy christening Dmitry".

The historical sources do not contain very clear information about Olgerd's wives and children. For some reason, there are several main points of view in historiography, none of which is universally recognized. The most widespread is the position of Józef Wolf, a Polish specialist in genealogy of the late nineteenth century, published as additions and clarifications to the works of another famous Polish specialist Kazimierz Stadnicki.

In the 1990s, Polish historians published a number of works in which many already traditional attitudes were revised. The greatest contribution in this respect belongs to Tadeusz Wasilewski and Jarosław Nicodem.

According to Stadnicki's research based on Wolff, Olgerd had 12 sons and no less than 7 daughters from two wives, the first of which was Princess Maria of Vitebsk, the second was Iulianiya of Tver. Jan Tengovsky notes that the sources contain contradictory information about Olgerd's first wife, calling her either Anna or Maria, based on which Tadeusz Wasilewski made the assumption that Olgerd was married three times.

On the contrary, Tengovsky conditionally names Olgerd's first wife Anna, noting that due to the lack of reliable sources this question remains open.

Another controversial issue is the seniority of Olgerd's children. Since Wolf's time, it was believed that his eldest son was Andrew, but the author did not have a source published after his death - a letter of Louis of Hungary to Francis Carrara of September 29, 1377 in which Fyodor was named Olgerd's eldest son.

Jan Tengovsky offers the following list of Olgerd's children:

From his first marriage to Anna or Maria of Vitebsk:

From his second marriage to Juliana of Tver:

Olgerd is depicted on the monument to the Millennium of Russia in Novgorod. A monument to him is erected in Vitebsk

Olgerd acts in the novels of Dmitry Balashov "Simeon the Proud", "The Wind of Time" and "Renunciation" from the cycle "Princes of Moscow".

Olgerd (and his brother Keistut) is also devoted to the story campaign of the DLC "Dawn of the Dukes" for the game Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition.


  1. Algirdas
  2. Ольгерд
  3. Иулиания Александровна // Энциклопедический словарь — СПб.: Брокгауз — Ефрон, 1894. — Т. XIIIа. — С. 770.
  4. Новодворский В. Ягайло // Энциклопедический словарь — СПб.: Брокгауз — Ефрон, 1904. — Т. XLI. — С. 484—485.
  5. ^ «Narimantas viene indicato come fratellastro di Algirdas e di Kestutis dalla Jüngere Hochmeisterchronik e la rivalità tra i due suggerisce che essi fossero figli di madri diverse. Si tratta tuttavia di una fonte dalla dubbia affidabilità, in quanto molto tarda» e risalente alla fine del XV secolo: Rowell, p. 88.
  6. ^ Per Rowell, Norkus e Carpini Algirdas, per Christiansen Kęstutis.
  7. ^ a b Resta oggetto di dibattito se Algirdas fosse stato effettivamente o meno in grado di raggiungere il Mar Nero a seguito delle battaglia delle Acque Blu. Come si deduce da un'analisi delle carte geografiche del Granducato realizzate in tempi recenti secondo scrupolosi criteri storiografici, la maggioranza degli studiosi tende a ritenere che ciò non avvenne e che le coste furono assoggettate soltanto dal nipote di Algirdas, Vitoldo il Grande, al potere dal 1401 al 1430 (Frost, p. 19; Kiaupa, p. 83; di avviso favorevole alla conquista si segnalano invece Suziedelis, p. 43; Turchin, p. 172; Davies, p. 2). Per una disamina più approfondita si rimanda a Norkus, pp. 308-309.
  8. ^ "Algirdas | grand duke of Lithuania". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  9. ^ "Algirdas". Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d Bain, Robert Nisbet (1911). "Olgierd" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 20 (11th ed.). p. 80.
  11. I. Bekker. Nicephori Gregorae Historiae Byzantinae. Bonn, 1829, Vol. 3 pp. 517–520
  12. Muldoon, James. Varieties of Religious Conversion in the Middle Ages. University Press of Florida, 1997. Page 140.

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