Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars

The Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars (also known as Russo-Lithuanian Wars, or just either Muscovite Wars or Lithuanian Wars)[nb 1] were a series of wars between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, allied with the Kingdom of Poland, and the Grand Duchy of Moscow. After several defeats at the hands of Ivan III and Vasily III, the Lithuanians were increasingly reliant on Polish aid, which eventually became an important factor in the creation of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Before the first series of wars in the 15th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania had already gained control of a lot of Rus' territories, from Kiev to Mozhaisk, following the collapse of Kievan Rus' after the Mongol invasions. Over the course of the series of wars, particularly in the 16th century, the Muscovites Rus' were able to expand their domain westwards, taking control of many Kievan Rus' lands.[1][2]

Historical background

14th century: Lithuanian expansion

Lithuanian state in 13-15th centuries
Expansion of the Lithuanian state from the 13th to 15th centuries

Grand Duchy of Moscow and Lithuania had been involved in a series of conflicts since the reign of Gediminas, who defeated a coalition of Ruthenian princes in the Battle on the Irpen' River and seized Kiev, the former capital of Kievan Rus'. By the mid-14th century, an expanding Lithuania had absorbed Chernigov and Severia. Algirdas, the successor of Gediminas, forged an alliance with the Grand Duchy of Tver and undertook three expeditions against Moscow, attempting to take advantage of the youth of the Grand Prince of Moscow, Dmitry Ivanovich, who nevertheless succeeded in fending off these encroachments.

The first intrusions of Lithuanian troops into the Moscow principality occurred in 1363. In 1368, Algirdas carried out the first major expedition against Moscow. Having devastated the Russian borderland, the Lithuanian prince routed the troops of the prince of Starodoub Simeon Dmitrievich Krapiva and prince of Obolensk Konstantin Yuryevich. On November 21, Algirdas routed the Moscow sentry troops on the river Trosna. However, he could not seize the Moscow Kremlin. The troops of Algirdas ruined the area around the city and captured a significant portion of the Muscovite population. In 1370, Algirdas made another expedition against Moscow. He ruined the area around of Volok Lamskiy. On December 6, he besieged Moscow and started to devastate the surrounding area. Having received the message that the prince Vladimir Andreevich was coming to help Moscow, Algirdas returned to Lithuania. In 1372 Algirdas attacked the Moscow principality again and reached Lyubutsk. However, the Grand Prince of Moscow Dmitry Ivanovich routed the sentry troops of Algirdas, and the Lithuanians concluded an armistice with Moscow. In 1375, Algirdas devastated the Smolensk principality.[3]

Some elements in Muscovy wished to gain control of all territories that once were part of Kievan Rus', many of which were at that time part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (including today's territories of Belarus and Ukraine). Further, Moscow wished to expand its access to the Baltic Sea, an increasingly important trade route. Thus, the conflict between Lithuania and MuscoviteRus' was only just beginning.[4][5]

15th century: strengthening Moscow

Conflicts resumed during the reign of Dmitry's son Vasily I, who was married to Sophia, the only daughter of Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania. In 1394, Vytautas devastated the Grand Duchy of Ryazan, leaving many settlements in ashes. In 1402, he quarrelled with his son-in-law over control of the Duchy of Smolensk. After Vytautas captured his capital, Yuri of Smolensk fled to Vasily's court and tried to enlist his assistance in regaining Smolensk. Vasily hesitated until Vytautas advanced on Pskov. Alarmed by Lithuania's continuing expansion, Vasily sent an army to aid the Pskovians against his father-in-law. The Russian and Lithuanian armies met near the Ugra River, but neither commander ventured to commit his troops to battle. A peace ensued, whereby Vytautas kept Smolensk.

First or border war (1492–1494)

Russian Tsardom 1500 to 1700
Expansion of the Russian state, 1500–1626

Ivan III considered himself an heir to the fallen Byzantine Empire and defender of the Orthodox Church. He proclaimed himself sovereign of all Rus' and claimed patrimonial rights to the former lands of Kievan Rus'.[6] Such ambitions led to the steady growth of Muscovite territory and power. The Mongol Yoke ended in 1480 with the defeat of Akhmat Khan of the Golden Horde in the Great stand on the Ugra river. Moscow extended its influence to the Principality of Ryazan in 1456, annexed the Novgorod Republic in 1477, and the Principality of Tver in 1483.[7] Further expansionist goals of Ivan III clashed with the Lithuanian interests.

Around 1486–87, territories along the ill-defined Lithuanian–Muscovite border in the upper reaches of the Oka River were under attack by Muscovite Rus',[7] allied with Meñli I Giray, khan of the Crimean Khanate.[8] Tensions continued to rise. In August 1492, without declaring war, Ivan III began large military actions: he captured and burned Mtsensk, Lyubutsk, Serpeysk, and Meshchovsk;[9] raided Mosalsk; and attacked territory of the Dukes of Vyazma.[10] Orthodox nobles began switching sides to Moscow as it promised better protection from military raids and an end to religious discrimination by Catholic Lithuanians. Ivan III officially declared war in 1493, but the conflict soon ended.[10] Grand Duke of Lithuania Alexander Jagiellon sent a delegation to Moscow to negotiate a peace treaty. An "eternal" peace treaty was concluded on February 5, 1494. The agreement marked the first Lithuanian territorial losses to Moscow: the Principality of Vyazma and a sizable region in the upper reaches of the Oka River.[6] The lost area was estimated to be approximately 87,000 km2 (34,000 sq mi).[11] A day before the official confirmation of the treaty, Alexander Jagiellon was betrothed to Helena, daughter of Ivan III (the role of the groom was performed by Stanislovas Kęsgaila as Alexander was in Poland).[12]

Second war (1500–1503)

Russo–Lithuanian Wars-1500 campaign-rus0.2
Military campaigns in 1500

Hostilities were renewed in May 1500,[13] when Ivan III took advantage of a planned Polish–Hungarian campaign against the Ottoman Empire:[6] While preoccupied with the Ottomans, Poland and Hungary would not provide assistance to Lithuania. The pretext was the alleged religious intolerance toward the Orthodox in the Lithuanian court. Helena was forbidden by her father Ivan III to convert to Catholicism, and that provided numerous opportunities for Ivan III, as defender of all Orthodox, to interfere in Lithuanian affairs and rally Orthodox believers.[6]

The Muscovites promptly overran Lithuanian fortresses in Bryansk, Vyazma,[13] Dorogobuzh, Toropets, and Putyvl.[14] Local nobles, particularly the Vorotynskys, often joined the Muscovite cause. Another attack came from southeast into Kiev Voivodeship, Volhynia, and Podolia.[12] On July 14, 1500, the Lithuanians suffered a great defeat in the Battle of Vedrosha, and Grand Hetman Konstanty Ostrogski was captured. The defeat was one of the reasons for the proposed Union of Mielnik between Poland and Lithuania.[15] In November 1501, the Lithuanians were defeated again in the Battle of Mstislavl. The Crimean Tatars destroyed the Golden Horde, a Lithuanian ally, when its capital New Sarai was conquered in 1502.[16]

In June 1501, John I Albert, King of Poland, died leaving his brother Alexander Jagiellon, Grand Duke of Lithuania, the strongest candidate for the Polish throne. Alexander became preoccupied with the succession.[17] To counter religious accusations, Alexander attempted to establish a church union between Catholics and Orthodoxs as it was envisioned at the Council of Florence – the Orthodoxs would retain their traditions, but would accept the pope as their spiritual sovereign.[18] Metropolitan of Kiev agreed to such an arrangement, but Helena protested. Polish nobles, including Bishop Erazm Ciołek and Cardinal Fryderyk Jagiellończyk, discussed the issue of royal divorce.[19]

In the meantime the war continued, just not as successfully for Muscovite Rus'. As Lithuanian forces arrived to the region, the Muscovite forces had to move slowly. Additionally, the Livonian Order, led by Wolter von Plettenberg, joined the war as an ally of Lithuania.[14] The Livonian troops won the Battle of the Siritsa River in August 1501, besieged Pskov, and won the Battle of Lake Smolino in September 1502. In 1502, Ivan III organized a campaign to capture Smolensk, but the city withstood the siege as Muscovites chose poor strategy and did not have enough artillery.[14] Peace negotiations began in mid-1502. Alexander asked Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary to act as the mediator, and a six-year truce was concluded on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) in 1503.[20] The Grand Duchy of Lithuania lost approximately 210,000 square kilometres (81,000 sq mi),[11] or a third of its territory: Chernihiv, Novhorod-Siverskyi, Starodub, and lands around the upper Oka River.[6] Russian historian Matvei Kuzmich Liubavskii counted Lithuanian losses at 70 volosts, 22 towns, and 13 villages.[21] The Lithuanians also acknowledged Ivan's title, sovereign of all Rus'.[8]

Third war (1507–1508)

S. V. Ivanov. Campaign of Muscovites. XVI century. (1903)
Muscovite campaign against the Lithuanians by Sergei Ivanov (1903)

In 1506, Alexander died. Vasili III, who succeeded his father Ivan III in 1505, advanced his bid for the Polish throne,[22] but Polish nobles chose Sigismund I the Old, who was crowned both as King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. In 1507, Sigismund I sent envoys to Moscow to request the return of the territories acquired by the 1503 truce.[23] At the same time, Khan Meñli I Giray broke off his alliance with Moscow due to its campaign against Kazan.[22] Sigismund I received an iarlyk for the Muscovite territories of Novgorod, Pskov, and Ryazan.[22]

The war was intertwined with a rebellion by Michael Glinski, Court Marshal of Lithuania, a favorite of Alexander Jagiellon and a man of opportunity.[24] When Sigismund I the Old succeeded Alexander in 1506, he did not show the same favors to Glinski. Jan Jurjewicz Zabrzeziński, Voivode of Trakai and Glinki's old political opponent, accused Glinski of treason – he alleged that Glinski poisoned Grand Duke Alexander and had ambitions of becoming king himself.[25] Glinski then organized a rebellion, murdered Zabrzeziński in February 1508, and declared himself defender of the Orthodox faith (even though he was a Catholic of Mongol descent).[25] His followers unsuccessfully attacked the Kaunas Castle in an attempt to liberate the prisoner Ahmad, Khan of the Great Horde.[26] Glinski then established himself in Turaŭ and contacted Vasili III. Glinski started retreating towards Moscow and attempted to capture Minsk, Slutsk, Mstsislaw, and Krychaw. He only managed to take Mazyr when his relative opened the gates.[26] Near Orsha, he joined with Muscovite forces but was defeated by Konstanty Ostrogski, Grand Hetman of Lithuania.[27] This series of defeats demonstrated the rebellion, despite its claims to protect the rights of the Orthodox, was not supported by the general population and did not spread.[26] The war eventually ended with the inconclusive 'eternal peace treaty' on October 8, 1508, which maintained the territorial accords of the 1503 truce.[28]

Fourth war (1512–1522)

Despite the peace treaty, the relationship between the two countries remained tense. Sigismund I demanded extradition of Michael Glinski for trial, while Vasili III demanded better treatment of his widowed sister Helena.[29] Vasili also discovered that Sigismund was paying Khan Meñli I Giray to attack the Grand Duchy of Moscow.[30] At the same time, Albert of Prussia became the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights and was unwilling to acknowledge Poland's suzerainty as required by the Second Peace of Thorn (1466).[31] The tension eventually resulted in the Polish–Teutonic War (1519–21) and allied Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor with Vasili III.[30]

In December 1512, Muscovy Rus' invaded the Grand Duchy of Lithuania seeking to capture Smolensk, a major trading center.[32] Their first six- and four-week sieges in 1513 failed,[33] but the city fell in July 1514.[34] Prince Vasily Nemoy Shuysky was left as viceregent in Smolensk.[34] This angered Glinski, who threatened to rejoin Sigismund I but was imprisoned by the Russians.[35]

Russia then suffered a series of defeats in the field. In 1512, Grand Hetman of Lithuania, Konstanty Ostrogski, ravaged Severia and defeated a 6,000-strong Russian force. On 8 September 1514, the Russians suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Orsha.[36] Despite their victory, the Polish–Lithuanian army was unable to move quickly enough to recapture Smolensk.[37] In 1518, Russian forces were beaten during the siege of Polotsk,[38] when according to legend the Lithuanian forces were inspired by the sight of their patron saint, Saint Casimir. The Russians invaded Lithuania again in 1519, raiding Orsha, Mogilev, Minsk, Vitebsk, and Polotsk.[39]

By 1521, Sigismund had defeated the grand master and allied with the Kazan and Crimean Tatar hordes against Moscow.[40] Crimean khan Mehmed I Giray carried out a ruinous attack on the Moscow principality, resulting in a commitment from the grand prince to pay tribute.[41] The Lithuanian troops led by Dashkovich participated in the attack and tried to take Ryazan.[42]

In 1522, a treaty was signed that called for a five-year truce, no prisoner exchange, and for Russia to retain control of Smolensk.[43] The truce was subsequently extended to 1534.[44]

Fifth or Starodub war (1534–1537)

Upon Vasily's death in 1533, his son and heir, Ivan IV, was only three years old. His mother, Elena Glinskaya, acted as the regent and engaged in power struggles with other relatives and boyars.[45] The Polish–Lithuanian monarch decided to take advantage of the situation and demanded the return of territories conquered by Vasily III.[46] In the summer of 1534, Grand Hetman Jerzy Radziwiłł and the Tatars devastated the area around Chernigov, Novgorod Seversk, Radogoshch, Starodub and Briansk.[40] In October 1534, a Muscovite army under the command of Prince Ovchina-Telepnev-Obolensky, Prince Nikita Obolensky, and Prince Vasily Shuisky invaded Lithuania, advancing as far as Vilnius and Navahrudak, and built a fortress on Lake Sebezh the following year, before being stopped.[47] The Lithuanian army under Hetman Radziwill, Andrei Nemirovich, Polish Hetman Jan Tarnowski, and Semen Belsky launched a powerful counterattack and took Homel and Starodub.[48]

In 1536, the fortress Sebezh defeated Nemirovich's Lithuanian forces when they tried to besiege it, and then the Muscovites attacked Liubech, razed Vitebsk, and built fortresses at Velizh and Zavoloche.[48] Lithuania and Russia negotiated a five-year truce, without prisoner exchange, in which Homel stayed under the king's control, while Muscovy Rus' kept Sebezh and Zavoloche.[49]

Territorial losses of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1430 to 1583[50]
Year Area (approximate) Explanation
1429 930,000 km2 (360,000 sq mi) Largest extent
1430 Lost 21,000 km2 (8,100 sq mi) Lost western Podolia to Poland during the Lithuanian Civil War
1485 Lost 88,000 km2 (34,000 sq mi) Lost Yedisan to the Crimean Khanate
1494 Lost 87,000 km2 (34,000 sq mi) First war with Russia
1503 Lost 210,000 km2 (81,000 sq mi) Second war with Russia
1522 Lost 56,000 km2 (22,000 sq mi) Fourth war with Russia; included Smolensk
1537 Gained 20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi) Fifth war with Russia
1561 Gained 85,000 km2 (33,000 sq mi) Gained Duchy of Livonia by the Treaty of Vilnius (1561)
1569 Lost 170,000 km2 (66,000 sq mi) Transferred Ukrainian territories to Poland by the Union of Lublin
1582 Lost 40,000 km2 (15,000 sq mi) Livonian War
1583 365,000 km2 (141,000 sq mi) Territory after the Livonian War

Livonian War

In 1547, the Grand Duchy of Moscow officially became known as the Tsardom of Russia, with Ivan IV crowned as Tsar and "Ruler of all Rus'". The tsar sought to gather the ethnically Ruthenian lands of the former Kievan Rus', engaging with other powers around the Baltic Sea in the Livonian War.

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569
Polish-Swedish union 1592-1599
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1590s

During the reign of Sigismund II Augustus in Poland and Lithuania, Tsar Ivan IV invaded Livonia, first in 1568 when the Livonian Knights sought alliance with Poland and Lithuania; the Poles and Lithuanians were able to defend only southern Livonia. Lithuania and Poland were initially allied with Denmark and fought against the Tsardom of Russia allied with Sweden; after several years the coalitions changed and Poland–Lithuania allied themselves with Sweden against Russia and Denmark. Eventually, the 1570 ceasefire divided Livonia between the participants, with Lithuania controlling Riga and Russians expanding access to the Baltic Sea by taking hold of Narva.

The Lithuanians felt increasingly pressured by the Tsar; further, Lithuanian lesser nobility pressured the Grand Duke and magnates for gaining the same rights as Polish nobility (szlachta), i.e. the Golden Freedoms. Eventually, in 1569, after Sigismund II Augustus transferred significant territories of Grand Duchy to Poland and after months of hard negotiations, Lithuanians partially accepted Polish demands and entered in alliance with the Union of Lublin, forming the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In the next phase of the conflict, in 1577, Ivan IV took advantage of the Commonwealth internal strife (called the war against Danzig in Polish historiography), and, during the reign of Stefan Batory in Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, invaded Livonia, quickly taking almost the entire territory, with the exception of Riga and Reval (now Tallinn). That war would last from 1577 to 1582.

Stefan Batory replied with a series of three offensives against Russia, trying to cut off Livonia from the main Russian territories. During his first offensive in 1579 with 22,000 men, he retook Polatsk, Polish–Lithuanian troops also devastated Smolensk region, and Severia up to Starodoub.[51] During the second, in 1580, with 29,000-strong army Stefan Batory took Velizh, Usvyat,[51] Velikiye Luki. In 1581 the Lithuanians burnt down Staraya Russa,[51] with a 100,000-strong army Stefan Batory started the Siege of Pskov but failed to take the fortress. The prolonged and inconclusive siege led to negotiations, which with the aid of papal legate Antonio Possevino ended in the peace of Jam Zapolski in which the Tsar renounced his claims to Livonia and Polotsk but conceded no core Russian territories. The peace lasted for a quarter of a century, until the Commonwealth forces invaded Russia in 1605.


BrullovKP OsadaPskovPolGTG

Siege of Pskov, painting by Karl Brullov, depicts the siege from the Russian perspective – terrified running Poles and Lithuanians, and heroic Russian defenders under the Orthodox Christian religious banners.

Jan Matejko-Batory pod Pskowem

Batory at Pskov, painting by Jan Matejko, depicts the siege from the Polish–Lithuanian perspective – Russian nobility doing homage before the victorious Commonwealth ruler. In reality, Pskov was not taken by the Commonwealth as the Peace of Jam Zapolski was concluded before the siege ended.


  1. ^ The conflicts are referred to as 'Muscovite wars' (Polish: wojny moskiewskie) in Polish historiography and as 'Lithuanian wars' in Russian one; English historiography uses both, ex. 'Muscovite wars' in Lukowski, Jerzy; Hubert Zawadzki (2001). A Concise History of Poland. Cambridge University Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-521-55917-1. and 'Lithuanian wars' in Wilson, Andrew (2002). The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation. Yale University Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-300-09309-4.. Some sources also may use Russo- instead of Muscovite.


  1. ^ Dewey, Horace W. (1987). "Political Poruka in Muscovite Rus'". The Russian Review. 46 (2): 117–133. doi:10.2307/130622. ISSN 0036-0341. JSTOR 130622.
  2. ^ Riasanovsky, Nicholas V. (2005-10-27). Appanage and Muscovite Russia. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195156508.001.0001. ISBN 9780199868230.
  3. ^ Sergey Solovyov. History of Russia from the Earliest Times, ISBN 5-17-002142-9, v.3 [1]
  4. ^ Obolensky (2000), p. 365
  5. ^ Perrie (2002), p. 98
  6. ^ a b c d e Kiaupa (2000), p. 221
  7. ^ a b Petrauskas (2009), p. 460
  8. ^ a b Smith Williams (1907), p. 179
  9. ^ Stevens (2007), p. 57
  10. ^ a b Petrauskas (2009), p. 461
  11. ^ a b Norkus (2009), p. 61
  12. ^ a b Petrauskas (2009), p. 463
  13. ^ a b Davies (2005), p. 111
  14. ^ a b c Stevens (2007), p. 58
  15. ^ Lietuvos istorijos institutas (2009-10-02). "1501 10 03 Lenkijos taryba ir Lietuvos atstovai nutarė, kad abi valstybės bus sujungtos į vieną valstybę. Lietuva šios sutarties neratifikavo". Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštystės kalendorius (in Lithuanian).
  16. ^ Magocsi (2010), p. 180
  17. ^ Petrauskas (2009), p. 464
  18. ^ Nowakowska (2007), p. 134
  19. ^ Nowakowska (2007), pp. 134–135
  20. ^ Nowakowska (2007), pp. 135–136
  21. ^ Alef (1959), p. 155
  22. ^ a b c Smith Williams (1907), p. 185
  23. ^ Kiaupa (2000), p. 225
  24. ^ Petrauskas (2009), p. 423
  25. ^ a b Petrauskas (2009), p. 436
  26. ^ a b c Petrauskas (2009), p. 465
  27. ^ Jurginis (1985), p. 638
  28. ^ Petrauskas (2009), p. 466
  29. ^ Smith Williams (1907), p. 186
  30. ^ a b Soloviev (1976), p. 54
  31. ^ Davies (2005), p. 114
  32. ^ Soloviev (1976), p. 55
  33. ^ Stevens (2007), pp. 57–58
  34. ^ a b Soloviev (1976), p. 56
  35. ^ Soloviev (1976), p. 58
  36. ^ Soloviev (1976), p. 59
  37. ^ Soloviev (1976), p. 60
  38. ^ Soloviev (1976), p. 78
  39. ^ Soloviev (1976), pp. 78–79
  40. ^ a b Soloviev (1976), p. 79
  41. ^ Soloviev (1976), p. 82
  42. ^ Sergey Solovyov. History of Russia from the Earliest Times, ISBN 5-17-002142-9, v.5 [2]
  43. ^ Soloviev (1976), p. 83
  44. ^ Soloviev (1976), p. 84
  45. ^ Soloviev (1976), p. 187
  46. ^ Soloviev (1976), p. 188
  47. ^ Soloviev (1976), pp. 188–189
  48. ^ a b Soloviev (1976), p. 189
  49. ^ Soloviev (1976), p. 194
  50. ^ Norkus (2009), pp. 60–62
  51. ^ a b c Sergey Solovyov. History of Russia from the Earliest Times, ISBN 5-17-002142-9, v.6 [3]
Battle of Mstislavl

The Battle of Mstislavl took place on 4 November 1501 between the forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the forces of the Grand Duchy of Moscow and Principality of Novgorod-Seversk. The Lithuanian forces were defeated.

The Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars renewed in 1500. In 1501, Ivan III of Russia sent a new force under the command of Semyon Mozhayskiy towards Mstislavl. Local princes Mstislavsky together with Ostap Dashkevych organized the defense and were badly beaten on 4 November. They retreated to Mstislavl and Mozhayskiy decided not to attack the castle. Instead, Russian forces besieged the city and pillaged surrounding areas.Lithuanians organized a relief force, brought by Great Hetman Stanislovas Kęsgaila. Neither Mozhayskiy nor Kęsgaila dared to attack and the Russian forces retreated without a battle.

Battle of Orsha

The Bmattle of Orsha (Polish: bitwa pod Orszą) was a battle fought on 8 September 1514, between the allied forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, under the command of Hetman Konstanty Ostrogski; and the army of the Grand Duchy of Moscow under Konyushy Ivan Chelyadnin and Kniaz Mikhail Golitsin. The Battle of Orsha was part of a long series of Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars conducted by Muscovite rulers striving to gather all the former Kievan Rus' lands under their rule.

According to Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentarii by Sigismund von Herberstein, the primary source for information on the battle, the much smaller army of Poland–Lithuania (under 30,000 men) defeated a force of 80,000 Muscovite soldiers, capturing their camp and commander. These numbers and proportions have been disputed by modern historians.

Battle of Orsha (painting)

The Battle of Orsha is a painting of the Battle of Orsha, which was fought on September 8, 1514 between the allied forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland (to the right hand side of the painting) against the Vasili III's army of the Grand Duchy of Moscow (left) as part of the Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars.

The painting, the only work of its kind in Polish Renaissance painting, is in the National Museum in Warsaw. The anonymous "Master of the Battle of Orsha" was probably one of the court painters-cartographers, from his technique and style probably an artist from the circle of Lucas Cranach the Elder. Meticulous details suggest the artist was himself a witness to the battle. There is a self-portrait of the artist as an unarmed figure in German costume (near bottom, right of centre), sitting on a tree stump on the bank of the Dnieper river, looking at the battle, while framing his fingers to compose a view.

According to one hypothesis the author of the picture was the German artist Hans Krell, court painter of Louis II of Hungary.

Battle of Vedrosha

The Battle of the Vedrosha River was a battle in the course of the Russo-Lithuanian war of 1500–1503 which ended with a decisive Russian victory and proved to be of strategic significance. It was carried out on 14 July 1500, some 50 km to the west of Kaluga, between forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, under command of Prince Konstantin Ostrozhsky and Russian (Muscovite) army under Prince Daniil Shchenya.The skilled Russian commander employed similar tactics that proved successful for the Russian army in the Battle of Kulikovo. Vedrosha was a crushing victory for the Russians. Some 8,000 Lithuanians were killed, and many more were taken prisoner, including Prince Konstantin Ostrogski, the first ever Grand Hetman of Lithuania.

After the battle the Lithuanians lost the possibility for military initiative and restricted themselves to defensive actions.

Chernihiv Voivodeship

Czernihów (Chernihiv) Voivodeship (Polish: Województwo czernihowskie) was a unit of administrative division and local government in the Kingdom of Poland (part of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth) from 1635 until Khmelnytsky Uprising in 1648 (technically it existed up until 1654). Also it was used as a fictitious title in the Commonwealth until the Partitions of Poland in 1772/1795. In 1635, Marcin Kalinowski was the first voivode (governor) of the Chernihiv Voivodeship.

The voivodeship was part of the Lesser Poland Province of the Polish Crown, and was divided into two counties: Czernihow and Nowogrod Siewierski. Local sejmiks took place at Czernihow, and it had two senators in the Polish–Lithuanian Senate. Together with Kijow Voivodeship and Bracław Voivodeship it made the territory that came to be known as Ukraine.

The history of Czernihow Voivodeship dates back to 1618, when after the Truce of Deulino, the Commonwealth gained control of the towns of Smolensk, Czernihow and Nowogrod Siewierski. Since the truce was set to expire in 14.5 years, new acquisitions were not organized in official way. Smolensk was annexed by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, while both Czernihow and Nowogrod became part of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland forming the Duchy of Siveria. In 1633, during the Smolensk War, Polish Parliament (Sejm) introduced a bill in which both land court and starosta office were established at Czernihow. In 1634 the Treaty of Polyanovka confirmed that Czernihow remained part of Poland, so finally in 1635 the Sejm created the voivodeship, with two senators - the Voivode and the Castellan of Czernihow. Both county elected two deputies to the Sejm, and one deputy to the Lesser Poland Tribunal at Lublin. In 1637, construction of a fortress at Konotop began, whose purpose was to protect the newly acquired province. The fortress was completed in 1642.

The Commonwealth lost control of the province as early as 1648, during the Khmelnytsky Uprising. In the Treaty of Hadiach (1658), the Duchy of Ruthenia was created out of Czernihow Voivodship, Kiev Voivodeship and Bracław Voivodeship. The idea however was quickly abandoned, and after the Truce of Andrusovo (1667), Czernihow Voivodeship was annexed by the Tsardom of Russia.

The history of Czernihow Voivodeship does not end in 1667. Following the example of other provinces lost by the Commonwealth in the mid-17th century (e.g. Smolensk Voivodeship), the government in Warsaw continued to claim it as a titular voivodeship, with fictitious titles of voivode, senators, deputies and starostas named by the King, and remaining in use until the Partitions of Poland. The nobility of former Czernihow Voivodeship had its sejmiks at Wlodzimierz Wolynski. Last voivode of Czernihow was a man named Ludwik Wilga, nominated in 1783. In 1785, Stanisław August Poniatowski gave fictitious title of starosta of Nowogrod Siewierski to Tadeusz Czacki.

Zygmunt Gloger in his monumental book Historical Geography of the Lands of Old Poland gives a detailed description of Czernihow Voivodeship:

Czernihow on the Desna river is one of the eldest Slavic gord of Kievan Rus, as it was first mentioned in 907 (...) In 1238 it was captured and burned by the Tatars, after which the province of Czernihow - Nowogrod Siewierski turned into a ruin. Lithuanian Duke Aldirgas captured this land in the mid-14th century, and it remained part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania for the next 150 years (...) In 1493 (see also Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars), the province was captured by the Grand Principality of Moscow, where it remained until 1618. Officially, Czernihow belonged to the Commonwealth for 59 years, until 1667 (see also Truce of Andrusovo) (...)

Since the 1618 Truce of Deulino was to expire after 16 years, the Commonwealth did not find it necessary to create a new voivodeship. Only after the Treaty of Polyanovka did the Sejm decide in 1635 to turn Duchy of Czernihow into Czernihow Voivodeship, with two counties, those of Nowogrod Siewierski and Czernihow. There were two starostas, local sejmik at Czernihow, and two senators. First voivode was named Marcin Kalinowski "in honor of his bloody deeds", while first castellan was Mikolaj Kossakowski (...) On 30 January 1667, the Commonwealth handed Czernihow over to the Tsardom of Russia, which was confirmed on 3 May 1686 in the Eternal Peace Treaty. Poland kept the titles of civil servants of Czernihow Voivodeship, and later on, the number of fictitious deputies was raised from 4 to 6.

Voivodeship Governor (Wojewoda) seat:

ChernihivAdministrative divisions:

Chernihiv County

Nowogród County

Daniil Shchenya

Prince Daniil Vasiliyevich Shchenya (Russian: Даниил Васильевич Щеня; Unknown – after 1515) was a Russian military leader during the reigns of Ivan III and Vasili III.

Filon Kmita

Filon Kmita (1530–1587) was a noble in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Voivode of Smolensk (since 1579), rotmistrz in the army and starost of Orsha (since 1566).

Fought in the Muscovite-Lithuanian Wars and the Livonian War. Chernobyl was his fiefdom.

Helena of Moscow

Helena Ivanovna of Moscow (Russian: Елена Ивановна; Lithuanian: Elena; Polish: Helena Moskiewska; 19 May 1476 – 20 January 1513) was daughter of Ivan III the Great, Grand Prince of Moscow, and an uncrowned Grand Duchess of Lithuania and Queen of Poland as she would not convert from Eastern Orthodoxy to Catholicism. Her childless marriage to Grand Duke of Lithuania and later King of Poland Alexander Jagiellon was a constant source of tension between the Grand Duchy of Moscow and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Instead of guaranteeing peace, Helena's marriage gave her father Ivan III an excuse to interfere in Lithuanian affairs accusing Alexander of mistreating Helena and repressing Orthodox believers. This became the pretext to renew the Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars in 1500. The war ended with a six-year truce in 1503; the Grand Duchy of Lithuania lost about a third of its territory. Despite political tensions and religious differences, the marriage was a loving one and the royal couple was close. After her husband's death in 1506, Helena wanted to return to Moscow but was not allowed. When she planned to run away, she was arrested and reportedly poisoned.

Jan Zabrzeziński

Jan Jurjewicz Zabrzeziński or Zaberezhsky (1437 – February 2, 1508) was a noble of Leliwa coat of arms from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, who achieved the height of his influence during the reign of Alexander I Jagiellon (1492–1506). He was duke's marshal (1482–1496), regent of Polatsk (1484–1496), castellan of Trakai (1492–1498), voivode of Trakai (1498–1505), and Grand Marshal of Lithuania (1498–1508). Zabrzeziński was married to Anna, daughter of Jan, elder of Brest and Hrodna.In the period 1476–1492, he witnessed three legal acts by the Grand Duke and was sent to two diplomatic missions (to the Grand Duchy of Moscow in 1484 and Kingdom of Poland in 1486). In 1501, as a member of the Lithuanian Council of Lords, he supported the proposed Union of Mielnik. Soon Zabrzeziński began a political rivalry with Michael Glinski, a quickly-rising favorite of Alexander Jagiellon. In 1504, under Glinski's influence, Alexander confiscated land possessions of Zabrzeziński's son-in-law near Lida. The conflict was soon suppressed by Alexander, who imposed large fines and removed Zabrzeziński from all of his positions (Grand Marshal, Voivode, Council of Lords). However, soon Zabrzeziński was reinstated as the Grand Marshal and received a generous benefice.During the Battle of Kletsk against the Golden Horde in August 1506, Zabrzeziński disagreed with Glinki's command of the Lithuanian army and his men attacked first. They were easily defeated by the Tatars, who mockingly displayed severed heads of the Zabrzeziński's men. This disrespect enraged the remainder of the Lithuanian army, which attacked and soundly defeated the Horde.After Alexander's death in August 1506, Zabrzeziński accused Glinski of high treason and of poisoning Alexander. As the new King Sigismund I the Old did not clear his name, Glinski ordered Zabrzeziński killed in his residence near Hrodna in February 1508. This event is considered the beginning of Glinski's revolt against Sigismund I, which became part of the Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars.

List of wars involving Lithuania

This is a list of military conflicts in which Lithuanian military forces participated.

Marcin Zborowski

Marcin Zborowski (c. 1495 – 25 February 1565) was a Polish castellan (Polish: kasztelan) of Kalisz (since 1543), voivod (wojewoda) of Kalisz (since 1550), voivod of Poznań (since 1558) and castellan of Kraków (since 1562). He was one of the leaders of execution movement, co-initiator of the Chicken War (1537) and also supporter of the Reformation. Zborowski participated in the fourth war of the Muscovite-Lithuanian Wars (1512–1522) and in the Battle of Orsha (8 September 1514). Murderer of Dymitr Sanguszko (1554).

Michael Glinski

Michael Glinsky (Lithuanian: Mykolas Glinskis, Russian: Mikhail Lvovich Glinsky, Polish: Michał Gliński; 1460s – 24 September 1534) was a noble from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania of distant Tatar extraction who was also a tutor of his nephew, Ivan the Terrible. Glinski was born in Turov. As a young man, Glinsky served in the court of Emperor Maximilian I and earned distinction for his military service. Around 1498 he returned to Lithuania and quickly rose in power and wealth, angering local nobles. Just after commanding the victorious Battle of Kletsk against the Crimean Khanate in August 1506, he was accused of conspiracy against the deceased Grand Duke Alexander Jagiellon and lost all his wealth. Glinsky began an armed rebellion against Sigismund I, the new Grand Duke. The rebellion was unsuccessful and Glinski retreated to the Grand Duchy of Moscow, where he served Vasili III of Russia. When the Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars renewed in 1512, Glinsky was instrumental in helping Moscow to capture Smolensk, a major trading center. However, he was not rewarded with the regency of the city. Angered, he planned to betray Vasili III, but the plot was discovered and he was imprisoned for 12 years. He was freed after his niece Elena Glinskaya married Vasili III in 1526. Before his death in 1533, Vasili appointed Elena and Glinski as protectors of his underage sons Ivan and Yuri. Elena disapproved of Glinsky's influence in the state and had him sent to prison, where he soon died of starvation.

Michael of Klopsk

Michael of Klopsk (Russian: Михаил Клопский - Mikhail Klopsky), died ca. 1458, was a 15th-century Russian Orthodox fool-for-Christ's-sake associated with the Klopsky Holy Trinity Monastery near Novgorod on the river Veryazha.According to Valentin Yanin, Michael was the son or grandson of Dmitry Mikhailovich Volyn-Bobrok ("Little Beaver"), the hero of the Battle of Kulikovo, and Anna Ivanovna, daughter of Grand Prince Ivan II Ivanovich the Fair, sister of Dmitry Donskoy. A hagiography of the saint, was written in 1478-9, redacted in the 90's, and again in 1537. Although folklorish, it provides the earliest literary evidence for Michael's activities in the monastery.

During the period of the Muscovite-Lithuanian Wars, a mysterious fool-for-Christ's-sake appeared in the Monastery of the Holy Trinity. Sometime after being accepted by the monastery, but still nameless to his fellow monks, he was recognized by prince Konstantin Dmitrievich (1389-1433), who visited the monastery with his wife in 1413, as "our Mikhail."

Among the miracles attributed to the saint by the hagiography are the conversion of robbers, one of whom became the monk Dorofey, the discovery of an inexhaustible fountain, the prediction of weather, and various other acts of clairvoyance and prophecy.

Michael died prior to 1458 and was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church a century later, in 1547. His memory is commemorated by the Eastern Orthodox Church on January 11. His relics are venerated at the Holy Trinity Mikhailo Klopsky Men's Monastery in Novgorod.

Polish–Muscovite War

Polish–Muscovite War can refer to:

Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars

Polish–Muscovite War (1605–18)

Smolensk War (1631–34)

Russo-Polish War (1654–67)

Siege of Polotsk

The Siege of Polotsk was laid in 1518 by forces of the Grand Duchy of Moscow on Polotsk during the Fourth Muscovite–Lithuanian War (1512–1522). The Lithuanians defended the city. According to a legend, Prince Casimir Jagiellon appeared before the Lithuanian troops and helped them to achieve victory. It was the first miracle attributed to Casimir, which perpetuated his cult and led to his eventual canonization.Growing and strengthening Grand Duchy of Moscow engaged in a series of wars with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania over control of the former territories of Kievan Rus'. A new war erupted in 1512. In 1518, Russian forces from Novgorod, commanded by Vasily Nemoy Shuysky, and Pskov, commanded by Ivan Vasilievich Shuysky, attacked Polotsk. The Russian army also included detachments of heavy artillery. They set siege towers and fired volleys against city walls. However, soon the attackers faced food shortage. The Russians would cross the Daugava River in search for food. The Lithuanians sent reinforcements to the city, commanded by Albertas Goštautas, Voivode of Polotsk. The Lithuanian army also included a detachment of Polish mercenaries under Jan Boratyński. The Lithuanians attacked a Russian party searching for food. Many Russians drowned in the river during their hasty retreat.According to a legend, recorded by Bernard Wapowski and Marcin Bielski, the Lithuanians could not locate a safe place to cross the river. However, a young man appeared, dressed in white and riding a fine horse, and rode first into the river leading the Lithuanians safely across only to disappear on the other side. The soldiers identified the youth as their deceased Prince Casimir, elder brother of Lithuanian Grand Duke Sigismund I the Old. After crossing, the Lithuanians waited for the night, set hay stacks alight to confuse and disorient the enemy, and swiftly attacked the Russians. The Russians suffered great losses and had to retreat.

Smolensk Voivodeship

Smolensk Voivodeship (Latin: Palatinatus smolencensis, Belarusian: Смале́нскае ваяво́дзтва, Polish: Województwo smoleńskie, Lithuanian: Smolensko vaivadija) was a unit of administrative division and local government in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The territory of Smolensk was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania since 1404, but the voivodeship was established only in 1508. Just six years later, in 1514, it was lost to the Grand Duchy of Moscow during the Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars. The voivodeship was recaptured by the Commonwealth in 1611 during the Polish–Muscovite War (1605–18) and lost again in 1654 during the Russo-Polish War (1654–67). Even when the territory was under Russian control, Poland and Lithuania claimed it as a titular voivodeship. The capital of the voivodeship, and the seat of its governor (voivode), was in Smolensk. It was subdivided into two powiats: Smolensk and Starodub.

Zygmunt Gloger in his monumental book Historical Geography of the Lands of Old Poland provides this description of the Smolensk Voivodeship:

“In the 9th century, Smolensk was main center of the Krivichs. In the 11th century, it became the capital of a separate duchy, the Principality of Smolensk, which in the 14th century was conquered by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1404, it became a permanent part of Lithuania, and later on, the Principality was turned into a Voivodeship. In 1514, Smolensk was captured by Muscovy, which was confirmed by a 1522 treaty. For the next 89 years Smolensk belonged to Muscovy. It was recovered by King Sigismund III of Poland in 1611, but Smolensk Voivodeship as part of the Commonwealth existed only for 56 years. In 1654 it was recaptured by the Russians, which was confirmed by the Truce of Andrusovo in 1667.

Smolensk Voivodeship had three senators: the Bishop, the Voivode, and the Castellan of Smolensk. It was divided into two counties: those of Smolensk and Starodub. After its annexation by the Russian Empire, it continued to exist as a so-called fictitious voivodeship, with sejmiks taking place at a Bernardine Church in Wilno. Furthermore, the fictitious title of Bishop of Smolensk remained in use. Last Bishops before the partitions of Poland were Adam Naruszewicz, and Tymoteusz Gorzeński.

Stanisław Kiszka

Stanisław Piotrowicz Kiszka (Lithuanian: Stanislovas Kiška; died in 1513 or 1514) was a noble, diplomat and military commander from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. He became the progenitor of the prominent Kiszka family. He was sent on frequent diplomatic missions to the Grand Duchy of Moscow and Kingdom of Poland. He attempted to negotiate peace during the Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars and supported a closer union between Poland and Lithuania. During the Second Muscovite–Lithuanian War (1500–03), he successfully defended Smolensk and became Great Hetman (commander of the army) until Konstanty Ostrogski escaped Russian captivity in 1507. Kiszka helped to subdue the Glinski rebellion in 1508. Shortly before his death, Kiszka also became Grand Marshal of Lithuania.

Union of Kraków and Vilna

The Union of Kraków and Vilna also known as Union of Vilnius was one of the agreements of the Polish–Lithuanian union. It was signed in Kraków by Polish nobility on 6 May 1499 and Vilnius by Lithuanian nobility on 24 July 1499.Casimir IV Jagiellon was both King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. In his last will Casimir stipulated that the two states would be ruled by separately two of his sons. Thus after his death in 1492, John I Albert was elected to the Polish throne, while the Lithuanian Council of Lords chose Alexander Jagiellon. Thus the personal union between Poland and Lithuania was broken. The union at that time could be described as a dynastic union.

In the late 1490s, Poland faced pressure from the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire, while Lithuania faced the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Ivan III of Russia claimed that he inherited rights to all Russian and Orthodox lands after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. His ambitions led to beginnings of the century-long Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars. After the Tatars invaded Volhynia and Podolia in late 1494, John Albert suggested a military and further political alliance to his brother Alexander. He agreed, but negotiations dragged until spring 1498, when the Tatars invaded Podolia and Galicia and took thousands of prisoners. Reacting to these threats and wishing to secure Lithuanian military assistance, Polish nobles agreed with all Lithuanian suggestions and demands.The Union of Vilnius was based on the Union of Horodło of 1413. It was an alliance of two equal states. It was agreed that future rulers of both countries would be chosen separately, but with consent of the other state. The Union also provided for mutual aid and assistance in various armed conflicts. Historian Tomas Baranauskas interpreted it as the most advantageous for Lithuania of all Polish–Lithuanian unions. However, almost immediately Polish nobles began protesting the union on a technicality – the act referenced the Union of Horodło, which they did not have available.

Wall of Vilnius

The Vilnius city wall was a defensive wall around Vilnius, capital city of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was built between 1503 and 1522 for protection from the attacks by the Crimean Khanate at the beginning of the Muscovite–Lithuanian Wars. The stone and brick wall was a key element of the defensive system of Vilnius, and was paid for by the city's landowners. It contained nine gates and an artillery bastion. Some of the original constructions have survived.

Subačius Gate was built at the end of what is now Holly Spirit street.

Spas Gate was built near the Vilnia River in the eastern side of city.

Wet Gate stood near Cathedral Square in Vilnius.

Tatar Gate stood at the corner of Liejykla and Totoriai street.

Vilija Gate stood at the corner of Vilnius and Bernardinai street.

Trakai Gate was built at the corner of Trakai and Pylimas streets. It was the main gate of the city and contained (as did the Gate of Dawn) a chapel.

Rūdininkai Gate stood at the end of the Rūdininkai street.

Medininkai Gate guarded the entrance to the southern part of the city. It is now known as the Gate of Dawn.An artillery bastion was built to protect the eastern side of the city. It is currently a museum of militaria from Vilnius and is under renovation.

Following the partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Russian government ordered to tear down most of the wall and all the gates, except the Gate of Dawn. Some parts of the wall are still visible throughout the Old Town of Vilnius or are going to be restored and displayed.

Armed conflicts involving Russia (incl. Imperial and Soviet times)

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