“The invasion of the Russians is directed at us …”

Svyatoslav Igorevich. The sculptural image by Eugene Lansere

1050 years ago, the great Russian prince Svyatoslav Igorevich defeated the Byzantine army in the Balkans. Panic broke out in Constantinople: “Rus is striving fully armed against us, the peoples of Scythia have risen to war.”

Big game in the Balkans

After the defeat of Khazaria (“The defeat of Khazaria”), Grand Duke Svyatoslav planned to start a war against the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire. Capture the strategic city of Chersonesos (Korsun) from the Byzantines (Romans, Greeks). The fortress blocked the way for Russian merchants to the Black Sea. And for a long time the Crimea was part of the “Great Scythia” – a northern civilization, the direct heir of which was Russia. Preparations for war began.

These preparations were not kept secret from the Greeks. Kiev was the center of a huge empire. Greek merchants were regular guests in the lands of the Rus. Among them were agents of Constantinople. Byzantium found a way out of a dangerous situation. “Second Rome” followed the traditions of the policy of the Roman Empire: “Divide and conquer.” Emperor Nicephorus II Phocas sent Patrick Kalokir to Kiev. He brought a gift – a huge amount of gold. It is believed that Kalokir was an old friend of Svyatoslav. It should be noted that the Russian princes, including Svyatoslav, not only fought with the Greeks, but were often allies. The troops of the Rus fought for the Greeks in the wars with the Arabs. Kiev and Constantinople entered into an alliance agreement. However, the policy of the Romans was two-faced, with “double standards” for the “barbarians”.

Kalokir was supposed to redirect the Rus of Svyatoslav from the Crimean capital to the Bulgarian kingdom, on the banks of the Danube. The Russian prince was promised a large reward for the campaign in the lands of the Misyan (Bulgarians). The Greeks promised even more gold and more production in the Bulgarian lands. Obviously, Svyatoslav understood the conditions of the game. He was not one of those rulers who fall for other people’s tricks. However, this proposal was in line with his plans. Now the prince could come to the Danube without opposition from the Greeks. Svyatoslav was going to include the lands on the Danube in his state. He knew that the “Second Rome” had been trying to swallow Bulgaria for a long time. In this case, the Byzantine Empire seized one of the Slavic lands and became a direct neighbor of Russia.

Relations between Bulgaria and Byzantium were complicated. At one time, the Bulgarians, led by Tsar Simeon the Great (893-927), who barely escaped from the position of “guest of honor” in Constantinople, launched a powerful offensive against the empire. The Bulgarian kingdom stretched from Budapest, the northern slopes of the Carpathians and the Dnieper in the north to the Adriatic Sea in the west, the Aegean Sea in the south and the Black Sea in the east. The Bulgarians included Serbia in their state. The Bulgarian army threatened Constantinople with a siege, the Greeks paid tribute to Preslav. But a “miracle” happened, which was prayed for in the “Second Rome”: Simeon died unexpectedly. The Bulgarian table was occupied by his son Peter, nicknamed the Meek. Weak and indecisive ruler, unworthy of the glory of his father.

Peter was easily manipulated by the Greeks (through his wife Princess Mary) and the clergy. The church was enriched. Large feudal lords did not reckon with Peter. The country was shaken by the uprisings of the tsar’s brothers, the Serbs. Serbia gained independence. On Bulgaria, taking advantage of its weakening, the Hungarians and Pechenegs began to make raids. The state lost most of its conquests. In Constantinople, they saw all this perfectly and, as far as possible, “helped” the neighbors in the matter of destruction. However, the Greeks knew well the strength of Bulgaria. Diplomacy alone was not enough for complete victory. A strong army was needed, but there were not enough troops. They stood on the southern borders, holding back the Muslims. Byzantium started a war with Bulgaria. The Romans took several fortresses, with the help of pro-Byzantine feudal lords, they seized the most important city of Thrace – Philippopolis (Plovdiv). But they could not cross the Balkan Mountains. Mountain passes and wooded gorges were considered impregnable. Many Greeks have already died there in the past.

As a result, in Constantinople, they decided to kill two birds with one stone with the help of the art of words and gold: to expose Bulgaria to a military defeat with the help of the forces of Svyatoslav and at the same time to weaken the troops of Russia in this war. Distract Kiev from Crimea. Solve the Bulgarian question with the help of Russian weapons. Then you can safely swallow the Bulgarian kingdom, make it a Byzantine province. And to distract the Russians with the help of the Pechenegs or other neighbors.

The capital of the Bulgarian kingdom Preslav the Great

Bulgarian campaign

The Russian prince Svyatoslav had his own plans. He decided to annex another Slavic land to his northern state. The prince even planned to transfer the capital city from Kiev to the Danube. This was a common thing for Russia. Oleg the Prophet moved from Novgorod to Kiev. Later, Vladimir, Moscow, etc. would become the capital of Russia. In addition, the Bulgarians were not a stranger to the Russians. Until recently, they were part of a single cultural and ethnic family. The Bulgarian language almost did not differ from Russian, and the Bulgarians still remembered the old Slavic gods. Christianization has just begun.

In Constantinople, it was believed that the war between Russia and Bulgaria would allow solving several strategic tasks at once. First, it will distract the warlike “Tavro Scythians” from Korsun, the Crimean granary of the empire. According to the old tradition, the Rus in Byzantium were called Scythians and Tavro-Scythians, and Rus – Scythia, Great Scythia (“Great Scythia and the super-ethnos of the Rus”, part 2). Secondly, it will knock together the Russians and Bulgarians, who are dangerous for the empire, and weaken them. The Rus, if they take it up, will plunder the Bulgarian cities and leave, leaving a weakened Bulgaria. Byzantium will be able to complete its conquest. If the Bulgarians fight back, they will still come out of the war with the Russians weakened. Thirdly, Svyatoslav in the war will be weakened and it will be possible to incite the Pechenegs on him.

However, Constantinople miscalculated. Svyatoslav broke the whole other’s game with one blow. The chronicles do not provide details of the preparations for the campaign and the war itself. But, without a doubt, the Russian prince, as during the war with the Khazars, had excellent training. The professional squad was increased, gathered from tribes and lands “voi” for rati. A large fleet was built. It is necessary to know that, contrary to the myth that the fleet in Russia was built only under Peter the Great, the Russians-Russians from ancient times built boats (lodges, planes, kochi, etc.), walked along rivers and seas. This tradition has never been interrupted! From the Russes of the Veneti-Wends and the Varangians-Rus, the Novgorod ushkuyniks to the Zaporozhye and Don Cossacks, the fleet of the Russian Empire.

The army of Svyatoslav was mainly on foot. There were few cavalry. But the Russian prince skillfully entered into alliances. So, during the pogrom of Khazaria, our allies were the Pechenegs (another fragment of Scythia) – “the thorn of the Rus and their strength.” They were famous for their light cavalry. Pechenezhsk troops joined the Rus in the Black Sea steppes. Now, in the campaign against Bulgaria, the Hungarian leaders also became Kiev’s allies. Svyatoslav’s army marched on boats and horses, repeating the campaign of Igor the Old. The Russian army went down to sea on ships and entered the mouth of the Danube. It is worth remembering that the Rus already had a base in Tmutarakan and Korchev (Kerch). That is, part of the Russian fleet could have come from there. In addition, the Russian unions of the Ulichi and Tivertsy tribes, inhabiting the territories of the Northern Black Sea region, Transnistria and the Carpathian region from the Dnieper to the Danube, were neighbors of the Bulgarians and also fielded their warriors. The Russian flotilla began to quickly climb up the Danube.

The appearance of Svyatoslav on the Danube was not unexpected for Preslav. Apparently, the Bulgarian spies reported on the Rus in time. Or the Greeks tried to make it more difficult for Svyatoslav and the war dragged on. Tsar Peter gathered a large army from the squads of governors, boyars, militias of the Danube towns. The Byzantine historian Leo the Deacon writes that the Bulgarians put up an army of 30 thousand soldiers. Apparently, Peter and his advisers believed that the Russians would fight according to “science.” They will not dare to attack the defeated enemy on the move, who has taken up convenient positions. They will retreat to find a better landing site, or they will descend to the east coast. Then they will send light detachments, including the Pechenegs, to look for a weak spot in the enemy’s defense.

But Svyatoslav was a commander of another school. Russian. Much later, another great Russian commander, Alexander Suvorov, will also fight. “Eye gauge, speed and onslaught.” He began disembarking. The rooks rushed to the shore. The Rus ran out into the field and built up into the “wall” of shields, behind it were other warriors. The Russian “phalanx” quickly became impregnable for the enemy cavalry. When the Bulgarians who came to their senses tried to attack, they were easily thrown back. Then the Russians themselves went ahead. They cut into the ranks of the enemy army and began to press it. The Bulgarians could not stand the fierce onslaught of the Slavic brothers and fled. As a result, the “Tavra” (Russians) crushed the enemy with the first blow. More Bulgarians did not dare to fight in the field. In a short time, Svyatoslav took possession of all of Eastern Bulgaria.

Approach to the city of Pereyaslavets and its capture by Svyatoslav. Miniature of the Radziwill Chronicle

Svyatoslav, ruler of Eastern Bulgaria

Thus, Svyatoslav’s lightning strike in Bulgaria ruined all the plans of Constantinople. The Russians did not get bogged down in the war. The army of Tsar Peter was defeated in the first battle. Once upon a time, the Romans built dozens of fortresses in Mysia to secure their eastern borders. All these fortifications were captured by the Rus in 968. A protracted war did not work out. Moreover, the Rus were greeted by the Slavs-Bulgarians as their own, and not as foreign invaders. The Rus did not ravage the Bulgarian villages. Cultural traditions, consciousness, language and ancient faith were common. Rus and Bulgarians were like one people. Bulgarians began en masse to join the ranks of Svyatoslav’s army – both ordinary members of the community and some feudal lords. The Bulgarian nobility saw in the Russian prince a successful leader, capable of returning greatness to Bulgaria, crushing hostile Byzantium. Having settled in Pereyaslavets (Preslav Maly), he received new vassals, announced that he would leave the internal order of Bulgaria intact and start a joint war with the Greeks. That is, the Russian army not only did not weaken in the war, on the contrary, it got stronger, overgrown with local militias and squads of feudal lords.

This turn of affairs did not suit the “Second Rome”. Now the Greeks were thinking about how to remove the furious “Scythians” from Bulgaria. Tsar Peter could not help. Many boyars recoiled from him. It was not possible to recruit a new army. Constantinople was worried about their safety. New detachments of stratiots (infantry from free peasants) and horse cataphracts were recruited. Throwing shells were placed on the walls of the capital. A heavy chain was pulled across the Bosphorus. Greek agents went to the steppe to the Pechenezh leaders. They carried gold and precious fabrics, weapons and jewelry. In the spring of 969, part of the Pechenezh horde moved to Kiev. The steppe inhabitants could not take the well-defended city, where Princess Olga was sitting with her grandchildren Yaropolk, Oleg and Vladimir, but they camped at its ramparts and walls. Voivode Pretich gathered his army and stood on the other bank of the Dnieper.

According to the Russian chronicle, the city was exhausted from hunger. The elders turned to the people: “Is there anyone who could get over to the other side of the river and say that if you don’t start to the city in the morning, we will surrender to the Pechenegs?” Only one youth (youth) volunteered to get through the enemy camp. He went out with a bridle in his hands and walked through the camps of the Pechenegs, asking those he met: “Has anyone seen a horse?” The steppe inhabitants took him for their kindred and laughed at the young men, since the loss of a horse is a shame for a warrior. It is interesting that in Russia it is customary to depict the Khazars, Pechenegs, Polovtsians and “Mongol-Tatars” (“The myth of the” Mongol-Tatar “invasion”; part 2; part 3) as representatives of the Mongoloid race. In fact, the Pechenegs, Polovtsians and “Mongols” were Caucasians, representatives of the white race. Therefore, the brave youth from Kiev was mistaken for one of their own. It is possible that the language of the descendants of the Scythians, Russes and Pechenegs was very similar in origin (as is now Russian and Ukrainian). The youth swam across the river and informed Pretych of the Kievites’ will. In the morning, the soldiers of Pretich sat down in their boats and trumpeted loudly and made a noise. Kievans on the walls greeted them with joy. The Pechenezh princes decided that this was Svyatoslav’s vanguard and offered peace. The Pechenegs moved away from Kiev.

This invasion forced the Russian prince to suspend the onslaught in the Balkans and return. Svyatoslav’s squads made a swift dash across the steppe, part of the army was on the ships. He decided to punish the steppe princes who opposed him so that the rear during the war with Byzantium was calm. Svyatoslav’s iron squads crushed a number of Pechenezh camps with a powerful stream. Other Pechenezh leaders immediately sent ambassadors to Svyatoslav with assurances of friendship and rich gifts. Peace on the border of Russia was restored.

To be continued…

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