“We will not shame the Russian land”

“Prince Svyatoslav”. Artist Vladimir Kireev

Greek chroniclers lie that Svyatoslav was defeated. That the Romans surrounded and destroyed the army of the Rus, having lost only 55 (!) People, killed thousands of “Scythians”. According to the Russian chronicle, Svyatoslav won a victory and continued his attack on Constantinople.

Second trip to Bulgaria

Having defeated the rebellious tribes of the Pechenegs, Svyatoslav returned to Kiev. He still dreamed of Bulgaria:

I don’t like Kiev, I want to sit in Pereyaslavets on the Danube. There is the middle of my land, where all the benefits flow: from the Greek land – gold, pavolok, wine, various fruits; from the Czech Republic and Hungary – silver and horses, from Russia – furs and wax, honey and people … “

The Grand Duke could not leave Kiev, he was restrained by his mother Olga: “You see, I am sick, where do you want to leave me? When you bury me, go wherever you want … ”In July 969, Princess Olga died. After her death, Svyatoslav endowed his sons with princely power: Yaropolk sat in Kiev, Oleg – in the Drevlyansky land, Vladimir – in Novgorod. According to the Russian chronicle, Svyatoslav set out on a new campaign in 971. According to Greek sources, he was in Bulgaria already in 969. With him were again the light armies of the Pechenegs and Hungarians.

Important events took place in Bulgaria and Byzantium at this time. The Bulgarian Tsar Peter abdicated in favor of his son Boris and died in a monastery. In fact, Tsar Boris was a henchman of the Byzantine basileus (emperor) Nikifor Phocas. The Greek party in Preslav prevailed. The Bulgarian princesses were sent to the Byzantine capital to be married off to the sons of the late Emperor Roman. The people were assured that the friendship between Bulgaria and Byzantium would be eternal. It seemed that Constantinople had achieved the desired goal. However, Boris was not popular both among the boyars and among the common people. Many boyars would prefer the power of the Russian prince Svyatoslav, he did not encroach on their freedom. Byzantine dignitaries were accustomed to commanding people like slaves and severely punished for any disobedience. Bulgarian feudal lords refused to obey. In Macedonia, the sons of the local governor, Nikola, revolted. They proclaimed an independent kingdom of Ohrid, which occupied a vast area. This kingdom took a hostile position in relation to both Preslav and Constantinople. The rest of the Tsar’s governors also tended to independence, did not want to gather troops at the call of Tsar Boris.

When Svyatoslav returned to Bulgaria in August 969, he immediately received massive support among the common people and the nobility. Bulgarian squads immediately began to replenish the Russian army. The rulers of the Ohrid kingdom announced their readiness to fight against the Second Rome together with Svyatoslav. Meeting virtually no resistance, the great Russian prince easily took control of Bulgaria. Tsar Boris’s Greek advisers fled. Nobody defended Veliky Preslav. Boris had no choice but to bow his head before the great Rus and become a vassal of Svyatoslav. A garrison was set up in Preslav, led by the governor Sfenkel. After that, Svyatoslav’s soldiers took Philippopolis (Plovdiv) by storm. The city that resisted was depopulated. The Russian chronicle reported: “And Svyatoslav went to the capital, fighting and destroying the cities that are still empty.” The Greek historian Leo the Deacon wrote that Svyatoslav in Philippopolis impaled 20 thousand people. This was a common exaggeration. Byzantine writers exaggerated the “bloodiness” of the Rus and, describing the battles, wrote about insignificant losses of the Byzantine army, and the “Scythians” were killed in thousands.

In Constantinople itself, a palace coup took place. Nicephorus II Phocas was a real warrior, stern and unsociable, who despised the luxury and pleasures of the royal court. Refusal of luxury and saving money did not like many representatives of the high society. Also, Nicephorus planned reforms in favor of the common people, planning to weaken and shorten the appetites of the nobility and the church. This led to the emergence of a conspiracy of representatives of the aristocracy and the clergy. It was headed by Nicephorus’s nephew, John Tzimiskes, whom the Basileus exalted. The emperor’s wife, the famous courtesan Theophano, also became a participant in the conspiracy. She became the mistress of Tzimisce and led the murderers into her husband’s bedroom. After being mocked, Tzimiskes killed Nicephorus. Svyatoslav was officially an ally of Nicephorus Phocas. Formally, there was no break, despite the reluctance of the Russians to leave Bulgaria. Now everything has changed radically. Svyatoslav’s ally was despicably killed. Kalokir fled to the Russian prince and became a contender for the throne of Constantinople.

The Scythians are coming!

At first, the new emperor John Tzimiskes behaved with caution. In the east, the Arabs advanced, the conquests of Nicephorus Phocas were almost lost. Syrian Antioch was in danger of falling. Hunger raged in the empire for the third year. Another war – with the warlike Rus, who were in alliance with the Bulgarians, Hungarians and Pechenegs, was an unbearable burden for the Eastern Roman Empire. Therefore, the Greeks decided to cheat and buy the world. The Byzantine embassy went to the prince of the Rus in order to persuade him to peace and return to their lands with gifts and promises of an alliance. But the Byzantine ambassadors offered gold in vain and threatened with war. In response, Svyatoslav promised to erect tents in front of the Constantinople gates and show the emperor that “we are not poor artisans who live by labor alone, but brave warriors who defeat enemies with weapons!”

The war began. Byzantium put forward its best generals: Master Barda Sklir and the winner of the Arabs, Patrician Peter. The Romans occupied the passages through the Balkan Mountains. However, the Bulgarian guides took the Rus along the mountain paths, which even the locals did not know about. Byzantine outposts and garrisons on the passes were bypassed, they surrendered or perished. The troops of Svyatoslav fell on the enemy like snow on his head and broke into Thrace. Here, in the lands of Byzantium, Svyatoslav did not restrain his soldiers and allies. Thrace was on fire. The heavy cavalry of Varda Sklira could not hold back the enemy. Usually the barbarians could not withstand the blow of the cataphracts and fled. But the prince of the Rus was a skillful commander. In front of and on the sides of the marching columns, in which the main forces of infantry and cavalry marched, Svyatoslav sent out light Pechenezh and Hungarian horsemen. Finding the enemy, they sent messengers to the governors, while they themselves circled around the armored Byzantine cavalry. They could not be caught up and destroyed. They fired at the enemy and waited for the approach of the prince’s mounted squads or his infantry. The united forces of the prince easily crushed the enemy. The “wall” of shields stopped the Greeks, the cavalry crushed the enemy with flank blows.

“We have nowhere to go, whether we want it or not, we must fight.”

Having lost several vanguard troops, Varda Sklir withdrew the rest of his forces to the main army. The beginning of the war was completely lost. The Rus easily invaded Thrace, smashed the enemy, plundered and burned villages. The Byzantine commander was forced to give a general battle to stop the invasion. This suited the prince of the Rus. He understood that the main thing in a war is not the capture of vast territories and the siege of fortresses, but the destruction of the enemy army. As long as the enemy army is intact, the war is not won, but if the army is defeated, then the fortresses are doomed. The battle took place at the walls of Adrianople, according to another version – at the fortress of Arcadiopol. There is also a version that there were two battles. At Adrianople, Svyatoslav defeated the enemy in a general battle and almost simultaneously one of his troops was defeated at Arcadiopol. The Russian chronicle defines the size of the army of Svyatoslav at 10 thousand soldiers, and the Greek – at 100 thousand people. Leo the Deacon reports that there were 30 thousand “barbarians” and 10 thousand Greeks.

Svyatoslav set up his troops traditionally – three regiments. On the flanks there are cavalry, in the center – Russian and Bulgarian infantry. Varda Sklir also divided the army into three parts: the flanking units were placed in forest ambushes. The vanguard of the Romans, led by Ioann Alakos, started a battle with the advanced forces of Svyatoslav – the light cavalry of the Pechenegs. He lured the Pechenegs into attack from an ambush. The Greeks easily overturned the enemy. The Pechenegs were followed by the cavalry of the Rus and Hungarians. The deadly felling began. The Greeks and Russians threw new forces into battle. The Russian infantry arrived in time. The Greeks also brought in infantry regiments into the battle. Another ambush regiment of the Greek commander entered the battle. The Russian squads began to slowly withdraw. Victory seemed to be near.

Obviously, this moment was described by the Russian chronicle: “We have nowhere to go, whether we want it or not, we must fight. So let us not put the Russian land to shame, but let us lie down here with the bones, for the dead have no shame. If we run, we will be disgraced. So let us not run, but let us stand firmly, and I will go ahead of you: if my head falls down, then take care of your own. ” And the retinue answered the prince: “Where your head lies, there we will lay down our heads.” And the Rus fought, and there was a great slaughter, and Svyatoslav defeated.

The fighting impulse of the Greeks was running out. Their cavalry could not break the Russian “wall” of many spears, spears and axes. Cataphracts died in fruitless attacks. The Rus stood, covered with large red shields, there were no weak spots in their ranks. In every attack, the Greeks lost men and horses. Behind the “wall” Russian squads, Hungarians and Pechenegs were putting in order. The battle was lost. The Greeks had to hastily retreat until the army was completely destroyed.

Greek chroniclers lie that Svyatoslav was defeated. That the Romans surrounded and destroyed the Rus, having lost only 55 (!) People, killed thousands of “Scythians”. According to the Russian chronicle, Svyatoslav won a victory and continued his attack on Constantinople-Constantinople, “fighting and breaking cities.” There was panic in Constantinople. The poet Ioann Kyriot wrote: “Rus is striving with full armor against us. The peoples of Scythia rose to war … “Having devastated Thrace, the” barbarians “invaded Macedonia, defeated Master John Curkus, the leader of the Macedonian Thema troops. The Greeks had to ask for peace from Svyatoslav, to offer a tribute. Tzimisce had no choice. His best general, Varda Sklir, was defeated. The road to the capital is open. Other Greek regiments were associated with the war with the Arabs. The rebellion of the commander Barda Phocas, the nephew of the slain emperor, began. The troops hastily gathered in the Byzantine capital had to be sent to suppress the dangerous uprising.

Svyatoslav also could not go to Constantinople. The squads were drained of blood after the bloody battles, it was necessary to get reinforcements from the Russian land. The Russian prince demanded not only tribute, but also reimbursement of all military expenses, gold for all soldiers, including the dead: “He will take his kind for the slain!” The prince did not negotiate the fate of the Bulgarian people, he answered briefly and firmly: “You do not care about Bulgaria!” In the fall of 970, the Rus, Bulgarians, Hungarians and Pechenegs (“Great Scythia”) left the empire. As a result, Russia and Byzantium concluded an armistice, but both sides were preparing for a new battle.

Steppe campaigns of Svyatoslav. N. Karazin

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