Tver Principality

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Tver’ Principality


a feudal state in northeastern Rus’ in the 13th to 15th centuries.

The Tver’ Principality was situated on the upper Volga River and its tributaries. Its center from 1246 to 1485 was Tver’. The principality also included the cities of Kashin, Ksniatin, Zubtsov, Staritsa, Kholm, Mikulin, and Dorogobuzh. In the late 1230’s and early 1240’s the grand prince of Vladimir, Iaroslav Vsevolo-dovich, formed the Tver’ Principality from the Pereiaslavl’ (Zalesskii) Principality and gave it to his son Alexander Nevsky. In 1247 the principality passed to Iaroslav’s other son, Iaroslav Ia-roslavich, and thereafter it remained in the hands of the latter’s descendants.

Since the Tver’ Principality was less exposed to Tatar attack than the other principalities of northeastern Rus’, it experienced an influx of population from other regions of Rus’. The principality grew rapidly in the second half of the 13th century, and the political influence of its princes increased. In the 1260’s, after becoming grand prince of Vladimir, Iaroslav Iaroslavich attempted to carry out a broad policy of unification. The policy was continued by Mikhail Iaroslavich (ruled 1285–1318), who ascended the throne in Vladimir in 1305.

The rise of the Tver’ Principality alarmed the khans of the Golden Horde. Khan Uzbek supported the Moscow princes, who were the Tver’ princes’ rivals. The Horde executed the Tver’ princes Mikhail Iaroslavich, his son Dmitrii, and in 1339, Aleks-andr Mikhailovich and his son Fedor. The attempts of the Tver princes to unify the Russian lands made the Tver’ Principality for a time the center of the liberation struggle against the Mongol-Tatar yoke. In 1327 an uprising broke out in Tver’ and other cities; it was harshly suppressed by the Horde. Tver’ was sacked, and its inhabitants were slaughtered or carried off into slavery.

The principality could not recover from this blow; its decline was also promoted by the process of feudal fragmentation. In the second half of the 14th century, the principalities of Kashin, Kholm, Mikulin, and Dorogobuzh were formed from parts of the Tver’ Principality, and in the 15th century the last three were further subdivided. The internal fragmentation of the Tver’ Principality prevented the Tver’ princes from uniting the Russian lands under their authority. They were forced to maneuver between the Golden Horde, Moscow, and Lithuania. In the 1370’s, with the aid of the Horde, Prince Mikhail Aleksandrovich tried to compete with Moscow but was not successful. Seeking to weaken the Tver’ Principality, the Moscow princes attempted to disrupt relations between the Tver’ and Kashin princes. Only in the first quarter of the 15th century was the Tver’ prince Ivan Mikhailovich able to break the resistance of Kashin.

The influence of the Tver’ Principality grew in the 1430’s to 1450’s, when a feudal war broke out among the Moscow princes. The grand prince of Moscow, the grand duke of Lithuania, the Byzantine emperor, and Tamerlane’s son Shakh Rukh all sought alliances with the Tver’ prince Boris Aleksandrovich. After the end of the feudal war between Vasilii II (Vasilii Vasil’evich Temnyi) and Dmitri Shemiaka, however, the Tver’ Principality rapidly lost its independence. Mikhail Borisovich was forced to conclude a number of unequal treaties with Ivan III. Mikhail’s attempt to shift his allegiance to Lithuania led Moscow to send its troops against Tver’. On Sept. 12, 1485, they captured the city, and the Tver’ Principality ceased to exist as an independent state.

The Tver’ Principality made a significant contribution to Russian culture. Fragments of the great Tver’ chronicles of the 15th century have been preserved. The tales about Mikhail Iaroslavich and Mikhail Aleksandrovich and the “Word of Praise” of the monk Foma were written in Tver’. Remarkable monuments of architecture and painting were created there (seeTVER’ SCHOOL), including the oldest illustrated Russian manuscript, the Chronicle of Georgios Amartolos. Afanasii Nikitin of Tver’, the first Russian to visit India, gave a colorful description of that country.


Cherepnin, L. V. Obrazovanie Russkogo tsentralizovannogo gosudarstva XIV—VX vv. Moscow, 1960.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.