Grand Prince Yuri (Georgy) Vsevolodovich (1188 – 1238) was the fourth son of Grand Prince of Vladimir Vsevolod (Dimitri) Yuryevich the Big Nest and Grand Princess of Vladimir Maria Shvarnovna. He died on March 4, 1238 (O.S.) in the battle of the Sit river against the Mongol hordes led by Burundai.
Shortly before his death Grand Prince Vsevolod the Big Nest appointed Yuri Vsevolodovich his successor because his elder son Constantine, the Prince of Rostov, had not obeyed the will of his father who wanted to give the city of Vladimir to Constantine and Rostov to Yuri. Boyars and the clergy led by Bishop John including all people gathered by Grand Prince Vsevolod kissed the cross to Yuri Vsevolodovich. Constantine was enraged when he learned about it. These events led to feudal wars after Vsevolod’s death in 1212. In a fierce battle near the river Lipitsa, north of Yuryev-Polsky in 1216, Yuri Vsevolodovich was defeated by the army of Constantine Vsevolovodovich. Constantine Vsevolodovich became a Grand Prince and Yuri was granted Gorotest Radilov on the Volga in appanage. Later Constantine recognized Yuri as his heir and granted him Suzdal in appanage. After his brother’s death in 1218 Yuri Vsevolodovich once again became the Grand Prince of Vladimir.
Prince Yuri Vsevolodovich took part in many military campaigns in an effort to strengthen his power. During his reign Prince Yuri waged several wars against the Mordva and the Volga Bulgars and founded the fortress of Nizhny Novgorod in the mouth of the river Oka. Yuri Vsevolovich was actively involved in the building of churches and took part in the translation of relics of the Martyr Abraam of Bulgaria to Vladimir. During his conflict with Constantine, the bishop see of Northeastern Rus divided into Rostov and Suzdal sees.
In 1237, Prince Yuri Vsevolovich put up a fierce resistance to the Batu-led army that invaded Northwestern Rus. He had hoped to stop the Mongol hordes near Kolomna but his troops under the command of Vsevolod Georgievich were defeated. While Yuri Vsevolovich was gathering a new army in the North, Batu seized Vladimir. The Prince’s family was killed during the assault of the city – his wife Agatha, sons Vsevolod and Mstislav with their wives and children and daughter Feodora. After that Batu and his army headed for the city of Torzhok while his thirty-five thousand-strong detachment under the command of Burundai secretly intruded into the prince’s army positions. On March 4, 1238 (O.S.) Prince Yuri Vsevolovich was killed in the battle of the river Sit.
The bishop Kirill of Rostov who was hiding out in Beloozero found the beheaded body of the prince and took it to Rostov. The prince was buried in the Assumption Cathedral together with his nephew Vasilyok Konstantinovich who had been tortured by the Mongols. The Prince’s head was found and put into the tomb along with his body. In 1239, Yuri’s brother Yaroslav Vsevolodovich, the Grand Prince, transferred his body to Vladimir and buried at the Assumption Cathedral.
Yuri Vsevolodovich and all of his family who died during the Batu-led invasion have been venerated as Christian martyrs since the 13th century.
In iconography Yuri Vsevolodovich was commonly depicted as a middle-aged man with light-colored hair and a short beard, dressed in a chiton, armor suite and lavishly decorated princely fur-coat, with a cross and a sword in hands. This iconography is derived from the tomb icon of the Prince from the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir that had been erected on the occasion of the discovery and translation of the saint’s relics on January 22, 1645 (O.S.), now located at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. The images of Prince Yuri Vsevolovich are encountered both individually and collectively, among saint princes and wonderworkers of Vladimir, such as on the 1814 icon of The Princes of Vladimir by Ivan Roslyakov from the State Russian Museum collections.
The holy martyr Grand Prince Yuri (Georgy) Vsevolodovich is commemorated on February 17 (February 4, O.S.), March 17 (March 4, O.S.) and July 6 (June 23, O.S.).
Zhanna G. Belik,
Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.
Olga E. Savchenko,
research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.
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