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He was the 11th son of Vladimir I Svyatoslavich. His mother was probably Rogneda, daughter of Rogvolod, prince of Polotsk. He married Anastasia and their son, Eustace, died young in 1033. They are shown on this family chart.
He was ruler of Tmutorokan by 988 and then of Chernigiv (1024-1036). He expanded the Rus control of the Taman region from the base trading post at Tmutorokan. When Vladimir died his eldest son Yaroslav received Kiev and Mstislav, the younger son, became prince of Tmutarakan, an udel (appanage) on the southern shores of the Azov sea (Taman Penn.) to which his father had sent him as governor. He was a stalwart warrior who was victorious over Rededyia, ruler of the Kosogi, who was killed by Mstislav in single combat (yedino borstvo). The Khazars and Kosogs were thus defeated.Then in 1024 he decided to contest Yaroslav's rule and marched north with a Pecheneg (and Kosogi - Khazar?) army to capture Chernigiv. He defeated Yaroslav, and the Novgorod Varangians at the battle of Listven, not far from Chernigiv, but then they reached an agreement in which Rus territory was split with Yaroslav having the right bank Dniper lands clear to Galicia and Novgorod and Mstislav having the left bank lands clear to Murom. Even then Yaroslav thought it wise to remain in Novgorod rather than return to Kyiv. The land north of Kiev on the left side of the river Dnieper was populated by a Slavic tribe called Severiane. They were defeated by Oleg in 884 and brought under his control. Chernigiv was the center of the future principality. Mstislav was the first to erect buildings in Chernigiv. In the center of the detinets (fortress) on a bluff overlooking the Desna, the Redeemer church was built sometime around 1036.

The Chronicle says that Mstislav was buried in the Cathedral of the Transfiguration (Spaso-Proebrazhensky Sobor) in Chernigiv, for which he had laid the foundations a few years earlier, but was still under construction. The Cathedral became one of the holiest places for Severiane. Mstislav and his family were buried in its vaults. George Heard Hamilton in his book "The Art and Architecture of Russia," says it was founded about 1017. This means that Chernigiv received its first stone cathedral before Kiev erected the Saint Sophia. The cathedral had three aisles with three semicircular apses on the eastern side, and a large central and four small cupolas. It differed from the usual type of a Byzantine church because of its two towers, on each of its western corners. The left tower contained the staircase to the galleries, while the right one was a small single cupola church that primarily served as baptistery. The interior was also unusual. Four solid piers carried two storied vaults, each containing three arches that limited the transept to the size of the central square. Another peculiarity was the use of marble for interior decoration. Tartars burned the cathedral in 1239. Later it was restored, but again severely damaged by fire in the middle of the eighteenth century. Its present outlook dates from the end of the eighteenth century. Only few fragments of the original frescoes survive today. Besides Mstislav and his family, in its vaults were buried Svyatoslav Yaroslavich and the hero of the famous "Poem of the Host of Igor," Svyatoslav Vsyevolodovich. As we know, the poem narrates the unsuccessful campaign of Prince Igor Svyatoslavich against the Cumans (Polovtsi) in 1115. After the death of Mstislav in 1035 or 1036 the two parts of the country were again reunited, and it was Yaroslav's son Svyatoslav who established Chernigiv's dynasty in 1054. The importance of Chernigiv principality considerably increased after the fall of Kiev.


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