The Period of Turmoil in the Late Thirteenth Century in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: The Case of Daumantas in 1285

  • Ričardas Dediala
Keywords: Daumantas, politics, Gediminids, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, thirteenth century


As the position is usually formed in historiography, in the first half of 1282, probably after the violent death of Traidenis (1268–1282), Grand Duke of Lithuania, the throne was taken over or seized by another influential group. The sources do not reveal any other name of the grand duke who ruled Lithuania from this moment until August 1285. In 1285, the mysterious death of the no-less-mysterious grand duke of Lithuania Daumantas was recorded in the Russian chronicles in the Oleshnya district belonging to the land of Tver. The historical sources about this event are scarce, and the historical circumstances are vague. Daumantas’s attack on Oleshnya is recorded in nine chronicles, each of which contains a laconic message about his death. Taking into account the directions of Lithuanian politics, the analysis of the campaigns following the death of Grand Duke Traidenis in the first half of 1282 until the middle of 1284 leads to the following conclusions:
(1) from the first half of 1282 until mid-1284, we do not see any new established dynasty (a consolidated political force) and its representative on the throne of Lithuania; (2) further continuity of Traidenis’s policy in relations with Galicia-Volhynia is observed, only at this time the degree of involvement in Galician-Volhynian politics was even higher, indicating also a considerable political dependence; (3) Daumantas’s emergence must be linked to the events of 1284: the withdrawals of Skomantas, Tautenis, and Mantsiekis and the direction of Daumantas’s campaign to the land of Tver in 1285; (4) the attack on the Oleshnya volost of the land of Tver in August 1285 is related to the pro-Mindaugas activity of Simeon of Polotsk, the bishop of Tver, and the potential establishment of Andrew, the son of Girdenis, who was Vaišelga’s protégé in Polotsk, in his place. The attack on the Simeon’s volost placed Daumantas in the camp of the enemies of Girdenis and Mindaugas’s clan. As Simeon acted against the establishment of the political faction hostile to the politics of Mindaugas’s clan in Polotsk and undermined the relations of the Lithuanians with Tver, the campaign was directed specifically against this bishop; (5) Daumantas’s preliminary reign on the throne of Lithuania lasted from mid-1284 to August 1285. The events of 1286 demonstrate that at this time a pro-Mindaugas party’s dynasty returned to the throne of Lithuania; (6) the emergence of Butigeidis and Butvydas was recorded only in 1288–1289, but we do not see any specific data on the focussed politics of the first Gediminids until then.cs of the first Gediminids until then.