11th and 12th Centuries
Old Ryazan and Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky
There is some confusion regarding the date Ryazan was founded as two dates are given in sources: 1095 and 1208, yet the first mention only came in 1301. The official date of foundation is considered to be 1095. The city was originally called Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky as a Ryazan already existed, this older Ryazan is now known as Staraya Ryazan (Old Ryazan) which is located 60km from modern-day Ryazan.
Princes of Ryazan
The original Ryazan (now Staraya Ryazan) was first mentioned in 1096 and was originally part of the Murom Principality. In 1129 Ryazan became the centre of the Ryazan Principality and was closely linked with Murom and Pronsk. When the prince of Murom would die the prince of Ryazan would take his place and in turn the prince of Pronsk would become prince of Ryazan. However in 1145 Prince Rostislav Yaroslavich violated the succession order as when he became prince of Murom, he left Ryazan to his son Gleb not his more senior nephew. In 1146/47 the sons of Prince Yuri Dolgoruky forced Rostislav and Gleb from Murom and Ryazan and returned Ryazan to the rightful heir. However Gleb were able to return to Ryazan in 1148 and Rostislav to Murom in 1151. When Rostislav died in 1153, Gleb's position was weakened and Rostislav's nephew Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavich of Pronsk seized both Murom and Ryazan and called himself the Grand Prince of Ryazan.
Grand Prince Gleb Rostislavich of Ryazan
Grand Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavich of Ryazan died in 1162 and his cousin Prince Gleb Rostislavich became prince of Ryazan for a third time. During the struggle between the Rostislavichy and the Yurievichy for the Vladimir throne, Gleb sided with his brother-in-laws the Rostislavichy who were eventually defeated. He helped the Rostislavichy once more in 1176 when Grand Prince Mikhail died by participating in a campaign against Vsevolod Yurievich the Big Nest, the new grand prince of Vladimir. The campaign ended at the Battle of the River Koloksha in 1177 where Gleb was captured along with his son. He died in captivity in Vladimir in 1178.
Sack of Old Ryazan
Grand Prince Gleb's son Roman Glebovich was released in 1180 after swearing an oath to Grand Prince Vsevsolod the Big Nest of Vladimir, who allowed him to return to Ryazan as its grand prince. Upon his return to Ryazan Grand Prince Roman immediately started to argue with his four brothers. Vsevolod the Big Nest marched on Ryazan with an army and forced Roman to sign a peace treaty where Roman remained Grand Prince but Ryazan and Pronsk were shared with his brothers. In 1207 Roman's nephews Gleb and Oleg Vladimirovichy informed Vsevolod the Big Nest that Roman was seeking to enter into an alliance with the prince of Chernigov against Vsevolod. This resulted in the first devastating blow on old Ryazan when Vsevolod the Big Nest sacked the city. Vsevolod imprisoned the royal family and placed his own governor in the city. It is supposed by some historians that after these events present day Ryazan was founded as Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky by citizens fleeing from old Ryazan.
Massacre of Ryazan Princes
Only in 1212 was the rightful heir to Ryazan, Gleb Vladimirovich released from imprisonment and allowed to return to Ryazan, but now only as prince and not grand prince. In 1217, acting with his brother Konstantin, Gleb invited his other brothers and several cousins to a congress where he murdered them all. Shortly afterwards two other cousins, Ingvar and Yuri Igorevichy who luckily did not make it to the congress, got revenge on Gleb by forcing him to flee Ryazan. Ingvar Igorevich became prince of Ryazan and with the help of Grand Prince Yuri Vsevolodovich of Vladimir was able to defeat Gleb and his Cuman allies in battle, Gleb died shortly afterwards.
The fatal blow to old Ryazan came in December 1237 when it became the first city to fall during the Mongol-Tatar Invasion of Rus. Upon hearing the news of the invasion, Prince Yuri Igorevich of Ryazan sent a messenger to Grand Prince Yuri Vsevolodovich of Vladimir and Prince Mikhail of Chernigov to warn them of the danger and to request their help. However no assistance arrived in time. The city held out for almost a week but fell to the Mongol-Tatars on 21 December 1237. Practically all inhabitants were killed, including Prince Yuri Igorevich, and the city was completely wiped off the face of the earth, never to be rebuilt. Yuri's young nephew Oleg the Red did managed to survive by being taken prisoner and in 1252 he was realised by the Mongol-Tatars and allowed to return as Grand Prince of Ryazan, which now had its centre at Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky - modern day Ryazan.
Grand Prince Roman Olgovich of Ryazan and his Sons
Grand Prince Oleg the Red died in 1258 and was succeeded by his son Roman Olgovich. Grand Prince Roman of Ryazan was called to the Golden Horde in 1270 where he was forced to renounce Orthodoxy or face a painful death. Roman refused to give up his faith and was beaten and thrown in prison. Later he was barbarically executed by firstly having his tongue cut off and then his eyes gouged out. After this his fingers and toes were cut off one by one followed by his ears, lips, hands and legs, all whist still alive. Finally his skin was torn off and his head was cut off and placed on a spike. Roman was later canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church as a martyr. Roman had three sons who all reigned after him: Fyodor Romanovich from 1270 to 1294, Yaroslavl Romanovich from 1294 to 1299 and Konstantin Romanovich from 1299 to 1301. In 1301 Prince Daniil Aleksandrovich of Moscow seized Kolomna from the Ryazan Principality and captured Konstantin Romanovich. Konstantin was imprisoned in Moscow until he was eventually murdered there in 1306.
Conflict with Princes of Pronsk
The murdered Konstantin Romanovich was succeeded by his son Vasili (although some historians believe it was a son called Yaroslav). Vasili reigned until 1308 when he was killed in the Golden Horde during a visit. It is possible this was a result of the intrigues of his cousins, the princes of Pronsk, who at this period of time were in conflict with the grand prince of Ryazan. In any case the former prince of Pronsk, Ivan Yaroslavich, succeeded his cousin as grand prince of Ryazan. In 1320 Grand Prince Yuri Danilovich of Moscow and Vladimir launched a successful campaign against Ryazan to secure the previously captured Kolomna. Ivan Yaroslavich later shared the same fate as his predecessor by being killed in the Golden Horde in 1327.
Grand Prince Ivan Ivanovich Korotopol of Ryazan
Ivan Ivanovich Korotopol succeeded his father as grand prince of Ryazan in 1327. In 1333 he assisted Grand Prince Ivan Kalita of Moscow and Vladimir in his campaign against Novgorod. In 1339 Ivan Korotopol went to the Golden Horde and on his way back in 1340 he met his cousin Prince Aleksandr Mikhailovich of Pronsk who was on his way to the Golden Horde to pay his tribute. Ivan Korotopol attacked him, stole the tribute and then imprisoned him in Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky where he later had him murdered. Afterwards Ivan Korotopol participated in a Tatar punitive campaign against Smolensk. In 1342 the son of the murdered prince of Pronsk, Prince Yaroslavl Aleksandrovich of Pronsk, returned from the Golden Horde with a Tatar army and laid siege to Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky, eventually forcing Ivan Korotopol to flee and seizing the Ryazan throne for himself. Ivan Korotopol died shortly afterwards in 1343.
Grand Prince Yaroslav Aleksandrovich ruled the Ryazan Principality for two years until his death in 1344. He was succeeded by Ivan Aleksandrovich and then by Vasili Aleksandrovich who reigned until 1349. The exact dates of these reigns are not known and there is also some confusion as to whether they are Yaroslav Aleksandrovich's brothers or another relation, or whether they are in fact the same person.
Grand Prince Oleg Ivanovich of Ryazan
Oleg Ivanovich became grand prince of Ryazan in 1350 and again there is uncertainty whether he is the son of Ivan Korotopol or the son of Ivan Aleksandrovich. In any case Oleg Ivanovich became a major player in Russian politics. In 1365 Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky was sacked by the Golden Horde bek (commander) Tagai. However Oleg Ivanovich of Ryazan and his allies Vladimir Dmitrievich of Pronsk and Tit Mstislavich of Kozelsk managed to intercept Tagai and defeat him at the Battle of the River Voida. In 1371 war broke out between Moscow and Ryazan and Oleg Ivanovich was defeated by the forces of Grand Prince Dmitri Ivanovich (later known as Dmitri Donskoy) of Moscow and Vladimir at the Battle of Skornischevo on the outskirts of Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky. Oleg Ivanovich was forced to flee and Dmitri Ivanovich installed Vladimir Dmitrievich of Pronsk in Ryazan. However even by 1372 Oleg Ivanovich was able to recover Ryazan with the help of the Golden Horde military commander Mamai.
In 1375 Oleg was named as a mediator between the rival principalities of Moscow and Tver. In 1377 Ryazan lands were sacked by Khan Arapsha of the Golden Horde. During the Battle of Kulikovo Field in 1380 Oleg Ivanovich sided with Mamai against the victorious Dmitri Ivanovo who earned his epitome Donskoy at the battle. When Khan Tokhtamysh of the Golden Horde launched a punitive raid against Dmitri Donskoy in 1382, Oleg Ivanovich met him once he reached Ryazan lands and gave him passage across the River Oka, however this did not stop Tokhtamysh from sacking Ryazan lands on his way back.
In 1385 Oleg Ivanovich saw his chance to reclaim Kolomna from Moscow which had been weakened by Tokhtamysh and conquered the city. However thanks to the intervention of the monk Sergius (later canonised as St Sergius of Radonezh), 'eternal peace' was made between Oleg Ivanovich and Dmitri Donskoy. As part of the treaty Oleg’s son Fyodor married Dmitri’s daughter Sofia, and Kolomna was returned to Moscow. In the final year of his life Oleg Ivanovich became a monk at the Solotchinsky Rozhdestvo-Bogoroditsky Convent which he founded in 1390. Oleg Ivanovich died there in 1402.
Influence of Moscow
Oleg was succeeded by his son Fyodor who immediately travelled to the Golden Horde with presents to ensure his status as grand prince of Ryazan. Next Fyodor acted to pacify Moscow. He signed a new peace treaty with Grand Prince Vasili I of Moscow under which he recognised Vasili's supremacy and gave up some rights in respect of foreign representation. However one more enemy remained - Prince Ivan Vladimirovich of Pronsk. In 1408 the prince of Pronsk led a Tatar army against Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky and captured the city. Vasili I of Moscow sent troops against Ivan in support of Fyodor, but these were defeated. Nevertheless Ivan must have realised he would be defeated in the long run and gave the throne back to Fyodor who reigned there until his death in 1427.
Ivan Fyodorovich succeeded his father and also concluded a peace treaty with the grand princes of Moscow who at the time were undergoing a civil war. During his reign his lands were often raided by Tatars. In 1456 Fyodor became a monk and died shortly afterwards. Fyodor had entrusted his young son Vasili Ivanovich with Grand Prince Vasili II of Moscow, and Vasili Ivanovich was raised in Moscow whilst a viceroy was installed in Ryazan. By 1464 Vasili Ivanovich was old enough to rule Ryazan by himself and he left Moscow for Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky. At the same time he married Anna Vasilievna the daughter of Vasili II of Moscow and the sister of the then ruling Ivan III. Perhaps influenced by his wife and his upbringing in Moscow, he remained close to Moscow throughout his whole reign, which enabled him to incorporate the Pronsk Principality.
Vasili Ivanovich died in 1483, before his death he decided that his territory should be split between his two sons. The eldest - Ivan - became grand prince of Ryazan and received two-thirds of the territory and the youngest - Fyodor - became prince of Staraya Ryazan and received one-third. The brothers remained close to Moscow and allowed their troops to assist Moscow in its wars. Ivan died in 1500 and left his lands to his young son Ivan Ivanovich. Fyodor died in 1503 without issue and left his lands to Grand Prince Ivan III of Moscow.
Incorporation into Moscow
When his father died, Ivan Ivanovich was just a child and the Ryazan Grand Principality was ruled on his behalf firstly by his grandmother Anna Vasilievna (a princess of Moscow by birth) until her death in 1501 and then by his mother. Both these women were pro-Moscow, however Ivan grew up to be pro-Lithuania, which at the time was an enemy of Moscow. In 1520 Ivan was invited by Grand Prince Vasili III of Rus to Moscow where he was immediately arrested. However during the chaos of the sack of Moscow by Khan Mehmed I Geray of Crimea in 1521, Ivan was able to escape to Lithuania. Vasili III used the news of the escape to incorporate the Ryazan Grand Principality into his territory. Ivan died in Lithuania around 1534 never managing to regain his throne.
Time of Troubles
After the death of Tsar Boris Godunov, Prokopi Lyapunov, an influential nobleman from Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky sided with the First False Dmitri, which put at the pretender's disposal troops from the whole Ryazan area. This helped False Dmitri secure his position. After False Dmitri's death in 1606, Lyapunov supported the Bolotnikov Uprising rather than Vasili Shuisky and captured Kolomna (with the exception of its kremlin) and marched on Moscow with Ivan Bolotnikov. However here Lyapunov betrayed Bolotnikov and switched his allegiance to Shuisky taking his Ryazan troops with him. In 1610 Lyapunov organised the First Volunteer Army aimed at liberating Moscow from the Polish Interventionists. The army began besieging Moscow and elected Lyapunov ruler of Russia. However arguments within the army between Lyapunov's noble faction and Ivan Zaritsky's Cossack faction led to the Cossacks executing Lyapunov in 1611 and the First Volunteer Army failing in its mission.
In 1719 Peter the Great created the Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky Province within the Moscow Governorate, previously it was just a district centre. In 1778 under Catherine the Great the city was renamed Ryazan and elevated to the centre of the Ryazan Viceroyalty. Around this time the city was granted its own coat of arms depicting a prince (which some believe to be Grand Prince Oleg Ivanovich of Ryazan) on a golden background. In 1796 Emperor Paul I made the city the centre of the Ryazan Governorate.
During Russia's war with Napoleon in 1812 many refugees came to Ryazan and the surrounding area escaping from the land occupied by the French. Many citizens of Ryazan also participated in the war. In 1837 a large fire destroyed many of the city's buildings which were later rebuilt in stone. At the end of the century after the construction of a railway line and station in Ryazan, the city became a transport hub and a centre for trade.
Second World War
During the Second World War Ryazan found itself on the frontline and was often bombed in Luftwaffe air raids. In preparation for potential occupation, Ryazan's major factories were evacuated to the Urals or beyond to Siberia and trenches, barricades and defences were set up. However by January 1942 the risk of Ryazan falling had subsided and Ryazan became an important home front. After the war the city was redeveloped and many new factories were established. In 1995 the city celebrated its 900th anniversary.