«Rus'» in the war against the German Order (late 13th — early 15th century)

Henadź Sahanovič

The war of medieval Lithuania with the German Order belongs to one of the most gripping and still not well studied subjects in the history of the Eastern Europe. As it is known military potential of the Order state was very high. Since the beginning of the 14th century the «guests» helped the Order actively in its fight against pagan Lithuania as an enemy of Christianity. Reisen to Prussia and then to Lithuania have become extremely popular among the European knights. In fact, the fight against Lithuania was really international: not only the Order but many countries of the Western and Central Europe — the knights from Germany, France and England first of all — waged war against it. What is the secret of such a success of small Lithuania? Where did this country take its military and economical resources?

Scholars, as a rule, view this war as a war of the only Lithuanian people (i.e. of Lithuania as ethnic community) but not of Lithuania as a state (i.e. the Grand Duchy of Lithuania which united Lithuanians, Ruthenians — ancestors of modern Belarusians and Ukrainians — and Samogitians). This is typical even for the western writers who are not nationally engaged.

My preliminary observations of German Order's chronicles show that well known record of Peter of Dusburg «Incipit bellum Lethowinorum» to some extent deals with Belarusian history too. Indeed, in the war with the Teutonic Order Ruthenians «shoulder to shoulder» with Lithuanians fought for more than a hundred years. Not only demographic and economic but also direct military help of Rus' had a great importance for successes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in its fight against the Order. It is not by chance that in a general battle near Grunvald-Tannenberg in the army of Grand Prince Vitaut there would be so many standards formed in the lands of Rus'.

But now, Rus' has practically disappeared from history of that a hundred years' war due to the efforts of nationalist historians. In order to be objective we must return to Rus' its rightful place in our research of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania on the hole.