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The History of Great Moravia

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The name Moravia was first mentioned in Western sources in 822, when the Moravian ambassadors, among other Slavic ambassadors, arrived at the court of the emperor of the Frankish state, Louis I the Pious.

The first historically authentic ruler of the Moravian principality is Mojmir I, the founder of the Moimirovic dynasty, who united the Slavic tribes north of the Danube. In 833, he annexed the Nitran principality to his state, and in 846 he extended his authority to the territory of the Czech Republic.

With the aim of baptizing Moravia, the King of Bavaria, Louis II of Germany, in 829 transferred the lands of Moravia under the jurisdiction of the Bishopric of Passau. Mojmir I supported Christian missionaries, and in 831, Bishop Reginar of Passau baptized him and all the Moravians.

In 846, Louis II of Germany accused Mojmir of intending to step aside, so he invaded Moravia, overthrew him and installed his nephew Rostislav as new prince.

Emerging as a Power

Louis II of Germany considered Rostislav his vassal and hoped that he would represent the interests of the East-Frankish kingdom in Central Europe. While Louis was busy fighting against his relatives, Rostislav built a large number of fortresses, thus strengthening and expanding his state. He entered into alliances with the Bulgarian kingdom and Byzantium, and broke off relations with the East-Frankish Kingdom and even began to provide shelter to the opponents of Louis (up to his sons Carloman and Louis). In 855, Louis invaded the borders of Great Moravia and went to the fortress of Rostislav (most likely in today’s suburb of Bratislava Devin). They successfully repel the onslaught of Louis’s ratification, and also in pursuit of the enemy, ravaged the border lands of Bavaria.

In 858 Rostislav made an alliance with the son of Louis II the German Carloman. In 861, he supported the army of Carloman, who fought with his father.

Louis II of Germany continued to threaten Great Moravia by concluding an alliance with the Bulgarians. Striving for the greatest possible independence from the East Frankish king, Rostislav expelled the Bavarian priests from Great Moravia and sent ambassadors to Rome asking Pope Nicholas I to send teachers to train their own priests. Having been refused by the pope, Rostislav sent ambassadors to Byzantium to Emperor Michael III in 862, asking for teachers, priests or a bishop who would lay in his state the basis of their own church administration. Michael III satisfied this request of Rostislav and sent Cyril and Methodius to Moravans. In 864, Louis again invaded Great Moravia and forced Rostislav to submit to the East-Frankish kingdom and allow the return of the East-Frankish priests. However, a year later, Rostislav rebelled against Louis again and the mission of Cyril and Methodius continued. Having stayed in Moravia until 866, they organized a Slavic church independent of the German episcopate, which contributed to strengthening the political independence of the state. After that they were called to Rome. There, many considered worship in the national languages ​​of the “barbarian” nations of Europe as blasphemy, but the Pope approved the mission of Cyril and Methodius.

Great Moravia in the time of Rostislav and Svatopluk I.

In 870, Rostislav handed over the principality of Nitran to his nephew Svatopluk I. In fact, this meant the division of Great Moravia into two parts. Both Rostislav and Svatopluk were forced to defend themselves against the ongoing invasions of the East-Frankish king. Svatopluk preferred to conclude an alliance with Louis II of Germany, recognizing his supremacy over the principality of Nitran. Rostislav tried to kill his nephew, but he managed to capture Rostislav and handed him over to the eastern francs. Rostislav was convicted, sentenced to blindness, and soon died in the monastery, after that a struggle for power began in Great Moravia.

In place of Rostislav in the western part of Great Moravia, Louis II of Germany sent his candidates, Margraves of Wilhelm II and Engelshalk I. Svatopluk I, who ruled in the eastern part, claimed power in the whole state and refused to accept the East-Frankish suzerainty. For this, the Germans imprisoned him, and Slawomir was elected the new prince. Under his leadership a popular uprising against the power of the Germans arose. The army sent by Louis to suppress the uprising was defeated. Louis organized the second campaign against the rebels. At the same time, he freed Svatopluk I, rightly expecting that he was interested in regaining power in Great Moravia. Svatopluk I promised Louis to put down the uprising and even took it upon himself to lead the German army. However, Slawomir recognized Svatopluk I as a legitimate prince, and as soon as the Germans reached Great Moravia, Svatopluk I went over to the side of the rebels. The German army was crushed again. As a result, Svatopluk I was able to become the prince of the whole Great Moravia.

In subsequent years, Svatopluk I successfully fought off German attacks. In 874, the Forchheim Peace was concluded between the ambassadors of Svatopluk I and Louis II of Germany. Svatopluk formally acknowledged the supremacy of Louis and undertook to pay tribute to the East-Frankish kingdom.

Freedom with the Germans allowed Svatopluk to engage in the expansion of their possessions. In 874, he conquered the Blaten principality, lands in the upper reaches of the Vistula and the north of modern Moravia in the vicinity of the city of Opava. In 880, Silesia was added to the possessions of Great Moravia and the east of today’s Hungary in the middle reaches of the Tisza, which had belonged to the Bulgarians before. From 890, Bohemia and Lusatia also became part of the state of Svatopluk I. In 882, Svyatopolk I, as an ally of the Eastern Frankish King Charles III, invaded the lands of his longtime enemies, Margraves of Wilhelm II and Engelschalk I, and drove them away. Those in turn made an alliance with Arnulf of Carinthia in Pannonia, who turned the Bulgarians against Svyatopolk I. But he defeated the Bulgarians and incorporated Pannonia, part of the territory of Arnulf, into his state. Under Svatopluk, part of the Croatian principalities up to the Stry River entered the orbit of Great Moravia.

Svatopluk I died in 894. Having bequeathed his sons to strengthen the state and to resist the eastern francs, he divided the state between his sons. Prince of Great Moravia became his first son Mojmir II. The second son, Svatopluk II, received the Nitran principality.


Rhona-Tas, András (1999) Hungarians
Kirschbaum, Stanislav J. (1996) A History of Slovakia
The history of the culture of the Slavic peoples
Vepřek, Miroslav. Great Moravia and Old Church Slavonic of Great Moravia

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