11th century CE Kievan Rus Territories

11th century CE Kievan Rus Territories

Kievan Rus

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Kievan Rus, first East Slavic state. It reached its peak in the early to mid-11th century.

Both the origin of the Kievan state and that of the name Rus, which came to be applied to it, remain matters of debate among historians. According to the traditional account presented in The Russian Primary Chronicle, it was founded by the Viking Oleg, ruler of Novgorod from about 879. In 882 he seized Smolensk and Kiev, and the latter city, owing to its strategic location on the Dnieper River, became the capital of Kievan Rus. Extending his rule, Oleg united local Slavic and Finnish tribes, defeated the Khazars, and, in 911, arranged trade agreements with Constantinople.

Oleg’s successor, Igor, is regarded as the founder of the Rurik dynasty, but he was a less-capable ruler than Oleg, and the treaty that he concluded with Constantinople in 945 featured terms that were less favourable than those that had been obtained in 911. In his writings, Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus described trade practices in Kievan Rus at that time. During winter the Kievan princes made circuits among neighbouring tribes to collect tribute, which consisted of furs, money, and slaves. As spring came, they loaded their goods into small boats and moved them down the Dnieper in convoy to discourage attacks by nomadic steppe tribes. Their ultimate destination was Constantinople, where their rights of trading were strictly defined by treaty. Igor’s son Svyatoslav was the last of the Kievan princes to adhere to Scandinavian traditions, and with the ascent of Vladimir I (Volodymyr) in 980, the Rurik line was thoroughly Slavonized. It still preserved its connections with other parts of Europe, however, and it ruled a large territory that stretched from the northern lakes to the steppe and from the then uncertain Polish frontier to the Volga and the Caucasus.

Vladimir’s reign heralded the beginning of the golden age of Kievan Rus, but that era’s brilliance rested on an unsteady base, as the connection between the state and its subject peoples remained loose. The only link unifying the subdued tribes was the power of the grand duke of Kiev. The people paid tribute to the prince’s tax collectors, but they were otherwise left almost entirely to themselves and were thus able to preserve their traditional structures and habits. One development of enormous importance during Vladimir’s reign was his acceptance of the Orthodox Christian faith in 988. The conversion was born of a pact with Byzantine Emperor Basil II, who promised his sister’s hand in marriage in exchange for military aid and the adoption of Christianity by the Kievan state. After traditional religious practices were suppressed in Kiev and Novgorod, the Byzantine rite was propagated throughout Vladimir’s domain. Although the religion came from Constantinople, the service was in the vernacular, as the Bible had been translated into Old Church Slavonic by the missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius in the 9th century.

A period of fratricidal uncertainty followed Vladimir’s death in 1015, as Vladimir’s eldest surviving son, Svyatopolk the Accursed, killed three of his other brothers and seized power in Kiev. His remaining brother— Yaroslav, the vice-regent of Novgorod—with the active support of the Novgorodians and the help of Varangian (Viking) mercenaries, defeated Svyatopolk and became the grand prince of Kiev in 1019. Under Yaroslav, Kiev became eastern Europe’s chief political and cultural centre. Yaroslav embellished his capital with the cathedral of St. Sophia, a church in Byzantine style that still stands, and he encouraged the growth of the monastery at Pechersk under Anthony of Kiev. Yaroslav also collected books and had them translated. In an attempt to head off the sort of familial bloodshed that had prefaced his own rise to power, Yaroslav introduced an order of succession that privileged seniority but held that the territory of Kievan Rus as a whole belonged to the family. That edict had no lasting effect, and upon Yaroslav’s death in 1054, his sons divided the empire into warring factions. The title of grand prince of Kiev lost its importance, and the 13th-century Mongol conquest decisively ended Kiev’s power. Remnants of the Kievan state persisted in the western principalities of Galicia and Volhynia, but by the 14th century those territories had been absorbed by Poland and Lithuania, respectively.


The founders of the Kievan Rus were members of the Riurikid Dynasty, Viking (Norse) traders who explored the rivers of Eastern Europe beginning in the 8th century CE. According to the founding mythology, the Kievan Rus originated with the semi-legendary Rurik (830–879), who arrived with his two brothers Sineus and Turvor between 859–862. The three were Varangians, a name given to Vikings by the Greeks, and eventually (10th–14th c) their descendants would become the Varangian Guard, personal bodyguards of the Byzantine emperors.

Rurik's brothers died and in 862, he gained control of Ladoga and founded the Holmgard settlement near Novgorod. When Rurik died, his cousin Oleg (ruled 882–912) took control, and by 885 began the Rus expansion southward towards Constantinople, attacking the city and earning a trading treaty. The capital was established at Kiev, and the Rus economy grew based on the export and the control of three main trade routes across the region.

Population Edit

Kievan Rus was a loose federation of East Slavic and Finno-Ugric peoples in Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century. The population of Kievan Rus is estimated to have been between 4.5 million and 8 million, however in the absence of historical sources these estimates are based on the assumed population density. [1] The great majority of the population was rural and lived in small villages with no more than ten households, except for some exceptionally fertile areas such as Zalesye. [2] The urban populations were estimated by Tikhomirov based on the data from the chronicles: militia size, fortified area, number of churches, epidemic victims and burned houses. Kiev had tens of thousands of inhabitants, the population of Novgorod numbered 10-15 thousand in the beginning of 11th century and 20-30 thousand 200 years later. Smolensk, Polotsk (currently a city in Belarus), Vladimir and Chernigov (now Volodymyr-Volynskyi and Chernihiv in Ukraine) were comparable in size to Novgorod, while the great majority of the other cities had no more than 1000 citizens. Subsequent archeological research produced similar numbers for the biggest cities: up to 35 thousand in Novgorod and up to 50 thousand in Kiev. [3]

The Mongol invasion in the 13th century devastated most of Kievan Rus, with only the North-West (Novgorod, Pskov, Smolensk) escaping the widespread destruction. Out of 74 major cities, 49 were destroyed and many of them were abandoned or became villages. Two thirds of settlements in the Moscow region disappeared. [4] The recovery started in the beginning of the 14th century, with new lands entering cultivation, new settlements appearing and monumental construction growing quickly. [4] In Novgorod Land, which was less fertile than the North-East and could support lower population density, there are signs of over-population starting from the 1360s: epidemics, high food prices, famines, peasants falling into arrears and losing their lands to nobles and monasteries. The North-East was hit by Edigu's invasion and by pestilence in the beginning of 15th century which led the author of the chronicle to remark that few people remained in all the Russian land (и мало людий во всей Русской земле остася). This was followed by the Muscovite Civil War. [4]

Internal migrations Edit

The lands of Rostov-Suzdal Principality were settled by Slavs in this period, with the native Finno-Permic speakers being gradually assimilated. In the North the territories between Onega and Ladoga lakes and along Svir, Northern Dvina and Vyatka rivers attracted Novgorodian settlers. The Mongol invasion triggered an internal migration from less secure Southern lands to the forested regions of Moscow, Tver and Upper Volga. [5]

Social stratification Edit

The population of Kievan Rus consisted of nobility (boyars), free and partially free peasants (smerd, zakup, ryadovich) and kholops whose status was similar to that of slaves. [6]

Population Edit

The first reliable data on the number of households dates to the late 15th century, when Ivan III carried out several censuses of the newly incorporated Novgorod land. As these censuses counted adult heads of households the total population estimates of Novgorod land vary between 500 and 800 thousand. [7]

By the end of 15th century most of East Slav lands formerly belonging to Kievan Rus were divided between the Grand Duchy of Moscow and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The population of the former was estimated to be around 5.8 million in 1500, growing to 9-10 million by 1550. Vodarsky estimates the population in mid-16th century to be 6.5 million, growing to 7 million by the end of it. [8] The contemporary population of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania numbered 3.6 million, with Ruthenians constituting the majority (see Demographic history of Poland). [9] [10]

As the population of Muscovy was growing the size of the average peasant allotment declined (though there were significant regional variations) and the wages declined as well while the grain prices soared. [11] The Livonian War led to the increase of tax burden on the peasants and when the crops failed in 1567 and 1568 a famine ensued, followed by a plague of 1570-1571. [12] In the best-documented Novgorod land some regions lost between 40 and 60% to famine, decease and emigration. [13] [14]

The relatively calm period of 1584-1600 was followed by the Time of Troubles when a few consecutive crop failures led to a famine and a collapse of the Russian state, foreign interventions and widespread destruction. The population size only reached the 1600 level fifty years later. [15]

According to the census of 1678 there were 950,000 households in Russia. The estimates for the total population range between 10.5 and 11.5 million depending on the assumptions of the average number of individuals in a household and of the percentage of population that avoided the census. [16] [17] As the census was used to determine poll taxes due, both peasants and landlords had the incentive to minimise the number of counted households. They could conceal them, combine several households into one or report peasants as household servants (дворовые люди) who were not taxed. [18]

The biggest cities in the 16th century were Moscow (41,500 households), Pskov (6,000) and Novgorod (5,500), [19] while in the 17th century Yaroslavl became the second biggest city after Moscow. [20]

Internal migrations Edit

The settlement of southern borderlands continued during this period. The former Wild Fields became safer as the new defence lines and fortresses were founded and its rich soils attracted settlers from the central Russia. [21] The conquest of Siberia started in late 16th century and within one hundred years most of Siberia belonged to Russia. At that time there were 40 thousand Russian peasants in Siberia and the settlement gathered pace in the beginning of 18th century. [22]

Social stratification Edit

Peasants constituted 90% of households in 1678, with 3% of townsfolk (посадские люди) and 7% of untaxed classes (service class people and clergy) according to the census of 1678. Serfs living on the lands belonging to the nobility, the church or the royal family accounted for the majority or the peasants, with the remainder consisting of personally free peasants and yasak-paying non-Russians. [23] Almost half of all serfs owned by nobles belonged to 535 richest landowners while the other 14,500 landowners owned the rest. The odnodvortsy were part of the service class people and thus did not pay taxes even though they normally did not own any serfs (hence the name, literally one-householders). [24]

Ethnic composition Edit

The conquest of the Kazan and Astrakhan Khanate brought a large Muslim Tatar population alongside Chuvash, Mari and Mordvin people into Russia. [25]

History of Kiev & Ukraine

Kiev (spelt as Kyiv in Ukrainian language) has a long, rich, and often turbulent history that dates back to the 5th century. It is one of the oldest and historically richest cities in Eastern Europe. It is said that Kiev (Kyiv) was founded by three brothers &ndash Kyi, Shcheck, Khoriv, and their sister Lybid, leaders of the Polyanian tribe of the East Slavs. The eldest brother Kyi was bestowed with the honour of having the city named after him. In Ukrainian Kyiv means &ldquocity of Kyi&rdquo.

In 882 Prince Oleg of Novgorod and his men-in arms captured Kiev. It was during this period that Kiev became the first ever capital of Kievan Rus, the forerunner of the Russian empire. Kiev was a strong hillside fortress city which oversaw and guarded the main East European trade route via the River Dnieper which linked the Greeks and the Norse Vikings. It was a major centre for trade between the Mediterranean and Baltic nations. Kiev was the catalyst in the expansion of the medieval Eastern Slavic nation and became the Slavs political and cultural centre

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The river Dnieper provided Kiev (Kyiv) with a flourishing trade route and the states power grew during the reigns of Prince Vladimir the Great 978 &ndash 1015, and later his son, Prince Yaroslav the wise 1019 &ndash 1054. Both Vladimir and Yaroslav arranged marriages designed to enhance their power. Vladimir married the sister of the Byzantine Emperor. Yaroslav&rsquos granddaughter, Eupraxia, married Henry III, the Holy Roman Emperor. Prince Yaraslav arranged marriages for his sister and three daughters to the Kings of Poland, France, Hungary and Norway. Vladimir adopted Christianity as the religion of his realm in 988 and had the inhabitants of Kiev baptised. This was a calculated move in order to strengthen political, economic and cultural relations with the Byzantium Empire and other Christian countries of Europe.

This period became known as the Golden age of Kiev and by the 11th century was geographically the largest state in Europe. In fact Kievan Rus had a population of almost 50,000 people, considerably more than London. Under the guidance of Prince Yaroslav the Cathedral of St. Sophia was built, the East Slavic code of law was introduced and it is widely thought that he established the region&rsquos first schooling system. Cyril and Methodius acted as Christian missionaries and spread religious faith and introduced the Cyrillic alphabet. Indeed Kiev became one of the most advanced states of that time, rich in culture, education and wealth. As the population of Kievan Rus grew, so did the infrastructure and at one point there were approximately 400 churches and eight markets in Kiev.

The decline of Kievan Rus began with the death of Prince Vladimir Monomakh in the year 1152. By the 12th century conflict and warring factions among the feudal lords together with a shift in trade routes undermined Kiev&rsquos economic importance and plunged the state into a period of decline. In 1220 the Mongol &ndash Tatar&rsquos began a series of invasions and in 1238 a Mongol army led by Batu, grandson of Genghis Khan, invaded central Rus and lay siege to Kiev until its eventual capture in the autumn of 1240. Most of the population was killed and much of the city was destroyed and in the 14th century what was left of Kiev and the surrounding area fell to the powerful Grand Duke of Lithuania who captured it in 1362. By the mid 14th century the territories of Ukraine fell under the rule of three external powers, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Poland and the Golden Horde who were a mixture of Turks and Mongols.

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It was not until 1516 that Kiev (Kyiv) took a step forward when the Grand Duke Sigismund granted the city a charter of autonomy, thus revitalising trade again. In 1569 a pact between Poland and Lithuania, called the Union of Lublin, gave Kiev and the Ukrainian lands to Poland. During the 17th century a religious Ukrainian brotherhood was established to oppose the Polish Roman Catholic church and to promote Ukrainian nationalism. There was also increasing unrest amongst the Cossacks who opposed the Polish crown. This eventually led to the revolt of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, and the Cossacks with the help of the Crimean Tatars, entered Kiev triumphantly in 1649. Khmelnytsky and the Cossacks under threat from Polish and Lithuanian armies eventually sought the protection of the Russian Tsar and signed the Pereyaslav Agreement in 1654, effectively submitting Ukraine to Moscow. What followed was a prolonged period of confusion and destruction which eventually lead to the Truce of Andrusovo in 1667. This agreement meant that Ukraine was divided between Poland and Russia. In 1686 yet another treaty was agreed by Poland and Russia called the Treaty of Eternal Peace, this gave complete control of Kiev to Russia.

Kievan Rus

The first forerunner of a state, which was in the territories of East Slavs, was named, “Rus,” and was established by the Viking clan called the, “Rus,” in the 9th century. Rich culture, and prosperous trade with the Byzantine Empire, made it the dominant ruler of, what is today, Western Russia.


Life in Rus was focused around its long rivers. The Dnieper, Don, Volga, and Volkhov rivers were the trading routes that connected Scandinavia with Constantinople and Baghdad. The Varangians established control over these territories. They came to rule the Slavs, and gradually mixed with them.

Kievan Rus

A legend, written in the Primary Chronicle, says that in the middle of the 9th century, Slavic and Finno-Ugric tribes of Northern Russia tired of fighting each other and invited the Varangians to rule over them. In 862, the Varangian, Prince Rurik, established the, “Rurik Dynasty,” in Novgorod that ruled over Russia for 700 years. Rurik’s successor, Oleg, founded the Kievan Rus state in 882 by connecting Novgorod with Kiev, and making the latter his new capital.

The following rulers, Igor I, his widow, Olga, and son, Svyatoslav I, extended their dominance in what is now Southern Russia, fighting Byzantium, Pechenegs, and Polovtsy.

In 988, Vladimir I, looking for a way to spiritually unify his people, adopted the Orthodox faith from Byzantium.

The reign of Yaroslav the Wise, in the first half of the 11th century, was the highlight of Kievan power. Yaroslav enlarged the state, built fortifications, introduced a code of law, and promoted culture.


The fragmentation of the Kievan state, which followed, was only temporarily halted by Vladimir II (Vladimir Monomakh) at the beginning of the 12th century. After the rule of Yuri Dolgorukiy, in the later part of the 12th century, the importance of Kiev declined. His son, Andrey Bogolyubsky, raided Kiev. Thereafter, the Vladimir-Suzdal principality, and the Novgorod Republic, became the most important states in Russian territory.

Social and political institutions

The paucity of evidence about social and political institutions in Kievan Rus suggests that they were rudimentary. The East Slavs had no significant tradition of supratribal political organization before the coming of the Varangians, who themselves, until well into the 10th century, had little interest in institutions more elaborate than those necessary for the exploitation of their rich, new territory. The territory of Rus, moreover, was immense and sparsely settled. The scattered towns, some probably little more than trading posts, were separated by large primeval forests and swamps.

Thus, although the campaigns of Svyatoslav indicate the extent of the political vacuum that his clan filled, he construed his domains as a clan possession rather than as a territorial or national state. His successor, Vladimir, however, seems to have been conscious of one political element—organized religion—that distinguished both the contemporary empires and the newly established principalities in Poland and Hungary from his own. The church provided the concepts of territorial and hierarchical organization that helped to make states out of tribal territories its teachings transformed a charismatic prince into a king possessing the attributes and responsibilities of a national leader, judge, and first Christian of the realm.

Once Vladimir had adopted Christianity in 988, his rule was supported by the propagation of Byzantine notions of imperial authority. The political traditions and conditions of Rus, however, required that the actual workings of the political system and some of its style be derived from other sources. The succession system, probably a vestige of the experience of the Rus khaganate in the upper Volga, was based upon two principles: the indivisibility of the basic territory of Rus (the principalities of Kiev, Chernigov, and Pereyaslavl) and the shared sovereignty of a whole generation. Seniority passed through an ascension by stages from elder brother to younger and from the youngest eligible uncle to the eldest eligible nephew. Such a system was admirably suited to the needs of the dynasty, because, by providing a rotating advancement of members of the clan through apprenticeships in the various territories of the realm, it assured control of the key points of the far-flung trading network by princes who were subject to traditional sanctions, and it gave them experience in lands over which they could someday expect to rule from Kiev. This system served well for a century after it was given final form by Vladimir and was revived by Monomakh (Vladimir II, ruled 1113–25), but it could not survive the decline of Kiev’s importance.

Individual Rurikid princes maintained military retinues led by boyars. The princes and boyars drew their most significant revenues from the tribute or taxes collected annually in kind from territories under their control and disposed of in the export trade. The bulk of the population, apparently free peasants living in traditional agricultural communes, had little other connection with the dynasty and its trading cities.

Little is known of law in this period it may be assumed that juridical institutions had not developed on a broad scale. The earliest law code (1016), called the “ Russian Law,” was one of the “Barbarian” law codes common throughout Germanic Europe. It dealt primarily with princely law—that is, with the fines to be imposed by the prince or his representative in the case of specified offenses.

Some scholars have held that, since land was in the hands of the boyar class, who exploited the labour of slaves and peasants, Kievan society should be termed feudal. The meagre sources indicate, however, that Kiev experienced nothing like the complex and highly regulated legal and economic relationships associated with feudalism in western Europe. Kiev’s political system existed primarily for and by international trade in forest products and depended on a money economy in which the bulk of the population scarcely participated. The subsistence agriculture of the forest regions was not the source of Kiev’s wealth, nor was it the matrix within which law and politics and history were made.

Formal culture came to Rus, along with Christianity, from the multinational Byzantine synthesis, primarily through South Slavic intermediaries. A native culture, expressed in a now-lost pagan ritual folklore and traditions in the arts and crafts, existed before the Kievan period and then persisted alongside the formal culture, but its influence on the latter is conjectural.

No single one of the regional (or, later, national) cultures, perhaps least of all that of Muscovy, can be called the heir of Kiev, although all shared the inheritance. The strands of continuity were everywhere strained, if not broken, in the period after Kiev’s decline. But “Golden Kiev” was always present, in lore and bookish tradition, as a source of emulation and renascence.

Kievan Rus (Kievan Victory)

Kievan Rus' (Old East Slavic: Рѹ́сь, Рѹ́сьскаѧ землѧ, Greek: Ῥωσία, Latin: Rus(s)ia, Ruscia, Ruzzia, Rut(h)enia, Old Norse: Garðaríki) was a loose federation of East Slavic tribes in Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century, under the reign of the Rurik dynasty. The modern peoples of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, all claim Kievan Rus' as their cultural inheritance. At its greatest extent in the mid-11th century, it stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south and from the headwaters of the Vistula in the west to the Taman Peninsula in the east, uniting the majority of East Slavic tribes.

Kievan Rus' begins with the rule (882–912) of Prince Oleg I, who extended his control from Novgorod south along the Dnieper river valley in order to protect trade from Khazar incursions from the east and moved his capital to the more strategic Kiev. Sviatoslav I (died 972) achieved the first major expansion of Kievan Rus' territorial control, fighting a war of conquest against the Khazar Empire. Vladimir the Great (980–1015) introduced Christianity with his own baptism and, by decree, that of all the inhabitants of Kiev and beyond. Kievan Rus' reached its greatest extent under Yaroslav I (1019–1054) his sons assembled and issued its first written legal code, the Rus' Justice, shortly after his death.

The state declined beginning in the late 11th century and during the 12th century, disintegrating into various rival regional powers. It was further weakened by economic factors such as the collapse of Rus' commercial ties to Byzantium due to the decline of Constantinople and the accompanying diminution of trade routes through its territory. The state rose up, however, and was able to defend itself from the Mongol invasion of Rus' lands, with Mstislav III leading a large army to victory in the Battle of the Kalka River. After defeating the Mongols, he went on a campaign to unify the Slavic principalities under himself, becoming the Tsar and founding the Tsardom of Kiev.

The rise of Kiev

The consecutive history of the first East Slavic state begins with Prince Svyatoslav (died 972). His victorious campaigns against other Varangian centres, the Khazars, and the Volga Bulgars and his intervention in the Byzantine-Danube Bulgar conflicts of 968–971 mark the full hegemony of his clan in Rus and the emergence of a new political force in eastern Europe. But Svyatoslav was neither a lawgiver nor an organizer the role of architect of the Kievan state fell to his son Vladimir (c. 980–1015), who established the dynastic seniority system of his clan as the political structure by which the scattered territories of Rus were to be ruled. He invited or permitted the patriarch of Constantinople to establish an episcopal see in Rus.

Vladimir extended the realm (to include the watersheds of the Don, Dnieper, Dniester, Neman, Western Dvina, and upper Volga), destroyed or incorporated the remnants of competing Varangian organizations, and established relations with neighbouring dynasties. The successes of his long reign made it possible for the reign of his son Yaroslav (ruled 1019–54) to produce a flowering of cultural life. But neither Yaroslav, who gained control of Kiev only after a bitter struggle against his brother Svyatopolk (1015–19), nor his successors in Kiev were able to provide lasting political stability within the enormous realm. The political history of Rus is one of clashing separatist and centralizing trends inherent in the contradiction between local settlement and colonization on the one hand and the hegemony of the clan elder, ruling from Kiev, on the other. As Vladimir’s 12 sons and innumerable grandsons prospered in the rapidly developing territories they inherited, they and their retainers acquired settled interests that conflicted both with one another and with the interests of unity.

The conflicts were not confined to Slavic lands: the Turkic nomads who moved into the southern steppe during the 11th century (first the Torks, later the Kipchaks—also known as the Polovtsy, or Cumans) became involved in the constant internecine rivalries, and Rurikid and Turkic princes often fought on both sides. In 1097, representatives of the leading branches of the dynasty, together with their Turkic allies, met at Liubech, north of Kiev, and agreed to divide the Kievan territory among themselves and their descendants later, however, Vladimir II Monomakh made a briefly successful attempt (1113–25) to reunite the land of Rus.

President Zelensky takes office

2019 April-July - Television comedian Volodymyr Zelensky wins presidential election run-off in a landslide victory over incumbent Petro Poroshenko.

He takes office in May, and his Servant of the People party wins early parliamentary elections in July.

2019 August - Parliament appoints President Zelensky's aide Oleksiy Honcharuk prime minister.

2019 September - Russia and Ukraine swap prisoners captured in the wake of Moscow's seizure of Crimea and intervention in the Donbass.

2019 October - Ukraine becomes embroiled US impeachment row over allegations of President Trump attempting to put pressure on the country over investigating possible Democrat president rival Joe Biden.

2020 March - President Zelensky appoints former businessman Denys Shmyhal prime minister with a mandate to stimulate industrial revival and improve tax receipts.

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