Vladimir-Suzdal Principality (Влади́миро-Су́здальское кня́жество, tr.: Vladimiro-Suzdalskoye knyazhestvo), or Vladimir-Suzdal Rus (Влади́мирско-Су́здальская Русь, tr.: Vladimirsko-Suzdalskaya Rus), was a principality which succeeded Kievan Rus as the most powerful Rus' state in the late 12th century and lasted until the late 14th century. Traditionally perceived as a cradle of the Great Russian language and nationality, Vladimir-Suzdal gradually evolved into the Grand Duchy of Moscow.
Vladimir Monomakh, on securing his rights to the principality in 1093, moved the capital from Rostov to Suzdal. Fifteen years later he founded the town of Vladimir on the Klyazma River, 31 km to the south from Suzdal. His son George I the Long-Armed moved the princely seat to Vladimir in 1157. The boyars of Rostov and Suzdal, however, were reluctant to concede supremacy, and a brief civil war followed.
In the mid-12th century, when Southern lands of Rus were systematically raided by Turkic nomads, their population started to migrate northward. In the formerly wooded areas, known as Zalesye, many new settlements were established. The foundations of Pereslavl, Kostroma, Dmitrov, Moscow, Yuriev-Polsky, Uglich, and Tver were assigned (either by chronicle or popular legend) to George I, whose sobriquet alludes to his dexterity in manipulating politics of far-away Kiev.
It is George's son Andrew the Pious who should be credited for bringing Vladimir to the zenith of its political power. Andrew was a singularly capable ruler, who treated the older centres of power (such as Kiev) with contempt. After having burnt down Kiev in 1169, he refused to accept the Kievan throne and enthroned his younger brother there instead. His capital of Vladimir was for him a far greater concern, as he embellished it with white stone churches and monasteries. Andrew was murdered by boyars in his suburban residence at Bogolyubovo in 1174.
After a brief interregnum, Andrew's brother Vsevolod III secured the throne. He continued most of his brother's policies, and once again subjugated Kiev in 1203. Vsevolod's prime enemies, however, were the Southern Ryazan Principality, which appeared to stir discord in the princely family, and the mighty Turkic state of Volga Bulgaria, which bordered Vladimir-Suzdal to the east. After several military campaigns, Riazan was burnt to the ground, and the Bulgars were forced to pay tribute.
Vsevolod's death in 1212 precipitated a serious dynastic conflict. His eldest son Konstantin, gaining support of powerful Rostovan boyars and Mstislav the Bold of Kiev, expelled the rightful heir, his brother George, from Vladimir to Rostov. Only six years later, upon Konstantin's death, did George manage to return to the capital. George proved to be a shrewd ruler who decisively defeated Volga Bulgaria and installed his brother Yaroslav in Novgorod. His reign, however, ended in catastrophe, when the Mongol hordes under Batu Khan took and burnt Vladimir in 1238. Thereupon they proceeded to devastate other major cities of Vladimir-Suzdal during the Mongol invasion of Russia.
By the end of the century, only three cities—Moscow, Tver, and Nizhny Novgorod—still contended for the grand princely title. Their rulers, once installed as grand princes of Vladimir, didn't even bother to leave their capital city and to settle permanently in Vladimir. When the metropolitan of all Rus moved his chair from Vladimir to Moscow in 1321, it became clear that Grand Duchy of Moscow had effectively succeeded Vladimir as the chief centre of power in North-Eastern Rus.