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Title: Kęstutis  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Władysław II Jagiełło, Family of Gediminas, Vytautas, Algirdas, 1380s
Collection: 1297 Births, 1382 Deaths, Gediminids, Grand Dukes of Lithuania, Lithuanian Nobility, Ruthenian Nobility
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Kęstutis seal from 1379
Litas commemorative coin dedicated to Kęstutis

Kęstutis (Belarusian: Кейстут; Lithuanian pronunciation: ; born ca. 1297, died on 3 August or 15 August 1382 in Kreva) was monarch of medieval Lithuania. He was the Duke of Trakai and governed the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1342–82, together with his brother Algirdas (until 1377), and with his nephew Jogaila (until 1381). He ruled over the Lithuanians and Ruthenians.

The name "Kęstutis" is a derivative from the old form of the name Kęstas, which is a shortened version of such Lithuanian names as Kęstaras, Kęstautas (there kęs-ti means to cope). Historic writing sources reflect different Lithuanian pronunciation.[1]


  • Early life and division of power 1
  • Co-ruler of Lithuania 2
  • Civil war and death 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5

Early life and division of power

Kęstutis was the son of the Grand Duke Samogitia against the Teutonic Knights, and organized raids against the German Order.

Co-ruler of Lithuania

Kęstutis employed different military as well as diplomatic means in his struggle on the western borders of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1349, to avoid further clashes with the Teutonic Order, he started negotiations with Pope Clement VI for the Christianization of Lithuania, receiving promises for royal crowns for him and his sons. Algirdas willingly remained aside of the business and was concerned with the order in the Ruthenian part of the state. The intermediary in the negotiations, Polish King Casimir III, made an unexpected assault on Volhynia and Brest in October 1349 that ruined the Kęstutis' plan. During the Polish-Lithuanian war for Volhynia, King Louis I of Hungary made a peace agreement with Kęstutis on 15 August 1351, according to which Kęstutis obliged himself to accept Christianity and provide the Kingdom of Hungary with military aid, in exchange for the royal crown. The agreement was approved with a pagan ritual by Kęstutis to convince the other side. In fact, Kęstutis had no intentions to comply with the agreement and ran away on their road to Buda.[2]

Civil war and death

Algirdas died in 1377 and left the throne to Jogaila, his eldest son from the second marriage with Uliana of Tver. Kęstutis and Vytautas continued to recognize Jogaila's authority even when his right of inheritance was challenged by Andrei of Polotsk, Algirdas' eldest son from the first marriage with Maria of Vitebsk.[3] The Teutonic Knights continued their crusade against pagan Lithuania and both Jogaila and Kęstutis looked for opportunities to establish a truce. On September 29, 1379, a ten-year truce was signed in Trakai.[4] It was the last treaty that Kęstutis and Jogaila signed jointly.[4] In February 1380, Jogaila, without Kęstutis, made a five-month truce with the Livonian Order to protect his Lithuanian domains and Polotsk.[3]

On May 31, 1380, Jogaila and Grand Master Winrich von Kniprode signed the secret Treaty of Dovydiškės. Based on the terms of the accord, Jogaila agreed not to intervene during attacks by the Teutonic Knights against Kęstutis or his children. However, if providing aid to Kęstutis would be necessary to help to avoid any suspicions, it would not be a violation of the treaty.[5] It remains controversial as motives behind the treaty are not entirely clear. Some historians blamed Uliana, mother of Jogaila, or his adviser Vaidila,[6] while others pointed out generational differences: Kęstutis was about 80 years old and determined not to accept Christianity while Jogaila was about 30 years old and was looking for ways to convert and modernize the country.[7] Still others suggested that the treaty was primarily directed against Andrei and his allies – brother Dmitry of Bryansk and Grand Duke of Moscow Dmitri Donskoi.[8] Jogaila, having secured his western front, allied himself with the Golden Horde against the Grand Duchy of Moscow for the upcoming Battle of Kulikovo.[3]

Vytautas and Kęstutis imprisoned by Jogaila. Painting by Wojciech Gerson

Without violating the Treaty of Dovydiškės, the Teutonic Knights raided the Jurbarkas).[4]

Keistut on the Millennium of Russia monument in Veliky Novgorod.

On June 12, 1382, while Kęstutis was away to fight

Born: c. 1296 Died: May 1377
Preceded by
Grand Prince of Lithuania
along with Algirdas

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Grand Prince of Lithuania
as regent of Jogaila

Succeeded by
Preceded by
title created
Duke of Trakai
Succeeded by
  1. ^ Zinkevičius, Zigmas (2007). Senosios Lietuvos valstybės vardynas.  
  2. ^ (Lithuanian) Kęstutis: krikšto priešininkas ar šalininkas?, in Kultūros barai, 2006, 6. accessed on 01-07-2007
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Kiaupa, Zigmantas; Jūratė Kiaupienė; Albinas Kunevičius (2000) [1995]. The History of Lithuania Before 1795 (English ed.). Vilnius: Lithuanian Institute of History. pp. 124–126.  
  4. ^ a b c d Ivinskis, Zenonas (1988) [1930]. "Vytauto jaunystė ir jo veikimas iki 1392 m.". In Paulius Šležas. Vytautas Didysis (in Lietuvių). Vilnius: Vyriausioji enciklopedijų redakcija. pp. 7–32.  
  5. ^ Jonynas, Ignas (1937). "Dovydiškės sutartis". In Vaclovas Biržiška. Lietuviškoji enciklopedija (in Lietuvių) VI. Kaunas: Spaudos Fondas. pp. 1341–1344. 
  6. ^ a b c d Koncius, Joseph B. (1964). Vytautas the Great, Grand Duke of Lithuania. Miami: Franklin Press. pp. 21–23.  
  7. ^ a b c Jakštas, Juozas (1984). "Lithuania to World War I". In Ed. Albertas Gerutis. Lithuania: 700 Years. translated by Algirdas Budreckis (6th ed.). New York: Manyland Books. pp. 57–58.  
  8. ^ a b c (Lithuanian) Ivinskis, Zenonas (1978). Lietuvos istorija iki Vytauto Didžiojo mirties. Rome: Lietuvių katalikų mokslo akademija. pp. 271–279.  
  9. ^ a b c Urban, William (2006). Samogitian Crusade. Chicago: Lithuanian Research and Studies Center. pp. 170–171.  


See also

Vytautas managed to escape and continued to fight Jogaila to become Grand Duke in 1392. [9]

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