However, the complete defeat of the Khazars (Saber kick of Svyatoslav on the Khazar "miracle-yuda"), in Constantinople they wanted to see the Khazaria weakened and humiliated, but not completely destroyed, shook the Byzantine elite. Most feared the breakthrough of Russian troops in Tavria (Crimea). Svyatoslav troops cost nothing to cross the Bosphorus of Cimmeria (Kerch Strait), and capture the blooming land. Now the fate of the Kherson theme depended on where the great Russian prince moved troops. The Byzantine governor in Kherson had too few troops, unable to not only protect the peninsula, but even the capital. Kherson was then a rich trading city. Strong reinforcements from Constantinople could not send soon. In addition, the Russian troops could not wait for the arrival of the Roman rati, but calmly empty the peninsula and go to their limits. However, after the seizure of Tmutarakan and Kerchev, Svyatoslav had not yet intended to enter into direct conflict with Byzantium.
Kalokira mission. Balkan affairs
After returning to Kiev, Svyatoslav began to think about going to Chersonese (Korsun). The whole course of events led to a new confrontation between Russia and the Byzantine Empire. The Khazar campaign set free for the Russian merchants trade routes along the Volga and the Don. It was reasonable to continue the successful offensive and take the gate to the Black Sea - Chersonese. It is clear that this possibility was not a secret for Byzantium. Romanian merchants, including Chersonese, were regular guests at Russian auctions. In Constantinople, began to seek a diplomatic way out of this dangerous situation.
Around the end of 966 or the beginning of 967, an unusual embassy arrived in the capital city of Kyiv to Russian prince Svyatoslav. He was headed by the son of Chersonesus stratiga Kalokir, who was sent to the Russian prince by the emperor Nikifor Fock. Before sending the envoy to Svyatoslav, Basileus summoned him to Constantinople, discussed the details of the negotiations, conferred the high title of Patrik and handed over a valuable gift, a huge amount of gold - 15 centenaries (about 450 kg).
The Byzantine envoy was an extraordinary man. The Byzantine historian Leo Deacon calls him "courageous" and "ardent." Later, Kalokir will still meet on the path of Svyatoslav and will prove that he is a man who knows how to play a big political game. The main goal of Kalokir’s mission, for which, according to the Byzantine chronicler Lev Deacon, Patricia with a huge amount of gold was sent to Kiev, was to persuade him to act in alliance with Byzantium against Bulgaria. In 966, the conflict between Bulgaria and Byzantium reached its peak, and the emperor Nicephorus Fock led his troops against the Bulgarians.
"Sent by royal will to the Tauro-Scythians (as the old memory was called the Rus, considering them to be the direct heirs of the Great Scythia), the patrician Kalokir, who came to Scythia (Russia), liked the head of the Taurians, bribed him with gifts, charmed with flattering words ... Bulgarians) with a great ratiu with the condition that he, having conquered them, kept their country in their own power, and assisted him in conquering the Roman state and obtaining the throne. He promised him (Svyatoslav) for delivering the great countless treasures from the state treasury. ” The version of the Deacon is extremely simple. Readers tried to convince that Kalokir bribed the barbarian leader, made him his tool in his hands, a weapon against Bulgaria, which was supposed to be a springboard for a higher goal - the throne of the Byzantine Empire. Kalokir dreamed, relying on Russian swords, to seize Constantinople and wanted to pay Bulgaria to Svyatoslav.
This version, created by the official historian of the Byzantine basileus of Basil II the Bulgarian, was included in historiography for a long time. However, later the researchers expressed a clear distrust of the version of Lev the Deacon, drawing attention to other Byzantine and Oriental sources. Found out that much the Deacon did not know, or deliberately did not mention, kept silent. Apparently, originally Kalakir acted in the interests of Nikifor Fochi. However, after the vile murder of Nikifor II Foki - the conspiracy was led by the emperor's wife Theofano (a former prostitute who first seduced the young heir to the throne Roman, and then his commander Nikifor Foku) and her lover, Nikifor's military associate, John Tzimischy decided to join the fight for the throne. In addition, there is evidence that the Rus, while helping Nikifor in the fight against Bulgaria, performed the allied duty, the alliance was concluded even before the rule of Svyatoslav. Russian troops have already helped Nikifor Foke to repel the island of Crete from the Arabs.
Were Svyatoslav a simple tool in the big game? Most likely no. He clearly guessed the idea of the Byzantines. But, on the other hand, the proposal of Constantinople perfectly corresponded to his own designs. Now the Ruses could, without military opposition from the Byzantine Empire, establish themselves on the banks of the Danube, capturing one of the most important trade routes that went along this great European river and approached the most important cultural and economic centers of Western Europe. At the same time taking under the protection of the protection of the streets that lived in the Danube.
In addition, Svyatoslav saw that Byzantium for many years trying to subjugate Slavic Bulgaria. This did not meet the strategic interests of Kiev. First, the Slavic unity has not yet been forgotten. The Rus and the Bulgarians had only recently prayed to the same gods, celebrated one holiday, the language, customs and traditions were the same, with minor territorial differences. Similar territorial differences were in the lands of the Eastern Slavs, say between Krivichy and Vyatichi. It must be said that even after a thousand years there was a kinship between the Russians and the Bulgarians, for good reason Bulgaria was called the “16 Soviet Republic”. It was impossible to give the fraternal people under the authority of outsiders. Svyatoslav himself had plans to gain a foothold on the Danube. Bulgaria could, if not become part of the Russian state, then at least be a friendly state again. Secondly, the approval of Byzantium on the banks of the Danube and the gain at the expense of captured Bulgaria made the Romans neighbors of Russia, which did not promise the latter anything good.
Relations between Byzantium and Bulgaria were complicated. Byzantine diplomats held in their hands the threads of control over many nations, but with the Bulgarians such a policy repeatedly failed. Tsar Simeon I the Great (864 — 927), who miraculously escaped from the “honorable” captivity in Constantinople, himself launched an offensive against the empire. Simeon more than once smashed the imperial army and planned to seize Constantinople, creating his own empire. However, the seizure of Constantinople did not take place, Simeon died unexpectedly. A “miracle” happened that was so prayed in Constantinople. The son of Simeon, Peter I, ascended to the throne - Peter I. Peter strongly supported the Church, giving churches and monasteries lands and gold. This caused the spread of heresy, whose supporters called for the rejection of worldly goods (Bogomilism). The meek and humble Tsar lost most of the Bulgarian territories, could not resist the Serbs and Magyars. Byzantium went from defeat and resumed its expansion.
The ruins of the city of Preslav.
While Svyatoslav fought with the Khazars, spread Russian influence over the lands of the Volga region, the Azov region and the Pridonia region, important events were brewing in the Balkans. In Constantinople, they carefully watched as Bulgaria weakened and decided that the time had come when it was time to take their hands. In 965-966 violent conflict broke out. The Bulgarian embassy, which appeared in Constantinople for the tribute that the Byzantines had been paying since the times of Simeon's victories, was driven out in disgrace. The emperor ordered the Bulgarian ambassadors to be pushed down the cheeks and called the Bulgarians poor and disgusting people. This tribute was clothed in the form of the content of the Byzantine Princess Maria, who became the wife of the Bulgarian Tsar Peter. Mary passed away in the 963 year, and Byzantium was able to break this formality. In reality, this was a reason to go on the offensive.
Constantinople in its relations with Bulgaria since the death of Tsar Simeon has achieved great success. On the throne was a meek and indecisive king, more busy with church affairs than with the development of the state. He was surrounded by a crazed boyars, Simeon’s old comrades were removed from the throne. Byzantium allowed itself in relations with Bulgaria more and more dictates, actively intervened in domestic politics, supported its supporters in the Bulgarian capital. The country has entered a period of feudal fragmentation. The development of large boyar landownership contributed to the emergence of political separatism, leading to the impoverishment of the masses. A significant part of the boyars saw a way out of the crisis in strengthening ties with Byzantium, supporting its foreign policy, and strengthening Greek economic, cultural, and ecclesiastical influence. A serious turn occurred in relations with Russia. Former friends, brother-countries, long-standing kinship, cultural and economic ties, they more than once opposed the Byzantine Empire. Now everything has changed. The pro-Byzantine party in Bulgaria with suspicion and hatred followed the successes and strengthening of Russia. In the 940-ies, the Bulgarians with Chersonese twice warned Constantinople about the performance of Russian troops. In Kiev, it quickly noticed.
At the same time, there was a process of strengthening the military power of Byzantium. Already in the last years of the reign of Emperor Roman, the imperial armies, under the leadership of talented commanders, the brothers Nikifor and Lev Foki, have achieved notable success in the struggle against the Arabs. In 961, after a seven-month siege, the capital of the Cretan Arabs Handan was captured. The allied Russian detachment also participated in this campaign. The Byzantine fleet established dominance in the Aegean Sea. Lev Fok won victories in the East. Having taken the throne, Nikifor Fock, a stern warrior and ascetic man, continued to purposefully form a new Byzantine army, the core of which was the "knights" - catapractic (from the ancient Greek. Κατάφρακτος - armored). The armament of the cataphractarians is primarily characterized by heavy armor, which defended the warrior from head to toe. Protective armor was not only riders, but also their horses. Nikifor Fock devoted himself to the war and conquered Cyprus from the Arabs, oppressed them in Asia Minor, preparing for the campaign against Antioch. The success of the empire was facilitated by the fact that the Arab Caliphate entered the strip of feudal fragmentation, Bulgaria was under the control of Constantinople, Russia was also pacified by Olga.
In Constantinople it was decided that it was time to complete the success in Bulgaria, to deliver the final decisive blow to the old enemy. It was impossible to give her the opportunity to escape. Bulgaria has not yet been completely broken. The traditions of Tsar Simeon were alive. The grandees of Simeon in Preslav moved away into the shadows, but still retained influence among the people. The provisan politics, the loss of previous gains and the dramatic material enrichment of the Bulgarian Church caused discontent on the part of the Bulgarian people, part of the boyars.
Bulgarian Queen Maria barely died, Constantinople immediately went to the gap. Byzantium refused to pay tribute, and the Bulgarian ambassadors were deliberately humiliated. When Preslav raised the issue of renewing the 927 peace agreement of the year, Constantinople demanded that Peter’s sons, Roman and Boris, come to Byzantium as hostages, and Bulgaria itself would not let the Hungarian troops pass through its territory to the Byzantine border. In 966, there was a final break. It should be noted that the Hungarian troops really disturbed Byzantium, passing without difficulty through Bulgaria. Between Hungary and Bulgaria there was an agreement that during the passage of the Hungarian troops through the Bulgarian territory to the possessions of Byzantium, the Hungarians should be loyal to the Bulgarian agreement. Therefore, the Greeks accused Preslav of treachery, in a latent form of aggression against Byzantium by the hands of the Hungarians. Bulgaria either could not or did not want to stop the Hungarian raids. In addition, this fact reflected the hidden struggle in the Bulgarian elite, between the provisant party and its opponents, who used the Hungarians with pleasure in the conflict with the Byzantine Empire.
Constantinople, leading the fight against the Arab world, did not dare to divert the main forces for the war with the Bulgarian kingdom, which was still a strong enough opponent. Therefore, in Constantinople it was decided with one blow to solve several problems at once. First, defeat Bulgaria with the forces of Russia, retaining its troops, and then absorb the Bulgarian territories. Moreover, with the failure of the troops of Svyatoslav, Constantinople won again - two dangerous enemies for Byzantium — Bulgaria and Russia — faced each other’s heads. Secondly, the Byzantines diverted the threat from their Kherson theme, which was the breadbasket of the empire. Thirdly, the success and failure of the army of Svyatoslav were to weaken the military might of Russia, which after the liquidation of the Khazars became a particularly dangerous enemy. The Bulgarians were considered to be a strong enemy, and should have fiercely resisted the Rus.
Obviously, Prince Svyatoslav understood this. However, I decided to strike. Kiev could not be calm when the place of the formerly friendly Russia of the Bulgarian kingdom was taken by a weakening Bulgaria in the hands of a provisant party, hostile to the Russian state. It was also dangerous from the point of view that Bulgaria controlled the Russian trade routes along the western coast of the Black Sea, through the lower Danube cities down to the Byzantine border. Combining hostile Rus Bulgaria with the remnants of the Khazars and the Pechenegs could be a serious threat to Russia from the south-western direction. And with the liquidation of Bulgaria and the seizure of its territory by the Romans, the threat would already have come from the imperial armies, with the support of the Bulgarians. Svetoslav decided to occupy part of Bulgaria, establishing control over the Danube and neutralizing the pro-Byzantine party around Tsar Peter. This was to bring Bulgaria back into the mainstream of the Russian-Bulgarian alliance. In this case, he could rely on the part of the Bulgarian nobility and people. Later, Svyatoslav, having received a reliable rear in Bulgaria, could already set conditions for Constantinople.
The Byzantine Empire began the war first. In 966, Basileus Nikifor Fock moved troops to the border of Bulgaria, and Kalokir immediately left for Kiev. The Romans captured several border towns. They managed to capture the strategically important city in Thrace, the present-day Plovdiv, with the help of the pro-Quantized nobility. However, this military successes ended. Byzantine troops stopped in front of the Gimeis (Balkan) Mountains. They did not dare to make their way to the internal Bulgarian regions through difficult passes and forested gorges, where a small detachment could stop the whole army. There, in the past, many warriors laid down their heads. Nikifor Fok returned to the capital with triumph and switched to the Arabs. The fleet moved to Sicily, and Basileus himself, at the head of the land army, went to Syria. At this time, in the east, Svyatoslav went on the offensive. In 967, the Russian army marched on the Danube.
To be continued ...