Session: Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages – May 13th
By Tanya Zajac, University of Toronto
The paper demonstrated examples of exiles fleeing to Poland and other countries during their time of need. In times of strife, the guest became the host to to reciprocate the obligation.
The political climate was very volatile during the eleventh century with many princes in exile; many princes took up residence with foreign rulers. There were many exiles in Poland; Mieszko II took in the Hungarian princes, Andras, Bela and Levante during their exile. This was a “gift-economy”, meaning goods and services were exchanged without a set value being placed on them; reciprocal gift-giving, with obligations expected on the part of host and guest.
There were 3 components to this gift giving economy:
1.) Kinship networks – obligations to care for each other in exile.
2.) Shelter – obligation often reciprocated by giving military aid.
3.) Balance of power – power was held by the host of the political exile, the relationship was unbalanced.
There were close commercial ties between the Polish and Rus economies and differences between Pagan and Christian mattered more than the difference between Eastern and Western Christianity. Where a ruler fled was largely dependent on their kinship network. In 1025, the death of King Boleslaw left a void and a crisis in succession. In 1031, Hungary also endured a succession crisis when King Stephen’s son, Emeric (Imre) died in a hunting accident. The exiled princes fled to Rus because their mother was a Rus princess, demonstrating this kinship network concept.