Vasily was the son of Grand Prince Yaroslav II of Russia, and came to the Grand Prince's throne on the death of his brother Yaroslav III in 1271. He had already assured himself of the support of the Mongol overlords of Russia and had managed to get the Khan to withdraw the military forces which were threatening the rebellious city of Novgorod at the request of Yaroslav. The Novgorodians nonetheless wanted the Vasily's nephew, the later Dmitry I, to be their prince, but changed their mind after a while and gave their support to Vasily. Not much else happened in his reign; Vasily died in 1276 and the throne went to Dmitry I.

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