Sviatopolk I was the son of Vladimir I of Russia or possibly of Vladimir's brother Yaropolk I (Sviatopolk's mother was a concubine taken in battle who first belonged to one brother and then to the other). Vladimir had not named a successor when he died in 1015, and a civil war broke out between some of his sons. Sviatopolk, the eldest, had the best power base in the capital of Kiev, and sent assassins to murder three of his brothers (Sviatoslav, Boris, and Gleb) in the cities they ruled, for which he later gained a nickname which roughly translates to "the Damned" or "the Accursed." He married the daughter of the king of Poland and continued as Grand Prince of Russia for four years with Polish support, as his brother Yaroslav I continued the civil war from his lands in the northern city of Novgorod. In 1019 Yaroslav managed to triumph and Sviatopolk was killed either in or fleeing from battle.

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