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Until Boris I (852-889) the title of the Bulgarian monarchs was knyaz (). His son, Simeon I (893-927), adopted the title Tsar (emperor), which became the title of the subsequent Bulgarian rulers.

Knyaz or knez () is a historical Slavic title, used both as a royal and noble title in different times of history and different ancient Slavic lands. It is usually translated into English as prince, duke or count, depending on specific historical context and the potentially known Latin equivalents of the title for each bearer of the name. In Latin sources the title is usually translated as comes or princeps, but the word was originally derived from the common Germanic *kuningaz (king).[1]

The female form transliterated from Bulgarian and Russian is knyaginya (?), kneginja in Slovene and Serbo-Croatian (Serbian Cyrillic: ?). In Russian, the daughter of a knyaz is knyazhna (). In Russian, the son of a knyaz is knyazhich ( in its old form).[2]

The title is pronounced and written similarly in different European languages. In Serbo-Croatian and some West Slavic languages, the word has later come to denote "lord", and in Czech, Polish and Slovak also came to mean "priest" (kn?z, ksi?dz, k?az) as well as "duke" (knez, kní?e, ksi, knie?a).[3] In Sorbian it means simply "Mister" (from "Master". Compare French monsieur from mon sieur "my lord"). Today the term knez is still used as the most common translation of "prince" in Slovenian, Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian literature. Knez is also found as a surname in former Yugoslavia.[4]


The title knez appeared in the early 12th-century Glagolitic Ba?ka tablet inscription, found on the island of Krk, Croatia.

The word is ultimately a cognate of the English king, the German König, and the Swedish konung. The proto-Slavic form was , k?n?dz?;[5] Church Slavonic: ,[6] k?n?dz?; Bulgarian: ?, knyaz; Old East Slavic: , knyaz?; Polish: ksi; Serbo-Croatian Latin: knez / Serbo-Croatian Cyrillic: ?; Czech: kní?e; Slovak: knie?a; etc. It is generally considered to be an early borrowing from Proto-Germanic kuningaz, a form also borrowed by Finnish and Estonian (kuningas).[3][7]

Middle Ages

The meaning of the term changed over the course of history. Initially the term was used to denote the chieftain of a Slavic tribe. Later, with the development of feudal statehood, it became the title of a ruler of a state, and among East Slavs (Russian: (kniazhestvo), Ukrainian: ? (knyazivstvo) traditionally translated as duchy or principality), for example, of Kievan Rus'. In medieval Latin sources the title was rendered as either rex or dux. In Bulgaria, Boris I of Bulgaria changed his title to knyaz after his conversion to Christianity, but his son Simeon took the higher title of tsar soon in 913. In Kievan Rus', as the degree of centralization grew, the ruler acquired the title Velikii Knyaz (? ) (translated as Grand Prince or Grand Duke, see Russian Grand Dukes). He ruled a Velyke Knyazivstvo ( ?i?c) (Grand Duchy), while a ruler of its vassal constituent (udel, udelnoe knyazivstvo or volost) was called udelny knyaz or simply knyaz.

When Kievan Rus' became fragmented in the 13th century, the title Kniaz continued to be used in East Slavic states, including Kiev, Chernihiv, Novgorod, Pereiaslav, Vladimir-Suzdal', Muscovy, Tver, Halych-Volynia, and in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.[8]


Kneaze Alexey Michailovitz, 1664 (Tsar Alexis I of Russia).

As the Tsardom of Russia gained dominion over much of former Kievan Rus', velikii kniaz (? ) (Great Kniaz) Ivan IV of Russia in 1547 was crowned as Tsar. From the mid-18th century onwards, the title Velikii Kniaz was revived to refer to (male-line) sons and grandsons of Russian Emperors. See titles for Tsar's family for details.

Kniaz (Russian: , IPA: ['kn?æs?]) continued as a hereditary title of Russian nobility patrilineally descended from Rurik (e.g., Belozersky, Belosselsky-Belozersky, Repnin, Gorchakov) or Gediminas (e.g., Galitzine, Troubetzkoy). Members of Rurikid or Gedyminid families were called princes when they ruled tiny quasi-sovereign medieval principalities. After their demesnes were absorbed by Muscovy, they settled at the Moscow court and were authorised to continue with their princely titles.

From the 18th century onwards, the title was occasionally granted by the Tsar, for the first time by Peter the Great to his associate Alexander Menshikov, and then by Catherine the Great to her lover Grigory Potemkin. After 1801, with the incorporation of Georgia into the Russian Empire, various titles of numerous local nobles were controversially rendered in Russian as "kniazes". Similarly, many petty Tatar nobles asserted their right to style themselves "kniazes" because they descended from Genghis Khan.

Finally, within the Russian Empire of 1809-1917, Finland was officially called Grand Principality of Finland (Finnish: Suomen suuriruhtinaskunta, Swedish: Storfurstendömet Finland, Russian: ? , romanizedVelikoye Knyazhestvo Finlyandskoye).

Translation issues
Russian English analogs, approximately English analogs after the 18th century
kniaz (, ['knjæs?]) king duke prince
kniaginia (?, [kn'?in]) queen duchess princess
kniazhich (, ['knjat]) prince (son of a king) son of a duke prince (son of a prince)
kniazhna (, [kn'?na]) princess (daughter of a king) daughter of a duke princess (daughter of a prince)

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

As noted above, the title knyaz or kniaz became a hereditary noble title in the Grand Duchy of Moscow and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Following the union of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, knia? became a recognised title in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. By the 1630s - apart from the title pan, which indicated membership of the large szlachta noble class - knia? was the only hereditary title that was officially recognised and officially used in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Notable holders of the title knia? include Jeremi Wi?niowiecki.

South Slavic countries

In the 19th century, the Serbian term knez (?) and the Bulgarian term knyaz (?) were revived to denote semi-independent rulers of those countries, such as Alexander Kara?or?evi? and Alexander of Battenberg. In parts of Serbia and western Bulgaria, knez was the informal title of the elder or mayor of a village or zadruga until around the 19th century. Those are officially called gradona?elnik (?) (Serbia) and gradonachalnik (?) or kmet (?) (Bulgaria).


  • Prior to Battenberg, the title knyaz was born by Simeon I during the First Bulgarian Empire (9th-10th century). At the height of his power, Simeon adopted the title of tsar ("emperor"), as did the Bulgarian rulers after the country became officially independent in 1908.
  • As of Bulgaria's independence in 1908, Knyaz Ferdinand became Tsar Ferdinand, and the words knyaz and knyaginya began to be used instead for the tsar's children - the heir to the throne, for example, held the title Knyaz Tarnovski (Prince of Turnovo").


In medieval Bosnia knez was title held by several of most powerful magnates (in Bosnia vlastelin) of the era, sometime along with an office title given to person through service to the monarch, such as Grand Duke of Bosnia, which was office of the supreme military commander of the realm. Other noble titles included the count, the duke and the prince. Among most influential of Bosnian nobleman with the title knez was Pavle Radinovi? of Radinovi?-Pavlovi? noble family.




  • knez (?) or knjaz (?) is a common term used in Serbian historiography for Serbian rulers in the Early Middle Ages, who were titled archon in Greek.
  • knez (?) or knjaz (?) was a noble title used by medieval rulers of the Principality of Serbia, Duklja[], and Moravian Serbia.
  • knez (?) was a title borne by local Serbian chiefs under the Ottoman Empire. It was another name for the Ottoman Turkish rank of kodjabashi, held by local Christian chiefs.[14]
  • obor-knez (?-?) was a title borne by elected local native Serbian chiefs of the nahiyah (district of a group of villages) in the Ottoman Sanjak of Smederevo (also known as the Belgrade Pashaluk). The obor-knez was senior chief and responsible for his district's people and was their spokesman (intermediary) in direct relations with the Pasha, though usually through the sipahi, and was in charge of the transfer of taxes levied on the villages.
  • knez (?) or knjaz (?) was the monarchial title used by Milo? Obrenovi? in Principality of Serbia, translated as "Prince". Serbia known as Kne?evina Srbija ( ) was de facto independent since 1817, becoming de jure independent with the 1869 constitution. The successors of Milo? used the title until 1882 when Serbia was elevated into a kingdom.

See also


  1. ^ de Madariaga, I. (1997) "Tsar into emperor: the title of Peter the Great", in Hatton, R.M. et al. Royal and Republican Sovereignty in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. ISBN 9780521026512, p. 354
  2. ^ ? ?. ? ? 4-? ?. ?., 1956. ?. 2, ?. 126; ?. ?. ? . ?., 1978, ?. 228.
  3. ^ a b "". "Vasmer's Etymological Dictionary" online
  4. ^ ? ?. ?. ?. ?., 1980. ?. 17
  5. ^ Skok, Petar. Etimologijski Rje?nik Hrvatskoga ili Srpskoga Jezika. 1972.
  6. ^ Ed. Kurz, Josef. Slovnik Jazyka Staroslov?nskeho: Lexicon Linguae Palaeoslavonicae. 1958.
  7. ^ "knez". Oxford English Dictionary, 1989, online [1] (subscription required)
  8. ^ ? // ?. ? ? (
  9. ^ "Borna". Croatian Biographical Lexicon by Miroslav Krle?a Institute of Lexicography (online edition). Retrieved .
  10. ^ "Trpimir I". Croatian Biographical Lexicon by Miroslav Krle?a Institute of Lexicography (online edition). Retrieved .
  11. ^ "Domagoj". Croatian Biographical Lexicon by Miroslav Krle?a Institute of Lexicography (online edition). Retrieved .
  12. ^ "Branimir". Croatian Biographical Lexicon by Miroslav Krle?a Institute of Lexicography (online edition). Retrieved .
  13. ^ "knez". Croatian Encyclopedia by Miroslav Krle?a Institute of Lexicography (online edition). Retrieved .
  14. ^ Stavrianos, Leften Stavros (2000) [1958]. The Balkans Since 1453. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 224. ISBN 1850655510.


  • Mihalj?i?, R. (1999) Knez. inirkovi? S.i R.Mihalj?i? [ed.] Leksikon srpskog srednjeg veka, Beograd, str. 299-301

External links

  • Media related to Knyaz at Wikimedia Commons

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