Švitrigaila (Polish: Świdrygiełło) (ca. 1370– 10 February 1452); was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1430 to 1432. He spent most of his life in largely unsuccessful dynastic struggles against his cousins Vytautas and Sigismund Kęstutaitis.
Struggle against Vytautas 
He was born to Algirdas and Uliana of Tver. He was baptized by his mother into Eastern Orthodoxy. At the age of 11, he (together with his brother Jogaila) was converted in Kraków into Roman Catholicism, changing his Christian name from Lev to Bolesław.
At that time, the town of Polotsk was the capital of his lands. In 1392, however, Švitrigaila made an ill-fated attempt to seize neighbouring Vitebsk, but was ousted by his cousin Vytautas of Lithuania to Prussia.
While living abroad, Švitrigaila sided with the Teutonic Knights in their prolonged struggle against Vytautas. In 1400, he was allowed to return to Lithuania, receiving Podolia as his demesne. Four years later, he moved eastward to Severia.
Defection to Moscow 
It is believed that Švitrigaila sympathized with the Russians, being born of a Russian mother (Uliana of Tver) and married to Anna Ivanovna of Tver. When the war broke out between Vytautas and his Muscovite son-in-law in 1408, Švitrigaila cast his lot with the latter, surrendering all the Severian towns to the Russian army and defecting to Moscow.
During his brief stay in Muscovy, Švitrigaila was rewarded with Volokolamsk and several other towns and put in charge of the Russian army operating against Vytautas. Lacking any military talent, he failed to win a single battle and, on hearing about the invasion of Edigu, fled to Lithuania, pillaging Serpukhov on his way.
Back in Lithuania, he was apprehended as an inveterate traitor and a dangerous pretender and imprisoned in the castle of Kremenets for 9 years. Finally delivered by Prince Daniel Ostrogski, he escaped to Hungary. It was through mediation of the Holy Roman Emperor and his brother Jagiełło that he was allowed to return to Lithuania as a sovereign ruler of Severia in 1420.
Struggle against Sigismund 
Grand Duke of Lithuania 
Upon Vytautas's death in October 1430, Lithuanian nobles unilaterally elected Švitrigaila as the Grand Duke. This violated the terms of the Union of Horodło of 1413, where Lithuanians promised not to elect a new Grand Duke without the approval of the Kingdom of Poland. In order to receive Ruthenian votes Švitrigaila granted equal rights to Catholic and Orthodox nobles – it was one lasting achievement of his brief reign. The Polish nobility, led by Zbigniew Oleśnicki, were outraged and demanded that Švitrigaila acknowledged his fealty to his brother Jogaila, King of Poland. Švitrigaila refused and professed full independence. The conflict was further complicated by territorial disputes in Podolia and Volhynia, that according to an agreement in 1411 were to be ruled by Lithuania only for the lifetime of Vytautas.
Švitrigaila fought against the Polish–Lithuanian forces at Lutsk in Volhynia, and at the same time started organizing a wider anti-Polish coalition. In June 1431, an agreement was reached with the Teutonic Knights: the Knights declared war and without much opposition invaded Poland, whose forces where engaging Švitrigaila in Volhynia. In September a two-year truce between Poland, Lithuania, and the Teutonic Knights was signed in Staryi Chortoryisk. It was more favorable to Poland and it is not clear why Švitrigaila agreed to it. However, the truce did not solve the underlying dispute. The war turned into diplomatic struggle: Poland sought to turn Lithuanian nobles against Švitrigaila.
Coup and civil war 
Conspirators, led by Sigismund Kęstutaitis, attacked Švitrigaila and his escort, who were staying in Ašmena for the night of August 31, 1432. Švitrigaila managed to escape to Polotsk. It is unclear what groups supported Sigismund and why. Possibly Lithuanian nobles were dissatisfied with favors Švitrigaila showed to Orthodox dukes, but before the coup no such opposition manifested itself. Sigismund, who did not play a major role in Lithuanian politics before the coup and who initially supported Švitrigaila, became the Grand Duke and resumed policy of union with Poland.
Lithuania was divided into two camps: supporters of Sigismund (Lithuanian lands, Samogitia, Podlaskie, Hrodna, Minsk) to the west, and supporters of Švitrigaila (Polotsk, Vitebsk, Smolensk, Kiev, Volhynia) to the east. Three years of devastating hostilities began. Švitrigaila enlisted help from Sayid Ahmad I, Khan of the Golden Horde. Both sides suffered heavy losses and final victory in the Battle of Pabaiskas went to Sigismund in 1435. After the defeat, Švitrigaila fled to Polotsk. Losing his influence in the Slavic principalities, he attempted to reconciled with Poland in September 1437: he would rule lands that still supported him (chiefly Kiev and Volhynia) and after his death the territories would pass to the King of Poland. However, Polish Senate did not ratify this treaty under strong protest from Sigismund. Švitrigaila retreated to Wallachia in 1438.
Later years 
In 1440 Sigismund Kęstutaitis was assassinated by nobles who supported Švitrigaila, and Švitrigaila returned to rule Podolia and Volhynia. At the age of 70 (or 85, according to some sources), he was too old to resume his struggle for the Lithuanian throne and more importantly had no support from the Council of Lords led by Jonas Goštautas (Jan Gastold), that in June 1440 elected Casimir Jagiellon, brother of Polish King Władysław III as Grand Duke. Shortly before his death in Lutsk in 1452, he bequeathed all his possessions in Podolia and Volynia to the Lithuanian state.
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|Grand Duke of Lithuania