Дата публикации: 14 октября 2021
Автор(ы): Valery PERKHAVKO
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Источник: (c) Science in Russia, №5, 2012, C.75-83
Номер публикации: №1634205915

Valery PERKHAVKO, (c)

by Valery PERKHAVKO, Cand. Sc. (Hist.), RAS History and Philology Department, Moscow, Russia


Five hundred and fifty years ago, in 1462, Grand Prince (Duke) Ivan III was enthroned as a sovereign of Muscovy. As a crowned ruler of Russia, he stayed in power up until 1505. During his long rule a great number of Russian lands joined Moscow and shook off the Mongol-Tatar yoke.


That happened in October 7014 since the creation of the world (in 1505 A.D.). An old cripple was sinking fast in the bedchamber of his wooden palace on the grounds of the Moscow Kremlin. Next door a team of Italian architects were busy erecting a brick palace. But he, Ivan III, would never move in. Still, on May 21, 1505, he made his last orders registered in the chronicles: Pull down the old Archangel Cathedral and the St. John Climacus Church, and break ground for new prayerhouses.* That was the final act of the monarch's eventful life and labors... Back in 1462 he began his reign by renovating the Kremlin, and building houses of worship and fortresses there and elsewhere. In fact, he built the framework of a united Russian power.




Ivan, the second and younger son to Grand Duke of Muscovy Basil (Vassily) II and his spouse Maria, daughter of the appanage prince Yaroslav, was born on the twenty-second of January 1440. After his older brother died, Ivan


See: A. Nikolayeva, "Moscow Kremlin Museums", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2006; T. Geidor, "Masterpieces That Endure", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2009.--Ed.


became a crown prince. The destined "Sire of all Russia" was named on the fifth day after his birth after St. John Chrysostom, a Greek church father much revered in Russia. His baptismal name was Timothy (Timofei). His childhood years concurred with the crucial stage of the internecine war of 1433-1453 as Princes Basil II, Yuri, and Yuri's two sons, Basil Kosoi ("Squint-eyed") and Dmitry Shemyaka, were fighting for the Moscow throne.


In February of 1446 Basil II with his children and a small group of courtiers went on a pilgrimage to the St. Trinity and Sergius Monastery*. Dmitry Shemyaka's followers waylaid the pilgrims, seized Basil and rushed him to Moscow where they had him blinded. Hence his sobriquet, Basil (Vassily) the Dark. His boys stayed for a while in the St. Trinity Monastery until loyal servants of Basil II took both in the dead of night to the estate owned by Boyar Ivan Ryapolovsky and thence to Murom.** Meanwhile Shemyaka, who seized the Moscow throne for a short time, was eager to get rid of the heirs of his political rival; he wanted to get them drowned in a river; yet Ionas,


See: V. Darkevich, "The Monastery of St. Sergiy", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2000. -Ed.


** See: O. Bazanova, "Homeland of Ilya Muromets", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2009. -Ed.

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Bishop of Ryazan, talked him out of an atrocity like that, and took them to their father banished to Uglich.*


Soon after, Basil the Dark went to Vologda, set aside as his appanage town, then moved to Tver** early in 1447, he regained his throne in Moscow with the aid of Boyar Mikhail Pleshcheev and his detachment, who chased away the usurper. The ups and downs of stiff infighting left their impress on Ivan's character makeup: a wise and circumspect statesman in his mature years, he was suspicious, cruel and sly.


His blind father, Basil, often enlisted his services in important government affairs. As early as 1448 the young heir apparent to the throne was among troops moving against Mamutek, the khan of Kazan. In 1451 the chronicle on the raid of the Tatar crown prince Mazovshi against Moscow titled the young heir to the throne, eleven years old then, as "grand duke" (prince). In the winter of the following year he went through a real acid test--his first unaided campaign to the river of Kokchenga, flowing in what is now the Archangel and Vologda administrative regions, against the mutinous prince Shemyaka.


See: O. Bazanova, "Tsarevich Dmitry's Town", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2008. -Ed.


** See: O. Bazanova, "Between Two Capitals", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2008.--Ed.


In June of 1452 the 12-year-old Ivan wedded Maria of Tver. Their first son, Ivan Junior, was born to them six year later. Dying at age 32, he was not destined to succeed his father on the throne, though for some time they shared the throne as two equal rulers. In 1454 Ivan Sr. and his younger brother Yuri captained an armed force sent towards the Oka to defend Muscovy's frontiers against the Tatar crown prince Saltan. Learning the art of statesmanship, the destined "Sire of all Russia" gained both in manhood and experience. In January of 1459, his father, Basil the Dark, proceeding against the restive Great Novgorod,* left his crown prince in Moscow as proxy to take care of the Russian capital.




In his last will Grand Duke Basil II (the Dark), who passed away in March 1462, bequeathed the throne to Ivan, his heir. "...And my older son, Ivan, I bless him with my principality, and great princedom." The brothers of the crown prince (Yuri of Dmitrov, Andrei of Uglich, Boris of Volotsk, Andrei of Vologda) were in for appanages that, even taken together, were smaller than the great principality of Moscow. In the initial years of his reign the young sovereign added to his domains the Principality of Yaroslavl and thereafter, Rostov the Great**, installing his vice-regents there.


Unlike his predecessors, the new ruler of Muscovy did not have to trek to the Golden Horde, the Mongol khan's headquarters, and eat humble pie there begging for the yarlyk, or charter of princedom. Yet there is some evidence that the young monarch received that grant in Moscow: Muscovy was still dependent on the tottering Mongolian empire. But the "fragments" of that empire, above all the Khanate of Kazan and the Great Horde, were a big headache to Ivan III.


In April of 1467 a mounted messenger brought bad tidings to the grand duke staying at Kolomna*** bracing himself for a possible Mongolian attack: his beloved spouse, Maria, a most pacific and amiable woman, was dead. There were rumors she had been poisoned. The same year war broke out between Muscovy and the Kazan Khanate. Ivan moved an armed host mounted on river boats against Kazan. The faceoff going on for two years ended in Ivan's victory. The two warring sides made peace, and Russian war prisoners returned home.


See: V. Darkevich, "Miracle on Lake Nero", Science in Russia, No. 5, 1998.--Ed.


** See: V. Darkevich, "Republic on the Volkhov", Science in Russia, No. 3, 1998.--Ed.


*** See: O. Bazanova, "Favorite Town of Dmitry Donskoi", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2010.--Ed.

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Meanwhile an anti-Muscovite faction was asserting itself in that veche (popular assembly) republic on the Volkhov. Novgorodians hostile to Moscow were headed by Marfa, the widow of Posadnik (townshead) Isaac Boretsky, and their sons. Bowing before the grand prince's authority but in name, this segment of Novgorodian aristocracy sought to retain domestic independence and live "in good old ways". Promoting rulers from their midst, these nobles were eyeing with envy the Great Principalities of Lithuania and Poland, where cities enjoyed self-government and various privileges. All set to break with Moscow, in 1471 they swore allegiance to Kazimir IV, the king of Poland and grand prince of Lithuania. That conspiracy angered Ivan and made his cup run over.


In keeping with the strategic plan mapped out by the grand duke, his host struck in a two-pronged attack--one was spearheaded against the restive city state, and the other, against its northern estates. Both attacks came off successfully in July 1471: Novgorodian merchants and craftsmen enlisted in the homeguard militia were but poorly trained, and besides, they were none too eager to fight for the interests of the nobility. Upon his arrival at Russa (a district center of the Novgorod administrative region today), Ivan III had four boyars executed; one of them was Dmitry Boretsky, Marfa's son. Rich prisoners of war could get off with ransom, and "small fry" were set free--Ivan hoped for their support in the future. The campaign over, the grand duke returned to Moscow with flying colors.




That was his second marriage. A year after his victory over Novgorod Ivan III married Zoe, a daughter of the despot (absolute ruler) of the Greek province of Morea, Thomas Paleologos. She was a niece of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine IX; upon her father's death she and her two brothers lived in Rome at the Holy See. A portrait of his destined bride brought to Moscow impressed Ivan, and so did--perhaps even more!--her pedigree.


Planning this marriage, the Roman Catholic Church hoped to extend its influence to the grand duke's domains and enlist him in an active struggle against the Ottoman Empire threatening European states. Yet the Pope's plans failed. Although Ivan III would now and then harken to advice of his Greek spouse, Sophia, he let her know her place in all other matters. The spouses had five daughters and six sons. The older son, Basil, born in 1479, became the sovereign of Muscovy upon Ivan's death in 1505. He added other independent Russian principalities to Moscow and completed the consolidation process.




Late in November 1477 Ivan's regiments besieged the restive city state again. The Moscow ruler was implacable. "Veche [popular assembly] is not to be. Posadnik [mayor] is not to be... We shall stand by our state... We shall regain our lands in your possession." Such was his ultimatum. Seeing that Ivan's force was superior in strength, Novgorodians surrendered in January of 1478. They sacrificed their liberties and agreed to a confiscation of part of the diocesan and monastery lands.


In their character makeup Novgorodian Russians differed from those of Muscovy. Novgorodians, citizens of a popular assembly republic, were in constant touch with the Roman Catholic West, they had colonized vast expanses of Europe's northwest. Muscovites, however, had been in close touch with the despotic Golden Horde; their system of government was likewise despotic. By and large, they relied on their inland resources.




As of the latter half of the 1470s the Moscow state would no longer pay tribute to the Great Horde. An armed clash thus became inevitable. Its ruler Ahmad, a

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superb army chief, began a march on Muscovy in the spring of 1480 at the head of a large force; in June its forward units were approaching the Oka, a large river south of Moscow. Fortunately Ivan III avoided a two-front war: his adversary did not get the expected succor from the Polish king who had other fish to fry. King Kazimir IV was fighting rebellious aristocracy and simultaneously, he had to rebuff a raid of Crimean Tatars captained by Khan Mengli Girei, Ahmad's arch rival in the power struggle. An embassy sent by the Moscow ruler had made a compact of alliance in good time with the Crimean khan.


The two hosts clashed in October 1480 on the Ugra, a tributary of the Oka. Ivan's troops made an active use of harquebuses, portable firearms employed as field guns. Shooting at the enemy, the Russians stood firm and held their ground forbidding the enemy mounted force from crossing onto the river's left bank. Meanwhile winter with its frosts was coming, and the Ugra could ice over, a welcome opportunity for the Tatar horsemen to break through. Leaving outposts on the Ugra's left bank, the grand duke ordered the bulk of the force to move northwards, to Borovsk, so as to gain vantage positions and get ready for further fighting. In the meantime Ahmad khan, feeling he had no chances to win, ordered his frazzled units to fall back.


It was great relief to Ivan. Back in Moscow, he could hardly realize the full significance of the "Ugra standoff", as this epic confrontation went down in history. Centuries of the Mongol yoke were over. Muscovy was free at last. Still and all, some vestiges of that yoke lingered: Moscow Russia kept sending "gifts" to the Great Horde up until the early 16th century, and to the Khanate of the Crimea, even as late as the 17th century. Ivan III, unlike his crowned predecessors, did not take a direct part in armed clashes. Rather, he assumed the role of a commander-in-chief concerned more with strategic leadership, and delegated tactical decision making to seasoned commanders, the voivodes.

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Little by little the once fragmented Russia was turning into a monolithic state. Seeking to curb the system of appanage principalities,* Ivan III did not share the lands of Yuri of Dmitrov, who died in 1472, and the domains of Novgorod the Great with his brothers, denying their right to new territorial acquisitions and participation in government. In 1481 he inherited, in keeping with the testament of Andrei Jr., the Principality of Vologda, and then Beloozero, Serpukhov** and Uglich. The social status of appanage princes, formerly enjoying relative independence within their domains, fell off considerably and now, like the boyars and landed nobility, they had to bow and scrape before the grand prince and "go where he would send them".


* Appanage principalities (appanages) sprung up in Rus in the 12th through 16th centuries with the fragmentation of large principalities into ever smaller holdings. Minor principalities like that were considered a feud, or fief, governed by a prince. --Ed.


** See: O. Borisova, "Tretyakovka Outside Moscow", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2008.--Ed.




The Kremlin, a white-stone fortress in the heart of Moscow, was erected in 1336-1367. It had witnessed many misfortunes but survived. It survived the siege of Khan Tokhtamysh of the Golden Horde (1382), the siege of the Tatar czarevich Mazovshi (1452) as well as several fires and a destructive hurricane in 1460. The citadel had become dilapidated as Ivan III ascended the throne. Therefore the grand duke took care of its renovation. He had Vassily Yermolin, a master builder, and his crew restore part of the Kremlin wall from the Sviblovo sentry tower (Water-Tower today) down to the Borovitsky Gate, which is the western part of the Kremlin, and then get busy with the Frolovsky (Spassky, or Savior's) Gate eastward, and had it decorated with white-stone sculptures of St. George the Victorious and St. David of Solun (two Christian martyrs), the first sculptural composition to be erected in our capital.


Thereupon, in 1472, Metropolitan Philip suggested building a new Dormition (Assumption) Church in place of the old white-stone one that had fallen into ruin. Brick,

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a rather new building material in Russia, was to be used. Ivan III, seeking to accentuate the growing might of his power, was thumbs up. But in May of 1474 the newly erected structure caved in, probably because of designing errors and poor mortar. And so the Moscow ruler invited Aristotle Fiorovanti,* an eminent Italian architect, to lend a hand, and take the Vladimir Dormition Church** as a model. Fiorovanti did the job, and in August of 1479 the new cathedral church of the Moscow state was consecrated in a solemn ceremony. The Italian architect was a man of many parts. Thus, in 1485, as artillery chief he took part in a Moscow campaign against the Tver Principality northwest of the capital.


See: V. Zverev, "The City Beautiful", Science in Russia, Nos. 2-3, 1992. -Ed.


** See: O. Bazanova, "Sacred Sites of the Land of Vladimir", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2005. -Ed.


Meanwhile the renovation work was carried on. The Italians superintended the construction of a new Kremlin wall of red brick with its 20 towers and turrets. This grand wall (5 to 10 meters high, and 3.5 to 6.5 m thick) encircled the citadel. Next followed the palatial structures, for one, the ducal palace put up in 1485 to 1495 with its hall for gala receptions known as Faceted Chamber (Chamber of Facets) because of the facets decorating its outer walls (architects, the Italians Marco Ruffo and Pietro Antonio Solari). Also, the Italians taught Russians the art of bridge building and taught them how to cast better guns at the Cannon Yard set up in Moscow.




In a charter signed by Novgorod the Great and Pskov with the Bishop of Yuriev (Tartu, Estonia, today) Ivan III was extolled as "our Sire... and Czar of All Russia". Such

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wording was also contained in a message to Ivan from King Alexander of Kachetia (1483) as well as in agreements signed by Moscow with Lithuania in 1481 and 1494, and in other documents. Corresponding with many heads of state abroad, the grand duke would often title himself a czar (tsar), though he did not go through a coronation ceremony, as his grandson Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) did decades after.


In January of 1489 an ambassador of the Holy Roman Empire, Nicholas Poppel, offered Ivan III a royal crown on behalf of his sovereign. The reply ran as follows: "We by God's grace are lords in our land from the very beginning, from our first progenitors. And like our progenitors, we were designated by God... And we are loath to seek such designation from anyone else." The "Sire of All Russia" title came to be used in ducal seals and documents, especially with the accession of Novgorod the Great and Tver to the Principality of Moscow.




Silver coins minted at that time for circulation on the home market bore an image of a sabered horseman on the

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obverse, and on the reverse side they had the main design of a man with a circular inscription that read, "Sire of all Russia" (in the initial years of Ivan's reign the reverse designated the coin's nominal value in Arabic numerals; this money was called "Denga (coin) of Moscow" in token of Moscow's dependence on the Golden Horde: the word denga was borrowed from Mongolian). Emulating the emperors of the powerful German Holy Roman Empire, the grand duke of Muscovy copied the impression of a double-headed eagle from their seal (in 1490 or so). This heraldic symbol had been in use in the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire), which he must have well known from diplomats, his wife Sophia and her entourage. All that was taken into consideration in designing the ducal seal.




This code was drawn up in 1497, that is still under Ivan III. It unified judicial and procedural rules in all lands of the Russian state in what concerned arbitration, punishments for bribery ("pay-offs") and felony. Capital punishment was meted out for heinous crimes. Now and then Ivan III allotted this kind of punishment in cases of treason and seldom, for heresy. Boyar and okolnichy (second in status to that of boyars) nobles dispensed justice.

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One of the 68 articles of that law code, one that has come down to us in a single manuscripted copy, confined the term of "refusals" for peasant serfs (when they could change their feudal lords) to two weeks, one before and one after Yuriev Day, an Orthodox feast consecrated to St. George (Yuri) and cerebrated on the 26th of November. Thereby began the juridical legalization of serfdom (bondage), a process that went on up until the close of the 17th century.


Ivan III relied on the upper crust of Moscow aristocracy, members of the boyar Duma (Assembly) he appointed. The grand duke established Russia's first administrative institutions: the treasury headed by a comptroller, and the palatial administration with a staff of scribes (clerks); he founded the military and diplomatic departments. The first "Sire of All Russia" was in charge for as long as 43 years and seven months, that is longer than the other actual rulers of this country. He was a man of his age--ambitious and power-loving, sly and cruel. But in the same breath he evinced sagacity, wisdom and foresight, and was tireless in promoting the cause of his state. Hence his popular appellation, the Great: Ivan the Great.

Опубликовано на Порталусе 14 октября 2021 года

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