The Story of Russia
by R. Van Bergen
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The Russian dukes and their nobles lost not only the principle of patriotism, but also that of personal honor. The unfortunate Russians henceforth were to them, not fellow-countrymen but "tcherne" "black people." The khans, with true political instinct looking to the perpetuation of this condition, gained the friendship of the Church, as they had that of the dukes. In 1313, the Khan Uzbeck, at the request of the Metropolitan or head of the Church of Moscow, ordered that the Church should retain its privileges, and that it should not be deprived of its property, because, he says, "these possessions are sacred, as they belong to men whose prayers preserve our lives and strengthen our armies." The churches and convents grew enormously rich. They received gifts of land, and the priests, so bribed, allied themselves with the heathen masters, and aided further in oppressing the people.

The descendants of the dukes and drujinas lost the large and generous impulses of the old Norsemen, to make way for the Asiatic deformities of treachery, cruelty, cunning, and disregard of honor. Whatever came in the way of their own interests, was trampled under foot by fair means or foul. The boyards, too, were tainted by the example of the chiefs. The vast extent of the country, the sparsity of the population, the difficulties in the way of communication, and above all the general ignorance, prevented the appearance of a patriot who might have raised a truly national banner, and shaken off the yoke of the servile lackeys of the Tartars.

(p. 078)


We have seen that the Tartar invasion stopped short of Novgorod, and turned southeast, thus leaving northwest Russia free. What are now known as the Baltic Provinces, was at that time covered with dense forests, inhabited by the Finns or Suomi, the Tchouds, Jmouds, and Lithuanians, all of the same race and speaking the same language, but constantly at war with one another. In the 13th century a chief named Mindvog, after killing his brothers and sons, united the tribes, and made himself master of Lithuania. He then invaded Russia whose dukes, suffering under the Tartar yoke, were unable to withstand him. He captured Grodno and Novogredek, when he was confronted by Alexander Nevsky and Daniel of Volhynia in front, and by the Knights of Livonia in his rear. In this extremity Mindvog sent to the Pope promising that he would be converted in return for his good services. Pope Innocent IV replied by sending a papal legate to Grodno, where Mindvog and his wife were baptized, and he was made King of Lithuania (1252). Soon after he had a dispute with the Livonian Knights to whom he was forced to cede the country of the Jmouds. He again became a pagan and, marching against the Knights, defeated them. Upon his return from this (p. 080) expedition, he was murdered by a chief named Dovmont whom he had injured. Lithuania again fell into anarchy until another enterprising chief named Gedimin restored order in 1315.

Gedimin invaded Russia, defeated a Russo-Tartar army in 1321, and took Tchernigof and Vladimir. He then went south, where the Russian cities readily opened their gates to him, hoping for relief from the Mongol yoke. He took the old capital Kief, and there had his sons baptized in the Greek church and tried to marry them into the families of Russian dukes. He established his capital at Wilna where he attracted many German artists and mechanics by granting them special privileges. He died a pagan, in 1340, dividing his country among his sons and his brother.

One of his sons, Olgerd, succeeded in getting possession of the whole, and then started upon a career of conquest. He first attacked Novgorod, where one of his brothers had taken refuge, and made conquests east and south, until he reached the Black Sea. Although he was a pagan, Simeon the Proud, Grand Duke of Moscow, gave him his daughter; but this did not prevent Olgerd from waging war with Simeon's successors. In 1368, he defeated the Tartars of the Lower Dnieper, and destroyed Cherson in the Crimea.

When he died he followed Gedimin's example by dividing his territories among his sons, but one of them, Jagellon, became sole ruler by putting his brothers to flight and his uncle to death. At this time the Russian language was adopted and with it the Greek Church, although Jagellon was still a pagan. When he married Hedwiga, the (p. 081) heiress to the Kingdom of Poland, he embraced the Roman Catholic church; in 1386, he went to Cracow, where he was crowned King of Poland, and soon after gave orders that his people must join the same church, converting them as Vladimir had introduced Christianity among the people of Kief. Jagellon made Cracow his capital. Some time afterwards one of his cousins, Vitovt, raised a revolt against him in Lithuania, and Jagellon was compelled to cede that territory to him. Thus Vitovt became Grand Duke of Lithuania.

Vitovt married the sister of Vassili, Grand Duke of Moscow, and extended his domain toward the east. He invaded Smolensk, whose Grand Duke Sviatoslaf, when fighting in Russia, had taken a delight in impaling and burning alive Russian women and children. That savage had been killed in 1387, in a battle with the Lithuanians, and his son had succeeded him. Vitovt, before Smolensk, invited this prince and his brothers to visit him in his tent. They accepted and were warmly received, but when they were ready to depart, they were told that they were prisoners of war. Smolensk was taken by surprise, and pillaged.

Vitovt contemplated the conquest of Russia. His territory bordered in the east on Souzdal and Riazan. He had defeated an army of Tartars in the south, and was making preparations for a bold stroke. Collecting an army of Lithuanians, Poles, Russians, and five hundred Knights of the Teutonic Order, he set out from Kief and came upon the Tartar army near Pultowa where, in 1399, he suffered a serious defeat. He recovered from this blow, and after some time began a war with the Teutonic Order which he defeated in 1410, at the battle of the (p. 082) Tannenberg. He thereupon re-annexed the Jmoud country.

Vitovt had given up his designs upon Russia; he planned to raise Lithuania into a kingdom, and to have a Metropolitan of its own, instead of being dependent upon the head of the Greek Church at Moscow. He succeeded in the last-named object, but met with a check in the former, and, as he was eighty years old, the disappointment caused an illness from which he died, in 1430. After his death, Lithuania had no more influence upon Russia. Sometimes it had a grand duke of its own, at other times it was united with Poland. In 1501, it became the property of the King of Poland, who added to his title that of Grand Duke of Lithuania. Its nobles spoke the Polish language.

It was necessary to sketch in a few words the history of Lithuania, not only because it is part of Russia to-day, but because it has always been claimed by Russia. The history of that country, however, from the beginning of the 14th century, is centered about Muscovia, the territory of the Grand Duke of Moscow. At the time of the Lithuanian conquest, Muscovia was bounded on the north by Tver, on the east by Souzdal, on the south by Riazan, and on the west by Lithuania. It belonged to Alexander Nevski, who at his death left it to his son Daniel. Its area was increased by him by the towns of Pereiaslaf, Zabiesski and Kolomna. Daniel died in 1303, and was buried in the church of St. Michael the Archangel, which remained the burial place of the Muscovite princes until the time of Peter the Great.

The next grand duke was Daniel's son George, whose first act was (p. 083) to capture the Duke of Smolensk from whom he took the town of Mojaisk. In 1304 the Grand Duke of Souzdal died. Michael of Tver claimed the succession as the eldest of the family, but George of Moscow contested it. Michael was supported by the boyards of Vladimir and the people of Novgorod; the khan at Sarai also declared in his favor, and Michael was installed. George, however, was not satisfied and began a war; he was defeated in battle, and twice besieged in Moscow. Suddenly he heard that the khan was dead; he hastened to Sarai, and there made friends with the new Khan Uzbeck, who gave him his sister Kontchaka in marriage, and ordered that George should have possession of Souzdal. He returned to Moscow with a Tartar army and Michael, considering the odds, proposed to cede Vladimir on condition that his own patrimony of Tver should remain intact. George refused, and the war broke out anew. Michael defeated him and captured Kontchaka and the Tartar general, but he released his prisoners, and the dispute was again brought before the khan. George took good care to be at Sarai, and having ample means at his disposal from his poll-tax collecting, distributed bribes right and left. Michael, confident in the justice of his cause, committed the mistake of sending his twelve-year-old son in charge of high boyards, to represent him; but when he was informed of George's methods, he, too, proceeded to Sarai, after making his will. Upon his arrival, he was accused of having drawn his sword upon the Khan's envoy, and of having poisoned Kontchaka. Uzbeck would not even listen to such absurd complaints, but George invented other falsehoods, (p. 084) and at last Michael was arrested. The khan went on a hunting trip in the Caucasus, and the wretched Duke of Tver was dragged after him in chains. One day he was put in the pillory in the market of a populous town, where the people crowded around him to look at the man who, a short time before, was a powerful prince in his own country. Michael's boyards urged him to escape, but he dreaded the khan's vengeance upon his family and people. George increased his bribes, and thus secured the order that Michael should be put to death.

One of Michael's pages came to the tent occupied by him, and told him that George and a Tartar general were approaching. "I know what their object is," said the unfortunate duke. He at once sent his young son to one of the khan's wives, who had promised to protect the child. The two men came to the tent and ordered the Tver boyards to leave. Hired assassins were called in, and a Russian ruffian named Romanetz stabbed the unfortunate duke. When George and the Tartar entered, they saw the nude corpse; it had been despoiled. The Tartar was shocked. "What!" he cried, "Will you allow the body of your uncle to be outraged!" George only smiled; but one of his attendants threw a cloak over the murdered man.

When Michael's children grew up, one of his sons, Dmitri of the Terrible Eyes, secured some friends at the khan's court. He obtained the title of grand duke, and a baskak received orders to install him. When George heard this, he hurried to Sarai; there the two men met, and Dmitri, drawing his sword, killed his father's murderer (1325). (p. 085) Dmitri was arrested and put to death by order of the khan, but his brother Alexander was permitted to succeed him at Tver.

This duke was in sympathy with the people. Suffering under the oppression of the Tartar tax collectors, the people revolted under the leadership of Alexander. The palace of the baskak was attacked, and he and his attendants were killed. Uzbeck, incited by Ivan Kalita, George's brother and successor at Moscow, prepared to take revenge, when Ivan volunteered to punish Tver, as well as Riazan and Novgorod which had given evidence of sympathy. The offer was accepted, and Ivan at the head of a Muscovite army reenforced by 50,000 Tartars marched upon the doomed city. Alexander and his brothers fled. Tver and two other cities were sacked, the Duke of Riazan was put to death, and Novgorod had to pay a heavy fine. Ivan thought that his services would procure him Tver and Riazan, but Uzbeck did not intend to extend the power of the treacherous family, and Constantine, another son of Michael, was made Duke of Tver. He and Ivan went to Sarai, where the latter was ordered to bring Alexander before the khan. The prince had found an asylum in Pskof, where Ivan's messengers appeared to demand his surrender. The envoys urged him to give himself up under the plea "not to expose a Christian people to the wrath of the infidels." The people of Pskof thought otherwise. "Do not go to the Horde, my lord," said they; "whatever happens, we will die with you." Alexander refused to obey the summons, and the people of Pskof began to construct a new fort. Ivan Kalita, the Grand Duke of Moscow, persuaded the (p. 086) Metropolitan to place Alexander and Pskof under the ban of the Church, which was done. We see here a Christian prince persecuting a relative, and a Christian priest excommunicating a Christian people,—all to please an infidel conqueror! Still the people of Pskof refused to yield, but Alexander left the city and took refuge in Lithuania. Then Pskof informed Ivan of his departure, saying, "Alexander is gone; all Pskof swears it, from the smallest to the greatest, popes,[10] monks, nuns, orphans, women, and children." (1329.)

[Footnote 10: Priests.]

Some years afterwards an attempt was made by Alexander to recover Tver. He went to Sarai with some of his boyards. There he made submission. "Lord, all-powerful Czar," he said, "if I have done anything against you, I have come hither to receive of you life or death. Do as God inspires you; I am ready for either." Uzbeck pardoned him and Alexander returned to Tver. This did not please Ivan Kalita, who knew that he was hated everywhere, and that his enemies only needed a leader. He went to Sarai where he told Uzbeck that Alexander was a very dangerous enemy to the Tartars. Alexander was summoned to appear and when he complied, he was arrested, condemned to death, and beheaded.



Crafty and unscrupulous, the grand dukes of Moscow were feared by their neighbors. Ivan Kalita, as farmer of the poll-tax, grew immensely wealthy. He collected a double tax from Novgorod, which the republic, although allied with Lithuania, dared not refuse. He bought several towns, besides land in the neighborhood of Vladimir, Rostof, and Kostroma. His title was still Grand Duke of Vladimir, but Moscow was the real capital. Ivan took very good care to stand well with the Church. He built convents and churches, and never went out without an alms-bag or kalita to give money to the poor; hence his surname. The seat of the Metropolitan was still at Vladimir, but he often came to Moscow, and finally moved there; so that it became also the capital of the Church. It is reported that the Metropolitan said to Ivan, "God will bless you and raise you above all other dukes, and this city above all other cities. Your house will reign in this place during many centuries; their hands will conquer all their enemies; the saints will make their dwelling here, and here my bones shall rest."

When Ivan with the Alms-bag died in 1341, he left the bulk of his (p. 088) possessions to his eldest son Simeon, and gave only small estates to his other children; he also forbade that Moscow's territory should be divided. His body was scarcely in the grave before the dukes of Tver and Souzdal were on the way to Sarai to claim the grand dukedom of Vladimir; they were supported by other dukes who disliked and dreaded the Muscovite family. Simeon hurried after them, well provided with some of his father's treasure. He used it so well, that he received the iarlikh, and was installed at Vladimir. Servile toward the khan, he was overbearing toward the other Russian dukes, which procured for him the surname of the Proud. He was the first to assume the title of Grand Duke of all the Russias; and, acting in that capacity, he graciously confirmed the charter of Novgorod, for which he demanded and obtained payment. Simeon died in 1353 of the "black death," a pestilence which was imported from Asia.

Great changes were taking place at Sarai, in the Khan of the Golden Horde. Its power was broken by internal discord, when Mourout, the legal heir of Bati, was attacked by a rival Mamai, who succeeded in establishing himself at Sarai. Simeon was succeeded by his brother, Ivan II, an easy-going, good-natured man whose reign of six years did not increase the influence of Moscow. At his death, in 1359, he left several minor children, the oldest of whom was Dmitri, a boy of twelve. Dmitri of Souzdal went to Sarai—and secured the iarlikh, which made him Grand Duke of Vladimir, but Alexis, the Metropolitan, was loyal to Ivan's children, and appealed to the khan in the name of his young ward. Mourout, the heir of Bati, declared in his favor, (p. 090) and young Dmitri was taken to Vladimir escorted by an army, and installed. (1363.)

The appointment was disputed by the dukes of Tver, Souzdal, and Riazan. Dmitri of Souzdal held an iarlikh from Mourout's opponent, and tried to enter in Vladimir, but was expelled. The Metropolitan excommunicated the opponents of Ivan's son, who held the fort as Grand Duke. Young Dmitri made war upon the Duke of Tver, and after a seven years' struggle (1368-1375), compelled him to renounce his claims.

Dmitri was summoned before the Khan, in 1371. He went but what he saw at Sarai convinced him that the Tartars were no longer able to uphold their authority. He did not hesitate to engage in a struggle with Riazan, although it was supported by a Tartar army. Thereafter, when orders arrived from the khan, Dmitri ignored them. In 1376, he sent a large army to Kazan on the Volga, and forced two Mongol chiefs to pay tribute. Two years later, in 1378, a battle was fought between Dmitri and one of Mamai's generals in Riazan, when the Tartars were defeated, which made the grand duke exclaim: "Their time is come, and God is with us!" The khan sent an army to ravage Riazan, and made preparations to reestablish his authority at Moscow.

To make sure of success, Mamai took two years to collect an immense army and to mature his plans. This could not remain secret to the Russians, who, aroused by Dmitri, laid aside their private feuds to make common cause against the infidels. A large number of dukes assembled at Moscow, and even the Lithuanians promised to send (p. 091) troops to Kostroma where the Russian army was gathering. The Metropolitan assured Dmitri of the victory, and sent two monks to go with the troops. Making the sign of the Cross on their cowls, he said, "Behold a weapon which faileth never!"

Russia was united against the Mongol; all the dukes, with the exception of those of Tver and Riazan, lent their aid. These two dreaded Moscow's power, and the Duke of Riazan tried to conclude an alliance with Jagellon of Lithuania and Mamai.

Dmitri, at the head of an army estimated at 150,000 men, marched through Riazan to the Don where the Tartars were drawn up, awaiting the reinforcements of their ally Jagellon, who was still fifteen leagues distant. Dmitri resolved to fight the Tartars before a junction could be effected. He crossed the Don and met the enemy on the plain of Koulikovo,—the Field of the Woodcocks,—where a furious battle was fought. It was decided by a sudden attack upon the Tartars from an ambush, which threw them into a panic. The Tartars were routed; Mamai's camp, his chariots and camels, were all captured. Dmitri was found in a swoon from loss of blood. He was surnamed Donskoi, in honor of this victory. (1380.)

It seemed as if the end of the Mongol yoke had come, when another great leader appeared among them. Tamerlane, after conquering Bokhara, Hindostan, Iran, and Asia Minor, entered Europe, and ordered Mamai to be put to death. He summoned Dmitri Donskoi to appear before him, and received a curt refusal. Tamerlane sent one of his generals with an immense army to Moscow, and Dmitri, not finding the former (p. 092) support, went to Kostroma to collect troops. The Tartars appeared before Moscow, which they tried to carry by assault but failed. They pretended to enter into negotiations, when they surprised the gates and Moscow was delivered up to fire and sword. It is said that 24,000 inhabitants were slaughtered. Vladimir and other towns suffered the same fate.

It is told that Dmitri wept when he saw the charred remains of his capital after the Tartars had withdrawn. There was nothing for it but to make peace with the khan, and once more the Tartar tax gatherers went their rounds. But Dmitri's heart was sore against the Dukes of Tver and Riazan who had abetted Mamai, and Novgorod, which had used the opportunity of Moscow's distress to plunder some of its towns. After the country had sufficiently recovered, he compelled the Duke of Riazan to conclude "a perpetual peace," and Novgorod paid an indemnity besides agreeing to an annual tribute.

When Dmitri died in 1389, he left Moscow the most powerful of Russian dukedoms. He was succeeded by his eldest son Vassili, with the consent of his cousin Vladimir, who was the eldest of the family. Vassili mentioned Novgorod as "his patrimony," and acted as if the republic was his private property. He visited Sarai in 1392, and while there bought an iarlikh, which placed him in possession of Souzdal, Nishni Novgorod, and Mourom. In 1393, the people of Novgorod revolted, but Vassili's army convinced them that the republic was fast losing its former power.

At this time Tamerlane, dissatisfied with his generals, arrived in Europe and after pillaging the Golden Horde, moved westward, (p. 093) spreading ruin and desolation. He drew near to Moscow, where the famous eikon of the Virgin was taken in solemn procession, when the Tartar army stopped and turned to the south, where Azof, Astrakhan, and Sarai, were plundered and destroyed. (1395.) After Tamerlane's withdrawal, Vassili pretended not to know to whom to pay the tribute,—and so paid none at all. The Tartars under Ediger marched upon Moscow to collect it, but the city was bravely defended and Ediger, fearing an invasion from Asia, agreed to accept a ransom of 3000 rubles, which was paid by the boyards.

More dangerous were the attacks of Vitovt of Lithuania, Vassili's father-in-law, who marched three times against Moscow. Both Vitovt and Vassili were indisposed to risk a decisive battle, fearing that, if defeated, their enemies would despoil them. In 1408 a treaty was signed whereby the Ouger was made the frontier between them. This gave Smolensk to Lithuania, and Kozelsk to Moscow.

Vassili extended his territory, and with it his name; one of his daughters married the Byzantine Emperor, John Palaeologus. At his death, in 1425, he left his territory to his son Vassili, the Blind, whose title was contested by his uncle George, on the ground of being the eldest of the family. The dispute was submitted to the khan, in 1431. Both sides humbled themselves, but the argument of Vassili's boyards prevailed. "My Lord Czar," they said to the khan, "let us speak,—us, the slaves of the grand duke. Our master, the grand duke, prays for the throne of the grand dukedom, which is your property, (p. 094) having no other title but your protection, your investiture, and your iarlikh. You are master and can dispose of it according to your good pleasure. My Lord, the Duke George, his uncle, claims the grand dukedom by the act and will of his father, but not as a favor from the all-powerful." Vassili the Blind, was the first grand duke to be crowned at Moscow instead of at Vladimir.

His reign was disturbed by constant wars with his uncle, and afterwards with his cousins. In 1446 he was taken prisoner by one of the latter, who ordered his eyes to be put out. In 1450, peace was restored when the second son of George died of poison. Notwithstanding the loss of his sight Vassili displayed considerable energy in reestablishing his authority. Novgorod was forced to pay another indemnity, and to give a written promise that in future all deeds would be void unless stamped with the seal of the grand duke.

The most remarkable incident of Vassili's reign was the Council at Florence, Italy, in 1449, where delegates of the Roman and Greek Churches tried to effect a union. There were seventeen Metropolitans, among them Isidore of Moscow, who signed the Act of Union. When Isodore returned and declared what he had done, a great opposition appeared. Vassili himself insulted the Metropolitan, who fled to Rome. In 1453, Mahomet II captured Constantinople when a host of priests, monks, artists, and learned men fled from the extinct Byzantine Empire, to find an asylum in Russia.

While nothing resulted from the Council of Florence, owing to the opposition of members of the Greek Church, the fall of Constantinople left a deep impression upon Russia, which chose to consider itself (p. 095) as the heir to the Byzantine Empire. More than this, the influence of the men who found a refuge in Russia, served to inoculate the country of their adoption with the semi-oriental civilization which had distinguished Constantinople from Western Europe. The time, too, was propitious. Russia was gradually recovering from the blow of Tartar rule, which had marred its progress during two centuries. Here was, therefore, to all intent and purposes, a virgin soil, which promised to yield a rich harvest to whatever principles were planted in it. It might even regenerate the decaying elements of the Byzantine civilization.

(p. 096)


Vassili's eldest son Ivan was born in 1440. It is said that upon the occasion of his birth, an old monk at Novgorod had a vision which he reported to the Archbishop. "Truly," he said, "it is to-day that the grand duke triumphs; God has given him an heir; I behold this child making himself illustrious by glorious deeds. He will subdue princes and nations. But woe to Novgorod! Novgorod will fall at his feet, and never rise again."

Vassili, wishing to avoid the disputes incident upon the succession, during his lifetime admitted Ivan as co-regent. Upon his father's death, in 1462, Ivan was twenty-two years old. He succeeded without the usual disturbances, and the first six years of his reign were uneventful. In 1468, he gained forcible possession of his brother George's estate, and allowed him to die in prison. When he heard of his death,—he wept. Another brother, Andrew, was in his way, and was flung into prison, whereupon Ivan called the Metropolitan and bishops to his palace, wept some more, and confessed that he had been too severe;—but he forgot to restore Andrew's property. When his third brother, Boris, died, Ivan seized the estate and kept it; but he wept some more.

This soft-hearted but tenacious gentleman found fault with his (p. 098) neighbor, Michael of Tver, for entering into an alliance with Lithuania. To settle the difficulty, he invaded the dukedom, and annexed it to Moscow. Then, having his hands free, he thought of Novgorod. The Germans of the Hanseatic League had formed a colony in the old republic, which had grown very wealthy. Ivan looked upon that wealth as his; if it was not, it ought to be. Acting upon this satisfactory conclusion, he remembered that the people of Novgorod had omitted to do him homage when he succeeded his father. They had even failed to appreciate the gentle letter of remonstrance in which he reminded them of their oversight. Good-natured as he knew himself to be, he could not afford to encourage such a rebellious spirit; but, being a careful man, he concluded that it would be more humane as well as cheaper to try the gentle means of bribery. His gold, distributed where it would do most good, procured him a large party. The opposition was led by a woman named Marfa, the wealthy widow of a possadnik. She urged that the republic should ask the help of Casimir IV, King of Poland, but Ivan's friends in the vetche replied that, if Poland should win, the Roman Catholic Church would enter, whereas Russia was at least loyal to the Greek Church.

Marfa's influence prevailed; the republic submitted to Poland, on condition that its charter should be respected. Gentle Ivan despatched some Envoys to warn the people of the error of their ways, and when that did no good, he hired Tartar cavalry, overran the territory of the republic, and directed his troops to cut off the noses and lips of the prisoners. It is probable that he wept, although history (p. 099) omits mentioning the fact. Novgorod was unprepared; a mob was collected and styled an army, and in the battle of the Chelona, 3,000 trained troops put to flight 30,000 citizen soldiers. Novgorod was lost. Ivan kindly permitted the name "republic" to continue, but his authority was admitted. He also received a share of the wealth as an indemnity. (1470.)

Two years later he married the niece and supposed heiress of the last Byzantine emperor. Her father, Thomas Palaeologus, had fled to Rome where he died leaving one daughter Sophia. Pope Paul II wished to find her a husband, and Cardinal Bessarion of the Greek Church advised him to offer her hand to Ivan. The offer was accepted; Sophia received a dower from the Pope who still hoped to unite the two churches, and the bride was received with great honor in Ivan's territory. The grand duke probably had his eye on Constantinople, but deferred his claim to some favorable opportunity. With Sophia came many Greek nobles, artists, and learned men. Ivan, as may be judged from his gentle nature, was a patron of art, and had no prejudice against foreigners. Several Italians came to Moscow where their services were appreciated.

Ivan left Novgorod in peace during five years, when he thought it time to familiarize the citizens with the fact that their republic was a thing of the past. He needed a pretext; by a judicious use of money, his agents raised a mob against the boyards, who, being assaulted, invoked the strong arm of the law, in the person of Ivan. The grand duke came to Novgorod in 1475, to hold court. He at once ordered (p. 100) the arrest of the possadnik, Marfa's son, and a number of boyards who believed in a republic, had them put in chains and carried to Moscow. This was in violation of the charter, but Ivan had an elastic conscience. Next he tempted a scribe to mention him as Sovereign instead of "lord," in an official document; and when, in a last effort to save the republic, Marfa's partisans killed a number of Ivan's friends, it was evidently his duty to restore order.

Upon his return to Moscow, he announced that Novgorod was the enemy of the Greek Church, and the ally of the Pope and of Lithuania. This so alarmed the Metropolitan and the priests that they begged Ivan to make war upon the wicked city. Many dukes and boyards, moved by loyalty for the church, and perhaps scenting spoils, flocked to his camp. Marfa's partisans in vain tried to arouse the citizens by the cry, "Let us die for liberty and St. Sophia!" It fell on deaf ears; every one for himself, was the general thought. Novgorod surrendered. Ivan guaranteed,—for just so long as it should suit him,—the people's lives and property, their ancient code of laws, and exemption from Muscovite service; but the vetche and office of possadnik were abolished, and with them died the republic. (1478.)

Having settled with Novgorod to his satisfaction, Ivan bethought himself of establishing peace in his own household. Russian writers state that his wife, Sophia, annoyed him by often repeating the interesting inquiry, "How long am I to be the slave of the Tartars?" The Khan of the Golden Horde had been dissolved since Tamerlane's raid; several states had been formed from it, of which the principal (p. 101) were Kazan, Sarai or Astrakhan, and the Crimea. Kazan was ruled by a czar; its people were the descendants of Mongols and Bulgars who had made great progress in commerce. The Khan of Sarai and his men clung to the life of nomads; but the subjects of the Khan of the Crimea, were Mongols, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, and Italians; and all three had this in common that they were constantly indulging in quarrels and strife at home.

Ivan knew all this, because sometimes a chief would come to Moscow for an asylum, and others took service in his army. He no longer sent tribute, although occasionally, when he was occupied elsewhere, he did send a small present. In 1478 Khan Akhmet sent ambassadors to Moscow to remind him that the tribute was in arrears. Ivan, who had apparently a wonderful command over his features, pretended to lose his temper, jumped on the picture of the khan, and ordered all the envoys except one to be put to death. The survivor was told to go home, and tell his master of his reception.

Ivan had reasonable cause for thinking that Akhmet would be displeased, and collected an army of 150,000 men on the Oka, where he took up a strong position. He had been right in his conjecture, for Akhmet gathered an army and in due time arrived on the opposite bank of the river. Ivan had time to reflect. He did not much fancy risking a decisive battle, and returned to Moscow to consult his mother, the boyards, and the priests. All urged him to fight, and finally he came back to the camp, convinced that scheming and plotting were more in his line. All this time the two armies lay within earshot, exchanging complimentary remarks, with no casualties. The khan offered to (p. 102) pardon Ivan on condition that he should come and hold his stirrup; or, if he were too tired, if he should send some high officer to do it in his name. Ivan shook his head. Meanwhile the priests at Moscow were growing impatient, and the Archbishop Vassian sent him a warm letter. It happened that Akhmet was quite as prudent as Ivan; but when the winter came and the Oka, instead of a barrier, became an easy crossing, Ivan ordered the retreat. Just then the two armies, led by such brave commanders, were seized with a panic, and away they fled in opposite directions. (1480.) The honors were with Ivan, because he did not have so far to run as Akhmet, who did not stop until he reached Sarai. It is not stated why Ivan received no surname from this great battle.

The following year, 1481, Ivan had sufficiently recovered to show the courage he possessed. There was a disturbance in Novgorod, where the people did not appreciate the nobility of his character. He ordered some of the boyards to be tortured and put to death, and eight thousand citizens were forcibly packed off to Souzdal.

In fear of his doughty enemy Akhmet, Ivan made friends with the Khan of the Crimea, calculating that if the former should attack him again, he would have to look out for his rear. Akhmet, however, seemed to have had enough of it, and Ivan, who was on bad terms with Lithuania and Poland, suggested to his friend that a raid into those territories might pay. The Khan of the Crimea took the hint; he penetrated as far as Kief which he captured and pillaged. (1482.) The famous monastery of the Catacombs was almost destroyed; but Ivan had the (p. 103) satisfaction of knowing that his two enemies had other things to think of, instead of annoying him.

In 1487 war broke out with Kazan. A Russian army marched against it, but Ivan did not take command. As a result, the city was taken and the khan, who had assumed the title of czar, was brought a prisoner to Moscow. Fearing that he would unite the other Tartars against him if he annexed the territory at once, he appointed a nephew of his friend, the Khan of the Crimea, but placed Russian soldiers in the fortress, while he added the title of Prince of Bulgaria to his own. Other Tartar princes sent envoys to protest against the arrest. Ivan did not receive them in person, and refused to release the prisoner, but he ordered the envoys to be treated with great honor and gave them so many presents, that they returned in great good humor.

In 1492, the King of Poland died, leaving that kingdom to his eldest son Albert, and Lithuania to his second son Alexander. Ivan was justly indignant that he had not been remembered in the will. He sent envoys to Bajazet II, Sultan of Turkey, to the Kings of Hungary and Moldavia, and to his old friend the Khan of the Crimea, to secure their assistance or at least their kind neutrality. Of the services of the Khan of the Crimea he felt assured.

He began by discovering a Polish plot against his life at Moscow, and appealed to the religious prejudices of the Lithuanian nobles belonging to the Greek Church, omitting to mention his little arrangement with the infidel sultan. When Alexander sent envoys to negotiate terms of peace, Ivan's deputies said to them: "Lithuania (p. 104) has profited by the misfortunes of Russia to take our territory, but to-day things are changed." They were right. When peace was concluded in 1494, Ivan's frontier in the west was extended.

The marriage of Alexander to Ivan's daughter seemed to end the hostility between the two countries, but nothing was further from the schemes of the wily grand duke. He stipulated that she should have a Greek chapel in the palace, and warned her never to appear in a Catholic church, and always to wear the Russian national dress. Soon after the wedding Ivan complained that his daughter was forced to wear Polish costumes, and that the Greek Church was being persecuted. These were to him ample cause for war, the more so since he had good reason to count upon his friends, the priests and boyards of the Greek Church. When the war broke out, cities where the majority of the people belonged to that church, opened their gates to his army, and Alexander was badly defeated in the battle of Vedrocha. This war added another slice to Ivan's territory.

Alexander in his distress made an alliance with the Livonian Order and with the Great Horde at Sarai; but Ivan's old friend, the Khan of the Crimea, made a raid in Gallicia and Volhynia, and the Lithuanians were defeated at Mstislaf; but they compelled the Russians to raise the siege of Smolensk. Meanwhile Ivan had serious trouble. In 1495, he ordered the merchants of several Hanseatic towns to be arrested at Novgorod, and incidentally had goods to the value of $200,000,—an immense sum in those days,—carried to Moscow. This caused the (p. 105) foreign merchants to leave for safer places; but the Livonian Order invaded his territory, and in the battle of Siritza, they crushed a Russian army of 50,000 men, but the following year, 1502, they were defeated at Pskof.

Toward the end of his life he was in doubt about his successor, because his eldest son was dead. At first he thought of making his grandson Dmitri, his heir; but he changed his mind, sent his daughter-in-law and grandson to prison and proclaimed his second son Vassili his heir. He died in 1505, after a reign of forty-three years. It was under his direction that a new code of laws, the Oulogenia, was prepared.


Vassili, Ivan's son, showed a great resemblance to his father. He did not evince any greater love for his near relatives, as one of his first acts was to put his nephew Dmitri in prison, where he died. One of his brothers who did not like his manners, tried to escape, but was brought back and severely punished.

The republic of Pskof, and the dukedoms of Riazan and Novgorod-Seversky were still enjoying some degree of liberty, which Vassili did not approve. At Pskof, the grand duke was represented by a namiestnik, or ducal delegate; the people, citizens and peasants, nobles and lower classes, quarreled constantly among themselves, but united to quarrel with the delegate. Vassili determined to put an end to this. He came to Novgorod to hold court, and summoned the magistrates of Pskof to appear before him, and when they arrived he ordered their arrest. A merchant of Pskof heard of it and, hurrying home, told the people. Immediately the bell was rung to convoke the vetche, and the masses called for war with Moscow. More prudent counsels prevailed when messengers arrived from the prisoners, imploring their friends not to try a useless resistance and to avoid the shedding of blood. A leading citizen was sent to Vassili to (p. 107) offer him submission; he was dismissed with the answer that one of the diaks or secretaries would come to Pskof to let the people know the terms. When that officer arrived, he was admitted in the vetche, where he informed his hearers that Vassili imposed two conditions, namely, that Pskof and the towns subject to it must receive his delegates, and that the vetche must be abolished and the great bell, used to convoke it, must be taken down. Twenty-four hours were asked to deliberate. Before the time expired, the vetche met for the last time, when the first magistrate addressed the delegate. "It is written in our chronicles," he said, "that our ancestors took oaths to the grand duke. The people of Pskof swore never to rebel against our lord who is at Moscow, nor to ally themselves with Lithuania, with Poland, nor with the Germans, otherwise the wrath of God would be upon them, bringing with it famine, fires, floods, and the invasion of the infidels. If the grand duke, on his part, did not observe his vow, he dared the same consequences. Now our town and our bell are in the power of God and the duke. As for us, we have kept our oath." The great bell was taken to Novgorod, and Vassili visited "his patrimony." Three hundred wealthy families were transported to other cities and replaced by as many families from Moscow. When he departed from Pskof, he left a garrison of 5,000 guards and 500 artillerymen. That was the end of the last republic in Russia. (1510.)

In 1521, it was the turn of Riazan whose duke was accused of having entered into an alliance with the Khan of the Crimea. He was summoned to Moscow, where he was arrested, but he managed to escape. His dukedom, however, was annexed to Moscow. Two years later, in 1523, (p. 108) the Duke of Novgorod-Severski was put in prison for underhand dealing with Poland, and that dukedom was added to Vassili's territories. This rounded up Vassili's possessions in Central Russia.

The grand duke continued his father's policy toward Lithuania. When Alexander died, he tried to become Grand Duke of Wilna, but the King of Poland was too quick for him. War broke out, but neither gained any important advantage, and in 1509 a perpetual peace was concluded wherein Vassili renounced all claims upon Kief and Smolensk. The "perpetual peace" lasted three years. Vassili then went to the other extreme, by declaring that "as long as his horse was in marching condition and his sword cut sharp, there should be neither peace nor truce with Lithuania." In 1514, the Russian army besieged and took Smolensk, but in the same year they were badly defeated in the battle of Orcha.

The two grand dukes tried to involve as many allies as they could. The Khan of the Crimea, the useful friend of Vassili's father, had become the son's enemy; Vassili offset him by an alliance with the Khan of Astrakhan. When Sigismund tried to secure the help of Sweden, Vassili sought that of Denmark; and when his enemy set the Dnieper Cossacks at him, the grand duke induced the Teutonic Order to invade Poland. After Sigismund was defeated at Smolensk, the Emperor of Germany and the Pope offered to mediate; the latter advised Vassili to let Lithuania alone, and to turn his attention toward Constantinople. Negotiations commenced in 1520, but it was six years later before a truce was (p. 109) concluded. On this occasion Vassili made a speech in which he praised Emperor Charles V, and Pope Clement VII,—but Lithuania lost Smolensk. It was during this war that the partition of Poland was first mentioned.

Vassili did not neglect the east, even while engaged in the west. Kazan had expelled the nephew of the Khan of the Crimea whom Ivan III had appointed, and elected a Khan hostile to Russia. Two expeditions were sent against the city but nothing was effected. When this khan died, Vassili succeeded in installing a friendly prince, but he was overthrown and a relative of the Khan of the Crimea took his place. He prepared a great invasion of Russia in 1521, and did gain a decided victory on the Oka, after which he ravaged the territory of the grand duke. Vassili was compelled to humble himself before the khan, in order to save Moscow; he made him presents and in the treaty signed by him, called himself the khan's tributary. When the khan withdrew, he was attacked in Riazan and the treaty was taken away from him. The invasion was, however, a calamity for the grand dukedom, which was devastated by fire, and a host of women and children were carried off, to be sold as slaves at Astrakhan and Kaffa.

The following year Vassili collected a large army on the Oka and challenged the Khan of the Crimea to come and give battle. The offer was declined with the remark that he knew the way into Russia, and that he was not in the habit of consulting his enemies as to when and where he was to fight.

Hoping to profit by the quarrels among the Tartars, Vassili sent an expedition to Kazan in 1523, and again in 1524, but both were (p. 110) unsuccessful. Kazan owed its wealth to a fair, which attracted a host of merchants. Vassili thought that he would destroy his enemy's prosperity by establishing a rival fair. Accordingly one was opened at Makarief, and this time the grand duke's expectations were realized. This was the origin of the world-famous fair at Nishni Novgorod, whither it was transferred afterwards.

Vassili made a long stride forward in the direction of autocracy. He consulted neither boyard nor priest. He deposed the Metropolitan and banished him to a monastery. Prince Kholmski, who was married to one of Vassili's sisters, was thrown into prison for failing to show abject respect. When one of the boyards complained that "The grand duke decided all the questions, shut up with two others in the bedchamber," the noble was promptly arrested, condemned to death, and executed. He interrupted the objection of a high noble with, "Be silent, lout!" His court displayed great splendor, but it was semi-Asiatic. The throne was guarded by young nobles called ryndis, dressed in long caftans of white satin, high caps of white fur, and carrying silver hatchets.

Like his father, he tried to attract artists and learned men, and exchanged embassies with most of the European Courts. He extended the frontiers of his empire, but ruthlessly suppressed free thought. It has been claimed that the Slav is fit only for an absolute government. The history of Russia contradicts the statement. The idea of autocracy was Asiatic and was imported with the Tartar yoke.


When Vassili died in 1533, he left two infant sons, Ivan and George, the elder three years old. His widow, Helena Glinski, assumed the regency. She was a woman remarkable for spirit and beauty, and showed her courage in ruthlessly suppressing every attempt of high nobles to contest her authority. She sent her husband's brother George to prison, and let him die there. One of her own uncles, who had been in her confidence, showed too much ambition and suffered the same fate. Andrew, another brother of Vassili, tried to make his escape; he was promptly brought back and placed in confinement. This caused an unimportant war with Poland, ending in a truce in 1537. The Tartars of Kazan and the Crimea were frequently defeated. But Helena was cordially hated by the great nobles at Moscow; she was poisoned, and died in 1538.

Ivan, the oldest son and heir, was then eight years old. It must be placed to the credit of his mother that he had learned to read, for the children were sadly neglected after her death, and it was the boy's principal solace and occupation. In later years Ivan wrote of this time, "We and our brother Iouri (George) were treated like strangers, like the children of beggars. We were ill-clothed, cold (p. 112) and hungry." What impressed the child especially, was that when foreign envoys arrived he was placed upon the throne and the same nobles who showed him such contemptuous indifference, were respectful and even servile on such occasions. He noticed, too, that when these proud nobles needed anything, it was necessary that the papers should be signed by him. All this set the child thinking, and being a manly, bright boy, he came to the conclusion that, after all, he was the real master.

After many quarrels among themselves, Andrew Chouiski, the head of a noble family, had become all-powerful; all important offices were occupied by his favorites and friends. Ivan noticed it all, but said nothing. He was thirteen years old when, after the Christmas celebration of 1543, he suddenly summoned the boyards before him, and in a threatening tone sternly accused them of their misdeeds. "There are among you many guilty ones," he said, "but this time I am satisfied with making one example." He ordered the guards to seize Andrew Chouiski, and had him then and there torn to pieces by dogs. After this terrible punishment, he ordered the arrest of the most disobedient nobles, who were transported to distant places.

The thirteen-year-old boy then assumed the government, relying chiefly upon his mother's relations, the Glinskis. In 1547, at the age of seventeen, he directed the Metropolitan to crown him, not as Grand Duke but as Czar. In a Bible printed in the Slavonic language, he had read of the Czar Nebuchadnezzar, the Czar Pharaoh, David, Czar of Israel, etc. He knew, besides, that the former masters of the (p. 114) grand dukes, the khans, had been addressed by that title. Perhaps it was because he wished it to be known that he considered himself the equal of any Tartar ruler; perhaps because he desired to have a title superior to that of the nobles who descended from former grand dukes, and who inherited the rank without the power; at any rate Ivan IV was crowned as the first Czar.

Young as he was, and since his thirteenth year beyond control, Ivan's life had been the reverse of good. But when, soon after the coronation, he married Anastasia Romanof, he made an earnest effort to reform. The relatives of his mother and of his wife, the Glinskis and the Romanofs, enjoyed his favor at this time.

There was much suppressed dissatisfaction among the nobles, and many plots were hatched against him. In the year of his coronation, a fire swept wooden Moscow, and about 1,700 people perished in the flames. Ivan ordered an investigation, and withdrew to Vorobief. Crowds gathered in the thoroughfares, when mysterious persons appeared among them declaring that the Glinskis had set the city on fire. Soon after shouts were heard, "It is the Princess Anne Glinski who, with her two sons, has bewitched the city; she has taken human hearts, plunged them in water, and with this water has sprinkled the houses. This is the cause of the destruction of Moscow!" A mob collected and made for the palace of the Glinskis and one of them, George, was stabbed. They went on to Vorobief, where they demanded the life of Ivan's uncle. The czar's own life was in danger and the mob had to be dispersed by force.

Ivan did not forget this, and terrible was his vengeance upon the (p. 115) boyards. At this time he gave his confidence to two men, one a priest named Silvester, who had the reputation of being a very honest man; the other, a member of the smaller nobility, named Adachef who, in 1551, as Minister of the Interior, gave to Russian cities the first municipal liberties. Ivan showed an unusual interest in the people; it was under his orders that a new code of laws (Soudebnik) was prepared, and many reforms were made in the Church.

This rather increased than diminished the hostility of the nobles. Ivan's favorites, Silvester and Adachef had grown ambitious and the former especially was overbearing. He openly opposed the czar, and tried to sow discord between him and his wife. When Ivan's favorite son died, Silvester told him that it was a punishment from heaven for his disobedience. The two men tried to procure the dismissal of the Glinskis and Romanofs, and for that purpose made friends with the boyards whom Ivan suspected. In 1553, the czar fell dangerously ill; he called in the boyards and ordered them to swear loyalty to his infant son Dmitri. They refused. He was informed that the nobles were conspiring with his cousin Vladimir, whose mother was distributing money in the army. He was in terror for the lives of his wife and son. Once he said to the boyards who had remained faithful, "Do not, I pray you, forget that you have sworn an oath to my son and to me; do not let him fall into the hands of the boyards; fly with him to some foreign country, whithersoever God may guide you." Ivan recovered but he never could forget the anguish of those days.

Ivan's character at this time was far from bad. He was only twenty (p. 116) years old, and on several occasions showed that he was compassionate instead of cruel. It was only natural that his nature should be perverted, surrounded as he was by men of whom he was suspicious. Still, such a change could only be gradual. The immediate consequence of the conduct of his nobles, was that it drew him closer to the people. This was shown in 1506, when he convoked the three orders, nobles, priests, and people, to discuss public affairs.

His first act, after his recovery, was to banish his former favorites. Silvester was ordered to the monastery of St. Cyril, and Adachef was sent to Livonia. Soon afterwards the Czarina Anastasia died; there was a strong suspicion that she had been poisoned. To add to his bitterness, Prince Andrew Kourbski, a descendant of Rurik and a great friend of Silvester and Adachef, permitted 15,000 Russians to be defeated by the Poles with whom Ivan was at war. Kourbski deserted to the King of Poland.

It appears that Ivan at this time feared for his life, for he withdrew to a neighboring castle with his friends, servants, and treasures. From there he wrote his abdication in two letters, one addressed to the Metropolitan, the other to the people of Moscow. This action struck terror among the nobles and the people. The former dreaded that the people might rise and avenge the czar, and the people were afraid that the nobles would once again usurp the government. The nobles and priests consulted and decided to beg Ivan's pardon and to submit to any punishment he might impose. Ivan consented to return to Moscow (p. 117) but on his own terms. This was accepted. After his arrival in the capital he established a special guard of one thousand men who had a dog's head and a broom hanging from their saddles, to show that they were ready to bite and ready to sweep the czar's enemies from off Russian soil.

It was then that Ivan began to earn the surname of The Terrible, which has clung to him ever afterwards. We have his own record in a letter to the Monastery of St. Cyril, in which he asks the prayers of the Church for the victims of his vengeance. He appears to have kept a careful account, as we read, "Kazarine Doubrofsky and his two sons, with ten men who came to their assistance;" "Twenty men of the village of Kolmenskoe;" "Eighty of Matveiche." It amazes us to read, "Remember, Lord, the souls of thy servants, to the number of 1,505 persons, Novgorodians." The boyards lived in a state of terror; few among them knew how long they would keep their heads on their shoulders. Neither rank nor title was a safeguard. The Archbishop of Moscow was dismissed, and probably murdered. Alexander, George's widow, and Ivan's sister-in-law, went to the scaffold. Prince Vladimir and his mother, Ivan's uncle and grand-aunt, were also executed. It was on this occasion that the "Novgorodians, to the number of 1,505 persons" were put to death, because Ivan suspected them of a plot to open the gates to the King of Poland. In 1571, there was another wholesale execution, in which several of Ivan's latest favorites were victims.

The burden of his wrath fell upon the boyards. It may have been for the purpose of humiliating them and the Churchmen that he assembled (p. 118) delegates of those two classes to confer with representatives of the merchants of Moscow and Smolensk, about the war with Poland. Ivan addressed the assembly in person, and it was decided that the war should continue.

It was under his reign that British traders accidentally discovered the White Sea and the mouth of the Dwina. They came overland to Moscow where they were well received and secured several privileges. Ivan was anxious to conclude an offensive-defensive alliance with Elizabeth of England, and proposed an agreement to furnish each other with an asylum if either of them should be compelled to fly from the country through being defeated by an enemy or the rebellion of their subjects. Elizabeth did not fancy such an alliance, and declined the offer of an asylum, "finding," as she declared, "by the grace of God no dangers of the sort in her dominions." Ivan never ceased recurring to, and pleading for, such an agreement, thus showing his ever present suspicions.

After commercial intercourse was established with England, and British traders settled in Moscow, Ivan continued to show them his favor. He was himself the greatest merchant of Russia. The furs which he received from Siberia were sold to the foreign merchants at the fairs. His agents went into the provinces where they compelled the people to sell him furs, wax, honey, etc., at such prices as he chose to pay, and the foreign merchants had to buy them from him at a high price. He also bought the imported goods and sold them to Russian merchants. They were not permitted to buy from anybody else, until the goods (p. 119) of the czar were sold.

At the beginning of his reign, in 1551, Ivan was preparing an expedition to Kazan, and in June of the following year he descended the Volga and laid siege to that city. It was captured after a brave defense, when a number of the people were massacred and the rest sold as slaves. This conquest was followed by that of Astrakhan in 1554; the Volga from its source to its mouth was thereafter a Russian river. The Cossacks of the Don also submitted to him.

The European countries bordering on Russia dreaded that country's growing power. Ivan, after his coronation, sent to western Europe to engage a number of engineers and mechanics; these men were stopped on the road, and none of them ever reached Moscow. Sigismund of Poland even threatened to kill the British merchants on the Baltic, "because," he said, "if the Muscovite, who is not only our present adversary, but the eternal enemy of all free countries, should provide himself with guns, bullets, and munitions; and, above all, with mechanics who continue to make arms, hitherto unknown in this barbaric country, he would be a menace to Europe." Ivan, on the other hand, was equally anxious that the Russians should possess all the advantages of Europe's superior civilization. This, added to the inherited hostility between the two countries, caused many wars.

While Ivan was pursuing his conquests in the south, he was attacked by Gustavus Wasa, Sweden's famous king, who entertained the same fears as the King of Poland. The war ended by a commercial treaty whereby (p. 120) Swedish merchants might trade with India and China by way of Russia, and those of Russia with Holland, England, and France by way of Sweden. This war had scarcely ceased before envoys of the Livonian Order arrived to request a renewal of the truce. Ivan demanded tribute for Iourief which he claimed as his "patrimony." This was refused, and war was declared. It was owing to Ivan that this brotherhood was dissolved and its territory divided. In 1566, a truce was proposed by Poland.

It was on this occasion that he called the assembly referred to on page 116. The war continued. Ivan was attacked also by Sultan Selim II of Turkey, in 1569, and the Khan of the Crimea marched straight upon Moscow, set fire to the suburbs, and destroyed the capital except the Kremlin. He carried off a hundred thousand prisoners. (1571.) As he withdrew, he wrote to Ivan: "I burn, I ravage everything on account of Kazan and Astrakhan. I came to you and burned Moscow. I wished to have your crown and your head, but you did not show yourself; you declined a battle and you dare call yourself a Czar of Moscow! Will you live at peace with me? Yield me up Kazan and Astrakhan. If you have only money to offer me, it will be useless were it the riches of the world. What I want is Kazan and Astrakhan! As to the roads to your empire, I have seen them—I know them." The khan made another invasion the next year, 1572, but was defeated.

In the same year Sigismund Augustus II of Poland died. There was a party at Warsaw that proposed to elect Ivan's son, but the czar (p. 121) wanted Poland for himself. He failed in the attempt, and the Duke of Anjou, brother of the King of France, was chosen. He did not like the people and fled; his place was filled by Stephen Batory, Governor of Transsylvania, a young, capable, and energetic noble. Batory took in his service a number of trained German and Hungarian soldiers, and took Polotsk after a brave defense. He also captured several other towns, but was repulsed at Pskof.

Ivan sought the mediation of Pope Gregory XIII, and a truce was concluded in 1582; Ivan ceded Polotsk and all Livonia.

Ivan, in his manhood, was a man of violent temper. He was never seen without an iron-tipped staff, which he used freely and recklessly upon the people around him. Nobody, whatever his rank, was safe from corporal punishment. He killed his eldest son Ivan with a blow, and suffered from remorse ever afterward. He left a lasting impression upon Russia by his reforms. He made a law whereby neither church nor convents could acquire new lands. He was wonderfully well educated, considering the neglect of his early youth, and tolerant of religious opinions. A Presbyterian and a Lutheran church were built at Moscow with his consent, but in deference to the opposition of the people, they were removed to the suburbs. He was also the founder of the streltsi or national guard.

Ivan died in 1584, after a reign of forty-one years.


The reign of Ivan the Terrible is remarkable, first, because it is the beginning of Russia as we know it in our time; and also because it occurred at a time when Great Britain was exploring the Atlantic, and preparing the way for the wonderful expansion of the English-speaking race, which culminated in the great North American Republic. It was under this reign, in 1558, that Russia's invasion of Asia began, and with it a movement eastward, which has not yet ceased.

It is interesting, therefore, to study the condition of the Russian people at this important period. Although, as we have seen, the Tartar yoke did not influence the people directly, because there was no intercourse between victor and vanquished, the indirect influence was great, owing to the adoption of Tartar habits or customs by the dukes and nobles, during their visits to the khan. During this time intercourse with Europe ceased; hence, in the 16th and 17th centuries, Russia was more Asiatic than European, although the Russians hated the victors. Who can say how much influence this has exerted upon Russia's conquests in Asia?

Among the old Slavs, the family was the unit from which the State was built up, and this was confirmed under the Tartar yoke. There is (p. 123) some similarity between the Empire of Russia and that of China, for there, too, the family is the unit. In both countries the Emperor is not only the master, he is also considered as the father and high priest of his people. Their persons and property are the emperor's, to do with as he pleases. But in Russia there was a nobility descended from the former dukes; in China there was none, except the descendant of Confucius. Yet in Russia these lords, many of whom traced their descent to Rurik, became in time the slaves of the czar. They prostrated themselves before him, as they had seen the courtiers of the khan do. When they presented a petition, they expressed it by the word tchelobitie, which means "beating of the forehead," showing that they performed what is known in China as the kowtow. In addressing the czar, they said, "Order me not to be chastised; order me to speak a word!" The Grand Dukes of Moscow considered their territory and the people on it, as their own private property. They had learned this from the khans. The palace, a mixture of oriental splendor and barbarism, showed the influence of the Tartars.

The people of Russia were divided into classes, the lowest of which were the slaves or kholop, prisoners of war, men who had sold themselves, or who were born in slavery. Above them were the peasants, born on the estate of a noble, but still known as free men. Then came the peasants who farmed the land of an owner, but these were few. Much of the land was owned by the several mirs or villages, but in the course of time they were assigned to gentlemen, who were able to serve in the army without pay, being supported by the revenues derived (p. 124) from these villages. Gradually these gentlemen looked upon the land of the mir as their own property, but the peasants never did lose the conviction that the mir was the real proprietor. In Ivan's time and later, the mir and not the individual, was held responsible for the tax to the czar, for the free labor furnished to the lord, and for his dues. The mir, therefore, was absolute master over every inhabitant of the village, and this power was vested in the starost. The peasant gradually descended into a beast of burden, who was not even a human being, but merely a productive force for the benefit of the State and of the lord.

A Russian town consisted, first of the kremlin, a fortress of wood which, when required, was defended by "men of the service"; then came the suburbs, built around the kremlin, and inhabited by the people. They were governed by a voievod or governor, appointed by the czar, or by a starost or mayor, elected by the nobles, priests, and privileged citizens. The principal duty of the citizens was to pay the taxes, and therefore they were forbidden to leave the city. Under the Czar Alexis, the penalty for such offense was death.

The merchants did not form a separate class. They are known in Russian as gosti or guests, thus showing that, notwithstanding the old and honorable record of Novgorod and Kief, the Tartar yoke and subsequent arbitrary rule of the grand dukes had ruined trade or left it in the hands of aliens. Ivan the Terrible called them the moujiks of commerce. Fletcher, an Englishman who spent many years in Moscow under Ivan IV, gives the following curious pen picture: "Often you will see them (p. 125) trembling with fear, lest a boyard should know what they have to sell. I have seen them at times, when they had spread out their wares so that you might make a better choice, look all around them,—as if they feared an enemy would surprise them and lay hands on them. If I asked them the cause, they would say to me, 'I was afraid that there might be a noble or one of the sons of boyards here: they would take away my merchandise by force.'"

The Russian women were kept secluded in women's quarters as they are in China, but they remained a member of their own family. A wife's duty was "to obey her husband as the slave obeys his master," and she was taught to think of herself as her master's property. He had the right to punish her as he did his children or his slaves. The priest Silvester advises the husband not to use sticks that are too thick or tipped with iron, nor to whip her before his men, but to correct her moderately and in private. No Russian woman dared object to being beaten. A Russian proverb says: "I love you like my soul, and I dust you like my jacket."

The men wore oriental tunics or robes, and a long beard; the women painted their faces. Ivan the Terrible said that to shave the beard was "a sin that the blood of all the martyrs could not cleanse. Was it not to defile the image of man created by God?"

There was a general belief in magic and witchcraft; sorcerers were burned alive in a cage. Ivan, although in advance of his age, was not free from superstition. The art of medicine was, of course, still in its infancy, and those who practiced it were in constant danger (p. 126) of their lives, because if they did not cure a patient, they might suffer for it.

Both the nobles and the people were addicted to the vice of drunkenness. No one paid any attention when a person, rich or poor, young or old, fell down in the street from the effects of drink. This is what the priests said of this vice: "My brethren, what is worse than drunkenness? You lose memory and reason like a madman who does not know what he is doing. The drunkard is senseless; he lies like a corpse. If you speak to him he does not answer. Think of his poor soul which grows foul in its vile body which is its prison.... To drink is lawful and is to the glory of God, who has given us wine to make us rejoice."

The Metropolitan of Moscow, until a Patriarch was appointed, was supposed to be the head of the Church, but the czar held the real power. There were two classes of priests: The Black Clergy lived as monks in monasteries, some of which were exceedingly wealthy; they were forbidden to marry, and the bishops were appointed from among them. The White Clergy lived among the people and were compelled to marry. Most of them were grossly ignorant. The same Englishman quoted before, Mr. Fletcher, says of these priests: "As for exhorting or instructing their flock, they have neither the habit of it nor the talent for it, for all the clergy are as profoundly ignorant of the Word of God as of all other learning."

The revenues of the Empire consisted of a tax on every sixty measures of corn; of a house-tax, or tax on every fire; the customhouse (p. 127) dues, and what remained of the municipal taxes after paying expenses; of a tax on public baths; the farming out of lands belonging to the crown; the fines and confiscations in the "Court of the Brigands;" and finally of the tribute paid by thirty-six towns and their landed possessions "belonging to the Crown."

The Courts of Justice belonged to the Middle Ages; tortures were applied similar to those employed by the Spanish Inquisition. A wife who murdered her husband "was buried alive up to her neck." Heretics were burned at the stake; sorcerers were burned in an iron cage, and coiners had liquid metal poured down their throats. A noble who killed a moujik was fined or sometimes whipped; but he might kill as many slaves as he pleased, because they were his property.

The Russian infantry, so famous under the early Norsemen, had given way to cavalry, in imitation of the Tartars. The Imperial Guard was composed of 8,000 young nobles. The "men-at-arms" were mounted, but received no pay beyond the revenue of their lands, which they held in return for their military service. The army numbered about 80,000, and, with a levy among the peasants, could be brought up to 300,000. There was, besides, the irregular cavalry of the Don Cossacks, and of the Tartars. Such infantry as there was, consisted of peasants from the crown lands, churches, and convents; the national guard, and foreign soldiers or officers.

(p. 128)


Ivan the Terrible left two sons, Feodor, the son of Anastasia Romanof, and Dmitri, a child, the son of his seventh wife. Feodor was neither a strong-minded nor a very able man. He was married to Irene Godounof, and, following the usual custom, his wife's relations held the principal offices of the government. Gradually the czar's authority passed into the hands of Prince Boris Godounof, Irene's brother, a very ambitious and unscrupulous man. Wizards had foretold that Boris would be czar, but that his reign would last only seven years, and he did all he could to aid his destiny.

He first caused Feodor's half-brother, Dmitri, to be sent with his mother and her relations to Ouglitch, where they would be out of the way. He also caused the Metropolitan to be dismissed, and had a friend appointed in his place. He aroused the higher nobles against him, and then made an effort to make friends with the smaller nobility,—at the expense of the poor peasants. According to law, these people were free; that is, when the contract with a landowner expired, they could move where they pleased, and the large owners could offer better terms than those who held small estates. But without labor, the land was (p. 130) worthless and Russia, at the time, was so sparsely populated, that every hand counted. The object of the government was not to open up new lands, so as to create prosperity, but to provide for its current wants by seeing that the taxes were paid, and that the army was kept up to its standard. How could the men-at-arms, that is the small nobility, defray their own expenses while serving, if their revenues failed from lack of labor? Boris Godounof, therefore, made a law forbidding peasants to go from one estate to another. They were tied to the ground, and this was the first step to make serfs of them. The peasants did object; they had been accustomed to change service on St. George's day, and that day remained for many years one of deep sorrow. There was no rebellion, but a great many fled, and joined the Cossacks. After some years the law was changed so that peasants were permitted to change from one small estate to another.

Another change under Feodor's reign was the appointment of a Patriarch as the head of the Greek Church under the czar. He was placed above the several Metropolitans, and thus the Church secured more unity.

Feodor had no heirs, and his health was bad. It was, therefore, to young Dmitri at Ouglitch that the great nobles looked for relief from Godounof's tyranny. In 1591, this man sent hired assassins to Ouglitch and the youngest son of Ivan was murdered. Some of the hirelings were arrested by the people, and put to death. There was not even a doubt as to the facts. But Godounof ordered an investigation by his own friends; they declared that the young heir had committed suicide in a fit of insanity, and that the people of Ouglitch had put innocent (p. 131) men to death. The assassination of Dmitri's relatives, and the depopulation of Ouglitch made further inquiry impossible.

Stephen Batory who had worsted Ivan the Terrible, died in 1586, and the throne of Poland was once again vacant. Godounof tried hard to have Feodor elected, but the Poles feared that the czar might attach their kingdom to Moscow like a sleeve to a coat. Besides, the Roman Catholic electors did not like the thought of having a king belonging to the Greek Church; last of all, money counted in these elections, and Godounof was a very saving man. The result was that the Prince of Sweden was elected, and that war with Sweden broke out.

The Poles, fearing lest Sweden should grow too powerful, held aloof; as a consequence, Russia gained back the towns which had been lost under Ivan the Terrible. Godounof made an effort to bring about a war between Poland and Sweden, but he only succeeded in arousing the suspicion and dislike of both countries.

Feodor died in 1598; with him the house of Rurik, the old Norse Viking, ceased to exist.

By trickery and knavery, Boris Godounof was elected czar by the douma or council of nobles, a body presided over by his friend the Patriarch, and containing many of his partisans. The great nobles, many of whom traced their descent to Rurik, objected to a czar, whom they considered and called an upstart. But Boris displayed cruelty as well as severity. Feodor, the eldest of the noble family of the Romanofs, was forced to become a monk and his wife a nun. He took (p. 132) the name of Philarete, and she that of Marfa.

Godounof did reign seven years, according to the wizard's prediction, but it was a stormy time for Russia. A young adventurer named Gregory Otrepief, pretended that he was the murdered Dmitri, and secured a large following. The troops sent against him "had no hands to fight but only feet to fly." At Godounof's death, in 1605, he confided his son and heir to a favorite named Basmanof, who turned traitor, joined the false Dmitri, and caused Godounof's widow and son to be murdered. Otrepief, who lacked neither courage nor ability, was made czar, but he reigned little over a month, when he, too, was murdered by a band of nobles under the leadership of Chouiski. This man seized the throne in 1606. The people in the country, owing to its vast extent and the poor roads, heard of Otrepief's coronation, his death, and the succession of Chouiski almost at the same time, and anarchy followed. At the same time Russia was involved in a war with Poland, at the time when a second false Dmitri made his appearance. The Cossacks and a host of Polish adventurers joined him, and he laid siege to the immensely wealthy Troitsa monastery, where the monks defended themselves for sixteen months, and he was forced to withdraw. Affairs came to such a pass that the people of Moscow "humbly requested the czar to abdicate, because he was not successful, and also because he was to blame for the shedding of Christian blood." Chouiski was forced to yield, and soon after entered a monastery as a monk.

Two candidates appeared for the vacant throne; the second false (p. 133) Dmitri and Vladislas, the second son of Sigismund, King of Poland. The douma, not fancying the idea that an impostor should rule over them, invited the hetman of a Polish army to Moscow, to discuss the other candidate. This hetman promised in name of the prince to maintain the Greek Church and the privileges of the three orders, nobles, priests, and people, and that the law-making power should be shared by the czar and the douma; that no one should be executed without a trial, or deprived of his dignity without good reason; and finally, that Russians might go abroad to be educated if they so desired. Vladislas was then elected czar on condition that he should enter the Greek Church, and two envoys, one of them Philarete Romanof who had risen to the rank of Metropolitan, left for the Polish camp at Smolensk to complete the necessary arrangements. The douma invited the hetman to occupy the kremlin with his shoulders. He did so, taking the late Czar Chouiski and his two brothers as hostages.

At Smolensk a difficulty occurred: the King of Poland wanted the Russian throne for himself. He also asked the envoys to cede Smolensk to Poland; they refused, and in turn asked that Vladislas should leave at once for Moscow. The king refused his consent, and began to use money. He found many Russian traitors willing to accept it, but the envoys remained firm.

Soon after this, the second false Dmitri died, and the people began to show an interest in the dispute with Sigismund. Leading men at Moscow and Smolensk wrote to the provinces, begging their friends not to recognize the King of Poland as czar. Men-at-arms gathered, and (p. 134) when an army of them drew near Moscow, the Poles fortified the Kremlin. At this time a quarrel arose between the Polish troops and the people, and some 7,000 persons were killed. The Russians made a stand in the suburbs, when the Poles set fire to the city, and the greater part of Moscow was burned.

Sigismund ordered the arrest of the two envoys who were taken to Marienburg in Prussia under escort. Smolensk fell soon after into his hands, and the king returned to Warsaw which he entered in triumph with the last Czar Chouiski a prisoner in his train. By this time the Russians were aroused; 100,000 men-at-arms gathered at Moscow and besieged the Poles in the Kremlin. Meanwhile Sweden had declared war, giving as reason the election of Vladislas, and had captured the ports on the Baltic. The monks of Troitsa, whose heroic defense against the second false Dmitri had made the convent famous, sent letters to all the Russian cities bidding them fight for their country and religion. When this letter was read in public at Nishni Novgorod, a butcher, Kouzma Minine spoke up: "If we wish to save the Muscovite Empire," he said, "we must spare neither our lands nor our goods; let us sell our houses and put our wives and children out to service; let us seek a man who will fight for the national faith, and march under his banner." He set the example by giving one-third of all he possessed, and others followed. Those who refused to contribute were compelled to do so. Minine was elected treasurer; he accepted on condition that his orders should be obeyed without delay. Believing that the leadership should be given to a noble, Minine went to Prince Pojarski who (p. 135) lived in the neighborhood. Pojarski accepted the command, and ordered three days of fasting and prayer. The streltsi were equipped as well as the men-at-arms; but the services of Cossacks and foreign mercenaries were refused.

An army was collected and marched toward Moscow, with bishops and monks carrying holy eikons at the head; at Iaroslaf they were reenforced by other troops. They laid siege to the Kremlin; an attempt to relieve the fortress by the Poles was defeated. At last the garrison was forced to surrender. Among the Russian prisoners who regained their liberty was a fifteen-year-old boy, Michael Romanof, the son of Philarete and Marfa.

Sigismund was on the way to reenforce the garrison, but hearing of its surrender, he fell back. An assembly was convoked to elect a czar. It was composed of delegates of the clergy, the nobles, the men-at-arms, the merchants, towns, and districts. There was much bickering, but all were agreed that no alien should be presented. When the name of Michael Romanof was called, it was received with enthusiasm, and he was declared elected. (1613.) The delegates remembered the relation between his family and Ivan the Terrible, and the services rendered by his father, the Metropolitan Philarete. There is a story that the King of Poland, when he heard of Michael's election, tried to kidnap him at Kostroma, and that a peasant guide led the party astray on a dark night. When the Poles discovered it, he was struck dead. This is the subject of a famous opera "A Life for the Czar."

Russia's efforts to resume intercourse with Europe, which during the Tartar yoke had been suspended, were continued under Godounof. He (p. 136) sent an ambassador to Queen Elizabeth with a letter, in which he says:—"I have learned that the Queen had furnished help to the Turks against the Emperor of Germany. We are astonished at it, as to act thus is not proper for Christian sovereigns; and you, our well-beloved sister, you ought not in the future to enter into relationships of friendship with Mussulman princes, nor to help them in any way, whether with men or money; but on the contrary should desire and insist that all the great Christian potentates should have a good understanding, union, and strong friendship, and unite against the Mussulmans, till the hand of the Christian rise and that of the Mussulman is abased." Judging from Elizabeth's character, it is likely that she shrugged her shoulders as she read this sermon. During the period of Russia's internal troubles, and owing to the vacancy of the throne, the relations with Europe were again suspended.


Fifteen years of anarchy left Russia in disorder. The boyards had done as they pleased since there was no one to control them. The peasants who asked for nothing but a simple existence, had seen their crops trampled under foot, and their homes laid in ruins. It needed a strong hand to restore order; more than could be expected from a fifteen-year-old boy, who had neither the iron will of Ivan the Terrible, nor the advantage of having grown up with the conviction that he was the Master. Besides, although his election had been regular, the Don Cossacks and others refused to recognize him as the czar. On the other hand, the patriots stood by him. But the conditions were such that a foreigner in Moscow wrote at the time: "Oh that God would open the eyes of the czar as He opened those of Ivan, otherwise Muscovy is lost!"

There was no money in the treasury, and the men-at-arms demanded pay because they received no revenues from their ruined estates. The czar and the clergy wrote to the Russian towns begging them for money and for troops to help the government, and a generous response was (p. 138) made. The people of the provinces, anxious to see law and order restored, rose in favor of the czar, and Astrakhan sent a rebel chief to prison. He was shortly afterwards tried and executed.

While the people were thus aiding the government, no time was lost in dealing with the foreign enemy. In 1614, Michael sent envoys to Holland to request help in men and money. The Dutch gave a small sum, regretting that they could do no more as they had just ended a war that had lasted forty-one years (1568-1609); they promised that they would persuade Sweden to come to an understanding with Russia. Another embassy went to James I of England, who was told that the Poles had murdered British merchants and plundered their warehouses. This was a falsehood, because the envoys knew that the outrage had been committed by Cossacks and a Russian mob, but they hoped that the king would not know it. James did not, and advanced 20,000 rubles. After this British merchants demanded concessions and privileges in Russia, but as they asked too much, they received nothing. Sweden, urged by England and Holland, concluded with Russia the Peace of Stolbovo in 1617. Sweden received an indemnity of 20,000 rubles, and surrendered Novgorod and other towns.

The war with Poland was then continued more vigorously, and in 1618 a truce of fourteen years and six months was arranged. It was understood that this was temporary, because the King of Poland still claimed the throne of Russia, and refused to recognize Michael. But the prisoners were released and Philarete, the czar's father, returned to Moscow, where his presence was soon felt by the nobles. The most independent (p. 140) were arrested and sent into exile. So long as Philarete assisted his son, there was no disorder.

In 1618, the great struggle between Protestant and Roman Catholic Europe began and Sweden, which was to take such a glorious part in it, sought Russia's aid. Gustavus wrote to Michael telling him that if the Catholic league should prevail, the Greek Church would be in danger. "When your neighbor's house is on fire," he wrote, "you must bring water and try to extinguish it, to guarantee your own safety. May your Czarian Majesty help your neighbors to protect yourself." Sound as the advice was, Russia had enough to do at home. Sultan Osman of Turkey offered an alliance against Poland, when Michael convoked the Estates. The deputies beat their foreheads, and implored the czar "to hold himself firm for the holy churches of God, for his czarian honor, and for their own country against the enemy. The men-at-arms were ready to fight, and the merchants to give money." The war was postponed when news arrived that the Turks had been defeated.

Sigismund of Poland died in 1632, and his son Vladislas was elected. The following year Philarete died, and the nobles, released from his stern supervision, resumed their former behavior. The war between the two neighbors recommenced, but did not last long. When a new truce was concluded Michael's title as czar was recognized by Vladislas.

It was entirely the fault of the Polish nobles that Poland lost Lithuania or White Russia. The only excuse that can be offered, is the spirit of religious persecution which was rampant all over Europe (p. 141) in the seventeenth century. It was the ceaseless effort of the Poles to force the Lithuanians from the Greek into the Roman Church that drove them into the arms of Russia; but it was not until after the death of Michael, in 1645, that the consequences of this short-sighted policy were to show.

Michael was succeeded by his son, who ascended the throne as Alexis Michaelovitch. He was better educated than his father had been and resembled him in good nature. He had been taught by a tutor named Morozof, who during thirty years exerted a great influence over his pupil. When Alexis married into the Miloslavski family, its members secured the most influential positions, according to well-established custom. Morozof did not oppose them; instead he courted and married the czarina's sister, and thus became the czar's brother-in-law.

The wars in which Russia was engaged and the necessity of maintaining a large and well-equipped army, together with the increasing expenses of the Court, and above all, the dishonest practices of the officials rendered the burden of taxation so unbearable, that several revolts broke out. In 1648, the people of Moscow rose and demanded the surrender of a judge and another officer, both of whom were notoriously corrupt; the two men were promptly murdered. Then the popular fury turned upon Morozof, who would have suffered the same fate, had not the czar helped him to escape. The government was helpless. In some places, such as Pskof, Novgorod, and elsewhere, the streltsi joined the people, and Russia was for some time at the mercy of an enemy.

It was fortunate for Russia that just at that time, Poland had (p. 142) serious trouble at home. A Cossack, owner of a large estate, educated and brave, was ill-treated and imprisoned by a Polish landowner; and his little son was publicly whipped. He went to Warsaw and laid his complaint before the king. Vladislas told him plainly that the nobles were beyond his control; then, pointing to his sword, he asked if the Cossack could not help himself. The Cossack took the hint, went home, and when the Polish landowners tried to arrest him, he fled to the Khan of the Crimea, interested him in his cause and returned at the head of a Mussulman army. Lithuania rose in rebellion against Poland; the governors and nobles, and especially the priests of the Catholic Church, were hunted down, and those of the Greek Church took revenge for recent injuries and insults.

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