The Story of Russia
by R. Van Bergen
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[Transcriber's note: Obvious printer's errors have been corrected, all other inconsistencies are as in the original. Author's spelling has been maintained. Missing page numbers correspond to moved illustrations.]







Entered at Stationers' Hall, London


W. P. 2.





Recent events have drawn the attention upon Russia, a country of which but little is known here, because the intercourse between it and the United States has been limited. In my frequent journeys to the Far East, I found it often difficult to comprehend events because, while I could not help perceiving that the impulse leading to them came from Russia, it was impossible to discover what prompted the government of the czar. I felt the necessity to study the history of Russia, and found it so fascinating, that I resolved to place it in a condensed form before the students in our schools. They must be the judges of how I have succeeded.




I. The Realm of the Czar 13

II. Early Records of Russia 23

III. The Norsemen (or Varingians) in Russia 29

IV. Saint Vladimir and Iaroslaf the Great 41

V. A Russian Republic 49

VI. Troublous Times 57

VII. The Yellow Peril 63

VIII. Russia Under the Mongol Yoke 71

IX. Lithuania and Moscow 79

X. Decline of the Tartar Power. Dmitri Donskoi 87

XI. Ivan III, the Great 97

XII. Russia becomes an Autocracy 106

XIII. Ivan IV, the Terrible 111

XIV. Russia Under Ivan the Terrible 122

XV. Feodor, the Last of Rurik's Descendants 129

XVI. Michael Feodorovitch (Son of Theodore) the First Romanof 137

XVII. Early Years of Peter the Great (Peter Alexievitch) 145

XVIII. Peter the Great and His Reign 153

XIX. Peter the Great and His Time 162

XX. The Successors of Peter the Great 173

XXI. Russia Under Catherine II (the Great) 183

XXII. Russia During the Wars of Napoleon 194

XXIII. An Eventful Period 208

XXIV. Alexander II, the Liberator 219

XXV. Great Events During Alexander's Reign Nihilism 229

XXVI. Alexander III, the Peasants' Friend 241

XXVII. Russia Methods: The War with Japan 251

XXVIII. The Origin and Growth of The Asiatic Empire 259

XXIX. Russian Methods. The War with Japan 267

XXX. Russia Loses her Prestige 277



When we think of our country, we feel proud of it for other and better reasons than its great size. We know how its extent compares with that of other nations; we know that the United States covers an area almost equal to that of Europe, and, more favored than that Grand Division, is situated on the two great highways of commerce, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Europe is as far from the latter, as Asia is from the former; and these highways, powerful means toward creating prosperity, remain at the same time barriers whereby nations that find greater delight in the arts of war than in those of peace, are restrained from disturbing our national progress.

At the beginning of this twentieth century the nations upon which depends the world's peace or war, happiness or misfortune, are the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Russia, Japan, and in the near future China. Here we see that Europe, although little larger in area than the United States, is represented by seven nations, Asia by two, and the Western Hemisphere by one which by its institutions stands for peace and progress, for law and (p. 014) order. Hence we, its citizens, are known all over the world as Americans.

If we compare the area occupied by the several European powers with that covered by the main body of our republic, that is, not including Alaska and other outlying territories, we find that Austria-Hungary has four thousand square miles less than Texas, while Germany lacks forty thousand square miles in comparison with the Lone Star State. France is four thousand square miles less than Germany, and Italy is only a thousand square miles greater than Nevada. The British Kingdom in Europe is about twice the area of Illinois. Among the great nations of the world, aside from outlying possessions beyond the Grand Division, our country stands third, and should occupy the second place, because China, the next larger, owes its greater area to territories over which she has little or no control, and which she seems destined to lose.

The largest country is Russia, covering as it does one-sixth of all the land on the earth. This empire, although inhabited by people differing in race, religion, and customs, is one compact whole. It embraces in Europe 2,113,000 square miles, or more than all other European nations combined; its area in Asia is 6,672,000 square miles, making a total of 8,785,000 square miles, or 2.8 times as many as the main body of our country. All the people living in this immense empire, whatever their race, religion, or language, obey the will of one man. We, who dwell in our beloved country, yield obedience only to the Law; but the laws are made by ourselves, and they allow us (p. 015) to do as we please, so long as we do not interfere with others who have the same rights; and those laws are ever ready to protect us. In Russia laws are made or unmade at the will of one person who is himself above the laws. Every man, woman, or child, born and living in that country, is at his mercy. Mere suspicion is sufficient to drag a man from his family and home, perhaps to disappear without leaving a trace. Such a government is called an autocracy, and the man who may thus dispose of people's life and property, is known as an Autocrat. Hence the title of the Emperor of Russia is: Autocrat of All the Russias.

Why "All the Russias"? Look at the map of Eurasia, the continent embracing the two Grand Divisions Europe and Asia. You will see that the Russian Empire is bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean; on the east by the Bering Strait, the Bering Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, and the Japan Sea; on the south by China, Pamir, Afghanistan, Persia, Asiatic Turkey, and the Black Sea; and on the west by Roumania, Austria-Hungary, the German Empire, the Baltic Sea, Sweden, and Norway. This immense empire is the growth of many centuries, and even in Europe it has not yet been welded into one whole. When we read Russian books, we learn about Great and Little Russia, White and Red Russia, which shows that divisions of bygone years are still observed by the people. Much has been done towards effacing those boundary lines; but the fact that the czar, autocrat though he is, recognizes and admits the division in his title, shows that even he is, to some extent, subject to public opinion.

Russia in Europe, however, with the exception of Poland and (p. 016) Finland, is a country with one religion and one language; that is, the czar and his government recognize and admit no other. That is the cause of the persecution of the Jews, four fifths of whom dwell in the southwest of Russia in an area covering 356,681 square miles, which is sometimes mentioned as the Jewish territory. Every succeeding czar has tried to make all his subjects think and act in the manner prescribed by him. The process is known as "Russianizing," and goes on incessantly in its different stages. Immediately after the conquest of a country, its people are assured that their religion, institutions, and language, shall be respected; the only difference is that the native officials are displaced by Russians. This continues until Russian rule is firmly established, and no one dreams of resisting the czar. Then the Russian language displaces the native tongue, and if disturbances occur, the military is called in to inflict a terrible punishment. The loss of the native language carries with it that of old institutions, and when the people have submitted to their fate, it is the turn of their religion. The Russian is in no hurry; he has a conviction that time has no changes in store for his empire, hence he bides his time, and is likely to succeed in his purpose. This process is now carried on in Central Asia where Russian power has found its greatest expansion in modern times. It is but fair to admit that Russian absorption there has been highly beneficial because robber tribes were reduced to law and order.

Before telling the Story of Russia, that is, of how the huge empire was formed and grew to its present size, it is necessary to become (p. 018) better acquainted with the aspect and nature of the country. Looking at the map of the Eurasian continent, that is, the continent embracing Europe and Asia, we cannot fail to notice that Russia is a country of the plains. Its southern boundary seems to follow the mountain barriers which divide Asia into two parts. Does it not seem as if long billows of earth roll down toward the Arctic Ocean, where they rest benumbed by the eternal cold? These mountains branch off toward the south, east or west, but scorn to throw so much as a spur northward. It is true that a solitary chain, the Urals, runs north and south, but it stands by itself, and is nothing more than what the word Ural signifies, a belt or girdle separating the European from his Asiatic brother. These mountains do not form the backbone of a country, nor do they serve as a watershed, like our Rocky Mountains or the Andes of South America. Some of their peaks rise to a height of 6,000 feet above the level of the sea, but the chain, 1531 miles long, seems destined only to keep the two races apart.

Beyond the Ural mountains, the plain resumes its sway. This extensive flat could not fail to exert a noticeable influence upon the country and its inhabitants. The dense forests in the north, while acting as a screen, do not afford protection against the icy polar winds which sweep with scarcely diminished force over the broad expanse, so that the northern shores of the Black and Caspian Seas in January have about the same temperature as Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. The mountains of Western Europe shut off the aerial current of the Gulf Stream which tempers the summer heat as well as the winter cold. (p. 019) Russia's climate, therefore, is one of extremes. In summer the heat is very oppressive, owing to the absence of the sea breeze which elsewhere affords so much relief; and when a wind does blow, it only adds to the discomfort, because it has lost its moisture. That is the reason why Russia suffers so often from drought. This is especially the case in the south where no forests are found to attract rain.

Nature has provided a substitute in the splendid waterways. In about the center of European Russia, rises the Valdai plateau to a height of 1,100 feet above the sea level. This is Russia's great watershed. Near it, in Lake Volgo, rises the largest river of Europe, "Mother Volga," as the Russian ballad singers love to call it. Its entire length is 2,336 miles, or nearly the length of the Missouri; it has a basin of 590,000 square miles. Owing to the slight slope of the land, the great river flows placidly in its bed, which is fortunate since its Waters are swollen by several large rivers, so that there are points where it is seventeen miles wide. The Kama, one of the tributaries of the Volga, is 1,266 miles long; the Oka, another confluent, has a length of 633 miles. At Kazan, the Volga is 4,953 feet wide, at Jaroslaf 2,106 feet, and at Samara, 2,446 feet. It empties into the Caspian Sea, with a delta of more than seventy branches. The fish caught in this river often grow to gigantic proportions; its sturgeons, lampreys, and salmon, are highly prized. Since time immemorial, the Volga has been a great highway of trade. Kostroma, Nishni Novgorod, Kazan, Simbirsk, Saratof, and Astrakhan, are the most populous cities on its banks.

Other large rivers rise on the Valdai plateau. The Dnieper runs (p. 020) south, passing by Kief, and empties in the Black Sea, near Odessa. The Dwina runs northward, seeking the icy Arctic, which it enters by way of the White Sea near Archangel. The Duena takes a westerly course towards the Gulf of Riga where it empties near the city of that name. Of greater importance are the small streams which feed Lakes Ladoga and Onega, because they connect Central Russia with the Baltic Sea by means of the Neva.

European Russia is usually divided into four zones or belts, from the character of the soil and the nature of its productions; their general direction is from southwest to northeast. In the north, as a screen against the Arctic blast, is the poliessa or forest region, densely covered with lindens, birches, larches, and sycamores, with oaks on the southern fringe. These forests are invaluable to Russia where, in the absence of mountains, stone is scarce. The houses are built of wood, and fires are of common occurrence. Both lumber and fuel are supplied by these forests which originally extended to Novgorod, Moscow, and Jaroslaf. The increase in population together with the growing demand for lumber, have caused extensive clearings; but the area covered by the forests is so large, that the supply is well-nigh inexhaustible.

South of this zone are the black earth lands, extending down to the Caucasus and across the Urals, and covering in Europe an area of one hundred and fifty million acres,—equal to that of Texas. This zone derives its name from an apparently inexhaustible bed of black (p. 021) mold, so rich that no manure is required to produce abundant crops. Until late in the last century, and before the United States began to export its surplus harvests, this region was considered the granary of Europe. It was known in very old times since we read of it in the Heroic Age of Ancient Greece, when Jason sailed in the Argo to bring home the Golden Fleece.

Almost equal in extent is the zone of arable steppes, or prairies, once the home of the Cossack, the nomad who led here the life of a shepherd king, moving about as the condition of pasture and flock required. Most of this land is now under cultivation, and with careful farming produces good crops. These arable steppes cover an area equal to that of Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska.

The fourth and last zone is that of the barren steppes. There is ample evidence that at some remote time these plains were covered with salt water. The Caspian Sea has a level eighty feet below that of the Black Sea, and it is therefore probable that here was a large inland sea of which the Caspian and Aral Seas are the remains. These steppes are unfit for farming. Here dwell the Kalmucks and Kirghizes, descendants of the Tartars whose yoke once pressed heavily upon Russia.

(p. 022)


At an early period in the history of Greece, we hear of colonies established on the northern shore of the Pontus Euxinus or Hospitable Sea, as they named the Black Sea. We may even now recognize some of the names of those colonies, such as Odessos, at the mouth of the Bug, Tyras, at that of the Dniester, and Pityas where Colchis, the object of the search of Jason and his fellow Argonauts, is supposed to have been. In the fourth century before our era, some of these colonies united under a hereditary archon or governor, probably for the purpose of securing better protection against the barbarians who dwelt further inland.

The Greeks mention these barbarians as the Scythians, and divided them into three classes. The agricultural Scythians dwelt in the black earth belt, near the Dnieper; the nomad Scythians lived at some distance to the east of them, and the royal Scythians occupied the land around the Sea of Azof.

Learned men of Russia have made many excavations on the spots where the Greek settlements once stood, during the past century. They have been rewarded by finding many works of art, illustrating the mode of living of the Scythians. They have been placed, and may be seen (p. 024) in the Hermitage museum of St. Petersburg. Among these relics of the past are two beautifully engraved vases, one of gold, the other of silver. The Scythians on the silver vase wear long hair and beards, and are dressed in gowns or tunics, and bear a close resemblance to the Russians of our time. These vases and other ancient objects confirm what is said about these people by Herodotus, a Greek historian who lived in the fourth century before Christ.

We learn from him that the Scythians worshiped a sword stuck into the ground, representing the god of war, and that they made human sacrifices. They drank the blood of the first enemy killed in battle, scalped their prisoners, and used their skulls as drinking cups. In the course of time the Greek civilization exerted its influence, and penetrated to tribes dwelling much further in the north, as is shown by the antiquities found in the government of Ekaterinoslaf.

The orbis terrarum or world so far as it was known to the Greeks, was centered about the Mediterranean; hence the name of that sea, meaning Middle of the Land or Middle of the Earth. Beyond that there was an unknown region, supposed to be inhabited by people of whom many wonderful stories were told. Thus they believed in the existence of the Arimaspians, a race of one-eyed people; there are legends, too, of the Agrippei who were described as bald and snub-nosed. The Greeks also mention the Gryphons, who, they said, were guardians of immense quantities of gold. The most wonderful people to the Greeks were the Hyperboreans, or dwellers beyond the regions of the north wind, (p. 025) who were looked upon with awe and pity because it was said that they lived in a country where snow fell summer and winter. These were some of the races and tribes supposed to inhabit Russia, which goes far to prove that the knowledge of that country, in those times, was neither extensive nor very accurate.

The truth is that we know very little about the early inhabitants of Russia; nor do they concern us greatly, because grave changes occurred in the fourth century of our era. At that time several large and warlike tribes of Central Asia moved westward compelling other tribes on their route to join them or to move ahead. Thus they gathered strength until it looked as if Asia was bent upon the conquest of Europe. They poured in through the gap between the Ural mountains and the Caspian Sea, and the civilized people of southeastern Europe were unable to cope with the savage hordes. In the vanguard were the Goths, who made an effort to settle, in Scythia, but they were forced to move on when Attila, who is known as the Scourge of God, swooped down upon them with his Huns. He was followed by a host of Finns, Bulgarians, Magyars, and Slavs who, however, left his wake, scattered and settled down. Soon after the Slavs became known to Greek authors and were described by them. They were divided into a number of tribes, among them the Russian Slavs who settled about the sources of the Volga and the Oka, and were the founders of Novgorod, Pskof, and Izborsk.

They must have been a numerous people. We hear of another tribe settling on the banks of the Vistula, and laying the foundation of (p. 026) the future kingdom of Poland. They settled on the upper Elbe, and in the north of Germany. It is believed that the Slavs are ancestors of the people in Bohemia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Servia, and Dalmatia, and in Prussia of those living in Pomerania and Brandenburg.

All these Slavs, although widely dispersed, practiced the same heathen rites, spoke the same language, and nursed the same traditions, until they fell under different influences. They were, however, not the sole occupants of northeastern Europe. Other races had followed in Attila's wake, and among them the Finns were the most numerous and most warlike. They settled in the basin of the Dwina and the Kama and named their new home Biarmaland, while the Russians called it Great Permia. They also occupied what is now known as Finland, but which was then known as Land of the Suomi. The Finns, more than any other tribe, bore evidence of their Asiatic origin.

Thus the present European Russia was divided among a host of tribes, belonging either to the Slav or Finn families, and each kept to a great extent the superstitions and traditions of his race. Even in our time the traces of these superstitions are plainly discernible in many parts of Russia. When Christianity was introduced among these people, the missionaries found many of the barbaric rites so strongly implanted among the people that, instead of making vain efforts to uproot them, they preferred to admit them under a Christian name.

The religion of the Slavs bore a great resemblance to that of the Norsemen and of the Germanic races; that is, they worshiped nature (p. 027) and its phenomena. Dagh Bog was the sungod; Perun, the Thor of northern mythology, was the god of thunder; Stri Bog, the god of the winds; Voloss, the protector of flocks. They had neither temples nor regular priests, but worshiped the oak as the symbol of Perun, and before it the leaders offered sacrifices. These ancient deities are preserved under the names of St. John, who displaced Perun; Voloss who became St. Vlaise, etc. When a chief died, the wife often refused to survive her husband. The men-servants were summoned and asked which of them would be buried with his master. When one of them came forward, he was immediately strangled. Then the same question was put to the women servants, and if one of them consented, she was feasted until the day when the funeral pyre awaited the corpse. She was then killed and her body burned with that of her master. There were, however, some tribes that buried their dead.

The father was absolute master of his family, but his authority did not descend to the eldest son, but to the oldest of the family, his brothers, if any were living, according to their age. The Slavs kept several wives, and were given to consume large quantities of a strong drink called kvass. They were a people devoted to agriculture; the land under cultivation was not owned by one person or a family, but by all the members of a community, or mir. The heads of the families composing the mir assembled in a council or vetche, which had authority over the mir. Only the house and the dvor or inclosure, and his share in the harvest, were the property of each householder. In the course of time, several of these rural communities united (p. 028) in a canton or county, called a volost, which was then governed by a council composed of the elders of several communes. It happened sometimes that one of these elders, who was considered unusually wise or powerful, became chief of the volost, a dignity which might become hereditary. This was probably the origin of the boyards or nobles. As a rule, the volosts were proud of their independence; they disliked entangling alliances, although in time of danger or necessity they would enter into a confederacy of all the counties belonging to the same tribe, which was then called plemia. But it was always understood that such an arrangement was temporary. In most of the volosts, there was at least one spot fortified by earthen walls and wooden palisades, where the people might take refuge in case of an attack.

We know that some of the Slav tribes attained some degree of civilization as early as the seventh century of our era. Novgorod was a town, large for that time, which carried on a brisk trade with Asia. This is amply proved by the discovery of Asiatic coins belonging to that period. Although the favorite occupation of the Slavs was agriculture, the construction of the fortified places suggests that they were not averse to increase their wealth by an occasional raid upon their unprepared neighbors. There is other evidence that Novgorod, grown into a wealthy city in the middle of the ninth century, longed for peace. No wonder that such a community sought for means of security for its commerce. But the manner in which it accomplished this desire, decided the fate of Russia.


It would have been strange indeed, if the bold Norsemen, the bold buccaneers who in their frail craft pillaged the west coasts of Europe and extended their voyages into the Mediterranean, should have omitted to pay a visit to the shores of the Baltic Sea. We know that they settled in England and France, and it causes no surprise when we read that the Slavs in the neighborhood of the Baltic paid tribute to them. They must have been exacting tax collectors, because we read also that, in 859, the Slavs rose and expelled their visitors. Three years later they returned at the invitation of the people of Novgorod.

Nestor, the historian of the Slav race, who lived in the twelfth century, and whose account is remarkably clear and trustworthy, wrote that the inhabitants of Novgorod "said to the princes of Varingia, 'Our land is great and fertile, but it lacks order and justice; come, take possession, and govern us.'"

The invitation was accepted. Three brothers, Rurik or the Peaceful, Sineous or the Victorious, and Truvor or the Faithful, proceeded to Russia with their families and fighting men. Rurik settled on the south shore of Lake Ladoga, Sineous on the White Lake, and Truvor at Izborsk. The two younger brothers died, and Rurik moved to (p. 030) Novgorod where he built a castle. At about the same time two other Norsemen, Askold and Dir, landed in Russia, and went to Kief, then also a flourishing city, where they were equally well received. They persuaded its people to prepare an expedition against Czargrad, the City of the Czar or Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, now known as Constantinople, but at that time named Byzantium. The expedition of Kief under Askold and Dir sailed down the Dnieper in a fleet of 200 large boats, entered the Golden Horn—or Bosphorus,—and began the siege of Constantinople. The capital was saved by the Patriarch or head of the Greek Church, who plunged a wonder-working robe into the waves, whereupon a violent storm destroyed the Russian fleet.

The two chiefs, Askold and Dir, must have escaped, because they were back at Kief when that city received a disagreeable visit. Upon Rurik's death, he was succeeded, not by his son Igor, but by his brother Oleg as the eldest of the family. The new prince or kniaz did not approve of rival Norsemen in his neighborhood. With his own men and a large number of Slavs and Finns, he marched upon Kief, and on his way compelled Smolensk and Loubetch to submit to his authority.

When he arrived before Kief, he succeeded in capturing Askold and Dir who were put to death "because," Oleg explained, "they were neither princes themselves, nor of the blood of princes." Kief was taken, and Oleg took up his residence in that city.

It is at this time that the name Russia first appears. Its (p. 032) derivation is doubtful and is, besides, of no great importance. Oleg ruled over Russia, that is, the plain extending from Kief to Novgorod. There is a story that he was defeated by the Hungarians, who had crossed the Dnieper, but it is doubtful, because in the year 907, we find him preparing another expedition against Constantinople. On this occasion the people of that capital forgot to bring out the robe, and tried to poison the invaders, but their scheme was discovered in time; they were forced to pay a heavy tribute and Oleg secured, besides, a very advantageous commercial treaty.

One of the wizards at Oleg's court had warned him that his favorite horse would be the cause of his death, and the animal was kept away from him until it died. Oleg did not believe in wizards; he insisted upon seeing the body and entered the stable. A snake came out of the horse's skull and stung Oleg in the foot, and he died from the effect of the poison.

Igor, Rurik's son, was the eldest, and succeeded his uncle. He led another expedition against Constantinople, but it ended in disaster, because the Russian fleet was destroyed by Greek fire. A large number of Russians were captured but Igor escaped. This failure did not prevent him from again attacking the Byzantine Empire, and this time he was successful. The emperor agreed to pay tribute and signed another commercial treaty.

Nestor, the Russian historian, tells us the story of Igor's death. "In the year 945," he says, "the drujina" (that is, the body-guard, composed of Norsemen or their descendants), "of Igor said to him, 'The men of Sveneld are richly provided with weapons and garments, while we go in rags; lead us, Prince, to collect the tribute so that (p. 033) thou and we may become rich.' Igor consented, and conducted them to the Drevlians to raise the tribute. He increased the first imposts, and did them violence, he and his men; after having taken all he wanted, he returned to his city. While on the road he bethought himself and said to his drujina, 'Go on with the tribute; I will go back and try to get some more out of them.' Leaving the greater part of his men to go on their way, he returned with only a few, to the end that he might increase his riches. The Drevlians, when they learnt that Igor was coming back, held council with Nal, their prince. 'When the wolf enters the sheepfold he slays the whole flock, if the shepherd does not slay him. Thus it is with us and Igor; if we do not destroy him, we are lost.' Then they sent deputies who said to him, 'why dost thou come anew unto us? Hast thou not collected all the tribute?' But Igor would not hear them, so the Drevlians came out of the town of Korosthenes, and slew Igor and his men, for they were but a few."

The drujina or body-guard of the duke was at the same time his council. The men composing it were considered as members of his family; they ate at his table and shared his amusements as well as his toil. He did nothing without consulting them, and was really but the first among his peers. They formed a court of justice, and it was from among them that he appointed the voievods or governors of fortresses, and possadniks or commandants of large towns. We have a description of the courts of that time by an Arab writer named Ibn Dost. He says: (p. 034) "When a Russian brings a complaint against another, he summons him before the court of the prince where both state their case. When the prince has pronounced his verdict, his orders are executed; but if both parties are dissatisfied, the dispute must be decided by weapons. He whose sword cuts sharper, gains his cause. At the time of the fight, the relatives of the two adversaries appear armed, and surround the space set apart. The combatants then come to blows, and the victor may impose any terms he pleases."

The people of the country, the peasants, were not quite so free as when Rurik landed. They began to be known as moujik, a contemptuous diminutive of the word mouj or man, literally manikin. The merchants or gosti did not form a distinct class, but in larger cities, such as Novgorod and Kief, they had a voice in the administration. These cities had a vetche or municipal council which directed the city's business without any direct interference from the prince. The successors of Rurik attended to the defense of the country, the administration of justice, and the collection of tribute and taxes, which sources of revenue were appropriated by them and served for their support and for that of the drujina.

The Slavs of that time exhibited many characteristics which we recognize in the Russians of our time. Leo the Deacon, a noted writer of that time, mentions that they fought in a compact body, and seemed like a wall of iron, bristling with lances, glittering with shields, whence rang a ceaseless clamor like the waves of the sea. A huge shield covered them to their feet, and, when they fought in retreat, they turned this enormous buckler on their backs and became (p. 035) invulnerable. The fury of the battle frenzied them. They were never seen to surrender. When victory was lost they stabbed themselves, for they believed that those who died by the hand of an enemy were condemned to serve him in the life after death. The emperors of Byzantium were glad to secure their services, and the ross, as they called them, often formed the body-guard. In the Byzantine expedition against Crete, 700 Russians served in the army.

The Norsemen readily adapted themselves to the habits, customs, and language of the people among whom they settled. We find the Norse names of Rurik, Oleg, and Igor, but after the last named their descendants were Russians and bore Russian names.

At Igor's death his son Sviatoslaf was still a minor, whose mother, Olga, became Regent. She was a woman of determination, whose first thought was to avenge the death of her husband. The Drevlians, hearing of her preparations, sent two deputations to appease her: not a man returned. They were all put to death at her command. Nestor tells us that Olga herself commanded her warriors at the siege of Korosthenes, and that she offered to make peace on payment of a tribute of three pigeons and three sparrows for every house. This was accepted and the birds were delivered, when she ordered lighted tow to be fastened to their tails, and when they flew back to the wooden town, they set fire to the houses and barns. Korosthenes was then captured and a great number of its inhabitants were slaughtered and the rest were made slaves.

It seems strange that such a woman should have been the first of (p. 036) Rurik's house to embrace Christianity. There is no doubt that she visited Constantinople where she astonished the emperor by the force of her character. She was baptized and received the name of Helen. It is quite possible that she came to Constantinople for that purpose, because we read that she refused to be baptized at Kief "for fear of the pagans." This confirms the Greek records in which it is stated that a bishop was established in Russia, probably at Kief, in the time of Oleg.

It is not strange that Christianity should have taken root in Russia after the frequent wars with the Byzantine Empire, and considering the commerce carried on between Kief and Constantinople. Missionaries entered Russia at an early period. Two of them, Cyril and Methodius, prepared a Slavonic alphabet, in which many Greek letters were used, and the Bible was translated into that language. There is a tradition that Askold was baptized after his defeat at Constantinople, and that this is the reason why the people still worship at his tomb at Kief, as of that of the first Christian prince. The Norsemen had no taste for persecution on account of religious belief, but for themselves they clung to the heathen deities. When Igor swore to observe the treaty concluded with Emperor Leo VI, he went up to the hill of Perun and used the ancient Slavonic rites; but the emperor's deputies went to the church of St. Elias, and there laid their hands upon the Bible as a token of good faith.

The drujina and warriors did not take kindly to Christianity. They, as well as the peasants, preferred to worship Perun and Voloss. The same thing happened elsewhere. Christianity made the greatest progress (p. 037) in cities, whereas the dwellers on the "heath" remained "heathen." "When one of the warriors of the prince wished to become a convert," says Nestor, "he was not prevented; they simply laughed at him." When Olga returned from Constantinople, she was anxious that her son, who was of age and had succeeded to his father, should follow her example. Sviatoslaf refused; "my men will laugh at me," was his usual answer. Nestor mentions that he sometimes lost his temper. Christianity did not make much progress during his reign.

He was a warrior, like his Norse ancestors. In the brief time of eight years, 964-972, he found time to wage two wars. The first was with the Khazar empire on the Don. Sviatoslaf captured its capital, the White City, and received tribute from two tribes of the Caucasus. The second war did not turn out so well.

From Nestor's account and that of Leo the Deacon, it appears that the Byzantine emperor, wishing to make use of Sviatoslaf, decided to find out what sort of man he was. He therefore sent him presents of gold and fine clothes, but the grandson of Rurik would scarcely look at them and told his warriors to take them away. When the emperor heard this, he sent him a fine sword and other weapons; these were accepted with every token of satisfaction by Sviatoslaf. When the emperor was informed of the result, he exclaimed: "This must be a fierce man, because he despises wealth and accepts a sword as tribute."

This did not prevent the emperor, who had a private quarrel with Peter, Czar of Bulgaria, from urging Sviatoslaf to make war upon (p. 038) his enemy. The Russian gave a hearty consent, and in a very short time he captured several fortresses and Pereiaslaf, the capital, fell into his hands. He determined to transfer his capital there, and when he returned to Kief, he told his mother of the city on the Danube. "The place," he said, "is the central point of my territory, and abounds in wealth. Precious goods, gold, wine, and all kinds of fruit, come from Greece. Silver and horses are brought from the country of the Czechs and Hungarians, and the Russians bring money, furs, wax, and slaves."

Meanwhile the emperor of Constantinople was dead; his successor, John Zimisces was a very different man, who preferred having a weak Bulgarian ruler as his neighbor, instead of an empire which, even at that time, extended from Lakes Ladoga and Onega to the Balkans. He, therefore, made up his mind to oust the Russians. Sviatoslaf had left Bulgaria, but he returned and reconquered it, when he received a demand from the new emperor to execute the treaty entered into with his predecessor, that is, to leave Bulgaria. Sviatoslaf replied proudly that he expected to visit the emperor at Constantinople before long, but Zimisces, a brave and able man, took measures to prevent it. Before Sviatoslaf expected him, Zimisces attacked and defeated the Russians in the defiles of the Balkan, and soon after stormed and captured Pereiaslaf. Eight thousand Russians withdrew into the castle, which they defended heroically. They refused to surrender and, when the castle was set on fire, they perished in the flames.

When Sviatoslaf heard of this disaster, he advanced against the (p. 039) emperor. The Greek historian says that the Russian army was 60,000 men strong, but Nestor gives the number at 10,000. The two armies met and both fought with desperate valor, but at last the Russians gave way before the furious charges of the Greek cavalry—the Ironsides—and withdrew to Dorostol. Zimisces started in pursuit, and laid siege to the city where the same courage was displayed. After Sviatoslaf drew his men up out of the city and prepared to give battle, Zimisces proposed to him to decide the issue by a personal fight, but the offer was declined. "I know better than my enemy what I have to do," said Sviatoslaf. "If he is weary of life, there are a thousand ways by which he can end his days." The battle ended in defeat for the Russians who, Leo the Deacon tells us, left 15,500 dead, and 20,000 shields on the battlefield. Sviatoslaf was compelled to come to terms. Zimisces permitted him and what remained of his army to return to Russia, after he had sworn by Perun and Voloss that he would never again invade the empire, but would help in defending it against its enemies. If he broke his oath, he wished that he might "become as yellow as gold, and perish by his own arms." Zimisces showed the nobility of a brave man. He sent messengers to a warlike tribe requesting a free passage for the Russians; but this tribe was anxious to seize the opportunity. Sviatoslaf and his men were attacked near the Cataracts of the Dnieper; he was killed, but most of his men escaped. (A.D. 972.)

(p. 040)


Sviatoslaf had divided the empire among his three sons; he left Novgorod to Vladimir, the eldest; Oleg, the second, was made prince of the Drevlians, and the youngest, Iaropolk, received Kief. As happens often, none of the three was satisfied with his share, and civil wars followed. Oleg was killed by Iaropolk, whereupon the youngest son of Sviatoslaf was slain by his brother Vladimir, who thus became the sole heir and successor to his father. His first act was to make war upon Poland. He compelled it to restore Red Russia or Old Gallicia, a territory in our time divided into seven governments, or provinces. He also reduced two revolted tribes, and forced the Lithuanians and Livonians to pay tribute.

At the beginning of his reign, Vladimir showed an unusual devotion to the old Slav gods. He erected idols on the sandy cliffs of Kief; that of Perun had a head of silver and a beard of gold. It seems that after some time he became displeased with this religion and, Nestor tells us, he grew anxious to know what religion was the best. He, therefore, sent deputies to Bulgaria to study the Moslem or Mohammedan creed, and to the Khazars, who occupied the plain between the Bug and the (p. 042) Volga, to make inquiries about the Jewish faith. From the Poles and Germans he wanted to know all about the Roman Catholic Church, and at Constantinople he expected to learn of the Greek faith. When these deputies returned and reported to him, Vladimir selected the Greek Church, which choice was approved by his drujina; "if the Greek religion had not been the best, your grandmother Olga, the wisest of mortals, would not have adopted it," said they. Thus Vladimir became a convert; but his method of showing it was rather peculiar.

He might have been baptized by the bishop of Kief; or, if he had applied at Constantinople, the emperor would gladly have sent him a high prelate to perform the service. Instead of this, Vladimir collected an army and marched against Kherson,—the last city in Russia held by the Byzantine. It was taken by means of treachery, and from this city Vladimir sent to Constantinople to demand in marriage the sister of the two emperors Basil and Constantine. Although the emperors did not like the proposed connection, they consented because they feared an invasion, but made it a condition that Vladimir should be baptized. The ceremony was performed at Kherson; soon after the bride arrived and the marriage took place in the same city. When he returned to Kief, he carried with him the priests and sacred ornaments taken from the churches of Kherson.

Upon his return to Kief, he began missionary work by his own peculiar methods. His first orders were to pull down the idols; during the execution the people wept, moaned, and wrung their hands. Perun's image was handsomely flogged and thrown into the Dnieper. Since it (p. 043) was made of wood, it soon came to the surface, which was looked upon as a miracle by the people who rushed down to worship it. But Vladimir's soldiers gave it another bath, and this time it was caught by the current and drifted away. The cliff where it stood is still known at Kief as "the devil's leap," and the spot where Perun floated ashore, is shown to visitors.

After thus getting rid of the idols, Vladimir commanded the people of Kief, men, women, and children, to plunge into the Dnieper, which had been consecrated for the occasion, that they might be baptized. When they had obeyed his order, the priests read the service, so that after entering into the river as heathen, they left it as Christians. The people of Novgorod were converted in the same swift and practical manner, since no attention was paid to their objections.

Heathen temples were next converted into churches, which were decorated by Greek artists. Vladimir erected at Kief the church of St. Basil, on the place where Perun's image had stood. Numerous other churches were built; he also founded schools where the Bible was taught in the Slav language. At first the people objected to send their children, because they looked upon reading and writing as magic. But Vladimir had persuasive ways, and was not likely to be deterred by such opposition. Nestor admired him very much. He says that Vladimir was a different man after he had been converted; that he was so afraid of committing a sin, that he hesitated to inflict capital punishment, until the bishop reminded him that crime must be punished. He also divided his income among the churches, and thus became the Saint (p. 044) Vladimir of Russia. Popular ballads keep alive the memory of the first Christian prince. He is often mentioned in them as "The Beautiful Sun" of Kief.

It cannot be supposed that the Russian people were converted at once into good Christians by Vladimir's forceful method. Several centuries were to pass away before the peasants could be induced to part with their heathen customs. The priests preferred to let them remain under a Christian name. There is something mystic in the Slav character. He nurses the belief in magicians and sorcerers, which has never been uprooted. It is seen at present in the worship of the eikon or saint's image.

Vladimir died in 1015. He, too, divided Russia among his numerous sons. One of them, Iaroslaf, received Novgorod, where he began to interfere with the rights of the people. A deputation of leading citizens came to him with a protest. He ordered their arrest and condemned them to death. Meanwhile Vladimir's other heirs had indulged in the usual quarrels and wars, until it seemed as if Sviatopolk, a nephew, would become the sole ruler. Iaroslaf then called the principal people of Novgorod together, and threw himself upon their generosity. They forgave him and promised their support. They kept their word, and after a long and bloody war he entered Kief as his father's successor.

Iaroslaf was unfortunate in a war with the Byzantine Empire. The Russian fleet was badly defeated in the Bosphorus; 8,000 men were killed, and 800 prisoners were taken to Constantinople.

Of greater importance was Iaroslaf's work at home. He built (p. 045) churches and monasteries; St. Sophia church was the pride of Kief; the monastery of The Catacombs still draws pilgrims from all parts of Russia. Kief became known as "the city of four hundred churches." He also founded a school for three hundred boys at Novgorod, thereby showing that Russia at that time was second to no European nation.

Kief, under his reign, was one of the most prosperous cities. This was due to her situation on the Dnieper and her trade with the Byzantine Empire, to the great fertility of the Black Earth land, and to Iaroslaf's connection by marriage with the reigning families of Europe. Of his daughters Elizabeth was the wife of the King of Norway, Anne of the King of France, and Anastasia of the King of Hungary; his sister Mary was married to the King of Poland, and his sons had married into royal families. Merchants from Holland, Germany, Hungary, and Scandinavia were established at Kief. The Dnieper was alive with merchant vessels, and she counted eight markets. It is evident that Iaroslaf took pains to protect and advance commerce. He had coins minted with his Slav name on one side, and his Christian name Ioury (George), on the other.

Perhaps his greatest work is the code of laws established by him, known as the Russkaia Pravda or Russian Right. Though necessarily primitive, it was a long step in advance of that time. It followed chiefly the ideas of right and wrong according to the conceptions of the Scandinavians.

At this time, although the dignity of kniaz, duke or prince, was (p. 046) hereditary in the family of Rurik, it was understood by all parties that the reign of the prince depended upon the consent of his subjects, and perhaps more still upon that of his drujina. A story is told that in Vladimir's time the drujina complained that they were made to eat from wooden bowls, whereupon he gave them silver ones, saying: I could not buy myself a drujina with gold and silver; but with a drujina, I can acquire gold and silver, as did my father and my grandfather.

Ever since Kief had been the residence of Rurik's descendants, they had been recognized as Grand Dukes, because they represented the eldest of the descendants. They did not, as a rule, interfere with the administration, but were the dukes, the commanders of the armies. Many districts had such a duke, who was, however, invariably of the blood of Rurik, and recognized the superior authority as the eldest of the blood. When the Grand Duke of Kief died, he was not succeeded by his son, unless he had neither uncle nor brother living; but it was within the power of the grand duke to leave one or more districts to his sons.

The descendants of the Norsemen were, therefore, the defenders of the districts which they ruled as dukes. Novgorod and Pskof were republics on the northwest frontier, and usually had the same duke. Smolensk was an important dukedom, because it contained the sources of the Volga, the Dnieper, and the Dwina, and embraced the ancient forest of Okof. Not far from it was the dukedom of Toropetz. On the Upper Oka was Tchernigof—a rival of Kief; further to the south was Novgorod-Swerki, and east of the Upper Don, extending as far as the Oka, were (p. 047) Riazan and Mourom. The dukedom of Souzdal, inhabited by a mixture of Finns and Slavs, was in the north, the soil still covered by forests. Southeast Russia embraced Red Russia, that is Volhynia and Gallicia Proper.

The introduction of the Greek Church caused important changes. The Greek Priests could not comprehend the relation between the people and its defenders. To them the duke was not a dux (leader), but a Caesar, Kaiser, or Czar, ruling, not with the consent of the governed, but by the grace of God, as did the emperors at Constantinople. This idea gradually penetrated into the minds of the several dukes, until it was accepted and enforced by them.

Another very important change was effected by the Greek religion. We have seen that according to the old Slav customs, it was not the son who succeeded as the head of the family, but its eldest member. It appears that the same custom prevailed among the Norsemen, as we have seen that it was Rurik's brother, and not his son who succeeded him. In the Byzantine Empire, the oldest son was the heir, and the priests tried to introduce this as a law.

As the descendants of Rurik increased in number, it was not always easy to determine who was entitled to the succession. Hence there were often several claimants, and as a result, civil wars followed. These wars, strange as it may appear, served to bind the dukedoms together, because most of them were waged for the purpose of establishing the claim of a duke upon the possession of Kief.

Iaroslaf died in 1054, and was buried in the church of St. Sophia (p. 048) at Kief. In his will we see the effect of the Greek Church, for he specially appointed his eldest son Isiaslaf as his successor. A younger brother, Sviatoslaf, took up arms, and expelled him in 1073. Upon his death in 1076, Isiaslaf returned to Kief, where he lived two years. He died in 1078, and was succeeded by his brother Vsevolod, who was grand duke until 1093, when he was succeeded by Sviatopolk, the son of Isiaslaf, as the eldest of the family. He was not opposed by Vsevolod's famous son Vladimir Monomachus, who admitted that Sviatopolk's "father was older than mine, and reigned first in Kief."


Sviatopolk reigned from 1093 to 1113. It was at this time that Russia was disturbed by two civil wars. At the instance of Vladimir Monomachus a congress of dukes met in 1097, at Loubetch on the Dnieper to discuss the folly of civil wars which placed the country at the mercy of its enemies. An agreement was concluded, wherein the dukes swore upon the Cross that "henceforth the Russian land shall be considered the country of us all, and whoso shall dare arm himself against his brother, shall be our common enemy."

Soon after this a quarrel broke out about the succession of Volhynia, and again the country was plunged into civil strife, which lasted two years. In 1100 another congress was held at Vititchevo, on the left bank of the Dnieper, where the dispute was settled, and it was resolved to unite in a war with a powerful nomad people. The Russians under Vladimir Monomachus gained a brilliant victory; the nomads had seventeen khans killed on the battlefield.

When Sviatopolk died, the people of Kief declared that they would have no grand duke except Vladimir. He declined saying that there were elder heirs entitled to the succession; but when troubles broke out in the city, he gave his consent. During his reign of twelve years, (p. 050) from 1113 to 1125, Kief reached the height of prosperity and power. He reduced Souzdal, in the north, to submission, and made many improvements. His memory is cherished in Russia. He compiled a set of instructions for his sons, from which we may judge of his character. Among other remarks, he says: "It is neither by fasting, nor solitude, nor the life in a cloister that will procure for you the life eternal,—it is doing good. Do not forget the poor but feed them. Do not bury your wealth in the bosom of the earth, for that is contrary to the precepts of Christianity. Be a father to orphans, judge the cause of widows yourself." "Put to death no one be he innocent or guilty, for nothing is more precious than the soul of a Christian." "When you have learned anything useful, try to preserve it in your memory, and strive ceaselessly to acquire knowledge. Without ever leaving his palace, my father spoke five languages, a thing that foreigners admire in us."

There are in the museum at Moscow, a throne and crown, supposed to have belonged to this noble and patriotic duke; unfortunately it has been shown that they were never in his possession.

In his will, Vladimir gave the dukedom of Souzdal to his son George Dolgorouki, and another son, Mstislaf, succeeded as grand duke at Kief. When the latter died in 1146, leaving the grand dukedom to his son Isiaslaf, George Dolgorouki claimed the succession as the eldest of the family. Both sides were supported by their friends, and some fierce battles were fought, but Isiaslaf maintained himself until his death in 1157. After his reign, Kief's importance began to (p. 051) decrease. Twelve years later, in 1169, it was captured by the Russians of the north. A native historian[1] says of this event: "This mother of Russian cities had been many times besieged and oppressed. She had often opened her Golden Gate to her enemies, but none had ever yet entered by force. To their eternal shame, the victors forgot that they, too, were Russians! During three days not only the houses, but the cloisters, churches, and even the temples of St. Sophia and the Dime, were given over to pillage. The precious images, the sacerdotal ornaments, the books, and the bells,—all were carried off."

[Footnote 1: Karamsin.]

With the fall of Kief, the scene of Russian activity shifts to the north. There, in the dukedom of Souzdal, George Dolgorouki laid, in 1147, the foundation of a town, Moscow, on a height overlooking the Moscowa. For many years it remained an obscure village, and gave no sign of its future greatness.

The chief interest at this time centers about the Russian republics, Novgorod, Pskof, and Viatka. Although Novgorod did not possess the advantages of Kief, since its soil was sandy, marshy, and unproductive, the enterprise of its people made it the wealthiest and most populous city of Russia. It is recorded that it counted 100,000 inhabitants, when Rurik arrived in Russia. He and his immediate successors were satisfied with the position of Defender, which suited their warlike and blunt character, and with the revenues assigned to them, which with the spoils taken from the enemy, were ample for their wants. These republics were administered by a vetche or municipal (p. 052) council, with a possadnik or burgomaster, whose duty it was to see that the city's privileges were preserved, and who distributed the taxes. He shared with the duke in the administration of justice. There was a militia for the defense of the people's rights, commanded by a tysatski. Every ward of the city had a starost, charged with preserving the peace. It is said that a written constitution, partaking of the nature of the Magna Charta, was granted to Novgorod by Iaroslaf the Great. The duke's rights and privileges, his duties and his revenues, were carefully set down. He was entitled to the tribute of some of the volosts,—cantons or counties,—and to certain fines; he could gather in his harvests at stated times, and was not permitted to hunt in the forest except in the autumn. He could neither execute nor annul a judgment without the approval of the possadnik, and he was expressly forbidden to carry a lawsuit beyond Novgorod. Every duke, before he entered upon his office, was compelled to take an oath to this constitution.

The members of the vetche were elected by a unanimous vote, instead of by a majority. This gave rise to frequent, and sometimes very serious disorder, because if a minority did not approve of the candidate, they were apt to be ill-treated. There were occasions when two rival vetches were elected, and when this happened in the two parts of the city divided by the river Volkhof, the bridge between them was often the scene of a free fight. Owing to the extensive trade connections, the merchants trading with western Europe by way of the Baltic sought to promote friendly relations with the dukes of the west, who had (p. 053) it in their power to promote or obstruct their trade; but the merchants dealing with Asia, and those who connected with Constantinople had other interests to consider and to guard. Thus there were often three parties, each concerned with its own interests, and forgetting that their prosperity was first and chiefly dependent upon the power of the republic, they rendered it an easy prey for an ambitious duke. The people, however, boasted of their patriotism, and during the early period they were strong enough to defy the duke. On some occasions, he and his drujina were expelled, or, as they expressed it, "the people made him a reverence, and showed him a way to leave." Sometimes, too, it happened that the duke was made a prisoner, and confined in the Archbishop's palace. When Sviatopolk was Grand Duke of Kief (1093-1113), he wished to force one of his sons upon the people of Novgorod. "Send him along," said they, "if he has a head to spare!" Usually the duke was glad to leave Novgorod, if he could secure another dukedom. In 1132, Vsevolod Gabriel left Novgorod to become Duke of Pereiaslaf, hoping to succeed as Grand Duke of Kief. Seeing no way to attain the coveted dignity, he signified his wish to return to the people of Novgorod. "You have forgotten your oath to die with us," they replied; "you have sought another dukedom; now you may go where you please." In this case, however, the people changed their mind, and did take him back; but four years afterwards they expelled him, declaring that "he took no care of the poor people; he desired to establish himself at Pereiaslaf; at the battle of Mount Idanof against the men of Souzdal, he and his drujina were the first to leave the (p. 054) battlefield; he was fickle in the quarrels of the dukes, sometimes joining one party and sometimes the other."

So long as the descendants of Rurik remained satisfied with their position, Novgorod had enough men and resources to maintain its independence; but more than that was required after the dukes had tasted of the sweets of unlimited power.

George Dolgorouki had established colonies in Souzdal. The land was his, the colonists were his subjects. He was no longer merely the defender, he was the owner, not the duke, but the prince. There was no vetche or popular assembly in his possessions. His son, Andrew Bogolioubski, was brought up and educated amid these conditions, more in conformity with those prevailing in Greece and other parts of Europe, where the people were supposed to exist for the sole benefit of their prince. It was he who ruined Kief, and the fall of that city foretold the doom of Novgorod. "The fall of Kief," says a Russian author,[2] "seemed to foreshadow the loss of Novgorod liberty; it was the same army, and it was the same prince who commanded it. But the people of Kief, accustomed to change their masters,—to sacrifice the vanquished to the victors,—only fought for the honor of their dukes, while those of Novgorod were to shed their blood for the defense of the laws and institutions established by their ancestors."

[Footnote 2: Karamsin.]

During his father's life, Andrew left his castle on the Dnieper, and moved northward to Vladimir which town he enlarged, and where he founded a quarter named Bogolioubovo, whence his name of Bogolioubski. (p. 055) After the death of George Dolgorouki, Andrew first made a successful campaign against the Bulgarians, and then, after sacking Kief, he turned his attention toward Novgorod, where he had established one of his nephews. The cause of the quarrel is not known, but Andrew began by compelling the neighboring dukes to join him, and overran the territory of the republic with fire and sword. The people of Novgorod, remembering the fate of Kief, were prepared to die in the defense of the city. The siege commenced. One day the Archbishop took the eikon—image—of the Virgin, which was carried around in solemn procession. It was struck by an arrow shot by a Souzdalian soldier, when miraculous tears appeared upon its face. The besiegers were struck by a panic, and the people of Novgorod sallied out, killed a number of the enemy, and took so many prisoners that "you could get six Souzdalians for a grivna." Whatever may have been the value of that coin, the market was evidently overstocked with Souzdalians.

Foiled in this attempt, Andrew tried other means. He prohibited the sale of grain to the people of Novgorod, who were thereby compelled to make peace. They did not surrender any of their privileges but accepted as their duke the prince selected by Andrew.

His next war was with Mstislaf the Brave, Duke of Smolensk, who, aided by his brothers, had taken Kief. Andrew sent a herald to him demanding the evacuation of Kief, and imposing a fine upon each brother. Mstislaf who, the Russians say, "feared none but God," gave orders to have the herald's head and beard shaved,—a gross insult at that (p. 056) time,—and then dismissed him, saying: "Go and repeat these words unto your master,—'Up to this time we have respected you like a father, but since you do not blush to treat us as your vassals and common people, since you have forgotten that you speak to princes, we laugh at your threats. Execute them!—we appeal to the judgment of God.'" The challenge was accepted, and Andrew was defeated.

The Duke of Souzdal did not relax in his attempts to established absolute government. It was with this purpose in view that he expelled his three brothers, and made friends of the priests. Kief was still the residence of the Metropolitan or head of the Greek Church in Russia, and Andrew was anxious that he should transfer his residence to Vladimir so as to make that city the religious center of Russia. His wish was not gratified. He failed in everything, except in making enemies by his disregard of law. He was murdered in 1174 in his favorite palace at Bogolioubovo, by his own boyards or nobles.


The death of Andrew was a welcome relief for the people of Novgorod. They celebrated it by attacking the houses of the rich, and committed so many excesses that the priests made a procession with the eikons. In Souzdal there was trouble about the succession. Two of Andrew's brothers returned from exile, and claimed the dukedom, and the city of Vladimir gave them its support. That was enough for Souzdal and Rostof to recognize another claimant, one of Andrew's nephews. Vladimir was victorious in the contest, and Andrew's brother, Michael, became Grand Duke of Souzdal. He died two years afterwards, and the people of Souzdal once more refused to recognize Vladimir's candidate, Andrew's other brother Vsevolod, surnamed the Big Nest on account of his numerous family. Vladimir defeated Souzdal and Vsevolod was its grand duke from 1176 to 1212. The people of Novgorod thought best to pacify him. They sent a deputation to Vladimir, to tell Vsevolod, "Lord and Grand Duke, our country is your patrimony; we entreat you to send us the grandson of George Dolgorouki, the great-grandson of Monomachus, to govern us." The request was granted, and Vsevolod's eldest son Constantine came to Novgorod. The grand duke, however, was soon (p. 058) displeased with him and displaced him by a younger son, Iaroslaf. Soon there were quarrels between him and the people, whereupon Iaroslaf moved to Torjok, a town within Novgorod territory, and from there stopped all supplies. Famine appeared in the city, and at last envoys were sent to the duke, who had them arrested. Nothing except absolute submission would satisfy him. In this dire need help came from an unexpected quarter. Mstislaf the Bold, son of Mstislaf the Brave, Duke of Smolensk, heard of Novgorod's plight and sent word to the city, "Torjok shall not hold itself higher than Novgorod. I will deliver your lands and citizens, or leave my bones among you." He was as good as his word. There was a great war between Souzdal and Smolensk; no quarter was asked or given. In 1216, Vsevolod's sons were attacked at Lipetsk by the troops of Novgorod and Smolensk, with such fury that they were routed, and 9,000 were killed whereas only 60 were taken prisoners. Iaroslaf renounced Novgorod and released the citizens arrested by him.

Constantine succeeded his father Vsevolod, but died in 1217, and another brother, George, became Grand Duke of Souzdal. This prince made an expedition down the Volga, levying tribute as he proceeded. In 1220, he laid the foundation of Nishni Novgorod, and of several villages in what was then Moravian territory.

Meanwhile Mstislaf the Bold resigned as Grand Duke of Novgorod in an assembly of the people, saying, "I salute St. Sophia, the tomb of my father,[3] and you. People of Novgorod, I am going to reconquer Galitch from the strangers, but I shall never forget you. I hope (p. 059) I may lie by the tomb of my father in St. Sophia." The people implored him to remain; but he had made up his mind, and in 1218 he left for the southwest, where he did succeed in conquering Galitch, that is the name given to southwestern Russia at that time.

[Footnote 3: Mstislaf the Brave was buried in the church of St. Sophia.]

After his departure the people of Novgorod called his nephew Sviatoslaf as their grand duke, but soon there was a quarrel. The possadnik Tferdislaf caused the arrest of one of the wealthy citizens, whose friends rose to set him free. Then the burgomaster's friends came and there was a fight in which ten men were killed. The grand duke then demanded the dismissal of the burgomaster, and the vetche assembled to hear both sides. The grand duke was asked what crime the possadnik had committed.

"None," he replied, "but it is my will that he be dismissed."

The burgomaster then said: "I am satisfied, because I am not accused of any fault; as for you, my brothers, you can dismiss alike possadniks and dukes."

The vetche consulted, and announced its decision:

"Prince, since you do not accuse the possadnik of any fault, remember that you have sworn to depose no magistrate without trial. Tferdislaf will remain our possadnik,—we will not deliver him to you."

Sviatoslaf was very much displeased and resigned, and one of his brothers, Vsevolod, was appointed in his place. This was in 1219; two years later, in 1221, Vsevolod was expelled, and the people called back that same Iaroslaf from whom they had been rescued by Mstislaf the Bold. Soon there was another dispute and he was sent about (p. 060) his business. Vsevolod of Smolensk was again made duke, but the people soon grew tired of him. At this time the Grand Duke of Souzdal interfered; he made Novgorod pay him tribute, and appointed a prince of Tchernigof as its duke; but he did not like the place and resigned. Then the city suffered from a famine, when 42,000 citizens perished and a fire destroyed a whole quarter of the city. Iaroslaf was made duke for the fourth time; the spirit of the people was broken, and he was permitted to rule over them as he pleased. He succeeded as grand duke in 1236, when he left his son Alexander Nevski as duke in Novgorod.

The east coast of the Baltic was considered tributary to Novgorod. Several colonies had been established on the Duena and south of that river, but in the 12th and 13th centuries missionaries and merchants from Germany appeared and gradually penetrated as far as the Duena where Bishop Meinhard, in 1187, built a Roman Catholic Church and a fortress. The Livonians were converted much as St. Vladimir had made Christians of the people of Kief; but in this case, the people of Livonia revolted; in 1198 the second bishop was killed in battle, and the natives returned to the heathen gods. Pope Innocent III ordered a crusade against them. Another bishop sailed up the Duena with a fleet of twenty-three ships, and in 1200 founded Riga. The year after a religious society, the Sword-bearers, resembling the Templars, was installed in Livonia, and the natives appealed to the Duke of Polotsk for help. They marched upon Riga and were defeated in 1206.

German colonization proceeded actively under the Sword-bearers. (p. 061) Several cities were founded, and the country was divided into fiefs, according to the feudal system of Western Europe. The towns were modeled after Hamburg, Bremen, and Luebeck. Riga grew into a large and powerful city.

In 1225, another religious-brotherhood, the Teutonic Order, entered into Lithuania, and twelve years later the two orders united. The introduction of the Roman Catholic religion carried with it the elements of Roman civilization, and did much toward estranging the natives of the Baltic provinces from the Russians of the east.

Southwestern Russia, or Galitch, had, more than any other section, preserved the old Slav character. "The duke was a prince of the old Slavonic type. He was elected by a popular assembly, and kept his seat by its consent."[4] The assembly was composed of boyards or nobles, and sometimes disputes occurred between them and the duke, which ended in more or less serious disorders. In 1188, the position was offered to Roman, Duke of Volhynia. He accepted, but before he could enter the capital, a duke who had been expelled was reinstalled. After his death, Roman entered the territory of Galitch, not as an elected duke, but as a conqueror at the head of an army, and treated the dukedom as a conquest. He was especially cruel to the boyards, treating their rights and privileges with scorn. Russian authors praise him; one of them says that he "walked in the ways of God, exterminated the heathen, flung himself like a lion upon the infidels, was savage as a wild cat, deadly as a crocodile, swooped down on his prey like an (p. 062) eagle," which seem strange qualities for praise. Roman died in battle, in 1205. Mstislaf the Bold conquered Galitch and at his death, in 1228, his son-in-law Daniel became duke.

[Footnote 4: Kostomarof.]

We have seen that, in the 13th century, Russia was divided into a number of small states, most of them under a duke, but all possessing some degree of liberty, except in the north where the duke was being changed into an hereditary monarch. We have also seen that Russia was part of Europe, and that commercial relations were maintained. At the same time, just as there had been an invisible but none the less real dividing line between the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire and the west of Europe, so with the adoption of the Greek Church, Russia inherited the oriental type and principles which separated that form of Christianity from that of Rome. Thus the slight split grew gradually into a schism, as Western Europe progressed with every evolution of the Roman Church, whereas Russia remained stationary.

Byzantium or Constantinople, situated at the easternmost edge of Europe, owing to its intimate association with the Persians who, at the time represented the Oriental character, was more of an oriental than a western city; its sympathies were also with its neighbors of the east. There was thus an oriental tendency in Russia as well as in the Byzantine Empire, and this vague sentiment enabled Russia to bend before a blast, which would have withered any nation of a more pronounced occidental character.


On the borders of the Chinese Empire, in the northeast of Asia, roamed a Mongol tribe, known as the Tartars or Tatars. A Chinese author of that time, described them as follows: "The Ta-tzis[5] or Das occupy themselves exclusively with their flocks; they go wandering ceaselessly from pasture to pasture, from river to river. They are ignorant of the nature of a town or a wall. They are ignorant of writing and books; their treaties are concluded orally. From infancy they are accustomed to ride, to aim their arrows at rats and birds, and thus acquire the courage essential to their life of wars and destruction. They have neither religious ceremonies nor judicial institutions. From the prince to the lowest among the people, all are fed by the flesh of the animals whose skin they use for clothing. The strongest among them have the largest and fattest morsels at feasts; the old men are put off with the fragments that are left. They respect nothing but strength and courage; age and weakness are condemned."

[Footnote 5: Ta, great; hence: the Great Tzis.]

The people were, therefore, nomads, moving their flocks as necessity required, and occasionally making a raid upon a neighboring town. "They move on horseback;" says the Chinese author; "when they wish to capture a town, they fall on the suburban villages. Each leader (p. 064) seizes ten men, and every prisoner is forced to carry a certain quantity of wood, stones, and other material. They use these for filling up moats or to dig trenches. In the capture of a town the loss of a myriad men was thought nothing. No place could resist them. After a siege, the entire population was massacred, without distinction of old or young, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, those who resisted or those who yielded; no distinguished person escaped death, if a defense was attempted."

These nomad Tartars were united by and under Genghis Khan (1154-1227), one of their chiefs or khans. He summoned all the khans of the several tribes, and before them took the title of emperor over all, declaring that, as there was only one sun in heaven, so there should be but one emperor on earth. At the head of his tribes, Genghis conquered Manchuria and North China; then he moved west. He himself remained in Asia, but two of his lieutenants proceeded in that direction, subduing the tribes on their way, and often joined by them. The long march had rendered the Tartars inured to hardship and wholly indifferent to danger. At last they passed by the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, and, crossing the Caucasus, commenced the invasion of Europe.

The march of such a host could not be kept secret. When the Polovtsi, the old enemies of Russia, heard of the approach, they sent for help to the Christian dukes. "When they have taken our country, they will take yours," they said. Mstislaf the Bold of Galitch, urged that the assistance be granted, and the chief of the Polovtsi agreed to (p. 065) enter the Greek Church. The Russians assembled on the lower Dnieper, where they were approached by some Tatar envoys who told them that they had "come by God's command against our slaves and grooms, the accursed Polovtsi. Be at peace with us; we have no quarrel with you." The envoys were arrested and put to death. The Russian army then moved eastward, and met the Tartar host at the Kalka, a small river running into the Sea of Azof. Instead of waiting for the troops still on the way, Mstislaf the Bold and his friends began the battle. While it was at its height, the Polovtsi were seized by a panic and, falling back, threw the Russians into disorder. The Russian army was routed; six dukes and seventy high boyards were left dead on the battlefield, and hardly a tenth of the army escaped. The Grand Duke of Kief still occupied a fortified camp on the Kalka. The Tartars offered to allow him and his drujina to retire upon payment of a ransom. He accepted, and was attacked by the Tartars after he had left his fortifications. He and his two sons were stifled under boards, and his guard was massacred.

The Tartars at this time needed all their men to complete the conquest of China, and therefore the armies invading Europe were recalled, after southern Russia was at their mercy. The Russians did not inquire into the cause of this relief, but resumed their old life, confident that all danger was past.

When the Tartars had made themselves masters of China, Bati, a nephew of Genghis, was dispatched westward to mark further conquests. He did not follow the same route but passed south of the Ural Mountains. Thirteen years after the battle of the Kalka, Bati besieged and (p. 066) took the capital of the Bulgars, east of the grand dukedom of Souzdal (1237). As soon as the dukes of Central Russia heard this, they united against the Tartars, but the Grand Duke of Souzdal refused to join them. The Tartars sent envoys to the allied dukes. "If you want peace," they said, "give us the tenth of your goods." "When we are dead," was the proud reply, "you can have the whole." A battle was fought in which the Russians were crushed. Nearly all the dukes died on the battlefield; Riazan was stormed, sacked, and burned, and the other towns of that dukedom met the same fate.

It was now the turn of Souzdal. The army of the grand duke was defeated on the Oka; Moscow was burned and Vladimir besieged. After an heroic defense, the Tartars took the city by assault, and many Russians were burned in the cathedral which was set on fire. Leaving ruin in their wake, the Tartars went in search of the grand duke who had taken a position on the Sit, near the frontiers of Novgorod. Here another battle was fought ending in disaster for the Russians. The headless corpse of the grand duke was found by the Bishop of Rostof. On swept the Asiatic hoards, as if nothing would stop them. At Torjok, "Russian heads fell beneath the sword of the Tartars as grass beneath the scythe." Leaving Souzdal behind, they entered the territory of Novgorod; but the dense forests and swollen rivers delayed them, and when within fifty miles of the city, they turned southeast. The little town of Kozelsk[6] did not surrender but inflicted such a loss upon the invaders that they mentioned it as "the wicked city." When it (p. 067) was captured, every man, woman, and child, was butchered.

[Footnote 6: Where Kalouga now stands.]

The years 1239 and 1240 were spent in ravaging southern Russia. Pereiaslaf and Tchernigof, after a desperate defense, were burned, and the Tartars under command of Genghis's grandson Mangou, marched upon Kief. Mangou offered terms, but Kief, knowing the fate of other cities, executed Mangou's envoys. The grand duke and his rival, Daniel of Galitch, fled from the city, but the people fought for their lives. Mangou was reenforced by Bati's army and the siege began. The walls were knocked to pieces by battering rams. "The people of Kief, led by the brave Dmitri, a Gallician boyard, defended the battered ramparts till the end of the day, and then retreated to the Church of the Dime, which they surrounded by a palisade. The last defenders of Kief were grouped round the tomb of Iaroslaf. The next day they perished. Mangou gave the boyard his life, but the Mother of Russian Cities was sacked. This third pillage was the most terrible; even the tombs were not respected. All that remains of the Church of the Dime is only a few fragments of mosaic in the museum at Kief. Saint Sophia and the Monastery of the Catacombs were delivered up to be plundered." Kief fell in 1240.

There remained only Volhynia and Gallicia, which also bowed under the Tartar yoke. With the exception of Novgorod and the northwest, Russia was in possession of the Yellow race. The Russian dukes who had escaped carried the tale to Western Europe which was soon in a state of alarm. The Emperor of Germany wrote to the other monarchs: (p. 068) "This is the moment to open the eyes of body and soul, now that the brave princes on whom we depended are dead or in slavery." The Pope called upon the Christian princes to take up arms. Meanwhile Bati continued his westward march and penetrated as far as Moravia, when he was recalled by the death of the second Tartar emperor. He withdrew to Russia and on the Volga built a city which he named Sarai—the Castle,—which became the capital of a Tartar empire extending from the Ural river and Caspian Sea to the mouth of the Danube, and is known as the Golden Horde.

The first three successors of Genghis Khan are known as the Great Khans, and ruled over all the Tartars; but after Kublai Khan established himself in China, in 1260, the Golden Horde declared its independence. So long as Bati lived, this khanate was united and powerful, but after his death, in 1257, it gradually lost strength. In 1272, these Tartars became Mahomedans and spread that faith. The Golden Horde enjoyed another period of prosperity under the Khan Uzbeck.

How did the Russians bear this blow? We have seen that Iaroslaf, the duke who had been expelled so many times from Novgorod, became Grand Duke of Souzdal. He found the country in Souzdal in ruins. Nothing was left of the towns and villages but charred remains; the inhabitants who had survived the Tartar massacres had fled into the forests. Iaroslaf's first work was to induce them to return and rebuild their homes. The Tartar general Bati heard of this and sent word to Iaroslaf to come to him. The grand duke dared not refuse. He went to Sarai (p. 069) on the Volga where Bati told him that he might continue as grand duke, but that it would be best for him to pay a visit to the great khan, who was then on the Amoor in the far eastern part of Asia. Iaroslaf agreed; he started on his long journey, and after many months of travel through deserts and wastes, he arrived at the headquarters of the Tartars. There he was compelled to kneel before Oktai, the successor of Genghis. It appears that some Russian boyards had preceded Iaroslaf hoping to secure favors from the khan, and that they accused the grand duke, but Oktai refused to listen to them. After some delay Iaroslaf was confirmed as grand duke, and permitted to return, but he died from exhaustion in the desert, in 1246. His remains were brought to Vladimir.

Iaroslaf left two sons, Andrew, who succeeded him in Souzdal, and Alexander who was duke at Novgorod. This younger son was an able as well as a brave man. On one occasion, when the Scandinavians had invaded Novgorod's territory aided by the Catholic Orders, Alexander had gained a great victory on the Neva, from which he is known in history as Alexander Nevski (1240). Upon his return to Novgorod he had a dispute with the vetche, and he left the city. After his departure the territory of the Republic was invaded by the German Sword-bearers who erected a fort on the Neva, captured Pskof, Novgorod's ally, and plundered merchants within a short distance of the walls. The people sent to Alexander Nevski, begging him to come to their rescue, and after several refusals he consented. Alexander collected an army, drove the Germans out of Pskof and their new fort, and at last (p. 070) defeated them on the ice of Lake Peipus in 1242. This is known as the Battle on the Ice. Alexander then returned to Novgorod where he was received with honor and joy.

Andrew, the Grand Duke of Souzdal, Alexander's brother, refused to recognize Bati's authority, whereupon a Tartar army ravaged his territory for the second time. Novgorod, as we have seen, had escaped the Tartar invasion, but when Alexander Nevski received a letter from Bati, in which the khan said, "God has subjected many peoples to me, will you alone refuse to recognize my power? If you wish to keep your land, come to me; you will see the splendor and the glory of my government." The duke thought it prudent to comply. He and his brother Andrew went to Sarai, where honors were showered upon the hero of the Neva. The two brothers were directed to visit the great khan, as their father Iaroslaf had done. They did so; and the Mongol emperor confirmed Andrew as Duke of Souzdal, but to Alexander's dukedom, he added Kief and South Russia. They returned from the Far East in 1257.


The Tartars did not interfere with the people, their institutions, or religion, but they demanded tribute in the form of an annual poll-tax. Officers called baskaks went from house to house to collect it, either in money or in furs, and those who could not pay were sold as slaves. Sometimes this collection caused disturbances. It was some time before the people of Novgorod would submit. When Bati sent his collectors to the Republic, the question was brought before the vetche where the possadnik urged the wisdom of paying the tax, but the people would not hear of it and promptly murdered the unfortunate burgomaster. Alexander, too, advised to avoid trouble, but the people refused and several boyards, including Alexander's son Vassili urged resistance. The duke acted vigorously. He ordered the arrest of his son, and had the boyards punished; but it was not before the people heard of the approach of a Tartar army, that they submitted. Still such was their resentment that Alexander had the baskaks guarded night and day. At last Alexander threatened to leave Novgorod with his drujina; then the people offered no further opposition to the collection of the hated poll-tax (1260). Two years later the people of Souzdal, Vladimir, and Rostof rose against the baskaks and killed one of them, a Russian (p. 072) who had become a Mahomedan. Alexander, who had succeeded his brother Andrew as Grand Duke, decided to attempt to appease the khan by going himself to Sarai with presents; he also wished to be excused from furnishing a body of Russians to serve in the Tartar army. He succeeded, but was kept at the court of the khan for a year. His health broke down and he died on his return journey in 1263. The news of his death was brought to Novgorod, as mass was being said in the cathedral. The Metropolitan who was reading the service, interrupted it, and said, "Learn, my dear children, that the Sun of Russia has set,—is dead," and the people cried, "We are lost." The death of Alexander Nevski was a heavy blow to Russia.

The Russians, that is the people of Russia whose story we are reading, did not mingle with any Tartar except the tax collector whom they did not like. The victors were nomads, who did not care to occupy the land they had conquered. When they did settle at Sarai on the Lower Volga, they absorbed the tribes who had lived there before the invasion, and who were not Russians, but nomads. The Russian people did not associate with the conquerors. It was at this time that the word Krestianine or "true Christian" was applied to the peasant, instead of the contemptuous term moujik.

Whatever Asiatic characteristics were grafted upon the Russians, came to them through their kniazes and boyards. The dukes soon showed that all they cared for, was to hold their positions. After Alexander Nevski, there is not a single instance of a desire to relieve the people; and the victors on their part never interfered so long as (p. 073) the tribute was paid regularly. The descendants of Andrew Bogolioubski were not disturbed in Souzdal; those of Roman continued to hold Galitch and Volhynia, and Oleg's house remained in possession of Tchernigof. The dukes might fight about Kief; Novgorod might appoint or expel its dukes,—the Tartars did not mind. But the khan did insist that the dukes should visit him and pay him homage. He also reserved the right of approving the succession of a duke, who was compelled to apply for a written consent, called an iarlikh. On one occasion when the people of Novgorod elected Duke Michael, they afterwards refused to recognize him, asserting that "it is true we have chosen Michael, but on condition that he should show us the iarlikh."

The dukes, holding their possessions by favor of the khan, tried to gain his good-will and favor. Gleb, duke of Bielozersk married in the khan's family about 1272; Feodor of Riazan was the son-in-law of the khan of the Nogais. In 1318, the Grand Duke George married Kontchaka, sister of the Khan Uzbeck. It was the rulers, and not the people of Russia, that quietly submitted to the Tartartchina or Mongol yoke.

The khans, while they did not care about the people took care that the dukes should show them slavish respect. In 1303, the dukes were convoked, and when they were assembled a letter from the khan was read, in which they were commanded to stop fighting because the great khan desired to see peace established. Whenever such a letter was brought, the dukes were directed to meet the envoys on foot, prostrate themselves, spread fine carpets under their feet, present them (p. 074) with a cup filled with gold pieces, and listen, kneeling, while the letter was read.

Children of the prairie and the desert, the Tartars had neither a religion nor a civilization to impose upon the Russian people. The khans were tolerant because they did not care. Koiyuk had a Christian chapel near his residence. In 1261, the Khan of Sarai gave permission for the erection of a Greek church in his capital, and he allowed a bishop to reside there. Mangou gave equal privileges to Christians, Jews, and Mahomedans.

The dukes and boyards, paying court to the Tartars, gradually adopted their mode of dressing and, as they became Asiatic in appearance, they came under the influence of Asiatic thought. They dressed in a long caftan or flowing robe, wore a sort of turban on the head, swords and daggers in their belts, and when on horseback, sat in very high saddles with short stirrups. Dukes and boyards thus became semi-Asiatic, and drifted away from the people among whom the national principle was kept alive.

Every succeeding visit to the khan served to increase the intimacy of the dukes and their Asiatic masters. It was not many years before the relation with the great khan was severed, but that with the Golden Horde was kept alive. A writer[7] living at that time, who visited Sarai during Bati's life, gives the following description: "It (the court) is crowded and brilliant. His army consists of 600,000 men, 150,000 of whom are Tartars, and 450,000 strangers, Christians as well as infidels. On Good Friday we were conducted to his tent, between two fires, because the Tartars believe that a fire purifies (p. 075) everything, and robs even poison of its danger. We had to make many prostrations, and enter the tent without touching the threshold. Bati was on his throne with one of his wives; his brothers, his children, and the Tartar lords were seated on benches; the rest of the assembly were on the ground, the men on the right, the women on the left.... The khan and the lords of the court emptied from time to time cups of gold and silver, while the musicians made the air ring with their melodies. Bati has a bright complexion; he is affable with his men, but inspires general terror." The same writer visited the court of the great khan, and in his description dwells upon the fact that it was not the Tartars who were most terrible, but the Russian dukes and nobles who accused one another and who sought to destroy their own countrymen by bribing the favorites. It was thus that Duke Michael of Tchernigof was murdered in 1246, and Duke Michael of Tver in 1319, by a Russian hireling of the Grand Duke of Moscow who was present when the foul deed was committed. Servile submission to the khans, a haughty demeanor towards their own people, became the characteristics of the dukes. "The dukes of Moscow," says a Russian author,[8] "took the humble title of servants of the khan, and it was by this means that they became powerful monarchs." An English writer[9] comes to the following evident conclusion: "The first czars of Muscovy were the political descendants, not of the Russian dukes, but of the Tartar khans."

[Footnote 7: Planus Corpinius.]

[Footnote 8: Karamsin.]

[Footnote 9: Wallace.]

A gradual change came over the Golden Horde after the Tartars (p. 076) departed from their nomadic life and settled in and about Sarai. They lost their warlike habits, and with them much of their vigor. They began to farm out the poll-tax, that is, they sold the right to collect the tax to merchants of Khiva, whose oppression was so great that the people of Souzdal revolted in 1262, Koursk in 1284, Kolomna in 1318, and Tver in 1327. But the oppression was greater when the dukes of Moscow farmed this tax, not only from their own subjects, but also from neighboring dukedoms. They were absolutely pitiless in collecting from the poor people as much as they could extort, and this was the disgraceful foundation of their wealth and power. The poll-tax, thereafter, was always a favorite source of revenue in Russia.

Besides this tribute, the dukes were compelled to furnish soldiers to their masters. Soon after the conquest, we read of Russian dukes marching with the Tartars at the head of their drujinas, and of supplying them with infantry. In 1276 Boris of Rostof and others, followed Mangou Khan in the war against the tribes of the Caucasus, and helped to sack the town of Dediakof in Daghestan. This was excusable, because the enemy was an alien; but what can be thought of Prince Andrew, the unworthy son of Alexander Nevski, who, in 1281, induced the Tartars to aid him in pillaging Vladimir, Souzdal, Mourom, Moscow, and Pereiaslaf, and led in profaning churches and convents? In 1284, when two descendants of Oleg were dukes of Koursk, one of them put his brother to death for having insulted the khan, and Russian historians blame not the murderer, but the victim, because he had aroused the khan's anger! In 1327, the dukes of Moscow and Souzdal (p. 077) marched against Tver at the command of their Asiatic master. Such was the influence of the Tartar yoke.

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