March 28, 1462 began the reign of one of the most prominent Grand Dukes of Moscow, Ivan III Vasilyevich, or, as he was called during his lifetime, Ivan the Great.
He lived a long life and became the first to be called the Sovereign of All Russia. He went down in history as a collector of Russian lands, lawmaker, builder. Under him, Moscow became the center of a new strong and sovereign Russian state. The Grand Duke of Moscow, having gathered many Russian lands around him, was able to finally throw off the Horde yoke, protect the country on the western borders from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and in the south from the Crimean Tatars. The state emblem with the image of the double-headed eagle was adopted for the first time, which is well-known to each of our compatriots. And now the famous phrase “Moscow is the Third Rome”, formulated by the old man Filofei in his message to the son of Ivan III Vasily III, became a new religious and philosophical concept, the state idea of Moscow Russia, legitimizing the right of our country to be the successor of the great Orthodox empire, and the Russian sovereign – to be a defender of the Orthodox faith. Under Ivan III, the Moscow Kremlin was built of red brick, and the Assumption Cathedral, famous for its grandeur and beauty. The Codex of 1497 was created, regulating the laws of the country, which is now an important historical source of the era. Numerous reforms were carried out in the agrarian, cultural, and church spheres, and the Russian principalities included in it were systematically integrated into the state. Ivan III ruled for 43 years, and his rule was not only long, but also very constructive for our country. During this time, not only a centralized Russian state has developed, but also many customs and traditions, as well as the concepts of religious, philosophical and state continuity of the various stages of development of our country, many of which exist in public thought now.
In 2017, in a public lecture dedicated to the unveiling of the monument to Ivan III in Kaluga, Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky said: “Ivan III didn’t just put an end to the liberation of Russia from the Mongol yoke on November 11, 1480, triumphantly completing the famous Stand on the Ugra, he did not just carry out a series of colossal reforms that completely transformed our country, published the first Russian Codebook, united numerous Russian lands under the canopy of Moscow. He created the management system that allowed our country to survive in the most difficult times. When we talk about Russia, which overcame the troubles, about Russia, which defeated Napoleon, about Russia, who won the Second World War, we are talking about Russia, created according to the principles laid down by Emperor Ivan III“.
The Formation of Ivan the Great
Ivan was brought up in the best traditions of the Grand Duke’s court, comprehended science, military affairs and the art of government. The emphasis in the formation of the first Russian sovereign should be made rather on the events that he experienced in his youth and which, undoubtedly, influenced his character and rule in all subsequent years. His father, Vasily II, nicknamed “Dark”, was blinded by the conspirators, who, led by Dmitry Shemyaka, tried to seize the Moscow throne in 1446. This attempt failed, but it can be assumed that the six-year-old Ivan remembered these events, which largely shaped his character. As a result, the power of Dmitry Shemyaki fell in the feudal war for the Moscow throne, ongoing since 1433, Vasily II and Prince Ivan won with the help of the Tver troops. The internecine strife was finally suppressed a few years later, when Ivan became the Grand Duke.
Collecting Russian lands
At the beginning of his reign, Ivan III inherited the Principality of Moscow with 16 cities, it was surrounded by other Russian lands. Lithuanians pressed on these lands from the West, Crimean Tatars from the south, ancient enemies from the southeast, parts of the former Golden Horde, called the Great Horde, which was going through hard times, but continued to be a serious adversary.
The young Grand Duke energetically set to work, and the fruits of his labors did not take long. First, he led a skillful diplomatic game, planting his relatives on the thrones of neighboring principalities, and then took them away, based on vassal dependence and the princes themselves often wish to go to his service boyars. So by 1474 successively joined Moscow: the Yaroslavl, Dmitrov and Rostov principalities. During two wars, Ivan had to forcibly add freedom-loving Novgorod to his state.
In 1485, the time came and Tver – in the past a major rival to Moscow. The Principality of Tver went to Ivan the Great's son Ivan the Young as a patrimony, which meant the loss of independence. Tver was followed by Vyatka and Ryazan. The principality of Moscow grew rapidly.
Also in the reign of Ivan III, previously unknown lands of the Urals, the north and east of the country were actively explored. Campaigns in Perm and Ugra led to the submission of the local tribes, which were lined with furs.
Fighting Old Enemies
In foreign policy, the absolute and main achievement of Ivan the Great was the final liberation from the Tatar-Mongol yoke. Of course, in the XV century it was already more formal and did not play the same role as two hundred years ago, but the proximity of the old enemy, raids and devastating wars did not allow Russia to develop quietly, it was necessary to decisively put an end to the Horde.
In 1472, Ivan stopped paying any tribute, and the Horde songs were expelled from Moscow. Ivan the Great was able to play at the foreign policy theater very skillfully. The Horde, who entered into an alliance with the Lithuanians, until 1480, “butted” with the Crimean Khanate, with whom the Moscow prince found understanding. Ivan understood that there were still too many enemies around Moscow, and that there were not enough forces to fight on all fronts. At the same time, with the help of his mother, Maria Yaroslavna, he was able to avoid internal strife. One way or another, only in the summer and autumn of 1480, a hundred years after the famous Kulikovo battle, Khan Akhmat approached the Ugra River, not far from the Russian-Lithuanian border, counting on the help of Lithuania, he prepared for the battle. These events went down in history as the famous Stand on the Ugra River. In vain, Khan Akhmat was waiting for help from the Lithuanians, but he could not know that, by agreement with Ivan III, the Crimean troops at that time attacked and devastated the south of Lithuania, and there was nothing to help King Casimir with. Akhmat had to leave Ugra, admitting his powerlessness, and soon he was killed by the Siberian Khan Ibak. Another part of the former Golden Horde, the Kazan Khanate, remained generally unfriendly of Moscow, but all military operations came down to border conflicts, raids, or raids.
During the reign of Ivan III in this area, there were no significant territorial changes or losses. It is much more interesting to observe how skillfully Ivan the Great managed to create pro-Moscow groups and parties in Kazan, change princes and khans, staying in the Kremlin, and put “officials” loyal to himself in Kazan. This policy was not always successful, but on the whole it served as a deterrent to the khanate and allowed it to spend less resources on the war with it.
With Lithuania, the first war went on for more than seven years. The Russian-Lithuanian war of 1487-1494, although it dragged on, but ended successfully. Here already experienced Ivan the Great showed himself in all its glory both as a diplomat and as a military leader. Border clashes and tension after the events on the Ugra reached a peak when Lithuanian cities openly began to pass under the authority of the Moscow Grand Duke. Lithuania, in which conspiracies against Ivan were constantly trailing, which allied with any enemy of Moscow, had to be pacified. The war was successful, and the cities: Mtsensk, Lyubutsk, Mosalsk, Serpeysk, Khlepen, Rogachev, Odoev, Kozelsk, Przemysl and Serensk passed under Ivan's control. During the war, King Casimir also died, which finally broke the resistance of the Lithuanians, and they demanded peace. An important role in the victory was played by the alliance of Moscow and Crimea, Ivan with skillful diplomatic methods kept the Crimeans on his side the entire period of his reign. The devastating raids on Lithuania from the south did not allow the enemy to concentrate forces against Moscow.
The second Russo-Lithuanian war of 1501-1503 began due to the continuation of the process of smooth “flow” of small princes, especially from border and disputed lands, to the service of the Moscow Grand Duke. Orthodox princes and peasants did not want to serve the Catholic king. The Lithuanians could not put up with this, and King Alexander began a war in which he suffered a crushing defeat at Vedroshi. Chernigov, Novgorod-Seversky, Starodub, Gomel, Bryansk, Toropets, Mtsensk, Dorogobuzh passed under Ivan’s authority. The truce, known as the Annunciation, put an end to the war. And although Ivan could not capture Smolensk, the acquisitions were very tangible.
The annexation of independent Novgorod pushed the Russian borders to the north, northeast and northwest, where they came into contact with the possessions of the Livonian Order and the Kingdom of Sweden, with which the famous old Russian prince Alexander Nevsky fought. And this time, the enemies did not keep themselves waiting, three military conflicts occurred sequentially: the Russian-Livonian war of 1480-1481, the Russian-Swedish war of 1495-1497, the Russian-Lithuanian-Livonian war of 1500-1503. However, these clashes ended in maintaining the status quo. None of the parties achieved significant success or territorial acquisitions, however, a remarkable monument of fortification architecture, the Ivangorod fortress, named after Ivan the Great, appeared in our country.
In general, during the reign of Ivan III, international relations with other states expanded, primarily with the Holy Roman Empire, Denmark and Venice; relations were established with the Ottoman Empire.
Greatness outside is greatness inside
Significant victories in foreign policy enabled the state to develop rapidly inside. Active integration of the annexed principalities into a single Russia, which Ivan created, was carried out. Significant differences in everyday life and the laws of other principalities, primarily Novgorod, required unification. In addition to individual acts and treaties dictated by the great prince himself, the famous Sudebnik of 1497 became a huge step towards the internal unity of the country. It is still not known for certain who was its author, but he is considered clerk Vladimir Gusev. The Code of Law established uniform criminal and civil norms throughout the country, and with its existence strengthened the internal unity of the country.
The heyday of culture
The reign of Ivan the Great was also the heyday of Russian culture, especially architecture. The Moscow Kremlin is being built, the one that we can see now, Italian architects made it of red brick, which gave it such a unique look. And the famous Aristotle Fioravanti built the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. The Grand-Ducal Faceted Chamber is being erected. In general, more than 25 churches were built in Moscow at that time, a huge number at that time. Monasteries and cities are being built, border fortresses are being erected throughout the country.
The reign of Ivan III was also the time of the appearance of a number of original literary works. So, in particular, in the 1470s, Tver merchant Athanasius Nikitin wrote his “Walking the Three Seas”. An interesting monument of the era is the “Tale of Dracula” compiled by Fyodor Kuritsyn on the basis of the legends he heard during his stay in Wallachia, which tells about the famous Wallachian ruler Vlad Tepeshe. Chronicle in this period is in its prime; at the Grand Ducal court, annalistic vaults are intensively compiled and processed. However, at the same time, precisely during this period, due to the unification of the country, the independent annals, which were a characteristic feature of the previous era, completely disappear. From now on, it is completely subordinate to the great princely will.
“Moscow – The Third Rome”
Without a doubt, the most important achievement of Ivan the Great was the new religious and philosophical concept of the Russian state, its place in the world and the mission that it has carried on since that time. The most prominent incarnations of the emerging ideology of a united country in historical literature is considered to be the new coat of arms – the two-headed eagle – and the new title of the Grand Duke. In addition, it is noted that it was in the era of Ivan III that the ideas that a little later make up the official ideology of the Russian state arise.
This is largely associated with the second marriage of Ivan the Great, his first wife Maria Borisovna died early, and Ivan married his second marriage to the Byzantine princess Sofia (Zoe) Paleolog, niece of the last emperor of Byzantium, Constantine XI. By the way, the Sofia television series of the same name, filmed with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, in which all the vicissitudes of the Byzantine princess stay in Russia are artistically devoted, is devoted to this topic.
A little later, such a comparison will find harmony in the concept of “Moscow – the Third Rome”, finally formulated by the monk of the Pskov Elizarov Monastery Filofei already under Basil III. Another idea, ideologically substantiating the princely power, was the legend of the Monomakh regalia and the origin of the Russian princes from the Roman emperor Augustus.
In the summer of 1503, Ivan III became seriously ill. Shortly before this, his wife, Sophia Paleolog, died. Leaving things, the Grand Duke went on a trip to the monasteries, starting with the Trinity-Sergius Monastery. However, his condition continued to worsen: he was blind in one eye; there was partial paralysis of one arm and one leg. On October 27, 1505, Grand Duke Ivan III passed away. After a long struggle with the grandson of Ivan the Great, Dmitry inherited his son from Sofia Paleologus – Vasily III. According to the spiritual charter, the grand-princely throne passed to Vasily Ivanovich, the other sons of Ivan received specific cities. However, although the specific system was actually being restored, it was significantly different from the previous period: the new Grand Duke received much more land, rights and advantages than his brothers; the contrast with what Ivan himself received at one time is especially noticeable. The centralization of the state increased markedly.
The main result of the reign of Ivan III was the unification of most of the lands of northeastern Russia around Moscow. At the hand of the Grand Duke were united: Novgorod land, which for a long time was the rival of Moscow, the Tver Principality, Yaroslavl, Rostov and partially Ryazan principalities, Vyatka land. After successful wars with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the power of the Grand Duke of All Russia spread to Novgorod-Seversky, Chernigov, Bryansk and a number of cities (which amounted to about a third of the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania before the war). Dying, Ivan III transferred to his successor several times larger lands than he himself accepted. In addition, it was under Grand Duke Ivan III that the Russian state became completely independent: as a result of “standing on the Ugra” the power of the Horde Khan over Russia, which lasted from 1243, completely ceases.
In 2017, a monument to the Grand Duke of Moscow Ivan III was erected by the Russian Military Historical Society opposite the administration of the Kaluga Region. The work of sculptor Andrei Korobtsov is designed to perpetuate the era of the reign of Ivan III. “Today justice is being given to one of the greatest, brightest, most powerful, effective, but somehow underestimated rulers of our country. In fact, Ivan III was the creator of that Russia, that Russian state whose successors and successors we are today, ”said the Chairman of the Russian Military Historical Society, Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Vladimir Medinsky during the unveiling ceremony.
Nikita BURANOV. History.RF.