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RUSSIA, 1015-1462



By accepting, in 988, Christianity from the Greeks, St Vladimir did nothing more than give a new expression to an existing state of things. Constantinople was already the economic metropolis of Russia; it was now explicitly recognised as its religious metropolis. The new-born Russian Church became an ecclesiastical province of the patriarchate of Constantinople, with all the cultural consequences implied by such a dependence. This state of things continued for some time to correspond to the economic and political situation. But even when, after the middle of the eleventh century, the commercial relations of Kiev with Constantinople were severed by the nomads of the South Russian steppe, the cultural and ecclesiastical connexion remained. Russia had definitely become a part of Eastern Christendom. When the breach between the Greek and Latin Churches became final, Russia remained with the Greeks, and thus outside the pale of Western Christendom. Isolated geographically from the Greeks and the Orthodox Balkans, she was isolated culturally and religiously from her neighbours in the West. This isolation is the main fact in the subsequent history of Russia,

On the death of Vladimir in 1015 his power devolved on all the surviving members of his family. These included Svyatopolk, son of Vladimir’s elder brother Yaropolk, and his own stepson; the children of Vladimir’s eldest son Izyaslav, who had been made Prince of Polotsk in his father’s lifetime and had died in 1001; and several sons by different mothers, for in his heathen days Vladimir had had many wives and concubines. Svyatopolk, who was married to a daughter of Boleslav, Duke of Poland, became Great Prince of Kiev; the sons of Izyaslav remained in their patrimony of Polotsk; the others retained as princes the several cities where they had been installed by their father as his lieutenants. Immediately after Vladimir’s death Svyatopolk attempted to restore his uncle’s monarchy by eliminating his brothers. He caused Boris, Prince of Rostov, and Gleb, Prince of Murom, to be murdered (July-September 1015). But Yaroslav, Prince of Novgorod, rose to avenge them, and a war began in which Svyatopolk called in the help of his Polish father-in­ law, but was ultimately defeated and fled abroad, where he perished obscurely (1019). Yaroslav became Great Prince of Kiev, but his brother Mstislav of Tmutarakan, a warrior who remained long famous in literary and oral tradition for his adventurous bravery, claimed his part in the succession of his deceased kinsmen. He defeated Yaroslav, and ruled over the whole country east of the Dnieper. Only on Mstislav’s childless death in 1035 did Yaroslav become sole ruler of Russia as his father had been.

The years of Yaroslav’s undivided rule and those immediately following are the golden age of Byzantine Kiev. The work of Byzantinisation, scarcely begun by Vladimir, was now carried on apace. The Church spread its influence. In the martyred Princes Boris and Gleb, now canonised, Russia received her first national saints, for St Vladimir seems to have been canonised only in the thirteenth century. The great monastery of Pechersk was founded, and Ilarion, first Russian Metropolitan of Kiev, in his sermons rivalled the most sophisticated Greek orators. Yaroslav was a great builder. The churches of Kiev, especially the cathedral of St Sophia, their frescoes and mosaics, are among the most characteristic monuments of eleventh-century Byzantine art. Commerce flourished, and Kiev became, next to Constantinople, the wealthiest and most beautiful city of Eastern Christendom, “clarissimum decus Graeciae et aemula sceptri Constantinopolitani,” says Adam of Bremen. This period of intense Byzantinisation also saw the last Russo-Byzantine war (1043­46), in which the Russians, led by Yaroslav’s eldest son Vladimir, were at first successful by sea, but a Russian army which landed at Varna was completely destroyed by the Greeks. The peace, however, was followed by the marriage of Yaroslav’s son Vsevolod to a Byzantine princess1. At home these years were a time of peace. Russian rule was extended and solidified along the frontiers, especially in the direction of Livonia, Lithuania, and Poland. In the south conditions were also exceptionally favourable: the Patzinaks had moved westwards (they are heard of on the Dnieper for the last time in 1034), and were replaced by the much less dangerous Torks (Uzz Turks), who gave little trouble to the Russian marches. Yaroslav’s dynastic relations extended also to the West of Europe: his daughter Anne was married to Henry I, King of France. Yaroslav was the last Russian prince to keep in close touch with the Scandinavian North. Northmen gave him active help in the struggle with Svyatopolk; Harald Hardrada married his daughter; and his son Izyaslav’s wife was the daughter of Harold of England.

On Yaroslav’s death (1054) authority once again devolved on the whole family: Izyaslav-Demetrius, his eldest surviving son, occupied the throne of Kiev, while the younger brothers, Svyatoslav and Vsevolod, received the other principal cities, Chernigov and Pereyaslavl. Vseslav, Prince of Polotsk, who had kept quiet as long as his uncle Yaroslav lived, and Yaroslav’s grandson Rostislav (the son of Vladimir Yaroslavich, who had died before his father), dissatisfied with their share in the partition, rose in arms, but were easily suppressed and Vseslav was brought a prisoner to Kiev. The conditions of Yaroslav’s time might have continued but for the introduction of a new factor: in 1061 the Cumans (in Russian Pilovtsy), a powerful and warlike nation, made their first appearance in the South Russian steppe, forced the Torks to retire behind the Russian frontier, and, in 1068, inflicted a crushing defeat on the united armies of Izyaslav, Svyatoslav, and Vsevolod (near Pereyaslavl). This victory of the nomads had lasting consequences, for it assured their mastery of the South Russian steppe, and put an end to the commercial connexion of Kiev with Constantinople by closing the Dnieper waterway. It had a more immediate effect, too: the defeated Kievian militia, returning home on the heels of the flying Izyaslav, deposed him and proclaimed his prisoner Vseslav of Polotsk Prince of Kiev. Izyaslav fled abroad, but returning the following year with a Polish army instituted a reign of terror against all whom he suspected of having favoured Vseslav. Svyatoslav and Vsevolod were alarmed at the success of Izyaslav, who had acted all the time on his own, introducing foreigners without consulting his brothers. The citizens of Kiev were indignant at Izyaslav’s methods of suppression, and opened their gates to his brothers. Svyatoslav was proclaimed Great Prince. Izyaslav escaped abroad and for several years wandered an exile in the West, trying to interest in his cause first the Emperor and then the Pope, promising to the former the submission of Russia to the Empire, to the latter its adhesion to the Latin Church. Ultimately he once again secured a Polish army, and marched with it into Russia. By that time Svyatoslav had just died, and Vsevolod allowed his elder brother to enter Kiev unopposed (1076). The sons of Svyatoslav found themselves excluded from their patrimony of Chernigov. One of them, Roman, was Prince of Tmutarakan1 and in that outlying sanctuary beyond the reach of their uncles he gave hospitality to his eldest brother, Oleg. In 1078 Oleg issued forth to assert his rights to Chernigov. He brought with him an army of Cumans, thus establishing a precedent that was followed in the following century and a half by countless princes. In the battle that ensued Oleg was defeated, but Izyaslav was killed, and Vsevolod succeeded to the throne of Kiev.

Vsevolod’s reign (1078-93) was comparatively quiet, though Oleg and the disinherited princes, established at Tmutarakan’, gave ceaseless trouble. So did the Cumans, but they were held in check and often severely chastised by Vsevolod’s son Vladimir Monomakh, grandson on his mother’s side of the Emperor Constantine Monomachos, a prince who early began to acquire a universal popularity. Vsevolod himself, a good Christian and a generous lord to his companions and citizens, was much loved by the people of Kiev and approved of by the clergy, who had a predominant influence on the moulding of general opinion.

On Vsevolod’s death the Kievians wanted to have Monomakh for his successor, but the latter, respecting the rights of seniority, withdrew to his patrimony of Pereyaslavl, and Svyatopolk-Michael, son of Izyaslav, became Great Prince. Oleg again emerged from Tmutarakan’, and once more marched on Chernigov with an army of Cumans. He succeeded in establishing himself at Chernigov, but this did not stop the war. It continued with varying fortunes and great devastation till 1096, when on the initiative of Monomakh all the princes were convoked to a peace conference at Lyúbech on the Dnieper, north of Kiev. The conference proclaimed the doctrine that each prince was entitled to inherit his patrimony (otchina), that is to say, the city and territory that had been his father’s, and in accordance with it Oleg and his brothers were allowed to keep Chernigov, the other disinherited princes also receiving adequate shares.

The compact of Lyúbech

The agreements of Lyúbech had a lasting effect on the territorial con­stitution of Russia; by identifying the several branches of the house of St Vladimir with the various principalities of Russia they gave official con­secration to the growing importance of the latter. They are an important formal landmark in the process which changed the Russia of St Vladimir and Yaroslav centred round Kiev to the Russia of the later twelfth century with its numerous local centres of roughly equal importance.

In the tenth and eleventh centuries the Russian State, founded by Oleg and Igor’, was the common inheritance of the princely family. As long as the family consisted of a father and his sons, with perhaps a nephew or two of distinctly inferior importance, the distribution of authority was simple: the father was the head of the house, and his sons were his limbs rather than independent persons. He “sat” in Kiev, and they acted as his lieutenants in the other towns. But when the father died and the paternal authority devolved on an eldest surviving brother (or cousin as was the case with Svyatopolk) the situation became different. The authority of an elder kinsman of the same generation was much weaker than a father’s. His younger brothers regarded him as no better than a primus inter pares. His every attempt to assert or extend his authority aroused opposition, and the situation invariably ended in war. On the other hand, the surviving brothers were inclined to exclude from a share in the succession their nephews whose fathers were dead; the orphaned nephews claimed their father’s share, and this was another cause of dispute. The territorial principle proclaimed at Lyúbech introduced a new element of stability, but also increased the mutual independence of the princes and favoured centrifugal tendencies.

Russia (Rus) was at first the name of the country round Kiev. The Eastern Slavs, a politically amorphous congeries of tribes, had originally no common name, until they were conquered by the “Russians” of Kiev and gradually adopted the name of the conquering group. The conquests of Svyatoslav and Vladimir, and the consolidating work of Yaroslav, extended the Russian State so as to coincide with, and partly to overlap, the ethno­graphical area of the Eastern Slavs. In the twelfth century the term Rus is used in two senses, a narrower to denote the Kiev country, and a wider covering the whole country ruled by the house of St Vladimir. Afterwards the narrower sense was lost, and the wider alone subsisted.

The domination of Kiev over the other lands was at first purely pre­datory; only the towns round Kiev and along the great north-to-south waterway (especially Novgorod) were the associates of Kiev, being allied to it by common interests. The hinterland east and west of the waterway was a field of exploitation. Its role in the economic system of Kiev was purely passive; an eloquent illustration of this is the fact that in the tenth century the main article of export from Russia was slaves. But in the eleventh century this is replaced by a more settled system of tributes and fees, and the hinterland is drawn into more regular and less one-sided relations with Kiev. The multiplication of the ruling family was one of the causes that led to a more intensive and economic system of exploita­tion; the local princes began to see their interest in the development of their territories; the foundation of every new principality was the formation of a self-dependent financial centre that had not to feed Kiev, or any other city. The multiplication of principalities destroyed the political cohesion of Russia, but favoured the development of the resources of the land.

After the death of Yaroslav, Kiev ceased to be the administrative metropolis of Russia, but it retained a precedence over the other towns. Its prince was the Great Prince. The oldest surviving member of the house of St Vladimir had a vague right to the throne of Kiev, and more often than not was able to assert it. This right to the throne of Kiev continued to give a unity to the princely family as a whole. But at the same time it was dissolving into secondary families, in each of which the same state of things was repeated on a diminishing scale: as long as it was a father and sons the family remained one; as soon as the father died, it budded out into as many new family-units as there were fatherless princes, and each of these tended to identify itself with one of the towns or districts of the principality. This natural process of multiplication transformed in less than two centuries the quasi-centralised kingdom of Vladimir and Yaroslav into an infinity of greater and smaller territories ruled by closely related, but mutually independent, princes.

The founders of the two principal branches of the house of St Vladimir were Jaroslav’s third and fourth sons, Svyatoslav of Chernigov and Vsévolod of Pereyaslavl. From the names of their two most famous sons the two branches came to be known as the Olgovichi and the Monomakhovichi. It is characteristic of the conditions of the mid-eleventh century, when all interest centred round Kiev, that the residences of the two princes next in seniority to the Great Prince were both situated within easy reach of Kiev, while their hinterlands stretched far away into the east and north, a distribution similar to that of the residences of the Merovingian kings.

Chernigov was the key to all the basin of the Desna and of the country situated east of it. Its territory included the whole or the greater part of the later provinces of Chernigov, Kursk, Orel, Kaluga, Tula, Ryazan, the south of Moscow and Vladimir, and the west of Voronezh and Tambov. Its eastern part was the land of the Vyatichi, the last of the Russian tribes to be drawn into the Kievian system, and not finally Christianised before the twelfth century. A younger branch of the house of Chernigov became Princes of Ryazan and Murom on the Oka in the north-east of the territory, and were eventually drawn into the north-eastern political system, becoming vassals of the Princes of Suzdal.

The immediate territory of Pereyaslavl was less extensive. It included the steppe-land east of the Dnieper and south of the Desna (roughly co­extensive with the modern province of Poltava), but its princes also ruled the territory of Smolensk, the important junction-land of all the Russian waterways, where the headwaters of the Dvina, Volkhov, and Volga basins are within easy reach of the Dnieper; and the vast land of Rostov, which included all the upper Volga basin, and was destined to become the birth­place of the Muscovite Empire.

Novgorod, the northern terminus of the great waterway and the metropolis of the north, was from an early date closely connected with Kiev. Of primary political and economic importance, it was, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, usually governed by a son of the Great Prince and thus failed to identify itself with any particular branch of the family.

The north-western branch of the great waterway formed the principality of Polotsk, and included the northern part of what is now White Russia. It was the first part of the Russian territory to become the patrimony of a separate house of princes—the descendants of St Vladimir’s eldest son, Izyaslav. With the exception of Vseslav, they took little part in the common affairs of Russia, and their country sank to the level of a provincial backwater. The same may be said of the other White Russian principalities, Gorodno (Grodno) and Pinsk, which in the twelfth century became the patrimonies of princes who had failed to uphold their rights of seniority in the general competition for Kiev and other coveted places.

Much more important were the south-western lands of Volhynia and Galicia. The former included the western part of the later province of Volhynia and had for its capital Vladimir (called Vladimir-Volynski to distinguish it from the northern Vladimir that was to become so important later on). After some vicissitudes it became the possession of a branch of the Monomakhovichi. Galicia, called so from the town of Galich (Halicz), which became the capital only in the twelfth century, was at first a bone of contention between Russia and Poland, but became finally Russian in the eleventh century. It was recognised at Lyúbech as the patrimony of the descendants of Rostislav, son of Jaroslav’s eldest son Vladimir. But Galicia began to play a prominent part only in the later twelfth century. Between Volhynia and Kiev, near the modem towns of Berdichev and Vinnitsa, was situated the curious little land of Bolokhovo, which is still something of a puzzle to historians. It seems to have been inhabited by a peculiar, though Russian, population, and to have had princes of its own that did not belong to the house of St Vladimir.

The metropolitan territory of Kiev, the ancient Russia in the strict sense, included, round the capital and south of it, a strip of steppe or semi-steppe, the land of the Polyane (steppemen), and north-west of it a large tract of forest-land, the land of the ancient Derevlyane (woodmen). This included the town of Turov, which at times was an independent principality. But on the whole the Kiev country was not subdivided as the other lands were into minor principalities; the “by-towns” (prigorody) of Kiev were usually held by the sons of the Great Prince or by his lieutenants. The southern part of the territory, like that of Pereyaslavl, was exposed to nomad inroads and was strongly fortified. In the twelfth century its population consisted largely of nomads, hostile to the Cumans and in the service of the Prince of Kiev. Kiev did not succeed in becoming identified with a definite line of princes. The people of Kiev were devoted to the Monomakhovichi and did their best to keep them, but the attraction of the metropolis, of its riches, and of its prestige of seniority was too great for the other princes to abandon attempts to possess it.

Russian society in the eleventh century

Russian society in the eleventh century was urban and aristocratic. The part of the rural population (smerdy) was entirely passive. At first the object of predatory exploitation on the part of the princes, and of the armed merchants whose interests the princes represented, with the opening-up of the hinterland and the development of agriculture the rural districts became organised into manors belonging to the princes and to the urban aristocracy. Their inhabitants instead of being systematically raided now became the object of protection on the part of the ruling class, as the source of their revenues. Especially in the south they had to be defended from the ever-menacing nomads, and, among his other virtues, Monomakh was universally praised for his solicitude for the smerdy. The general term for the aristocracy was boyare (singular boyarin). They consisted of two main groups: one were the prince’s muzhi (singular muzh, “vir,” opposed to lyudin, “homo,” as the commoners were called), who followed their prince in his movements, acted as his captains and lieuten­ants, and forming as they did a permanent following round him (druzhina) made him a political and military power. Practically the only expenditure of the prince, except the expenditure prescribed by his Christian duties, was on the maintenance of his druzhina. The other section of the aristocracy was the local magnates, connected not with the shifting prince but with the stable town. Originally they were mainly commercial capitalists, but with the opening-up of the hinterland and the progress of agricultural

The ruling classes exploitation their main power came to reside in their rural possessions. The local, territorial aristocracy were in principle distinct from the prince’s druzhina, but individually many of the prince’s companions came from the territorial families, and in later times, at any rate in the north-east, the identification of the two became the rule. But in other parts the aristocracy appear as a distinct group opposed to the prince, as in Galicia, or quite independent of him, as in Novgorod.

A political force at least as active and as important as the boyars were the people of the large towns. From the beginning they formed a militia distinct from the prince’s druzhina, the urban tysyacha (thousand). At its head stood an elective magistrate, the tysyatski (chiliarch). It is precisely in the form of an armed militia returning home from battle that the people of Kiev make their first appearance as an active political force, on the occasion of the deposition of Izyaslav in 1068. The militia was the nucleus of the veché, the general gathering of citizens, which becomes a regular institution in the twelfth century. In Kiev we see it chiefly in moments of emergency treating with rival princes, deposing and proclaiming them. But this may be due to the nature of our evidence, the annalists being interested in events rather than in institutions, and paying little attention to normal administrative proceedings. We have no Kiev charters, but two Smolensk charters have come down to us (1150 and 1229) which shew the Smolensk veché acting as a regular part of the political body in normal and peaceful circumstances. But until we come to Novgorod, we find no attempt on the part of the veché to eliminate or supersede the prince.

The prince was the born and natural executive power. Only he could defend the town and the land, for he was inseparable from his druzhina, the only trained military force in the country, and only he could administer justice. In return for this he was entitled to large revenues, consisting of judicial fees, of duties on trade, of various tributes and levies, and of the incomes of his manors, the latter item growing in importance with the general growth of the importance of agriculture and decline of commerce. The prince’s dependants, his muzhi, and minor followers (otroki, “boys”), and his tenants formed a privileged group specially protected by law.

Our knowledge of Old Russian law comes chiefly from the Russkaya Pravda, which has come down to us in numerous and varying redactions. It was not an official code, but a private compilation of the practice and principles of Russian secular law. Its nucleus goes back to the times of Yaroslav. Being the creation of the urban classes and intended for their use, it contains few regulations concerning landed property, but many concerning slavery, and various forms of semi-slavery arising out of debts. Its penal system is entirely based on fines. In general it presents a society ruled mainly by economic relations, where power went with money. Slavery continued to be a prominent feature in Russian society until in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was merged in the much more recent institution of serfdom. The Church had a jurisdiction of its own which extended on the one hand over the clergy and other classes de­pendent on them, on the other over certain categories of offences (heresy, crimes against chastity, etc.). The law applied by the Church was Byzantine Canon Law. The dependants of the Church like those of the princes formed a “peculiar” inside Russian society ruled by different laws. The Church began to acquire property from the outset, but it was only in post-Tartar times that it grew into an independent political and economic force.

Vladimir Monomakh

However lasting their effects on the territorial constitution of Russia, the agreements of Lyúbech did not put an end to the constant feuds of the princes, and were even followed by a particularly notorious outbreak of fratricidal strife. Immediately after the conference, David of Volhynia, suspicious of his neighbour the Galician Prince Vasil’ko, treacherously seized him with the connivance of Svyatopolk and had him blinded. Monomakh tried to organise a punitive war against David, but the latter, largely availing himself of Cuman help, defended himself for four years against the avengers of Vasil’ko. At last, again on the initiative of Monomakh, a second conference was called at Vitichev (1100), where David finding himself under the boycott of all his kin had to resign his throne of Vladimir in Volhynia and content himself with some minor towns.

This inaugurates a comparatively long period of relative peace (1100­-1132). The dominating spirit of the period is Vladimir Monomakh, Great Prince of Kiev from 1113 to 1125; before 1113 he was only Prince of Pereyaslavl, Smolensk, and Rostov, but his influence, due to his achievements at Lyúbech and Vitichev and to his successes against the Cumans, was already paramount. He answered exactly to the ideal of a prince as conceived by the best part of Kievian society, the peaceful middle class of the towns, represented mainly by the clergy and with the annalists as their mouth-piece. A brave and able warrior, Monomakh applied his military virtues not to self-seeking aims but to the defence of the Russian borderland from the Cumans. Brave but not ambitious, manly and pious, a good Christian, a generous lord to his companions, and a practical man both in conciliating princes and in opening up his distant northern possessions, Monomakh stands out as the most attractive figure of a prince of the Kievian period. He is also the one we know best, for the annalists like to speak of him, and his own Instruction to his sons has also been preserved. It is one of the most remarkable of Old Russian literary documents, a self-portrait drawn with manly dignity and Christian humility.

The pax Monomachica continued under the reign of Monomakh’s eldest son Mstislav (1125-32), who was the last ruler of Kiev to exercise an effective moral authority over the other princes. With Mstislav’s younger brother Yaropolk (1132-39) a new period of feuds begins. The house of Monomakh becomes divided against itself: Mstislav’s sons Izyaslav and Rostislav, ambitious for the throne of Kiev, begin an endless struggle against their uncles, the younger brothers of Mstislav, of whom the most powerful was Yuri Dolgoruki (George Long-Arm) of Suzdal. The Olgovichi of Chernigov lost no time in profiting by the new situation: on Yaropolk’s death, Vsévolod Ol’govich occupied Kiev, and was recognised as Great Prince by the Kievians, in spite of their traditional devotion to the Monomakhovichi. Vsévolod (1139-46) was an able and redoubtable prince, but on his death his younger brother Igor’ proved unequal to the task. The hostility of the Kievians to the house of Chernigov broke forth. They rose against Igor’, looted his palace, deposed and imprisoned him, and opened the gates to Izyaslav Mstislavich. Izyaslav was a warrior prince with a strong sense of honour and a religion of the pledged word, but his one aim in life was to advance the personal ambitions of himself and his brothers. His reign (1146-54) was a ceaseless war against his uncles and against the Ol’govichi. The people of Kiev stood staunchly by him. In 1147 when he was away fighting, news came that some younger princes of the house of Chernigov, who had been fighting on Izyaslav’s side against their elder cousins, had gone over to the enemy. Infuriated by this treachery, the people of Kiev dragged the unfortunate Igor’, who since his deposition had been shorn monk, out of his prison and tore him to pieces, in spite of the sincere but ineffective protests of Izyaslav’s brother and lieutenant, Vladimir. The account of this episode in the chronicle is a most powerful and poignant picture of a mob goaded into senseless cruelty by bad news from the front. The intense local feeling that was growing and centring round the local dynasties is illustrated by the fact that, after being murdered in Kiev, Igor’ almost immediately came to be venerated as a saint in Chernigov.

In 1154 Izyaslav died. His uncle Yuri of Suzdal at length was able to become Great Prince of Kiev. But his reign was short, for he died in 1157. The struggle continued, until having turned out a Chernigov prince the Kievians invited Izyaslav’s brother Rostislav to be their ruler. Rostislav, Prince of Smolensk and also of Novgorod, was thus able to unite under one rule the whole length of the great waterway from Novgorod to Kiev. He was one of the most able and far-sighted princes of his time. He ruled in Kiev from 1159 to 1168, and these were once more years of comparative peace. In the meantime Yuri Dolgoruki’s son Andrey Bogolyubski had built up in his north-eastern land of Suzdal a first-class military power. As soon as Rostislav died and his nephew succeeded to him in Kiev, Andrey decided to assert his supremacy in the south. A Suzdalian army led by Andrey’s son, and including eleven princes, marched against Kiev. The citizens, who since the short reign of Yuri had learned to dislike the north-eastern princes, shut their gates and offered resistance. The city was stormed by the Suzdalians and pitilessly sacked, churches were burned and looted, the male population massacred, women and children led into captivity. To add to the humilia­tion of the old capital, Andrey, in whose name it was taken, did not transfer his residence to Kiev, but, while assuming the title of Great Prince, remained in his northern residence of Vladimir, deputing his son to rule the southern metropolis as his lieutenant (1169).

Decline of Kiev

The events of 1169 mark an important epoch in Russian history, and recent historians are inclined to regard them and not the Tartar invasion as closing the Kievian period. In the tenth and eleventh centuries Kiev was the natural centre of Russia towards which, fanwise, converged all the routes from west, north, and east; it was their junction and outlet towards the sea and Greece, as well as the centre of the principal agricultural region of the whole country. But two factors militated against this state of things: the opening-up of the hinterland which made immense progress in the later eleventh and early twelfth centuries, and the loss of the lower Dnieper route owing to the final establishment of the Cumans in the southern steppe. Galicia and the land of the upper Volga became rival agricultural centres with growing populations. The latter was inferior to Kievian “Russia” in fertility, but this defect was amply made up by its complete security from the nomads behind the Oka and its belt of forests and marshland. Galicia’s and Suzdal’s economic connexions were not exclusively with Kiev, but, respectively, with the west and with the middle and lower Volga. These ties grew, and contributed to make the new peripheric centres less and less dependent on intercourse with Kiev. So the growth of Galicia and of Suzdal’ made Kiev relatively less important in the general economy of Russia. At the same time the constant pressure of the nomads gradually diminished its absolute importance and wealth. The decisive turning-point in the history of Kiev is the last third of the eleventh century, when the Cumans, favoured by the feuds of the princes, some of whom led them as allies into Russia, secured their control over the steppe. It was then that the lower Dnieper ceased to be an avenue to Greece. By 1100 the trans-steppe colony of Tmutarakan’ was finally lost. Even Monomakh, for all his organising energy and all his successes, could only laboriously keep up the status quo on the agricultural marches, but could not recover the control of the steppe. After the death of Mstislav (1132) the advance of the steppe is again resumed. The agricultural area recedes. Pereyaslavl, the capital of the borderland, one of the most coveted cities in the eleventh century, becomes a disagreeable and precarious out­post. The Kievian borderland is settled mainly by nomads in the Russian service (Torks, Berendeys, and the Black Kalpaks—Chernye Klobuki) who play an increasingly important role in local Kievian politics. The sack of Kiev and the refusal of Andrey to fix his residence there is only a dramatic moment in a long process of degradation. But even after 1169 Kiev, though no longer the political or economic centre of Russia, retains its cultural and sentimental prestige as the “mother of Russian towns,” the most beautiful in its buildings, the see of the metropolitan, and the site of the greatest of Russian monastic houses, the nursery garden of all ecclesiastical culture, the Catacomb or Pechersky monastery. But its political role is over. The centrifugal powers of Suzdal and Galicia are now chief in the field. So far as there remains a more or less powerful centripetal force at all it is represented by the principality of Smolensk.

Smolensk had been an important town ever since the dawn of Russian history, but only in the middle of the twelfth century did it become an independent principality with a permanent dynasty of its own. Its founder was Rostislav, younger son of Mstislav Monomakhovich, whom we have already mentioned as Great Prince of Kiev in 1159-68. His descendants up to the Tartar invasion were able and powerful rulers. More often than not they were also Princes of Kiev, and sometimes also of Novgorod. The Princes of Polotsk were also in their sphere of influence. More than any other princes of their times they preserved the family tradition and the idea of the unity of the house of St Vladimir. In this respect the most notable was a cadet of the house of Smolensk, Mstislav of Toropets (06. 1228). His activity extended from Novgorod to Galicia; he was always intervening in disputes, defending the Novgorod democracy from the encroachments of Suzdal, protecting orphaned minors (eg. Daniel of Galicia), and winning martial renown. He may be regarded as the last in the race of princes that includes Svyatoslav, Mstislav of Tmutarakan, and his own great-uncle Izyaslav Mstislavich. Under the descendants of Rostislav, Smolensk flourished. Owing to the preservation of two charters that are among the oldest extant, we know more of the interior constitution of Smolensk than of any other Russian territory of the time. The earlier of the two (1150) is the act of endowment of the see of Smolensk with tithes from the princely revenues. It is our principal source of knowledge of the financial administration of Old Russia. The later, a treaty with Riga and Wisby (1229), shews Smolensk as a thriving commercial centre with a numerous population of foreign merchants. Both shew us the citizens—the veché—taking regular part in the government.

The real founder of the Galician power was Vladimirko (ob. 1152), nephew of the unfortunate Vasil’ko. He was a grasping and unscrupulous, often perjured prince, much disapproved of by the chroniclers, but he succeeded in building up a great military power. His work was continued by his son Yaroslav Osmomysl (the Eightwitted), one of the most powerful rulers of his time, who is described by the Slovo o polku Igoreve with little exaggeration as extending his jurisdiction as far as the Danube. After his death and the short reign of his son, the old Galician dynasty became extinct, and the country was annexed by the prince of the neigh­bouring Volhynia, Roman, grandson of Izyaslav II. Henceforward Volhynia and Galicia became one whole. Roman (1198-1205) was the most power­ful, ambitious, and able South Russian Prince of his time. Besides Volhynia and Galicia he ruled in Kiev, and thus controlled practically the whole south. He treated as an equal with the Greek Emperor and with the Pope, who offered him a crown, kept the Cumans in check and severely chastised the Lithuanians, a savage people that were then beginning to emerge out of their backwoods and become a serious danger to Russia. The chronicle gave him, alone of all princes, the title of Samoderzhets (Emperor). But his death in 1205 put an end to the first golden age of Galicia, and a period of exceedingly complicated strife followed, which ended only with the final triumph of Roman’s son Daniel over all his foes (1235).


In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Galicia was, as it is now, the most densely peopled part of the whole East European plain. It combined fertility of land with a greater security from the steppe than was the case with Kiev, with mineral wealth, and with commercial importance as the corridor to the West. Its urban development was in advance of the rest of Russia; some fifty Galician towns are mentioned by the chroniclers in the thirteenth century. Its agricultural wealth gave rise to a territorial aristocracy more ambitious and more independent than elsewhere. These boyars were as active a political force in Galicia as the urban mob was in Kiev. They could force the powerful Yaroslav Osmomysl himself to do their will; they burned at the stake his favourite mistress, and excluded from the succession his bastard son. They came to still greater prominence during the wars that followed the death of Roman. On one occasion they tried and executed two princes, on another they proclaimed prince one of their own class, Volodislav. He was promptly deposed, but these facts were without parallel in the rest of Russia. The southern part of Galicia, which extended over a large part of what is now Moldavia and Bessarabia, was an open steppe where stood the town of Berlad’ (modern Birlad). In the twelfth century Berlad’ played the part that had been played by Tmutarakan’ in the eleventh, that of a sanctuary where dissatisfied Russians mixed with every kind of steppe people. This population was a ready-made army for disinherited and ambitious princes trying to recover their share in the family pie. Such a prince was Ivan Berladnik (a cadet of the house of Galicia) who gave much trouble to his cousin Yaroslav. But the most distinctive feature of Galicia’s history is the constant intercourse with its Western neighbours, Poland, and especially Hungary, then by far the greater power of the two. Hungarian intervention played a large part in the feuds that followed the death of Yaroslav Osmomysl and that of Roman. With the decline of the centripetal forces in Russia the influence on Galicia of her Latin neighbours became increasingly marked.

The north-east of Russia, including the basin of the upper Volga (above Nizhni) and those of the Oka’s left tributaries, the Klyaz’ma and the Moskva-reka, had for its centres the two ancient towns of Rostov and Suzda’; Rostov became the episcopal see, Suzdal the political capital. The principality included the northern part of the modern provinces of Moscow and Vladimir, the north-west of Nizhni, the west of Kostroma, the whole of Yaroslavl, the south-east of Tver, and the east of Novgorod. Originally inhabited by sparsely settled Finnish tribes (Ves and Merya), it was colonised at first, as appears from philological evidence, from the north-west. But it was opened up in the later eleventh and early twelfth centuries by its princes (whose main residence was in Pereyaslavl) Vsevolod and his son Monomakh. Monomakh founded many new towns, including the northern Pereyaslavl and Vladimir on the Klyazma, which his son Yuri, the founder of the independent house of Suzdal, made his chief residence. Yuri did much for the advancement of his Suzdal principality, but spent his last years in the struggle, crowned by a Pyrrhic victory, to win the throne of Kiev. The real founder of the greatness of the Suzdal principality was Yuri’s son and successor Andrey Bogolyubski. Like the Galician princes, but unhampered by a Galician aristocracy, he strove to build up a centralised territorial power. He definitely disregarded the idea of Russian unity and even attempted to make Vladimir an ecclesiastical province independent of Kiev. Unpopular for his policy of financial extortion, contempt of tradition, and inclination to favourites of low birth, he was killed as the result of a palace conspiracy (1174). His death was followed by two years of feuds between his nephews, the sons of his elder brother who had died before him, and his younger brother Vsévolod. The nephews had on their side the old cities of Rostov and Suzdal with their aristocratic and municipal traditions, Vsévolod had the newer towns of Vladimir and Pereyaslavl. Vsévolod was victorious, and his reign (1176-1212) marks the height of the power of the Great Prince of Vladimir. After his death the land was divided between his numerous sons (whence his surname of “Big-Nest”), and its unity was only restored after two centuries of uphill work by the rulers of Moscow.

Like Andrey, Vsévolod, whose only rivals in power were Yaroslav of Galicia and Roman of Volhynia, aimed at creating a local power and paid scant attention to the south and to the possession of Kiev. Forestalling the policy of the post-Tartar princes, he tried to establish his overlordship over his nearest neighbours, forcing the Princes of Murom and of Ryazan to enter into treaties of vassalage, and severely repressing their vain efforts at independence. Thus the nucleus of an upper Volga State was being formed, the basis of the future Muscovy. Unlike the rest of Russia, which opened out on Europe, the new State, situated in the upper basin of a tributary of the Caspian, faced east. It was closely connected by commerce, and at times by war, with its eastern neighbours the Bulgars of the middle Volga, a civilised, Muslim nation with extensive trading connexions in the East. The oriental connexion of Vladimir and Suzdal is illustrated by the beautiful churches dating from this period: they are built of stone quarried in the Urals, and are closely related in style to the contemporary architecture of Georgia and Armenia. We also find that one of Andrey’s sons married the Georgian queen, Tamara. But relations also existed with the West, and the chronicle mentions colonies of Greek, German, and Czech artisans and merchants in Vladimir, as well as Jews and Armenians.

In spite of the growth of centrifugal forces, the unity of the Russian nation was still keenly felt by the contemporaries of Roman of Volhynia and of Vsévolod Big-Nest. A common language, a common dynasty, and a common ecclesiastical organisation were enough to keep the feeling alive. It found expression in the all-Russian activities of princes like Mstislav of Toropets, but above all in literature. The principal literary monument of the time is the chronicles or annals. Begun in Kiev probably about 1040, the chronicles were continued in various parts of the country, but wherever they wrote the chroniclers kept an eye on happenings in the whole of Russia, and continued to regard war against the nomads and other aggressive foreigners as the chief duty of the princes and their feuds as crimes. The greater part of the chronicle is by monks and clerics, but some of it, as the remarkable account of the reign of Izyaslav Mstislavich (1146-54), is obviously by lay hands. To the end of the twelfth century belongs the masterpiece of Old Russian literature, The Campaign of Igor, which has for its subject the disastrous and comparatively insignificant campaign (1185) of a secondary prince of the house of Chernigov, Igor of Novgorod-Seversk, against the Cumans. Apart from its high poetical merits, the poem is remarkable for the keen sense of national unity inspiring it, and for the patriotic feeling with which the anonymous author blames the princes for their feuds, and exhorts the great rulers of Suzdal, Smolensk, and Galicia to come to the rescue of the brave prince who had gone out single-handed against the enemy.

The Tartar invasion

In the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries the relations of the Southern Princes with the Cumans were by no means exclusively hostile. Proximity often turned into good-neighbourliness, and marriages between Russian and Cuman ruling families were increasingly frequent. So, when in 1224 a Tartar army sent by Jenghiz Khan under the command of Jebe and Subatai invaded the Cumanian steppe, it was quite natural for the Cumans to ask for Russian help, which was granted them. Mstislav of Toropets (then also of Galicia) and other South Russian Princes marched with them against the invaders. The allied Russo-Cumanian host met the Tartars at the Kalka (now Kahnius, a northern tributary of the Sea of Azov), and suffered a crushing defeat (16 June 1224). Most of the Russian princes were taken captive and put to death. The disaster produced a terrible impression, which is reflected in the contemporary chronicles. The Tartars turned back east and were not heard of for several years. But when they reappeared it was no longer as a reconnoitring advance-guard, but as an army bent on lasting conquest, led by Batu son of Juji and grandson of Jenghiz Khan. In 1236 Batu conquered the land of the Volga Bulgars. In the late autumn of the following year he entered the Russian principality of Ryazan, destroyed that city, marched on to the Great Prince’s residence Vladimir, destroyed that, defeated the united Northern Princes on the Sit’, north-west of Yaroslavl, on 4 March 1238, and advanced in the direction of Novgorod; but deterred by the swampy nature of the country and the advancing spring, he turned south. On his southern march the only town which valiantly opposed him, Kozel’sk, was drowned in blood. In 1239 Batu again raided the land of Suzdal. In 1240 he started on a campaign for the conquest of the West. Kiev was taken and destroyed, and the inhabitants massacred. The Tartars swept through Volhynia and Galicia, and penetrated into Silesia. But the death of the Great Khan, rather than the very partial successes of the Latin armies, saved Europe from further invasion; Batu had to hasten to Mongolia to take part in the election of a new Emperor (1242). In the partition that followed, Batu received as his ulus the north-west of the Mongol Empire, including the Russian plain. He fixed his residence near the bend of the lower Volga, at Saray (near the modern Tsarev). The Khanate of Batu and his successors is referred to by Muslim writers as Kipchak, by the Russians as the Golden Horde.

The Tartar invasion coincided in time with the rise of another alien race, the Lithuanians. Under Mindovg (c. 1235-60) they emerged from their original state of primitive anarchy and became an organised and aggressive power. Mindovg extended his authority over large tracts of purely Russian territory, including Vilna, Minsk, and Grodno. In the southwest the Lithuanians were kept in check by Daniel of Galicia, but in all other directions their devastating raids penetrated far into Russian territory, reaching as far as Novgorod, Moscow, and Kiev, so that intercourse between the north-east and south-west became difficult and precarious. The only remaining Russian power that was at all central, the principality of Smolensk, rapidly declined, crippled both by Lithuanian aggression and the destruction of Kiev, from constant contact with which Smolensk had derived much of its importance. All vitality was drawn towards the extreme periphery of the Russian territory; the only centres of population and of political action were now the Great Principality of Vladimir and Novgorod in the north and east, Lithuania in the west, and Galicia in the south-west. The centrifugal tendencies of the twelfth century now reached their natural conclusion. The Kievian unity was at an end, and the several parts of Russia were henceforward to develop along diverging roads. The thirteenth century is the age when the three modem Russian nationalities begin to take form, as distinct from each other: the Great Russians are the people of the north-east, of the lands dependent on Vladimir (and later on Moscow) and the closely connected Novgorod, the future Muscovy; the White Russians are the Russian population absorbed into the Lithuanian State; the Ukrainians are the people of Galicia and Volhynia and the other lands of the south-west.

But besides its purely disruptive effects the Tartar invasion had for its consequence the subjection of the greater part of Russia to the Golden Horde. This subjection is known in Russian historical tradition as the “Tartar Yoke”. The weight of the yoke varied in various parts of the country, but the only part that escaped it altogether was the lands that became subject to another alien race, the Lithuanians. The “yoke” was light in Galicia and in Novgorod, which was only indirectly subject to the Khan, in so far as it was subject to the Great Prince of Vladimir. It weighed much heavier in the north-eastern principalities, the centre of the future development of the Empire. At last a large belt of borderland in the south and south-east, more or less coextensive with the “park-land” or “semi-steppe” belt between the Dniester and the Don, and including the land of Bolokhovo, Pereyaslavl, and a large part of Kiev and Chernigov, became the actual grazing-ground of the nomads held by minor chiefs and murzas under the Khan of Saray. This tract was largely depopulated. But a part of the Russian population survived, and even some of the princes remained ruling over them, vassals themselves of some Tartar murza. As for the little anomalous land of Bolokhovo, it seems to have sided wholeheartedly with the Tartars and become their advance-guard against the Galician princes.

Galicia does not appear to have suffered very much from Batu’s invasion. Its Prince Daniel, who had been reigning since 1235, had to recognise the Tartar supremacy, but the Tartars treated him more considerately than they did his northern kinsmen; they felt behind his back the constant menace of Latin support. For a time Daniel, without openly breaking with the Tartars, cherished the hope of throwing off their yoke with the help of his western neighbours. To this end he recognised the papal supremacy and was crowned by the papal legate King of Galicia and Vladimiria (from Vladimir, capital of Volhynia). But Innocent IV proved powerless to raise the Poles and Hungarians against the heathen, and at length Daniel, disgusted by the bad faith of the Latins, renounced his allegiance to Rome. He retained, however, his title of king and transmitted it to his successors. In the latter part of his reign his attitude towards the Tartars was one of conciliating submission. This gave him a free hand against the Lithuanians, whom he kept in check; and he even at one time succeeded in making his son Shvarno their duke. In spite of the Tartar overlordship, Daniel’s reign was a brilliant age for Galicia, the most brilliant in the whole history of that part of Russia. He was a great builder of churches and founder of towns, and a great encourager of commerce and industry.

After his death (c. 1265) the cultural conditions continued for a time unchanged. Galicia was in close contact with the West. Marriages with Western dynasties were frequent. But the political greatness of Galicia, divided between several princes, came to an end. The Lithuanians got the upper hand. In 1282 the Tartars under Khan Tulubugha invaded Galicia on their way to Poland and laid it waste. For some time the country became a grazing-ground for the nomads. The invasion seems to have been more destructive than that of Batu, and is an important landmark in the decline of Galicia. The entries of the so-called Volhynian Chronicle, which relates the events of the reign of Daniel and his sons and stands out as one of the most remarkable Old Russian histories, stop after 1293. For the next half century we have practically no sources for Galician and Volhynian history. Isolated from the other Russian powers, Galicia became the prey of Western expansion. It was finally incorporated in Poland in 1347. The aristocracy went over to Rome and Polish civilisation. But the middle and lower classes remained staunchly Russian and Orthodox, and the Russian burgesses of Lvov were destined to play a principal part in the first stages of the Ukrainian revival of the sixteenth­- seventeenth century.

The decline of Galicia gave the leadership in the Russian West to Lithuania, which under the successors of Mindovg became increasingly powerful. Though the majority of the subjects of the Lithuanian dukes were Russian, the Russian element failed to become dominant. The dynasty remained heathen till the middle of the fourteenth century and ultimately became Roman Catholic. Lithuania never became a consciously Russian State, and this justifies its exclusion from the present account of Russian history. But it must be borne in mind that in the fifteenth century, at the height of their power, the Dukes of Lithuania extended their suzerainty over the whole of White Russia and Ukraine (except Galicia), and far into the heart of Great Russia, as far as Tula and Orel.

The decline of the commercial importance of Kiev had gone hand in hand with a general decline of the commercial importance of Russia, due to the shifting of the great trade routes. Even the revived commercial importance of the South Russian steppe, due to the new stability given it by the Tartars, did not affect the Dnieper land; the new trade routes converged towards the lower Don, leaving the Russian lands outside the transit movement. The commercial decline of Russia is illustrated by the scarcity of precious metal which increased from the eleventh century onwards, making living cheaper, and by the decline of the relative im­portance of the towns. The only part of the Russian territory which retained an international commercial importance and a constitution based on urban supremacy was Novgorod.

Novgorod and the north

Novgorod was the metropolis of the North. Its immediate territory included the basin of the Neva and other southern tributaries of the Finnish Gulf. Except the south-west section of this territory, with Pskov, which ultimately grew into an independent polity, the country was largely unfit for agriculture and sparsely populated. So for its existence Novgorod had to rely on imported grain, which came chiefly from the upper Volga country, known to the Novgorodians as the Niz (Lower country), because at an early date they had made themselves masters of the portages from the Baltic into the Volga basin and held all the north-western headwaters of the latter. Their principal settlement in the Volga basin was Torzhok. In spite of the possession of these strategical vantage points, its economic dependence oil the Niz was a very serious handicap for Novgorod, and ultimately doomed it to become the prey of Moscow.

The real foundation of the wealth and greatness of Novgorod was its northern possessions, the immense territories stretching north and east of the Baltic-Arctic divide which the Novgorodians called the “land beyond the portages” (Zavoloché). Zavoloché extended north to the Mermen coast and east beyond the Urals to the mouth of the Obi. It was not so much a possession of the city of Novgorod as of individual Novgorodians. Only in the western part, especially on the White Sea and along the Dvina and its affluents, were there any permanent Novgorodian settlements. The vast north-east, inhabited very sparsely by Samoyeds and Zyryans, was only periodically raided for tribute. The chief article supplied to Novgorod by Zavoloché was precious furs, and these were the foundation of Novgorod’s economic importance. Other northern commodities distributed by Novgorod to the West were fish, whale and walrus bone, hunting falcons, salt, mica, and silver. On the whole the economic system of Novgorod may roughly be formulated thus: Novgorod sold the produce of Zavoloché to the West, and on the money thus obtained bought grain from the Niz. But of course the produce of its export trade shewed a large surplus over what it required to pay for its grain, and Novgorod in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and even fifteenth century was by far the richest place in all Russia. The commercial greatness of Novgorod begins in the twelfth century and is closely connected with that of Wisby and of the Hansa. A characteristic feature of Novgorodian trade is that it was active in the Niz and in Zavoloché, and passive in the West. Novgorodian merchants monopolised not only the north, but practically all the trade of the Niz. They did not as a rule trade in the West; the “Goths and Germans” came to Novgorod, but were not allowed to go any farther east or north. All Novgorodian export to the West went through the hands of the Hanseatic factory in Novgorod (St Peters Hof).

While relations with the Germans of the Hansa were friendly, Nov­gorod’s nearer Latin neighbours, the Teutonic Knights and the Swedes, were often its enemies. This was especially so in the years following the settlement of the Knights in Livonia and the expansion of the Swedes in South Finland. In the second quarter of the thirteenth century, influenced by papal policy, both these powers contemplated the complete reduction of Novgorod. Coming as it did at the same time as the Tartar and Lithuanian invasions, the Latin menace to Novgorod was a very real one. Fortunately the Swedes and the Teutonic Knights acted apart, and Novgorod had at the time a military leader equal to the occasion. This was Alexander, son of Yaroslav, Great Prince of Vladimir. In 1240 he defeated the Swedes under Earl Birger on the Neva, not far from the present site of Leningrad. This victory gave him the surname of Nevski. Two years later he routed the Teutonic Knights on the ice of Lake Peipus (1242). These victories fixed the territorial status quo for the next three centuries. The legend of these battles and of Alexander Nevski helped to keep Novgorod aloof from Western cultural influences. Its immunity from all Latin infection was quite as great as that of the Niz, and is more striking if one considers its constant intercourse with the Latins. In the century and a half following the Tartar invasion, Novgorod was the cultural and artistic metropolis of Great Russia. Much of its wealth was spent on the building and decoration of churches and monasteries. In architecture it developed a style of its own, based on the Byzantine tradition, but manifesting considerable originality, while the religious painting of Novgorod is a direct introduction to the great Muscovite renaissance of the fifteenth century.

The constitutional history of Novgorod, and of its “younger brother” Pskov, gives these two cities a unique place in Russian history. It is a development to their logical end of the republican possibilities inherent in the institutions of Kievian Russia. As has been said, Novgorod owing to its close political connexion with Kiev failed to identify itself with any branch of the house of St Vladimir. So the prince, in Novgorod, was always a stranger with no roots in the country. At first the Novgorodians seem to have resented this fact, and tried to secure for themselves a local dynasty, but before long they took advantage of the situation. The first important step towards “republicanism” was made as early as 1126, when the Posadnik, originally the prince’s lieutenant and the chief civil officer in the town, became an elected magistrate. Precedent soon established that he could not be dismissed by the prince. In 1156 the bishop, contrary to the usage of other dioceses, came to be elected by the citizens, and only consecrated by the metropolitan. At the end of the twelfth century Novgorodian liberty found a dangerous enemy in the rising power of the Princes of Suzdal and Vladimir. But from the long struggle that followed the Novgorodians emerged victorious. An important date is their victory over Andrey Bogolyubski under the walls of Novgorod on 27 November 1170. It was ascribed to a miracle of the Holy Virgin, and its anniversary has paradoxically enough become a feast for the whole Russian Church. In the early thirteenth century the Novgorodian liberties found a powerful champion in the person of the ubiquitous Mstislav of Toropets, who was long Prince of Novgorod and whose reign may be regarded as the final establishment of the republican principle there. After Mstislav, force of circumstances made Novgorod almost in­variably choose the Great Prince of Vladimir, or a near kinsman of his, for their prince, but they were now sufficiently strong to reduce him to the status of a mere magistrate (uryadnik) with rights strictly defined by treaty. If he attempted to infringe them he was promptly “shewn the way out.” In the later thirteenth century, the princes, whose pride suffered in Novgorod from constant pinpricks, adopted the policy of not coming there in person but only sending their lieutenants. Still the dependence of Novgorod on the Niz, owing to economic reasons, was definite. When the Great Prince of Vladimir became the subject of the Khan, Novgorod was itself involved, indirectly, in subjection to the Tartars. No Tartar army ever approached Novgorod, but in 1257 the Novgorodians on the insistence of the Great Prince of Vladimir had to consent to pay the Tartar poll-tax. It is true that this Prince, Alexander Nevski, was exceptionally popular in Novgorod; and the situation did not last long.

At the height of its power Novgorod was practically a republic. The prince was a foreign potentate invited by treaty to act as chief judge and military commander. His authority was limited by the treaties meticulously and jealously. Without the elected Posadnik he could “neither pronounce judgment, nor grant land, nor issue charters”. Commercial law was administered without his assistance. He could not acquire property within the jurisdiction of Novgorod, and the tribute he was allowed to collect for himself in the country districts was jealously controlled by the civic authorities. On the other hand, he was obliged to concede the right of free trade to Novgorodians in his hereditary possessions.

All authority was vested in the “sovereign people” gathered in the veché. It was unlimited in power. In the thirteenth century, especially under the distinctly democratically-minded Mstislav of Toropets, the influence of the lower classes, of the social democracy, seems to have been real and decisive, but, in the fourteenth and fifteenth, the capitalist aristocracy became the only real political factor, and the veché an instrument in the hands of individual boyars or parties of boyars. There was no procedure in the veché. It could only say Aye or No to the proposals put before it. These were usually prepared by a sort of unofficial cabinet (the Germans called it the Herrenrat) which was presided over by the archbishop and consisted of the acting and the former magistrates, Posadniks and Tysyatskies. If a party of the veché was sufficiently loud to shout down the other party it carried the day; if not, the parties had recourse to arms, and the bridge over the Volkhov was the scene of these judgments by battle. The executive magistrates were, like the prince, limited in power, elected for short terms, and subject to removal; the Novgorodians were “masters of their Princes and Posadniks”. The Posadnik was the chief executive, though the archbishop took precedence over him. The tysyatski (chiliarch) was originally commander of the city militia, but in later times his chief function was that of president of the commercial court.

The social constitution of the Novgorodian polity was distinctly pluto­cratic. The boyars were an aristocracy of capitalists, bankers, and land­owners. They had enormous estates, especially in the outlying territories of Zavoloché, and in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries they controlled all affairs and held all the magistracies. Beneath them were the merchants, who did the actual trading and were organised into gilds. One of these, “ St John’s hundred’’, was of special importance and exercised control over weights and measures. The common people were the chief actors at the veché, but generally only as pawns in the hands of the rich. The city of Novgorod was organised into an infinity of small communities, each quarter and each street having its own organisation. The country districts (pogosty), the smaller towns (prigorody—“by-towns"), and the outlying colonies had no voice in the politics of Novgorod, but enjoyed a large amount of self-government, which was also in the hands of the local rich. When in the fifteenth century the struggle of Novgorod with Moscow entered on its final stage, the plutocratic nature of its society was fatal to it; the lower classes had no interest in supporting the oligarchy, and very largely sided with Moscow.


Pskov, at first a mere “by-town” of Novgorod, in the fourteenth century became independent, had princes of its own, and obtained the style of “younger brother" of Novgorod. Unlike Novgorod, it was agricultural rather than commercial; its country is still the principal flax-growing district of Russia. Though in the main also an oligarchy, there was less difference in wealth and more equality. Alone of all Russian lands Pskov had no slaves. Its constitution was similar to that of Novgorod, but better codified. The rights of the prince, of the two Posadniks, of the veché, and of the minor townships were better defined. Pskov did not succeed in becoming an independent bishopric, and remained part of the diocese of Novgorod, but the rights of the archbishop were also strictly defined and limited by treaty, and the ecclesiastical affairs managed by an elective board representing all the parishes and monasteries of the town, of which there were eighty-five. Like Novgorod, Pskov was a home of the arts and its small churches have a charm and distinction entirely their own. Situ­ated on the Livonian frontier, Pskov was a fighting city, Russia’s farthest outpost against the Latin. Its walls were, till the sixteenth century, the best in Russia, and often withstood the Germans and the Lithuanians. Its Russian patriotism was kept alive by this border-position, and when in the struggle against Moscow Novgorod shewed itself so prone to seek help from the alien and Latin Lithuanian, Pskov invariably supported Moscow. And it is no chance that the imperial Muscovite theory of Moscow—the Third Rome—was first voiced by a man of Pskov.

While Novgorod, Pskov, and the south-west remained comparatively unaffected by Tartar dominion, it was otherwise with the land that was to become the cradle of the Russian Empire. This was the land ruled by the princes of the houses of Suzdal and Ryazan, with the adjoining northern and eastern parts of the lands of Chernigov and Smolensk. For two hundred and forty years it bore the chief weight of the “Tartar Yoke”. The land was unfit for nomads, and the Tartars made no attempt to take direct possession of it. They only made it a tribute-paying dependency and organised its financial exploitation. In the first half-century or so following the invasion, the Khans appointed Tartar lieutenants (baskaki) to Russia, whose principal office was to collect the poll-tax which the Tartars imposed on their subjects. The poll-tax was paid by all the population except the clergy, and for this end censuses were taken in 1257 and in 1275. Except for occasional punitive inroads, the poll-tax and the census were the only form in which the Yoke affected the common people. The princes were much more closely affected by it. They had to be invested with the Khan’s yarlyk (charter) and this yarlyk cost much money, for the only means of obtaining it was a liberal expenditure of cash at the Horde, to the Khan, his wives, his kinsmen, and his murzas. It was also quite precarious, for no prince was at any moment guaranteed against his kinsman getting a yarlyk for the same principality by paying a higher price. Besides their money the princes had to spend much of their time in journeys to Saray, and in the earlier years even to Karakorum. Many of them never returned from these journeys, and it was customary to draw up one’s testament before starting for the Horde. The Horde became a school of shameless intrigue and corruption. These conditions lasted till the decline of the Tartar power in the fifteenth century.

It is impossible to discuss here what was the cultural influence of the Tartars, and whether its effect was for the worse or not; too much depends on the values that are taken as standards. But two political results of the Tartar dominion are quite apparent, and destroy the myth of an uninterrupted evolution: it was the Tartars who made the Church an independent political force, and it was they who by constituting the Great Princes of Vladimir farmers of the Tartar tribute gave them the political instrument by which to subject the other princes and lands of Russia.

Political power of the Church

The position of the Church in Kievian Russia was analogous to its position in the Eastern Empire. It was an overwhelmingly important cultural and moral influence, but, politically, it was dependent on the secular power. Only the fact that, with two anomalous exceptions, the Metropolitans of Kiev were invariably Greeks, together with their dependence on the Patriarch of Constantinople, gave them a position of relative independence in regard to the Russian princes. The other bishops had not even this degree of independence. With the growth of monastic and episcopal land-owning, the economic importance of the Church grew, but that this in itself was insufficient to make the Church an independent political power is shown by the example of those Russian lands which remained outside the Tartar influence—Novgorod and Lithuania, where the Church remained as dependent (in the former case on the citizens, in the latter on the dukes and magnates) as it had been before the invasion. The Tartars changed the situation. Their religious policy was one of tolerance and protection towards the priests of all religions, whom the animist Tartars regarded as having control over supernatural forces which it was prudent to propitiate. So the clergy of all religions were given a privileged treatment, in return for which they were expected to pray to their several deities for the welfare of the Khan. In Russia, the clergy were from the outset exempted from taxes and the Church given im­munity from all secular jurisdiction. These privileges were embodied in special yarlyks issued to the Metropolitan, whose authority was thus greatly increased; the Church not only became independent, but its government grew more centralised and monarchical, while its economic wealth gave it a stable basis. Throughout the Tartar period the Metropolitan must not be regarded as a subject of the Great Prince, but as an independent power. When the two became allies, as they did in the early fourteenth century, it was an alliance of two equal powers. The power of the Great Prince ultimately grew more rapidly than that of the Church, and by the middle of the fifteenth century had certainly outstripped it. But in the earlier period the situation was different, and till about the time of the death of St Alexis (1378) the Church was the predominant partner in the alliance.

After the destruction of Kiev the Metropolitans remained at first nominally attached to their old see, but its absolute degradation forced them to look for a new residence. At first they were attracted westwards, but ultimately they settled in the north. In 1300 Vladimir became the official see, and a little later St Peter (1308—26), the first regularly ap­pointed Metropolitan of Russian birth, chose for his residence a secondary town of the archiepiscopal diocese, Moscow. It was only in the fifteenth century that Moscow became the official seat of the metropolitans. The fact that the Metropolitan of Russia had become a vassal of the Khan, and cast in his lot with the Princes of Vladimir and Moscow, made the western dioceses try to emancipate themselves from his authority. As early as 1303 the kingdom of Galicia seems to have been created a separate ecclesiastical province, but this did not last. The Dukes of Lithuania made repeated and temporarily successful efforts towards the same end, but it was only late in the fifteenth century (1458) that the western dioceses were finally separated from Moscow.

The Tartar period, especially the fourteenth century, in Great Russia (but not in West Russia) was also a period of great religious revival, of great individual religious and ascetic achievement. In Kievian times Russian monasticism was purely urban, and all the oldest Russian monasteries were situated in or near the larger towns. Great monasteries continued to be founded, and flourished in the cities, after the Tartar invasion. But at the same time there began a movement, which reached its highest point in the fifteenth century, away from human centres into the wilderness of the North Russian forest. The movement originated in the purest ascetic and spiritual impulse, but it resulted in the opening-up of the forest land and in the growth of great and wealthy monastic communities, endowed with extensive lands and immune feudal jurisdiction, which became the social and economic centres of vast regions. The greatest monasteries were those founded by the holiest and most venerated hermits, who combined ascetic purity with great organising ability. The most important of these houses were: the Trinity Monastery (Troitsa), forty miles north-east of Moscow, founded (c. 1335) by St Sergius of Radonezh, the most venerated of Russian saints; the Kirilov-Belozersky Monastery, founded (1397) by St Cyril near the White Lake; and the monastery founded (in 1429) by SS. Zosima, German, and Savatiy on the island of Solovki in the White Sea.

The second political effect of the “Tartar Yoke”, the growth of a centralised monarchic power, began to show only in the fourteenth century. The end of the thirteenth on the contrary saw the decline of all central authority. The age of Alexander Nevski (1246-63) was a period of some recuperation. He spent most of his reign in journeys to Saray, and farther east to Karakorum, trying every means to alleviate the burdens of his ruined land. His policy was one of unqualified submission to the Horde. It emphasises the growing “eastward” tendency of Russia that this victorious enemy of the Latins was an obedient vassal of the Mongols. After his death (1263) he was canonised.

The following sixty years were a period of continuous strife between the princes for the “Great Principality of Vladimir”. The principal rivals were the Princes of Tver’, Nizhni-Novgorod, and Moscow. Those of Ryazan’, who did not belong to the house of Vsevolod Big-Nest, were excluded from the competition, but remained important potentates at home. The princes who succeeded in obtaining the Khan’s yarlyk for the Great Principality adopted the policy of not coming to Vladimir, but remaining in their original residences. Thus Vladimir sank to the level of a merely symbolic capital. But the territory and revenues attached to its possession were more important than those of any of the local principalities, even before it became linked with the right to collect the Tartar tribute.

A main feature of North-Eastern Russia in the Tartar period is the continuous multiplication of princes and principalities. Each prince was entitled to his share in the paternal domain, and where sons were numerous the principalities rapidly split up into an infinity of tiny patrimonies. This was particularly the case in the northern principalities of Rostov, Yaroslavl, and Belozero. But however small the principality, the prince retained in full his rights as territorial sovereign. Apart from the Great Prince of Vladimir’s authority as tax-collector and lieutenant of the Khan, a prince’s sovereignty could be limited only by voluntary contract. The great inequality of real distribution of power forced the lesser princes to enter into contracts of a feudal character with the greater. They commended1 themselves to a more powerful neighbour, and became his “younger brothers” or even his “servants.” Contract became the only source of obligation, and no distinction was made between public and private law. The character of the prince as judge and guardian of the peace was obscured by his quality of proprietor of lands and rights. Beneath the princes stood the untitled landowners, the boyars. Though no boyar could ever become a prince, there was little difference, beyond the title, between the two. The boyars were also privileged landowner’s, possessors of extensive juridical and financial immunities. They were “free servants” of the prince. They served him at will, and could always leave him, after giving proper notice, and transfer their homage to another prince. The clause of the “free passage” of servants is included in all the inter-princely treaties of the time. The lands of the departing “servant” could not be confiscated; the personal feudal tie of the boyar was independent of the territorial subjection of his lands; and this, the lands being as a rule immune, was of the loosest kind. It is obvious that the clause of the “free passage” was advantageous to the more powerful and richer princes who could thus attract numerous and important followers. The prince was the gospodin of his free servants, a word more or less answering to suzerain, and opposed to gosudar (“master,” “owner,” dominus) which described his relation to his inferior servants, slaves, and other possessions. The term gosudar, originally a purely economic conception, grew in the fifteenth century to denote the absolute power of the unlimited monarch. It ultimately became the current and official name for the Russian monarch, and its derivative gosudarstvo came to denote the State in general.

Both the princes and boyars had numerous military retainers, who formed their political and military force, and tenants who provided an economic basis. The latter were called the “black people” and played a very inferior part in fourteenth-century society; they did all the paying. Still they were free men, for there was no servitude of the glebe, and in the larger or more outlying manors they enjoyed a certain degree of self-administration, which increased in Muscovite times. There was also a numerous unfree population, the descendants of the older slaves, or the result of feudal surrender of liberty. The unfree class included men of a higher standing than mere domestic servants or labourers, stewards for instance and military retainers. These unfree retainers were akin to the ministeriales of early medieval Germany. They were better off than the free tax-paying tenant, and afterwards played an important part in the making of the Russian gentry. In general, this structure of society bears a strong likeness to the early forms of Western feudalism, but Russia never developed anything like a complete system of feudal law.

The rise of Moscow

Moscow is first mentioned in 1147. Its situation on the extreme south­west border of the Suzdal land, near the Chernigov frontier, is still reflected in the fact that near it passes the dividing line between the two principal dialects of Great Russia. This border situation became a central one when the Smolensk and Chernigov lands that had not been devastated by the Tartars or annexed by the Lithuanians became parts of the north­eastern social and economic system. The founder of the Muscovite branch of the house of Vsévolod Big-Nest was Daniel (06.1304), youngest son of Alexander Nevski. At first his possessions included only four of the thirteen districts of the modern province of Moscow, but by his death they included the important principality of Pereyaslavl bequeathed to Daniel by his childless nephew. Under Daniel’s son Yuri (George) began the struggle between Moscow and Tver for the throne of Vladimir. It was chiefly a struggle of intrigue at the Khan’s court, in which Yuri proved himself more skilful than his reckless rival, Michael of Tver. At Yuri’s instigation and with his direct concurrence, Michael was put to death by the Tartars (1319). How little Moscow had yet the sympathy of Russian opinion is shewn by the fact that Michael was canonised by the Church as a martyr. A little later Yuri was in his turn killed by the Tver party (1324). His younger brother Ivan Kalita (John the Pouch) succeeded him in Moscow, and by dint of lavish expenditure at the Horde obtained the yarlyk for the Great Principality (1328). What was more, he was entrusted with the collection of the Tartar tribute, a turning-point of primary importance for the creation of a centralised monarchy. Henceforward, except for one insignificant interval, the Great Principality, and with it the power to collect the tribute, remained with the house of Moscow.

Ivan Kalita inaugurated the policy that was to make the fortune of his dynasty. Its main points were alliance with the Church, thrift at home, and, above all, the maintenance of friendly and peaceful relations with the Horde by constant expenditure and complete submission, in order to secure by every means the throne of Vladimir in the family. The Khan’s friendship cost much, but it paid; it meant, besides the rich revenues of the Great Principality, the control of the Tartar tribute of which a large part naturally remained in Moscow. On their increased income Kalita and his successors bought up lands and jurisdictions, and forced contracts of “younger brotherage” and vassalage on minor princes. Besides, the administration of the tribute gave a powerful means of control over the other princes, and Kalita and his successors did not hesitate to use the Khan’s armies against insubordinate rivals. Though the alliance with the Khan gave power and wealth, it did not give popularity or moral authority. In this respect a far more profitable ally of the Princes of Moscow was the Church. The Church more than any other force in Russia was inspired with the idea of national unity; the Metropolitan was in fact the only all-Russian authority, the only visible symbol of unity. In order that the ideal of unity might also materialise in the secular sphere, he had no choice but to select one among the rival princes on whom to bestow his influence. When St Peter chose Moscow rather than Tver or Ryazan, he had two main reasons. The first was of a formal nature: Moscow was a town of the metropolitan diocese, while the capitals of the other important princes had bishops of their own, and the metropolitan could not exercise in them his episcopal rights. Secondly, the Church was closely linked with the Khans whose yarlyks were the foundation of its political independence, and the loyalty of the Moscow Princes made them preferable to the restless and ambitious Princes of Tver. So, after St Peter, his successor the Greek Theognost (1328-53) followed his example, stayed in Moscow, and continued his pro-Muscovite policy.

Ivan Kalita died in 1341. He was a far more powerful prince at his death than he had been at his accession, but how little conscious he was of his work of unification is shewn by his will, the oldest document of its kind that has come down to us: he divided his possessions in almost equal parts between his three sons and his widow; Moscow itself with all its revenue and jurisdiction was divided between the three brothers. The wording of the document is highly typical of the domestic and private attitude of the princes of the time to their possessions of whatever kind; towns, manors, jurisdictions, jewels, furs, and clothes are treated exactly in the same way and in the same language. Taken by itself the effect of the will would have been the breaking-up of Moscow into a new succession of petty principalities. But it was not in their quality of Princes of Moscow that these princes did their work of unification, but as Great Princes of Vladimir, and the yarlyk for the Great Principality was easily obtained by Kalita’s eldest son Simeon (1341-53), and after his death by his younger brother Ivan II (1353-59). Ivan was a weak-minded and feeble prince, and if the future of Moscow had de­pended as much as is sometimes supposed on the character of its princes he would certainly have jeopardised it. But it did not. A Russian prince, in the fourteenth century, was not an autocrat, except in his own manors where alone he was gosudar (dominus), but a “Prince in Council.” His councillors were the boyars, and without them he did nothing. Simeon in his will enjoined his successors to “obey them,” next to “our father the Metropolitan,” and a generation later Dimitri of the Don on his deathbed said to them: “your title was not boyars but princes of my land”. It was in the Muscovite boyars that the continuity of Muscovite policy resided, so that neither the feebleness of Ivan II nor the minority of his son Dimitri seriously endangered it. But besides the boyars there was another man who saw to the future of Moscow and of Russian unity, St Alexis, himself a member of a family of Moscow boyars, who after the death of Theognost succeeded to the metropolitan see (1354). Till his death in 1378 he remained virtual ruler of Russia, secular and spiritual. After Ivan II’s death the Prince of Suzdal succeeded in obtaining the yarlyk for the throne of Vladimir, but owing to the boyars at home and to the influence of St Alexis at the Horde this was promptly set aside, and the infant Dimitri once again united the possession of Moscow with that of the Great Principality. They were never again separated.

The years of the administration of St Alexis and the reign of Dimitri (who came of age about 1369) were a period when the power of Moscow received its final confirmation and consecration. Alexis exercised his spiritual authority in the interests of unity, bringing the princes to mutual peace and obedience to Moscow. Tver and Ryazan were humbled and reduced to vassalage, while Nizhni-Novgorod became an unequal ally. The only serious rival power, Lithuania, was now also making rapid progress under the leadership of Olgierd (1345-77) and Jagiello. In relation to the Horde the old policy of obedience was continued, but the Horde was in a state of dissolution. The dynasty of Batu had lost all vitality and prestige. The vizier (temnik) Mamay became Khan-maker and was finally proclaimed Khan. Meanwhile a movement of Russian colonisation south-east of the lower Oka in the Mordva country became a source of frontier incidents with the Tartars. When Mamay decided to retaliate and chastise the Russians, it was resolved in Moscow, for the first time, to meet him with open force. The first victory over a Tartar army was won in 1378. Mamay prepared for a more serious invasion. St Alexis was now dead, but his spiritual successor St Sergius of Radonezh, who had refused the succession of the metropolitan see offered him by Alexis, realised that a policy of submission was no longer necessary, and gave his benediction to Dimitri’s army and all his moral support to the cause of resistance. The army led by Dimitri against the Tartars included all the northern princes except those of Ryazan’. For the first time the Prince of Moscow appeared in the role of a national leader. Dimitri’s and Mamay’s armies met in the field of Kulikovo on the upper Don (8 September 1380). The battle was furious and the losses on both sides very heavy. But the Russian victory w-as decisive. It determined Moscow as the leader and the symbol of national unity, and became legendary. Dimitri became known by the surname of Donskoy (of the Don). But it caused little change in Russia’s relation to the Tartars. Mamay, it is true, was overthrown. But two years later Tuqtamish, a vassal of Tamerlane, appeared in the Volga steppe, took possession of Saray, and marched into Russia. Moscow, abandoned by Dimitri, was besieged by Tuqtamish and surrendered. The Princes of Tver’, Ryazan’, Nizhni hastened to pay homage to the victor. After laying waste the lands of Moscow and Vladimir, Tuqtamish retired to the Horde (1382). The result of his campaign was a complete reassertion of the Tartar Yoke. When Dimitri died, his son Vasili I (Basil, 1389-1425) had to go, as his fathers had gone, to the Horde, there to obtain the yarlyk for the Great Principality.

In Vasili’s reign Russia again had to suffer from Tartar invasion. In 1395 Tamerlane, on a punitive expedition against Tuqtamish, who had rebelled against him, entered Russia, took and destroyed Elets, and raided the open country in the direction of Ryazan’ and Kolomna; but he soon retired into the steppe, not to return. Tamerlane’s invasion did not mean any increase of Tartar power in Russia, and in the following years the authority of the Horde sank to such a low level that Vasili attempted a new policy: he stopped sending the tribute to the Khan, while continuing to collect it for his own benefit. This lasted for several years, until the Khan-maker and virtual Khan Edigey, a more efficient and resolute soldier than the degenerate Khans, decided to put an end to it. In 1408 he invaded Russia and besieged Moscow. Like his father in 1382, Vasili abandoned his capital in the hour of danger, but the citizens defended themselves valiantly, shewing that in time of emergency the old municipal spirit of self-help was still alive in them. The Tartars after a fruitless siege were forced to withdraw, devastating the open country. The result of the invasion was a new reassertion of the “yoke.” But the power of the Horde was irrevocably sinking, and Vasili’s journey to Saray in 1412 was the last of its kind undertaken by a Russian prince. His son Vasili II and his grandson Ivan III still received investiture from the Horde, but did not go there personally; it was brought to them to Moscow by ambassadors. But attempts to shake the Yoke off by force were given up, until it became too weak to be maintained.

The period from the death of St Alexis to that of Vasili I (1378-1425) was not so uniformly propitious to Moscow as the preceding one. The invasions of 1382 and 1408 were serious setbacks to Muscovite power. In particular Moscow’s hold on Tver and Ryazan was much weakened. The further rise of the Lithuanian power was another menace. Under the rule of Vitovt (Vitold, 1388-1430) Lithuania became a great European power. Its suzerainty extended over most of the old lands of Smolensk and Chernigov, while Ryazan’ and Tver looked up to it as a more de­sirable suzerain than Moscow. But Vitovt had more neighbours than Moscow to quarrel with, and his relations with Vasili I, who was married to his daughter, were more often friendly than hostile.

On the whole, however, the power of Moscow grew steadily. The Church under the metropolitan Cyprian, a Bulgarian (1390—1406), and Photius, a Greek (1408-31), continued the policy of St Alexis though neither of his two successors had his personal influence. They gave support to Vasili’s aggressive policy against Nizhni-Novgorod and against Novgorod. The annexation of the former principality (1391) was the chief territorial advance made under Vasili I. It is a characteristic example of Muscovite methods. Vasili began by purchasing at the Horde a yarlyk for the principality of Nizhni which dispossessed the ruling prince in favour of himself. The Prince of Nizhni on hearing this news asked his boyars if they would stand by him against the Muscovite ag­gression; they pledged their support. But they had already been secretly corrupted by Vasili, who had promised them advancement and rewards. As soon as the Tartar and Muscovite envoys arrived at Nizhni with the yarlyk, the boyars threw off the mask and placed themselves at the disposal of Vasili. The Prince of Nizhni was seized and deported to a remote Muscovite possession, and his territory incorporated in the Great Prin­cipality. Vasili’s attempt against Novgorod, though vigorously supported by Cyprian, was less successful. In this case Tartar help could be of little avail. He adopted the policy of attacking Novgorod’s most vital possession, the Dvina land, the heart of Zavoloché, which was also the most exposed, as the headwaters of the Dvina were in the possession of princes dependent on Vasili. In 1396 a Muscovite army occupied the Dvina land with the aid of the local landlords who, in a charter that has been preserved, were granted autonomy under Muscovite suzerainty. But in 1398 the Novgorodians coming in force drove off the Muscovites, and the Dvina boyars were severely chastised for their treachery.

The principal aspect of Muscovite progress in these years was that St Alexis and St Sergius had given Moscow a moral and spiritual halo, and the battle of Kulikovo had consecrated it the leader of the nation. This idea of Moscow as the centre and symbol of national unity, indefatigably propagated by the Church, did as much as the aggressive policy of its princes, and even counterbalanced those aspects which worked against their popularity. Moscow now superseded Novgorod also as the cultural and artistic capital. Stone architecture, which had died out since the Tartar invasion, was revived. Literature, under the influence of Cyprian and other South Slav clerics, became ambitious and more elaborately rhetorical. But the greatest achievement of Muscovite culture was in religious painting: the age of Cyprian is also that of Andrey Rublev, the greatest painter ever produced by Russia.

In social history the reign of Vasili I is marked by the rapid growth of a new class, the “serving princes” (or “princelings”). Ever since the time of Kalita and Simeon, the minor princes, especially of the houses of Rostov, Yaroslavl, and Belozero, were entering in increasing numbers on contracts of vassalage with Moscow. At first these were contracts of “younger brotherage” under which the princes retained their sovereign rights inside their domains, only pledging themselves to follow their “elder brother” in war. Later on they began to commend their lands to the Great Prince, receiving them back from him as fiefs, and in return for good service obtaining other grants of land in other parts of the country. They retained their titles, but except for that became practically the same as the boyars. Like these latter they were “servants” (slugi) of the Great Prince. The same process went on in Lithuania, and on a much smaller scale in Tver1 and Ryazan. This new element began to take precedence over the older boyars, and to throw them into the shade. The princes arriving from Lithuania and from the Chernigov lands under Lithuanian suzerainty were especially important, and as, under the clause of the “free passage of servants”, they retained their lands and revenues in Lithuania, besides receiving new grants from the Great Prince of Moscow, they were far richer than any boyars. Under Vasili II these princes definitely became the upper class of the Muscovite aristocracy. Under his successors they constituted a formidable opposition to autocracy. But in the beginning it flattered the Muscovite ruler to have so many and such brilliant princes for his followers and servants.

In the reign of Vasili I’s son, Vasili II (1425-62), the Muscovite power passed through the last great crisis before it finally emerged on the path of unity and autocracy. It was the struggle of the Great Prince with his nearest relatives, his uncle and first cousins. Vasili II was himself a man of no merits, no talents, and no virtue. He was universally unpopular. But as the lawful heir to the Muscovite throne he had behind him the support of the Church, of the Muscovite boyars, of Russian public opinion in general, and, last but not least, of the Golden Horde. His opponents were his uncle Yuri, and after the latter’s death (1432) his sons, among whom the most energetic was Dimitri Shemyaka. It is unprofitable to follow the details of the struggle. It came to a climax in 1446 when Shemyaka succeeded in seizing Vasili and blinding him, which gave Vasili II his surname of “the Dark” (Temny). Shemyaka became master of Moscow and kept his blinded cousin in captivity. But the metropolitan, St Jonas, prevailed on him to release Vasili from prison and to give him in fief the principality of Vologda. As soon as Vasili was free and installed in his new residence, the boyars and “servant” princes began to gather round him and the struggle recom­menced. He was soon victorious and Shemyaka had to take refuge with his allies, the Novgorodians. It was in Novgorod that the emissaries of Vasili succeeded in poisoning him (1453). Vasili followed up this success by a campaign against the northern city in which he was completely victorious. The conditions he imposed on Novgorod were the first step towards the loss of Novgorodian independence: the judicial fees were to go to the Great Prince, and charters to be issued in his name and not in that of the city. About the same time the Prince of Ryazan, a minor and a ward of Vasili, was transferred to Moscow, and Muscovite lieutenants were sent to govern his principality.

The year 1453, the date of Shemyaka’s death, marks the end of the heavy up-hill period of Moscow’s history; henceforward its successes were to be practically unopposed. By a significant coincidence 1453 is also the date of another event of primary importance for Moscow—the fall of Constantinople. The Greek Emperor gone, Moscow was now the first Orthodox power, and the head of the Orthodox world. The Muscovites were not slow in taking stock of the fact. The fall of Constantinople had been preceded in 1439 by an event which greatly emphasised its significance—the Council of Florence, at which the Greeks had consented to unite with Home. The Metropolitan of Russia, the Greek Isidore, had accepted the Union. This on his return to Moscow led to his deposition, and, after some hesitation, to the decision to throw off obedience to Constantinople and to put up a Russian metropolitan by the sole authority of the Russian Church: this was St Jonas (1448-61). Independence from Constantinople increased the prestige of the Russian Church, but also its dependence on the secular power; and though it retained its immunities and its position as the greatest and wealthiest land-owning power in the country, and also its enormous moral and cultural influence, it ceased by degrees to be what it had been in the fourteenth century and once more became like the Byzantine Church dependent, politically, on the State.

When in 1462 Vasili II died and his son Ivan III became Great Prince and Gosudar (he was the first officially to adopt the style) “of all Russia,” the task before him was clear and easy. It was to assert his absolute, sovereign independence by casting off the Tartar Yoke; to assert the primacy of Russia as the heir to the Greek Emperor, and the only Orthodox monarchy in the world; to merge in a complete Muscovite unity the local particularisms of the other Great Russian polities; and to advance against Lithuania Moscow’s rights to the legacy of Kiev in Western Russia. The first of these tasks was easiest of all: Ivan III had hardly to move a finger, and certainly did not hasten the event; the Tartar supremacy disappeared almost imperceptibly in 1480. The legacy of Byzantium was taken up by the marriage with a Palaeologus princess in 1471; by the adoption of the title of Samoderzhets (autokrator), and, in the political consciousness of Russian society, by the theory of “Moscow—the Third Rome,” first voiced by the monk Philotheus of Pskov. The independence of the old rival, Tver’, was put an end to in 1484, and that of Novgorod in 1478; both demanded very little effort. Ryazan’ and Pskov, loyal and not dangerous, were allowed to retain a measure of autonomy till early in the next century. At last Lithuania was forced back into the West and all the old lands of Smolensk and Chernigov became Muscovite, as the result of the war that culminated in the battle of Vedrosha (1500). The complete formal consequences of the new state of things were not, however, reached till the following century when Ivan III’s grandson and namesake was crowned Tsar (from tsesari—Caesar) in 1547, and the Metropolitan of Moscow raised to the rank of Patriarch in 1589.