« PreviousContinue »
[1425-1435 A.D.] subjugated one after another of them. Vasili Dmitrievitch was married to the daughter of Vitovt, Sophia; throughout his reign, he had to keep up friendly relations with his kinsman, and yet be on his guard against the ambitious designs of his father-in-law. The Muscovite prince acted with great caution and prudence, giving way to his father-in-law as far as possible, but safeguarded himself and Russia from him. He did not hinder Vitovt from taking Smolensk, chiefly because the last prince of Smolensk, Iuri, was a villain in the full sense of the word, and the inhabitants themselves preferred to submit to Vitovt, rather than to their own prince. When however Vitovt showed too plainly his intentions of capturing Pskov and Novgorod, the grand prince of Moscow openly took up arms against his father-in-law and a war seemed imminent; but in 1407 the matter was settled between them, and a peace was concluded by which the river Ougra was made a boundary between the Muscovite and the Lithuanian possessions.
VASILI VASILIEVITCH (AFTERWARDS CALLED "THE BLIND" OR THE DARK")
Vasili Dmitrievitch died in 1425. His successor, Vasili Vasilievitch, was a man of limited gifts and of weak mind and will, but capable of every villainy and treachery. The members of the princely house had been held in utter subjection under Vasili Dmitrievitch, but at his death they raised their heads, and Iuri, the uncle of Vasili Vasilievitch, endeavoured to obtain the grand principality from the horde. But the artful and wily boyar, Ivan Dmitrievitch Vsevolozhsky, succeeded in 1432 in setting aside Iuri and assuring the grand principality to Vasili Vasilievitch. When Iuri pleaded his right of seniority as uncle, and in support of his claim cited precedents by which uncles had been preferred, as seniors in years and birth, to their nephews, Vsevolozhsky represented to the khan that Vasili had already received the principality by will of the khan and that this will should be held above all laws and customs. This appeal to the absolute will of the khan pleased the latter and Vasili Vasilievitch remained grand prince. Some years later this same boyar, angered at Vasili because the latter had first promised to marry his daughter and then married Marie Iaroslavna, the grand-daughter of Vladimir Andreevitch Serpukhovski, himself incited Iuri to wrest the principality from his nephew. Thus Russia again became the prey of civil wars, which were signalised by hideous crimes. Iuri, who had taken possession of Moscow, was again expelled and soon after died. The son of Iuri, Vasili Kossoi (the Squinting) concluded peace with Vasili, and then, having treacherously violated the treaty, attacked Vasili, but he was vanquished, captured, and blinded (1435). After a few years the following events took place at the Golden Horde: the khan Ulu Makhmet was deprived of his throne and sought the aid of the grand prince of Moscow. The grand prince not only refused him his aid, but also drove him out of the boundaries of the territory of Moscow. Ulu Makhmet and his partisans then established themselves on the banks of the Volga at Kazan, and there laid the foundations of a Tatar empire that during a whole century brought desolation on Russia. Ulu Makhmet, as ruler of Kazan, avenged himself on the Muscovite prince for the past, was victorious over him in battle, and took him prisoner. Vasili Vasilievitch only recovered his liberty by paying an enormous ransom. When he returned to his native land, he was against his will obliged to lay upon the people heavy taxes and to receive Tatars into his principality and give them estates. All this awakened dissatisfaction against him, of which the Galician prince Dmitri Shemiaka, the brother of Kossoi, hastened to take
advantage, and joining himself to the princes of Tver and Mozhaisk, in 1446 he ordered Vasili to be treacherously seized at the monastery of Troitsa and blinded. Shemiaka took possession of the grand principality and kept the blind Vasili in confinement, but observing an agitation among the people, he yielded to the request of Jonas, bishop of Riazan, and gave Vasili his liberty, at the same time making him swear that he would not seek to regain the grand principality. Vasili did not keep his oath, and in 1447 the partisans of the blind prince again raised him to the throne.
It is remarkable that from this period the reign of Vasili Vasilievitch entirely changed in character. While he had his eyesight, Vasili was a most insignificant sovereign, but from the time that he lost his eyes, his reign becomes distinguished for its firmness, intelligence, and decision. It is evident that clever and active men must have ruled in the name of the blind prince. Such were the boyars: the princes Patrikeev, Riapolovski, Koshkin, Plesktcheev, Morozov, and the famous voyevods, Striga-Obolenski and Theodore Bassenok, but above all the metropolitan Jonas.
Jonas Becomes Metropolitan
Jonas was a native of Kostroma. was made bishop of Riazan he did not in any wise become a partisan of the local views, his sympathies inclined to Moscow because, in conformity with the conditions of that epoch, Jonas saw in Moscow alone the centre of Russian unification. In 1431, at the death of the metropolitan Photius, Jonas was elected metropolitan, but the patriarch of Constantinople had already named the Greek Isidore to that office. This Isidore had participated in the capacity of Russian metropolitan, in the Florentine council which had proclaimed the union of the Greek church with the Roman, the pope of Rome to be the head of the Universal church. Isidore, together with the patriarch of Constantinople and the Byzantine emperor had submitted to the pope; for Isidore was at heart a Greek: all his aims were directed to the salvation of his perishing country, and like many other Greeks he hoped through the pope to arouse Europe against the Turks. It was these hopes that had caused the Greeks of that time to sacrifice the independence of their church. In the eyes of Isidore Russia too was to serve as an instrument for Greek patriotic designs; but the union was rejected at Moscow, Isidore was driven out, and for some years the office of metropolitan of Moscow remained unoccupied. Kiev had its own metropolitans since the days of Vitovt, but Moscow did not wish to have anything to do with them. The bishop of Riazan, Jonas, having been already named metropolitan by the Russian clergy, enjoyed at Moscow a pre-eminent importance and influence, and finally, in 1448, this archbishop was raised to the rank of metropolitan by an assembly of the Russian bishops,
[1462 A.D.] without regard to the patriarch. This event was a decisive breach with the past, and from that time the eastern-Russian church ceased to depend upon the patriarch of Constantinople and acquired full independence. The centre of her supreme power was Moscow, and this circumstance definitively established that moral importance of Moscow, which had been aimed for by the metropolitan Peter, which had been held up by Alexis, and which had received greater brilliancy from the transfer of the ikon of the Blessed Virgin from Vladimir. From that time the Russian territories not yet subject to Moscow and aiming to preserve their independence from herTver, Riazan, Novgorod - were bound to her more closely by spiritual bonds.
When he had for the third time ascended the throne of Moscow, the grand prince designated as co-regent with himself his eldest son Ivan, who was thenceforth called grand prince like his father, as is shown by the treaties of that period. It was from that time that the political activity of Ivan commenced and gradually widened; and there is no doubt that when he attained his majority it was he, and not his blind father that directed the accomplishment of the events which led to the strengthening of Moscow. Prince Dmitri Shemiaka, who had been obliged to promise on his oath to desist from any further attempts upon the grand principality, did not cease to show his enmity against Vasili the Dark. The clergy wrote to Shemiaka a letter of admonishment, but he would not listen to their remonstrances, and the armies of Moscow marched with the blessing of Jonas and accompanied by the young prince, against Shemiaka in Galicia. Shemiaka was defeated and fled to Novgorod, where the inhabitants gave him a refuge, and Galicia with its dependencies was again joined to Moscow. Shemiaka continued to plot against Vasili, took Ustiug, and established himself there; but the young prince Ivan Vasilievitch drove him out, and Shemiaka again fled to Novgorod. The metropolitan Jonas issued an edict declaring Shemiaka excommunicated from the church, forbidding orthodox persons to eat and drink with him, and reproaching the people of Novgorod for having received him. It was then decided at Moscow to put an end to Shemiaka by secretly murdering him; the secretary Borodati, through Shemiaka's boyar Ivan Kotov, induced Shemiaka's cook to prepare and serve to him a poisoned fowl (1453).
Vasili the Dark died on the 5th of March, 1462, from an unsuccessful treatment of burns. He outlived his chief counsellor, the metropolitan Jonas, by a year, the latter having died on the 31st of March, 1461.h
A REVIEW OF THE INTERNAL DEVELOPMENT DURING THE TATAR PERIOD
The beginning of the fourteenth century was the commencement of a new epoch in the life of Russia; in its two halves two empires began to chrystallize: that of Moscow in the east and that of Lithuania in the west, and the scattered elements began to gather around the new centres. Such a centre for eastern Russia was Moscow, until then an insignificant town, rarely mentioned in the chronicles, being the share of the younger and therefore less powerful princes. Under Daniel Aleksandrovitch the town of Moscow constituted the whole principality. With the acquisition of Pereiaslavl (1302), Mozhaisk (1303), and Kolomna (1308) this region became somewhat
'A son of Alexander Nevski.
more extended, but when it fell to the share of Ivan Danilovitch after the death of his brother Iuri, it was still very insignificant; and yet through its resources the princes of Moscow managed to become the first in eastern Russia and little by little to gather round them the whole of eastern Russia. The rise of the principality of Moscow is one of the most remarkable phenomena in the history of Russia. It is therefore not surprising that particular attention should have been directed towards it by historians, and by the light of their united investigations the phenomenon becomes sufficiently clear.
In the thirteenth century, under the domination of the Tatars in eastern Russia, there was a continual struggle amongst the princes for the title of grand prince, to which they also strove to unite the possession of Vladimir. We also observe another distinctive feature of the time, which was that the princes did not remain to live in Vladimir, but only strove to unite it to their own possessions, and thus augment them, and, if possible, secure them for their families. The struggle was for the preponderance of one family over another through the extension of its territorial possessions. In the Kievan period, whoever became prince of Kiev, removed to Kiev, and named someone of his own family as ruler in his own principality, so that if Kiev were lost and it should pass into another family, he would not lose his own patrimony.
During the Tatar period we note a new phenomenon: the princes did not merely separate themselves from their patrimonial lands, but even from their capitals; for instance: Iaroslav lived in Tver, Basil in Kostroma, Andrew in Gorodeza, Dmitri in Pereiaslavl, and so on. The power of a grand prince at that time was only a hegemony, a preponderance over other princes; as a testimony of their independence the other princes, the elders of their families (such as Riazan, Tver, etc.) began also to call themselves grand princes, and the preponderance of the grand prince of Vladimir little by little lost its significance. To all this there must yet be added another special circumstance, that in order for anyone to unite Vladimir and its territory to his possessions and thus obtain the predominance, a iarlik or letter of the khan was required; no rights were necessary and a wide field was open for every guest. Thus there appeared a new basis for the right of succession: the favour of the khan. To obtain this favour was the aim of all the princes, to keep it a peculiar art. Whoever possessed this art would be the head over all eastern Russia, and whoever could maintain this position was bound to subordinate all the rest to himself. In consequence of this, the first condition for success at that time was a dexterous tactfulness, and whoever possessed this quality must come out victor. This dexterousness was a peculiar distinction of the Muscovite princes, and in it lay the chief cause of their success. They had neither power nor higher rights, and all their hopes were founded on their own skill and the favour of the khan. They had no riches, and their patrimonial lands, poor and secluded, away from the great rivers which were then the chief means of communication, did not yield them large means.
But to ensure success with the khan, his wife, and the princes of the horde, money was necessary; so they became saving and scraping, and all their capacities were directed to the acquisition of gain. Their qualities were neither brilliant nor attractive, but in their position it was only by these sober qualities that anything could be obtained. Alexander Iaroslavitch (Nevski) pointed out to his successors that their policy should be to give way when necessary and to wait when uncertain. He who followed this
H. W.-VOL. XVII. M
counsel was successful; whosoever hurried, like Alexander Mikhailovitch (of Tver), was a loser in the game.
But while taking advantage of every means of influence at the horde, the Muscovite princes did not lose sight of those means by which they could also act within Russia itself. Ivan Danilovitch managed to induce the metropolitan St. Peter to come to Moscow, and his successors continued to reside in that town. The alliance with the spiritual power, the only power that embraced the whole of Russia, was of extraordinary advantage to the Muscovite princes.
The metropolitan could exert his influence everywhere. Thus Theognost closed the churches at Pskov when that city offered an asylum to Alexander Mikhailovitch, and St. Sergius did likewise at Nijni-Novgorod when it accepted a prince to whom Moscow was opposed. This alliance was a most natural one: if the princes needed the authority of the church, the clergy at that time the representatives of the most advanced ideas concerning the civil order sought to realise that order of which it stood in need even for its purely economic interests. There is not the slightest doubt that one of the chief causes of the devotion of the clergy to the views and policies of the Muscovite princes, lay in its conviction that it was bound to derive material advantages from the concentration of all power in the hands of one prince. In fact, while the system of appanages prevailed, it was, on the one hand, extremely difficult for the clergy to enjoy its possessions and privileges in security, because the maintenance of this security depended not on one, but on many; while on the other hand, the princes of appanages infringed on clerical privileges more frequently than the grand prince. The dispersion of the monastic estates over several principalities still further contributed to the desire of the clergy for the abolition of the appanage system, which increased the difficulties of managing those estates. Especially in the case of war among the princes of appanages, the clergy of one appanage might easily be deprived of its possessions in another appange, because at such a time all means of injuring the enemy were considered permissible.
In the increase of power of the Muscovite princes a leading part also belongs to the Moscow boyars, whose activity was principally displayed during the youth or minority of the grand princes.1
Such were the principal causes of the strength of the Moscow princes; to them should be added (according to the historians N. V. Stankevitch and S. M. Soloviov) the central position of the principality of Moscow, both in the
"The origin of the Russian aristocracy," says Turgenievs, quoting from Karamzin, “is lost in the most remote antiquity. The dignity of boyar is perhaps even more ancient than that of prince; it distinguished the knights and the most notable citizens, who, in the Slav republics, commanded the armies and administrated the country. This dignity appears never to have been hereditary, but only personal. Although in the course of time it was sometimes conferred by the princes, each of the ancient towns had nevertheless its own boyars, who filled the principal elective offices; even the boyars created by the princes enjoyed a certain independence. Thus, in the treaties of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, we often see the contracting parties confirming to the boyars the right of quitting the service of one prince to enter the service of another. Dissatisfied at Tchernigov, the boyar went with his numerous following to Kiev, Galitch, or Vladimir, where he found new fiefs and tokens of general respect. But when southern Russia had become transformed into Lithuania, when Moscow began to grow larger at the expense of the neighbouring principalities, when the number of princes possessing appanages began to diminish, at the same time that the sovereign's power over the people was becoming more unlimited, then the dignity of boyar also lost its ancient importance. Popular power was favourable to that of the boyars, which acting through the prince on the people, could also act through these latter on the prince. This support at last failed them. Nothing remained to the boyars but to obey their prince, or to become traitors or rebels; there was no golden mean to take, and in the face of the sovereign, no legal means of opposition existed. In a word absolute power was developing itself."