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[1462 A.D.]

sense that Moscow is near the sources of the chief rivers, and that an attack from without must first fall on the surrounding principalities. But these causes are evidently secondary and would have no significance without the others: Moscow is not so far from the other principalities that these advantages would belong to her alone. It was much more important that a wise policy, by preserving Moscow from the attacks of the Tatars, attracted thither an increased population and thus enriched the principality. A final important cause was the weakening of the Tatar horde and its dismemberment at the end of this period, of which the princes of Moscow did not fail to take advantage for their own ends.b


Karamsin, in relating the history of the invasion of Russia by the Mongols, makes some reflections on the consequences of the domination of these barbarians for the Russian people. In spite of his devotion to autocratic power, he cannot prevent himself from keenly regretting the liberty which this power had superseded.

"There was a time," he says, "when Russia, shaped and elevated by the unity of the sovereign power, yielded neither in force nor civilisation to the foremost of the European powers founded by the peoples of Germany on the ruins of the Western Empire. Having the same character, the same laws, the same usages, the same political institutions, which were communicated to Russia by the Varangian or Norman princes, she took her place in the new political system of Europe with some real claims to a great importance, and with the remarkable advantage of being under the influence of Greece, the only one of all the powers which had not been overthrown by the barbarians. This happy time for Russia, is that of Iaroslav the Great. Strengthened by both Christianity and public order, she possessed a religious teaching, schools, laws, an important trade, a numerous army, a fleet, unity of power, and civil liberty. What was Europe at the beginning of the eleventh century? The theatre of feudal tyranny, of the weakness of sovereigns, of audacity amongst the barons, of slavery in the peoples, of superstition and of ignorance. The genius of Afred and Charlemagne shone through the darkness, but soon faded away; their memory only has survived, their beneficent institutions, their generous intentions, disappeared with them.

"The shadow of barbarism, by veiling the horizon of Russia, hid Europe from its sight at the very time at which enlightenment was beginning to spread there; when the people began to shake off slavery, and the towns to contract alliances for their mutual guarantee against oppression; when the invention of the compass extended navigation and commerce; the time which saw the foundation of universities, in which fine manners began to soften, etc. During this period Russia, oppressed and torn asunder by the Mongols, was collecting all her forces merely that she might not perish. There was then no question of civilisation for the Russians. The rigours of the climate did not permit the Mongols to establish themselves in Russia as they had done in China and India. The khans wished to reign over Russia only from afar. But the envoys of the horde, representing the person of the khan, did what they chose in Russia; the traders, even the Mongol vagabonds, treated Russians as vile slaves. What was the natural consequence? Moral degradation. Forgetting national pride Russians learnt base cunning the ruses and bravado of the weak. They deceived the Tatars, and one another they deceived still more. While ransoming themselves at the price of gold from

[1462 A.D.] the oppressions of the barbarians, they became more greedy, and less sensitive to insults and to shame, exposed as they were to the violence of foreign tyrants. From the time of Vasili Iaroslavitch down to that of Ivan Kalita (that most unhappy period!) Russia resembled a black forest rather than a state; might appeared to be right; he who could pillage, pillaged, foreigners and natives alike; there was no safety, either on the roads or at home; robbery destroyed property everywhere. And when this terrible anarchy began to disappear, when the stupor and the terror had ceased, and law, which is the soul of society, could at least be re-established, it was then necessary to have recourse to a severity unknown to the ancient Russians. Light pecuniary fines had formerly sufficed for the repression of theft, but already in the fourteenth century, thieves were hanged. The Russian of Iaroslav's day knew no other blows than those he might receive in a private quarrel; under the yoke of the Mongols corporal punishment was introduced. It may be that the present character of the nation still offers traces which were impressed upon it by the barbarity of the conqueror. It must be remarked also that, together with other noble qualities, valour and military courage grew visibly weaker. Formerly the princes had struck with the sword; during this period they redressed their grievances by means only of baseness and complaints brought before the khans. If, after two centuries of such slavery, Russians have not lost all moral sense, all love for virtue, and all patriotism, let us thank the influence of religion; it is religion which has maintained them in the position of men and citizens, which has not allowed hearts to grow hard, and conscience to be silenced. Humiliated as Russians they again raised themselves under the name of Christians, and they loved their country as being a country of true believers.

The internal constitution of the state was changed; everything which was free, everything which was founded on ancient rights, civil or political, became extinct. After having humbly cringed to the horde, the princes returned to their homes as terrible masters, for they were commanding in the name of a supreme suzerain. That which could not be done either in the days of Iaroslav the Great or in those of Andrew and of Vsevolod III, was accomplished noiselessly and without difficulty in the time of the Mongols. At Vladimir and everywhere else, except Novgorod and Pskov, there was no longer heard the sound of the vetché bell, that manifestation of popular sovereignty; a manifestation which was often tumultuous, but dear to the descendants of Slavo-Russians. This right of the ancient towns was no longer known to the new towns, like Moscow and Tver, which became important during the Mongol dominion. Once only do the chronicles make mention of the vetché of Moscow and they speak of it as an extraordinary event when the capital, threatened by the enemy, and abandoned by the sovereign, found itself thrown on its own resources. The towns had lost the right of electing their chiefs, who, by their importance and the splendour of their elective dignity, had given umbrage not only to the princely dignitaries but to the princes themselves."

Wallace's View

The Tatar domination did not by any means Tatarise the country. The Tatars never settled in Russia proper, and never amalgamated with the people. So long as they retained their semi-pagan, semi-Buddhistic religion, a certain number of their notables became Christians and were absorbed by the Russian noblesse; but as soon as the horde adopted Islam, this movement was arrested.

[1462 A.D.]

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There was no blending of the two races such as has taken place and is still taking place between the Russian peasantry and the Finnish tribes of the north. The Russians remained Christians, and the Tatars remained Mahommedans; and this difference of religion raised an impassable barrier between the two nationalities.

It must, however, be admitted that the Tatar domination, though it had little influence on the life and habits of the people, had a very deep and lasting influence on the political development of the nation. At the time of the conquest Russia was composed of a large number of independent principalities, all governed by the descendants of Rurik. As these principalities were not geographical or ethnographical units, but mere artificial, arbitrarily defined districts, which were regularly subdivided or combined according to the hereditary rights of the princes, it is highly probable that they would in any case have been sooner or later united under one sceptre; but it is quite certain that the policy of the khans helped to accelerate this unification and to create the autocratic power which has since been wielded by the czars.c

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The great ruler who occupied the throne of Moscow at the end of the fifteenth century, was richly endowed with understanding; to his contemporaries he appeared more lucky than active, but meanwhile it was his active mind that directed all the complicated and tangled threads of the foreign and domestic relations. If his contemporaries did not always do justice to the great unificator of the land of Russia, neither is posterity always just to him. We must allow that much had been prepared by his predecessors, and this was also recognised by contemporaries; but it is nevertheless impossible not to acknowledge that Ivan towers far above his predecessors, both by his solution of ancient problems - the unification of Russia (which he had almost completed) and the throwing off of the Tatar yoke-and the raising of new ones. The ability to take advantage of circumstances places Ivan in the rank of great men. If we do not recognise his greatness, then we must apply the same judgment in part to Peter, who was largely only the more determined successor of his brother, father, and grandfather.- BESTUZHEV RIUMIN.


THE dynasty of the Muscovite princes, which commenced in the person of Ivan Kalita, and was preserved unbroken in the lineal descent, was fortunately strengthened by the accident of the longevity of his successors. The reigns of Ivan, of Simeon the Proud, of Dmitri Donskoi, of Vasili, and of Vasili the Blind, embraced a period of 130 years. During that time the people had become habituated to a right which saved them from the contests of rival competitors. So many protracted reigns had stamped the legitimate authority with an unquestioned ascendency, and with this growth of time its powers inevitably increased. The manners of the Russians were now


[1462 A.D.] formed under a rule in which the succession was fixed and immutable, and under which a progressive system of legislation was gradually assuming a compact and tangible form. The chaos of antagonistic principles of that misrule which is born of short-lived theories, of constant interruption, and unsettled governments - was rapidly dissolving; the light of defined administration and regulated power was rising upon the empire; and the people, who were now beginning to understand the benefits of constituted rights, were ready to support their maintenance.

Under these auspicious circumstances, Ivan III, or, as he is called by some historians, Ivan the Great, ascended the throne.

It was not to be expected that a liberal and enlightened government could at once spring from the materials which were accumulated in seasons of anarchy, relieved only by interstitial gleams of peace. The natural issue of a power purchased by enormous sacrifices, and reared up amidst difficulties, was unmitigated despotism. The grand princedom was erected in storms. Its power was built up by constant accessions won at the point of the sword, or procured by profligate bribery. It was not the growth of steady improvement, of public opinion, of the voluntary acquiescence of the people. It began by direct oppression, absolute tyranny, and open injustice. The acts of outrage which the grand princes committed in their efforts to sustain their authority were acts of necessity. They were placed in a situation of peril that exposed them equally to barbarian spoilers without, and insidious enemies within; and they were compelled to vindicate their authority by the force of arms and the arts of perfidy. Their whole career was a fluctuating war against a series of resistances. They conciliated less than they subdued, and the unity which was at last gained by perseverance in a mixed policy of violence and hypocrisy was more the bond of an interest in common, than the reasonable allegiance of a free people to a government of their own choice.

Throughout the struggle for the concentration of the supreme control in one head the church, as will already have been perceived, bore a prominent part. The authority of the clergy had gone on gradually assuming a more stern and arbitrary aspect, even while the political affairs of the country were undergoing daily vicissitudes. The evils that afflicted the state passed harmless over the church; and while the one was subjected to disasters that checked its progress towards prosperity, the other was constantly enlarging its powers, profiting by the misfortunes that surrounded it, and gleaning its share of the good fortune that occasionally improved the hopes of the people. In the early periods when Russia was merely the victim of her own dissensions, the church was freely admitted as a mediator, partly in virtue of her office as the dispenser of charity and peace, and partly from the veneration in which religion and its ordinances were held. When the Tatars invaded Russia, they perceived the mighty influence which the priests exercised over the passions of the people, and, fully persuaded of the wisdom of attaching to their cause an order of men who wielded so enormous a power, they increased their privileges, exonerated them from taxes, and placed such premiums of gain and protection upon the monkish habit, that the highest amongst the nobility, and many of the princes, embraced the clerical profession, and added their rich possessions to the revenues of the church. To such an extravagance was this estimation of the benefits of the cowl carried, that the majority of the grand princes took vows before their death, and died in the retired sanctuaries of the religious houses. The monks of the Greek religion, loaded with the spoils of friends and enemies, lived in fortified dwel

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