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[1508-1514 A.D.]

made an incursion on the estates of Zaberezhsky, killed him, and raised a revolt against the king. To this end he entered into relations with Mengli Girai, and Vasili Ivanovitch, on his side, sent one of his secretaries to propose to him to become the subject of Russia, and promising to leave him the lands which he might occupy. Glinski however still wavered and tried to effect a reconciliation with the king; finally losing all hope of this, he joined the grand prince's voyevods, who had marched up to the frontiers of Lithuania. To Glinski and the foreign princes in the Russian service was confided the task of devastating Lithuania, but the voyevods did not move to their help, for in Moscow it was counted advantageous to let others do its work. Meanwhile Sigismund sent an embassy, complaining of Glinski's reception by Vasili and of the opening of hostilities. The letter was written in the name of Helen, and in his reply to her the grand prince directed her attention to the constraint put upon the orthodox in Lithuania and enjoined her to remain firm in her faith. Sigismund received no aid from Mengli Girai, but nevertheless he began warlike operations, which however were limited to insignificant skirmishes. Finally a treaty was concluded by which all Ivan's acquisitions remained to Russia, and all that had been taken by Glinski was given back (1508). Glinski came to Moscow, where Medin and Maloiaroslavetz were given to him but he remained dissatisfied.

The peace of 1508 could not however put an end to the inimical relations between the two principalities: Glinski could not remain quiet until he was avenged on his enemies, and Lithuania could not be quiet so long as Glinski lived; while on his side Vasili Ivanovitch demanded better treatment for his sister Helen. Thus the relations between the two neighbouring states were strained. In 1509 Sigismund demanded the surrender or execution of Glinski, accusing him of the death of Alexander; in the same year he announced his connection with the Danish king; it can also be easily understood that each reciprocal embassy complained of frontier quarrels, as is always the case in such circumstances. In 1512 Vasili informed Sigismund that it had come to his ears that the voyevods of Vilna and Trotski had seized Helen and held her captive-which does not appear at all improbable when the unruliness of the Lithuanian lords is borne in mind-Sigismund denied the fact. That Helen officially received various rights, for instance that of a tribute or tax from the town of Bielsk, also does not prove that her position was a very advantageous one, for this was worth nothing more than other official favours. In 1513 Helen died and the metropolitan of Kiev was sent for to officiate at her funeral; thus this victim of political calculations left the scene. Helen herself, as far as can be judged from her correspondence with her father and brother, was possessed of considerable tact and energy.

At last a reason for beginning war presented itself; it became known at Moscow that the incursions made by the Crimeans on the Russian frontier territories in 1512 were the result of a secret treaty that had been concluded between Sigismund and Mengli Girai, by which the king had promised to pay the khan a yearly sum of 15,000 ducats to attack his enemies. Having sent Sigismund a declaration of war, Vasili began his warlike preparations. The time was well chosen. In 1511 Albrecht of Brandenburg had been chosen as Prussian grand master, and although he was a nephew of the Polish king he refused to acknowledge himself as his vassal, which he was obliged to do by the Treaty of Thorn; the emperor and the estates of the empire declared themselves for the grand master. Advised by Glinski, Vasili had entered into relations with the emperor as early as 1508, but the treaty between them was only concluded in 1514.

[1514-1518 A.D.]

Without waiting for the termination of these negotiations, the grand prince assembled an army and in December, 1512, took the field. He marched against Smolensk and having beseiged it unsuccessfully, returned in March, 1513. His second expedition, from June until November of the same year, was also unsuccessful, but in the third (June, 1514), Smolensk was at last captured. Vasili made a triumphal entry into the town, being received with an address of welcome by the bishop of Smolensk. He confirmed the rights that had been given to its inhabitants by the Lithuanian government; those in the Lithuanian service who did not desire to remain under him he sent back to Lithuania, and he appointed Prince V. V. Shuiski, governor of Smolensk. After the submission of Smolensk the prince of Mstislavl also submitted to the grand prince. Sigismund himself hastened to the deliverance of Smolensk. Glinski, probably dissatisfied because Smolensk had not been given to him, entered into secret intercourse with him. Learning of this treachery Vasili ordered Glinski to be brought in fetters to Moscow and sent a voyevod against the king; the king himself remained at Borissov and sent Constantine Ostrozhski to meet the Moscow troops.

The Russian voyevods, Tcheliadin and Prince Michael Golitza met Ostrozhski at Orsha on the Dnieper and sustained a terrible defeat. The fidelity of the boyars of Smolensk and of the bishop himself wavered and they entered into communication with Sigismund; but the burghers informed Shuiski of this treachery, and it was only the terribly energetic measures taken by him that preserved Smolensk for Russia: he ordered all the traitors except the bishop to be hanged on the walls of the city, the presents that had been given them by the sovereign to be suspended round the neck of each one. The assault on Smolensk was unsuccessful, and the war was afterward carried on feebly, which is explained by the exhaustion of Moscow after the battle of Orsha and the probable reluctance of the Lithuanian nobility to take an active part in it. After this Sigismund instigated the Tatars against Russia, in particular those of the Crimea, where in 1515 Mengli Girai had been succeeded by Muhammed Girai, who, notwithstanding his relations with Moscow, made in 1517 an attack on Tula and was repulsed. On his side Vasili strengthened his relations with Albrecht who kept his vassal, the grand master of Livonia, in check. However while Albrecht hesitated and demanded money, Vasili required that he should begin to act. The emperor, instead of beginning the war, as had been at first supposed he would do, offered his mediation, and it was with this aim in view that in 1517 the famous baron Sigismund Herberstein came to Moscow. Polish ambassadors also came; but with the news of their coming, Moscow also learned of the attack on Opochka by the Lithuanian troops and their repulse, and when Vasili heard of its failure he allowed the ambassadors access to him. The negotiations however came to nothing. The Moscow sovereign demanded Kiev and other towns, and the Lithuanian king refused to give up Smolensk. The death of Maximilian (1519) put an end to the imperial mediation; anyhow the emperor had not wished to give any real assistance: "It is not well"-he wrote to the grand master Albrecht-" to drive out the king, and make the czar of all Russia great."

In 1518 Albrecht again asked for money; the grand prince agreed, and at the former's request sent a notification of his alliance with him to the French king, Francis I-the first instance of intercourse between Russia and France. In answer to a fresh embassy from Albrecht bringing information of an invitation from the pope to join an alliance against the Turks, which Albrecht would not enter into without the grand prince's consent, an ambas

[1521 A.D.)

sador was sent to Koenigsberg from Moscow, who was received with the highest honours by the grand master. But Albrecht's help was not very efficacious; he was soon obliged to conclude a treaty with King Sigismund by which he acknowledged himself his vassal, in return for which he obtained Prussia as an hereditary possession, laid aside his title of grand master, and assumed a new title with his new faith, that of duke of Prussia.

The war at that time was limited to incursions, and Vasili Ivanovitch had even decided to seek peace; but the envoys that came would not make any concessions, only letting negotiations drag on in the hope of some event coming to their assistance; in this manner the war was prolonged until the Lent of 1521, when negotiations were to be again renewed; however they were not opened in Kazan reigned Sahib Girai, the brother of Muhammed Girai, and they both threatened Moscow, indeed the former advanced as far as Moscow itself (1521). The devastations of the Tatars weakened Russia for a time and the negotiations with Lithuania were renewed; although a lasting peace was not concluded, a truce was continued for five years without the exchange of prisoners, and by this truce Smolensk remained to Russia. In 1526, through the medium of the emperor's envoys, negotiations for a definitive peace were again opened, but Smolensk was an obstacle, neither side consenting to give up the town which was regarded as the key to Kiev. Smolensk was treated in the same manner as the other territories annexed; the inhabitants were transferred to Moscow as had been done with the inhabitants of Pskov and Novgorod, and it was for this reason that Smolensk stood by Moscow in 1612.


Besides the relations with Lithuania, the relations with the Tatars constituted the chief problem of the reign of Vasili Ivanovitch. At his accession his first enterprise was to send against Kazan an army, amongst the leaders of which was his brother Dmitri; the siege of Kazan (1506) was unsuccessful, nevertheless in 1507 Muhammed Amin sent a letter to the grand prince with proposals of peace. Intercourse with the Crimea originally bore the same character as in the time of Ivan; a difference was however soon observable; the Crimea had no longer anything to fear from the remnants of the Golden Horde, and the Crimeans were therefore ready to make friends with whatever state would give them most. "Intercourse between the Crimea and the states of Moscow and Lithuania"-justly remarks Soloviov-"assumed the character of a bribery of robbers."

Such being the condition of affairs, it is not surprising that in spite of the confirmation of the treaty concluded between Ivan and Mengli Girai, the Tatars should have begun their attacks. In 1507 they were defeated at the Oka, and in consequence of this, envoys were sent demanding presents, the liberation of Abdul Letiv, former czar of Kazan and stepson of Mengli Girai, and asking for assistance against Astrakhan. Vasili Ivanovitch liberated Abdul Letiv, gave him the town of Iuriev, and by an oath of alliance obliged him to promise faithfully to serve the czar, not to have relations with his enemies, not to permit his servants to plunder on the roads or insult the churches, to live at peace with the other princes, not to wage war against Kazan without permission, and not to leave the confines of the state of Moscow. In 1515 Mengli Girai died, and his son Muhammed Girai, who succeeded him, demanded from Vasili Ivanovitch not only the cession to the Polish king of Smolensk, at the acquisition of which without his knowledge he was

[1521-1523 A.D.]

much incensed, but also of those towns which had been taken by Ivan. After long delays and much trouble, many insults and, of course, presents, an oath of alliance was obtained of Muhammed Girai in 1519, but meanwhile the attacks of the Crimeans continued. The son of Muhammed Girai, the czarevitch Bogatir, laid waste the borderland of Riazan; and in 1517 the Tatars - notwithstanding the Russian offer of Koshira, bordering on the steppes, to Ahmed Girai, brother of the khan-penetrated as far as Tula, where they were repulsed.

The grand prince then proposed to the council (douma) the question whether relations with the Crimea should be maintained, and it was decided that they must be maintained in order to prevent the rupture from becoming an open one. Meanwhile in 1518 Muhammed Amin of Kazan died, and Abdul Letiv, who had previously been czar, died a month after him; at the request of the inhabitants of Kazan a czar was named from Moscow in 1519 -Shig Alei, a prince of Astrakhan, and descendant of the czars of the Golden Horde. The Crimean khan was greatly dissatisfied at this choice of one whose family was at an eternal enmity with his own. Shig Alei remained in Kazan until 1521 when the inhabitants, dissatisfied with him, formed a conspiracy and invited Sahib Girai, brother of Muhammed Girai, to come and rule over them. Having established his brother on the throne of Kazan, Muhammed Girai advanced towards Moscow. The grand prince, warned too late by his well-wishers at Azov, could not take the necessary measures, and left Moscow, confiding the defence of the city to the boyars and baptised Tatar prince, Peter; they entered into negotiations with the enemy and paid him a ransom. The heroic defence of Pereiaslavl in Riazan by Khabar Simski somewhat softened the mournful impression of this calamity, which was augmented by the fact that Sahib Girai had at the same time devastated the territories of Nijni-Novgorod and Vladimir. The khan was preparing to repeat his expedition, and the grand prince himself took the field in expectation of his coming, but he never came.

Another undertaking then occupied Muhammed Girai: in 1523 he joined the Nogaians and conquered Astrakhan. There the Nogaians quarreled with him and killed him; his place was taken by Saidat Girai, who sent the grand prince the following conditions for an alliance: To give him 60,000 altines (an ancient coin of the value of three kopecks) and to make peace with Sahib Girai; but Vasili seeing the devastation of the Crimea both by the Nogaians and the Cossacks of Dashkevitch, who had hitherto acted in concert with the Crimeans, rejected these proposals. To avenge himself on Sahib Girai, who had massacred the Russians in Kazan where blood flowed like water, Vasili himself came to the land of Kazan (1523), devastated it, and made the inhabitants prisoners; on his return he built the town of Vasilsursk. When in 1524 a great army was sent from Moscow to Kazan, Sahib Girai fled to the Crimea, and the inhabitants of Kazan proclaimed his young nephew Sava Girai as czar; the expedition from Moscow was however unsuccessful, although the people of Kazan, who had lost their artillery engineer, sued for peace.


Their dependence upon the grand prince was irksome to the inhabitants of Kazan; fresh disputes arose, Vasili brought on an intrigue, and Kazan soon asked for a new czar. Vasili named Shig Alei, who was at that time in Nijni, but when the people of Kazan entreated that his brother Jan Alei (Enalei), who then ruled over Kassimov, should be nominated in his stead,

[1533 A.D.] Vasili consented. Jan Alei was established at Kazan and Shig Alei was given Koshira, but as he did not keep the peace, and entered on negotiations with Kazan, he was exiled to Belozero. Disturbances took place in the Crimea; Saidat Girai was overthrown by Sahib, but the relations between the Crimea and Moscow remained the same; the Tatars continued to make insignificant raids and obtained presents. Nevertheless the Tatar messengers began to be less respectfully treated at Moscow: "Our messengers "-wrote Sahib Girai -"complain that thou dost not honour them as of old, and yet it is thy duty to honour them; whoever wishes to pay respect to the master, throws a bone to his dog." Of other diplomatic relations those with Sweden and Denmark bore the character of frontier disputes; the intercourse with the pope was entered upon through the desire of the latter to convert Russia to Catholicism and incite her to war against Turkey. The intercourse with the latter power had no particular results. It is curious to observe that at this period relations were entered into with India; the sultan Babur sent ambassadors (1533) with proposals of mutual commercial dealings.b

Each day added to the importance of Russia in Europe. Vasili exchanged ambassadors with the eastern courts and wrote to Francis I the great king of the Gauls. He numbered among his correspondents Leo X, Clement VII, Maximilian, and Charles V; Gustavus Vasa, founder of a new dynasty; Sultan Selim, conqueror of Egypt and Soliman the Magnificent. The grand mogul of the Indes, Baber, descendant of Timur, sought his friendship. The autocracy affirmed itself each day more vigourously. Vasili governed without consulting his council of boyars. "Moltchi, smerd!" (Hold, clown!) said he to one of the nobles who dared to raise an objection. This growing power manifested itself in the splendour of the court, the receptions of the ambassadors displaying a luxury hitherto unprecedented. Strangers, though not in large numbers, continued to come to Moscow, of whom the most illustrious was a monk from Mount Athos, Maxine the Greek.e


In the early days of his reign, when Vasili was examining the treasures left to him by his father, he perceived a large number of Greek church books which had been partly collected by former grand princes and partly brought to Sophia, and which now lay covered with dust in utter neglect. The young sovereign manifested the desire of having a person who would be capable of looking them over and of translating the best of them into the Slavonic language. Such a person was not to be found in Moscow, and letters were written to Constantinople. The patriarch, being desirous of pleasing the grand prince, made search for such a philosopher in Bulgaria, in Macedonia and in Thessalonica; but the Ottoman yoke had there crushed all the remains of ancient learning and darkness and ignorance reigned in the sultan's realms. Finally it was discovered that in the famous convent of the Annunciation on Mount Athos there were two monks, Sabba and Maxine, who were learned theologians and well versed in the Slavonic and Greek languages. The former on account of his great age was unable to undertake so long a journey, but the latter consented to the desire of the patriarch and of the grand prince.

It would indeed have been impossible to find a person better fitted for the projected work. Born in Greece, but educated in the enlightened west, Maxine had studied in Paris and Florence, had travelled much, was acquainted with various languages, and was possessed of unusual erudition, which he had

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