Ivan III the Great - History

Ivan III the Great - History

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In 1472 Ivan III- The Great, married the neice of the last Byzantine Emperor. The marriage, which took place ten years into his rule, increased Ivans prestige and helped him unify the various Russian principalities.

IVAN III (MUSCOVY) (1440 – 1505 ruled 1462 – 1505)

IVAN III (MUSCOVY) (1440 – 1505 ruled 1462 – 1505), grand prince of Muscovy. Ivan III Vasil'evich grew up during the dynastic civil war of his father's reign and went on to lay the foundations of Russian statehood and ethnographic territory.

After ascending the throne in 1462, Ivan expanded the territory of the Grand Principality of Moscow by annexing the small but crucial principalities of Yaroslavl' (1463), Rostov (1474), Tver' (1485), Vyatka (1489), and most importantly, the Novgorod republic (1478). Exploiting internal rivalries among the ruling elite of Novgorod, Ivan was able to annex it without serious fighting. He thus acquired the main Russian emporium for the Hanseatic League and the vast Russian north, rich in furs, salt, and forest products. Defections to Moscow of Russian princes on the Lithuanian border led to two wars (1487 – 1494 and 1501 – 1503) and the addition of Chernigov (Chernihiv), Novgorod-Seversk, and Byansk to Moscow. In 1480 Ivan's army confronted the Great Horde, a successor state to the Golden Horde, but the Horde retreated without a battle. The event provided a symbolic end to the supremacy of the heirs of the Mongols, by now weakened by internal feuds. After the death of his first wife, Maria of Tver', Ivan married Sofiia Paleologue, a Byzantine princess living in Rome. The 1472 marriage, encouraged by the Venetian Pope Paul II, brought new prestige to Moscow and, in Sofiia, a powerful figure to its court, where she remained until her death in 1503.

Ivan's policy rested on new state institutions that evolved from the princely household. Foremost in importance was the duma, the council of some ten or twelve men of the great aristocratic clans who ruled with the prince. The center of administration was the treasury, headed by a boyar from the Greek Khovrin family of the Crimea and comprising half a dozen secretaries and lesser staff. It not only kept and recorded revenues but acted as an archive of treaties, charters, and foreign policy, whose administration it handled. The court was headed by the majordomo, who managed Ivan's household as well as taking on larger judicial functions. These aristocrats worked well with Ivan until the 1490s, when the death of his eldest son occasioned a succession crisis. At first Ivan favored his grandson Dmitrii, who was even crowned in 1498. Almost immediately, however, Dmitrii fell from favor, and Ivan chose in his place Vasilii, his second son by Sofiia. As a result the greatest of the boyars, the princes Patrikeev, went into exile.

Under Ivan the army came to rest less on the retinues of the great aristocrats than on the new gentry cavalry, each given a pomest'e, a land grant conditional on military service. Lands confiscated in the 1490s from the old Novgorod nobility formed a large part of these grants. The law code of 1497 began the process of writing down Muscovite law, although it was still more of a procedural handbook for judges than a code.

Ivan's reign coincided with a period of ferment in the church. Autocephalous since 1448, the Russian Orthodox Church maintained correct, if strained, relations with the Greeks. The first challenge to its authority came from a small group of Novgorod clergy and Moscow lay officials called "Judaizers" by their opponents. They seem to have questioned monastic institutions, the devotion to icons, and some aspects of trinitarian doctrine. After some hesitation from Ivan, they were condemned and executed in 1504 – 1505. Their principal opponent, the abbot Joseph of Volokolamsk, was a staunch proponent of traditional monasticism and, after Ivan rejected the heretics, of princely power as well. At the same time the hermit Nil Sorskii advocated a more individual monastic piety and rejected the punishment of the heretics.

Ivan was the motivating force behind the construction of one of Russia's greatest architectural achievements, the Moscow Kremlin as we see it today. Almost entirely the work of Italian architects, the new building began with Aristotele Fioravanti's Dormition Cathedral (1475 – 1479), followed by the work of the Milanese Marco Ruffo and Pietro Antonio Solari, who built the Kremlin walls (1485 – 1495) in imitation of the Sforza castle in Milan. At the same time they constructed the princely palace, of which the Faceted Palace (1487 – 1491) still remains. Russian architects from Pskov built the Annunciation Cathedral as the palace church (1484 – 1489).

The new palace, churches, and fortifications reflected the Moscow principality's new position in the world. During these years the usage Rossiia ('Russia'), reflecting Greek antecedents, began to replace the older "Rus"' and to refer to the lands under Ivan's rule. Informal usage of the term "tsar" appears in some documents. Ivan III, more than any other ruler, laid the foundations for the later Russian state.

See also Duma Ivan IV, "the Terrible" (Russia) Russia Russia, Architecture in Russia, Art in Vasilii III (Muscovy) .


Ivan was born on 23 August 1740 at Saint Petersburg, the eldest child of Duke Anthony Ulrich of Brunswick-Lüneburg by his wife, Duchess Anna Leopoldovna of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the only niece of the childless Empress Anna of Russia, and the only granddaughter of Tsar Ivan V. [1] She had lived in Russia almost all her life, and her husband had also made his home in that country, in the expectation that they or their progeny would inherit the throne upon the death of the empress.

This expectation was fulfilled within two months of the birth of their first-born child. On 5 October 1740 the infant Ivan was adopted by his grandaunt (who was on her deathbed) and declared her heir apparent. The empress also declared that her longtime lover and advisor, Ernst Johann von Biron, duke of Courland, would serve as regent until Ivan came of age. Indeed, the desire to ensure that her lover would enjoy power and influence after her death was the primary reason that the dying empress chose to name as her heir the infant rather than his mother.

Empress Anna died soon thereafter on 28 October 1740. The following day the infant was proclaimed emperor as Ivan VI, Autocrat of All The Russias, and Biron became regent. However, the idea of Biron wielding power was not acceptable either to Ivan's parents or to most of the nobility. During his years as Anna's lover he had made many enemies, and was tremendously unpopular at court. Within three weeks Ivan's father had engineered Biron's fall. At midnight on 18/19 November 1740 Biron was seized in his bedroom by partisans of the royal couple and banished to Siberia (he was later permitted to reside at Yaroslavl). Ivan's mother, Anna Leopoldovna, was made regent, though the vice-chancellor, Andrei Osterman, effectively ran the government during her brief regency.

Ivan's reign, and his mother's regency, lasted thirteen months, for on December 6, 1741, a coup d'état placed Elizabeth of Russia on the throne, and Ivan and his family were imprisoned in the fortress of Dünamünde (13 December 1742) after a preliminary detention at Riga, from where the new Empress had at first intended to send the unhappy family home to Brunswick. In June 1744, following the Lopukhina Affair, the Empress transferred Ivan to Kholmogory on the White Sea where, isolated from his family and seeing no one other than his jailer, he remained for the next twelve years. When news of his confinement at Kholmogory circulated more widely, young Ivan was secretly transferred to the fortress of Shlisselburg (1756) where he was still more rigorously guarded, not even the commandant of the fortress knowing the true identity of "a certain prisoner". Throughout Elizabeth's reign her predecessor's name was subjected to a damnatio memoriae procedure all coins, documents, and publications bearing Ivan's name and titles were systematically confiscated and destroyed, and now are of an extraordinary rarity.

Upon the accession of Peter III in 1762, Ivan's situation seemed about to improve, for the new emperor visited and sympathised with his plight, but Peter himself was deposed a few weeks later. New instructions were sent to Ivan's guardian to place manacles on his charge, and even to scourge him should he become unmanageable.

On the accession of Catherine II, in the summer of 1762, still more stringent orders were sent to the officer in charge of "the nameless one" if any attempt were made from outside to release him, the prisoner was to be put to death. Under no circumstances was he to be delivered alive into anyone's hands, without an express written order in the Empress' handwriting. [2] By this time twenty years of solitary confinement had disturbed Ivan's mental equilibrium, though he does not seem to have been actually insane. Nevertheless, despite the mystery surrounding him, he was well aware of his imperial origin and always called himself Gosudar (Sovereign). Instructions had been given not to educate him, but he had been taught his letters and could read his Bible. Since his presence at Shlisselburg could not remain concealed forever, its eventual discovery was the cause of his demise.

A sub-lieutenant of the garrison, Vasily Mirovich, learned of his identity and formed a plan for freeing and proclaiming him Emperor. At midnight on 5 July 1764, Mirovich won over some of the garrison, arrested the commandant, Berednikov, and demanded the release of Ivan. His jailers, on orders of their commander, an officer surnamed Chekin, immediately murdered Ivan in compliance with the secret instructions already in their possession. Mirovich and his supporters were arrested and executed shortly thereafter. Ivan was buried quietly in the fortress, and his death secured Catherine II's position on the throne until her own son came of age.

Ivan's siblings, who were born in prison, were released into the custody of their aunt, the Danish queen dowager, Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, on 30 June 1780 and settled at Horsens in Jutland. There, they lived under house arrest for the rest of their lives under Juliana's guardianship and Catherine's expense. Although they were prisoners, they lived in relative comfort and retained a small "court" of forty to fifty people, all Danes except for the priest. [3]

Ivan III (the Great)

In the fourteenth century, the grand princes of Muscovy began "gathering" Russian lands to increase the population and wealth under their rule. The most successful "gatherer" was Ivan III (the Great r. 1462-1505), who conquered Novgorod in 1478 and Tver' in 1485. Pskov, which remained independent, was conquered in 1510 by Ivan's son, Vasilii III (1505-33). By the beginning of the sixteenth century, Muscovy had united virtually all ethnically Russian lands. Muscovy gained full sovereignty over the ethnically Russian lands in 1480 when Mongol overlordship ended officially, and by the beginning of the sixteenth century virtually all those lands were united. Through inheritance, Ivan obtained part of the province of Ryazan', and the princes of Rostov and Yaroslavl' voluntarily subordinated themselves to him. The northwestern city of Pskov remained independent in this period, but Ivan's son, Vasiliy III (r. 1505-33), later conquered it.

By completing the work of his predecessors in destroying the independence of the townships and the appanaged princes, Ivan III, or, as he is called by some historians, Ivan the Great, created the empire of Moscow. The form of government of this empire and all the outward surroundings of power were greatly influenced by the marriage of Ivan to Sophia, daughter of Thomas Paleologus, and niece of the last emperor of Byzantium, who brought to Moscow the customs and traditions of the Byzantine Empire.

The marriage of the sovereign of Moscow with the Greek princess was an event of great importance in Russian history. Properly speaking, an alliance with the Byzantine emperors was not a novelty, and such marriages, excepting the first of them - that of St. Vladimir - had no important consequences and changed nothing essential in Russian life. But the marriage of Ivan with Sophia was concluded under peculiar circumstances. In the first place, his bride did not come from Greece, but from Italy, and her marriage opened the way to intercourse between Muscovite Russia and the west. In the second place, the empire of Byzantium had ceased to exist, and the customs, political conceptions, the manners and ceremonies of court life, deprived of their original soil, sought a fresh field and found it in a country of a like faith - Russia.

As long as Byzantium had existed, although Russia adopted her entire ecclesiastical system, yet in political respects she had always remained purely Russian, and the Greeks had no inclination to transform Russia into a Byzantium now, however, that Byzantium no longer existed, the idea arose that Greece ought to re-incarnate herself in Russia and that the Russian monarchy ought to be a continuation by right of succession of Byzantium, in the same degree as the Russian Church was by order of succession bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of the Greek church. It happened opportunely that eastern Russia had freed herself from the subjugation of the Tatars precisely at the tune when Byzantium was enslaved by the Turks, and there arose the hope that the youthful Russian monarchy, strengthened ard consolidated, would become the chief mover in the liberation of Greece.

Ivan III was the first Muscovite ruler to use the titles of tsar and "Ruler of all Rus'." Gradually, the Muscovite ruler emerged as a powerful, autocratic ruler, a tsar. By assuming that title, the Muscovite prince underscored that he was a major ruler or emperor on a par with the emperor of the Byzantine Empire or the Mongol khan. Indeed, after Ivan III's marriage to Sophia Paleologue, the niece of the last Byzantine emperor, the Muscovite court adopted Byzantine terms, rituals, titles, and emblems such as the double-headed eagle.

Ivan competed with his powerful northwestern rival Lithuania for control over some of the semi-independent former principalities of Kievan Rus' in the upper Dnepr and Donets river basins. Through the defections of some princes, border skirmishes, and a long, inconclusive war with Lithuania that ended only in 1503, Ivan III was able to push westward, and Muscovy tripled in size under his rule. Internal consolidation accompanied outward expansion of the state. By the fifteenth century, the rulers of Muscovy considered the entire Russian territory their collective property. Various semi-independent princes still claimed specific territories, but Ivan III forced the lesser princes to acknowledge the grand prince of Muscovy and his descendants as unquestioned rulers with control over military, judicial, and foreign affairs.

Facts about Ivan the great

Ivan the great or Ivan III was the grand prince of Moscow from 1462 to 1505. He was one of the first sovereign to expand the territory of Russia and although the tsars of Russia are infamous for their tyranny and ruthlessness, once in a blue moon does one like Ivan the Great who was a good Tsar comes along and changes the path of the country.

Facts about Ivan the Great in a nutshell are:

At the time of Ivan III, the Russian states were called Muscovy and were a much smaller area than the Russia which emerged later.

Ivan the great is often confused with Ivan the terrible, his grandson, who ruled later from 1530 to 1584 and is better known for his blood thirstiness and cruelty. While Ivan the great started the expansion of the land, it was Ivan the terrible who unified it.

Ivan the great was the son of Vasily II and he learnt trick of his trade from his father as he ruled with him as co-regent before taking over in 1462.

He is often known as the ‘œgatherer of lands’ for starting a land expansion process.

He was the first to use the title ‘œTsar’ or’œThe Grand Prince of Rus’ for tripling the territory and laying the groundwork for the Russian state. He wanted to make Moscow the third Rome.

When his first wife died, he married Byzantine princess Sophia and from then onwards used the Byzantine two headed eagle as his seal. Sophia’s original name was Zoe, which she changed on arrival to Moscow.

During a time when Mongols were seen as a great terror in Russia, called Tartars, they were paid a Tartar tribute. Ivan the great terminated this tribute anddefeated the Golden Horde and their dominance over Russian areas. The Golden Horde was a Mongolian group led by Batu Khan, grandson of Jhengis Khan, so known for the colour of the tent he slept in.

Despite the myth of Russian rulers love for war, Ivan the great was wary of confrontations and avoided violent ones till absolutely necessary instead increasing his empire through a series of campaigns.

He was also interested in art and wanted to make the city of Moscow as beautiful as possible. To this purpose, he got the Moscow Kremlin renovated and also hired a group of Italian art and craftsmen to enhance the city.

He bought into effect a set of new laws or ‘œSudebnik’ to administer justice and manage internal conflicts in Muscovy, giving them the time to look beyond their own borders.

He died in 1505 at the age of 65 having ruled for 43 years, the longest reign in Russia’s history.

Ivan II was not mourned though as he had been a stern person and so had not developed close relations with anybody. He was well known, however, for reforms in administration. He awarded loyalty by granting land tenure for life and eliminated the powers of the hereditary warrior class or Boyars who were well known for exploiting people.

Ivan III

(1440–1505). Russian leader Ivan III was a grand prince of the powerful state of Moscow (Muscovy) from 1462 to 1505. Nicknamed Ivan the Great, he subdued most of the Great Russian lands by conquest and recaptured parts of Ukraine from Poland-Lithuania. Ivan also ended Moscow’s long subjugation to the Tatars (a mixture of Turks and Mongols), who had overrun Russia in the 13th century and exacted tribute from the Russian people.

Ivan Vasilyevich (his family name was Rurik) was born on January 22, 1440, in Moscow. He was born at the height of the civil war that raged between supporters of his father, Grand Prince Vasily II of Moscow, and those of his rebellious uncles. In 1446 Ivan’s father was arrested and was blinded by his cousin. Ivan was first hidden in a monastery and then smuggled to safety before being handed over to his father’s captors. Before the end of the year, however, both Ivan and his father were released. In 1452 Ivan was married (purely for political reasons) to the daughter of the grand prince of the state of Tver. During the last years of his father’s reign, Ivan gained experience in the arts of war and government. At the age of 18 he led a successful campaign against the Tatars in the south. Vasily II died on March 27, 1462, and was succeeded by Ivan as grand prince of Moscow.

Little is known of Ivan’s activities during the early part of his reign. In 1467 his childhood bride died (perhaps poisoned), leaving him with only one son. Since the state of medicine at the time was primitive, it was possible that Ivan’s son would die before he did. So, although Ivan’s brothers would have liked to see Ivan’s royal line end, another wife was sought for Ivan in order to produce more heirs. In 1469 Cardinal Bessarion wrote from Rome (Italy) offering Ivan the hand of his ward and pupil, Zoë Palaeologus, niece of the last emperor of Byzantium (see Byzantine Empire). In 1472 Zoë, who changed her name to Sofia when she arrived in Moscow, was married to Ivan in the Kremlin.

When Ivan became grand prince, many Great Russian lands were not yet under Moscow’s control, so he set out to annex or subdue these independent territories. In 1467–69 Ivan undertook a series of campaigns and conquered territories to the east. He then attempted to subdue the state of Novgorod and its huge northern empire. After repeated invasions, Novgorod formally accepted Ivan’s sovereignty in 1478, and by 1489 Ivan had complete control over the territory. Of the remaining Russian lands still technically independent in 1462, Yaroslavl and Rostov were annexed by treaty in 1463 and 1474, respectively. The state of Tver offered little resistance and meekly yielded to Moscow in 1485. Ryazan and Pskov alone retained their independence but were subservient to Moscow.

By 1480 Ivan was strong enough to refuse to pay the customary tribute to Khan Ahmed of the Tatars. Since Ahmed retained a friendship with Poland-Lithuania, Ivan strengthened his own position by forming an alliance with the Khan of Crimea. After a victorious campaign by Ivan, Ahmed withdrew his forces from Ivan’s dominions, and Ivan no longer considered himself a vassal of the Khan. Ivan was then able to begin his reconquest of Ukraine from Poland and Lithuania. By means of cunning diplomacy and shrewdly calculated aggression, Ivan had established Moscow as a great power.

In 1490 Ivan’s eldest son by his first wife died, and Ivan was left to decide who would be his heir—his eldest son’s son Dmitry (born 1483) or his eldest son by Sofia, Vasily (born 1479). For seven years Ivan wavered back and forth. Then, in 1497, he nominated Dmitry as heir. Sofia, anxious to see her son assured of the throne, planned rebellion against her husband, but the plot was uncovered. Ivan disgraced Sofia and Vasily and had Dmitry crowned grand prince in 1498. Two years later, however, Vasily rebelled and defected to the Lithuanians. Ivan was forced to compromise because he was at war with Lithuania and could not risk the total alienation of his son and wife. And so, in 1502, Ivan gave the title to Vasily and imprisoned Dmitry and his mother. Ivan died on October 27, 1505, in Moscow.

Ivan the Great: 10 interesting facts about the gatherer of the Russian lands

1. Ivan the Great was the regent for his father

Ivan the Great was born in January 1440. His father, Vasily II, was blinded during one of the wars. In order to reclaim the throne and continue ruling, he made Ivan his co-ruler and regent. An interesting fact about Ivan the Great is that he served as the co-ruler for at least 12 years. In 1462, after the death of his father, he was officially proclaimed the ruler of Rus’.

2. Ivan the Great engaged to Maria of Tver at the age of 6

When Ivan turned 6 years old, his father ordered to organize his engagement to Maria of Tver. She died in 1967. Poisoning is believed to be the cause of her death.

During his lifetime, Ivan the Great was married twice. In 1472, he married Sophia Palaiologina, a Byzantine princess. They had 12 children. At least two of their children didn’t survive infancy.

3. Ivan the Great considered Sophia to have been his biggest supporter

The marriage of Sophia and Ivan was a happy one. Sophia was a well-educated, intelligent woman. She implemented many new ideas in the life of Rus’. She often advised her husband on what actions would be beneficial to the development of Rus’. It was she who advised Ivan to stop paying the customary tribute to the grand Khan Ahmed, an interesting fact about Ivan the Great.

4. Ivan the Great ordered to rebuild the Kremlin

Ivan the Great invited several skilled Italian architects to renovate the Kremlin, the fortified complex in the very heart of Moscow. The program of renovation implied the design of the new Kremlin wall, reconstruction of several towers, construction of several cathedrals and erection of a new Palace.

5. Ivan the Great united all the lands of Rus’

Ivan the Great saw the potential that came from the unification of all Rus’ lands. Therefore, he made a decision to gain control over all the independent duchies that were parts of Rus’. He stripped the princes ruling those duchies off their titles.

The wars with the Republic of Novgorod were the biggest and most significant series of events that happened in the course of the Rus’ lands’ unification. The major cause of the wars was the political and religious independence of the Novgorod Republic. In 1470, the Novgorodians were defeated twice. One year later, a peace treaty was signed. The Novgorodians agreed to give to the winner a significant portion of their territories.

6. Ivan the Great had great diplomatic skills

Ivan the Great was a great diplomat. During his reign, the contacts with the Osman Empire, the Roman Empire, Venice and Denmark (Dania) were established.

7. Ivan the Great rejected the Tatar yoke

Since Ivan had refused to pay the customary tribute to the grand Khan Ahmed, a military campaign against Moscow was organized. Despite the efforts of Khan Ahmed, the campaign was unsuccessful.

The conflict that resulted in the Grand Stand on the Ugra River was resolved without any war actions. Why? Believe it or not, but the army of Khan Ahmed was unable to cross the Ugra River.

8. Ivan the Great ordered to compile a new law code that was called Sudebnik

Sudebnik was introduced in 1497. It was the first collection of laws implemented in the united Rus’. Sudebnik played a crucial role in the history of the Russian state. It eliminated the feudal fragmentation and laid the foundation for the nationwide Russian Law, an interesting Ivan the Great fact.

9. Ivan the Great was the first to call himself “tsar”

The title that Ivan awarded himself with was unofficial. He often used it in correspondence with the representatives of foreign kingdoms and republics.

10. Ivan the Great’s brothers started wars with him several times

Ivan had 4 brothers. The eldest of them died in 1472. Since he had neither children nor will, Ivan took the land belonging to him. Andrei the Younger died in 1481. The will he wrote clearly stated that his lands were to be inherited by Ivan.

Ivan often refused to share the lands he conquered with his brothers. This made his brothers Andrei the Elder and Boris furious. Under the support of Lithuania, they started wars with Ivan several times. All their efforts to overtake the power were unsuccessful. Ivan won both of the wars.

In 1491, Ivan ordered to arrest Andrei the Elder. Following his death in 1493, Ivan seized the lands belonging to him. Boris died one year later. He left his lands to his sons.


Ivan the Great died in 1505. He left all his lands to his son, Vasily, who became the next ruler of Rus’.

We hope that the facts provided above helped you to learn more about the role Ivan the Great played in the history of Russia. If you are interested, visit the Historical People Facts Page!

How did Ivan III influence the development of Russia?

Ivan the Great, also known as Ivan III, was both the first titled Tsar and an expansionist who expanded the influence of Moscow over a great deal of territory. Growing up, he served a long apprenticeship as co-ruler that prepared him to be a very productive and efficient leader.

Beside above, how did Ivan III centralize Russia Authority? At home Ivan's policy was to centralize the administration by stripping the appanage princes of land and authority. As for the boyars, they were stripped of much of their authority and swiftly executed or imprisoned if suspected of treason.

Thereof, what significant contribution to Russian history did Prince Ivan III make?

Ivan III (1440-1505), called Ivan the Great, was grand duke of Moscow from 1462 to 1505. He completed the unification of Russian lands, and his reign marks the beginning of Muscovite Russia. Born on Jan. 22, 1440, in Moscow, Ivan was the oldest son of Basil II.

What title did Ivan III use?

Ivan III was the first Muscovite ruler to use the titles of tsar and "Ruler of all Rus'." Gradually, the Muscovite ruler emerged as a powerful, autocratic ruler, a tsar.

The Grand Prince of Moscow beginning in 1325 was Ivan I. He was frugal. He had saved his money and was known as Ivan the moneybag. He bought property, enhancing himself economically.

A nearby rival town, Tver, rebelled against Mongol rule, and Ivan sided with the Mongols. The Mongols and Muscovites crushed the rebellion, around the year 1326, killing or enslaving many of Tver's inhabitants and ending Tver's chance to be supreme in Russia.

Ivan enhanced Moscow's prestige by creating a headquarters in Moscow for Eastern Orthodox Christianity while the world center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity remained at Constantinople. The Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Russia was called the Russian Eastern Orthodox Church.

Ivan I died in 1340. Ivan III, whose rule began in 1462, bought the town of Rostov, south toward Crimea and the Black Sea. He warred against Pskov &ndash a republican merchant town. And in the 1470s Ivan III extended his rule through warfare to Novgorod and its territories. Ivan exiled 1,000 wealthy families from Novgorod and replaced them with families from Moscow.

With Islamic rule having come to Constantinople, Church leaders in Moscow spoke of "Holy Russia" and described Moscow as the "Third Rome." Ivan III saw himself as the heir of Rome's emperors &ndash the word tsar (czar) being derived from the word Caesar. Ivan III saw Eastern Orthodox Christianity as the one true faith. All the Catholic kings in the West, he believed, were heretics.

In 1480 Ivan III felt strong enough to refuse to pay tribute to the Mongols. The Mongols were fighting among themselves, and Ivan was able to make his independence stick. He annexed Tver in 1485. He maintained friendly relations with the khan who ruled in the Crimea. And with passage through the Crimea, Ivan maintained communications with Islamic Constantinople. He was interested in trade and knew its benefits and the benefits of diplomacy, and in 1495 he opened an embassy in Constantinople.

Toward the end of the 1400s the area around Moscow and the rest of Europe was returning to the population levels that had existed before the Black Death. Earlier agriculture had been largely slash and burn. Now, with more people, agriculture around Moscow became what it was in the West: the three-field system, with the raising of farm animals. Farming was becoming more profitable around Moscow, and those with wealth, including enterprising monasteries, were absorbing more land.

A trend had begun: the rich were getting richer. The nobles were buying more land and less land was available to free peasants &ndash not only in Russia but elsewhere in Eastern Europe. In Russia, Ivan III gave land away as a reward for military service. These new landholders hired people to work their lands, and in 1497 Ivan III accommodated the landowners by limiting the rights of agricultural workers. More peasants in Eastern Europe were forced to labor on the estates of nobles and to give an exorbitant amount of their produce to the nobles as rent.

Ivan the Great becomes Grand Prince of Moscow

Ivan became Grand Prince on March 27th 1462, following the death of his father.

In the 13th century Moscow was the capital of a small state which paid tribute and provided forced labour to the Khans of the Golden Horde, Tatar masters of a an area stretching from eastern Europe to Siberia. Over time the Muscovite princes gradually expanded their territory until they gained independence under Ivan III, known as the Great.

Born in Moscow in 1440, Ivan gained first-hand experience of politics, family treachery and war from his childhood. A struggle for power was in progress between his father, Vasily II, and Vasily’s uncle Yuri and his sons, who seized Vasily in 1446 and blinded him. Ivan was handed over to his cousins, but Vasily soon regained power and trained Ivan to follow him. Becoming grand prince at the age of 22 on his father’s death, Ivan campaigned against the Tatars. His first wife, to whom he had been betrothed at the age of 12, died in 1467 and in 1472 he married the niece of the last of the Byzantine emperors and later took the Byzantine double eagle for his coat of arms. Meanwhile he succeeded in conquering the far larger principality of Novgorod to the north, which he claimed had allied with the Lithuanians against him. He shrewdly took over the ancient Novgorod Chronicle and made it a propaganda vehicle for his regime.

Other campaigns extended Ivan’s territory and in 1480 he succeeded in gaining independence from the Tatars. He dealt with a rebellion by two of his brothers, whose estates he annexed, and plots against him by his wife and their eldest son. He added part of the Ukraine to his domains and by the time of his death in Moscow at 65 in 1505 Ivan had tripled Muscovy in size and taken a grip on the running of his realm. Little is known about his personality, except that he enjoyed women and getting drunk, but he was a key figure in the evolution of modern Russia.

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