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Red Square in Moscow (1801) by Fedor Alekseev


WHILE Western Russia grouped itself around the Lithuanian state, which had given the conquered Russian provinces a new capital in Vilna, and soon involved them in its own union with Poland, Eastern Russia grouped itself around Moscow. When this double concentration on the Moskova and on the Vilna should be accomplished, Great Russia, proud of its national and religious unity, and Lithuanian Russia, or rather a foreign state composed of the Russian, Lithuanian, and Polish races, and of three religions, the Greek, Roman, and Protestant, besides the Jewish, would find themselves face to face. The contest of these two sister-enemies will fill many centuries of the history of the North. To other sovereigns, in other centuries, will fall the task of reconstituting the Russian unity in its fullest extent. The honor of the princes of Moscow is that they created the living germ which became Great Russia.

Around Moscow, under the Mongol yoke, a race was formed, patient and resigned, yet energetic and enterprising, born to endure bad fortune and profit by good, which in the long run was to get the upper hand over Western Russia and Lithuania. There grew a dynasty of princes, politic and persevering, prudent and pitiless, of gloomy and terrible mien, whose foreheads were marked by the seal of fatality. They were the founders of the Russian Empire, as the Capets were of the French monarchy.

The means used by the sovereigns of Russia were very different. Here we shall find no sympathetic figures like that of Louis the Sixth careering proudly in the narrow domains of France, capturing rebel castles in the face of the sun, of a Louis the Ninth, true mirror of chivalry, the noblest incarnation of the kingly ideal. The princes of Moscow gained their ends by intrigue, corruption, the purchase of consciences, servility to the khans, perfidy to their equals, murder, and treachery. They were at once the tax-gatherers and the police of the khans. But they created the germ of the Russian monarchy, and made it grow. Henceforward we have a fixed centre around which gathers that scattered history of Russia which we have had to follow in so many different places, in Novgorod and Pskof, in Livonia and in Lithuania, at Smolensk and in Gallicia, at Tchernigof and at Kief, at Vladimir and at Riazan. The mutilation of Russia, conquered on the west by the Lithuanians, enslaved on the east by the Mongols, was to facilitate the work of organization. In this diminished fatherland the sovereigns of Moscow could play more easily the part, of Grand Princes.

The extent of country which had by the middle of the fifteenth century escaped the Lithuanian conquest was very small. Without counting Smolensk, whose days were numbered, there remained the following principalities: Riazan, with its appanages of Pronsk and Pereiaslavl-Riazanski; Suzdal, with the towns of Vladimir, Nijni-Novgorod, Suzdal, Galitch in Suzdal, Kostroma, and Gorodets; Tver, situated on the Upper Volga, and chiefly made up of bailiwicks taken from Novgorod by the Grand Princes of Suzdal, with the towns of Rjef, Kashin, and Zubtsof; Moscow, shut in on the north by Tver, on the east by Suzdal, on the south by Riazan, nearly stifled by its powerful neighbors, like the France of the Capets between the formidable states of English Normandy, Flanders, and Champagne.

The name of Moscow appears for the first time in the chronicles at the date of 1147. It is there said that the Grand Prince Iuri Dolgoruki, having arrived on the domain of a boyar named Stephen Kutchko, caused him to be put to death on some pretext, and that, struck by the position of one of the villages situated on a height washed by the Moskova, the very spot whereon the Kremlin now stands, he built the city of Moscow. In the Capitol of ancient Rome the founder, Romulus, discovered the head of a man; the Capitol of Moscow, destined to become the centre of an empire, was sprinkled in its beginning by human blood. The name of a still-existing church, “Saint Savior of the Pines”, preserves the memory of the thick forests that then clothed both banks of the Moskova, on the space now covered by an immense capital. During the century following its foundation Moscow remained an obscure and insignificant village of Suzdal. The chroniclers do not allude to it except to mention that it was burned by the Tartars in 1237, or that a brother of Alexander Nevski, Mikhail of Moscow, was killed there in a battle with the Lithuanians. The real founder of the principality of the name was Daniel, a son of Alexander Nevski, who had received this small town and a few villages as his appanage. He increased his state by an important town, Pereiaslavl-Zalieski, that belonged to one of his nephews, and by the addition of Kolomna, which he took from the Riazanese. At his death, in 1303, he was the first to be buried in the Church of Saint Michael the Archangel, which till the time of Peter the Great remained the burying place of the Russian princes. He was followed, in due course, by his sons Iuri and Ivan.



The Volga in Tver


The first act of Iuri Danielovitch, who reigned from 1303 till 1325, was to capture Mojaïsk from the Prince of Smolensk, and to take the latter prisoner. Almost at the same time began the bloody struggle with the house of Tver, which, transmitted from father to son, lasted for eighty years. When Andrei Alexandrovitch, Grand Prince of Suzdal, died, in 1304, two competitors presented themselves, Mikhail of Tver, cousin-german of the deceased, and his nephew Iuri of Moscow. The claim of Mikhail was incontestable; was he not the eldest of the family? The boyars of Vladimir and the citizens of Novgorod did not hesitate to acknowledge him as Grand Prince; at Saraï, Tokhta the khan declared in his favor, and ordered him to be installed. Mikhail, who had on his side the national law and the sovereign will of the Mongols, could also use force; he twice besieged Moscow, and obliged the son of Daniel to leave him in peace. In this young man he had an implacable enemy. The chroniclers, indignant at Iuri’s revolt against the old hereditary custom, unanimously pronounce against him. While making due allowance for their efforts to blacken his character, we cannot help seeing that he was not a man to shrink from any crime. His father had taken the Prince of Riazan prisoner. He had him assassinated in his dungeon, and would have taken possession of his territories, if the khan had not ordered the rights of the young heir to be respected. Then Iuri caused himself to be recognized as Prince of Novgorod, to the prejudice of Mikhail, but the army of Tver and Vladimir defeated that furnished him by the republic. An unexpected event suddenly changed the face of things. The Khan Tokhta died; Iuri managed to gain the good graces of his successor Uzbek, so that the latter gave him his sister Kontchaka in marriage, and, reversing the decision of Tokhta, adjudged him the grand principality. Daniel’s son returned to Russia with a Mongol army, commanded by the baskak Kavgadi. Mikhail consented, say the chroniclers, to cede Vladimir, if his hereditary appanage were respected; but Iuri began to lay waste the country of Tver, and war was inevitable. Mikhail triumphed completely. The Tatar wife of Iuri, his brother Boris, the Mongol general Kavgadi, and nearly all the officers of the khan, fell into his hands. Mikhail covered his prisoners with attentions dictated by prudence. Kavgadi, released with honor, swore to be his friend, but, as the khan’s sister died, the enemies of the Prince of Tver set on foot a report that he had poisoned her. The cause of the two princes was carried before the tribunal of the khan. Whilst the indefatigable Muscovite went in person, with his hands full of presents, to the Horde, Mikhail had the imprudence to send his son, a boy twelve years old, in his place. Finding Iuri was occupied in accusing, intriguing, and corrupting, Mikhail at last made up his mind to follow him. Not unprepared for the lot that awaited him, he made his will, and distributed appanages among his children. He was accused of having drawn his sword against a baskak, envoy of the khan, and of having poisoned Kontchaka. These accusations were so manifestly absurd, that Uzbek deferred judgment. This, however, did not meet Iuri’s views, and, by means of intrigues, he obtained the arrest of his kinsman. The khan now set out for some months’ hunting in the Caucasus. Mikhail was dragged in the train of the court, loaded with irons, from Saraï to Dediakof in Daghestan. One day he was put in the pillory in the market of a thickly populated town, and the spectators crowded to see him, saying, “This prisoner was, a short time ago, a powerful prince in his own country”. Mikhail’s boyars had told him to escape; he refused, not wishing his people to suffer for him. Iuri was so energetic, and scattered about so much money, that, finally, the death-warrant was signed. One of Mikhail’s pages entered the tent which served him as a prison, in great alarm, to tell him that Iuri and Kavgadi were approaching, followed by a multitude of people. “I know the reason,” replied the prince; and he sent his young son Konstantin to one of the khan’s wives, who had promised to take him under her protection. His two enemies took their stand near his tent, dismissed the boyars of Tver, and sent their hired ruffians to assassinate the prince. They threw him down, and trampled him under their feet. As in the case of Mikhail of Tchernigof, it was not a Mongol that stabbed him and tore out his heart, but a renegade named Romanets. When Iuri and Kavgadi entered and contemplated the naked corpse, “What,” said the Tartar, “will you allow the body of your uncle to be outraged?” One of Iuri’s servants threw a mantle over the victim. His death took place in 1318. Mikhail was bewailed by the Tverians. His body, incorruptible as that of a martyr, was afterwards deposited in a silver shrine in the Cathedral of Tver. He became a saint, and the patron of his city. On the walls of the cathedral ancient and modern pictures recall his martyrdom, and condemn the crime of the Muscovite. All the contemporary chroniclers warmly take his part against the assassin. Karamsin has made himself the echo of their apologies and curses. But at the same time that Mikhail became a saint Iuri became the all-powerful sovereign of Moscow, Suzdal, and Novgorod. Mikhail’s tragic fate foretold the ruin of Tver.


The Monastery of St. Nil' on Stolobnyi Island in Lake Seliger in Tver' Province, northwest of Moscow, illustrates the fate of church institutions during the course of Russian history. St. Nil (d. 1554) established a small monastic settlement on the island around 1528. In the early 1600s his disciples built what was to become one of the largest, wealthiest, monasteries in the Russian Empire. The monastery was closed by the Soviet regime in 1927, and the structure was used for various secular purposes, including a concentration camp and orphanage. In 1990 the property was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and is now a functioning monastic community once more."


Some years afterwards things were reversed at the Horde. Dmitri of the Terrible Eyes, son of the unhappy Mikhail, obtained the title of Grand Prince, and the baskak Seventch Bonga was charged to place him on the throne of Vladimir. Iuri found himself obliged to go again to Saraï; there the two rivals, Dmitri of Tver and Iuri of Moscow, met. Dmitri had his father to avenge; his sword leaped from the scabbard, and the Prince of Moscow fell mortally wounded, in 1325. All that his friends could obtain was that Dmitri should be put to death. The latter was succeeded in Vladimir by his brother Alexander.

Unluckily for the house of Tver, the following year the Tverians, exasperated by the baskak Shevkal, rose in rebellion and murdered him and all his suite. Alexander, instead of imitating the firm prudence of his Muscovite neighbors, allowed himself to be carried away by the popular passion. He himself assaulted the palace of the baskak, and lighted the fire. After such an action, he had no pity to expect from the khan; and if Uzbek could have forgotten the insult to his majesty, the princes of Moscow would have kept him in mind of it. Iuri’s brother, Ivan Kalita, offered to complete the ruin of Tver. Uzbek promised him the title of Grand Prince, and gave him an army of fifty thousand Tartars, to whom were joined the contingents of Moscow and Suzdal. Alexander, who had not had the wisdom to resist his people, had likewise not the courage to defend them and die with them. He fled, with his brothers, to Pskof and Ladoga. Pitiless was the vengeance of the khan and the vengeance of Moscow. Tver, Kashin, and Torjok were sacked. Novgorod had to buy itself off by a war indemnity. Not content with exterminating the Tverians, Uzbek put to death at the same time the Prince of Riazan, son of that Prince Iaroslaf whom Iuri Danielovitch had murdered in prison. The Horde and Moscow seemed to have the same enemies,—they struck in concert. It is remarkable that it was in the blood of the martyrs Mikhail of Tver and Dmitri “with the terrible eyes” that “holy Russia” came to her growth.

Ivan Kalita became Grand Prince in 1328, and made the journey to the Horde with Mikhail’s son Konstantin, who had replaced the fugitive Alexander on the throne of Tver. Ivan was well received, but Uzbek commanded him to make Alexander appear before him. The ambassadors of the Grand Prince went to , to conjure Alexander to appear, or to summon the Pskovians to deliver him up. “Do not expose,” they said, “a Christian people to the wrath of the infidels.” But the Pskovians, touched by the prayers of the Prince of Tver, replied, “Do not go to the Horde, my lord; whatever happens, we will die with you”. As magnanimous as the Novgorodians at the time of Alexander Nevski, as heroically absurd, they ordered the ambassadors to be gone, took up arms, and built a new fortress near Izborsk. Ivan assembled an army and persuaded the Metropolitan Theognostus to place Alexander and the Pskovians under an interdict. Thus men saw a Christian prince persecute one of his kinsmen by order of the Tartars, and a metropolitan excommunicate the Christians to force them to obey the khan. The Pskovians, though alarmed, would not yield an inch; but Alexander left them and took refuge in Lithuania in 1329. Then they said to the Grand Prince, “Alexander is gone; all Pskof swears it, from the smallest to the greatest, popes, monks, nuns, orphans, women, and children.”

Alexander afterwards returned, and was again recognized by them as their prince, but still regretted his good city of Tver. The protection of the Lithuanian Gedimin was too dangerous and too burdensome. Alexander thought it would be easier to bend the terrible Uzbek. He went to the Horde with his boyars. “Lord, all-powerful Tsar,” he said to Uzbek, “if I have done anything against you, I have come hither to receive of you life or death. Do as God inspires you; I am ready for either.” The khan pardoned him, and Alexander returned to Tver. Ivan Kalita had hoped he had forever got rid of him. In Alexander’s absence he was the master of Russia, had in­terfered in the affairs of Tver, married one of his daughters to Vladimir of Iaroslavl and another to Konstantin of Rostof, brother of the banished prince. The return of Alexander gave a chief to those who were discontented with Ivan. Instead of declaring war, Ivan preferred to resort to his ordinary means. He flew to the Horde, and there represented Alexander as the most dangerous enemy of the Mongols. In consequence of these insinuations Alexander was summoned before the khan; this time he was beheaded, with his son Feodor. The rivalry with Moscow had already cost four princes of the house of Tver their lives. Uzbek, who had confidence only in Moscow, and who wished to govern the rest of Russia by terror, about this time put the Prince of Starodub to death. The princes Konstantin and Vasili of Tver, sons, brothers, and uncles of the victims, felt that they could maintain themselves only by obedience to their terrible father-in-law. As a proof of submission they sent to Kalita the great bell of the Cathedral of Tver. The princes of Riazan and Suzdal were also obliged to fight under his standards. Novgorod, threatened by him, began the course which afterwards proved so fatal, and which almost brought about the ruin of Russia; it allied itself with Lithuania, accepted as prince Narimond, a son of Gedimin, and gave him the Novgorodian possessions in Ingria and Karelia as hereditary appanages. It tried also to make friends with the Grand Prince of Moscow, but Ivan desired only to restrict its liberties, and exacted, in the name of the khan, a double capitation-tax.

This unwarlike prince, at the same time that he strengthened his supremacy, acquired by purchase the towns of Uglitch, Galitch, Bielozersk, and lands in the neighborhoods of Kostroma, Vladimir, and Rostof. He was at once Prince of Moscow and Grand Prince of Vladimir; but Moscow was his inheritance, of which he could not legally be despoiled by the khan, while Vladimir could be given to another house. It was thus that in Germany the archduchy of Austria was hereditary, while the imperial crown might legally pass to another family. It may therefore be imagined how Kalita chose to sacrifice Vladimir to Moscow, as the Hapsburgs sacrificed Frankfort to Vienna. His Tverian rivals, the two grand princes, his predecessors, had acted in the same way. Mikhail and Dmitri of Tver had hardly appeared at Vladimir, except to be crowned in the cathedral. They lived habitually in their appanage towns, one at Tver, the other at Pereiaslavl. Under Kalita, Vladimir remained the legal capital of Russia; Moscow was the real capital, and Kalita was working to make it the legal as well as the actual capital. The Metropolitan of Vladimir, Peter, who had an affection for Moscow, often resided there. His successor, Theognostus, established himself there completely. Then the religious supremacy which had first belonged to Kief, and next to Vladimir, passed to Moscow. Kalita did his best to give it the prestige of a metropolis. He built magnificent churches in the Kremlin, among others that of the Assumption, the Uspienski sobor. The first Metropolitans of Moscow, thanks to him and his successors, were beatified. Saint Alexis and Saint Peter are reckoned among the patron saints of Russia. It is related that the Metropolitan Peter himself marked out the place of his tomb in the new church, and that he said to Ivan, “God will bless you, and elevate you above all the other princes, and raise this town above all other towns. Thy race will reign in this place during many centuries; their hands will conquer all their enemies; the saints will make their dwelling here, and here shall my bones repose.”

What made the chief glory of Kief, the ancient metropolis, was the famous Petcherski monastery, with its holy catacombs and the tombs of so many ascetics and wonder-workers. Moscow had also its heritage of virtues and glorious austerity. Under Kalita’s successor, not far from the capital, in a deep forest, where he had at first no companion but a bear, on water­courses which were haunted only by the beavers, Saint Sergius founded the Troitsa, or monastery of the Trinity, which became one of the richest and most venerated of Eastern Russia. On account of its increase of wealth, it was obliged to be surrounded with ramparts; and its thick brick walls with a triple row of embrasures, its nine war-towers, and its still existing fortifications, were afterwards destined to brave the assaults of Catholics and infidels. The princes of Moscow, in spite of their perfidious and pitiless policy, were as pious as good King Robert, devotees, alms-givers, indefatigable in building churches and monasteries, in honoring the clergy, and in helping the poor. The surname of Kalita given to Ivan comes from the kalita, or alms-bag, he wore always at his girdle. This kalita may also have been Shylock’s purse, the bag of a prince who was farmer-general and usurer, who demanded from Novgorod double what he intended to pay on its behalf to Uzbek. Ivan liked to converse with the monks in his Convent of the Transfiguration. Like all the other princes of the house, he took care, when at the point of death, to be tonsured and adopt the religions dress and a new name.

If the princes of Moscow labored with fierce energy to bind together the Russian lands under one head, they continued to divide it into appanages among their sons. But many causes contributed to prevent the return of the former anarchy. These princes, as a rule, had few sons; they gradually got into the way of giving only very weak appanages to the younger ones, and these on condition of an absolute dependence on the eldest. Ivan, for example, had only three sons; he gave by far the larger share, Mojaisk and Kolomna, to Simeon, and forbade Moscow to be divided. The idea of the state as one and indivisible was certain to gain the day.

The Trinity Cathedral




Kalita was succeeded by his two sons one after the other: Simeon the Proud reigning from 1341 to 1353, and Ivan the Second from 1353 to 1359. They were all three contemporaries of the early Valois. At the news of Ivan’s death many princes at once disputed the throne of Vladimir with his sons. Konstantin of Tver and Konstantin of Suzdal, especially, were supported by the other princes who did not desire the title of Grand Prince to be perpetuated in the house of Moscow. They went to the Horde at the same time that Simeon and his two sons travelled thither. Simeon owed his success neither to his eloquence nor his arguments, but to the treasure of his father, which won over the infidels. After being crowned in the Cathedral of Vladimir, he swore to live in harmony with his two brothers, and exacted from them the same oath. While pushing his submission to the khan to the verge of baseness, he domineered over the Russian princes with a haughtiness that gained for him the surname of “the Proud.” He forced Novgorod to pay him a contribution, and, in his capacity of supreme head of Russia, confirmed the liberties of the republic. He was the first who assumed the title of “Grand Prince of all the Russias,” which was little justified by the facts, as in 1341 Olgerd of Lithuania besieged the town of Mojaisk, Simeon’s own appanage. The friendship of Saint Alexis, third Metropolitan of Moscow, gave him great moral aid. In his reign Boris, a Russian artist, cast bells for the cathedrals of Moscow and Novgorod; three churches of the Kremlin were adorned with new paintings,  that of the Assumption, by Greek artists; that of Saint Michael, by the Court painters; that of the Transfiguration, by a foreigner named Goiten. Paper replaced parchment; and it was on paper that Simeon’s will was written. Russia then still maintained its old relations with Byzantium, and entered into new ones with Europe. Simeon died of the famous “black death,” or “black pestilence,” which at this time desolated the West.

Ivan the Second, the brother who succeeded the Proud in 1355, deserves, on the contrary, the surname of “the Debonair.” He was of a different type from the sinister princes of Suzdal, and was pacific and gentle. The anarchy into which Russia fell during the six years of his reign shows how little his virtues were those of his century. Without attempting to avenge himself, Ivan permitted Oleg of Riazan to insult his territory, burn his villages of the Lopasnia, and ill-treat his lieutenant. He allowed the Novgorodians to despise his authority and obey Konstantin of Suzdal; he let the Grand Duke Olgerd occupy Rjef, and Andrei of Lithuania menace Pskof. He interfered neither in the civil wars of the princes of Riazan, nor in those of the principality of Tver, nor in the troubles excited at Novgorod by the rivalry of the Slavonian quarters and that of Saint Sophia, nor in the storm raised in the Church by the Patriarch of Constantinople, who dared to consecrate a rival of Saint Alexis as Metropolitan. The murder of one of his officers, Alexis, military governor of Moscow, remained unpunished. In this weakness of the prince, the churchmen naturally came to the front, and took up the part abandoned by him. Moses, Archbishop of Novgorod, quelled a revolt in the republic; Saint Alexis reconciled the princes of Tver, and acquired, by a miraculous cure, great power in the Horde, by which he profited to protect his people and his prince. At the death of Ivan the Second the title of Grand Prince, which his three predecessors had made such efforts to perpetuate in the house of Moscow, passed to that of Suzdal. Dmitri of Suzdal, furnished with the iarluik, made his solemn entry into Vladimir in 1359. It was again Saint Alexis who saved the supremacy of Moscow. After having blessed the Grand Prince in Vladimir, he returned to his care of the young children of Ivan the Second, and to Moscow, which had for a moment ceased to be the capital. It was by his counsels that Dmitri Ivanovitch, at the age of twelve, dared to declare himself the rival of Dmitri of Suzdal, and determined to appeal to the tribunal of the khan.

The Golden Horde was then a prey to civil wars; the ferocious Mamaï harassed Murut, but as the latter reigned at Sarai, and seemed the legitimate successor of Batui, it was to him that the Suzdalian and Muscovite boyars addressed themselves. Murut adjudged the Grand Principality to Dmitri Ivanovitch, Kalita’s grandson, whom a Muscovite army led to be consecrated in Vladimir.



Dmitri Ivanovitch, who reigned from 1363 until 1389, is distin­guished from nearly all the Suzdal princes by a warlike and chivalrous character worthy of the West. He proves that the Russian soul had been only repressed, not rendered depraved and servile, by the Tartar yoke, and that Slav chivalry only awaited an opportunity to raise the cry of war, and make their swords flash like the preux chevaliers of Louis the Ninth or of John the Good. Dmitri had at once to sustain a series of wars against the neighboring princes; notably against Dmitri of Suzdal, Mikhail of Tver, and Oleg of Riazan. As changes took place at the Horde, Dmitri of Suzdal obtained from the Khan Murut a reversal of his first decision, and returned to Vladimir. The Prince of Moscow, who feared this feeble khan no longer, did not hesitate to take up arms, and to expel his rival from Vladimir. A treaty was agreed on between them. The Suzdalian appanage of Nijni-Novgorod having become vacant, Dmitri supported his ancient enemy against his co­petitor Boris. Like his grandfather Kalita, who had caused Novgorod to be excommunicated, Dmitri Ivanovitch entreated Saint Sergius, the founder of the Troitsa Monastery, to lay Nijni-Novgorod under an interdict. Then Boris yielded, and Dmitri of Suzdal, now Prince of Nijni-Novgorod, gave the Prince of Moscow his daughter Evdokia in marriage, and henceforward remained his friend. Dmitri Ivanovitch deprived the rebel princes of Starodub and Galitch of their appanages, and forced Konstantin Borisovitch to recognize his supremacy. He made, under the guaranty of Saint Alexis, a treaty with his cousin, Vladimir Andrievitch, by which he undertook to hand over to him the appanage that Kalita had secured to his father, and by which Vladimir engaged to acknowledge him as his father and his Grand Prince. Vladimir kept his word, and was always Dmitri’s bravest lieutenant and his right arm.

The struggle now recommenced with the house of Tver. Mikhail Alexandrovitch, whose father had been killed at the Horde, disputed the throne with one of his uncles. The Grand Prince and the Metropolitan of Moscow took the part of the latter. Mikhail paid no attention to this decision, took Tver with a Lithuanian army, besieged his uncle in Kashin, and obliged him to renounce his claims. He then took the title of Grand Prince of Tver. It was chiefly the alliance with Olgerd, the husband of his sister Juliana, that rendered him formidable. Thrice—in 1368, in 1371, and in 1372—Olgerd conducted his brother-in-law, burning and pillaging on his way, up to the walls of the Kremlin of Moscow. Neither the Lithuanian nor the Muscovite army on any of these occasions fought a decisive battle. Dmitri’s boyars felt that a lost battle would be the ruin of Russia; while Olgerd was too old and experienced to stake all on a hazard. At last, in 1375, after the death of his brother-in-law, Mikhail found himself besieged in Tver by the united forces of all the vassals and allies of Dmitri and of the Novgorodians who had the sack of Torjok and the devastation of their territory to avenge. Reduced to extremities, and abandoned by Lithuania, he was constrained to sign a treaty by which he engaged to regard Dmitri as his “elder brother,” to renounce all claim to Novgorod and Vladimir, not to disquiet the allies of Moscow, and to imitate Dmitri’s conduct towards the Tatars, whether he continued to pay tribute or declared war.

Another enemy, not less dangerous, was Oleg of Riazan, who had formerly braved Ivan the Debonair. In 1371 the Muscovites defeated Oleg and installed a prince of Pronsk in his capital, who was not, however, strong enough to maintain his position. If Tver was sometimes supported by Lithuania, Riazan had often the Horde as an ally.

The Empire of Kiptchak was gradually falling to pieces. Many competitors disputed the throne of Saraï. The Tartars acted after their kind, and invaded the Russian territory in disorderly style. It is true it was no longer a point of honor with the Christian princes to submit to them. Oleg of Riazan himself united with the princes of Pronsk and Kozelsk, and defied the Tartar prince Tagai, who had burnt Riazan. Dmitri of Suzdal, Prince of Nijni-Novgorod, had defeated Bulat-Temir, who on his return to the Horde had been disavowed and put to death. Finally, Dmitri of Moscow had many times disobeyed the terrible Mamaï. He had, however, the courage to answer to the summons of the khan, and the good fortune or the cleverness to return to Moscow safe and well in 1371. In thirteen 1376 Dmitri sent a great expedition against Kazan by the Volga, and forced two Tatar princes to pay tribute. Conflicts multiplied between the Christians and the infidels. In this manner the princes of Suzdal exterminated a band of Mordva, and delivered up their chiefs to be torn in pieces by the dogs of Novgorod; in return, Mamaï ordered the town to be burnt. In 1378, Dmitri of Moscow gained a brilliant victory over Mamaï’s lieutenant on the banks of the Voja in Riazan. In the first intoxication of victory he cried, “Their time is past, and God is with us!”. The khan in his blind fury caused his anger to fall on Oleg of Riazan, the rival of Dmitri Ivanovitch, who fled, abandoning his lands to the ravages of the enemy.

It took Mamaï two years to mature his plans of vengeance, and he assembled in silence an immense host of Tatars, Turks, Polovtsui, Tcherkesui, Iasui, and Burtanians, or Caucasian Jews. Even the Genoese of Kaffa, settled in the Crimea and on the territory of the khan, furnished a contingent. In these critical circumstances for Russia, Oleg of Riazan, forgetting his grievances against the Tatars, and remembering only his mistrust and jealousy of Moscow, betrayed the common cause. While keeping on good terms with Dmitri, even while warning him of what was preparing, he secretly negotiated an alliance between the two most formidable enemies of Russia,—Iagello of Lithuania and Mamaï. The Grand Prince’s army would probably be crushed between them; but Dmitri did not lose heart. The desire of vengeance awakened in the Russians with the force of religious enthusiasm. At the call of the Grand Prince the princes of Rostof, Bielozersk, Iaroslavl, Starodub, and Kashin, with their drujinni; the boyars of Vladimir, Nijni-Novgorod, Suzdal, Pereiaslavl-Zalieski, Kostroma, Murom, Dmitrof, Mojaisk, Zvenigorod, Uglitch, and Serpukhof, at the head of their contingents, successively made their entrance into the Kremlin, amid the acclamations of the Muscovites. At Kostroma, Dmitri was to be joined by two Lithuanian princes,—Andrei and Dmitri,—who brought him troops from Pskof and Briansk. The Grand Prince, with his cousin Vladimir, went to the hermitage of Troitsa to ask the benediction of Saint Sergius. The latter predicted that he would gain the victory, but that it would be a bloody fight. He sent two of his monks, Alexander Peresvet and Osliaba, formerly a brave boyar of Briansk, to accompany Dmitri. On their cowls he made the sign of the cross. “Behold,” he cried,  a weapon which never faileth.” The Prince of Tver had taken good care not to send his contingent, and the treason of the Prince of Riazan now became known. The hearts of the Russians beat with joy and enthusiasm at the thought of revenge. In spite of private jealousies, the princes were animated by the same ardor as the Spanish kings when they marched against the Moors, or the companions of Godfrey of Bouillon on the road for the Holy Land. Never had such an army been seen in Russia. Dmitri is said to have had one hundred and fifty thousand men.

They crossed the country of Riazan, then under a craven prince, and reached the banks of the Don. The princes debated as to whether it was necessary to cross the river immediately; but it was urgent to dispose of the Mongols before having on their hands Iagello, who had already arrived at Odoef, fifteen leagues off. A letter which Dmitri received from Saint Sergius, recommending him to “go forwards”, decided the matter. The Don was crossed, and they found themselves on the plain of Kulikovo, or the Field of Woodcocks, watered by the Nepriadva. The centre was occupied by the princes of Lithuania and Smolensk, with Dmitri’s drujina; the right was commanded by the princes of Rostof and Starodub, the left by those of Iaroslavl and Vologda; the reserve by Prince Vladimir, the brave Dmitri of Volhynia, and the princes of Briansk and Kashin. The Mongols soon came up, and the battle began. It was bloody and hard fought. The enemy had broken through the Grand Prince’s drujina when Vladimir and Dmitri of Volhynia, who had been lying in ambush, suddenly attacked the Tartars. Mamaï, from the top of a funeral mound, contemplated the flight of his army. His camp, his chariots, and his camels were all captured. The Mongols were pursued to the Metcha, in which many drowned themselves. If the barbarians lost, as they are said to have done, a hundred thousand men, the Russian loss was also very severe. They counted among the dead the two monks of Saint Sergius; one of them, Peresvet, was discovered in the arms of a Petcheneg giant, who had fought with him hand to hand, and perished along with him. For a long while Dmitri could not be found; at last he was discovered in a swoon, his armor bloody and broken. This memorable battle of Kulikovo has been related in more than one way by the Russian historians. With the annalists, properly so called, the Grand Prince’s official historians, Dmitri is the hero. In the poetical recitals which were inspired by the account of the Pope Sophronius it is Saint Sergius who at each moment supports the courage of Dmitri, whom they represent with rather too much humility for a general-in-chief. The battle of the Don, which gained for Dmitri the surname of Donskoï and for Vladimir that of the Brave, is as celebrated in Russia as that of Las Navas de Tolosa in Spain. It showed the Russians that they could vanquish the invincible; and the Mongol yoke, even after they again fell under it, no longer seemed unconquerable. Dmitri had heroically broken the tradition of slavery; he had proclaimed the future freedom.

Unhappily the event showed the advantages of the policy of resignation over the policy of chivalry,—of the patience of the hero of the Neva over the bravery of the hero of the Don. A man appeared at this moment at the head of the Mongols who was as formidable as Genghis Khan,—Tamerlane, the conqueror of the two Bokharas, of Hindustan, of Iran, and of Asia Minor. Tokhtamuish, one of his generals, caused Mamaï to be put to death, and announced to Dmitri that he had triumphed over their common enemy; then he summoned the Russian princes to present themselves at the Horde. Dmitri refused. Was it in vain that the blood of the Christians had flowed at Kulikovo? The khan assembled an immense army. Dmitri found no longer the same wisdom or energy among his councillors. Not knowing what to do, he left Moscow and went to assemble an army at Kostroma. Tokhtamuish marched straight on the capital, and during three days tried to carry the walls of the Kremlin by assault. Then he had recourse to a ruse, and affected to enter into a negotiation. At last the Tatars surprised the gates and delivered up Moscow to fire and sword. A tolerably exact calculation proves that twenty-four thousand men perished, besides the precious documents and earliest archives of the principality.

Vladimir, Mojaïsk, Iurief, and other towns of Suzdal suffered the same fate. When Tokhtamuish had retired, Dmitri came and wept over the ruins of his capital. “Our fathers,” he cried, “who never triumphed over the Tartars, were less unhappy than we.” Bitter morrow of victory! However, although Russia had to resign itself to its Tartar collectors, it felt that the Horde would never recover its former power.

Dmitri longed at least to avenge himself on the perfidious Oleg. The latter escaped him, but Riazan, which was regarded as a harbor for traitors, was sacked. Mikhail of Tver merited the same chastisement; he had refused to fight Mamaï, and was one of the first to fly to the Horde of Tokhtamuish. The war continued with Oleg of Riazan, who ravaged the territory of Kolomna. Saint Sergius again intervened, entreated and threatened Oleg, and finally induced him to conclude a “perpetual peace” with Dmitri, and to cement it by the marriage of his son Feodor with Sophia, daughter of Dmitri.

The Novgorod adventurers, the “Good Companions,” had about this time committed many ravages on the territories of the Grand Principalities. They insulted Iaroslavl and Kostroma in 1371, and Kostroma and Nijni-Novgorod in 1375, pillaging as far as Saraï and Astrakhan, sparing neither infidels nor Christians. Novgorod continued to furnish appanages to the Lithuanian princes, to despise the political authority of the Grand Prince, and the religious supremacy of the Metropolitan. Dmitri marched against the republic with the contingents of twenty-five provinces. Novgorod had to pay an indemnity for the high-handed deeds of the Good Companions, and to engage to furnish a yearly tribute.

When Dmitri died, in 1389, the principality of Moscow was by far the most considerable of the states of the Northeast, since it extended on the south to Kaluga and Kasimof, and included on the northeast Biélozersk and Galitch. As to Vladimir, Dmitri, in his will, calls it his patrimony. He has been reproached for having limited himself to the sack of Tver and Riazan without hastening their final annexation. If Dmitri gave appanages to his five younger sons, he at least established the principle of inheritance in a direct line instead of the ancient principle of collateral succession. He had signed a treaty with his cousin Vladimir, by which the latter renounced his rights as “eldest of the family,” engaging to consider Vasili, eldest son of Dmitri, as his “elder brother.” In the reign of Donskoï the monk Stephen founded the first church in the country of the Permians, confuted their priests and sorcerers, overthrew the idols of Voissel and the Old Golden Woman who held two infants in her arms, put a stop to the sacrifice of reindeer, built schools, and died Bishop of Permia. A certain Andrei, probably a Genoese by birth, settled on the Petchora. Russia entered into relations with the West by means of the Genoese of Kaffa and Azof; coins of silver and copper, with the image of a knight, replaced the marten-skins. About 1385 the first cannons appeared in the Russian army. Moscow continued to be beautified, and the monasteries of the Miracle, of Andronii, and of Simeon were built.




In 1389 Vasili Dmitrievitch, the contemporary of Charles the Sixth of France, succeeded his father without opposition as Grand Prince of Moscow and Vladimir. The preponderance of the first of these towns over the second became more and more marked. The situation of both was equally advantageous,—the one on the Moskova, the other on the Kliazma, affluents of the Oka. Vladimir, like Moscow, had its kremlin on a high hill, commanding a vast extent of country. Both cities were in communication with the great Russian artery, the Volga; but were far enough from it to escape the piracies of the Good Companions. Vladimir had been in other respects as favored as Moscow. Andrei Bogoliubski had ornamented the former, as Ivan Kalita had embellished the second. Vladimir, to which the title of Grand Principality was attached, seemed even better fitted than Moscow to be the capital of Russia, It was almost an historical accident that decided in favor of the latter. At the present day Vladimir is merely a simple seat of government with a population of fourteen thousand, while Moscow is a metropolis with six hundred thousand souls.

With regard to Novgorod, the Grand Prince of Moscow began to look upon it from the point of view of a sovereign, and called the city “his patrimony.” The Novgorodians on their side appealed to the charter of Iaroslaf the Great, which formally conceded them the right to choose their princes. In the last reigns they had been accustomed to have recourse to a bargain. The republicans recognized the sovereign of Moscow as their prince, if the latter would consent to certain conditions,—the final homage rendered to the ancient Slav freedom. After the fall of Alexander of Tver, in 1328, no Russian prince could compete with the house of Moscow for the throne of Novgorod. The only possible rivals were the Grand Princes of Lithuania. But with Lithuania it was not only a competition of candidates, but it was a great national and religious question. It would be more advantageous for Moscow to ruin Novgorod than to allow it to pass into the hands of the most dangerous enemy of Russian orthodoxy. We may say that after 1328 Novgorod had no longer a special prince, but only a boyar of Moscow, who represented the Grand Prince. The power of the latter was sometimes exerted with severity. In 1393, Novgorod having revolted against Moscow, Vasili sent in his troops, and seventy inhabitants of Torjok, accused of having put to death one of his men, were cut to pieces.

Thus Vasili Dmitrievitch, on his accession to the throne, found his power considerably strengthened, since Vladimir on the Kliazma and Novgorod the Great, the objects of so many bloody contests with the Russian princes, had in some ways already become integral parts of his dominions. If he went to the Horde in 1392, it was less to obtain the confirmation of this triple crown than to acquire new territories. From the Khan Tokhtamuish he bought a iarluik, which put him in possession of the three appanages of Murom, Nijni-Novgorod, and Suzdal. The boyars of Moscow and the ambassador of the khan betook themselves to Nijni. Boris, the last titular prince of the two latter appanages, was betrayed by his men, who persuaded him to open the gates, and delivered him up to the soldiers of the Grand Prince. Then, with the ringing of all the bells in the town, Vasili of Moscow was proclaimed Prince of Nijni and Suzdal.

This prince, who lived on such good terms with the Horde, was witness, however, of two Tatar invasions of Russia. Tamerlane, conqueror of the Ottoman Turks at Ancyra, attacked his old favorite, Tokhtamuish, and pillaged the Golden Horde. He continued to move towards the West, putting the Russian territory to fire and sword. Moscow was threatened with an invasion as terrible as that of Batui. The famous Virgin of Vladimir, brought by Andrei Bogoliubski from Vuishegorod, was taken solemnly to Moscow. The Tartars reached Elets on the Don, and made its princes prisoners. There they stopped, and suddenly retreated. Accustomed to the rich booty of Bokhara and Hindustan, and dreaming of Constantinople and Egypt, they found, no doubt, that the desert steppes and deep forests offered only a very meagre prey. They indemnified themselves by the pillage of Azof, where Egyptian, Venetian, Genoese, Catalan, and Biscayan merchants had accumulated great wealth, and by the destruction of Astrakhan and Saral in 1395.

The irruption of Tamerlane resulted in the more rapid dissolution of the Golden Horde. We have seen that Vitovt took advantage of it to organize against the Mongols his great crusade of the Vorskla in 1399. Vasili Dmitrievitch had taken good care not to interfere in the war between Lithuania and Kiptchak. His Western neighbors appeared to him more dangerous than those of the East: with the latter the payment of the tribute still sufficed; with the former the stake was the existence of Russia. Vasili profited by the defeat of the one and the disorganization of the other, and was careful to irritate neither party. As the Horde was then disputed by many competitors, he forbore to pay the tribute, affecting not to know which was the legitimate khan. Ediger, the vanquisher of Vitovt, resolved to reduce the Russian vassals to obedience. He lulled the prudence of the Muscovites to rest by spreading the rumor that he was assembling troops for a war against Lithuania. Suddenly they heard that he had entered the Grand Principality. Vasili imitated his father’s conduct in similar circumstances. He retired to Kostroma to assemble an army, and confided the defence of Moscow to Vladimir the Brave. Defended by artillery, the Kremlin could withstand the attack of a large force, but the dense population caused fears of famine. Ediger burnt the towns in the flat country while blockading Moscow. Ivan, Prince of Tver, showed on this occasion more greatness of soul and political wisdom than his father Mikhail. He abstained from coming to the help of the Tatars against his formidable suzerain. In these circum­stances Ediger learned that his master Bulat himself feared an attack at the Horde by his Oriental enemies. To cover his forced retreat he addressed a haughty letter to the Grand Prince, summoning him to pay tribute; and obtained three thousand rubles from the Muscovite boyars as a war indemnity in 1408.

Vitovt of Lithuania, whose daughter Sophia Vasili had married, was a still more dangerous enemy. Great caution was necessary in all dealings with him. Vasili saw the hand of his father-in-law in the troubles of Novgorod, and everywhere else; at Pskof, where Vitovt had taken the title of Grand Prince; at Smolensk, which he had united to Lithuania; at Tver, where he supported Mikhail against the Grand Prince. Like Olgerd, Vitovt marched thrice against Moscow. Each of the two rivals had too many other enemies to dispose of, to risk in one battle the fortunes of Moscow or Lithuania. In 1408 they signed a treaty by which the Ugra was fixed on as the limit of the two Grand Principalities, leaving Smolensk to Vitovt, and restoring Kozelsk to Russia. Besides Murom and Suzdal, Vasili had united to his domains many appanages of the country of Tchernigof, such as Torusa, Novosil, Kozelsk, and Peremuisl. In the quarrels with Novgorod, generally occasioned by the exploits of the Good Companions or by commercial rivalry, he had appropriated vast territories on the Dwina; among others, Vologda. In an expedition against the republic of Viatka he had reduced it to submission and made one of his brothers its prince. He had imposed a treaty on Feodor Olgovitch, Prince of Riazan, by which the latter undertook to look on him as a father, and to make no alliances to his hurt. Vasili on his side ceded to him Tula and the title of Grand Prince. The Oka formed the boundary of the two states. He made, no doubt, a similar treaty with Ivan, Prince of Tver. One of his daughters had married the Emperor John Palaeologus.

The reign of Vasili the Blind, from 1425 until 1462, contemporary with Charles the Seventh of France, marks a pause in the development of the Grand Principality. A civil war of twenty years broke out in the bosom of Donskoï’s family. One of his sons, George, or Iuri, whom he had made Prince of Rusa and Zvenigorod, attempted to revert to the ancient national law, and invoked his right as “eldest” against his nephew, Vasili Vasilievitch. Vasili’s other uncles declared in favor of the young prince. In 1431 it was necessary to carry the dispute to the Horde. Each of the two parties set forth his right to the Khan Ulu-Makhmet. Vsevolojski, a boyar of the Prince of Moscow, found the best of arguments for his master. “My Lord Tsar,” he said to Makhmet, “let me speak, — me, the slave of the Grand Prince. My master the Grand Prince prays for the throne of the Grand Principality, which is your property, having no other title but your protection, your investiture, and your iarluik. You are master and canst dispose of it according to your good pleasure. My lord the Prince Iuri Dmitrievitch, his uncle, claims the Grand Principality by the act and the will of his father, but not as a favor from the All-powerful.” In this contest of baseness the prize was adjudged to the Prince of Moscow. The khan ordered Iuri to lead his nephew’s horse by the bridle. A Tartar baskak was present at the coronation of the Grand Prince, which took place, for the first time, not at Vladimir, but at the Assumption in Moscow. From this time Vladimir lost its privilege as the capital, although, in the enumeration of the titles, the Grand Princes continued to inscribe the name of Vladimir before that of Moscow.

Vasili owed his throne to the clever boyar, Vsevolojski. He had promised to marry his daughter, but his own mother, Sophia, the proud Lithuanian daughter of the great Vitovt, made him contract an alliance with the Princess Maria, grand­daughter of Vladimir the Brave. The irritated boyar left Vasili’s service and retired to his enemy, Iuri, whose resentment against his nephew he fanned. Another circumstance exasperated Iuri; his two sons, Vasili Kosoi, or the Squinting, and Shemiaka, were attending the Grand Prince’s marriage. The Princess Sophia recognized round the waist of Vasili Kosoi a belt of gold which had belonged to Dmitri Donskoi. She had the imprudence publicly and with open scandal to take it from the son of Iuri. On this affront the two princes at once left the banqueting-hall and retired to their father. The latter instantly took up arms and departed for Pereiaslavl. The Prince of Moscow with difficulty assembled a few troops, and fell into his uncle’s hands at Kostroma in 1433. Vasili tried in vain to soften him by his tears. The Kosoi and Shemiaka wished their prisoner to be put to death, but by the self-interested counsel of the boyar Morozof, Iuri allowed his nephew to live, and gave him the appanage of Kostroma, while he took for himself the Grand Principality. The affection of the Muscovites for their prince was so great that they abandoned their city in a body, and crowded into Kostroma. Iuri saw that his nephew was still powerful, reproached Morozof for his perfidious advice, and had him stabbed by his two sous. “You have ruined our father,” they said. The usurper was indeed unable to remain in Moscow, and sent to tell his nephew he might come and take possession of it. The boyars pressed around Vasili on his return to his capital “as bees press around their queen.” The war, however, continued: thanks to Vasili’s cowardice, Iuri again took the kremlin, and made the wife and mother of the Grand Prince prisoners, while Vasili Kosoi and Shemiaka occupied Vladimir and marched on Nijni-Novgorod.



Iuri had hardly been recognized as Grand Prince of Novgorod when he died suddenly. His sons then made peace with Vasili, but immediately took up arms again. In one of the many reverses of this civil war Vasili Kosoi fell into the hands of the Grand Prince, who in 1436 had his eyes put out in an excess of fury. Then, by one of those changes common to violent and impulsive natures, he passed from anger to dismay; and to atone for his crime against his cousin set free Shemiaka, whom he had made prisoner at the same time. Shemiaka promised to serve him, but served him very badly. In a battle with the Tartars his desertion caused the rout of the Russian army at the siege of Bielef, in Lithuania. In 1441 the war began again between the Grand Prince and Shemiaka. The latter, with some thousands of Free-lances and Good Companions, suddenly undertook the siege of Moscow. Zenobius, superior of the Troitsa monastery, succeeded once more in reconciling them. Shemiaka displayed his ordinary duplicity on the occasion of a military incursion of the Tartars of Kazan. The Grand Prince waited in vain for the help that had been promised him, and it was with only fifteen hundred men that he finally took the field, so much had the discords between the descendants of Dmitri Donskoï weakened the Grand Principality, loosened the ties of obedience among the vassals, and degraded that Russia which had armed one hundred and fifty thousand men against Mamaï. Vasili, covered with fifteen wounds, fell into the hands of the barbarians, and was carried prisoner to Kazan.

Moscow was in despair. The Prince of Tver insulted its territory; Shemiaka was intriguing at the Horde to get himself nominated Grand Prince. All at once the Tsar of Kazan took it into his head to liberate his prisoners for a small ransom. Vasili re-entered his capital amid the acclamations of his people. Shemiaka had done enough to fear the vengeance of the Grand Prince; in the interests of his own safety Vasili must be overthrown. Following the example of his father and grandfather, Vasili went to the Troitsa monastery to return thanks to Saint Sergius for his deliverance. He had few companions, and Shemiaka and his associates surprised the Kremlin in his absence, and captured his wife, his mother, and his treasures. Then he flew to Troitsa, where his accomplice, Ivan of Mojaïsk, discovered the Grand Prince, who had taken refuge in the principal church near the tomb of Saint Sergius. He was brought back to Moscow, and ten years after the punishment of Vasili Kosoi, Shemiaka avenged his brother by putting out the eyes of the Grand Prince, in 1446.

During his short reign at Moscow Shemiaka had made himself hated by the people and the boyars, who were faithful from the bottom of their hearts to their unhappy prince. In the popular language a “judgment of Shemiaka” became the synonyme of a crying wrong. Soon Vasili’s partisans assembled their troops in Lithuania, joined those of the two Tartar princes, and marched against the usurper. At this epoch Russia was infested by armed bands, the relics of the great Tatar and Lithuanian wars, Lithuanian adventurers, young nobles banished from the Horde, Novgorodian Good Companions, Free-lances of all races. They ravaged the flat country, attacked the strongest towns, and their chiefs sometimes created ephemeral principalities for themselves. As the Asiatic element predominated in them, they might be termed Great Mongol Companies, analogous to the Great English or the French Companies that, about the year 1444, Charles the Seventh sent to Alsace and Switzerland. Serving Shemiaka or the Grand Prince indiscriminately, they did their best to perpetuate the quarrel. Shemiaka wished to march against his enemies; but hardly had he left Moscow ere he saw the city revolt and Vasili enter in triumph. Shemiaka fled, and accepted a reconciliation with his victim in 1447. Incapable of repose, he again took up arms, was completely defeated near Galitch by the Muscovites and Tartars in 1450, and fled to Novgorod, where he is said to have died three years after by poison. All his appanages were reunited to the royal domain.

Freed from this dangerous enemy, Vasili the Blind hastened to take up the work of his predecessors. Novgorod had not ceased to give asylum to his enemies, to despise the authority of his lieutenants, to contest his right of final appeal and the supremacy of the Metropolitan. A Muscovite army reduced the town to terms; it was forced to annul all the acts of the vetché which tended to limit the authority of the Grand Prince, to pay him a heavy indemnity, and to promise to impose the seal of Vasili alone on its deeds. Pskof received one of his sons as its prince. The republic of Viatka had to pay tribute, and to furnish a military contingent. The Prince of Riazan having just died, Vasili took his young heir to Moscow, under pretence of bringing him up, and sent his lieutenant to govern the appanage. Vasili of Borovsk, grandson of Vladimir the Brave, had rendered him important services, but none the less was he imprisoned, and his possessions swallowed up in the Grand Principality. The authority of the Grand Prince began to be exercised on his subordinates with new rigor; and against the rebels, real or supposed, the knout, tortures, mutilations, and refined horrors were used. Vasili, who had suffered so much from the appanaged princes Iuri and Shemiaka, and who was so energetic in destroying the appanages around him, could not free himself from the yoke of custom, and began to dismember the principality which he had aggrandized, in favor of his four younger sons. However, to avoid all contests about the title of Grand Prince, and to insure the succession of the direct line, he had, since the year 1449, associated with himself his eldest son, Ivan.

Memorable events had agitated the orthodox world during his reign. In 1439 the Pope Eugenius the Fourth assembled the Council of Florence to discuss the union of the two Churches. The Greek Emperor, John Palaeologus, who hoped to obtain the help of the Pope against the Ottomans, had sent the bishops of his communion; Isidor, Metropolitan of Moscow, was also present. It was in vain that the Emperor of Constantinople, three vicars of the Patriarchs of the East, seventeen metropolitans, and a multi­tude of bishops signed the act of union. The Greek world listened to the energetic protest of Mark, the old bishop of Ephesus, and rejected the union with Rome. But Isidor announced at Kief and Moscow that he had signed the act of reconciliation; the appearance of the Latin cross at the Assumption in the Kremlin, the name of Pope Eugenius in the public prayers, and the reading of the formal document, astonished the Russians. Vasili, who piqued himself on his theology, also raised his voice, began a polemic against Isidor, and so overwhelmed him with insults, that the “false shepherd” thought it prudent to take refuge in Rome. This check to the union heralded the fall of the Greek Empire. In 1443 Mahomet the Second entered Constantinople. There was no longer a Christian Tsar; Moscow became the great metropolis of orthodoxy, since it was the heir of Constantinople. Soon the monks, the artists, the literary men, of Constantinople were to bring to Moscow as well as to the rest of Europe the Renaissance.