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ABOUT RUSSIA / HISTORY / RUSSIAN STATE IN XVI CENTURY

Russian State in XVI century

Government and Political System of Russia in XVI century.

XVI century in the words of an outstanding historian A.A. Zimin was a "threshold" of a new time in Russian history. First of all for the elapsing in 1592 seventh millennium from the creation of the world had not brought the Doomsday so much expected in Russia. However, the time reckoned since then became "new" indeed. It is difficult to consider that century as something whole. Economic rise of its first third was immediately replaced by stagnation in the middle of the century and then by an economic crisis in 70-90's. The process of strengthening of the grand-ducal and then the Tsar's power was also interrupted by two periods of distemper: after Vasily III's death in 30-40's, and in 80-90's - after Ivan IV's death. Development of public thinking, slowed down a little in the beginning of the century by the first in Russia inquisitional processes and burned at the stake religious freethinkers (December 1505), reached the peak of its bloom in the middle of the century, and then, in the years of oprichnina and economic collapse of the end of the century practically completely vanished from the public life. In that sence, the teaching of slaves of Feodosy Kosoy was especially prominent against such historical background.

Born a year before the overthrow of the Mongolo-Tatar Yoke, in 1479, Vasily III came to the throne in October 1505 and continued the work of his father on gathering of the Russian Lands. Pskov joined Muscovy in 1510, Smolensk- in 1514, Ryazan - in 1521. However, the Russian Lands associated in the first third of XVI century at that time still preserved much of their independence. In the beginning of Vasily III's reign there existed four independent principalities of his younger brothers who could lay real claims to the throne of the Grand Duke. But by the end of his reign there remained only two such lands, and the land of his brother Yury Ivanovich was liquidated almost right after the death of Vasily III. The noble princes who served to the Grand Duke (the Vyazemskyes, Odoyevskiyes, Trubetskiyes) had enormous power in their own lands but could not count on gaining the Moscow throne. The social structure of the upper strata of the Russian State was rather complex: apanage princes (brothers of the Grand Duke); the princes who served to the throne and at the same time had their own lands; the princes of newly annexed lands; the old Moscow nobility (boyards); the boyards of independent principalities and joined princedoms.

In XVI century the process of change of the Grand Duke's vassals into his subjects was steadily going. So, the significant part of princely possessions in the reign of Vasily III was turned into his ancestral lands: some princes became deputies of the Grand Duke in their own lands, the others got patrimonial estates in other parts of the country; ancestral lands were being subdivided and became much smaller. The Grand Duke was interested in the lands being distributed by his own will. There were still enough free lands (the lands of Novgorod, Tver, the territories of the state peasants). Estates were given not only to people without lands, but also to boyards and princes. A special care was given to big monasteries that had large incomes. The Grand Duke saw the strongest support in monasteries to his centralization policy, however, he tried at least to make the grow of their incomes controllable, since any attempts to limit the monastic possessions failed in XV and XVI centuries.

The process of centralization included strengthening of the grand-ducal power. The Boyards Duma existed as deliberative body. The number of members of the Duma did not exceed 24. Since XVI century princes also could become the Duma boyards. Up to the middle of the century there existed only two nation-wide central establishments: the Palace, managing the lands of the Grand Duke, and The Treasury - not only the financial centre, but also the State Chancellery. In the middle of the century the Treasury was divided into departments - the central bodies: the Patrimony Department, managing lands distribution among noblemen; the Counting Department that supervised provision of pays to servicemen and took stock of them; 'the Predatory Department' was in charge of the criminal situation in the State; the Ambassadorial Department, the Department of Complaints.

The State was separated into uyezds (that were territorially close to former princedoms) and volosts. The posts of deputies in these state districts were given, as a rule, for former military service. Therefore administrative and judicial duties turned out to be only burdensome 'makeweight' to the power and privileges of a deputy.

Absence of stable local authorities made the power of the Grand Duke more strongly atop the social system than in the provinces. The question of centralization of the State was already solved in XVI century, though the position of the head of the state still remained a source of dynastic distempers (Vasily III was childless).

The first Zemsky Sobor (the Lands Council) became an important stage in the history of Russia. It was summoned in Moscow in February 1549. It consisted of the Boyard Duma, the church hierarches, representatives of various layers of feudal lords. On the whole this council represented a significant step in development of the classes-representative monarchy in Russia. Historical data testifies that such councils were summoned in the years of 1575, 1576, 1580, 1584, although, they did not become a regularly body in XVI century.

The classes-representative bodies at the local level proved to be more viable. Okrug headmen were chosen by noblemen in uyezds; cities were headed by city elders. State peasants' volosts and cities chose their aldermen from peasants and craftsmen.

A peasants' commune played a great role. Its functions were extending during the centuries, they included: land tenure, allotment and tax collection. Communes in XVI century had their own, though rather limited, jurisdiction. They were governed by a branchy system of elective posts and had several levels. A commune often opposed feudal lords and representatives of the government, asserting interests of its members (far from always unsuccessfully) using the law, justice and petitions.

A Russian city, originally created as a centre of feudal power, in the course of time turned into a centre of crafts and trades. The lower forms of the classes organizations of urban population had a significant value. Activities of elected elders were strictly controlled by a city community. The State was compelled to take such classes democratism into consideration.

A new Code of Laws was also compiled in the course of the whole State centralization. It was issued in 1530. In its turn it was based on the Code of Laws 1497, but included more ordered clauses regulating resettling of peasants; it also limited rights of deputies; toughened punishment for robbery; included new clauses on punishment for bribery; increased some taxes.

Social and Economic Development of Russia in XVI century

The territory of Muscovy by the end of 10's of XVI century was about 2,8 million sq. km, and the population - 6,5 million. Average density of population was 2,3 men per 1 sq. km, and that could not certainly stimulate development of agriculture. On the whole Russia widely exploited resources of internal and, after annexation of the new lands, external colonization.

In XVI century the taxes were imposed upon lands, not peasants, therefore adult sons and nephews had the right to leave for new territories. A big role in colonization was played by monasteries. Subsistence economy still prevailed, however, there were some areas specializing on certain cultures. For example Zamoskovsky Krai developed arable lands and productive cattle breeding, the Volga Region was engaged in cattle breeding.

Trade and craft were also developing. New professions and occupations appeared (Only in metal processing there were more than twenty specialities.) Ustyuzhna Zhelezopolskaya and Tula became the centres of iron production. The number of trading villages was also growing (first of all in the Novgorod Land). Though cities (with only about 2% of the whole population of Russia) remained the true centresof trade. Moscow of XVI century had the population of 100 thousand people, Novgorod - only about 30 thousand, while many other Russian cities had less than 500 estates.

In the time of the Grand Duke Vasily Ivanovich stone became frequently used in construction. Many foreign masters were invited to Russia for this purpose. Foreigners were also involved in gunnery.

Oprichnina and the Livonian War had grave consequences on Russia: ruined villages and cities, scattering peasants. Stagnation of the national economy in 60's was aggravated by an epidemic of plague in 70's and bad harvests - all that resulted in an economic crisis. 9/10 of lands in several central areas were absolutely neglected. Survived peasants left for the Volga and Ural regions, to the south, and from the middle of 80's - to Siberia.

In search for a way out from the crisis of 1581/1582 the government set "forbidden years" during which any resettlement of peasants was banned. By the end of XVI century peasants completely lost the right to leave their landlord. Overcoming of the crisis was restrained by the taxes that preserved the same level while the actual amount of the lands cultivated by peasants was reduced. The market had a slow development and renting of feudal lords' lands by peasants was also rare. Economic rise began in 90's, but extensive character of agriculture made it extremely vulnerable as two or three poor harvest years were just enough to put the economy in jeopardy.

The land owners were mainly secular and church feudal lords. Their ancestral lands had wide tax and judicial privileges fixed by the grand-ducal or princely decrees. In XVI century considerable changes took place in the structure of the feudal landed property. The share of landed gentry increased greatly. The further development of the landed property system led to a sharp reduction of the number of state peasants in the central regions of the country.

A distinctive feature of economic development of the medieval Russia was a naturally arisen territorial division of the two forms of feudal landed property: steady estate land ownership of secular and church feudal lords in the central areas and communal country landed property in sparsely populated remote areas. The latter was gradually falling under the control of the State and consequently was broadly exploited. State peasants and free Cossack communities of remotes did not radically change the picture of complex social relations. Since the basic tendency was the increase of dependent population.

Despite the variety of life ways and social relations in formerly independent lands the general tendency of social and economic development of the country in XVI century was strengthening of the feudal serfdom order. An economic basis of serfdom was feudal landed property: landlord estates, ancestral lands and the state landed property. According to their social status peasants were as well subdivided into three groups: those who belonged to different secular and church feudal lords; those who belonged to the Court; and state peasants who lived in volost communities in the lands belonged to no one, but these peasants had to carry out certain state duties.

Trade grew notably in XVI century. The main centres of trade were in Moscow, Veliky Novgorod, Kholmogory, Nizhni Novgorod and in other cities. Grain was transported to the northern lands and they, in their turn, supplied fish, salt, furs. Big feudal lords and above all the Grand Duke had a lot of privileges and so they played the first role in domestic trade. Monasteries also traded. Merchants of big cities had a great influence as well.

Foreign trade increased. Commercial intercourse with the western neighbors of Russia was carried out through the cities of Novgorod and Smolensk. In 1553 a sea route to England was established through the White Sea (port Arkhangelsk). Russia exported the goods of home trades and wood in return for industrial goods: cloth, weapon, metals. Then the whole Volga Way fell to suzerainty of Russia the eastern direction of foreign trade became also important. From the East Russia received Chinese fabrics, porcelain, jewelry and instead sent furs, hemp fiber and wax.

On the whole the upgrowth of stock rotation of internal and especially foreign trade in XVI century resulted in development of financial system and accumulation of capital. However in conditions of feudal serfage and hard fiscal state policy this money went directly to the Treasury, to feudal lords, supported usury and involved population in further bondage.

A stratum of the merchant class was forming from various social groups in the process of trade expansion. Several exclusive merchant associations were established in Moscow. They were controlled by the government, that provided them with tax and judicial privileges. In legal respect they were substantially equalized in rights with feudal land owners.

The Stroganovs were the first-rate merchants of XVI century. Representatives of this family - Spiridon, Kuzma, Luka and Feodor, coast-dweller peasants by origin, founded a powerful commercial and industrial house in XV century. This enterprise existed till 1917.

Internal Policy

The major problem of strengthening of the grand-ducal power in the last years of Vasily III's reign was the question of succession. The first marriage of Vasily Ivanovich was childless, that gave a chance to his brothers - apanage princes Yury Dmitrovsky and Andrey Staritsky. That is why in November 1525 Vasily III supported by Metropolitan Daniel divorced his first wife, Solomonia Saburova who was from an ancient family of Moscow boyards. She was admitted to the veil by force and sent to Kargopol.

In January 1526 Vasily III married Elena Vasiliyevna Glinskaya, the young niece of Prince Michael Lvovich Glinsky from Lithuania, who was accused of treason and imprisoned in 1514. The choice of the bride testified not only a desire to have an heir who could lay claims to the crown of Poland and Lithuania, but also the yearning to improve relations with the Western Europe. In August 1530 Ivan, the first son of Vasily III was born.

When Vasily III died in December 1533 E. Glinskaya became a regent. Practically it was her uncle, M.Glinsky, who ruled. But shortly after he was removed by I.F. Ovchino-Telepnyev-Obolensky, the favourite of the Great Duchess. The reign of Elena Glinskaya was the time of central authorities strengthening. Thus, in December 1533 the apanage prince Yury Dmitrovsky was arrested and lately died in imprisonment. The rebellion of Prince Andrey Staritsky was successfully suppressed in 1537 and he himself was thrown into prison. At the same time intensive construction of fortresses and cities was carried out (including erection of stone walls around Kitay Gorod in Moscow). In 1535 a currency reform was conducted t bridge a gap between the Moscow and Novgorod coining.

All that irritated Russian nobility greatly. In 1538 the Great Duchess suddenly died (it is probable that she was poisoned). And before long Prince Ovchina-Telepnev was arrested and starved to death in prison. After that there was a ten years period of vehement strife for power between court boyards and princely groupings headed by Princes the Shuysky (descendants of Suzdal princes), the Belsky and the Glinsky (an uncle of the Grand Duke). Instability of the supreme power in the country gave rise to feudal lords' tyranny in the provinces, what resulted in upgrowth of people's discontent and even overt revolts in a number of cities.

All that paved the way for a large revolt of Moscow population in June 1547. The reason was the grandiose fire that destroyed a significant part of the city. In the course of this revolt suppressed by the government one of the Tsar's uncles - Yu.V.Glinsky was lacerated, the houses of the others were plundered.

With a view to strengthen the central power on January 16, 1547 following the special ceremonial that was carried out by Metropolitan Makariy the 17-years old Grand Duke Ivan was recognized the Tsar of Russia and thus was formally equated with the West-European emperors. It emphasized limitlessness of the power of the monarch over the State. In February 1547 under the initiative of the metropolitan the church council canonized a big number of national saints, what ideologically underlined transformation of the country into the single Russian Power.

Reforms of the middle of XVI century

Wild developments of 1547 called forth the necessity of fundamental state reorganization. Soon a group of persons in attendance formed around the young Tsar. Prince A.M. Kurbsky, one of its members, afterwards called it 'Izbrannaya Rada'. This court circle in fact was headed by two men: A.F. Adashev, originated from a rich but not very noble family, and Silvester, the Tsar's confessor and the dean of the Blagoveshchensk Cathedral of the Kremlin. They were accompanied by noble princes D. Kurlyatev, A. Kurbsky, N. Odoevsky, M. Vorotynsky and others. A Duma clerk I. M. Viskovaty, the first head of the Ambassadorial Office, was also among Rada members. Metropolitan Makary actively supported this society.

Formally being no official body Izbrannaya Rada as a matter of fact was the government of Russia and during 13 years ruled over the state on behalf of the Tsar. It realized a series of reforms. In the essence these reforms coincided with petitions, which were written in 1549 by a talented publicist and nobleman I.S. Peresvetovy. He firmly supported strengthening of the Russian State.

An important step made by the government was calling of the first Zemskoy 'Sobor Primereniya' (the Council of Lands Reconciliation) in 1549. The council made a resolve to compile a new Code of Laws (ratified in 1550). New legal procedures were included: administrative control over deputies, collection of the standard State Tax, etc. The right to collect trade duties passed to the Tsar administration. Population had to pay 'tyaglo' - aggregate of natural and monetary duties. In the middle of XVI century a unified measure of tax collection was set over the whole State - "Sokha" - a land unit that depended on location and quality of soils (400 - 600 hectares on average).

With a view to strengthen armed forces in 1550 Ivan IV's government started military reforms. Order of seniority was abolished (before, during military campaigns people were postattituded according to their gentility). 1078 provincial noblemen were called up in Moscow Uyezd - they were to form a core of nobleman's irregulars - the main support of autocracy.

A standard procedure of military service was established: now people served by origin and on enlistment. Noblemen and children of boyards served 'by origin'. Military service was regulated by 'The Service Code' issued in 1556. The service was inherited and began when a nobleman was 15 years old. Up to this age a nobleman was considered as minor. This category of servicemen was formally provided with a salary (150 - 450 dessiatinas in three fields plus 4 - 7 roubles a year). But actually the State had neither money, nor enough free lands for that. Noblemen and boyards were obliged to render one soldier from every 150 dessiatinas of their lands. A fine was imposed in case of deficiency in supply.

Strelets troops were formed from enlisted men in 1550. They were armed with both fire-arms and cold steel. Initially there were 3 thousand streletses who were grouped into 6 elements. These troops were the body-guard of the Tsar. By the end of XVI century the standing Strelets troops contained 25 thousand soldiers. It was the strongest combatant force of Russian army.

Izbrannaya Rada paid a lot of attention to strengthening of the Tsar state machinery. Administrative system was also improved.

'The Court Book' - the list of the Tsar's court circle was issued in 1552. It included about 4 thousand men: courtiers, military leaders, city voevodes, diplomats, etc.

Stoglavy Council (1551). Tsar's regime was interested in the church's support; that is why it could not pass by reforms in the sphere of religion. The question about the church's landed property was crucial as far back as the reign time of Ivan III and Vasily II. In course of Stoglavy Council this question was raised again. It was decided that churches and monasteries would preserve their lands, but in further any purchase or gift of lands would be possible only on Tsar's approval.

The reforms of the middle of XVI century strengthened central authorities considerably, what allowed Ivan IV to proceed to the tasks of foreign policy.

Izbrannaya Rada existed till 1560. Difficulties with the family of the first wife of the Tsar, Anastasia Zakharina, who died that year were one of the reasons that caused the fall of Izbrannaya Rada. But the main reason, however, was the choice of the basic direction of political course of Russia. Izbrannaya Rada supported gradual reforms aimed for centralization. Ivan IV who was lately named Ivan the Terrible chose the way of terror that promoted fast strengthening of personal authority. Rada leaders A.F. Adashev and the dean Silvester fell into disgrace and died in exile.

In 1564 Prince Andrey Kurbsky, one of former heads of Izbrannaya Rada and now a commander of Russian army, deserted to Poland. He was afraid of Ivan IV. This treason reinforced jealousy of the Tsar. Since then he mistrusted his entourage.

The Oprichnina (1565-1572)

In January 1565 Ivan IV arrived to Alexandrova Sloboda, his own residence. From there he dispatched to Moscow two official documents. In the first letter he accused the church hierarchs and all feudal lords in treason, the second one was addressed to Moscow population, it stated that the Tsar anger did not applied to ordinary inhabitants. Moscow community forced the boyards to beg the Tsar to take the throne again. Ivan IV agreed, but stipulated for the right to execute and pardon at his own discretion.

Ivan IV divided the state into two parts: the oprichnina - his personal lands and the zemshina. The oprichnina included the most economically developed areas of the country: trading cities situated along navigable rivers, basic centres of salt production and strategically important advanced posts at the western and southwest borders. These lands were inhabited by noblemen who formed Oprichnina - special armed force. Former local landowners were moved to the zemshina. The oprichnina developed its own centralized machinery of government that was parallel to the bodies of the zemshina: the Duma and Departments. The zemshina was governed by the government of I.M. Viskovaty.

Oprichniki (the troopers) wore monk's black robes and strapped dog's heads and brooms to the saddles as the sign of loyalty to the Tsar and their willingness to 'sweep out' every treason in the state. De facto Oprichnina represented the punitive mechanism combining queer mixture of exterior attributes of a monastic order and mobster's manners. To maintain the Oprichnina guards (initially 1000 strong, later 5 times more) Ivan the Terrible demanded huge sums: 100 thousand roubles, what equaled 2 million quarters of rye.

Oprichnina was headed by relatives of the late Tsarina Anastasia - V.M. Yuriyev, A.D. Basmanov and Prince .. Cherkassky, a brother of Kabardinian Princess Maria Temryukovna, the second wife of the Tsar Ivan IV (this marriage was contracted in 1561). Prince A.I. Vyazemsky, Boyard Vasily Gryaznoy and a nobleman G.L. Malyuta Skuratov-Belsky, who was in charge of executions and tortures, were the most prominent figures among Oprichnina guards. The first victims of Oprichnina were clergymen: Archimandrite German (1568) and the deposed Metropolitan Phillip, he openly refused to bless the Tsar and was strangled by Skuratov in Tver in 1569. The Novgorod Archbishop Pimen, Phillip's opponent, also shared the same bitter lot. In the autumn of the same year Prince Vladimir Staritsky was killed together with all his family. Mass executions of princes and noblemen went on, but common people were not spared either.

A terrible pogrom of Novgorod in the winter of 1569/70 was committed by the order of Ivan IV. It lasted a month and a half. During this time from 3 to 10 thousand people of all ages and classes were killed and tormented to death in the city. With the assistance of the Tsar mass repressions were launched in Moscow in the summer of 1570. Hundreds of people were put to death. The terror was completely unpredictable and so utterly dreadful. On average, every killed boyard accounted for 3-4 ordinary landowners, and every landowner - for 10 commoners. In the year of 1570 it was now the turn of Oprichnina organizers to face the same ill fate - all of them were killed not less brutally than they had killed the others before.

Paradoxical though it may seem, but it was the Crimean Khan Devlet-Girey who helped to put an end to Oprichnina. He burst through to Moscow in the summer of 1571 through the fault of Oprichnina guards who showed no resistance. Khan did not besiege the city but set it on fire. Moscow was burnt to the ground. Bodies of the burnt and suffocated were being removed for almost two months. Ivan the Terrible realized at last that the State was in mortal danger. Joint troops of the zemshina and oprichnina commanded by Prince M.I. Vorotynsky smashed the Crimean Khan's Army at Molody Village (50 km from Moscow). The country was saved. But that could not save Vorotynsky himself. In a year after this glorious victory he was arrested and brutally killed.

Oprichnina was abolished in 1572. The lands were consolidated again. In 1575 the Tsar tried to re-establish Oprichnina in a slightly modified form. He entitled himself the Prince of Moscow and nominated Kasimov Tsarevitch Simeon Bekbulatovich the Tsar and the Grand Duke. But this diversion did not last long (less than a year). Oprichnina worsened economic and political position of Russia. Its result was awful - plundered villages and cities, scattering peasants. Defeat in the Livonian War and forays of Tatars also laid a hard burden.

More favorable situation developed at this period in the East of the country. The Siberian Khanate - remains of The Golden Horde - declared its vassalage in the middle of 1550's. But Khan Kuchum came to power and levied the war against Rus. Annexation of the Western Siberia was greatly contributed by a family of Ural merchants - the Stroganovs, who had own troops. Cossack Ataman Ermak Timofeyevich with a squadron six hundred strong set out in 1581 against Khan Kuchum and crushed his army in 1582. However, the victory did not bring a total control over the vast Siberian territories. In 1585 Ataman Ermak was ambushed. He drowned in the Irtysh River. In 80-90's the flow of Russian colonization of the Western Siberia went on and the outpost cities, such as Tyumen (1586) and Tobolsk (1587) were founded.

Overall results of the reign of Ivan Vasiliyevich the Terrible were extremely contradictory. The major result of his almost 50-years reign was formation of centralized Russian State equal to the great empires of the past. In XVI century Rus gained high international authority. It possessed powerful bureaucratic and military machinery headed personally by the Tsar of All-Russia. However, it was also the period when Russia waged exhausting and fruitless Livonian War that was accompanied by the terrible Oprichnina terror inside the country. Oprichnina, in fact, was the forced centralization without necessary social and economic preconditions; the regime masked its weakness with a "subsystem" of total terror.

The personality of Ivan IV, an unbridled medieval tyrant, always provoked contradictory attitude of historians. But the phenomenon of the Tsar-tyrant on the Russian throne in the epoch of formation of national European States should be apparently considered as natural. (At about the same time Henry VIII ruled in England, Ludwig XI in France and Phillip II in Spain).

Last years of Ivan IV were tragic. Along with the death of his elder son Ivan (Ivan the Terrible killed him himself in 1581) died the hope to have a worthy successor: the second son, Feodor, was imbecile; the third son, Dmitry, was born by Maria Nagaya, the sixth wife of Ivan the Terrible, only in 1582. Ivan IV died on March 18, 1584. He exerted great influence upon the course of events of Russian history of XVI century. This influence of his has not got any simple appraisal in the historical literature to present day. Queer combination of rather inconsistent features in his character was noted already by his contemporaries: extreme suspiciousness and judiciousness, sophisticated cruelty and care for his troops, improbable arrogance and humility and etc. Ivan IV, undoubtedly, possessed merits of an outstanding statesman. He was highly educated, had keen intellect from birth and was gifted with publicist's talent. He was a skilful commander, a remarkable strategist and a shrewd politician. He set precise aims in internal and foreign policy and steadily went towards their realization by all means.

The bloody reign of the first Moscow Tsar was forever engraved on the memory of his contemporaries. The people 'awarded' Ivan Vasiliyevich with a nickname Terrible. But the cruelty of the Tsar Ivan could not be explained only by pathological reasons. The Spirit of violence, superstitions and disdain for human life penetrated the whole atmosphere of Middle Ages.

The Reign of Tsar Feodor Ivanovich (1584-1598).

Tsar Feodor came to the throne according both to the tradition of power succession and Ivan IV's last will. But he possessed neither talents, nor qualities of a ruler. According to the last order of Ivan the Terrible, a regency council including five boyards (the Tsar's uncle Nikita Romanovich Zakharin-Yuriyev, Prince Ivan Fedorovich Mstislavsky, Prince Ivan Petrovich Shuysky, Bogdan Yakovlevich Volsky and Boris Fedorovich Godunov, the brother-in-law of the Tsar) was formed to support the incapable Tsar Feodor.

Collisions between the members of the council consisting of two opposing groups were inevitable. In the beginning Zakharin-Yuriyev supported by the Moscow nobility and population tried to reconcile Princes Shuysky and Mstislavsky, who were servicemen, and promoted by Ivan IV Belsky and Godunov. But Belsky started dangerous political intrigues at once. Then, on April 2, 1584 disorders of Moscow population were inspired against him and he was removed to the post of the Nizhni Novgorod voevode. In the end of the same year Yuriyev fell ill. That worsened antagonism between Boris Godunov and Shuysky considerably. Godunov was strongly supported by the bureaucracy headed by Duma clerks Andrey and Vasily Shchelkalovy, adherents of a strong centralized state. That allowed Godunov to get rid of one more rival - I.F. Miloslavsky; he was cloistered in the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery in 1585.

In 1586 leaders of the Shuyskys boyard clan tried to arrange a divorce of Tsar Feodor Ivanovich (under the pretext of barreness of Tsarina Irina) thus trying to discharge B. Godunov. At that they relied on Moscow population. Boris managed to suppress the disorders that arose in the capital in May 1586. Shortly after I.P. Shuysky and his brothers were firstly banished to their ancestral lands, and then, were brought to Beloozero and Kargopol, where they were secretly killed. Thus the boyard opposition was done away and Boris Godunov could now publicly become the regent of the state. He was entitled "the Governor, Servant and the Equerry Boyard and the Court Voevode". The Boyard Duma empowered him with control over foreign relations. The British called him "the Lord-Protector of Russia".

According to his origin Boris Godunov belonged to prominent but untitled boyards. He became close to Ivan IV in the last years of his reign, mainly due to the marriage of his sister Irina to Tsarevitch Feodor. Godunov himself, married to a daughter of Malyuta Skuratov, was closely connected with Oprichnina guards. Contemporaries greatly appreciated Boris (he was handsome and smooth-tongued), but at the same time they noted his strong lust for power. An outstanding politician, Boris was skilful at being what was the best under the circumstance. He had keen wit and strong will. Boris was not highly educated, but according to a foreigner who knew him personally he was very clever. A prudent and far-seeing, generous and peaceful ruler, he won the sympathy of all Russian people. And at the same time he was guileful and perfidious, smoothtongued and artful - but only due to all these qualities Boris Godunov managed to reach the top power.

To strengthen an economic situation the government of Godunov achieved abolition of tax privileges of church and monasteries at the Church Council in 1584. At the same time the process of the land register formation was carried out and, in this connection, the resettling of peasants on St. George's Day was banned. In 1597 the decree setting the five years term of pursuit of runaway peasants was issued. It was an important step towards establishment of serfdom in Russia. It reinforced an economic position of landed gentry greatly. However, a peasant was bound not to the landowner personally, but to the land. Besides, this bondage concerned only the peasant himself, not his children or nephews.

Aspiring to limit economic power of the church, the government of Godunov, at the same time, cared about the growth of its authority: the patriarchate was established in Russia in 1589 (the Russian Church had strived for that from the middle of XV century). Iov, a devoted adherent of Godunov, was proclaimed the first Moscow Patriarch at the Church Council. Establishment of the patriarchate made the Russian Orthodox Church legally independent from the Constantinople Patriarch.

Tsarevitch Dmitry (the son of Ivan the Terrible and his last wife Maria Nagaya) died in the fit of epilepsy on May 15, 1591 in Uglich. Rumours declared Boris Godunov the initiator of his death. The historical sources do not give a simple answer to the question about the cause of the Tsarevitch's death, but it is obvious, that this tragedy cleared a way to the throne for Godunov.

In 1598 with the death of childless Feodor Ivanovich the ruling dynasty of the Rurikoviches ceased to exist. The next Zemsky Council in February 1598 raised Boris Godunov to the throne.

Foregn Policy

Basic orientations of foreign policy of Russia were formed in the time of the Grand Duke Ivan III. They were: the Baltic (northwest), Lithuanian (western), Crimean (southern), Kazan and Nogaysk (southeast). Association of Lands activated Russian foreign policy.

In the beginning of 1507 re-elected Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland Sigizmund I (Old) managed to enlist the support of the Crimean and Kazan Khanates in the struggle against Moscow. Military operations began in March 1507 in the west (Chernigov) and in the south (armies of the Crimean Khan attacked Kozelsk, Belev, Odoyev). But neither Russia, nor Lithuania had enough forces for a decisive armed conflict and in September 1508 the peace treaty was concluded. Russia regained the northern lands (the territory of a former Chernigov Princedom). The Livonian Order did not support Sigizmund, moreover, in 1509 it concluded an armistice with Russia for the period of 14 years.

In 1508 Russian managed to reconcile a dispute with the Kazan Khanate. So, Kazan did not take part in the Russian-Lithuanian conflict. In the year of 1514, as a result of a three-month siege, Moscow armies took the ancient Russian city of Smolensk, which was occupied by Lithuania back in XV century.

The Western Europe sought after Russian participation in Anti-Turkish coalition. Vasily III avoided entering this coalition, but being interested in friendly relations with the German Empire did not give a direct negative answer. At the same time he tried to preserve steady trade relations with Turkey - trade with the East prevailed in Russian economy.

After joining of Pskov and Smolensk to Moscow southeast and east became the basic orientations of foreign policy. Russia had not enough forces for a new military campaign, therefore, the major way of goals achievement for Moscow was through diplomacy and dynasty. Aspiring to preserve friendly relations with the Crimea, Russia tried to set its protectorate over Kazan. Till the year of 1521 it was possible to maintain stability in relations with the Kazan and Crimean Khanates. But in 1521 the Crimean Khan Mohammed-Girey made a plundering raid on Muscovy, his troops stopped only in 15 km from Moscow. An element of surprise was the main trump card. Quickly recovered from the surprise Russian armies managed not only not to yield the besieged Ryazan, but also forced Mohammed-Girey to retreat to the southern borders of Russia. However, the Crimean and Kazan raids into Rus went on and on.

War, though, was not the only instrument of foreign policy of the Russian State. Russia kept regular diplomatic contacts with Denmark, Sweden, the German and Osmanian Empires.

In the reign of Ivan IV the Terrible, especially in the time of Izbrannaya Rada, the eastern direction remained the principal one. Constant raids into Russia made by Kazan Khans distracted Russia from solving the Baltic problem. The Volga Trading Way and fertile soils of the Volga Region were also very attractive to the Moscow government.

The first campaigns against Kazan failed (1547/1548 and 1549-1550). But in the year of 1551 Ivan IV began preparations for a decisive campaign. At the Sviyaga River, at its confluence into the Volga, the Sviyazhsk Fortress was erected during only one month, later it played a role of a base station for the last offensive. In August 1552 the Moscow armies laid the siege of Kazan. The Kazan garrison was 30 thousand strong. While the Russian army was 150 thousand in number and had more than 100 guns. It was the mine that tipped the beam: a section of the wall was destroyed and on October 2 having showed strong resistance Kazan fell. The Kazan Khanate was annexed to Russia. Khan Yadigar-Magmet was taken prisoner. He was christened and later fought on the side of the Russian State. Moscow authorities carried out a policy of russification: they christianized or evicted Tatars.

In 1556 the Astrakhan Empire was liquidated as well. All these conquests reduced the Crimean danger considerably. Ivan IV realized that it was the Osmanian Empire that stayed behind the Crimea, that is why he made no haste to start hostilities, instead, he carried out construction of a defence zone: fortresses and barricade of felled trees to contain the raids of Crimean troops. So, in the middle of XVI century the Tula Defence Zone and then, in 30-40's of XVII century, the Belgorod Defence Zone were constructed.

In the middle of XVI century Russia gained high international prestige, it maintained diplomatic relations with Sweden, Denmark, the German Empire and Italian cities-states. Russia was visited by official delegations from India and Iran. Since 1553 Ivan IV paid a lot of attention to relations with England where in 1555 "The Moscow Company" started. It had the right to free trade in Russia through Arkhangelsk.

The Livonian War (1558-1583)

After the victory over Kazan the Baltic question became the major one for the Moscow Tsar. The fight for the Baltic territories was fraught with the danger of a conflict with the countries of the Central and Northern Europe. In January 1558 the Tsar levied the Livonian War on the plea of the hold-up of European masters who were on their way to Moscow. They were stopped in the territory of the Order. The second reason was a non-payment of a tribute for the city of Yuryev (Derpt).

The first stage of the war, seemingly, validated Ivan IV's position. Narva, Derpt, Fellin and Marienburg fell under the attacks of Russian armies. The Grandmaster was captured. It caused the collapse of the Order in 1561. G. Ketler, the last Grandmaster (elected in 1559), recognized vassal dependence on the Polish King Sigizmund II and was given Kurland. The rest of the Order's territories passed to Sweden and Denmark. Russia having laid the claims to the Baltic territories now faced powerful states.

Far from friendly relations between Sweden and Denmark at that moment distracted their attention from Moscow. But joint Polish-Lithuanian armies of Sigizmund II August also represented a serious danger that demanded consolidation of all Russian power. The last big victory of Russian troops was a seizure of Polotsk in February 1563.

Defeats at the river Usa in January and at the Orsha in July 1564 showed that forces of Russia were at the breaking point. While the military operations of the first third of XVI century were mere campaigns and were not so burdensome, now Russian Army fought without any break since 1547. The peasantry was exhausted by the hard burden of taxes, landlords' estates also suffered from the same load. At this very time the terror found its first victims. Later it developed into dreadful Oprichnina.

The Polish King Stefan Batory In 1578, and Sweden in 1579 won from Russia the biggest part of Livonia. Danish Prince Magnus proclaimed by Moscow the King of Livonia in 1570 came over to the side of Rech Pospolitaya in 1578. The Swedes captured Narva. Stefan Batory reached Pskov in 1581. Only due to heroic resistance of Pskov people he failed to seize the city. Pskov survived through a siege of a 100 thousand strong Polish-and-Lithuanian army. This failure compelled Stefan Batory to sign an armistice with Russia in Yamsk-Zapolye in 1582. Rus lost Polotsk and captured Livonian lands. According to the armistice with Sweden concluded in Plussa in 1583 Russia gave away Narva, Yam, Koporye, Ivangorod, but preserved the mouth of the Neva.

Despite of the lost war, Russian government did not consider the struggle for the Baltic finished. And so, the attempts to make an alliance with England were even more active in 1582-1584. The threat from Rech Pospolitaya (the Polish and Lithuanian State united in 1569 under the Lyublinsk Union) was not liquidated in the second half of XVI century. King Stefan Batory hoped to realize his plans to conquer Russia and organize a campaign against Osmanian Empire.

After the death of Stefan Batory in 1586 Lithuanian magnates supported Tsar Feodor, the nominee of Godunov's government for the Polish throne, however, the Seym elected the Swedish Prince Sigizmund Vaza - Sigizmund III. It reinforced the Polish-Swedish dynastic union (in 1592 Sigizmund simultaneously became the King of Sweden). A new war started by Moscow against Sweden in 1590 was intended to return Russian territories in the Baltic coast lost during the Livonian War. This war ended in Tyavzinsk peace treaty in 1595. Russia regained Yam, Koporye, Ivangorod, Nienschanz, Korela, Oreshek and even a part of the Baltic coast, but without harbours. Narva was preserved by Sweden.

The situation at the southern borders of Russia remained unstable because of attacks of the Crimean Tatars. The last raid of the Crimean hordes under the command of Khan Kazy-Girey was stopped by Russian armies at the Danilov Monastery near Moscow in 1591. Active military pressure made by Boris Godunov's government compelled the Crimean Khanate to sign the peace treaty with Moscow in June 1598. In 1600 Boris Godunov achieved very important diplomatic success: he concluded Russian-Polish armistice for 20 years. Thus, international situation of the Russian State had been stabilized by the beginning of XVII century. Though, the basic problems of Russian foreign policy still remained unsolved.

Russian Culture in XVI century

Progress of consolidation process affected development of Russian culture as well, which in the first half of XVI century was on the rise. The process of formation of Russian nationality and Russian language was going to an end. Moscow and Rostovo-Suzdalsky dialects played the leading role - they formed foundation for spoken and business language. Formation of generally adopted language norm provided a basis for commonality of material and spiritual culture.

The very character of the culture underwent considerable changes - it became more secular. In conditions of aggravated political struggle that accompanied formation of the Russian State, and developing public thinking the culture became more bound to political tasks faced by the society. In XVI century the interest to narrative belletristic literature characteristic for the second half of XV century declined. Publicism became the prevailing literary genre. Religious and secular authors touched the major problems of life of the state and society.

The legendary and historical narration "The Legend about Princes of Vladimir" (the beginning of XVI century) set the major ideas of the official doctrine of autocracy: the origin of Russian princes was traced back to the Roman Emperor August, and it was also stated that Vladimir Monomah received the royal regalia from the Byzantian Emperor.

The intense searches of solving of such problems as the character and origin of the government, the problem of law and justice, the role and place of the church in the state, the problem of landed property and the status of peasants - all that was reflected in publicistic works of Josephian Metropolitan Daniel and 'non-acquisitors' V.I. Patrikeyev and Maxim Grek (in the world the Greek monk Mikhail Trivolis) who arrived to Russia in 1518, he was a translator and editor of The Holy Writ. In 40-70's of XVI century it was now secular publicists who played the main role, such as an outstanding diplomat F.I. Karpov and a nobleman I.S. Peresvetov.

Chronicle writing got official character in XVI century. 'Nikonovsky Svod' (Nikon's Chronicle) was the biggest according to both, its volume and importance among other chronicles of this period. It included extensive annalistic material from the beginning of Russia to the end of 50's of XVI century. 'Nikonovsky Svod' was totally dedicated to the idea of glorifying the Tsar. In the middle of XVI century 'Nikonovsky Svod' provided a basis for the illustrated world history - "Illuminated Annalistic Svod". It was accomplished in 70's; it represented 12 volumes decorated with splendid miniatures (16000 miniatures came to our time). The last volume of the Svod, 'The Tsar's Book', was devoted to the reign of Ivan IV.

"The History of The Kazan Empire" (1564-1566) became a significant historical work of an official character. 'Kniga Stepennaya Tsarskogo Rodosloviya' (1561-1563) devoted to the Tsar's family genealogy compiled under the direction of Metropolitan Makary is also worth mentioning. This book represented an integral historical work where events were arranged in 17 parts according to the reigns of different rulers, from Olga and Vladimir to Ivan the Terrible. The main task of the plot was to explain the importance of association of the lands under the power of an autocratic ruler from the Ryurikoviches family and significance of the church in this process.

Monumental historical and literary works appeared in XVI century. The most of them were created by members of Metropolitan Makary's circle. The largest literary work of Makary and his adherents was "The Great Chetyi-Mineyis" - 12 volumes collection (according to the number of months). It included hagiographies, bible legends, the works of the church hierarchs, historical stories and other works arranged according to the calendar of the Orthodox Church. In fact, "Chetyi-Mineyis" absorbed all the literature existing in Rus in that period.

National folk-lore was also developing. Legends, songs and fairy tales of XVI century narrated about the defeat of Kazan, a conquest of Siberia, the struggle of Ivan the Terrible against boyards, etc. Development of Russian publicism, literature and national folk-lore testified to the further growth of education in Russia. Written literary works were not only stored in monastic libraries, they were also widely distributed among the population - and that speaks to the increase of literacy.

Increased requirement of the state for literates was reflected in the decision of Stoglavy Sobor (1551) about creation of schools in cities. Besides ecclesiastics, secular masters could also be founders, they opened private two-year schools. The first Russian grammar book was printed in 1574. Mastering of elementary literacy (reading and writing skills) opened a way to the further self-education. In XVI century highly educated Russian people became frequent not only among clergymen, but also among secular people.

Book-printing became an important event in the cultural life. It was started in 1553-1555 in Moscow, when 'Triodiya Postnaya' and 'The Gospel' were printed by unknown masters. But the true rise of printing in Russia was concerned to the name of Ivan Fedorov. In 1564 he put out the first Russian printed dated book - "Apostle", it was distinguished by a very high level of typography.

The process of accumulation of applied knowledge proceeded. The growth of trade and monetary circulation promoted development of arithmetical knowledge. Due to Russian seafarers, travellers and ambassadorial staff geographical knowledge extended as well. Descriptions of other countries, charts and maps of own territories were executed. Practical medicine multiplied its knowledge. A translation of original German medical directory "Vertograd" was made in 1543. In 1581 The first Russian drugstore was opened in Moscow for the Tsar's family.

In the first half of XVI century an intensive construction of stone churches and fortresses was carried out, though, on the whole, Rus, both, rural and urban remained wooden. Renaissance features introduced by Italian architects (The New Arkhangelsk Cathedral of the Kremlin constructed by Aleviz in 1509 represents a perfect example of such architecture) had almost no continuation in the Russian architecture, which turned to revival of Vladimiro-Suzdal heritage. This appeal to the national sources was especially vividly expressed in appearance of traditional Russian hipped style in stone architecture, so characteristic of wooden Russian architecture. The Ascension Church in Kolomna (1532) and The Protection of the Virgin Temple (The Vasily Blazhenny Cathedral 1555-1560) erected by Russian masters Postniks Yakovlev and Barma on the Red Square in honour of the capture of Kazan became masterpieces of the hipped style.

Military installations were also being actively erected. In 1500-1508 Pyotr Fryazin constructed the stone Nizhniy Novgorod Kremlin. Many churches were built on donations of rich merchants (Yu.G. Bobynin, V.A. Bobr, F. Vepr). About the year of 1516 the construction of the brick Moscow Kremlin was accomplished. It replaced the White-walled Kremlin of the time of Dmitry Donskoy. In the end of the century Feodor Kon built in Moscow the wall around The White Town (Bulvarnoye Koltso nowadays) with towers and a gate, he also built a Kremlin in Smolensk.

Painters broadened subjects of their works. The common cultural rise of the period of the single state formation was replaced by evident recession: the period of the Livonian War and Oprichnina was least favourable for the Russian culture. Book-printing, painting and architecture were devoted to the idea of strengthening of the Church and its religious influence. A serious harm to the culture was caused by severe censorship of creative thinking. Many cultural processes tended to penetration into deeper levels (painters, for example, addressed to the development of a technique: a new, Stroganov's school of icon-painting was formed). New development in the culture occurred only in the next century.

Moscow State
Moscow State Formation
Distempered Time
Restoration after "Distemper"


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