The History of Moscow
In 11-th century Volga-Oka region inhabited by the Vyatiches was distant and inaccessible land. In was called “a county beyond forests”. The Grand prince of Kiev Vladimir Monomakh ranked two campaigns to the land of the bellicose Vyatiches among outstanding events of his life. The campaigns allowed the part of this land to be joined to Chernigov principality. So in 12-th century middle stream area of the Moskva-river was a boundary between Chernigov and Rostov-Suzdal principalities. In the middle of 12-th century Moscow appertained to Rostov-Suzdal principality.
The first mention of Moscow in chronicle is bound with details of political confrontation. In 1147 the prince of Rostov and Suzdal Yuri Dolgorukiy (Long Arms) invited his ally Svyatoslav the prince of Novgorod Severskiy to visit him in Moscow (“come to me, brother, to Moscow”). The meeting took place on the 4th of April 1147, there was a lavish feast there, and the princes gave presents to each other and came to an agreement of mutual assistance. This is an evidence of significance of Moscow as a local centre that was good enough to receive guests of honor there.
Moreover there is a later tradition on the earliest history of the city fixed in the “Tales of the beginning of Moscow” (late 16 – 17-th century). According to the “Tale”, once there were on the Moskva-river side wealthy and distinguished landlord - the boyar Kuchka (the name has variants - Stephan Ivanovich or Kuchko Stephanovich). One day prince Yuri Dolgoruky moved through his land to Vladimir and came to Kuchka’s house. Kuchka was inhospitable and ventured an abuse to the prince. Yuri Dolgoruky didn’t bear it, put Kuchka to death and took Kuchka’s landed property to his hands. The prince liked this country so much that he decided to found a town there and to name it after the name of the Moskva-river.
The “Tale” is not correct as a historical source but it may reflect some reality. Up to 15-th century the name of Kuchkovo polie (field) survived in Moscow district of Sretenka. There is a tale about the murder of Yuri Dolgorukiy’s son, Andrew Bogolubskiy in chronicle. The boyar Yakim Kuchkovich is mentioned as one of the murderers there. His companion was “Peter, Kuchka’s so-in-law”. But the vague evidences don’t allow this story to be accepted as the truth.
On the problem of origin of the name “Moscow” plenty of interpretation are suggested using Finno-Ugric and Baltic names.
For the next time Moscow was mentioned in chronicles is under the year of 1156. Tverskaya chronicle tells, that Yuri Dolgorukiy laid foundation of the fortress walls in Moscow by the Neglinnaya-river mouth. Possibly this was affected by aggravation of conflict between Dolgoruky and the prince of Chernigov. The new fortress was set on Borovitskiy hill that is the high cape, by the confluence of the Moskva-river and Neglinnaya. The third side of the fortress that had no natural barrier was fortified with a moat-ravine from 16 to 18 m wide and up to 5 m deep. When the moat was studied in 1975 in the depth of 7 m in the layer dated to 12-th century a rare artifact was found. It was a double-edged blade of a sword made in West Europe with a traditional knight’s device “For God’s Name” and master’s stamp. The sword could get into the moat during the battle by the fortification of the town. Along the side of the Neglinnaya an earthen wall of 14,5 m wide was built. Archaeological investigation discovered a wooden structure built of horizontal logs braced with thinner poles laid crosswise. The structure protected the wall from sinking and destruction.
The area and dimensions of the most ancient Moscow fortress are determined approximately. From the side of the Neglinnaya the fortress wall could reach the place of modern Troitzkie gate whence the road to Smolensk and Volok Lamskiy began. From the other side fortification went as far as modern Taininskaya tower and turned northwest to Troitzkie gate enclosing the territory of Sobornaya square. From the West and the East the fortress had ramparts strengthen with 3m high wooden walls with loopholes. Such a fortress might have two gates. Its configuration was similar to oval; its square was some more 3-hectare.
Archaeological investigations in modern area of Kitai-gorod discovered that in the time of Batiy invasion (1238) Moscow had densely populated posad (trading quarter) which sided with a city wall from the East and spread across the place of modern Ivanovskaya square as far as the line of modern fortress walls. Farther the area on the left bank of the Neglinnaya-river and a narrow strip of land along the Moskva-river bank (the region of podol) was built over. The main part of the area, which was occupied later with trading quarter (posad), and the banks of the Neglinnaya were fields. Forests stretched farther.
The principal kinds of buildings in Moscow in 12-13-th centuries were a ground framework house (izba) and a semi-subterranean house. Semi-subterranean houses were usually sunk 0,3-1 m deeper. They had a ground floor and no windows. Wooden stairs led inside the hut. These structures were very alike dwellings of Slav settlers in Moscow land. A hearth was heated without chimney. One corner of a hut was occupied with a hearth. The opposite corner was the place of honor for guests. It was called “red corner” (it means “holiday, best, fine”). The corner in front of the hearth was intended for women. They cooked or span or did needlework there. The fourth corner men occupied.
Houses of wealthy townsmen were constructed as a few adjoined izba-chambers. A building was enclosed with palisade and constituted a kind of homestead. It included both the house and other household structures. A homestead of a craftsman included usually his workshop. Traces of handicraft are often found during excavations.
The first mentionings of Moscow in chronicles were related to its strategic importance in conflicts among princes. Moscow was a strong point of princes of Rostov and Suzdal and later of the Grand prince of Vladimir in their confrontation with Chernigov and Ryazan.
At the same time the city was both a fortress and a trade center. The main significance in trade connections had river communication. A lot of items made far from Russia were found in Moscow. They demonstrate widespread trade connections of Moscow. For example, in 19-th century when building Christ the Saviour Cathedral, two Arabic coins (dirkhem) dated to 862 and 866 years A.D. were found. Other artifacts from Kremlin and different parts of Moscow are slate spindle whorls made in the South in Ovrouch, fragments of golden embroidery from Byzantine, shreds of red-clay amphorae from the Crimea, amber ornaments from Baltic and so on.
Early Moscow was rather administrative than production centre. Moscow population was engaged in farming mostly, however the traces of various handicrafts such as pottery, wood and iron working and other are discovered during archaeological investigation in modern Kitai-gorod. In 12-13-th centuries Moscow craftsmen supplied Muscovites mainly.
In 12-13-th centuries Moscow developed and grew rich. In winter 1238 its rise was interrupted by Batiy’s horde invasion. According to a chronicle the Mongols captured Moscow, murdered Moscow voivode (commander of army) and almost all the inhabitants young and old. The Mongol destruction can be seen in a thick layer of a fire that lies under modern surface of Moscow centre. Nevertheless Moscow could be restored rather quickly after the ravage. The survived Muscovites returned to their old home and built it up.
Mongol invasion ruined Russian land. Many towns could not regenerate, but Moscow arose, established and led separated Russian principalities to association. After the middle of 13 century population of South Russia destroyed by the Tatars moved to the North. This factor affected progress of cites of Moscow, Tver, Kostroma, and Belozero. In the middle of 13-th century Moscow became an important centre. That time it got an independent prince - Alexander Nevskiy’s brother, Michael Khorobrit (that means “making a show of bravery’). His governing was not long. In 1248 he exiled his uncle Svyatoslav and occupied the Grand prince’s throne but the same year he was killed in the battle with the Lithuanians. Thus Moscow entered the Great Vladimir principality again. Alexander Nevskiy allotted the city as an apanage principality to his younger son Daniel born in 1261. When Alexander had passed away, the Grand prince’s governor ruled Moscow until Daniel got mature. In 1282 Daniel was mentioned in a chronicle as an independent figure for the first time.
In the end of 13-th century northeastern Russia was involved in a long conflict between Alexander Nevskiy’s sons, Dmitriy of Pereslav and Andrew of Gorodetz. Daniel of Moscow supported now one brother, now another. But in 1293 when the Tatars whom Andrew of Gorodetz brought to Russia ruined Moscow, Daniel became an ally of the prince of Pereslav Dmitriy and his son John. Soon after, Daniel headed the struggle against Andrew of Gorodetz. He strengthened his principality by joining the fertile land of Kolomna. In 1302 childless prince John of Pereslav devised his apanage to Daniel of Moscow. Andrew of Gorodetz tried to dispute the will and went to the Golden Horde, as he was eager to attach Pereslav to his land with the help of khan. Meanwhile Daniel of Moscow died on the 5 of March 1303 taken monastic vows and schema (the strictest monastic rule).
Daniel of Moscow is considered to be the initiator of Moscow rise. During his governing both the territory of his land and the city of Moscow enlarged. Under Daniel the most ancient Moscow monasteries sprang up. They were Danilov monastery (to the South of Moscow in suburb) and Bogoyavlenskiy (of Epiphany) monastery (in trading region of the city). A later legend tells that Daniel of Moscow was buried in Danilov monastery. In 1652 saint relicts of the prince were found and in the end of 19-th - beginning of 20-th centuries the reverence of Saint Daniel of Moscow was established.
After Alexander Nevskiy's sons, two dynasties had pretensions to leadership in the Northeast Russia - the princes of Tver descended from Alexander Nevskiy’s elder brother, Yaroslav and the princes of Moscow. Daniel’s elder son Yuri was firm, vigorous and cruel man. He withstood his uncle Michael of Tver in the struggle for the “yarlyk”- the permit to govern which the khan of the Golden Horde gave to Russian princes during Mongol-Tatar yoke. Prince Yuri continued to widen Moscow principality; in1303 he attached Mozhaysk. Prince Yuri stayed in the Horde for some time, there he got acquainted with khan Uzbek and married his sister Konchaka (baptismal name Agatha). So Yuri succeeded in receiving the desired yarlyk in 1317. Soon after, the war between Moscow and Tver was resumed. In 1318 Yuri sustained a defeat in the battle by Bortenevo (40 km from Tver). Tver citizens took prisoners his wife and brother Boris. But the luck of prince Michael had turned. Princess Agatha-Konchaka died captive and Yuri managed to benefit by this. He went to khan Uzbek with a complaint about the prince of Tver who didn’t obey the khan and poisoned Yuri’s wife. Uzbek sent for prince Michael, took him into custody and then martyred and killed him.
Nevertheless prince Yuri didn’t triumph long. The young prince of Tver Dmitriy became his successful rival. In 1322 he managed to receive the Grand prince’s yarlyk. In 1325 the princes met in the Golden Horde and prince Dmitriy murdered prince Yuri of Moscow. Khan Uzbek disliked such self-will and he put Dmitriy to death but gave the yarlyk to Dmitriy’s younger brother, Alexander of Tver.
Daniel's of Moscow younger son John who outlived his brothers came to Moscow throne. In contrast with Yuri, John was more calm and sober-minded man. At the same time he was firm in achieving his purpose, cruel or courteous when he needed. He was thrifty and solid man and respected ecclesiastic authorities. The contemporaries nicknamed him Kalita (that is “purse-bag”). The later legend connects the nickname with the prince’s goodness and generosity. The legend tells that prince John always had his purse-bag with him to dispense charity. However it is more possible that the nickname was caused by wealth and thrift of prince John first of all.
Prince of Moscow was a kind and cordial host. He gained the favour of metropolitan Peter, the head of Russian Church, so that he moved his residence from Vladimir to Moscow. Moscow became the capital of Russian Church. New status of the city obliged to adorn it with new magnificent cathedrals. John the Kalita with the blessing of metropolitan Peter began to build a cathedral of Assumption. Metropolitan was looking after the construction and pointed the new cathedral as his resting place. But when Peter died the cathedral was not built yet, so he was buried in the unfinished building. His successor metropolitan Theognost canonized St. Peter. In 1339 Constantinople Patriarch recognized Peter’s sanctity. Since that time St. Metropolitan Peter is esteemed as a miracle-worker and St. Protector of Moscow.
Meanwhile the course of events in Tver took a tragic turn. In 1327 the Tverians rose against khan’s governor Cholkhan, who oppressed them brutally, and slaughtered all the Tatars in the city. Angry khan Uzbek sent big Tatar army to Tver and ordered all the Russian princes to accompany it. Prince John the Kalita was appointed a head of the Russians attached to Tatar’s army. Tver and other towns of the principality were ruined and burned. Prince Alexander escaped to Pskov and father to Sweden. The importance of Tver was vacillated for a long time. The yarlyk of the Grand prince was given to John the Kalita.
Russian chronicles say that under John the Kalita “great quiet was settled for 40 years”. He put an end to constant Tatar invasions that destroyed Russia recurrently in 13-th - early 14-th centuries. The prince succeeded in averting forays and ravages through punctual collection of tribute for the Golden Horde. In tribute collecting John was firm and cruel. In 1332 when Novgorod refused to pay increased tribute, he seized Novgorod’s volosts (regions) of Torzhok and Bezetski Verkh. In Rostov Moscow voivodes (commanders of army) extorted tribute with force and tortures.
At the same time Moscow prince grew rich that allowed him to buy in the Horde yarlyks to govern Galich, Belozero and Uglich principalities. Great means were spent for new Moscow churches. In 1329 church of St. John the Climacus, the St. Protector of Moscow princes, was built. In 1330 new Spasskiy (of St. Saviour) cathedral was erected, in 1333 a stone cathedral of Michael the Archangel that became the Grand princes’ crypt was built. In 1339 construction of new wooden defensive walls was begun. Shortly after, on the 31 March 1341 prince John the Kalita died.
In his will prince John divided Moscow principality into three parts for each of his sons - Simon the Haughty, John the Glorious (Krasnyi) and Andrew. The eldest son Simon inherited the Great reign and the main towns of principality - Mozhaysk, Kolomna and other. John got Zvenigorod, Ruza and other. Andrew got Lopasnya, Serpukhov and other volosts. Moscow territory was also divided into three parts. In his will John the Kalita paid attention to home property, he assigned in detail all the dresses, ornaments, iconies, harness and so on left to each of his sons and daughters.
Simon the Haughty received the Grand prince’s yarlyk easily. His character was alike his uncle’s rather than his father’s one. Simon was energetic and brutal that affected his nickname. He was unbridled as well in his private life. When Simony’s first wife Augusta (prince Gedeminas of Lithuania's daughter) died in 1345, he married a princess of Smolensk. Shortly after the wedding prince Simon divorced, which was unprecedented incident in Russia. Then he married for the third time a princess of Tver in spite of canon law. The metropolitan did not bless his marriage, but Simon ignored him.
During the rule of Simon the Haughty the main political rival of Moscow was not Tver but the neighbor state of Lithuania. Lithuanian princes widened their territory energetically, interfered in adjacent states’ affairs and were eager to subject western Russian territories. The first collision between prince Simon and the Grand prince of Lithuania Olgerd ended in Moscow favour. In the conflict khan supported Simon the Haughty and so Olgerd was forced to conclude a treaty with him and to confirm it with marriage. The prince of Lithuania married Moscow princess’ sister.
In 1352 epidemic of plague, which had struck European population in 1347, came to Moscow. The epidemic was violent. During spring and summer a lot of people died. Among them were metropolitan Theognost, Grand prince’s sons John and Simon, Grand prince Simon (April 26) and prince Andrew of Lopasnya (John the Kalita’s youngest son). Moscow throne passed into the hands of John the Glorious.
According to the chronicles, John theGlorious was gentle and merciful man. He was not as firm as his father and as severe as his brother. The prince of Ryazan Oleg derived benefit of this and seized Moscow volost of Lopasnya, the Novgorodians were at enmity with the Grand prince and even in Moscow the boyars quarreled with each other. The boyar’s quarrel ended with the mysterious murder of a boyar Alexis Khvost (1356). The reign of John the Glorious was rather short. In 1359 he died taken monastic (as schema) vows.
During rule of Kalita’s successors Moscow grew large and wealthy. Its territory was fixed in chronicles in entries about fires. In 1343, for instance, 28 churches were burnt. Big fires enveloped the city in 1331, 1335, 1337 and 1365, but Moscow was built up again and again. In 1344 Russian and Greek artists began to paint the cathedrals of Assumption and of Archangel. In 1345 they painted new stone cathedral of the monastery of the Saviour in Kremlin.
The Feudal war caused growth of the Grand prince’s power as personal authority. The Grand prince’s family replaced the numerous clan of Kalita in the middle of 15-th century. Almost all the apanages formed by Dmitriy of the Don in his will were joint back. Young Grand prince John III solved the problems of foreign policy such as conflicts with Lithuania and the Horde and confirmation of Moscow authority over Russian land.
Prince John III struck his first serious blow on Novgorod. Novgorod government system retained pre-Mongol democratic traditions; it was boyars’ republic and constituted a dangerous alternative to prince’s authority of Moscow state. Some of Novgorod boyars wanted to lean for support of Polish king Kasimir against Moscow prince, that was the reason interrelations of Moscow and Novgorod became more strained. In1474 John III led his troops to Novgorod. The Novgorodians were defeated utterly and a treaty that limited independence of Novgorod republic was concluded. Another campaign against Novgorod resulted in abolition of republic institutions and subjecting of vast Novgorod land.
After Novgorod land other principalities passed into the hands of Moscow prince. In 1471 Yaroslavl principality was joint to Moscow. In 1474 the last princes of Rostov sold their domain to John III. In 1485 the campaign against Tver put an end to Tver principality independence. By the end of John III's rule Pskov boyar republic and Ryazan principality kept their formal independence only. In the reign of John’s son Basil III these remains of feudal separation were eliminated. Thus in early 16-th century Moscow became a capital of united Russian state.
Foreign relations of Moscow state developed. An important event supported international prestige of united Russian state was the marriage of John III and Sofia Paleolog, the Byzantine emperor’s niece.
Under John III new status of the city affected significant changes of its outward appearance. In 1472 reconstruction of the cathedral of Assumption began. In 1474 the new building was nearly finished, but it crashed down suddenly because of mistakes of builders and a rare for Moscow land disaster of earthquake. Building was begun again. This time an outstanding Italian architect and engineer Aristotle Fiorovanti was invited. He directed building of the cathedral from 1475 to 1479 and applied many technical innovations. The new cathedral staggered the contemporaries by its grandeur and beauty.
Energetic church and secular building in Kremlin and posad continued. In 1485 reconstruction of Kremlin walls and towers was began. Italian specialists (Anton Fryasin, that is “Italian”, Marco Rouffo, Pietro Antonio Solari and other) directed the works. Moscow Kremlin fortress was erected according to the rules of West-European fortification art including underground passages, secrete places, narrow embrasures and so on.
Whereas Russian state grew powerful and united, the Golden Horde broke up to several states - Crimean khanate, Kazan khanate, the Big Horde, Nogay Horde and some others. The khan of the Big Horde Akhmad considered himself to be an heir of Chingiz-khan’s empire. He was eager for bygone fame of the Horde sovereigns and for their despotic government to be restored. In 1480 Akhmad got on the march to Moscow. He planned to subjugate the Grand prince who stopped paying tribute. Tatar and Russian troops met on banks of the Oka but nobody dared to cross the river and to start the battle. Akhmad moved his army to the Ugra-river where he was expecting for help of Polish king Kazimir but vainly because meanwhile Moscow army stopped the king. In 1480 Akhmad drew his troops back to steppes. His attempt to subdue Moscow state failed. The repulse of Akhmad’s invasion is recognized the end of the Horde’s yoke. Since then Moscow sovereigns stopped definitely paying tribute to the Horde and asking for the yarlyk for reign.
The heirs of the Golden Horde were Kazan and Crimean khanates. John III carried out different policy to each of the states. From 1467 Kazan was an object of Russian aggressive policy that resulted in supervision over khanate established in 1487-1521; whereas Crimean khan Mengli-Girei was on friendly terms with John III. He was John’s ally in his struggle with the Big Horde and Lithuania. John III developed trade connections with Crimean khanate and with Osman Empire through mediation of the Crimea.
At the same time the circumstances turned out favourably for Moscow metropolitan to become independent of Byzantine. Byzantine declined; in 1439 Florence Union was concluded according to which Byzantine Orthodox Church as well as Catholic Church were subjected to the Pope. Greek treachery to the orthodox idea let Moscow clergy to form the conception of Moscow as the successor of greatness of Constantinople. They said that the “First Rome” of ancient classical time perished because of his adherence to paganism, the “Second Rome” - Constantinople - perished because of his treason of Orthodoxy, Moscow was the “Third Rome” and the “Forth” one would never be. That time the idea was of great importance because it answered Moscow Grand princes’ striving to autocracy. Energetic advocates of it and supporters of strong prince’s authority were the Iosiflians - disciples and followers of Iosif (Joseph) of Volotsk starets (elderly monk). They came out in favour of Grand prince’s autocracy and strict observance of church rules and severe prosecution of heretics. But when John III encroached on land possessions of monasteries, he met definite opposition of the Iosiflians and was forced to go back on his claims.
So John III was proclaimed the true heir of Byzantine and Ancient Russia’s might. He came into conflict with Lithuania for west Russian territories captured by Lithuanian princes in 14-th - early 15-th centuries. Undeclared war began in 1480 and stopped in 1494, but in1499 it was preceded. John’s son, Basil III finished this war when in 1514 he managed to seize Smolensk after three unsuccessful attempts. As a result of Russian-Lithuanian wars of late 14-th - early 15-th centuries the territories of Smolensk principality, Severskaya land and Verkhovskie principalities (of the Upper Oka-river) passed to Russia.
Basil III continued both foreign and home policy of his father. His power was almost autocracy. The Caesar’s ambassador at court of Basil III, S. Herber wrote that the Russians called themselves “kholops” (that is “slaves”) of their sovereign.
The relations with the Crimea and Kazan were not as much successful as they were in the days of John III. Crimean khan Magmet-Girei got on the march to Moscow. It was ruinous and threatened with disaster. Basil III was forced to give a deed with a promise to pay tribute. Ryasan governor I.V. Khabara took swift and effective measures that made the Tatars to lose the deed, Magmet-Girei met with a rebuff by Ryazan and went back to steppes.
Basil III had no heirs. His wedlock was childless, so in 1525 the prince resolved to take unprecedented measure that was a divorce. The Grand princess Solomonida was forced to take the veil and prince Basil married a young princess Helen Glinskaya. The legend said that the Glinskyes came from one of Mamay’s sons. On the 25 of August 1530 a long-hoped-for son was born, he was called John. The later evidences told that the young prince’s birth was accompanied with threatening natural signs betokening his severe governing. The young prince became Grand prince John the Terrible.
Soon after his son’s birth in autumn 1533 prince Basil III fell ill after hunting. Treatment brought no relief; he was worse and worse. At last the Grand prince was brought to Moscow where he said his last farewell to his wife, brothers and boyars and gave his blessing to his little son. Basil took the monastic vows and died.