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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe

 

Old Rus / The Russias

The term 'the Russias' can be used to describe a rather ill-defined expanse of territory to the north of the Pontic-Caspian steppe in Eastern Europe. Areas of modern Russia have long been occupied by tribal peoples, stretching right back to the Butovo culture of the Mesolithic period.

The Pontic-Caspian steppe stretches through modern Ukraine and southern areas of Russia, and it was this vast region which witnessed the gradual development of forager cultures, plus the arrival in western parts of the Neolithic farmer culture of the Near East, known by the umbrella term 'Old Europe'. To the north of this, on either side of the Ural Mountains, were more forager cultures which inhabited the great forest regions on either side of the mountain range.

In the fourth millennium BC the Indo-European Yamnaya steppe-herder cultural horizon exploded across Eastern Europe and the Far East steppeland of modern Kazakhstan. Its people were largely descended from these forager cultures on the steppe and in the Ural forests, with a dash of 'Old Europe' ancestry added to the westernmost populations. They were neighboured to the north by the proto-Uralic peoples.

Later tribal groups included the apparently Belgic Venedi people by the first and second centuries BC. In the first few centuries AD, various Germanic tribes began migrating between the southern Baltic shore and the westernmost areas of southern Russia and Ukraine. These migrations included the Goths who managed to construct a vast confederation in the fourth century AD before it was crushed by the Huns.

The Viking era (especially in relation to Swedish Vikings) brought about radical changes to the lands which lay to the east and south of the Baltic territories. Viking interest and exploration into Slavic lands had been building up for some time, possibly resulting in a Rus Khaganate in the early ninth century.

A number of ancient towns such as Old Ladoga, Novgorod, Pskov, Polotsk, Kyiv, and so on emerged on the shores of the great rivers between the Baltic Sea and the Ural Mountains. Large centres like these attracted Vikings, Eastern Slavs, Finno-Ugrics, and Baltic people. In these lands the Vikings were known by various names, although not by the most popular name of Varangians, a term which seems to have been coined by the Byzantines.

Led by Rurik, the Rus Vikings who soon ruled the Slavs (a specific, northern Slavic tribe at that time) from their main base at Novgorod in the north seem to have originated on the Roslagen seashore of Uppland. This is not universally accepted, but 'Roslagen' adapted into Slavic easily becomes Rus' (the correct, but les-often used form of the name). At the time Roslagen was part of the nebulous territory of Kvenland.

Early Swede and Kven integration in the region had only recently begun by the time of Rurik's birth and the Rus themselves are noted separately from the Swedes. Instead of being Swedes themselves, they were probably a 'Vikingised' group of Kvens in Uppland who had adopted some of the newcomer's culture. Sadly, although modern DNA studies may have confirmed Rurik's Kvenish ethnic origin, his exact tribal origins would seem to be impossible to confirm.

An alternative option for naming the Rus is that the word may originate in the Finnish word for Swedish Scandinavians - Ruotsi - another pointer towards a Finnic origin for Rurik himself. This could have been used by the Rus themselves, or by the Eastern Slavs who neighboured Finno-Ugric groups and who would soon be subjects of these Rus.

The close of the ninth century witnessed the formation of an Old Russian state, accompanied by the rise of the Rus as the dominant force in this society, principally from Kyiv, the mother city until 1169. These lands, generally excluding Kyiv and what would become Ukraine, are what became the core of 'the Russias', encompassing many regions and often a large number of principalities, all of which vied for superiority.

These included Halych, Murom, Pereyaslav, Polotsk, Rostov-Suzdal, Smolensk, Tmutarakhan, Vladimir, and Volodimir. Trading centres such as Grodno, Volkovosk, and Novogorodok, were also founded by Rus in the former territories of the Lithuanians and Yotvingians.

Steppe plains of Ukraine

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Keith Matthews, from Gesta Danorum, Saxo Grammaticus, from Viking-Rus Mercenaries in the Byzantine-Arab Wars of the 950s-960s: the Numismatic Evidence, Roman K Kovalev, from The Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian Text), Samuel Hazzard Cross & Olgerd P Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Eds and translators, Mediaeval Academy of America), and from External Links: Worldstatesman, and Rurik of Novgorod and the Varangian DNA, and And it was given the name of Kyiv, Oleg Yastrubov, and The Fragmentation & Decline of Kievan Rus, and Encyclopaedia.com, and The Map Archive, and How DO you pronounce Kyiv, anyway? (University of Kansas News Service on YouTube).)

Princes of Moscow (Rus)
AD 1246 - 1263

The Rus presence in Eastern Slavic lands was initially confined to the major rivers and the trading settlements which formed along them. Led by Rurik, the Rus Vikings soon ruled the indigenous Slavs from their main base at Novgorod in the north. Following this they captured the Eastern Polans settlement of Kyiv, making it the mother of the cities of the Rus. The city became the heart of a grand principality and the guiding power in the Rus conquest of the east, remaining so until 1169 when it was sacked and the seat officially moved northwards to Vladimir-Suzdal.

This principality, which was located in the north-east of Rus lands, had quickly grown from its origins as a regional administrative centre under Novgorod's oversight to become a major Rus power. It played a major role in destabilising Kyiv as the principle Rus city and benefited greatly from its diminishing status. Further Rus migration into the region took place due to increased raids by Turkic tribes on Kyiv and the southern Rus lands. Vladimir became a major centre of Rus power and settlement immediately before the arrival of the Mongols and the eventual ending of Old Rus independence at the hands of the Golden Horde.

The city of Moskva (Moscow) was founded as a fortress settlement by the ruler of Rostov-Suzdal (the precursor to Vladimir-Suzdal) prior to 1147. It sat immediately south of the junction between the River Moskva and the mighty Volga, which provided direct access to the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. Moscow of the thirteenth century was an insignificant trading outpost within the principality. The Mongols burnt it down in the winter of 1238 but it was quickly rebuilt, its remote location in heavy forest offering it a degree of protection.

The Russian Primary Chronicle is a major source of information on the early states of the Rus. Much of the earliest material is legendary in nature, seemingly having been collated from various tales and folk memories which were then hung over a framework of dates which were taken from Byzantine sources. It was only from the accession of Yaroslav 'the Wise' of Kyiv in 1019 that its content rested largely on the personal reminiscences of contemporaries of the writers. Overall, the text is an homogeneous work which was compiled over a period of several years towards the close of the eleventh and the opening of the twelfth centuries, and it is highly important despite its unreliability in early entries.

As for Moscow, its early princes are not universally accepted by scholars. Daniel I, the first ruler of the grand duchy of Moscow is preferred as the 'founder' of Moscow's later greatness. Nevertheless, these individuals are mentioned in extant records as princes of Moscow, whatever the extent of their power or influence.

The arrival of the Rus

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian Text), Samuel Hazzard Cross & Olgerd P Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Eds and translators, Mediaeval Academy of America), from Novgorodskaia Pervaia Letopis' Starshego i Mladshego Izvodov, A N Nasonov (Ed, ANSSR, 1950), from The Chronicle of Novgorod 1016-1471, Michell & Forbes (Eds, Translators, Offices of the Society, London, 1914), and from External Links: Worldstatesman, and Rurik of Novgorod and the Varangian DNA, and The Fragmentation & Decline of Kievan Rus, and Encyclopaedia.com, and The Map Archive.)

1237 - 1240

Batu Khan of the Golden Horde begins the invasion and conquest of the lands of the Rus, with Subedei agreeing to accompany him. They cross the Volga and, having been refused in their demand that Yuri II of Vladimir-Suzdal submits, they take the city of Riazan after a five-day catapult assault.

Kipchak mounted warrior
An illustration of a mounted Kipchack warrior, typical of the waves of westward migrants who swept in from the Kazak steppe during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, largely pushed that way by the sudden creation of the Mongol empire

Then they take Kolumna and Moscow, defeating and killing Prince Yuri of Vladimir at the Battle of the River Sit, whilst leading the most powerful force in the northern half of the Rus lands (Yuri's death means he is succeeded by his brother Yaroslav, but it also seemingly signals the point at which the first prince of Moscow appears, this being Yaroslav's son, Mikhail).

During the invasion, Kyiv is conquered by Danylo Romanovych of Halych-Volynia, creating another target for a Mongol attack. Cumans, Kipchaks, and other nomadic groups flee the Rus lands to seek refuge in Hungary. As Batu Khan sees these people as his subjects, news of their departure is not welcomed and plans are laid to pursue them. Novgorod survives the tidal wave of conquest because the Mongols are unable to find a route through the marshes.

1246 - 1248

Mikhail Khorobrit

Son of Yaroslav II of Vladimir-Suzdal. Vassal. Killed.

1248

Sviatoslav III has been removed from his seat as grand duke of Vladimir-Suzdal by his nephew, Mikhail Khorobrit, prince of Moscow. He appeals directly to his overlords, the Golden Horde, but Mikhail is killed in battle by the Lithuanians under the leadership of Tautvilas of the Samogitians and his co-commanders before any action can be taken.

1248 - 1263

Boris Mikhailovich

Son. Vassal. Died.

1252 - 1253

Grand Prince Andrey of Vladimir-Suzdal allies himself with other princes of the western Rus in a move against the domination of the Golden Horde. Batu Khan sends out a punitive expedition which causes Andrey to flee first to Pskov and then to Sweden, and the population of Vladimir are punished for the crimes of their master. The Livonian Knights prevent the Mongols from advancing any farther north, while Alexander Nevsky is installed as the new grand prince of Vladimir.

Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn, Estonia
The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky in Tallinn, Estonia, was built in 1894-1900, with the sainted Nevsky having been honoured for halting in 1242 the further eastwards advance of the German crusaders in the Baltics (click or tap on photo to read more on a separate page)

1263

Aleksandr Nevsky's death means that his two year-old son, Daniel, inherits the smallest and least significant of his domains in the form of the newly-created duchy of Moscow. Daniel of Moscow, or Daniil Aleksandrovich, is claimed by some modern scholars to be the first prince of Moscow, although that is not the case. He is, however, the first prince of a duchy of Moscow.

Duchy of Moscow (Rus)
AD 1263 - 1328

The Rus presence in Eastern Slavic lands initially crystallised around Novgorod and Kyiv. Led by Rurik, the Rus Vikings ruled the indigenous Slavs from these growing cities until 1169 when Kyiv was sacked and the principal seat of Rus command was officially moved northwards to Vladimir-Suzdal. This principality played a major role in destabilising Kyiv as the principle Rus city and benefited greatly from its diminishing status. It became a major centre of Rus power and settlement immediately before the arrival of the Mongols and the eventual ending of Old Rus independence at the hands of the Golden Horde.

The city of Moskva (Moscow) was founded as a fortress settlement by the ruler of Rostov-Suzdal (the precursor to Vladimir-Suzdal) prior to 1147. It sat immediately south of the junction between the River Moskva and the mighty Volga, which provided direct access to the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. The Mongols burnt it down in the winter of 1238 but it was quickly rebuilt, its remote location in heavy forest offering it a degree of protection.

The city's early princes of Moscow are not universally accepted by scholars, however. Daniel or Daniil Aleksandrovich, the first ruler of the grand duchy of Moscow from the age of two in 1263 is often preferred as the 'founder' of Moscow's later greatness. In effect, it was the last seat of power to be founded by the Old Rus, with defeat and domination by the Golden Horde already having been completed. The Rus lands were almost entirely occupied (especially the eastern Rus territories) or subjugated by other European powers (mainly the western Rus territories).

The Russian Primary Chronicle is a major source of information on the early states of the Rus. Much of the earliest material is legendary in nature, seemingly having been collated from various tales and folk memories which were then hung over a framework of dates which were taken from Byzantine sources. It was only from the accession of Yaroslav 'the Wise' of Kyiv in 1019 that its content rested largely on the personal reminiscences of contemporaries of the writers. Overall, the text is an homogeneous work which was compiled over a period of several years towards the close of the eleventh and the opening of the twelfth centuries, and it is highly important despite its unreliability in early entries.

The arrival of the Rus

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian Text), Samuel Hazzard Cross & Olgerd P Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Eds and translators, Mediaeval Academy of America), and from External Links: Worldstatesman, and Rurik of Novgorod and the Varangian DNA, and The Fragmentation & Decline of Kievan Rus, and Encyclopaedia.com, and The Map Archive.)

1263 - 1303

St Daniel of Moscow

Son of Aleksandr Nevsky of Vladimir-Suzdal. First duke.

1268

With both German crusaders and Lithuanians from the Baltics impinging on the territories of the various Rus principalities which are still vassals of the Golden Horde, Khan Mongke Temur sends troops to Novgorod to eject the Livonian Knights.

Livonian Knights
The Livonian Knights - otherwise known as the Livonian Brethren of the Sword, the Order of the Knights of the Sword, or more simply as the 'Order' or 'Brethren' - did the dirty work of extinguishing resistance to the German crusaders and their imposition of order on the Estonian and northern Balt tribes

1274 - 1275

Smolensk is the last of the independent principalities of the Rus, but it now falls to Mongke Temur of the Golden Horde. The following year he defends his Rus vassals by dispatching a Mongol-Rus force to ward off the Lithuanians, an action which is requested by Duke Lev I of Halych-Volynia.

1293

Toqta Khan of the Golden Horde attempts to end the semi-independent rule of the Rus vassal princes by sending his brothers at the head of an army which devastates no less than fourteen towns. Toqta himself forces Grand Prince Demetrius of Pereslavl, grand prince of Vladimir, to abdicate, which is an important victory in itself as he is an ally of Nogai Khan of the Nogai Horde. The Rus record the campaign as the 'harsh-time of Batu returns'. Daniel himself has been involved in supporting his brother, Demetrius.

1301

Having recently fended off a minor but important attack by Constantine, prince of Ryazan, Daniel takes an army to Ryazan. The city's ruler is captured and imprisoned, a large force of Tartars is destroyed, and Daniel gains the fortress of Kolomna. This acquisition guarantees Moscow's control of the entire length of the River Moskva.

1302

The death of Daniel's firm ally and nephew, Ivan of Pereslavl, means that he is granted control of all of Ivan's territories, including Pereslavl-Zalessky itself, on the east bank of the Dnieper in modern Ukraine.

Map of Scandinavia AD 1300
By around AD 1300 the Swedes and Norse had taken full control of southern Scandinavia, while Lithuania was beginning to extend its influence greatly towards the east and south-east, across the fractured western Rus lands of Ruthenia (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1303 - 1325

Yuri (I) / Georgiy Danilovich

Son. Gained Vladimir-Suzdal (1318). Killed by Dmitry.

1318 - 1322

The sons of Mikhail of Tver, Dimitry (or Dmitri) and Alexander Mikhailovich, fight a series of battles against Yuri Danilovich of Moscow. By intriguing with the royal court of the Golden Horde, Dmitry manages to gain the yarlik for Vladimir in 1322, removing it from Yuri's control.

1321

In or around this year (the dating is uncertain as the various chronicles which cover this event are only written down afterwards), Lithuania meets Kyiv in battle. Prince Stanislav Ivanovich is allied to the principalities of Pereyaslavl and Bryansk under Oleg and Roman respectively, but their joint forces are defeated at the Battle of the River Irpin. Kyiv now falls under Lithuanian influence, although the city itself successfully withstands a siege.

1325 - 1326

The metropolitan of Kievan Rus moves his seat in 1325 from Vladimir to Moscow, making it clear that he regards Moscow as the principal city of the grand duchy of Vladimir. The city of Vladimir is reduced in importance by the move.

Yuri Danilovich of Moscow is killed by Dmitry in the same year, before he can clear his name and regain the yarlik. Ozbeg of the Golden Horde arrests Dimity for the murder and executes him in 1326.

Berdi Beg coins
This Russian imitation is of a coin issued (possibly) during the short-lived khanate of Berdi Beg (1357-1359), the victim of an all-too-familiar assassination in the Blue Horde

1325 - 1328

Ivan I / Ivan Kalita / Ivan Danilovich

Brother. Became ruler of Moscow State (1328).

1327 - 1328

Baskaki Shevkal, cousin to Ozbeg Khan, is killed in Tver along with his Tartars and rebellion is ignited against the Golden Horde's overlordship. Grand Prince Alexander Mikhailovich of Tver and Vladimir is forced to flee, first to Novgorod which refuses him, and then to Pskov. Not only does Pskov welcome him - it makes him the ruling prince.

The Golden Horde sends an expedition which consists of fifty thousand Mongol-Tartars and Muscovites led by Ivan Danilovich, brother and successor of Yuri. The uprising in Tver is brutally suppressed, and Ozbeg appoints Ivan as grand duke of Vladimir in 1328. Ivan's seat, though, is in Moscow, which now means the end of Vladimir as a city which carries any meaningful authority and the beginning of Moscow as a state in its own right.

Grand Duchy of Moscow State / Muscovy
AD 1328 - 1552

Led by Rurik, the Rus Vikings ruled the indigenous Slavs from the cities of Novgorod and then Kyiv until 1169, when Kyiv was sacked and the principal seat of Rus command was officially moved northwards to Vladimir-Suzdal. This principality played a major role in destabilising Kyiv as the principle Rus city and benefited greatly from its diminishing status. It became a major centre of Rus power and settlement immediately before the arrival of the Mongols and the eventual ending of Old Rus independence at the hands of the Golden Horde.

The city of Moskva (Moscow) was founded as a fortress settlement prior to 1147. It sat immediately south of the junction between the River Moskva and the mighty Volga, which provided direct access to the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. The Mongols burnt it down in the winter of 1238 but it was quickly rebuilt, its remote location in heavy forest offering it a degree of protection. The city's early princes of Moscow are not universally accepted by scholars, but Daniel or Daniil Aleksandrovich certainly is in his role as the first ruler of the grand duchy of Moscow. The Rus lands were still dominated by the Mongols (especially the eastern Rus territories) or had been subjugated by other European powers (mainly the western Rus territories).

It was Ivan Danilovich's role in commanding the suppression of rebellion in Tver in 1327 which cemented his reputation with his overlord, Ozbeg Khan of the Golden Horde. He was the younger son of Daniel of Moscow, having inherited Moscow but not Vladimir. Ivan led fifty thousand Mongol-Tartars and Muscovites against the Tver rebellion, crushing it and restoring order to the city.

As a result he was appointed grand duke of Vladimir by Ozbeg, With his principal seat in Moscow, he effectively turned Vladimir into a secondary position in its favour, while his promotion marked the true beginning of Moscow's rise to glory. His grandson, Dmitry, built the Kremlin in its initial guise, completing it in 1367. At first, though, the city remained a vassal of the Golden Horde.

The arrival of the Rus

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian Text), Samuel Hazzard Cross & Olgerd P Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Eds and translators, Mediaeval Academy of America), and from External Links: Worldstatesman, and Rurik of Novgorod and the Varangian DNA, and The Fragmentation & Decline of Kievan Rus, and Encyclopaedia.com, and The Map Archive, and The Moscow Times.)

1328 - 1341

Ivan I / Ivan Kalita / Ivan Danilovich

Formerly duke of Moscow. Grand duke of Vladimir (1318).

1330

Lithuania defeats the boyars of the Rus and occupies Kyiv and its surrounding territory. The loss of this vassal state by the Golden Horde removes not only it from their control, but also cuts off Wallachia whose ruler, Basarab I, effectively becomes independent, although this has increasingly been the case for several years.

Mongols of the Golden Horde
The Mongols maintained their dominance of the eastern Rus with bloodletting where necessary, burning and destroying towns which stood against them

However, despite this setback, Ozbeg is still able to threaten the Bulgars, Byzantium, and the Lithuanians themselves. Ivan is gradually strengthening his own position at the same time, having already taken control of the weakened small principality of Uglich (in 1328), located on the Volga.

1340

Now in the official position of collecting taxes from all the Rus lands before passing them onto his overlords, the Golden Horde, Ivan Kalita, prince of Moscow and grand duke of Vladimir, greatly increases his own prestige and power ('kalita' means 'the moneybag'). He takes control of the principality of Belozero between 1328-1338, and the principality of Galich (not to be confused with Halych) in 1340.

Nobles and peasants alike flock to Moscow and the greater protection it offers from raids, while Ivan makes loans to the other principalities which weakens their positions and makes them increasingly liable to being absorbed under Moscow's control. Having a direct trading route along the Volga to Novgorod also helps. Vladimir becomes insignificant, with all power now being held in Moscow.

1341 - 1353

Simeon 'the Proud'

Son. Grand duke of Moscow & Vladimir. Killed by plague.

1341 - 1377

Grand Duke Algirdas expands his Lithuanian territory further eastwards, bringing it into renewed conflict with Moscow. Simeon has been granted extra powers by his overlord, Ozbeg Khan of the Golden Horde specifically to counter the Lithuanian threat. Simeon and his brother, Ivan II, remain subordinated to the Golden Horde under Ozbeg's successor, Jani Beg.

Grand Prince Simeon the Proud of Moscow
Simeon Ioannovich, playing a delicate balancing game between enemies to the east of Moscow and those to the west, possessed a strong character which was apparent in a number of Moscow's ruling princes, earning him the epithet 'the Proud'

1347

Andrei Ivanovich Kobyla receives his one mention in history in this year. He is the progenitor of the later Romanov dynasty of czars and a good many other Russian noble families. Holding the rank of boyar (a noble, second only to the ruling prince himself), Kobyla is sent by Grand Duke Simeon to Tver with the purpose of meeting Simeon's bride, a daughter of Alexander I of Tver. Kobyla's pedigree and precise position at court are unknown, resulting in a good deal of speculation about his origins, much of which is applied far after his own time.

1353

The Black Death reaches Moscow after spending several years getting ever closer. Grand Duke Simeon falls victim to it, as do his two sons and a brother, Andrey, along with Metropolitan Theognostus. Simeon's brother Ivan is recalled from his governance of the towns of Ruza and Zvenigorod to succeed.

1353 - 1359

Ivan II 'the Fair'

Brother. Formerly in Ruza & Zvenigorod.

1357 - 1359

With the assassination of Jani Beg, the political cohesion of the Golden Horde begins to disintegrate. Berdi Beg is probably behind Jani Beg's death, and his reign as khan is not universally accepted. The khanate goes from being able to claim titular dominance over the three ulus (Blue Horde, White Horde, and Chaghatayids) and actual dominance over the Rus to internecine warfare and the possibility of complete dissolution.

Mongol gur
This nineteenth century illustration depicting a Mongol gur being transported by cart provides a small sense of the traditional ways which were championed by Chagatai and his followers

1359 - 1389

Demetrius / Dmitry Donski

Son. Grand prince of Vladimir (1363).

1362 - 1372

The Battle of Blue Waters in either autumn 1362 or winter 1363 takes place on the banks of the River Syniukha, a tributary of the Bug in modern Ukraine. Grand Duke Algirdas and his Lithuanian army decisively defeats the Golden Horde.

The victory delivers Kyiv very firmly into Lithuanian hands, along with a large swathe of modern Ukraine and access to the Black Sea. The Lithuanian-Muscovite War (1368-1372), however, sees Moscow withstand two Lithuanian sieges to emerge even more regionally-dominant.

1378 - 1380

The Blue Horde is heavily defeated by the Muscovites under Demetrius Donski ('of the Don') at the Battle of the River Vozha. Two years later - in 1380 - the horde is defeated again by the Rus, at the Battle of Kulikovo (on the Don, the source of Dmitry's epithet). While putting together a retaliatory force the horde is defeated yet again, this time by the White Horde in a battle on the banks of the River Kalka. The once-powerful Blue Horde is fully reunited with the White Horde to form a greater Golden Horde.

1382

Now resurgent under the leadership of Toqtamish Khan, the Golden Horde defeats the Muscovites in retaliation for their attack against the Blue Horde. This delays the Muscovite search for independence.

Mongols
The White Horde ruled the territory between Lake Balkhash and the Volga, while initially continuing to push westwards as part of the greater Golden Horde

1389 - 1425

Basil / Vasily I

Son. Gained Moscow's independence (1395-1412).

1392 - 1395

With the Golden Horde showing nothing like its previous dominance, Vasily I allies himself in 1392 with Lithuania. In the same year he secures Moscow's control of not one but two Rus principalities: Murom and Nizhny Novgorod. In 1395 the Golden Horde is beaten by Timur of Persia, allowing him to claim complete control of the Caucasus, which probably includes Alania to its north. Moscow benefits from the disaster by asserting its independence.

1406 - 1412

The alliance with Lithuania has proven to be fragile. War breaks out between it and Moscow between 1406-1408, so in 1412 Vasily effectively accepts renewed vassalage to the troubled Golden Horde when it successfully collects long-delayed tribute payments.

1425 - 1433

Basil / Vasily II 'the Blind'

Son. Acceded aged 10. Unseated by his uncle.

1425

Moscow is thought to be subordinated by the all-powerful Lithuanian state under Great Prince Vytautas. The fact that Vasily II is a boy of ten who initially holds his seat under the regency of his mother prompts rival claims for control of Moscow. Vasily's uncle, Yuri, prince of Galich-Mersky, steps forward as the main rival, although both his sons also proffer their own claims.

1425 - 1433

Yuri of Zvenigorod

Uncle. Prince of Galich-Mersky. Rival claimant.

1433

Yuri of Zvenigorod leads his army into Moscow, having defeated a betrayed Vasily II. The prince is captured, pardoned for refusing to give up his rightful seat, and is sent off to command the town of Kolomna. This proves to be a mistake as many of the leading boyars follow him there. Yuri temporarily admits defeat by leaving Moscow.

Muscovite-Lithuanian Wars
Moscow fought a series of wars against the then-dominant Grand Duchy of Lithuania & Ruthenia (the latter being western Rus) during the fifteenth century, but Moscow's eventual victory would present it with new threats, such as the Tartars of the powerful Crimean khanate (click or tap on image to view full sized)

1433

Yuri (II) of Zvenigorod

Usurper. Left Moscow in the face of Vasily's resurgence.

1433 - 1434

Basil / Vasily II 'the Blind'

Restored due to his extensive support amongst the boyars.

1434

The civil war continues with two of Yuri's sons - Vasily Kosoy and Dmitry Shemyaka - defeating Vasily on the banks of the River Kus. Vasily also continues to pursue Yuri, but is defeated by him on 16 March 1434. Yuri is able to reclaim Moscow, only to die while preparing a fresh campaign against Vasily.

1434

Yuri (II) of Zvenigorod

Usurper. Died in Moscow.

1434 - 1435

Vasily Kosoy 'the Cross-Eyed'

Son. Inherited control of Moscow. Defeated and fled.

1434 - 1435

With Vasily Kosoy inheriting control of Moscow and the title of grand prince at the death of his father, Yuri, his own brother rebels against him. Dmitry Shemyaka joins his forces to those of Vasily II and they capture Moscow between them.

1435 - 1445

Basil / Vasily II 'the Blind'

Restored with Dmitry Shemyaka's support. Captured.

1439 - 1445

Moscow is besieged in 1439 by Ulugh Muhammad of the newly-founded Kazan khanate. Vasily II is forced to flee the city and rule in exile. By 1445 he has gathered together his forces so that he is able to fight Ulugh Muhammad in person. However, his army is defeated and he is taken prisoner. Governance of Moscow passes to Dmitry Shemyaka.

Map of the Tartar Khanates AD 1500
The Mongol empire created by Chingiz Khan gradually broke up over the course of three hundred years until, by around AD 1500, it had fragmented into several more-or-less stable khanates which each vied with the others for power and influence, while having to fend off the growing power of the Ottoman empire to the south and Moscow Sate (Muscovy) to the north - in the end it was an unwinnable fight (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1445 - 1446

Dmitry Shemyaka

Brother of Vasily Kosoy. Fled Moscow. Poisoned.

1446

Vasily's release takes a huge ransom payment, but Dmitry Shemyaka has him blinded as soon as he returns. Vasily is exiled to Uglich before being given command of Vologda, but still the boyars flock to his side. Dmitry has repeated the mistakes of his father, and completes the cycle by fleeing Moscow and fighting on from a distance until he is poisoned in 1453. The civil war is ended.

1446 - 1462

Basil / Vasily II 'the Blind'

Restored again, albeit now blind.

1448 - 1453

Vasily II refuses the arrangement of 1448 whereby the patriarch of Byzantine Constantinople acknowledges Rome's supremacy. Instead he appoints his own metropolitan of Russia, an assertion of the independence of the Russian Orthodox church. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the Ottomans sees Greece become an Ottoman province and the patriarch's authority lessened.

1462 - 1505

Ivan III 'the Great'

Son. Co-ruled in father's later years. Empire-builder.

1463

Aleksandr Fedorovich Brukhatii, the last grand prince of Yaroslavl, is forced by Ivan to sign over his succession. Having evolved from the principality of Rostov, it has been a direct territorial rival to Moscow, if not a rival in terms of power. Now Moscow is free to absorb its territory, further consolidating the city's position.

Veiselga Monastery
Veiselga Monastery, shown here in oils by Napoleon Orda, was apparently founded by Vaisvilkas, second grand duke of Lithuania following the assassination of King Mindaugas, prior to the state's rise to a major power-player in Eastern Europe

1470 - 1471

After years of simmering tension between the aggressively expansionist Ivan and the state of Novgorod which has refused to be acquired by Moscow, Ivan launches a campaign. Defeat in 1471 at the Battle of the River Shelon forces Novgorod to abandon attempts to seek Lithuania's protection and to cede to Ivan a considerable swathe of its territory.

1474

Although Moscow has long been dominant in Vladimir, effectively eclipsing that city in terms of controlling the overall principality, there are still minor principalities within the territory which have their own rulers, albeit weak and insignificant ones. Nevertheless, Ivan pursues utter dominance by acquiring them one-by-one. Now, in 1474, Rostov-Veliky is annexed to Moscow.

1477 - 1479

Taking offence at the apparent repudiation of his authority, Novgorod once again finds itself being attacked by Ivan. With no allies and its city surrounded by Moscow's armies, Novgorod surrenders entirely. Over eighty percent of its vast and largely empty or tribal Finno-Ugric territories are taken by Ivan, with half of that being shared out amongst his allies. Unsuccessful revolts in 1478 and 1479 sees the richest of Novgorod's noble families being forcibly shipped to Moscow and other key cities.

1480

In alliance with the khans of the Crimea, Ivan III refuses tribute to the Great Horde. The latter, now allied to Lithuania, attempts an invasion of Moscow's territory but this fails. The independence of Moscow is confirmed, two hundred and forty years after Kyiv had fallen to Mongol dominance.

Ivan III tears up the Mongol demand for tribute
Ivan III of Moscow tears up the Mongol demand for tribute in front of his own court and the Mongol messengers, ending once and for all Mongol dominance over the Rus

1485

One of the major regional opponents of Moscow's climb to power, Tver has had to be defeated more than once during internecine warfare or revolts. Now Ivan takes the final step of conquering the city by force of arms and removing Mikhail III of Tver from power. The city is absorbed into the growing Moscow state.

1489

Vyatka, a relatively late Rus settlement on the banks of the river of the same name, has largely remained free of direct outside control in its comparative isolation. Ivan sends an army to subdue it and its satellite cities, with its three atamans or Cossack leading figures, being beheaded. Most of its nobles are moved to Moscow's southern territories.

1491

The Crimean khanate apparently seizes all of the Great Horde's horses, and encourages Moscow to deliver the death blow as a result. Both Moscow and the Ottomans dispatch forces which include Russian cavalry, Tartars, and Janissaries. This causes part of the horde to secede in November 1491, while the remainder is routed by its enemies.

1492

FeatureThe fortifications of the Livonian Order's Narva Castle are so powerful that, instead of attempting to conquer it, Ivan decides to build his own stronghold of Ivangorod on the opposite side of the River Narva (see feature link). The river remains the dividing line between Russia and Estonia to this very day.

Narva Castle, Estonia
Narva Castle guarded the trade route from the Gulf of Finland to Novgorod and Pskov to the east, although the early fortress failed to stop a Ruthenian invasion in 1294 (click or tap on image to read more on a separate page)

1494

Ivan signs a peace agreement with Stanislovas Janavicius of Samogitia, while his daughter, Helen, is married to the weak Alexander of Lithuania. The marriage does not protect Alexander from the looming threat of war against Moscow.

1500 - 1503

Attempting to expand its borders westwards, Ivan's Moscow begins to attack the grand duchy of Lithuania, Ruthenia, and Samogitia from 1500 as it lays claim to the Russian lands within the grand duchy. However, Ivan's efforts are resisted. Also, between 1501-1503, Moscow goes to war against Livonia and the Livonian Knights. Livonians, uniting their forces under the leadership of the Knights, defeat Moscow's army near Lake Smolensk in 1502, and a truce is concluded the following year which lasts until 1558.

1505 - 1533

Basil / Vasily III

Son. First to use 'czar' as a title.

1510 - 1522

Continuing the work of his father and consolidating Moscow's gains, Vasily now annexes the last autonomous principalities: Pskov (in 1510, although it had already been ruled for more than a century by Moscow's viceroy), Volokolamsk (in 1513, the former Novgrodian city having long been a minor appanage of Moscow), Ryazan (in 1521, with Vasily having imprisoned its last ruling duke in 1520 on apparently spurious charges), and Novgorod-Seversky (in 1522, having gained this particular region from Lithuania in battle in 1503).

Pskov's Old Ascension Monastery
Pskov's Old Ascension Monastery is a classic example of the city's architecture, with its single dome and whitewashed walls

1513 - 1514

Grand Duke Sigismund of Lithuania loses Smolensk following a concerted effort by Moscow to take this eastern stronghold, but Lithuania finds some recompense in the following year when it smashes Moscow's army near Orsha.

1533 - 1547

Ivan IV Grozny 'the Terrible'

Son. Aggressively expanded territory to form Czarate.

1537

A peace treaty is concluded between Lithuania and Moscow in order to end nearly four decades of warfare between the two states. However, Lithuanian relations with Moscow remain the most important concern as the former Rus state begins to evolve into the new state of Russia.

1547

Still only aged seventeen, Ivan Grozny is declared by his reformist select council to be the first czar (or tsar) of all the Russias. The title is the equivalent of 'emperor', a fitting title - so it is thought - for the ruler of the city of Moscow and all its expanded territories, which the nobility has long thought of as the third Rome (after the Constantinople of the Eastern Roman empire).

 
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