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   October 1
 Survival Guide
Ancient Times and Rise of Moscow (5th-15th centuries)
Ancient Times

In the 5th-6th centuries the ancestors of Eastern Slavs (Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians) spread over vast territory from the Carpathians in the West to upper Don-river in the East and from Ladoga lake in the North to the region of the Dnepr-river in the South. On their way the Slavs assimilated many tribes, for instance, Finno-Ugric. Signs of these international contacts are still registered in the Russian language, even the toponym Moscow is said to be of Finno-Ugric origin. The Slavs gradually formed big tribal unions (polyane, drevlyane, vyatichi), powerful enough to make raids on the greatest empire of those days, Byzantium, forcing Byzantian leaders to write manuscripts "How to fight Slavic barbarians".

In the 6th-7th centuries one of those unions, led by Kiy, established the city of Kiev, which was to become the capital of the ancient Russian State known as Kievian Rus. Princes of many small principalities were constantly fighting for power so an interesting decision was made to solve the problem: the Varangians (Vikings) were invited to rule the country. One of them, Ryurik, settled in Novgrod to found a dynasty, which would lead Russia to prosperity and glory, Ryurikovichi dynasty. Among his famous descendants were Prince Oleg and Prince Vladimir. Prince Oleg, the great warrior, conquered Constantinople and united Novgorod and Kiev establishing Kievian Rus. In 988 Prince Vladimir baptised Russia into Orthodox Christianity predetermining the future of Russia for many centuries.

Moscow was mentioned for the first time in chronicles under the year 1147. It was a small fortress and didn't play any important role until the 14th century.

The Mongol-Tatar Invasion

Kievian Rus consisted of many principalities, each with a prince eager to reign in Kiev. Their avidity and thirst for power caused many bloody intrigues and intestine strives. This led to disunion and weakening of the state. As a result in 1237 Russians fell easy victims to the well-organized Mongolian troops under the leadership of Batu Khan. In 1237 Tatar-Mongolian army occupied Ryazan, then Moscow, Vladimir, Kozelsk and finally in 1240 "the Mother of Russian cities", Kiev, was conquered and burnt down by the bellicose nomads. The fall of Kiev signified the decline of the Kievian Rus. For the next 240 years abased Russia paid exorbitant yearly tributes to the khans, though Russian princes were allowed to govern the country themselves.

Rise of Moscow

A proverb says: "Every cloud has a silver lining". Indeed, this difficult situation gave Moscow a chance to rise and to become one of the most influential principalities. In the 14th century Moscow Prince Ivan I Kalita ("Moneybags") was appointed chief "tax-collector"; this fact obviously gave Moscow supremacy over its neighbours. Yet Moscow was advantageously situated in the centre of many trade routes, which allowed the city to flourish. Ivan Kalita (1325-1340) was a very clever and cruel ruler, able to move heaven and earth in order to get what he wanted. During his reign Metropolitan See was transferred to Moscow to prove its importance; gradually Moscow became the richest principality and turned out to be a real threat to the Tatar-Mongolian power.

50 years later Mongolian army suffered their first ever defeat (known as the Battle of Kulikovo) from the reunited forces of many separate principalities led by Ivan Kalita's grandson, the Grand Prince of Moscow Principality Dmitry Donskoy (1359-1389). The centralization of Russian lands around Moscow began.

Anyhow, it was not until the reign of Ivan III (1462-1505), Dmitry Donskoy's grandson, that the unification of Russian principalities around Moscow was completed and the Tatar yoke was finally shaken off. Ivan the Third married Sofia Paleolog, the niece of the last Emperor of Byzantium, that had fallen to the Ottomans in 1453. Probably Sofia presented the country with the coat of arms - double-headed eagle - which is said to be of Byzantine origin. Ivan's marriage provoked the idea of Russia being the one and only successor of the Great Constantinople and the only true defender of Orthodoxy. Moscow was often referred to as "the Third Rome": the "First Rome", or the ancient one, perished because of its adherence to paganism; the "Second Rome" - Constantinople - collapsed because of its treason of Orthodoxy. Moscow became the "Third Rome" and the "Forth one" would never appear. Ivan the Third initiated the reconstruction of Kremlin in stone and he was also the one to thank for the erection of brick walls around Kremlin and the area of Kitai-Gorod.
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