Appanage Era

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Most historians since the nineteenth centuryRussian, Soviet, and Westernhave used the phrase "appanage era" to designate the period between the collapse of Kievan Russia and the emergence of a centralized Russian state. It is dated from the Mongol conquest of Kievan Russia between 1237 and 1240 to either the accession of Ivan III (1462) or Basil III (1505), or to the beginning of the reign of Ivan IV (1533). It was characterized by the emergence of a multiplicity of independent principalities (udeli or appanages). Princes treated appanage holdings as private property, conveying them to their heirs by wills that divided the lands between all their sons. This practice meant that holdings were increasingly fragmented in each generation. As the principalities were weakened, internal conflict escalated and external attacks came not only from the Mongols, but also from Lithuanians, Germans, Poles, and Swedes. This tumultuous situation ended only as Moscow fashioned an autocracy capable of "gathering the Russian lands."

In the later twentieth century, a new interpretation of the age emerged. New, broadly based archeological evidence refuted the traditional view that Kiev itself was in economic decline from the mid-twelfth century, and suggested instead a general economic expansion. The new interpretation proposes that the eleven or twelve appanages that developed between 1150 and 1240 represented a rational division of labor and delegation of authority within the Rurikid dynasty, and that they were designed to respond to economic and political expansion. It maintains that the principalities should be understood as components of a dynastic realm, not as private property. As proof, it offers detailed evidence to argue that the frequent wars of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries were fought to defend the principle of lateral succession developed in the Kievan period. It argues at length that this principle continued to underlie succession decisions and legitimacy issues to one degree or another during much of the Mongol period, and remained important as late as the civil wars of the second quarter of the fifteenth century. The interpretation also set a new initial date for the erathe mid 1100swhich has become increasingly accepted by scholars in the field, and a number of new publications since the late 1980s minimize the use of the term "appanage era," but most still retain much of the traditional interpretation associated with it.

See also: kievan rus; muscovy; novgorod the great; rurikid dynasty


Martin, Janet. (1995). Medieval Russia, 9801584. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Miller, David B. (1986). "The Kievan Principality on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion: An Inquiry into Current Historical Research and Interpretation." Harvard Ukrainian Studies 10:215240.

Pipes, Richard. (1974). Russia Under the Old Regime. New York: Scribners.

Elvira M. Wilbur