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The Russian realm that centered around Moscow until approximately 1713 to 1721 is known as Muscovy. Historians differ about when to set its beginning. Moscow is first mentioned in a chronicle under the year 1147 as part of Yuri Dolgoruky's domain. Its first important prince was Alexander Nevsky's son Daniel (d. 1303). Between 1301 and 1304, he and his son Yuri (d. 1325) seized three towns from neighboring Ryazan and Smolensk, thereby making Moscow an important center of power within the grand principality of Vladimir. Yuri's brother Ivan I (d. 1341), who obtained the right to collect tribute for the Mongols from other Rus principalities and persuaded the head of the church to reside in Moscow, established Moscow's preeminent position in northern Rus. Moscow's territory continued to expand under his grandson Dmitry Donskoy (r. 13591389) and Dmitry's progeny down to the end of Daniel's subdynasty in 1598, with only a few minor setbacks. Highlights of this growth included the incorporation of Nizhny Novgorod and Suzdal under Basil I (r. 13891425), Tver, Severia, and Novgorod under Ivan III (r. 14621505), Pskov, Smolensk, and Ryazan under Basil III (r. 15051533), the Volga khanates Kazan and Astrakhan under Ivan IV (r. 15331584), and western Siberia under Fyodor Ivanovich I (15841598). Under Alexei (r. 16451676), Russia extended its power across Siberia to the Pacific Ocean, recovered territory lost to Poland-Lithuania between 1611 and 1619, added eastern Ukraine, and became in area the world's largest contiguous state. By the time Peter I (r. 16821715) moved the capital to St. Petersburg in 1713, he had reacquired eastern Baltic territory lost to Sweden in 1611 to 1617 and added some more. He renamed his realm the Russian Empire in 1721.

Internationally, Moscow developed from a subordinate tributary of the Qipchak khanate (Golden Horde) to a free successor state in the 1480s, and then to ruler of the lands of other khanates, starting in the 1550s. Aiming for semantic equality with other fully sovereign states with imperial pretensions, such as the Ottoman, Persian, and Holy Roman empires, Moscow had to accept parity with Poland-Lithuania and Sweden until the Battle of Poltava in 1709. Refusing a humiliating rank within the overall European state system and its diplomatic hierarchy, Muscovy remained ceremonially if not operationally aloof, but with the Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689, it became the first European state to make a formal agreement with China.

church and culture

Muscovy's church moved from being the center of an often all-Rus metropolitanate of the patriarchate of Constantinople, to an autocephalous eastern Rus or Russian entity after 1441the only regional Orthodox church ruled essentially by sovereign Orthodox rulersto a patriarchate of its own in 1589 with a sense of pan-Orthodox responsibilities, and after 1654 to one actually dominating the Kievan metropolitanate, which had been separate since 1441. Starting in the 1470s, the renovation and enlargement of Moscow's Kremlin and its major churches and palaces gave Muscovy a capital worthy of its pretensions, and in 1547 Ivan IV was crowned officially as tsar as well as grand prince. While remaining under the guise of being devotionally and ritually distinct, Muscovy borrowed elements of material and intellectual culture from western Europe and around 1648 initiated some Western-influenced education.


Muscovy's economy was based primarily on agriculture, including flax and cloth made from it; forest products, especially furs, but also wax and honey; fishing; and the production of salt and simple metal goods. The opening of direct English and then Dutch trade with the Russian far north, starting in the 1550s, led to the production of hemp and cordage. Arkhangelsk (founded in 1583) and Astrakhan served as major ports of entry and export, but much of Muscovy's foreign trade went overland. The rise of gun powder technology stimulated both the manufacture of cannon in the 1500s and a native potash industry, especially in the 1600s. In the 1630s Dutch concessionaires opened up Russia's first European-style mining operations. In 1649 Russia ended nearly a century of special trading privileges for the English. Unifying the monetary system in the 1530s, but lacking good sources of specie, Muscovy resorted to restamping or melting down and reminting foreign silver coins and therefore required a trade surplus.


From the start, Moscow's princes, boyars, and higher military servitors were at the top of the social hierarchy. As Muscovy expanded, the reliable incorporated princely elites joined the Moscow boyars, while incorporated provincial boyars and elite warriors became regionally based military servitors with some opportunity to advance on the social ladder. Among the major changes over time were the rise of economically active, estate- and enterprise-owning rural monasteries, starting in the late 1300s and continuing through the 1600s; the centralizing of the general obligation to serve via the pomestie system, starting in the late 1400s; the rise of cossacks on the southern frontiers of the realm in the 1500s; the binding down of urban and rural plebeians to their communities by the late 1500s; and the conversion of peasants on church, court, boyar, and servitor estates into serfs by 1649. By about 1580, boyars and military servitors had their own special courts and constituted, for Europe, a unique, obligatory-service nobility. The gosti, a privileged elite of merchants, undertook commerce on behalf of the state as well as themselves, and sometimes made forced contributions to the central treasury. Cossacks both served the state well and sometimes rebelled, as under Stenka Razin in 1670 to 1671.


Muscovy's state polity developed under professional state secretaries (diak ) from the sovereign's household administration, starting especially in the latter 1400s. Ivan III issued the first national law code (Sudebnik ) in 1497. By the 1530s Moscow began to assign local fiscal and policing tasks to local elites. By the 1550s there were separate departments (izba, later prikaz ) for foreign affairs, military assignments, military estates, banditry, and taxation, and such offices continued to expand. Ivan IV summoned Muscovy's first ad hoc national assembly (Zemsky Sobor ) in 1566. During the period of political instability and crises from 1565 to 1619, the governing elites learned the value of managing the central state offices, and in the seventeenth century directly controlled most of them. Provincial bodies, for their part, proved their worth in the national revival of 1611 to 1613 (during the Time of Troubles) in spearheading the expulsion of the Poles and the establishment of a new dynasty. The vastly expanded law code (Ulozhenie ) of 1649 became the foundation of Russian law down to 1833. How the sovereigns, the boyar council, the major boyar clans and generals, the state secretaries, and the leading prelates and merchants actually made policy remains a mystery, due to want of reliable documentation, but most foreign observers considered Muscovy to be a tyranny or despotism, not a legally limited European-style monarchy.

See also: alexei mikhailovich; assembly of land; basil i; basil iii; boyar; daniel metropolitan; donskoy, dmitry ivanovich; fyodor ivanovich; gosti; grand prince; ivan i; ivan iv; law code of 1649; peter i; sudebnik of 1497; time of troubles; yuri danilovich


Crummey, Robert O. (1987). The Formation of Muscovy, 1304-1613. London: Longman.

Vernadsky, George. (1969). A History of Russia. Vol. 5: The Tsardom of Moscow, 15471682. New Haven: Yale University Press.

David M. Goldfrank

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Muscovy a medieval principality in west central Russia, centred on Moscow, which formed the nucleus of modern Russia. As Muscovy expanded, princes of Muscovy became the rulers of Russia; in 1472 Ivan III, grand duke of Muscovy, completed the unification of the country, and in 1547 Ivan the Terrible became the first tsar of Russia.

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Muscovynavvy, savvy •ave, Garvey, Harvey, larvae, Mojave •bevvy, bevy, Chevy, heavy, levee, Levi, levy, top-heavy •envy •cavy, Davy, Devi, gravy, navy, slavey, venae cavae, wavy •bivvy, chivvy, civvy, divvy, Livy, privy, skivvy, spivvy •Sylvie • ivy • grovy •groovy, movie •covey, lovey, lovey-dovey, luvvy •anchovy • Muscovy • Pahlavi •curvy, Nervi, nervy, scurvy, topsy-turvy

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Muscovy (arch.) Russia. XVI. — F. Muscovie, † Moscovie — modL. Moscovia (see -IA1), f. Russ. Moskvā Moscow.
So Muscovite Russian. XVI.