Ivan III (Muscovy) (1440–1505; Ruled 1462–1505)

views updated Jun 11 2018

IVAN III (MUSCOVY) (14401505; ruled 14621505)

IVAN III (MUSCOVY) (14401505; ruled 14621505), grand prince of Muscovy. Ivan III Vasil'evich grew up during the dynastic civil war of his father's reign and went on to lay the foundations of Russian statehood and ethnographic territory.

After ascending the throne in 1462, Ivan expanded the territory of the Grand Principality of Moscow by annexing the small but crucial principalities of Yaroslavl' (1463), Rostov (1474), Tver' (1485), Vyatka (1489), and most importantly, the Novgorod republic (1478). Exploiting internal rivalries among the ruling elite of Novgorod, Ivan was able to annex it without serious fighting. He thus acquired the main Russian emporium for the Hanseatic League and the vast Russian north, rich in furs, salt, and forest products. Defections to Moscow of Russian princes on the Lithuanian border led to two wars (14871494 and 15011503) and the addition of Chernigov (Chernihiv), Novgorod-Seversk, and Byansk to Moscow. In 1480 Ivan's army confronted the Great Horde, a successor state to the Golden Horde, but the Horde retreated without a battle. The event provided a symbolic end to the supremacy of the heirs of the Mongols, by now weakened by internal feuds. After the death of his first wife, Maria of Tver', Ivan married Sofiia Paleologue, a Byzantine princess living in Rome. The 1472 marriage, encouraged by the Venetian Pope Paul II, brought new prestige to Moscow and, in Sofiia, a powerful figure to its court, where she remained until her death in 1503.

Ivan's policy rested on new state institutions that evolved from the princely household. Foremost in importance was the duma, the council of some ten or twelve men of the great aristocratic clans who ruled with the prince. The center of administration was the treasury, headed by a boyar from the Greek Khovrin family of the Crimea and comprising half a dozen secretaries and lesser staff. It not only kept and recorded revenues but acted as an archive of treaties, charters, and foreign policy, whose administration it handled. The court was headed by the majordomo, who managed Ivan's household as well as taking on larger judicial functions. These aristocrats worked well with Ivan until the 1490s, when the death of his eldest son occasioned a succession crisis. At first Ivan favored his grandson Dmitrii, who was even crowned in 1498. Almost immediately, however, Dmitrii fell from favor, and Ivan chose in his place Vasilii, his second son by Sofiia. As a result the greatest of the boyars, the princes Patrikeev, went into exile.

Under Ivan the army came to rest less on the retinues of the great aristocrats than on the new gentry cavalry, each given a pomest'e, a land grant conditional on military service. Lands confiscated in the 1490s from the old Novgorod nobility formed a large part of these grants. The law code of 1497 began the process of writing down Muscovite law, although it was still more of a procedural handbook for judges than a code.

Ivan's reign coincided with a period of ferment in the church. Autocephalous since 1448, the Russian Orthodox Church maintained correct, if strained, relations with the Greeks. The first challenge to its authority came from a small group of Novgorod clergy and Moscow lay officials called "Judaizers" by their opponents. They seem to have questioned monastic institutions, the devotion to icons, and some aspects of trinitarian doctrine. After some hesitation from Ivan, they were condemned and executed in 15041505. Their principal opponent, the abbot Joseph of Volokolamsk, was a staunch proponent of traditional monasticism and, after Ivan rejected the heretics, of princely power as well. At the same time the hermit Nil Sorskii advocated a more individual monastic piety and rejected the punishment of the heretics.

Ivan was the motivating force behind the construction of one of Russia's greatest architectural achievements, the Moscow Kremlin as we see it today. Almost entirely the work of Italian architects, the new building began with Aristotele Fioravanti's Dormition Cathedral (14751479), followed by the work of the Milanese Marco Ruffo and Pietro Antonio Solari, who built the Kremlin walls (14851495) in imitation of the Sforza castle in Milan. At the same time they constructed the princely palace, of which the Faceted Palace (14871491) still remains. Russian architects from Pskov built the Annunciation Cathedral as the palace church (14841489).

The new palace, churches, and fortifications reflected the Moscow principality's new position in the world. During these years the usage Rossiia ('Russia'), reflecting Greek antecedents, began to replace the older "Rus"' and to refer to the lands under Ivan's rule. Informal usage of the term "tsar" appears in some documents. Ivan III, more than any other ruler, laid the foundations for the later Russian state.

See also Duma ; Ivan IV, "the Terrible" (Russia) ; Russia ; Russia, Architecture in ; Russia, Art in ; Vasilii III (Muscovy) .


Alef, Gustave. The Origins of Muscovite Autocracy: The Age of Ivan III. Forschungen zur osteuropäischen Geschichte 39. Berlin, 1986.

Fennell, J. L. I. Ivan the Great of Moscow. London, 1963.

Soloviev, Sergei M. History of Russia. Vol. 7, The Reign of Ivan III the Great. Translated by John D. Windhausen. Gulf Breeze, Fla., 1978. Vol. 8, Russian Society in the Age of Ivan III. Translated by John D. Windhausen. Gulf Breeze, Fla., 1979.

Paul Bushkovitch

Ivan III

views updated May 14 2018


(14401505), grand prince of Moscow (14621505), sovereign of "all Russia" (from 1479).

Ivan Vasilyeich was the eldest son and successor to Basil II, co-regent in the last years of his blind father. Ivan's youth coincided with the dynastic war, in which he took part at age twelve, leading the campaign against Dmitry Shemyaka (1452). Thereafter, Ivan became a steady champion of autocratic rule.

Under Ivan III's reign, the uniting of separate Russian principalities into a centralized state made great and rapid progress. Some of these principalities lost their independence peacefully (Yaroslavl, 14631468; Rostov, 1474); others tried to resist and were subjugated by military force (Great Novgorod, 14711478; Tver, 1485; Vyatka, 1489).

The incorporation of Great Novgorod into the emerging Muscovite state took especially dramatic form. When Novgorodian boyars questioned the sovereignty of the grand prince over their city-state, Ivan III led his troops to Great Novgorod. In the battle on the Shelon River, July 14, 1471, the Novgorodian army was completely defeated. Four boyars who had been captured (including Dmitry Boretsky, one of the leaders of anti-Muscovite party in Novgorod) were executed by the grand prince's order. In the peace treaty of August 11, 1471, the city acknowledged the lordship of the grand prince and gave up the right of independent foreign relations. Six years later, Ivan III found a pretext to start a new campaign against Novgorod; this time the city-state surrendered without a struggle. In January 1478, Great Novgorod lost its autonomy completely: The veche (people's assembly) and the office of posadnik (the head of the city government) were abolished, and the assembly's bell, the symbol of Novgorod's sovereignty, was taken away to Moscow. In the 1480s, having confiscated the domain of the archbishop of Great Novgorod and the estates of local boyars, Ivan III began to distribute these lands among his military men on condition of loyal service. Thus the pomestie system was established, which became the basis of the social and military organization in Muscovy.

Soon after the conquest of Great Novgorod, Ivan III assumed the title of the sovereign of all Russia (gosudar vseya Rusi ). Not only did the title reflect the achievements of the grand prince in uniting the Russian lands, but it also implied claims to the rest of the territories with eastern Slavic population, which at that time lived under the rule of Lithuanian princes. So conflict with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania became imminent.

In the 1480s, some princes from the Upper Oka region (Vorotynskies, Odoyevskies, and others) left Lithuanian service for Moscow, and Ivan III accepted them and their patrimonies (towns Vorotynsk, Peremyshl, Odoev, and so forth). During the war of 1492 to 1494, the Muscovite army occupied an important town of Vyazma (in the Smolensk region). The peace treaty signed on February 5, 1494, legalized all the acquisitions of IvanIII. Peace, though ensured by the marriage of Ivan's daughter, Elena, to the grand duke of Lithuania, Alexander, turned out to be a short-term armistice: In 1500 another Russian-Lithuanian war began.

First, the princes of Novgorod Seversk and Starodub went over to the grand prince of Moscow. Then Ivan III sent his troops to defend his new vassals. In the battle at Vedrosha River (July 14, 1500), which decided the outcome of the war, Muscovite commanders defeated the Lithuanian army and captured its leader, hetman Konstantin Ostrozhsky. During the summer campaign of 1500 Muscovite forces occupied Bryansk, Toropets, Putivl, and other towns. According to the armistice of 1503, the border with Lithuania moved far in the southwestern direction.

Ivan III was the first Russian ruler to gain full independence from the Golden Horde. From about 1472 he paid no tribute to the khan. Twice, in 1472 and 1480, khan Ahmad invaded Russia, trying to restore his sovereignty over the Russian land and its ruler, but both times he failed. The withdrawal of Ahmad from the banks of Ugra River in November 1480 symbolized the overthrow of the yoke.

The unified Russian state played an increasingly visible role on the international scene: Ivan III established relations with Crimea (1474), Venice (1474), Hungary (1482), the German empire (1489), Denmark (1493), and the Ottoman empire (1496). To meet the needs of his expanded state, Ivan III began to recruit engineers and military specialists from the West. The towers and walls of the Kremlin were built in the 1480s and 1490s by Italian architects and remain one of the most visible material signs of Ivan III's reign.

The contours of the Russian foreign policy, shaped in Ivan's reign, remained stable for generations to come. In the west, Ivan III left to his heir the incessant struggle with the Polish and Lithuanian rulers over the territories of the eastern Slavs. In the east and south, a more differentiated policy was pursued toward the khanates that had succeeded the Golden Horde. This policy included attempts to subjugate the khanate of Kazan in the middle Volga and efforts aimed at neutralizing Crimea.

In his last years Ivan III faced a serious dynastic crisis after the unexpected death in 1490 of his heir, also Ivan (the "Young"), the son of the first Ivan's III wife, Maria of Tver (d. 1467). In 1472 Ivan III married Sophia Paleologue, a Byzantine princess brought up in Rome. This marriage also produced children, including Basil (Vasily). Ivan the Young, married to Yelena, the daughter of Moldavian prince, left a son, Dmitry. So, after 1490, Ivan III was to choose between his grandson (Dmitry) and son (Basil). At first, he favored the grandson: In February 1498, Dmitry was crowned as grand prince and heir to his grandfather. But later Dmitry and his mother Yelena fell into disgrace and were taken into custody; Basil was proclaimed the heir (1502). The reasons for these actions remain unclear. In July 1503, Ivan III experienced a stroke and real power passed into the hands of Basil III.

Contemporaries and later historians agree in depicting Ivan III as a master politician: prudent, cautious, efficient, and very consistent in his policy of constructing a unified and autocratic Russian state.

See also: golden horde; muscovy; novgorod the great


Alef, Gustave. (1986). The Origins of Muscovite Autocracy: The Age of Ivan III. Berlin: Osteuropa-Institut.

Crummey, Robert O. (1987). The Formation of Muscovy, 13041613. London: Longman.

Fennell, John L. (1961). Ivan the Great of Moscow. London: Macmillan.

Kollmann, Nancy Shields. (1986). "Consensus Politics: The Dynastic Crisis of the 1490s Reconsidered." Russian Review 45:235267.

Vernadsky, George. (1959). Russia at the Dawn of the Modern Age. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Mikhail M. Krom

Ivan III

views updated May 29 2018

Ivan III

Ivan III (1440-1505), called Ivan the Great, was grand duke of Moscow from 1462 to 1505. He completed the unification of Russian lands, and his reign marks the beginning of Muscovite Russia.

Born on Jan. 22, 1440, in Moscow, Ivan was the oldest son of Basil II. He was married when he was 12 years old to Princess Maria of Tver. When Basil died in 1462, the 22-year-old Ivan became the grand duke of Moscow without being confirmed by the Mongol Khan. Ivan limited his allegiance to the Golden Horde to the sending of presents instead of regular tribute, finally discontinuing even those. Several Mongol attempts to subjugate the Russians failed, the last one in 1480.

The accomplishment for which Ivan is best known is the consolidation of Muscovite rule. His predecessors had increased Moscow's territory from less than 600 square miles under Ivan II to more than 15,000 square miles at the end of Basil II's reign. It remained for Ivan III to absorb Moscow's old rivals, Novgorod and Tver, and establish virtually a single rule over what had been appanage Russia. Although the circumstances surrounding the acquisitions varied, the results were basically the same: former sovereign or semiautonomous principalities were reduced to the status of provinces of Moscow, while their princes joined the ranks of the service nobility.

Ivan also considered himself the rightful heir to all the former Kievan lands, which in his opinion constituted his lawful patrimony. This presented a challenge to Lithuania, which, following the collapse of Kiev, had expanded into the western and southwestern Russian territories. Thus, much of Ivan's reign was occupied in war against Lithuania. A peace treaty was signed in 1503 by which Lithuania recognized Russian control over parts of the Smolensk and the Polotsk areas and much of Chernigov-Seversk. Another peace treaty of 1503 ended the war which Moscow had effectively waged against the Livonian Order.

After the death of his first wife, Ivan married Sophia, or Zoë, Paleologue, a Byzantine princess and niece of the last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI. The marriage was sponsored by the Vatican in hope of bringing Russia under the sway of the Pope and of establishing a broad front against the Turks, a goal that failed. From Ivan's point of view, the marriage fitted well into the general trend of elevating the Muscovite ruler.

Following the marriage, Ivan developed a complicated court ceremonial on the Byzantine model and began to use the title of czar and autocrat. Also during the reign of Ivan and his son, Basil III, Moscow came to be referred to by spokesmen as the Third Rome. Philotheos, a monk from Pskov, developed the idea that Moscow was the true successor to Byzantium and, hence, to Rome.

An impressive building program in Moscow took place under Ivan, directed primarily by Italian artists and craftsmen. New buildings were erected in the Kremlin, and the Kremlin walls were strengthened and furnished with towers and gates. Ivan died on Oct. 27, 1505, and was succeeded by his son, Basil.

Further Reading

The only biography in English of Ivan is J. L. I. Fennell, Ivan the Great of Moscow (1961). A good discussion of the Third Rome concept is Nicholas Zernov, Moscow: The Third Rome (1937). A firsthand account of the 1486-1506 period is Baron Sigismund von Herberstein, Notes upon Russia, translated and edited by R. H. Major (2 vols., 1851-1852). The most thorough study of this period available to the English reader is George Vernadsky and Michael Karpovich, A History of Russia, vol. 4 (1959). □

Ivan III (the Great)

views updated May 14 2018

Ivan III (the Great) (1440–1505) Grand Duke of Moscow (1462–1505). He laid the foundations of the future Russian Empire. By 1480 Moscow's northern rivals, including Novgorod, were absorbed by conquest or persuasion, domestic rebellion was crushed, and the Tatar threat was ended permanently. His later years were troubled by conspiracies over the succession. He began to use the title Tsar (‘Caesar’) and employed Italian artists in the buildings of the Kremlin.

Ivan III (1440-1505)

views updated May 21 2018

Ivan III (1440-1505)

Ivan, son of Vasily Vasilievich, grand duke of Moscow, became grand duke of Muscovy in the fifteenth century. According to legend, when he was at the point of death, he fell into terrible swoons, during which his soul made laborious journeys. In the first he was tormented for having kept innocent prisoners in his dungeons; in the second he was tortured further for having ground the people under heavy tasks; during the third voyage he died, but his body disappeared mysteriously before he could be buried, and it was thought that the devil had taken him.