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Title: The Rise of the Russian Empire
Author: Munro, Hector H.
Language: English
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THE RISE OF THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE



PUBLISHER’S ANNOUNCEMENT

_Demy 8vo, Cloth, 25s._

_With two coloured maps and ten specially drawn_

RUSSIA IN ASIA

A RECORD AND A STUDY

1558-1899

BY

ALEXIS KRAUSSE

_Author of “China in Decay”_

SPECTATOR.--“It is well that the vague alarm generally inspired in the
average Englishman by the thought of Russian successes in Asia should
be replaced by exact knowledge. Books without number have already
been written upon the several phases of the Russian advance, but Mr.
Krausse’s volume is, we think, the first concise presentation in
English of its entire history.”

LONDON: GRANT RICHARDS 9 HENRIETTA ST., COVENT GARDEN, W.C.

[Illustration:

  MAP OF
  RUSSIA
  under the
  EARLY RURIKOVITCH PRINCES
]



  THE RISE
  OF
  THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE

  BY
  HECTOR H. MUNRO


  “On se flatterait en vain de connaitre la Russie actuelle, si l’on ne
  remontait plus haut dans son histoire.”--LE PÈRE PIERLING.


  LONDON
  GRANT RICHARDS
  1900



PREFACE


With the exception of a translation of Rambaud’s somewhat disjointed
work, there is no detailed history of Russia in the English language
at all approaching modern standards. The reigns of Petr the Great and
of some of his successors down to the present day--a period covering
only 200 years--have been minutely dealt with, but the earlier history
of a nation with whom we are coming ever closer into contact is to the
English reader almost a blank. Whether the work now submitted will
adequately fill the gap remains to be seen; such is its object.

The rule observed with regard to the rendering of names of places and
persons has been to follow the spelling of the country to which they
belong as closely as possible. The spelling of Russian words employed,
and curiously distorted, by English and other historians, has been
brought back to its native forms. There is no satisfactory reason, for
instance, why the two final letters of _boyarin_ should be dropped,
or why they should reappear tacked on to the equally Russian word
_Kreml_. Moskva is scarcely recognisable in its Anglicised form, and
Kiev can only be rendered Kieff on a system which would radically
disturb the spelling of most English towns.

A list of works consulted is appended, arranged somewhat in the order
in which they have been found useful, precedence being given to those
which have been most largely drawn upon.

  HECTOR H. MUNRO,
  1899.



WORKS CONSULTED


KARAMZIN--Histoire de l’empire russe. 1819. (French translation by MM.
St. Thomas et de Divoff.)

S. SOLOV’EV--Istoriya Rossie. 1858.

TH. SCHIEMANN--Russland, Polen und Livland. 1885.

A. RAMBAUD--History of Russia. 1879. (English translation.)

L. PARIS (translator)--Chronique de Nestor. 1834.

N. KOSTOMAROV--Rousskaya Istoriya v jhizneopisaniyakh eya glavnieyshikh
dieyatelen. 1874.

N. KOSTOMAROV--Sieverno Rousskiya Narodopravstva. 1886.

SIR H. H. HOWORTH--History of the Mongols.

ANONYMOUS--Geschichte der Ostseeprovinzen. 1879.

VON HAMMER-PURGSTALL--Geschichte der goldenen Horde. 1840.

„ „ Histoire de l’Empire Ottoman. (French translation.)

E. A. FREEMAN--Ottoman Power in Europe. 1877.

J. W. ZINKEISEN--Geschichte des osmanischen Reich in Europa.

GENNAD KARPOV--Istoriya Bor’bui Moskovskago Gosoudarstvo s
Pol’sko-Litovskim, 1462-1508. 1867.

“V. N.”--Iz Istorie Moskvui, 1147-1703. 1896.

E. A. SOLOV’EV--Ivan IV. Groznie. 1893.

N. A. POLEVOI--Tzarstvovanie Ioanna Groznago. 1859.

LE PÈRE PIERLING--La Russie et l’Orient. 1891.

„ „ Rome et Demetrius. 1878.

MARQUIS DE NOAILLES--Henri de Valois et la Pologne en 1572. 1867.

V. B. ANTONOVITCH--Otcherk Istorie Velikago Kniajhestva Litovskago.
1878.

N. G. RIESENKAMPFF--Der Deutsche Hof zu Nowgorod. 1854.

LASZLO SZALAY--Geschichte Ungarns. 1874.

A. N. MURAV’EV--History of the Russian Church. 1842. (English
translation by R. W. Blackmore.)

A. PEMBER--Ivan the Terrible.

A. M. H. J. STOKVIS--Manuel d’Histoire, de Généalogie, et de
Chronologie, etc. 1889.

BAR. SIGISMUND VON HERBERSTEIN--Rerum Moscoviticorum commentarii. 1851.
(English translation by R. H. Major.)



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I
                                                                   PAGE
  THE DAWN OF RUSSIAN HISTORY                                         1

  CHAPTER II

  THE COMING OF THE VARANGIANS AND THE BUILDING OF KIEVIAN RUSSIA    14

  CHAPTER III

  THE FEUDS OF THE HOUSE OF RURIK                                    53

  CHAPTER IV

  THE COMING OF THE MONGOLS                                          81

  CHAPTER V

  “THE YEARS THAT THE LOCUST HATH EATEN”                             96

  CHAPTER VI

  THE GROWING OF THE GERM                                           122

  CHAPTER VII

  THE LAST OF THE PALEOLOGI AND THE FIRST OF THE AUTOCRATS          149

  CHAPTER VIII

  IVAN GROZNIE                                                      195

  CHAPTER IX

  THE GREAT BOYARIN                                                 253

  CHAPTER X

  THE PHANTOM TZAR                                                  271

  CHAPTER XI

  “THIS SIDE THE HILL”                                              306

  I. TABLE OF RUSSIAN PRINCES OF THE LINE OF RURIK, FROM
      SVIATOSLAV I.                                                 327

  II. HOUSE OF MSTISLAV VLADIMIROVITCH                              328

  III. HOUSE OF SOUZDAL-VLADIMIR AND SUB-HOUSES OF MOSKVA AND TVER  329

  IV. GRAND PRINCES AND TZARS OF MOSKOVY                            330

  GLOSSARY                                                          331

  INDEX                                                             332


  LIST OF MAPS

  RUSSIA                         _Frontispiece_

  GRAND PRINCIPALITY OF MOSKVA              194

  PLAN OF MOSKVA                            270



CHAPTER I

THE DAWN OF RUSSIAN HISTORY


Russia, which is blessed with a rich variety of tribes and peoples,
the despair of the ethnographical geographer, who can scarcely find
enough distinctive colours wherewith to denote them all on his maps,
is characterised by a singular uniformity of physical conditions
throughout the greater part of its huge extent. Geographically
speaking, it is difficult to determine what are the exact limits of
the region known as Russia-in-Europe, the Oural Mountains, which look
such an excellent political barrier on paper, being really no barrier
at all, certainly not what is known as a scientific frontier. As a
matter of fact they are less a range of mountains than a chain of low
table-lands, having precisely the same conditions of soil, flora, and
fauna on either side of them. Zoologically the valley of the Irtuish
forms a much stronger line of demarcation, but much of Russia west of
the Ourals coincides more nearly in physical aspect with the great
Asiatic plain than it does with the remainder of Europe. Southward and
westward from this fancy boundary stretches a vast expanse of salt,
sandy, almost barren steppe-land; this gives way in time to large
tracts of more or less fertile steppe, partaking more of the character
of prairie than of desert, bearing in spring and early summer a heavy
crop of grasses, high enough in places to conceal a horse and his
rider. Merging on this in a northerly direction is the “black-soil”
belt, a magnificent wheat-growing country, which well merits the
title of the Granary of Europe. Northward again is a region of dense
forest, commencing with oaks and other deciduous trees, and becoming
more and more coniferous as it stretches towards the Arctic circle,
where pine and fir disappear, and give way to the Tundras, moss-clad
wastes, frozen nine months out of the twelve, the home of reindeer and
Samoved. Over all this wide extent the snows and frosts of the Russian
winter fall with an almost equal rigour, though for varying duration
of time. Except on the east, the country possesses strongly-marked
natural boundaries; on the south-east rises the huge pile of the
Kaukasus Mountains, flanked east and west by the Kaspian and Black
Seas respectively; on the south-west lie the Karpathians, while from
north-west to north the Baltic is almost connected by lake, swamp,
and the deep fissure of the White Sea with the Arctic Ocean. Broadly
speaking, nearly the whole area enclosed within these boundaries is
one unbroken plain, intersected and watered by several fine rivers, of
which the Volga and the Dniepr are, historically, the most important.
This, then, is the theatre on which was worked out the drama of Russian
national development.

It will now be necessary to glance at the racial and political
conditions which prevailed at the period when the curtain rises on
mediæval Russian history. First as to the ethnology and distribution
of the Slavs, a branch of whom was to be the nucleus round which the
empire of all the Russias was to gather. The lore of peoples and of
tongues has enabled scientists to assign to the Slavs a place in the
great Aryan family from which descended the stocks that made their
dwelling on European soil. Exactly when their wanderings brought them
into their historic home-lands it is difficult to hazard, nor is it
possible to do more than speculate as to whence they came in that
distant yesterday of human spate and eddy. At the epoch when Russian
history, in a political sense, may be said to start into existence (the
commencement of the ninth century), the distribution of the Slavs is
more easy to trace; with the exception of an offshoot in the south-east
of Europe, occupying Servia, Dalmatia, Croatia, and Slavonia, they
appear to have been gathered in a fairly compact though decentralised
mass in what may be termed North Central Europe. Holstein,
Mecklenburg, and Pomerania, roughly speaking, formed the country of the
Wends; another group, the Czechs and Poles, inhabited Bohemia, Moravia,
and Poland; while a fourth body, destined to become the most important,
was established in North-west Russia, hemmed in by Finns on the north,
Turks and Avars on the east and south. These latter Slavs, the germ of
the future Russian nation, lived in tribal communities in the midst of
the mighty forests of oak, pine, birch, willow, etc., which stood thick
around the basin-lands of the Upper Dniepr, Dvina, and Volkhov, and the
source of the Volga. These dense fastnesses they shared with the wolf,
boar, lynx, fox, bear, beaver, elk, aurochs, deer, otter, squirrel, and
marten, which latter especially furnished them with a valuable article
of commerce, the Russian marten skins being highly prized in the fur
markets of Europe. Seals abounded on their sea-coast and in Lake
Ladoga; the numerous swamps were the home of the wild goose, swan, and
crane; the eagle, hawk, raven, cuckoo, and daw were familiar to them,
while pigeons were early domesticated among their dwellings.

In their primitive state the Slavs had this obvious differentiation
from their Asiatic neighbours--though essentially pastoral they were
not nomadic. The village, as a unit of politico-social life, had
arrived with them at a high pitch of development, which involves the
supposition of long-existing contributory causes, the herding together,
namely, of a permanent community of human beings, dependent on each
other for mutual convenience, security, and general well-being. The
_mir_, commune, or village was in the first place the natural outcome
of a patriarchal system other than nomad, the expansion of the
primitive association of members of one or more families who had grown
up together under the common attraction of a convenient water-supply,
a suitable grazing ground, or a wood much haunted by honey-bees.[1]
The development of agricultural pursuits necessarily gave a greater
measure of stability to village life, and the peasant insensibly
rooted himself to that soil in which he had sown his crops and planted
his fruit-trees. Thus far the life-story of the tribal Slavs travelled
along familiar lines, but here it came to an abrupt halt. The village
unit acquired a well-defined theory and practice of government, but
it did not germinate into the town. The few townships that were to
be found in Slavic lands owed their being for the most part not to
any inward process of accumulation, but to extraneous and exceptional
circumstances. While Teutonic peoples were raising unto themselves
burgs and cities, and banding themselves in guilds and kindred
municipal associations, the Slavs remained content with such protection
as their forests and swamps afforded, such organisation as their
village institutions supplied. The reason for this limitation in social
progress was an organic one; in the Slav character the commercial
spirit, in its more active sense, was almost entirely wanting. Trade
by barter, of course, existed among them, but their medium of exchange
had not got beyond the currency of marten and sable skins. The market,
the wharf, and the storehouse were not with them institutions of native
growth.

From their earth of forest, swamp, and stream, which paled them in
from an outer world, and from the sky above, which they had in common
with all living folks, the eastern Slavs had drawn inspirations for
the thought-weaving of a comprehensive catalogue of gods. Their
imaginations gave deific being to the sun, moon, stars, wind, water,
fire, and air, but most of all they reverenced the lightning. In their
dark, over-shaded forest homes it was natural that the sun, which
exercised such mystic sway in the blazing lands of the Orient, should
yield place to the swift, dread might which could split great trees
in its spasm of destruction and shake the heavens with its attendant
thunder. Accordingly the arch-god of Slavic myth was Peroun, in whom
was personified the spirit of the lightning. Under the name of Svaroga
(the different tribes probably had variant names for the same god, and
sometimes, perhaps, varying gods for a common name) he was worshipped
as the Begetter of the Fire and Sun Gods. The latter was sometimes
known as “Dajh’bog,” but in old folk-songs the Sun is Dajh’bog’s
grandchild. The Wind-God was designated “Stribog.” The personality of
these nature-deities was not left entirely to the worshippers’ fancy,
Peroun at least being represented in effigy by more than one idol,
which conformed to the human pattern from which so few divinities
have been able to escape. A slightly more advanced conception of the
supernatural was embodied in the worship of Kolyada, a beneficent
spirit who was supposed to visit the farms and villages in mid-winter
and bring fertility to the pent-in herds and frost-bound seeds. The
festival in honour of Kolyada was held about the 25th of December,
the date when the Sun was supposed to triumph over the death in which
Nature had gripped him and to enter on his new span of life.

Blended with Eastern mysticism there was, no doubt, in their religious
ideas a considerable sprinkling of Northern magic. In their dark and
lonely forest dwellings there was likely to be something more than
a natural dread of that lurking prowler which stamped such an eerie
impression upon the imaginations of primitive folks in many lands. The
shambling form, the wailing howl, and the narrow eyes that gleamed
wicked hunger in the winter woods gave the wolf a reputation for
uncanny powers, and the old Slavic folk-songs clearly set forth a
belief in wehr-wolf lore.

In the matter of disposing of their dead the Slavs of Eastern Europe
had a variety of customs and usages, some of which were probably local
practices of the different tribes. In general the body was burned and
the bones enclosed in a small vessel, which was placed upon a post near
the roadside. Grave-burial was also in vogue, hill-sides being chosen
for that purpose. Drinking and feasting were usual accompaniments of
the funeral rites, while the opposite extreme was sometimes exhibited
by the slashing and scratching of the mourners’ faces in token of
grief.[2]

Thickly mingled with the Slav homesteads in the lake regions of
Peipus, Ladoga, and the forest country stretching eastwards, were
the outlying villages of the Finns, who seem to have lived in harmony
with their alien neighbours without at the same time showing the least
tendency towards a fusion of national characteristics. Branches of
the same people, Tchouds and Livs, occupied the lands of the Baltic
sea-board on the north-west. South of these, wedged in between the
Slavs of Poland and those of the east, in the marshy forest-lands of
the Niemen basin, were the Lit’uanians, a people of Indo-European
origin, who were divided into the sub-tribes of Lit’uanians, Letts,
and Borussians (Prussians). Of doubtful affinity with the first-named
were the Yatvyags, a black-bearded race dwelling on the extreme
eastern limit of the Polish march. The Lit’uanians were even more
ill-provided with towns and strongholds than their Slav neighbours,
but they had at least a definite system of tribal government,
remarkable for the division of the sovereign power between the prince
(_Rikgs_) and the high-priesthood, the former having control of
outside affairs, including the important business of waging war, the
latter administering matters of justice and religion. The gods of
the Lit’uanians were worshipped under the symbolism of sacred trees,
and the religious rites included the putting to death of deformed or
sickly children; this was enacted, not with the idea that bloodshed
and suffering were acceptable to the Higher Powers, but rather because
the latter were supposed to demand a standard of healthy and physical
well-being on the part of their worshippers.[3]

In the lands lying to the south and south-east, where the forests
gave way bit by bit to the open wolds of the steppe country, the
Slavs had for neighbours various tribes of nomads, for the most part
of Turko-Finnish origin, and these completed the encircling band of
stranger folk by which the primitive forest dwellers were shut in from
the outside world. At this yonder world it is now necessary to take a
glimpse.

Europe towards the middle of the ninth century was still simmering in
a state of semi-chaos, out of which were shortly to be evolved many
of the national organisms which have lasted to modern times. Charles
the Great, by the supreme folly of dividing amongst his three sons
the empire he had so carefully built up, had to a great degree undone
the work of his life, and political barriers are rather difficult to
trace after the partition of Verdun (843), though in the dominions
assigned to Charles II. some semblance of the later kingdom of France
may be traced. Germany was in a transition state; the strong hand which
had established dependent and responsible dukes and counts in the
various Teutonic provinces--Saxony, Franconia, Swabia, Bavaria, and
Karinthia--had been withdrawn, and as yet these princes had not erected
their fiefs into independent hereditary duchies. Scarcely tamed and
civilised themselves, the frontier districts of the east were bordered
continuously by Danes, Wends, Czechs, Avars, and Slavonians, ever ready
to make hostile incursions upon their territory. Hamburg in those days
stood as a frontier town, almost an outpost in an enemy’s country, and
formed with Paderborn and Bremen the high-water mark of the Frankish
expansion on the north-eastern marches.

In England national unification was in a more advanced stage; Wessex
had gradually absorbed the other constituents of the so-called
Heptarchy, with the exception of Mercia, which still held out a
nominally separate existence. London, at this period a wooden-built
town surrounded by a wall of stone, was beginning to be commercially
important.

In Spain the Christians had established among the mountains of Asturias
the little kingdom of Leon, and were commencing the long struggle which
was eventually to drive the Moors out of the peninsula.

South of Rome and the Imperial territories in Italy, the duchy
of Benevento alone foreshadowed the crowd of principalities and
commonwealths which were to spring into existence in that country.

To the east the Byzantine Empire, pressed by the Saracens in its
Asiatic possessions, by Bulgars and Slavs on its northern boundary,
severed from Rome, Ravenna, and the Western world by divergencies of
ritual and dogma, humiliated by military reverses in various quarters,
still loomed splendid and imposing in her isolation, and the dreaded
Greek fire, if no longer “the Fire of old Rome,” helped to make her
navies respected in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

But if she still attracted the attention of the world, civilised
and barbarian, it was scarcely by the exhibition of any grand moral
qualities; her annals were one long record of vicious luxuries, servile
flatteries, intrigues, disaffection, and cruelties, which grew like
an unhealthy crop of fungi in an atmosphere charged with the gases of
theological dogmatism. Revolution succeeded revolution, and each was
followed by a dreary epilogue of torturings, executions, blindings,
and emasculations, while synods and councils gravely discussed the
amount of veneration due to pictures of the Virgin, or the exact
wording of a litany. In one respect, however, the first Christian State
approached the New Jerusalem of its aspirations, namely, in upholstery
and artificial landscape gardening, and its gilded gates and rooms of
porphyry, its jewelled trees with mechanical singing-birds, might well
challenge comparison with the golden streets and walls of precious
stones and sea of glass that adorned the Holy City of the Apocalypse.

North of what might be termed the European mainland of the Eastern
Empire, between the south bank of the Danube and the ridge of the
Balkans, was wedged in the kingdom of Bulgaria, a Turko principality
whose territory waxed and waned as its arms were successful or the
contrary in the intermittent warfare it carried on against its august
neighbour. Though never rising to the position of a considerable power,
and at times being reduced to complete subjection, it continued to give
trouble to the Byzantine State for many centuries, and the adjoining
Zupanate of Servia was from time to time brought under the alternate
suzerainty of whichever factor was in the ascendant.

Beyond the Danube the Magyars had not as yet established themselves in
Hungary, in the lands lately overrun by the Avars, and a considerable
section of that country was absorbed in the great Moravian kingdom, a
Czech state whose existence was coterminous with the ninth century, and
which also embraced within its limits the vassal duchy of Bohemia, the
latter country having, however, its separate dynasty of dukes.

Farther north, Poland had scarcely commenced to have a defined
existence in the polity of Europe. Its people, if the early annals are
not merely fables borrowed from the common stock of European folk-lore,
had elevated to the dignity of sovereign duke a peasant nicknamed
Piast, from whom sprang the family of that name who held the throne not
less than 600 years. From the fact that the Poles remained independent
both of the Western Empire and of the neighbouring Moravian power,
may be deduced the assumption that they already possessed some degree
of cohesion and organization--more perhaps than distinguished them in
later stages of their history.

On the north shore of the Black Sea the most easterly possession of
the Byzantine Empire was Kherson, a port in the Krim peninsula, and
here the territory of the Cæsars came into contact with the Empire
or Khanate of the Khazars, a Turko-Finnish race whose dominions
stretched in the ninth century from Hungary to the shores of the
Kaspian, and north to the source of the Dniepr. They appear to have
attained to a comparatively high degree of civilisation, and they
kept up commercial and diplomatic relations with Byzantium and the
two Kaliphates of Bagdad and Kordova. Their national religion was a
form of paganism (subsequently they embraced Judaism), but in spite of
differences of faith and race one of their princesses became the wife
of the Emperor Constantine V. Their two principal cities were Itil,
on the Volga, and Sarkel (the White City), on the Don. Several of the
Turanian and Slavonic tribes on their north-west borders acknowledged
their authority and paid them tribute, but at the commencement of the
ninth century their power was already declining.

On their north-east frontier the Khazars had for neighbours the
Bulgarians of the Volga, an elder branch of the tribe which had
settled in the Balkans. Bolgary, “the great City,” was their capital,
and a trading centre much frequented by the merchants and dealers of
the various semi-barbaric nations in their vicinity, as well as by the
more highly-civilised Khazars and Persians.

Northward of all, in the bleak mountain regions of Skandinavia, on the
roof of Europe as it were, dwelt the Norsemen, those wild and warlike
adventurers who were to leave the impress of their hand on the history
of so many countries. In those days, when Iceland and Greenland were as
yet undiscovered, Norway, Sweden, and Finland formed a stepping-stone
to that unknown Arctic Sea which contemporary imagination peopled with
weird and grimly monsters--for the North had its magic lore as well
as the shining East. And the fierce vikings, fighting and plundering
under their enchanted Raven banner, seemed in those credulous times not
far removed from the legendary warlocks and griffons of whom they were
presumed to be the neighbours.

As has been already noticed, the Khazars were essentially a trading
nation, and much of the commerce of the farther East filtered through
their hands into Eastern Europe. According to one authority[4] the
products of the East, after crossing the Kaspian Sea, were conveyed up
the Volga, and after a short land journey reached the Baltic by way
of Lake Ilmen and Lake Ladoga. It is not easy to see why the shorter
and simpler route along the Don and the Black Sea to Constantinople
and the Mediterranean was not preferred, especially as the balance
of power, and consequently of luxury and wealth, lay rather in the
south of Europe than in the north. It was this trade, however, which
built up the importance, possibly caused the birth, of Novgorod,
that fascinating city which rises out of the mists that shroud the
history of unchronicled times with the tantalising name of New Town,
suggesting the existence of a yet older one. What was the exact
footing of Novgorod in the early decades of the ninth century--whether
an actual township, with governor and council, giving a head to a
loose confederation of neighbouring Slavic tribes, or whether merely
a village or camp, the most convenient station where “the barbarians
might assemble for the occasional business of war or trade”[5]--it is
difficult at this distance of time to determine. Seated on the banks
of the Volkhov some little distance from where that river leaves Lake
Ilmen’s northern shore, and connected with the Baltic by convenient
waterways, it not only tapped the trade-route already referred to, but
occupied a similar favourable position with regard to another important
channel of traffic--that between the North and Byzantium by way of the
Dniepr and Black Sea. Wax, honey, walrus teeth, and furs went from the
frozen North to the “Tzargrad,” as the Imperial city was called by the
Slavs, and in exchange came silks and spices and other products of the
South. Furs and skins, of otter, marten, wolf, and beaver especially,
were in growing demand in Europe, where, from the covering of savages,
they had been promoted to articles of luxury among the wealthy of
Christendom. With the land covered by dense forest, or infested by
savage tribes, and the seas scoured by pirate fleets, traders preferred
to keep as much as possible to the great river-routes, and the large,
placidly-flowing rivers of the Russian plain were peculiarly suited
to their purposes. Thus the early human wanderers adopted the same
methods of travel, and nearly the same lines of journey, as the birds
of passage, ducks, plovers, and waders use to this day in their annual
migrations, winging their way along the coasts and river-courses from
Asia to Europe and back again.

Shut up in their own constricted world of forest, lake, and swamp,
the Novgorodski and neighbouring Slavs would get, by means of these
waterways, glimpses of other worlds, distant as the three points of
a triangle, and as varied in manners, customs, and products; news of
Sarkel, Itil, and the Great City, Bolgary, and strange countries yet
farther east, where men dwelt in tents and rode on camels and hunted
the panther, whose spotted skin was more richly marked than that of
any forest lynx; visits from mariners of perhaps their own nationality,
bringing tales of northern seas, of ice-floes, walruses, sturgeons,
and whales; of Wends who preyed on the vessels driven on to their
inhospitable shore; and, more important still, of Varangian sea-rovers
who were beginning to force themselves on the Finns and Slavs of the
sea-coast; above all, tidings from bands of merchants of the City of
Wonders that guarded the entrance to the Farther Sea, with its gates
and palaces, and temples and gardens and marts, its emperor and saints,
and miracles and ceremonials, like unto nothing they had experience of
themselves.

It is just at this point that the history of the Slavs of Lake Ilmen
and its neighbourhood becomes largely conjectural. That they were
brought in some measure under the subjection of Varangian invaders
appears tolerably certain, and, favoured no doubt by the natural
advantages of their position, girt round with an intricate network of
forest and swamp, or, still better, protected perhaps by the poverty
of their communities, they seem to have freed themselves from this
foreign yoke, as the Saxons of England from time to time drove out the
Danes. It was in consequence, probably, of this common danger that
the Slavs were drawn into closer confederation, with the unfortunate
result that domestic quarrels became rife among them, and each clan
or volost was at enmity with its neighbour. “Family armed itself
against family, and there was no justice.”[6] This sudden ebullition
of anarchy rather suggests that the Varangian intruders had swept
away previous institutions or elements of order, and left nothing
capable of replacing them, or else that the native Slavs were unable to
grapple with the new problems of administration on an extended scale.
Evidently, too, the vigorous Norsemen had obtained the reputation of
being something more than mere undisciplined robbers and raiders, and
their domination seemed more desirable than the turmoil and dissension
attendant upon a state of self-government. And in support of this
deduction, almost the first definite event recorded in the national
chronicles is the resolve of the people of Novgorod to call in the
leaders of a tribe known as the Russ Varangians to restore order in
their land.

(Controversy has arisen among Russian historians as to the probable
nationality or extraction of these “Russ” foreigners, who, like the
Angles, gave their name to the country of their adoption, and some
writers have assumed them to have been Slavs from Rugen or the south
coasts of the Baltic, and not of Skandinavian origin. Apart, however,
from the decidedly Norse form of their leaders’ names--Rurik, Sineus,
Truvor, Oleg, etc.--the manner of their coming and their subsequent
history harmonises exactly with that of the various Skandinavian
offshoots who invaded and established themselves in Normandy, England,
the Scottish islands, Ireland, and Sicily. Under their vigorous rule
the Slavic settlement around Novgorod expanded in a few years into an
extensive principality, imposing tribute on and drawing recruits from
the neighbouring tribes, and carrying the terror of the Russian name
into the Black and Kaspian Seas.)

Whether the “invitation” was genuine, emanating from the desire of
the Ilmen folk to secure for themselves the settled rule of capable
leaders, or whether the presence of the strangers had to be accepted
as a disagreeable necessity, to mitigate the humiliation of which a
legendary calling-in was subsequently invented, must remain a matter
for conjecture; but with the incoming of this new element Russian
history develops suddenly in scope and interest.[7]

FOOTNOTES:

[1] The gathering of honey and wax from the combs of wild bees formed
an important industry among the Polish and Russian Slavs.

[2] S. Solov’ev, _Istoriya Rossie_.

[3] S. Solov’ev.

[4] Ralston, _Early Russian History_.

[5] Gibbon.

[6] _Chronicle of Nestor._

[7] S. Solov’ev, _Istoriya Rossie_. Karamzin, _Histoire de Russie_.
_Chronique de Nestor_. Schiemann, _Russland, Polen, und Livland_. N. P.
Barsov, _Otcherke Rousskoy istoritcheskoy Geografie_. V. Thomsen, _The
Relations between Ancient Russia and Scandinavia_.



CHAPTER II

THE COMING OF THE VARANGIANS AND THE BUILDING OF KIEVIAN RUSSIA


Whatever the nature of the causes that led up to this irruption of
stranger folk, the fact and, to a certain extent, the manner of their
coming is substantially set forth in the old chronicles. Like ocean
demi-gods riding out from the sea into the ken of mortal men came three
Russ-Varangian brothers, Rurik, Sineus, and Truvor, with a mighty
host of kinsfolk and followers, steering eastward in their long,
narrow-beaked boats through the waterways that lead from the Finnish
Gulf into the lake-land of the Slavs. Separating their forces, Rurik
established himself at--according to some accounts, built--the town of
Ladoga, on the banks of the Volkhov, twelve miles from its entrance
into the Lake Ladoga, thus interposing himself between Novgorod and the
sea. His brothers settled at Bielozersk and Izborsk respectively, the
latter occupying an important position near Lake Peipus and the Liv
border, the former pushing a Varangian outpost among the Finnish tribes
to the east; all three, whether from accident or design, choosing the
vicinity of an open stretch of water. The date of this immigration is
fixed by the chronicler at 862, which is regarded as the starting-point
of the Russian State. Two years later Rurik, by the death of both his
brothers, was left in sole chieftaincy of the adventurers. From his
first stronghold he soon shifted his headquarters to a point farther up
the Volkhov’s course, over against Novgorod, where he built himself a
citadel; from thence he eventually made himself master of the town, not
apparently without some opposition from the inhabitants. Henceforward
the Skandinavian chief was undisputed prince of the Slavonic people
who had invited him into their country; the neighbouring districts
of Rostov and Polotzk were brought under his authority, and Novgorod
became the capital and centre of a state which reached from Lake Peipus
to the Upper Volga, and from Ladoga to the watershed of the Dvina and
Dniepr. In thus extending and consolidating his power and welding his
Skandinavian following and the discordant Slavic elements into one
smoothly-working organisation, Rurik evinced qualities of statesmanship
equal in their way to those displayed by William the Norman in his
conquest and administration of England. The absence of any national
cohesion among the Slavs, while facilitating the Norse intrusion and
settlement, increased the difficulty of binding them in allegiance
to a central authority; yet within the space of a few crowded years
the Varangian ruler enjoyed an undisputed sway in the lands of his
mastery such as few princes could in those unordered times rely on. Not
the least difficult part of Rurik’s task must have been the control
of his own wanderlusting countrymen, turned loose in an extensive
and vaguely-defined region, with rumours of wealth and plunder and
fighting beckoning them to the south. In the nature of things such
temptation would not be long resisted, especially as the Dniepr offered
a convenient if insecure passage to the desired lands, and a short time
after the first Norse settlement two Skandinavian adventurers, named
Askold and Dir, broke away from the main body with a small following,
possibly with the idea of enlisting themselves in the Varangian Guard
at Byzantium. They did not immediately pursue their journey, however,
farther than Kiev, a townstead of the Polian Slavs,[8] standing on a
low bluff above the west bank of the Dniepr. Here they established
themselves as Rurik had done at Novgorod, and, reinforced perhaps by
roving bodies of their countrymen, set up a second Russian State,
without losing sight, however, of the original object which had drawn
them southwards. Consequently in the summer of 865 an expedition of
from ten to fifteen thousand men, presumably recruited from both Slavs
and Norsemen, embarked in their long, narrow war-boats and sailed for
Byzantium, plundering and burning along the coast of the Black Sea, and
finally riding into the harbour. The audacity of the attack, or perhaps
the warlike reputation of the invading host, seems to have paralysed
the inhabitants of the city, and the authorities had recourse to
supernatural invocation to deliver them from this new danger. The robe
of the Virgin was removed from its venerated shrine in the Blacherne
Chapel, escorted in solemn procession to the shores of the harbour, and
dipped in the water, whereupon arose a tempest that drove the heathen
fleet in disorder out to sea. That, at least, is the account of the
transaction given by the Byzantine chroniclers.

Whether such a command over the atmospherical forces impressed the
barbarian chiefs with the desirable qualities of so militant a
religion, or whether the glories of the Tzargrad as seen dimly from
their boats had insensibly attracted them to the worship of the
“cold Christ and tangled trinities,” which was so much a part of the
Byzantine life, it was said that Askold, shortly after the miscarriage
of the expedition, professed the Christian faith. This much at least
seems certain, that the Greek patriarch Photius was able in the year
866 to send to Kiev a priest with the title, if not the recognition
of Bishop, and that from that time there existed a small Christian
community in that town.

The _Chronicle of Nestor_, almost the only record of this period of
Russian history in existence, is silent on two interesting points,
namely, the works and fightings in which Rurik was presumably engaged
on behalf of his infant state, and the attitude of the Khazars towards
the adventurers who had filched Kiev and the adjoining territory from
their authority.

The only further item in the _Chronicle_ relating to Rurik is the
announcement of his death in the year 879, his child son Igor and the
governance of the country being entrusted to Oleg, a blood relation of
the late Prince. The reign of this chieftain was of great importance to
the fortunes of the germinating Russian State, and if Rurik played the
part of a William the Bastard, Oleg may not unwarrantably be compared
with Charles the Great. The rumours which had reached the North of
a Varangian power that had sprung up among the tribes of the Slavic
hinterland had attracted thither streams of roving warriors, eager to
share the dangers and divide the fruits of their kinsfolks’ enterprise.
Thus both Rurik and the Kievian adventurers had been able to maintain
an easily-recruited standing force of their own countrymen for purposes
offensive and defensive. The larger designs of Oleg, however, required
a larger army, and he enlisted under his captaincy Slavs and Finns in
addition to his Varangian guards. Having spent three years in gathering
and perfecting his resources, he advanced in 882 into the basin-land of
the Dniepr and moved upon Smolensk, the stronghold of the independent
remnant of the Slav tribe of Krivitches. By virtue, possibly, of his
position as leader of an army partly drawn from men of that tribe,
he was allowed to take undisputed possession of the place, which was
henceforth incorporated in the Russ dominion. Still following the
course of the Dniepr, as Askold and Dir had followed it before him, he
entered the country of the Sieverskie Slavs and made himself master of
their head town, Lubetch.

By these successive steps Oleg had brought himself nigh upon Kiev, the
headquarters of the rival principality, which was possibly the object
he had had in view from the commencement of his southward march. For to
the rising Russ-Slavonic State Kiev was at once a menace and an injury;
not only did it offer an alternative attraction to the Norsemen pouring
into the country, the natural reinforcements of Oleg’s following,
but its separate existence cut short the expansion of the northern
territory, and, above all, hindered free intercourse with Byzantium
and the south. To the sea-rovers, reared among the rude and penurious
lands that lay dark and uncivilised between the Baltic and the Arctic
Sea, Byzantium was a dazzling and irresistible attraction; rich
beyond their comprehension of riches, luxurious to a degree unknown
to them, renowned for everything except renown, she seemed a golden
harvest ripe for the steel of the valorous and enterprising. Between
this desired land and the Novgorodian principality the territory of
Askold presented a vexatious obstacle, and it was inevitable that
the sagacity of Oleg should aim at its destruction. At the same time
it was understandable that he should seek to avoid an armed conflict
with his fellow-countrymen, the Varangians of Kiev, and to effect his
purpose by stratagem rather than by force. To this end he approached
the town, laid an ambuscade on the banks of the Dniepr, and in the
guise of a trader travelling from Novgorod to Byzantium, sought speech
with the Kievian rulers. Askold and Dir came out unwittingly to see
this wayfarer, and found no man of wares and whining suppliance; found
rather one whose face they well knew, and with him a small lad whose
significance was swiftly made plain to them. “You are not of the blood
of princes,” cried a voice of triumph and boding in their ears, “but
here behold the son of Rurik.” And therewith rushed out the hidden ones
and slew the unsuspecting chieftains. And in guerdon of this stroke
Oleg was accepted as sovereign by the people of Kiev, the Russian
State was solidified, and the supremacy of Rurik’s dynasty received a
valuable recognition.

The town of Kiev, advantageously situated at a pleasant elevation above
the west bank of the Dniepr, and commanding the waterway to the coveted
south, compared favourably with Novgorod, built among the flat marshes
that bordered Lake Ilmen and surrounded by the Finn-gripped coasts of
Ladoga. The advantages of the former were not lost upon its conqueror,
who saluted it with the title of “mother of all Russian cities” (so
the Chronicles), and thenceforth it became the capital of the country.
It was now necessary to secure the connection between the newly-won
territory and the districts lying to the north. West and north of
Kiev dwelt the Drevlians, a fierce and formidable Slavic tribe,
whose country was fortified by natural defences of forest and marsh.
Against them Oleg turned his arms, and once more victory went with
him; the Drevlians, while retaining their own chieftain, were reduced
to the standing of vassals, and an annual tribute of marten and sable
skins was imposed upon them. Within the next two years the Russian
ruler completed the subjugation of the Sieverskie and enthralled the
remaining lands of the Krivitches, both of which tribes had hitherto
owned allegiance to the Khazars. The growing Russian dominions were now
put under a system of taxation, the sums levied being devoted in the
first place to the payment of the Varangians in the Prince’s service.
The contribution of Novgorod was assessed at the yearly value of 300
_grivnas_, a token of its substantial footing at this particular period.

It was about this time that the Ougres or Magyars, the ancestors of the
modern Hungarians, squeezed out of their Asiatic home by the pressure
of the Petchenigs, burst through the Khazar and Kievian territories and
settled themselves in Moldavia and Wallachia, and finally in Hungary.
Their passage through the Dniepr basin-land would scarcely have been
undisputed, and the Magyar Chronicles speak of a victory over Oleg; the
Russian chronicler is silent on the subject. This scurrying horde of
nomad barbarians, unlike the Avars who preceded them, or the Petchenigs
and Kumans who followed in their wake, crystallised in a marvellously
short space of time into a civilised European State, and became an
important neighbour of the Russian principality.

In 903 the young Igor was mated to a Varangian maiden named Olga,
who, by one account, was born of humble parents in the town of Pskov
and attracted the Prince by her beauty. Other accounts make her, with
more probability, a near relative of the Regent, of whose strength of
character she seems to have inherited a share.

In 907 Oleg was in a position to put into practice a project which
had probably never been lost sight of, the invasion, namely, of the
Byzantine Empire, including an attack on Constantinople itself, a
project dear to the Russian mind in the tenth century as well as in
later times. His footing differed essentially from that of Askold and
Dir in their attempt at a like undertaking. No longer the leader of
a mere troop of adventurers, Oleg swayed an army inspired by a long
series of successes and confident in the sanction and prestige of the
princely authority. Slavs, Finns, and Varangians were bonded together
in a representative Russian army, trained, disciplined, and, above
all, reliant on the ability of their captain. In their long, light
barques they went down the Dniepr, hauling their craft overland where
the rapids rendered navigation impossible, and thence emerged into the
Black Sea; the boats were escorted along the river-banks by a large
body of horsemen, but the Chronicle does not tell whether this branch
of the expedition made its way through Bessarabia and Bulgaria into
the Imperial territory, and probably it only served to guard the main
body from the attacks of hostile tribes in the steppe region. Arrived
in the waters of the Bosphorus the invaders landed and ravaged the
country in the vicinity of Constantinople, burning, plundering, and
slaughtering without hindrance from the Greek forces. Leo VI., “the
Philosopher,” shut himself up in his capital and confined his measures
of defence to placing a chain across the entrance of the harbour.
So much had the Eastern Empire become centralised in the city of
Constantinople, that it was apparently a matter of small concern if the
very suburbs were laid waste, or else Leo was waiting with philosophic
patience for a supernatural intervention. The Virgin, however, not
obliging with another tornado, the invaders turned their impious arms
against the city itself. According to popular tradition, Oleg dragged
his boats ashore, mounted them on wheels, spread sail, and floated
across dry land towards the city walls. Possibly he attempted the
exploit, successfully carried out some five hundred years later by
Sultan Mahomet II., of hauling his vessels overland into the waters
of the harbour, a labour which would be facilitated by the lightness
and toughness of the Russian craft. At any rate the effect of the
demonstration was salutary; the Emperor, alarmed at such a display of
energy, determined to come to terms with his barbarous enemy, first,
however, the Russian chronicler alleges, trying the experiment of an
offering of poisoned meats and fruits to Oleg and his warmen.[9] A
study of the history of Byzantium fully supports the likelihood of
such a stratagem, which, had it succeeded, would have been hailed as
a miraculous epidemic, sweeping the heathen away from the threatened
city. The gift was prudently declined, and the more prosaic and
expensive method of buying off the invaders had to be resorted to. The
treaty which was concluded between the Greeks and the Russians shows
that the latter were fully alive to the advantages accruing from a free
commercial intercourse with Constantinople. Besides the levy of a fixed
sum for every man in the invading fleet, contributions were exacted for
Kiev and other towns under the Russian sway, which arrangement gave to
all a share in the national victory. More solidly advantageous, under
certain specified conditions, Russian merchants were to be permitted
right of free commerce at Constantinople.

The Christian Emperor and the pagan Prince called upon their respective
deities to witness the solemn pact between them, and Oleg, having
hung his shield in triumph on the gate of the Tzargrad, returned to
Kiev loaded with presents and covered with the glory of a successful
campaign. Five years later the great Varangian, loved and honoured
by his people, feared and respected by his foes, finished his long
reign of three-and-thirty years. Tradition has it that the soothsayers
foretold that his death should be caused by his favourite horse,
whereupon he had it led away and never rode it more. Years after,
learning that it was dead, he went to see the skeleton, and placing
his foot upon the skull, taunted the warlocks with their miscarried
prophecy, whereupon a snake wriggled out and inflicted a bite, of which
he died. The same legend crops up in the folk-lore of many lands.

In venturing to compare Oleg with Charles the Great, whose life-work
lay in somewhat similar lines, it may be noted of the former that his
results were obtained with comparatively little bloodshed, and that he
strengthened the position of the dynasty while forming the empire over
which it was to rule. The fairest and most fertile districts of Russia
were added to the principality during his regency, and, more important
still, the peoples whom he subjugated were permanently welded into
the confederation. The Slavs of Kiev in the later years of Oleg were
essentially the “men” of the Russian State, a rapidity of assimilation
which was scarcely observable in the case of the Bavarians and Frisians
of the Frankish Empire, or the Saxons of Norman England. In the matter
of religion, too, the heathen Prince contrasts favourably with the
great Christian Emperor, and though the worshipper of the Christ who
“came not to send peace but a sword” into the world may have butchered
his nonconforming subjects with the honestest conviction of well-doing,
it is pleasanter to read of the toleration which the follower of Peroun
extended to the Christian communities within his realm.

[Sidenote: 912]

Igor, who after a long minority succeeded to a more extensive and
firmly established principality than his father had bequeathed him, was
occupied at the commencement of his reign in suppressing a revolt of
the Drevlians and Ulitches, the least well affected of the Slav tribes
subject to his rule, who had refused payment of the yearly tribute.
The gathering-in of this impost was entrusted to Svenald, a Varangian
to whom Igor deputed the internal management of the realm; after a
three-years’ struggle the rebels were mastered and the amount of their
tribute increased. A new source of uneasiness arose at this juncture
from the arrival in South Russia of the Petchenigs, a Finn-Turko tribe
who migrated from the plains of Asia in the wake of the Magyars and
settled in the steppe-land on either side of the Dniepr. The city of
Kiev enjoyed an immunity from attack from their horde by reason of
the strong force at hand for its defence, and the Russians, moreover,
were interested in keeping up a good understanding with neighbours
who commanded the waterway to the south. But to the newly-erected
Hungarian State the new-comers were a veritable thorn in the flesh,
and Moldavia became a debatable ground between the two peoples. It was
an act of weakness on the part of Igor and his advisers, with a large
fighting force at their disposal, to have permitted the establishment
of a dangerous enemy or doubtful ally in such undesirable nearness
to their capital, and in a position which threatened their principal
trade-route. This policy of peace was all the more ill-judged as the
restless spirit of the Varangian warmen required some outlet for its
employment, and might fittingly have been turned to the advantage of
the State. Their lust for adventure and pillage found vent instead in
independent raids, and in the year 914 a fleet of 700 Russian ships
appeared, somewhat like the proverbial fly in amber, on the waters of
the Kaspian, where they plundered along the Persian coast.[10] Another
troop penetrated into Italy in the service of the Byzantine Emperor.

If the saying, “Happy is the country that has no history” will hold
good in every case, the bulk of Igor’s reign must have been a period of
prosperity, for nothing further is heard of Russia or its Prince till
the year 941, when, like a recurring decimal, an expedition against
Constantinople is recorded by both Greek and Russian annalists. Whether
difficulties had arisen in the trading relations of the two countries,
whether the rupture was forced by a war party among the Varangians,
or whether Igor was fired with the ambition, to which old men are at
times victims, of doing something which should shed lustre on his
declining years--he was now not far off seventy--the Chronicles do not
indicate, and “what was it they fought about” is lost sight of in the
details of the fighting. With a fleet variously written down at from
1000 to 10,000 boats, Igor descended by the old waterway into the Black
Sea and ravaged and plundered along the coasts of the Bosphorus. The
Imperial fleet was absent on service against the Saracens, with the
exception of a few vessels scarcely deemed fit for action, which were
lying in the harbour. It occurred to the Greek Emperor Romanos, after
many sleepless nights, to arm these despised ships and galleys with the
redoubtable Greek fire and steer them against the hostile flotilla,
a desperate expedient which was crowned with success; the mysterious
flames, which the water itself was unable to quench, not only enwrapped
the light barques of the Russians but demoralised their crews, and a
hopeless rout ensued. The Greeks were, however, unable to follow up
their advantage, and Igor rallied his men for a descent on the coast
of Asia Minor, where he consoled himself by pillaging the surrounding
country. Here he was at length opposed by an army under the command
of the patrician Bardas and forced to make his way to Thrace, where
another reverse awaited him. With the remains of his army the baffled
prince made his way back to Kiev, leaving many of his hapless followers
in the hands of the Greeks. Luitprand, Bishop of Cremona, present at
Constantinople on an embassy, saw numbers of them put to death by
torture. The Northman was not, however, at the end of his resources;
with an energy surprising for his years, he set to work to gather an
army which should turn the scale of victory against the Byzantians,
their magical fire and intimacy with the supernatural notwithstanding.
To this end he sent his henchmen into the bays and fjords of the Baltic
to call in the sea-rovers to battle and plunder under his flag. The
invitation they were not loth to accept, but many of them showed a
disinclination to bind themselves under the leadership of the Russian
Prince, and rushed instead, like a brood of ducklings breaking away
from their foster-mother, into the charmed waters of the Kaspian, where
they carried on an exuberant marauding expedition. A sufficient number,
however, followed Igor in his second campaign against the Tzargrad
to swell his ranks to a formidable host, and word was sent to the
Greek capital, from Bulgarian and Greek sources, that the waters of
the Black Sea were covered with the vessels of a Russian fleet. The
Emperor did not hesitate what course to adopt, but hastily despatched
an embassy to meet the invader with offers to pay the tribute exacted
by Oleg and renew the treaty between the two countries. The Imperial
messengers fell in with Igor at the mouth of the Danube, and their
proposals were agreed to after a consultation between the Prince and
his _droujhiniki_,[11] who in fact gained without further struggle
as much as they could have hoped for in the event of a victory. Igor
returned to Kiev as a conqueror, loaded with presents from Romanos,
who sent thither in the following year his ambassadors with a text of
the treaty. This was sworn to by the Prince and his captains before
the idol of Peroun, except in the case of the Christian minority,
who performed their oath at the altar of S. Elias. The fact of a
Christian cathedral--a designation probably more ambitious than the
building--being established at Kiev at this period speaks much for
the toleration shown to the foreign religion by the followers of the
national god.

Igor did not long enjoy the fruits of this success. Baulked of their
expected campaign, his men of war chafed at the inaction of the old
man’s court, and envied the comparative advantages thrown in the way
of Svenald’s body-guards. It was a custom of the Russian rulers to
spend one-half of the year, from November till April, in visiting
the scattered districts of their dominion, for the double purpose of
keeping in touch with their widely-sundered subjects and gathering
in the revenue. This winter harvesting of the tribute (which Igor
in his declining years left in the hands of his deputed steward) is
interesting as being probably the earliest stage of Russian home
trade. For the most part the payment in kind consisted of furs and
skins, the bulk of which went from the various places of collection
in boat-loads down to Kiev, from thence eventually making its way to
the sea marts of Southern Europe. The forest country of the Drevlians,
rich in its yield of thick-coated sables and yellow-chested martens,
lay in convenient neighbourhood to Kiev, and thither the Prince’s men
clamoured to be led for the purpose of gleaning an increased tribute.
In a moment of fatal weakness Igor consented, and in the autumn of 945
set out to close his reign as he had begun it, in a quarrel with “the
tree people” over the matter of their taxing. The armed host which
accompanied the Prince overawed the resentment bred by this stretching
of the sovereign claims, but the apparent ease with which the imposts
were gathered in tempted Igor to linger behind his returning main-guard
for the purpose of exacting a further levy. The exasperated Drevlians,
hearkening to the counsel of their chieftain, Mal, “to rise and slay
the wolf who was bent on devouring their whole flock,” turned suddenly
upon the fate-blind Igor in the midst of his importunings and put him
to a hideous death. Two young trees were bent towards each other nearly
to the ground, and to them the unfortunate tyrant was bound; then the
trees were allowed to spring back to their normal position. Thus did
the tree people avenge their wrongs.

The safest standard by which to judge a reign of the inward history
of which so little can be known is the measure of stability which
it leaves behind it. The widow of the murdered Prince and his young
heir Sviatoslav came peaceably into the vacant throneship, and it is
no small tribute to the statecraft of Rurik and his successors that
the grandson of the Varangian stranger and adventurer should inherit,
at a tender age and under the guardianship of a woman, the Russian
principality without opposition and without question.

The young Kniaz,[12] notwithstanding the Slavonic name which he was the
first of his house to bear, was brought up mainly among Skandinavian
influences, his person and the domestic management of the State being
entrusted to Varangian hands. His mother Olga bore no small share of
the administration, and the vigour and energy of her doings were well
worthy of the heroic age of early Russia. The first undertaking which
was called for, alike by political necessity and the promptings of
revenge, was the chastisement of her husband’s murderers. With the
idea possibly of averting the storm by a bold stroke of diplomacy,
the latter had sent messengers to the widowed princess suggesting a
connubial alliance with the implicated chieftain Mal, a proposal which
was met with a feigned acceptance. Having lulled the apprehensions of
the Drevlians, Olga marched into their country with a large following
and turned the projected festivities into a massacre, after which
she besieged the town of Korosten,[13] the scene of Igor’s death,
and the last refuge of the disconcerted rebels. The Chronicle of the
monk of Kiev gives a quaint, old-world account of the manner of the
taking of Korosten. All the summer the inhabitants defended themselves
stubbornly, and the princess at last agreed to conclude a peace on
receipt of a tribute, which was to consist of a live pigeon and three
live sparrows from each homestead. How they caught the sparrows is left
to the imagination, but the tribute was gladly paid. At the approach of
evening Olga caused the birds to be set free, each with a lighted brand
fastened to its tail, whereupon their homing instincts took them back
to their dwellings in the thatched roofs and barns of Korosten, with
the result that the town was soon in a blaze, and the inhabitants fell
easy victims to the swords of the besiegers. Thus was avenged the death
of Igor, the son of Rurik.

Shortly after this exploit Olga left Kiev and went into the northern
parts of her son’s realm, fixing her court for some years at Novgorod
and Pskov, and raising the prosperity of those townships by keeping
up a connection with the Skandinavian lands. Later she turned her
thoughts towards the south, not with warlike projects, as her
forerunners had done, but with peaceful intent. Accompanied by a
suitable train she journeyed, in the year 957, to Constantinople, where
she was received and entertained with due splendour by the Emperor
Constantine-born-in-the-Purple and the Patriarch Theophylact. Here,
in the metropolis of the Christian religion, surrounded by all the
splendours of ritual of which the Greeks were masters, this surprising
woman adopted the prevalent faith, received at the hands of her
Imperial host and sponsor the baptismal name of Helen, and became
“the first Russian who mounted to the heavenly kingdom”--a rather
disparaging reflection on the labours of the early Church at Kiev.

Loaded with presents from the Imperial treasury, Olga returned to her
son, whom she strove fruitlessly to detach from the gods of his fathers
to the worship of the new deities she had brought from Constantinople.
The Russian mind was not yet ripe for the mystic cult of the Greek or
Latin Church, and the conversion of the Prince’s mother made little
impression on either boyarins or people. In the year 964 Sviatoslav
definitely assumed the government of the country, and struck the
key-note of his reign by extending his sway over the Viatitches, the
last Slavonic tribe who paid tribute to the Khazars. This was only
preliminary to an attack on that people in their own country. The fate
of their once powerful empire was decided in one battle; the arms of
the young Kniaz were victorious; Sarkel, the White City, fell into his
hands, the outlying possessions of the Khazars, east and south, were
subdued, and the kakhanate was reduced to a shadow of its former glory.
It would have been a wiser policy to have left untouched, for the time
being, the integrity of a State which was no longer formidable, and
which interposed a civilised barrier between the Russian lands and
the barbarian hordes of the East, and to have pursued instead a war
of extermination against the Petchenigs. Sviatoslav was himself to
experience the disastrous results of this mistake.

[Sidenote: 968]

In the following year the centre of interest shifts from the south-east
to the south-west. The Greek Emperor, Nicephorus Phocas, irritated
against his vassal Peter, King or Tzar of Bulgaria, in that he had not
exerted himself against the Magyars, who were raiding the Imperial
dominions, turned for help, according to the approved Byzantine
policy, to another neighbour, and commissioned Sviatoslav to march
against Bulgaria. A large sum of Greek gold was conveyed to Kiev by
an ambassador from the Emperor, and in return the Russian Prince set
out for the Danube with a following of 60,000 men. The onset of the
invaders was irresistible, and the Bulgarians scattered and fled,
leaving their capital, Péréyaslavetz, and Dristr, a strongly fortified
place on the Danube, in the hands of the conqueror. To complete the
good fortune of Sviatoslav the Tzar Peter died at this critical
moment, and the Russian Prince settled down in his newly-acquired
city, undisputed master of Bulgaria. East and west his arms had been
successful, but in the very heart of his realm he had left a dread and
watchful enemy, who would not fail to take advantage of his absence.
While his army was at quarters in the head city of the Bulgarians, his
own capital was being besieged and closely pressed by the Petchenigs,
that “greedy people, devouring the bodies of men, corrupt and impure,
bloody and cruel beasts,” as the monk of Edessa portrays them; in which
certificate it is to be hoped they were over-described. The folk in the
beleaguered city, among the rest the aged Olga and the young sons of
Sviatoslav, were in straits from want of food, and must have succumbed
if one of their number had not made his way by means of a feint through
the enemy’s camp, and carried news of their desperate condition to a
boyarin named Prititch who was luckily at hand with a small force.
On his approach the Petchenigs drew off, thinking that the Prince
himself had returned with his army, and Kiev was relieved from the
straits of famine. Sviatoslav meanwhile had learned of the danger which
threatened his realm and household and hastened back from Bulgaria.
Even this narrowly staved-off disaster did not open his eyes to the
menace which these undesirable neighbours ever held over him and his,
and he contented himself with inflicting a severe defeat on them and
concluding a worthless peace. Possibly he found it hard to arouse among
his followers any enthusiasm for a campaign against an enemy who had no
wealthy cities to plunder or riches of any kind available for spoil.
In any case he was bitten with the desire, to which rulers of Russia
seem to have been periodically subject, of shifting the seat of his
government to a fresh capital. Before his mother and his boyarins he
declared his project of fixing his seat at Péréyaslavetz in preference
to Kiev, and enumerated the advantages of the former. From the Greeks
came gold, fabrics, wine, and fruits; from Bohemia and Hungary horses
and silver; from Russia furs, wax, honey, and slaves. To Olga, with the
hand of death already on her, the question was not one of great moment,
and four days later she had made her last journey to a vault in the
cathedral of Kiev. A certain compassion is excited by the contemplation
of the aged queen, dying lonely in a faith that her husband had never
known, which her son had not accepted, just as the realm over which
she had ruled so actively was to be enlarged and its political centre
shifted. Her death removed the last obstacle to Sviatoslav’s design,
the last that is to say with which he reckoned. Before departing for
Bulgaria the Prince set his sons, who could not at this date (970) have
been of a very mature age, in responsible positions, Yaropalk, the
elder, becoming governor of Kiev, and Oleg prince of the Drevlians.
The Novgorodskie, who had been left for many years to the hireling
care of Sviatoslav’s deputies, demanded a son of the princely house as
ruler, threatening in case of refusal to choose one from elsewhere for
themselves; here the stormy spirit of Velikie Novgorod shows itself for
the first time. Happily the supply of sons was equal to the demand; by
one of Olga’s maidens named Malousha the Prince had become father of
Vladimir, destined to play an important part in the history of Russia,
and to him, under the guardianship of his mother’s brother Drobuinya,
was confided the government of the northern town. Having thus arranged
for the present security and future confusion of his territories by
instituting the system of separate appanages, Sviatoslav set out for
his new possession beyond the Danube. “A prince should, if possible,
live in the country he has conquered,” wrote the political codist of
mediæval Italy, and the Russian monarch found that even his brief
absence had lost him much of the fruits of his victory. The Bulgarians
mustered to oppose his march with a large force, and a desperate
battle ensued, in which defeat was only staved off from the invaders
by the heroic exertions of their leader. Péréyaslavetz was retaken,
and Sviatoslav again became master of the Balkan land, permitting,
however, Boris, son of the late Tzar, to keep the gold crown, frontlet,
and red buskins which were the Bulgarian marks of royalty. The Greeks
now repented their folly in having established in their immediate
neighbourhood, within a few short marches of Constantinople, a prince
who was far more dangerous to them than ever the Bulgarian Tzars had
been. John Zimisces, who had succeeded the ill-fated Nicephorus on
the precarious throne of the Eastern Empire, called upon Sviatoslav
to fulfil the engagement made with his predecessor and evacuate the
Imperial dependency. The Prince in possession contemptuously refused
to comply with this demand, and threatened instead to march against
Constantinople and drive the Greeks into Asia. Fortunately for the
Empire at this crisis her new ruler was a soldier of proved ability,
and knew also who were the right men to rely on for active support
and co-operation. On the other hand Sviatoslav prepared for the
coming struggle by enlisting the aid of the Bulgarians themselves,
the Magyars, and even roving bodies of Petchenigs. With this mixed
force he burst into Thrace, ravaging the country up to the walls of
Adrianople, where the Imperial general Bardas-Scleras, brother-in-law
of Zimisces, had entrenched himself. Here in the autumn of 970 the
fierce bravery of the Russians and their allies was matched against
the Greek generalship, with the result that Sviatoslav was forced to
retire into Bulgaria. The recall of Bardas to suppress an insurrection
in Capadocia prevented him from following up his advantage, and gave
the Russians an opportunity for retiring from a position which was no
longer safe. Sviatoslav, however, either did not see his danger, or
chose to disregard it rather than return home baffled and empty-handed.
Accordingly he spent the year 971 in aimless raids into Macedonia,
while his wily enemy made the most elaborate preparations for his
destruction. In the spring of 972 Zimisces advanced with a large
army into Bulgaria, while a Greek fleet blocked the mouths of the
Danube, cutting off the Russian line of retreat. Sviatoslav with the
bulk of his army was encamped at Dristr, and here tidings came that
the Emperor had crossed the Balkans and, after a stubborn resistance,
taken Péréyaslavetz--“the Town of Victory”--and possessed himself of
the person of Prince Boris. Nothing daunted, Sviatoslav led his army
against that of Zimisces, and a battle ensued which, from the heroic
valour with which it was contested and the important issues involved,
deserves to be recognised as one of the decisive battles of history.
Both leaders showed the utmost personal courage, and victory for a
long while hung doubtful, but at length the Greek forces prevailed
and Sviatoslav was driven back upon Dristr, his last stronghold in
Bulgaria. This time the Imperial success was followed up, and the town
was attacked with a vigour and determination which was only equalled
by the stubbornness of the defence. The Russians made sorties by
day, retreating when outnumbered, under the protection of their huge
bucklers, to within the walls of the town, from whence they issued at
night, to burn by the light of the moon the bodies of their fallen
comrades, and sacrifice over their ashes the prisoners they had taken.
By way of propitiating their gods, or possibly the Danube, which was
covered with the boats of their enemies, they drowned in its waters
cocks and little children.[14] The Magister John, a relation of the
Emperor, having fallen into their hands in a skirmish, was torn in
pieces and his head exposed on the battlements. The besieged, however,
were daily reduced in numbers and weakened by want, and Sviatoslav
resolved on a last bid for victory. Swarming forth from behind their
battered ramparts, the men of the North met their foes in open field,
and the wager of battle was staunchly and obstinately contested.
Sviatoslav was struck off his horse and nearly killed, but the Russians
did not give way until mid-day, when a dust-storm blew into their
faces and forced them to yield the fight, leaving outside the walls
of Dristr, according to the Byzantine annalists, 15,000 slain. The
monkish chroniclers, as usual, attributed the hard-won victory to
supernatural intervention, and while the Imperial soldiers were resting
from their exertions a story was circulated throughout the camp giving
the credit of the day to an apparition of S. Theodore of Stratilat,
who had appeared in the thick of the battle mounted on a white horse.
The Russian defeat, whether due to saint, army, or dust-storm, was
sufficiently decisive to bring the Prince to sue for terms, which were
readily granted by the Emperor. The Russians engaged to withdraw from
Bulgaria and to live at peace with the Eastern Empire; the Greeks
on their part engaged to permit Russian merchants free commercial
intercourse at Constantinople. More than this, the Emperor requested
the Petchenigs to allow Sviatoslav and his thinned host unmolested
passage to his own territories. Whether this was done in good faith, or
whether secret instructions were given to the contrary, is a matter of
opinion, or at most of induction; it is pleasanter to set against the
general treachery of Byzantine statecraft the fact that Zimisces was
a brave man, and to give him credit for the honour which is the usual
accompaniment of courage.

The importance of this defeat cannot be over-estimated, and it is
interesting to speculate as to the possible results of a victory
for Sviatoslav--a victory which might well have changed the whole
course of European history. A powerful Slavonic principality with
its headquarters in the basin of the Danube would have attracted to
itself, by the magnetism of blood, the kindred races of Serbs, Kroats,
Dalmatians, Slavonians, and Moravians, all of which, with the exception
of the first-named, were eventually absorbed into the Germanic Empire;
while Bohemia, instead of gravitating towards the house of Habsburg,
would more naturally have entered the Russian State-organism. From
Péréyaslavetz to Constantinople is a short cry, and it is reasonable
to conjecture that under these circumstances the Slav and not the Turk
would in due course have stepped into the shoes of the Paleologi.
The palace intrigues, treason, and assassination which placed John
Zimisces on the throne of the Cæsars at this critical juncture in the
affairs of the Empire had an effect on the destinies of Europe which
can only be likened in importance to the Moorish defeat on the plain of
Tours at the hands of Charles Martel.

After a meeting between the leaders of the two armies, during which the
Emperor sat his horse on the river bank while the vanquished Prince
stood, simply clad, in a boat which he himself helped to work, the
latter made his way towards Kiev with the remnant of his following.
But the enemy which his short-sighted policy had neglected to crush
was waiting for him now in the hour of his extremity; the Petchenigs
held the cataracts of the Dniepr, where the returning boats must be
dragged ashore, and notwithstanding their agreement with Zimisces,
blocked the passage of the Russian army. Sviatoslav waited at the mouth
of the river till the coming of spring, when he risked a battle with
his savage enemies, and lost. Warrior to the last, he died fighting,
and tradition has it that his skull became a drinking-cup for the
chief of the Petchenigs; of the mighty host which had started out for
the conquest of Bulgaria but few made their way back to Kiev. Thus
perished Sviatoslav, in spite of his Slavonic name a thorough type of
the Varangian chieftain. Brave, active, and enduring, his chivalry
was in advance of his age, and it is told of him that he always gave
his enemies fair warning of attack, sending a messenger before him
with the tidings, “I go against you.” He was, however, more a fighter
than a general, and did not display the statesmanlike qualities of
Rurik, Oleg, and Olga, while the unhappy results of his partition of
the realm between his three sons were immediately apparent at his
death. Yaropalk did not enjoy any authority over the districts ruled
by his brothers, who lived as independent princes. The inevitable
quarrels were not long in breaking out. Consequent on a hunting fray
in the wooded Drevlian country between the retainers of Oleg and
Yaropalk, in which one of the latter’s men was killed, an armed feud
sprang up between the brothers, which came to a tragic end in a
fight around the town of Oubrovtch. [Sidenote: 977] Oleg, worsted in
the battle, was thrown down by the press of his own soldiers as he
was seeking to enter the town, and trampled to death in the general
stampede. Yaropalk is said to have been plunged in remorse at this
untoward event, but the news was otherwise interpreted at Novgorod and
caused the hasty flight of the young Vladimir to Skandinavian lands,
beyond the reach of his half-brother’s malevolence. Yaropalk sent
his underlings to hold the vacant principality, and thus became for
the time sole ruler of Russia. The outcast, however, after two years
of wandering in viking lands, reappeared suddenly at Novgorod with a
useful following of Norse adventurers, and drove out his brother’s
lieutenants, following up this act of defiance by moving at the head
of his men towards Kiev. On the way he turned aside to Polotzk, then
held as a dependent fief by a Varangian named Rogvolod. This chief had
a daughter, Rogneda, trothed in marriage to Yaropalk, and Vladimir,
by way of ousting his half-brother from all his possessions, sent and
demanded her hand for himself. The maiden haughtily refused to wed the
“son of a slave,” and added that she was already pledged to Yaropalk;
whereupon the headstrong lover stormed the town, slew her father and
two brothers, and bore off the unwilling bride--a wooing which somewhat
resembles that of William the Norman and Matilda of Flanders some
half-hundred years later. The despoiled rival had, on the approach
of Vladimir and his war-carles, shut himself up in Kiev, but growing
doubtful of the goodwill of the inhabitants, he suffered himself to
be persuaded by false counsellors to move into the small town of
Rodnya. In consequence of this faint-hearted desertion Kiev threw open
her gates to Vladimir, who followed up his good fortune by besieging
the Prince in his new refuge. Pressed by assault without and famine
within--the miseries suffered by the Rodnya folk have passed into a
proverb--the hunted Kniaz rashly, or perhaps despairingly, agreed to
visit his peace-feigning brother at his palace in Kiev. Yaropalk alone
was allowed to enter the courtyard doors, behind which lurked two
Varangian guards, who used their blades quickly and well, and Vladimir
reigned as sole Prince of the Russians.

[Sidenote: 980]

The early years of the new reign were devoted to family-founding on
a generous scale, the Prince, by his several wives and concubines,
becoming the father of manifold sons, all of whom bore names of
distinctly Slavonic resonance. By the raped Rogneda he had Isiaslav,
Mstislav, Yaroslav, Vsevolod, and two daughters; a second wife, of
Czech origin, presented him with Vouytchislav; a third was the mother
of Sviatoslav, and a fourth, of Bulgarian nationality, was responsible
for Boris and Glieb. In addition to his own ample offspring he adopted
into his family Sviatopolk, the posthumous son of Yaropalk. But the
pressure of family cares did not absorb his undivided attention. On the
western border several Russian strongholds in the district of Galitz
(Galicia) had been seized during the embarrassed reign of Yaropalk by
Mscislav, Duke of Poland, and for the recovery of these Vladimir set
his armed men in motion. Tcherven, Peremysl, and other places fell into
his hands, but the wars on the Polish march dragged on at intervals
and outlasted the reigns of both princes. This was the first clash
of the two neighbour nations whose history was to be so dramatically
interblended. The Duke of Poland had his hands so full with the
intrusive affairs of Bohemia, Hungary, the Western Empire, and the
Wends, that he was obliged to content himself with a policy of defence
on his eastern border, and Vladimir was able to turn his arms in other
directions. In 982 he suppressed a revolt of the Viatitches, and in the
next year extended his authority among the Livs as far as the Baltic.
According to the Chronicle of the Icelandic annalist Sturleson, these
people paid tribute to the Russian Prince, but his sway over them
could only have lasted a while, as they certainly enjoyed independence
till a much later date. Two years later he made a successful raid into
the country of the Volga-Bulgarians, which he wisely followed up by a
well-marketed peace, and returned to Kiev not empty-handed.

At this period the Christian religion was making its final conquest
of the outlying princes and peoples of Europe. The double influence
of the Holy Roman Empire and the Papal See--the latter now free from
any dependence on the Byzantine Court--gave that religion a powerful
advertisement among the outlandish folks, and as each nation was
brought into subjection to, or enjoyed intercourse with the great
central State, so the rites and ceremonies of the prevailing worship
were displayed before their eyes with all the glamour and sanction
of Imperial authority. The Saxon annalist, Lambert of Aschaffenburg,
recounts, for instance, how Easter was kept at Quedlingburg in the year
973 by the Emperor Otho I. and his son (afterwards Otho II.), attended
by envoys from Rome, Greece, Benevento, Italy, Hungary, Denmark,
Slavonia, Bulgaria, and Russia, “with great presents.” The feasts and
devotions observed in the little town, the services in the hill-top
abbey, founded by Henry the Fowler, the processions of chanting monks
with lighted tapers--all in honour of the Man-God who had died in a
far country, but who rose triumphant to live above them in the sky and
behind the high altar--would not fail to make deep impression on the
heathen visitors. The western Prince was so much greater and richer
and more powerful than their princes, might not the western gods be
greater than their gods? Bohemia, which early in its history came into
close contact with the Empire, had already adopted Christianity, and
in Poland Vladimir’s contemporary and sometime antagonist, Mscislav,
had in 966 entered the same faith. Hungary was still pagan, though its
conversion was to come in the lifetime of the reigning Duke (Geyza),
while in Norway, towards the close of the century, the worshippers of
Wodin were to be confronted with the alternative of death or baptism.

In no country was the transition from paganism to Christianity effected
in so remarkable a manner as in Russia. Vladimir, who had shown
much zeal in erecting and ornamenting statues of Peroun at Kiev and
Novgorod, grew suddenly dissatisfied with the national worship, without
at the same time feeling special attraction towards any substitute.
While contemplating a desertion of the old religion he naturally wished
to replace it with the most reliable form of faith obtainable, and
for this purpose trusty counsellors were sent on a mission of inquiry
to Rome, to Constantinople, to the Volga-Bulgarians (who had embraced
Islam), and to the Jews--probably those dwelling among the Khazars.
When the scattered envoys returned, the result of their investigations
was laid before Vladimir, and this young man in search of a religion
examined and compared the pretensions of the competing creeds.
Circumcision and abstinence from wine put the cult of the Prophet
out of court; the first of these objections applied equally to the
Jewish doctrine, and the vagabond condition of its votaries offended
the monarch’s idea of an established religion. The Romish faith was
unacceptable by reason of the claims, which her head was beginning to
assert, of supreme dominion in things spiritual and active interference
in temporal matters; moreover, her ritual, especially as the Russians
may have seen it practised in the infant churches of Bohemia, Poland,
and Eastern Germany, was overshadowed and eclipsed by the splendid
ceremonial of the Greek Church, particularly in the services of S.
Sophia at Constantinople. “The magnificence of the temple, the presence
of all the Greek clergy, the richness of the sacerdotal vestments, the
ornaments of the altar, the exquisite odour of the incense, the sweet
singing of the choirs, the silence of the people, in short, the holy
and mysterious majesty of the ceremonies, all struck the Russians with
admiration.”[15] The recital of these splendours inclined the Prince
to a favourable consideration of the Greek faith, if indeed he had not
previously had leanings towards that religion, and the finishing touch
was added by an argument which appealed to his family pride. “If the
Greek religion had not been the true religion, would your grandmother
Olga, the wisest of mortals, have adopted it?” asked the partisans
of the new doctrines; and the matter was settled. But Vladimir had
a procedure of his own for the delicate process of changing his
religion: not as a humble penitent was he going to enter the true
Church. For the baptism of a sovereign prince an archbishop was an
indispensable requisite, and it did not suit his ideas of dignity to
apply for the loan of such a functionary to the Greek Emperors, who
would have been only too glad to oblige him in the matter. Vladimir
chose rather to capture his archbishop. For this purpose he engaged in
one of the most extraordinary expeditions which history has furnished.
Setting out from Kiev with a large host, he made his way down the
Dniepr and along the Black Sea coast to the ancient town of Kherson, a
self-governing dependency of the Eastern Empire. Closely besieging it,
he was met with a desperate resistance, and only made himself master of
the place by cutting off the springs which supplied it with water. From
this position of vantage he sent to the brothers Basil and Constantine,
who shared the Greek Imperial throne, a request or demand for the hand
of their sister Anne. The circumstances of these princes did not admit
of a refusal; the celebrated generals Bardas Sclerus and Phocas were
in active revolt against the successors of John Zimisces, and another
change of dynasty seemed imminent; consequently Vladimir’s suggested
alliance was agreed to on the stipulation that he became a Christian
and furnished the Imperial family with some Russian auxiliaries. The
Princess Anne was despatched to join her destined husband, who was
forthwith baptized by the Archbishop of Kherson in the church of S.
Basil, and the marriage ceremony followed. The Prince returned to
Kiev with his bride and a strange booty of priests, sacred vessels,
and saintly relics, having restored unfortunate Kherson, for which he
had no further use, to the Greek Emperors, and sent them the promised
succours. By this satisfactory arrangement Basil and Constantine were
able to conserve their possession of the Byzantine Empire, while
Vladimir on his part “obtained the hand of the princess and the kingdom
of heaven.”

Fantastic as this procedure of conversion may at first sight appear,
there was probably sound policy underlying it; the Russians would be
reconciled to the deposition of their wonted gods, and the acceptance
of fresh ones from their old enemies, the Greeks, by the consoling
reflection that their Prince had, at the sword’s point, “captured” the
new religion from alien hands. Priests have taught that there is but
one way of entering the true faith; Vladimir demonstrated that there
are at least two.

The conversion of the people followed in due course; the wooden statue
of Peroun, with its silver face and moustache of gold, was thrown down,
flogged with whips, and hurled into the Dniepr, whose waters cast it up
again on the bank. The affrighted people rushed to worship their old
god, but the Prince’s men pushed him back into the current, and Peroun
the silver-faced was swept down the stream and vanished into the purple
haze “where the dead gods sleep.”

On the banks of the same river that had engulfed their fallen idol
the inhabitants of Kiev were mustered by command, and after the
Greek priests had consecrated its waters, into it plunged at a given
signal the whole wondering multitude, men, women, and children, and
were baptized in one batch. A like scene was enacted at Novgorod,
with the substitution of the Volkhov for the Dniepr, and throughout
Russia the transition was effected in an equally successful manner.
No doubt the cult of the ancient pantheism lingered for a while,
especially in the remoter districts, but it was merged in time in the
saint worship of the new religion, and the old heathen festivals and
year-marks became, under other names, those of the Christian calendar.
The feast of Kolyada and the birthday of the Sun slid naturally into
the celebrations of the Nativity without losing aught of its festive
character. In similar fashion the institutions of the Greek Orthodox
Church everywhere took root in the country till they became part of the
life of the people. Kiev henceforth is a city of churches and shrines,
with its Cathedral of S. Sofia and its Golden Gate, in ambitious
imitation of Constantinople.

The adoption of Christianity in its Greek form exercised a momentous
influence on the history of Russia. Up to this point she had been
travelling in the same direction as the growing nations around her,
and seemed destined to take her place in the European family; but by
taking as her ghostly sponsor the decaying Byzantine State, which
could scarcely protect its own territories, instead of cultivating the
alliance of the all-powerful Roman Papacy, she prepared herself for
a gradual isolation from Western civilisation and Western sympathy.
For although the actual temporal power of the Holy See did not extend
much beyond the immediate neighbourhood of the Eternal City, the moral
ascendancy which the Church possessed over some fifteen kingdoms and
a crowd of lesser states gave her the disposal of an ever-available
fund of temporal support, and enabled her to extend her protection
or assistance to all the bodies politic, great or small, within her
communion. Witness, for instance, the vast armies she was able to send
careering into the “Holy Land” on behoof of Jerusalem-bound pilgrims,
and later, the troops she could raise from various parts of the Empire
for the reinforcement of the Teutonic Order in its struggles with the
heathen Prussians and Pomeranians. Russia, by her adoption of the Greek
instead of the Roman faith, put herself beyond the pale of Catholic
Christendom, and in the hour of her striving with the Mongol Horde
could look for no help from Western Europe; when she emerged from that
strife she was less European than Asiatic. In like manner the Greek
Empire, two hundred years later, fell unbefriended into the hands of
the Ottomans. And in civilisation as well as in war the dominions of
the princes of Kiev suffered from their lack of intercourse with Rome;
the visits of cardinals and nuncios would have served as a constant
link between Russia and the West, and have stimulated the growth
of towns in the wild lands that led up to the Dniepr basin. What
in fact Rome did for Hungary, on the latter’s entry into the Latin
Church--raising her from the position of a semi-barbarous state to
that of an important kingdom--that might she have done under similar
circumstances for the Eastern principality. There is, of course,
another side to this reckoning; Russia, at least, was spared some
of the distractions and unhappinesses which radiated from the throne
of the apostles, while her very isolation in matters of religious
polity helped to preserve for her a strong individuality which
other Slav or Magyar nations lost as the price of their intercourse
with Catholic-Teutonic Europe. Possibly her history is not even yet
sufficiently developed for a final assessment of the matter, but
for present purposes it is necessary to note a turning-point in her
political evolution--a turn towards the East.

Although Christianity was become opposed to the practice of polygamy,
Vladimir’s first act after his baptism had been to increase his
connubial establishment by marriage with the Imperial princess. Three
more sons had been added to his already ample family, and, disregarding
the lesson of the disturbances which had followed the partition of
the realm between himself and his half-brothers, the Prince resolved
to parcel out his dominions among his surviving sons and his nephew.
Eight principalities were carved out from the parent stem, and became
each the share of a dependent kniaz, to wit, Novgorod, Polotzk, Rostov,
Mourom, the Drevlian country, Vladimir (in Volhynia), Tmoutorokan, and
Tourov.

In 998 the Russian arms were turned successfully against the Krovatians
on the Galician frontier, and against the ever troublesome Petchenigs,
who continued to disturb the southern borders at intervals during the
reign.

Another war broke out later in the north. Vladimir had given refuge,
and possibly support, to Olaf, aspirant to the Norwegian crown, then
held by Erik, and when Olaf at last succeeded in ousting his rival,
the latter, in revenge, “came into the realm of King Vladimir,” in the
vigorous words of the Icelandic saga, and “fell a-harrying, and slew
men-folk, and burnt all before him, and laid waste the land; and he
came to Aldeigia-burg[16], and beset it till he won the stead. There he
slew many folk and brake down and burnt all the burg, and thereafter
fared wide about Garth-realm[17] doing all deeds of war.” It was four
years before Vladimir was able to drive the “spear-storm bounteous
Eric” away from his northern coasts. The date of this war is uncertain;
probably it stretched into the second decade of the new century.
Vladimir, who had lost his Imperial throne-mate in 1011, was confronted
in 1014 with a domestic trouble of another nature; his son Yaroslav,
Kniaz of Novgorod, refused to continue the yearly tribute which that
principality was wont to pay into the Grand Prince’s treasury, and
declared himself independent of Kiev. Vladimir made ready to march
against his rebellious son, who on his part prepared to resist his
angry father, but the sudden failing of the old man’s powers and an
inroad of the perennial Petchenigs delayed the struggle. [Sidenote:
1015] Vladimir’s favourite son Boris, Prince of Rostov, was put in
charge of the forces sent against the invaders, and during his absence
the monarch ended his days at Berestov (a village near Kiev), leaving
the succession to the Grand principality an open question.

The character of this Prince, to whom the Church gave the title of
“Holy,” and who was commemorated by his subjects as “the Great,” is a
difficult one for the historian to appraise. The excesses of a stormy
and well-spent youth were atoned for, in the eyes of the monkish
chroniclers, by an old age of almsgiving and other decorative virtues,
and in most respects the doings of his reign gave evidence of wise and
wary management. The splitting up of his kingdom was a flaw in his
statecraft which had, however, the sanction of custom in the times in
which he lived.

The only member of the Grand Prince’s family within reach of Kiev
at the moment of his death was his nephew Sviatopalk, ruler of the
province of Tourov, in which capacity, according to the contemporary
Chronicle of Ditmar, Bishop of Merseburg, he had, at the prompting of
his father-in-law Boleslas, King of Poland, raised a rebellion against
Vladimir. The attempt was frustrated and punished by the imprisonment
of the rebel and his wife, but apparently a reconciliation had taken
place between the uncle and nephew, and Sviatopalk was at large, and,
what was more important, on the spot when the throne of Kiev became
empty. The boyarins of the court, ill-disposed towards a prince who
was outside the immediate family of their late master, tried to keep
back the tidings of his death while they sent messengers to recall
Boris from his fruitless campaign against the Petchenigs. The corpse
was wrapped round in a covering, let down by ropes from a palace
window in the dead of night, and borne hurriedly to the church of the
Bogoroditza (Mother of God) at Kiev. Rumours of the Prince’s death,
however, began to fly about the city, and all precautions were rendered
abortive by the tell-tale sight of the crowds which flocked to lament
over his body. Sviatopalk proclaimed himself Grand Prince, rallied
the boyarins to his side by a timely distribution of gifts, and then
proceeded to strike, with the instinct of self-preservation, at the
several kinsmen who were within reach. Prince Boris was surprised and
slain one night in his tent near the banks of the Alta, being, the
Chronicles relate, engaged in prayer at the time of his murder. This
circumstance procured for him the posthumous honour of sainthood, and
he became a national fetish in the calendar of the Russian Church.
His brother Glieb, decoyed from his principality of Mourom by a
feigned message from his defunct father, was waylaid while travelling
down the Dniepr and met the same doom--shared also in the attendant
glory of subsequent canonisation. Sviatoslav, Prince of the Drevlian
country, taking natural affright at Sviatopalk’s deeds, which seemed
to foreshadow the extinction of the sons of Vladimir, fled towards
Hungary; at the foot of the Karpathian Mountains, however, he was
overtaken and killed by the Grand Prince’s men. From this scene of
slaughter and violence there escaped a shivering fugitive, the Princess
Predslava, a daughter of the luckless house of Vladimir, who made her
way with all speed to Novgorod; there she found her brother Yaroslav
red with the blood of his subjects, shed in cold vindictiveness
rather than in hot quarrel. The hideous wrath and dole called forth
by the doings of Sviatopalk mastered all other passions, and led the
Prince to throw himself on the goodwill of his misused people; and
the men of Novgorod, foregoing their private griefs, turned their
rage and their weapons against the monster of Kiev. [Sidenote: 1016] A
thousand Varangians and fourteen thousand Russians marched southward
with Yaroslav against Sviatopalk, who on his part had got together
a large force, including a troop of Petchenigs. A battle was fought
on the Dniepr banks near Lubetch, which resulted in the overthrow of
the usurper, who fled to Poland, leaving the throne of Kiev to his
triumphant rival.

Yaroslav did not remain long time in peaceable possession. Boleslas
“Khrabrie,” the warlike King of Poland, having by the Peace of
Bautzen composed his outstanding differences with the Germanic Kaiser
(Heinrich II.), burst into Russia at the head of a large army, defeated
Yaroslav on the banks of the Bug, and reimposed his son-in-law upon
the people of Kiev. The ousted prince withdrew to Novgorod, and but
for the insistance of his subjects would have sought sanctuary, as his
father had done under similar circumstances, in Skandinavian lands.
The Novgorodskie, not wishing to be left to the wrath of Sviatopalk,
kept their prince with them by the simple expedient of destroying all
the boats available for his flight. Sviatopalk himself smoothed the
way for a renewal of the strife on more equal terms. The Poles had
been distributed in scattered winter quarters throughout the province
of Kiev, and Boleslas himself had established his court in the city.
Possibly the Russian Kniaz was impatient of the prolonged presence of
the Poles in his lands, and deemed that heroic measures were needed to
hasten their departure; anyhow he devised and carried out the plan of
a general massacre of the unwelcome guests. Boleslas hastily left Kiev
with the remnant of his men, bearing with him as much treasure as he
could lay hands on, and retaining in his hold the Red Russian towns on
his border. The departure of the Poles brought as a consequence the
onfall of Yaroslav, and Sviatopalk was obliged to seek support among
the Petchenigs before venturing to take the field against his cousin.
[Sidenote: 1019] The two forces met near the banks of the Alta, and
there was waged a fierce and stubborn battle, the like of which, wrote
the Kievian chronicler, had never been seen in Russia. Towards evening
Yaroslav’s men gained the victory, and Sviatopalk, half-dead with
fatigue, delirious with fear, and unable to sit his horse, was borne
litter-wise through the whispering night in wild flight across a wild
country, hunted ever by phantom foemen, and moaning ever to his bearers
piteous entreaty for added speed. The fugitive checked his spent course
in the deserts of the Bohemian border, where he died miserably, and
contemporary legend, recalling the circumstances of his birth, asserted
that he was born for crime. In which case he fulfilled his purpose.

Yaroslav was now master of Kiev and Novgorod and Grand Prince of
Russia, but the family arrangements of Vladimir’s many heirs had not
yet adjusted themselves. From Isiaslav, Kniaz of Polotzk, sprang a
line of turbulent princes who contributed a fair share to the domestic
troubles of Russia during the next hundred years.[18] Still more
formidable for the time being was Mstislav, whose family portion
was Tmoutorakan, a province bordering on the Black Sea. [Sidenote:
(1016)] In conjunction with the Greek Imperial General Andronicus he
had driven the Khazars from the Tauride and put a finishing touch to
their existence as a European State. Other victories over the Tcherkess
tribes in his neighbourhood swelled both his ideas and his resources,
and he began to feel his remote steppe-girded province too small for
him. In 1023, while Yaroslav was away in the Souzdal country, Mstislav
burst with his warriors into the grand principality and seized upon
Tchernigov in the Sieverski plain. The harassed Grand Prince fled to
Novgorod--his usual city of refuge--and sent urgent messengers over the
Baltic to call in the ever-ready Varangians to his aid. In response
came a large force, led by one Hako (in the Russian Chronicle Yakun),
who has come down to posterity as suffering from sore eyes and wearing
a bandage over them broidered with gold--a human touch in the portrait
of one of these half-mythical seeming vikings. The avenging army came
into the Tchernigov land and met their foes on the banks of a small
river, the two forces sighting one another just as night was falling
and a nasty storm creeping upon them. As the storm broke over the Grand
Prince’s host, accompanied by thunder peals and torrents of rain,
out of the night there rushed in on them the war-men of the intrepid
Mstislav, who rivalled with his wild battle-shock the tumult of the
elements. In the darkness men fought hand to hand with a foe they could
not see; the storm in the heavens rolled away, but the humans fought
on, their arms flashing in the gleam of the stars, “a combat without
comparison, murderous, terrible, and truly frightful.”[19] A charge by
Mstislav and his body-guards decided the day--or rather the night--and
Yaroslav fled from the field of this epic struggle to his haven in
the North. Hakon of the sore eyes left on the ground his gold-wrought
bandage as a trophy for the victorious Tchernigovskie. Mstislav did not
push his advantage to the extent of depriving Yaroslav of his princely
dignity, and five years later a pact was made between the brothers
which left the younger in possession of the lands he had won east of
the Dniepr. Yaroslav was thus enabled to turn his attention to the
outlying regions of the realm, where his authority had lapsed during
the long civil strife. In the year 1030 Livland was again brought under
some sort of subjection, and the town of Youriev (the German Dorpat)
founded near Lake Peipus. The domestic troubles of Poland, where
Mieceslav II., son of Boleslas Khrabrie (who had died 1025), was waging
a hotly contested war with his brothers and the Kaiser Konrad II., gave
an opportunity for regaining the Red Russian towns which perennially
changed hands according to the respective strength and weakness of
the two countries. [Sidenote: 1031] Yaroslav, in conjunction with his
half-brother, invaded Poland and wrested back the lost territory. In
1034 died Mstislav, at the end of a day’s hunting, having shortly
before lost his only son Evstaf. Of all the sons of Vladimir this
intrepid warrior “with dark face and large eyes” seems most to have
enchained the imagination of the national chronicler.

Yaroslav, freed from the disquieting possibility of trouble which
Mstislav must always have presented, made himself still more secure
by seizing and imprisoning, on pretext of disaffection, Soudislav of
Pskov, another member of the princely house. Shortly afterwards he
was called upon to defend Kiev from an attack of the Petchenigs. Near
the walls of the city Yaroslav joined issue with the barbarians, his
vanguard consisting of Varangians, flanked right and left by the men
of Kiev and Novgorod. After a battle which lasted till evening the
Petchenigs broke and fled, leaving enormous numbers of dead on the
field, and losing many more in crossing the rivers which impeded their
flight. On the ground of this victory Yaroslav founded the Cathedral
of S. Sofia, extending at the same time the boundaries of Kiev so as
to include this building, and enclosing the city with a stone wall.
Well might the Kievians rejoice as they watched the new works, which
were alike the witness of their growing prosperity and a memorial of a
past danger; they had at last grasped their nettle, and the might of
the Petchenigs, which had hung so long like a menacing shadow ready
at any moment to ride out of the steppe a grim reality, was for ever
shattered. And as the new cathedral rose before them their hopes might
soar to a point which would raise the mother of Russian cities to the
level of Constantinople.

Amid their own congratulations and complacency came news of the
misfortunes of a neighbouring and rival state; possibly across the
border, through Krobatian and Drevlian lands, more probably by a less
direct route, by word of merchants from the Oder and Weichsel filtering
down from Novgorod or Polotzk, tidings would reach them of wild doings
in Poland. Mieceslav II. had “passed in battle and in storm”; and
diminished though his territories were under stress of German, Russian,
and Bohemian filchings, they were more than a handful for his widow
and youthful son to manage. Richense, daughter of Ehrenfrid, Pfalzgraf
of the Rhine, tries to play the Queen-mother with the support of a
hierarchy itself not yet firmly established; but she is no Olga,
moreover she is a German. The bishops are German too, and throne,
hierarchy, new religion, and all are involved in the whirlwind of a
reaction that scatters them in all directions, Richense to the court of
the Emperor in Saxony, her son, Kazimir, to France, where he enters the
service of Mother Church as a monk of the celebrated Abbey of Cluny.
Yaroslav, taking advantage of the weakness of his western neighbour,
began in 1040 a series of campaigns against the tribes which inhabited
the dense marsh and river-sected forests lying to the north-east of
Poland, between Russia and the Baltic. The Yatvyags first occupied his
attention, though it is doubtful if he acquired more than a transient
sway over them. He next turned the weight of his arms against the
Lit’uanians, upon a section of whom at least he imposed a tribute. The
year 1041 found him actually in Polish territory, in the province or
palatinate of Mazovia, which had separated from the lands of the Polish
crown--if such a designation can be used during an interregnum--under
the rule of a heathen noble named Mazlav, from whom the province took
its name. Meanwhile the force of the reaction in Poland had spent
itself, the bishops retook possession of their dioceses, and Kazimir
was fetched, with the Pope’s permission, from the peaceful seclusion
of the Burgundian monastery to the management of a country smouldering
with the embers of anarchy and religious persecution. Yaroslav seized
the opportunity to form an alliance with the young Duke of Poland,
by virtue of which the contested Galician or Red Russian March was
definitely ceded to the Grand Prince, who on his part helped Kazimir to
defeat the rebel Voevoda[20] of Mazovia and reannex that province to
his duchy. The good understanding between the princes was cemented by
the marriage of Kazimir with Mariya, sister of Yaroslav.

Russia was thus freed from the apprehension of trouble both on the
Polish frontier and on the side of the steppes, where the power of
the Petchenigs was effectively broken. A new war-cloud, however,
rose in the south, emanating from a quarrel among Greek and Russian
merchants at Constantinople, in which one of the latter was killed.
[Sidenote: 1043] Yaroslav demanded satisfaction from the Greek Emperor,
Constantine Monomachus, and not obtaining it, he sent an army against
the Greeks, confiding its direction to his eldest son Vladimir and a
boyarin named Vyatcha. Scorning the overtures for peace which came
at late moment from the frightened Emperor, the Russians met their
enemies in a naval fight, wherein the Greek fire and the inevitable
storm played their accustomed parts. Six thousand of Vladimir’s men
were forced to abandon their damaged vessels and attempt to make good
their retreat overland, led by Vyatcha, who would not desert them in
their extremity. Constantine, instead of resting content with the
victory which fortune had given him, or following it up with a vigorous
pursuit, satisfied himself with half-measures, returning in premature
triumph to his capital while he sent the remainder of his ships to
hunt the Russians out of the Bosphorus. Vladimir meanwhile had rallied
his fleet and turned fiercely at bay, destroying twenty-five of the
Byzantine vessels and killing their admiral. Consoled by this success
he returned home, carrying with him many prisoners. The division
which had attempted the land passage was less happy; overpowered by
a large Greek force near Varna, the survivors were taken captive to
Constantinople, where many of them, including the brave boyarin, were
deprived of their eyesight.

This was the last of the series of expeditions made by the early rulers
of Russia against Constantinople, expeditions which suggest a parallel
with those against Rome which exercised such a fatal fascination over
the Saxon and Franconian Emperors of Germany at the same period. Not
for many a long century were the Russian arms to push again across
the blue waters of the Danube into the land of their desire. In 1046
peace was formally concluded between the two countries, and the blinded
prisoners were allowed to return to their native land.

The remaining years of Yaroslav were years of peace and prosperity
within his realm. Allied with the Court of Poland by the double
marriage of his sister with Duke Kazimir, and of the latter’s sister
with his second son Isiaslav, he was in like manner connected with the
house of Arpad by the marriage of his youngest daughter Anastasia with
Andrew I. of Hungary; with Harold the Brave, afterwards King of Norway,
who espoused his eldest daughter Elizabeth; and with the royal family
of France by the marriage of his second daughter Anne with Henri I. And
not only by court alliances was the Russia of this period connected
with the other states of Europe. Commerce had made great strides in
the last half-hundred years, and Kiev, in the zenith of her fortunes,
attracted traders from many lands; besides her 300 churches she had
8 markets, there were separate quarters for Hungarian, Hollandish,
German, and Skandinavian merchants, and the Dniepr was constantly
covered with cargo vessels. Novgorod was another important centre of
trade and foreign intercourse. A more convenient medium of exchange,
always a stimulating factor in commerce, was gradually superseding the
hides and pelts which were the earliest articles of sale and barter;
the first step had been to substitute leather tokens cut from the skins
themselves, called _kounas_, from _kounitza_, a marten (being generally
cut from a marten pelt). These were replaced, as silver grew more
plentiful in the country, by coins of that metal, stamped with rude
representations of the reigning prince.

Following the time-hallowed custom of his forbears, Yaroslav in his
last days divided the lands of his realm among his surviving sons.
(Vladimir, the eldest, had died in 1052.) Isiaslav became, after his
father’s death, Grand Prince of Kiev, his four brothers being settled
respectively in the sub-provinces of Tchernigov, Péréyaslavl, Smolensk,
and Volhynia. Polotzk was still held by the other branch of the family.
Yaroslav died at Voutchigorod on the 19th February 1054. On a winter’s
day his corpse was borne in mournful procession along the snow-clad
road to Kiev, there to rest in a marble tomb in a side chapel of the
Cathedral of S. Sofia.

Under Yaroslav Russia enjoyed a prosperity and position that was lost
in the partitions and discords of his successors, and this circumstance
was probably responsible for the somewhat flattering estimate that was
formed of his character by subsequent chroniclers.[21] As patron of
Kiev and benefactor to the Church he was naturally glorious and good in
the eyes of Nestor, and by some writers he has been styled “the Russian
Charlemagne,” on account of the code of laws which he formulated for
his country. Concerning his piety, he lived in an age when much giving
from the State treasury to church or monastery counted for such, and it
is recorded of him that his dying words charged his sons to “treat each
other as brothers” and “have great tenderness” one for another. His own
brother still lay in the prison that was his living tomb for over a
score of years.

FOOTNOTES:

[8] Kiev was subsequently invested with a past of respectable
antiquity, the consecration of its site being attributed to the Apostle
Andrew; it makes its entry on the pages of the _Chronicle_, however,
simply as a _gorodok_, or townlet.

[9] _Chronicle of Nestor._

[10] Schiemann, _Russland, Polen, und Livland_.

[11] Members of war council.

[12] _Kniaz_, Prince; _velikie-Kniaz_, Grand Prince.

[13] Now Iskorosk, on the Usha.

[14] Solov’ev.

[15] Karamzin.

[16] Old Ladoga.

[17] Old Skandinavian name for Russia.

[18] See genealogical table.

[19] _Chronique de Nestor._

[20] Although loth to introduce a fresh spelling for a word which has
already been rendered in some dozen or more forms by English, French,
and German historians, I have thought it best to follow the Russian
orthography of this Slavonic title.

[21] Karamzin, Solov’ev, Schiemann, Rambaud, _Chronique de Nestor_.



CHAPTER III

THE FEUDS OF THE HOUSE OF RURIK


The history of Russia during the next two hundred years is little
more than a long chronicle of aimless and inconsequent feuds between
the multiple Princes of the Blood--“the much-too-many” of their
crowded little world--overlaid and beclouded with strange-sounding
names recurring and clashing in a luxuriant tangle of pedigree, and
further embarrassed by a perpetual shifting and reshifting of the
family appanages. Here and there the figure of some particular kniaz
stands out for a space from the ravelled skein that the old historians
painstakingly wove upon the loom of their chronicles, but for the most
part the student searches in vain for glimpses of the real life-story
of Russia during this barren and over-trampled period.

The city of Kiev, carrying with it the dignity of the Grand-princedom
and the nominal authority over the whole realm, was the key-stone of
the body politic as Yaroslav left it, but the loosely-ordered theory
of succession which obtained in the Slavonic world led to a perpetual
dislocation of this local and ill-defined supremacy, and robbed the
arch-throne of any chance of making good its claimed dominion over
the other units of the State. Under Isiaslav I. and the brothers,
son, and nephew who succeeded him in promiscuous order,[22] Kiev
became merely a focussing point for the profusion of quarrels and
petty revolutions which were set in perpetual motion by the restless
ambition of the neighbouring Princes of Polotzk, Smolensk, and
Tchernigov. The last-named province passed into the possession of Oleg
Sviatoslavitch[23] (nephew of Isiaslav), and from him sprang the house
of Olgovitch, which held the fief of Tchernigov for many generations
and convulsed South Russia again and again in its attempts to grasp the
throne of Kiev, this hereditary feud of the Olgovitchie with the branch
of Vsevolod being the most understandable feature of the prevailing
strife-storms of the period. A factor which might have been supposed
to make for unity and self-help among the detached Russian rulers, but
which instead frequently served to complicate the distresses of the
country, was the appearance in the south-east, shortly after the death
of Yaroslav, of a new enemy, rising phœnix-like on the ruin of the
Petchenigs. The Polovtzi, or Kumans, a nomad race of Turko origin, were
even fiercer and more cruel than the tribe they had replaced, and their
fighting value was such that the princes, though frequently banding in
short-lived leagues against them, were often tempted to invoke their
aid in pressing family quarrels, and even stooped to mate with their
chieftain women--a woful falling away from the bridal splendours of the
Court of Yaroslav.

During the reigns of Isiaslav’s three immediate successors two figures
stand out prominently amid the bewildering plurality of princes,
respectively playing the part of good and evil geniuses of the country.
Vladimir Monomachus, son of Vsevolod, sometime Prince of Kiev, fulfils
the former function with commendable assiduity, righting wrongs
and averting national disasters after the most approved chivalric
pattern, and ever ready to improve the occasion by the delivery of
irreproachable sentiments--if these were not fathered upon him by the
chroniclers of the time. Throughout the turmoil which distinguishes the
close of the eleventh century he hovers in the background, like the
falcon of Ser Federigo, with his air of “if anything is wanting I am
here.” The other side of the picture--and picture it doubtless is, in a
large measure, painted by the prejudice and ornamented by the fancies
of the old-time annalists--is the wayward Prince of Polotzk,[24] ever
ready to devise new troubles for his groaning country, always managing
to elude the consequences of his transgressions against the peace.
Naturally he achieves the reputation of having more than human powers;
rumour has it that he traversed the road from Kiev to Tmoutorakan in
a single night, and the unholy wight could in Kiev hear the clock of
the Sofia church at Polotzk striking the hours. The suddenness with
which he would appear before the gates of some distant town gave rise,
no doubt, to the belief that he assumed the form of a wolf on these
occasions: “He sped, in blue obscurity hidden, as a wild beast, at
midnight to Bielgrad, at morning ... opened the gate of Novgorod,
destroyed the glory of Yaroslav, and hunted as a wolf from Dudutki to
Nemiga.”[25] Wonders of an evil nature were reported from his capital,
where malevolent spirits rode on horseback through the streets day and
night, wounding the inhabitants. What with the intermittent attacks
of the princes of the house of Yaroslav and the eerie enemies within
the town, it must have required exceptional nerve to be a citizen of
Polotzk. In 1101 closes the eventful life of the wehr-wolf prince, who
makes his last lone journey into the “blue obscurity,” where perhaps
his “white soul” yet hies in wolf’s gallop over the eternal plains.

Four years earlier (1097) an interesting gathering had taken place
of the numerous princes of the line of Yaroslav, who were assembled
together in the town of Lubetch, “on the same carpet,” and swore on
the Holy Cross to live in peace and friendship with each other. With a
limited number of fiefs and a superabundant supply of Princes of the
Blood, many of whom were necessarily in the position of have-nots, it
was scarcely likely that the public pact would be very long-lived, but
a decent lull might have been looked for before the outbreak of new
dissensions. David Igorovitch, cousin of the Grand Prince Sviatopalk,
went straight from the council of peace, from the carpet-in-common
and the bekissed cross, to stir up fresh strife in the West Russian
country, and the series of wars which ensued was remarkable for the
armed participation of Kalman, King of Hungary. The reason for this
foreign intermeddling, which ended in signal discomfiture and a
hurried retreat across the Karpathians, is not obvious. “What were the
causes of this war,” wrote a Hungarian annalist,[26] “are not to be
ascertained.” It was, however, the opening of a long chapter of western
encroachments in the affairs of the Red Russian provinces, while in the
steppe-lands of the south, Tmoutorakan and other territory slipped into
the hands of the Kuman tribesmen.

[Sidenote: 1113]

The accession of Vladimir Monomachus to the dignity of Velikie Kniaz
gave Kiev for the time being greater importance as the sovereign State,
since the lands of Péréyaslavl, Novgorod, and Souzdal were also held in
the monarch’s family. Under his son Mstislav the Novgorodskie pushed
their arms into Livland and took the town of Odenpay (bear’s head),
and later these hardy and enterprising folk swept the desolate Finnish
northlands into their wide dominion. The character of Vladimir (who
died in 1125, and was succeeded by Mstislav) exercised a lively hold on
the imaginations of his countrymen, and he is yet reckoned among those
sovereigns “whose earthly diadems beamed in anticipation of the crowns
they were to receive in Paradise.” This much may fairly be said of
him, that during his career, and particularly during his reign, Russia
enjoyed a greater measure of cohesion than she experienced under his
immediate successors, and that this was in no small measure the outcome
of a carefully thought-out and scrupulously applied policy. But the
greatest monument to Vladimir’s memory is the parchment document which
he left for the guidance of his sons, and which is preserved in the
archives of his country as a precious historical relic.

“Bear in mind that a man ought always to be employed” is one of the
admonitions of this remarkable homily, though if the persons addressed
imitated the example therein displayed it was scarcely needed. “For my
part I accustomed myself to do everything that I might have ordered
my servants to do. Night and day, summer and winter, I was perpetually
moving about. I wished to see everything with my own eyes.... I made it
my duty to inspect the churches and the sacred ceremonies of religion,
as well as the management of my property, my stables, and the eagles
and hawks of my hunting establishment. I have made eighty-three
campaigns and many expeditions. I concluded nineteen treaties with
the Polovtzi. I took captive one hundred of their princes, whom I set
free again; and I put two hundred of them to death by throwing them
into rivers. No one has ever travelled more rapidly than I have done.
Setting out in the morning from Tchernigov, I have arrived at Kiev
before the hour of vespers.” (A feat surpassed by the goblin-post of
the Prince of Polotzk.) “In hunting amidst the thickest forests, how
many times have I myself caught wild horses and bound them together?
How many times have I been thrown down by buffaloes, wounded by the
antlers of stags, and trodden under the feet of elks? A furious boar
rent my sword from my baldrick; my saddle was torn to pieces by a bear;
this terrible beast rushed upon my steed, whom he threw down upon me.
But the Lord protected me.”

There is a suspicion of exaggeration in the number of campaigns
enumerated, besides “many expeditions,” and the hunting reminiscences
are almost too full of incident; neither do wild horses, as a rule,
inhabit the thickest forests. Allowing for these enlargements of old
age, however, the outlines are probably true.

“Oh, my children,” the testator continues, “fear neither death nor wild
beasts. Trust in Providence; it far surpasses all human precautions.”
In order, presumably, not to risk all his eggs in one basket, he
qualifies this pious aphorism with the following excellent advice:
“Never retire to rest till you have posted your guards. Never lay aside
your arms while you are within reach of the enemy. And, to avoid being
surprised, always be early on horseback.”

With the disappearance of Vladimir Russian political life lapsed into
the distracting turmoil of family feuds, embittered now afresh by the
jealousies of the elder and younger branches of his descendants, in
addition to the existing elements of discord furnished by the houses
of Tchernigov and Galitz and the sporadic turbulence of the people of
Novgorod.

It is interesting to compare and contrast the condition of the Russian
State at this period with that of the neighbouring Germanic Empire,
whose constitution and scheme of government was not widely different,
and to examine the possible causes of the decay of the Grand-princely
power in the one, and the survival of the Imperial ascendency in the
other. The Western Empire had, like Russia, her periods of internal
confusion, but however weak or unfortunate an individual Kaiser might
be, his title and office always carried a certain weight of authority,
a certain glamour of reverence with it, while in the Eastern State
it is sometimes difficult to remember who was at any given time in
possession of the arch-throne of Kiev. Probably the greater stability
of German institutions was due to their greater complexity; side
by side with the oligarchy of sovereign Dukes and Margraves there
had grown up, fostered by the sagacious foresight of successive
Emperors, a crop of free cities and burghs, enjoying a large measure
of independence, while another element was introduced by the extensive
temporal possessions and powers of many of the German prelates. These
interwoven and antagonistic interests were naturally fertile of
disputes and petty conflicts, in which events appeal was sure to be
made, sooner or later, to the Emperor, whose intervention was seldom
fruitless; for where a man, or a community, had many possible enemies,
it was less easy to defy the sovereign power. If, therefore, each
little fragment of the State was a law unto itself, the final supremacy
of the Emperor was always in evidence, and in the same way some
overweening vassal preparing to wage war on his sovereign liege might
have his hand stayed by the irritating incursion of the Herrschaft
of a mitred abbot or an aggrieved Burg upon his own dominions. In
the Russian Weal, on the contrary, no such delicately adjusted
conditions existed. With the exception of Velikie Novgorod, nothing was
independent besides the princes of the house of Rurik; towns, clergy,
and boyarins “went with” the various appanages to which they belonged,
and shared the fortunes of the prince who for the time being ruled over
them. Hence there was nothing beyond an empty title and the control of
an uncertain quantity of treasure to advance the Grand Prince above the
standing of his brothers and cousins. In consequence of this weakness
of the central authority it follows that there was little to bind the
mass together in a cohesive whole. Besides the kinship of the princes
there were, perhaps, only two elements which prevented a splitting
asunder of the federation: one was the physical aspect of the country,
which presented no natural divisions which might have been resolved
into political ones. As certainly as Denmark was destined to break
away, in spite of artificial acts of union, such as that of Kalmar,
from the other Skandinavian lands, so certainly was Russia likely to
remain united. The wide plains, intersected by far-winding rivers,
offered no obvious barriers which might have marked off a separate
kingdom of Tchernigov or Polotzk, and each district was too dependent
on the others to become permanently estranged. The other factor which
made for unity was the bond of a common, and as regards their western
neighbours, a distinct religion. The Greek-Christian faith, with all
its attendant ceremonials and mysteries, had taken deep root among the
Slavs of Russia, and had assimilated itself with the national life of
the people. The beauties of the old cathedrals of S. Sofia at Kiev, S.
John Theologus at Rostov, and S. Dimitri at Vladimir, bore evidence
of the care that was lavished on the decoration of these temples of
Christian worship. The Metropolitan of Kiev, as Primate over all the
Russian churches, served as a link with the capital city which the
Grand Prince did not always supply.

Novgorod, which has been mentioned as an exception to the state of
subserviency prevalent among the other Russian towns, derived her
strength and importance from her situation, which commanded both the
Baltic and the Russian overland trade. Although the Hansa League had
not yet taken definite shape, the elements of the later organisation
were already in existence. The commercial life of the Baltic centred
in Wisby, capital of the island of Gothland, and to this convenient
meeting-place came, twice a year, German, Swedish, Russian, Danish, and
Wendish merchants to exchange their various wares and supply the needs
of their respective trade-circles. After the Wisby markets were over
many of the traders from Lubeck, Hamburg, Bremen, etc., made their way
to Novgorod, where they early possessed a factory and a separate place
of worship, even as the Novgorodskie, since the middle of the twelfth
century, had their church and quarter at Wisby. The intercourse with
enterprising merchant folk from other lands--and merchants needed to be
adventurous in those days--infused a spirit of energy and independence
into the inhabitants of Novgorod, while the wealth at their disposal
enabled them to extend their domination far over the bleak, but by no
means barren, northlands of Russia, even to the further side of the
Ourals. This extensive over-lordship, again, gave them control of many
sources of commerce, and the produce of Arctic seas and sub-Arctic
forests filtered through their hands into the channels of Baltic trade.
Walrus teeth, the blubber oil from seals, and the down of sea-haunting
birds formed the harvest of the frozen ocean; forest and lake furnished
their markets with furs, raw leather, tallow, fish, and tar; cultivated
lands yielded flax and hemp, honey and wax--the latter an important
commodity in the times when the Church kept tapers burning day and
night in thousands of shrines throughout the greater part of Europe. In
exchange for these products the merchants of Wisby and of the German
“Hof” at Novgorod bartered metal wares and manufactured goods. Of raw
metals came tin from the celebrated mines of Cornwall, copper from the
Swedish uplands, and iron from Bohemia and the Netherlands. Spanish
lead found its way through Bruges and Antwerp.[27] Thus Novgorod
was the staple of a flourishing and far-reaching trade, even though
the rise of the Italian maritime republics had in a large measure
diverted the commerce of the East from its old Russian waterway,
and the wealth and importance of this world-faring traffic took the
city out of the limitations of the Russian realm, even as Lubeck and
her sister towns stood beyond the bonds of the Empire. To the other
Russian cities their respective rulers were the mainspring of their
being, and each prince might have locally adapted the boast of the
great Louis; to the Novgorodskie their prince was only an incident in
a busy existence. This spirit of liberty and impatience found vigorous
expression in the year 1138 when the citizens of Novgorod, with those
of the subject towns of Pskov and Ladoga, in Vetché assembled, solemnly
deposed their prince on the following grounds: that he had no care for
the poorer people; that he only loved pleasures, falcons, and dogs;
that he had coveted the government of Péréyaslavl; that in a battle
with the Souzdalians he had been the first to leave the field; that
he had no fixed policy, but was at times on the side of the house of
Tchernigov, at times on the side of its enemies. The citizens had a
quaint and effective way of dealing with a troublesome minority in
carrying through their frequent prince-purgings. According to an old
Slavonic custom (retained in Poland till her downfall), the decisions
of the Vetché or the Diet had to be of one voice; however, “the
majority had the resource of drowning the minority in the Volkof,”[28]
and the bridge over that river was not unseldom the scene of violent
party strife. The great bell of Yaroslav would clang out the curfew of
the dethroned kniaz, who was thenceforth “shown the way” out of his
erstwhile principality. On an occasion when the Grand Prince Sviatopalk
II. wished to foist his son on the people of Novgorod, the elders of
the city grimly sent him word to keep the young prince at home, “unless
he has a head to spare.”

With the onward march of days and deeds in the stormy times of the
twelfth century two facts, indeed, begin to stand forth. One is the
waning power and import of Kiev, consequent on the many changes of
masters to which she was subject; “the Mother of Russian cities” passed
into the keeping of one prince after another, like a dainty piece of
carrion dropped and snatched and fought over by a parcel of kites or
crows. Side by side with this decline of the southern city is to be
marked the silent growth of a new principality in the lands of the
north-east, where Urii “Dolgoroukie” (the Long-armed), son of Vladimir
Monomachus, had nursed the savage, forest-choked marchland of Souzdal
into a well-ordered province, enjoying from its very remoteness and
seclusion a domestic calm which was to be found nowhere else in the
wide Russian realm. Among the towns which he founded, or advanced from
the position of tribal villages, was one on the banks of the Moskva,
to which was given the name of the river that watered it, a name to be
one day of first importance in Russian history. On the death of Urii
(1157) his son Andrei, albeit one of a numerous family, succeeded him
in the undivided sovereignty of Souzdal. Turning his back on glittering
but unprofitable Kiev, with its thousand shrines and general odour of
sanctity and its unhealthy political atmosphere, he established himself
at Vladimir-on-the-Kliasma, strong in the possession of a bejewelled
ikon of the Virgin, of Greek manufacture--if it were not, as was
asserted, the handiwork of the Apostle Luke. From this vantage-ground
of possession and authority the wary kniaz proceeded to sweep away with
unsparing hand the gaping brood of his brothers and nephews, who were
exiled wholesale, together with such boyarins as were suspected of
favouring a splitting-up of Andrei’s dominion. The banished Urievitch
princes retired to Constantinople, where they were honourably received
by the Greek Emperor Manuel, who, amid the vigorous wars which he
carried on with most of his neighbours, maintained terms of friendship
with the princes of Russia. Shortly after this state-stroke the
Prince of Souzdal became embroiled with the turbulent Novgorodskie,
whose newly-elected Prince Roman was son of the then Velikie Kniaz of
Kiev. Andrei was minded to show who really was master in the Northern
Russian world, and turned his arms, not upon Novgorod, but upon Kiev.
[Sidenote: 1169] Against the devoted city gathered, in obedience to
the behest of Andrei, a mighty host of princes, with their boyarins
and followers; Mstislav of Souzdal, Roman of Smolensk, Vseslav of
Polotzk, Oleg of Sieversk, the Rostislavitches, and many another,
banded themselves together, under the leadership of the first-named, to
assist at the death of a fiction. The Grand Prince entrenched himself
in his capital and defended the walls for two days against the assaults
of his enemies. On the 8th March the walls were stormed and the “Mother
of Russian cities” was given over to sack and pillage. In one wild
moment all the reverence and religious piety of the Slavonic nature was
scattered to the winds, and churches, monasteries, and the cathedrals
of S. Sofia and the Dime shared the general disaster. Sacrilegious
hands bore gleefully through the roaring streets a spoil of holy ikons,
illuminated missals, crosses, priestly robes, and all the trappings
of an outraged religion; even the bells were torn down from their
campaniles to serve as plunder for the victorious invaders.

Kiev still existed as a city, but on her Golden Gate the conquerors
might fitly have hewed the epitaph, “Ichabod. Thy glory is departed
from thee.”

The Grand Prince made his escape from the toils of his enemies, and
one of the sons of Urii succeeded to what was left of the submerged
dignity; but the real centre of authority had shifted. Souzdal
extended its influence over nearly the whole of the Russian land; the
Princes of Galitz and Tchernigov and the republic of Novgorod alone
maintained their independence. The latter government, indeed, despite
the internal disorders with which it was from time to time afflicted,
had risen to a power which might well cry halt to the most ambitious
potentate. Not only had it held its own against the leagued princes
of Northern Russia, but it had valiantly repelled the onslaught of a
foreign enemy. The union of the crowns of Sweden and Gothland, the pact
between the houses of Swerker and Jeswar, and the gradual dying out
of the pagan minority had given the Swedes comparative domestic quiet,
and at the same time leisure to turn their attention to attacks on
their neighbours. Hence it was that Karl VII., in the year 1164 (while
Sviatoslav yet reigned at Novgorod), invaded the Russian northlands
and besieged Ladoga, which was defended by the citizens with great
spirit. The arrival of Sviatoslav with the Posadnik Zakharie and the
Novgorodskie forces was followed by the complete defeat of the Swedish
host, only a remnant of which, according to the city Chronicles,
succeeded in making good its escape. This exploit gives some idea
of the power and position of Velikie Novgorod, which at this period
matches the standing of Lubeck in the days of the Kaiser Karl IV.
Against so dangerous a rival it was inevitable that Andrei, dreaming
of autocracy 300 years before its time, should bend the whole crushing
weight of his resources and influence, and seek to whelm Novgorod
in the same humiliation that had befallen Kiev. The inhabitants of
the threatened city saw an ominous league of their enemies gathering
together; the Princes of Smolensk, Polotzk, Mourom, and Riazan joined
their forces to those of Mstislav Andreivitch, the conqueror of Kiev,
under whose banner marched the men of Souzdal, Rostov, Vladimir, and
Bielozersk. At the head of the citizens stood their Kniaz, Roman, the
Posadnik Yakun, and the Archbishop Ivan. These prepared by every means
in their power to resist the formidable army whose skirmishers were
ravaging the country for miles around and lighting the winter sky with
the fires of hundreds of blazing villages. The doubt voiced by a poet
of a later century--

  Though kneeling nations watch and yearn,
  Does the Primordial Purpose turn?

found no expression in the minds of these early Russians, in whose
civil discords the members of the Holy Family of heaven were supposed
to take as keen an interest as the gods of Olympus in the skirmishes
round Troy. [Sidenote: 1170] When the attack closed in upon the city
the Archbishop, attended by his clergy, carried round the ramparts,
during the thick of the fight, a standard with a representation of the
Virgin. An impious arrow struck the sainted ikon, which thereupon
turned its face towards Novgorod and let fall a shower of tears upon
the Archbishop; this was too much for the nerves of the Souzdalians,
who seemingly were near enough to witness the miracle, and a headlong
flight ensued, in which many were slain and many taken prisoners.
In the words of the Novgorodskie Chronicle, “You could get ten
Souzdalians for a grivna.” It is difficult to discern, under the mass
of legend, what was the real cause of this panic. The warriors who
had laid ruthless hands on the hallowed sanctuaries of the Russian
capital were not likely to be cowed by a provincial representation
of the Virgin; had they not their own apostle-wrought ikon of the
Mother of God at Vladimir? Whatever the cause of defeat, it gave a
serious check to Andrei’s projects of undisputed supremacy. Novgorod,
however, was not secure from the enmity of the Prince of Souzdal, from
whose province she drew her supplies of grain, and the Posadnik and
Archbishop followed up their victory by timely overtures for peace,
which was effected by the dismissal of Roman and the subsequent “free
election” of a prince from the Souzdal family. Four years later the
dreaded northern Kniaz suffered the penalty of being in advance of
his times. The high hand with which he had ruled in his own province
had inspired among his boyarins and courtiers a fear which might on
occasion become dangerous. [Sidenote: 1177] And the occasion arrived,
when one summer’s evening a band of twenty conspirators, including the
chamberlain of his household, burst into the old man’s sleeping-chamber
in his palace at Bogolubov (a suburb of Vladimir) and stabbed wildly
at him in the uncertain twilight. Favoured by the dusk and confusion,
Andrei managed to crawl away into hiding; a light was procured, and by
the track of his streaming wounds he was hunted down and the assassins
finished their task. Vladimir, which he had raised to the position
of his capital over the older towns of Souzdal and Rostov, mourned
the grim fate of her patron, but throughout the rest of the province
the long-repressed feelings of the inhabitants ran riot in bloodshed
and pillage. The affrighted clergy, clad in their priestly vestments
and bearing the sacred ensigns of their religion, went in solemn
processions through the towns, invoking the assistance of the Most High
God to quell a revolt which threatened the submersion of their world.
Andrei had tried to weld into a disciplined kingdom materials that were
as yet only fitted for a modified anarchy, tempered by attachment to a
loosely-ordered succession of princes; dreaming of despotism, he had at
least died the death of a despot.

And while they do to death the only prince who had shown them the way
to the safety which lay in union and centralisation, far away on the
banks of the Okon, in the desert region which borders Northern China
and Manchuria, is growing from insignificance to an overmastering
weight of supremacy the tribe, horde, locust-swarm of the swarthy
Mongols.

The disorders which marked the disappearance of Andrei’s overshadowing
personality from the throne of Souzdal were soothed, after a long
struggle between his reflucted kinsfolk, by the final establishment
of Vsevolod, brother of the murdered prince, surnamed “Big-nest” in
allusion to his large family.[29] Applying himself to the ordering of
his own province, he meddled but languidly in the seething troubles of
the Dniepr-watered principalities, where the house of Olgovitch was
enjoying a fitful revival of importance. A scion of that strenuous
family at this time embarked on an enterprise which, though fruitless
from a military point of view, was crowned with a halo of glory
and immortalised in an epic poem of great beauty. “The Song of the
Expedition of Igor, Prince of Sieverski,” or, more shortly, the Song of
Igor, one of the earliest Slavonic folk-songs that has been handed down
from the dead past, has been translated into many languages, but never
before into English, so that it is well worth reproducing in part in
a history of Russian development. It deals with a campaign undertaken
by Igor Sviatoslavitch, Prince of Severski, and his brother Vsevolod,
against the Polovtzi in their own country, of its disastrous result,
and the ultimate return of Igor.

    Brothers, were it not well that we, after the old custom, began the
    song of the unlucky campaign of Igor, the seed of Sviatoslav? That
    we celebrate him in the heroic songs of our time, and not in the
    manner of Bōyan? If the sage Bōyan wished to tune to one a song, it
    was as if a squirrel sprang up the tree, or a gray wolf hied along
    the plain, or a blue eagle soared to the clouds....

    Igor looked forth and saw that the sun had hidden his face, and
    a mist had enveloped his warriors. Then spoke Igor to his army:
    “Brothers and soldiers, it is better to fall in battle than to
    yield one’s life; so will we mount our mettlesome horses and gain
    the Blue Don by daylight.” Yearning filled the soul of the Prince,
    and the wish to see the noble Don led him to forget many evil
    tokens. “I will break a lance,” cried he, “on the farthest verge
    of the Polovtzi land, or bow my head with you, Russians, and with
    my helmet draw water from the Don.” O Bōyan, thou nightingale
    of the olden days, if thou hadst inspired these warrior-bands,
    alighting on the Tree of Thought and hovering in the spirit of the
    clouds, thou hadst, O nightingale, united this severed time (that
    which is Past with that which Is).... Not a storm-wind drove the
    falcons over the wide plain, nor hurried the flocks of daws to the
    glorious Don. Or thou mightest, sage Bōyan, thus have sung: The
    steeds are neighing this side the Sula, the war-song resounds in
    Kiev, the trumpets are crashing in Novgorod. The standards wave in
    Poutivl, where awaits Igor his loved brother Vsevolod. And to him
    saith the bold, war-lusting Vsevolod, “O Igor, my only brother, my
    bright Sun, truly are we twain the seed of Sviatoslav. Brother,
    let thy spirited war-horses be saddled; already are mine saddled
    and waiting at Koursk, and my Kourskies are right warriors, born
    ’neath the blare of the trumpets, and nurtured at the point of the
    lance. The roads are familiar to them; they know the passes, their
    bows are strung, the quiver is open, the sabres are burnished, and
    they themselves press forward, like gray wolves on the bleak wold,
    in pursuit of honour and princely renown.” Then set Prince Igor
    his foot in the golden stirrup and rode forth into the wide plain.
    The sun blurs the way through the gloom, the night groans in storm
    and wakes the birds, swells in chorus the howling of beasts, the
    evil Div shrieks down from the tree-tops and summons the strange
    lands to listen, from the Volga, and the sea-coast, and along the
    Sula and to the Suroz and Khorsun, to the idol at Tmoutorakan. The
    Polovtzi hastened by pathless ways to the glorious Don; at midnight
    shrieked the wheels of their carts, as though flight-circling
    swans screamed loud. Igor pressed with his war-men to the Don. But
    already the bird on the oak warned him of misfortune, the wolves
    set the ravines in alarm, the eagles with loud screams called
    hither the beasts to the banquet, the foxes barked at the purple
    shields.

    O Russian band, already art thou this side the hill!

    Long lasts the night, the twilight dawn not yet foretells the
    coming of the Sun, darkness clothes the fields, the flute of the
    nightingale is hushed, while the croaking of the daws resounds, but
    the Russians have bedecked the stretching plain with their purple
    shields, and strive after honour and the glory of princes.

    On Friday early have our warriors defeated the war-hordes of the
    Polovtzi, and they thenafter scattered with arrow-swiftness in
    the plain, bearing away the lovely Polovtzi maidens, and with
    them also gold and precious silken stuffs; with costly rugs, with
    cloaks and vestments the Polovtzi strewed the streams, marshes,
    and swamps. The golden standards with the white pennons, the
    purple horse-housings and the silver staff fell to the brave
    Sviatoslavitch. Oleg’s brave nest-brood slept on the field,
    thenafter they are flown afar; they were not born to suffer
    ill, neither from falcon, nor sparhawk, nor from these, heathen
    Polovtzi, the black ravens. Gsak sped like a gray wolf, and
    Kontchak followed him on the road to the glorious Don.

    Right early the other morning rose a blood-red promise of the sun,
    black clouds drew in from the sea, that would have darkened four
    suns, and torn were they by blue flashes; there was brewing a
    mighty storm of thunder, and bolts rained over the majestic Don;
    then at the stream Kayala, by the mighty Don, lances were broken
    and sabres blunted on Polovtzi helmets.

    O Russian band, still art thou this side the hill!

    There blew the Wind (Stribog’s grandchild)[30] bolts from the sea
    against Igor’s brave fighters; the Earth shuddered, mournfully
    flowed the rivers, dew-drops spangled the fields, the banners
    rustled.

    Forth from the Don, from the sea, and from all sides around came
    the Polovtzi; they surrounded the Russian troop, with yells the
    children of the devils filled the plain, but the brave Russians
    guarded themselves behind the purple shields. Thou Wild-Bull
    Vsevolod, thou art in the rank that is foremost, slinging thy
    arrows at the fighters, and with thy sword of steel batterest the
    helmets, and where thou chargest, there where thy golden helmet
    glitters, there lie the heads of the Heathen and the Avaric
    helmets, smashed by thy hardened sabre, thou Wild-Bull Vsevolod,
    and there was thy grief so great at the wound of thy brother, thou
    hadst both honour and life forgotten, and the town of Tchernigov,
    and the throne of thy fathers, even as the caresses of thy sweet
    and beauteous wife Glebovna.... So is it ever in the time of
    fighting and war, but never yet has been heard of such a battle as
    this; from early morn till the even, from eve to red dawn, nought
    but flying arrows, and the clashing of sabres on helmets, and steel
    lances splintering in the far plain of the Polovtzi-land. The black
    earth under the hoofs of the horses is with bones emplanted, which
    spring up from the Russian soil watered with blood amid stress of
    grievous sorrow. What is the stamping I hear? What is it I hear
    ringing in the morning early before the red Dawn?...

    So for a day they fought, and for two days, but on the third,
    towards mid-day, sank the banner of Igor.

    There on the banks of the rapid Kayala the brothers were
    sundered....

    The grass drooped its head in mourning and the tree bowed
    sorrowfully earthward....

    The war of the princes against the Heathen had ceased, for one
    brother saith to another, “That belongeth to me, and this belongeth
    also to me.” And of each little thing the princes say, “A great
    matter,” and stir up strife with one another, while on all sides of
    the Russian land the warlike heathen press forward.

    But Igor’s brave war-men shall never wake again.... Loudly weep the
    Russian women, “Alas! that never more can our thoughts to our dear
    husbands be wafted, that our eyes shall never, never again behold
    them, and gold and silver never more be stored.” And therefore,
    brothers, Kiev groaneth aloud in sorrow and Tchernigov in grief;
    woe streameth through the land, and pain, in full flood, through
    Russia, but ever more and more were the princes growing in hatred,
    while the warlike Heathen raged through the land, and from every
    holding had as tribute a squirrel pelt....

    [The despairing lamentations of the saga are changed to rejoicing
    over the unexpected return of Igor, who had made his escape from
    the Polovtzi land.]

    The Sun shines in the heaven since Prince Igor is on Russian land.
    The maidens sing on the Danube, and their voices reach over the sea
    to Kiev. Prince Igor rides through the Boritchev-ford to the Holy
    Mother-of-God of Pirogosha. The country is gladsome and the towns
    rejoice.[31]

This folk-song, apart from its intrinsic beauty, is valuable as a relic
of Russian thought and feeling at a time when the old pre-Christian
ideas were still blended with the sentiments of the newer traditions,
and it is interesting to mark how the ghosts and gods of old Slavonic
myth are mixed up with the saints and virgins of the Orthodox faith.
Not unworthy of notice, too, are the sage strictures on the political
evils of the day, the perpetual quarrelling among the Princes of the
Blood, which, however, continued with unabated vehemence despite
the common bond which existed in a common enemy. On the north and
north-east the armies of Novgorod and Souzdal extended the Russian
influence in the lands of the Finns and Bulgars, but on the south-east,
south, and west occurred encroachments which the princes were too
enfeebled by internal feuds to resist. The Kuman (Polovtzi) hordes held
the banks of the Dniepr almost up to the walls of Kiev and Biel-gorod,
as the Petchenigs had done before them; amid the dense forests of
Lit’uania, on the border of Polotzk, was rising into importance the
Lettish State which was to become a formidable factor in Russian
and Polish annals; and the kings of Hungary cast greedy eyes on the
fair province of Galitz, held in the feeble and precarious grasp of
Vladimir, unworthy successor of a line of valiant Red Russian princes.

The occupant of the throne of S. Stefan was not the only interested
onlooker at the spectacle of misgovernment provided by the Prince
of Galitz; his nearest neighbour on the Russian side was Roman of
Volhynia, the same Roman who had held Novgorod against the might
of Andrei, and who had been thrown over to procure for the city a
substantial peace. This prince, whose forefathers in the direct line
back to the first Igor had all been sovereigns of Kiev, was possessed
of exceptional qualities of energy and enterprise, and saw himself
fitted to replace the effete and impolitic Vladimir in the important
and Magyar-threatened principality of Galitz. Between the warlike and
strenuous efforts of this battle-loving kniaz, who was renowned for the
eagle-swoop rapidity with which he was wont to hurl himself upon his
enemies, the assiduous intrigues and invasions of Bela III. of Hungary,
and the occasional intervention of the princes of Poland, the West
Russian lands were kept in a continual ferment; in the words of the
saga, “Men’s lives were shortened by the wars of the brother princes.
Then seldom in the Russian land was heard the call of the husbandman,
but often indeed the ravens croaking as they divided the corpse among
them, and the cry of the corbies as they called to each other to come
to the banquet.” Long time the clashing factions warred and schemed,
but Roman at last broke down all opposition without and within. In
dismal plight were then those notables of Galitz who had resisted his
incoming; according to Polish accounts he treated the disaffected
boyarins with a savagery unworthy of a brave prince. The unfortunate
objects of his ill-will were dismembered, flayed, riddled with arrows,
buried alive, and done to death in various other barbarous ways.[32]
“To eat a drop of honey in peace, one must first kill the bees,” was
his explanation of this severity. This prince, who, in the words of
the Russian Chronicles, “walked in the ways of God,” was soon called
upon to defend his “drop of honey” against the Princes of Tchernigov
and Kiev--a coalition brought together by jealousy and dislike of
the vigorous Roman, for whom, however, it was no match. Gathering
together his Galician and Volhynian retainers, and calling to his aid
the Tchernie-Kloboukie (“Black-caps,” a name given to the nomads of
the western steppes other than the Polovtzi), he threw himself with
the famous eagle-swoop upon Kiev, the centre-point of his enemies.
In vain did its Grand Prince Rurik and the Kniaz of Tchernigov apply
themselves to repel his attack; the Kievians, who had a trained eye for
the strongest side, threw open the Podolian Gate, and the redoubtable
Roman swirled with his warriors into the lower city. His opponents did
not stay to dispute the upper quarter with him, and the victorious
Prince of Galitz was able, with the assent of Vsevolod of Souzdal, to
bestow the time-worn capital on one of his own kinsfolk. [Sidenote:
1202] At the request of the Metropolitan, Alexis Comnenus, and on
behalf of the Greek Imperial family, the indefatigable Roman made a
diversion against the Polovtzi, who were ravaging the Thracian border.
Having successfully drawn off their attack and destroyed their camps,
he returned in triumph to Galitz. During his absence Kiev, which had
betrayed the cause of Rurik, experienced in full measure the resentment
of that prince; calling to his assistance the Polovtzi--“children of
the devils,” but useful on occasion--he let them loose on the miserable
inhabitants. The Kuman warfolk passed over the city like a swarm of
locusts over a barley field; nothing escaped their devouring fury
except the foreign merchants who defended themselves behind the stone
walls of the churches, which became veritable sanctuaries in the midst
of a blazing, blood-streaming Kiev. The cathedrals and monasteries
suffered as severely from the heathen pillagers as they had done at
the hands of the Christians at the previous sacking of the city: “They
stripped the Cathedral of S. Sofia, the Church of the Dime, and all the
monasteries, monks and nuns, priests and their wives, old and cripple,
they killed, but the young and strong they drove into captivity.”[33]

The death of Roman in battle with the Poles near Zawichwost (1205) left
Red Russia once more a prey to domestic strife and foreign inroad.

On the 14th April 1212 came to an end the thirty-seven years’ reign
of Vsevolod, the last days of which were clouded by a quarrel with
his eldest son and natural heir, Konstantin. The latter, whether from
statesmanlike motives or mere grasping ambition, refused to cede
to his brother Urii the patrimony of Rostov designed for him, in
consequence of which Vsevolod bequeathed to the injured younger son the
succession to the grand principality of Vladimir-Souzdal, which would
otherwise have been the share of Konstantin. Vsevolod, overweighted
by the Russian chroniclers with the title of “Great,” shared in his
youth the exile of his brothers on the accession of Andrei, and
received his education amid Byzantine influences. In this connection
it is interesting to note that the scheme of policy unfolded during
his long reign bears some resemblance to that favoured by the Greek
Emperors. Avoiding for the most part the employment of open force
against Novgorod, he contrived, nevertheless, to be always to the fore
in the affairs of the republic, in the aspect either of a bogey or
a patron, in any case a factor to be reckoned with. Kiev he allowed
to pass backwards and forwards from one hand to another, and in this
way contributed to the decline of her importance and the consequent
advancement of his own capital as the head-town of Russia. This pacific
policy gave his Souzdalian subjects a measure of peace and tranquillity
unknown to their brothers in the other provinces, but it permitted the
dangerous aggrandisement of princes of lesser strength and more limited
resources.

The Grand Prince’s Greek upbringing and possible Greek sympathies may
have influenced the Russian hierarchy in the decision they were called
upon to make during his reign between adherence to or desertion of the
distressed Church of Constantinople. For evil times had fallen upon
the Orthodox communion; since the eastern and western Christians had
solemnly and bitterly quarrelled over the merits of the respective
formulas “proceeding from the Father by the Son,” and “proceeding
from the Father and the Son,”--the celebrated controversy of the
_Filioque_,--the two Churches had drifted wider and wider apart, and
the hatred existing between them found expression in the massacre
of the Latin or Roman Catholic inhabitants of Constantinople in the
year 1183, when young and old, sick and infirm of both sexes were
indiscriminately slaughtered; when the head of the Pope’s Legate,
severed from its legitimate body and tied to the tail of a dog, went
bumping and thudding along the public streets to the accompaniment
of hymns of praise and thanksgiving. Now (in the year 1204) it was
the turn of the Latins to revenge themselves on the stronghold and
headquarters of the rival religion; the French and Venetian Crusaders,
turning aside from the pious object of their expedition, the rescue
of the “Holy Land” from the infidels, had carried Constantinople by
assault, replaced the fugitive Greek Emperor by a Latin prince, and
sacked the Tzargrad with systematic thoroughness. The furniture and
adornments of S. Sophia and other sacred buildings became spoil for
the western soldiery, and the Lion of S. Mark waved triumphantly over
the scene of pillage and desecration. Then did the head of the Roman
Church, the splendid Lotario Conti (Innocent III.), beneath whose
despotic sway chafed and trembled most of the princes of Christendom,
follow up the triumph of the Latin arms by an attempt to draw the
heretic Church of Russia into the Catholic fold. In a pastoral letter
to the prelates and clergy of the Orthodox faith he pointed out the
temporal ruin which had overtaken the heads of the schismatic religion,
and invited the Russian Christians to attach themselves to the glories
and benefits of Rome. The appeal fell on hostile ears, and the next
Metropolitan was consecrated at Nicæa, where the dispossessed Emperor
had established his court.

In other quarters the zeal and activity of the Roman Church brought her
into contact with Russian “spheres of influence,” to use a modern term.
[Sidenote: 1201] Albrecht, Bishop of the new Livlandish see of Riga,
had instituted in that district the Order of the Warriors of Christ, or
Sword Brethren, whose mission was to convert the pagan Livlanders by
fire, and steel, and thong to the worship of Jesus, and teach them the
lesson of peace on earth and goodwill towards men with which His name
was associated. As the scope of their endeavours included a temporal
as well as a spiritual ascendancy over the lands they were able to
conquer, their arms soon clashed with those of Vladimir, Prince of
Polotzk, who claimed the over-lordship of Livland. Reinforced by Danish
warmen, sent to their assistance by King Waldemar at the instance of
the Pope, the knights of the Order were able to hold their own against
the Russian kniaz, and the Catholic Church scored another triumph in
Europe to make up for her disappointments in Asia Minor.

Vsevolod left to his successors the heritage of a ready-made feud, in
which the members of his family took different sides, some supporting
Urii, who held Souzdal and Vladimir, others ranging themselves with
Konstantin, who kept his grasp on Rostov. After a campaign in which
neither side could obtain a decided advantage, the brothers agreed
to divide the principality between them, Urii retaining the largest
share, which included Vladimir, Souzdal, and Moskva. Another brother,
Yaroslav, became in an unlucky hour the choice of the people of
Novgorod. In course of time they quarrelled with him, as was their
wont. Yaroslav shook the dust of the ungovernable city off his feet,
and settled himself down at Torjhok to starve it into submission. Its
imports of grain were systematically cut off, supplies of every kind
were intercepted, and famine stalked through the streets of Novgorod.
Want, in its most fearful form, the starvation of an entire populace,
tamed the spirit of the proud citizens. Pine-bark and moss were chewed
in place of the bread that could not be bought for money; the bodies
of those who died of hunger lined the streets--the dogs at least were
fed. What manner of man was this who sat gloating, vampire-like, over
the misery of a province which he would neither govern nor renounce?
Vainly embassies and petitions were sent by the stricken citizens, who
tendered their submission and besought him to take up his rule over
them; the spokesmen were cast into prison and the dearth continued.
Then like a god from the blue appeared to the famishing and despairing
Novgorodskie their erstwhile prince, Mstislav of Toropetz. The bitter
cry of their extremity had reached him in Southern Russia and drawn
him to their succour. After vainly attempting to bring Yaroslav to
reason, Mstislav took up arms against him. The first-named prince
could count on the support of Urii, but on the other hand Mstislav
had engaged Konstantin on his side, so that the province of Souzdal
was drawn, town against town, into this local quarrel. The armies of
the two leagues, burning with resentment against each other, met on
the plain of Lipetsk. [Sidenote: 1216] After a desperate battle the
troops of Rostov, Smolensk, and Novgorod scored a decisive victory
and hewed down their scattering foes during an April afternoon with
the fierce joy that a triumph in civil warfare inspires. Over 9000 of
the vanquished are stated to have fallen in the fight and subsequent
slaughter. Four days later the inhabitants of Vladimir, consisting for
the most part of women, children, monks, and priests, and men too old
to have marched to the war, saw in the gray distance a single horseman
making with weary speed for the city--a courier, they fondly imagined,
sent to announce their Prince’s victory. The Prince (Urii) himself
rode in through the startled crowd, the forlorn herald of the disaster
which had overwhelmed his army. The depleted province was in no plight
to withstand the victors, and the Grand Principality was practically
at the disposal of the upstart Kniaz of Toropetz. Konstantin, by his
decree, became Prince of Vladimir-Souzdal, naming Urii, however, to
succeed him at his death. Mstislav returned in triumph to Novgorod,
where he was hailed with acclamations by the citizens, to whom he had
been a friend in need. It was a bitter irony of circumstance that
almost the only prince for whom they had had a lasting affection
could not find it well to stay with them. Perhaps he was fearful of
outstaying his welcome, or wished to secure for himself a more assured
possession than the government of the fickle republic, and the foreign
encroachments which disturbed Russia on her western marches attracted
his adventure-loving spirit to play the rescuer in that direction. In
Livland, Volquin von Winterstadt, Grand Master of the Sword Order, was
ever seeking to push forward his military outposts; the Lit’uanians,
harassed by Catholics on one side and Orthodox neighbours on the
other, were drawing closer together in self-defence, and becoming
more formidable to Polotzk and Pskov, while Red Russia was a prey to
Hungarian domination and Polish interference. It was by invitation of
the latter power, in the person of Duke Lesko, that Mstislav undertook
to drive the Hungarians out of Galicia, and in consequence bade an
affectionate farewell to the people of Novgorod, the tomb of his
father, and the Cathedral of S. Sofia.

While foreign war flamed lurid in the west, a peaceable restoration
had been witnessed in the north-east, where Urii, on the death of
his brother Konstantin (1219), had come into possession of the Grand
Principality. In the north-west, again, important happenings were
forcing themselves disagreeably on the notice of the border princes.
Many causes contributed to complicate the struggle for mastery which
was beginning to be waged in the pagan-inhabited lands at the mouth
of the western Dvina and along the “Baltic gull-sought strand.” The
institution of the Crusades and the erection of the Latin kingdom of
Jerusalem had aroused a spirit of religious and temporal colonisation
and conquest, of which the seizure of Constantinople was a symptom,
while on the other hand the comparative failure of the Asiatic
expeditions and the recapture of Jerusalem by the Moslems had modified
the crusading fervour and disinclined the champions of the Cross to
seek adventures so far afield. Hence many Catholic princes and knights
were glad to avail themselves of the Papal permission to divert their
pious raids from the valley of the Jordan to the shores of the Baltic,
a more convenient locality, where they might gain, in addition to
their eternal salvation, welcome pieces of earthly territory. Danes,
Swedes, the Sword Brothers, and later (in 1230) the Teutonic Order,
fought indiscriminately with the native pagans, with the Russians,
and with themselves for the advancement of the Catholic religion and
of their own interests. Estland, Kourland, Livland, Lit’uania, and
Prussia became happy hunting-grounds for these various adventurers and
military companies, and the unfortunate inhabitants, confronted with
an _embarras du richesse_ in the way of spiritual guides, knew not
which way to turn for safety. A Tchoud notable was hanged by the Danes
for having received baptism from the Sword Order, and the Latin and
Orthodox Christians systematically destroyed each other’s churches and
settlements whenever they had the opportunity. Of the knights of the
two Orders, however, it may be said that the cruelties and oppressions
with which they sought to harry the heathen into their particular
fold were in some measure condoned by the splendid bravery and
devotion which they displayed in carrying out their self-imposed task.
Moreover, it was to these northern crusaders that the Baltic provinces
owed many of their most important towns: Riga was the creation of
the Knights of Jesus; Thorn, Kulm, and Elbing marked the rise of the
Teutonic Order; Revel sprang into existence under Danish auspices. It
was during a combat in the neighbourhood of the latter town that the
Danes received “from the clouds” the red flag blazoned with a white
cross which has since remained their national standard--a mark of
Divine favour which did not, however, cause the immediate withdrawal
of their Christian competitors. The cruelties and dissensions of the
invaders moved the inhabitants of Northern Livland to throw off the
Catholic yoke and call the citizens of Novgorod to their assistance,
propitiating them with a portion of the spoil they had wrested from the
Germans and Skandinavians. Novgorod, by a curious revulsion of feeling,
had, after a succession of princes of the house of Souzdal, elected
the same Yaroslav who had treated her people with such heartless
cruelty. Possibly, in the turn affairs were taking on their west, the
Novgorodskie saw an opportunity for employing his malignant genius
against their obnoxious enemies. But the warlike efforts of the men of
Lake Ilmen and their Souzdalian prince were neutralised by the fact
that the Germans, fighting behind the walls of their towns, were more
skilled in the handling of the slings and stone-hurling engines, the
rude artillery of the day; the old Russian proverb, “Who can resist God
and Velikie Novgorod?” had to be modified in the face of such weapons
of precision, and the Westerners remained masters of the greater part
of the disputed territories.

Two hundred years of unending domestic strife, carving and shredding
off into a crowd of incoherent provinces--Kiev, Tchernigov, Riazan,
Souzdal, Smolensk, Polotzk, Novgorod, Pskov, Volhynia, Galitz, and
others of less importance--had not fitted Russia to contend with the
expanding powers of Catholic Christendom, or to show a solid front
against the incursion of teeming Asiatic hordes on her east.

The Chronicles of Russian history at this period were wholly in the
hands of the monks who wrote them around the deeds of the princes or
of the luminaries of the Church; hence little can be gleaned from them
of the social life and condition of the people, who existed therein
solely for the purposes of supplying raw material for a massacre
or a pestilence. The history of Novgorod is valuable as yielding
occasional glimpses of the life-pulse that beat beneath the over-crust
of court or cathedral annals, but this city was too impregnated with
outside influences to furnish a faithful picture of the inward state
of old-time Russia. Of the towns it may be broadly stated that they
were yet little more in scope than walled villages; universities or
seats of learning other than the monkish cloister there were none, and
much of the trade was in the hands of foreign merchants. The wealthy
boyarins had their houses and palaces clustered within the walls, and
often possessed in addition other houses in the _sloboda_, or detached
village, without, where there was more space available for gardens,
etc. Freemen as well as slaves (the latter captured in war or bought)
were in their service, but the abject poverty of the lower classes of
freemen bound them in almost servile dependence on their masters. Even
more grinding was the normal state of poverty in which the peasants
eked out their livelihood, and the name _smerd_ applied to them was
one of contempt, something akin to our “rascallion.” For the most part
the peasants tilled the soil for the landowners under a system which
allowed them a half, or other fixed share, of the harvest produced,
the freeman having this distinction from the _kholop_ or bondman that
he was able to move from one estate to another at will. Under these
conditions of hand-to-mouth existence farm-craft remained at a very low
ebb; with axe, scythe, and plough the peasant won precarious roothold
for his crops, which might be blighted by an untimely frost-coming or
damaged by a too-late thaw, leaving him to propitiate his appeal-court
of saints by an involuntary emptiness of stomach. With cattle-stock,
horses, and horned beasts, the Russian lands, of the north especially,
were ill-provided, and possibly this was partly the outcome of the
unsettled state of the country, which discouraged the multiplication of
movable property, even the heaviest church bells being now and again
swept off in the wake of some pilfering kniaz-raid.[34]

FOOTNOTES:

[22] See Table I. for Grand Princes of Kiev.

[23] The affix _vitch_ signifies _son of_: Sviatoslavitch--son of
Sviatoslav.

[24] Vseslav Briatcheslavitch.

[25] “The Song of the Expedition of Igor.”

[26] Georg Pray.

[27] N. G. Riesenkampff, _Der Deutsche Hof zu Nowgorod_.

[28] Rambaud, _History of Russia_.

[29] See Table III. for house of Souzdal.

[30] Stribog was the Slavonic wind-god.

[31] Rendered into English partly from H. von Paucker’s German
translation, _Das Lied von der Heerfahrt Igor’s Fürsten von Seversk_,
and partly from a modernised Russian reproduction of the Slavonic text.

[32] Kadlubek, _Origine et rebus gestis Polonorum_.

[33] S. Solov’ev.

[34] Karamzin; S. Solov’ev; Schiemann; Kostomarov, _Sieverno Rousskiya
Narodopravstva_, _Chronique de Nestor_.



CHAPTER IV

THE COMING OF THE MONGOLS


As an advancing tide, engulfing in its progression the stretches of
ooze-land which lie in its onward path, sends scurrying before it
flights of waders and other shore-haunting birds, driven from their
feeding grounds, so the great Mongol wave which was creeping upon
Eastern Europe drove before it disordered troops of the Polovtzi
nomads, seeking among their old enemies the safety which their desert
fastnesses no longer afforded. Into the principality of Kiev poured the
fugitives, bringing with them droves of horses, camels, cattle, and
buffaloes--a wonderful and misgiving sight to the staring Russians,
who saw their fierce, untamable foes, the incarnation to them of all
that was barbarous, outlandish, and terrible, cowering and fleeing
from some unseen horror behind. That the wolf of the steppes should
come to lie down, panting and trembling, with the lamb, boded the
advent of anything but a millennium. The accounts given by the Polovtzi
khans of the Mongol hordes which had swept the tribes of Western Asia
before their advancing host, roused the Russian princes to a sense of
the danger they courted by their disunion, and gathered them together
in the old capital to deliberate on a common action in opposition to
the threatened invasion. Mstislav of Galitz, erstwhile of Toropetz,
Mstislav Romanovitch (of the house of Smolensk), Prince of Kiev,
Daniel of Volhynia, Mstislav of Tchernigov, and other princes of less
importance, held high counsel between them, and debated the means of
averting the Mongol advance; and as they paused in their deliberations
to mark the unwonted caravans and uncouth brutes of the desert that
thronged the streets and approaches of Kiev, it must have been borne
in upon them that already Asia had overflowed her limits and swept the
Russian lands into her embrace. And while, taking heart of grace from
the assemblage of so many important princes and the leadership of the
redoubtable Mstislav of Galitz, they consider how best to oppose these
fearsome enemies, it will be of interest to learn something of the
history of this Mongol horde, this mushroom growth that had over-spread
the northern empire of China, made a desolate waste of Persia, carried
its arms into Hindostan, and risen to be the greatest power in Asia,
and which was now threatening to attack the outskirts of Christendom.

In the dreary steppe-land of the Gobi desert, south of the Baikal Sea,
where flows the Onon, a tributary of the Amur, history first locates
the Mongols, in the sixth century, under the name Mongu, possibly
derived from the word “mong,” signifying bold, daring. At that period
they are indicated as a sub-tribe of the Shi-wei, who dwelt to the
north-west of Manchuria, and did not enjoy any considerable importance.
This insignificance continued till the accession, in 1175, to the
Mongol Khanate, of Temudjin, known later under the world-famous name
of Jingis Khan, when the number of his subjects did not exceed 40,000
families. A series of successful wars with the tribes in his immediate
neighbourhood paved the way for more ambitious undertakings, and he
soon carried his victorious standard, the _Tuk_ with nine yak tails,
into the northern empire of China, which was ruled over by the Kin,
or Tartar dynasty (South China being separately governed by the Sung
dynasty). From this point Jingis carried on campaign after campaign
with almost uniform success, till the greater part of Asia grovelled
beneath his yoke. Pitilessly cruel, this “cormorant of conquest” marked
each fresh advance, whether resisted or unopposed, with wholesale
massacres, which, after allowing for Oriental exaggeration, swell to a
ghastly total. “From 1211 to 1223, 18,470,000 human beings perished in
China and Tangut alone at the hands of Jingis and his followers,”[35]
a record which would have turned the early kings of Israel green with
envy. The Mongolian policy was to scatter, ruin, and, if possible,
exterminate existing civilisations and communities wherever their
victorious armies passed.[36] The terror which the Mongol cruelties
inspired unnerved their opponents and disinclined nations with whom
they were at peace from combining against them, while their hardy
desert horses, light equipment, and powers of endurance enabled them
to travel enormous distances in all conditions of weather. Powerful
empires like those of China and Persia writhed beneath their yoke;
lesser states, such as Great Bulgaria and Georgia, were almost wiped
out of existence. The conquest of this latter country by a division
of the Horde, under the leadership of Chepe and Subatai, two of the
Mongol chiefs, was followed by an incursion into the land occupied
by the Kumans, or Polovtzi, which brought the destroying hosts on to
the verge of the Russian dominion. Southward the flying Kumans were
pursued as far as the Krim peninsula, at which point the Mongols first
came into contact with Western civilisation, burning Sudak, where the
Genoese had a flourishing commercial station. Now were ten ambassadors
sent to the alarmed Russian princes, assuring them that they had
nothing to fear from the Horde, but warning them against showing any
support to the Polovtzi. Fear and resentment made the princes forget
the customs of civilisation, and the messengers were put to death, an
inauspicious opening for the coming struggle. Having thus defied the
gathering storm, the Russians crossed the Dniepr and marched to the
banks of the Kalka, where they prepared to meet these new foes from
the east, as they had aforetime met the Polovtzi and the Petchenigs
before them. But even at this critical moment the princes were not in
complete accord; each was jealous of the other, each fought for his own
hand. Mstislav of Galitz thought he could win the fight with his own
forces and the assistance of the Polovtzi, but the latter were unable
to withstand the Mongol onset and broke in wild confusion. The Russians
fought well, but they fought apart and without cohesion, and were only
united in one overwhelming ruin. The battle of the Kalka, on the 31st
May 1224, was a terrible catastrophe in Russian history, and fitly
heralded a disastrous epoch in her annals. An army of over 80,000 men
was scattered like chaff before the exulting Mongols, and to add to
the horror of the flight the treacherous Polovtzi, on behalf of whom
the Russians had entered into the quarrel, slew and plundered as they
fled. From the fatal banks of the Kalka to those of the Dniepr raced
the broken bands of Russians, the laggards falling beneath the lances
and sabres of their grim pursuers. Six princes, many boyarins, and
thousands of soldiers were numbered among the slain. The young Daniel
Romanovitch of Volhynia escaped wounded from the woeful field, while
Mstislav of Kiev with two other princes defended themselves for three
days in a fortified camp on the bank of the Kalka. Deluded by a false
promise of security, they at length fell into the power of the Mongols,
who slaughtered the men and smothered the princes under planks, holding
wild carousal over their swollen bodies--a scene which recalls the
“night of Cannae’s raging field.” Southern Russia lay helpless at
the pleasure of these merciless enemies, who ravaged unchecked in
the villages and homesteads near the scene of their victory. Then
they did a most unexpected thing; they went. Retiring through Great
Bulgaria, they vanished as suddenly as they had come; of their arrival
and departure might almost be said what was said of their attack on
Bokhara: “They came, dug, burnt, killed, robbed, went.” The Russian
lands awoke as from a nightmare to find their unwelcome guests had
departed.

In the midst of their conquests the separate Mongol bands turned as
if by common instinct back to their native haunts in the remote valley
of the Onon, where they hunted and hawked after swans and cranes,
antelopes and wild asses, in the odd moments when they were not engaged
in hunting men. Then occurred that picturesque gathering which Howorth
has so eloquently described, when the old Khan held his simple court
surrounded by his family and chieftains, a little knot of desert nomads
who between them had conquered half the known world.

The Russians meanwhile, delivered from the desolating presence of the
Mongol hosts, resumed the uneven tenor of their ways; the citizens of
Novgorod continued to displace and re-elect their princes, archbishops,
and posadniks; the boyarins of Galicia to plot and intrigue with
Hungary, Poland, and the house of Romanovitch; the princes to quarrel
over the eternal readjustment of their appanages. And here is a fit
moment to review the unfolding spectacle of national development among
the Russian Slavs since their focussing under the early princes, and
examine the drift and purpose underlying the chronicle of their doings.
Frankly the result is not edifying. It is an unpleasant accusation to
hurl against a people, but in these early centuries of their history
they may be aptly likened to the “gray apes” portrayed by Kipling’s
magic pen,--always setting out to do some great thing, never quite
remembering what it was they had meant to do, holding fast to a thing
one moment, letting it go the next, restless and ambitious, without
any clear idea of what they desired, such is the character that must
reluctantly be given them. These blind devotions to the Princes of the
Blood, these aimless rebellions against their authority, these fervid
worshippings of Mother-of-God and saints, these impious plunderings
of cathedrals and monasteries, these kissings and swearings on the
cross, these shameless breaking of oaths, these holy wars against
the Polovtzi, these frequent military and matrimonial alliances
with them, these sacrifices to keep in touch with the Greek Empire
and the south, this abandoning of the south lands to Turko nomads
and Italian merchants, these internal complications, revolutions,
banishments, recalls, leagues, and counter-leagues, shifting as the
sands of a river-bed, what do they bring to mind but a family of
children squabbling and loving and squabbling again in ever-varying
combinations, or, nearer still, the former simile, the gray apes. Other
countries and peoples were, it is true, going through the same period
of anarchy and disorder, but there was at least some method in their
madness. In Italy, amid the wild chaos of republics, principalities,
and imperial cities, there can plainly be discerned in the as yet
scarcely named factions of Guelph and Ghibelline the Papal power
seeking to extend itself on the one hand, and the Imperial interest
striving to establish itself on the other, and a third party playing
off one against the other for the attainment of its own independence.
In Germany, Emperor, electors, prince-bishops, free cities, and the
other constituents of the commonweal are balanced one against the other
in an intricate but perfectly understandable whole, each working to
a definite and rational end. In France and England king and barons
fight out the old battle of monarchy against aristocracy, which is
to be merged one day in a conflict with a newer force--if anything
is new under the sun. But where is the aim or interest in these
minutely-recorded Russian struggles? Hidden away in the forests of
Souzdal, perhaps, lies the embryo or germ of a state policy, if it ever
be hatched into life. Meanwhile Russia is losing ground, literally and
metaphorically, in many directions. Southward, as has been noticed, a
broad zone of steppe, inhabited by Turko tribes, shuts her off from the
coast cities of the Black Sea, where the pushing Genoese have ensconced
their factories. Galicia, with its population of White Kroats, is
becoming less Russian every day. Lit’uania, no longer held under by
the neighbouring provinces, threatens to expand at their expense. The
Baltic lands are drifting into Teutonic and Catholic hands. Velikie
Novgorod herself, absorbed in the details of parochial administration,
has let her magnificent foreign trade slip into the grip of strangers.
For Novgorod was not, as Howorth imagines, “a famous member of the
Hanseatic League”; the League, now beginning to play an important part
in the annals of Northern Europe, merely had a factory and station
there, as it had at London and Lisbon, and this factory speedily
monopolised the oversea trade of the great Russian emporium; “during
three centuries the Hanseatic League concentrated in her own hands all
the external commerce of Northern Russia.”[37] Finally, on the eastern
marches hovered the shadow of the late incursion, an incursion which
might at any moment be repeated.

While the war-clouds were lowering dark and ill-boding over the
land, sank in the west that day-star of Russian chivalry, Mstislav
Mstislavitch, more or less Prince of Galitz. [Sidenote: 1228] Brave
as a boar in battle, in council he was about as intelligent; “nothing
is sadder than victory, except defeat,” and with him certainly a
success was almost as expensive as a reverse could have been. His
brilliant achievements gained no advantage for his family or for
Russia, and on his death Andrew, son of the Hungarian king of that
name, stepped into the vacant sovereignty. This border province, with
its involved political conditions, had a magnetic attraction for the
more adventurous spirits among the Russian princes, and a candidate
was ready to hand to dispute its possession in the person of Daniel
Romanovitch of Volhynia. Just such another knight-errant as Mstislav,
Daniel possessed more of the ability to seize the contested throne
than the address to establish himself firmly on it. The son of an
imperious and overbearing father, he had many enemies. Vladimir
Rurikovitch of Kiev, for instance, had not forgotten that Roman had
made his father assume the tonsure against his inclinations, and in
pursuance of this bequeathed quarrel formed a league against Daniel,
which included the Princes of Tchernigov and Pinsk, and of course the
Polovtzi. By detaching Kotian, the celebrated Polovtzi Khan, from
this confederation, Daniel was able to gain a complete victory over
his enemies. Scarcely was this accomplished than he whirled away, as
his father had done, into the troubled affairs of Poland, where he
supported Duke Konrad of Mazovia against the party opposed to his
regency, his murdered brother, Duke Lesko V., having left his son
and heir, Boleslas V., in his charge. [Sidenote: 1229] Elate with
the success which attended his arms in this direction, on his return
he flung himself, with the hereditary eagle-swoop, on to the city
of Galitz, which fell into his hands, together with the person of
Prince Andrew. This advantage he threw away by permitting his valuable
prisoner to retire to Hungary, whither had already fled Soudislav, one
of the most active of the boyarins who favoured the Magyar dynasty.
The reward of this clemency was a new attack on Galicia by the
Hungarians, led by Prince Bela (afterwards Bela IV.) The elements were
unpropitious; torrents and floods damaged and hindered the invading
army, and contributed to its defeat, and the Hungarians recrossed
the Karpathians in evil plight. The position of Daniel was, however,
too precarious to withstand for long the resources of Hungary, the
disaffection of his subjects, and the enmity of some of his brother
princes. Foremost among the latter was his cousin and inveterate
enemy, Aleksandr of Belz, who, having been implicated in a plot which
miscarried, fled to Hungary and roused the king to a new attempt on
this fair and coveted province. The boyarins, who saw themselves,
doubtless, of more authority and importance as the courtiers of a
foreign prince than under the personal rule of a vigorous Russian
kniaz, deserted to the Hungarian standard, and the young Andrew became
once more “King of Galicia.” His death in 1234 paved the way for the
restoration of the Romanovitch, and the boyarins of the Magyar party
had to seek safety beyond the mountains. Less concerned, however, in
strengthening his hold upon this slippery fief than in carrying his
arms into quarrels which did not concern him, Daniel rushed to the
assistance of his late enemy, Vladimir of Kiev, who was embroiled in
a war with Mikhail of Tchernigov. Daniel ravaged the latter province,
but disaster overtook him and Vladimir in the shape of a defeat by a
Polovtzi army, led by Isiaslav, grandson of the immortalised Igor of
Severski--a strange combination. [Sidenote: 1236] Kiev and Galitz both
fell into the hands of the victors, Mikhail establishing himself in the
latter principality, while Isiaslav held Kiev. On the departure of the
Polovtzi he was obliged to restore the city to Vladimir, who in turn
ceded it to Yaroslav Vsevolodovitch, prince and sometime persecutor
of the Novgorodskie; he, on leaving Novgorod, placed in his stead his
son Aleksandr, afterwards celebrated as “Nevski.” Daniel flitted about
the neighbouring lands like a restless ghost, seeking aid against the
intruding Olgovitch, even in Hungary, where Bela had succeeded his
father Andrew (1235), and where the exile could obtain nothing more
than promises, which were scarcely likely to be fulfilled. Nor did he
receive warmer support from Duke Konrad.

In the north-west things were in a somewhat chaotic condition; the
year 1236 was marked by a disaster to the Sword Brethren, in which
Volquin von Winterstadt and a large proportion of his knights lost
their lives, having ventured rashly into the Lit’uanian country, where
they were surrounded by the enemy and cut to pieces. The following year
the Order was amalgamated with that of the Teutonic Knights, who had
established themselves in Prussia under the Grand-Mastership of Herman
von Salza. This province had been formally presented to them by the
Emperor Frederick II., by the Duke of Mazovia, and by Pope Gregory IX.,
finally by Pope Innocent IV., notwithstanding which, the inhabitants of
this much-bestowed country offered a vigorous resistance to their new
masters.

Out of their fools’ paradise of fancied security on their eastern
border the Russians were rudely aroused by the news that the Volga
lands were being devastated by the Mongols, that Bolgar was in ashes,
that the heads of the Tartar horses had been turned west, and that
their hoofs were now scoring broad tracks through the forests towards
Riazan. [Sidenote: 1237] On before them journeyed an eerie harbinger
of ill, a woman (described in the Chronicles as a sorceress), with
two attendants, and bearing a demand from Batu, the Mongol Khan,
for a tenth part of the princes’ treasures. Batu, nephew of Ogotai
Khan, who had ruled the Horde since the death of his father Jingis
(1227), may well have been astonished at his own moderation, since
he was followed by an army estimated at 300,000 men. But the Princes
of Riazan and Mourom refused his demand with a defiance of the true
heroic ring: “When we are dead you can have it all.” “Just as it
afterwards happened,” as the old Saxon Chronicles used to say. No aid
was forthcoming from the Grand Prince Urii in response to the urgent
appeals from Riazan, and the devoted principality received the full
shock of the Mongol attack. The town was taken by assault after six
days’ incessant fighting round the walls, and a “blood bath,” to use
an appropriate German expression, ensued in the streets, houses, and
churches. The Prince of Riazan and many of his family perished in the
general slaughter. This was in the month of December, but, undeterred
by the snow which choked the forest roads and filled the valleys, Batu
turned north towards Souzdal, leaving behind him a banquet of frozen
corpses for the wolves and foxes, ravens and vultures. Moskva, Tver,
Souzdal, and Vladimir fell one by one into the power of the Mongols
and experienced their cruel fury. [Sidenote: Feb. 1238] In the latter
city perished Vsevolod and Mstislav, sons of Urii, who had retreated
to the banks of the Sit, where he turned to bay against the ravagers
of his province. Here, on the 3rd March, was fought a battle big
with importance for Russia, the West fighting against the East, the
forest-lands against the steppe, Christianity against Shamanism. Urii
had deferred the decisive moment too long, and paid with his life the
penalty of his mistake; his disheartened soldiers broke before the
overwhelming numbers of the Mongols, and left them undisputed masters
of the Grand Principality. The East had won. Not for many a long
century, if ever, would Russia shake off the Oriental influences which
the Mongol victory imposed upon her. From her history the shadow of
the Horde, one is tempted to forebode, in the words of Poe, “shall be
lifted nevermore.”

The Bishop of Rostov, haunting the scene of desolation, found the
headless body of the Grand Prince, and conveyed it to the church
of the Virgin at that town, where it was afterwards joined by its
recovered head and interred, together with the corpse of Vassilko
Konstantinovitch, who also fell on that fatal field. The triumphant
Mongol host marched towards Novgorod, but turned aside on seeing the
fastnesses of swamp and lakelet with which that town was girdled,
and to which it owed its safety. Less fortunate were Volok-Lamskie,
Torjhok, and Kozelsk, which drooped one by one before the blight of
conquest and devastation. To the latter town, which resisted the enemy
for two months and slew of them four thousand, the Mongols gave the
name of “the evil city.” Vasili, its defending kniaz, fighting to the
last, was said to have been drowned in blood--an end worthy of the
war-lusting vikings of the twilight past.

Careful not to leave a foe behind him, Batu withdrew his forces to
the basin of the Don, to hunt out the Kumans once more from their
hiding-places, and to rest his warriors and their horses in the
steppe-lands to which they were accustomed. Yaroslav seized this
opportunity to hasten from Kiev to the evacuated Souzdalian province,
of which desolated region he was now sovereign. To him fell the task of
restoring order to a distracted country and courage to an affrighted
people. Despite the terror which loomed in the deserts near the Don, he
was able to give his attention to the succour of Smolensk, over-run by
the Lit’uanians, whom he brilliantly defeated. In the south, far from
making common cause against the national enemy, or seeking to revenge
the cruelties which had been meted out to so many of the Russian
cities and towns, the Romanovitch and Olgovitch princes renewed their
private feuds and fief-grabbings. Mikhail of Tchernigov and Galitz
left the latter province in the keeping of his son Rostislav, while he
seized on Kiev, vacated by the new Prince of Souzdal-Vladimir. While
Rostislav and his boyarins were absent on an expedition against the
Lit’uanians, the ever-imminent Daniel made the inevitable eagle-pounce
on Galitz, and despite the opposition of its bishop, was received with
acclamation by the people, who buzzed around him, in the words of the
Chronicle, “as bees swarm about their queen.”

Meanwhile, in the deserts of Astrakhan, Kotian, the old Polovtzi Khan,
had been defeated by the Mongols, and fled, he and his, along the
wild steppe country till he came to the Karpathian range and sought
refuge in the Hungarian kingdom. Russia no longer offered a safe
retreat. Swiftly and remorselessly the death-dealing Horde bore down
on the middle provinces, and throughout the length and breadth of the
land bishops and priests and people knelt in agonised supplication
to their all-powerful God to deliver them from their savage enemies.
From cathedral, church, and roadside shrine wails the pitiful litany,
“Save us from the infidels!” Candles burn and incense swings, and
anguish-stricken hearts yearn out their prayer, “Save us from the
infidels!” Call Him louder. Perchance He sleepeth.

Tchernigov and Péréyaslavl experienced the common fate, the general
ruin; town and country alike suffered the affliction of fire and sword
and rapine. Shuddering villagers, lying awake around their flickering
hearths at night, would hear the uneasy barking of their watch-dogs,
scenting or seeing something not yet palpable to human senses; and
later the house-pigeons would fly far and wildly over a landscape lit
up by a glow that was not the dawn.

After a short respite, while the destroyers had turned aside again to
the deserts of the Don, Central Russia once more became the scene of
their ravaging. It was now the turn of Kiev to become the miserable
victim of their attentions. Around the mother of Russian cities (a
very Niobe under present circumstances), the sacred site of the tombs
and relics of the grand old princes, the resting-place of “all the
glories,” gathered a host that blackened the face of the country for
miles round. Batu himself, Mengu and Kujuk, sons of Ogatai (the Grand
Khan), and five other princes of the family of Jingis, came to help the
city on the Dniepr to its doom. Mikhail of Tchernigov fled to Hungary
on the approach of the enemy, and even the daring Daniel Romanovitch
preferred not to shut himself up like a trapped rat in Kiev or Galitz,
and sought refuge with King Bela, leaving, however, in the former town
his voevoda Dimitri to direct the defence. Happy had it been for the
inhabitants had they all fled from the death-trap. Within the walls men
could scarce hear themselves speak for the floating din of creaking
carts, bellowing oxen, groaning camels, neighing and stamping horses,
and yelling Mongols which resounded on all sides. [Sidenote: 1240]
Against the Polish gate day and night the battering-rams crashed and
splintered, till a breach was effected by which the besiegers entered.
S. Sofia had become the last refuge of the defenders, but the roof,
crowded with fugitives, gave way beneath the pressure, and forestalled
the vengeance of the Mongols. Men, women, and infants, houses,
churches, tombs, and shrines became a prey to the children of the
desert, a vast hecatomb to grace the funeral pyre of the old Russia.
The famous monastery of Petcherski, where the monk Nestor wrote his
Chronicle, shared the general destruction, and from amid its crashing
ruins the pagans seized the massive gold cross which had adorned its
cupola.

From this victory the Horde pressed on through Volhynia and Galicia;
Vladimir, Galitz, and other Red Russian towns fell beneath their
attack, and then the conquering host branched off into two divisions;
one, under the command of Batu, invaded Hungary; the other, led by
Baidar and Kaidu (sons of Jagatai), carried desolation into the Polish
provinces. The storm, sack, and burning of Lublin, Zawikhost, Sendomir,
and Krakow, and the ravaging of the province of Breslau led up to the
pitched battle of Liegnitz, where the might of Poland measured itself
in desperate struggle with the Mongol wave. On the Christian side stood
Duke Henry II. of Silesia; Boleslav, son of the Markgraf of Moravia;
Miecislav, Duke of Ratibor; and Poppon d’Osterna, Provincial Master
(in Prussia) of the Teutonic Order. Outnumbered by the Mongols, the
Poles fought valiantly and with effect, till at last their spirit
failed them; the great Tuk banner, lurid with flaring naphtha, and
decorated with two gleaming sheep bones, transversely crossed, seemed
to reproduce, amid unholy goblin flames, their own mystic symbol. The
powers of darkness and the seething masses of human foes were too
formidable a combination to fight against, and the chivalry of Poland
broke and fled. Duke Henry on that awful night fought savagely as
he fled, but was torn down at length by his untiring pursuers. Many
a count and palatine shared his fate; from every corpse the savage
victors cut an ear, and nine sacks full were sent to the Grand Khan,
together with the head of Duke Henry, as a record of the slain.[38]
In tracing the Mongol march of devastation through Silesia, Moravia,
and Transylvania into Hungary, it is only necessary to observe that
wholesale slaughter, destruction, and sweeping victory continued to
characterise the advance of the Horde.[39] In Hungary men had awaited
with cold and anxious hearts the onfall of the Mongols. Had they not
heard with sorrow and foreboding at Christmas-tide last year the
doleful intelligence of the fall of Kiev? And the wild stories of each
fresh batch of fugitives--Kumans, Russians, Poles, Silesians--increased
the terror of the Mongol name and brought their armies nearer. The King
rallied his nobles round him (none too well-affected though they were)
in a determined effort to stem this swarthy torrent that threatened
to submerge the country. The prelates of the realm, good old fighting
churchmen as they were, led their vassals in person to the fight. On
the field of Mohi (name strangely like that of the other fatal battle
in their history), on the banks of the Sajó, the cross of S. Stefan
went down before the yak-tailed Tuk, and the nomad warriors triumphed
over the Magyar chivalry. Hemmed in on all sides, the Hungarians were
powerless; “it was not a battle, but a butchery.”[40] Bela fled to the
Karpathians, thence to Austria; his brother Kalman reached Kroatia,
where he died of his wounds. Among the slain were the Archbishops
Mathias of Gran and Ugolin of Kalocza, the Bishops of Raab, Neutra, and
Siebenbürgen, and counts and nobles galore, the flower of Hungarian
aristocracy. Surely not to be reckoned as “the weak and the false,”
“the fool and the knave.” Bela, betrayed by the Duke of Austria and
hunted from one refuge to another by the remorseless enemy, took ship
from the Dalmatian coast and left his kingdom in the hands of Batu.
Southern Hungary, Servia, Dalmatia, and parts of Bulgaria were ravaged
by detachments of the Horde, but south of Albania and west of Austria
they do not appear to have penetrated. The news of the death of the
Grand Khan Ogatai, and possibly the increasing difficulty of supporting
so large a body of men in a devastated country, determined Batu to
withdraw his hosts from the scene of their conquests, and the Mongol
swarms melted away from the erstwhile fertile lands which they had
turned into a howling wilderness. Bela returned to take possession
of his stricken kingdom, confronted on all sides by evidences of the
great calamity; “the highways were grown with grass, the fields were
white with bones, and here and there for more than a day’s journey
round, no living soul.”[41] In distant corners of Europe men shuddered
at the tales that were told of these fearsome sons of the desert; in
marvel-loving Constantinople it was gravely averred that they had
the heads of dogs and fed upon human flesh, and the dread of their
coming kept the fishermen of Sweden and Friesland from attending the
herring-market on the English coast, thereby demoralising prices.[42]

FOOTNOTES:

[35] Sir H. H. Howorth, _History of the Mongols_.

[36] Howorth sees in the recurring devastations of such men as Jingis,
Attila, Timur, Bonaparte, and their ilk, the hand of “Providence”
operating to purge the world of “the diseased and the decaying, the
weak and the false, the worn out and the biased, the fool and the
knave.” The Mongol massacres were so thorough and indiscriminate that
it is hard to say what classes of human beings came safest out of
the ordeal, but in the wars of Napoleon it would certainly not be a
survival of the fittest; the weak, the cowardly, the frivolous would be
least likely to perish; the strong, the brave, the patriotic would be
those who “foremost fighting fell.”

[37] Riesenkampff, _Der Deutsche Hof zu Nowgorod_.

[38] Both Von Hammer-Purgstall (_Geschichte der Goldenen Horde_) and
Howorth allude to Poppon as Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, a
post held at that date by Konrad of Thuringen; also both include him
among the slain, though the former has a note to the effect that this
could not have been Poppon “of Osterino,” who died much later. Poppon
of Osterna was at this date Provincial or Land-master in Prussia, and
lived to be elected Grand Master in 1253.

[39] Howorth, following Wolff, discredits the widely-accepted story of
a Bohemian victory over the Mongols at Olmutz, and refers the event to
a success over the Hungarians and Kumans twelve years later.

[40] Von Hammer-Purgstall, _Geschichte der Goldenen Horde_.

[41] Laszlo Szalay, _Geschichte Ungarns_.

[42] Gibbon, _Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_.



CHAPTER V

“THE YEARS THAT THE LOCUST HATH EATEN”


While the Golden Horde was dealing out death and destruction in the
neighbouring western kingdoms, Russia was exerting her powers of
recuperation to regain some of the life that had been crushed out
of her. Like unscathed pheasants stealing back one by one to the
coverts from which the beaters had sent them whirring forth, the
fugitive princes returned to the wrecks of their provinces. Daniel
re-established himself at Galitz, Mikhail at Kiev; Tchernigov was still
infested by roving bodies of Mongols. Meanwhile the Novgorodskie, in
their own little world in the North, pursued as usual a political
existence isolated from that of Central and Eastern Russia. On the top
of their quarrels with the German knights they became involved in a
question of frontier lands with the crown of Sweden. Under the command
of the Skandinavian Prince Birger, an army of Swedes, Norwegians,
and Finns disembarked at the mouth of the Ijhora, an affluent of the
Neva, and threatened an attack upon Ladoga. [Sidenote: 1240] Aleksandr
Yaroslavitch, the young Prince of Novgorod, gathering together the few
men at his disposal, flung himself on the Swedish camp and gained a
brilliant victory, wounding Birger himself in the face with his lance.
In honour of which battle he ever after bore the added name of Nevski
(“of the Neva”).

While the young Yaroslavitch waged brilliant, if not particularly
fruitful, campaigns against German and Lit’uanian enemies, matters were
settling down in gloomy mould in the other Russian provinces. The great
Mongol inundation, which had submerged the Palearctic region (no less
comprehensive definition is adequate), from the basin of the Amur to
the Dalmatian sea-board, had receded so far as to leave the Polish,
Hungarian, and Bulgarian lands high and dry, though strewn with the
wreckage of its violence. But here the shrinkage stopped. The conqueror
Batu halted his retiring hordes in the steppe-land of the lower Volga,
on the left bank of which river he established his camp-city, Sarai.
From here he was able to maintain the ascendancy which his arms had won
him over the Russian princes, and to guard the supremacy of the great
Mongol Empire in the western portions of its extensive territory. And
now comes perhaps the saddest period of Russian history--certainly
the meanest. The locust-plague that had swept through the land had
blighted the fair promise of its growth; Russia was no longer free,
and her princes ruled, not by the grace of God, but by favour of the
Grand Khan, Kuyuk, last heard of before the crumbling walls of Kiev.
To the peasantry, perhaps, it mattered little in whose name they were
taxed or pillaged, whether they beat the forehead to Russian kniaz or
Mongol khan; but to the Princes of the Blood, proud of their heirship
of the throne of Rurik, treasuring their religion as a personal
glory-reflecting possession, jealous of their standing with the royal
houses of Europe, it was a terrible and bitter humiliation to have to
own allegiance to this desert chief, this Asiatic barbarian, as he must
have been in their eyes, this pagan sun-worshipper, who derived his
authority neither from the keys of S. Peter nor from the sceptre of the
Cæsars. Yet, so adaptable to altered circumstances is nature, that even
this galling yoke ceased after a while to deaden the political energies
of its wearers, which found vent, unhappily, not in struggles towards
emancipation, but in a renewal of the old miserable squabbles between
prince and prince. In this internal strife the power of the Khan was
even invoked to overwhelm an opponent, a state of things which, however
degrading it may appear, is not unique in the history of peoples, and
proud peoples moreover. The Jewish factions in the days of Josephus,
groaning under the abhorred dominion of Rome, expended their energies
in fighting each other with any weapon that came to hand, including
the Gentile-wielded authority, and in this same thirteenth century
the Scottish nobles did not scruple to turn the English suzerainty to
account in their party schemes and feuds.

[Sidenote: 1244]

The first to tender his submission at the Court of the Mongol chief
was Yaroslav, Grand Prince of Souzdal, whom Batu confirmed in his
principality and added thereto that of Kiev. Two years later, however,
Yaroslav was required to present himself at the headquarters of the
Grand Khan, in the Amur valley, where he bowed the knee before his
Mongol master and obtained permission to return to his province, dying,
however, before the weary homeward journey was accomplished. Mikhail of
Tchernigov, forced to undertake the same humiliating pilgrimage, died
at the hands of the Mongol priests, a martyr to his religion. His son
Rostislav, a voluntary exile in Hungary, became Ban of Sclavonia and
of Makhov in Bosnia.[43] Daniel of Galitz, farthest removed from the
power of the Khan, was one of the last to surrender his independence
and journey across Russia to the tent of Batu, who received him with
more consideration than had been shown to the other princes. Little
indeed might such humouring avail to gild the bitter pill, that the
proud Romanovitch, whose favour had been sought by princes and Pope,
should go forth from the Mongol presence wearing the title, “Servant
of the Grand Khan.” The enormous fighting-strength at the disposal of
the conquerors, the rapidity with which it could be put in motion, and
the terror inspired by a long succession of victories and attendant
cruelties, helped to uphold their authority as it had contributed to
the ease of their conquests. “In Asia and Eastern Europe scarcely a
dog might bark without Mongol leave, from the borders of Poland and
the coast of Cilicia to the Amur and the Yellow Sea.”[44] Even the
hero of the battle of the Neva found it expedient to toil through some
thousand miles of desert to the habitation of the Grand Khan, and pay
the same distasteful homage to the great barbarian. In his absence
important events were happening at Souzdal. [Sidenote: 1248] His uncle,
Sviatoslav, who had succeeded to the Grand Principality on the death
of Yaroslav, was chased out of this dignity by Mikhail, Aleksandr’s
younger brother. The same winter Mikhail lost his life in battle with
the Lit’uanians. His place was filled by Andrei, another brother, who
had just returned with Aleksandr from the eastern pilgrimage. While
the greater part of Russia was passing into the hands of the Souzdal
family, Daniel was leaning more and more towards Western Europe and
dallying openly with the Pope. No stone was left unturned by the
strenuous Pontiff (Innocent IV.) to tempt the Galician Prince into the
Roman communion, and Daniel certainly nibbled at the bait. Russia had
become a province of Tartary; Constantinople no longer harboured the
Orthodox faith; only in Catholic Europe did the worship of Jesus and
the glory of princes go hand in hand. Hence it is not to be wondered at
that a Russian prince should lose heart in the faith of his fathers,
and seek for support against the Mongols in an alliance with the Holy
See and neighbouring Catholic powers. In 1254 matters had so far
progressed in this direction that, after much beating about the bush
on both sides, the Abbot of Messina, in the capacity of Papal Legate,
placed on Daniel’s head a royal crown and hailed him King of Galicia.
Innocent followed this up by an appeal to the sovereign Princes of
Bohemia, Poland, etc., to unite with Daniel in a crusade against the
Mongols; but Catholic Christendom was at that moment too divided
against itself, in the strife of the Papacy with the Hohenstaufen
emperors, to show a united front to any enemy. The Russian Prince, who
had not definitely committed himself to a change of creed, saw that
he was not likely to obtain any substantial support from the western
princes, and broke off relations with Rome.[45] In the north Aleksandr
was seeking to conserve his power and that of his family by a different
policy--by cultivating a good understanding, namely, with the rulers
of the Horde. Had he chosen the more heroic line of resistance, and
sacrificed his religious scruples to the Latin Pope rather than to the
Mongol Khan, he might, with the alliance of the Swedes and Teutons,
have defied the armies of the desert from behind the swampy forests
which girdled Novgorod. This would have meant, however, abandoning
Kiev and Souzdal as well as the Orthodox faith, possessions which he
was able to retain by acquiescing in the Mongol supremacy. [Sidenote:
(1252)] His less subservient, or less tactful brother, Andrei, had
found it necessary to depart hurriedly from the Grand Principality,
before the advent of the Horde’s agents, sent to punish him for
insubordination to the Grand Khan; Aleksandr, by a friendly visit to
Sardak (son of Batu), obtained the reversion of the escheated fiefs,
and thereby sealed his obligation to his Tartar masters.[46] Five years
later he had to acquiesce in another humiliation, the numbering and
taxing of his provinces by the agents of the new Khan Berke. This was
followed in due course by a command that Novgorod should submit to
the same operation, and Aleksandr, who had defended that city against
all comers, had now to undertake the unpleasant task of reconciling
the citizens to this indignity. Velikie Novgorod hummed like a hive
at the shameful proposal. Alone of all the Russian lands she had kept
her liberty; she had checked the encroachments of Sweden and the
missionary efforts of the German military Orders; had kept the House of
Souzdal on its good behaviour, and dismissed princes, posadniks, and
archbishops with a prodigality of independence; and now, at the hands
of her well-beloved Nevski, this hateful thing was thrust upon her.
No wonder the “proud city of the waters” throbbed with indignation,
and the great bell of Yaroslav echoed the popular tumult. [Sidenote:
1259] But the insistence of the Khan, coupled with the Grand Prince’s
influence, wore down the noisy opposition, and the Novgorodskie, spent
with fury, admitted the Mongol assessors into their houses, and became
the tributaries of the Golden Horde.

While Aleksandr had been employed in linking the northern province on
to the Mongol chain, Daniel had been making tentative experiments in
the direction of freedom, which brought a considerable detachment of
the Horde galloping into his territory. The Galician Prince averted
the storm by a hasty submission, and had the satisfaction of seeing
the monster he had called up vent its fury on his doubtful allies, the
Lit’uanians. [Sidenote: (1258)] But the conquest of a people who had
no towns worth speaking of, and who were adepts in the art of eluding
pursuit, did not exhaust the Mongol craving for loot and slaughter,
and the following year found them still on the war-path, this time in
Polish territory. “From Lublin they circled round to Zavikhvost, passed
across the Vistula, captured Sendomir and the town of Listz.”[47]
Then, having given Daniel an object-lesson in obedience, the Horde
melted away into the steppe--and the Lit’uanians issued anew from
their fastnesses and renewed their border warfare in the surrounding
lands. The attack of the Mongols adds another item to the long list
of enemies against whom these irrepressible people had to battle for
their liberty and their existence. Livlandish knights, the citizens
of Pskov and Novgorod, the Princes of Polotzk, Souzdal, and Galitz,
the palatines of Mazovia, and now the nomads of the desert, battered
and smote perseveringly upon this pre-eminently “buffer State,” whose
security lay partly in the nature of its physical conformation, partly
in the disunion of its enemies. In the fierce struggle for life and
growth which was going on in this corner of Europe the result would
necessarily be a survival of the fittest, and which that fittest was
(under the conditions then obtaining) a glance at a graduated political
map of the region will demonstrate.[48] The very stress of external
attack which bore upon them from all sides, drove the Lit’uanians
into closer fusion and welded them together under the leadership of a
single chief. In the person of Mindovg appears the first historically
reliable Duke of Lit’uania, and under his auspices spring up the towns,
or strongholds, of Kernov and Grodno. A few years later his nephew
Tovtivl is installed, whether by conquest or election is not clear, in
the neighbouring Russian kniazdom of Polotzk. In 1262 occurs the first
recorded aggressive alliance between the Russians and Lit’uanians;
during one of Aleksandr Nevski’s frequent pilgrimages to the Mongol
headquarters, his son Dimitri and his brother Yaroslav (Prince of
Tver), in conjunction with Mindovg and Tovtivl, banded their forces
together in an attack on Uriev, called by the Germans Dorpat. This
town, which had long been a bone of contention between the Knights of
Jesus and the north Russian princes, and had experienced more than once
the fate of a border burg, suffered considerably on this occasion, and
its blazing outworks lit home the booty-laden raiders--roused also
to vengeance, according to some accounts, the Landmaster Werner von
Breithausen, who led his knights, burning and plundering, into Russian
land till failing strength constrained him to return homewards.[49]

The return of Aleksandr from Sarai, where he had for several months
been the guest--or prisoner--of the Khan, was soon followed by his
death, in November 1263--an event which, according to some of the
older Russian historians, was universally wept and deplored by his
bereaved subjects. The people of Novgorod, with whom he should
have been especially popular, seem to have successfully dissembled
their grief, and marked their attachment to his memory by expelling
his son Dimitri, killing Mikhail Stefanovitch, the posadnik of his
choosing, and electing to that office Mikhail Thedorovitch, a boyarin
opposed to the late Prince’s interests. [Sidenote: 1264] Having thus
thoroughly broken “off with the old love,” they dispatched their new
posadnik and a deputation of citizens to offer their allegiance to
Yaroslav, who had succeeded, with the consent of the Khan, to the grand
princedom; Andrei, who lay under the displeasure of the Horde, having
further disqualified himself by dying a few months after his brother.
The terms of the deed by which Yaroslav was invited to assume the
sovereignty of Novgorod are interesting as throwing valuable light
on the position occupied by the city at that period. The Prince was
to swear by the cross to govern Novgorod “conformably to her ancient
laws”; to content himself with presents from the country districts
and dependencies, in place of levying tribute; to govern them only
by Novgorodian magistrates, chosen with the assent of the posadnik;
he was only permitted to visit the vassal town of Staraia Rousa in
the autumn, while Ladoga was out of bounds for himself or any member
of his household, except his fisherman and brewer; his judicial and
domestic officials were to pay “with money” for the use of horses on
their travels, but the military couriers were permitted to impress
what they wanted in this respect for their service; on the other
hand, it was engaged that Novgorodian merchants journeying in the
Grand Principality were to pay “two squirrel-skins for boat, cart,
and measure of flax or hops.” “In consequence, and for guarantee that
you execute these conditions, kiss you the holy cross in presence
of the ambassadors of Novgorod: on that, Prince, we salute you.”
[Sidenote: 1265] This document, which was made out in the name of
the Archbishop, posadnik, boyarins, and people of Novgorod, “from
the oldest to the youngest” (a Russian equivalent for high and low,
or great and small), was subscribed to by Yaroslav, who thereon
became Prince of Novgorod. Among other things to be gleaned from this
covenant is the fact that the Prince was supposed to be supported “by
voluntary contributions”; that minute fiscal and domestic regulations
(similar in nature to those existing in some of the Swiss cantons in
the Middle Ages) were enforced in the lands of the republic and in
relation with other Russian provinces; and that fur-pelts had not yet
been wholly displaced, as a medium of payment, by the circulation of
money. The petty and irritating nature of some of these restrictions
may have been the effect, rather than the cause, of the long series
of quarrels between princes and citizens, but they could hardly fail
to produce friction under the most favourable circumstances. Yaroslav
soon had proof of the independent dispositions of his northern
subjects, who peremptorily thwarted his design for a campaign against
the sister republic of Pskov, which had elected a Lit’uanian chief
as its ruler without consulting the Grand Prince. The latter soon
after returned to the more congenial atmosphere of Vladimir, leaving
as his representative his nephew, Urii Andreievitch. Relieved of the
presence of the Velikie-kniaz, the Novgorodskie, allied with Dovmont,
the aforesaid Prince of Pskov, marched with an army 30,000 strong,
furnished with battering-rams and other siege engines, into the charmed
region of the Baltic provinces, where German knights, the Archbishops
of Riga, Danes, Swedes, Lit’uanians, and Russians disputed over and
over again, with never-flagging zest, every corner of that most
debatable land. The objective of the Russ-Lit’uanian army (with which
marched Dimitri, the whilom Prince of Novgorod), was the Dane-held
town of Rakovor (Wesenberg), in Estland; as they approached the town,
however, the Russians found themselves confronted by a strong force of
“the gentlemen of God” (as they magnanimously, or satirically, styled
the Teutonic knights), under the command of their Landmaster, von
Rodenstein--the last people they were anxious to meet. The dark winter
day (18th February 1268) was all too short to decide the furious combat
which ensued, and many a noted leader, many a thousand men-at-arms,
fell on either side without the issue being settled one way or the
other. The Novgorodskie lost their posadnik and the tisyaszhnik[50]
Kodrat, while on the other side Alexander, Bishop of Dorpat, was among
the slain. Better armed and better disciplined, it is probable that the
knights of the Order inflicted the heavier loss on their opponents,
and the Russians had to abandon their projected attack on Rakovor. The
spring of the next year brought von Rodenstein and his pied-mantled
warriors into the territory of Pskov, where they burnt Izborsk, the old
pre-Rurikian town on the Lake Peipus, and stormed Pskov itself. Its
Lit’uanian Prince was a match for the Teutons, and for ten days steel
and iron and stone clashed and hurtled round the tottering ramparts.
Dovmont himself wounded the Landmaster, and held the enemy at bay till
the bear-blazoned standard of Velikie Novgorod waved in the distance
and warned the knights to retire beyond the border. The Order, however,
by a treaty with the powerful Hanse city of Lubeck, was able to strike
Novgorod in a more vulnerable spot than the shores of Lake Peipus, and
a combination directed against her shipping caused her to conclude a
peace with her German neighbours.[51]

This war, in which both sides had lost heavily in men, while neither
had gained any distinct advantage, had been sustained by Novgorod
without the assistance and without the sanction of the Grand Prince,
and now that it had come to a lame conclusion mutual recriminations
were indulged in by the citizens and by Yaroslav. [Sidenote: 1270]
The sins of the father were visited on the child, so to speak, and
Urii, like so many of his forerunners, was “shown the way” out of the
city, and the old quarrel between the Princes of Souzdal and the great
republic broke out anew. In all the misery and humiliation of their
subject position the Russians clung to the luxury of their private
feuds, as a fate-cursed man takes to a soothing narcotic. Yaroslav
even rose to the brilliantly despicable idea of turning the national
misfortune to account by employing the Mongol hordes to bear upon the
defensive array of the turbulent city. A boyarin sent by him to Sarai
depicted the attitude of the citizens as one of revolt against the
Grand Prince and the authority of the Horde, and invoked the aid of the
Khan to quench this dangerous disaffection. Fortunately for the men
of Novgorod they had a friend at court in the person of Vasili, the
Grand Prince’s youngest brother, who stated their side of the case and
obtained the recall of the punitive force which had been dispatched
against them.[52] The credit of restoring good relations between the
proud republic and the irritated Prince rests with the Metropolitan
Kirill, who was ever ready to exert the influence of his office in the
interests of peace.

While these events had been passing in the north, Daniel Romanovitch
had quietly slipped out of existence, the date of his death being
vaguely fixed “between 1264-1266.”[53] Taking into consideration the
very open question which the possession of his province had been
when he first enforced his claims upon it, the scant notice which
his death attracted was rather a compliment to his statecraft. “King
of Galitz,” where his forerunners had been simply princes, he was
probably the only sovereign in Europe who had outwitted Innocent
IV., and swallowed unconcernedly the bait which was to have lured
him into the Catholic fold. Of his four sons, Roman (who had been
successively dazzled, utilised, and disillusioned by Bela IV. in the
expectation of the reversion of the contested Austrian lands) had died
before him, and the remaining three--Lev, Mstislav, and Shvarn--were
established at Pérémysl, Loutzk, and Galitz respectively, while their
uncle Vassilko reigned at Vladimir. The influence of the latter, who
had loyally supported his brother in all his vicissitudes, prevented
the province from falling to pieces, and an unlooked-for event gave
Galicia new importance. Voeshelk, son of Mindovg, who had succeeded
to a reduced share of his father’s dominions and authority, had
adopted the Christian religion, and displayed from time to time the
uncomfortable zeal of a convert; already he had tasted the sweets of
monastic retirement, and after the short interval of a rule which was
not remarkable for over much mercy towards his subjects, he wished
again for the solitude of the cloister. It was necessary to appoint a
successor, and as a Christian prince was preferred in that capacity,
his choice fell upon Shvarn Danielovitch, who possessed the further
recommendation of having married the Lit’uanian chief’s daughter. Thus
Galitz and the greater part of Lit’uania became united under one ruler,
and it seemed possible that in this direction was to be looked for the
building up of a Russian monarchy--a development from the West rather
than from the East. The union of the States, however, was followed by
a dark and ill-omened deed, when the Prince of Pérémysl, incensed by
the preference shown to his youngest brother, murdered the monk-prince
Voeshelk after a banquet in the city of Vladimir. The sudden death
of Shvarn (1270) ended the union so inauspiciously inaugurated; Lev
succeeded to the fief of Galitz, and Lit’uania was wrested from Russia
and Christianity by the heathen Prince Troiden.

[Sidenote: 1272]

Two years after this event died Yaroslav-Yaroslavitch, Grand Prince
of Souzdal-Vladimir and Prince of Novgorod. In the former province he
was succeeded peaceably by his brother Vasili; at Novgorod, naturally,
affairs did not pass off so smoothly. Dimitri Aleksandrovitch was
chosen by the posadnik and many of the citizens in opposition to
Vasili, and another contest between Novgorod and Souzdal seemed
imminent. The peace party in the former province averted the threatened
rupture by out-voting the adherents of Dimitri, and Novgorod was
once more united with the Grand Principality. It is interesting to
note that the rulers of the republic were being chosen more and more
exclusively from the reigning family of Souzdal-Vladimir, and here
may be seen for the first time since the death of Vladimir the Holy
a reliable hint of the germ-growth of “all the Russias.” With Pskov
and Polotzk in Lit’uanian hands, Kiev and the steppes little more
than Mongol outposts, and Tchernigov enjoying but a shadow of its
former importance, Novgorod, Souzdal, and Galitz between them make up
very nearly the total of the Russian-ruled lands; and of these three
provinces the two largest have settled down under one family. Like
the acorn-seed, Russia had to decay and shrivel to a certain extent
before she could begin to grow; but the process of decomposition and
denudation was not yet arrested.

Again did the Russian Princes of Galicia, Volhynia, and Smolensk call
in the aid of the Mongols--this time against the Lit’uanians, who were
becoming more and more uncomfortable neighbours. In two campaigns the
latter held their own against the combined Tartar-Russian attack, and
the idolaters of Grodno and Novgorodek successfully resisted the forces
of Christianity and Islam--to which latter creed the Mongols had a few
years previously been converted.

In 1276 Vasili Yaroslavitch was gathered to his fathers, and Dimitri
came in, as peacefully as the proverbial lamb, to the possession of the
Grand Principality and of Velikie Novgorod. Not long had he been on the
throne ere the wildest anarchy broke out in his dominions; scarcely
had the inevitable quarrel with Novgorod been smoothed over than civil
war desolated the grand province. Andrei Aleksandrovitch, kniaz of
the appanage of Gorodetz on the Volga, was brother to Dimitri--by the
accident of birth a younger brother; an accident which he proposed
to correct with the assistance of the Horde. In league with these
formidable warriors and with his uncles Thedor and Mikhail, Andrei let
slip the dogs of war on the unhappy province, and drove Dimitri from
the field. After the Mongols had worked their will on the wretched
inhabitants, and established Andrei as Grand Prince of a ravaged and
depopulated territory, they retired with their booty and captives and
left the two princes to fight out their own quarrels. [Sidenote: 1283]
Andrei soon had to call them in again, and Dimitri, not to be outdone,
played Mongol against Mongol, and secured the support of Nogai, the
almost independent Khan of the Oukrain steppes. The people, as usual,
suffered heavily at the hands of the nomad squadrons: the “Scourge
of God” has a way of falling on the most innocent shoulders. The
condition of the Russian peasant and tiller of the soil was at this
time deplorable. Debarred from exercising his labour on the fertile,
but robber-haunted lands of the south, he was obliged to struggle
patiently with the mighty forces of the northern forests, like the
Indian ryot fighting against the encroachments of the jungle; only in
place of elephant, boar, and sambur, which ruin from time to time the
fruits of the latter’s toil, the former had periodically to bewail the
devastations of Kuman, Mongol, and, not seldom, Russian raiders.

With intervals of exhaustion, the war of the brothers dragged on
for many years, kept alive, now by intrigues at the Mongol Courts,
now by raid and rapine in the lands of Souzdal and Péréyaslavl. Out
of this seething incoherent dust-storm rises one tangible fact, the
independence of the province of Tver; born of anarchy, this little
principality shall contribute its quota to the red page of Russian
history ere it sinks back into obscurity. Under its young Prince,
Mikhail Yaroslavitch, it has taken advantage of the weakness and
embarrassments of Dimitri to secure for itself a separate existence,
and to impair the solidity of the grand province. The Novgorodians,
but languidly attached to the interests of the rival princes, started
a domestic war of their own, one of those vigorous, exuberant
burgh-strifes peculiar to the free cities of Northern Europe in the
Middle Ages--a strife in which the whole population took part, from
the Archbishop, posadnik, and boyarins, down to the “youngest people”;
a strife which has been handed down blurred and sketchy, devoid of
meaning and purpose, if it ever had any, but still instinct with life
and movement. Wild crowds skirling through narrow streets, hunting the
posadnik into the protection of the Archbishop, hammering on the closed
door of the sanctuary, the Cathedral of S. Sofia; tumultuous gatherings
in the great square, angry dooming of citizens, hurlings of struggling
victims from the bridge into the Volkhov; and above all these scenes of
disorder, the great bell of Yaroslav clanging and dinning, like some
evil spirit of unrest prisoned in its owl-tower. The picture lives.

Western Russia also had its own troubles, or rather it had become
involved in those of Poland, where, the scruples of Boleslas “the
Chaste” having prevented him from reproducing his species, his death in
1279 was followed by a scramble for his throne. Where there is no heir
there are many, may not be a proverb, but it has all the qualifications
for one. The Dukes of Mazovia, Krakow, Silesia, and Kujavia put forward
their interests, and the cousins Lev of Galitz and Vladimir of Volhynia
entered into the fray without any more substantial claim than a backing
of Mongol horsemen, borrowed from the Horde. Even this powerful
argument broke down when the supporters of the new Duke, Lesko the
Black, defeated the Russ-Mongol army near Sendomir with great slaughter
(1280). The following year Galicia and Volhynia received return
visits from the Poles, but the dissensions which soon after broke out
in the palatinate of Mazovia again gave the Red Russian princes the
opportunity of interesting themselves in Polish affairs.

In Eastern Russia Andrei had practically established his authority
in the Grand Principality; the Tartar-hunted, fate-cursed Dimitri,
driven even from his beloved domain of Péréyaslavl, was compelled at
last to seek refuge with his cousin and erstwhile enemy, Mikhail of
Tver, and renounce his claim to the grand province, stipulating only
for the possession of his hereditary fief. This was conceded him, and
the wanderer turned his weary steps towards his burnt and plundered
Péréyaslavl, which he was not to see.

  The dead man rode through the autumn day
      To visit his love again.

[Sidenote: 1294] On the road to Volok died Dimitri Aleksandrovitch, and
Ivan his son reigned at Péréyaslavl in his stead.

Andrei’s position as Grand Prince was more than ever assured, but
the long struggle had sapped the authority formerly attaching to
that dignity in the lands of Souzdal; not only Tver, but Moskva
and Péréyaslavl had taken unto themselves a greater measure of
independence--apart, that is to say, from their subjection to the
Horde. Unable to overawe this dangerous coalition by superior force,
Andrei laid his griefs at the feet of the Khan, hoping to establish
his ascendancy by the same means with which he had overthrown his
brother’s. [Sidenote: 1296] The result of this move was a renewal
of the old “council on the carpet”; most of the princes interested,
with the Bishops of Vladimir and Sarai, gathered at the former city
in obedience to the summons of the Khan’s deputy, who presided with
Oriental gravity over their somewhat heated deliberations. Even this
significant reminder of their servitude could not depress the princes
into the decencies of debate; angry words flashed out, and swords leapt
from their scabbards, and had not the Vladuika[54] Simeon, Bishop
of Vladimir, parted the combatants, the blood of Rurik might have
been squandered on the carpet. In the end Andrei had to accommodate
himself with the vassal princes, who were too strong for him to subdue,
and a peace was effected in 1304 between the two parties. Two years
previously Ivan Dmitrovitch, dying without issue, had bequeathed his
province of Péréyaslavl to his uncle, Daniel of Moskva--a circumstance
which added considerably to the importance of the latter principality.

Thus drew to a close a century which had witnessed a vital dislocation
in the course of Russian history, which had been fraught with important
changes in Europe generally. The House of Hohenstaufen, which had
played so bold a part in the affairs of Germany, Italy, and Palestine,
had gone down in the death-struggle with the Papacy, and out of the
ashes of its ruin had risen, phœnix-like, the House of Habsburg, which
one day was to prove the surest bulwark against the enemies of the Holy
See; in Rudolf, petty Count of Habsburg and Kyburg, the Empire had
found the strongest master it had known since the death of its founder.
In that other Empire, whose luxurious capital seemed to enervate and
paralyse the manhood of its rulers, the Catholic dynasty had drooped
and shrivelled, and when the trade jealousies of Genoa led her to
strike with the Greeks against the Latin allies of her hated rival,
Venice, the end was at hand; the House of Courtenay gave way to that
of Paleologus, and the formula “proceeding from the Father by the Son”
re-echoed once more in the high places of S. Sofia. In Hungary died
out with the century the male line of the princely House of Arpad,
which had given sovereigns to that country since the first erection of
the Magyar State; from this point the crown of S. Stefan became the
ambition and prize of the surrounding princes, a fate similar to that
which overtook the neighbouring kingdom of Bohemia a year or two later.
The Livlandish debatable lands still seethed and bubbled with the wars
of the rival immigrants. The gentlemen of God maintained a vigorous
contest with the See of Dorpat, with the city and Archbishop of Riga,
and with the Lit’uanians. In Riga the burghers burnt the church and
chapel of the Order and killed sixty of the convent brothers (1297). On
the other hand their Archbishop, Johann of Schwerin, was besieged in
his castle of Treiden and taken prisoner by the Order, to the scandal
of Pope Boniface VIII. The heathen Lit’uanians, headed by their Prince,
Viten, and allied with the Church troops of Riga and Dorpat, fought
against the knights “in eighteen months nine bloody battles.” In 1298
they won a decisive victory over the Landmaster Bruno, in which the
latter and many of his knights lost their lives. The Komthur Berthold,
with reinforcements from Prussia, wiped out this reverse by a victory
at Neuermühlen, and later the new Landmaster ravaged the archiepiscopal
territory. Ultimately the release and withdrawal of the militant
Archbishop and the appointment of Isarnus Tacconi, the Pope’s chaplain,
to the See of Riga, relieved the situation and gave some measure of
peace to this over-apostleised land.[55]

In 1300 the Novgorodians witnessed a descent of the Swedes upon the
banks of the Neva, where they built the fortress of Landskron, which
position was promptly attacked and destroyed by the troops of the
republic, supported by those of the Grand Prince. [Sidenote: 1304]
Four years later the death of Andrei involved Northern Russia in a
contest between Mikhail of Tver and Urii Danielovitch of Moskva for the
vacant sovereignty. Novgorod and the greater number of the Souzdalskie
boyarins declared for the former, but both candidates hastened to
put their respective cases before the tribunal of the Khan, leaving
their followers meanwhile to fight the matter out between themselves.
A march of the Tverskie boyarins against Péréyaslavl was intercepted
by Ivan, brother of the Prince of Moskva, and their voevoda Akinf
(Hyacinth) perished in the battle which ensued. The decision of the
Khan in favour of Mikhail did not end the contest. The town of Moskva
twice repelled the attack of the Prince of Tver, who was, however,
successful in establishing his authority in the remaining portions
of the grand province and at Novgorod. The accession of a new Khan,
by name Usbek, necessitated the departure of Mikhail to Sarai, where
he remained long enough to lose the affections of the Novgorodskie,
who transferred their allegiance to the Prince of Moskva, grandson
of their champion Nevski. This readjustment of the political balance
enabled Urii to reopen the contest with the Grand Prince; long time
the struggle dragged on, indefinitely protracted by the shifting
policy of the Khan. For the practice of appealing to Sarai to reverse
the decisions of Souzdal had become with the Russian princes a habit,
confirmed, like opium smoking, by constant indulgence. Both candidates
for the Grand Principality were constantly to be found at the Court
of the Khan, or devastating their opponent’s provinces with Tartar
troops; Urii even contracted a matrimonial alliance with the sister of
Usbek. Nor were the princes the only competitors for the Mongol favour;
the Metropolitan Petr, in 1313, sought and obtained from the Khan an
exemption from taxes for the priests and monks, and a confirmation of
the clerical privileges,--concessions which would seem to indicate
that the Mongols united with their Mohametanism the toleration which
distinguished their early Shamanism--or did the wily Khan gauge the
measure of Holy Church, and conciliate her on her most susceptible
side? Whatever the clergy might gain by the Mongol patronage, to the
princes it brought nothing but disaster. [Sidenote: 1319] Mikhail
himself was destroyed by the agency he had invoked, and Urii had the
miserable triumph of seeing his rival stabbed to death by the officers
of the Khan. Six years later Dimitri Mikhailovitch avenged his father’s
death by spitting Urii on his sword in the Tartar camp, an affront
which was punished by the strangulation of the offender. Aleksandr,
another son of the ill-fated Mikhail, succeeded to the principality of
Tver and to the dignity of Grand Prince, but a mad act of fear-impelled
violence drew down on himself, his family, and province the consuming
fury of the Khan. A harmless, or at any rate customary, visit from a
Mongol envoy to the city of Tver, roused the apprehensions of Prince
and people, who feared that an attempt was to be made to convert them
forcibly to Islam. Taking courage from the fact that the stranger had
but a feeble escort--a circumstance which should have confuted his
suspicions--Aleksandr roused his subjects, (gathered in great numbers
at Tver for the Feast of the Assumption), to fall upon and annihilate
the Mongol band. [Sidenote: 1327] The Russians can scarcely be
condemned for an act of treachery towards an enemy who had never shown
a scrupulous regard for honour and good faith, but the deed was one of
criminal folly, and even its heroic aspect is blighted by the fact that
Aleksandr had remained subservient to the Khan despite the murder of
his father and brother, and was only roused to rebellion by an alarm of
personal danger. The vengeance of Usbek took a cynical turn; instead of
sending his hordes killing and harrying into the devoted province, he
entrusted the vindication of his outraged majesty to a Russian prince
and Russian troops. Ivan Danielovitch of Moskva, with his own forces
and those of Souzdal, reinforced by a strong detachment of Mongols,
marched, nothing loth, into the domains of his rival, and scattered
desolation around him with a thoroughness which left the Khan nothing
to complain of. [Sidenote: 1328] The Prince of Tver did not wait to
share with his people the chastisement he had drawn down upon them,
and Ivan obtained permission to assume the well-earned title of Grand
Prince.

So completely had the centre of Russian interests shifted eastwards
towards the valley of the upper Volga, that the lands of the
Dniepr basin, Kiev, Volhynia, Galitz, etc., once the heart of the
confederation, were now scarcely to be ranked as outlying members of
it. The influences which were responsible for this gradual alienation
from the main body, and for the apathy with which the Grand Princes
regarded this rounding-off of their dominions, may probably have arisen
from the same cause, namely, the Mongol over-mastery. On the one hand,
so bound up had the East Russian princes become with the neighbouring
khanates, that intercourse with Souzdal meant intercourse with Sarai,
and all its attendant humiliations; on the other, the rivalries which
existed in the Grand Principality and the necessity its rulers found
for frequent and prolonged visits to the Mongol Court, precluded them
from giving much attention to the affairs of the western provinces.
Thus it fell out that, failing the arising of an exceptionally vigorous
local prince, a Roman or a Mstislav, these fertile Russian lands were
at the mercy of the boldest bidder. The exceptional personality was at
hand, but he was not a Russian. Gedimin, Prince of Lit’uania, whom the
early historians depicted as having risen from the position of a court
official to that of prince by the murder of his sovereign and master,
attained that dignity by the more prosaic and respectable method of
hereditary succession, being son of Lutouvier (1282-93) and brother
of Viten (1293-1316).[56] Under the latter the Lit’uanians had been
united in large and well-disciplined armies, as the Poles and the Order
knights knew well, and in the direction of both these neighbours their
frontier had remained intact. This in itself was no small achievement,
considering how the kindred lands of Prussia, Kourland, Livland,
Estland, etc., had fallen beneath the persistent proselytising and
colonising attacks of the western invaders. By Gedimin was carried into
operation a policy of expansion in the detached Russian lands to the
south and east,--a policy effected, like that of the Angevin kings of
England in France, and of the Habsburgs in Austria, Bohemia, Karinthia,
and the Tyrol, by a combination of conquest and matrimonial alliances.
But it was not only by the absorption of neighbouring territory that
Gedimin signalised his reign; he lifted the land which he had inherited
from the position of an obscure chieftaincy to that of a formidable
State. At war nearly the whole of his reign with the German knights,
he nevertheless did not permit himself to be influenced by the cruelty
and treachery which accompanied their religious zeal, but displayed
on his part a toleration for different creeds and nationalities which
might have been imitated with advantage by other European princes.
From his stronghold at Vilna, where the ruins of his castle still
mantle the heights above the town, he sent letters to Lubeck, Stettin,
Rostok, and other cities of the Hansa league, offering the rights
and privileges of that organisation and of the town of Riga, to all
artisans, mechanics, and traders who should care to settle in his
principality--an invitation which was eagerly responded to. In the wars
waged by him against the Order, both in Prussia and Livland, one figure
is very conspicuous--that of David, _starosta_ of Grodno, who appears
in the Teutonic Chronicles under the picturesque title of Castellan von
Garthen. It was this boyarin who held the troubled border against the
incessant attacks of the Knights of Mary, and led many a foray into
their territory.[57] One of the most notable of these was in the winter
of 1322-23, when the cold was so severe that even the forest trees
were nearly killed, and men erected inns on the ice of the Baltic Sea
for the travellers to and from Germany and the nearest Skandinavian
lands--this self-same winter came the Lit’uanians following hard on
a raid-march of the Cross Brethren, burning and wasting from Dorpat
to Memel, and returning through the bleak and frozen march-lands
with great spoil of cattle and 5000 prisoners. Truly a winter to be
remembered.[58] Victory did not blind Gedimin to the advantages of a
durable peace with the Order, to secure which he was even ready to
adopt the faith of the foes he had so often conquered. [Sidenote: 1323]
Accordingly, at his initiative, a peace was compacted between the
various units which existed side by side in the East sea provinces; the
Archbishop of Riga, the Bishop of Oesel, the towns of Riga, Revel, and
Dorpat, the Teutonic Order, and the principality of Lit’uania, entered
into a religious, territorial, and commercial treaty one with another,
and Gedimin wrote to the Pope (John XXII.), to inform him that he was
ready to become a Christian and to recognise the supremacy of the Holy
See. Gladly did the French Pontiff prepare to receive this important
lamb into the Catholic fold, and at the same time put a limit to the
Teutonic conquests in the Baltic lands, and two legates (the Bishop
of Alais and the Abbot of Puy) were dispatched forthwith to Vilna.
But in the meanwhile Gedimin had had a lesson as to the value of “the
true faith of a Christian,” and informed the disconcerted churchmen
that he intended to die in the beliefs of his fathers, and would have
none of their religion or their Pope. “Where,” he demanded, “will you
find more crime, more injustice, violence, corruption and usury, than
with the Christians, particularly with the priesthood and the Knights
of the Cross?” Travel is said to enlarge and educate the mind, but
it was scarcely necessary to come all the way from Avignon to learn
that. [Sidenote: 1324] The Order had not considered itself bound by a
compact with a pagan, and, in alliance with the unwilling Bishops of
Oesel and Dorpat, had burst into the Lit’uanian lands and plundered the
capital, Vilna; in return for which treachery, or elasticity of honour,
Gedimin sacked the town of Rositter and renounced the creed of the
Christmen.[59] Catholic Europe was angry at this backsliding, if one
may judge by the epithets showered on the half-saved soul; a depth of
sorrowing wrath is revealed in the expressions “double-headed monster,
abominable mockery of nature, precursor of Antichrist.” Much mud might
they throw, bitterly might they anathematise in those far-off days, yet
not thus does history remember the grand old pagan whose castle ruins
crown the heights above the Vilia.

In the year of Gedimin’s accession (1316) died Urii Lvovitch, of Galitz
and Volhynia, who was succeeded in those fiefs by his sons Andrei and
Lev respectively. Colourless princes, these latter representatives of
the Roman-Mstislavitch family, known only to history by the alliance
which the instinct of preservation led them to make with the Teutonic
Order. That they both died in the year 1324 appears from a letter
of the Polish King Ladislas to Pope John, in which that fact is
mentioned; the two provinces devolved upon Urii Andreievitch, the last
Russian Prince of Galicia, the last for many a hundred years who ruled
Volhynia. His death (about 1336) ended the male line of his family,
and left as heiress of Galitz his sister Mariya, who married the Polish
prince, Troiden of Tchersk. By the marriage of another heiress, the
daughter of Lev of Volhynia, with Loubart, a son of Gedimin, that
province was brought into the Lit’uanian dominion, which was further
extended by the succession of Olgerd (Gedimin’s eldest son) to the
fief of his wife’s father the Prince of Vitebsk.[60] The annexation of
Kiev, attributed by many historians to Gedimin, was undoubtably of a
later date, as the Chronicles make mention of a Russian Prince Thedor,
ruling in that city under Mongol supervision, as late as 1361.[61]
Even so, the Russian lands owning the sovereignty of Gedimin--Polotzk,
Pinsk, Tourov, Volhynia, Loutzk, and Vitebsk sufficiently justify his
title, _rex Letwinorum et multorum Ruthenorum_, and the Grand-duchy of
Lit’uania might claim to be more Russian than the Grand Principality of
Souzdal, with its Slav-Finn-Turko population.

But here, under the fostering care of Ivan Danielovitch, the new
Russia, the Russia of the East, was germinating amid the decay of
shedded provinces and lost liberties. Pocketing his pride and leaving
outlying lands to take care of themselves, the Grand Prince sought to
secure for his family and for his capital a preponderance over the
other Souzdalian fiefs. His first step was to secure the Church, in
the person of the Metropolitan, to grace with its presence the city
of Moskva; lured thither from the now unfashionable Vladimir by the
erection of a magnificent new church of the Assumption (fit dedication,
for had not Tver wrought her ruin on the date of that festival?) the
sainted Petr not only lived, but died and was buried in the budding
capital; where also the succeeding Metropolitan, Theognost, took up his
residence. In cultivating the good graces of the Khan Ivan was equally
successful, but he had to work hard for the attainment of his object.
Konstantin Mikhailovitch had been recognised by all parties as Prince
of Tver, but Usbek was anxious to possess himself of the person of
Andrei, and the Grand Prince had to go seek at the Khan’s behest, and
bring the wanderer home. Andrei preferred to remain at Pskov rather
than visit Sarai, to which place the princes of Tver, like the animals
who ventured into the lion’s den of the fable, went oftener than they
returned. The burghers of Pskov refused to give up the fugitive,
and Russia beheld the spectacle of the Grand Prince, the Archbishop
Moses of Novgorod, and the Metropolitan Theognost, hurling threats,
reproaches, and excommunication at the defiant republic on behalf of
the Mongol Khan,--the latter weapon all the more terrifying in that it
was here used for the first time. Yet the result of all this chiding
and banning was not commensurate with the energy expended; Andrei
sheltered himself in Lit’uania, and again at Pskov, and not till ten
years later did the homing instinct lead him to submit to the pleasure
of the Khan, and receive at his hands pardon and restoration (1338). In
the absence of his rival, Ivan had steadily and placidly pursued his
fixed policy of Moskovite aggrandisement, and gradually established
his authority over the neighbouring Princes of Souzdal, Rostov, and
Riazan. With Novgorod he had the usual differences, unavoidable between
a prince with high ideas of authority and a people with wide views
of independence, but the restless citizens grew tired of quarrelling
with a man who was always dangerous yet never struck; also they had
an absorbing feud on hand with the Pskovitchi, who presumed to have
a bishop of their own, instead of depending for spiritual guidance
upon Novgorod. On this account the Archbishop of the latter city, the
strenuous Vasili, was able to effect a reconciliation between prince
and people. Thus things worked smoothly with the smoothly-working
kniaz, Ivan Kalita, as they called him, from the kalita (bag or
pouch) which he carried at his girdle, and from which he was wont to
distribute alms to the needy. Some have unkindly suggested that the bag
was intended for receipts rather than disbursements, in which case, if
parsimony is to be added to his piety, superstition, and unscrupulous
politics, he may well pass for a Russian edition of Louis XI.

The return of the exile Andrei, restored to his principality and to
the favour of the Khan, was a disagreeable interlude in the harmony
of Kalita’s reign. Following an instinctive habit, he went to Sarai.
Shortly after his return to Moskva, his cousin of Tver was summoned to
present himself at the Horde. It did not need the pale faces of his
courtiers and family, nor the ill-boding presages which their fancy
conjured up, to warn the doomed prince of his impending fate; down
the broad current of the Volga he drifted, to “Sarra, in the Londe of
Tartarie,” where “dwelt a king that werried Russie.”[62] [Sidenote:
1339] The judgment of Usbek removed the source of disquietude from
Ivan’s path, and the headless corpses of Andrei and his son Thedor,
arrived at Tver one winter’s day, grim flotsam of a perished freedom.
To complete the object-lesson of their subjection, the citizens beheld
the great bell of Tver removed from their cathedral and transferred
to Moskva. [Sidenote: 1341] Not long, however, did its iron-throated
music soothe the pride of Ivan-with-the-money-bag, whose death-knell
it tolled some twelve months later. And while they conduct the dead
prince to his rest, with aid of chant and litany, wailing dirge and
gleaming taper, and invocations to saints, archangels, and all the
glorious host of Heaven, in different wise are they helping that other
master-builder of kingdoms into the Unknown; with pagan rite, with
blazing pyre, favourite horse and faithful henchman, goes great Gedimin
to his fathers, to _his_ dreamt hereafter, where “on the distant plain
the warrior grasps his steed again.” Each to his own; at any rate both
are dead, and whether they ride over a boundless plain or stand by a
tideless sea, in “blue obscurity” or in a “great white light,” their
place knows them not, and Lit’uania and Moskva must have new masters.

In both countries the drift towards cohesion and centralisation is
strong, but custom is stronger; Gedimin’s realm is for the present
parcelled out among his seven sons and his brother Voin; the lands of
Moskva are divided between the three surviving sons of Kalita, Simeon,
the eldest, having the capital city and the title of Grand Prince
subject, of course, to the consent of the Khan. It was a critical
moment in the fortunes of the House of Moskva, when the young prince
presented himself for approval at Sarai, with a respectful appeal for
a renewal of past favours. The news of the death of Ivan had sent more
than one kniaz in eager haste across Russia to the picturesque city on
the Volga’s shore; the two Konstantins (of Tver and Souzdal) hoped to
undermine the Mongol support which propped up the ascendancy of Simeon,
and ruin their rival by the same means with which his father had kept
them under. But the Prince of Moskva, with the treasures of the Grand
Principality and the tribute of Velikie Novgorod at his disposal, was
able to put his case in the most favourable light before the Khan and
his officers, and the inherited instinct of almsgiving helped him no
doubt to retain the hereditary dignities.

FOOTNOTES:

[43] A. M. H. J. Stockvis, _Manuel d’histoire, de généalogie, etc._

[44] Colonel Yule, _The Book of Ser Marco Polo_.

[45] Karamzin.

[46] S. Solov’ev, _Istoriya Rossie_. Karamzin.

[47] N. P. Dashkevitch, _Knazenie Daniela Galitznago_.

[48] E. A. Freeman, _Historical Geography of Europe_.

[49] S. Solov’ev, _Istoriya Rossie_.

[50] Commander of a thousand men.

[51] _Geschichte der Ostseeprovinzen._ Karamzin. S. Solov’ev.

[52] Karamzin.

[53] S. Solov’ev.

[54] Vladuika--a title of respect given to the highest clergy.

[55] _Geschichte der Ostseeprovinzen._

[56] V. B. Antonovitch, _Otcherk istorie Velikago Kniajhestva
Litovskago_. Th. Schiemann, _Russland, Polen, u. Livland_. A. Stokvis,
_Manuel d’histoire, etc._

[57] V. B. Antonovitch.

[58] _Geschichte der Ostseeprovinzen._

[59] _Geschichte der Ostseeprovinzen._

[60] V. B. Antonovitch. Th. Schiemann.

[61] V. B. Antonovitch.

[62] Chaucer.



CHAPTER VI

THE GROWING OF THE GERM


Never since the overthrow on the Sit had a Russian ruler been as
emphatically and unquestionably Grand Prince as was Simeon Ivanovitch,
yclept “the Proud.” Some of the most valuable provinces had indeed
fallen away from the realm, but if the title Prince “of all the
Russias,” which Simeon was the first to adopt, was little justified
by the facts, at least he was, among his compeers, master of what
remained. The very qualification of his powers which the over-lordship
of the Khan implied, was in fact an added source of authority, for
the Russian mind had come to accept the Mongol dominion with the same
submissiveness, if with less enthusiasm, that it displayed towards the
paternal tyranny of the Church. Supported by the double certificate
of Heaven and Sarai, with the iarlikh[63] of Usbek in his hands and
his compliant Metropolitan at his side, the Grand Prince stood head
and shoulders above his brother princes and would-be competitors.
And here may be noted an advantage which the builders of the Russian
Empire possessed over the continuators of the Germanic one, and indeed
over most of the princes of Catholic Europe. The Church “went with”
the secular authority. In western Christendom the popes, after having
entreated the services of emperors and kings as their surest agency
for the destruction of the heathen religions, kicked down the ladder
by which they had climbed to their high position, and convulsed Europe
for many centuries by a bitter strife with the temporal sovereignties;
till the up-springing of a new enemy, questioning the Divine authority
of tiara and crown alike, drew Pontiff, Kaiser, and absolute monarchs
together, like cattle herding in a storm. In Russia no such schism
endangered the sanctity of the ruling forces, possibly because no such
prosperity had been attained by either. “The palace rubbed shoulders
with the Church and the monastery, and was scarcely distinguishable
from them.”[64] The Grand Prince was holy and Orthodox, the Church was
national and official. Ban and interdict, those bogies of mediæval west
Europe, were here familiar sprites which worked at the bidding of the
Grand Prince against his enemies. As the worship of the old Slavonic
gods Peroun and Volos, Daszhbog, Stribog, etc. gave way by degrees
to that of the One-in-Three and the dependent galaxy of saints, so
did the old veneration for a crowd of Rurik-descended princes merge
gradually into awe of one Heaven-born sovereign and a satellite-band of
his officials, amongst whom were the hierarchy of the national Church.
And in another respect the Russian rulers had their task simplified
for them, namely, in the long-suffering docility of the bulk of their
subjects. Here were no defiant goat-herds such as chased the might of
the Habsburgs from the Graubunden Alps, no _Bauernkriegern_ kindling
the fires of civil war throughout an empire, no _Jacquerie_ distracting
an already distraught kingdom. The Slav peasant took all the added
ills of life, droughts, famines, Polovtzi, Mongols, grasshoppers, and
pestilences, tithes and taxes, with a fatalism he had brought with
him from the East, a stoicism learnt possibly from the camel in his
nomad days. A man who, in addition to the privations incidental to
his poverty, will at the bidding of his Church fast “during the seven
weeks of Lent, during two or three weeks in June, from the beginning of
November till Christmas, and on all Wednesdays and Fridays during the
year,”[65] can have little of the bread-rioter or throne-shaker in his
constitution. The very placidity, however, with which he received the
dispensations of Providence in whatever shape they chose to assume,
rendered his allegiance a matter of circumstance rather than principle.
He would accept the mastery of the Lit’uanians, for instance, as he had
accepted the Mongols, as he had accepted the Varangians; like a dog of
too accommodating disposition, he wagged his tail to whichever master
shouted loudest, and just now the Lit’uanian princes were shouting loud
indeed. Chiefly as yet among themselves. The death of Gedimin had left
his country in a position which required skilful handling, while at
the same time the division of the State into eight portions precluded
any one prince from having a controlling voice in the direction of
affairs--an arrangement which could only lead to disaster. Fortunately
for Lit’uania the political foresight and energy of her defunct Grand
Duke had descended in full measure upon one at least of his sons,
Olgerd of Vitebsk. He, while engaged in ravaging the Order territories
in Livland, watching for an attack from across the Polish border, or
casting his eyes over the tempting Russian provinces ready to fall into
his clutches, saw clearly that to live and expand, to prey and not be
preyed upon, Lit’uania must have a guiding hand, one head instead of
many. In order to attain his eagle-soaring ambition he borrowed the
habits of the cuckoo, and ousted his brothers unceremoniously from the
hereditary nest. An exception was wisely made in favour of Kestout,
who equalled him in energy and military achievement, and without whose
help the _coup d’etat_ could scarcely have been effected. Acting in
concert, the brothers seized on the capital, Vilna, and re-established
the grand-dukedom; by a happy division of labour Kestout became
warden of the Polish and Order-land marches, leaving Olgerd to pursue
his conquests and acquisitions in the south-east--an arrangement
which enabled the Grand Duke to add Briansk, Seversk, Kiev, and the
surrounding district to his possessions, and to retain Volhynia against
the King of Poland.[66] With the Prince of Moskva pursuing a policy
of cautious inaction, the only safe course open to him under the
circumstances, Olgerd was able not only to stretch his dominion from
a foothold on the Baltic coast to the shores of the Black Sea, but to
obtain a solid influence over the governments of Smolensk, Pskov, and
Velikie Novgorod. As early as 1346 he appears to have had a hold on the
councils of the latter city; the posadnik Evstaf (Eustace) had spoken
unwisely and not well of the great Lit’uanian,--had in fact called
him a dog. The indiscreet expression reached the ears of Olgerd, who
demanded the death of the offending dignitary. The Vetché armed the
city in defence of the posadnik, reconsidered the matter, and ended by
sacrificing Evstaf to the resentment of the Grand Duke.[67] An action
so opposed to the traditional temper of the proud republic that it is
only to be explained by a strong motive of political expediency. And
in fact an alliance with Lit’uania was valuable to Pskov and Novgorod,
both as a bulwark against German aggression and as a counterpoise to
the encroaching power of Moskva. In the former relation, the resisting
power of the leagued principalities of the North was severely tested by
the warrior monks of the Order; able to draw unfailing supplies of men
and marks from the States of the Empire, the knights had bought Estland
from the King of Denmark (1347), had inflicted a severe defeat on the
Lit’uanian army (1348), and later carried war and desolation into the
lands of Polotzk, Pskov, and Novgorod (1367). With the help of Olgerd
the Russians were able to make a diversion upon Dorpat, and peace was
at length effected with the Order in 1371.[68] From this it will be
seen that the Grand Duke of Lit’uania was a far more prominent figure
in the land than the Grand Prince “of all the Russias.” But of the
policy of these two contrasted state-workers it may be said that while
Olgerd built, the son of Kalita dug. Intrenching himself around the
unit of Moskva, the last-named silently and persistently undermined the
power of the neighbouring princes, and established his own authority
on a sure foundation. Novgorod might wait; Lit’uania might wait; the
Horde might wait. Thus delving and waiting ruled Simeon, so quaintly
named “the Proud,” till death swept him into his cherished cathedral--a
victim, possibly, to the terrible Black Pestilence which was then
desolating Russia.

[Sidenote: 1353-1359]

The succeeding Grand Prince, Ivan Ivanovitch, who found favour in
the sight of the new Khan Tchanibek, displayed all his brother’s
patience without any of his policy. His weakly pacific reign marked
a partial thaw in the iron frost of Moskovite supremacy, which had
bound North-east Russia in its grip under the rule of his three
immediate predecessors. Souzdal, Riazan, and Tver blossomed anew into
independence, and enjoyed a S. Luke’s summer of importance and anarchy.
The Novgorodians, who had exerted themselves to obtain the election
of Konstantin of Souzdal to the grand princedom, only recognised Ivan
on the death of the former (1354), and were little troubled by the
interference of their sovereign.[69] Their own domestic affairs were
sufficiently exciting to absorb their attention; the election of a
posadnik in the spring of 1359 gave rise to a fierce quarrel between
the inhabitants of the Slavonic quarter and those of the Sofia ward,
and for three days the hostile factions fought around the famous
bridge, and were only separated by the intervention of their Archbishop
and ex-Archbishop, whose combined exhortations at length restored peace
to the agitated city.[70]

If Novgorod owed much to the well-directed influence of her prelates,
the House of Moskva was even more indebted to the exertions and
services of the Metropolitan Aleksis, who loyally supported its
interests under the most discouraging circumstances. When the weary
Ivan had closed his inglorious reign, when “having failed in many
things,” he had “achieved to die,” the foundations painfully hewn
out by his forerunners were almost swept away; a new Khan had arisen
who knew not Moskva, and Dimitri Konstantinovitch of Souzdal entered
Vladimir in triumph, with the iarlikh in his hand. Souzdal, Riazan,
Tver, and Velikie Novgorod exulted in the downfall of their ambitious
neighbour, and the work of generations seemed undone. Then was it that
Vladuika Aleksis, seeing in Dimitri Ivanovitch more promising material
than had existed in his father, took advantage of the chaos existing at
the Horde--where Khan succeeded Khan in a whirlwind of revolutions--to
obtain a counter-iarlikh for the young Prince of Moskva. Thus Dimitri
was opposed by Dimitri, each boasting the favour of Sarai, but the
Moskovite enjoying the support of Holy Church. New intrigues gave the
Souzdal kniaz once more the countenance of the Horde, but Dimitri
Ivanovitch dared to disregard the displeasure of a Khan who was here
to-day and might be gone to-morrow; riding forth at the head of his
boyarins and followers, long accustomed to be uppermost in the land,
he drove his rival from Vladimir and carried the war into the province
of Souzdal, besieging the capital. The Konstantinovitch submitted, and
the grand princely dignity returned to the House of Moskva. [Sidenote:
1362] Well had Aleksis earned his subsequent canonisation.

A few years later the Black Death, brought into the district of
Nijhnie-Novgorod by travelling merchants, recommenced its ravages
throughout Central Russia. Its victims were counted by thousands,
and though the account of its sweeping effect at Smolensk, in which
city there were said to remain but five survivors,[71] is probably an
exaggeration, an idea can be formed of its destructive nature by the
number of princes who were stricken down in a single year. [Sidenote:
1365] The Grand Prince’s brother Ivan, Konstantin of Rostov, Andrei,
brother of the Prince of Souzdal, and four of the Tverskie family, were
victims of the dread pestilence, more wholesale even in its work than
the Mongols in the first fury of their invasion.[72] In its wake sprang
up a crop of quarrels, the result of such a legacy of vacant fiefs.
Boris of Souzdal having seized on his deceased brother’s appanage
(Nijhnie-Novgorod), to the despite of his elder, Dimitri, the latter
was driven to throw himself into the hands of his namesake and rival,
the Grand Prince of Moskva, who forced the supplanter to disgorge his
prey. In Tver, likewise, the death of Simeon had brought his brother
Ieremiya, his uncle Vasili, and his cousin Mikhail, into competition
for his territorial possessions. The last-named was pursuing in Tver
the same policy of aggrandisement and centralisation that had obtained
such successful results for Moskva; naturally his proceedings were
watched with jealous eyes by Dimitri, the Metropolitan, and the
Moskovite boyarins, who took up the cause of Mikhail’s opponents and
drove him more than once from his province. Mikhail invoked the aid
of his wife’s father, Olgerd. [Sidenote: 1369] The great Lit’uanian,
whose arms had checked the tide of Teutonic conquest and driven the
Tartars from the Western steppes, who had wasted the outskirts of
Revel and laid classic Kherson in ashes, marched now against the
might of Moskva, his rival in the Russian lands. With him came his
loyal brother Kestout, and, because he must, the Kniaz of Smolensk.
The might of Moskva contracted within the high stone battlements of
its Kreml, which, in the depth of winter, was too strong a hold for
the Lit’uanians to attack. Olgerd contented himself with sacking the
surrounding country, and carried back a spoil of cattle and church
furniture as witness of his triumph. [Sidenote: 1370] The following
year, however, Mikhail, again driven from his hereditary dominions,
again appealed to Olgerd for assistance, and with the first November
snows came the Lit’uanian-Smolenskie host against Moskva. History
repeated itself; a second time the Kreml, rising fair and glittering in
its sheen of white stone and silvery frost, above the blackened ruins
that lay around it, defied the force that gathered against its walls.
Olgerd hovered in vain around the impregnable obstacle to his crowning
triumph. Russian troops, under Vladimir Andrevitch, the Grand Prince’s
cousin, were gathering on his flank, those pied crows, the Knights of
Mary, were croaking ominously on his northern frontier, while an early
thaw threatened to impede his line of retreat through the snow-banked
forests. Under these circumstances the old warrior slacked the rigour
of his onslaught and made an honourable peace with the enemy whom he
could not crush. [Sidenote: 1371] The indomitable Mikhail continued,
nevertheless, to wage a fitful war with his hereditary foe, now
invoking the support of Mamai Khan, the new master of the Golden Horde,
now calling in the Lit’uanians, till at length, hotly besieged in
his city of Tver, he was obliged to submit to the victorious Dimitri
and recognise the supremacy of the House of Moskva. [Sidenote: 1375]
Secure in his own dominions, the Grand Prince was able to turn his
attention to the hostile forces which weighed on him on either side.
In the West the crushing pressure of the Lettish power was for a time
relaxed. [Sidenote: 1377] The Grand Duke Olgerd, “one of the greatest
statesmen of the Middle Ages,”[73] the clangour of whose arms had
vibrated round Polish castle and Order keep, had roused the echoes of
the Moskva Kreml, and startled the pirates of the Black Sea coast, was
now among “the quiet people”;[74] of his many sons, Yagiello succeeded
him in the Grand Ducal dignity. Hampered by a large circle of brothers,
half-brothers, cousins, and other inconvenient relatives, he set to
work vigorously to weed out his superfluous kinsfolk; the aged Kestout,
the companion-in-arms and faithful supporter of Olgerd, was one of the
first victims of the son’s purging operations. Lured into his power,
he was immured within the castle of Kreva, where he was found one day
strangled; his son Vitovt escaped the same fate by a flight into the
Order territory, while Andrei Olgerdovitch, Prince of Polotzk, sought
at Moskva shelter from his half-brother’s hostility. Dimitri had the
satisfaction of lending his support to this malcontent, as Olgerd
had aided the Prince of Tver. But while Moskovite troops ravaged the
Russian territories of Yagiello, Dimitri from his capital was watching
the storm-clouds that had been slowly piling in the East. Nursed into
their position of authority by the favour and support of the Horde, the
Princes of Moskva had become too important and too exalted to continue
their former humble attitude towards the Khans; like a wasp entangled
in a spider-web, the Velikie Kniaz was over-big a captive to be held
comfortably in the meshes of a degrading thraldom. Hence the altered
relations between Moskva and Sarai, which had resulted in a series
of desultory engagements, not openly avowed at the headquarters of
either side, but tending steadily towards a more pronounced rupture.
Nijhnie-Novgorod had twice suffered the fate of a border town in
troublous times, and been laid in ashes by the Mongols; Riazan had
experienced the like misfortune. On the other hand a more important
collision had taken place on the banks of the Vodjha, where Dimitri had
repulsed an army of raiders sent against Riazan by the Khan himself
(1377). For three years the vengeance of Mamai had loomed, black and
menacing, on the eastern horizon, like a slowly gathering storm that
gains added horror from the unmeasurable approach of its outburst; at
Moskva men watched for the horsemen who should one day ride out from
the forest and clatter into the city with the news that the Hordes were
coming. In the summer of 1380 the storm burst; Dimitri learned that
the Khan was moving against them with a large army, that Yagiello,
“who had small cause to love the Moskva Prince,” was in league with
the Mongol, and that Oleg of Riazan was secretly preparing to throw
in his lot with the invaders.[75] Was this to be the end of all the
delving and striving? Was Moskva to lie in ruins, like another Kiev,
a victim to her own renown? At least she should fall fighting. The
Velikie Kniaz gathered under his standard the princes and soldiery of
such Russian lands as he could command. From Bielozero, Rostov, Mourom,
Souzdal, Vladimir, and other quarters, came pouring in the fractions
of the first national army that had assembled in Russia since the old
wars with the Polovtzi. Beneath the towers of the stately Kreml they
mustered, 150,000 strong, to hail the birth of the new Empire, or,
who knew, to share its ruin. Deep-mouthed clanged the bells of Moskva
over the humming city, palely burned a thousand tapers before the
shrines of good S. George and Mikhail the archangel; even the holy
Sergie, founder of the famed Troitza lavra,[76] left his beaver-haunted
solitudes to give his blessing on the high enterprise. Forth to the
banks of the Don rode Dimitri Ivanovitch with his mighty army; before
him went a sable banner, from whose folds gleamed the wan white Christ
of Calvary; behind him came serried ranks of princes, the descendants
of Rurik, save two who were the sons of dead Olgerd. On the wide plain
of Koulikovo, the field “of the woodcocks,” by the blue waters of
the Don, the might of Moskovite Russia crashed headlong against the
strength of the Golden Horde, and fought through the red September day
till wounds and weariness numbed their failing arms. Then through their
ranks flashed the unpent reserves, led by young Vladimir Andreievitch,
whirled the wild charge into the Mongol hosts, swept into rout the
swarthy horsemen of Asia, swelled the hoarse shouts for S. George, for
S. Glieb, and S. Boris, drowning the pealing war-yells for Allah; they
break, they are killed, they are conquered, the God of the Christians
has wakened, the Prince of the Russias has won a new title for ever,
Dimitri Ivanovitch Donskoi! Dimitri of the Don.

Possibly the result of the battle was not so one-sided as the glowing
accounts of the Russian historians painted it, but the immediate
effect gave fair hope for the future. Yagiello withdrew his forces
into Lit’uania, and thither fled the traitorous Oleg of Riazan; the
Mongols vanished across the Oka, and the enemies of Dimitri seemed
melted like snow before the summer of his victory. The Russians dreamed
that they were free. Not so lightly were they to be rid of these dusky
wolf-eyed warriors, who teemed in the wide, arid plain-land of Asia
like rats on an old threshing-floor. In the East had arisen a new star
of battle to lead them in the footsteps of the mighty Jingis, Timur
the Lame, “conqueror of the two Bokharas, of Hindostan, of Iran, and
of Asia Minor.”[77] At the Golden Horde appeared one of his captains,
Tokhtamitch, who routed and hunted to death the ill-starred Mamai, and
seized upon his khanate. Following on this revolution came a message
from the new Khan to the Russian princes, couched in friendly terms,
but requiring their presence at his Court. This was too much for the
Grand Prince and his proud Moskovites to stomach, and Dimitri returned
an answer befitting the victor of Koulikovo. But the defiance of the
capital found no echo in the other Russian lands; not a second time
did they care to face in doubtful conflict foes who were so terrible
in victory, so easily recruited after defeat. Too many brave boyarins
and bold spearmen had perished on the field of the woodcocks, too many
gaps had been made in their ranks which could not be filled at such
scant notice. Dimitri of Souzdal sent his two sons to the Horde; Oleg,
pardoned and restored to his province, intrigued once more with the
enemies of Moskva. [Sidenote: 1382] Against that city marched the Khan
with his Tartar army, guided thither by the traitorous Kniaz of Riazan,
and bearing in his train the young princes of Souzdal. Dimitri took
the prudent, if unheroic part of leaving his capital to defend itself,
and seeking meanwhile to gather an army capable of threatening the
Mongol flank. The flight of the Metropolitan, Syprien (successor of S.
Aleksis), was not open to so favourable an interpretation. The Kreml,
ably defended by its garrison, under the command of Ostey, called in
the Chronicles a grandson of Olgerd, held the enemy at bay for three
days; on the fourth the defenders weakly opened the gates to a ruse of
the wily Khan, and the capital of the new Russia received a baptism
of blood. When the invaders withdrew, bearing with them all that was
worth removing, it was a silent city that they left behind them--a city
peopled by 24,000 corpses, meet gathering ground for wehr-wolf, ghoul,
and vampire, a wild Walpurgis Nacht for the Yaga-Babas of Slavonic
lore. Nor was Moskva alone in her desolation; Vladimir, Zvenigorod, and
other towns were sacked and burnt by detachments of the Mongol army.
The defeat of one of these bands by a Russian force under Vladimir of
Moskva checked the ravages of the invaders, and Tokhtamitch led his
hordes back across the Oka, leaving Dimitri to repair as best he might
the woes of his province, and to revenge himself on those who had
betrayed or deserted him in the hour of his need. If his kingdom was in
ruins, at least he was master of what remained; the Metropolitan was
deposed, Oleg was forced to fly, and his fief, already ravaged by the
Mongols, was harried anew by the Grand Prince’s followers. Burning with
indignation against the enemy whom he had thought crushed for ever on
the banks of the Don, Dimitri had yet to realise that he must return
to the policy of his fathers, and wear again the yoke he had thrown
so proudly off. Mikhail of Tver, who bore him an undying hatred, had
shared neither in Moskva’s triumph nor in her distress, and now was
plotting openly to obtain for himself the Grand Principality. With all
his losses Dimitri was still the wealthiest of the Russian princes, and
a timely submission enabled him to find grace in the eyes of the Khan.
[Sidenote: 1384] A new impost was exacted throughout the land, and the
young princes--Vasili of Moskva, Aleksandr of Tver, Vasili and Simeon
of Souzdal--were held as hostages at Sarai. Russia awoke from her dream
of liberty to find that her God still slept.

While mourning their relapse into a state of dependence, and involved
in a quarrel with the troublesome republic of the north, the Moskovites
learned a disquieting piece of intelligence; Yagiello, their formidable
neighbour on the west, who held more Russian lands almost than did
Dimitri, had added the kingdom of Poland to his possessions. [Sidenote:
1386] The long succession of princes of the House of Piast had come
to an end, in its direct line, with Kazimir the Great, who since 1370
had lain in a side chapel of the Cathedral at Krakow, where his effigy
in red brown marble yet reclines under its fretted canopy. Louis, the
Angevin King of Hungary, who succeeded him on the Polish throne, had
died in the year 1382, leaving a daughter, Yadviga, to uphold her right
as best she could in a country already marked by the intractability
of the crown vassals. Yadviga only obtained the support of the Diet
(composed of the nobles and higher clergy of the realm) by leaving in
its hands the selection of her husband and consort. The choice of the
assembly fell upon the Grand Duke of Lit’uania, whose election would
at the same time remove a possible enemy from their eastern border,
and furnish them with a protector against the hated Teutonic Order on
their north. For this monster of their own creation (a Polish duke had
been the first to give the knights a foothold in Prussia) was gradually
squeezing them out from touch with the Baltic and displacing their
authority in Eastern Pomerania. One of the indispensable conditions
attached to the betrothal and election of Yagiello was that he should
adopt Christianity of the Roman Catholic pattern; “no cross, no
crown.” The prospect of a peaceable accession to the Polish throne
effected what all the endeavours, spiritual, diplomatic, and militant,
of priests, popes, and grand masters had been unable to accomplish;
Yagiello became the apostle prince of Lit’uania, and Catholic sovereign
of Poland.[78] In his new character of a zealous son of the Church,
the Grand Duke set to work to bring Lit’uania within the pale of the
official religion; the pagan groves were cut down, the sacred fires
that burned in the castle of Vilna extinguished, the mystic serpents
killed, and the people baptized by battalions. According to a Russian
historian, those who already professed the Greek faith were forcibly
converted, and two boyarins who clung obstinately to Orthodoxy were put
to death by tortures.[79]

If Rome swept this valuable State into her fold, the Russian Church,
despite the rather depressing circumstance of a confused succession
to the Metropolitan office, was not without the triumph of extending
her rites over heathen lands. A monk of Moskva carried the light of
the Gospel into the lorn and benighted lands of the Permians, a Finn
tribe which dwelt in the northern valley of the Kama, beneath the
shadow of the Ourals. Supported by the authority of the Grand Prince,
he overthrew the worship of the Old Golden Woman, a stone figure with
two infants in her arms, before whose shrine reindeer were annually
sacrificed; had she been more restricted in her family arrangements she
might have been quietly incorporated in the new religion.

In 1389 Moskva mourned her prince, Dimitri Donskoi, who died while
yet in his prime. A variant from the type of cold, stern princes who
had built up the power of his house, Dimitri was a throw-back to the
old light-hearted Slavonic kniaz, before the Norse blood had died out
of his veins, or ever that of Turko or Mongol had crept in. And if he
gained no fresh ground for Moskva, and left Tver and Souzdal and Riazan
still under independent masters, at least he gave Russia a spasm of
liberty and renown in an age of gloom and bondage, and obtained for his
eldest son the undisputed succession to the Grand Principality.

Vasili Dmitrievitch Moskovskie, to give him his distinguishing title
(since 1383 there had reigned a Vasili Dmitrievitch at Souzdal),
ascended the throne under more favourable circumstances than had a
few years earlier seemed probable. On the west, Vitovt, son of the
murdered Kestout, had placed himself at the head of the Lit’uanian
malcontents in opposition to the King of Poland, who in cultivating
the goodwill of his new subjects had lost that of his old ones. Thus
in that direction the threateners of Moskva’s existence were at strife
among themselves. In the east Tokhtamitch was contemplating a rebellion
against the authority of his lord and protector, Timur, a circumstance
which lifted the position of the young Prince of Moskva at the Horde
from that of a humble vassal to that of a desired ally. His father
would probably have taken advantage of this fact to sever once more
his dependence on the Khan; Vasili turned it to a more practical use.
[Sidenote: 1391] With costly presents, and probably promises of future
support, the Grand Prince bought an iarlikh which gave him possession
of Nijhnie-Novgorod, a fief long since granted to Boris of the House
of Souzdal.[80] Vasili was received with acclaim by the inhabitants,
and Boris, deserted on all sides, had to bow to the decree of fate,
represented in this instance by the iarlikh from Sarai. [Sidenote:
1394] On the death of the ousted prince his nephews, Vasili and Simeon
of Souzdal, attempted to reunite Nijhnie-Novgorod with their hereditary
appanage, with the result that Vasili of Moskva seized on both
provinces and drove his cousins into exile. Many and fruitless were
the efforts made by the brothers to recover their lost principalities;
Vasili had developed a Habsburgian tenacity in holding to whatsoever he
acquired, and the ex-princes of Souzdal had in the end to acquiesce in
their spoliation. Events in the West meanwhile had taken an unforeseen
and not altogether favourable turn. The Teutonic Order had been placed
in an awkward position by the wholesale entrance of the Lit’uanians
into the bosom of the Church, which event left the crusaders no more
heathen to convert; hence the joy which they shared with the angels
over the salvation of their long recalcitrant brothers was tinged with
resentment towards the Poles, and especially towards Yagiello. The
Grand Master sulkily refused to stand sponsor to the latter at his
baptism,[81] and the Order prepared, from motives of self-defence, to
give active support to the pretender Vitovt, who was enabled with its
assistance to continually harry the domains of his royal kinsman, till
at length Yagiello, set upon by Catholics, Orthodox, and pagans alike,
ceded to him the grand duchy, under the direct suzerainty of the Polish
Crown (1392),[82] an arrangement which did not bring repose either to
the Order or to Moskovy. The Grand Duke Vitovt was another edition of
his uncle and grandfather; his arms swept far beyond the ample limits
of his principality, and under his vigorous rule Lit’uania attained
her greatest extent, and perhaps her greatest power. Father-in-law to
Vasili, he did not hesitate to continue the slow absorption of Russian
territory commenced by his predecessors; Smolensk dropped from the
feeble hands of its hereditary princes into the actual possession of
the Grand Duke, who thus brought his dominions into contact with the
principality of Tver, long the hatching-ground of disaffection to the
supremacy of Moskva. Vitovt would probably have accomplished even more
in the way of conquest and annexation if his ambition had not given too
wide a scope to his efforts. While Vasili watched anxiously for the
next move of this exciting father-in-law new troubles sprang up in the
East; it seemed, indeed, as if Moskva was to reap no advantage from
the dissensions of her neighbours. The vengeance of Timur the Lame had
at length overtaken his o’erweening vassal, and Tokhtamitch had fled
before the storm which his imprudence had raised. The conqueror did not
seem disposed to confine his destroying wrath to the actual territories
of the Golden Horde, but crossed the Volga and commenced to devastate
the easternmost Russian lands. Moskovy quaked before the coming of
another Batu; the churches were filled with wailing crowds, and the
celebrated Mother-of-God of Vladimir was removed from thence to the
capital. [Sidenote: 1395] By a train of reasoning not easy to follow,
to this change of quarters was attributed the sudden turning aside of
Timur Khan, who diverted his destructive abilities to the razing of
Sarai, Astrakhan, and Azov, and left the Russian lands without further
hurt. By modern historians this retreat has been set down to other
causes than the translation of the Bogoroditza; “accustomed to the rich
booty of Bokhara and Hindostan, and dreaming of Constantinople and
Egypt, they found, no doubt, that the desert steppes and deep forests
only offered a very meagre prey.”[83] However, the credit of the affair
remained with the Bogoroditza, and what was more to the point, this
respectable and extremely valuable ikon remained at Moskva--no mean
asset, for that time and place, in the political importance of a city.

The enfeeblement of the Golden Horde seemed to the Lit’uanian Grand
Duke a favourable opportunity to extend his influence in the Tartar
steppes and constitute himself the heir of the dying sovereignty.
Concluding for the moment a perpetual peace with the Order, against
whom he had scarcely ceased to fight since his accession to the Grand
Duchy, he mustered a formidable army to support him in this mighty
enterprise. Poles, Lit’uanians, and Russians marched under his banner
against the Tartars, and Konrad von Jungingen, as a guarantee of good
faith, sent five hundred of his knights to do battle against the
infidels. [Sidenote: 1399] On the banks of the Vorskla (a tributary
of the Dniepr), Vitovt came in contact with the lieutenant of Timur
and suffered a disastrous overthrow, losing two-thirds of his army
and seriously damaging his military reputation. Notwithstanding this
victory the new master of the Horde, Koutluk Khan, had his power
disputed by more than one competitor, and Vasili took advantage of this
fact to discontinue payment of the annual tribute. [Sidenote: 1408]
The temerity of his action, overlooked for many years, brought on him
at last the chastisement of the Mongols, who, under the leadership of
Ediger, the victor of the Vorskla, made a sudden inroad upon Russian
territory. Vasili imitated the tactics of his father on a similar
occasion; leaving Moskva with a strong garrison to defend the Kreml,
he betook himself to the northern districts of his realm to raise
what forces he might against the invaders. The assault on Moskva was
weakened by the want of siege engines (cannon were just beginning to be
used by the Russians and Lit’uanians), and Ivan Mikhailovitch, Prince
of Tver, was summoned to support the Khan with his artillery. For once
hereditary hatred gave way to patriotic instincts, and Ivan withheld
the demanded assistance. The troops of Ediger ravaged and burnt far
and wide over the Russian plain, and sacked many a town and village
in the Grand Principality, but they could neither force Vasili into a
combat nor make an impression on the walls and towers of the Kreml. A
threatened revolution at the Horde made the Khan anxious to retreat,
and his offer of withdrawal on receipt of a war levy was gladly
accepted by the Moskovites, who were dreading a famine; 3000 roubles
purchased the departure of the Mongol army, and the Velikie Kniaz was
able to return to his rejoicing capital.

Hemmed in on east and west by two powerful and aggressive neighbours,
with the slumbering volcanoes of Tver and Riazan ready to burst into
activity at any moment within his own dominions, the politic Vasili
could do little more than assert from time to time his authority over
Novgorod. The republic, indeed, was at the height of its independence,
and played its own game in the shifting balance of Order and Hansa,
Grand Duchy, Grand Principality, and Golden Horde, which made up
the round of its political compass. In 1392 it had closed a period
of commercial strife by a treaty[84] with the towns of Lubeck,
Wisby, Revel, Dorpat, and Riga, compacted in the border burgh of
Izborsk, where “_ys gekomen her Johan Neibur van Lubeke, her Hynrik
van Vlanderen unde her Godeke Cur von Godlande, van overze,[85] van
Rige her Tydeman van der Nienbrugge, van Darpte her Hermen Kegheller
unde her Wynold Clychrode, van Revale her Gerd Witte_,” and “_hebben
gesproken myt dem borchgreven van Nougarden_,”--the posadnik of
Novgorod--and so on in quaint old low-German wording that brings to
the mind a glimpse of red gabled roofs, narrow streets and quays, a
whiff of salted herrings, pine timbers, and pungent stoppered drams.
This treaty, concluded without reference to the Grand Prince, had been
a source of friction between him and the Novgorodskie, and a further
grievance was that the Archbishop and clergy of the northern city chose
to be a law unto themselves rather than show a proper dependence upon
the Metropolitan of Moskva. Yet another matter for complaint was the
depredations of bands of free-lances from Novgorod and her offshoot
settlement Viatka (an independent territory lying to the north of Great
Bulgaria), who, under the name of “Good Companions,” carried on a
series of freebooting and piratical campaigns in the Volga valley. More
than once these points of dispute led to open rupture between Vasili
and his intractable subjects, but Great Novgorod was able to hold her
own against the hampered efforts of the Velikie Kniaz.

Eighteen months after Ediger’s winter campaign against Moskva
the eyes of all Russia were turned towards the impending struggle
between the rival powers of the Baltic lands, the Order and the dual
Polish-Lit’uanian State. Vitovt, recovered from his reverse at the
hands of the Tartars, was moving again, and had set his lance against
the black cross shield of the German knights. A dispute anent the Order
province of Samogitia furnished a pretext for a recourse to arms, and
both sides gathered their hosts to fight out the deadly quarrel. No
hole and corner combat was to decide the mastery of the Baltic basin;
163,000 men marched in the train of Vitovt and Yagiello, 83,000 rallied
round Ulrich von Jungingen. At the famous battle of Tannenberg (15th
July 1410) the iron-mailed knights of Mary went down in splendid ruin
before the unstayable onset of the Slavic warriors; the White Eagle
of Poland and the Charging Horseman of Lit’uania gleamed on their
blood-red standards over the stark and gory corpses of the Grand Master
and the flower of his chivalry, 600 knights and 40,000 men-at-arms; the
sun went down on the hard-fought field, where Ulrich von Jungingen and
his staunch comrades held their last pale Chapter, and the might of the
Black Cross Order faded into the shadows of the past. [Sidenote: 1411]
The Peace of Thorn, by yielding to the conquerors all they demanded,
gave a temporary respite to the Teutons, but their power was broken for
evermore.[86]

The latter years of the reign of Vasili Dmitrievitch are distinguished
by a dexterous peace with the several items which threatened at every
moment to combine against and crush his struggling principality.
The ambition of his father-in-law, the frowardness of Novgorod, the
dissatisfaction of Tver, the exacting arrogance of the Horde, were
successfully ignored or adroitly played one against the other. In
like manner the Grand Prince’s brothers were studiously kept in the
background, and the boyarins of Moskva and the allied fiefs were taught
to look upon Vasili’s surviving son, who bore his father’s name, as
future head of the State. [Sidenote: 1425] Thus scheming and contriving
went the Prince of Moskva on his way, till one winter’s day the bells
knelled for his passing soul, and Vasili Vasilievitch reigned in his
stead.

The late prince had guided the flood of monarchical principles and
hereditary right in the desired direction; his successor had to
struggle for the greater part of his reign with the back-wash of
reaction. Moskva had been placed by persistent effort high above the
position of her neighbours, but the elements of discord and disunion
lay among her own princes, and it was inevitable that the surviving
sons of Dimitri should seek to annul an order of succession which
passed them over in favour of a mere boy. Nor had the young Vasili
the support of a strong Metropolitan to sustain him in the stormy
days that were coming. The Greek Photius who held that office did not
exercise in the State the same influence as his forerunners Theognost
and Aleksis had done, and even in his own department his authority was
not undisputed. For Grand Duke Vitovt, an amateur dabbler in religions,
had established at Kiev a Metropolitan of his own, and the faithful in
the Russ-Lit’uanian lands paid their homage, and what was worse, their
tithes, to this unauthorised rival. Hence Vasili had to depend on the
protection of the Horde and the affections of his Moskovite subjects
to defend him against the ambition of his uncle Urii. [Sidenote: 1430]
The death of his powerful relative, the Lit’uanian Grand Duke, removed
another possible supporter, and two years later the young prince had
to appeal to the decision of the Khan Makhmet against the pretensions
of his rival. By a grovelling affectation of submissiveness Vasili
was able to emerge triumphant from the contest, and on his return was
solemnly crowned at Moskva--the first coronation of a grand prince that
had taken place in that city.[87]

The iarlikh of the Khan possessed, however, none of its old finality,
and Vasili had to sustain a civil war against his uncle, and after his
death (1434) with his sons, Vasili the Squinting, Dimitri Shemiaka,
and Dimitri the Red. Although, apparently, not wanting in courage or
energy (both of which deficiencies have been freely attributed to
him), he possessed little skill in utilising his resources, and again
and again suffered defeat, deposition, and imprisonment. The loyalty
of Moskva brought him through many vicissitudes, and the tables were
turned more than once upon his hostile relatives. [Sidenote: 1436]
Repulsing an attack made upon the capital by Vasili the Squinting,
the Grand Prince secured the person of that rebel, and supplemented
the defect bestowed by nature by blinding the eyes of his hapless
prisoner. The leadership of the disaffected party devolved henceforth
upon Shemiaka, who became the implacable enemy of the Grand Prince, and
roused for many a long year the fires of discord in the land. Meanwhile
the bosom of the Church was heaving with agitation as profound as that
which disturbed the State. [Sidenote: 1437] The new Metropolitan,
Isidor of Salonika, had scarcely entered into his new duties when he
was obliged to set off, by way of Novgorod, Riga, Lubeck, Braunschweig,
Nurnberg, and the Tyrol, to attend the great Council which was to be
held at Ferrara--subsequently at Florence--to unite the two Christian
Churches in one communion. The immediate cause of this drawing together
of the Latin and Greek rivals was the danger which was threatening
the headquarters of the latter sect at the hands of the Infidel Turk.
The Ottoman dynasty, rising upon the ruins of the Seljuk Empire, had
slowly but steadily engorged the provinces which made up the dominion
of the eastern Cæsars. Asia Minor, Bulgaria, Thessaly, Thrace, had been
assimilated one by one, and now there remained but Constantinople, “a
head without a body,” to resist the hitherto irresistible invader.
Without substantial and speedy aid from Catholic Europe there was
little probability that the city could long maintain its defence
against the Ottoman armies, and Catholic Europe could not be expected
to interest itself in the fate of a community which differed from
itself in so many vital points of doctrine. The sole hope for
Constantinople lay in the possibility of a reunion with the dominant
factor of Christendom. [Sidenote: 1438] This was the motive power
which had drawn to the Italian town men from Moskva, Trebizond, and the
isles of the Adriatic, to discuss the vexed question of the genesis
of the Holy Ghost, the exact degree of bliss and torment allotted to
the souls of the departed, whether it was permissible to use leavened
bread in the sacrament, and whether Pope or Patriarch should occupy the
chiefest seat at feasts. These were the main points which separated
the Churches, and on each of them the Greek prelates (Mark of Ephesos
excepted) gave way--not that the arguments of the Latins had become
suddenly convincing, but the looming vision of the Turk inclined the
minds of the Orthodox to surrender. “Ils ne croyaient pas, mais ils
craignaient.”

Foremost among the complaisant Greeks was the Metropolitan Isidor;
already, before leaving Russia, he had shown a “scandalous predilection
for the Latin faith”--had he not at Dorpat kissed the Catholic cross
before saluting the Greek ikons? [Sidenote: 1440] Hence on his return
to Moskva prince and prelates assembled in gloomy suspicion to receive
him in the Church of the Virgin, and hear the result of the council’s
deliberations. The Roman cross demurely preceding the Metropolitan,
and the Pope’s name cropping up in the prayers, prepared them for the
surrender set forth in the Act of Council. When Isidor had finished
reading the unpalatable document there was an ominous silence, amid
which Vasili rose to his feet and commenced to hurl invectives at
the disconcerted Vladuika. Heretic, false shepherd, corrupter of
souls, the mercenary of Rome, were among the epithets applied to the
would-be reformer, who was promptly bundled off to a monastery, from
which he was glad to escape back to Rome. John Paleologus might,
for pressing reasons of his own, tolerate this accursed change of
dogmas, but the Velikie Kniaz of Moskva would have none of it, and
hastened, after the example of Vitovt, to consecrate a Metropolitan
on his own responsibility, without reference to the tainted source of
Constantinople. Jonas, Bishop of Riazan, was chosen for the post, but
was not formally consecrated till 1448.[88]

The energy and reckless daring of the Prince’s character showed itself
soon after in a struggle with a new enemy. On the ruins of the Great
Bulgarian State had sprung up the Tartar khanate of Kazan, independent
of the Golden Horde, and a source of uneasiness for Eastern Russia.
In an attempt to repel an invasion of the province of Souzdal by
the forces of this upstart power, Vasili, deserted by his cousin
Shemiaka, could only muster 1500 men, a shadow of the mighty hosts
that had followed the banner of Moskva aforetime. With this handful,
however, he joined battle with the Kazanese, and fell, covered with
wounds, into their hands. At the news of this disaster the enemies
of the Grand Prince raised their heads throughout the land; Boris of
Tver raided the possessions of the Moskovite merchants at Torjhok,
Shemiaka stretched out his hand for the vacant princedom. The sudden
release of Vasili by the Khan Makhmet sorely embarrassed the position
of the would-be supplanter, and Shemiaka was driven to make a bold
bid for the mastery. [Sidenote: 1446] A sudden move put the Kreml
in his hands, and the hapless Grand Prince, while returning thanks
in the Troitza monastery for his deliverance from the hands of the
Infidels, experienced the worse fate of falling into the clutches of
his Christian cousin, who put his eyes out. Thus after ten years came
home to roost the wrong inflicted on Vasili the Squinting, and the
Grand Prince was thenceforth Vasili the Blind. This barbarous requital
of an “unhappy far-off” deed was perpetrated in the names of Shemiaka,
Ivan Aleksandreivitch, and Boris of Tver, and in their hands remained
the person of Vasili and the possessions of the Grand Principality.
The first-named usurped the Moskovite throne and enjoyed for a space
the power of Grand Prince without being able to gain the affections
of the people. [Sidenote: 1447] In the darkness which had descended
on Vasili Vasilievitch the loyalty of boyarins, town-folk, and clergy
still burned bravely for the captive prince; the popular clamour and
the representations of the Metropolitan forced Shemiaka to restore him
to liberty and bestow on him the town of Vologda as a residence, and
not many months had passed ere the exile came marching back in triumph
to his beloved and faithful Moskva--whose dazzling walls, indeed, he
might never again behold, but whose pealing bells and hoarse-shouting
populace spoke music to his darkened soul. Scarred and mutilated in
the long struggle, in which he had tasted the bitterness of defeats,
imprisonment, banishment, blinding, the Grand Prince had triumphed over
all his misfortunes, had wearied down all opponents, had won. A final
victory dispelled the power of Shemiaka (1450), and three years later
he died at Novgorod, not without suspicion of poisoning. From this
turning-point Vasili the Darkened reigned peaceably and prosperously on
the throne he had laboured so hard to retain.

As the Moskovites settled down to their long-estranged placidity,
rumours reached them of the terrible thing which had befallen the city
of the Caesars; rumours which soon grew into creditable news and made
them doubt but that the bottom of their world had fallen out.

Little fruit had been born of the vaunted Council of Florence; the
Churches were as far apart as ever. In vain might the Byzantine Emperor
and the Greek hierarchy conform with the decisions of the act of union;
the lower clergy and the bulk of the populace would have no dealings
with the unholy ordinance. “Better Turkish than Papish,” the motto
of the Water-Beggars in a later age, would fitly have described the
sentiments of the people of Constantinople at this period. Thus they
fought and squabbled over their beloved dogmas, while the enemy was
slowly gathering his toils around the doomed city. The Pope, mortified
at the miscarriage of his plans, sent no legions rolling across Europe
to the assistance of the last of the Constantines; his legate, indeed,
was on the scene, arguing and expostulating, with the rhetoric which
gained him applause in the council-chamber at Florence, but failed him
in the cold, grim Church of the Virgin in the Kreml--for this plausible
Roman cardinal is no other than Isidor, sometime Metropolitan of
Moskva. But while the Pope hesitates the Sultan acts. On every side the
city is beset by an army that blackens the face of the earth. Cannon
and ram and scaling-ladder are plied against the massive walls and
heavy gates. Day after day the assault is urged; the city is bravely
defended, for the most part by foreigners--for the greater proportion
of the citizens are in the churches praying for deliverance from the
unbelievers. [Sidenote: 1453] But the wonder-working Virgin, weary of
well-doing, or recognising the superior insistency of the attackers,
makes no move to save the holy city; the faltering wail of “kyrie
eleison” is drowned by the fierce roar of “Il Allah illah Allah,”
the scarlet banner of the Yeni-Tscheri[89] waves in the breach at
the Gate of Romanos, the young Sultan Mahomet II. bursts in upon his
prey, and Constantine Paleologus, wounded and trampled on in the rush
of the victors, dies amid the ruin of his empire. The purple and gold
of old Byzantium are lost in the pall of night, and the rising moon
salutes another crescent that gleams forth upon the dome of S. Sophia.
The cry of the muezzins peals through the startled city; the eternal
speculations upon the economy of self-begetting Trinities dies away
before the new dogma, “There is one God and Mahomet is His prophet.”
This is the end of the Crusades; this is the fall of the Tzargrad.[90]

After the first feeling of stupefaction and regret produced by these
doleful tidings had passed away, the Moskovites might gather some
little satisfaction from the overthrow of their spiritual headquarters,
their one link with southern Europe. More than ever isolated, the
Russian principality gained in importance by becoming the sole
resting-place of the official Greek religion and of Greek ideas. Not
at once did Moskva realise, or invent, the pleasing idea that she had
succeeded to the heritage of the Caesars; yet to her, still struggling
with the competition of other cities, with Tver, and Vladimir, even
with faded Kiev, it was no small gain to have her churches and high
places adorned by the art and sanctified by the presence of the Greek
monks and artists, sages and artificers, who sought refuge within
her gates. And the last years of her Prince, the evening of his
stormy day, were ones of great progress for the white city, and for
the monarchy which was rising around this corner-stone. The forces
of reaction seemed for the moment to have spent their fury on the
person of Vasili, and his unbroken spirit might now pursue its way
unquestioned. [Sidenote: 1456] Novgorod, long the resort and refuge
of his enemies, had at last to reckon with the armed expression of
his resentment; its messengers were refused hearing, its army of 5000
mail-clad knights was routed near Rousa, its posadnik was a captive
in the Grand Prince’s hands, his forces occupied Torjhok. Peace had
to be bought by the disbursement of 8500 roubles, by submission to a
princely levy, and by other sacrifices of pride and pelf. The same year
died Ivan Thedorovitch of Riazan, leaving his infant son Vasili to the
guardianship of the Grand Prince, who took good care of the orphan--and
of his province. Viatka, that turbulent colony, which outdid its parent
Novgorod in rebellion and disorder, was forced to pay a tribute to
the Prince of Moskva and to respect his arms. [Sidenote: 1459] Pskov,
long time but a Lit’uanian outpost, received his second son Urii as
governor. Thus the grand principality, at peace once more within
itself, was beginning to quicken its dormant authority in the farthest
limits of its extent. [Sidenote: 1460] In the year 1460 Vasili paid a
long and gracious visit to Velikie Novgorod, to set the seal of his
sovereignty on his northernmost city and dazzle the proud republicans
with his imposing retinue. Much might they marvel at this grim groping
figure, who had buffeted his way through so many storms, who had
wrested victory from defeat, had thwarted the designs of Pope and
Council, had taught the bells of S. Sofia Novgorodskie to jangle in his
honour, had made Moskva mistress over long-resisting provinces. Scarred
and worn with the traces of his life-struggle, Vasili the Darkened was
a meet type of the Russia he ruled over, but just beginning to grope
its way into the paths of unity and dominion. When in 1462 he went to
his well-earned rest, he left his son Ivan in assured possession of the
sovereignty in which he had been already for some time associated. The
old mad folly of dividing the hardly-cemented territories between the
dead Prince’s sons was still persisted in--Vasili’s eyes had not been
opened even by being put out--but Ivan was emphatically Grand Prince of
Moskva.

FOOTNOTES:

[63] The firman issued by the Khans to the prince of their selection.

[64] K. Waliszewski: _Peter the Great_.

[65] M’Kenzie Wallace: _Russia_.

[66] V. B. Antonovitch.

[67] N. Kostomarov, _Sieverno Rousskiya Narodopravstva_. S. Solov’ev.

[68] _Geschichte der Ostseeprovinzen._

[69] S. Solov’ev. N. Kostomarov.

[70] S. Solov’ev.

[71] Karamzin.

[72] S. Solov’ev.

[73] Th. Schiemann.

[74] A Russian expression for the dead.

[75] S. Solov’ev.

[76] Monastery of the Trinity near Moskva.

[77] A. Rambaud, _History of Russia_.

[78] Schiemann.

[79] Karamzin.

[80] S. Solov’ev.

[81] _Histoire de l’Ordre Teutonique._

[82] S. Solov’ev; Th. Schiemann; _Geschichte der Ostseeprovinzen_.

[83] Rambaud.

[84] Reproduced by Schiemann from copy in Rath archives of Revel.

[85] “From over the sea.”

[86] Schiemann; S. Solov’ev; _Geschichte der Ostseeprovinzen_;
_Histoire de l’Ordre Teutonique_; L. Ranke, _Preussische Geschichte_.

[87] Rambaud, S. Solov’ev.

[88] Karamzin.

[89] New guard, corrupted into Janissaries.

[90] Von Hammer-Purgstall, _Histoire de l’Empire Ottoman_. J. W.
Zinkeisen, _Geschichte des osmanischen Reich in Europa_. E. A. Freeman,
_Ottoman Power in Europe_.



CHAPTER VII

THE LAST OF THE PALEOLOGI AND THE FIRST OF THE AUTOCRATS


With the accession of Ivan III. to the throne of Moskva, Russian
history takes new shape and direction. This dark, watchful, brooding
kniaz was but the continuator of a dynasty of like princes “of
gloomy and terrible mien, whose foreheads were marked by the seal
of destiny.”[91] “Time and circumstance and opportunity paint with
heedless hands and garish colours on the canvas of a man’s life; so
that the result is less frequently a finished picture than a palette of
squeezed tints.”[92] Time and circumstance and opportunity gave Ivan
the title of Great, and his principality an importance it had never
before enjoyed. That he made the most of his possibilities will not
be denied, but in the nature of things this might scarcely have been
otherwise. The whole character of the man dovetailed into the part he
was required to play.

The growth of Moskovy had been marked by a life-struggle with three
hostile factors--internal disruption, the aggression of the Horde, and
the aggression of the Lit’uanian Princes; the first had been nearly
stamped down by the forerunners of Ivan, circumstances enabled him to
deal successfully with the two latter. The Golden Horde had already, in
the reign of Vasili, fallen apart into independent khanates, that of
Astrakhan representing the parent branch, while those of Kazan and of
the Krim Tartars bordered the grand principality on the east and south
respectively. The latter khanate was wedged in between the lands of
Astrakhan and Lit’uania, and Ivan was able to turn its resources to
good account against both these neighbours, as a counterpoise to the
concerted action which they were ever ready to take against him. With
the Kazanese he carried on, in the early years of his reign (1467-69),
a scrambling war, in which, if his armies more than held their own, he
personally showed little courage or determination. Possibly, however,
he was reserving himself for the inevitable struggle with Novgorod,
on the result of which indirectly hung the question whether Vilna or
Moskva should be the centre of the Russian state. “Under which King?”
was undisguisedly the issue which was before the Novgorodskie at this
juncture, and the answer threatened to be unfavourable to Moskva.
For once the faction motives that agitated the citizens of the great
republic are plainly understandable: on the one side was hostility
to the growing and griping power of the Grand Prince, and a desire
to seek the protection of Kazimir and the spiritual guidance of the
Metropolitan of Kiev; on the other, aversion to a foreign suzerainty
and a heresy-tainted Church. Since Olga had lighted the torch of
Christianity in the land, since Anastasie of Galitz[93] had furnished
an illumination of a different nature, women had rarely mingled in
the national politics, and “_cherchez la femme_” would scarcely hold
good with regard to Russian troubles. Now, however, at the head of the
Lit’uanian-leaning faction appears a woman, one Martha, widow of the
posadnik Isak Boretzki, and mother of two of the city notables. The
encroachments of Vasili on the liberties and domains of the republic
had thoroughly alarmed the citizens, and Martha’s party had little
difficulty in rousing a spirit of defiance towards the new Prince,
who was held to be of weaker fibre than his father. An alliance with
Kazimir was openly projected, and the Moskovite agents were treated
with studied disrespect. Ivan expostulated, the Novgorodskie persisted.
Still expostulating, the Grand Prince set in motion a formidable
array of troops; Pskovskie, Moskovite, Viatkian, Tverskie, and Tartar
contingents converged on the lands of the republic, defeated and
drove in the forces sent against them, and hemmed the city in on every
side. Ivan, breathing peace and goodwill, wound his coils slowly round
his prey, and waited. Want, the old enemy of Novgorod, began to fight
against the Boretzki faction; “Ivan is at our gates, and your Kazimir,
where is he?” demanded the “younger folk,” the first to feel the pinch
of famine. Couriers had been sent to invoke the assistance of the King
of Poland, but the Land-Master of Livland had turned them back. And
this mild-mannered Grand Prince, still breathing goodwill, had taken
to cutting off the heads of the most notable of his prisoners; among
others, one of Martha’s sons had been so treated. Clearly this was
not a man to be trifled with; the city capitulated. [Sidenote: 1471]
Bitter were the terms to which the Novgorodskie had to submit: a fine
of 15,000 roubles, the surrender of several contested dependencies, the
payment of a tribute to Moskva, an engagement to hold no intercourse
with the King of Poland or the Metropolitan of Kiev or any of the Grand
Prince’s enemies, the annulment of the acts of the Vetché, and the
recognition of Ivan as appeal judge in their civic litigation. Velikie
Novgorod had found her master.

The next and most important event of an important reign was produced
by an outside circumstance. The tidal wave of Islam which had swept
over the cradle of the Orthodox faith, had also cut short the sphere of
Papal influence, and threatened to make still further inroads on the
Catholic lands of South-Eastern Europe. As Venice mourned her damaged
trade so Rome sighed over her abbreviated authority and diminished
Peter’s Pence. Pope after Pope cast anxious eyes around the sovereigns
of Christendom to discover a possible champion against the Turk; but
the days of the Crusades were over. One card there remained for the
Vatican to play. Brought up in dependence on the Papal Court, and in
conformity with the Latin faith, were the heritors of the dead empire;
Sophie Paleologus and her two brothers, children of Thomas, brother of
the last Emperor, were, body and soul, at the disposal of the Pope
(Paul II.). Of the young Princes obviously nothing could be made, but
by proclaiming Sophie as heiress of Constantinople a husband might be
found for her who would be willing to break a lance with Mahomet for
the possession of his wife’s inheritance. Ivan of Moskva, whose remote
ancestors had turned their eyes so persistently towards the Tzargrad,
seemed a likely candidate for the hand of the orphan exile, and an
embassy from Paul sounded the Grand Prince on the subject. Ivan, whose
first wife, Mariya of Tver, had died in 1467, lent favourable ear to
the suggestion, and matters were satisfactorily arranged between the
high contracting parties. The question of religion does not appear to
have been raised as an obstacle, either by Paul or Sixtus IV., who
succeeded to the Papal throne while the negotiations were proceeding.
Whether Ivan’s ambassadors threw dust in the eyes of the Pontiffs,
whether the latter hoped to win him, by means of his bride, over to the
Latin faith, or whether the driving out of the Turk was for the moment
more important than the genesis of the Holy Ghost, it is difficult to
determine, but the betrothal was accomplished with the full blessing of
the Church. Of Sophie the information available is curiously unequal,
detailed on some points, vague to blankness on others. That, according
to the chronicles, she charmed all beholders with her presence--a
habit common with princesses--must be dispassionately compared with
a contemporary Italian account, which likened her to a disgusting
mountain of fat. That she left the Eternal City under the wing of the
Pope’s legate; that she passed through Viterbo and Sienna; that the
council of the latter city voted, by 124 voices to 42, fifty florins
to defray the cost of her reception; that she made her way through
Bologna and Nürnberg to Lubeck, and thence by sea to Revel; that she
was well received at Pskov, and also at Novgorod, at which place the
old bell of Yaroslav might yet salute the honoured guest; all this
may be gathered from the records of the past.[94] Reared amid the
warm and stately cities of Italy, with fond remembrance of the lost
glories of Constantinople, there was much that must have seemed
strange and wild, perhaps desolate, in the long sledge journey through
the unending snow-choked forests towards Moskva; Moskva, which, even
in its winter mantle, would compare but meagrely with most of the
cities the traveller had passed through. For in those days and at that
moment, with its cathedral in ruins, its buildings insignificant, and
its limits eked out with meadows and copses, the capital of the grand
principality did not make a very brave show.[95] The solemnity of
her reception was marred by an awkward incident, which showed that,
however the case might be at Rome, inter-Christian bitterness still
ruled strong at Moskva. The legate, it was understood, not content
with flaunting his scarlet robes in the face of the Orthodox, intended
to have the Latin Cross borne before him into the city. Should such
things be? Ivan held high counsel with his clergy and boyarins on the
subject; the majority were in favour of “shutting their eyes” when the
objectionable emblem should make its appearance on the scene, but this
ostrich-like expedient did not recommend itself to the Metropolitan
Filipp, who declared that if it came in at one gate he should go out
at another. Happily the Cardinal showed a more accommodating spirit,
and, when the situation had been explained to him by the Prince’s
messengers, consented to have the Cross smuggled through in a sledge.
This concession smoothed over the difficulty, and the catastrophe
of the whole bridal train being kept waiting for days in the snow
outside Moskva till one or other of the churchmen gave way, was happily
averted.[96] [Sidenote: 1472] From the moment that Sophie Paleologus
became mated with Ivan comparatively little is heard of her; her
personality is swallowed up in that of the Grand Prince. But the
influence of the Greek Princess can be traced in many of the important
developments of this reign. Born amid the extravagant ceremonial of
the Byzantine Court, and treasuring the memory of those splendid myths
and vanities, the more perhaps because they were wholly lost, the
exile transplanted to the rugged soil of Moskovy the ideals that had
waxed to fantastic growth on the humid shores of the Bosphorus. The
Velikie-kniaz of yore, moving freely among his boyarins and subjects,
develops gradually into the heaven-born Sovereign, a being removed
from contact with the ordinary sons of earth, withdrawn from profane
touch into a Holy of Holies of pomp and ceremony. Here again Ivan
was manifestly fitted to assist in working out this evolution. His
cold-blooded, calculated policy, his pitiless, passionless judgment,
his baleful glance, which is said to have caused women to faint, were
meet attributes of a majesty that was accounted something more than
human.

Under the influence of the new Byzantine and Italian ideas which the
Grand Prince imbibed from the inspiration of his consort and her
Court followers, Moskva received new buildings and adornments, a new
Cathedral of the Assumption (Ouspienskie Sobor), a new Kreml, new
ordnance, new coinage. Received also new laws, new punishments; the
old repugnance against taking life, expressed in the testament of
Monomachus, gave way to artistically conceived executions and tortures.
Heretics were put to death in a manner that the Inquisitors of Western
Europe might have been proud to own--roasted gently in a cage, for
example, or, if allowed to live, deprived of their unruly tongues.
Knout and axe made their appearance in the penal code, flesh and blood
cheapened in the market of civil life. Such were the results of the
union of the last of the Caesars with the first of the Tzars. The
outward expression of this alliance was the adoption on the Prince’s
seals of the double-headed eagle, the arms of the defunct eastern
empire; a cognisance which had, since the days of Karl the Great, been
also the distinguishing device of the western empire.[97]

In his capacity of appeal judge of Novgorodian suits, Ivan found his
influence over the affairs of the city daily growing stronger; an
accident furnished him with the pretext for bringing the republic
wholly under his authority. By a clerical error in a petition his style
was written Sovereign (Gosoudar), instead of Lord (Gospodin). A nod is
as good as a wink to an Argus-eyed prince. Ivan thanked the citizens
for their voluntary submission and assumed the new title. Novgorod
rose in angry rebellion against this last blow at her independence;
the faction of Martha lifted its head anew, and the eyes of all men
turned towards the King of Poland. But from that quarter came no help.
Kazimir was engaged in a struggle with Matthias of Hungary on the
one hand and the Teutonic Order on the other, and had, moreover, to
maintain his son Vladislas on the throne of Bohemia; hence he was not
in a position to court the hostility of the Prince of Moskva. Novgorod
had to front alone the overwhelming forces which Ivan led against her.
The Archbishop Theofil flitted backwards and forwards between the
city and the Prince’s camp, but saw never a sign of yielding on that
impassive countenance; saw only fresh troops arriving to swell the
monarch’s array. The unequal struggle could have but one end. “Who can
resist God and Great Novgorod?” The proud sphinx-riddle had at last
been answered, and the republic perished, strangled in the toils of
autocracy. [Sidenote: 1477] As Gosoudar Ivan entered the humbled city
the sovereign functions of vetché and posadnik were abolished, and the
whole province of Novgorod was added to the domain of Moskva. Loaded
with an enormous booty, wrenched by way of fine from the citizens, the
Grand Prince returned to his capital, bearing with him as prisoners
many of the merchants and boyarins of the disaffected party, and the
bereaved Martha, the Helen of this smitten Troy. Bearing also a yet
more notable captive, the great bell of Yaroslav, which for many a
hundred year had hung like a watchful sprite in its beetling belfry,
had clanged, boomed, and sobbed its summonses to council, strife, or
revelry, had roused the sleepy monks in many a marsh-girt monastery,
and witched with muffled echoes the seals of Lake Ilmen--this voice
of Novgorod’s liberty was borne away in the conqueror’s train, to be
hung in the new Ouspienskie Cathedral at Moskva, and eat out its life
in droning solemn flatteries on Moskovite high-days. Perchance as they
lifted it down from its long-accustomed tower it clashed forth one last
discordant knell, a passing-bell for the soul of the great republic.

Whatever hopes the Roman Pontiffs had built on the marriage they had
negotiated, they were doomed to be disappointed. Sophie Paleologus, so
far from converting her husband to the Latin faith, had adopted the
Orthodox religion almost as soon as she entered Russia,[98] and the
decrees of the Council of Florence were worse than abortive as far
as Moskva was concerned. Nor was it likely that Ivan, saddled with
his own subjection to the sword of the Prophet, was going crusading
against the Ottoman power in South Europe. Popular tradition, indeed,
gave his wife credit for turning his energies towards the off-throwing
of this same Mongol yoke, which was incompatible with the new ideas
of princely dignity. The initiative, however, appears to have come
from the other side. Akhmet, Khan of Astrakhan, either sensible of the
growing independence of Moskva, or acting at the instance of the King
of Poland, seized upon a moment when Ivan was embroiled in a quarrel
with his brothers (Boris and Andrei the elder) to march against this
too-uplifted vassal. [Sidenote: 1452] Kazimir having, by the Peace
of Olmutz (1479), closed the war with Hungary, was in a position to
second Akhmet’s attack. The political genius of Ivan was equal to the
emergency. By wise concessions he dispelled his brothers’ resentment
and presented a united front to the invaders, while his friendship with
Mengli-Girei, the Khan of the Krim Tartars, enabled him to send the
Krimskie horsemen raiding into Lit’uania--an effective counter-stroke
to Kazimir’s intrigues with the eastern khanate. Face to face in equal
struggle with the enemy, the Grand Prince showed none of the impatient
war-horse-snorting ardour which was expected of him; showed rather a
spirit of misgiving and vacillation, which had to be goaded by women
and ecclesiastics before it could be wound up to the necessary pitch.
This unwillingness to fight need not be set down unhesitatingly to
want of courage. _Erst wäge, dann wage_, the motto of a world-wise man
of a later day, was the life-motive of this wary yet strenuous kniaz,
and he had good reason to pause before staking the existence of his
monarchy on a pitched battle with Akhmet. The disaster which befell
Vitovt, and the equally unprofitable sequel to the victory of Dimitri
Donskoi, warned Ivan of the risk he ran in courting a like experience.
With a little patience, a little more feigned submission, Moskva would
see the power of the Horde crumble away of its own corrosive action;
on the other hand, the defeat of the Grand Prince’s army would place
his territories at the mercy of the real enemy, and the aggrandisement
of the Polish-Lit’uanian crown would be a death-blow to Moskovy. For
months the two armies faced each other on opposite banks of the Ougr,
Ivan urged by his soldiers and by the fiery Vassian, Archbishop of
Rostov, to strike a blow against the impious enemy of God, and the
impious one waiting for Lit’uanian succours before attacking Ivan.
At length the approach of winter froze the dividing river and left
no further obstacle to defer the contest. But the final snapping of
the Mongol yoke was to be effected in a manner which partook of the
ridiculous rather than the heroic. Ivan gave orders to his boyarins
to withdraw the army to a position more favourable for receiving the
attack; the backward movement engendered a panic among the Russians,
and the retreat was changed into a flight. On the other bank of the
Ougr the Mongols were alarmed to find that the foe whom they had been
watching so closely for months had suddenly vanished; a flank attack,
a rear attack, some unseen horror, was evidently creeping upon them,
and the hosts of Akhmet raced away from Moskovite soil as though all
the saints of the Orthodox calendar had been mobilised against them.
Ivan, like many another frozen-blooded strategist, had won by waiting,
and might now turn his undivided and untrammelled energies towards the
western foe.

The dynasty of Yagiello had emerged from its lair in the Lit’uanian
forests at a moment when the old reigning families of Poland, Hungary,
and Bohemia were dying out, and it seemed not unlikely that this new
and vigorous stock would gather up the fallen threads of Piast, Arpad,
and Premyslide, and weave together a powerful Slav-Magyar Empire.
Already in outward appearance a considerable step towards this goal
had been made. Kazimir Yagiellovitch had re-united the Polish and
Lit’uanian lands under his sceptre, West Russia was entirely in his
hands, Pomerellen and West Prussia had been wrested from the Order, and
one of his sons filled the Bohemian throne; in Hungary his pretensions
were only held in check by the vigour of Matthias Hunnyades. Against
this wide-stretching dominion the Grand-principality of Moskva was
pitted in a struggle as deadly as any that was waged between kindred
species of life in far primæval days. And for this struggle Moskva was
the more strongly equipped, despite her disparity of forces, by the
solidly-wrought cohesion into which centuries of adversity had hammered
her. Nor did her ruler rely for success on his own unaided resources;
besides his familiar sprite of the steppes, the Krim Tartar Khan, Ivan
drew into a league of suspended hostility Matthias of Hungary--the
great stumbling-block to Polish expansion--and Stefan VI., Hospodar
of Moldavia. The latter Prince, whose efforts had raised his country,
almost for the first time in her chequered history, to a position of
independence, and whose exploits against the Turks had gained for him,
from Sixtus IV., the title of _l’Athlète du Christ_, was allied with
the Moskovite princely family by the marriage of his daughter with the
young Ivan, son of the Grand Prince by his first wife, Mariya of Tver.
The outcome of these preparations was not open war; the two powers
remained snarling at each other and watching for some favourable
opportunity for attack. Ivan looked on complacently while Mengli-Girei
made an inroad upon the Podolian lands and plundered Kiev, while on
the other side Kazimir was believed to have incited the Order to
hostilities against Moskva.[99] Ivan’s forces, however, overawed the
Teutons, and in another direction Kazimir’s designs were frustrated;
a counter matrimonial alliance, between Mikhail of Tver and a
granddaughter of the King of Poland, was nipped in the bud by the Grand
Prince’s vigilance, and soon afterwards the Tverskie kniaz, detected
in an intrigue with Kazimir, was forced to fly from Ivan’s vengeance.
[Sidenote: 1485] The little principality, which had been for centuries
a thorn in the side of Moskva, was swallowed up in the Grand Prince’s
dominions, and Kazimir had the mortification of seeing his enemy grow
stronger instead of weaker as a result of this diplomatic skirmishing.

If the Polish King counted on wearying Ivan into some rash or negligent
act of open hostility or wanton enterprise he knew not his man. The
Moskovite never undertook a task greater than his forces were able
to accomplish, or attempted to hold more than he could with safety
manage. Hence his resources were never exhausted, and the long period
of pent hostility was turned on his part to solid advantage. [Sidenote:
1487] The small appanages of Rostov and Yaroslavl shared the fate of
Tver and Novgorod, Viatka was reduced to submission, Perm and the
silver-yielding region of the Petchora were added to the sovereignty,
and Kazan, long a scourge to the Volga Russians, fell into the power
of the Grand Prince. Ivan set a vassal Khan on the throne of this new
dependency, reserving for himself the title of Prince of Bulgaria.
A new title, indeed, was becoming necessary to describe the august
being who was emerging from the cocoon state of a Prince of Moskva,
and Ivan henceforth begins to style himself Tzar in his foreign
correspondence.[100]

The growing power and importance of the Moskovite state, emerged
from its Tartar thraldom and hallowed by its connection with the dead
Byzantine past, brought it more into contact with the western world
from which it had drifted so far apart. Like the hero of the Dutch
romance, revisiting the haunts of early life after his protracted
slumber, Russia was renewing the relations she had held with
Christendom before her opium-sleep in the shadow of the Khans. The
wily and patient kniaz had a double purpose to serve in encouraging
intercourse with the western princes: in the first place, to seek fresh
allies against the arch-enemy, Poland; in the second, to procure for
his beloved capital a share of the progress and civilisation which
was then illuminating Europe. Embassies and presents were exchanged
with the Emperor (Frederick III.) and with the young Maximilian, “King
of the Romans.” The death of Matthias (1490) and the election to the
Hungarian crown of Ladislas, King of Bohemia and son of Kazimir,
placed Maximilian in direct opposition to the House of Yagiello, and
Ivan was ready to join with the Habsburg in an attack on the common
enemy. [Sidenote: 1491] The hostilities in Hungary were, however,
cut short by a peace based on one of the “family compacts” so dear
to the House of Austria, and Ivan, in his turn, saw the power of his
foe wax stronger in spite of his diplomatic efforts. In another and
more unexpected direction the Grand Prince established relations of
friendship; the Ottoman power had already stretched its grasp over
Kaffa and the fertile lands of the Krim peninsula, and Mengli-Girei was
enrolled among the vassals of the Sultan Bayezid II. With this pacific
occupant of the Throne of the Faithful Ivan exchanged courtesies--a
sorry miscarriage of the hopes of the match-making Pontiffs. Doubtless
the Russian Prince saw in the Sultan a possible ally against the new
King of Hungary, who might one day unite on his head the crowns of
Poland and Lit’uania. Not in this direction, however, were travelling
the energies of the house of Yagiello. Kazimir seemed bent on providing
his numerous sons with separate kingdoms and principalities; having
failed in his attempt to divide the crowns of Hungary and Bohemia, he
tried to secure the succession of his second son, John-Albert, to the
Polish throne, and recommended another son, Alexander, to the boyarins
of the grand duchy. Having thus, in marked contrast to the life-work of
his great rival, done all that he could to ensure the disintegration of
his sovereignty, the King comfortably sickened of a fatal disease and
passed away with the famous _moriendum ergo_ on his lips. [Sidenote:
1492] Subsequent events fell in with his testamentary wishes. The
Lit’uanians elected Alexander as Grand Duke, and the Polish Diet,
after many stormy sittings, recognised John-Albert as its sovereign--a
recognition possibly influenced by the arrival on the scene of
deliberation of 1600 armed men enlisted on that Prince’s behalf.[101]

The enfeeblement of Lit’uania by reason of its separation from Poland
invited the long-nursed hostility of the Grand Prince and his faithful
ally, Mengli-Girei. The latter ravaged the Lettish territories in
the south, while the forces of the former harried all along the
Moskovite border. Many of the boyarins and petty princes subject to
Alexander passed over to the service of a monarch who was of their
own nationality and religion, and the Grand Duke had to signalise
his accession by buying off the hostility of Ivan with the surrender
of some frontier lands. [Sidenote: 1494] On these terms an “eternal
peace” was accommodated between the two countries, and the following
year a matrimonial alliance was effected between Alexander and Ivan’s
daughter Elena. Whatever chance might have existed of durable concord
between a weak state holding conquered territory and a strong state
to whom that territory has once belonged was extinguished by the
irritating stipulations with which this marriage contract bristled.
Uncomfortable as a neighbour, Ivan was incompatible as a father-in-law;
the safeguards which had been insisted on against any tampering with
the Princess’s Orthodoxy were supplemented by minute regulations with
regard to her worship, her household, even her dress. She might visit
a Catholic church as a curiosity--twice; she was to eschew Polish
costumes, even her cooks were of Russian selection. In fact, her Court
was to be an Orthodox Moskovite oasis in the Lit’uanian desert.[102]
Alexander found he had sacrificed his domestic independence without
obtaining any compensating security for his dominions; the restless
Hospodar of Moldavia and the Krimskie Khan continued to harry the
Podolian and Galician lands, and the Moskovites were openly aggressive
towards the Grand Duke’s subjects. Ivan, indeed, at this period
seems to have rated the power of the Yagiellos cheaply, and to have
permitted himself a diversion in the affairs of North-western Europe.
Whether he had secretly nursed designs against the merchants of the
Hansa League, who continued to maintain a flourishing commerce at
Novgorod after the civic glories had departed from her, or whether
for once his coldly-measured policy was influenced by an unpent
passion, the facts scarcely indicate. [Sidenote: 1495] The spark that
roused, or gave plausible ground for, his sudden resentment against
the unsuspecting traders was the torture of two Russian subjects at
Revel--who were boiled to death for coining false money and otherwise
misconducting themselves--coupled with an insult to the Grand Prince.
Ivan revenged himself by swooping down on the famous Hanse factory
at Novgorod, confiscating all the merchandise therein stored, and
seizing the persons of forty-nine merchants of Lubeck, Hamburg,
Munster, Dortmund, Revel, Dorpat, etc. By this raid he enriched himself
with a sum computed at a million gulden, but the Hansa trade with
Novgorod and Pskov was diverted to Revel and the Livlandish towns.[103]
Skandinavian affairs next engaged the Grand Prince’s attention, and
the embarrassments of Sweden offered an opportunity for wiping off old
scores with that ancient enemy. Under the administration of the Regent
Sture the Swedes had broken away from the Kalmar Union, and refused
to acknowledge as their sovereign Johann, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein,
and King of Denmark and Norway; with this monarch Ivan entered into
an active alliance, and the bleak uplands and marsh-choked forests
of Finland became the scene of an obstinate war. Ivangorod, the
newly-built Russian frontier fortress and the Swedish outpost of Viborg
were in turn besieged by the belligerents, and the Finns experienced
the calamities to which border peoples are particularly liable. Neither
side gained any important advantage, and the war was brought to a
sudden termination by the election of Johann to the crown of Sweden.

The influence of Byzantine ideas which had permeated the Moskovite
Court showed itself in a series of sinister developments, which closely
reproduced the palace intrigues for which the Greek capital had been
infamous. [Sidenote: (1490)] By the death of the young Ivan, son of
the Grand Prince by his first wife, the heirship in the direct line
had devolved upon the former’s infant son, Dimitri; a formidable
competitor existed, however, in Vasili, eldest son of Ivan by his
second marriage, and herein lay the constituents of a pretty succession
dispute, in which of course the two mothers, Elena of Moldavia and
Sophie Paleologus, urged with inconvenient insistency the claims of
their respective sons. The law of hereditary succession was an exotic
plant on Russian soil, and men’s ideas were not yet sufficiently fixed
to remove all question of doubt on the subject. For a comparatively
newly established Court matters were carried through with remarkable
correctness of detail. Plots were discovered--or imagined, tortures
extracted confessions, guilty boyarins yielded up their lives on the
banks of the river Moskva, Sophie and her son were disgraced, and the
child Dimitri solemnly crowned as Ivan’s successor. The latter decision
may have been influenced by a desire to “keep in” with the Hospodar
Stefan, rather than by any scrupulous regard for hereditary rights, but
at least it shows how little the heirship-of-the-Cæsars idea had taken
hold of Moskovite minds. [Sidenote: 1499] Renewed intrigues brought
about a reaction, Sophie and her son were restored to the light of
the Grand Prince’s countenance, and another batch of executions and
imprisonments, among the Dimitri party this time, restored peace and
happiness to the domestic circle. Vasili was decorated with the title
of Prince of Novgorod and Pskov, and the succession remained for the
present a reopened question.

Meanwhile the eternal peace was showing signs of the decay to which
such institutions are liable. In August 1499 appeared at Moskva the
ambassador of Lit’uania, one Stanislav Gliebovitch, big with grievances
against the Grand Prince. Stefan of Moldavia was threatened by the
all-devouring Turk; would Ivan unite with the sovereigns of Lit’uania,
Poland, and Hungary on his behalf? Why had Ivan, notwithstanding the
peace, incited Mengli-Girei to raid the Grand Duke’s territories? And
if Alexander conceded to Ivan the title “Sovereign of all Russia,”
would the latter promise to renounce all claim on Kiev for himself
and his heirs? To the last of these propositions Ivan returned a
scornful negative. With regard to the suggested crusade he was ready
to give assistance to Stefan when the latter should personally ask
for it. The charge concerning Mengli, which could not be denied, was
met by counter-recriminations respecting Alexander’s intrigues with
the Golden Horde. The irritation felt at Vilna at the uncompromising
attitude of the Grand Prince towards the proposals put forward by this
mission was not allowed to calm down. Ivan presented on his part a
batch of complaints concerning the non-fulfilment of various items
in the Princess Elena’s marriage agreement, and the alleged forced
conversion of the Grand Duke’s Russian subjects to the Latin faith.
The amenities of religion gave the finishing touch to an already
overstrained situation. Lit’uania and the Russian provinces included
within its political bounds swarmed with an aristocratic population of
boyarin-princes, some offshoots of the prolific stock of Rurik, others
descendants of Gedimin. The Russian and Orthodox among them naturally
inclined towards the rising power of Moskva, while among the Letts were
many who bore no affection to the Yagiellos and were disposed rather
to cast in their lot with the all-conquering Grand Prince. Even the
grandsons of Shemiaka were drawn back to the allegiance which their
forbears had deserted; in short, all along the border there was an
uprising of princes and voevodas on behalf of the Prince of Moskva.

With the melting of the winter snows both sides prepared to take the
field. The Tartars of the Krim steppes turned the noses of their wiry
little horses towards the west; those of Kazan pushed along the wooded
valley of the Upper Volga to swell the war-bands gathering at Moskva;
the Grand Prince’s own horse-carls (with their quaint equipment of
sabre, bow and arrows, mace, kisten,[104] and whip, and their heavy
quilted jerkins) clambered on to their sturdy shaggy-heeled steeds and
marshalled themselves under their respective boyarins and captains; the
bulbous domes and campaniles of the magnificent-grown city re-echoed
the pealing war-notes, and in wood and wold howled S. George’s
dogs[105] in chorus, in anticipation of the good times coming.

Neither prince commanded his army in person; each in fact was employed
in weaving alliances against the other. The main body of the Moskovite
troops was under the direction of the voevoda Yakov Zakharievitch; the
Letts were generalled by the hetman Konstantin Ostrojhskie. All the
advantage of preparedness lay with the Moskovites, who in fact had
taken possession of several Lit’uanian places while the Grand Duke was
still in the negotiating stage. Alexander awoke from his chafing and
peeving and yielding to find that his _parent terrible_ was ensconced
on the wrong side of the border, and the detestable Mengli-Girei, who
hunted in couple with the Grand Prince, was careering unchecked through
Podolia and Galicia; also the interesting champion of Christendom,
who loved the Poles no better than he loved the Turks, was preparing
to make a hostile incursion upon the same provinces. The Grand Duke
on his part made overtures to the Order and dispatched couriers to
Shikh-Akhmat, Khan of Astrakhan, and mortal enemy of Mengli.

[Sidenote: July 1500]

The superiority in warfare which had distinguished the Letts under
their early princes seemed to have been lost at this juncture, and
the first collision between the opposing forces--on the plain of
Mit’kov, by the banks of the Vedrosh--resulted in a complete victory
for the Moskovites.[106] The hetman and many Lit’uanian pans were taken
prisoners, and there was joy in the bulb-topped city. The position of
the long-time enemies was exactly reversed; the Moskovite and Tartar
armies swept all before them in the open country, but the fortified
citadels of Polotzk, Smolensk, Vitebsk, and other border strongholds
resisted the attacks of the invaders, as the Kreml had defied those
of Olgerd and Vitovt in bygone days. In the south-west the Krim
hordes, led by Mengli-Girei’s son, burnt Kremenetz, Lublin, and many
other towns and gorodoks. Unable to make a respectable resistance to
his enemies on either side, Alexander engaged himself in a feverish
activity of negotiation. In January 1501 ambassadors from Ladislav of
Hungary-Bohemia and Albert of Poland journeyed to Moskva on a fruitless
errand of mediation. Urgent remonstrances were dispatched from Vilna
to Moldavia, begging the _Athlete du Christ_ to be athletic in any
other direction than that of the grand duchy, while anxious endeavours
were made to enlist the aid of the German Order against the victorious
Moskovite. The office of Land-Master of Livland was filled at this
moment by the able warrior Walter von Plettenberg, and though crippled
in power and dominion since the disastrous field of Tannenberg, the
knights were still a formidable fighting force. Little reason had
they to love the Yagiellos, but at this moment Teutonic feeling was
more inflamed against the phœnix-growth of the new Russian power that
had arisen from the ashes of Mongol devastation. The Order saw the
hand that armed Pskov and Izborsk against its territories; the Hansa
merchants thought of the violence done to their trading rights at
Novgorod; and the empire felt jealous of the rival sovereignty, owning
neither Pope nor Kaiser, which threatened to make the late Emperor’s
fatuous monogram more illusory than ever.[107] Taking advantage of
this latent hostility, Alexander was able to bring about an offensive
alliance between himself and the Order, into which also entered the
sovereign ecclesiastics of Riga, Revel, Dorpat, Oesel, and Pilten. This
new phase of the struggle was heralded by the arrest of 200 Russian
merchants at Dorpat, a belated reprisal for the affair of Novgorod.
Ivan dispatched towards the Livlandish border an army of Moskovites
and Pskovians, computed to have been 40,000 strong. Against this array
von Plettenberg could only bring into action, at a locality 10 verstas
from Izborsk, a force of 4000 knights and some irregulars. The Germans,
however, were well supplied with artillery, and the noise, perhaps more
than the execution, of their fire-belching implements of war caused a
panic among the Russians, who fled in confusion. And here it may be
remarked that the Russian warriors of that period were somewhat liable
to these sudden stampedes; as a contemporary observer neatly remarks,
“They make the first charge on the enemy with great impetuosity, but
their valour does not seem to hold out very long, for they seem as if
they would give a hint to the enemy, as much as to say, ‘if you do not
flee, we must.’”[108] Without straining a point it may be assumed that
this liability to panic was in some measure due to the superstitious
coddling of their religion, which depicted angels and saints and
Bogoroditzas as ready, on suitable occasions, to interfere with effect
on their behalf; consequently if the enemy stood his ground for any
length of time the disheartened warriors experienced an uneasy _lama
sabacthani_ feeling that all was not well with them in the desired
quarter, and demoralisation ensued. The stubbornly contested field of
Koulikovo scarcely furnishes the exception which “proves the rule,” as
on that occasion the Metropolitan had announced that victory would only
be attained after much fighting.[109]

This ignominious collapse left Pskov to receive the full fury of von
Plettenberg’s attack, and the citizens in desperation prepared to
make a more creditable stand behind their walls than they had done in
the field. But the threatened blow did not fall; a pestilence of some
severity broke out among the “iron men,” and the army of the Order was
obliged to return to quarters.

Another change came over the complexion of affairs. John-Albert had
terminated an inglorious reign by a fit of apoplexy in the month of
June, and on the 23rd October the Polish Diet elected Alexander to
the vacant throne. This event did not strengthen his hands as much as
might have been expected. The Polish pans and nobles were a turbulent
self-seeking class, and were not likely to rush recklessly to the
defence of Lit’uania while their new monarch stayed quietly at home and
tampered possibly with their precious privileges. Ivan on the other
hand, undeterred by the reverse near Izborsk, prosecuted the war with
persistent energy. Employing the best possible method for heartening
his troops against the Teutons, he sent them ravaging into Livland
on the heels of the retreating army. Another victory was obtained
over the Lit’uanians, while Shikh-Akhmet, who had made a diversion
against Mengli on the east, was chased out of his dominions by the
allied Moskovite and Krim forces. Thus darkly for Alexander closed
the year 1501. Ivan had maintained his ground in every direction, and
had inflicted grievous harm on the allies of Poland. His Russian and
Tartar cavalry had raided unchecked round Neuhausen, Marienburg, and
the cathedral lands of Dorpat, the autumn floods and consequent state
of the roads preventing the heavy-armed knights and their heavier
artillery from taking the field. With the first frosts the invaders
withdrew across the border, followed by the indefatigable Land-Master,
who at last was able to abandon his enforced inaction. His hastily
gathered forces were, however, outmatched by the superior numbers
of the marauders, and in an encounter at Helmet (25th November) the
Germans were beaten back and 300 of the episcopal troops of Dorpat left
upon the field.[110]

The war dragged on throughout the early months of the new year; a
waiting game obviously suited Ivan’s plans and there was none to force
his hand. The dread of Russian-Tartar raids made the Livlander prelates
and burggreves chary of sending off their lanzknechts to the support
of the Land-Master, and von Plettenberg was for a long time unable
either to clear his borders of the freebooting bands, or to carry the
hostilities into the enemy’s country. From Alexander came no help, only
couriers with promises. The King was prodigal with his messengers and
tireless in sketching plans of campaign for himself and his allies; the
only detail which he allowed himself to neglect was the carrying out of
his share of the preconcerted action. This omission placed his friends
in awkward predicaments; Shikh-Akhmet was a miserable fugitive, von
Plettenberg found himself facing the whole Moskovite fighting strength,
except that detachment which was leisurely besieging Smolensk. Autumn
witnessed a quickening of the situation. Still trusting to Alexander’s
fly-blown promises, the Land-Master assumed the aggressive and trained
his ponderous artillery against the walls of Pskov. The burghers saw
their battlements and ramparts crumble away beneath the thundering
cannonade of the mighty siege-pieces, and day by day weaker grew the
defences which divided them from their bitterest enemies. But while no
Polish troops put in an appearance, the hearts of the besieged were
gladdened by the sight of the tossing manes of thousands of Tartar
horses and the conical head-dress of thousands of Ivan’s warriors.
The advancing Russian host was large enough to smother the slender
following of von Plettenberg, but the iron-sheathed German knights and
footmen were capable of offering a stout resistance to the arrows and
even the trenchant sabres of their opponents. The Land-Master withdrew
his force to the shores of the Smolina Lake, where, on the day of the
Exaltation of the Cross (14th September) the Black Cross warriors
commenced one of the most brilliant battles of their crowded annals.
For three days they held the field against the stubborn attacks of
the whirlwind-sweeping squadrons; “with blood and dust,” says an old
chronicle, “both steed and rider were bedecked, so that none might tell
the colour”; and when finally exhaustion and discouragement deterred
the Russians from renewing the attack, the Iron men were able to claim
the victory. But the willing horse had worked itself to a standstill;
von Plettenberg was obliged to lead his scarred and weary followers
homeward, and if the Moskovites were too crippled to re-commence their
raids, at the same time the Livlanders were forced out of Russian
territory.[111]

Meanwhile in another direction had fallen a long impending blow,
no further to be averted by the eloquent epistles of the Complete
Letter-writer. The redoubtable Hospodar, nursing against Poland
the remembrance of recent wrongs, and profiting by her present
embarrassments, burst suddenly into Galicia, and gleaned where the
Tartars had harvested. Several towns fell with little resistance
into his hands, and were annexed to his Moldavian dominions. Not in
accord with Ivan was this invasion undertaken, for the question of
the succession to the Moskovite throne had caused a rupture between
the two princes. Mengli-Girei was, in fact, the pivot on which the
anti-Polish alliance turned; the Grand Prince was not on good terms
with the Hospodar, and the latter could not be considered as otherwise
than hostile to the Turkish Sultan, but Mengli was the friend and ally
of all three. The winter of 1502-3 found matters in much the same state
as they had been twelve months earlier. The Grand Prince’s troops had
been obliged to raise the siege of Smolensk, but they still retained
the lands they had seized at the commencement of the war, still held
their own in the Baltic districts. A candidate for the blessings
traditionally allotted to the peacemaker now appeared in the person
of the Pontiff, who sought to bring about an accommodation between
the contending sovereigns. The splendid profligate who occupied the
throne of S. Peter was not actuated by a constitutional or professional
abhorrence of bloodshed--under his pontificate the Eternal City had
been a shambles rather than a sheepfold,--but for the present the
smiting of the Infidel seemed to him more urgent than the harrying of
the Orthodox, especially as the Orthodox seemed well able to retaliate.
With an uncrushed and unappeased enemy on their flank, it was clearly
impossible for the kings of Hungary and Poland and the Teutonic Order
to join in the crusade by which the Borgia fondly hoped to sweep the
Ottoman from Europe. Hence the apparition of this very soiled dove
masquerading with an olive branch in its crimson beak.

Ivan was undoubtedly master of the situation, and was able practically
to dictate his own terms, which he proceeded to do notwithstanding
the clamour of the crowd of envoys and ambassadors--Papal, Hungarian,
Polish, Teutonic, and Livlandish--who had gathered at Moskva. In the
first place, the Grand Prince would not hear of an “eternal peace,”
but limited the negotiations to the arrangement of a six-years’ truce
(25th March 1503 to 25th March 1509). With some slight remissions the
Moskovites retained the lands they had laid hands on during the war;
Tchernigov, Starodoub, Poutivl, Novgorod-Severski, Briansk, Toropetz,
and others, in all nineteen towns, seventy districts, twenty-two
gorodoks (townlets), and thirteen villages, were ceded by Alexander to
his uncomfortable father-in-law.[112] The Livlanders, who had played so
important a part in the war, were left as much in the lurch by their
graceless ally during the negotiations as they had been throughout the
fighting, and the conditions they were obliged to accept to participate
in the truce were far from favourable. The Russian merchants were
to be liberated from their prisons at Dorpat; the bishop of that
see was to resume payment of an old tribute of wax and honey to the
Grand Prince, and a Greek church was to be erected in the town. The
Livlander prisoners were not released by the Moskovites, and against
these concessions and disadvantages could only be set a clause which
restricted the fishery rights of the Pskovians in Lake Peipus to the
east shore.[113]

The Khan of the Krim steppes was not directly included in the truce,
though Alexander innocently supposed that Ivan’s ally was implicated
in the general pacification; the Grand Prince privately took care to
prevent Mengli-Girei from sharing this impression, and the Tartar
hordes continued to disquiet the Lit’uanian provinces.

Short though the term of the truce was, it outlasted the two principals
who within a few months of each other attained that eternal peace
which in life they had been unable to compact for. Ivan, in fact, had
but obtained a breathing space in which to arrange the affairs of his
family and gosoudarstvo before closing his long reign of forty-three
years. While the war was yet being waged he had definitely broken with
the Moldavian or Dimitri party, knowing well that Stefan could neither
relinquish nor Alexander forgive the loss of the towns which the former
had wrested from Poland, and hence that no imprudence on his part would
unite his two family connections against him. Dimitri had been stripped
of his prospective title and guarded as a prisoner in his palace,
while the names of himself and his mother were struck off from the
prayers of the Church. This step was followed by the proclamation of
Vasili as the Grand Prince’s successor. The death of Elena in 1505, and
of the Hospodar a year earlier, left the youth Dimitri in a forlorn and
friendless condition.

In the winter of 1505 (27th October) Ivan ended his long and remarkable
reign. The sovereignty which he relinquished was scarcely to be
recognised as the same which had been bequeathed to him by Vasili
the Darkened. From a struggling principality it had shot up into a
monarchy, struggling still, but for empire, not existence. The terrible
humiliating Mongol yoke, which had been such a bitter reality when
Ivan’s world was young, seemed now the almost forgotten bogey of a
dimly-remembered past. A revolt of the Khan of Kazan, the last event
of the old man’s reign, served only to emphasise the fact of the
altered relations between Tartar and Moskovite. Perm, the regions
of the Petchora, and the vast boreal territories which had belonged
to the republic of Novgorod more than doubled the extent of the
Grand-principality, which had been further swelled by the absorption of
Tver and Viatka, and the conquest from Lit’uania of the Russian lands
east of the Sojh. The standing and importance of the Moskovite State
likewise had kept pace with its expansion during this long reign, and
the policy of the Kreml was a matter of interest not merely to Sarai
and Riazan and Vilna as heretofore, but to Buda, Constantinople, Wien,
and Rome, to Krakow, Kjöbenhavn, Upsal, and Koenigsberg.

Such was the inheritance which Vasili III. Ivanovitch received from the
cold hands of his father; from his mother (who had died in 1503) he
derived the reflected glory which centred in the last of the Paleologi.
Embarrassments too were not wanting to disquiet the opening days of the
new reign. Besides the revolt of Kazan, the suspended hostilities with
Poland and Livland threatened the future repose of the State. The alert
and provident von Plettenberg was husbanding his resources against a
renewal of the war, and was, moreover, receiving considerable Teutonic
and Catholic support. A loan had been subscribed on his behalf by the
cities of Lubeck and Rostock, and the Pope had diverted to his use
a share of the receipts accruing from the sale of indulgences--an
ingenious device which at the same time equipped the gentlemen of God
against the heretics, admitted more souls to swell the triumph-song
of Heaven, and, incidentally, enriched the coffers of Holy Church.
Financial aid was also forthcoming from Maximilian, who granted to the
Land-Master a three years’ privilege to exact tolls from all ships
entering Livlandish harbours (1505).[114] The policy of the Emperor at
this moment halted between an angry suspicion of the house of Yagiello,
which drew him towards a good understanding with Moskva, and a jealous
solicitude for the German colony on the Baltic, which pulled him in
the opposite direction. Alexander, relieved of the nightmare incubus
of his terrible father-in-law, lost no time in resuming his plaints
and proposals to the new sovereign. Would Vasili restore the filched
territories to Lit’uania and peace to the two countries? To which the
Grand Prince replied that he was willing to conclude peace on the
condition that Kiev and Smolensk were ceded to him. Clearly the time
was not yet ripe for negotiation.

In August of 1506 the King of Poland followed his great rival to the
grave, cheered on his death-bed by the rare news of a victory over the
Krim Tartars. Sigismund, another son of Kazimir, obtained the double
election to the Polish-Lit’uanian throne.

Meanwhile Vasili was engaged in dealing with the defiant Kazanese,
not with conspicuous success. The Moskovite army, led by the Grand
Prince’s brother Dimitri, after having in turn been repulsed by the
enemy and victorious in a second attack, was finally taken by surprise
and irremediably routed, abandoning in its flight several cannon.
Preparations for another expedition were countermanded owing to the
submission of the Khan. This pacification was of timely service to
Moskva, for relations with Poland became suddenly strained and the
truce ceased to be effective. The firefly who led both parties into the
uncertain issue of open hostility was a Polish pan, Mikhail Glinski,
celebrated for his recent victory over the Krim horde. Of Tartar
extraction and German education, this restless spirit had attached
himself to the Lit’uanian Court, where his success, or the ambition
ensuing therefrom, gained him many enemies. The accession of the new
king brought matters to a head, and Glinski demanded justice between
himself and his detractors. Sigismund procrastinated, and the aggrieved
noble went over, with all his followers, to the service of Moskva,
plundering and slaying as he went. Vasili took the interesting waif
under his protection, and the border regions were soon well alight
with the fires of war. Russian and Tartar troops followed the beck
of the stark strife-kindling free-lance, who had the satisfaction of
surprising in his palace near Grodno the pan Jabrzczinski, the foremost
among his calumniators. “Have I found thee, O mine enemy?” With savage
glee he inflicted the death penalty on his foe, and went on his way
exulting. [Sidenote: 1508] In the month of June Sigismund appeared on
the scene with a formidable army and chased the invaders out of his
territory. The result, however, of the whole affair was favourable to
Moskva; a peace was effected between the two countries which confirmed
Vasili in the possession of his father’s conquests and recognised
Glinski and other disaffected Lit’uanians as Moskovite subjects. The
Order, as usual, was left to take care of itself, and von Plettenberg
saw himself with some alarm standing single-handed against Moskva, with
only a few more months of the truce to run. Vasili, however, raised
no difficulty in the way of a good understanding with the Germanic
knights and Livlandish prelates, whom it was to his interest to detach
from the Polish alliance, and a fourteen years’ peace was concluded on
mutually satisfactory grounds. [Sidenote: 1509] Thus the Grand Prince
obtained a respite from the exhausting neighbour-war, which gave him
the opportunity to resume the great work of consolidation within his
own frontiers.

Delivered by the fourteen years’ peace from the state of insecurity
which had been almost normal with them for nearly a century,
the Pskovians might possibly have looked forward to a season of
tranquillity and prosperity. Tranquillity they were certainly to have,
but it was to be the repose of decay, not of belaurelled affluence. The
Grand Prince, also delivered from the embarrassments of a foreign war,
revived the designs which had long been harboured at Moskva against
the independence of Pskov. Betaking himself and his Court to Novgorod
in the autumn of 1509, he summoned thither the posadniks, boyarins,
and notables of the city on the Peipus to give an account of their
grievances against the Governor, Ivan Obolenski, who had rendered
himself unpopular. Scarcely had the deputed citizens arrived than they
were arrested and shut up in the famous archiepiscopal palace, which,
after having furnished a prison for many a subject-ridden kniaz, now
became a place of detention for those who were under the sovereign’s
displeasure. Without a struggle Pskov yielded to the fate of her “elder
sister” Novgorod. [Sidenote: 1510] The vetché was dissolved and the
city bell borne down from the Troitza tower. Vasili was faithfully
moving in the path marked out by his predecessors.

The domestic affairs of the Grand Prince’s Court were tinged, as
indeed was the whole Moskovite life at this period, with a strong
Asiatic leaven. Already in his father’s lifetime a bride had been
chosen for him by a method which recalls the wooing of a sultan or
a rajah rather than that of a Christian prince; 1500 of the most
eligible damsels of the realm were gathered together for inspection,
and their number gradually weeded down to ten. These were medically
examined, and a “selection of the fittest” was made in the person
of Solomonia, daughter of a boyarin of no very high standing. By an
irony of circumstance this carefully picked consort disappointed
the expectations which had been formed of her, and the prophecies
and flatteries which lie in wait for the birth of a royal heir were
baulked of their delivery. The absence of a successor in the direct
line did not ameliorate the lot of the Grand Prince’s nephew, Dimitri.
Since the accession of the new monarch the seclusion of the possible
rival had become a close imprisonment, and his death was not unduly
postponed. In Oriental State affairs, as indeed in those of Western
Europe during the Middle Ages, it is a safe axiom that the inconvenient
die young. Dimitri died. Unavoidably, the chronicles of the day
suggested foul play, and he would not have been the only Russian Prince
of the Blood who was conducted by an expeditious “royal road” through
this vale of tears.

Owing to the renewed importance of Russia in the affairs of
Christendom, and the observations handed down to posterity by the
ambassadors and commercial agents who penetrated into the bleak and
reputedly barbarous regions of “Muscouvie,” the appearance and life
of the isolated capital in this century stands out with a hitherto
unwonted clearness. Hemmed in on all sides with thick forests, from
whence, down the Moskva river, was floated the timber of which
the houses were mostly built, the city stood in a setting of open
meadows, swarming with hares and roebuck, which were reserved for the
Grand Prince’s exclusive hunting. Fields and gardens and monasteries
straggled so far into the outskirts (or slobodas) that it was difficult
to tell exactly where the line of demarcation lay; for besides the
Moskva on one side, and the ditch-like Neglina on the other, there were
“no useful defences in the shape of walls, fosses, or ramparts.”[115]
The Kreml, or citadel, and in time the inner quarters of the town,
were however strongly fortified. As is frequently the case in cities
with Oriental characteristics, squalor and magnificence were strangely
jumbled together. Mean huts and booths were interspersed with
cupola-crowned churches and public buildings, which, designed for the
most part by Byzantine and Italian artists, presented a quaint and
not unpleasing confusion of eastern and western architecture. Despite
the “forty times forty churches” which were springing up all over
Moskva, the cleanliness which is supposed to accompany godliness was
conspicuously absent. “This city” wrote the Imperial ambassador at
the Court of Vasili, “is so broad and spacious, and so very dirty,
that bridges have been constructed here and there in the highways and
streets and in the other more distinguished parts.” Here, then, in this
straggling wood-built metropolis, this germ-cell of the Russian Empire,
dwelt the Grand Princes who were slowly evolving into Great White
Tzars; amid a surrounding of cathedrals and mud, holy ikons and squalid
hovels, dedicated gates and buildings topped with quaint bulbous domes
and cupolas, gold, blue, and silver, moved the rulers of the Moskovite
state. Hedged round with dreary ceremonial, waited on by courtiers and
chamberlains and servants, clad in long flowing robes that smacked more
of Bagdad than of Rome or Wien, the sovereigns of “all Russia” dwelt in
a world apart from outside influences, and could only measure things by
their own standard.

As in a rookery at the approach of nesting-time certain early birds may
be seen quietly pursuing their constructive operations amid the turmoil
and racket of their less provident fellows, so all over Europe at this
epoch, amid the anarchy which attended the decay of feudalism, the work
of building was in full progress. The Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns in
the Empire, the Valois in France, the Tudors in England, the Moskovite
princes in Russia, were piecing together the foundations of what were
eventually to be the five Great Powers of a transformed Europe. In
the early years of the sixteenth century it seemed not improbable
that the Yagiellos would create, out of the chaos of Polish, Magyar,
Czech, Lettish, and West Russian lands, a personal dominion which might
crystallise into an empire. But as in a rookery, to return to the
simile, certain unfortunately situated nests suffer from the plundering
attentions of competing builders, so the house of Yagiello was doomed
to see its carefully collected materials snatched away in the predatory
acquisitions of the Austrian archdukes, the Markgrafs of Brandenburg,
and the Grand Princes of Moskva. And not only had the kings of Poland
fallen among thieves, as it were, but their hands were more or less
tied by their dependence on the most selfish of all governing classes,
an anti-monarchical aristocracy.

Between Poles and Moskovites neither truce nor treaty could long be
effective, and war soon broke out anew; Sigismund had at last succeeded
in detaching the Krim Tartars from the Russian alliance, or, more
probably, the nomads had followed their own lawless inclinations in
bursting upon the rich cornlands of Riazan, “more fertile than all the
other provinces of Russia.” The event served as a pretext for Vasili to
march his troops into Lit’uania and besiege Smolensk. The moment was
favourable for a rupture. The King of Hungary was tottering towards
his grave, and two rival parties were more than anxious to constitute
themselves guardians of his youthful son and his two kingdoms. In this
struggle Sigismund found himself opposed to the Austrian Archduke,
Maximilian, head of the Holy Roman Empire; more formidable, perhaps,
in the former capacity than in the latter. Besides this embarrassment,
the relations between Poland and the military Order were, to say the
least, strained. The election (in 1511) of Albrecht, of the House of
Brandenburg, to the office of Grand-Master, had given new vigour to
the knights, who, since the disaster of Tannenberg, had been chafing
against the Polish suzerainty. With the support, moral and material,
of the Emperor, the Markgraf Joachim, and the Grand Prince of Moskva,
it seemed possible that this over-lordship might be thrown off.
[Sidenote: Dec. 1512] Under these circumstances Vasili set forth in
mid-winter, attended by his brothers Urii and Dimitri, by Mikhail
Glinski, and numerous boyarins, and trailing after him in sledges
his unwieldy artillery, served by German gunners, to undertake the
siege of Smolensk. From contemporary accounts this important border
city does not appear to have been very elaborately fortified, but its
defences were sufficiently strong to withstand the Grand Prince’s
attack, and in March the invading army returned to Moskva to avoid the
dangers and discomforts of the approaching thaw. In the summer of the
same year Vasili reiterated the attempt with no better result; the
Russians at this time were not particularly skilled in the arts of
sieges. The question of the Hungarian regency and eventual succession
still agitated the Courts of Wien and Krakow, although Ladislas had
not yet joined the “quiet people,” and in February 1514 an Imperial
ambassador appeared at Moskva for the purpose of clinching a treaty
between Maximilian and Vasili. The reciprocal agreement which was drawn
up between the two parties is important from the fact that, in the
German copy, the word “Tzar” was rendered “Kaiser”--the first occasion
on which the imperial title was applied to the Russian monarch.[116]
[Sidenote: 1514] Three months later Vasili’s lieutenants at Novgorod
concluded a treaty with the Hanseatic League, by which commercial
relations were restored to their old footing. In June of the same year
the importunate Grand Prince resumed his attack upon Smolensk, and
reaped the reward of perseverance. The King of Poland, who had made
no effort to succour the beleaguered city, attributed its loss to
treachery, and vented his chagrin on the governor, a Bohemian named
Solohoub, whom he put to death. The Russian accounts give the credit
of the victory to the Moskovite artillery--which ought certainly to
have got its range by that time--and to the pacific overtures of the
citizens, headed by their Bishop Varsonof.[117]

The loss of this important place roused Sigismund to a more aggressive
line of action than he had hitherto taken. Konstantin Ostrojhski was
despatched against the enemy with a force of 30,000 men; a force which,
though numerically far weaker than that at the disposal of Vasili, was
better equipped, better provided with artillery, and, above all, better
generalled. In the latter department the Moskovites sustained a severe
loss by the defection of the unstable Glinski, who, disappointed in
his expectation of obtaining the government of Smolensk in return for
services rendered, made arrangements for deserting to the cause of his
former sovereign. Sigismund was not loth to receive the strayed lamb
back to his fold, but a misfortune, in the shape of a well-mounted band
of the Grand Prince’s troops, overtook the transient pan before he had
reached the Polish lines. Vasili rewarded his treason with rigorous
imprisonment, deeming, perhaps, that he would be more valuable as a
hostage than as a corpse. The two armies now faced each other from
either bank of the Dniepr; the Russians were about 80,000 strong, and
had, in addition to superiority of numbers, the further advantage of
being on the defensive. This advantage, however, was thrown away by
the inaction of the Moskovite voevodas, who stood helplessly looking
on while Ostrojhski threw a bridge across the river and safely brought
over his heavy artillery. [Sidenote: 1514] On the 8th September[118] at
Orsha, on the left bank of the Dniepr, was fought a terrific battle,
in which the hordes of Moskovy went down in hopeless rout before the
well-armed knights and well-served artillery of the Polish-Lit’uanian
army. Allowing for exaggeration, the losses on the side of the
vanquished were enormous. Sigismund, in the exultant letters he
despatched to Pope, Cardinals, and the Doge of Venice, announcing the
victory, estimates the Moskovite slain at 30,000, and particularises
a large number of distinguished prisoners.[119] The disaster to the
Moskovite arms roused the spirit of the Polish faction within the walls
of Smolensk. The time-serving Bishop, who had been largely instrumental
in the surrender of the town to Vasili, flattered himself that he might
again dispose of its destinies, and, with the connivance of several
boyarins, sent an invitation to the Polish general to come and possess
himself of the place. The Moskovite voevoda, a member of the princely
family of Shouyskie, was not, however, a _quantité négligeable_ in the
city, and the wily ecclesiastic’s schemes were sharply checkmated. When
Ostrojhski came before the gates of Smolensk he might mark a grisly
row of corpses strung up on the battlements, the centre of interest
for flapping bands of crows and daws; these were the bodies of his
luckless co-operators, who had been seized and executed by order of
the governor, with the exception of Varsonof, whose equally guilty but
more holy person was secured in a prison. The Polish hetman, thwarted
in his hopes of peaceable possession, was likewise unsuccessful in an
attempt to carry the city by assault, and the brilliant victory of
Orsha had no more substantial result than the re-occupation of a few
border posts.

[Sidenote: 1515]

The death of Mengli-Girei and the accession of his son Makhmet to the
Krim khanate, scarcely affected the relations between Moskva and the
Horde, for the new Khan’s influence had for some time been dominant.
Neither Vasili nor Sigismund could count on the support or even the
neutrality of the Tartar chief, who took advantage of the hostility
between Lit’uania and Moskva to ravage the lands of each with perfect
impartiality. Another shift in the political balance deprived the Grand
Prince of a more exalted though equally unreliable ally; a new family
compact had been patched up between the Kaiser and the Kings of Hungary
and Poland, and Maximilian was now as anxious to compose the quarrel
in the east as he previously had been to inflame it. The continued
successes of the Turks could not fail to inspire uneasiness in a prince
who was scheming to acquire a preponderance in the lands of south-east
Europe, and the Emperor wished to engineer a powerful alliance, German,
Italian, Hungarian, and Polish, against this undesirable neighbour. The
idea was obviously unworkable as long as Moskva hung threateningly on
the Polish flank, hence the solicitude which the Habsburg felt to bring
about a peace between the two Slav powers. For this end an Imperial
ambassador, one Sigismund, Baron von Herberstein, left Germany at the
end of 1516 on a mission of mediation to the Moskovite Court, where
he arrived in April the following year, after a heroic journey over
innumerable lakes and marshes “slippery with snow and ice,” over frozen
rivers, and, towards the end, across ice rendered rotten by melting
snow-water; much of the “way” lying too through a country desolated by
skirmishing bands of Poles and Russians. [Sidenote: 1517] The chances
of successful negotiation were not improved by an autumn campaign
which Ostrojhski carried on, with disastrous result, in the district
of Pskov; the small burg of Opotchka, valiantly defended by Vasili
Saltikov, held out for fifteen days against the vigorous assaults of
Polish, Lit’uanian, and Bohemian troops, and was eventually relieved,
on the 18th October, by two converging Moskovite forces which drove
Ostrojhski off the field. Notwithstanding this side-play the Polish
envoys had joined Herberstein at Moskva, and were seeking to arrange a
peaceable understanding between the Grand Prince and their master. Each
side put forward absurdly unwarranted claims--Vasili, for instance,
stipulated for the cession to Moskovy of Kiev and Polotzk, among other
places, while the Poles demanded, in addition to Smolensk, a half-share
of Novgorod, Pskov, and Tver. The real bone of contention was Smolensk,
and as neither party would bate their pretension to the possession of
that city, the negotiations came to an abortive end in November.

If Herberstein’s efforts for the termination of the war were not
crowned with success, his long and arduous journey was in other
respects by no means barren of result. It is mainly owing to
observations made on this, and on a subsequent embassy, that a picture
has been preserved of the life at that gloomy Court, which was partly
Asiatic, partly Archaic European.[120] In the _Rerum Moscoviticarum
Commentarii_, Maximilian’s ambassador set forth to the western world
his experiences in the remote and desolate region beginning to be
known as Muscouvie, much as an explorer in a more travelled age would
retail the account of his wanderings in Central Africa. The Moskva of
Vasili Ivanovitch was a curious compound of primitive Russian squalor,
Byzantine splendour, the rude hospitality of feudal Christendom, and
the dark and tortuous restraint of an Oriental capital. The state
banquets, or rather the solemn and awful occasions when the Grand
Prince invited the foreign ambassadors to dine with him and his
dvoryanins (courtiers), are good examples of the conglomerate of
ceremonial, simplicity, and patriarchal domesticity which obtained at
the Moskovite Court. The Grand Prince and his brothers with the highest
boyarins sat together at one table; at another, opposite, sat the
distinguished guests of the evening, while round the hall were ranged
tables for the remainder of the company. Bread was solemnly served out
from the Prince’s table to such as he wished to compliment, and the
feast invariably opened with the consumption of brandy and roast swans.
The dishes were borne in and out by servants sumptuously attired, and
in addition to brandy, mead, beer, and Greek wines were served in
goblets which, like all the other appointments, were of pure gold. In
such ponderous dissipations, in occasional coursing matches in his
hare preserves round Moskva, in watching his foreign gunners exercise
their skill with the heavy uncouth field-pieces at stated periods, and
of course in elaborate religious ceremonies, did the Gosoudar of all
Russia fill up the round of his private existence. The coursing seems
to have been as cautious and “safe” as the Moskovite state-policy.
“When the hare shows herself, three, four, five, or more dogs are
slipped, and set after her on all sides; and when she is taken, there
is loud hallooing, as if they had taken a large wild beast.” “Moreover,
about an hundred men stood in long array, one half of whom were
dressed in black, and the other in yellow; not far from them stood
all the other horsemen, to prevent the hares from running through and
escaping.”[121]

While the Imperial negotiations had been dragging out their span
of stately uselessness, Vasili had effected a diplomatic stroke on
his own account. The Grand Master Albrecht, despairing of receiving
adequate support from the Emperor, in his present frame of mind,
against the aggressive policy of the Polish monarch, turned his eyes
towards the schismatic heretic who was playing so large a part in the
affairs of east Europe. The common bond of hostility to Sigismund drew
together the interests alike of Grand Prince and Grand-Master, and
the plenipotentiary of the latter, Dietrich von Schönberg, was able to
conclude a close alliance between Moskva and the Prussian section of
the Order. [Sidenote: 1517] Various causes contributed to delay the
threatened struggle between Sigismund and the knights; chief of which
was the restraining influence of the Kaiser, whose narrow family policy
did not at present lend itself to a war between Teuton and Pole for the
possession of the Baltic provinces. The death of Maximilian, however
(January 1519), removed this obstacle, and the outbreak of hostilities
was only postponed by a sudden and victorious incursion of the Krim
Tartars upon Podolia and Lit’uania. The respite enabled Albrecht
to enlist fresh support in men, money, and material, from several
quarters. Von Plettenberg raised on his behalf a considerable number of
troops and a heavy contribution to the war-chest; the King of Denmark,
the Elector of Brandenburg, and the Grand Prince of Moskva helped to
swell the resources of the venturesome Grand-Master, while on the other
hand Sigismund knitted together all the available military force of the
Yagiellos to crush the insubordination of this ambitious vassal. In the
last days of the year 1519 broke “the long-threatened wild war-storm
over the Order-lands.”[122] The Polish monarch marched against the
presumptuous warrior monks with an army “twelve miles wide,” swelled by
Bohemian, Moravian, and Silesian contingents. Against this formidable
array the undaunted Hohenzollern--worthy scion of an illustrious
House--rode forth “on New Year’s Day, a dark stormy winter’s day,”
with all the following he could muster. [Sidenote: 1520] A wild and
devastating war ensued, in which whole provinces were cruelly wasted,
and the skill and courage of the Order knights were pitted in unequal
struggle against the overwhelming might of Poland. In the open country
and in the villages and unprotected towns the invaders wrought havoc
unchecked, but in the fortified strongholds the Teutons made desperate
resistance. Reinforcements from Denmark helped the Grand-Master to
put a better complexion on the struggle; the beleaguered garrisons of
Balga and Braunsberg held out stoutly, and the Order lanzknechts were
able to break into Mazovia, and requite on that province the gruesome
savageries which had made a desert of the bishopric of Pomesania. At
this juncture Vasili undoubtedly threw away the opportunity of his
lifetime. Since the breakdown of the negotiations with Poland, his
troops had waged a fitful border war with varying success. [Sidenote:
(1518)] The neighbourhood of Polotzk had been laid waste, but an attack
on that town had failed; Moskovite armies had penetrated as far as
Vilna, and hunted the Lit’uanian forces before them. [Sidenote: (1519)]
Now, however, when Sigismund was experiencing an increased difficulty
in coping with the opposition of the Grand-master, and dreading
moreover an attack from some of the German princes, Vasili, instead
of leading an army into Samogitia, concluded with his hard-pressed
adversary a six months’ truce. [Sidenote: 1520] The following year
a “Waffenstillstand” for four years was arranged between the German
Order and the Poles, while at the same time Moskovy was drawn aside
from the western war by a recurrence of the troubles with Kazan, which
indeed wore a serious aspect. The Krimskie Khan, Makhmet, had displaced
the Russian vassal of the Volga Horde, and established in his stead
his own brother, Saip-Girei. This defiant action was followed up by
an invasion of the grand principality by the Krim Khan, who crossed
the Oka and defeated a hastily gathered Moskovite force under kniaz
Dimitri Bielski and the Grand Prince’s brother, Andrei. The victorious
Tartars were reinforced by the Kazanese, led by their new Khan, and
the combined host marched upon Moskva, burning and plundering in wild
unholy triumph which recalled the fearful days of the Mongol mastery.
Vasili “the courageous” fled before the approaching storm. An unkind
report was afterwards circulated to the effect that he hid himself
under a haystack.[123] Such an accusation is not to be accepted
lightly, though the Russians of that period were not given to poking
fun at their sovereign. Possibly the account of Moskovite panic and
German staunchness which Herberstein sets forth in his commentary is
not altogether uncoloured by national prejudice. One Nikolas, a native
of Spire, was placed in command of the Kreml artillery and made the
necessary dispositions for withstanding a siege, but the crowds of
burgers and countryfolk who had rushed into that sanctuary would have
rendered a protracted defence impossible. Threatened with an outbreak
of pestilence at any moment--the time was midsummer and the place
Moskva--the besieged were glad to buy off the Tartars with the promise
of tribute from the Grand Prince to the Krim Khan; a promise which
was unauthorised and need not be adhered to. The invaders withdrew,
bearing with them captives computed at the almost incredible number of
800,000. A treacherous attempt upon Riazan was foiled by the alertness
of another German, “one Johann Jordan, an artilleryman ... who came
from the Innthal.”[124] With the receding of the Tartar waters back
came the affrighted hares to their feeding-grounds around Moskva, and
back came Vasili Ivanovitch to his palpitating capital, to deal out
judgment upon those responsible for the disaster on the Oka. A somewhat
delicate matter. The kniaz Bielski had no doubt mismanaged the whole
affair, but on the other hand the Grand Prince’s brother had been the
first to yield to the homing instinct which sometimes asserts itself
on the field of battle. Under the circumstances the only thing to do
was to fasten the blame upon one who, if less responsible, was also
of less exalted position, and a noble who had run a good second to
Andrei Ivanovitch was accordingly thrown into prison. The matter of the
haystack does not appear to have been gone into.

[Sidenote: 1522]

During the greater part of the following year the Moskovite army
remained in camp at Kolomna, awaiting a fresh attack from the Krimskie,
who, however, remained within the shelter of their wide-stretching
steppes. Negotiations were going on at the same time with Poland, and
in December a truce of five years was effected, which left Smolensk
still in the hands of the Grand Prince.

The strife between Poland and the Order now entered upon a new
development of great historical importance. The Roman Papacy, ever
glowering at the irruption of the Faithful (or the Infidel, according
to Christian label), into the domains of Christendom, sought to raise
enthusiasm and money among the piously disposed princes and people
of the Empire and neighbouring lands, in order to float a crusade
against the Ottomans. Among the expedients for obtaining the latter
commodity which met with the approval of Christ’s Vicegerent, was the
barter of indulgences, conducted in such wholesale manner that none
but the very poor, who could not afford luxuries, were excluded from
the attainment of eternal glory. Adversity and competition have an
unmistakably broadening effect, and the sixteenth-century camel went
through the eye of the once exclusive needle with absolute comfort,
and took all its relations, dead and living, with it if so minded. The
enterprising Pontiff, however, experienced the bitter perversion of
fate which too often mocks the best directed efforts; not only did the
traffic in souls fail in its original purpose of financing a crusade,
but its injudicious prosecution among the cities of Northern Germany,
where men had grown somewhat doubtful of the accumulated truths of the
Church, resulted in the springing up of a new enemy, more formidable
even than Islam. Without going into the dogmatical issues involved in
the agitation which sprang out of the original “monks’ quarrel,” it is
necessary to note that the “Reformation” owed much of its success to
the secularising theories which it put forward, and which exercised
a fascinating influence upon the princes and petty sovereigns of
the Empire. The Houses of Wettin and Hohenzollern especially, lent
favourable ear to the new doctrines, and the Grand-Master Albrecht,
while roaming Germany in search of possible assistance against his ever
imminent enemy, came in contact with the leaders of the anti-Catholic
movement, from whom he imbibed principles which he immediately
proceeded to put into practice.[125] The fundamental stumbling-block
to a composition with Poland was the question of homage insisted on
by Sigismund as due from the Grand-Master of the Order. Albrecht had
made gigantic efforts to resist this obligation, and to preserve the
independence of his office, but he now saw a way by which both his
own ambitions and the requirements of the King of Poland might be
accommodated. This was nothing less than the secularisation of the
Order-lands into a hereditary duchy, dependent on the Polish crown;
Albrecht, needless to say, being the proposed Duke thereof. The
suggestion, which offered a solution to what had seemed a hopeless
quarrel, met with approval from Sigismund, and was embodied in the
Peace of Krakow (April 1525), whereby the Grand-Master was transformed
“from the head of a Catholic religious order into a Lutheran temporal
prince.”[126] The required oath of vassalage was tendered by Albrecht
and in return the King presented him with a new blazon for his new-born
duchy of Prussia; “the old Order changeth,” and the black cross is laid
aside for a black eagle, crowned, beaked, and membered gold. In days to
come, what time the white eagle of Poland shall droop its failing wings
in feebleness, this sable eaglet which it has helped to hatch, grown
lusty with maturity, shall snap its hungry beak in unison with the
other birds of prey that hover round the doomed one. For the present,
it is worthy of remark that the first political result of the religious
schism which was to plunge the greater part of Europe, and especially
the Empire, into a paroxysm of strife, was the closing of a long and
bitter quarrel in the Baltic lands. As regards the immediate effect
of the disappearance of the Order from Prussia, Moskva was chiefly
concerned in the isolation which that event entailed upon the Teutonic
colony in Livland and Estland. In return for the valuable help von
Plettenberg had afforded the Grand-Master during the war, the latter
had already granted him complete independence from the control of the
Prussian executive; hence, when the secular revolution was effected,
the knights of Livland retained their organisation and temporal
possessions.[127]

While Sigismund had been employed in bringing East Prussia under
his domination (West Prussia was already an integral part of the
Polish dominion), Vasili had composed his differences with his Tartar
neighbours. Makhmet-Girei had diverted his warlike tendencies towards
the subjection of the khanate of Astrakhan; Kazan, after being several
times overrun and almost conquered in a series of campaigns (in which
the Moskovite voevodas displayed such scandalous slackness that
corruption was openly hinted at), concluded a truce of five years
with the Grand Prince. The latter, meanwhile, had struck an astute
blow at the prosperity of Kazan by prohibiting Russian merchants from
attending the great summer fair held annually at the Tartar city,
and by establishing a rival fair at Makar’ev, in the province of
Nijhni-Novgorod.[128]

At a moment when the western Church was offering a spectacle of
dissension and rampant heresy, Vasili occasioned a mild scandal in
the Orthodox communion by consecrating his unfruitful consort to
the service of heaven, and taking unto himself another wife. Twenty
years of conjugal felicity had not been crowned with the desired
offspring, and the Grand Prince, weary of waiting for the overdue
answer to reiterated prayers, took steps to remedy the breakdown in
the succession. Solomonia was bundled off to a convent near Souzdal,
where she received the veil, enforced, according to current rumour, by
a whipping.[129] [Sidenote: 1526] Vasili then proceeded to espouse a
second wife, selecting for that honour Elena, niece of the imprisoned
Mikhail Glinski. This infraction of the Church’s laws was connived
at by the plastic Metropolitan Daniel, though the majority of the
clergy and many of the boyarins viewed the whole affair with pious
reprobation. Tradition credited the inconsiderate Solomonia with the
crowning offence of mistaking the nunnery for a lying-in hospital, and
giving birth to a male child; the rumour certainly existed, though
it is doubtful if it had any foundation in fact.[130] Anxious days
these for the Moskovite Court. The Grand Princess and her husband
progressed wearily from shrine to shrine, invoking the good offices of
various saints who were supposed to have influence in the matter, and
distributing alms and donations with a lavishness wholly foreign to
Moskovite finance, which suggested a conviction that heaven was open to
bribery and was only standing out for its price. At length, after three
years of patient expectancy, the much-prayed-for infant arrived “on the
25th August 1530, at seven in the morning,” accompanied by a rousing
thunderstorm.[131] The city of Moskva rejoiced with its sovereign at
the birth of the heaven-sent child, to whom was given the name of Ivan.
The succession was further ensured by the begetting of another son the
following year.

The remainder of the reign of Vasili presented no important features
beyond a recurrence of inconclusive hostilities with the Krim Tartars,
and occasional diplomatic intercourse with Constantinople. While yet,
comparatively speaking, in the prime of life, Vasili was attacked
with a leech-baffling malady, which declared itself when he was on
his way to the autumn hunting at Voloko Lamsk. [Sidenote: 1533] For
reasons of state it was desirable that the sovereign’s critical
condition should be kept from the knowledge of the general public,
and especially from the foreign ambassadors. Therefore the suffering
monarch was sledge-borne in a painful journey to Moskva, at a season
when the falling snow and young ice rendered travelling laborious and
unsafe. With the exception of his brothers, Urii and Andrei, Mikhail
Glinski--restored to liberty and princely favour--and a few boyarins,
none were admitted to the Grand Prince’s presence, but the rumour of
his mortal sickness soon spread. The dying man played to the end his
cold impassive game of statecraft, and his last hours were employed
in arranging safeguards and regulations for the government during
the minority of his successor. As the third day of December drew to
a wintry close the crowds gathered in the streets and stood round
the silent palace, and that night no one slept in Moskva. Dark-robed
ecclesiastics emerged from their retreats and swarmed into the house
of death like vultures swooping upon a dying beast. And as the huddled
crowds watched and waited without, a curious scene was being enacted in
the grim bed-chamber. With notable exceptions, it had been the custom
for Russian Grand Princes to receive on their deathbed the tonsure,
monastical habit, and a new name; this custom the Metropolitan wished
to adhere to in the case of Vasili, while Prince Andrei and another
layman desired that he should die, as he had lived, a sovereign and
not a monk. At midnight, while prince and boyarin were endeavouring
to snatch the black neophyte’s robe from the Vladuika, and while the
latter solemnly and vehemently cursed them “in this world and the
next,” Vasili Ivanovitch drew his last breath. It was the first time in
the course of his career that he had shown any impatience. Hastily they
thrust the all-important garment on the corpse, and called it Varlam;
but the baptismal name had a clear minute’s start. The great bell
of Moskva boomed out to the watching multitudes the news that their
sovereign was dead. A new day dawned, and another reign had begun.

During the reigns of Vasili and Ivan the Great a new factor in Russian
history comes into notice, and afterwards develops into no little
importance. This was the appearance in two distinct localities, which
may be roughly designated as the lower basins of the Dniepr and the Don
respectively, of organised bands of “steppe-folk,” who were neither
exactly Russian nor Tartar, nomad nor settled, and who were known
under the vague appellation of Kazaks, or Kozaks. The name “has been
variously derived from words meaning, in radically distinct languages,
an armed man, a sabre, a rover, a goat, a promontory, a coat, a
cassock, and a district in Circassia”; an equal uncertainty hangs over
the origin of the race, or rather races. Perhaps the clearest account
of the etymology and ethnology of the Kozak is that given by a Russian
author in a history of the peoples of the Don region. “Kazak signifies
alike volunteer, horseman, freebooter. Malo-Russians, mingled with
remains of peoples known under the common name of _Tcherni Kloboukie_,
under the name of Kazaks, constituted one people, who became to all
intents and purposes Russian ... their fathers dwelling from the
tenth century in the neighbourhood of Kiev, were themselves already
almost Russian. Increasing more and more in numbers, maintaining among
themselves the spirit of independence and fraternity, the [western]
Kazaks organised a Christian republic, and established themselves
between the lower basins of the Dniepr and Dniestr, building villages
and fortresses.”[132] The causes which drove these Slav and Turko
outcasts into the wild steppe-land and scarcely accessible islands
of the Dniepr, and welded them together in an origin-obliterating
union, were first the Mongol invasion, and secondly the gradual
establishment of irksome and far-reaching central authorities both in
Moskovy and Lit’uania. The absolutism of the one monarchy, and the
Catholic persecution of the other, sent men in search of liberty, to
swell the ranks of those whose fathers had fled from the insecurity
and degradation of a Tartar-haunted land. Similar causes--hostility
to the surrounding khanates and impatience of the certain taxes and
doubtful protection of the Moskovite government--were responsible for
the existence of the Don Kozaks, among whom, however, there was a
strong Tcherkess (Circassian) strain, while the Russian element was
proportionately weaker. But the great factor in this double evolution
was undoubtedly a physico-geographical one. The nature of the steppes
themselves, those vast-stretching, level, grass-grown wolds, spread in
seeming endlessness under the boundless sky, those solitudes where
a man and his horse might lose themselves from all pursuit, called
as irresistibly to the lustre after freedom as ever the Highlands
of Scotland to the Saxon-hating Kelts, or the Tcherni-Gora to the
unconquered Slavs of the Balkan coast. And having lured, it held, and
holding, moulded. The Kozak and his wiry steed became as much a part of
the fauna of the great Russian plain as the wolves, the hawks, and the
steppe-eagles that hunted and roamed throughout its wide expanse.

[Illustration: SKETCH MAP of GRAND-PRINCIPALITY OF MOSKVA with
GRAND-DUCHY of LITHUANIA AND BALTIC PROVINCES. ]

FOOTNOTES:

[91] Rambaud.

[92] Rosebery, _Pitt._

[93] Mistress of a Kniaz of Galitz, and burned alive by his boyarins.

[94] Le père Pierling, _La Russie et l’Orient_.

[95] _Iz Istorie Moskvui._

[96] S. Solov’ev. Karamzin. Pierling.

[97] Unlike their compeers in Western Europe, who attached high
importance to matters heraldic, the Russian princes were somewhat
“fancy-free” in the employment of armorial bearings, and their devices
took more the nature of barbaric totems than of feudal blazonry. Only
in the reign of Vasili the Darkened had the S. George-the-Conqueror
and dragon become the fixed stamp on the seals and coins of Moskva;
an earlier form of this was a simple mounted figure, similar to that
borne by the Grand Dukes of Lit’uania. The coins of Dimitri Donskoi
are adorned in some cases with the image of a cock, above which is
portrayed a small animal, which might represent a fox, beaver, or
marten. Previous to this the tokens were usually stamped with a rude
representation of the reigning prince or of a local saint.

[98] Le père Pierling, _La Russie et l’Orient_.

[99] Gennad Karpov, _Istoriya Bor’bui Moskovskago Gosoudarstva s’
Pol’sko-Litovskim, 1462-1508_.

[100] The title Tzar, formerly reproduced in West European spelling
as Czar, was, on the strength of a surface resemblance, assumed to
be derived from Caesar, and given the equivalent value of the German
_Kaiser_. With the Russians Tzar simply meant king or ruler, and was
indiscriminately used for the Greek Emperors, the Tartar Khans, and
the Syrian and Jewish potentates mentioned in the writings of the Old
Testament; Caesar was rendered Kessar. The word _korol_, which also
signifies king in their language, was perhaps borrowed from the Magyar
_kiraly_, the Kings of Hungary being for a long time the only monarchs
so designated with whom they had any dealings. The double-headed
eagle, adopted at almost the same time as the title of Tzar, although
the recognised symbol of “empire,” was not originally used with that
significance in Russia; the device was employed (in the same way that
the lilies of France were incorporated with the English arms) to show
that the Prince of Moskva had married the heiress of the eastern
empire, and for a long time the eagle occupied a secondary position to
the S. George and dragon cognisance of Moskva on the seals and coins of
the Grand Princes. The imperial idea was a plant of foreign conception
and growth, and, indeed, at the time when the title Tzar first crept
into use, the style of Emperor of all the Russias might have been borne
with almost as much reason by the King of Poland as by the Prince of
Moskva.

[101] Schiemann, _Russland, Polen, u. Livland_.

[102] Karamzin.

[103] _Geschichte der Ostseeprovinzen_; Sartorius, _Geschichte des
Hanseatischen Bundes_; S. Solov’ev, _Istoriya Rossie_.

[104] A spiked iron ball attached by a flexible thong to a short staff.

[105] The wolves. S. George occupies the delicate position of
patron-saint of the wolves as well as of flocks and herds.

[106] Karpov, _Istoriya Bor’bui_, etc.

[107] A.E.I.O.U.

  Alles Erdreich ist Oesterreich unterthan.
  Austria est imperare orbi universo.


[108] Baron Sigismund von Herberstein, _Rerum Moscoviticorum
commentarii_.

[109] It is hardly necessary to state that these remarks do not apply
to the Russian soldier of modern history, who has displayed his best
qualities under adverse circumstances.

[110] Schiemann.

[111] Schiemann, Karpov.

[112] S. Solov’ev.

[113] _Geschichte der Ostseeprovinzen._

[114] _Geschichte der Ostseeprovinzen._

[115] Herberstein.

[116] Karamzin.

[117] S. Solov’ev; Karamzin.

[118] Karamzin gives the date as 8th of October. The day is fixed by
Sigismund’s letter to Leo X., written on 18th September, in which he
mentions the battle as taking place on “_die natali beatissime virginis
Marie, que erat VIII. Septembris_.”

[119] _Acta Tomiciana_, tom. III.

[120] Much that appeared eastern or barbarous to outsiders was in fact
only a survival of customs and costumes that had long died out in the
west. Russia, cut off by many causes, already set forth, from the march
of progress in occidental Europe, retained many things which had there
been cast aside.

[121] Herberstein.

[122] Johannes Voigt, _Geschichte Preussens_.

[123] Herberstein.

[124] Herberstein.

[125] Voigt.

[126] Freeman, _Historical Geography of Europe_.

[127] Schiemann; Voigt; _Geschichte der Ostseeprovinzen_.

_Note._--The German branch of the Order elected a new Grand-Master
after the defection of Albrecht, and continued, at Mergentheim in
Franconia, its existence as a religious organisation, till the
beginning of the nineteenth century, when the Napoleonic maelstrom
swept it away in common with many other worn-out institutions.

[128] Karamzin.

[129] Herberstein.

[130] Herberstein; Karamzin.

[131] Karamzin.

[132] V. Bronevskago, _Istoriya Donskago Voyska_.



CHAPTER VIII

IVAN GROZNIE


The lapse of 500 years found the principles of settled hereditary
government in much the same condition in Russia as they had been
when the infant Sviatoslav succeeded to the throne of Kiev under
the guardianship of his mother. Despite the fact that two of the
late Sovereign’s brothers were yet living, Elena Glinski assumed the
regency on behalf of her three-year-old son, supported by a knot
of boyarin-princes, whom the circumstances of the time suddenly
threw into prominence. The over-shadowing figures of the last two
Moskovite monarchs had almost obliterated the fact that there were
persons of importance in the land besides the members of the princely
family. Now a whole crop of nobles emerges from the background, like
a ready-made second chamber from the brain of an Abbé Sieyés. Ivan
Oblenski, an offshoot of the House of Tchernigov, the Bielskis, the
Glinskis, and the Shouyskies, form the aristocratic nucleus round
which revolve the intrigues and faction vicissitudes which seem the
natural accompaniments of queen-mothers and minorities. Necessarily the
Princess Regent had a lover, in the person of Oblenski, and equally
as a matter of course, the latter had personal enemies. Of these he
proceeded to dispose with all expediency; Urii Ivanovitch, uncle of
the Grand Prince, suspected of plotting against the Existing Order of
Things, was lodged in a state dungeon, where he died of hunger some two
and a half years later.[133] A more celebrated, if less august victim
was the kniaz Mikhail Glinski, who had expostulated with his niece
anent her unseemly intimacy with Oblenski, and was thrown into prison,
where he “died unhappily.” [Sidenote: 1534] From which it would appear
that the old saying concerning the unwisdom of intervening between
husband and wife might be applied with equal truth to a less recognised
connection. Andrei Ivanovitch, Vasili’s remaining brother, took fright
at the irreverent procedure of the Regent and her favourite (who caged
Princes of the Blood as unconcernedly as though they were linnets
or human beings), and stole off one day, with all his household and
retainers, towards Novgorod. [Sidenote: 1537] The farther he got from
Moskva the more his courage rose, and ere long he had drifted into open
rebellion against the boyarin-wielded authority. Numbers of disaffected
landowners sped to his support, but the gates of Novgorod remained
shut and the Oblenskie were hard upon his track with the best-mounted
Moskovite cavalry. Andrei surrendered without striking a blow, and was
escorted back to the city of his deep dislike, leaving behind him at
intervals along the Novgorodskie road the swinging corpses of thirty of
his adherents. His remaining followers died by torture or in prisons,
and the latter fate disposed of the last surviving son of the great
Ivan.

Meanwhile the success of Elena’s regency had justified the means taken
to retain it. Vasili’s death had encouraged the King of Poland to
renew with threatening insistency his demands for the restitution of
the territories conquered by the late Prince and his father; refusal
on the part of Moskva led to hostilities in which the Lit’uanian
forces were unable to obtain any advantages, and a prolongation of
the truce, on the terms “as you were,” ensued (1537). A skilful
balancing of the conflicting interests which agitated the Krim and
Kazan Hordes maintained the Moskovite peace in those directions,
and a renewal was also effected of the truces with Sweden and the
Livlander knights. Nor was the inner administration of the regency
wanting in beneficial activity. The Kitai-gorod of Moskva (after the
Kreml the most important quarter of the city, containing the houses
of the boyarins and the principal bazaars and trading stores) was
surrounded by walls and towers which added greatly to the security
of the capital.[134] Vladimir, Tver, Novgorod, and other provincial
towns were newly fortified and in some cases rebuilt; the state
coinage was also put upon a more satisfactory footing. Under these
circumstances the severities and loose morals of Elena Glinski might
well be overlooked by her subjects. Her greatest offence was yet to
come. She died. [Sidenote: Ap. 1538] Of poison, said many-tongued
rumour, on which the only rational comment must be the useful Scotch
verdict, “not proven.” Her untimely death left Oblenski in precarious
possession of the supreme authority, which his enemies were already
preparing to wrest from him. Foremost among these was the veteran
Vasili Shouyskie, nick-named “the Silent,” the head of an important
Souzdalian family. For seven days lasted Oblenski’s regency, and then
himself and his sister were seized and thrown into prison, where the
fashionable death-by-starvation awaited them. The silent Shouyskie
assumed the regency, which he held till his decease in the October
of the same year, when it passed to his brother, Ivan Shouyskie, who
displayed his newly-acquired power by packing the Metropolitan Daniel
off to the cloister, and installing in his place Ioasaf, _hegumen_
(abbot) of the Troitza monastery. Hard and brutal was the rule of the
Shouyskies; “fierce as lions,” bemoaned the Pskovskie chronicle, “were
the voevodas, and as wild beasts their people against the peasants.”
The only check on the absolute supremacy of the dominant family was
the ever-present apparition of the kniaz, Ivan Bielski--Ivan and
Vasili were fashionable names among the Moskovite aristocracy of that
period--who was a formidable competitor for the possession of the
regency. Bielski justified the nervous apprehensions of the Shouyskies
(who had kept him in prison for several years and only released him
at the intercession of the new Metropolitan), by taking advantage of
the disaffection bred by their arrogance to oust them from the head
of affairs. As Regent his rule was milder and less overbearing than
that of the kniaz he had supplanted, and a firmer front was shown
against the Tartars of Kazan and the Krim Horde, who were continually
devastating the frontiers. Possibly the increased activity was rather
forced by their side, for in the year 1541 both Hordes set themselves
in motion against Moskva. The Krim Tartars brought a formidable force
into the field, augmented by cannon, musketeers, and some squadrons
of Ottoman cavalry--the first warriors of that nation who had fought
against the Russians. The double danger stifled for the moment the
bickerings of the Shouyskie and Bielski factions, and the Moskovites
found themselves strong enough, when thus united, to repel the
incursion of both Hordes. Safa-Girei and the Kazanese were chased
out of the neighbourhood of Mourom, which town they had fruitlessly
attacked; Saip-Girei, confronted by a powerful army on the yonder
bank of the Oka, dared not attempt to force the passage, and retired
to the Don. The jealousy which existed between the leading boyarins
made it impossible for the Russians to follow up their advantage by
a campaign in Tartar territory, and Ivan Shouyskie turned instead
to his own advantage the employment of the troops which the war had
placed at his disposal. Secretly supported by many of the notables
of Moskva, and openly by those of Novgorod, he resolved upon a bold
bid for the recovery of his ascendency. [Sidenote: 1542] On a dark
night in January Petr Ivanovitch Shouyskie rode into Moskva with a
picked body of soldiers from Vladimir, and before morning the Kreml
was in his hands. Bielski was seized in his bed, and the Metropolitan
was disagreeably awakened by showers of stones hurtling through his
windows and weapons hammering against his door. The chief of the
Church barely escaped with his life to the shelter of the Troitza, an
unpleasant exercise for an early morning in mid-winter. At daybreak
Ivan Shouyskie entered the city and resumed his old position of
authority. Bielski and the Metropolitan were sent off to safe keeping
at Bielozero, the lonely stronghold on the waters of the lake of
that name, where the Grand Princes’ treasures and prisoners were
securely stored away.[135] This time Shouyskie took good care that
his rival should not emerge from prison to trouble him, and the soul
of Bielski put on immortality.[136] A new Metropolitan, the second
who had been nominated by the Shouyskies, was elected to fill the
place of the shifty Ioasaf, who had leisure, in the seclusion of the
Kirillov monastery at Bielozero, to reflect on the unwisdom of being
all things to all men in sixteenth-century Moskva. The Novgorodskie
had supported the _coup d’etat_, and their Archbishop Makarie was
rewarded with the vacant post. In the meantime, while these various
Ivans were ruling the State and crushing one another in turn, how
fared it with the other Ivan in the background? The much-prayed-for
princeling had not, since the death of his mother, spent a very happy
or altogether comfortable childhood. The chief boyarins and their
followers appear to have treated their Sovereign with a curious mixture
of neglect, disrespect, and superstitious awe. Surrounded exclusively
by the partisans of whichever faction happened to be uppermost, the
friendless orphan could only brood in silent resentment over the wrongs
he sustained at the hands of his temporary masters. The rude-mannered,
tyrannical, gold-greedy Ivan Shouyskie was an especial object of his
dislike. A letter written by the monarch in after days to Prince
Andrei Kourbski, comments bitterly on the fact that though, in the
lifetime of the Princess Elena, Shouyskie had possessed only one cloak,
green silk trimmed with marten fur, “and that a very old one,” during
his regency he was able to have cups of gold and silver fashioned
him, with his initials graved thereon.[137] The despotic jealousy
of Shouyskie and of his supporters in the State Council robbed the
young Ivan of friends as well as treasure. For one of their number, a
boyarin named Vorontzov, the Prince had betrayed a marked partiality,
a dangerous compliment, which brought down on the recipient’s person
the practically-expressed dislike of his fellow-councillors. In solemn
conclave, and in the presence of Prince and Metropolitan, the angry
men of State fell murderously upon the courtier whom the Sovereign
had delighted to honour, and Ivan’s entreaties, backed up by those of
Makarie, could scarcely obtain a mitigation of his fate to one of exile
and imprisonment. The amusements of the boy Prince, besides religious
devotions, at which he was an adept, and the more legitimate forms of
hunting, consisted in chasing dogs and cats over the battlements of
the Kreml, and in wild gallops with his allotted companions through
the streets of Moskva, in which the old and unwary were ruthlessly
trampled underfoot.[138] The days of his repression were, however,
drawing to a close. The fearsome Regent Ivan died in 1543, and left
a commission of his sons and relatives to replace him. But the reign
of the Shouyskies was doomed. The manly exercise of the chase is a
valuable school for inculcating self-reliance and a will to overcome
the obstacles of life. It was straight from a day’s sport in the woods
of Vincennes that the grand young Louis, whip in hand, strode in upon
the Parliament of Paris and quenched it with an epigram; it was after
the autumn hunting at Voloko-Lamsk that Ivan Vasilievitch first showed
his teeth and gave evidence of that cold-blooded severity which was
to gain for him the distinctive adjective “Groznie” (Terrible). At
Moskva, where the Court had assembled for the festival of Noel, the
Prince suddenly accused the ruling boyarins of misgovernment and abuse
of their powers; many had been guilty, but he would content himself
with one example. Calling to his kennel-men he bade them seize Andrei
Shouyskie and throw him to the dogs. Out into the street they dragged
the unhappy man, and there, before the mute, disconcerted boyarins and
the long-time Shouyskie-ridden citizens, the Prince’s hounds worried
the offending kniaz to pieces in the reddening snow. “The little tin
gods” had missed “the hour when great Jove wakes”; Andrei Shouyskie
paid dearly for the oversight. The youth of Ivan still necessitated
a regency, and his mother’s relatives, the Glinskies, next came into
power; but from the day of the red Noel no liberties were taken with
the young monarch. His new counsellors, indeed, encouraged him in his
savage inclinations, and the chronicles give instances of callous
brutalities inflicted upon Russian subjects by both Ivan and the
Glinskies. A party of Novgorodskie arquebusers, who had interrupted one
of the Prince’s hunting expeditions with importunities respecting their
pay, were punished for their presumption by being tortured to death,
and a similar ghastly fate awaited some petitioners from Pskov, upon
whom was poured blazing spirits, which ignited their hair, beards, and
clothes.[139]

When Ivan was in his eighteenth year he celebrated with much pomp and
circumstance the double event of his coronation and his marriage with
Anastasia, daughter of Roman Zakharin-Koshkin, member of a family which
had migrated from Prussia to Moskva in the fourteenth century.[140]
[Sidenote: Jan. 16, 1547] In the hallowed Ouspienskie Cathedral the
Metropolitan crowned him with the title of Tzar, which was here used
for the first time at the coronation of a Russian ruler. The old style
of Velikie-kniaz dies out from this moment, and as the customary chant,
“_In plurimos annos_,” swells through those dim frescoed arches, the
old order seems to pass away with the wafted incense fumes. A new
figure is borne into Russian history amid the striking of bells and
shouting of a myriad throated multitude. The Tzar comes!

The fact of Ivan’s coronation caused no immediate change in the
government of Russia, which continued to be directed by the
“Vremenszhiki,” or men-of-the-season, that is to say, by the Glinskies.
That their administration was iniquitous to an insupportable degree
may be gathered, not only from the possibly exaggerated accounts
of the chroniclers, but from the fact that long-suffering Moskva
was goaded to the brink of revolution. Ivan amused himself with his
religious hobbies and other less respectable diversions, and only
assumed the part of Sovereign when he wished to “make an example”
of some offending subject. The purging of Moskva from the vampire
brood that afflicted it, and the simultaneous “reformation” of the
young Tzar, form a curious episode in the history of this time.
The summer of 1547 was signalised by disastrous conflagrations in
the capital, the first of which broke out on the 12th April; the
last and most serious occurred in June. The flames on this occasion
reduced to ashes a large portion of the Kreml, the Kitai-gorod, and
the outer town, and destroyed 1700 of the adult inhabitants, besides
children, “who were not counted.” Amid blazing streets and rolling
smoke-clouds, falling roofs and crashing cupolas, panic and anarchy
reigned supreme. The populace, rendered unreasonable by terror and
hatred, loudly denounced the Glinskies as the authors of the calamity;
in particular, Anna Glinski, Ivan’s maternal grandmother, was accused
of sprinkling the streets of Moskva with a decoction of boiled human
hearts, which apparently possessed inflammable qualities unknown to
science. Urii Glinski, the Tzar’s uncle, was seized by the enemies of
his party and slain in the sanctuary of a sacred building, and the
infuriated townsfolk penetrated into the country palace at Vorobiev,
whither Ivan had retreated, with a demand for more Glinskies. At this
moment a thing happened which, in the accounts of the earlier Russian
historians, recalls Edinburgh before the battle of Flodden. A “holy man
of Novgorod,” one Silvestr, appeared on the scene and quietly annexed
the soul of the Tzar. The people had attributed the conflagrations
to the Glinskies; more critical and dispassionate examiners have
been inclined to suspect the Shouyskie faction of complicity in the
matter. Silvestr, however, put a different complexion on the affair
and announced that the partial destruction of the town and burning of
the 1700 inhabitants and unenumerated children was the work of God.
As he supported this theory by producing “visions,” there could be
no further doubt on the matter--none, at least, with Ivan, who saw
the visions.[141] The conscience-stricken young man, convinced that
the Glinski administration was as unpopular with heaven as it was
with the Moskvitchi, since such heroic measures had been taken to
displace it, surrendered himself, body and soul, into the hands of
Silvestr, who, needless to say, made a clean sweep of the Vremenszhiki
and replaced them with his own friends. Without ruthlessly disturbing
the halo of romance and sanctity which has been fastened upon the man
of Novgorod, it is not unreasonable to conjecture that the monk was
an old acquaintance of Ivan--who was a frequent visitor to all the
religious establishments within his reach--and took advantage of the
popular excitement and general disorder to upset the palace intrigues
of both the Glinski and Shouyskie factions. That Silvestr, and the
equally nebulous layman, Adashev, whom he associated with him in the
new government, exercised a restraining and beneficent influence on the
young Prince may well be believed; with an opposition of watchful and
resentful nobles in the background, circumspection was essential, and
Ivan, who had seen a consuming fire, an angry populace, and a frowning
Providence threatening him on all sides, was likely to be a docile
pupil. For the time. The austere and monkish repression of the latest
Vremenszhiki was the finishing touch necessary to perfect the education
of the Terrible Tzar.

The early part of Ivan’s reign, and the whole of the preceding
one, are characterised by the recurrence at irregular periods of a
deliberate campaign against Kazan. The Russians seem to have borrowed
the tactics of the wolves which inhabited their steppes and forests,
and to have leisurely and persistently wearied their quarry down,
without caring to rush in and dispatch it. Again and again did the
Tzar summon from the far corners of his dominions an enormous army,
trail forth his ponderous siege-pieces and sacred banners, take an
affecting farewell of his capital, and march upon the Tartar city. The
wooden walls were relentlessly battered down, the garrison reduced to
the last extremity, and then the Moskovite hosts would return home
in good order. The walls were easily rebuilt and the Kazanese would
pursue the even tenor of their way. It would almost appear as though
the Russians were loth to irrevocably destroy the only enemy against
whom they warred with any comfort. A more feasible explanation is
that the Kazanese supplemented their feeble defences by a judicious
outlay of the metal which corrupts, and that some of the Moskovite
voevodas did not return empty-handed from these abortive expeditions.
In 1552 Ivan determined to set once more in motion the huge army which
had been left quartered on the frontiers of Kazan, a locality which
had had a demoralising effect on the troops, many of whom had shaved
off their beards to please the Tartar maidens who for the time being
under-studied their wives, “to prove,” remarked a scandalised messenger
from the Metropolitan, “by the indecent nudity of your faces, that
you have shame to be men.” Familiarity had bred contempt, and the
dwellers in the city by the Volga’s shore scornfully refused to open
their gates at the approach of the 150,000 footmen and the 150 cannon
which the Tzar brought against them. The Moskovites prepared for a
long and obstinate resistance, and by way of a beginning erected and
dedicated three pavilion churches in their camp. Events justified their
expectations; the Kazanese held out stoutly against both the assaults
of the besiegers and the offers of the Tzar. August and September
passed in continual sorties and battles without the walls, skirmishing
attacks by the Kozaks in the tzarskie army, and mining operations by
the German engineers. The overwhelming forces and superior artillery
which Ivan was able to bring against the city at length beat down the
heroic defence, and the triumphant Moskovites put their stubborn and
still resisting enemies to the sword. The Tzar is said to have been
moved to tears at the sight of so many Tartar corpses; “they are
not Christians,” he observed, “but yet they are men.” The reduction
of Kazan was an event of the first importance in Russian annals. It
marked an epoch. “The victory of Ivan the Terrible is the first great
revenge of the vanquished over the vanquishers ... the first stage
reached by European civilisation in taking the offensive towards
Asia.”[142] Prudence suggested that Ivan should remain on the scene
of his conquest until his authority over the neighbouring districts
was assured; a desire to return to his capital in the full flush of
triumph prompted him to disregard more solid considerations. He was
still very young. The newly-acquired territory was therefore left
under the united protection of the Christ, the Virgin, the Russian
intercessory saints, and Aleksandr Shouyskie. Ivan, on his homeward
way, received the welcome intelligence that his wife had given birth
to a son, the Tzarevitch Dimitri, first of a series of Ivanovitches so
named. The prolonged rejoicings, banquetings, and thanksgivings which
ensued at Moskva were followed by a disagreeable sequel; Kazan, despite
the august protection under which it had been left, rose in revolt,
and the Russian ascendency was seriously imperilled. [Sidenote: 1553]
The Tzar’s health at the same time broke alarmingly down, and another
long minority seemed to threaten the State. The boyarins and princes,
summoned to take an oath of allegiance to the infant Dimitri, showed
a strong reluctance to bind themselves down in the manner required;
the succession of Ivan’s child to the Tzardom would mean a Romanov
regency and a repetition of the faction intrigues which had attended
the early years of the present reign. Urii, the Tzar’s brother, appears
to have been a weakling in mind and body, too feeble even to decorate
with the divine attributes of monarch; in Vladimir Andreievitch, the
Tzar’s first cousin, however, there existed a possible candidate for
the throne, and even Silvestr and Adashev hesitated between the claims
of the hereditary and collateral succession. The oath, whatever its
value might be, was exacted from the unwilling courtiers, but Ivan’s
recovery prevented the necessity of testing it. The convalescent Tzar,
in spite of the remonstrances of his advisers, set off on a course of
shrine visiting, taking with him his unfortunate offspring, who was
scarcely of an age to stand such energetic piety. In fact he died on
the journey. The pilgrimage of Ivan was, if the chroniclers and some
of the later historians are to be believed, disastrous in another
fashion. Among the religious establishments visited was the Piesnoshkie
monastery, wherein was caged an interesting prisoner. Vassian, Bishop
of Kolumna in the reign of Vasili, had been deprived of his episcopal
office during the time of the regencies on account of his evil life;
now, in the decrepitude of age, he is represented as harbouring with
unquenched passion the unholy frettings of a sin-warped mind. Ivan
desired an interview with the hoary reprobate; perhaps after a course
of devotions among a community of irreproachable saints, living and
departed, he was attracted by the rare personality of a sometime
bishop who was no better than he should be. The monk-with-a-past
seized the grand opportunity to poison the monarch’s mind against his
boyarins, his relations, and his subjects, and Ivan drank in with
greedy ears the vicious counsels of the unhallowed recluse. It is a
fascinating picture, the aged priest who had eaten his heart out in
helpless bitterness these many years, and chafed against the restraint
of his prison-cell, given at last one deadly moment of revenge in
which to work a superb evil against the society that had mishandled
him. And as the Tzar went out from his presence a changed man, might
not the ex-prelate have flung a crowning blasphemy at his heaven and
chanted exultingly _nunc dimittis_? Ivan, indeed, in the hands of the
chroniclers, is a creature easily swayed; a monk from Novgorod tells
him to be good, and he straightway abandons the wrong-headed sins of
his wayward youth and becomes an exemplary monarch, till a monk of
Piesnoshkie gives him dark and evil counsel, and sends him forth upon
the world with a cankered, blood-lusting soul.

The Tzar’s return to health was accompanied by a return of Moskovite
prosperity. Another Tzarevitch, Ivan, replaced the dead Dimitri; Kazan
was gradually Kozaked into submission, and received a bishop as a mark
of special favour. Another conquest equally important was achieved
without bloodshed. The Astrakhanese having insulted the envoys of
Moskovy, a small but well-equipped army was sent against them, with
the result that this khanate, once the head-country of the redoubtable
Golden Horde, acknowledged Ivan’s sovereignty and yielded equal rights
in the Volga fishery to his Great Russian subjects. [Sidenote: 1554]The
Nogai Tartars, occupying the intermediate steppes, submitted at the
same time to the Moskovite dominion, and the Russian state, still cut
off from the Black Sea, to which in the tenth century it had given its
name,[143] wriggled its way down to the Kaspian.

The acquisition of the two Tartar sovereignties, while giving increased
importance and security to Ivan’s dominions, and opening up a valuable
trade with Persia and other eastern countries, did not tend to make
Moskovy less Asiatic, or bring her closer into the European family.
The Tzar’s political ambitions turned naturally towards the west.
With a sagacity equal to that of his most celebrated successor, and
in opposition to the advice of his counsellors, he wished to find a
free outlet for communication with the great Empire-Republic (which,
though decaying in organisation, was at this moment so instinct with
life), and with Europe generally. The death of Sigismund of Poland
(1548) and the accession of his son, Sigismund-August, had scarcely
affected the grudgingly pacific relations between the two countries,
though their common grievance against the Krim Tartars seemed to
warrant the hope of a more cordial understanding. With Sweden the
Moskovites waged one of those short inconclusive wars, in which
neither party seemed to have any definite object in view, beyond the
fact that they “lived unhappily” as neighbours. [Sidenote: 1557] A
forty years’ truce concluded the hostilities between these ancient
enemies. It was about this time that some adventurous merchant-seamen
of the city of London “discovered” Moskovy, by way of the White Sea,
and opened up a commercial and diplomatic intercourse between the
two isolated nations who were one day to come face to face with each
other on the roof of the world. The country, however, towards which
Ivan’s thoughts were chiefly turned was the uniquely governed Baltic
land, comprising Estland, Livland, and Kourland, and the adjacent
islands of Dago and Oesel. The extinction of the Prussian section of
the Order had necessarily weakened the Livlandish branch, and the
spread of Lutheran ideas had further added to the confusion which
reigned throughout the Baltic burghs. Nowhere, perhaps, in Europe
did bishops wield such extensive temporal powers, and the fact that
local opinion ran strongly in the direction of the reformed principles
and of secularisation made the immediate future of these districts a
very open question. Ivan had a solution of the difficulty which he
was not loth to put into practice. A grievance he undoubtedly had
against the Livlanders, who had hindered his intercourse with the Hansa
League and prevented free immigration of artificers and craftsmen
from the Empire into Russia. Consequently he suddenly bethought him
of the clause in the original truce with von Plettenberg, whereby
an annual tribute from the town of Dorpat had been agreed to, and
promptly lost sight of. The Tzar reminded the Livlandish envoys of
this unremembered pledge, and refused to renew the truce until the
arrears had been paid in full. [Sidenote: 1557] The representatives
of the Land-Master and the sovereign bishops argued and promised, but
they did not pay, and Ivan prepared for war. Von Fürstenberg vainly
endeavoured to rouse his subordinates and coadjutors to a sense of
the coming danger. The Bishop of Dorpat hastily declined the offer of
a few companies of lanzknechts, whose loosely disciplined habits he
well remembered; he had forgotten the Russians. [Sidenote: 1558] In
January three divisions of Moskovite, Tartar, and Tcherkess troops,
under the command of a Glinski, a Romanov, and an erstwhile Khan of
Kazan, rode into the Order territory and wasted Livland and Estland to
within four miles of Revel.[144] The outskirts of Dorpat were burnt,
and the invaders returned from this preliminary winter campaign with
a heavy spoil of cannons, church bells, treasure, and captives. A
contemporary account accuses the Tartars of fiendish cruelties upon
the hapless inhabitants who fell into their clutches; among other
fantastically devised tortures, men were fastened on to the ground,
holes punctured into their sides, and gunpowder poured therein, which
being ignited, sent the victims into shreds.[145] Ivan’s object in
sending war and desolation careering through the land was to bring the
various factors which composed its government into subjection to his
authority, as the Prussian State had been brought under the sovereignty
of Poland. The Livlanders still imagined that peace might be bought,
and at a Landtag held at Wolmar in March it was resolved to send
envoys to the Tzar with an offer of 60,000 thalers. Ivan refused to
receive the ambassadors, and the chances of reconciliation were still
further lessened by an outbreak of hostilities between the opposing
fortresses of Narva and Ivangorod, the former of which was captured by
the Russians. The war recommenced with renewed vigour on the part of
the invaders; the defending forces were too hopelessly disorganised
to offer an effective resistance to the Moskovite attack. Churchmen
and Ordermen, nobles and burghers, blamed each other mutually, and
the luckless peasantry (who since their conversion to Christianity
by the Sword Brethren had scarcely been surfeited with the peace and
goodwill which had been officially promised them) suffered at the
hands of all. Dorpat, Neuhausen, Ringen, and many other strongholds
fell before the assaults of the Moskovites, and Ivan’s troops extended
their ravages into Kourland. But meanwhile significant events had been
taking place at the headquarters of the Order. Von Fürstenberg had
resigned his office to a younger man, Gotthard Kettler, and this new
chief had inaugurated vigorous measures whereby to save, if possible,
some fragment from the ruin of the rapidly dissolving anachronism
which had held together for over 300 years. The Kings of Poland,
Sweden, and Denmark were appealed to for assistance, and a more
spirited opposition was shown to the Tzar’s voevodas. A half-hearted
irruption of the Krim Khan, Devlet Girei, into Moskovite territory
towards the close of the year did not materially weaken Ivan’s grip
upon the struggling provinces, but in the following May, through the
mediation of the new King of Denmark (Frederick II.), an armistice of
six months was granted to the distressed Livlanders. [Sidenote: 1559]
Kettler, the Archbishop of Riga (Wilhelm Hohenzollern), and the various
representatives of the Order, the cathedral lands, and the cities
sought to turn this respite to good account. Like vultures swooping
down from an empty sky, the agents of the neighbouring northern powers
appeared suddenly on the scene now that they understood that the
Baltic Bund really meant dying. The Empire, torn and exhausted by the
religious warfare which had attended the progress of the Reformation,
was unable to take effective part in the obsequies of its detached
colony. Other interested waiters upon Providence, however, there were
in plenty. Magnus of Holstein, brother of the King of Denmark, was
elected successor to Johann Munchausen, Bishop of Oesel and Wiek, who
was willing, for a substantial recompense, to evacuate a bishopric
which had become neither Catholic nor safe. Revel and the Estlandish
barons turned their eyes Swedenward, while in September an alliance was
formed between Poland and the expiring Order, which showed in which
direction Kourland and Livland were likely to fall. The truce came
abruptly to an end in the midst of all these schemings, and the Order
knights fought their last campaign amid depressing circumstances. The
strongly fortified town of Fellin, in which ex-Master von Fürstenberg
had entrenched himself, was captured--or bought--by the Moskovite
voevoda Kourbski, and another disaster overtook the Cross warriors
at Ermes, where a whole detachment was surrounded by an overpowering
force of the enemy and all who were not slain taken as prisoners
to Moskva. The Tzar who had wept over the dead Kazanese did not on
this occasion permit his triumph to soften his feelings towards the
wretched captives, who were flogged through the streets of the capital
with whips of wire and then beheaded.[146] Hatred and fear of the
Tartar-tinged and autocratic Moskovite sovereignty, heightened by acts
such as this, drove the Baltic folk more speedily into the arms of the
various foreign powers who were able and willing to absorb them. Oesel
had already come under Danish influence; in June 1561 Erik XIV. of
Sweden (who had succeeded Gustavus Vasa the preceding September) took
Estland formally under his protection. Sigismund-August completed the
partition by taking over from the Order Kourland and as much of Livland
as was not in the hands of the Russians. [Sidenote: Mar. 1562] The
former province was erected into a hereditary duchy dependent on the
Polish crown, and bestowed upon the ci-devant Master, Gotthard Kettler,
who was transformed into Duke of Kourland; the ecclesiastical lands of
the Kourlandish bishopric of Pilten, however, “went with” the territory
of Oesel, which also comprised the church-lands of Wiek in Estland.
Riga remained for the present a free city, depending more or less upon
Poland, and the archbishopric was extinguished on the death of its
last prelate, Wilhelm Hohenzollern, in 1563.[147] Thus passed away in
violent dissolution the strange anomalous time-honoured Baltic Bund,
that missionary outpost of western Christianity and civilisation, which
had crammed its commerce and its Christ swordwise down the throats of
the Liv tribes, had led an existence of intermittent strife with its
neighbours and within itself, and dying, left a legacy of two hundred
years’ warfare behind it.

Ivan, in killing the Order, had not reaped unmixed benefits from
his destructive efforts; he had advanced the Russian frontier in a
direction in which expansion was most needed, but he had seen a large
accession of territory fall to his hereditary enemy, Poland, and his
other hereditary enemy, Sweden, had obtained a foothold south of the
Finnish gulf--two circumstances which did not bode peace on his
north-west frontier. At Moskva meanwhile troubles were brewing. The
Tzar had probably never forgotten or forgiven the part Adashev and
Silvestr had played when their sovereign seemed little better than a
dead dog, and his consort had since that affair nourished open enmity
against the two advisers. Their opposition to the war with Livland,
in place of which they would have preferred a crusade against the
Krim khanate, still further nettled Ivan, and the Vremenszhiki might
plainly perceive that their “season,” which had set in amid the glowing
ashes of a burnt Moskva, was drawing to a close in the winter of the
Tzar’s displeasure. [Sidenote: (Aug. 1560)] The death of Anastasia
(who had erewhile presented her husband with another son, Thedor, and
a daughter, Eudokiya) did not improve the monarch’s temper, and the
fallen favourites were glad to leave the unhealthy neighbourhood of
the Court. Adashev was sent in the capacity of voevoda to the newly
acquired fortress of Fellin, and the man of Novgorod relapsed into the
obscurity of the cloister. Their rule had been ambitious, austere,
and paternal to the point of irritation, and they left behind them a
circle of disparaging courtiers who helped the Tzar to remember how
arrogant his disgraced counsellors had been in the past, and to realise
how dangerous they might be in the future. It was darkly hinted at the
Kreml that Anastasia Romanov had died in the prime of life and health,
and that she had been the enemy of the Vremenszhiki. Ivan himself raked
up real or imagined grievances against these restrainers of his violent
youth, and before long the frown of the Tzar was followed by a stroke
of his far-reaching arm. Adashev was removed to a prison at Dorpat,
where he died six months later--by his own hand, said his enemies;
Silvestr was sent to contemplate the abstract to the music of “the
ice-fields which grind against the Solovetsky Monastery on its savage
islet” in the White Sea--a favourite storing-place for inconvenient
churchmen, as Bielozero was for lay offenders.

A new circle of favourites and boon companions sprang fungus-like
around the stern-grown Tzar, but for the future they ceased to try and
control his goings; if they could avoid being trampled on they counted
themselves lucky. The Basmanovs--Thedor, the son, “with the face of
an angel and the heart of a devil”--were among this sinister throng,
which also included Maluta Skouratov, “readiest of all to minister to
his depraved inclinations and shameful lusts.”[148] Ivan, after the
punishment of Silvestr and Adashev, was seized with remorse--for wasted
opportunities. He might have been so much more savagely exemplary than
he had been. It was not yet too late to remedy the omission; Adashev
had been disposed of, and the recluse could not well be dragged forth
again and re-sentenced; but there were others. The gravest political
fault that must be laid to Ivan’s account is that his cruelties were
occasionally stupid. In the instance of his first experiment at a reign
of terror he selected as principal victim of his unappeased wrath
Daniel Adashev, brother certainly of the late minister, but one of
the few reliable voevodas with the army in Livland. The exact ground
on which he received the death-sentence--beyond the fundamental one
of blood-relationship with a fallen idol--does not transpire, but
the fault was apparently a comprehensive one, as with him perished
his youthful son, his wife’s father, his brother’s wife’s brothers,
and his relative Ivan Shiskin, with wife and child.[149] At the same
time was put to death, on the double charge of sorcery and affection
towards the Adashevs, a woman of Livland, a convert to Orthodoxy, who
had come to Moskva with her family, the interesting name of Magdalin,
and a reputation for piety. The first perished with her. Other victims
of the Tzar’s dislike or distrust were sent either to their graves
or to Bielozero, and then the “young man’s fancy” lightly turned to
“thoughts of love.” Envoys were sent to the King of Poland suggesting
the marriage of Ivan with one of Sigismund-August’s sisters as a basis
of peace between the two countries, but the negotiations fell through.
The question of Livland had added another item to the many vexed points
which made a durable reconciliation impossible. [Sidenote: Aug. 1561]
The offended wooer haughtily turned his back upon possible western
brides and allied himself with a beautiful Tcherkess maiden, of a
princely house, whom he caused to be Christianised and baptized at
Moskva under the name of Mariya. Towards the close of the following
year Ivan assembled an immense army with which to give practical effect
to his resentment against Poland, and in January 1563 led his troops
in person against Polotzk. Probably no previous Russian prince or
voevoda had ever been at the head of so imposing a host; its fighting
strength was computed at 280,000 men, another 80,000 accompanied the
huge baggage train, and 200 cannon bumped in their sledges over the
frozen snow. How such a multitude of men and horses was maintained
in the frost-bound and much ravaged border province of Polotzk it is
difficult to surmise. Fortunately the siege was not of long duration;
the old capital of the House of Isiaslav surrendered to the mighty
host which encompassed it, and Ivan was able to add the title of Grand
Prince of Polotzk to his already fatiguingly imposing designations.
His return journey to Moskva was a repetition of his earlier triumph
after the fall of Kazan. As on that occasion, he was met with the
pleasing intelligence that his consort had presented him with a son
(Vasili).[150] The infant continued the parallel by dying when a few
weeks old. Another death happened in the tzarskie family towards the
end of the year, Urii, the weakling brother, dropping quietly out of
existence at this time. Makarie, the Shouyskie-elevated Metropolitan,
died on the last day of the year, “leaving behind him the blessed
memory of a prudent pastor.”[151] As he had lived in peace with the
various Vremenszhiki and with Ivan himself, the prudence cannot be
gainsaid. [Sidenote: 1564] Athanasie, the Tzar’s confessor, was elected
to the vacant post, which he probably found less onerous than that of
keeper of his Majesty’s conscience.

A truce of six months had been accorded to Sigismund-August,
notwithstanding which both Moskovites and Poles (the latter with the
assistance of the Dniepr Kozaks) mutually harried each other’s lands.
The Polish ambassadors who came to Moskva in December 1563 put forward
the usual inflated demands for Pskov, Novgorod, and other integral
Russian possessions; scarcely likely to be yielded to a country which
had just lost a valuable province. Ivan’s diplomatists countered these
extravagant proposals by equally unreasonable claims, and the futile
negotiations--which more resembled a Dutch auction--were broken off in
January. [Sidenote: 1564] The renewal of active hostilities brought
disaster upon the Moskovite arms; in the ill-fated neighbourhood of
Orsha Petr Ivanovitch Shouyskie, in command of a large Russian force,
was surprised by the hetman Nikolai Radzivil and completely defeated.
Among the many conflicting accounts of this battle it is impossible to
estimate what was the proportionate loss of victors and vanquished,
but it is fairly evident that the Moskovites abandoned their cannon
and baggage train to the enemy, that they were pursued by moonlight
through brakes and swamps, and that Shouyskie lost his life in the
battle or the flight. According to some writers his body was found in
a well. The consequences of this defeat were not weighty, but Ivan
was at the same time confronted with the defection of one of his most
important voevodas, Aleksandr Mikhailovitch Kourbski. This boyarin, who
held command of the troops in Livland, had been a companion-in-arms
of Daniel Adashev, and was well disposed towards the Vremenszhiki
who had had so grim a downfall. As Moskovite generals went, he had
been energetic and fairly successful, though at a battle at Nevl he
had been worsted by a much inferior Polish force. The cruelty and
tyranny which were making the Tzar daily more breathlessly interesting
to his courtiers roused apprehensions in the mind of Kourbski, who
suddenly took the resolution to transfer his services to the cause of
Sigismund-August. The letter or declaration in which he informed the
Tzar of the reasons which had driven him to take this step was couched
in terms of Biblical reproach, and upbraided the tyrant with having
shed the blood of innocent men and slain the mighty ones of Israel.
Kourbski was pleased with this composition and expressed his intention
of having a copy of it buried with him. Ivan, who was not so pleased
with it, drove his iron-tipped staff through the foot of the messenger
who had brought it, and kept it there while he read it; and it was a
long letter. An extraordinary correspondence ensued; Ivan hurled at his
departed boyarin reproaches, scriptural texts, sarcasms, and fragments
of classical history. Why to save his miserable body had Kourbski
stained his immortal soul with treachery? What, he wished to know,
would happen to Kourbski’s soul “on the day of awful judgment”? How had
he dared to say that the throne of God was surrounded by his (Ivan’s)
victims, against the authority of the Apostle, who said that no man
could see God? Heretic! “You tell me that I shall never again see your
Ethiopian face. O Heaven! what misfortune for me!” And let him place
his letter in his coffin, thereby proving that he was no Christian,
since Christians loved to die in forgiveness and not hate. “Written in
our residence of Moskva, in Great Russia, the 5th of the month of July,
the year of the world 7,072.”[152]

The passing over of Kourbski infused new vigour into Sigismund-August’s
war measures. Devlet-Girei, who had been on the point of concluding
an alliance with Moskva, was suddenly induced by Polish gold to make
an inroad upon Riazan; Kourbski and Radzivil led a large army against
Polotzk, and hostilities were actively prosecuted in Livland. Nothing,
however, resulted from this triple attack; Riazan was heroically
defended by the Basmanovs, father and son, until reinforcements arrived
to drive the Tartars back into the steppes. Polotzk equally defied the
Polish arms, and the Moskovites on their part captured the Lit’uanian
fortress of Ozeriszh. In Livland neither side could claim a decided
advantage.

Had Ivan at this crucial moment gathered together the formidable
resources at his command and led his army against his old hereditary
enemy, enfeebled by the rule of a weak and aristocracy-fettered
king, and involved, moreover, in a quarrel with Sweden, he might have
achieved a conquest more splendid and important than those of Kazan
and Polotzk, and have wreaked on foreign foes his consuming lust for
blood. But suspicion, the Nemesis of tyrants, had already commenced
to haunt the dark mind of the Tzar, and he cared not to risk his
sacred person in the hands of possibly traitorous boyarins. His warped
imagination peopled Moskva with treason-mongers and conspirators,
secret adherents of Kourbski and of the disgraced Vremenszhiki.
Promiscuous arrests and judicial murders had not increased the gaiety
of the capital, and Ivan glowered round upon gloomy and anxious
faces with a sense of injured and threatened majesty. One morning in
December boyarins and citizens saw with a feeling of uneasy alarm
the Kreml square crowded with sledges, in which were piled crosses,
ikons, church and domestic furniture, State treasures, and the various
paraphernalia necessary to a peregrinating Tzar. The Terrible was
about to desert his capital on the eve of the festivities of Noel.
Escorted by a troop of horsemen, and accompanied by his family and
favourite courtiers, Ivan Vasilievitch Groznie swept out of Moskva
before the eyes of his silent and wondering subjects. This portentous
_Hegira_ halted at the Aleksandrovskie sloboda, a village some 107
verstas (86 miles) from the capital, where the Tzar set up his Court
afresh. The unknown is proverbially the dreaded. All Moskva shivered
at this mysterious departure. Clergy, boyarins, and townsfolk asked
themselves what boded the winter flitting of their sovereign; they
had not long to wait for an explanation. [Sidenote: 1565] On the 3rd
January came a New Year’s message from Aleksandrov to the Metropolitan,
and another to the merchants and people of Moskva. The burden of
both these epistles was, that during Ivan’s minority and under the
administration of Silvestr and Adashev the interests of the State
had been neglected and its coffers plundered; that Moskva still
swarmed with a brood of disaffected and rebellious boyarins, and that
whenever the long-suffering sovereign wished to mete out justice to
the guilty, the Metropolitan and clergy interfered to screen them
from their well-deserved doom. Hence the sorrowing Tzar had resolved
to shake the dust of an ungrateful capital off his feet, or in other
words, to leave the white-built but black-hearted city to simmer in
its own iniquities. The effect of this announcement was general panic
and consternation, as Ivan had probably intended it should be; a
deputation of clergy, boyarins, merchants, and townsfolk, headed by
Pimen, Archbishop of Novgorod, waited upon the Tzar in his retreat at
Aleksandrov and humbly implored him to return to his desolate capital
and to deal with the evil-doers as seemed best to him. Ivan graciously
relented and made a solemn entry into the city on the 2nd February.
If the chronicles are to be credited, the change of air and scene had
done him little good as far as bodily health was concerned, and the
people were appalled to behold the ravages which two months’ absence
had wrought on the person of their sovereign, who now appeared before
them “a gaunt, bent man, with dull eyes, matted, unkempt hair, and a
gloomy fierceness stamped upon every feature.”[153] Certainly this
Tzar gave his subjects plenty of excitement. As a conqueror he had
retaken possession of Moskva, and a new batch of regulations marked
his return to the head of affairs; most notable of these enactments
was the institution of a personal body-guard, chosen from the ranks of
the courtier boyarins, and originally fixed at 1000 strong (afterwards
raised to 6000), to whom was given the name of Opritchnina, or select
legion. These satellites and creatures of the Tzar fulfilled the duties
of guards, police, and special messengers, and became the agents for
such cruelties and extortions as Ivan could not superintend in person.
They carried at their saddle-bow a broom and a dog’s head, to signify
that they swept treason out of the land and devoured the Tzar’s
enemies; the terror they inspired among the unfortunate people upon
whom they were let loose earned for them the name of “Kromieshniki,”
“of the outer darkness,” or literally “outers.” Another new departure
was the commencement of a palace outside the walls of the Kreml; an
unaccountable whim, unless Ivan feared to be shut up like a rat in a
trap among a people whose patience might one day give out, and who
might hunt for a Vasilievitch as on a memorable occasion they had
hunted for Glinskies. For the present the Moskvitchi were huddled
like sheep in the corner of a pen, watching with nervous interest the
movements of the personage who might be said to embrace the double
part of shepherd and wolf. No time was lost in getting to business; in
the month of February a batch of victims was selected to inaugurate
the new days of personal rule--a dark festival, in sombre, gloomy, and
terrible setting, and not as yet common enough to have lost the thrill
of expectancy. A list of names stalk spectre-wise across this ugly
page of Moskva’s history, as the bearers of them walked to their doom
under the gaze of a blood-frozen multitude. Aleksandr Gorbati, who at
least had fought for the Tzar “from Kazan to the field of Arske,” and
his son Petr, who at the age of seventeen could not have been steeped
very deeply in treason, died together under the executioner’s axe.
Four other enemies of the Tzar’s repose suffered by the block; for a
fifth was reserved a more ghastly punishment. Kniaz Dimitri Shaferov
expiated his real or imputed crimes by a slow death by impalement. All
day long, it was said, he lingered, bearing his pain heroically; and
Church and Tzar looked on impassively at a deed more meanly cruel than
that monk-taught tragedy, the memory of which they bewailed every Good
Friday. To the credit of the Metropolitan, be it said, that having not
the courage to thwart his sovereign’s sacrificial bent, he retired
from an office whose merciful functions he might no longer wield, and
withdrew into the Novo Spasskie monastery. Germanus, Archbishop of
Kazan, was pitched upon to fill the vacant post, but Ivan quarrelled
with him before the ceremony of consecration had time to take place,
and the old man escaped thankfully back to his former diocese. The
Tzar then nominated Filipp, hegumen of the Solovetski Lavra, who
unwillingly assumed an office which could not fail to bring him into
disastrous contact with the Terrible and his unbearable Opritchniki.

Ivan divided his time between the capital and the Aleksandrovskie
sloboda, which latter place he transformed into a peculiar hybrid
settlement, half fortress, half monastery, in which he led an equally
peculiar life. A whim or a superstitious fancy caused him to garb
himself and his boon companions with the titles and even the robes of
monks, but the religious routine of this strange establishment was no
make-believe. Matins and masses and vigils were here observed, perhaps
more regularly than in most Russian monasteries of that day, and by
none more punctiliously than by the Tzar-abbot; a fearful and wonderful
being, if contemporary reports have not grossly lied, grovelling in
abject fervent worship before the chapel altar at one moment, and
gliding out to superintend the fiendish torture of some wretched
captive at another, returning “radiant” and comforted--grotesque and
scarcely credible, yet supported by the facts that are available. While
the baboon-hearted sovereign passed his days in a blended medley of
piety and savagery, buffoonery and State affairs, his familiar sprites,
the Six Thousand, infested Moskva and a large portion of the country
districts like a devouring pest or an army of occupation. Princes,
boyarins, burghers, all who were not connected with the Elect Legion,
were liable at any moment to be insulted, plundered, or maltreated by
the light-hearted and light-fingered Opritchniki, and redress from the
Tzar there was none. Houses and lands were ruthlessly filched from
unoffending subjects in order to provide for the wants and luxuries of
the favoured legionaries.[154]

The new Metropolitan, a man of firmer fibre than his immediate
predecessors, inevitably clashed against the drifting forces of
oppression and State anarchy which bore athwart him, and incurred the
disfavour alike of Tzar and Opritchniki. Previous to his consecration
he had made a half-hearted attempt to procure the suppression of the
latter, and in return they hated him with a thoroughness which boded
his ultimate destruction. Throughout his ministrations in the gloomy
and splendid temples of Moskva the grinning dog’s head must have
been ever before his eyes, and the renewed cruelties and executions
with which the Tzar terrorised the capital made a rupture daily more
imminent.

During these inward developments of Ivan’s reign a curious languor
had crept into the foreign relations of the country. It seemed as if
the three north-eastern powers were gorged and torpid after having
assimilated within their maws the decayed carcase of the Baltic Bund.
The Swedish raven and the Slav eagles sat inertly blinking at each
other, or indulged in desultory sparring over the remains of their
banquet. Perennial embassades, solemnly and sumptuously upholstered,
trailed to and fro between Moskva and the Lit’uanian capital, and
concurrently Kozaks and razboyniks (moss-troopers) kept alive the
smouldering embers of war. As a matter of fact neither of the three
neighbour nations was in a position to engage in a vigorous foreign
campaign. In Sweden Erik, second monarch of the House of Vasa, was
undoing the good work of his father and sowing the whirlwind which was
shortly to sweep him from his throne. In Poland the line of Yagiello
seemed likely to come to an end with the childless Sigismund-August,
and men looked anxiously or selfishly forward to the prospective
troubles of an open succession; for the most part selfishly. In Russia
Ivan, who might have reaped splendid profit from the embarrassments
of his rivals, seemed bent rather on warring upon his own subjects.
His hatred of the boyarins may legitimately be explained by the
recollections of his dreary and friendless youth, and of the torturing
anxiety of his sick-bed, when loyalty ran cold and men turned their
backs upon the seemingly setting sun. And yet the prime mover in that
incipient treason appeared for long to have escaped the jealous fury
that bore so strong a sway in the Tzar’s breast. Vladimir Andreivitch,
who had put himself forward as his cousin’s under-study, was for many
years the object of caresses rather than openly shown resentment.
Fiefs, palaces, commands, and other compliments were showered upon
him, as though to remove the possibility of further disaffection. But
there are more ways of killing a cat than by choking it with cream.
Ivan one day summoned his relative to visit him at Aleksandrovskie,
and rode forth to meet him with a band of ever-useful Opritchniki--and
some poison. [Sidenote: 1569] Vladimir, accompanied by his wife and two
children, was intercepted at a little village on the road, where all
four were forced to drink of the Tzar’s hospitality--a beverage which
needed no digestion.

Whatever object Ivan may have had in selecting a man of Filipp’s
disposition for the office of Metropolitan, he soon laboured to
displace him therefrom; “there is no law to say such things as
may disgust the ear of kings,” and Filipp had been, for a Russian
churchman, tolerably outspoken. [Sidenote: (1568)] The uncompromising
Vladuika was arrested, arraigned on some raked-up charge relating to
his monastic life, deposed from his office, and immured in a cell of
the Otrotch monastery near Tver. Here in the following year Maluta
Skouratov helped him to die; Ivan has the credit of having added a
martyr to the Orthodox calendar. Kirill, hegumen of the Novinski
monastery (Moskva) replaced Filipp in the Russian primacy.

Despite the passive and unresisting temper with which the Moskovites
seem to have endured the tyranny of their sovereign and his satellites,
Ivan was never free from apprehension on the score of treason. The
carefully-guarded seclusion of his life both at Aleksandrov and at
the capital betray his nervous fears in this respect, and even more
unmistakable is the drift of the correspondence he had with Elizabeth
of England on the subject of a possible asylum in that country. In the
last years of Edward VI. the English navigator Richard Chancellor,
of “the Mystery Companie and Fellowship of Merchant Adventurers for
the Discoverie of unknown lands,” had stumbled upon Moskovy while
searching for a northern passage to India and China, and diplomatic and
commercial relations had been opened up between the two countries.
The Queen responded graciously to “the deare most mightie and puissant
Prince, our brother, great lord Emperor and greate Duke Ivan Basily
of all Russia,” promising a sanctuary for “the free and quiet leeding
of your highnes lief ... and that it maie be laufull for you to use
your Christian relligion in such sorte, as it shall be best like
you.” Besides, the letter went on, a place should be appointed for
the prospective fugitive and his Court “as long as you shall like to
remaine with us,” adding, however, “upon your owen charge.” The Tudors
were not given to quixotic extravagance.

Russia it has well been said is the country of contrasts, and the reign
of Ivan furnishes some curious anomalies of administration. Of all the
strange fruit to be borne under the circumstances of time and place--in
the Moskovy of the sixteenth century--a States-General was about the
last to be looked for. And yet this was indeed the apparition which the
violent control-impatient Tzar called up to advise him on the purely
administrative question of continuation or termination of the Polish
war. In the summer of 1566 came to Moskva an unwonted assemblage of
boyarins, higher clergy, small proprietors, merchants, and townsfolk,
339 in all, to deliberate on the matter which had been submitted to
their decision. Sigismund-August had abandoned his demands for the
restitution of Smolensk and Polotzk, and was willing to unite with Ivan
in a scheme for driving the Swedes out of Estland and partitioning
that province and Livland amicably between the two Slav powers. The
East-Russian monarch did not jump at these favourable proposals, but
insisted that Riga, Wenden, Wolmar, Ronneburg, and Kokenhausen should
be added to his share of Livland. Possibly his object was to harass
Lit’uania by a prolongation of the war, in the hope that, on the death
of Sigismund-August, the electors of the grand duchy might be driven to
put a term to their country’s sufferings by bestowing their suffrages
on their most formidable neighbour; as the Poles had done in the case
of Yagiello. The King refused to make the required concessions, hence
the deadlock which the Russian Diet was called together to discuss.
The assembly unanimously concurred in refusing to abate the Tzar’s
demands upon Livland, which appeared to them extremely reasonable.
Thus the old Slavonic custom of violently disposing of a minority was
not called into requisition; had the unanimity been the wrong way Ivan
would probably not have shrunk from a heroic treatment of the case.
Whatever hopes the Tzar may have entertained of detaching Lit’uania
from the Polish crown were dispelled by the political stroke which
Sigismund-August effected a few years later; by the Union of Lublin,
signed, after many a stormy sitting, on the 1st July 1569, Poland and
Lit’uania were definitely bound together in a dual but indivisible
realm. The question of the succession to the double throne still
remained open, but it was scarcely likely that the turbulent and almost
independent nobles of the Polish provinces would turn their thoughts
towards the grim despot of Moskva, charm he never so wisely. Ivan,
however, in obstinately refusing to conclude peace on any but the most
exorbitant terms, and confining his military operations for the most
part to unimportant border skirmishes, was pursuing the time-honoured
Moskovite wolf-borrowed policy of wearing down an adversary by
persistent untiring attack. Even more hoary and respectable with the
sanction of age, dating indeed from the days of Sviatoslav Igorovitch,
was the happy-go-lucky neglect of the southern and eastern possessions
of the gosoudarstvo, which were generally left with no better
protection than those with which nature had surrounded them. South of
Moskva nothing matters, might have expressed the indifference with
which the Russian statecraft permitted its outlying districts in this
direction to be continually overrun by marauding armies. [Sidenote:
1569] In the year of the Lublinskie Union a Turko-Tartar invasion,
having for its nucleus 17,000 troops under the command of an Ottoman
pasha, entered the steppe-lands of the Azov basin to prosecute what
might be considered a holy war against the Infidel conquerors of Kazan
and Astrakhan. With the idea of bringing the Mussulman lands watered by
the Volga into closer touch with Azov, and thereby with the water-way
to Constantinople, the Turkish plan of campaign included the gigantic
project of uniting that river with the Don by means of a canal. Neither
this undertaking nor the meditated swoop upon Astrakhan was seriously
prosecuted, and the invaders seem to have gathered alarm from the awful
stillness of the solitudes into which they had penetrated, and to have
seen Moskovite armies stealing upon them where only the foxes and the
steppe-eagles sought their prey amid the waving grasses. The Tartar
auxiliaries gradually dispersed and the famine-wasted troops of the
Sultan re-embarked at Azov without having encountered human enemies
other than the skirmishing bands of Tcherkess warriors who had harassed
their retreat.

Permanently at war with Poland, never safe from the hostility of the
Krim Tartars, and threatened with the aggression of the great Mohametan
power of South-East Europe, Ivan seemed to find among his own subjects
enemies more punishable than any who menaced him from without. Moskva
and Aleksandrov had been the scene of many a nightmare deed of cruelty;
many an action of injustice and oppression had been perpetrated by the
fiend-hearted Opritchniki in the country districts; but now something
on a larger scale was to be attempted. The “episode of Novgorod,” one
of the most terrible events of a terrible reign, is introduced by some
of the earlier historians in a somewhat fantastic manner. One Petr, a
native of Volhynia, who had suffered for some offence at the hands of
the Novgorodskie authorities, revenged himself by calumniating the city
rulers in the too susceptible mind of the Tzar; his story was that a
letter, addressed to Sigismund-August, and signed by the Archbishop
(Pimen) and the leading inhabitants of the city, offering to transfer
their allegiance to the Polish monarch, had been hidden behind the
image of the Mother-of-God in the Sofia Cathedral at Novgorod, where
it was eventually found by a confidential agent dispatched by Ivan
from Moskva.[155] Why a letter intended for the King of Poland, and
presumedly of some urgency, should have been placed, and left, in
such a curious position, is not very apparent. That such treason was
actually meditated is at least possible. Novgorod, clinging to the
memory of lost liberties and departed glories, may not unnaturally
have turned wistful eyes towards any protector who might save her from
a dynasty which, in the person of Ivan III., had wrought her such
lasting injury, and in the person of his grandson threatened her with
further oppressions. The morbidly suspicious mind of the Tzar would
not be without apprehension on this score, and in this case there
is no reason to presuppose that evidence, real or concocted, was an
essential preliminary to preventative action. In the autumn of 1569
the incriminating letter is said to have been found. In December the
Tzar, with the Tzarevitch Ivan, his favourite boyarins, and an army
of Opritchniki, set out on a punitive expedition against Novgorod
and the neighbouring towns. Like a python encoiling its prey this
strange peregrinating “bed of justice” moved towards the devoted city,
leaving an ugly streak of blood and desolation in its track. Klin, a
small township near Tver, was the starting-point of the red carnival.
What exact offence the inhabitants had committed in the eyes of their
sovereign it is impossible to say, since they could scarcely have been
suspected of complicity in the alleged treasonable correspondence
with Sigismund-August. The Tzar, however, let slip his “peculiars”
on them, and murder and pillage became the order of the day. “Houses
and streets were filled with corpses, and neither women nor children
were spared.”[156] Hence onward, at Tver, Torjhok, Gorodnya, and in
all the villages as far as lake Ilmen, the same scenes of blood and
rapine were enacted; the roads leading to Novgorod were strewn with
dead bodies.[157] It was during this grisly progress through the dark
snow-swathed pine-forests, where the ravens watched over the frozen
corpses, and the wolves feasted on what the Kromiesniki left behind
them, that Maluta Skouratov turned aside to the Otrotch monastery and
transacted his business with the ex-Metropolitan Filipp. Truly the
frosts of winter seemed to have got into men’s blood and all feelings
of mercy and goodwill to have evaporated at the festivals of Noel.
To the Novgorodskie, awaiting the arrival of this dread visitation,
tidings kept pouring in which might well have roused them to the
defiance of despair, and armed them against their fate. [Sidenote:
Jan. 1570] The Opritchniki had already drawn a cordon round the
slobodas and outskirts of the city, and were ransacking the numerous
monasteries which studded the sandy plain, putting to death such of
the inmates as showed the least sign of opposition. But there was no
Martha to organise resistance, no Mstislav the Brave to step in between
Novgorod and her doom. When Ivan, accompanied by his son, courtiers,
and a formidable body-guard of Strielitz, made his entry into the
terror-stricken city, he was met on the famous Volkhov bridge by the
Vladuika Pimen at the head of the clergy and principal citizens, with
the cross and sacred banners displayed. The miraculous ikon, which had
repelled the attack of the Souzdalskie besiegers, failed to turn the
heart of the Tzar, and the Archbishop’s quavering blessing was refused.
Novgorod was given over to slaughter and pillage and Pimen himself was
spared only to perform antics degrading alike to his manhood and his
office. For six weeks the city and its outskirts was a continued scene
of confiscation and wholesale execution; numbers of the inhabitants
were flung into the Volkhov, at a point near the bridge where its
waters never freeze, and so many were disposed of in this way that lake
Ladoga is said to have been tainted by the carrion. The total number of
the victims has been variously computed, contemporary accounts fixing
the death-roll from 2770, “besides women and common folk,” to the
maximum and probably enormously exaggerated figure of 60,000.[158] In a
curious and appallingly suggestive register, preserved at the Kirillov
monastery, in which Ivan used to keep a reckoning of his victims and
apparently apprise his God of their dispatch, there is the following
entry: “O Lord! give peace to the souls of 1505 of Thy servants,
Novgorodians.”[159] The number of unburied corpses was sufficiently
great to cause a pestilence, which rounded off the Tzar’s act of
vengeance. After having denuded the celebrated Cathedral of its bells,
vessels, ikons and other treasures, and destroyed cattle, grain, and
whatever could not be conveniently carried off, Ivan called together
the wretched remnant of the citizens and graciously asked for their
prayers on behalf of himself and his family.

Then, in the middle of February, he departed towards Pskov, leaving
the silent city alone with its dead. A romantic, but not necessarily
romancing, element runs through the account of Ivan’s dealings with
Pskov. Sharing in the conjectural guilt for which Novgorod had been so
mercilessly chastised, the Tzar had devised for the city on the Peipus
a similar punishment. Halting at one of the monasteries without the
walls, on the eve of his intended assize, he was moved by hearing the
bells of all the churches and religious houses around toll at midnight,
in funeral anticipation of the threatened butchery. His feelings were
still further worked upon by the appearance on the scene of a local
celebrity, one Nikolai, half-hermit, half-charlatan, who offered him
meat, and on being indignantly rebuked--it was Lent--boldly accused
the Tzar of feeding on human bodies. This stark, uncanny being, in
the vigorous words of Sir Jerome Horsey, an adventurous Englishman
who visited Moskovy several times in various capacities, “with bold
Imprecations and Exorcismes calling him Blood-sucker and Deuourer of
Christian flesh, swore by his Angell that hee should not escape death
by a present Thunderbolt, if he or any of his did touch the least
childs haire in that Citie.”[160] It is not improbable that this
madman and fanatic may have made a strong impression upon a kindred
spirit, and the unusual occurrence of a thunderstorm in February, which
the chronicles relate, would have added to the Tzar’s superstitious
uneasiness. Of the existence of this “sorcerer” Horsey gives evidence
at first hand: “I saw this Impostor, a foule creature; hee went naked
Winter and Summer.... His Holinesse could not endure me,” he adds,
which, as the Englishman was openly sceptical as to his supernatural
powers, was not wonderful. Whatever may have influenced the Tzar to an
unwonted deviation into humanity, he suddenly stayed his avenging hand
and returned to Moskva with his Opritchniks, his Court, and the captive
Archbishop. That he was in any way satiated with cruelty does not
appear, as in the same year he treated the capital to a blood-carnival
on a grander scale than any it had yet witnessed. What gave added alarm
to this new reign of terror was that no one was safe from implication,
for the Tzar’s own seeming favourites and the most trusted of his
creatures were arrested one after the other. The Basmanovs, father
and son, Viskovatui, the Treasurer Founikov, Athanasie Viazemskie,
Ivan Vorontzov, and scores of other princes and boyarins were pounced
upon and hurried off into safe keeping, while sinister preparations
went forward in the great square of the Kitai-gorod. On the 25th July
all was in readiness; eighteen gibbets and a large cauldron suspended
over a glowing furnace, with other implements of punishment, met the
Tzar’s eye as he rode with Maluta Skouratov and other yet surviving
favourites on to the scene of execution. But one important item was
lacking; where were the onlookers? The great square was deserted, for
the Moskvitchi had hidden themselves away from the alarming spectacle
which the Gosoudar had prepared for them; there was no knowing where
the matter would stop. Ivan sent his soldiers to summon his subjects
to the show, and even went in person to beat up the skulking citizens,
who flocked with quaking hearts to the various coigns of vantage round
the Red Place. The audience having been secured, the prisoners were
marched out in a long file to the scene of their punishment. The crowd,
scanning the wan faces of the victims, missed that of Viazemskie, who
had died under torture, and the Basmanovs were also absent. A crowning
horror was reserved for them. But see, the Tzar speaks. Raising his
voice that all might hear, he demanded of the people of Moskva if the
tortures and executions they were about to witness seemed to them just?
They did, they did. No shred of hope could the doomed men grasp from
that hoarse murmur of servile approbation. Like beaten gladiators,
reading their fate in the upturned thumbs and hard faces of the
onlookers, they stood unfriended before that vast multitude. I.H.S. has
taken the place of the S.P.Q.R., but fifteen hundred years have not
materially removed Christian Moskva from the ethic-level of pagan Rome.
Up to the mounted monarch was led the first victim, Viskovatui, whom
Ivan accused of treasonable correspondence with the King of Poland,
with the Sultan, and with the Krim Khan, emphasising his accusations
by slashing the boyarin’s face with his whip. Bound, gagged, and hung
by the feet, he was forthwith hacked to pieces; Maluta Skouratov,
descending from his horse, sliced off an ear by way of a beginning.
Founikov was dispatched by alternate drenching with boiling and iced
water, and “expired in horrible torments.” Others, to the number of
about 200, were put to death in various manners, the Tzar himself
having the credit of impaling one old man on his lance.[161] On what
evidence, if any, these men were found guilty of treason and disloyalty
it is impossible to know, but this at least may be remarked, that,
enjoying as they did the Tzar’s favour and patronage, they had scarcely
a motive for wishing to overturn or undermine his authority. The
executions on the Red Place, renewed after an interval of a few days,
were not the only outlet for the monarch’s anger or blood-thirst; other
evil deeds are related of this reign of terror, this running amok of a
human being among his unresisting fellows. It was said that Ivan forced
Thedor Basmanov, the “angel-faced,” to kill his own father: a ghastly
deed which did not save the perpetrator from a death by torture, and
which at least need not be unreservedly believed in. Torture was also
meted out to the widows of some of the most distinguished of the
victims of the Red Place, and eighty were said to have been flung
into the Moskva river. Such a glut of corpses defied expeditious or
thorough burial, and for many days and nights the inhabitants of that
horror-haunted city witnessed packs of dogs crunching and tearing
human bones and flesh in the dry ditches beneath the Kreml walls and
in the open spaces of the Kitai-gorod. Some of the bodies appear to
have found their way into the tzarskie fish-ponds, and carp and pike
grew bloated on the rich banquet.[162] And amid the gloom and stifled
wailing the dread author of it all, the man of terror and blood and
punishments, prostrates himself daily in the holy places, bumping his
forehead on the pavement before the sacred ikons. Splendid triumph of
the Nazarene! Oh glorious irony! The great Orthodox Tzar, conqueror of
Kazan and Astrakhan and Polotzk, master of the lives and liberties of
his trembling subjects, bows in abject worship before the picture of a
woman and a little child.

Amid the seemingly indiscriminating severities with which Ivan cowed
the inhabitants of his principal cities, his mind was engaged in
the conduct of a dexterous and well-thought-out foreign policy. The
same year that witnessed the episode of Novgorod and the butchery
in the Kitai-gorod was signalised by a long-laboured truce (to run
for three years) between Moskovy and Poland. [Sidenote: 1570] The
growing expectancy of a vacancy of the Polish-Lit’uanian throne had no
doubt something to do with this reconciliation. That Ivan seriously
put himself forward as a candidate for that extremely limited and
curtailed monarchy seems to be the case, judging from the significant
instructions which his ambassadors received, to keep strict silence,
when in Poland, on the subject of the Tzar’s domestic tyrannies.[163]
Equally surprising, but nevertheless credit-worthy, the Tzar was not
without a party among the liberty and license-loving Polish nobles,
many of whom, particularly at Warszawa, were said to be adopting
Moskovite costume in view of a coming dynastic displacement. His
adherents were chiefly among the _szlachta_, or small nobility, who
numbered in their ranks many of the Reformed persuasion. At this
period Protestants and Orthodox were lumped together in Poland, under
the common designation of Dissidents, and suffered equally at the
hands of the dominant Catholics. Hence many members of the Diet were
more alarmed at the prospect of an Austrian, or other Jesuit-ridden
king, than at the possible unmanageability of the Moskovite Tzar.
While awaiting the drift of events in Poland, Ivan set in motion a
course of action by which he hoped to drive the Swedes out of the
Baltic provinces. His idea was to enlist the sympathy and support
of the long-suffering Livlanders and Estlanders by setting up a
puppet king who should govern the old lands of the Bund, under the
suzerainty of Moskva. The title of King of Livland, offered, according
to contemporary report, successively to ex-Master von Fürstenberg and
the Duke of Kourland (by both of whom it was declined), was eventually
accepted by the ambitious but effete Magnus of Holstein, Duke of Oesel
and Wiek. [Sidenote: (1570)] Magnus paid a visit to Moskva--in some
trepidation, for the city was getting an unhealthy reputation--and
returned with the Tzar’s proclamation of his new dignity, backed up by
five-and-twenty thousand Russian troops. With this force and his own
German guards, the Holsteiner advanced upon Revel, which, however, held
out against both his wiles and his assaults; the latter he discontinued
after a siege of thirty weeks’ duration (16th March 1571), burning
his camp-works and withdrawing his army into quarters. This rebuff
settled the fate of the vassal “kingdom.” In another direction Ivan’s
foreign policy had been equally unsuccessful--in an attempt, namely,
to cultivate friendly relations with the Ottoman power. The embassy
which he sent in 1570 to Constantinople, to congratulate Sultan Selim
on his accession, was coldly received, and a demand put forward for
the relinquishing of the Russian sovereignty over Kazan and Astrakhan.
The uneasiness which the Tzar felt with regard to the possibility
of a forward Mussulman movement was increased by news which was
brought to Moskva in the spring of 1571 of a warlike activity among
the Krimskie Tartars. Whether instigated by Turkish influences, or
by the anti-Moskovite party in Poland, or whether acting on his own
initiative, Devlet-Girei was certainly preparing for an inroad upon
Russian territory, and Ivan hastily assembled an army of 50,000 men,
which he posted, under the leadership of several voevodas, along the
banks of the Oka, where the enemy was expected to pass. The invading
force, said to be 120,000 strong, eluded this first line of defence
and bore straight upon Moskva. The Tzar, who might with the forces
at his disposal have held the Tartars in check till the army of the
Oka came up on their flank, fled, as his father Vasili had done, as
most of the Grand Princes of Moskva had from time to time done under
similar circumstances, and sheltered himself at Rostov, leaving the
capital to its fate. Weakened and dispirited by this desertion, the
force which had raced back from the Oka and arrived at much the same
time as the Krimskies made no attempt to defend the slobodas and
outlying quarters of the city, which were set on fire by the Khan’s
orders. Ignorant, probably, of the strength of the Russian garrison,
and fearing to be taken unawares by a reinforcement from the north,
the Tartars made no further move upon the city, and indeed the rapid
spread of the flames made pillage impossible. With the exception of
the stone-built Kreml, nearly the whole town was destroyed, and the
loss of life, though probably enormously exaggerated by contemporary
writers, was undoubtedly very great. “Then might you haue seene a
lametable spectacle,” writes an English traveller twenty years later,
“... the people burning in their houses and streates, but most of all
such as laboured to passe out of the gates farthest from the enemie,
where meeting together in a mighty throng, and so pressing euery
man to preuent another, wedged themselves so fast within the gate,
and streates neare vnto it, as that three ranks walked one vpon the
others head, the vppermost treading downe those that were lower: so
that there perished at that time (as was sayd) by the fire and the
presse, the number of 800,000 people, or more.”[164] Or less. Another
Englishman, Sir Jerome Horsey, bears witness to the fact that numbers
of the inhabitants, plunging, with all their removable valuables, into
the river, to escape from the flames and the Tartars, sank beneath
its waters, and that long after the bodies had been disposed of,
it was a fashionable amusement to drag the river bed for submerged
treasure, adding significantly, “I my selfe was somewhat the better
for that fishing.” Satisfied with the striking and easily-accomplished
chastisement which he had inflicted upon the half-dreaded,
half-despised enemy, the Khan withdrew his Hordes, carrying with
him immense numbers of captured Moskovites, and pursued at a safe
distance by the tzarskie voevodas. Ivan, returning to his desolated
capital and dreading a renewal of the struggle with an antagonist,
formidable in himself and possibly a forerunner of Turkish hostility,
began to reckon on the necessity of purchasing peace by the surrender
of Astrakhan. While, however, the victorious Tartar was plaguing him
with taunting messages and importunate demands, the Tzar diverted
his mind to the consideration of a more pleasing matter. His second
wife Mariya had died in 1569, and he had for some time contemplated
a renewal of the marriage state. The present seemed to him a good
opportunity for carrying out his project, and the usual preliminaries
were set in motion. The selection of a mate for the Russian Gosoudars
was conducted on a thoroughly democratic principle, and any young
woman of healthy and pleasing appearance might aspire to the honour of
becoming Tzaritza. On this occasion over 2000 of the likeliest maidens
of Moskovy were brought to the Aleksandrovskie Sloboda, and the Court
doctors and midwives helped the monarch to make his choice, which fell
upon a young girl of Novgorod, Martha Sobakin. Either the work of
selection was badly done, or the Tzar was particularly unfortunate,
or the bride met with foul play, for she died before the marriage
ceremonies were well through. Needless to state the thwarted widower
inclined to the last alternative, and several persons were put to death
on suspicion. The proverb “one funeral makes many” certainly applies
to the decease of a Tzaritza in sixteenth-century Moskva. A batch of
boyarins and voevodas were ordered to execution the same winter (1571),
on the charge of having been in league with the Tartars, and doubtless
some such suspicion was a deciding factor in Ivan’s supine flight
before the invaders. Some were impaled, others knouted to death, others
poisoned.[165]

Whether this sanguinary example had the effect of encouraging “_les
autres_,” or whether the damage sustained by Moskva from the Tartar
brands stung the Russians to exceptional effort, a renewal of the
invasion by the Khan met with a determined and successful opposition.
[Sidenote: Aug. 1572] An enormous army of Krim and Nogai Tartars,
reinforced by troops of Yeni-Tscheri and other Turkish soldiers,
pushed across the Oka, but was encountered and decisively defeated
by a Moskovite force of inferior numbers, under the command of Kniaz
Vorotinski and Ivan Sheremetiev. The slaughter was heavy and the issue
of the day swept away all question of withdrawal from Astrakhan, and
gave Moskovy a long immunity from trouble with the steppe-folk. Ivan,
who, while the attack threatened, had been seized with a desire to
visit the northern districts of his dominions, returned from Novgorod
to share in the general rejoicing. In the early part of the year he
had scandalised and embarrassed the heads of the Church by taking unto
himself a fourth wife, Anna Koltovskoi; after having accomplished
this breach of the Church’s law he still further disturbed the
spiritual fathers by announcing his sin to the Synod then sitting
for the election of a Metropolitan in the place of Kirill, deceased,
and demanding absolution. The Vladuikas, torn between love for their
precious dogmas and a natural and earnest desire to fall in with
the Tzar’s wishes, yielded finally to the stronger sentiment and
hallowed the union. In order to prevent other less privileged persons
from imitating the Tzar’s example, they hastened to “menace with a
fulminating anathema those who should dare to enter into a fourth
marriage.” Antonie, Archbishop of Polotzk, was elected Metropolitan.

While Moskva was yet quaking in anticipation of another visit from
Devlet-Girei, an anxiously awaited event had taken place in the
grand-duchy of Lit’uania. [Sidenote: 1570] At Knyszyn, near Grodno,
on the 7th July, had passed away the amiable Sigismund-August, “last
of the Yagiellos.” Instantly the states composing the Polish kingdom
were plunged into the modified anarchy of an interregnum, and various
aspirants to the kingly title, starting suddenly into the foreground,
added to the general confusion. The internal differences which
complicated the election of a successor to the defunct monarch were
succinctly stated in the correspondence of a French diplomat, who
informed his Court “there are four sorts of discords and different
principles which greatly retard the election, which are: of the
Lit’uanians with the Poles, of Great Poland with Little Poland,
of the barons with the rest of the nobility, and of the Catholics
with the Protestants.”[166] The faction of the Szlachta, or small
landowners, was more or less identical with the Great-Poland party,
while Little Poland was the stronghold of the higher magnates; this
line of demarcation was further accentuated by the personal rivalry
of Uchanski, Archbishop of Gniezno, who led the former party, and
Firley, Grand Marshal of the realm, who headed the other. Add to this
the fact that the Protestants were divided into more or less hostile
camps of Lutherans, Calvinists, and Anabaptists, and a fair idea will
be gathered of the field wherein the agents of the several candidates
were to ply their arts. Of the princes who placed themselves, or
were placed, in competition for the throne of the Yagiellos, the one
whose claims stood forth most prominently was the Austrian Archduke
Ernst, second son of the Emperor (Maximilian II.). The Habsburgs, who
had already absorbed Bohemia and were almost as firmly established
in that part of Hungary which was not occupied by the Turks, had on
every possible occasion contracted matrimonial alliances with the
Polish royal House, and hoped to add the Lekh kingdom to their family
dominions. The candidature of the Archduke was backed by the imperial
influence and had, moreover, the support of the Papacy, whose agent,
Cardinal Commendone, was working to secure his election. On the other
hand there were considerations which made his success by no means a
foregone conclusion; the great body of the Protestants would unite in
objecting to a monarch whose family traditions were bound up with Roman
Catholic supremacy, and many of the Poles were apprehensive that an
Austrian connection would involve them in a war with Turkey, a thing
they were particularly anxious to avoid. Above all, he personified
German intrusion, an element naturally distasteful to the Polish
national spirit. The same dread of a foreign war which weakened the
chances of the Archduke was the strongest factor, especially with
the Lit’uanians, in advancing the Moskovite candidature. The term of
truce had nearly run out and Ivan had clearly let it be understood
that an unfriendly election would mean renewal of war. That the Tzar,
as sovereign, might be a worse affliction than as a hostile neighbour
was a contingency partly provided for by the jealous restrictions of
the _Pacta conventa_, which he would be required to sign preliminary
to his coronation. The idea of the Moskovite party in Lit’uania was,
however, to elect the weak and more easily handled Thedor, Ivan’s
second son, rather than the father. None of the Protestant princes
who put themselves forward--John, King of Sweden (brother-in-law of
the late Sigismund-August), Stefan Batory, Voevoda of Transylvania,
and the young Duke Albrecht-Freidrich of Prussia--were strong enough
to command the confidence even of their co-religionists. A further
candidate there was, however, from an unexpected quarter. Henri de
Valois, Duke of Anjou, brother to his Most Christian Majesty of France,
and favourite son of Catherine de Medici, was a young gentleman who was
casting about in various directions for an opening suitable for the
development of his ambitions, and whose relations and acquaintances
were exceedingly desirous to see him settled. Charles IX. was anxious
to have this too brilliant brother removed to any sphere other than
the kingdom of France, already in a sufficiently electric condition, a
wish which was shared by Coligny and the Huguenots; while Catherine
nursed the proud hope of seeing all her sons decorated with the kingly
title. Monsieur himself was least enamoured of the project. From
the Polish point of view he made an ideal candidate; belonging to a
powerful House, which was neither German nor Moskovite, he was strong
without being dangerous, and the good understanding which existed
between the Louvre and the Porte would be an excellent guarantee for
immunity from Turkish aggression. Nor was the Catholic bias of the
Valois an insuperable obstacle to his election. The Prince who hunted
Huguenots with such apparent zeal had in his boyhood dallied with the
principles of the Reformation, and in later life seriously considered
the project of placing himself at the head of the Protestants of the
Low Countries.[167] He was in fact a thorough opportunist, and would
probably hold, like his namesake of Navarre, in similar though reversed
circumstances, that a kingdom outweighed the significance of a mass.
His interests were actively pushed by the ambassador dispatched from
France for that purpose, Jean de Montluc, Bishop of Valence, and the
hesitancy of the Emperor and uncompromising attitude of the Tzar
smoothed the way for his election. The news of the “happy and holy
enterprise,” which had been carried to a successful conclusion in
the streets of Paris in the small hours of the 24th August, was not
received in Poland with the same complacency with which it was hailed
at Rome, and the French candidature received a severe check. For months
the name of the Duke of Anjou was in evil odour among the electors,
and the sleepless efforts of Montluc were directed to the task of
whitewashing his employer from the red stain of S. Bartholomew. The
long-drawn-out proceedings which delayed the Diet of election, and
which gave Poland an entirely new constitution, altering the whole
course of her history, also gave time for the feeling against the
Valois to die down; the French agents made good use of the respite and
the Anjou cause steadily gained fresh adherents, till on the eve of
the election scarcely any other candidate was seriously considered.
[Sidenote: 1573] Thus it came to pass that, by an irony of fate, the
stormy sittings of the Diet of Warszawa, which lasted for the greater
part of April and May, resulted in bestowing the Polish crown on the
prince who, of all the competitors, least coveted it. And in fact
the hotly-contested prize, as it came out of the long interregnum,
was scarcely a brilliant possession; “it was not the heritage of the
Yagellos intact that the Bishop of Valence would have to take back to
the brother of Charles IX., but a crown despoiled of a part of its
privileges, and, under the title of king, nothing in truth more than
the life-presidency of a republic.”[168] The terms of the celebrated
_Pacta conventa_, to which every succeeding king would be required
to give his adhesion, were, among others, that the king should have
no voice in the election of a successor; must respect the religious
liberty of the Dissidents; must neither undertake a war nor impose
taxes without consent of Diet; nor marry nor divorce a wife without the
same sanction; and that no foreigners should hold any public office.

A throne pent in with such conditions would scarcely be attractive
in the eyes of the tyrant of Moskva, and Ivan seems to have used his
influence less to promote the candidature of himself or his son than
to secure the election of the Austrian Archduke. That he should be
anxious to have the Empire for a near neighbour might appear strange;
his real concern was lest a good understanding between a Franco-Polish
King and the Sultan should lead to his own undoing. It was perhaps,
however, an indirect effect of the influences of the free election
on the banks of the Vistula that led the Tzar to disband his feared
and hated Opritchniks (1572). While the Poles were yet in the throes
of settling the procedure of their Congress, Ivan took advantage of
the settled state of affairs in his own dominions and the embarrassed
condition of his neighbours to make a further attack on the Swedish
garrisons in Estland. With an army of 80,000 men he burst into a land
whose inhabitants were complacently engaged in celebrating the festival
of Christmas week, and changed the scenes of carol and carousal into
those of litany and desolation. Wittenstein was captured after a
brief resistance, during which the Tzar’s abiding favourite, Maluta
Skouratov, lost his life. His fall was avenged, according to the
Livlandish chronicles, by a holocaust of the prisoners, Swedes and
Germans, who were burned alive on a pile of faggots.[169] A fit and
seemly deed, if true, for the man who had exchanged with the Emperor
Maximilian sentiments of pious horror at the affair of S. Bartholomew.
Further Moskovite successes, and one of those wordy correspondences in
which the Tzar revelled, were followed by a curious truce with Sweden,
to run for two years (July 1575 to July 1577), and limited in scope as
well as in duration, since it was only to effect a suspension of arms
between the neighbouring provinces of Novgorod and Finland. Estland
was still to be disputed at the sword’s point. For mysterious reasons
of his own--possibly to lull German and Danish susceptibilities--Ivan
continued to place Magnus of Holstein, his vassal “King,” in the
forefront of his Baltic policy, and the unwilling Princeling was
carried off to Moskva to be solemnly wedded to Mariya, daughter of
Vladimir Andreivitch. Having made her an orphan the Tzar might well
think it incumbent on him to provide her with a husband, but Magnus
was scarcely overjoyed with a dowry of some inconsiderable presents
and the government of the township of Karkus--to which dimensions his
kingdom had shrunk. [Sidenote: 1575-6] The campaign in the Baltic
debatable lands resulted in a further strengthening of the Russian
foothold in that quarter; Pernau was stormed and taken with a loss of
7000 men; Helmet, Ermes, and other places in Livland surrendered to
Ivan’s voevodas, and the stronghold of Habsal, in Estland, fell into
their hands. From his western neighbours the Tzar had met with no
opposition in his sea-ward course; the Poles, after the prolonged and
elaborate labours of their king-choosing, had been again confronted,
under extraordinary circumstances, with the dangers and difficulties of
an interregnum. Never more than half reconciled to the eastern exile
which his restricted Polish sovereignty entailed, Henri de Valois
no sooner heard that he had succeeded to the crown of S. Louis (his
brother had died on the 30th May 1574) than he fled precipitately
from the kingdom over which he had reigned for barely seven months.
Once more the shadow of the Habsburg loomed over the land, and there
seemed indeed no suitable candidate with which to oppose the Austrian
nomination. The Papal, Imperial, and Moskovite influence, as well as
that of the Archbishop of Gniezno and the principal senators, pointed
in the same direction; the Szlachta alone held out against the Archduke
and his father. The Habsburg hopes were destined, however, to be again
falsified, and a new rival sprang up against them in Stefan Batory,
Voevoda of Transylvania. This vigorous prince, whose high qualities had
secured him his sovereignty on the death of the last of the Zapolya
dynasty, speedily became the favoured choice of the Szlachta and
Dissident party, and, as a vassal of the Ottoman Empire, his election
would guarantee the Poles from Turkish hostility. On the other hand
they were threatened with the Tzar’s displeasure if they did not elect
either Maximilian or his son, the Archduke. To the Poles, if not to
the Lit’uanians, the Moskovite was a lesser bugbear than the Turk,
and the popular vote was for Batory. The Archbishop and the Senate
adhered to the Austrian cause, and the Diet (held at Warszawa, December
1575) resulted in a double election. The battle was not necessarily
to the strong, but the race was undoubtedly to the swift; in April of
the following year the dilatory Habsburg wrote to inform his brother
of Moskva that “we, in December last, with great glory and honour,
were elected to the kingdom of Poland and grand duchy of Lit’uania.”
Ivan replied to Maximilian that he congratulated him on his election,
but had since learned that Stefan Batory was at Krakow, crowned, and
married to the Princess Anne Yagiello (sister of Sigismund-August).
Stefan had shown as much hurry to arrive in his kingdom as Henri had
displayed in escaping from it, and his accession was an accomplished
fact; the death of the Emperor in the ensuing October removed the
chance of a civil contest. [Sidenote: 1576] The new King, though
brought up under Catholic influences, was supposed at the time of his
candidature to be of the Protestant communion; he adapted his religion,
however, to harmonise with that of the majority of his subjects, and of
the wife whom it was politically expedient he should marry, and during
his reign was the protector of the Jesuit party in Poland.[170] To Ivan
and to Russia his elevation boded trouble, and the Tzar appears to
have realised the danger and to have taken a bold but well-considered
step to meet it. While Stefan was engaged in breaking down the armed
resistance of the burghers of Dantzig, who would have none of him,
the forces of Moskovy were sent in overwhelming strength into the
Baltic provinces, and stronghold after stronghold wrested from Swede
and Pole alike. Even the Holsteiner and German troops were treated as
enemies--Duke Magnus was in temporary disgrace--and the country-folk
were in some instances punished with brutal severity, flogged, burned
alive, and in other ways made to suffer for the obstinate resistance of
a foreign garrison. As a display of armed strength and resolution the
campaign would have been valuable had it been followed up by a demand
for a definite peace with Poland, coupled with a threat of immediate
invasion of that country. Ivan had sufficient troops at his disposal
to have overrun Kourland and parts of Lit’uania and to have forced
peace or an unseasonable war upon Stefan. Instead of which, after
having roused against himself the enmity of all the interests involved
in the mastership of the disputed provinces--Swede, Pole, Dane, and
German--he suspended hostilities and returned to Moskva, there to renew
the bloody process by which he periodically thinned out his circle
of boyarins and courtiers. [Sidenote: 1577] Mikhail Vorotinski, the
conqueror of Devlet-Girei, and one of the most illustrious of the
Russian voevodas, was tortured nigh unto death on a charge of sorcery,
and died while being conveyed to Bielozero. Leonidas, successor to
Pimen in the archiepiscopate of Novgorod, was sewn up in a bear-skin
and worried to death by hounds. Other noted Moskovites were executed
in various manners at the same period. While the Tzar’s seemingly
blind rage was striking down some of his most capable voevodas, his
adversary was straining every nerve to ensure success in the coming
struggle. Drawing as exhaustively as was prudent on the resources
of his kingdom and grand duchy, Stefan at the same time applied for
external support in many directions; from Transylvania came troops,
from Brandenburg cannon, from Sweden active co-operation, while the
Pope and Sultan individually blessed the enterprise. In August 1579 the
storm burst; the King, having formally declared war on Ivan, marched
upon Polotzk, and the decisive moment had arrived when it would be seen
whether the new-grown Russian gosoudarstvo would be able to maintain
its high-water mark of western expansion, or whether all it had gained
during the embarrassments and weakness of its neighbours would be lost
at the first recoil. The composite army of Stefan probably consisted
of better fighting material than any the Tzar could send against him,
but the advantage of numbers and resources lay overwhelmingly with the
Moskovite. Allowing for the large detachment which it was necessary
to keep in the neighbourhood of the Oka to guard the capital from a
possible Tartar attack, Ivan had still sufficient forces wherewith
to have returned again and again to the relief of Polotzk, and to
have extended the war at the same time into undefended parts of
Lit’uania and Polish Livland. This plan was indeed partially put into
operation; 20,000 Asiatic horsemen were dispatched into Kourland,
and reinforcements were sent to the Russian garrisons in Livland and
Ingermanland (which was threatened by the Swedes). But the scheme of
campaign stopped short at this point; the constitutional timidity of
Moskovite war policy asserted itself, and Ivan remained with the bulk
of his army in deplorable inactivity at Pskov, while Polotzk and the
neighbouring stronghold of Sokol, bravely defended but perseveringly
attacked, fell into the hands of the invader. The harrying of the
provinces of Sieversk and Smolensk wound up the Polish campaign for the
year. Accustomed to winter warfare, the light troops of Moskovy might
have taken advantage of the cold season to have inflicted retributive
damage on their enemies, but the Tzar, thoroughly alarmed at the
military vigour of this upstart opponent, wasted his opportunity in
fruitless negotiations and in soft answers which failed to turn away
wrath. Stefan, having allayed the grumblings of his barely tractable
subjects, marched in the ensuing summer against Velikie-Louki, which,
after a spirited defence, was carried on the 5th September. [Sidenote:
1580] Throughout the winter the war continued in the Baltic lands,
where Poles, Swedes, and Danes--Magnus had early thrown off his
allegiance to Moskva--captured several places from the Russians. Ivan,
who had retired to the gloomy sanctuary of his beloved Aleksandrov,
continued his proposals for peace in a correspondence with Stefan,
which gradually assumed an angrier tone. “Man of blood!” breaks forth
this astonishing letter-writer, “remember that there is a God.”

Amid the troubles pressing upon him from without, the sovereign still
found time for marrying and giving in marriage. [Sidenote: (1575)] The
bride for whose espousal he had obtained the dispensation of the Church
had proved sterile, at least she had not increased his family, and
she was, like his father’s first wife, dispatched to a convent, while
another Anna replaced her; on this occasion the episcopal blessing was
not asked for. [Sidenote: 1580] Now, while the flames of disastrous
war were blazing over the lands which a century of patient effort had
reclaimed from the west, Ivan celebrated at Aleksandrov his nuptials
with Mariya, daughter of the boyarin Thedor Nagoi, and those of his
second son, Thedor, with Irena, sister of the voevoda Boris Godounov.

The insatiate Stefan continued to employ both pen and sword against his
hard-pressed adversary. In a letter rejecting Ivan’s renewed offers of
peace, with which he prefaced a new campaign, he taunted the Tzar with
his ill-sitting correctitude; “You reproach me with having mutilated
the dead; it is false, but certain is it that you torture the living.”
Entering thoroughly into the style and spirit of Ivan’s controversial
essays, he further recommended him to re-read the fiftieth Psalm in
order to acquaint himself with the duty of a Christian. The Tzar had
found his match.

[Sidenote: 1581]

As in the two preceding years, the month of August brought with it
Batory, thundering his cannon this time against the walls of Pskov.
The reputation of the great captain had drawn to him warriors from
many lands, and the white-eagle standard flapped in the van of an
army, 100,000 strong, mustering in its ranks Poles, Letts, Magyars,
Austrians, Kourlanders, Prussians, Lubeckers, Danes, and Scots. The
ancient city on the Peipus shore, which for many a stormy hundred years
had been a bulwark of the Russian land against the aggressions of the
west folk, opposed a heroic resistance to the mighty efforts which were
made for its subjection, and the flood of Polish conquest received a
timely check. The stupor of fear and helplessness which seemed to have
settled down on the Tzar and his voevodas neutralised to a great extent
the effect of this stubborn defence; the Swedes captured Habsal, Narva,
and other places of less importance in Estland, and later, led by de la
Gardie, one of those brilliant soldiers with whom France periodically
fascinated the world, penetrated into Russian territory and took
Ivangorod, Yam, and Kopor’e. [Sidenote: Jan. 1582] Soon after these
disasters Ivan effected a ten years’ truce with Batory, a composition
being brought about largely by the diplomatic efforts of Pope Gregory
XIII., who was fascinated, as many an astute Pontiff had been, with
the prospect of alluring Russia into the Catholic fold. The terms of
the truce were ruinously disadvantageous to the gosoudarstvo, and Ivan
could scarcely have been forced to sacrifice more if he had staked and
lost a series of pitched battles against his foe. Velikie-Louki was
restored to him, but Polotzk remained in the hands of the victors, and
Livland, snatched piecemeal from the Teutonic knights and contested
inch by inch for a quarter of a century, was yielded at one wrench
to Poland. The patient and persistent efforts of a long reign, the
dogged struggle towards the shores of the Baltic and free intercourse
with Western Europe, were relinquished as the price of a temporary and
uncertain peace, and the Moskovite Empire was thrown back upon itself,
like a conquered Titan thrust down into his chasm. And in another
direction Ivan had with his own hand fatally shattered, in a fit of
unrestrained passion, the dynastic hopes and strivings which had been
advanced and safeguarded with such ruthless severities. Side by side
with the gloomy Tzar in his later years, partaker of his amusements
and debauches, sharer of his labours of State, had grown up the young
Ivan Ivanovitch, designed to carry on the holy line of Moskva when his
father should be no more. And in one respect at least he had shown
himself an apt pupil; he had already married three wives “without
having been a widower.”[171] It was no part of the Moskovite theory of
government that the Princes of the Blood should expose their sacred
persons in the forefront of their country’s battles, and the young
Ivan does not appear to have departed from the prevailing custom of
passive aloofness; the humiliations and losses which the Russian State
was suffering at the hands of Batory stung the Tzarevitch, however,
into a desire to show a bolder front to the oppressor, and he requested
his father to let him lead an army to the relief of Pskov, then the
centre-point of the Polish attack. A natural and proper request, under
the circumstances, but to the suspicion-haunted old Tzar, on that fatal
November day, it was the bursting-in of the dreaded summons, “the
younger generation knocking at the door.” Wildly he accused his son
of desiring to supplant him, wildly struck at him with his terrible
iron-tipped staff; Boris Godounov, rushing in to save the Tzarevitch,
received most of the blows, but one had crashed upon the youth’s head,
which would never now wear the crown of all the Russias. The heavy
thuds suddenly ceased and a wail of anguish rang through the silent
palace: “Unhappy me, I have killed my son!” The terrified attendants,
rushing into the chamber, found the wretched father weeping over the
body of the dying Tzarevitch. In one moment of blind fury the primeval
ape-instinct had leaped forth and had destroyed the weaving and toiling
of a lifetime of specialised effort. Ivan Ivanovitch died a few days
later (19th November 1581) from the effects of the blow, and Greek
monks at Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria chanted
subsidised prayers for the repose of his soul. As in the preceding
generation, the next heir (Thedor)[172] was a weakling, and the Tzar’s
mad act had opened up the possibility of his throne passing to one of
the boyarin families upon whose repression so much savage ingenuity had
been expended. The dreary outlook with which the old man was confronted
may have largely influenced his supine surrender to Polish demands,
and the equally humiliating truce with Sweden, effected a year later,
by the terms of which not only Estland, but Narva, Ivangorod, Yam,
and Kopor’e were left in the possession of the victors. [Sidenote:
1583] Moskovy was still further shut in from the sea, and the Peipus,
which had been a Russian lake, became a natural barrier between three
converging monarchies. One ray of success and aggrandisement pierced
through the miasma gloom that shrouded the Moskovite land and gathered
thickest around the tzarskie palace. In the last quarter of a century
which had witnessed the opening up of far scarce-dreamt-of regions
by daring European explorers, the century of Cortez and Pizarro, of
the bold sea-captains who shed lustre on “the spacious days of great
Elizabeth,” the Russian Tzarstvo was swollen by the haphazard conquest
of the vast Sibirian “province;” a province which “comprises about a
thirteenth part of the globe, and is almost 3,000,000 square miles
larger than the whole of Russia in Europe, including both Poland and
Finland.”[173] Nor was this huge region of the north, this “land of
the long nights,” as the Chinese had called it in the remote past of
their history, a barren and unprofitable possession; mines of salt,
copper, and silver, forests stocked with valuable fur-bearing animals,
and watered by navigable rivers and large fish-yielding lakes, and
in some districts tracts of fertile arable land, compensate for the
awful desolation which spreads over the greater part of it during
the long winter. For many centuries the Russians had tapped at the
outer fringe of this unexplored wilderness, and the enterprising folk
of Novgorod had brought some of its produce into their markets; the
later Grand Princes had put forward claims to a shadowy sovereignty
over the principality or khanate of Sibir (a town on the Irtuish), and
Ivan himself had kept an eye on this _ultima Thule_ of the Moskovite
forests. The Stroganovs, descendants of a merchant family of Tartar
extraction who had settled in the oblast of Perm, were granted powers
of administration over as much territory as they could reclaim from
the tribes on their frontier, and a system of patient pioneering was
carried on for some twenty years. The happy idea of utilising the
restless military energies of the Don Kozaks, who were a scourge alike
to their Tartar and Russian neighbours, in more thoroughly exploiting
the Sibirian country, occurred to the administrators of the Moskovite
outpost; an invitation was sent to a band of these freebooters, who
had made their own country too hot to hold them, to turn their weapons
against the “infidels” who were resisting the encroachments of the
White-Russian traders. [Sidenote: 1579] The Kozaks, headed by a
chief named Ermak, responded readily to an offer which promised them
full indulgence of their fighting and marauding instincts, with the
additional advantage of official sanction. They were outlaws most of
them, and would have been put to lingering deaths if they had strayed
into the clutches of Moskva, and the Tzar was highly scandalised at
their employment in his service; he showed himself, however, to be
of a forgiving disposition when, with a few hundred followers, the
intrepid Ermak had conquered for him the vast north-eastern province.
[Sidenote: 1581] The Kozak chief, still struggling to hold and extend
the territories he had won, received as a mark of Ivan’s approval a
cuirass which had once adorned the monarch’s person. As if symbolical
of the ruin which so often attended the Tzar’s favour, the present was
the contributing cause of Ermak’s destruction; plunging one night into
the waters of the Irtuish, to escape from a surprise attack of his
enemies, the weight of the armour bore him down, and he sank in the icy
flood. Ivan’s reign had opened auspiciously with the conquest of Kazan
and Astrakhan; it closed with the acquisition of Sibiria, by which
Russia made her first giant stride into Asia.

[Sidenote: Oct. 1583]

Amid the state and domestic troubles which shadowed the Tzar’s old
age, and while he was endeavouring to bring about a marriage between
himself and one of the English aristocracy (Lady Mary Hastings), the
woman who was still his wife presented him with another Dimitri--a puny
princeling, born surely in an evil hour, whose ghost was to haunt the
land for many a woeful year. A few months later Ivan’s health began to
fail, and when, from the Red Staircase of the great palace at Moskva,
he observed a comet in the winter sky “of which the tail had the form
of a cross,” he beheld in it the presage of his death. Sickening
rapidly, he expired somewhat abruptly, while engaged in a game of chess
with one of his courtiers, on the 18th March 1584.

The great death-dealing Tzar was dead himself at last, the child
that had been so fervently prayed for had gone back, in the fulness
of his years, whence he had come. They tonsured the grim corpse that
frightened them still, and called it Jonah, in the name of the Kirillov
monastery; but they buried it as the Orthodox Tzar, Ivan Vasilievitch,
in the Cathedral of Mikhail the Archangel, amid the striking of the
great bells of the Kreml and the sobs and lamentations of the people.

Among Russian historians Ivan IV. has found apologists as well as
writers who have held him up to execration and condemned his statecraft
and his cruelties alike. Even while examining critically the evidence
against him on the latter score, the result arrived at is that he was
probably as “terrible” as he is painted. Chronicles and historical
accounts were still largely in ecclesiastical hands, and scant justice
would be done to the memory of a man who had married six or seven
wives. The Church might forgive his hates, but never his loves. Nor
can the evidence of Kourbski be accepted as unbiassed in the matter
of Ivan’s character. Other contemporary witnesses there are, however,
whose testimony points in the same direction, and who were in no way
interested in libelling the Tzar. Horsey, who was on terms of good
fellowship with him, wrote, “The Emperour liueth in feare, daily
discouers Treasons, and spends much time in torturing and execution.”
A Venetian attached to the Polish Embassy at Moskva in 1570 described
the Tzar as “the greatest tyrant who has ever existed,” and mentions
a delinquent voevoda being thrown to a savage bear, “kept for that
purpose.” The cruelties and oppressions practised by the Russian
monarch were widely commented on during both the Polish elections, and
the reports largely militated against his candidature. Finally the
document in the Kirillov monastery, in which the Tzar complacently
prays for the souls of 3470 of his victims, would, if authentic, show
that the extent at least of his executions has not been exaggerated.
Nor is this gloating savagery, blended as it was with a rational and
understandable policy, difficult to comprehend. Ivan the Terrible was
the outcome of a long line of Moskovite princes, men who had been
actuated by one ruling idea, which idea was in him so developed and
specialised that he was nothing short of a monomaniac. The idea was
that Moskovy, and God, and Gosoudar were scarcely distinguishable
entities, bound up in indissoluble bonds. With the substitution of
other countries, other sovereigns in other days have fallen into the
same confusion. Jealous, awe-inspiring, pain-inflicting, terrible--such
was the conception of a God among peoples in most parts of the world,
such was the character which came naturally to the holy, Orthodox,
Moskva-bred Tzar. The religious side of Ivan’s nature was always
prominent; his prostrations in the churches, his zeal in monastic
regulations, the pious reflections which formed so remarkable a part of
his correspondence, the solemn forebodings over Kourbski’s soul, were
all indications of a mind steeped in dogmatic belief.

Grim and dreary, mean and monstrous, as the Moskovy of this period
seems, with its Aleksandrovskie sloboda, its gibbets, axes,
impalements, and boiling cauldrons, its man-devouring hounds and
blood-splashed bear-dens, its Kromiesniki and dumb driven population,
its gutters running red and carp growing bloated on human flesh, and
above all, everywhere, those glittering crosses; yet not in Eastern
Europe alone could “such things be.” A brilliant writer, drawing his
materials from the history of mediæval Italy both before and after
the Renaissance, has “pictured the awful and beautiful forms of
those whom vice and blood and weariness had made monstrous or mad:
Filippo, Duke of Milan, who slew his wife, and painted her lips with
a scarlet poison that her lover might suck death from the dead thing
he fondled; ... Gian Maria Visconti, who used hounds to chase living
men, and whose murdered body was covered with roses by a harlot who
had loved him; ... Ezzelin, whose melancholy could be cured only by
the spectacle of death, and who had a passion for red blood as other
men have for red wine; ... Sigismondo Malatesta, ... the Lord of
Rimini, whose effigy was burned at Rome as the enemy of God and man,
who strangled Polyssena with a napkin, and gave poison to Ginevra
d’Este in a cup of emerald;”[174] ... these examples, garnered from
one corner of Western Europe, show that humanity and inhumanity are
sometimes convertible terms under sunny Italian skies, as well as amid
dark pine-forests and snow-piled wastes. The century which produced
the Moskovy of Ivan the Terrible was not barren of sinister deeds in
other parts of Christendom, and Russia was at least free, perhaps by
very reason of its stifling autocracy, from the horrors which attended
the great religious upheaval in the West; when Paris and the French
provinces were glutted with Huguenot blood; when Alva was dealing
out “confiscation, imprisonment, exile, torture, and death” to the
Protestants of the Netherlands; when the Calvinists of Geneva were
burning Servetus alive for “heresy” and roasting men and women to
death for “witchcraft”; when Calvin himself was suggesting to the Lord
Protector Somerset that both Catholics and Protestant sectaries “alike
well deserve to be repressed by the sword”; and when, in Northern
Germany, banishment and--in the case of the Chancellor Crell--the
scaffold were being employed by the Lutherans to stamp out Calvinism.

    S. Solov’ev, E. A. Solov’ev, Polevoi, Schiemann, Karamzin, Pember.

FOOTNOTES:

[133] Schiemann.

[134] Moskva in the reign of Ivan IV. consisted of four principal
divisions--the twin centres of the Kreml and Kitai-gorod, the enclosing
crescent of the Biel-gorod or White-town, and the large outer husk
“enclosing the faubourgs, gardens, woods, lakes, and vast unbuilt-on
spaces.” Between the houses in the Kitai-gorod and the east wall of
the Kreml was the Red Place, or city square, which was the centre
of Moskovite public life; “red” in Russian being synonymous with
“beautiful.” Afterwards the name gained a grimmer significance.

[135] Herberstein.

[136] S. Solov’ev.

[137] E. A. Solov’ev, _Ivan IV. Groznie_.

[138] Karamzin. Schiemann. Austen Pember, _Ivan the Terrible_.

[139] E. A. Solov’ev.

[140] Anastasia Romanova, daughter of Roman, hence the name by which
the family was afterwards distinguished--Romanov.

[141] Karamzin.

[142] Rambaud.

[143] In Byzantine writings of that period it is sometimes styled “Sea
of the Russians.”

[144] Schiemann.

[145] Quoted by Schiemann.

[146] Schiemann.

[147] Schiemann; S. Solov’ev; _Geschichte der Ostseeprovinzen_.

[148] E. A. Solov’ev, _Ivan IV. Groznie_.

[149] N. A. Polevoi, _Tzarstvovanie Ioanna Groznago_.

[150] According to Pember “christened Dmitri, like his first-born.”
Karamzin and Polevoi designate him _Vasili_.

[151] A. N. Murav’ev, _History of the Russian Church_.

[152] _Skasaniya kniazya Kourbskago_, edit. by N. Ustryalov; Karamzin.

[153] Pember.

[154] Schiemann, Karamzin, E. A. Solov’ev, Polevoi.

[155] Karamzin, S. Solov’ev.

[156] E. A. Solov’ev.

[157] E. A. Solov’ev, Polevoi, S. Solov’ev.

[158] Karamzin, E. A. Solov’ev.

[159] Karamzin.

[160] _Sir Ierome Horsey’s Observations in seventeene yeeres travels
and experience in Rvssia, and other countries adioyning._

[161] Karamzin, E. A. Solov’ev, Schiemann.

[162] Horsey.

[163] Schiemann, Karamzin.

[164] Giles Fletcher, the Elder, _Of the Russe Common Wealth_.

[165] Karamzin, Polevoi.

[166] Vulcob, French ambassador at Wien; quoted by the Marquis de
Noailles in _Henri de Valois et la Pologne en 1572_.

[167] De Noailles, _Henri de Valois_, etc.

[168] De Noailles.

[169] S. Solov’ev, Karamzin.

[170] W. R. Morfill, _Poland_.

[171] Karamzin.

[172] Pronounced Fedor; the Russian letter corresponding to the Greek
Theta in form has been rendered _Th_ (in the proper names Thedor,
Martha, etc.) to distinguish it from the Slavonic F, but it has the
same pronouncing value as the latter letter.

[173] Pember.

[174] Wilde, _The Picture of Dorian Gray_.



CHAPTER IX

THE GREAT BOYARIN


When the people of Moskva became sufficiently familiar with the fact
that their terrible Gosoudar was dead and safely buried, even if their
imagination could not picture him, as his son had, in his coronation
speech, solemnly assured them, “transformed into an angel,” they began
to take stock of the men who had replaced him in the government.
The effete and placid Thedor was supported by a Douma (Council) of
five. Of these Ivan Petrovitch Shouyskie, member of a family which
had tasted the sweets of power and drained the dregs of disgrace in
the early years of the late reign, had won new consideration and
honour by his celebrated defence of Pskov; Mstislavskie was another
Rurik-descended boyarin-kniaz; Bogdan Bielskie represented the last
of Ivan’s Vremenszhiki; Nikita Romanov was important as maternal
uncle of the new Tzar, and Boris Godounov, descendant of a Tartar
family Christianised in the fourteenth century,[175] stood nearest the
throne from the fact of being brother to the Tzaritza Irena.[176] The
Douma, thus constituted, did not long retain its original formation.
A sudden popular commotion in the capital took the form of an ugly
rush towards the Kreml; the Kitai-gorod was overrun by a surging mob
of many thousands, scarcely to be held back by the strielitz from
forcing the gates of the citadel. Mstislavskie and Romanov, fronting
this tumultuous gathering and inquiring the nature of its demands,
learned from a thousand throats that the blood of Bogdan Bielskie
was in request. A compromise was effected; the offending boyarin was
removed from the Council to the comparatively harmless post of Governor
of Nijhnie-Novgorod, and the Moskvitchi returned to their houses.
Whether this was a spontaneous ebullition, a reaction from the passive
endurance under Ivan, or whether it was set afoot by the Shouyskie
family, who had considerable influence among the merchant class, and
were not unused to such machinations, it strengthened the hands of
the one man whose authority dwarfed that of Romanov, Shouyskie, and
Mstislavskie alike. Godounov was a man capable of grasping to the full
the advantages which his position as kinsman of a weak, easily-ruled
sovereign gave him, and he was of sufficient merit to labour for the
welfare of the State as well as for his own interests. The latter were
by no means neglected; immense territorial possessions in the Dvina
district and along the valley of the Moskva, certain State revenues and
other desirable perquisites swelled his yearly income to the estimated
total of 93,000 roubles,[177] and he was reputed to be able to bring
100,000 men into the field.[178] But the man who swayed the councils
of the Tzarstvo and stood behind the puppet-monarch Thedor was far
removed from the ordinary type of Vremenszhikie, and the internal
and foreign affairs of the realm suffered nothing by the transfer
of administration from Ivan IV. to Boris Godounov. His predominance
checked, if it did not altogether repress, the boyarin struggles and
intrigues which the weakness of the Tzar invited, and at the same
time the man who was practically Regent had the address to govern as
though with the co-operation of the whole Council. One of the first
acts necessitated by the political circumstances of the Court was the
removal or banishment of the Tzarevitch Dimitri, with his mother and
the whole clan of the Nagois, to Ouglitch, a town some 90 verstas from
Moskva. Here they remained in a state of repressed disaffection, biding
their time till the day when the young Dimitri should succeed his
half-brother and the Nagois should dispossess the Godounovs. This was a
factor which Boris had always to reckon with, and which perhaps forced
his statesmanship out of the legitimate groove of throne-serving.
That his ascendancy would be accepted without a struggle by the other
members of the Council was scarcely to be expected; Romanov died
in 1586, and soon after Mstislavskie drifted over to the Shouyskie
faction, in opposition to Godounov. That intrigues would be set on foot
against his authority was extremely probable, but whether a definite
plot existed or not, one was at least “discovered,” in which the two
counsellors and several other boyarins were implicated. The offenders
were dealt with in a spirit of moderation which had been long foreign
to the Court of Moskva; Mstislavskie entered the Kirillov monastery
at Bielozero, others of his party were imprisoned or banished to
distant parts of the realm. The Shouyskie, enjoying the protection of
the Metropolitan (Dionisie), survived the storm which swept away so
many of their colleagues. Meanwhile the Regent’s diplomacy had been
exerted to defer, for the time being, hostilities with any of the four
states--Turk, Pole, Swede, and Tartar--which permanently threatened
Russia with aggression. With Sweden a prolongation of the truce for
four years was effected in December 1585; the Krimskie khanate was
weakened by civil war and dynastic revolutions, and little was to be
feared from that quarter. The chief danger lay with Poland, and Batory
was only held back by the controlling hand of the Diet and the protests
of the Lit’uanian landowners from renewing his profitable campaigns
against Moskovy. Under these circumstances it was with feelings of
relief that the Council of State, sitting at Moskva, heard, on the
20th December 1586, of the death of their enemy, which had taken place
eighteen days earlier (13th December according to the new reckoning of
the calendar, initiated by Pope Gregory and adopted throughout west
continental Europe, by which Russian--and English--time was left twelve
days behind). The death of this prince reversed the whole position of
affairs between the two countries, and instead of living in constant
apprehension of fresh inroads upon their territory, the Moskovites
were able to entertain the prospect of an advantageous union with the
neighbour State. For the third time Thedor had a chance of securing
the Polish crown by election, and Godounov hastened to support his
candidature with more vigorous measures than had been employed on the
former occasions. The Russian party, both in Poland and the grand
duchy, had gained strength since the last interregnum, and the Regent
was able to offer terms of a nature likely to appeal to many of the
electors. A perpetual peace between the two Slav powers would allow
of a vigorous and hopeful opposition to Ottoman aggression, and the
troops of Moskovy, including Kozaks, Tcherkess horsemen, and Tartars
from Eastern Russia, would be placed, free of charges, at the disposal
of the Poles. Moldavia, Bosnia, Servia, and Hungary would be wrested
from the Sultan and incorporated with Poland (an arrangement to which
the Kaiser might have had a word to say), and Estland would be snatched
in like manner from Sweden and annexed to the Lekh kingdom, except
Narva, which would be Moskovy’s modest share of the spoil. Moreover,
the rights and liberties, as well as the taxes and revenues of Poland,
would remain in the hands of the Senate. Neither of the alternative
candidates--the Archduke Maximilian, brother of the Emperor, and
Sigismund, son of King John of Sweden and of a Yagiello princess--could
hold forth such tempting inducements. The imperial Habsburg family was
held in cheap estimation on account of its failure either to defend its
hereditary dominions against the Turks, or to exert its authority over
the Protestant princes of Northern Germany, and the Emperor himself was
alluded to as “great only by title, rich only in debts.” The Archbishop
of Gniezno, who had at one time and another supported the Valois and
Habsburg parties, on this occasion exerted his influence on behalf
of the Rurikovitch. An anarchical assembly which met near Warszawa
in July (1587) under the name of a Diet, but which resembled more a
triple-divided camp, was reduced to some degree of order and coherence
by the adoption of badges distinctive of the various candidates. The
partisans of Thedor displayed a _shapka_ (conical Russian head-gear),
those of Maximilian an Austrian cap, while the sea-power of Sweden
was typified by a herring--presumably salted. The shapka carried the
day by a large preponderance, and nothing remained for the agents of
Thedor but to satisfy the final stipulations of the Polish Senate.
Besides the demand for a certain sum of money down, which would have
been conceded, the obstacles to a ratification of the election were
seemingly trifling; but they were insuperable. Thedor would not consent
to be crowned at Krakow, to put the title King of Poland before
that of Tzar of the Russias, nor to dally in any way with the Roman
Catholic religion. Without these concessions the Poles refused to
bestow their suffrages on the Russian prince, and their choice finally
fell on Sigismund Vasa, whose election brought the crowns of Poland
and Sweden, Moskva’s two hereditary enemies, into the same family.
That Godounov should have declined to bargain further with the Polish
electors on behalf of Thedor does credit to his foresight; for the
Russian sovereign to have accepted the crown under the limitations and
conditions imposed by the Senate would have been to surrender at the
outset to the turbulence and independence of the western Slavs, and
possibly to weaken his hold upon his own spell-bound subjects. He would
have ruled over the Polish palatinates as nominally as Rudolf over the
free cities of Northern Germany, and the infusion of the ideas of the
western commonwealth into Moskovite minds would have been pouring new
wine into old bottles with disastrous result.

The Regent, disconcerted by the submission of all the parties in
the Diet to the accession of the Swedish prince, managed to avert a
possible outbreak of hostilities between the countries which had so
nearly been allied by compacting for a truce of fifteen years.

While dealing with the precarious foreign affairs of the country and
superintending the domestic administration, Godounov had to fight
hard to maintain his own position. Thedor had inherited from his
father, if nothing else, a weakness for all that appertained to
religion, and the greater part of his existence alternated between
devotional exercises and the safe amusement of watching bear-fights.
Over a mind so constituted, a priest of high position would naturally
have a good chance of obtaining a dominating influence, and the
Metropolitan was quite willing to play the part of another Silvestr.
The only obstacle to this ambition was the Tzar’s brother-in-law, who
brooked no competitor for the tzarskie favour. Hence between Regent
and Vladuika lurked an animosity which drove the latter into the
arms of the Shouyskie party. Thus a powerful league of the clergy,
boyarin, and merchant interests (the latter were hand in glove with
the Shouyskie) was formed in Moskva against the Godounov rule. Boris
derived his power in the first place from his connection with the Tzar
through the Tzaritza Irena, and it was the aim of the malcontents
to break this important link on the ground of the latter’s alleged
sterility, and to wed Thedor instead to a Mstislavskie princess. The
Metropolitan favoured the scheme--Ivan the Terrible had evidently
stretched the consciences of his clergy on the marriage question beyond
retraction--but the vigilance of the Regent dragged it prematurely to
light. None of the conspirators were molested for their share in the
intrigue, but the Mstislavskie princess was compelled to become an
abiding inmate of a convent. The real or alleged discovery of a plot
against the throne, presumably, since some of the Nagoi family were
implicated, in favour of the young Dimitri, gave an excuse for the
long-deferred vengeance of Godounov. Ivan Shouyskie, the defender of
Pskov, was dispatched to Bielozero, Andrei Shouyskie to Kargopol; both,
it was said, were afterwards strangled in prison. Thedor Nagoi and six
of his companions were publicly executed, an example meant, no doubt,
to strike terror into the disaffected at Ouglitch. Batches of the
Mstislavskie were forced into religious houses, and many other boyarins
were exiled to various parts of the gosoudarstvo--some to Sibiria, the
first detachment of a long procession of political offenders which has
never since ceased to wend its way from Russia into the “land of the
long nights.” The Metropolitan was deposed and his place filled by Iov,
Archbishop of Rostov.

Godounov was for the time master of the situation. His enemies were
either dead, or deported, or devoted, in various monasteries scattered
up and down the country, to a course of religious seclusion, if not
of blessed meditation. Only at Ouglitch, growing up among the Nagoi
colony, was the child who must surely one day exact a heavy retribution
from the man whom he was taught to--omit from his prayers. Unless he
should happen meanwhile to cut his throat in a fit of epilepsy.

A renewal of the war with Sweden drew together, at an opportune moment,
the discordant forces which threatened at times to dislocate the
machinery of government. The time-honoured Moskovite foreign policy,
like the wolves’ hunting to which it has been already compared,
derived its strength from its patient persistence, rather than from
any brilliancy of rapid conception or swift action. At peace for the
time being with Poland, and not anticipating trouble from the Khan of
the Krim Horde, Godounov took up the threads which had dropped from
the nerveless hands of the failing Ivan, and returned to the struggle
for an opening into the Baltic. The truce with Sweden having expired
without either country being able to come to terms, Thedor prepared,
in January 1590, to lead the huge army which had been collected from
all quarters of his dominions, part of the way at least towards the
Estlandish and Finnish frontiers. The presence of the sovereign was
to some extent necessary to maintain order and harmony in an army
which included among its leaders a Mstislavskie (in chief command),
a Godounov, and a Romanov, besides other jarring elements. The Tzar,
however, did not venture his person farther than Novgorod, from which
point the Russian host diverged upon its double destination, one
body marching across the frozen Neva, the other directing its course
towards the disputed fortresses of the Ingermanland province. Yam was
carried by assault and a force of 20,000 Swedes defeated outside Narva,
which place was then invested. To save this important stronghold, the
representatives of the King of Sweden concluded a hasty truce, to run
for one year, ceding meanwhile Ivangorod and Kopor’e to the Tzar’s
voevodas (25th February). This sudden forward movement on the part of
Moskovy aroused the alarm and suspicion of the Poles, whose young king
especially felt bound to make a diversion on behalf of Sweden; hence
ominous mutterings filtered through to Moskva from Krakow, and the
Dniepr Kozaks (who had been organised into regiments by Stefan Batory)
began to commit depredations along the Lit’uanian border. A Polish
embassy which arrived at the capital in the autumn, after adopting a
somewhat aggressive tone, finally renewed the truce between the two
countries for a term of twelve years. The Swedes were likely, however,
to renew the struggle in the north in the coming spring, having refused
to yield to the Russian demand for the cession of Narva and Korelia,
and there were rumours afloat of a simultaneous outburst of hostilities
on the part of the treacherous Krimskie Tartars. While Moskva was thus
threatened with a double attack, a mysterious and appalling tragedy
had happened at Ouglitch. [Sidenote: 1591] At noon on the 15th of May
the inhabitants, alarmed by the furious beating of the bell at the
Nagoi Palace, rushed into the court to find the Tzarevitch Dimitri with
a gaping wound across his throat, and his mother and some servants
shrieking over his yet warm corpse. The palace and town had been for
some time haunted and overlooked by agents of the Regent, who naturally
wished to keep himself informed as to the course of events in this
hotbed of sedition and intrigue; naturally also the popular imagination
fastened the presumed murder on these Godounovskie emissaries, who were
seized and put to death, together with their servants and one or two
suspected citizens and a woman “who went often to the palace;” in all
some dozen persons. The aggrieved and excited populace easily persuaded
themselves that Boris Godounov had planned and caused to be executed
this catastrophe, and many historians have unreservedly endorsed their
judgment, though, apart from the fact that Dimitri’s death could not
have been otherwise than a joyful relief to the Regent, it is difficult
to see what evidence there is to connect him with the crime. The murder
of a Tzarevitch, the last heir in the direct Moskovite line of the
holy House of Rurikovitch, was not an event which could be passed over
without inquiry, even if the alleged instigator were a boyarin in high
Court favour; an investigation was necessary in any case, but it is
at least worthy of notice that the man selected to preside over the
collection of evidence and to sift the whole matter at the place where
it occurred was Vasili Shouyskie, brother to the princes of that family
who had suffered imprisonment and death at the hands of Godounov. The
report drawn up by this kniaz, who could scarcely be otherwise than the
enemy of the man whom the popular voice condemned, entirely exonerated
both the Regent and his supposed agents, and declared the Tzarevitch to
have killed himself in a fit of epilepsy, to which he was subject. The
subsequent massacre was laid to the charge of the Nagois. The theory
put forward by Kostomarov that Shouyskie, “a cunning and pliant man,”
conducted the investigation and distorted the evidence in a manner
which would win him the favour of Godounov in order to avoid unpleasant
consequences to himself, seems under the circumstances scarcely
plausible. The death of Dimitri left Boris more or less in the position
of a claimant to the throne of the Russias, and he would be more than
ever an object of jealousy and suspicion to the princely families who
had the blood of Rurik or Gedimin in their veins. Hence Shouyskie,
however guarded in the language of the report he was called upon to
make, would hardly go out of his way to bias the judgment of Court and
country in favour of his enemy and rival. Between the verdict of the
men who had carefully examined the evidence relating to the affair
and the wild accusations of an angry and disaffected people there was
a wide divergence. Historians have for the most part endorsed the
latter. Whatever the truth of the matter, a murderous retribution was
meted out to the people of Ouglitch for the slaughter of the Regent’s
agents; many of the Nagois were exiled or imprisoned, and Dimitri’s
mother was forced to enter a convent, while numbers of the inhabitants
were executed or sent beyond the Ourals. Ouglitch was reduced almost
to a desert. The same summer which witnessed the death of Dimitri
Ivanovitch saw Khan Kazi-Girei stealing out of the sun-parched steppes
towards Moskva at the head of a large and rapidly-moving army. The best
troops of Moskovy were far away in the north, watching the movements
of the Swedish generals; others had to be brought in all haste from
the encampments along the Oka to defend the capital from this sudden,
if not altogether unexpected attack. The slobodas surrounding the city
were hurriedly fortified and the outlying monasteries transformed into
fortresses. The Tzar, contrary to precedent, remained at the Kreml,
and was witness of the magnificent battle which ensued under the walls
of Moskva, and which recalled, while it lasted, the classic struggles
on the plains of Troy. The defence was superintended by kniaz Thedor
Mstislavskie and Godounov, the latter of whom understood the difficult
science of working in harmony with men who were his personal enemies.
[Sidenote: 4th July 1591] Although the issue of the day’s strife
was not of a decisive nature, the Khan had no stomach for further
fighting, and fled precipitately back to his own country, arriving at
Baktchisarai with scarcely a third of his army. The ignominious failure
of this invasion checked any disposition which Sigismund may have
had for annulling the truce with the Tzar of Moskovy, whose voevodas
were now free to give their undivided attention to the scrambling
hostilities which had broken out in Finland and in the neighbourhood
of the White Sea. The war dragged on in these wild and bitter regions
without any very decisive action enlivening the general torpidity of
its course; the failing health of King John of Sweden made him anxious
to obtain at least a suspension of arms, and negotiations were set on
foot for that purpose previous to his death (November 1592), which
resulted in the conclusion of a two years’ truce (each side to retain
what it then held) in January 1593. The external peace which Russia for
the moment enjoyed was clouded by the apprehension which was naturally
felt at the accession of Sigismund Vasa to his father’s kingdom, an
event which bound Poland and Sweden into a dual monarchy and made the
acquisition of a Baltic outlet more than ever a difficult task for
Moskovite statecraft. The apprehension was, however, soon allayed. The
union of crowns was by no means followed by a union of hearts, and
the close relationship into which the two kingdoms--one aggressively
Lutheran, the other preponderatingly Catholic--were drawn only served
to bring to the surface the animosities of race and creed which existed
between them. Sigismund, who was Catholic by religion and more or less
Polish in his sympathies, had a powerful Lutheran rival in his Uncle
Karl, Duke of Sudermanland, and the Skandinavian kingdom was more
likely to be involved in a civil war than to fight hand in hand with
Poland against Russia. Under these circumstances the truce between
Sweden and Moskovy was supplemented (18th May 1595) by an “eternal
peace,” the former power ceding, besides Yam, Ivangorod, and Kopor’e,
Korelia with the town of Keksholm.[179] It was probably the clearing of
the atmosphere in the north which emboldened Godounov, while lulling
the Ottoman Court with proffers of friendship, to send a substantial
contribution to Kaiser Rudolf in furtherance of the half-hearted
crusade by which he was attempting to dislodge the Turks from Hungary.
A magnificent consignment of the rich fur-products of the Sibirian
forests,--sable, marten, beaver, black fox, and other skins, in scores
of thousands, valued at 44,000 roubles,--was spread out in twenty rooms
of the imperial palace at Prague for the edification and astonishment
of the courtiers and merchants of the old Bohemian city (1595). The
inevitable clashing of the Ottoman and Russian powers, only deferred on
account of the manifold embarrassments of both, made it desirable that
Moskva should be no longer dependent in ecclesiastical matters on the
Turk-tolerated Patriarch at Constantinople, and it was perhaps partly
on this account, partly with the view of gratifying the Russian clergy
and his partisan, the Metropolitan, Iov, that Godounov in 1589 secured
the promotion of the Primate to the office of Patriarch of Moskva,
with four Metropolitans (Novgorod, Kazan, Rostov, and Kroutitsk) under
him. A more lastingly important stroke of internal administration,
effected by the Regent at this time, also fell in with his private ends
in addition to safeguarding the interests of the State. This was the
abolition of the “Ur’ev den,” or S. George’s day, on which the peasants
had been wont to decide for the ensuing year whether they would remain
with their present masters, or migrate, literally, to fresh fields
and pastures new. This right of annual “betterment” had lately shown
a tendency to work in one direction; the opening up of Sibiria and
the greater security from Tartar raids which the agriculturalist of
the south of Russia now enjoyed drew the peasants in steady streams
from their accustomed grounds, and the small proprietors, the military
backbone of the gosoudarstvo, who were unable to offer the privileges
and immunities which the richer landowners held forth, found their
estates gradually drained of the labour which alone made them valuable.
Godounov grappled boldly with the situation; he issued an edict which
forbade the serf to change his master, and thus by one stroke bound the
peasant to the soil and the grateful small landowner to his party.

The dynastic hopes of the house of Moskva had been fluttered in 1592
by a report that the Tzaritza was in a condition which might well
be termed interesting, since the birth of an heir was of such vital
importance to Russia; Irena did indeed bring forth a daughter, who was
baptized with the name Theodosia, and died. This was the last expiring
flicker of the paling torch of the Ivanovitch dynasty. On the 7th of
January 1598 Thedor himself expired, leaving his vacant throne somewhat
vaguely at the disposal of his widow, the Patriarch, the Regent, and
Thedor Romanov. “In the person of this vague and virtuous sovereign,”
sums up a French historian, “the race of bloody and violent men of
prey who had created Russia was extinguished.”[180] For the first time
in her political history Russia was fronted with an interregnum. The
widowed Tzaritza, the only remaining representative of the sovereign
authority in the eyes of the people, made the void still more
pronounced by retiring with her brother into the New Monastery of the
Virgin, which hallowed retreat promptly became the centre of anxious
solicitations and political manœuvrings. As Irena Godounov would do
nothing to remove the deadlock, Boris Godounov became indispensable,
and the Patriarch, with the assent of the principal citizens, offered
him the crown of Monomachus and, as far as he was able to speak with
authority, the sovereignty of the Russias. Boris wisely deferred the
choice of a Tzar to the decision of a representative gathering of the
Moskovite States, a step which, while it gave his enemies a longer time
to develop their opposition, would place his election, if carried,
on a surer foundation. The Sobor which assembled at the capital in
the month of February was composed of 474 members, of which 99 were
clergy, 272 of the boyarin and landowner class (of which 119 were
small proprietors), and the remainder starostas, deputies from the
provincial towns, and representatives of the merchant bodies.[181] With
the clergy and small proprietors the Godounov interest was predominant,
and men of all sections were conversant with the ability and energy
which the Regent had displayed in dealing with the foreign affairs
of the country, left by Ivan in such unpromising plight. There were
many boyarins whose pedigrees gave them a more legitimate claim to sit
on the throne of Rurik, but none who inspired such confidence as did
Godounov. The latter was unanimously elected to the sovereignty, and
only stimulated the popular voice by affecting to hold back from the
proffered dignity. [Sidenote: 1598] On the 21st of February, amid the
striking of the 5000 bells of Moskva’s many churches, the Patriarch
went forth at the head of his clergy, followed by the greater part
of the inhabitants of the city, and bearing the ikon of the Mother
of God of Vladimir, towards the monastery of the Virgin; Godounov
met this imposing outpour with another procession, bearing the less
celebrated but equally adorable Mother of God of Smolensk. Satisfied
of the solidity of his call to the throne, he at length put aside his
hesitation and allowed himself to be proclaimed Gosoudar and Tzar of
all the Russias. In effect nothing was changed, except that he ruled
in name what he had already ruled in fact; on the other hand, however,
if he exchanged the position of Vremenszhik for that of sovereign, he
lost the authority which even the weak Thedor had been able to impart
to him--the authority of a time-honoured “legend.” With the Russians
legend and ideal counted for more than an apprenticeship of capable
public service, and greater homage was paid to an Orthodox sovereign
who hid from the enemy under a haystack than to a voevoda who died
fighting superbly for his country. Crueller tortures were inflicted
upon brave and blameless men in their midst than any for which sixty
generations of Jews were held accursed, yet it was the inflictor and
not the victim who was accounted holy, and worthy to sleep beneath the
wings of the archangels. Boris, with all his record of past services
and recommendation of present ability, with all his benevolence and
dexterity, could count on nothing more than the makeshift loyalty of
his subjects.

His first action after his election, before even his coronation had
taken place, was one which bespoke alike vigour and calculation.
A rumour, possibly not without some foundation, but such as was
current at Moskva every summer, credited the Krim Khan with designs
for an immediate invasion of Russian territory. Boris did not wait
for more exact information, but forthwith assembled from all parts
of the gosoudarstvo a splendidly equipped army which was estimated
at 500,000 men. This demonstration of potential fighting power and
resource not only awed the Khan into good behaviour, but served as a
hint to the Swedes and Poles that the new sovereign of Russia, albeit
of comparatively humble origin, was not a factor to be despised in
the affairs of North-eastern Europe; it fulfilled too another purpose,
that of bringing the voevodas, boyarins, Tartar vassals, and Kozak
hetmans from distant parts of the realm into immediate contact with
their new ruler. The development of the quarrel between Sigismund and
his uncle Karl, which gradually became a struggle between Poland and
Sweden, freed Moskovy from the danger of attack from either power,
and had Boris been able to wholly shake off the cautious traditions
of his predecessors and enter into aggressive alliance with one or
other of the combatants, Riga or Revel might have fallen into his
hands and the coveted eye-hole into Europe have been secured. The
Tzar, however, clung too faithfully to the old policy which had borne
so little fruit. Nothing but sheer force would move the Swedes out of
Estland or the Poles out of Livland, and nothing short of compulsion
would make the inhabitants of these provinces receive the Russians
as saviours; yet the same blind of a vassal kinglet which had failed
disastrously in the case of Magnus was tried again, with a Swedish
prince, Gustav (son of the late Erik XIV.), as its figure-head. Gustav
created no enthusiasm among the Livlanders--who were not in a position
indeed to show any--and ended by inspiring disgust in his patrons at
Moskva. It is probable that Boris was merely staying his hand while
Poles and Swedes fought out their domestic quarrels, and hoped to
profit by the exhaustion which such conflict must necessarily entail
by plundering both parties. The opportunity never came. Little by
little the sovereign became aware that he was scarcely possessed of
the love of the people for whom he had done so much; the clergy were
offended at his suggestion of founding a university, the citizens
were aggrieved that he introduced skilled foreigners, who were so
badly needed to reorganise the sciences and arts of the country, all
classes were scandalised because he shaved off his beard. A terrible
famine, caused by inclement weather in the spring and summer of 1601,
brought out the good qualities of the Tzar, who disbursed immense
sums ungrudgingly among the starving poor, and grappled vigorously
and with partial success against the prevailing scarcity. The people,
however, saw in the calamity only the wrath of God against a prince
who had caused sacred blood to be shed; with their eyes strained
upwards to the frescoed roofs of their churches they missed the human
endeavour and the open-hearted charity which was striving to alleviate
their misfortunes. Portents of disaster and bodings of coming trouble
succeeded the famine, for the most part of a very understandable
nature. Beasts of the chase became scarce in the forests, packs of
famished dogs and wolves roamed round the villages, eagles screamed
over Moskva, and black foxes were caught about the city, in addition
to which, unknown birds and beasts, strange and therefore marvellous,
were observed throughout the country. As there had been a general
scarcity of vegetation, and as the towns were honeycombed by the
hastily-dug graves of those who had died of want--numbering some
hundreds of thousands--this sudden invasion of the forest-folk was not
inexplicable. It was also said that women and animals gave birth to
monsters; certainly about this time rumour gave birth to extraordinary
reports, of more disquieting omen than any of the rest, that Dimitri
Ivanovitch had survived the evil designs of his would-be murderers and
was yet alive. The people who had credited an irritated Deity with
exacting hecatombs of victims for the foul death of a Tzarevitch, were
equally prone to believe that the Tzarevitch was not dead, and it only
remained for the rumour to take concrete shape for Boris’s throne
to be seriously imperilled. With the taint of disaffection visible
around him, his government began to take a harsher tone. Although
never verging upon the savagery of the later Moskovite sovereigns, the
clemency of the first years of his reign was laid aside as useless.
Bogdan Bielskie, who had earned the hatred of the citizens in the days
of the Terrible, now incurred the displeasure of Boris by alleged
contumacy; it was said that his beard was plucked piecemeal from his
chin by the Tzar’s orders, but beyond this he was only banished to
another district more remote than the one he had formerly administered.
More thorough was the swoop upon the Romanov family; the five sons of
the late member of Thedor’s Douma, Nikita Romanov, stood high in the
public esteem, and stood also very near the throne. An elected prince
had some cause to fear the competition of such a powerful and popular
family, albeit they were not of Rurikovitch blood. The charge which was
suddenly brought against them, of a design to remove the sovereign by
means of poison, was probably one of those whispered calumnies which
bred freely in the half-Asiatic, wholly mediæval atmosphere of Moskva.
It was nevertheless a convenient excuse for destroying the influence of
this dangerous party; the head of the house, Thedor, was constrained
to enter a monastery, where, as the monk Filarete, he seemed safely
out of the way. The other brothers underwent more or less rigorous
imprisonment (the severities of which were eventually relaxed), while
a crowd of allied or sympathetic boyarins were ordered into captivity
or received governorships in remote parts of the country. No blood
was spilt except incidentally that of serfs and servants, tortured
to disclose incriminating information concerning their masters. That
the Tzar, who had received his earliest impressions at the Court of
Ivan the Terrible, did not act more in the spirit of his times is a
circumstance which may stand to his credit, especially when regard
is had to the influences which surrounded him. The Moskva of those
days was an environment which in itself propagated monstrous and
reactionary ideas. Here were to be seen on every hand wretched hovels,
“dwelling-places for human beings,” dark suspicion-speaking bazaars,
crowded rookeries of cramped caravansaries, wide open spaces, bleak
and untenanted, chill and massive boyarin palaces, weird and awesome
temples; and in the Kreml itself “violent juxtaposition of the German
Gothic style with those of India, of Byzantium, of Italy--the same
tangle of edifices, packed one within another like a Chinese puzzle;
the same strange wild orgy of decoration, of form, of colour; a
delirium and fever, a veritable surfeit of plastic fancy. Small rooms,
surbased vaulted roofs, gloomy corridors, lamps twinkling out of the
darkness, on the walls the lurid glow of mingled ochres and vermilions,
iron bars to every window, armed men at every door; a swarming
population of monks and warriors everywhere.”[182] Such was the capital
of Russia in the last days of the Rurikovitch dynasty; such it remained
throughout the seventeenth century.

[Illustration: PLAN OF MOSKVA at the close of the Sixteenth Century.

  1. Cathedral of Mikhail the Archangel.
  2. Cathedral of the Assumption (_Ouspenski_).
  3. Spasskie (Saviour) gate.
  4. Nikolai gate.
  5. Neglina gate.
  6. Borovitzkie gate.
  7. The Red Place.
  8-8. Markets and Bazaars.
  9. River gate.
  10. Strietenskie gate.
  11. Tverskie gate.
  12. Nikolskie gate.
  13. Arbatskie gate.
  14. Tchertol’skie gate.
  15. Swannery.
]

FOOTNOTES:

[175] N. Kostomarov, _Rousskaya Istoriya_, etc.

[176] Karamzin distinguishes the first as Ivan Petrovitch Shouyskie,
Kostomarov as Petr Ivanovitch Shouyskie, while Solov’ev gives an
alternative of Ivan Petrovitch or Thedor Shouyskie.

[177] According to Karamzin 900,000 roubles.

[178] S. Solov’ev; N. Kostomarov, _Rousskaya Istoriya v’
jhizneopisaniyakh eya glavnieyshikh dieyatelen_.

[179] S. Solov’ev, Karamzin.

[180] Rambaud.

[181] S. Solov’ev, Kostomarov.

[182] K. Waliszewski, Peter the Great.



CHAPTER X

THE PHANTOM TZAR


In all historical ages men have been found ready to believe in the
pretensions of the personators who seem to spring up as the natural
aftermath of a vanished dynasty or a quenched idol; pre-eminently prone
to be deluded by such deceptions were the Russians of the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries. Inured by the exactions of their religion
to an unquestioning faith in the supernatural, incapable from their
teaching, as much as from their want of teaching, of forming a critical
opinion upon a matter which admitted of doubt, and isolated from
their own communities and from the sources of reliable information by
vast distances and bad roads, they afforded a fit germinating bed for
rumours and frauds of the flimsiest nature. Without proof many of them
had accepted the theory that Boris Godounov was responsible for the
murder of Dimitri Ivanovitch; equally without proof they were ready
to credit the reports which began to fly about the country during the
winter of 1603-1604 to the effect that the long-mourned Tzarevitch
was alive and gathering an army beyond the Lit’uanian border. The
explanation which accompanied this story was that Dimitri had been
smuggled away from his would-be assassins at Ouglitch and another child
had been killed in his stead. The fact that his mother and nurse had
shrieked and swooned over his corpse, and that his relatives and the
townsfolk who knew him well had had ample opportunity to detect any
substitution while the body lay in state awaiting Shouyskie’s inquest,
does not seem to have been taken into consideration. It was evident,
from the accumulating reports that kept pouring in, that there was
someone in Lit’uania, a tangible being, who claimed to be the veritable
Dimitri, and it was also evident that the King of Poland and numbers of
the Russ-Lit’uanian princes believed in his identity--or professed to.

The generally accepted theory among Russian historians as to the true
personality of this pretended Ivanovitch is that he was one Grigorie
Otrepiev, an enterprising monk, who had thrown off his frock to live a
life of liberty among the western Kozaks. Amid the vicissitudes of a
self-seeking career, both before and after quitting the cloister, the
idea of impersonating the dead Tzarevitch seems to have cropped up from
time to time, and finally, having entered the service of a Lit’uanian
boyarin, the adventurer, on the pretence of mortal sickness, announced
to a priest his identity with Dimitri. The chief evidence in support
of his story was the discovery of a jewelled cross on his person,
a clue which might have convicted him of sacrilegious pilfering as
convincingly as of royal parentage. His “discoverers,” however, needed
little convincing; the King of Poland, to whom he was exhibited after
a somewhat rapid recovery, welcomed him as a useful weapon of offence
against Boris; the Jesuits saw in him an instrument for the advancement
of their Church; and the banished and disgraced Russians with whom he
came in contact hailed him as the possible means of restoring them to
the state from which they had fallen. Kostomarov, in an exhaustive
monograph on the subject, throws doubt on the identity of the false
Dimitri with the somewhat nebulous monk Otrepiev, and inclines to the
belief that the pretender, whoever he was, was himself convinced of his
veritable tzarskie descent.[183]

Whatever the origin and past career of this apparition, he succeeded
in the first duty of an impostor, which is to impose. The personal
resemblance which he bore to the family to which he claimed to
belong does not appear to have been very striking; the medals and
coins afterwards struck for him give his presentment as that of a
coarse-featured thick-set man, with a heavy lower-jaw, recalling
a Habsburg rather than a Rurikovitch type.[184] But with a widely
scattered population like that of Russia, rumour, assertion, and
hearsay information weighed more than actual facts; the bulk of the
people may not have been convinced, but many of them were ready to
give the Pretender the benefit of the doubt. Besides the unofficial
but more or less open support which he received from the Poles, the
restless or uneasy spirits on the Russian side of the border hastened
to join his standard. The Don Kozaks, impatient of the control of
Boris’s strong hand, sped gleefully to join a leader in whose ranks
were already gathered numbers of their fellow-freebooters from the
Dniepr. The Tzar displayed a calmness which perhaps he did not feel,
and contented himself at first with an expostulatory message to the
King of Poland, and an address, signed by the Patriarch and all the
bishops, to their fellow-clergy in Lit’uania, counselling them to
withhold their allegiance from the unfrocked monk who was masquerading
as a Tzarevitch. While a cross-current of proclamations was being
directed from Moskva into Lit’uania and from the grand duchy into
White Russia, the adventurer was preparing for bolder measures. Though
Sigismund would not openly avow him, his cause had been warmly taken
up by Urii Mnishek, Palatine of Sendomir, who supported him with
men and money, and promised him, moreover, the hand of his daughter
Marina. Boris’s attitude of scornful indifference had left the border
province of Sieverski more or less open to an invasion, and in October
the “Ljhedimitri” (false-Dimitri) crossed with his little army into
Moskovite territory. [Sidenote: 1604] His audacity was rewarded with
a large measure of success. The frontier town of Moravsk opened its
gates to the Pretender, and the ancient city of Tchernigov followed the
example. Novgorod Sieverski, held for Boris by Petr Basmanov (son of
that angel-faced Thedor who came to such a miserable end in the days
of Ivan), administered a timely check to the invader’s progress, but
Poutivl and other neighbouring towns went over to the impostor’s cause.
The Tzar set to work in earnest to stamp out the treason which had
gained such an advantageous start, but the armed men who had sprung up
at his summons to combat the Tartar Khan did not gather in such numbers
to march against the _soi-disant_ Tzarevitch. Nor was the sovereign
sure of the fidelity either of the troops raised or of the voevodas who
were to command them. Gladly would he have seen Basmanov, the man of
his heart, who had already stood “among innumerable false, unmoved,” at
the head of the tzarskie forces, but the exigencies of his statecraft
required that he should employ the old family chiefs on this critical
service. [Sidenote: 1604-5] Accordingly kniaz Mstislavskie and kniaz
Vasili Shouyskie were entrusted with the direction of a winter campaign
in the Sieverski Oukrain, which resulted in the Ljhedimitri being
driven out of the open field and obliged to take refuge in Poutivl.
Deserted by the Palatine of Sendomir and most of the Poles, and unable
to count even on the continued adherence of the Kozaks, the bold
disputer of the throne of Moskva was indeed in desperate circumstances.
But the very despair which animated his followers made them formidable
opponents to the Tzar’s troops, whose leaders were either incapable of
following up their success or unwilling to do so. Instead of making a
determined attack on Poutivl and securing the impostor’s person, they
centred their efforts on the siege of Kromi, a gorodok held by a small
Kozak garrison. The satisfaction felt at Moskva at the first successes
of the tzarskie arms gradually evaporated as the weeks dragged on
without result, and men began to speak significantly of the marvellous
escapes and invincible tenacity of the man who claimed to be Dimitri.
That the pretender had many adherents in the capital itself was
becoming evident, and Boris is credited by the chroniclers with having
cut off the tongues of some who were indiscreet enough to voice their
sentiments; a proceeding which, though out of keeping with the Tzar’s
general methods, was too thoroughly akin to Moskovite traditions to
be unhesitatingly set down as fable. Boris was, however, wise enough
to see that he must stand or fall by Russian disposition alone, and
the loyal offer of assistance made him by the Duke of Sudermanland,
now King of Sweden, was declined. In possession of the throne and the
immense treasure appertaining thereto, enjoying the support of the
Hierarchy, feared, if not loved, by the boyarins and voevodas, and held
in esteem by the Courts of Austria, England, and Sweden, the Godounov
Tzar might well have stood his ground against the doubtful rival whom
he had hemmed into a corner of the Sieverski province. Every year that
he reigned made people more accustomed to the new dynasty, made them
look more naturally to his son Thedor as their future sovereign. If
the Ljhedimitri had secret well-wishers at the Court, if there were
within the Kreml’s precincts men who fancied Boris guilty of reaching
the throne by a hidden crime, it was by the same means that they must
vanquish him. That such a design existed would not be much to say; that
it was ever put into practice there is no proof. History merely records
that the Tzar, after transacting business all the morning, dined in
the “gilded room” in his palace, and was suddenly stricken with a
mysterious malady, of which he died two hours later (13th April 1605).
So, working and ruling to the last, passed away the great boyarin, who,
with all his faults, gave Russia one of the noblest of her Tzars. His
great crime in the eyes of the people who had chosen him to reign over
them was that he did not belong to the sacred House of Rurikovitch,
but for all his Tartar extraction he was more western in his ideas
than any of the sovereigns of Moskovy who had gone before him, and the
fifteen-year-old son whom he had educated to succeed him gave promise
of being an enlightened and gracious ruler. Since the vaunted Dimitri
Donskoi, he was the first Gosoudar who had put himself at the head of
an army to meet a Tartar invasion, and Russia was less troubled by Krim
inroads during his reign than she had been since the alliance of Ivan
III. with Mengli-Girei.

As the sorrowing Patriarch escorted his dead friend across the Kreml
square, awake with the young pulse-life of an April day, into the chill
shadows of the beautiful Cathedral of the Archangel, he might know that
he was burying more than the corpse of a monarch. With Boris had gone
the peace of an empire.

In all the wide dominions of the gosoudarstvo three centres of
interest stood out with a marked prominence: the capital, the camp
before Kromi, and the phantom Court at Poutivl. At Moskva, where the
oath of allegiance to Thedor Borisovitch was quietly taken, all the
symptoms of a minority or regency reasserted themselves. A Douma, which
included the old names and in one case a former member, was beckoned
into existence. Bogdan Bielskie, the twice-banished, recurred again
in the state council, where he should have been able to give valuable
information as to the outlying parts of the tzarstvo. Mstislavskie
and Vasili and Dimitri Shouyskie were summoned from their commands
at Kromi, less perhaps on account of any counsel they might impart
to the Tzaritza and her son, than because their withdrawal smoothed
the way for Basmanov to take over the command of the army. The latter
brought down to the camp the authentic news of the death of Boris, and
exacted from the troops an oath of allegiance to the new sovereign.
The court at Moskva felt relieved when the voevoda whom Boris had
loved, and who had given proof both of his fidelity and ability in
the defence of Novgorod-Sieverski, went down to take command of the
army of the Oukrain, and they expected to hear of some decisive blow
struck at the impostor, some victory which should open the new reign
with brilliancy. Instead of which they learned, from the mouths of
two fugitive voevodas, that Basmanov, in conjunction with the princes
Golitzuin and Saltuikov, had proclaimed the Ljhedimitri Tzar of
Moskovy. How far this was a contemplated move, how far it was a sudden
decision, born of a discovery of widespread defection among the troops,
it is impossible to say. The effect was enormous, and revolutionised
the whole struggle. The long besieged Kozak troop in Kromi found
themselves suddenly hailed as allies by the men who had for months
been working to encompass their destruction, and the bold adventurer
of Poutivl was able to come out of his retreat, and put himself at the
head of the army that was to conduct him in triumph to Moskva. The
news of these events had stirred all classes in the white-built city;
the people left their occupations to gather in agitated crowds on the
great square between the Kitai-gorod and the Kreml, and everywhere
was heard the name Dimitri. The man who wore that name was marching
with the tzarskie army, led by the ablest voevodas of the state, under
the banner of the two-headed eagle and St. George the Conqueror. His
proclamations were daily smuggled into the city and daily the popular
voice turned in his favour. The strielitz and body-guard were becoming
less and less in evidence around the Kreml, the members of the Douma
were coldly received, the Patriarch dared not show himself, even in the
sacred vestments of his office, and could only shed tears of bitter
mortification in the shelter of his palace. With the first day of June
came the forerunners of the claimant Tzar to the Krasno selo (red, or
beautiful village), where dwelt the rich merchants and tradesmen, a
class which had never been well affected towards the Godounov interest;
the Pretender was enthusiastically proclaimed, and his adherents
streamed into unguarded Moskva, shouting the magic name of Dimitri
Ivanovitch. The multitude of the city rose in response to the cry, and
clamouring crowds, giving vent to their restrained feelings, burst
armed and angry and thousand-throated into the undefended Kreml. Boris
had asked his subjects to bring him the Ljhedimitri alive or dead. They
were bringing him in alive.

The first acts of the aroused Moskvitchi were comparatively moderate.
The Tzaritza-mother, the young Thedor, and his sister were removed from
the palace and held prisoners in the private mansion of the Godounovs,
and a clean sweep was made of the relatives and adherents of the
fallen House, who were imprisoned or carried off to distant parts of
the gosoudarstvo. For the rest, the people celebrated the upheaval
by getting universally intoxicated, and to the wild fury of the day
succeeded a night of stupefied repose. The revolution, however, was
yet to claim its victims; while the new sovereign was still halting at
Toula his enemies were forcibly removed from his path. The Patriarch
was dragged from before the altar of the Cathedral of the Assumption
and dispoiled of his robes and office, and a few days later a report
was circulated that Thedor and his mother had poisoned themselves.
Their bodies, exposed to the public view, bore traces of violence,
and it was said that they had been strangled by some strielitz at the
command of the voevoda Golitzuin.[185] What hand, if any, the Pretender
had in the matter there is nothing to show. Thus ended a dynasty
which eight weeks previously had seemed in assured possession of the
throne. On the 20th of June, amid the resounding of myriad bells and
the hoarse shouting of the people who lined streets, and roofs, and
campaniles, the Phantom rode into the city of his endeavours, with a
crashing of trumpets and kettle-drums, with a glittering retinue of
Polish cavalry, German guards, Kozaks and strielitz. The long lost
Dimitri, as his subjects fondly imagined him, made solemn obeisance
at the tomb where the dread Ivan slept, and incidentally ordered
the remains of the usurper Boris to be removed to a less hallowed
resting-place. A cross-current of coffins and persons journeyed to
and from the centre-point of Moskovite life; Nagois and Romanovs,
living and defunct, came in from their monasteries or lonely graves
to dwell or decompose in the favoured places of the Kreml, while the
Godounov connections and Vremenszhiki went, literally, out into the
cold; that is to say, to Perm and Sibiria. Vasili Shouyskie, the man
who had conducted the inquest on the murdered Tzarevitch, had the
indiscretion to recall this circumstance to the minds of a people gone
wild with enthusiasm. His reminiscences were not interesting to the
Tzar, who had him promptly arrested. He was interrogated, probably
with the accompaniment of torture, and condemned, by a council of
boyarins and citizens, to death. While his head was actually awaiting
the axe-stroke a dramatically timed reprieve stopped the execution of
the sentence, which was commuted to one of banishment. The people, with
whom the Shouyskie family were more or less popular, might appreciate
the sovereign’s clemency, but it did not strengthen their conviction
that he was the son of the terrible Ivan. A new Patriarch was elected,
Ignacie, a Greek, once Archbishop of Cyprus, from which see he had
been driven by the Turks, since Archbishop of Riazan; he had been one
of the first of the Vladuikas to recognise the adventurer as Tzar.
There remained one more step towards establishing his identity, which,
though of slight historical value, it was important that the Pretender
should take. Mariya Nagoi, seventh wife of Ivan IV., was still living,
and her testimony was naturally called for as to the authenticity of
the person who posed as her son. In the middle of July the ex-Tzaritza
was summoned from the convent that had been her prison for so many
years, and was met at Tayninsk, a village near Moskva, by the man who
claimed her as mother; whom, after a private interview, she publicly
acknowledged as the true Dimitri. After thirty years of banishment and
disgrace, half of which had been spent in cloistered seclusion, the
relict might well have considered that it was a wise mother that knew
her own child in the person of a reigning and popular sovereign. The
very fact that his imposture had overturned her hated enemies, the
Godounovs, would have gone far to soothe any possible scruples. It is
significant that after her testimony the “Otrepiev” theory, first put
forward by the Patriarch in the reign of Boris, began to gain ground
in the capital. The people who had feared to oppose a forlorn and
desperate pretender, from an idea that he might be the genuine heir of
the Rurikovitches, were not comfortable at seeing him on the sacred
throne of Monomachus, from a suspicion that he might not be.

Firmly established at the Kreml, after a campaign of almost unexampled
good fortune, the new Sovereign commenced to display characteristics
disconcerting alike to his subjects and to future students of his
personality. His idiosyncrasies were not those of the House whose scion
he professed to be, but neither were they those of a partially-educated
adventurer. The boyarins of the leading families of Moskva, encased
in the complacent conceit of ignorance, were aghast at being told by
this newly-appeared Gosoudar that their great need was schooling. Boris
had talked of colleges as a desirability; Dimitri spoke of them as
urgent necessities. For their part the boyarins were of opinion that
the Tzar himself had much to learn in the way of conforming with the
manners and customs of the Moskovites. His behaviour was a growing
source of scandal to his Orthodox subjects; his hair was not dressed
in the Russian fashion; he never slept after dinner; he sat down to
dine to the sound of music instead of prayer; and he ate veal. He
drilled his soldiers himself--a thing which no Moskovite sovereign had
ever done--and he slew bears with his own hand instead of seeing them
killed from a safe distance. The precedent of David, King of Israel,
might have been quoted in extenuation of this unbecoming hardihood, but
nothing could excuse the erection of a statue of Cerberus in front of
the Tzar’s pleasure-house in the Kreml, a locality hitherto graced only
with the representations of Bogoroditzas, or at most a saint-mastered
dragon. The clergy were offended by the scant consideration with which
they were treated, by the toleration shown to Catholics and Lutherans,
and above all by a disposition which Dimitri showed to divert some
of the hoarded wealth of the monasteries to the public treasury. The
strielitz were piqued by the open acknowledgment which the Tzar made
of the superior merits of the foreign soldiery, the boyarins resented
the subordinate part they were compelled to play at the Court of
this man of new and unpalatable ideas. All this gives a glimpse of a
strong personality, an enlightened mind, healthily contemptuous of the
foibles and superstitions with which it came in contact, and a vigorous
faculty for reform and organisation. A rare character in the long list
of Moskovite sovereigns. Such a one recurs some ninety years later
and creates a new Russia. The Ljhedimitri, himself a man of straw,
appears to have tried to cram into a few months the patient efforts
of a lifetime. Probably the fact was that the extraordinary facility
with which his enterprise had been carried to a triumphant conclusion
gave him a false idea of his own powers and of the dispositions of
the Russians. In one respect only do his transactions approach, at
one and the same time, to the childish arrogance of the legitimate
Moskovite Sovereigns and the petulant vanity which might be expected of
a mushroom monarch; not only did he demand from the Pope and the King
of Poland the acknowledgment of the old disputed title of Tzar, but he
further stipulated for the style of Cæsar (Kesar), an innovation of his
own devising. It is possible that this solemn trifle, which threatened
to interrupt his good understanding with Rome and the Holy See, was
really introduced for that purpose, in order to get rid of allies who
were likely, now that he had attained his ambitious object, to become
inconvenient. That he had, from conviction or policy, privately entered
the Catholic Church during the days of his pretendership seems fairly
evident; that it was not expedient to carry the matter farther will be
readily comprehended. The Jesuit Father, Pierling, in an historical
disquisition on the subject, combats the assertion of the Russian
writers that the Ljhedimitri was “invented” or first brought forward
by the Society of Jesus, the Nuncio in Poland, or any agent of the
Pope.[186] Certainly there is no evidence on which to rest such a
charge, which probably had its origin in inter-Christian jealousy. The
fairest and most reasonable conclusion is that the Jesuits, Ragoni, and
the Holy See, allowed themselves to be somewhat easily persuaded of
the legitimacy of the claims of a pretender who might render splendid
services to their Church. Rome had ever been dazzled with the hope
of bringing the Russian Communion into her maternal embrace, and the
prospect was the more alluring now that her spiritual dominion had
been shorn and abbreviated by the Protestant heresy in the north of
Europe, and by the Mohametan encroachments in the south-east. At the
same time it should be borne in mind that the evidence on which the
Catholics and Poles grounded their ostensible faith in the Ljhedimitri
was substantially the same as that which imposed upon the whole of
Russia. The zeal of a convert--and a pensioner--showed a considerable
abatement when the adventurer was safely transformed into Tzar,
and Dimitri evinced no disinclination to continuing bowing down in
the house of Rimmon for the rest of his life. The Poles who still
hung about his person were permitted to worship freely after their
own fashion, and to penetrate into the sacred places of Moskovite
Orthodoxy; but when sounded on the subject of establishing the Latin
faith the Tzar talked evasively of educating his subjects and of
initiating a war against the Sultan, objects nearer his heart than a
revolution of dogmas. If a contemptuous clemency could have inspired
the Moskvitchi with affection for a veal-eating sovereign, the False
Dimitri would not have lacked popularity. Vasili Shouyskie and his
two brothers were recalled from their disgrace and banishment, and
the former was admitted into the Council of the Tzar. The axe and
the gibbet had a long rest, and the monarch hunted bears instead of
boyarins. Dimitri might have strengthened his position and gained time
to live down the prejudices of his subjects by effecting a prudent
marriage; by allying himself with the Romanov or even the Shouyskie
family he would have created a party for himself among the nobles and
have secured an incontestable link with the line of Rurik, either by
remote descent or recent connection. For some reason of his own he was
bent on fulfilling his betrothal vow to Marina Mnishek, and such was
his impatience to see his bride at Moskva, sharing his throne, that the
Palatine, her father, was able to exact considerable sums of money and
concessions on the question of the future Tzaritza’s religious liberty
(she was a Catholic), before escorting her to her expectant husband.
[Sidenote: May 1606] The arrival at the capital of the Polish maiden,
attended by her father and a following of some 2000 persons, together
with an embassy from King Sigismund, did not inspire the citizens with
any greater affection for their monarch, already tainted in their
eyes with partiality for foreign customs and alien faiths. The bride
made her state entry in a carriage decorated with silver eagles and
drawn by ten pied horses. The tzarskie troops, in red coats with white
cross-belts, were drawn up to receive her; cannon, bells, drums and
trumpets, sounded a welcome; only the people kept an ominous silence.
It was noted with disapproval that as she entered the Kreml through the
Saviour Gate, a portal usually crossed with deep obeisance, the Polish
band crashed out their national air, “For ever in weal as in woe.”
The wedding and coronation festivities were carried on with a lavish
display and open-handed conviviality seldom seen before in Moskva, but
they were not preceded by the elaborate religious ceremonials by which
the Grand Princes of yore had been wont to “purify” any consort they
took from un-Orthodox lands. The woman who now shared the throne of
Monomachus was a Pole and a Latin; as for the Tzar, no one knew what
or who he was--except perhaps Mariya Nogai. The popular discontent had
found a rallying-point in the Shouyskie zamok; ’Dimitri had pardoned
Vasili Shouyskie, the latter had never forgiven ’Dimitri. Before the
arrival of the bridal foreigners the boyarin had set in movement the
conspiracy which was intended to hurl the impostor from his mis-gotten
throne. The plot was a wide-reaching one and could scarcely be kept
from the Tzar’s knowledge, but the newly-wedded monarch, strong in
contemptuous security and engrossed in feasting and music, paid scant
notice to the warnings which he received from spies or the croaking
of his guests as to the temper of the people. The 18th of May he had
fixed for a sham battle around a specially constructed wooden fortress;
in the early hours of the 17th his subjects gave him a display of a
less make-believe nature. Besides the accumulated dislike for the
Tzar and all his ways, the Poles who had flocked in such numbers to
the marriage festival of Marina Mnishek gave bitter offence to the
Moskvitchi by their haughty and irreverent bearing. It was the old
history of Kiev repeating itself. The Russians chafed to see the
Kreml of their cherished capital, the Holy of Holies of the Moskovite
nation, overrun by swaggering Poles and lawless Kozaks, and the hour
of vengeance was eagerly awaited by all classes. On the night of the
16th the strangers and the Tzar’s household, weary with wine and
revelry, sought unsuspectingly their accustomed couches; otherwise “no
one slept that night in Moskva.” As the sun’s first rays touched on
the gilded cupolas an alarm bell clanged out from a church; another
and another took up the signal, till all over the watching city the
warnings resounded. The noise penetrated into the Kreml and roused
the Tzar from his bed; the body-guard hazarded the explanation that a
fire had broken out, and the Ljhedimitri returned to his chamber. But
soon above the clanging was heard the angry yelling of a blood-seeking
multitude, and Basmanov, who since his celebrated desertion of the
Godounovs had remained true to his adopted master, burst in upon the
startled Tzar and warned him to fly. The voevoda himself faced the
clamouring crowd on the palace staircase and sank beneath a shower of
murderous blows. The Ljhedimitri, hunted through his apartments, jumped
or was thrown from an upper window and lay broken and senseless in a
courtyard. His bleeding corpse, seized by some strielitz, was borne
into a chamber where his principal boyarin enemies gathered round; for
a few short moments he returned to a consciousness of agony from broken
limbs, saw pitiless scowling faces around him, heard taunts and abuse
from angry throats; then bullets and sword-thrusts closed his last
audience. His body was dragged with ropes out through the Saviour Gate,
to the striking of the same bells that had welcomed his state entry
eleven months ago, and haled to the convent of the Ascension, where
dwelt the pseudo-mother Mariya. The corpse might well have been beyond
recognition, but to the insistence of the boyarins the old Tzaritza
declared that the Ljhedimitri was not her son--a recantation as worthy
of belief as the former avowal, and nothing more. The carrion that
yesterday had been Tzar of all the Russias was dragged back to the Red
Place, where, naked and with a ribald mask on its face, it was exposed
for three days. At its broken feet lay the corpse of the voevoda who
had been faithful to the death. “They loved each other in life; let
them be together now.” So passed the Phantom Tzar from the throne he
had so strangely haunted; phantom still, even when his dishonoured body
had been flung into an unhallowed grave beyond the city walls, in “the
house of the wretched,” a waste-land where outcasts were buried. Here,
it was rumoured, mysterious fires were seen at night. The boyarins
wished to be troubled with no further resurrections; the corpse was
dug up and burned, and the ashes, mingled with gunpowder, blown to the
winds from a cannon.[187] But not thus even could they get rid of the
spirit of the impostor whom they had crowned and anointed. Already,
before his downfall, new spectres had started up in various quarters,
following on the same lines. From Poland had come a fable that Boris
had deluded the Moskvitchi with a sham death and interment and had
fled to England disguised as a merchant. A more substantial fraud was
that of a false Petr, a supposed son of Thedor Ivanovitch, who was
actually carrying on a war of petty depredation at the head of some
Volga Kozaks. With a people so easily deluded the ghost of the “child
of Ouglitch” would not be easily laid.

Kostomarov’s question, “Who was the first false Dimitri?” is one
of those problems of history that seem to become more tangled and
unsolvable the more light is brought to bear on them. A careful
study of the circumstances and nature of his career, while leading
to a strong conviction that he was not Dimitri Ivanovitch, equally
disturbs the theory that he was Grigorie Otrepiev. The man who showed
himself alike indifferent to the Greek and Latin cults, who would not
cross himself before the adored ikons--the real Dimitri would have
prostrated himself before them, if heredity and early education go for
anything--who, moreover, was earnestly concerned for the education
and welfare of his people; who strove by personal effort to raise the
fighting value of the deplorably slack Moskovite army, and who restored
the old boast of Monomachus, never to leave to subordinates what might
be done by himself, above the effete Byzantine-borrowed etiquette
of the later Russian Gosoudars; who, in the midst of feasting and
rejoicing was steadily preparing for an attack on the Sultan, and who
treated his private enemies with clemency and even distinction; the man
who displayed all these qualities in the course of a few months was
assuredly not a Rurikovitch, nor was he an adventurer who had received
his education only in a Moskovite monastery, who had seen life only
in a Kozak camp. That he was really an instrument in the hands of the
Jesuits, nursed and educated for the purpose which he was afterwards
called upon to fulfil, necessitates not only a much greater intimacy
with Russian affairs than that body are known to have possessed, but
also a foreknowledge on their part of the course those affairs were
likely to take under the Godounov dynasty. Such pretenders are not
made in a day. Each supposition takes the inquiry no farther than the
starting-point--who was the first false Dimitri? And here it must
be left. Russian historians of the Orthodox Faith at least are able
to say with absolute conviction that the Tzar of 1605-6 was not the
real Dimitri, for the latter was beatified by the Church, and many
miracles were performed at his reputed tomb. If the supposed impostor
were proved to be identical with the veritable Ivanovitch, a new and
embarrassing dilemma would arise. The history of the career of the
Ljhedimitri is instructive as to the slender evidence on which whole
peoples will base their implicit belief in a resuscitation, or even
in a resurrection. Such beliefs have lived again and again in human
history; some are living yet. Ljhedimitries, false Pucelles, Perkin
Warbecks, missing Archdukes, and others that need not be mentioned,
have their perennial Easter in the credulity of mankind.

The catastrophe which had overtaken the impostor-Tzar included in its
scope the foreign guests who were partly responsible for the outbreak.
The massacre commenced with Dimitri’s musicians and servants in the
Kreml and extended to the lodgings of the Poles and Lit’uanians in
the Kitai- and Biel-gorod. For seven hours the church-bells dinned
out their vibrating war-music, and tumultuous crowds of citizens and
strielitz put to death such of the foreigners as were unable to defend
themselves. Well to the fore in the work of butchery were the priests
and monks, who turned the occasion of the Marina marriage into a S.
Bartholomew of their own, hunting down with zealous rage the “enemies
of their religion.”[188] The houses of the Palatine and of some of the
other Polish nobles were vigorously defended by their retainers, who
fired from the windows upon their assailants. Vasili Shouyskie (who
had led the first rush into the Kreml, crucifix in one hand, sword
in another), and other boyarins rode about the streets endeavouring
to calm the tempest they had raised, and were able to save Mnishek,
the Tzaritza, the ambassadors, and those of the Poles who had been
successful in defending their thresholds. The bells were quieted, and
the people dispersed to their homes, or vented their smouldering rage
in mutilating the figure on the Red Place.

With the disappearance of the Ljhedimitri the Moskovites were again
confronted with an interregnum, and on this occasion there was no one
very obviously marked out to fill the vacant throne. By a process of
exhaustion they fixed on the Rurik-descended kniaz who had offered the
most determined opposition to the impostor, and who had engineered the
revolution which had brought about his overthrow. Vasili Ivanovitch
Shouyskie, a man of mediocre talents, widowed and past his prime, was
scarcely a promising personality with whom to start a new dynasty,
and the election of a sovereign of such an obviously stop-gap nature
almost invited new intrigues and new apparitions. Prudence suggested at
least a recourse to a national assembly, such as that which had elected
Boris, but Shouyskie preferred to take the tide of his fortune at its
flood, and was content to receive the crown of all the Russias from the
hands of the boyarins, clergy, and merchants of Moskva. Nor was this
the only error he committed in the impatience for power to which old
men are especially liable. The trail of Polish influence made itself
visible even in the electoral gathering of the nobles and citizens who
had just entered a blood-drenched protest against all that pertained to
the West-Slavonic state. An oath was exacted from Vasili to the effect
that he would swear to govern in consultation with the boyarins, and
to put no one to death without their consent; that he would listen to
no false denunciators; and that he would not confiscate the lands,
goods, shops or houses, of the relatives of condemned offenders.[189]
This concession, the first step towards the _Pacta conventa_ of Poland,
was an innovation which shook men’s ideas of the sacred nature of the
sovereign, and reduced the new Tzar more than ever to the position of
a make-shift ruler, the mere head of a boyarin douma. Without waiting
for the consecration of a new Patriarch (the Russian Primates regularly
toppled over and disappeared in the political earthquakes which
engulfed their temporal masters), Vasili’s coronation was solemnised on
the 1st of June, the earliest date by which the corpses of the victims
of the late massacre could be cleared out of the city. The first act
of the new reign was one of nervous ostentation; the remains of the
genuine Dimitri were solemnly transported from Ouglitch to the Kreml of
Moskva, where they were reinterred in the Cathedral of the Archangel.
Here, in this sacred environment, under the eye of the Tzar, it was
hoped that this troublesome Ivanovitch would sleep in peace and cease
to haunt the throne which should have been his heritage. The revolution
was completed by the election of Hermogen, Metropolitan of Kazan, to
the Patriarchate, the new head of the Church being a bitter opponent
of all that savoured of foreign heresy. Surrounded by courtiers who
had not had time to develop disaffection, by complaisant priests and
heavily-armed strielitz, encompassed on all sides by the stately and
sanctified buildings of the Kreml, and breathing an atmosphere laden
with the exhalations of centuries of accumulated homage rendered to
saints and sovereigns, Vasili may have fancied himself, in fact as well
as title, Tzar of all the wide Russias. But throughout the hot days of
July and August, when the sun blazed on the white and gold cupolas,
and the dogs slunk about with lolling tongues in the shady bazaars of
the Kitai-gorod, and frogs croaked dismally from the steamy marshes
of the Neglina, dust-coated messengers kept pouring in to the Tzar’s
paradise, by the Saviour and Nikolai Gates, with tidings of trouble and
unrest throughout the land. From the Sieverski country, from Toula,
Kalouga, from the camp at Eletz, from the Volga valley, and from far
Astrakhan came reports of sedition and open rebellion, and the burden
of each report was the magic name Dimitri. It almost seemed as if, in
scattering the ashes of the impostor to the winds, his undertakers had
sown a crop of phantoms which was now springing up in all directions.
The most persistent rumour was that Dimitri had escaped once again from
the hands of his would-be murderers and had fled into Poland, another
man having been killed in his stead; the Moskvitchi instantly recalled
the fact that the face of the corpse so ostentatiously exposed on the
Red Place had been covered by a mask. Another widely-circulated version
invented a new Dimitri who had only just emerged from the obscurity
of his exile and claimed the throne as the real child of Ouglitch.
Nowhere at the outset was there even the foundation of a pretender
round whom these legends might crystallise; he existed as yet only in
the popular imagination. The first impostor had created the belief in
a romantically restored Dimitri; the belief now called for another
impostor. Several princes and boyarins of the lesser rank (styled
dieti-boyarins, literally “children-boyarins”) took up arms in support
of what was more than ever a phantom, but the most formidable of the
war-brands which blazed out at this time was remarkable for belonging
to a class which had supplied few men of note to Russian history.
Bolotnikov, who claimed to have seen the real Dimitri in Poland and to
have been appointed his lieutenant, was a serf who had been carried
off in one of the Tartar raids by which South Russia was periodically
drained of her already sparse population, and had continued his life
of toil in a Turkish galley. Obtaining his liberty, he had wandered
back to his native country, to reappear, like a trouble-scenting beast
of prey, in the hour of mischief and calamity. His real purpose,
which underlay the Dimitri agitation, was to inaugurate a peasant
rebellion, and if an apprenticeship of hardship and suffering were
any qualification for the championship of a down-trodden class, the
enterprise was in good hands. The sedition of the voevodas and their
military followings, the loosening of the central authority over the
provincial kniazes and boyarins, and the open door which the general
dislocation offered to the free-lances and Kozaks of the borders,
swelled the insurrection to alarming dimensions. As in the long
struggle of the Fronde which distressed France in the same century, it
was difficult to say what each particular band-in-arms was fighting
for. The very vagueness of the threatened danger added to its alarm,
and the waning of the year, instead of dispersing the insurgent army
which had gathered round Bolotnikov, impelled it towards Moskva. Towns
and gorodoks surrendered to the ex-serf as they had done before to the
reputed ex-priest, and the rebels reached the village of Kolomensk on
the 2nd December. But the ambitious nobles who had thrown in their
lot with the peasant leader saw no prospect of seizing or holding the
capital on the strength of an empty name, the shadow of a shadow, nor
did they propose to install a serf and sometime galley-slave on the
throne of Monomachus. Several flitted away from the insurgent camp, and
the young voevoda Mikhail Skopin-Shouyskie defeated and dispersed the
diminished company of rebels, whose leader fled to Kalouga. [Sidenote:
1607] Relieved from the onslaught which had threatened to overturn his
throne, Vasili was able to celebrate Christmas in his capital, and the
New Year was marked by another of the coffin-movings which accompanied
every change in the dynasty, and were characteristic of a period when
the dead seemed to share the restlessness of the living. This time it
was the remains of Boris, his wife, and Thedor II. which were conducted
to the Troitza monastery, possibly as a guarantee against inconvenient
reappearances--a precaution certainly not uncalled for. Bolotnikov
meanwhile had gathered fresh adherents and joined his forces to those
of the pretended Tzarevitch Petr, who brought a large following of Don
and Volga Kozaks. The Tzar marched against this new rival in person, at
the head of an army of 100,000 men, and drove the rebels into Toula.
Bolotnikov, seeing the hopelessness of the struggle under existing
circumstances, sent a courier to the Palatine of Sendomir, urging the
immediate production of a flesh-and-blood Dimitri, without whom all was
lost.[190] The precedent of Kromi, however, was not repeated, and in
October the besieged leaders of the revolt, Bolotnikov, the “Ljhepetr,”
and two or three boyarins who had continued staunch to the movement,
surrendered the fortress on the condition that their lives should be
spared. The holy and Orthodox Tzar crowned his victory by inflicting a
signal chastisement on his too confiding enemies. Bolotnikov had his
eyes struck out and was then drowned, a fit climax to his career; the
pretended Tzarevitch was hung, and hundreds of his followers flung
into the river. The boyarins escaped with lesser punishments. Vasili
returned to Moskva “in triumph.” But the demolition of one pretender
seemed to make way for a whole crop of dragon-heads; on all sides
sprang up self-styled heirs of the vanished line of Moskva. One was a
pretended son of Ivan Groznie, another of the murdered Ivan Ivanovitch,
while in the Oukrain alone no fewer than eight apparitions disputed
the parentage of the saintly Thedor Ivanovitch.[191] It was as though
a whole baby-farm of tzarskie foundlings and unacknowledged offspring
had suddenly come to maturity and public notice. But more formidable
than any of these shadowy claimants, there appeared in the spring of
1608, in the Sieverski land, the long-demanded Dimitri--Ljhedimitri II.
of Russian historians. Who this man was is as deep a mystery as the
origin of his forerunner, but his claims received almost as ready a
recognition. His following of Dniepr Kozaks and Polish adventurers was
swelled daily by desertions from the Moskovite soldiery, and town after
town proclaimed him. He advanced as far as Toushin, a village twelve
verstas from the capital, where he pitched his camp, which instantly
became a rallying-point for all the disaffected and intractable
elements which the period of troubles had called forth. Among other
birds of sinister omen who made their appearance at the impostor’s
improvised Court were the Palatine Mnishek and his daughter, widow of
the first Ljhedimitri, and though there was little outward resemblance
between the two men, the new pretender was publicly “recognised” by
Marina as her husband.

The Moskovites by this time had lost their first enthusiasm for
romantically restored Tzarevitches and took their revolutions more
soberly. The tide of success carried the Ljhedimitri no farther than
Toushin; in Moskva itself there was no popular upheaval such as that
which swept the first pretender into the Kreml over the ruins of the
Godounov dynasty. On the other hand there was as little enthusiasm
for the cause of the Tzar, who inspired none of the reverence and
affection which the people had been wont to lavish on their legitimate
hereditary sovereigns. The mutual weakness of the rivals led to an
extraordinary situation; the Tzar of Moskva dared not march against the
“thief of Toushin,” and the pretended Dimitri dared not march against
the “usurper.” Russia was divided by two Gosoudars whose antagonistic
Courts were pitched within a few miles of each other. Many of the
Moskovite upper class, hovering in their allegiance, flitted to and fro
between Toushin and the Kreml, paying their respects to both Tzars and
gathering favours and presents from both masters--a course of action
which earned for them the designation of “péréleti” (birds of passage).
The merchant folk of the capital pursued a similar policy, and finding
a better market for their goods among the free-spending camp-dwellers
at Toushin, almost depleted the city of its necessary supplies, a state
of things further aggravated by the fact that the rebels held the roads
to the rich corn-province of Riazan. Beyond the flat meadows of the
Moskva valley the contest was waged more briskly; despite Sigismund’s
solemn assurances of a strictly enforced neutrality, numbers of Poles
flocked to the adventurer’s service, among them the voevoda Sapieha,
already distinguished by his military exploits in Transylvania and
Sweden. The rapidly moving Kozak and Polish troops of the Pretender’s
army outmatched in activity the heavily-armed and, for the most part,
slackly-led forces of Vasili. In the north-eastern province town after
town fell into the hands of the “Toushinists”; Souzdal, Vladimir, and
Péréyaslavl opened their gates or were captured after a perfunctory
resistance; Rostov, where resided Filarete Romanov, raised to the
dignity of Metropolitan of that town by the first ’Dimitri, made a
bolder stand against the conquerors. Defeated in battle outside the
walls, the garrison and citizens defended their ramparts for three
hours, and when finally overpowered took refuge with Romanov in
the cathedral. The town submitted to the impostor’s voevodas, and
the Metropolitan was dragged from his sanctuary and conducted with
indignity to Toushin, where not martyrdom but preferment awaited
him. Out of consideration for Filarete’s kinship with his “late
half-brother” (the Tzar Thedor I.), the ’Dimitri proclaimed his captive
Patriarch of Moskva and of all Russia.[192]

Unable to attempt a direct attack upon the capital, the pretender
endeavoured to possess himself of the Troitza lavra. The accumulated
wealth of this famous monastery, which had risen like a celestial city
on the site of the lonely cell from which S. Sergie had watched the
beavers playing, necessitated safe keeping. High walls and strongly
fortified towers and gates peeped out from amid the thickly growing
trees, and spoke defiance to Tartar raiders and plundering bands of
freebooters. They were now called upon to withstand an organised
siege from the batteries of the False Dimitri. In anticipation of
the threatened attack two voevodas and a detachment of soldiers were
dispatched from Moskva to the assistance of the monks, who numbered
scarcely more than 300 brothers; the monastery servants and peasants
from the neighbouring villages brought the effective of the defenders
to 2500. At the end of September 1608 a force of 30,000 men, Poles,
Russians, Tartars, Kozaks, and Tcherkesses, led by Sapieha and
Lisovski, invested this secluded haven of peace and piety, which was
suddenly transformed into a beleaguered fortress. The balls from
ninety heavy cannon crashed incessantly against the walls and towers,
which “shivered, but did not fall”; mines and assaults alike were
fruitless, and the siege dragged on month after month. The monks fought
as vigorously as the soldiers, and during the lulls in the attack
paraded their venerated ikons on the ramparts.[193] Meanwhile the tide
of the Ljhedimitri’s success had begun to ebb. The composition of
his following bore within itself the elements of defeat. The Poles,
Kozaks, and Russian outlaws, who formed the most active contingents
of his adherents, drove from his cause, by their licentiousness and
indiscriminate marauding, the people whom they had previously won
over by their energy and the renown of their arms. Wherever the
opportunity offered, the towns which had acknowledged the pretender
renounced his sovereignty and recognised that of Vasili. The reaction
was further hastened by the victorious campaign of Skopin-Shouyskie
and his Swedish allies. Vasili, less prudent than Boris, had accepted
the renewed offer of assistance which King Karl held out, and, at the
price of yielding up the town of Keksholm and district of Korelia,
had obtained the services of 5000 Swedes, led by Jacob de la Gardie,
son of the famous general. With this reinforcement Skopin-Shouyskie
proceeded to strike at the northern strongholds of the Toushinists,
and the two young captains (Mikhail was twenty-three, de la Gardie
twenty-seven) swept all before them. [Sidenote: 1609] A victory over
the rebels in May was followed by the capture of Toropetz, Kholm,
Velikie-Louki, and other places. In July the army of the False Dimitri
was driven out of Tver after hard fighting. Temporarily deserted by the
Swedes, whose demands he was unable to satisfy, Skopin continued to
organise victory; his exhausted war-chest was replenished by patriotic
disbursements from several monasteries, while the Stroganovs sent
him valuable aid in men and money from Perm. The young voevoda “whom
the people loved” had the art of opening purse-strings as well as of
forcing strongholds. In August a force detached from the siege of the
stubbornly defended Troitza was met and repulsed with loss on the
banks of a Volga tributary stream, and in October Skopin, rejoined by
the Swedes, drove his enemies successively out of Péréyaslavl and the
Aleksandrovski sloboda. The loss of the latter place threatened the
blockade which the Ljhedimitri’s voevodas had drawn round Moskva, and
Sapieha made a determined effort to beat back the indomitable pilot of
the reaction. Around the horror-haunted village where the Terrible had
amused himself with his bears and gibbets and services, a bloody battle
was fought between the armies of the rival Tzars; Shouyskie’s Moskovite
and Permskie troops and the Swedish allies crowned their campaign by
another victory, and the followers of the Thief straggled away from a
scene of defeat and slaughter. Wearily back they made their way to the
doleful camp at Toushin or to the monastery whose battered walls still
held them at bay, while the ravens and hooded corbies came barking
and croaking out of the darkening woods to interest themselves in the
corpses stiffening in the snow; and from afar, perhaps from the distant
Valdai mountains, the vultures swooped down on the same errand.

[Sidenote: 1610]

The cause of the phantom was fading; on the 12th January the defenders
of the Troitza, worn with sixteen months of siege and wasted with want
and disease, saw their foiled enemies withdraw sullenly from their
dismantled trenches and vanish from the landscape they had so long
disfigured. In February the impostor withdrew southward to Kalouga,
and by March the famous camp of Toushin was deserted. But the decline
of the Ljhedimitri’s fortunes was not followed by a corresponding
improvement in those of Vasili. Sigismund, who had secretly abetted
the cause of the second pretender, prepared to play a bolder game now
that the insurrection seemed on the wane. The calling in of the Swedes,
the “interference” of the rival branch of the House of Vasa, gave him
a diplomatic excuse for displaying open hostility towards the Tzar,
and the confusion which reigned throughout Russia furnished him with
an opportunity for intervening with specious solicitude in the eddying
course of the troubles. In September he crossed the border with a not
very numerous army, and invited the burghers of Smolensk to admit him
as a friend who wished only to stay the shedding of Russian blood. A
similar declaration was forwarded to Moskva. Shein, the governor of
Smolensk, refused to be cajoled by the benevolent overtures of the
honey-lipped King, and the city was blockaded. Sapieha and the Poles
and West-Russian Kozaks were summoned from the pretender’s service
to join the royal camp, and many of the Moskovite adherents of the
Ljhedimitri went with them. Thus a new danger trod on the heels of the
old one, and Vasili once again beheld his Sysiphus stone of subjugation
and pacification roll back from the almost-gained summit. A catastrophe
which was suspiciously like a crime deprived him at once of the
services of his ablest voevoda and of the lingering affections of the
Moskvitchi. Skopin-Shouyskie and de la Gardie had wintered their troops
at Aleksandrov; in March 1610 they made their entry into the capital,
where the young Mikhail was received with a public enthusiasm such as
had probably never been so spontaneously exhibited since the triumph
of the victor of Koulikovo. Far out into the slobodas and meadows the
populace streamed to welcome their hero, falling prostrate as he rode
by with his companion-in-arms, and calling him their saviour; some
were said to have hailed him as their Tzar. This demonstration could
scarcely fail to be displeasing to Vasili; it was the old story of a
consciously feeble monarch and a victorious and idolised warrior. Still
more would it jar upon the Tzar’s brother and natural heir, Dimitri
Shouyskie, whose chances of succession were undoubtedly threatened
by the popularity of his nephew. At a christening feast given by
the Tzar’s brother-in-law, Ivan Vorotuinskie, on the 23rd April, the
young hope of the Moskovites was seized with a deadly illness, and
expired as soon as he had been carried to his own house. His friend and
fellow-in-arms, de la Gardie, forced himself into the death-chamber,
and, gazing wofully on his stricken comrade, exclaimed, “People of
Moskva, not only in your Russia, but in the lands of my sovereign, I
shall not see again such another man.” The heart-wail of the young
soldier was echoed by the people, who mingled with their lamentations
bitter and not unreasonable accusations of foul play against the
Shouyskies. Ekaterina, wife of Dimitri Shouyskie, of the “viper brood”
of Skouratov (she was daughter of Maluta), was generally credited with
having administered poison to the unsuspecting Mikhail. To crown the
universal resentment, Dimitri Shouyskie was given the vacant command of
the tzarskie troops.

While the muttering roll of disaffection sounded louder every day on
the Red Place and in the markets of the Kitai-gorod, in the west the
Polish invaders (who had put forward Vladislav, son of Sigismund, as
candidate for the throne of Moskva) were making themselves masters
of the Russian border towns. Starodoub, Potchep, and Tchernigov were
taken by assault, Novgorod-Sieverski and Roslavl “kissed the cross” to
Vladislav. Against these advancing enemies it was necessary to oppose
such force as could be rallied on behoof of the disliked and despised
Tzar. An army of 40,000 Russians and 8000 Swedes, under the supreme
command of the incompetent Dimitri Shouyskie, moved west towards
Smolensk. They did not get far. Near Mojhaysk they were attacked by the
royal hetman Jholkiewsko on the morning of the 23rd June and completely
defeated, the Moskovite cavalry breaking at the first shock.[194]
The German troops in de la Gardie’s following deserted to the enemy
early in the battle; “the Poles advanced to their regiments crying,
Kum! Kum! and the Germans came flying like birds to a call.”[195] The
tzarskie voevodas, Shouyskie, Golitzuin, and Mezentzkie, galloped
away into the forest, the first-named leaving his baggage, money,
staff of command, and his furs in the hands of the victors. De la
Gardie, regretting more than ever his lost comrade, surrendered to
Jholkiewsko, and was permitted to return with his diminished battalions
to the north. As a result of this decisive encounter Voloko-Lamsk, the
Iosif monastery, and other places were forced to submit to the Polish
commander. In the capital the effect was to hasten the downfall of
the Shouyskie dynasty. The brothers Prokopie and Zakhar Liapounov,
Rurik-descended nobles possessing immense influence in the province
of Riazin, stirred up the Moskvitchi to depose Vasili on the ground
that his rule had not restored peace to the land nor checked the
spilling of Christian blood. The city was in a ferment; on the 17th of
July the ferment came to a head. The kolokols clanged out from their
bell-towers the curfew of the reign of Vasili Shouyskie, as they had
sounded the death-knell of the first Ljhedimitri. The people, Liapounov
led, surged in angry crowds from one point to another; gathering
first beyond the Arbatskie gate, thence to the Kreml, where the Tzar
vainly endeavoured to recall them to their fealty, back through the
Red Place, they finally swarmed outside the Serpoukhovskie gate.
There the assembled citizens--boyarins, clergy, traders, and lesser
folk--decreed that the stop-gap Tzar must go. Vasili bowed before the
storm and departed from the tzarskie palace to his hereditary mansion.
To prevent the possibility of a reaction in his favour (he was known
to be distributing money among the Strielitz) he was seized by Zakhar
Liapounov two days later and forced to undergo tonsure and frocking in
the monastery of the Ascension. Thus ignominiously disappeared the last
Tzar of the line of S. Vladimir. The government of the city devolved
upon a council of boyarins with Thedor Mstislavskie at their head;
this was naturally only a provisional arrangement, and the most urgent
business of the new Douma was to take steps to give the Moskovite
empire the ruler necessary for its cohesion and administration. The
choice lay practically between two evils; on the one hand was the
exploited and discredited “Dimitri,” with his following of Don Kozaks
and bandits, on the other the foreign Prince Vladislav, connected
by birth and association with Russia’s two historically hostile
neighbours. The common folk and peasants were ready to accept the
former and shut their eyes to the gaps in the evidence connecting him
with the child of Ouglitch; the boyarins and upper classes--the same
aristocracy that had rebelled with pious horror against the Polish and
Catholic taint of the first Ljhedimitri--turned their thoughts and
inclinations more and more towards the son of Sigismund.

Undoubtedly the near neighbourhood of the pretender (he was then at
Kolomensk) and the disposition of the people in his favour forced the
hands of the boyarins, who feared that if they did not come speedily to
terms with Vladislav the bestowal of the crown would be rudely diverted
from their disposal. Their anxiety on this score smoothed the way for
Jholkiewsko, who entered into negotiations from his camp at Mojhaysk
on behalf of the Polish candidature. He was empowered to give solemn
assurances for the upholding of the Orthodox religion, and to promise
a share of the administration to the Douma, besides guaranteeing fair
trial for all political offenders. In the teeth of the opposition of
the Patriarch, and without recourse to the counsel of the citizens
in general, still less with regard to the voices of the people as a
whole, a small group of the Douma boyarins, Mstislavskie, Golitzuin,
and Mezentzkie, and two secretaries of council, signed the treaty
which placed the throne of Moskovy conditionally at the disposal of
a Polish prince (17th August). Four years previously the Poles had
been hunted down like wolves in the Kitai-gorod and Kreml, now the
guardians of the State, fearing a popular outburst in favour of “the
thief,” were only anxious to see the Polish hetman installed with
his troops in the capital. As a precaution against another possible
revolution, which might restore Vasili from his cloister-prison to the
throne, the persons of the deposed Tzar and his brothers were handed
over to Jholkiewsko and by him transmitted to Poland. On the 27th of
August, on the road half-way between Moskva and the Polish camp, the
oath of allegiance to Vladislav was sworn by a large number of the
citizens and boyarins, and the example of the capital was followed
by the provincial towns of Souzdal, Vladimir, Rostov, and others. A
lingering hope on the part of the Russians that the new Tzar would
adopt the Orthodox religion caused a hitch in the progress of the
negotiations, and a large embassy, at the head of which was the Rostov
Metropolitan, Filarete Romanov, and the kniaz Golitzuin, set out to
wait upon Sigismund at his camp before Smolensk, which city still held
out against his attack. The anxiety of the leading boyarins to complete
a political manœuvre with which they had already gone too far to draw
back, led them to take a step which left them no power to enforce their
demands. The doubtful proposals of the Polish king, who began to covet
the Russian crown for himself, had aroused strong symptoms of patriotic
sedition in the capital, and the Douma, having for the moment appeased
the irritated citizens, invited Jholkiewsko to bring his troops into
Moskva. On the night of the 20th September the stroke was effected, and
the people awoke next morning to find the Poles quietly established in
the Kreml, Kitai-gorod, and White-town.

With a garrison at Moskva and others in some of the provincial towns,
Sigismund felt certain of securing the crown of Monomachus, which it
was now his object to obtain for himself. The voevoda and citizens
of Smolensk, though ready to kiss the cross to Vladislav, still
stubbornly defended their walls against the King, who had announced his
intention of annexing the town to Poland. The Moskovite ambassadors
stoutly refused to agree to this projected dismemberment, but in the
extraordinary state of affairs they were unable to make any show of
relieving the place. Since the days of the Mongol servitude Russia
had not been in such a humiliating position. In the north a new
trouble arose; the King of Sweden, seeing his ally Vasili deposed and
Vladislav of Poland elected in his place, changed his good relations
with the gosoudarstvo into open hostility, and sent an invading force
into Russian territory. The northern voevodas, divided in their
allegiance between the pretender and the Pole, offered an ineffective
resistance to the Swedes, and Ladoga and Ivangorod fell into their
hands. Meanwhile the weeks dragged on in lengthened negotiations, and
the royal camp before Smolensk was the scene of as many intrigues
and self-seeking subserviencies as had distinguished the impostor’s
Court at Toushin. An unlooked-for event towards the close of the year
rid Sigismund of a rival and the Moskovites of an embarrassment.
[Sidenote: 11th Dec.] The false Dimitri, decoyed out hare-hunting on to
the steppes by a Tartar who nursed against him a private enmity, was
murdered on the lonely plain; his death broke up the camp at Kalouga,
despite the efforts of the twice-widowed Marina to form a party on
behalf of her infant son Ivan. For the most part the malcontents gave
in their adhesion to the elected Tzar Vladislav. Sigismund had now no
further excuse for prolonging the uncertainties and anxieties of an
interregnum in a country already suffering from the effects of a long
period of anarchy and revolution; his object seemed to be, however,
to weary the Moskovites into an unconditional acceptance of his rule.
From the beginning of the troubles he had played an ungenerous part and
sown a fresh crop of bitter animosities between the two Slav nations--a
crop which was to yield a rueful harvest to Poland. Threatened with a
hostile league between Moskovy and Sweden, it was but natural that he
should view with satisfaction the dawning of internal troubles in the
former State, natural perhaps that he should give underhand support
to the two successive impostors; natural also that he should attempt
to secure for his son or himself the eastern Slav sovereignty. But
the double-dealing and hypocrisy which marked his policy towards the
Russian nation, before whom he posed as a friend and deliverer, while
seeking to filch from its weakness an important frontier city, was
scarcely worthy of the great House of Vasa, which was about to present
to Europe so splendid a warrior.

In long-suffering Moskva murmurs began to be heard against the Poles
and against the Jesuits, and hints of armed opposition to Vladislav
were wafted about the country. The Patriarch Hermogen, irritated by
the sound of Latin chants in the high places of Orthodoxy, sedulously
fanned the smouldering spirit of revolt and became so outspoken in
his exhortations that he was seized by the Poles in the Cathedral of
the Assumption and placed in confinement. Released on Palm Sunday in
order to take his place astride an ass in the customary procession, he
was soon afterwards sent back to his captivity and displaced from the
Patriarchal throne, which was filled by the counter-Patriarch Ignasie;
the third, counting Filarete Romanov, who disputed that office. If
the State was without a head, the Church enjoyed in that respect a
Cerberus-like superfluity. This persecution of their Vladuika did
not dispose the people more favourably towards the Poles; Liapounov
began to collect troops in the Riazan country, and in the capital an
outbreak between the citizens and foreign garrison was only a matter
of opportunity. [Sidenote: 1611] In Passion week the tension between
the two elements found vent in a massacre, but on this occasion it was
the Poles who set on foot the butchery. Mistaking an accidental brawl
for a preconcerted rising, the hetman’s troops, including the Germans
serving under him, attacked the defenceless inhabitants of the Kreml
and Kitai-gorod and slew, by all accounts, some 7000 men. The alarm
spread into the Biel-gorod, where the people, under the direction of
Kniaz Pojharskie, prepared to resist the foreigners. The streets were
hastily barricaded with timber and furniture, and furious fighting
went on round the several gates of the Kitai-gorod, while flames broke
forth in various quarters. The city was soon a blazing mass, and amid
the roar and crash of conflagration the Poles were driven back on all
sides into the Kitai-gorod and Kreml. Pojharskie, wounded in the fray,
was carried to the Troitza monastery, which became a base of operations
for the Russians, who held the Biel-gorod and all the approaches to the
city. The situation of the garrison during the Dis-like night which
succeeded the furious day has been vividly pictured by the historian
of Moskva. “Darkly gazed the Poles from the walls of the Kreml and
Kitai-gorod on the burnt ashes of Moskva, awaiting the arming people
and listening through the night to the howling of dogs, that gnawed
human bones.”[196] For days the city blazed, and within their quarters
the foreign soldiery plundered and ransacked the houses of boyarins
and merchants. Outside, the Moskvitchi, swarming like burnt-out bees,
were reinforced by drafts of Liapounov’s Riazan levies. The arrival of
the chief Zaroutzkie with a following of Don Kozaks was a source of
weakness rather than strength, and the quarrels of the ill-disciplined
children of the steppes with the Riazan troops served to inflame the
jealousy existing between their respective leaders. While the wardens
of Polish occupation were being hemmed within the walls of the Russian
citadel, Sigismund was steadily discharging his cannon against the
battered bulwarks of Smolensk. On the 3rd of June a breach was effected
and the city won. The voevoda Shein defended himself with a small body
of men in a tower, and only surrendered on a promise of the King’s
mercy. The mercy of Sigismund Vasa might be likened to the “gentle dew
from Heaven” only in the sense of a tendency to rapid evaporation,
and neither his sense of honour nor a regard for brave constancy came
to the rescue; the man who had held his forces so long at bay was put
to the torture and afterwards dispatched in fetters to a Lit’uanian
prison. This besmirched victory was celebrated by a triumphant entry
into Warszawa, graced by the presence, in the King’s train, of the
befrocked and discrowned Tzar, Vasili Shouyskie. According to the
Russian historians, who see the trail of Jesuit intrigue throughout
the duration of the Troubles, this success of the Poles had the
significance of a Papal triumph. “The success of Poland over Russia
brought joy to all the Catholic world. In Rome festival succeeded
festival.”[197] Rome was thankful for small mercies in those days. The
King found it easier to celebrate his victory than to follow it up by
any vigorous action against the Russians who were in armed opposition
to his son’s pretensions to the throne. The gosoudarstvo at this moment
was in a state of bewildering chaos, and nowhere could be seen the
elements of re-organisation. Around the Pole-held inner city of Moskva
was quartered an army of some 100,000 men, strielitz, dieti-boyarins
and their followings, and Don Kozaks, the whole under the separate
leadership of three voevodas, Prokope Liapounov, Dimitri Troubetzkoi,
and Zaroutzkie. Besides the personal jealousy which existed between
the leaders, it was impossible to say what common cause, except the
negative one of opposition to Vladislav, brought and held their forces
together. There was not even a phantom to set against the claim of
the Polish prince. It almost seems as if, like the Germans who nursed
the legend that their Red King still slept in his Untersberg and
would come forth with all his knights in the hour of his country’s
greatest need, the Moskovites persistently hoped that the real Dimitri
would at last emerge from his obscurity and give Russia once more an
Orthodox sovereign. Beyond the immediate neighbourhood of the capital,
confusion and uncertainty were naturally intensified; no town knew
whom to acknowledge and could at most only defend itself against
the attacks of the plundering bands which swarmed everywhere. The
inhabitants of Velikie-Novgorod, in the midst of their indecision, were
suddenly startled by the arrival before their gates of a Swedish army
under de la Gardie, who demanded their allegiance to Karl, his king.
[Sidenote: 1611] The old spirit of the Novgorodskie answered defiance
to their old enemies, and the Swedes were held awhile in check; on
the night of the 16th July, however, de la Gardie was admitted by
treachery into the town, and effected his entrance so stealthily
that the citizens first learned of the unexpected stroke by seeing
the Swedish guards patrolling the walls. After a faint attempt at
resistance the city submitted with as good grace as was possible to the
Swedish occupation, and swore fealty to Karl-Filip, the King’s second
son, as their sovereign. Meanwhile the army around Moskva showed
serious signs of breaking up in confusion. A forged letter, supposed
to have been concocted by the Poles, calling upon the Moskovites to
destroy the Kozaks and signed with the name of Liapounov, was found in
Zaroutzkie’s camp. Despite his denial of the authorship, the enraged
Kozaks hewed the voevoda down with their sabres, a deed which increased
the ill-feeling and distrust with which the country people and citizens
regarded them.

In this deplorable condition did the waning of the year find the
Russian land; the capital in the hands of the Polish enemy, its
outskirts and slobodas infested with scarcely more welcome Kozaks;
Smolensk and the towns of the Sieverski country held by Poles; bands of
Poles and Dniepr Kozaks ravaging and slaying in the western villages;
Great Novgorod, Ladoga, and the cities of the Finnish Gulf in Swedish
thrall; freebooters and robber gangs everywhere. To crown all, there
descended on the stricken inhabitants a winter of frightful severity,
and many of the homeless outcasts died of cold and hunger in the roads
and fields.

    S. Solov’ev; Kostomarov; _Iz Istorie Moskvui_; Pierling.

FOOTNOTES:

[183] _Kto bull pervie Ljhedimitrie?_ S. Petersburg, 1864.

[184] A. Karzinkina, _O medalyakh Tzarya Dimitriya Ioannovitcha_
(_Ljhedimitriya I.)_ Moskva, 1889.

[185] S. Solov’ev, Karamzin.

[186] Le père Pierling, _Rome et Demetrius_.

[187] S. Solov’ev; Kostomarov; Le père Pierling; V. N., _Iz Istorie
Moskvui_.

[188] Karamzin.

[189] Kostomarov.

[190] S. Solov’ev.

[191] Kostomarov.

[192] S. Solov’ev.

[193] _Istoritcheskoe Opisanie sviatotroitzkiya Sergievui Lavrui._

[194] Kostomarov.

[195] S. Solov’ev.

[196] _Iz Istorie Moskvui._

[197] Kostomarov.



CHAPTER XI

“THIS SIDE THE HILL”


In the midst of Russia’s direst despondency, when the throne of
Monomachus was empty and the lawful Patriarch starving in prison, and
when the tombs and temples of Moskva’s sacred past were profaned by
the unhallowed presence of strangers and heretics, within the scarred
walls of the Troitza the lamp of Orthodoxy and national independence
was kept steadily burning. The hegumen Dionosie, as bitter a foe of
Catholicism as any of the Reformers who were convulsing Western Europe
in their struggle with Rome, ceased not to call to his fellow-Russians
to unite against the foreign enemy, and save alike the true religion
and the empire. Like the cry of the figurative pelican re-echoing
through the wilderness, the warlike summons from the Troitza passed
along the wasted land; and met at length with response. The city of
Nijhnie-Novgorod, advantageously situated at the confluence of the
Volga with the Oka, had, since the reduction of Kazan and the decline
of the Tartar power, advanced greatly in prosperity and importance. At
a moment when Moskva, Velikie-Novgorod, and Novgorod-Sieverski were
in alien hands the eastern city stood forth with enhanced prominence
as the rallying-point of Russian freedom, and it was here that the
exhortations and entreaties of the Troitza hegumen were most effective.
As was usual in times of popular commotion, visions and portents were
not wanting, and the religious enthusiasm of the people was wrought
up to a high pitch. The anger of heaven, it was said, as the noise of
these apparitions was spread from town to town and from monastery
to monastery, had been visited on the land on account of the sins of
its inhabitants; the Russian people had lightly sworn allegiance to
successive sovereigns, and had as lightly shed their blood or driven
them from the throne. Impious hands had been raised against the Lord’s
anointed--hence these afflictions. It was decreed that before the work
of liberation could be begun the people should purge themselves of
their iniquities by a solemn and universal fast; for three days every
one was to abstain from food, even the infants at the breast, though
what measure of political responsibility could be brought home to the
latter for the intrigues and revolutions of the past five years it
would be difficult to say. The ideal of a God is usually that of a
being who derives some not very comprehensible satisfaction from the
contemplation of self-inflicted sacrifice or suffering of some sort,
and it was quite in keeping with accepted ideas that the only remedy
for the misery of a nation was--more suffering. At Nijhnie-Novgorod the
patriotic upheaval produced more than unstable visions of the night, it
brought to the surface of political action a man; princes and boyarins
there were as usual, and some among them doubtless men of ability,
but the most remarkable figure in the group of Nijhniegorodskie
regenerators was one of humbler extraction, torn by the circumstances
of the time from his normal rank in life, like a low-growing ocean-weed
uprooted by the action of some violent pelagic disturbance. Kozma
Minin-Soukhorouk, who arose as the apostle of the movement which had
started into being in response to the beacon blaze from the Troitza,
was a provincial starosta,[198] and by trade a cattle-dealer or,
according to some accounts, a butcher. Like the peasant-girl of
Domremy, his certificate for assuming the direction of affairs usually
yielded to those of higher station was a supernatural “call”; S.
Sergie had appeared to him and entrusted him with the task of arousing
the slumbering consciences and national ardour of the Russian folk.
Having convinced his fellow-men of the sacredness of the cause, Minin
proceeded to convert their enthusiasm into practical support of its
furtherance. “Give” was the cry, give every one, and give to depletion;
goods, money, service, were asked of all, and those who had restricted
ideas on the subject were brought into line by forced contributions.
The emerged cattle-dealer, though good enough as an awakening
influence, was scarcely fitted to conduct a campaign against the
war-seasoned Polish troops, and the soldiery clamoured for a voevoda in
whom they might have confidence. Such a one was forthcoming in Kniaz
Dimitri Pojharskie, still weak from the wound he had received in the
fight around Moskva, and under his command an army was formed which
only delayed taking the field till it should have received sufficient
support in men and money from the neighbouring lands. [Sidenote:
1612] Not till the end of April were the equipped forces ready to
march, and by that time new dangers had begun to crop up like noxious
weeds on a land that had too long lain fallow of settled government.
The Kozaks around Moskva had begun to talk of Marina’s infant as the
rightful heir to the throne, while at Ivangorod had arisen another
phantom Dimitri, Ljhedimitri III., who had established himself at
Pskov. It was time for the army of regeneration to be moving, though
what it “carried in its stomach” was difficult to foreshadow. With the
melting of the snows Pojharskie unfurled his standard, blazoned with
a swarthy eastern Christ and thickly bestrewn with inscriptions, and
led his troops towards Moskva. Vague as his political objective was,
his crusade attracted adherents. At Kostroma, which a Russian kniaz
held in the name of Vladislav, the people had arisen and declared
themselves for Pojharskie. At Yaroslavl the citizens came forth to
welcome the approaching army, with ikons and provisions and gifts for
the voevoda in command. It seemed probable that a Dimitri might yet
mount the throne of Monomachus. Here, however, the onward movement
came to a sudden halt; Pojharskie was unwilling to lead his men direct
upon Moskva, where Zaroutzkie and his Kozaks were encamped, lest they
should be seduced, from sheer lack of alternative, to give in their
allegiance to the adventuress Marina and her child, on whose behalf the
Kozak leader was working. Pojharskie in fact, in the helplessness of a
negative undertaking, was waiting upon Providence, and was not loth to
receive the proposals which came from Velikie-Novgorod for the election
of the King of Sweden’s brother to the tzarstvo. (Karl IX. had died in
the winter, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Gustav-Adolf, brother
of Karl-Filip.) But here again the double-edged difficulty arose
which confronted every attempted solution of the succession problem;
the House of Moskva, since the extinction of the independent Russian
principalities and the disappearance of the Paleologi, was the only
reigning family in Europe which professed the Greek faith, and with
the dying out of the Ivanovitch line the supply of Orthodox Princes of
the Blood came to an end. Hence the Russians must either submit to the
elevation of a Tzar from the boyarin ranks, or persuade some foreign
prince to adopt the indispensable dogmas. Pojharskie met the proposals
of the Novgorodskie and Swedish agents with an inquiry on this matter
of religion, and professed himself willing, if satisfied in this
respect, to accept Karl-Filip’s candidature. It was doubtful, however,
if the Lutheran Vasa would be more open to embrace Orthodoxy than his
Catholic cousin had shown himself, and meanwhile, from the Troitza and
the capital, kept coming urgent expostulations as to the dangerous
stagnation on the part of the Russian vanguard. In July Pojharskie
at last put his troops in motion and moved slowly towards Moskva,
but turned aside from the army at Rostov to make a pilgrimage to the
Souzdalskie monastery of the Saviour, where reposed the bones of his
ancestors. The campaign was suddenly quickened out of its irresolute
lethargy by the news that the hetman Khodkievitch was approaching
Moskva with a relief force and the much-needed supplies for the Polish
garrison. The Russian voevoda, still holding aloof from the Kozak
encampment, threw his forces into the western end of the Biel-gorod,
leaving to Zaroutzkie the eastern quarter confronting the walls of
the Kitai-gorod. On the 22nd August the Lit’uanian army appeared on
the western approaches of the city, and a wild scrambling engagement
ensued, Pojharskie’s soldiery and the strielitz defending their lines
from the attacks of the relieving force on the one hand, and the
sorties of the Polish garrison on the other, while the Kozaks remained
for the most part inactive. Along the banks of the Moskva on the south,
at the Tverskie gate on the north-west, under the ramparts of the
Kreml, and beneath the western walls of the Biel-gorod the combat was
hotly waged, and evening found the Russians still interposed between
the besieged and their succours. After a lull of a day’s duration the
fighting was resumed at daybreak on the 24th; the hetman’s forces
came into collision with Zaroutzkie’s Kozaks, and the freebooters of
the Dniepr found themselves opposed by their fellows of the Don. The
Russians, if fighting without cohesion, had the advantage of numbers
and position, and the Poles were hampered by the baggage train which it
was their object to convoy through the enemy’s lines into the Kreml.
At mid-day, after having suffered enormously in his repeated attempts
to force a passage through the Biel-gorod, Khodkievitch drew off his
discomfited forces and retired to the Vorob’ev mountains, leaving his
baggage and provision train in the hands of the enemy. Four days later
he retreated towards Lit’uania. The effect of this national victory was
to infuse more spirit into the measures taken to dislodge the Poles
from the citadel; ill-feeling and suspicion still existed between
the various elements composing the blockading army, but the leaders
were at least able to arrange a concerted plan of action against the
beleaguered garrison. The latter, who had seen with sinking hearts
the Polish standards fade away down the Moskva valley, held out for
some time against the assaults and summonses of their attackers,
notwithstanding the sufferings they endured from lack of sufficient
provisions. The stories recounted of parents feeding on the flesh of
their children were probably exaggerations, and the starving to death
of the hapless Patriarch Hermogen early in the year was a measure of
severity rather than necessity, but the defenders and their Russian
prisoners were undoubtedly in sore straits, and their surrender,
unless relieved, a mere matter of time. In October the Kozaks under
Troubetzkoi stormed the Kitai-gorod and drove the hunger-weakened Poles
into the Kreml. Two days later (24th October) the garrison let down
a bridge over the Neglina stream and disgorged a crowd of prisoners,
among them Thedor Mstislavskie, Ivan Vorotuinskie, and the young
Mikhail Thedorovitch Romanov. The unruly Kozaks rushed to plunder the
outcasts, and were with difficulty held back by the country regiments
of Pojharskie. On the 25th the Polish eagle was lowered from the towers
of the Kreml, the gates were thrown open, and the Russians marched with
triumph into their long-sealed citadel. Their Patriarch was dead and
there was none whom they could call Tzar, but with pathetic eagerness
they ran to prostrate themselves before their restored Bogoroditza of
Vladimir. For the most part the lives of the Poles were respected,
according to the terms of the surrender, but many of those who were
unfortunate enough to fall into the hands of the Kozaks were butchered
by those fierce irregulars, who, now that the binding tie of a common
military task was loosened, were more than ever a thorn in the side
of the Moskovites. Helping themselves to plunder and demanding pay,
they threatened to turn their weapons against the citizens and country
troops, and the capital seemed likely to become the scene of renewed
bloodshed. In the midst of these feuds and disorders Moskva was
suddenly agitated by the intelligence that the King of Poland in person
was marching against it with a large army. This was only half a truth;
Sigismund had indeed made a tardy movement towards the succour of his
Polish outpost in the Russian capital, but neither Poland nor Lit’uania
had furnished him with the necessary forces. Valuable time was lost
at Vilna and at Smolensk without any resulting increase in the King’s
army, and in October he was obliged to move forward with only 3000
German troops, of whom 2000 were infantry. A junction effected with
the retreating remnant of Khodkievitch’s forces did not materially
strengthen his following, and the news of the surrender of the Kreml
put a finishing touch to the hopes of the expedition. An ineffectual
assault on Voloko-Lamsk completed the Polish monarch’s discomfiture,
and soon after the Moskvitchi learned that their enemy had withdrawn
across the border. The Russian land was free from the invader, and
the Russian people had liberty and leisure to set about the important
task of electing a new sovereign, and evolving a new dynasty from the
chaos and wreckage which had attended the disappearance of the old
one. In the dark winter days which followed the capture of the Kreml,
when anger and fear and suspicion, rumour-bred or founded on past
experiences of trouble, had sharpened the minds of the citizens, an
idea had sprung up which seemed to be flavoured at least with hope. As
a door had suddenly opened in the Kreml wall and given egress for a
crowd of eagerly-escaping hostages, so, from that very circumstance, a
way seemed opened as an outlet for Russian perplexities and troubles.
Among the throng who had pressed across the gangway over the Neglina
was the sixteen-year-old Mikhail Romanov, son of the Metropolitan
“Filarete,” and grandson of Nikita Romanovitch, whose sister Anastasie
had been the first wife of Ivan the Terrible. Here was a representative
of a family which furnished a link with the vanished dynasty, and which
at the same time had no untoward reminiscences in its past history to
cloud the affections of the people. If the Romanovs had rendered no
striking services to the country, at least there were no skeletons of
Ouglitch, no records of extortion and faction-mongering to reproach
them with. Standing near the throne, they had never seemed to scheme
for its possession, and if the citizens and country-folk alike turned
their thoughts towards young Mikhail it was a spontaneous movement,
innocent of the influences by means of which Boris Godounov and Vasili
Shouyskie had engineered their elections. Nor was the young boyarin
devoid of recommendatory qualities, though these were naturally of a
negative order; but lately a prisoner in the hands of the Poles, as
his father was still (Thedor Romanov had visited the cradle of his
race under inauspicious circumstances, having been seized and carried
as a prisoner to Marienburg at the outbreak of hostilities), he was
scarcely likely to have leanings towards Polish and Catholic ideas.
His connection with the elder family branch of Ivan IV. precluded him
from sympathy with the Nagois and the brood of impostors which sprang
up in mock relationship with them, and equally he was free from any
taint of political association with Zaroutzkie and the partisans of
Marina. The people saw in his parentage a relic of the old reigning
family, in his youth perhaps a reminiscence of his namesake, their
beloved Skopin-Shouyskie, and they forgave him the fact that the
blood of Rurik did not flow in his veins. [Sidenote: 1613] As the
dieti-boyarins and starostas, the archimandrites of monasteries and
other church dignitaries, and all the various country representatives
came flocking into Moskva to the national electoral sobor, one name
was heard on every side; and when, in “Orthodox Week” of the great
Lent, the Archbishop of Riazan, attended by the archimandrite of the
Novo-Spasskie, the cellarer of the Troitza, and the boyarin Morozov,
proceeded to the high place of execution and put the question of the
choice to the assemblage crowded in the Red Square, one name was
thundered back from a gaping chorus of throats. “Mikhail Thedorovitch
Romanov.” The Time of the Troubles had ended.

Hymns of jubilation arose in the temples, the kolokols sounded from
one end of Moskva to the other, and the great city and its influx
of country-folk rejoiced at having once more a holy and Orthodox
sovereign. But much remained to be done ere the new state of things
was settled on a firm footing; Zaroutzkie and his Kozaks, driven out
of the capital, plundered and ravaged in the south-east; the Poles and
Swedes threatened the west and north-west; freebooters, unattached
to any party, rode in marauding troops everywhere. The situation was
alarming enough to deter any but the most adventurous from challenging
its outcome, and when the ambassadors from the sobor came, with the
news of Mikhail’s election, to the Ipat’evskie monastery at Kostroma,
whither the young boyarin had retired with his mother, they found
the latter reluctant to sanction her son’s acceptance of the offer.
Her husband was a prisoner in the hands of the Poles, and her boy
was now called upon to brave the fate which had brought to a violent
end the younger Godounov, and perhaps his father, had lured on and
destroyed both the False Dimitris, and had sent Vasili Shouyskie to a
dishonoured captivity. When she at length yielded to their insistence
other difficulties stood, literally, in the way. The Tzar-elect was
constrained to halt for several weeks at Yaroslavl, on his journey to
Moskva, by reason of the swarming bands of Kozaks and Polish adherents
which infested the roads, and made travelling unsafe for any party
smaller than an army. At length on the 2nd of May the long-looked-for
cavalcade arrived, and the young Mikhail was triumphantly conducted
into the Kreml which he had left under such different circumstances.
Nine weeks later (11th July) the ceremony of the coronation took place
in the Ouspienskie Cathedral with the customary pomp and time-honoured
usages. The revered ikons of the Mother-of-God of Vladimir and the
Mother-of-God of Kazan duly made their appearance on the scene, like
the “male and female phœnix, entering with solemn gambollings,”
which formed an auspicious feature in the festivals of Chinese Court
mythology. But the throes of revolution had left the tzarstvo weak and
the treasury depleted, and the young Gosoudar had to begin his reign
by appealing for substantial support to a country already drained by
contributions and forced distraints. The dieti-boyarins and small
landowners, on whom the State depended for military service against the
many enemies that threatened it, were unable to obtain the necessary
sustenance from their deserted estates, and there were no means of
supplying the wants of their retainers from the empty public coffers. A
letter, signed by the Tzar, was sent to the administrators of the Perm
and Sibirian provinces, the loyal and trusty Stroganovs, requesting the
prompt payment of all outlying debts and taxes and further soliciting,
“in the name of Christian peace and rest,” an immediate loan of money,
corn, fish, salt, cloth, and all kinds of goods for the payment and
support of the soldiery. Similar letters were sent to the principal
towns and districts of the gosoudarstvo. Russian convalescence demanded
feeding and strengthening against the possibility of a relapse.

Dark and anxious for the Moskvitchi was the winter following the
tzarskie election; sullen and ill-fed troops quartered within the
capital, and without bands of Kozaks prowling like wolves about the
country; no supplies coming into Moskva, only rumours of warlike
invasion from Lit’uania. The thaws of spring might bring with them
Sigismund and his hetmans, and the swallow tribes returning to their
nests on the Kreml ramparts might once again be greeted with the
singing of the Latins in the holy places of Orthodoxy. The forebodings
of Polish invasion passed away, however, with the winter snows, and
the Tzar’s counsellors were able to devote their attention to a
campaign of extermination against Zaroutzkie and his wild horsemen.
[Sidenote: 1614] The kniaz Ivan Odoevskie was dispatched with a
Moskovite army in search of the Kozak chief, and after a series of
marchings and counter-marchings fell in with him not far from Toula;
according to the voevoda’s report, Zaroutzkie was completely defeated
after two days’ continuous fighting, and forced to fly across the
Don to Medvieditz with a few followers, leaving his baggage train,
standards, and many prisoners in the victor’s hands. The chronicles
give a somewhat different account of the matter, and relate that the
rebel leader repulsed the tzarskie troops and retired in good order
to Astrakhan, leaving a devastated country behind him. Whatever the
actual result of the fighting, the disturbing element was at least
removed from the heart of the empire, and the authorities at Moskva
were able to open up negotiations with the Kozaks of the Don and Volga
for the purpose of detaching them from the cause of Zaroutzkie and
Marina and enlisting their services against the Lit’uanian enemy. The
Tzar sent them messengers with his flag and exhortations to withdraw
their allegiance from heretics and traitors; more to the purpose, he
was able to send them supplies of cloth, provisions, saltpetre, and
lead. The Kozaks greeted the Tzar’s name with a display of loyalty,
and accepted his presents, but they did not show a readiness to enroll
themselves under his flag; there seemed indeed a possibility that
Zaroutzkie would succeed in gathering under his leadership the Volga
and Don freebooters and the Tartars of Kazan, and thus shut in the
struggling tzarstvo between his forces on the east and those of Poland
on the west. Letter after letter was sent from Moskva to the men of the
steppe, and appeals were made to their patriotism, their religion, and
their cupidity. The downfall of Zaroutzkie and his party was brought
about, however, by other agency; in dusty Astrakhan, where Marina and
her third consort held their rebel Court, the townsfolk, resentful
of the violence of the Volga Kozaks who were quartered on them, rose
in rebellion. Zaroutzkie was driven into the stone town, and, on the
approach of a body of Moskovite strielitz, the Astrakhanese kissed
the cross and beat the forehead to the Tzar Mikhail. The desperate
adventurers escaped from the toils which were gathering round them, and
fled with a small number of adherents along the wooded banks of the
Volga. Odoevskie had arrived on the scene with fresh forces, and a hot
pursuit was kept up on the track of the fugitives. At the end of June
the enemies of Russia’s peace--Zaroutzkie, the ambition-borne Marina,
and her four-year-old son--fell into the hands of their pursuers, and
were brought back in triumph to Astrakhan. The bold and stubborn Kozak
kniaz ended his wild career by the horrible death of impalement, and
the Polish ex-Tzaritza was torn from her child and sent in chains to
Moskva, closing her chequered course in a dungeon of the city which
she had entered as a monarch’s bride. Her luckless infant, the last
and fittest victim of the catastrophe of Ouglitch, swung on a gibbet
on the road that runs towards Serpoukhov, a tender and pitiful morsel
of gallows-fruit for the Volga daws to peck at. The fate of Zaroutzkie
and the extinction of the last pale ghostling of a race of spectres did
not immediately deter the wild spirits of the steppes from struggling
against the elements of order, so long absent from the land. Bands
of Kozaks, swelled into an army by drafts of Russian freebooters and
fugitive serfs, border raiders and Tcherkesses, raised anew the flag
of rebellion and discord, and were not dispersed till an over-bold
rush towards Moskva brought upon them a decisive defeat on the banks
of the Loujha (September 1614). At the same time Lisovskie kept alive
the cause of the Polish prince and made the Sieverskie land the base
of operations for his light and seasoned troops. Nor was the outlook
more hopeful in the north; besides Great Novgorod and the Water-ward
(one of the five districts appertaining to that city), the Swedes held
Keksholm, Ivangorod, Yam, Kopor’e, Ladoga, and Staraia Rousa. The
Novgorodskie, who had handed themselves over to the Swedish prince
on the supposition that he would be chosen Tzar of Russia, found
themselves, by the election of Mikhail, confronted with the alternative
of revolt against their accepted sovereign or separation from Moskovy.
The citizens would willingly have chosen the former course, but the
Swedes were in forcible possession, and, like the porcupine of the
fable, were in no way disposed to quit the quarters into which they
had been admitted. Faced with the necessity of increasing their
field forces to cope with the enemies who threatened them on every
side, the Russian executive were obliged to make further calls upon
the resources of the gosoudarstvo; the north-eastern province, the
youngest of all the Russian territories, responded manfully to the
Tzar’s requisitions, but for the most part the other taxing grounds
yielded poor returns. Equally unproductive was the experiment in liquor
dealing, by which the Government sought to augment their revenue by
monopolising the distilling and sale of wines and spirits. In another
direction they were more successful in seeking for assistance; shortly
after Mikhail’s coronation the young Tzar’s counsellors, recalling the
terms of friendship which had existed aforetime between the rulers of
Moskovy and the Tudor sovereigns of England, dispatched an embassy
to the Stewart prince who had stepped into the inheritance of the
latter dynasty. King James was appealed to by his brother monarch
for urgently needed supplies of gunpowder, money, lead, sulphur, and
other munitions with which to carry on the war of self-defence, and
also for the exertion of his good services for the arrangement of
an accommodation with Sweden. It was characteristic of the British
negotiators that they instinctively sought to obtain concessions for
their merchants to trade through Russian waterways direct with Persia,
India, and China, characteristic perhaps of the Moskovites that they
temporised, raised obstacles, and finally granted nothing. It was also
an honourable episode in the not too satisfactory foreign dealings of
the Stewarts that the refusal did not alienate the good offices which
were put forward on behalf of the Tzar. In August 1614 John Merrick,
a recently knighted merchant who was well acquainted with Moskva,
came to that city with full powers from the King of Great Britain for
opening negotiations between Sweden and Russia. Holland had also been
approached on the same subject, and Merrick was joined at Novgorod by
the Dutch ambassador van Brederode. At the same time that the Russian
Government was seeking the intervention and aid of the northern sea
powers, its agents were casting about among the military states of
south-eastern Europe with a similar object. So far had the dream of
a crusade against the Crescent faded away from Moskovite imagination
before the nightmare of present woes, that the young Tzar and his
counsellors were anxious to league their forces with those of the
Sultan and the Tartar Khan against the King of Poland, and negotiations
were set on foot at Constantinople for that purpose. [Sidenote:
1615] The Emperor, who was appealed to with the view of obtaining
by diplomacy what the Turks did not seem likely to effect by war,
accepted the post of mediator, and a meeting of the Russian and Polish
ambassadors was held at Smolensk, under the presidency of the imperial
representative, Erasmus Handelius. As the Poles began by demanding that
Vladislav should be recognised as Tzar of Russia, the negotiations did
not proceed very far, and the German returned to his master with the
report that “you might so well try to reconcile fire and water.” An
irregular warfare of an extraordinary character preluded the opening
of a more serious campaign between the two hate-hounded States. The
firebrand Lisovskie kindled the blaze of strife and devastation once
more in the Sieverskie country, and with his light horsemen, innured
to fatigue and rapid marches, flitted like a will-o’-the-wisp before
the pursuing troops of Dimitri Pojharskie. Hunted out of the Sieverski
border, he passed swiftly northward by Smolensk and Viasma, harried
the slobodas of Rjhev, turned towards Ouglitch, and subsequently burst
through between Yaroslavl and Kostroma and laid Souzdal in ashes;
from thence he hied into the Riazan province, beat off the attacks
of the Moskovite voevodas, and dashed back into Lit’uania by way of
Toula and Serpoukhov. In the north meanwhile the walls of Pskov had
once more proved a bulwark against the tide of Russia’s misfortunes,
and the military talents which the young Gustav-Adolf had already
commenced to display were unable to bring about the reduction of that
stronghold. This check, together with the Polish and Danish wars in
which Sweden was involved, inclined the King to be more favourably
disposed towards a reasonable accommodation than his cousin of Poland
had shown himself, and the peace negotiations which the English and
Dutch representatives set afoot were more hopeful of result than those
of Smolensk. The foreign envoys saw in the miserable desolation of
the border districts through which they travelled evidence of the
distress with which Moskovy was still afflicted. Save bands of Kozaks
skulking in the woods, the country-side was devoid of human habitants;
of the native population only unburied corpses remained, and at night
the howling of congregated wolves and other beasts of prey resounded
on all sides. The once thriving town of Staraia Rousa was a heap of
ruined houses and churches, haunted by an under-fed remnant of scarcely
100 men. Such were the scenes amid which the ambassadors of the two
contending nations and their mediators commenced their attempts at
mutual accommodation. The cool-headed and business-like qualities of
the British representative were perhaps the deciding factor in the
protracted negotiations, and towards the end of 1616 Merrick was able
to bring the opposing elements together in the village of Stolbova
to discuss the final terms of peace. [Sidenote: 1617] In February
the following year the treaty of Stolbova was signed, its principal
provisions being: that Sweden yielded back to Russia Great Novgorod and
district, Ladoga, Staraia Rousa, and some smaller places, but retained
Ivangorod, Yam, Kopor’e, Keksholm and the province of Korelia, and
in addition received a sum of 20,000 roubles; that free commercial
intercourse should obtain between the two reconciled countries; and
that immigrants from the west should have free access to the Tzar’s
dominions through Swedish territory.[199] Merrick, who had done his
utmost to secure tolerable terms for the Russians, further assisted
them by paying down the money demanded by Sweden.

The peace of Stolbova was as favourable an accommodation as the Tzar
could reasonably have expected to secure. The surrender of a hopeless
pretension to the last shred of Baltic coast still further checked the
struggle for an outlet seawards which had been pursued for the last
half-hundred years with such discouraging result; but Moskovy got back
some of the places which had been wrung from her weakness, and above
all gained breathing time to concentrate her energies on the strife
with the arch-enemy Poland.

Both parties had made preparation for pushing the quarrel to the
uttermost. The Korolovitch[200] Vladislav had, with the insistence of
youth, induced the Poles to support him in enforcing his election to
the throne of all the Russias, a sovereignty stretching away over a
vast expanse of tributary lands till it was almost lost on the horizon
of western politics. On the other hand, Mikhail and the Moskovites
were braced to fight for their faith, their fatherland, for very
existence. [Sidenote: 1616] Vladislav’s enterprise had received the
cautious sanction of the Senate and the more unrestrained blessing of
the Archbishop of Warszawa, and in a schismatic-Greek church in the
old Volhynian capital, Vladimir, a standard bearing the arms of Moskva
had been consecrated; a standard which would, it was hoped, draw the
Russians over to the cause of the Polish pretender. In the autumn of
1616 a detachment under the hetman Gonsievskie, consisting of a small
but capable force, moved out of Smolensk towards Dorogoboujh and camped
at the gorodok of Tverdilitz. Instantly the Tzar ordered his voevodas
to make a dash upon Smolensk, thus cutting off Gonsievskie’s line
of communication and striking at the enemy on their own ground. The
move was well conceived and swiftly executed, but its success stopped
short at the outworks of Smolensk. The Russians were not well versed
in the art of taking a city by sudden assault, and their leader,
Boutourlin, remained helpless in his intrenchments for the rest of
the year, his troops exposed to attacks from the besieged on one side
and Gonsievskie’s skirmishers on the other, and reduced to feed on
horse-flesh for want of other provisions. [Sidenote: 1617] The new year
witnessed vigorous action on both sides; a Polish force was routed
by a Russian detachment near Dorogoboujh, an event which caused much
rejoicing at Moskva, while in May Gonsievskie drove Boutourlin from
before the walls of Smolensk. The same month another Polish attack on
Dorogoboujh was repulsed, and the Russians hoped at least to maintain
an effective defensive resistance to the invaders, but the turn of
the year brought with it worse tidings. In July the hetman’s troops
made themselves masters of Staritza, Torjhok, and other places, and
pushed their advance guard into the Bielozero district, and at the
same time came news that the Korolovitch himself was marching with
a fresh army upon Moskva. At the end of August Vladislav effected a
junction with the Malo-Russian hetman Khodkievitch, and two months
later Dorogoboujh and Viasma had both been occupied by the conquering
Vasa. Mikhail saw the fate of his forerunners looming large upon him,
and already perhaps heard the bells of Moskva knelling his overthrow
or the crowds of Krakow jeering at his misfortunes. But the winter
season brought with it a respite; the Poles were beaten back from
attacks on Tver and Mojhaysk, and in December Vladislav retreated
to quarters in Viasma. From here he put forward proposals for peace
negotiations, hoping perhaps to gain over the boyarins and people to
his side without recourse to further fighting. The Moskovites, however,
answered the Korolovitch boldly, and seemed as little disposed to yield
an inch of territory as he was to abate a jot of his pretensions.
[Sidenote: 1618] The first six months of the ensuing year were spent
in fruitless discussions, during which time hostilities were as far
as possible suspended. On the 29th of June the Poles resumed the
offensive by an assault on Mojhaysk, which was defended with spirit
against this and several subsequent attacks. Seeing, however, the
hopelessness of prolonging the defence of this place against the
determined efforts of the Korolovitch’s army, the Russian voevodas
withdrew their force on the dark and wet night of the first of August,
and retired upon Moskva. Masters of Mojhaysk, the Poles now prepared
to clinch their successes by an attack on the capital itself, and
Mikhail saw himself threatened in his last stronghold. With the memory
of Vasili Shouyskie and Thedor Godounov before his mind the young Tzar
may well have distrusted the loyalty which was nevertheless all that
remained for him to trust to, and it was not without reason that he
sought, by a solemn assembly of the sobor, to confirm and invigorate
the staunchness of his subjects. To all appearance the city was lost.
On one side advanced the Korolovitch with his victorious army as far
as the village of Toushin, of evil memory; on the other, by way of
Kolomna, bore down the Malo-Russian hetman, Sagaydatchnuiy,[201] with
20,000 Kozaks. The Moskovite voevodas stood by in helpless inactivity
while the hetman joined his forces with those of Vladislav, and terror
settled down on the capital. The religious fanaticism of the people was
countered by their superstition-soaked imaginings, and the appearance
of a comet some millions of miles above them in the skies, “over
against the town,” intensified the alarm felt at the more immediate
neighbourhood of the Polish armies. A demand for submission sent in
by the Korolovitch restored the defiant humour of the Moskvitchi;
this overture was more or less a blind, as the Poles were meditating
a sudden assault, but their designs became known by some means to the
citizens, and when, on the night of the 1st of October, the attack
was made, the Russians were ready for it. The Arbatskie gate was
stoutly defended, and at red dawn the Poles were driven back from that
point; along the wall from thence to the Nikitskie gate the efforts
of the assailants were directed with no better result, and at the
Tverskie gate the onslaught failed by reason of the scaling ladders
being too short for their purpose. Nowhere could the enemy force an
entrance, and the Polish hetmans had to draw off their discomfited
troops from the neighbourhood of the capital. The spell which had hung
round the Korolovitch’s advance was broken, and he found himself at
the commencement of winter in the heart of a hostile country, whose
inhabitants only needed the heartening effect of a success to rouse
them on all sides against him. Under these circumstances Vladislav
gave permission to his advisers to open fresh negotiations with the
Moskovite boyarins of state, and Lev Sapieha, Adam Novodvorskie (Bishop
of Kaminiec), and three other notables were empowered to treat for
the arrangement of a peace. But notwithstanding the difficulty of
keeping together a discouraged and ill-paid army and the instructions
which came from Sigismund to bring the war to a speedy conclusion, the
Polish prince was loth to relinquish the sovereignty which had seemed
so nearly within his grasp, and placed the terms of compensation too
high for Russian acceptance. The negotiations which had been opened
near Moskva on the bank of the Priesna were broken off, and the
Korolovitch once more assumed the offensive. Neither the capital nor
the walls of the Troitza offered a very promising point of attack,
and a retreating detachment of Poles was overtaken and defeated near
Bielozero, but the ravages of the Dniepr Kozaks, who were undeterred in
their rangings by the bitter winter weather, disposed the Moskovites
to renew the proposals for a peaceable settlement. At length, in the
village of Deoulino, three verstas from the Troitza monastery, a truce
of fourteen years and six months was agreed upon. Vladislav left
Mikhail in possession of the throne of Moskva, but retained the empty
consolation of styling himself Tzar; on the other hand Russia yielded
up to Poland a long list of towns, most of which had been snatched from
her during the fatal “Time of the Troubles,” and which she was now too
weak to recover. Smolensk, Tchernigov, Roslavl, Novgorod-Sieverskie
and district, Starodoub, Dorogoboujh, Serpeysk, Nevl, and some lesser
places were the price the gosoudarstvo had to pay for the peace which
had been so long absent from the land; Viasma, Mojhaysk, and some
other Pole-held towns were given back to the tzarstvo, and an exchange
of prisoners was concerted, by virtue of which Filarete Romanov and
the voevoda Shein were restored to their country. (Vasili Shouyskie
had died in captivity at Warszawa some years previously.) The ikon of
S. Nikolai of Mojhaysk, venerated by the Russians as a living being,
and seized by the Poles as a spoil of war, was also included in the
stipulated restitutions.[202] On the 1st of December 1618 the Truce of
Deoulino was signed, and with the opening of the new year Mikhail saw
the waters of destruction recede from around his long-menaced throne.
As the Polish eagles went winging homeward the land settled down,
almost for the first time in the century, to a period of peace and
security, and the figurative “voice of the turtle” arose once more in
the forests and fields of Moskovy. In June 1619 the inhabitants of the
capital went out with their ubiquitous ikons and crosses to receive the
restored Filarete, who had been elected to the vacant Patriarchate,
and as the bells rang out their welcome to the returning Vladuika
Mikhail hailed with joy a father and a counsellor, the Church obtained
a head, and the gosoudarstvo an able administrator. State and Church
emerged together from the maelstrom which had swept over them both,
and in the persons of Thedor and Mikhail Romanov the Russian Empire
had found the dynasty which was to nurture it to a giant growth and
guide it forward on the path of power. The conclusion of the treaties
of Stolbova and Deoulino drove deep wedges into the territory of the
tzarstvo and thrust Moskovy back yet farther from the Baltic and from
Western Europe; but all the elements of survival and absorption were
present in the momentarily weakened state. While Sweden, devoid of
natural resources, was manuring a fitful crop of laurels and grafted
possessions with the blood of magnificently disciplined armies, the
wealth of Perm and Sibiria and the trade of Makar’ev and Azov was
pouring into Russia the life-spring of recuperation, the wherewithal
to wring victory from defeat, and weary down less enduring opponents.
And while the Poles were opening wider and wider the doors of their
Constitution to every species of privileged obstruction and respectable
anarchy, the Moskovites, warned by past experiences, and constrained by
the grim spectre of the scaffold on the Red Place--which was not always
a mere spectre--were “beating the forehead” to the sovereign authority
as unreservedly as they had done in the days of the fearsome Ivan. With
the firm establishment of the first Romanov on the throne the Russian
Empire became an accomplished fact, and the ground was prepared for the
work of his famous grandson. This was the turning-point of the long
struggle for existence, and from thenceforth the two-headed eagle,
blazoned with S. George the Conqueror, soars ever more prominently in
the eastern heavens. With the consecration of the Patriarch Filarete
in the Ouspienskie Cathedral, in the presence of the Tzar and the high
boyarins, prelates, and councillors, nobles, clergy, and people, with
the historic jewel-wrought Bogoroditza of Vladimir shedding its sacred
lustre on the assembled throng, and the crown of Monomachus sparkling
in the light of the illuminating tapers, closes the last scene of the
grounding of the Russian Empire; and here may be fitly quoted, from
the old Slavonic saga, “Oh, men of the Russian land, already are you
this side the hill.”

    S. Solov’ev, Kostomarov

[Illustration: I.--TABLE OF RUSSIAN PRINCES OF THE LINE OF RURIK, FROM
SVIATOSLAV I.]

[Illustration: II.--HOUSE OF MSTISLAV VLADIMIROVITCH.]

[Illustration: III.--HOUSE OF SOUZDAL-VLADIMIR AND SUB-HOUSE OF MOSKVA
AND TVER.]

[Illustration: IV.--GRAND PRINCES AND TZARS OF MOSKOVY.]

FOOTNOTES:

[198] Answering to the Saxon reeve; in towns mayor or baillie, of
lesser importance than a posadnik.

[199] S. Solov’ev, Kostomarov.

[200] King’s son, a convenient designation scarcely reproduced in
English by the somewhat vague “Prince”; “Crown Prince,” with reference
to an elective monarchy, being of course inadmissible.

[201] Or Saygadatchnuiy; Solov’ev uses both spellings.

[202] S. Solov’ev; De Koch and Schoell, _Histoire abrégée des Traités
de Paix_.



GLOSSARY

OF RUSSIAN WORDS EMPLOYED WITHOUT EXPLANATION IN TEXT

  _Baba yaga_      witch in Slavonic myth

  _Bogoroditza_    Mother-of-God

  _gorod_          town

  _gosoudarstvo_   realm, sovereignty

  _ikon_           picture of a saint in relief

  _kolokol_        church bell

  _lavra_          monastery of superior grade

  _oblast_         district, region

  _posadnik_       mayor of free city

  _sobor_          national council or Parliament; cathedral

  _Spasskie_       of-the-Saviour

  _Strielitz_      body-guard, originally archers

  _velikie_        great, grand

  _vetché_         town or communal council

  _voevoda_        military commander

  _zamok_          castle



INDEX

  Aleksandr Nevskie, 96, 100

  Aleksis, Metropolitan and Saint, 126

  Anastasie Romanov, 201

  Andrei, Prince of Souzdal, 62
    death of, 65

  Astrakhan, khanate of, 149
    annexed by Moskovy, 207


  Baltic trade, 60

  Batory (Stefan), 241

  Batu, 89

  Bela III., King of Hungary, 70

  Bela IV., King of Hungary, 88, 94

  Boris Sviatoslavitch, 44

  Boris Godounov, 253
    elected Tzar, 265

  Bulgaria (Balkan principality), 8, 28

  Bulgaria (Volga principality), 9, 36, 83, 89


  Calendar, reform of, not adopted in Russia, 255

  Christianity, introduction of, in Russia, 38, 40

  Constantinople, 8
    Russian expeditions against, 16, 20, 23, 50
    Latin conquest of, 74
    taken by the Turks, 146
    Moskovite relations with, 161


  Daniel Romanovitch, 87
    “King of Galitz,” 99
    death of, 106

  Dimitri Donskoi, 127
    defeats Mongols, 131

  Dimitri--Tzarevitch, 249
    death of, 260

  Dimitri (False), _see_ Ljhedimitri

  Dorpat, founded, 47


  Elizabeth Queen of England, correspondence with Ivan IV., 222

  England, Moskovite intercourse with, 208
    Mediation of, between Russia and Sweden, 318


  Gardie, de la, Swedish General, 245
    Jacob, 294, 297

  Gedimin, Duke of Lit’uania, 115
    death of, 120

  German artillerists in Moskovite service, 187

  Glieb Sviatoslavitch, 44

  Glinski, Mikhail, 175, 180, 196

  Godounov dynasty established, 265
    overturned, 277

  Greek artists at Moskva, 146

  Grodno, founded, 102


  Habsburgh, candidate for Polish Crown, 236, 241
    despoiled by Ivan III., 163

  Hanse League, factory at Novgorod, 87
    Towns, Treaty with Novgorod, 139

  Henri de Valois, elected King of Poland, 239

  Hungary, intervention in west Russian affairs, 70, 87
    invaded by Mongols, 94
    contested succession to throne, 160


  Igor, Prince of Kiev, 17
    death of, 26

  Igor, “Song of,” 67-69

  Isiaslav I., Prince of Kiev, 53

  Ivan Kalita, Grand-Prince, 114

  Ivan Ivanovitch, Grand-Prince, 126

  Ivan III., 149
    marriage with Sophie Paleologus, 153
    quarrels with Lit’uania, 164
    death, 173

  Ivan IV., 195
    coronation, 201
    marriages, 201, 234, 235, 244
    wars with Poland and Sword Order, 208, 243
    death, 249

  Ivan Ivanovitch, Tzarevitch, 207
    killed by his father, 246


  Kalka, battle of, 84

  Kazan, khanate of, 144, 149
    annexed to Moskovy, 205

  Khazars, 9, 28

  Kiev, first mention of, 15
    becomes capital of Russian State, 18
    increased importance of, 51
    stormed by Souzdalian force, 63
    decline of fortunes, 62
    stormed by Mongols, 92
    lost to Russia, 124

  Krim Tartars, 149, 165, 179, 186, 198, 232, 262

  Kozaks, origin of, 192
    western, in Polish service, 260, 296, 310
    of the Don, 248, 273, 291, 303, 315


  Lit’uania, 6, 70
    first historical Duke of, 101
    aggrandisement of, 115
    Conversion to Christianity, 134
    Moskovite campaigns against, 128, 165
    Union with Poland, 224

  Livland, 6
    military conversion of, 74, 77
    campaigns in, 168, 208, 240, 244

  Ljhedimitri, appearance of, 272
    success of his enterprise, 277
    overthrow, 284
    speculations as to his origin, 285

  Ljhedimitri II., 291
    death of, 301

  Lubetch, “carpet-council” at, 55


  Makar’ev, fair of, 190

  Marina Mnishek, 273, 282, 292, 301, 316

  Martha of Novgorod, 150, 155

  Mengli-Girei, 156, 182

  Mikhail Romanov, 312

  Money, early form of, 51

  Mongols, 81
    invade Russia, 83
    invade Poland, 93
    invade Hungary, 94
    Russian subjection to, 97
    defeated at Koulikovo, 131
    sack Moskva, 132
    bloodless overthrow, 157

  Moskva, founding of, 62
    resists Lit’uanians, 128
    becomes Metropolitan city, 118
    stormed by Mongols, 132
    growing supremacy of, 147
    description of, 177
    Court Life at, 183
    terrorised by Ivan IV., 229
    burnt by Tartars, 233
    occupied by Poles, 300

  Mother-of-God of Vladimir, 62, 137, 266, 311, 314

  Mstislav (of Tmoutorokan), 46

  Mstislav (of Toropetz), 75, 81, 87


  Novgorod the Great, 10, 27, 30
    foreign trade with, 60
    internal affairs of, 61, 103
    victory over Souzdal, 64
    quarrels with Moskva, 139, 151
    humiliated by Ivan III., 155
    punished by Ivan IV., 225
    taken by Swedes, 304
    restored to Moskovy, 320

  Novgorod (Nijhnie-) 306

  Novgorod-Sieverski, 273, 324


  Oleg, Prince of Kiev, 17

  Olga, 19, 26
    Conversion to Christianity, 27

  Olgerd, Grand Duke of Lit’uania, 124

  Opritchniki, instituted, 218
    abolished, 239

  Orsha, battle of, 181

  Orthodox Church, quarrels with the Roman Catholic Church, 73, 153
    and Council of Florence, 142
    fast observances, 122
    in harmony with State, 122
    crusade against foreign influences, 306


  Papacy, dealings with Russia, 74, 99, 152, 171
    and Gedimin, 116
    and the False Dimitri, 281
    and Daniel of Galitz, 99

  Perm, evangelisation of, 134

  Peroun, Slavonic Deity, 4
    worship overthrown, 40

  Petchenigs, 19, 22, 29, 34, 42, 48

  Pojharskie, Prince, 302, 308

  Poland, 9, 48
    wars with, 45, 179, 243
    election to throne of, 236, 241, 256
    intervention in Russian troubles, 296
    _Pacta Conventa_, 239

  Polotzk (Prince of), 55
    siege of, 214

  Polovtzi, 54, 67, 70, 72, 81

  Pskov, 27, 76, 104, 107, 119, 168, 176, 245


  Riga, 78, 167

  Roman (Prince of Novgorod), 64
    becomes Prince of Galitz, 71
    his death, 72

  Romanov family, 201, 312
    “Filarete,” 269, 293, 313, 324

  Rurik, 14

  Russia, physical conditions of, 1
    condition of, under early princes, 79
    in the Time of the Troubles, 305


  Sarai, 97

  Serfs, 264

  Sergie, Saint, 131

  Sibiria, conquest of, 247

  Simeon, Grand Prince, 121

  Shouyskie, family, 181, 195, 197, 200, 253, 258

  Shouyskie, Vasili, 261, 274, 278, 283
    elected Tzar, 287
    deposed, 298

  Skopin-Shouyskie, 294, 297

  Skouratov, Maluta, 213, 240

  Slavs, distribution of, 2
    customs of, 4

  Smolensk, annexed to Lit’uania, 136
    captured by Moskovites, 180

  Sober (national Parliament), 223, 265, 313

  Souzdal, 62, 63, 136

  Stefan of Moldavia, 158

  Stolbova, Treaty of, 320

  Sviatopalk, Grand Prince of Kiev, 43, 46

  Sviatoslav, Prince of Kiev, 26
    expedition into Bulgaria, 29
    defeated by Greeks, 33
    destroyed by Petchenigs, 34

  Sweden, Russian wars with, 163, 207, 239, 259, 304

  Sword Brethren, instituted, 74
    amalgamated with Teutonic Order, 89


  Tannenberg, battle of, 140

  Tchernigov, 46, 51, 53, 63, 68, 71, 92, 96, 273, 324

  Teutonic Order, 77
    wars with Poland, 140, 185
    secularised into Duchy of Prussia, 189

  Troitza, monastery of, 131, 306
    siege of, 293

  Troops, Moskovite, equipment of, 165
    liable to panic, 167

  Turkey, Russian relations with, 161, 232

  Tver, 109, 114, 133, 159

  Tzar, meaning of title, 159
    title first used at coronation, 201

  Thedor Ivanovitch, 253

  Thedor Godounov, 276


  Urii (Prince of Souzdal), 62


  Varangians, 12

  Vasili (Grand Prince of Moskva), 135

  Vasili “the Darkened,” 141

  Vasili III., 173
    second marriage of, 190
    death of, 192

  Viatka, 139

  Vitovt, Grand Duke of Lit’uania, 135

  Vladimir the Holy, 30, 35
    conversion to Christianity, 39
    death of, 43

  Vladimir “Monomachus,” 54
    becomes Prince of Kiev, 56
    his testament, 56

  Vladimir, town of, 62, 65, 90, 118

  Vsevolod, Grand Prince of Souzdal, 66, 72


  Yagiello, Grand Duke of Lit’uania, 129
    elected to Polish Crown, 133

  Yaroslav “the Great,” 36, 46
    his death, 51


  Zaroutzkie, 303, 313, 316


  THE END


  _Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_



Transcriber's Note


The following apparent errors have been corrected:

p. xii "Plan of Moscow" changed to "Plan of Moskva"

p. 9 "Kakhanate" changed to "Khanate"

p. 64 "Jaquerie" changed to "Jacquerie"

p. 112 "beseiged" changed to "besieged"

p. 116 (sidenote) "1223" changed to "1323"

p. 127 "Moskova" changed to "Moskva"

p. 138 "Vorksla" changed to "Vorskla"

p. 146 (note) "Geschicte des osmanischen" changed to "Geschichte des
osmanischen"

p. 180 "Three month’s" changed to "Three months"

p. 201 "synonomous" changed to "synonymous"

p. 201 "“Vremenszhiki,’" changed to "“Vremenszhiki,”"

p. 203 "Moskovitchi" changed to "Moskvitchi"

p. 226 "preventitive" changed to "preventative"

p. 270 "10 Strietenskie" changed to "10. Strietenskie"

p. 273 "heen convinced" changed to "been convinced"

p. 300 "Metroplitan" changed to "Metropolitan"

p. 313 "north-west, freebooters" changed to "north-west; freebooters"

p. 332 "38 40" changed to "38, 40"

p. 333 "73, 153." changed to "73, 153"


The following possible errors have been left as printed:

p. 45 insistance

p. 74 thong

p. 85 these shameless breaking

p. 120 his son Thedor, arrived

p. 299 Kreml, now


The following are inconsistently used in the text:

Andreievitch and Andreivitch

Cæsar and Caesar

countryfolk and country-folk

deathbed and death-bed

Landmaster and Land-master

makeshift and make-shift

nicknamed and nick-named

Nürnberg and Nurnberg

overrun and over-run

overshadowing and over-shadowing

Pérémysl and Peremysl

warmen and war-men

waterway and water-way

Velikie-kniaz and Velikie Kniaz

Velikie-Novgorod and Velikie Novgorod





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