(EUROPE, 1201 to 1500 CE – continued)

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Russia and the Mongols, to Ivan III

The Grand Prince of Moscow beginning in 1325 was Ivan I. He was frugal. He had saved his money and was known as Ivan the moneybag. He bought property, enhancing himself economically.

A nearby rival town, Tver, rebelled against Mongol rule, and Ivan sided with the Mongols. The Mongols and Muscovites crushed the rebellion, around the year 1326, killing or enslaving many of Tver's inhabitants and ending Tver's chance to be supreme in Russia.

Ivan enhanced Moscow's prestige by creating a headquarters in Moscow for Eastern Orthodox Christianity while the world center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity remained at Constantinople. The Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Russia was called the Russian Eastern Orthodox Church.

Ivan I died in 1340. Ivan III, whose rule began in 1462, bought the town of Rostov, south toward Crimea and the Black Sea. He warred against Pskov – a republican merchant town. And in the 1470s Ivan III extended his rule through warfare to Novgorod and its territories. Ivan exiled 1,000 wealthy families from Novgorod and replaced them with families from Moscow.

With Islamic rule having come to Constantinople, Church leaders in Moscow spoke of "Holy Russia" and described Moscow as the "Third Rome." Ivan III saw himself as the heir of Rome's emperors – the word tsar (czar) being derived from the word Caesar. Ivan III saw Eastern Orthodox Christianity as the one true faith. All the Catholic kings in the West, he believed, were heretics.

In 1480 Ivan III felt strong enough to refuse to pay tribute to the Mongols. The Mongols were fighting among themselves, and Ivan was able to make his independence stick. He annexed Tver in 1485. He maintained friendly relations with the khan who ruled in the Crimea. And with passage through the Crimea, Ivan maintained communications with Islamic Constantinople. He was interested in trade and knew its benefits and the benefits of diplomacy, and in 1495 he opened an embassy in Constantinople.

Toward the end of the 1400s the area around Moscow and the rest of Europe was returning to the population levels that had existed before the Black Death. Earlier agriculture had been largely slash and burn. Now, with more people, agriculture around Moscow became what it was in the West: the three-field system, with the raising of farm animals. Farming was becoming more profitable around Moscow, and those with wealth, including enterprising monasteries, were absorbing more land.

A trend had begun: the rich were getting richer. The nobles were buying more land and less land was available to free peasants – not only in Russia but elsewhere in Eastern Europe. In Russia, Ivan III gave land away as a reward for military service. These new landholders hired people to work their lands, and in 1497 Ivan III accommodated the landowners by limiting the rights of agricultural workers. More peasants in Eastern Europe were forced to labor on the estates of nobles and to give an exorbitant amount of their produce to the nobles as rent.


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