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Emergence of Muscovy

 

By the late fifteenth century Moscow emerged as the capital of the fledgling  centralizing state that had successfully brought under its control formerly disunited Russian lands. In contrast to Western Europe, where flourishing towns and trade links became the cementing force that bound the edifice of national states, the unification of the Russian lands around Moscow proceeded mainly under the pressure of external political factors, such as the necessity of achieving national independence from the Mongols. Ultimately, it was the military-political power wielded by the Moscow grand princes, rather than the development of economic ties between Russian principalities, that proved to be a decisive factor in the rebuilding of a Russian unified state and repelling of the Mongols.

 
Map: encarta.msn.com

The freedom from the Mongol yoke did not bring with it an automatic return of Russia to the mainstream of European civilization. After the final schism of the Churches in the early fifteenth century, Muscovy regarded the West with deep suspicion as a world given over to the Latin heresy. Militarized by its two-century struggle against the Mongols and infused with the messianic zeal of spreading the true Christianity, the autocratic Muscovite state began to expand continually.  By 1600, it had grown twelvefold to become the largest state in Europe.

In the early seventeenth century, having survived the Time of Troubles - the devastating period of the dynastic crisis and the Polish-Swedish intervention, Russia proceeded to rebuild its statehood under the leadership of the new dynasty of the Romanovs, established in 1613. By the middle of that century, under the second of Romanov tsars, Alexis, it acquired Siberia in the east, while in the south-west it re-established its authority over the Ukraine which sought protection of an Orthodox nation against the Roman Catholic Poles. In the eighteenth century Peter I and Catherine the Great annexed the present-day Baltic states and the lions share of Poland, thus giving the Russian empire its basic modern form. To consolidate this development and to assert the rising status of Russia among the European powers, Peter took the Imperial title of old East Rome (Byzantium), thereby claiming for the Muscovite state the mantle of the successor to the Roman Empire. At Peters command Moscow had to yield its status of the capital city to the new imperial capital of Saint Petersburg.

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Pre-Petrine Russia

Origins of Kievan Rus
Emergence of Muscovy
Imperial Expansion
Key Historical Factors
Environment and Climate
Geopolitical Factor
Religious Factor
Social Organization
"Service State"
Consolidation of Serfdom
Vast Powers of the State
Traditional Society
Political Regime

 

Tsarist Russia

Pre-Petrine Russia
Peter the Great
Catherine the Great
Alexander I
Nicholas I
Alexander II
The Revolutionary Movement
Appearance of Marxism
The Last Romanovs
The Birth of Bolshevism
The Revolution of 1905-7
Between Revolutions
The Revolutions of 1917
Interpretations of 1917
The End of an Empire
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