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Soviet Union


The development of the Russian state can be traced from Vladimir-Suzdal' through Muscovy to the Russian Empire. Muscovy drew people and wealth to the northeastern periphery of Kievan Rus'; established trade links to the Baltic, White, and Caspian seas and to Siberia; and created a highly centralized and autocratic political system. Muscovite political traditions, therefore, have exerted a powerful influence on Russian and Soviet society.

The Rise of Muscovy

When the Mongols invaded the lands of Kievan Rus', Moscow was an insignificant trading outpost in the principality of VladimirSuzdal '. Muscovy's remote, forested location offered some security from Mongol attack and occupation, while a number of rivers provided access to the Baltic and Black seas and to the Caucasus region to Moscow's development in the state of Muscovy, however, was its rule by a series of princes who were ambitious, determined, and lucky. The first ruler of the principality of Muscovy, Daniil Aleksandrovich (d. 1303), secured the principality for his branch of the Rurikid Dynasty. His son, Ivan I (1325-40), known as Kalita ("money bags"), obtained the title of "Grand Prince of Vladimir" from his Mongol overlords. He closely cooperated with the Mongols and collected tribute from other Russian principalities on their behalf. This enabled him to gain regional ascendancy, particularly over Muscovy's rival, Tver'. In 1327 the Orthodox metropolitan transferred his residency from Vladimir to Moscow, further enhancing the prestige of the new principality.

The grand princes of Muscovy began gathering Russian lands to increase the population and wealth under their rule. The most successful "gatherer" was Ivan III (1462-1505), who in 1478 conquered Novgorod and in 1485 Tver' (see table 2, Appendix A). Through inheritance, Ivan obtained part of Ryazan', and the princes of Rostov and Yaroslavl' voluntarily subordinated themselves to him. Pskov, which remained independent, was conquered in 1510 by Ivan's son, Vasilii III (1505-33). By the beginning of the sixteenth century, Muscovy had united virtually all ethnically Russian lands.

Muscovy gained full sovereignty as Mongol power waned, and Mongol overlordship was officially terminated in 1480. Ivan III was the first Muscovite ruler to use the titles of tsar and "Ruler of all Rus'," laying claim not only to Russian areas but also to parts of the Ukrainian and Belorussian lands of Kievan Rus'. Lithuania, then a powerful state, included other parts of Belorussia and central Ukraine. Ivan III competed with Lithuania for control over some of the semi-independent former principalities of Kievan Rus' in the upper Dnepr and Donets river basins. Through defections of some princes, border skirmishes, and an inconclusive war with Lithuania, Ivan III was able to push westward, and Muscovy tripled in size under his rule.

Data as of May 1989