Soviet Union Table of Contents
Muscovy continued its territorial growth. In the southwest, it acquired eastern Ukraine, which had been under Polish rule. The Ukrainian Cossacks, warriors organized into military formations, lived in the frontier areas bordering Poland, the Tatar lands, and Muscovy. Although they had served the Polish king as mercenary troops, the Ukrainian Cossacks remained fiercely independent and staged a number of uprisings against the Poles. In 1648 the Ukrainian Cossacks revolted and were joined by most of Ukrainian society, which had suffered political, social, religious, and ethnic oppression under Polish rule. After the Ukrainians threw off Polish rule, they needed military help to sustain their gains. In 1654 the leader of the Ukrainian Cossacks, Bohdan Khmel'nyts'kyi, offered to place Ukraine under the protection of the Muscovite tsar rather than the Polish king. After some hesitation, the tsar accepted Khmel'nyts'kyi's offer, which led to a protracted war between Muscovy and Poland. The war was concluded by the Treaty of Andrusovo in 1667. Ukraine was split along the Dnepr River. The western bank was retained by Poland, and the eastern bank remained self-governing under the suzerainty of the tsar.
In the east, Muscovy had obtained western Siberia in the sixteenth century. From this base, merchants, traders, and explorers continued to push east from the Ob' River to the Yenisey River and then from the Yenisey River to the Lena River. By the middle of the seventeenth century, Muscovites had reached the Amur River and the outskirts of the Chinese Empire. After a period of conflict, Muscovy made peace with China in 1689. By the Treaty of Nerchinsk, Muscovy gave up claims to the Amur River Valley. By the middle of the seventeenth century, Muscovy extended eastward through Eurasia to the Pacific Ocean.
Muscovy's southwestern expansion, particularly its incorporation of eastern Ukraine, had unintended consequences. Most Ukrainians were Orthodox, but, having had to compete with the Polish Counter-Reformation, they combined Western intellectual currents with their religion. Through Kiev, Muscovy obtained links to Polish and central European influences and to the wider Orthodox world. Historically, Ukrainians had been under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople. Although the Ukrainian link stimulated creativity, it also undermined traditional Russian religious practices and culture. The Russian Orthodox Church discovered that because of its isolation from Constantinople, variations had crept into its liturgical books and practices. The Russian Orthodox patriarch, Nikon, was determined to correct the texts according to the Greek originals. Nikon, however, encountered fierce opposition because many Russians viewed the corrections as inspired by foreigners or the devil. The Orthodox Church forced the reforms, which resulted in a schism in 1667. Those who did not accept the reforms, the Old Believers, were pronounced heretics and were persecuted by the church and the state. The chief opposition figure, Avvakum, was burned at the stake. The split subsequently became permanent, and many merchants and prosperous peasants joined the Old Believers.
The impact of Ukraine and the West was also felt at the tsar's court. Kiev, through its famed scholarly academy, founded by Metropolitan Mohila in 1631, was a major transmitter of new ideas and introduced the Muscovite elite to a central European variant of the Western world. Among the results of this infusion of ideas were baroque architecture, literature, and icon painting. Other more direct channels to the West opened as international trade increased and more foreigners came to Muscovy. The tsar's court was interested in the West's more advanced technology, particularly if its applications were military in nature. By the end of the seventeenth century, Ukrainian, Polish, and West European penetration had undermined the Muscovite cultural synthesis--at least among the elite--and had prepared the way for an even more radical transformation.
Data as of May 1989
Soviet Union Table of Contents