The Third Rome: Autocratic State in Moscow

Monday 28, 2015

After almost two centuries of Mongol rule and influence, the Moscow Empire compiles many of the old Kiev appendages into one Muscovite State.  Unlike the governance in Novgorod, in the Muscovite state, the Grand Prince becomes a lord, with all land belonging to him.  In fact when property was sold the deed read, “I have sold the land of the sovereign and of my possession,” (Kaiser & Marker, 103).  This feudal society is known as an autocracy, the Grand Prince having all the power as the head of state.  What unfolds after 1453 (the fall of Constantinople to the Turks) is an additional power and prestige bestowed upon Russia with the world declaration of it being the “New Israel” or “The Third Rome,” (Kaiser & Marker, 104).

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Constantinople became the center of Orthodoxy under the Greek Empire’s control.  Rus’ always viewed this area, especially the Byzantine Empire as the source of Orthodoxy, so much so that the Muscovite prices Ivan III and Vasilii III regarded themselves as the descendants of the Greek tsars (Kaiser & Marker, 104).  Thus with the fall of Constantinople, the Grand Prince of Moscow adopts another important role, a pope-like figure almost, as the Tsar, or Head of the Orthodoxy.

A monk named Filofei declared Moscow as the Third Rome and emphasized it’s importance as the center for Orthodoxy for the entire world.  The Turks, who took over Constantinople were regarded as “Godless infidels” and it was up to the Tsars of Russia to create a place of salvation for the world, (Kaiser & Marker, 104).  In the Filofei excerpts, the monk emphasizes the importance of this new capital of Orthodoxy, but also yields the Grand Prince of not abusing this power and that the Tsar is a servant for God.  Filofei by declaring the Muscovite State as the new Rome also states, “And there will not be a fourth. No one will replace your Christian tsardom,” implying not only Russia’s new position in the world, but also indefinitely expanding the autocracy of the Tsar, (Filofei, 1).

With this in mind:

By comparing the two documents we read for Monday’s class, which form of governance holds more power?  The Tsar, who is a representative of Orthodoxy for the world?  Or does the Church have more power over the Tsar?

After reading the new law codes of Moscow and their strict punishments, in what ways in religion a unifier for the new Moscow Empire?

Do you think there could be possible problems that arise from the Tsar being aligned with the Church?  Does this give him ultimate power?

Works Cited

Filofei. Moscow The Third Rome (Excerpts). Harrington. Community UK. http://community.dur.ac.uk/a.k.harrington/3rdrome.html

Kaiser, Daniel H. and Gary Marker. Reinterpreting Russian History: Readings, 860-1860s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994

One thought on “The Third Rome: Autocratic State in Moscow

  1. It is interesting that you mention the possibility for problems arising due to the alignment of the Tsar and the church. I think that it does in fact give him ultimate power because of the high status religion has always had throughout Russia’s history so far. The only potential problems that could occur would be the Tsar becoming too powerful or “power-hungry.” However, Filofei warns the Tsar and warns him to be a cautious and wise leader.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *