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.

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

The Mongols and their Relationship with the Orthodox Church

By most accounts, the Mongol invasion was a bloody time for the people of Russian territories in the thirteenth century. Arriving from southeastern Russia in 1223, they had superior military tactics to overthrow the Russian Princes and keep that power for the next 150 years to 250 years with the help of their proficient administration skills that Russian officials lacked. The wide-spread massacre and destruction ruined towns and deprived the population at large from farming land in the steppe and from critical trade routes. Although some scholars focus more on the positive Mongol influences to Russian culture (some administrative language and military knowledge), it is clear that the Mongols left the society devastated. ((Riasanovsky and Steinberg 63-70))

The people of the Russian Orthodox faith saw this display of cruelty and killing as “the Christian God [employing] the Tartars (Mongols) to punish Rus for the folly of its princes who, rather than abiding by the wise advice of Grand Prince Iaroslav … instead fought against one another, and had failed to honor one another.” ((Kaiser and Marker 100)) But despite the Mongols’ hostile behavior, they eventually chose to respect the Russian Orthodox Church and any of its clergy and members and let them practice their religion in peace. In the Mongol Immunity Charter to Metropolitan Peter, we see that the church is given official recognition as an “independent institution” and the Mongol population is forbidden to “interfere in church affairs or in the metropolitan’s business, for they are God’s business.” ((Kaiser and Marker 102)) They make it very clear that the Church is not be bothered and no one is to be offended by any acts of the Mongol’s or else the “wrath of God will be on him.” ((Kaiser and Marker 102))

Given their attitudes to the Orthodox faith, what does that tell us about the importance of religion to the Mongols?

How did this affect the Russian culture and lifestyle moving forward in the future?

Are there any lasting effects from the Mongol invasion that we can see in today’s Russian society?

Works Cited

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

Riasanovsky, Nicholas V. and Mark D. Steinberg. A History of Russia to 1855. 7th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005

Black & Grey

The Slavophiles and Westernizers were both “reformist” intellectuals who, on different ideological avenues, envisioned changes for the future of Russia that would progress the state to new plateaus. The Slavophiles were upperclassmen who expressed a fundamental vision of integration, peace, and harmony among men (Riasanovsky 362). They were strict followers of the Russian Orthodox Church and believed it was their mission to help the church reclaim power it had lost. A notable Slav – Constantine Aksakov – described the Slavophiles as a “moral choir” (363). The Slavs were Russian romantics who attempted to tie in their romantic ideals with reason. Slavophiles could be considered peacekeeping anarchists because they stressed free will and free thought, and although they didn’t like the presence of the government they recognized the importance of having a governmental institution in place to keep the peace.

The Westernizers, although also reformists in nature were antithetical to the Slavs in many other aspects. While the Slavophiles were fairly organized and concentrated in their mission of peace and harmony throughout Russian society the Westernizers had diverse and often unclear goals for their reformations. Unlike the Slavophiles, the Westernizers didn’t lean on religion and quite frankly didn’t support religious ideologies to nearly the same degree as the Slavs. It is important to note that the roots of the Westernizers’ differing views probably comes from the fact that the Westernizers came from a variety of different social classes, while the Slavophiles were basically all upper-class citizens. The Westernizers also seemingly had varying degrees of their beliefs in comparison to the Slavophiles, what I mean by this is, some Westernizers simply wanted to promote their ideas of free-will and anti religion while extremist Westernizers wanted to do away with the church and government entirely, a complete redo of the system. Westernizers’ views and goals also changed because they spanned a great period of time in Russian history. For example, Alexander Herzen and Michael Bakunin, two Westernizer authors lived past the reign of Nicholas I (Riasanovsky 365). In other words, these two authors lived through a shifting dynamic of Russian politics, so their goals (in their writing) had to have changed over this time period. Ironically, both of these writers apparently left Russia during their later years, leaving their final marks on Russian society.