By artful insinuations of the personal advantages and general benefits that were to spring from the overthrow of Novgorod, he succeeded in neutralizing all the opposition he had any reason to apprehend.
Continuing Ivan the Great Unites Russia and Breaks the Tartar Yoke,
our selection from History of Russia by Robert Bell published in 1838. The selection is presented in six easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Ivan The Great Unites Russia And Breaks The Tartar Yoke.
Time: 1462 – 1505
Inspired by the revelries of the ambitious Marpha, and the patriotic associations she awakened, the Novgorodians expelled the officer of the Grand Prince; possessed themselves of some land that belonged to him in right of his fief; and, to confirm their revolt against his authority, submitted themselves, by treaty, to Casimir, Prince of Lithuania. In this position of affairs, Ivan wisely resolved to leave Vyatka to its own course, confining his attention solely to Novgorod, and seeking to win over Pskof and its twelve tributary cities, so that he might combine them against the turbulent republic. The fall of Novgorod accomplished, the conquest of the other obstinate cities was easily effected.
The polite, cool, and persevering means he brought into operation against the refractory republic were admirably seconded by the machinery of communication which had been previously established in the persons of the boyars, whose local influence was of the first consequence on this occasion. As the tide of these numerous negotiations changed, Ivan assumed the humility or the pride, the generosity or the severity, adapted to the immediate purpose; and, working upon the characters of the individuals as well as their interests, he succeeded in gaining a great moral lever before he unsheathed a sword. He made allies of all the classes and princes that lay in his way to the heart of the independent corporation. He represented to the nobles the anomalous nature and usurpation of the democratic institutions of Novgorod, and he roused their pride into resentment. He gained over the few princes who still held trembling appanages by painting to them in strong colors the enormous opulence and commercial monopolies of the republic; and he filled the whole population with revenge against the fated city, by exaggerated accounts of its treasonable designs against the internal security of the empire. Thus, by artful insinuations of the personal advantages and general benefits that were to spring from the overthrow of Novgorod, he succeeded in neutralizing all the opposition he had any reason to apprehend, and in exciting increased enthusiasm on the part of the people.
Having made these subtle preparations to facilitate his proceedings, he sent an ambassador to the citizens calling upon them to acknowledge his authority; and only awaited their decisive refusal, which he anticipated, as an excuse for immediate hostilities. The Novgorodians returned an answer couched in terms of scorn and defiance. His reply was carried by three formidable armies, which, breaking in on the Novgorodian territory on three different sides, prostrated the hopes of the citizens by overwhelming masses, against which their gallant resistance was of no avail. In this brief and desperate struggle, Ivan possessed extraordinary superiority by the recent acquisition of firearms and cannon, the use of which he had learned from Aristotle of Bologna, an Italian, whom he had taken into his service as an architect, mintmaster, and founder. The triumph of the arms of the Grand Prince was rapidly followed by the incursions of swarms of the peasantry, who, secretly urged forward by Ivan, rushed upon the routed enemy, and completed the work of devastation. This licentious exhibition of popular feeling Ivan affected to repress, and, availing himself of the opportunity it afforded to assume toward the Novgorodians a moderation he did not feel, he pretended to protect them against any greater violence than was merely necessary to establish his right to the recovery of the domains of which they had despoiled him, and the payment of the ransom that was customary under such circumstances. Here his deep and crafty genius had room for appropriate display. He did not consider it prudent to seize upon the republic at once, as, in that event, he was bound to partition it among his kinsmen, by whose aid, extended upon special promises, he had overthrown it; so he contented himself with a rich ransom, having already beggared it by suffering lawless followers to plunder it uninterruptedly before he interfered, and by demanding an act of submission. But in this act he contrived to insert some words of ambiguous tendency, under the shelter of which he might, when his own time arrived, leap upon his prey with impunity.
The confusion into which the Novgorodians were thrown and the great reduction of strength which they suffered in the contest enabled Ivan to deprive them of some of their tributaries, under the pretence of rendering them a service, so that their exhaustion was seized upon as a fresh source of injustice. The Permians having offered some indignity to the republic, Ivan interfered, and transferred the commerce of that people with Germany to Moscow; and, on another occasion, when the Livoman knights attempted an aggression, Ivan sent his ambassadors and troops to force a negotiation in his own name; thus actually depriving both Novgorod and Pskof, they being mutually concerned, of the right of making peace and war in their own behalf. By insidious measures like these he continued to oppress and absorb the once independent city that claimed and kept so towering an ascendancy. But not satisfied with such means of accumulating the supreme power, he sowed dissensions between the rich classes and the poor, and after fomenting fictitious grievances, terminating in open quarrel, he succeeded in having all complaints laid before him for decision. Then, going among them, he impoverished the wealthy by the lavish presents his visits demanded, and captivated the imagination of the multitude by the dazzling splendor of his retinues and the flexible quality of his justice. The time was now approaching for a more explicit declaration of his views. On pretence of these disagreements he loaded some of the principal citizens, the oligarchs of the republic, with chains and sent them to Moscow. It was so arranged that these nobles were denounced by the mob; and Ivan, in acceding to their demand for vengeance, secured the allegiance of the great bulk of the population. The stratagem succeeded; and with each new violation of justice he gained an accession of popular favor.
The progress of the scheme against the liberties of Novgorod was slow, but inevitable. The inhabitants gradually referred all their disputes to the Grand Prince; and he, profiting by the growing desire to erect him into the sole judge of their domestic grievances, at length summoned the citizens to appear before him at Moscow. The demand was as unexpected as it was extraordinary.
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