The settlement of his power in Novgorod had scarcely been concluded when intelligence was received that the Tartars of the Golden Horde were preparing for a third invasion.
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
The surrender of the liberties of the republic was complete. On taking possession of the city, Ivan seized upon the person of the popular Marpha, and sent her and seven of the principal citizens as prisoners to Moscow, confiscating their properties in the name of the state. The national assemblies and municipal privileges ceased January 15, 1478, on which day the people took the oath of servitude; and on the 18th, the boyars and their immediate followers, and the wealthy and the influential classes of the inhabitants, voluntarily came forward and entered into the service of the Grand Prince. The revenues of the clergy, which were by the act of submission transferred to the treasury of Ivan, were immediately devoted by him to the service of three hundred thousand followers of boyars, through whose intermediate agency he intended to assert and maintain his unlimited and supreme authority over the fallen city. But not alone did he possess himself of the private property of some of the principal persons who had rendered themselves prominent in the recent declaration of independence, but he demanded a surrender of a great part of the territories that belonged by charter to the public. He also further enriched himself, and impoverished the Novgorodians, by seizing upon all the gold and valuables to which he could, with any show of propriety, lay claim. He is said to have conveyed to Moscow no less than three hundred cart-loads of gold, silver, and precious stones, besides furs, cloths, and merchandise to a considerable amount.
The settlement of his power in Novgorod had scarcely been concluded when intelligence was received that the Tartars of the Golden Horde were preparing for a third invasion. The enormous physical force that was at Ivan’s disposal, the late accession of strength and increase of domain, by which his means were not only improved, but the number and means of his opponents were reduced, and the general state of the country, which was, in all respects, favorable to the objects of his ambition, deprived such a movement of its wonted terrors. Ivan had nothing to fear from the approach of the enemy. He was surrounded by the princes of the blood, who had warmly embarked in the common cause; he had an immense army at his command, panting for new fields of spoil and glory; he had broken up his domestic enemies in the North, and dismembered or attached the insurgent republics. He had left Lithuania to the rapacious guardianship of the Khan of the Crimea, who was sufficiently formidable to neutralize the incursions of the duchy upon the frontier; and on every side he found an ardent population impatient to expel the invader. Yet, encouraging as these circumstances were, and although they seemed to present the fortunate opportunity for carrying into execution his cherished plan of autocracy, Ivan held back. He alone of all Russia was intimidated. His project of empire was so lofty and comprehensive that he appeared to shrink from any collision that could even remotely peril its ultimate success. He was so dismayed that he forced the Princess to fly from Moscow and seek a temporary shelter in the North. Terror-struck and unmanned, he deserted the army, and shut himself up in the capital for security; and when the armed population, pouring forth from all quarters, and animated by one spirit of resistance, had advanced as far as the Oka to meet the Tartars, he recalled his son to the capital, as if he apprehended the consummation of some evil either in his own person or that of his heir. But the voice of the general indignation reached him in his retreat, and even his son refused to leave his post in the army. The murmurs of a disappointed people rose into clamors which he could not affect to misunderstand. They reproached him with having burdened them with taxes, without having paid the Khan his tribute; and that, now the Tartars had come into Russia to demand restitution, he fled from vindication of his own acts, and left the people to extricate themselves from a dilemma into which he had brought them.
In this difficulty Ivan had no choice left but to submit to the will of the country. He accordingly convoked a meeting of the bishops and boyars for the purpose of asking their advice; but their counsel was even still more conclusive; and the reluctant Prince was compelled to rejoin the army. The fear by which he was moved, however, could not be concealed, and it gradually infected the ranks of the soldiery. He had no sooner taken his station at the head of the army than he became spellbound. A river, the Lugra, divided him from the enemy; he could not summon courage to attempt it, but stood gazing in disastrous terror upon the foe, with whom he opened negotiations to beg for terms. In the mean time the news of his indecision spread, and the people at Moscow grew turbulent. The Primate, perceiving the disaffection that was springing up, addressed the Prince in the language of despair. He represented to him the state of the public mind, and the inglorious procedure of suing for a peace where he could insure a victory and dictate his own terms. “Would you,” exclaimed the Primate, “give up Russia to fire and sword, and the churches to plunder? Whither would you fly? Can you soar upward like the eagle? Can you make your nest amid the stars? The Lord will cast you down from even that asylum. No! you will not desert us. You would blush at the name of fugitive and traitor to your country!”
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