Russian history 52. Grand knyaz Vasily III Ivanovich

In his will, Ivan III finally established the monocracy in Muscovy. Ivan's elder son, Vasily III, inherited the rights of the ruler. Ivan left 66 towns to Vasily, and only 30 small towns to his four brothers. Vasily had the right to run the mint and to define the foreign policy. The title of the grand knyaz could be inherited only by Vasily's children. The other sons of Ivan agreed not to claim this title. So, Vasily was the ruler and his brothers and other relatives were his subjects.

Vasily was not especially gifted and his activity was actually the continuation of what his father had not time to complete. So, having subjugated Novgorod, Ivan left self-government in Pskov. The life in Pskov gave no occasions for interference. There were no feuds. Being constantly threatened by Lithuania and the German knights, Pskov always supported good relations with Moscow and was ruled not by elected knyazes, but by the deputies appointed from Moscow. The obedience to the grand knyaz did not protect Pskov from the arbitrariness of these deputies. They complained to the grand knyaz, while the deputies in their letters to Vasily accused them of disobedience. Finally, in 1510, Vasily III abolished veche in Pskov, took the veche bell to Moscow and removed 300 families from Pskov to Muscovy and sent an equal number of families from Muscovy to Pskov. Pskov did not resist.

The same was done in Ryazan. Ivan III seized one half of Ryazan and left the other half to the young knyaz of Ryazan Ivan, his grandson, but ruled the whole Ryazan alone. When Ivan of Ryazan grew up, he began thinking of autonomy, but Vasily arrested him and adjoined his lands to Muscovy in 1517. Like in Pskov, the inhabitants of Ryazan were removed to other lands and new settlers were sent from Muscovy. This was done to prevent possible revolts and attempts of secession.

Finally, in 1523, Vasily leveraged the quarrels among the knyazes of Seversk to drive them away and to annex their lands. So, all the appanages were abolished and the remaining knyazes had no special rights in their lands and served the ruler like other boyars (aristocrats).

Vasily's foreign policy also continued the policy of his father. Muscovy continued to attract the aristocrats from Lithuania (knyazes Glinskies). As the result, the relations with Lithuania remained hostile. Twice Vasily waged wars with the grand duke of Lithuania Sigismund I, son of Casimir and brother of Alexander (see chapter 41). In 1514 Vasily took hold of Smolensk, strategically important city. Lithuanians attempted to return this city, but failed, and in 1522 they had to sign a truce, seding Smolensk to Muscovy "till the eternal peace is reached". The peace, however, was not reached for more than a century, because Lithuania and Muscovy could not establish a border that would delimit the contested, mostly Russian, lands. The relations with the Crimea did not become better. Frienship with Crimea evaporated in the times of Vasily, and the influence of Moscow in the Kazan khanate was not strong. Both Crimea and Kazan continued raiding Russian lands. The southern borders of Rus were attacked by the Crimeans, while the lands of Nizhny Novgorod and Kostroma — by the Tatars from Kazan and their subjects, Mordovians and Cheremissians. These raids prevented Russians from colonizing fruitful area of black earth south of Oka river (so called "dikoye pole", "wild field") and the forested lands behind Volga, along rivers Unzha and Vetluga. Moreover, if the Tatars were not met by the border guard, they continued the raid and sometimes they even reached Moscow. Vasily attempted to influence the politics of the Tatars. It worked in Kazan, but not in Crimea, which was too far from Moscow. Vasily III could only send gifts to Crimea trying to keep them away and send the army every year to the southern border, which went along middle Oka river and was thus called "the shore". Also, in the most dangerous places along Oka Russians built stone fortresses, inaccessible for the Crimean Tatars, like Kaluga, Tula or Zaraysk.

Vasily III was married on Solomonia, who belonged to a boyar family of Saburovs and they had no children. Nevertheless, Vasily didn't want to leave the throne to his brothers Yuri and Andrey, because, in his opinion, they proved their inability to manage their parts of the country. From the permission of the metropolitan Daniil, he sent his wife to the Suzdal monastery under the name of Sophia. After that, he married Yelena Vasilyevna Glinskaya, who belonged to the family of Russian aristocrats from Lithuania, who pledged allegiance to Vasily. Vasily and Yelena had two sons, Ivan and Yuri. The elder of them Ivan, was only 3 years old when Vasily died in 1533.

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