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The Livonian War (1558-1583) was responsible for many innovations in Russian warfare. For the first time Russian troops conquered a European state which had a higher level of development than Muscovy. Russian nobles built their own world in Russian Livonia, and for the first time Russian troops were evacuated from another country after a long period of time. All these factors influenced the mentality of the Russian nobles. Nevertheless, the sources demonstrate something quite different, that the Livonian War did not change the mentality of the Muscovite nobles or their attitude toward service. That service was considered fairly routine and was regarded as familiar everyday military labor. In this respect, contemporaries did not separate the Livonian War from an endless succession of wars that shook Russia in the sixteenth century. Apart from the tsar’s early childhood, there were only three more or less peaceful years between 1547 and 1584; during the rest of Tsar Ivan IV’s reign, service people certainly could not complain about the lack of opportunities for military service. The Livonian War hardly impressed the Russian nobles or influenced their outlook on life.

In: Canadian-American Slavic Studies

The sixteenth century in Europe has been called the period of the “Communication Revolution.” Was Muscovy a participant in this revolution? Though the first printed books appeared in Russia in the mid-sixteenth century, just half a century before the printing boom in Europe, the only correct answer to this question can be “no.” In Russia there was nothing like the preparatory epistolary stage of a Communication Revolution. There were nothing like European “merchants’ letters” or aristocrats’ correspondence. One can hardly even find any “news” narratives describing “the other,” i.e. other countries and nations. Descriptions of manners, customs, the history of neighboring countries, as well as political news were only included in diplomatic documents. The politics of the Russian state was monolithic and unified, lacking political pluralism and freedom of speech, diverse political discourse, and political partisanship typical of Europe. Because of this, Muscovite society did not need political information, because all the necessary information came from the government. The information structures that bound together Russian society were formed around the church in the first place and then the state. Printing was in great demand by the church and state, to be sure, and during the first 150 years after its introduction in Russia, printing in Russia served the interests of church and state almost exclusively. The main reason for the delayed Communication Revolution in Russia was the lack of public demand for information. Apparently, the reason for this attitude was not the technological backwardness of Russia: there had not been any technological obstacles for the formation of a Communication Revolution in Russia since the late sixteenth century. The problem was rather that there was no broad market for print material. The Communication Revolution could be the means of social, political and cultural modernization in Russia (as it had been in Europe). But it came to Russia too late, only in the eighteenth and ninteenth centuries.

In: Canadian-American Slavic Studies

Livonian War (1558–83) was not a local Baltic war, but a European conflict. What was the place of Livonian War in the context of European wars of the 16th century? Europe in this era experienced colonial wars, wars of independence, religious wars, Turkish wars etc. The Livonian War bears the strongest resemblance to Italian wars of 1494–1559. Those were wars about tying microstates to new monarchies. In part, a similar process took place in Livonia. It was a microstate with an obsolete socio-political hierarchy unable to fight back (the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order). Several new European monarchies, including Sweden, Poland, Lithuania, Denmark, and Russia, sought to divide it. Russia’s participation in the conflict set it apart from the Italian Wars. Europe immediately and unconditionally recognized the right of the Jagiellon, Oldenburg, and Vasa dynasties (but not that of the Rurikide dynasty) to divide the Baltic. Livonian War was also a more complex multi-faceted phenomenon for new European monarchies (especially for Sweden and Denmark), than it was a war similar to Italian wars of the first half of the sixteenth century (that is, a war for the takeover of microstates by stronger and more modern kingdoms going through a phase of active development). The same can be said of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in that it went through this active phase during the Livonian War and formed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Poland also positioned itself as a state whose higher mission was to act as a shield protecting the “Christendom” from “Eastern barbarians,” among whom Russians were numbered, portrayed in a similar fashion to Turks. For Russia, this war evolved from a local border conflict to a war for the annexation of the Baltic States, and finally, for Russians, the war became a holy war against a foreign foe.

In: Russian History

Abstract

Historiography of the study of Ivan the Terrible’s times contains many examples of demystification attempts: E. Keenan declared the correspondence between Ivan the Terrible and Andrey Kurbsky to be apocrypha, Anthony Grobovsky exposed the ‘Chosen Rada’, Mikhail Krom unmasked the time of ‘boyar rule’. Cornelia Soldat suggests revising the history of the ‘massacre of Novgorod’ in 1570. She believes it to be a product of a ‘literary game’. The story of the destruction of Novgorod first appeared in the German Flying Leaf in 1570 and Alexander Guagnini’s Chronicle in 1578. It was a product of European political discourse. The Novgorod Chronicles borrowed that story from Guagnini’s Chronicle in the late 17th century. However, this hypothesis lacks sufficient proof. Independent evidence exists: The Solovetsky Chronicle of the 16th century. According to Soldat, the reports from The Novgorod Uvarov Chronicle date back to the late 16t–early 17th (about 1606) centuries, rather than to the 17th century. The main argument against her concept is the confirmation in independent sources and documents of the death of many people, while the circumstances of the repression or death point to Novgorod and 1570. The Novgorod chronicles contain no evidence of text borrowings from German or Polish sources. There is no proven textual similarity between them. The story of the ‘massacre of Novgorod’ evolved in the Novgorod’s urban legends. This would have been hardly possible, if this story had been of a purely bookish, literary origin. Therefore, Cornelia Soldat’s attempt to demystify the history of the ‘massacre of Novgorod’ in 1570 cannot be considered convincing.

In: Russian History

Abstract

The paper asks how the Russian Empire emerged. In the course of European monarchical rise of the 16–17th centuries, composite monarchies turned into nation states and then empires. Russia never became a composite; very soon after its emergence at the end of the 15th century, it immediately moved to the imperial stage. The answer to why this happened is the key to understanding the Russian Empire’s history. One factor that prevented Russia from building a composite monarchy was the weakness of political actors united under Moscow’s leadership. European composite monarchies emerged when and where the dominant monarchy forcefully broke local laws, fought against local class and political systems. But Moscow’s rivals were too weak, and Russian monarchs did not need to compromise with them. A shared Orthodox faith, common culture, language, and economic structure, as well as the absence of natural borders on the Eastern European plain were other factors that allowed Moscow to ignore the rights of conquered regions. Russia’s background as a part of the Mongol Empire also played a role. By the time Russia faced strong European monarchical competitors, its imperial development path already formed. An important feature of the early Muscovite Empire was the dominance of political practice over ideology. The ideological design of the Empire occurred only in the 18th and 19th century. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the imperial character of Muscovy was formed intuitively and spontaneously; one might call it a neonatal, rudimentary, infant empire.

In: Russian History