Part III: The Ethnogenesis of the Rus

This essay is the last of a three-part series on “Dawn of the Modern World“. Read Part I, here, and part II, here.

Dawn of the Modern World, Part III: From Pirate-State to Third Rome: The Ethnogenesis of the Rus

So far we have covered the major schism of the Mediterranean. Germanics in the West (whose Church retained the kultur of the Roman empire) and Arabs in the East (whose equivalent was Iranian). 

The two peoples who rose above this division were, first, the Eastern Romans who sustained the notion of an ecumenical romanitas (built, nevertheless, on a form of nationalism) centered on Constantinople. Second, the Rus whose Roman religion was welded to a Norse cum Tatar polity that iced a thick sponge of Slavs (a configuration not unlike the Avar federation). Only one of these units has survived, however, so I shall focus on the unusual ethnogenesis of the Rus.

The legend of Riurik claims that in the ninth century quarrelsome Slavs and Finns invited the Vikings Riurik and his brothers to bring peace and order to their tribes, just as the Britons had once beckoned the Saxons. Their Scandinavian brethren weren’t to be left out of the power grab, however, and so the main motif of early records is how Riurik’s descendants — men like Vladimir — methodically eradicated rival dynasties led by warriors such as Rogvolod. The reasoning being that their leadership should avoid reflecting the scattered units of Slavs.

This might not be a world with which many western readers will be familiar. To orientate ourselves, let’s start with some ethnology. The tribes around Novogorod were Slovenes. To the south around Kiev were the Poliane, Slavicised Iranians. Kievan Rus was fringed in the north by the Finnic Chud. In the north east lay the Muroma and Merya tribes on the Volga. To the south, Slavic agriculturalists occupied the forests that halted the giant steppe populated by nomads. In the east, Tmutorokan formed an entrepôt on the shores of the Sea of Azov.

The most important pins in the early Russian state were Novgorod at its northern end and Kiev in the south. Other important settlements tended to be tribal centres. Smolensk, for example, was the major town of the Krivichi; Turov the same to the Dregovich; Chernigov to the Serveriane tribes. Rostov, though built by Vladimir on Lake Nero, performed a similar function for the Merya people. Meanwhile, Rogvolod’s capital had been Polotsk. And Pereiaslavl stood nearest the steppe frontier. 

If this picture lacks coherence, imagine all the rivers (Volkhov, Dvina, Volga, Oka, Desna, Pripiat, Dneiper, Don etc.) that lead from the northerly Baltic and White Seas down to their southerly twins, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The Rus can fairly be viewed as both a river and a forest people; a bristling wall of nature standing against the steppe peoples of Khazaria[1] (around the Don) and the Volga Bulgars; a string of militarised traders who took the wares of the North (fur, wax, honey, etc.)[2] down river and returned with silver, gold, and silk.[3]

At this early stage the majority were still pagan. Vladimir, for instance, sponsored the erection of a temple on a Kievan hill dedicated to six idols: Perun/Thor (war), Striborg (sky), Dazhboh (light), Mokosh (mother nature), Khors (sun god), and Smimargl (fertility god of Iranian origin who appealed to the Poliane). Christianity had been known however for at least a century. Vladimir’s grandmother, Olga — despite a rather colourful, often vengeful life — had been a Christian.[4] Moreover, the cathedral of St Elias in Kiev had functioned since 944 (when the Christian retainers of Vladimir’s grandfather, Igor, were said to have sworn oaths there). 

According to the Primary Chronicle the subsequent upswing in Christian activity was the result of Vladimir’s diplomatic inquiries to the powers of the major faiths. The Rus subsequently rejected Islam due to its prohibition on pork and alcohol; the Jews because God could hardly be said to be on the side of those who had no country of their own; and the Latin faith because it “contained no glory.” Only in Constantinople did they… 

“Know not whether they were on heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendour, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men.”[5]

A continuation of the chronicle, however, noted that Vladimir led a campaign against Cherson, an Eastern Roman city. He then held it as ransom until he received the hand of the emperor Basil’s sister Anna in marriage. When she arrived, Vladimir was baptised and returned the city. Back in Kiev, Vladimir conducted a mass baptism and smashed the pagan idols.[6] In their place, he built the stone church of the Theotokos (AKA the church of the Tithe). The arrival of the clergy (who threw the popular idol of Perun into the Volkhov) was not quite so joyous in Novgorod, however. In fact it provoked a rebellion. Eventually quelled, the city soon boasted its own cathedral dedicated to St. Sophia — surmounted by thirteen domes — though paganism took several centuries to die down.[7]

The faith did little to quell the death machine that was the Riurikid succession model. Ideally, it allowed brothers to play musical chairs within a hierarchy of cities with the head of the family ruling from Kiev.[8] In reality, squabbles over seniority resulted in an eternity of fratricidal warfare that bestowed Rus with its first two native saints (Boris and Gleb) when they were portrayed as martyrs willing to die at the hand of Sviatopolk rather than betray the Christian ideal of brotherly love. 

The best that can be said of these conflicts is that they were good training for the opportunistic raids that spliced life. In 965, for instance, Sviatolslav attacked the fortress of Sarkel, which had a domino effect on Khazaria (most of which subsequently collapsed). A trickier opponent was the Pecheneg who occupied the steppe. Numbering eight hordes, they controlled the trade paths that led to Roman Cherson or Constantinople. Hence Constantine VII’s excursus that:

“Nor can the Russians come to this imperial city… either for war or trade, unless they are at peace with the Pechenegs, because when they come down the rapids of the Dneiper… the Pechenegs set upon them and easily rout their foe.”[9]

Indeed, Vladimir’s father Sviatoslav was killed in a Pecheneg raid. The Primary Chronicle claimed his skull was “made into a cup overlaid with gold,”[10] a steppe habit inflicted on the emperor Nikephoros one-hundred-and-sixty-one years before. Similarly, Vladimir only avoided death in one of the late tenth-century raids by hiding under a bridge. 

What really plagued early Rus, however, was less the lords of the steppe than a plastic notion of seniority in the succession rules. Thanks to its lateral (agnatic) notions of succession (brothers, uncles, etc., taking precedence over direct verticals such as sons in primogeniture) cousins from elder branches of the Riuriks repeatedly challenged nominated heirs. This civil war dynamic became so intense that in the eleventh century that it was agreed only those princes whose fathers had held the throne of Kiev could occupy it.

This had unforeseen consequences, however. First, branches of the dynasty — by becoming ineligible for the Kievan throne — presided over principalities that became increasingly independent. In such circumstances, Kiev adopted an honorary role as the first city rather than a capital giving direct orders. Second, the new rule didn’t stop the keenest contenders (the princes of Polotsk 1067-69, for example) who simply fought for re-entry into the order of succession. In the centrifugal chaos only three cities stood fast as the core of Kievan kingdom: Kiev, Chernigov (on the Desna River) and Pereiaslavl (the steppe frontier city).

The last became famous mainly for its north-easterly acquisitions, lands that are variously called Rostov, Suzdalia, or Vladimir-Suzdal (a region so pagan that its revolts were invariably led by sorcerers). Another important addition was Vladimir, on the bank of the Kliazma River, in 1108. Though none of these cities really shone like Novgorod, which in essence was the font of all trade in Rus and as such suffered a governor sent from Kiev. It also acted as a springboard to the North. Conquering the Finno-Ugric tribes between Lake Onega and the White Sea, it pressed onwards to the Urals to form a giant resource basin.[11]

With such power came the prestige of intra-dynastic marriages. Iaroslav (d. 1054) married the daughter of the Swedish king Olaf. Among his sons, Iziaslav (d. 1078) married the sister of a Polish king, Sviatoslav (d. 1077) married the sister of the bishop of Trier, and Vsevolod (d. 1093) married a member of the [Roman] imperial family. Vladimir Monomakh, a product of the last union, married an English princess.[12] Ties with Constantinople were the most cherished, however. A point most comically demonstrated when the people of Kiev threatened to abandon the city for Byzantium in 1069. 

Before that, however, the Pechenegs had to be definitively defeated, which was achieved beneath the walls of Kiev in 1036. Indeed, its battleground became the site of St. Sophia Cathedral. To reach it, a Golden Gate — in imitation of Constantinople[13] — was built in the southern wall and was — like the Chalke — surmounted by a church (of the Annunciation).[14] A moment nicely crowned by the reception of Kiev’s first native metropolitan, Hilarion, in 1051. 

Though Kiev’s metropolitans were appointed by the patriarch of Constantinople, the Short Pravda — the first law code of the Rus — formed a substantial civilizational counterbalance to Byzantine influence. Codified during the reign of Iaroslav and essentially Norse in character, it contained passages on wergilds (paid in grivnas)[15] and theft (often repaid in marten pelts).

The defeat of the Pechenegs did not spell the end of the steppe threat. They were replaced by Torks, who in turn were displaced by Cumans whose federation was centred around the Northern Donets River basin. The Cumans repeatedly defeated Rus’ princes and devastated much of the country for almost two decades. All looked lost until Sviatoslav’s small retinue of three-thousand made a last stand near Chernigov against over twelve-thousand Cumans. This momentous victory at the end of 1069 clearly signalled that the Rus were not the easy pickings many on the steppe had hoped.

The dystopia that followed, however, was in many ways just as bad as the Pechenegs ingratiated themselves into Rus military culture and allied themselves with princes whose horns were locked in internecine warfare. As Kievan Rus fell into a death spiral (in which Tmutorokan was lost) only the conference at Liubech (1097) saved it. Teaming together (and thus rejecting Pecheneg civil war dynamic), they defeated the Cumans in 1103, repulsed the attacks of 1105 and 1106, and mounted a victorious campaign into the steppe in 1111.

Behind them stood a culture that had developed a sense of style that was not entirely derivative of Byzantine models. Novgorod, for instance, was distinguished by its helmet-shaped domes and austere aesthetic. Vladimir’s Cathedral of the Dormition was a broader, heavier, and brooding animal. The real pearl, however, was the church of the Intercession of the Nerl. Built in the perfect proportions using white stone, bands of arcading and ornate carving, its beauty is now considered archetypal.

Not to be outdone, of course, were the monasteries. The most prominent of which was Pecherskii. Located two miles south of Kiev, it was founded in the eleventh century by St Anthony who had been a monk at Mount Athos before becoming a hermit in the caves near the Rus capital. Home to the nation’s first substantial library, it compiled successive versions of the Primary Chronicle,[16] the book that went on to form the first “national” part of many localised histories such as the Laurentian Chronicle of Suzdal and the Hypatian Chronicle of Kiev.

An equally important development occurred during the reign of prince Iurii Dolgorukii of Rostov (r. 1125-57) when the outpost of Moscow was built in an extension of his principality to Ustiug. It was the rise of regional powerhouses like Suzdal that made the sack of Kiev (1169) by princes of Rus relatively unremarkable. This was, after all, an atmosphere in which Iurii’s son, Andrei, felt able to attempt to remove his domain from Kiev’s ecclesiastical structure. An environment in which Novgorod’s veche (popular assembly) felt entitled to elect their own posadnik (mayor) whose powers overlapped largely with those of the prince selected by Kiev. Sometimes the city even expelled princes sent to it in favour of their own candidate. In 1156, it had the chutzpah to choose its own bishop (who was swiftly raised to the rank of archbishop).

The indulgent chaos of the lateral succession conflicts (exacerbated by centrifugal spin-off principalities) was brought to an juddering halt in 1223 when a Mongol army appeared on the steppe.[17] The astonished Cumans joined the Rus but were defeated at Kalka, where three princes were captured and at least five others perished. The urban death-toll was no less severe. Riazin fell within one week. Moscow, a year later. Then Suzdal was burned. Pereislavl was razed, followed by Chernigov. Finally, Kiev surrendered at the end of 1240.

Kiev, in the words of Friar Giovanni de Pian de Carpine, was reduced to “almost nothing.” The surviving population reduced to “abject slavery.”[18] Almost all its trade was funnelled via Sarai (north of Astrakhan). Furthermore, a bishopric was set up there.[19] And each prince was forced to “go to the Horde” to receive the Great Khan’s iarlyk (patent to rule his domain). 

The Tatar yoke was total. All the fighting men of Rus were drafted into Mongol armies where they were deployed in the most vulnerable forward positions i.e. as fodder. Several leaders were martyred at the horde. Mikhail of Chernigov, for instance, was ordered to purify himself by walking between two fires and then kowtow before an idol of Chingis Khan. When he refused he was killed (and later canonised). Indeed, the process of “going to the Horde” was tiresome statecraft as it had to be repeated each time a khan died. During these lengthy and repetitive sojourns, court factions manoeuvred their favourites like chess-pieces and had a habit of producing the sort of unpredictable results that hardly made for stable government.

The first signs of resistance coagulated around prince Daniil of Volynia and Galicia. Oddly perhaps (considering the behaviour of crusaders in 1204) he established close ties with the papacy in the hope that military aid would follow. To this end he received a crown and the title of ‘Rex Russae Minoris’ from Innocent IV. Though the idea was ditched when a crusade never materialised and Daniil was defeated in 1260. The opposite strategy was most obvious in the figure of Fedor Rostilsavich, prince of Iaroslavl, who married the daughter of Khan Mengu-Timur (though to little long-term benefit).

Beneath these two outliers in elite behaviours, two major currents can be discerned. The south-western lands of Rus became attached to Poland and Lithuania, while the north-western lands slowly fell under the hegemony of Muscovy. The reasons for the latter are twofold. First, Moscow’s clean, vertical succession (at a time when many principalities were cannibalised into ever smaller appanages to provide for multiple heirs) kept it large, powerful and intact. Second, and more importantly, though the Tatars initially confirmed the princely candidates for the grand princedom[20] on the basis of Riurikid principles of succession, by the fourteenth-century they had fallen into abeyance. 

Instead, the khan’s favour — beginning with Iurii of Moscow (d. 1325) — repeatedly fell on the princes of Moscow. Though the Daniilovichi were illegitimate rulers in terms of dynastic traditions (they had never held the grand princedom), it mattered no longer; the Golden Horde had fashioned a new model of legitimacy. And so the remainder of the almighty Rus found itself ruled by some bloke in a little wooden kremlin (fortress) on earthen ramparts; a little rustic idyll, whose rule was achieved mainly by bullying the rich North into giving more silver for Mongol tribute. 

From these inauspicious beginnings, Moscow’s princes married wisely and added several regions to their domain. It was fortunate that its only real competition, Tver, which hosted a line of powerful legitimate princes, was smashed by the Mongols in 1327. Still, historical relics remained. The metropolitanate of Kiev was transferred to Vladimir in 1354. And Tver had its own bishop while Moscow was just one part of the Rostov see. 

These were the awkward facts that Ivan I of Moscow managed to steer around by convincing the metropolitan Petr to sponsor the construction of the church of the Assumption (Dormition) in the kremlin. He then buried the prelate there when he handily popped his clogs (generating an important shrine) shortly afterwards.

More important than domestic politics was the fact that the Ming expelled the Yuan dynasty from China in 1368, producing civil war among the Mongols. When Tokhtamysh established himself at Sarai (1378) Mamai’s fiscal position became untenable. To fight the warlord, he needed revenue and that meant confronting Dmitry, the prince of Moscow, who had a track record of ignoring the fact Mamai had repeatedly bestowed the grand princedom on Mikhail of Tver. 

The battle took place on a field called Kulikovo Pole (Snipe’s Field) near the upper Don River. It was a Russian victory (1380). Though the pudding should not be over-egged in a nationalist manner given the aftermath. When Tokhtamysh subsequently defeated Mamai at Kalka River (1381) and approached Moscow, Dmitry ‘Donskoi’, hero of Kulikovo, fled to Kostroma as his own city was besieged and sacked. More to the point, his tribute was then set at a higher rate than before and his son, Vasily, was taken hostage at court for several years when he’d delivered it.

Moscow, however, was no longer the wooden fortress it had once been. Limestone walls were erected in 1367-68.[21] Inside, the Chudov monastery stood, while to the east and southeast of the city the Andronikov and Simonov monasteries were also built. In the same period, St. Sergei of Radonezh — originally a hermit in the forests north of Moscow — founded St. Sergius Monastery. Other Rus — such as St Stefan of Perm — went on the spiritual offensive too, converting the Finno-Urgic populations along the Vychegda and Vym Rivers. 

It was a golden age for Russian art. In 1378, Theophanes the Greek arrived and decorated several churches before settling in Moscow where he worked on the iconostasis of the church of the Annunciation as well as the church of the Archangel Michael. Andrei Rublev — having spent his early years as a monk at St Sergius monastery and providing assistance to Theophanes in several projects — also began his work. Marked by a certain grace and a distinctive use of ethereal colours for heavenly subjects, as well as brighter, more solid ones for earthly figures, his works are still prized as Russia’s finest today.

Back on the geopolitical stage, the Golden Horde fragmented when Edigei was evicted from the Horde by his son-in-law, Timur (1411). By 1420, a Crimean khanate had materialised. By 1445, another had coalesced around Ulu-Mohammad at Kazan. This left only the Great Horde, a shadow of its former self. And even this morphed still further into the diminished khanate of Astrakhan — a no-mans-land where diplomats (such as Ambrogio Contarini) and merchants (like Afanasii Nikitin) complained they were robbed[22] — though it was still capable of attacking large cities such as Riazan (1460).

Moscow had its own problems. In 1425, Vasily I left both lateral and linear heirs. In a replay of the bad old days, his son Vasily II was opposed by an uncle named Iurii who won several battles before dying in 1434, leaving an heir (Kosoi) who Vasily II promptly blinded. Seven years later the grand prince rejected the union with Rome that Cardinal Isidor offered. And a few years after that the same ruler had the indignity of being captured in battle in 1445 — his release being conditional on raising the Horde’s tribute.

Still more tragedy was on the menu. When Vasily II returned to Moscow, Kosoi’s brother Dmitry Shemiaka had him blinded, ostensibly for being a shill for the Tatars but really in revenge for taking the sight of his sibling. The city subsequently turned against Shemiaka, however, and the blind Vasily II returned in 1447. These politics were par for the course to most travellers, however. What most surprised them more were the markets held on the frozen Moskva River where: 

“Cows are frozen whole. It is a curious thing to see so many skinned cows standing upright on their feet; a meat that has sometimes been killed three months or more before.”[23]

Talking of animals, Novgorod had become sick of playing the golden goose to Moscow and flirted with the idea of Lithuanian protection. This led to its subjugation by Moscow in 1471 and 1478. Serious defeats that resulted in the withdrawal of the city’s rights to select its own prince, summon its own veche, and elect its own officials. As a display of his authority, Ivan III even had the veche bell removed from Novgorod, arrested all its boyars and seized almost all its landholdings.

At roughly this time, the Rus suffered the strange problem of large swathes turning culturally Jewish, most likely in response to the end of time not occurring seven thousand years after creation i.e. 1492. Among the heresies attributed to them by archbishop Gennadius were iconoclasm, anti-Trinitarianism, the observation of the Sabbath on Saturday rather than Sunday, and a rejection of the Orthodox calendar. 

Other confrontations included the non-possessors (who wished the Church would reject the sin of possession/property as it kindled other vices) versus the possessors (who insisted institutional power was necessary to provide charitable functions and provide a check on the secular arm). The former position was held by an important translator that Vasily III had hired for Chudov monastery in 1518: Maxim the Greek. An idealist at heart, the Athonite soon found himself incarcerated for dubious heresies, which essentially boiled down to upsetting Moscow’s applecart. 

The ‘Third Rome’ theory was much more appetising than Maxim’s purism. Articulated in a series of three letters — at least one of which was written by the monk Filofei (abbot of Eleazarov monastery in Pskov c. 1523) to the state secretary of Moscow — they warned that many of the clergy were inadequate to their task; that there was too much diversity in ritual; and that too much suffering cursed the realm. He continued, blending carrot and stick with aplomb:

“If thou rulest thine empire rightly, thou wilt be the son of light and a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem… But now, I say unto thee, take care and take heed… all the empires of Christendom are united… in thine, for two Romes have fallen and the third exists and there shall be no fourth.”[24]

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1 Its capital at Itil was located on a branch of the Volga delta and was the point at which the Volga route leading to the Caspian Sea intersected with a major east-west route that ran across the steppe. 2 Items imported included silks, satins, brocades, jewellery, goblets, wines, olive oil, naphtha, boxwood combs, spices, fruits and nuts, marbles. The marble used to decorate the church of the Tithe in Kiev, the church of the Theotokos in Tmutorokan, and the cathedral of the Transfiguration in Chernigov were also imported through Constantinople, as were their tiles and icons. 3 Good trade links imitated diplomatic relations. The Rus were still considered Viking in Scandinavia hence the refuge and assistance Vladimir found there when he felt threatened by Iaropolk. Rus similarly offered sanctuary to exiled Scandinavians such as Olaf Trygveson after his father had been murdered. His half-brother, Harald Hardrada, who would become the husband of Iaroslav’s daughter Elizaveta and the the king of Norway, also found refuge at Iaroslav’s court. He served with the prince’s retinue for several years before embarking on a series of adventures including Byzantine military campaigns that eventually led him back to Norway to claim his kingdom. 4 Famous mainly for burying alive the emissaries of the Drevlians after their people had killed her husband (Igor), Olga “radiant as pearl in the mire” (according to the Primary Chronicle) was baptised in Constantinople with the emperor Constantine VII as her godfather in 957. 5 The Russian Primary Chronicle, Laurentian Text, trans. and ed. S. H. Cross and O. P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor (1953) 110-111. 6 The chronicle and its continuation is an amalgam of legend and fact. Most historians rationalise the account by portraying as follows. Basil II suffered defeats in Bulgaria and rebels at home. Desperate for military support he requested assistance and found it in Vladimir who sent a large Varangian force. In return, the emperor promised his sister on the condition Vladimir converted to the faith. By the spring of 989 the Varangians had crushed Basil’s foes but the emperor sought to renege on the agreement and so Vladimir attacked Cherson and only returned it once his imperial bride was sent. 7 According to late eleventh-century canonical texts, church marriages made no headway among ordinary folk who preferred to arrange their unions during festival dances. Indeed, bride abduction and bigamy continued into the thirteenth century. Furthermore, mothers with ill children invariably resorted to pagan powers – if nothing else as an insurance policy. 8 Riurik initially ruled the tribes around Novgorod, Izborsk and Beloozero with his brothers. After his brothers died, Riurik ruled alone. This pattern of triad and monarchy repeated itself when Sviatoslav died and his three sons shared the realm: Iaropolk at Kiev, Oleg among the Derevliane, and Vladimir at Novgorod. Through warfare Vladimir became the sole prince but his death caused another round of warfare with Sviatopolk at Kiev murdering Boris and Gleb, as well as a half-brother called Sviatoslav. His brother Iaroslav then defeated Sviatopolk who fled to Poland and later died leaving Iaroslav on the throne. 9 Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Administrando Imperio, pp. 49-53. 10 RPC, p. 90. 11 The main tribes outside the state were the Karelians beyond Lake Onega and the Komi around Perm. 12 Gyda or Gytha of Wessex, daughter of Harold II. Meanwhile, among Iaroslav’s daughters Anastasia married Andrew I of Hungary, Anna married Henry I of France, Elizaveta married Harald Hardrada, while Agafia may have been the wife of Prince Edward the Exile (N. W. Ingham, “Has a Missing Daughter of Iaroslav Mudryi Been Found?” RH, Vol. 25 [1998], pp. 231-270). 13 Built by Theodosios I in the late fourth century or Theodosios II in the early fifth. 14 Romanos I (r. 920-44) attached a small chapel dedicated to Christ Chalkites to the Chalke. 15 Grivnas were silver ingots that weighed roughly the same as the Roman/Byzantine pound. 16 Also known as the Tale of Bygone Years, it was begun in the 1030s and was written, edited and rewritten by a series of at least six chroniclers including the monks Nikon and Nestor. 17 Though it did not halt immediately, it slowly tapered out. The last case of lateral succession in Moscow occurred in 1353 when Ivan II succeeded his elder brother Semen. This occurred in the absence of any candidates in the vertical line. 18 The Texts and Versions of John de Plano Carpini and William de Rubruquis, ed. C.R. Beazley (1903, repr. 1967) pp. 87-88, 122. 19 In 1267 the Church was exempted from Tatar taxation and conscription. 20 After the bounce-back of the city of Vladimir from the Mongol sack and the absence of an equivalent miracle in Kiev, the grand princedom was transferred to the former. Furthermore, the seat of the metropolitan was formally transferred there in 1354. 21 These were upgraded to thick brick walls in 1485-95. Other improvements occurred around the same period, too. When the cathedral of the Assumption (Dormition) fell into decay, a replacement began in 1472. However, it collapsed two years later, forcing Ivan III to to send for Aristotle Fioravanti to design and help construct the cathedral. It was subsequently joined by the cathedral of the Annunciation (1484-89), the church of the Deposition of Our Lady’s Robe (1485-86) and a new cathedral of the Archangel Michael (1505). The last was designed by Alevisio Novi of Milan and housed the tombs of the Daniilovichi. 22 Despite his loss Nikitin’s travels took him all the way to India. English translations of his account are available in S. Zenovsky’s Medieval Russia’s Epics, Chronicles and Tales (1974) pp. 333-353. The diplomat was Venetian, his account can be read in Contarini, “The Travels of the Magnificent M. Ambrosio Contarini,” in J. Barbaro & A. Contarini, Travels to Tana and Persia (1873) pp. 151-154, 157. 23 J. Barbaro & A. Contarini, Travels to Tana and Persia (1873) pp. 161-162. 24 D. Stremoukoff, “Moscow the Third Rome: Sources of the Doctrine,” repr. M. Cherniavsky, The Structure of Russian History: Interpretative Essays (1970), p. 115; originally published in Speculum, vol. 28, no. 1 (Jan, 1953), pp. 84-101.

Henry Hopwood-Phillips is a Byzantine historian from London. He writes at

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