The town of Moscow, in the principality of Vladimir, occupied a favorable geographical position in the center of Russia and on the principal trade routes. In 1263 Alexander Nevsky gave Moscow to his youngest son, Daniel. Moscow, also known as Muscovy, was made a separate principality in 1301. Daniel was first in a line of powerful Muscovite princes, astute rulers who worked closely with the khans. As Mongol favorites they gradually extended their lands by annexing surrounding territories, retaining the city of Moscow as their capital. In 1328 the khan named Daniel’s son, Ivan I, grand prince of Muscovy. During Ivan’s reign the head of the Russian church, then called the metropolitan, moved from the town of Vladimir to Moscow. With the sanction of the church, the Muscovite grand princes began to organize a new Russian state with themselves as rulers.
Meanwhile, internal dissension rocked the Golden Horde. In the mid-14th century, a series of ineffectual rulers gained control of the khanate and the turmoil weakened their ability to collect tribute from the Russian princes.
During the reign of Grand Prince Dmitry (1359-1389), Mamay Khan launched a military expedition to collect unpaid taxes. Dmitry and his army defeated Mamay’s troops in 1380 at the Battle of Kulikovo, although Mamay’s successor sacked Moscow two years later. Not until the reign of Ivan III Vasilyevich (1462-1505), or Ivan the Great, did Muscovy throw off all control by the Golden Horde and establish itself as the dominant power in northern Russia. In 1478 Muscovy annexed Novgorod, with its huge territories and lucrative fur trade. Two years later Muscovy stopped paying tribute to the Golden Horde, which ultimately disintegrated into a number of separate, weaker khanates. Tver’, Muscovy’s traditional regional rival, was finally absorbed in 1485.
After the collapse of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, the Russian rulers began calling themselves tsars, a term Russians had previously used to describe the Byzantine emperor and the Tatar khan.However, the term tsar did not become the official title of the Russian ruler until the 16th century.
Muscovy’s increasing power and its position as the last surviving Orthodox state broadened its rulers’ horizons and ambitions. Internally, the power of the tsar grew at the expense of the boyars (Russian nobles). The great increase in the state’s territory encouraged the development of a small but effective Muscovite bureaucracy that was loyal to the tsars alone. The tsars confiscated privately held lands in the conquered principalities and gave these estates to cavalrymen who pledged continual military service in return. In the 16th century the streltsy, a regular infantry corps armed with firearms, was formed. The tsars now had an army of their own and were no longer dependent on the military forces raised by the boyars. "Russia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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