Skip to main content

Full text of "History of Russia, from the earliest times to the rise of commercial capitalism"

See other formats




BY A \<jJ 








■2 7 £". -S"^ 

Printed in the United States of America 
This book is composed and printed by union labour 



Editors' Preface vii 

Author's Preface to the English Translation ix 

Biographical Sketch xv 


I. Primitive Society 1 

II. Feudalism in Early Rus 14 

III. Foreign Trade and Towns, to the Fifteenth Century 32 

IV. Foreign Trade and Towns, to the Fifteenth Century 

(continued) 52 

V. Novgorod 76 

VI. The Formation of the Muscovite State 89 

VII. Ivan The Terrible 109 

1. The Agrarian Revolution of the First Half of the Six- 

teenth Century 109 

2. Publicism and the "Reforms" 119 

VIII. Ivan The Terrible (continued) 131 

3. The Oprichnina 131 

4. Economic Balance Sheet of the Sixteenth Century . 151 
IX. The Troubles 161 

1. The Feudal Reaction ; Godunov and the Nobility . 161 

2. The Rebellion of the Nobles 180 

X. The Troubles (continued) 200 

3. The "Better" Men and the "Lesser" Men ... 200 
XI. Russia of the Nobles 227 

1. The Liquidation of the Agrarian Crisis .... 227 

2. Political Restoration 240 

XII. The Reforms of Peter 257 

1. Commercial Capitalism in the Seventeenth Century . 257 

2. Mercantilism 276 

3. Peter's Industrial Policy 283 

4. The New Administrative Machinery 289 

XIII. The Reforms of Peter (continued) ....... 308 

5. The New Society 308 

6. The Agony of the Bourgeois Policy 326 

Maps: I. Kievo-Novgorodan Rus 351 

II. Muscovite Rus 352 

III. Russia (1682-1730) 353 

Glossary and Notes 355 

Index 375 


There are available in English a number of valuable histories of Rus- 
sia, covering a wide range of varying interpretations. The products of 
the "old masters," from the pioneer and arch-conservative work of the 
landlord Karamzin, through the monumental volumes of the Hegelian 
Solovyev, to the brilliant synthesis of Klyuchevsky, have all undergone 
translation. Nor have writers still living been neglected : the secondary 
school text of the conservative Platonov, Academician and tutor to the 
brother of Nicholas II, and the essays of the liberal Milyukov, some- 
time professor of the history of law and prominent leader of the Con- 
stitutional Democratic Party, have likewise been made accessible to the 
Western reader. It is true that these translations and the numerous 
books of English-speaking authors based on these and other Russian 
writers afford but fleeting and unsatisfactory glimpses into the wealth 
of historical literature produced in Russia since the dawn of "scientific 
history" some four generations ago. It is, however, no less true that the 
English reader can, from material already published in English, ac- 
quaint himself with at least the general outlines of Russian history as 
it appears to most of the various Russian schools of thought. 

Yet there is one viewpoint from which the English reader cannot sur- 
vey the sweep of Russian history, namely, the viewpoint of the present 
rulers of Russia, the Marxists. This circumstance is the more curious 
and the more regrettable since there exists in Russian a carefully con- 
ceived and elaborated Marxist interpretation of the whole of Russia's 
history, written by a competent scholar, a pupil of (Sir) Paul G. Vino- 
gradov. Professor Pokrovsky's History of Russia from the Earliest 
Times is the outstanding Marxist synthesis of Russian history. The 
editors have therefore deemed it worth while to undertake the transla- 
tion of this work, which, they feel, merits equal consideration with those 
of other Russian historians writing from conservative, liberal, or other 
viewpoints ; it is not to be compared with the all too numerous books on 
Russian history written, from whatever viewpoint, by untrained his- 
torians. Professor Pokrovsky's life and scholarly activity are sum- 
marised in the appended Biographical Sketch ; the editors therefore are 
here confining themselves to a few comments on the mechanics of the 

This History of Russia was published in 1910-1912, in five volumes, 
including some chapters by collaborators; in subsequent editions these 



chapters were omitted, and the work appeared in four volumes. In the 
English translation these volumes have been compressed into two; the 
author is preparing additional material to bring the story through 
the Revolution of 1917 and the establishment of the Soviet regime. 
The English edition has been prepared in close collaboration with the 
author, no abridgements or alterations having been made without his 
specific authorisation. The original Russian text was naturally ad- 
dressed to a public familiar with many details of Russian history and 
life unknown to the foreign reader. The editors have therefore been 
confronted with the problem of allusions to persons, events, or literary 
works that might puzzle the American or English reader ; such passages 
they have striven to eliminate altogether, where they felt them unessen- 
tial to the text, or to explain in notes. In either case the author was 
consulted, to the end that the final product might be authentically Pro- 
fessor Pokrovsky's interpretation, uncoloured by the prejudices of the 
authors. As all footnotes, whether author's or editors', have been ac- 
cepted by the author, no distinction has been made between them ; foot- 
note references to Russian texts have been omitted as superfluous to the 
English reader. 

Certain Russian terms have been retained in the text ; in forming 
plurals these terms have been treated as English words. Each has been 
italicised the first time it occurs, and, where its meaning is not clear 
from the context, an explanation has been inserted in square brackets. 
For the convenience of the reader such terms have been brought together 
in a Glossary. Russian weights and measures have been retained, and 
their English equivalents have been included in the Glossary. Brief 
notes on persons, institutions, events, etc., mentioned in the text have 
been added if for the English reader more information seemed de- 
sirable ; these notes are not intended to take the place of the Index for 
general reference. Dates are, of course, old style. The system of trans- 
literation employed is that of the Library of Congress with slight de- 
partures: ya has been used for ia, yu for in (ye only initial or after 
vowels) ; -y for final -ii. 

The editors do not, of course, disclaim responsibility for any failure 
on their part to convert ideas expressed in Russian into the exactly 
corresponding ideas expressed in English ; it may, however, give the 
reader more confidence to know that the complete English translation 
has been carefully read by the author, and that modifications have been 
made to meet his criticisms. 

The editors desire to express their appreciation of the aid of all those 
who have generously given assistance or encouragement in the various 
stages of the preparation of this translation. 

The Editors. 


Every historical work reflects a certain philosophy of life and a cer- 
tain period of time. The first book on Russian history to be widely read 
and to influence the historical views of the ruling social classes in Russia 
was the History of the Russian State by Karamzin (1765-1826) ; it was 
written by a noble and landlord at the period when economy based on 
obligatory labour — the art of extracting the surplus product from the 
peasant by means of extra-economic compulsion — had reached the zenith 
of its evolution. But, on the one hand, extra-economic compulsion pre- 
supposes as its political integument absolutism ; on the other hand, the 
estate based on obligatory labour was closely linked with merchant capi- 
tal, the intermediary between this estate and the market ; to become 
merchandise what was extracted from the peasant must fall into the 
hands of a merchant. Karamzin 's central ideas were the formation of 
the autocracy and the formation of the united realm, i.e., the formation 
of an absolute state authority and the formation of a market. 

Karamzin profoundly believed that the order of things, the origin of 
which he was describing, was eternal and immutable. It did not enter 
his head that what had had a beginning must also have an end. Yet 
this end was already in sight less than twenty years after Karamzin 's 
death. The appearance of Russian grain on the world market and the 
necessity for the Russian landlord to compete with bourgeois economy 
soon disclosed that compulsory labour was disadvantageous. At the 
same time peasant revolution, suppressed but not liquidated when the 
Pugachev rebellion was crushed, continued to seethe in the depths, and 
one tsar after another — Alexander I, Nicholas I, and especially Alex- 
ander II — was forced to remind his nobility that at any moment the 
volcano might erupt anew. Preservation of that order of things which 
to Karamzin had seemed so stable was manifestly threatening the sta- 
bility of the rule of the nobility. If the landlords' state was not to fall 
victim to foreign competition and peasant revolt, it must renounce extra- 
economic compulsion in its cruder forms — obligatory labour and the 
right to sell men like cattle, so much per head. 

The historical literature of the 'forties, 'fifties, and 'sixties of the 
nineteenth century begins to perceive what Karamzin had not seen: 
what has had a beginning must also have an end. Parallel with projects 
for the liquidation of serfdom arise animated controversies as to the 
origin of serfdom. This question — the origin of serfdom — becomes the 



cardinal question in Russian history for a number of decades. The 
autocracy continues to be the hero of the whole historical process, but it 
is no longer the basic force of extra-economic compulsion; it is rather 
the enlightened guide of national economy, the basic factor of progress. 
From the time of Solovyev (1820-1879) every tsar is transformed into 
a reformer, and his importance is measured by the number and scope 
of the reforms he effected. In these reforms is embodied the whole evo- 
lution of Russia. Of revolution nothing is said; the masses of the 
people are not the subject but the object of action. In essence the Rus- 
sian historiography of the middle of the past century is very reminiscent 
of the philosophy of history of the period of the Enlightenment. En- 
lightened men with the tsar at their head — a tsar who loves and fosters 
enlightenment — do for the people all that is needful. The people have 
only to bow down and give thanks. 

The estate based on obligatory labour and downright slavery are re- 
placed by the Junker estate of Prussian type and by exploitation with 
the aid of economic compulsion in its crudest forms. It is still a far 
cry to a bourgeoisie of European model, and Russian historical litera- 
ture of this period — the period of the "reforms" of Alexander II — 
may only very conditionally be called bourgeois. Solovyev, Chicherin 
(1828-1904), and Kavelin (1818-1885) are bourgeois only by comparison 
with the serf-owning Karamzin. In actual fact they are merely liberal 
landlords or their ideologists (Solovyev was not personally a landlord). 
The few democrats or semi-democrats of this time — Chernyshevsky 
(1828-1889), Shchapov (1830-1876), Kostomarov (1817-1885)— had no 
influence on the development of Russian academic learning. Klyuchev- 
sky (1841-1911) and Milyukov (1859 — ) proceed from Solovyev 
and Chicherin, in less degree from Kavelin, and only in certain details 
from Shchapov. Valuing the autocracy, these historians value in no 
less degree the united realm. The formation of the Russian empire is 
for them, too, the basic fact of Russian history, and they see only its 
bright sides. They give no picture of the barbarous enslavement of tens 
of peoples, but only the triumphal progress of enlightenment, expand- 
ing the area of landlord exploitation over one-sixth part of the land 
area of the globe. 

In Russian history the period of bourgeois democracy lasted only 
eight months [March-November, 1917]. Moreover, it came very late, 
when there already existed a revolutionary movement of the workers 
and socialist parties. This is the reason why landlord historiography 
was in Russia not replaced by a bourgeois-democratic historiography, as 
might have been expected and as was the case in other countries — in 
France, for example. Russian historiography knows no Michelet. In 
Russia landlord historians are succeeded by historians of a new class, 


thrust into Russian history by the stormy evolution of Russian capi- 
talism in the course of the second half of the past century. Almost 
without transitional stages the philosophy of the nobility is replaced by 
the philosophy of the proletariat. There sets in the Marxist period of 
Russian historiography. 

In the course of forty years this philosophy — in the form in which it 
has been reflected in historical books — has passed through a series of 
stages. Marxism is not, as bourgeois publicists think, a dead dogma. 
It is the most revolutionary, that is, the most living doctrine in the 
world. The Marxism of the 1890 's, especially in the form in which it 
was permitted by the tsarist censorship and which has therefore received 
the name of "legal Marxism," is almost as alien to us now as is the 
Catholic religion. Even the revolutionary Marxism of that time has al- 
most ceased to be Marxism for us : examples are Kautsky and Cunow, 
from whose books we all studied thirty years ago, and whom no one 
now in the U.S.S.R. counts as Marxists. It is true that while history 
has gone forward, and very rapidly, these writers have moved back- 
ward, and none too slowly, either. Yet it was not without reason that 
the works of Kautsky in his best period seemed to Lenin obsolescent 
even in 1923 c "Doubtless the textbook Kautsky wrote was a very use- 
ful thing for its time," wrote Lenin in On our revolution, one of his last 
articles. "But it is time to renounce the idea that this textbook antici- 
pated all forms of the evolution of further world history." 

Marxism is not a dogma but a guide to action, said the founders of 
Marxism; and the experiences of this action have in the most powerful 
way been reflected on the guidance. Not in the sense of principles: 
fundamentally we all to this day stand firmly on the Communist Mani- 
festo of 1848. But history has taught us a far wider application of 
these principles to the interpretation of concrete historical facts. For 
which of us in 1905 was it not an axiom that the most advanced capi- 
talist countries would be the first to become the theatre of socialist revo- 
lution? History has shown that it was easiest to effect this revolution 
in a country where capitalism already existed but had not yet attained 
ultimate dominance. We expected that socialism would come from 
Europe to Russia, whereas, on the contrary, it is going from Russia to 
Western Europe. 

Revolution has been the great teacher which ex cathedra has taught 
us how history is to be understood. In 1905 we attended only the first 
part of the course ; the second part of the course began in 1917. Until 
1905 the class struggle existed for us in books ; in 1905 we experienced 
it on our own skins. There was no living historian for whom the experi- 
ence of our first revolution was not a break in his life as a scholar, not 
excluding the most academic of the Academicians, who after 1905 set 


about assiduously to expunge from their works whatever materialistic 
explanation of history they contained (many had sinned in this respect 
in their youth). But this experience is not to be compared with what 
we lived through in 1917-1921. In 1905 we, bookmen, saw with our own 
eyes what revolution is. In 1917 we became active participants in one 
of the greatest revolutionary catastrophes in the world. And this was 
reflected equally on both sides of the barricades. Is the Milyukov of 
the 1920 's, the author of The Ruin of Russia, the same Milyukov who 
wrote Essays on the History of Russian Culture? Compare the two 
books ! 

During this period were manifested in sharp relief the root differences 
between Marxist Russian historiography and its predecessor, the his- 
toriography of the landlords, whether landlord partisans of serfdom or 
liberal landlords. Both of the latter were in reality far closer to each 
other than we are to them. We alone have properly appraised the sig- 
nificance of the masses in history — because we have seen these masses 
in action. We alone have fully understood the state as a class state — 
because we ourselves have destroyed the state of one class and erected 
the state of another class; even in the literature of the "legal" Marxism 
of the 1890 's it was possible to find the state defined as an extra-class 
"organisation of order." We alone, finally, have abandoned the idyllic 
picture of the unification of a mass of "backward" peoples under the 
"enlightened" guidance of the Russian tsars — because it has become 
possible for these peoples to tell how the "propagators of enlighten- 
ment" tortured, oppressed, and exploited them, and because the rule of 
the proletariat has at last opened the way for the genuine enlightenment 
of the non-Russian majority of the population of the former "Russian 

In the realm of historical conceptions there is nothing for us to bor- 
row from our predecessors. For us their writings are but collections of 
facts. Fortunately, not anticipating our appearance, they did not omit 
from their works facts that might be of use to us — as their successors 
are doing to-day. But even in the realm of facts we are ever less and 
less dependent on them. In recent years there has been among us a 
very wide development of the work of editing documents, from the six- 
teenth to the twentieth century — and soon we shall be in a position to 
write a social history even of Muscovite Rus without giving any thought 
to what Solovyev or Chicherin wrote about it ; they did not know what 
we know. As for modern and recent history there is no argument. The 
history of Russia in the nineteenth century was really created by Marx- 
ists; the landlord historians and their epigones had scarcely touched it. 
The number of documents for this period edited by Marxists is to the 
number previously published as ten is to one. 


Russian Marxist historiography — the child of the proletariat and of 
two revolutions, 1905 and 1917, in which the proletariat was the prin- 
cipal actor — is the second basic stage in the study of the Russian his- 
torical process. The first runs from Karamzin to Klyuchevsky. The 
second can by no means be considered concluded ; the evolution of Rus- 
sian historical literature is now proceeding parallel with the evolution 
of the Russian Revolution. The author began to write this book as a 
political exile at the height of the Stolypin reaction, about 1910. He 
concludes it as one of the participants in the socialist reconstruction of 
the country which, in 1910, was the Russian empire, and which is now 
the first Union of Socialist Republics on our planet. But this socialist 
reconstruction itself is only in its infancy. During the period of time 
in which this book has been written the author has more than once had 
to correct his whole outline. Who shall predict what form this outline 
will take after the final triumph of socialism ? One thing may be certain : 
every new explanation of the Russian historical process will be more 
materialistic, more sustainedly Marxist, than its predecessor. To the his- 
toriography of the master class, which treated contemptuously the 
muzhik and the "non-Russian subject," unwilling to recognise revolu- 
tion and speaking only of "reforms," we shall never turn back. 


Michael Nicholaevich Pokrovsky was born in 1868 and attended 
one of the best classical gymnasia in Moscow. After the completion in 
1891 of his courses under the Historical-Philological Faculty in the Uni- 
versity of Moscow, he taught history in Moscow secondary schools ; from 
1895 to 1902 he was lecturer in pedagogical courses in Moscow, taking 
an active part in the work of the Pedagogical Society. Between 1896 
and 1899 he contributed a number of articles on the history of Western 
Europe to Readings on the History of the Middle Ages, edited by (Sir) 
Paul G. Vinogradov. Like most historians of the period Pokrovsky was 
somewhat under the influence of economic materialism, though only 
slowly attracted to Marxism. In 1903 he was forbidden by the police to 
give public lectures and in the following year contributed to the Bol- 
shevik newspaper, Pravda, an article on Idealism and the Laws of 

In 1905, roused by the events of that year of revolution, he became 
actively affiliated with the Bolshevik Fraction of the Social-Democratic 
Party, abandoning formal instruction for revolutionary literary work. 
In the winter of 1906-1907 he was elected a member of the Moscow Com- 
mittee of the Party, and in 1907 attended the London Congress, where 
he was elected a member of the Bolshevik Centre. At the same time he 
continued his historical studies, contributing a number of articles to 
Granat's History of Russia in the Nineteenth Century, notably the ones 
on Alexander I, on foreign policy, on the peasant reform of 1861, and 
on the Decabrists. In 1908 he was compelled to emigrate, joining the 
''Forward" group in Paris. As an emigre he lectured in the Party 
schools at Capri (1909) and Bologna (1911) ; during the war he col- 
laborated on the newspapers Golos [Voice] and Nashe Slovo [Our 

His chief work, A History of Russia from the Earliest Times, was 
written during this period of exile. The original edition (published at 
Moscow, 1910-1912) was in five volumes, including articles on religion 
and the Church written by N. M. Nikolsky and V. N. Storozhev ; in the 
fourth (Moscow, 1922-1923) and subsequent editions all but Pokrovsky 's 
own work is eliminated; the English edition is based on the seventh 
edition (Moscow, 1924-1925). In this same period Pokrovsky con- 
tributed numerous articles to Granat's Encyclopaedic Dictionary [in 



Russian] and to various periodicals; in 1914 he published the first vol- 
ume of An Outline of the History of Russian Culture. 

Pokrovsky returned to Moscow in the summer of 1917, taking an active 
part in revolutionary work there. Shortly after the ''October" Revolu- 
tion he was elected president of the Moscow Soviet of Workers' Deputies. 
Since the Revolution he has figured prominently in the reorganisation 
of higher education in Russia, having served as Vice-Commissar of 
Education since May, 1918. He is the organiser (1919) and president 
of GUS (State Council of Scholarship in the Commissariat of Educa- 
tion), president of the Communist Academy and editor of the Marxist 
Historian [in Russian], initiator of the Rabfaks [Workers' Faculties] 
and of the Institute of Red Professors. In 1929 he was elected a mem- 
ber of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Under his direction have been 
published a great number of documents and monographs, particularly 
on the history of the revolutionary movement and on foreign policy. 

Among his own post-revolutionary publications may be mentioned: 
Outline of the History of Russian Culture, 2 vol., 1914-1918 (2nd ed., 
1923) ; France before and during the War (a collection of articles), 
1918 (3rd ed., 1924) ; Russian History in its most concise outline (a 
textbook highly commended by Lenin), Pts. 1-2, 1920 (7th ed., 1929), 
Pt. 3, 1923 (3rd ed., 1928) ; The Diplomacy and Wars of Tsarist Russia 
in the Nineteenth Century (a collection of articles), 1923; The Struggle 
of Classes and Russian Historical Literature (lectures), 1923 (2nd ed., 
1927) ; Outline of the History of the Revolutionary Movement of Rus- 
sia in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, 1924 (2nd ed., 1927) ; 
Marxism and the Peculiarities of the Historical Evolution of Russia (a 
collection of articles), 1925; The Decabrists (a collection of articles), 
1927; The Imperialist War (a collection of articles), 1928.* 

Not the least important of Pokrovsky 's services to historical scholar- 
ship has been his reorganisation of the Central Archives, the journal of 
which (Krasny Archiv) he edits. 

* An attempt at a complete bibliography may be found in The Marxist Historian 
[in Russian], vol. VII (September, 1928), pp. 215-231. 



The origin of the early inhabitants of Russia and the level of 
material civilisation to which they had attained at the dawn of Russian 
history offer problems that have divided historians for generations. 
One school of thought has held that the early Slavs were utterly 
uncivilised; the opposing school has maintained that they had already 
attained a high degree of civilisation. The controversy goes back to 
the eighteenth century. At that time pessimists, like Prince Shcher- 
batov or Schlozer, were ready to depict the Russian Slavs of the tenth 
century in colours borrowed from the palette of the travellers who were 
then creating the classic "savage," a creature little better than a 
quadruped. Shcherbatov pronounced the early inhabitants of Russia 
"a nomadic people." "Of course, there were people here," Schlozer 
gravely reasoned, "God knows from what times and whence; but they 
were people without governance, living like the birds and beasts that 
filled their forests." The early Russian Slavs were so much like birds 
and beasts that the commercial treaties which they were said to have 
concluded with the Greeks were deemed by Schlozer to be forgeries 
as naive as any to be found in history. But other scholars regarded 
these same early Russian Slavs almost as enlightened Europeans in 
the style of their own eighteenth century. "It is not true," optimists 
like Boltin replied to Shcherbatov and Schlozer; "the Russians lived 
in an ordered society; they had towns, governance, industries and 
trade, intercourse with neighbouring peoples, letters and laws." And 
Storch, the well-known economist of the beginning of the nineteenth 
century, not only acknowledged that the Russian Slavs of Rurik's 
time had carried on trade, but even based his explanation of the rise 
of the Russian state on this trade and on the political order it created. 
Its "first beneficial consequence" was "the building of towns, which 
were, perhaps, indebted exclusively to it both for their rise and for 
their prosperity." "Kiev and Novgorod soon became entrepots for 
the Levantine trade; even from the earliest period of their existence, 
foreign merchants settled in both these towns." This same trade 



provoked a second and incomparably more important change, from which 
first arose a stable political organisation. "The enterprising spirit of 
the Northmen, their trade connections with the Slavs, and their frequent 
journeys through Russia laid the foundation for the celebrated union, 
which subjected a great and numerous people to a handful of foreigners." 
And the subsequent history of the Rus of Kiev, the expeditions of the 
princes to Constantinople and their struggle with the nomads of the 
steppe, Storch explains by these same economic factors, citing Constan- 
tine Porphyrogenitus, whose description of the trade caravans annually 
directed from Kiev to Constantinople has been popularised by the 
Lectures x of Professor Klyuchevsky. 

The newly founded and closely reasoned views of Storch have in our 
day acquired great popularity, but they by no means convinced con- 
temporary pessimists. Schlozer declared Storch 's theory "not only an 
unscholarly, but a monstrous idea" ; his only concession was that he began 
to compare the Russian Slavs with American Indians, "Iroquois and 
Algonquins, " instead of with birds and beasts. Thus the controversy 
passed unsettled to the succeeding generation, in which the Slavophils 
took the optimistic side, while the Westerners appeared as the successors 
of Schlozer and Shcherbatov. ' ' According to the testimony of all writers, 
both native and foreign, the Russians of old were an agricultural and 
settled people," says Belyaev. "In the words of Nestor, they paid 
tribute on hearth and plough, i.e., on dwelling-house and on agricul- 
tural implement." The Westerners did not, it is true, go so far as 
either to avow the Russian Slavs to be nomads or to compare them with 
American Indians. But one cannot fail to note with what manifest 
sympathy Solovyev quotes the chronicle's characterisation of the Eastern 
Slavonic tribes. ' ' Excluding the Polyans, ' ' says Solovyev, ' ' whose cus- 
toms were mild and peaceful, . . . the manners of the remaining tribes 
are described by him [the chronicler] in dark colours: the Drevlyans 
lived like cattle, slew each other, ate everything unclean, and had no 
marriage but the rape of maidens. The Radimiches, Vyatiches, and 
Severyans had similar customs; they lived in the forest like wild 
beasts, ate everything unclean, spoke shameful things before their 
fathers, and before their daughters-in-law; they had no marriage, but 
at games between villages the young men persuading the maidens, 
ravished them." Solovyev himself was probably well aware that this 
was not an objective description of the life of the Drevlyans and 
Severyans, but a malicious satire of the pagans by a monkish chronicler, 
and of the Polyans' hostile neighbours by a Polyan. Yet he could not 
resist the temptation to repeat these accusations, for they agreed much 

i Translated by C. J. Hogarth as A History of Russia, by V. 0. Klyuchevsky, Lon- 
don and New York, 1911-1926. 


too well with his own picture of the Slavs. "As is evident," he says 
in another passage, "towns were few [among the Russian Slavs]. We 
know that the Slavs liked to live dispersed, in clans, for which the forests 
and swamps served in place of fortified towns; on the whole way from 
Novgorod to Kiev, along the great river-route, Oleg found but two 
towns — Smolensk and Lyubech. There is no mention of towns in the 
central tract among the Radimiches, the Dregoviches and the 
Vyatiches. ..." 

If any dispute be long protracted, it is usually not the disputants 
alone who are to blame, but the subject of dispute itself. The historical 
sources supplied arguments enough, both in favour of a comparatively 
high level of economic development and with it of every other phase of 
the civilisation of the early Slavs, and equally in favour of a low level 
of that civilisation; from one and the same chronicle we learn of the 
savagery of the Vyatiches with their brethren, and of the commercial 
treaties between the ancient Rus and the Greeks. "What is to be taken 
as the rule, what the exception ? What was merely an individual pecu- 
liarity of one tribe, and what the common inheritance of all the Slavonic 
tribes? In order to answer, we must draw back somewhat from the 
arguments exchanged by the two opposing schools. The initial chron- 
icler, Nestor, or whatever his name, began his narrative with a catalogue 
of the scattered Slavonic tribes. Could we reconstruct the picture of 
the economic phases of the civilisation of the Slavs before they became 
dispersed, while they still lived together and spoke one language, we 
should get a certain minimum, common, of course, to all the Russian 
Slavs ; before us would be the background on which Greek and Scandi- 
navian influences, Christian preaching, and Levantine trade embroidered 
such multi-coloured patterns. With the aid of comparative philology 
we can to a certain degree restore this background. Cultural terms 
common to all the Slavonic dialects indicate their common cultural 
heritage and give some idea of their mode of life, not only "before the 
coming of Rurik, ' ' but even before the time when the ' ' Volokhi, ' ' i.e., the 
Romans, dislodged the Slavs from the Danube. 

Philological data indicate, first of all, one characteristic feature of 
that archaic mode of life. The Slavs of old were predominantly, if not 
exclusively, engaged in the acquisition of forest products. In all 
Slavonic languages the words for bee, honey, and hive sound alike. 
Apparently, apiculture is a primitive Slavonic occupation. Indirectly 
this suggests the primitive habitat of the Slavs, for apiculture is con- 
ceivable only in wooded country. This forest origin of the Slavs is 
wholly in accord with other philological indications. The Slavonic name 
for a dwelling, dom, is unquestionably related, even though remotely, to 
the Medieval High German Zlmber [building timber] and connotes, of 


course, a wooden structure. Masonry, on the other hand, seems to have 
been altogether unknown to the Slavs before their dispersion. All terms 
referring to it are borrowed. Russian kirpich [brick] is the Turkish 
word kerpidz; the ancient Slavonic plinfa [tile] is Greek, as are also the 
words for lime, the ancient vapno (from the Greek fia<j>t]) and the 
modern izvest (from the Greek ciofieotog, unquenchable). And, whereas 
southern and western Europeans have a special word to designate a 
stone wall (Latin murus, whence the German Mauer), in Slavonic lan- 
guages even to this day no special term for it exists. 

Agricultural terms — to plough, to reap, to mow, the words for plough 
and harrow and the names of the more important kinds of grain (oats, 
barley, rye, and wheat) — are common to all the Slavonic stocks. Com- 
mon to them also is the word for bread (zhito) ; most striking of all, this 
term (from the same root as zhizn [life] ) is used to designate all food in 
general. That is to say, not only did they eat bread, but, as with the 
Russian peasant of to-day, bread constituted the basis of early Slavonic 
diet, was food par excellence. Should we stop here, the question of 
early Slavonic civilisation would no doubt have to be decided in favour 
of the optimistic school. But this same study of comparative philology 
ruthlessly destroys that pleasant illusion. The enlightened Slav agri- 
culturists were to all appearances living in the Stone Age. All the 
names of metals among the Slavs are either descriptive 2 or, like the 
nomenclature of stone construction, borrowed. 3 The earliest Slavonic 
burial-places in Galicia all reveal stone implements; only in the later 
ones are the implements of metal. 

Here, from the old point of view, we are face to face with an irrecon- 
cilable contradiction. According to that view agriculture was one of 
the higher economic stages of civilisation; it presupposed two earlier 
stages — hunting and cattle-raising. How could the Slavs have passed 
through this long evolution without changing even the primitive means 
of preparing implements from stone ? Modern economic archaeology and 
ethnology enable us to settle this seeming contradiction very easily. 
Observation of contemporary savages has shown quite conclusively the 
fallacies in the old view of economic development : hunting, cattle- 
raising, agriculture. The old idea was based on the perfectly sound 
general proposition that man first engages in those forms of economic 
activity that demand from him the least expenditure of energy, gradu- 
ally passing to ever more and more difficult forms. But the authors 
of this theory had in mind only those methods of hunting, cattle-raising, 

2 Ruda [ore], something red, whence this word denotes both blood and hematite; 
zlato [gold], something yellow and glittering; etc. 

3 Serebro [silver], from the old North German silfr — modern German Silber; med 
[copper], from the Mediaeval High German Smide [metal ornament]; etc. 


and agriculture that are met with among so-called "historic," i.e., 
more or less civilised, peoples. From the fact that something is easy 
or difficult for civilised man they deduced that it was easy or difficult 
for primitive man, i.e., for a savage. But the savage doubtless first 
secured his food by means easier than the easiest of our means; he 
began by gathering nature's free products, the obtaining of which gen- 
erally demanded no labour ; he began by gathering wild fruits, roots, and 
similar objects. Like the higher anthropoids, man was at the outset a 
" f rugivorous " animal. His animal food probably consisted originally 
of shell-fish, snails, and similar food resources, which could likewise be 
procured without labour. Certain Brazilian tribes, low in the scale of 
civilisation, have to this day not advanced beyond this ' ' collectional " 
stage. The sole indication of the activity of the littoral tribes of 
southern Brazil consists in enormous heaps of empty shells, stretching 
in long rows along the seashore. At ebb-tide the natives go out on the 
dry sandy shore, collect the shell-fish brought in by the flood-tide, and 
have to be content until the following ebb-tide. This is the sum of 
their "hunting." In the amount of labour expended this method of 
securing food admits of no comparison with the present-day hunting of 
bird and beast or with fishing by the aid of net, hook, and other devices. 
Present-day fowlers and hunters by no means belong to the "lower" 
tribes. The inhabitants of Western Europe in the Stone Age appar- 
ently were hunters, but their implements as found in excavations as- 
tonish us by the perfection and even beauty of their finish ; their repre- 
sentation of an elk's head or of a drove of horses on a single staff or 
the carving of a mammoth in bone would do honour to civilised people. 
Hunting is undoubtedly simpler than our agriculture with its application 
of animal labour; but the use of horses or oxen is not essential to agri- 
culture, nor is it even generally customary. 

Much more usual among uncivilised peoples is another form of tillage, 
which German investigators have christened Hackbau [hoe culture]. 
Its distinctive peculiarity lies in the fact that it is carried on entirely by 
human hands, almost without implements, since the primitive "hoe" 
was nothing more than a forked bough with which the earth was 
loosened before the seed was sown. Such an implement is much simpler 
than the bow and arrow or the sling and probably was the very earliest 
of man's mechanical inventions; the amount of energy demanded by hoe 
culture on virgin soil is, of course, considerably less than the amount of 
strength that must be exerted to overcome a wild beast. Hoe culture 
being easier than hunting, there is every reason to believe that it was 
the earliest of the regular methods of obtaining food. It is quite 
unconnected with a settled mode of life; on the contrary, it necessarily 
presupposes a migratory existence. Since the top soil, which alone is 


accessible to such cultivation, is quickly exhausted, this method of 
cultivation demands a comparatively vast extent of land. In early 
times hunting was probably auxiliary to hoe culture. The geographical 
environment determined further development. Tribes living in regions 
abounding in game or fish speedily came to regard hunting or fishing as 
a basic occupation and agriculture as auxiliary. On the other hand, 
wherever there was a rich supply of vegetative food, agriculture de- 
veloped. The theory that cattle-raising grew out of hunting, serving 
originally as a means of having a supply of meat constantly on hand, is 
false. Hahn has very clearly demonstrated that the domestication 
of cattle of the largest and most valuable kind was connected, not with 
hunting but with agriculture, and that the ox served, at first, not as a 
meat but as a draught animal. The patriarchs of agriculture who 
tamed the ox did not even eat beef ; to this day the very oldest agricul- 
tural peoples, the Hindus and the Chinese, do not eat it. 

If we turn from these analogies and from the indirect evidence of 
philology to the earliest written testimony about the Eastern Slavs, to 
the earliest texts, we find that they fully bear out our characterisation 
of the early Slavs as an agricultural but culturally rather backward 
people. Of more or less civilised peoples the very first to come into 
contact with the Eastern Slavs were the Arabs, who visited Russia 
even earlier than did the Greeks. At least, the first eyewitnesses to 
describe the Slavs' manner of life and culture were Arab travellers, 
whose narratives may be found in the compilations of the Arab geog- 
raphers. One of the most important pieces of testimony of this sort 
occurs in the Book of Precious Treasures, by the compiler Ibn-Dasta, 
who wrote in the first half of the tenth century, though his sources are 
considerably earlier. In view of the importance of this text, we shall 
quote from it to illustrate the economic aspects of the civilisation of 
the Eastern Slavs, the name of whose capital town is given by Ibn- 
Dasta as "Kuyaba," i.e., Kiev. "The country of the Slavs is a level 
and forested country ; they live in the forests. They have neither vine- 
yards nor ploughed fields. From a tree they prepare a kind of pitcher 
in which they have hives for bees, and the bees' honey is preserved. 
Among them this is called sidzh, and one pitcher contains about ten 
cups. They pasture swine after the manner of sheep. . . . [The narra- 
tive continues with a description of the burial customs prevalent among 
the Slavs.] For the most part they sow millet. . . . They have few 
draught animals, while riding-horses belong only to the one man men- 
tioned [the serene ruler]. ... In their country the cold is so severe 
that every one digs out for himself in the earth a kind of cellar, to which 
he adds a wooden sharp-pointed roof like [the roof] of a Christian 
church; and on the roof he lays earth. Into these cellars they move 


with their whole family ; taking firewood and stones, they kindle a fire, 
heating the stones red-hot. When the stones are aglow, they pour water 
on them which gives off steam, making the dwellings so warm that they 
take off their clothes. ' ' 

Some things in this tale, which evidently were not sufficiently clear 
to the author himself, can be ascribed to simple misapprehension. Thus, 
writers have long since noted that for the Slavonic mead Ibn-Dasta 
adopts the name given to this beverage among the Bolgars of the Volga, 
the nearest intermediaries of the Arabs in their relations with the 
Eastern Slavs. Quite obvious, too, is the confusion, in the last lines, of 
the Slavonic dwelling, the mud hut, with the bath-house so well known 
to us from other contemporary descriptions. At first glance it may 
seem that the sharp contradiction of the two phrases, ''they have no 
ploughed fields" and "they sow millet," springs from a similar mis- 
apprehension. But the mention of "vineyards" in connection with 
ploughed fields shows clearly that from Ibn-Dasta 's point of view this 
was no misapprehension. By "ploughed fields" the Arab writer under- 
stood fields on which agriculture is carried on year in and year out, as 
vineyards are cultivated year in and year out. He did not find such 
permanent ploughed fields among the Slavs, who lived in the forest and 
sowed their millet on new ground each year. This circumstance explains 
also our author's statement concerning the backwardness of cattle- 
raising among the Slavs. As yet it was only in the initial stage, though 
for the twelfth century we have indubitable evidence of the fact that 
ploughing with the aid of horses was universal in southern Rus. The 
late introduction of cattle-raising and the consequent high price of 
cattle have left an interesting trace in early Russian codes of law. In 
certain articles of the Russkaya Pravda the word ' ' cattle ' ' is used in the 
sense of "money" (analogous is the ancient Roman pecunia) ; but we 
know that usually the articles that become money, or units of exchange, 
are those for which the demand is great, but of which the supply is 
limited. Consequently, in ancient Greece the first coin was an iron bar 
(obol), a metal then still rare and costly. In Russia draught cattle 
were just as rare and costly in the ninth and tenth centuries as they 
had been in the Greece of Homer; in both instances, therefore, all 
values were reckoned in terms of cattle. It was for this reason that the 
Russkaya Pravda gave so much attention to the increase of cattle 4 and 
in addition allotted a conspicuous place 5 to the swine Ibn-Dasta men- 

The characteristics of the Slavs as a forest people, living primarily 

4 In the so-called "Karamzin" copy this subject is allotted no less than eight 
distinct articles. 

5 Three articles out of eight. 


by apiculture, are brought out in strong relief by the Arab geographer. 
Yet, curiously enough, Ibn-Dasta does not even mention hunting, another 
occupation that would seem no less natural in a "forested" country. It 
is, of course, difficult to imagine that before the beginning of the tenth 
century the Russian Slavs did not hunt at all, but it is obvious that 
bee-keeping, swine-raising, and nomadic agriculture truly constituted 
the basis of their economy; hunting as an occupation did not attract 
such notice as it did in the case of the neighbouring Bolgars, concerning 
whom the Arab writer noted that ' ' among them marten pelts constitute 
the chief wealth." The Bolgars were already much more active in 
Eastern trade, and furs were their principal export. It is probable 
that, in connection with this Eastern trade, hunting was acquiring 
serious economic importance among the Eastern Slavs. But to make 
hunting the basis of their whole economy, as certain authors have done 
in recent times, would be rash in the face of direct evidence to the 
contrary both from comparative philology and from Arab writers, the 
source of the earliest systematic information about the Russian Slavs. 
Earliest social organisation is closely related to the means of obtaining 
food. This organisation is described by the Initial Chronicle in a famous 
passage: "Living alone with his own clan in their own locality, and 
ruling alone his own clan" — a characterisation which has served as the 
point of departure for many of the more or less fantastic hypotheses 
about the primitive social organisation of the Russian Slavs. It was 
obvious that this passage referred to some sort of union of relatives, 
but it was not so clear what bound the members together, apart from 
blood relationships, which in themselves do not prevent people from 
living apart and occupying themselves with various matters. Especially 
did the idealistic viewpoint of Russian historians — their habit of ex- 
plaining all historical changes by changes in the thoughts and feelings 
of the historical actors — prevent them from forming a concrete and 
precise idea of the "clan" of the Initial Chronicle. Such an intelligent 
historian as Solovyev, for example, indulges in long arguments about 
the role played in primitive society by the sense of kinship, its gradual 
decline, and the consequences. The inadequacy of such discussions was 
too obvious, and the "theory of clan life" gave way to other hypotheses 
no more valuable. But even before the materialistic viewpoint had 
gained the upper hand in the social sciences, the method of historical 
analogy, an example of which we have seen above, had permitted con- 
siderable clarification of the whole subject. In certain parts of the 
Russian plain the natural environment of the ninth and tenth centuries 
was preserved almost inviolate until comparatively recently. Such were : 
the Great Russian North (the modern province of Archangel) until the 
seventeenth century and West Russian Polesia until approximately the 


sixteenth century. It is very significant that in these two localities, 
quite remote from each other and never in communication, we find the 
basic unit of economic, and of social organisation in general, absolutely 
identical; in the North it bears the name "pechishche," in the "West 
" dvorishehe." 

"Dvorishehe" and "pechishche" alike are primarily forms of col- 
lective landholding, but quite unlike the types of collective landholding 
known to us, such as the Great Russian village-commune (mir). In 
the mir, as it existed until the beginning of the twentieth century, 
collectivism was confined to juridical and financial relationships; the 
peasant members of the commune were joint holders of the land and 
were jointly responsible for the taxes and dues imposed on it, but they 
carried on their economy individually. In dvorishehe landholding we 
have a survival of genuine communism. Originally all the inhabitants 
of the North Russian dvorishehe, sometimes many tens of workers of 
both sexes, lived together under one roof in that large two-storied hut 
still to be seen in the North, in the provinces of Olonets or Archangel. 
This hut was ' ' a real palace compared with the South Russian hovels, ' ' 
according to Alexandra Yefimenko, the scholar to whom Russian science 
is indebted for the first accurate description of the earliest form of 
Russian landholding. Later, perhaps, the group might distribute itself 
among several huts, but without changing the economic basis of the 
organisation. As before, the whole dvorishehe jointly cultivated the 
land as a common holding, and all the workers jointly enjoyed the 
products. Its economy was not confined to agriculture. In extant 
documents the "dvorishehe" is always mentioned "with fields, hay- 
meadows, and with woods and pineforest, and with a bee-tree, with 
rivers and lake . . . , with the catching of fish and birds. ..." Every- 
thing necessary for the maintenance of life was secured by common 
labour ; but the most durable bond of union of the entire population of 
the dvorishehe was undoubtedly agriculture, since the group could have 
no task more difficult than the clearing away of a piece of forest for 
plough-land ; in historic times a field of the customary type was culti- 
vated, not with a forked bough but with a plough, and not by manual 
labour alone but with the aid of a horse. Neither "fish- and bird- 
catching" nor apiculture in themselves required or could create com- 
munism ; communism could arise only parallel with agriculture, and it 
became more stable as the latter became more complicated and more 
difficult. Wandering hunters, as the Russian Slavs have sometimes 
been depicted, would have proved great individualists. 

Every primitive social organisation grows up on the basis of a common 
economic interest. It would be very naive to think of primitive men as 
peaceful toilers reverently respecting the fruits of others' labour. No 


family could be sure of enjoying the produce of its labour unless it 
could defend it by force from the attacks of neighbours; to use present- 
day terminology, the relations between neighbours were ''international." 
"And there was no law among them, and clan rose against clan, and 
there was great dissension among them, and wars against each other most 
frequently," is the Chronicle's description of the condition of the Slavs 
before the ' ' calling of the princes. " 6 In actual fact these conditions 
remained the norm of inter-family relations even after the coming of 
the princes, until economic interests appeared wider than those of the 
family and on the basis of which a wider organisation could be formed. 
The Russlcaya Pravda ascribed the abolition of blood vengeance to the 
sons of Yaroslav the Wise (died 1054), which means that in the time 
of Yaroslav, i.e., down to the middle of the eleventh century, blood 
vengeance existed ; in other words, private warfare between families 
was tolerated. Thus, economic organisation of the family presupposed 
military organisation for protection of the products of the family's 
economy. Survivals of this military family organisation can be clearly 
seen in the Chronicle. For example, in narrating how Svyatoslav (964- 
972) vanquished the Greeks and took tribute from them, the chronicler 
notes: "he took tribute also for his slain, saying, 'this their clan takes.' " 
If we add that, besides visible and tangible foes, primitive man saw 
behind every phenomenon inimical to his economy foes invisible, "forces 
not of this world," we can form a fairly clear idea of what the primi- 
tive great family, the dvorishche or pechishche, was like at the dawn 
of historic times. The members of such a family were workers in one 
economy, soldiers of one detachment, and, finally, worshippers of one 
and the same family gods, participants in a common cult. This gives 
us the key to the position of the father of such a family. Least of all was 
he the "father" in our sense of the word. The direction of the whole 
family economy and the necessary maintenance of military discipline 
put tremendous power in his hands. To this real authority his position 
as priest of the family cult added all the force of primitive superstition. 
The father alone walked with the gods, i.e., with the spirits of ancestors ; 
his authority "of this world" was augmented by all the colossal force 
of those members of the family "not of this world." Resistance to the 
master of the house was out of the question ; the father-master was an 
autocrat in the broadest sense of the word. He disposed of all the 
members of the family as of his own property; he could slay or sell 
son or daughter, as one might sell pig or goat. Hence, in the primitive 
family there was no possibility of drawing a line of demarcation between 
the members of the family and the slaves, and there was a common name 

e The conventional term for the "invitation" to Rurik and his brothers ( 862 ) ; 
this incident used to be regarded as the starting point of Russian history. Cf. infra. 


for both. The ancient Roman familia really denoted "slaves of one 
master"; the ancient Russian household was called chad, chadi [chil- 
dren] of their lord; and even now the word domochadtsy applies not 
only to the relatives of the master of the house, but also to his servants. 
The serfs used to call their landlord "little father"; similarly, in the 
ancient Russian family the son addressed his father as "lord little 
father," as the ancient Russian bondsman styled his master "lord." 
And for him the master actually was a lord in our sense of the word ; 
he judged and punished his bondsman, not only for delinquencies and 
negligence in the seignorial economy, but also for offences against 
society. The representatives of public authority could not pronounce 
sentence on a bondsman without consulting his lord and master. On 
the other hand, they did not feel that they had the right to interfere 
with a sentence pronounced by. the lord upon his own bondsman. ' ' And 
whatsoever lord, becoming angry, strikes his bondsman or bondsmaid, 
and death ensues, the namestniks [local agents of the prince] shall not 
try him, nor find him guilty," says the Dvina Charter (fourteenth 
century). Written law preserved traces of such rights of the father 
in respect to his children down to the time of Peter the Great; his 
Military Article did not consider as murder the whipping to death of 
one 's child. Popular psychology is even more archaic than written law ; 
among Siberian peasants as late as the middle of the nineteenth century 
the conviction prevailed that for the murder of a son or daughter the 
parents were liable only to penance inflicted by the Church. 

The oldest type of state authority developed directly from paternal 
authority. Though ramifying naturally, the family might under favour- 
able circumstances preserve its economic unity or, at least, its former 
military and religious organisation. Thus was formed the tribe, the 
members of which were linked by common kinship and consequently by 
common authority. This natural growth was often aided artificially by 
fate, for, given the constant quarrels, one family might subdue one or 
several others. If the victory was complete and decisive, the vanquished 
were without much ado converted into slaves; but if they preserved 
some means of resistance, the conquerors made a concession. The van- 
quished family preserved its own organisation but accepted a subordi- 
nate relationship to the conqueror; it was subjected to certain obligations, 
viz., tribute (dan), and was converted into the conqueror's subjects 
(poddannye — i.e., men under tribute). Similar relations might, of 
course, be formed in exactly the same way between two tribes. In this 
case, the power of the father-master of the conquering tribe extended 
also over the members of the vanquished tribe. 

The princes of the twelfth century were not the descendants of local 
patriarchal rulers, but newcomers. Whence they came is evident enough 


from their names; in the Rurik, Igor, and Oleg of the Chronicle it is 
not difficult to recognise Hrorekr, Ingvar and Helgi. As late as the tenth 
century they spoke a language different from that of the native popula- 
tion, a language which they called ' 'Russian." Constantine Porphyro- 
genitus cites a number of such "Russian" names for the cataracts of 
the Dnieper ; they may all be explained through the Swedish language. 7 
The philological evidence is so complete that it is quite superfluous to 
resort, as many polemicists have done, to the more than doubtful testi- 
mony of mediaeval chroniclers; the "Rus" were certainly of Scandina- 
vian origin. 

According to the Chronicle the relations of the ' ' Rus ' ' with the Slavs 
began with the Varangians who came from beyond the sea and took 
tribute from the northwestern tribes, Slavonic and Finnish. At first 
the population submitted. Later they drove out the Northmen, but 
apparently did not feel sufficiently strong to keep them out. The Slavs 
were constrained to invite one of the Varangian kunnvngs with his band 
to defend them from other bands of Northmen. This cannot be charac- 
terised as anything but conquest in its mildest form, where the van- 
quished tribe were not exterminated but converted into "subjects." 
The story of how Igor (912-945) collected tribute from the Drevlyans 
is enough to destroy any doubt as to the nature of his rule. "Behold, 
prince," said the druzhina [retinue] to Igor, "what rich vestments and 
arms the men of Sveneld have. Let us go for tribute, and thou shalt 
gain, and we." This means that it was possible to demand tribute at any 
time — as soon as the taker of tribute felt a void in his pocket. Appetite 
grows with eating; Igor was unwilling to retire when he had collected 
the usual tribute. "Do you go home," he said to the druzhina, "while 
I go [for tribute], I will go again." In this case the measure of the 
tribute was the patience of the local inhabitants, and for once it did 
not endure. "Does the wolf keep company with the lambs," said the 
Drevlyans, "he carries off the whole flock if he be not killed; so also 
this man, if he be not slain, will ruin all of us." And they sent to him 
to say: "Why dost thou come again? Didst thou not take all the 
tribute?" Igor did not heed the warning and was slain. His widow 
avenged his death cruelly but did not venture to continue his policy. 
Reconquering the Drevlyan land, she "established regulations and 
terms"; the amount of the tribute was fixed. 

The history of Igor gives us an extraordinarily clear picture of the 
"rule" of an Old Russian prince over his "subjects." We see that 
there can be no talk of any "beginnings of the state," supposedly im- 
ported by the princes from beyond the sea. The Russian princes, in 

7 Cf. V. Thomsen, The relations between ancient Russ and Scandinavia, and the 
origin of the Russian state, Oxford, London, 1877. 


their homeland beyond the sea, had been patriarchal rulers like their 
Slavonic contemporaries. Their Scandinavian name, kunning, means 
precisely "father of the big family," from kunne, family. And they 
came to the Slavs ' ' with their kin ' ' ; this was an emigration of a whole 
tribe, small though it was. It was quite natural that the authority of 
these newly arrived princes should assume a clearly patriarchal char- 
acter, which persisted not only in the Kievan period but much later 
also. The tsar of the Muscovite Rus in the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries displays many traits of the "master-father," the Varangian 
kunning originally called "to rule the Rus." 

With the role of the prince in tribal religion we shall not deal here. 
Nor is there need to dilate on the military significance of the Old Russian 
prince, or, in later times, of the Muscovite tsar; this aspect bulks too 
large in the elementary text-books. Far more important and better 
defined for Old Russian law is the peculiarity by which the prince (and 
later the Muscovite sovereign) was the proprietor of his whole state in 
his private capacity, just as the father of the patriarchal family was the 
proprietor of the family itself and of everything pertaining to it. In 
the wills of the princes of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries this is 
such a marked feature that it would be impossible to ignore it; and it 
has long been known that Ivan Kalita (1328-1341) made no distinction 
between his suzerainty over his capital town of Moscow as prince and 
his property rights in his table service as a private individual. But it 
would be a great mistake to suppose that this confusion resulted from 
decline of the "state significance" of the prince's authority during the 
obscure "appanage period" between the fall of Kiev in the thirteenth 
century and the rise of Moscow in the fifteenth century. Juridically 
this condition held throughout all Old Russian history. 

From this blending of private and public right ensued the consequence 
that the prince was the proprietor in private right of all the territory of 
his principality. Since they were constantly moving from one place to 
another, the princes paid little attention to this aspect of their rights. 
But when, in northeastern Rus, they had become fixed in definite 
localities, this right immediately found practical application. When a 
Muscovite peasant of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was asked 
on whose land he lived, the usual answer was : ' ' This is the land of the 
sovereign grand prince, but of my holding," or, "The land is God's 
and the sovereign's, but the ploughed land and the rye are ours." A 
private individual could have only a temporary land tenure, for the 
prince was the proprietor. 



The social order considered in Chapter I was more primitive than 
that existing in Russia at the dawn of historic times. Of that primitive 
order only vestiges had been preserved, obstinate and tenacious enough, 
it is true, and surviving in out-of-the-way corners almost to our own 
day. But the every-day life of early Rus belonged to a later stage of 
social development. This later stage, which arose directly from the 
relationships which we have called "primitive," Western European his- 
torians and sociologists long ago christened "feudalism." Nationalistic 
Russian historians, striving to prove that in the history of Russia every- 
thing was "unique," original, and unlike the history of other nations, 
have even denied the existence of feudalism in Russia and have succeeded 
in instilling into more than one generation of the reading public the cele- 
brated and now classical antithesis of the Europe of stone and the 
Russia of wood — Europe cut up by mountains and seas into many 
tiny fragments, in every corner of which sat its "feudal robber," 
stubbornly and successfully resisting every attempt at centralisation ; 
Russia, level, uniform over its whole expanse, knowing no feudal castles, 
as it knows neither seas nor mountains, and by its very nature, it seemed, 
destined to form a single state. This antithesis undoubtedly arose from 
contemplation of the landscape gliding past the window of a railway 
carriage rather than from scientific study of the social order. It needed 
but to ask what feudalism was and what were its distinctive character- 
istics for the comparison between the stone castle of the Western 
European baron and the wooden mansion of the Russian votchinnik 
[hereditary landholder] to fall away. The contemporary science of 
history considers neither the building-material nor the presence or 
absence of a mountain chain in the landscape as at all significant in 
defining the fundamental characteristics of feudalism. It does assign to 
feudalism, in the main, three fundamental characteristics: (1) the 
dominance of large landholding; (2) the combination of landholding and 
political power — a combination so stable that in feudal society it is 
impossible to imagine a landholder who was not in some degree a lord 
and a lord who was not a landholder; and (3) the peculiar relations 
that existed between these landholding lords, namely, a fixed hierarchy 

of landholders, according to which on the greatest depended lesser ones, 



on these still lesser ones, and so on, the system as a whole resembling a 
ladder. The question whether feudalism existed in Russia comes down, 
then, to the question: Were these three fundamental characteristics 
present in old Russian society ? If so, then one can talk as much as one 
likes about the uniqueness of the Russian historical process, but the 
existence of feudalism in Russia must be acknowledged. 

Large landholding existed in Russia at a very early period. The bulk 
of the Russkaya Pravda was composed certainly not later than the thir- 
teenth century, while individual articles are much older. Yet in it we 
find the large boyar's estate (votchina) with its indispensable attributes 
— steward, domestics (menials and craftsmen), and peasants bound 
by indebtedness to work on the lord's land ("zakups"). The "boyar" 
of the Russkaya Pravda is, first and foremost, a large landholder. The 
indirect evidence of the Pravda is directly confirmed in separate docu- 
ments; at the end of the twelfth century a pious Novgorodan bestowed 
on the Monastery of the Holy Saviour two whole villages "with the 
domestics and with the cattle," with the livestock both four-legged and 
two-legged. For later centuries indications of the existence of large 
estates become so numerous that it is unnecessary to prove the prevalence 
of this phenomenon. Yet it is worth while to note the size of estates of 
that time and to compare them with those of our own times. In the 
registers of Novgorod of the fifteenth century are recorded holdings 
of 600, 900, and even 1,500 desyatinas x of arable land alone, not count- 
ing meadows, woods, etc. If we take into account that the woods were 
frequently measured, not in desyatinas but in versts, 2 and that the 
arable comprised only a small part of the whole area, we must conclude 
that estates of tens of thousands of desyatinas were not rare in old 
Novgorod. In the middle of the following (sixteenth) century the 
Troitsa-Sergiev Monastery had, in one locality alone, in the county of 
Yaroslavl, 555% desyatinas of arable, which under the three-field sys- 
tem, even then prevalent in central Russia, comprised in all more than 
1,600 desyatinas ; in addition, it had meadows which yielded annually 
some 900 ricks of hay and "woods 9 versts in length and 6 versts in 
breadth." And this was by no means the monastery's largest holding; 
on the contrary, it was only a small part of its holdings; in the neigh- 
bouring county of Rostov the same monastery had, also in a single 
estate, some 5,000 desyatinas of arable alone, and 163 square versts of 
woods. At the same time in the county of Tver we find a pomeshchik 
(i.e., a proprietor, not by inheritance, but of recent creation), Prince 
S. I. Glinsky, who held, besides the village in which his mansion stood, 
65 hamlets and 61 clearings, in which there were altogether 273 peasant 

i 1 desyatina = 2.7 acres. 
2 1 verst = 0.66 miles. 


homesteads, more than one and a half thousand desyatinas of arable, 
and meadows yielding some ten thousand ricks of hay. Glinsky was an 
important lord, a relative of the grand prince ; but two of his neighbours, 
bearing names quite unrenowned, had 22 hamlets and 26 hamlets and 
6 clearings, respectively; while in the county of Rostov we find a man, 
not a nobleman but a simple dyak [a minor official], who held 35 home- 
steads of peasants and cottars ploughing altogether some 500 desyatinas 
of land. 

Not without reason have we passed from the number of desyatinas to 
the number of homesteads and hamlets belonging to this or that lord; 
otherwise the comparison would not be sufficiently clear. The point 
is that we should be greatly mistaken if we supposed that all these 
hundreds and thousands of desyatinas belonging to a single proprietor 
were ploughed by him for his own use, and that they constituted a single 
or even several large-scale economies. Nothing of the sort. Each indi- 
vidual hamlet, each individual peasant homestead 3 ploughed its indi- 
vidual portion of land, while the estate-owner himself with his bondsmen 
was content with a single "hamlet," or with not much more. The 
wealthiest landholder mentioned in the registers of Novgorod maintained 
an economy of his own only in the village where his mansion stood and 
where the amount of land under cultivation was only 20-30 desyatinas. 
On that estate of some 5,000 desyatinas, belonging to the Troitsa Monas- 
tery, the monastic arable proper comprised less than 200 desyatinas, 
although monasteries carried on what was for those times most intensive 
cultivation and were more progressive than other landed proprietors. 
Here we approach a fundamental characteristic of feudal large land- 
holding — the combination of large-scale ownership with small-scale 
economy. The revenue of a wealthy lord of that time consisted for the 
most part, not in the products of his own arable but in what was 
furnished to him by peasants who, each on his own portion, carried on in- 
dependent economies. The registers, especially those of Novgorod, give 
us an extremely realistic picture of this piecemeal collection of the 
large revenues of that time. One landholder received from one of his 
homesteads: "of grain a quarter, an equal measure of barley, an equal 
measure of oats, % ram, 1 cheese, 2 handfuls of flax, 10 eggs." An- 
other, of a more progressive type, took from a similar peasant home- 
stead "4^2 dengas 4 or a fifth of grain, a cheese, a ram's shoulder, y 2 
sheep, 31/2 handfuls of flax." Not only the products of rural economy 
in the narrow sense were thus obtained by the holder of the land, but 

3 "Homestead" and "hamlet" were often synonymous ; a one-homestead hamlet was 
even typical. The word "homestead" is used in the broad European sense, not in 
the American legal sense of 160 acres. 

4 100 dengas = 1 ruble. 


also products that we should consider industrial; homesteads of smiths 
paid in axes, scythes, ploughshares, frying-pans. It is still more sig- 
nificant that personal services were secured in the same way; in the 
registers we find whole settlements, not only of grooms and huntsmen 
(who might be relatively large landholders) but also of actors and 
actresses. The dues (obrok) of these mediaeval artists apparently con- 
sisted in the amusements they furnished their lord. The most striking 
example of personal services as dues from land, both in Russia and in 
the West, was the requirement of military service in return for land. 
To refuse to take note of this form of feudal due was impossible ; but, 
treating it as different in nature from other dues, Russian historians have 
painted the extensive and complicated picture of the so-called "pomestye 
system." But the pomestye system represents only an especially vivid 
detail of the feudal system in general ; the essence of the latter consisted 
in the fact that the landholder ceded to others his right to land in return 
for all manner of services and dues in kind. 

Ultimately these dues took the form of money; in the registers of 
Novgorod we can clearly trace the conversion of natural obligations into 
money payments, the initiative being taken by the largest landholder, the 
grand prince of Moscow. Simultaneously with the appearance of money, 
or only a little earlier, the labour of the peasants on the lord's arable 
begins to play a conspicuous part in the series of natural obligations; 
as the demesne becomes too large to be worked by bondsmen alone, 
obligatory labour (oarshchina) appears. Both money payments and 
labour obligations denote the rise of an entirely new phenomenon, un- 
known to, or playing a very secondary role in, early feudalism — the rise 
of the market, where everything could be bought and sold for money, 
and in any quantity desired. Only the appearance of a domestic grain 
market could force the landlords of the sixteenth century (whether 
votchinniks or pomeshchiks), to apply themselves seriously to inde- 
pendent economy, just as at the turn of the eighteenth century the 
appearance of an international grain market gave their great-great- 
grandsons a fresh impetus in the same direction. Only now did each 
extra pud 5 of grain become valuable, because it meant extra silver in the 
pocket, and because with silver one could now satisfy all one 's wants, in 
such quantity and quality as was impossible with dues in kind. When feu- 
dalism was taking root, buying and selling were the exception, not the 
rule ; men sold, not for gain but from need ; men sold, not the products of 
their economy but the property which until then they had themselves 
enjoyed. Sale was often disguised ruin, while purchase was usually the 
buying of articles of luxury, since men already had articles of prime 
necessity and therefore did not need to purchase them ; buying was not 

e 1 pud = 36 lbs. avoirdupois. 


rarely the first step on the road to ruin. Once upon a time the economic 
order in which men strove to get along by themselves, buying nothing 
and selling nothing, bore the name of "natural economy." The absence 
or limited circulation of money and the acquisition of all goods in kind 
were taken as its specific characteristics. But the absence of money was 
only a derivative characteristic; the essential point was the absence of 
exchange as a constant daily phenomenon, without which it is impossible 
to imagine economic life as it is to-day. The cardinal point was the 
isolation of individual economies and, in application to large landholding, 
this period is called by modern scholars the period of isolated votchina, 
or pomestye, economy ("manorial," as it is also sometimes called, from 
the name of the English mediaeval votchina, the manor) . 

"We see that this type of economy has one essential resemblance to the 
pechishche or dvorishche which we examined in Chapter I. In both 
cases a given economic group strives to satisfy all its wants from its 
own resources, without resorting to or needing outside assistance. But 
there is also a very essential difference : in the pechishche the fruits of 
common labour went to those who laboured, producer and consumer 
being fused in one narrow circle ; in the votchina producer and consumer 
are divorced, individual petty economies producing and a special group 
(the votchinnik and his household of children and domestics) 

How could such relationships have arisen ? The basis of feudalism as a 
universal phenomenon has long since been pointed out by the historical 
literature of "Western Europe. Long, long ago it described the process 
of the feudalisation of landed property, approximately as follows. At 
the very beginning of settled agriculture the land is found in the hands 
of those who cultivate it. The majority of scholars agree that the 
agricultural population then carried on its economy, not individually 
but by groups, and that the land belonged to these groups, that the 
initial form of landed property was not personal but communal property. 
Little by little, however, communal property disintegrated, giving way 
to individual property ; parallel with this disintegration developed differ- 
entiation among the inhabitants of the commune. The more powerful 
families seized ever more and more land; the weaker lost what was 
originally in their hands and fell into economic, and later into political, 
dependence on powerful neighbours. Thus arose large feudal propri- 
etorship with its distinctive characteristics. For certain countries- 
England, for example— the existence of the free commune as the pri- 
mary phenomenon, of the feudal estate as the secondary, later phe- 
nomenon, is to-day considered proved. In the case of Russia the exist- 
ence of the landed commune has long been disputed, and until recent 


times data for the settlement of the dispute have remained extremely 


One of the most typical characteristics of the commune is, as is well 
known, redistribution. Inasmuch as in the commune not one square 
inch of land belongs as property to an individual person, the communal 
land is redistributed from time to time according to the movement of 
population. But in Russia until the sixteenth century only one case 
of land redistribution can be shown, and that was effected by a steward 
on the initiative, not of the peasants but of the local proprietor. In 
other words, feudal relationships already existed here. What preceded 
them? The most plausible answer will be that in Russia feudalism de- 
veloped directly out of that collective landholding which we have defined 
as "primitive" — pechishche or dvorishche landholding. "We shall remem- 
ber that this peculiar "commune" was by no means that association of 
free and equal agriculturists depicted by certain scholars, the commune 
of the early Germans, for example. In the pechishche there was no 
individual property, for there was no individual economy ; but when the 
latter appeared, the remembrance of equality disappeared. If two 
brothers formerly constituting "one family" separated, the pechishche 
was divided into two equal halves. But one brother might have three 
sons, the other one. In the following generation three of the grandsons 
of the one grandfather would each hold one-sixth of the hamlet, but the 
fourth grandson would hold a whole half. Such clear-cut examples, it 
is true, are rare. In view of the abundance of forest-land 6 any one who 
felt cramped in his native pechishche could establish a new ' ' clearing, ' ' 
which soon developed into an independent hamlet. But cases in which 
one-third of the hamlet is found in the hands of one villager and the 
remaining two-thirds in the hands of another are quite common in the 
registers. The notion of the equal right of every one to an equal portion 
of land finds no support, and, we repeat, there was as yet no economic 
necessity for such equality. 

There are any number of survivals of pechishche landholding on 
votchina lands in the sixteenth century. First of all, as might have been 
expected, the juridical form of collective family ownership proved far 
more persistent than its economic content. Votchina, or hereditary, 
land very rarely appears in the registers as the property of a single 
individual; far more frequently we find the land held by a group of 

6 It has long since been pointed out that the least settled parts of present-day 
Siberia offer the best analogy to early Russia in point of the extent of land. In 
both cases, to enter into full possession of a portion of land in the midst of the 
uncleared, virgin, forest, it was sufficient to "trace round" this portion, putting 
marks on the trees surrounding it. Such "tracing" is found both in the Russkaya 
Pravda, with its "boundary oak," for the felling of which a large fine was imposed, 
and in documents of the sixteenth century, in which this very word "tracing" occurs. 


persons, usually near relatives, but sometimes distant ones. How un- 
usual in Muscovite Rus of the sixteenth century was the idea of personal 
land ownership is attested by the curious fact that when the grand prince 
began to distribute lands as pomestyes in return for service, it did not 
enter his head to distribute the land to individual persons, although the 
service itself, of course, was personal. The idea of a personal service- 
allotment took form only very gradually. In most cases a pomestye was 
held originally by a father and his sons, an uncle and his nephews, or by 
several brothers, jointly. Sometimes it so happened that an allotment 
liable to service was held by a mother and son, and, although the son 
was but three years old and obviously could not serve, the land was left 
him "until he shall ripen into service"; it was not possible to deprive 
the whole family of land because at the moment no member of it was 
capable of discharging the military obligation. 

But though the juridical form remained, actually, as we have already 
seen, the pechishche had long since begun to crumble; signs of this 
crumbling are an index of the means by which the large votchina own- 
ership of early Russia arose no less significant than the survivals of 
collective holding. We have seen how in the course of a few generations 
a former "hamlet" is split up into fractions held by members of one 
family; but the colossal votchinas of the "princelings" were sometimes 
made up of just such fractional, tiny "morsels." 7 Sometimes, thanks 
to this crumbling process, the ownership of a piece of land became 
divided among persons of the most diverse social position. It would be 
very erroneous to imagine that sixteenth-century votchinniks were al- 
ways important lords, for a priest, a dyak, a bondsman of yesterday or 
even of to-day, might be a landed proprietor. The landowner, as well 
as the peasant, might, to rid himself of debt, give himself up in pay- 
ment. In such cases, to be sure, not only was the votchinnik not an 
eminent man, but he was, of course, not even a large landholder, else 
such a fate would not have overtaken him. We have seen that large- 
scale ownership was already dominant in the sixteenth century, but this 
did not at all mean that every votchina of those times was a large 
estate. At the time the registers were composed small property was 
still far from having been finally swallowed up, and in these registers at 
every step we meet votchinniks, independent, full, hereditary propri- 
etors of their land, holding no more land than a peasant might, 10 or 12 

~ In the county of Tver, according to the register of 1539-1540, a third of the 
hamlet of Bykovo belonged to Prince Boris Shchepin while two-thirds remained in 
the hands of the former proprietors, the Davidovs. Mitya Ryskunov had half the 
hamlet of Korobyno, while Prince Dmitry Punkov had the other half. Half of the 
hamlet of Popovo was in the hands of Fedor Rzhevsky while the other half was 
the "votchina of Princess Ulyana Punkova." 


desyatinas of arable in three fields. Such a "landlord" could be con- 
verted into a proletarian just as could any peasant. 8 

Large-scale ownership in Russia, as everywhere in Europe, grew up 
on the ruins of small-scale ownership. What course did this process 
take? How were the small proprietors expropriated in favour of the 
divers Princes Mikulinsky, Punkov, and other landed magnates, of the 
Troitsa, Kirillov-Belozersk, and other monasteries? In the sixteenth 
century we see only the last links of the long chain ; it is natural that 
they should strike us first, concealing older and perhaps far more wide- 
spread forms of expropriation. In the later period one of the most 
obvious forms of expropriation was the granting by the sovereign of 
settled lands as a votchina. Over a mass of petty, independent economies 
was set up one large proprietor, able to appropriate any part of the 
revenue of these economies. How simply this was done, a single example 
will show. In 1551 Tsar Ivan IV granted to the abbess of the Pokrovsky 
Monastery (in the county of Vladimir) twenty-one "black" hamlets, i.e., 
lands belonging in full ownership to peasants who paid nothing but 
state taxes. By one stroke of the pen these twenty-one free hamlets 
were converted into the feudal property of the Abbess Vasilisa and her 

This wholly juridical (arch-legal, so to speak) form of the origin of 
large-scale ownership is so clear, so simple, and so well known to all, 
that there is no need to dwell on it. On the other hand, the love of 
the older Russian historians for everything pertaining to the "state" 
(not in vain were most of them pupils of Hegel, directly or indirectly) 
makes it necessary to emphasise the fact that forcible seizure of the 
land of others was by no means always clothed in such a correct garb, 
juridically irreproachable. One might have long to wait before the 
sovereign granted land; a powerful and influential man could appro- 
priate it far more quickly by dispensing with this juridical formality. 
Through the registers of the sixteenth century runs a long series of 
such cases. For example, two brothers Dmitriev, grooms of the grand 
prince, petty landholders, possessed in all a single hamlet. "That 
hamlet had a grain field . . . and that grain field G. V. Morozov 
took away by force, and now Prince S. I. Mikulinsky has that grain 
field. ' ' The same hamlet had a piece of waste ground ; ' ' and that waste 
ground I. M. Shuisky took." Or, "the hamlet of Sokevitsyno ... is 
deserted, and it was made desolate by Prince M. P. Repnin." 

s In this same county of Tver the registrars found a hamlet belonging to a certain 
Vasyuk Fomin of which they "gave no description" for a very remarkable reason: 
there was nothing to describe. There not only was no economy carried on, but 
there was not even any building, and the votchinnik Vasyuk Fomin went around the 
homesteads and was fed in the name of Christ. 


A judicial decision of the 1540 's sheds very vivid light on these 
dry excerpts from Muscovite treasury records. Complaint is made by 
the Spassky Monastery of Yaroslavl, itself of course a large landholder, 
but smaller and weaker than Prince I. F. Mstislavsky, the neighbour 
sent it by fate. This neighbour's man, Ivan Tolochanov, having de- 
scended on the monastery's hamlets, "cast out the monastery's peasants 
from the hamlets"; he himself settled in one hamlet and imposed dues 
on the others in his own favour. But, ' ' casting out ' ' the peasants them- 
selves, the new landholder by no means wished to part with their 
property; this he kept for himself, driving out the proprietors almost 

Thus, the existence of the first of the fundamental characteristics of 
feudalism — the dominance of large landholding — can be proved for 
early Rus, including the pre-Muscovite period, just as satisfactorily as 
for Western Europe of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Even more 
indisputable is the existence of the second characteristic — the union 
of landholding and political authority in one indissoluble bond. 

That the great hereditary-landowning aristocracy not only carried on 
economy and collected dues but also administered justice and collected 
taxes on its own lands is a fact which has never been denied in the 
literature of Russian history, for long since too much documentary 
confirmation of it was published ; but, owing to the point of view usual 
to Russian legal-historical literature, with its emphasis on the "state," 
these rights have always been represented as exceptional privileges, 
the granting of which was an exceptional act of state authority. "These 
privileges were extended, not to a whole class but to individuals, and 
each time on the basis of special charters," says Prof. Sergeyevich 
in the last edition of his Antiquities of Russian Law fin Russian]. 
Nevertheless, two pages further on this same scholar finds himself 
compelled to draw his reader's attention to the fact that among those 
endowed with such privileges were, not only great men whose names 
were written with a "-vich" 9 but likewise mere "Dicks and Harrys." 
From this he quite correctly infers that "such grants constituted the 
general rule, not the exception," i.e., that the privilege did belong to 
the "whole class" of landholders, not to "individuals" as a special 
favour of the sovereign. Still another two pages further on this same 
author discloses the still more curious fact that the grant might issue, 
not from the state authority at all but from any votchinnik. With the 
charter of the Metropolitan Jonas to a certain Andrew Afanasyev 

9 The suffix to the Russian patronymic. The Christian name and patronymic con- 
stitute the usual form of address in Russia; use of the Christian name alone, espe- 
cially the diminutive, is derogatory. A servant would address his master as Ivan 
Ivanovich, where the master would call the servant Ivashka. 


(1450), which he cites, may be compared a still more pronounced 
example of the same sort, the charter of Prince F. M. Mstislavsky 
to the same Ivan Tolochanov, whose exploits we have mentioned above. 
"Our bailiffs [and other officers] shall not go out [into the hamlets 
granted to Tolochanov] for any purpose," writes Prince Mstislavsky 
in this charter, "nor shall they make levies on them or judge his 
peasants, but Ivan himself or whom he pleases shall administer and 
judge, while if justice is to be done between his peasants and our 
peasants, our bailiffs shall judge them, and he shall judge with them, 
and the perquisites shall be divided into halves, except in cases of murder 
and theft, and robbery taken red-handed, and plough taxes ; and who- 
ever is at law with him, him I, Prince Fedor Mikhailovich, or whom I 
please, shall judge." The editor of this interesting document, Mr. 
Likhachev, justly remarks in his preface that this Prince Mstislavsky 
not only was not an independent landholder, but did not even occupy 
a conspicuous place among the servitors of the grand prince of Moscow ; 
he was not even a boyar. It must be added that this land which he 
"granted ... to his knight" 10 with these rights was not his by in- 
heritance, but had been granted to him by Grand Prince Vasily III 
(1505-1533). And in all probability the latter considered delegation 
to a still lesser landholder of this "privilege" he had granted quite 
usual; not without reason did he himself and his father and his son 
give such charters to petty pomeshchiks. From the registers of the 
first half of the sixteenth century we have already cited the case of 
two grooms of the grand prince who were systematically wronged by 
their powerful neighbours, the boyar Morozov and the Princes Mikulinsky 
and Shuisky ; in proof of their rights, however, these grooms produced an 
immunity granted by "Grand Prince Ivan Vasilyevich of All Rus" 
(it is not clear whether it was Ivan III or Ivan IV). A little further 
on in the same register we find an immunity bestowed on the holder 
of half a village in which there were altogether 30 desyatinas of arable 
land. Thus, in Russia as in Western Europe, not only a great lord 
but each independent landholder was a "sovereign on his own estate"; 
Mr. Sergeyevich is quite right when he says, not altogether in consonance 
with his original definition of votchina jurisdiction as an exceptional 
privilege of individuals, that "long before the binding of the peasants 
to the land the population was under the votchina jurisdiction of the 

From the evolutionary point of view the origin of this "votchina 

io This word is employed for syn boyarshy (literally, "son of a boyar"), a Rus- 
sian term having no biological significance. It should not conjure up any chivalric 
formalities, but rather the mediaeval English "knight of the shire," who frequently 
was never knighted. 


law" is quite analogous to the rise of votchina landholding ; as the 
latter arose from the fragments of pechishche landholding — the patri- 
archal form of landed property — so the former was a survival of 
patriarchal law, which had not distinguished political authority from 
the right of property. It may even be said that in this case there 
was more than "survival"; when the grand prince of Moscow granted 
"to his servitor (so-and-so) the village (such-and-such) with all that 
pertained to that village, and with the grain of the earth (i.e., with 
the winter rye already sown), saving [the punishment of] murder 
and robbery taken red-handed," then in quite "primitive fashion" he 
was continuing to confound economy and state and was evidently 
even regarding his state functions primarily from the economic point 
of view, since to liken murder and robbery to "grain of the earth" was 
only possible if he saw in the preservation of public security nothing 
but revenue from judicial fees. There is no need to insist that this 
assigning of especially important criminal cases to the exclusive juris- 
diction of the prince's court is, of course, to be explained by the same 
economic motives. Murder and robbery incurred the largest fines ; 
these were the fattest morsels of a prince's judicial revenue. But, if 
generous, a prince might renounce even this lucre ; Grand Princess 
Sofia Vitovtovna in a charter to the Kirillo-Belozersk Monastery (1448- 
1469) wrote: "my sheriffs and their bailiffs shall not meddle in murder 
in any case." There is likewise no need to say that the grant was 
itself merely a juridical formality like any grant of land. It only de- 
limited the rights of the prince and of the private landholder, as far 
as this was possible, for, thanks precisely to the confounding of political 
authority and private ownership, these rights threatened to become hope- 
lessly entangled. But the right did not always emanate from the prince 's 
authority as such ; in disputes about jurisdiction and tribute, votchinniks 
appealed, not only to a prince's grant but likewise, again and again, 
to the immemorial nature of their rights — to "olden time." It was 
thus that, for example, a boyar of Belozersk proved his rights in the 
middle of the fifteenth century when the Kirillov Monastery "snatched" 
his patrimonial hamlet "from jurisdiction and tribute." What was 
true of "jurisdiction and tribute," i.e., of judicial fees and direct im- 
posts, was true also of indirect imposts. "We find private toll-houses 
not only in princes' votchinas, where they might be taken as a survival 
of sovereign rights once belonging to the holder, but also on the domains 
of ordinary pomeshchiks whom even a simple Muscovite official, a dyak, 
might sometimes outrage with impunity. From a complaint of one 
such pomeshchik of Ryazan, Shilovsky, who had been outraged by a 
dyak, in the second half of the sixteenth century, we learn that on 
his and his brothers' votchina "on their banks they load grain into 


boats ; they take from an okova xl a denga each, and they take toll from 
a big boat at 4 altyns 12 each, but from a small boat one altyn, and of that 
toll half goes to the Telekhovsky Monastery." Even customs tolls 
might be halved with a neighbour, as judicial fees sometimes were. 

A "sovereign on his own estate" could not, of course, get along 
without the chief attribute of "sovereignty" — military force. Even 
the Russkaya Pravda speaks of the "boyar's druzhina" as well as of 
the prince's druzhina. Documents of a later time usually give specific 
confirmation of the general evidence of the earliest code of Russian law. 
In the personnel of the household of a wealthy hereditary landowner 
of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries we find along with cooks and 
butlers, huntsmen and buffoons, also armed domestics serving their 
lord "on horseback and in full panoply." "As to my men in full 
and partial bondage, and under indenture," writes V. P. Kutuzov in 
his will (about 1560), "all these men shall be free, and as to the clothes 
and gear and sabres and saddles that they have of my giving, these 
shall be theirs, and my stewards shall give to my man, Andryusha, a 
horse with saddle and bridle, and a quilted hauberk, and a helmet. ..." 
Such a druzhinnik of an hereditary landowner by virtue of his profession 
certainly stood higher than a simple domestic. He could render his 
lord services that it was impossible to forget and could raise himself 
to the position of a privileged member of the household, almost of a 
free servitor. This Andryusha had, besides his master's, also a "horse 
of his own purchase" and some furnishings, and V. P. Kutuzov is very 
careful that his executor should not confound this property with that 
of the master. To just this category, in all probability, belonged those 
bondsmen on wages mentioned in the will of another votchinnik, Prince 
I. M. Glinsky. Asking his executor, Boris Godunov, "to give allotments 
to my men, according to the books, whatever of my paying went to 
them," the testator further says of these men that they are to be set 
free "with all that with which they served me"; but it cannot be ad- 
mitted that the cook was freed with the kitchen in which he worked, or 
the huntsman with the pack of hounds he took care of. Such an expres- 
sion might be used only of men who served their lord on horseback and in 
full armour; in another will (of Pleshcheyev) the reservation is frankly 
made, "not to give them [the bondsmen] horses." Glinsky was more 
liberal to his former comrades-in-arms and even bequeathed a hamlet 
to one of them as a votchina. But a bondsman might get such a piece 
of land from his master even in the latter 's lifetime. According to a 
register of Tver of the first half of the sixteenth century, Sozon, a 
"man" of Prince D. I. Mikulinsky, occupied one quarter of the hamlet 

11 An obsolete measure of volume. 

12 An old coin equal to 3 copecks (0.03 rubles). 


of Tolutino. For such a servant settled on a piece of land to become 
an actual noble with a small estate was but a step. In the complaint 
of the Spassky Monastery against Ivan Tolochanov, twice mentioned 
above, he is called the "man" of Prince I. F. Mstislavsky, but the latter 's 
father in the charter calls Tolochanov his "knight," i.e., a noble. Thus, 
imperceptibly, the higher members of the armed household passed into 
the lower stratum of the military-serving class ; on one side of a fine line 
stood the bondsman, on the other the vassal. 

The existence of such vassalage among Russian large landholders of 
the sixteenth century — the existence of free votchinniks performing 
military service in return for their land, on their own horses and 
sometimes with their own armed bondsmen, not to the grand prince of 
Moscow but to "private individuals" — is irrefutably proved by the same 
register of the county of Tver which we have more than once mentioned 
above. In this book (composed about 1539) are enumerated 574 vot- 
chinniks, for the most part petty ones. Of them 230 served the grand 
prince, 126 served private proprietors of different categories, and 150 
served no one. Of the 126 "subvassals" of the Muscovite feudal aristoc- 
racy, sixty served the bishop of Tver, and thirty Prince Mikulinsky. 
From other sources we know that metropolitans 13 and bishops had in 
their service, not only simple "servants" but also actual boyars. "The 
boyars of the prelates," says a historian of the Russian Church cited 
by Pavlov-Silvansky, "in ancient times were in no way different from 
the boyars of the princes in respect to their origin and social position. 
They entered on service to prelates exactly in the same way and on the 
same terms as to princes, i.e., with an engagement to fulfil a military 
obligation and to perform service at the prelate's court, in return for 
which they received from him land in usufruct." On these lands they 
might settle their own military servitors, while their own lord, in his 
turn, was a vassal of the grand prince. The military druzhina of the 
metropolitan had to take the field together with the druzhina of the 
grand prince; "in case of war, when I myself, the grand prince, shall 
mount my horse, so also [shall] the boyars and servitors of the metro- 
politan," says a charter of Grand Prince Vasily I (about 1400). Thus, 
in the service of the grand prince of Moscow was set up the same ladder 
of vassals as in the service of a mediaeval king of France. 

The character of the relationships between the individual rungs of 
this ladder — between the free military servitors of the various grades 
and their corresponding suzerains — has been studied in detail by the 
late N. Pavlov-Silvansky, who summarised the whole of his special la- 

is The head of the Russian Church, ranking above archbishops and bishops, bore 
the title of "metropolitan" until 1589, when the metropolitan was elevated to the 
rank of patriarch. 


bours in his popular little book, Feudalism in Ancient Bus [in Russian]. 
"The official contract of vassalage was validated by analogous cere- 
monies [in Russia] and in the West," says the author. "The ceremony 
of homage, which in the feudal period validated the contract of vassal- 
age, as well as the early ceremony of commendation, of committing, 
consisted in the vassal, in token of his submission to the lord, kneeling 
before him and putting his clasped hands in the hands of his seignior; 
sometimes, in token of still greater submission, the vassal, kneeling, put 
his hands under the feet of the seignior. [In Russia] corresponding 
exactly to this ceremony we find the ceremony of beating the forehead ; 
the boyar beat his forehead on the ground before the prince in token 
of his subjection. In later times the expression Ho beat the forehead' 
was used in the figurative sense of an humble request; but in the 
appanage period this expression denoted actual beating of the forehead, 
bowing to the ground, as is evident from the customary designation of 
entry into service by the words: 'beat the forehead into service. . . .' 
In the second half of the appanage period the mere ceremony of beating 
the forehead was already accounted insufficient for the validating of 
the service contract, and to this ceremony was added a church rite, the 
kissing of the cross. A similar church oath to bind the feudal con- 
tract, sworn on the Gospels, on relics, or on a cross, was performed in 
the West as a supplement to the old ceremony of commendation or 
homage." "Our boyars' service is so close to vassalage that in our 
antiquity we even find terms corresponding exactly to Western ones : 
prikazatsya = avouer, otkazatsya = se desavouer." As an example of 
the former, the author cites the contemporary formula of the tidings of 
the submission of the military servitors of Novgorod to Ivan III : ' ' There 
beat the forehead to the grand prince into service the boyars of Novgorod 
and all the knights and the men of substance, and having avowed them- 
selves they went out from him." A good example of the second term 
(disavow) is the story in the biography of Joseph of Volokolamsk of 
how this abbot, having a disagreement with the local prince of Volo- 
kolamsk, transferred from him to the grand prince of Moscow: Joseph 
"disavowed his lord for the great lordship." A passage in the Nikonov- 
sky Chronicle has preserved for us the very formula of such a disavowal. 
In 1391 Prince Vasily I of Moscow, son of Dmitry Donskoi, having 
bought the principality of Nizhny-Novgorod from the Tatars, moved 
on that town with his warriors in order to give effect to the "right" 
he had just acquired. Prince Boris of Nizhny-Novgorod, having de- 
cided to resist to the last ditch, assembled his clruzhina and addressed 
it in these words : ' ' My lords and brothers, boyars and others : remember 
the kissing of the Lord's cross, how ye have kissed it to me, and our 
love and fostering toward you. ' ' At first, the boyars, resenting the rude 


affront offered to their prince, eagerly defended his cause. "We are 
all unanimously for thee," declared the senior boyar, Vasily Rumyanets, 
"and ready to give up our heads for thee." But Moscow in alliance 
with the Tatars was a dread force; resistance to her threatened final 
destruction to those who resisted. When the first animation had sub- 
sided, the boyars of Nizhny decided that their prince's cause was lost 
in any case. They therefore proposed to "disavow" Prince Boris and 
to go over to his antagonist. The same Vasily Rumyanets, on behalf 
of all, announced to the unfortunate Boris the change of attitude. 
"Lord Prince!" he said, "rely not on us, already we are not thine, 
and there is none with thee, but we are against thee." In quoting 
these words, the historian of Russian feudalism [Silvansky] adds, 
"Exactly so in the West, the vassal, renouncing his lord, openly said 
to him: 'I will not be loyal to thee, I will not serve thee, and will not 
be bound by loyalty. . . . ' " 

The case just cited clearly illustrates the peculiarities of the regime 
out of which grew Muscovite Rus, and which long survived beneath 
the mantle of Byzantine autocracy officially adopted by the Muscovite 
state at the beginning of the sixteenth century. All historians have long 
been agreed that it is impossible to conceive of a prince of the Kievan 
epoch without his boyars. The case of Prince Vladimir Mstislavich 
is usually cited as an example. When he undertook an expedition 
without the consent of his boyars, they said to him : " Of thyself, Prince, 
hast thou devised this, but we do not go according to thy opinion, we 
knew nothing of this." But even the "gatherers" 14 of Muscovite Rus 
should not be thought of as acting alone ; not without reason did Dmitry 
Donskoi, in taking leave of his boyars, call to mind that he had done 
everything jointly with them — had vanquished the pagans, had done 
deeds of valour with them in many lands, had made merry with them, 
and had sorrowed with them — "and you were called, under me, not 
boyars but princes of my land." Just as at the head of every feudal state 
in Western Europe there stood a group of persons — the sovereign, 
king or duke, the "suzerain," with the "curia" of his vassals — so 
at the head of the Russian "appanage" principality, and later of the 
Muscovite state as well, there likewise stood a group of persons — the 
prince, later grand prince and tsar, with his duma of boyars. And 
just as the Western European feudal "sovereign" in unusual and 
in especially important cases was not content with the counsel of his 
immediate vassals, but convoked the representatives of all feudal so- 
ciety — the "estates of the realm" — so also in Russia the prince in 

14 The conventional interpretation of early Russian history was that the grand 
principality of Kiev fell apart in the "appanage period" and that Russia was "gath- 
ered" together again by the princes of Moscow, sprung from Ivan Kalita. 


early times sometimes took counsel with his druzhina, and the tsar with 
the zemshy sobor [assembly of the land]. We shall later have occasion 
to study both of these institutions in greater detail. Meanwhile let us 
note only that the roots of the one and of the other — both of the duma 
and of the sobor — lie deep in that feudal principle which says that 
from a free servitor can be demanded only that service for which he 
contracted, and that he can abandon this service whenever he finds 
it disadvantageous. Hence any important matter that might have 
repercussions on the fate of his servitors could not be undertaken by 
the feudal lord without their assent. 

How stable was this "social contract" between vassal and suzerain 
in feudal society? Mediaeval contractual relations are very easily sub- 
ject to idealisation. The "rights" of free servitors are very often con- 
ceived in the form of and similar to "rights" as they exist in the 
modern state governed by "law." But we know that in this latter 
the rights of the weaker are frequently protected only on paper, 
while in fact "might makes right." To the feudal state this was 
applicable in far greater degree; the contractual relations of vassal 
and suzerain were really far more like the norms of present "interna- 
tional law," which only he who cannot does not violate. In compacts 
between princes it was all very well to write, "To boyars and servitors 
our boundaries shall be free at will"; but in practice, ever and anon, 
it happened that the prince "plundered those boyars and knights" 
who had "departed" from him "and seized their villages and their 
homes and took their chattels and all that remained and their cattle." 
And no court and no justice could be found against him except by 
appealing to another, still mightier, arbitrary power. In feudal society, 
far more even than at present, might always took precedence over 
right. It is easy to be carried away by a study of the complicated 
ceremonial of feudal relations and to think that men who had so 
carefully ordered what gestures were to be made in such and such 
a case and what words uttered would know just as carefully how to 
preserve the reality of their rights. But how they were to defend 
their rights from abuses by the feudal lord, when they were to protect 
them from the attempts of his lesser servitors, were sometimes matters 
beyond their strength. We cannot conclude our study of the juridical 
regime of feudal Rus better than by an illustration borrowed from 
the same series of court decisions from which we have repeatedly taken 
examples above. In 1552 the Nikolsky Monastery was engaged in a 
law suit with its neighbours, the Arbuzovs. "There judged us, 
lord," write the elders of the monastery in their petition, "according 
to the lord tsar's writing, Fedor Morozov and Khomyak Chechenin." 
The judges upheld the monastery and found its opponents at fault. 


''And behold," continue the elders, "there came, lord, upon this 
hamlet, the Ilyins, sons of Arbuzov . . . and the Ilyins, the men of 
Arbuzov . . . , beat and robbed me, Mitrofanov, lord, and Brother 
Daniel and Brother Tikhon, and the dyak of the monastery, and the 
servitors, and the peasants, and the peasant women they beat and 
robbed, and the old-dwellers, 15 lord, who were with the judges on 
the land, they beat. And the judge, lord, Khomyak Chechenin, with 
the knights who were with us on the land went out to rescue [the injured 
old-dwellers], and they, lord, beat both Khomyak Chechenin and the 
knights. . . . While the abbot, lord, with the judge, with Fedor 
Morozov, barricading themselves, sat it out. ..." It was not always 
comfortable to decide a case against the interest of a pugnacious feudal 
lord. Western European feudal law clothed this rough law-breaking in 
a rather solemn ceremony; a man dissatisfied with a judicial decision 
could "repudiate the decision" (fausser le jugement) and challenge 
the judge to a duel. In a law suit of the year 1531 the judge rejected 
the testimony of one of the litigants, who asserted that a document 
referred to by the judge had never been in the case. "And in place of 
Oblyazov [the ligitant] his man, Istoma, asked the field with Sharap 
[the judge] . . . and Sharap took the field with him." To challenge 
the judge to a duel was possible in the Muscovite state even in the 
time of Vasily III (1505-1533). 

For this reason the contract — a juridical concept — should not be num- 
bered among the chief distinctive features of feudalism. Feudalism is 
far more a system of economy than a system of law. The state here 
merged with the lord's economy; into one and the same centre flowed 
dues in kind and judicial revenues, frequently in one and the same 
form, rams, eggs, and cheese; from one and the same centre came both 
the steward — to redivide the land — and the judge — to decide a dispute 
about this land. When the circle of economic interests had extended 
beyond the limits of a single estate, the sphere of law likewise had to 
be geographically extended. Such extension first took place when out 
of the "volosts" [domains] of private landholders grew the volosts of 
towns [town-provinces] ; it took place a second time when Moscow 
"gathered" all the private votchinniks under her own hand. In both 
cases quantitative brought on qualitative change : the territorial ex- 
tension of authority changed the nature of that authority ; the ' ' estate ' ' 
was converted into the "state." The earlier of these conversions 
proceeded quite rapidly; on the other hand, it was not very lasting. 
The later one was very slowly accomplished; but, on the other hand, 
the final formation of the Muscovite state, in the seventeenth century, 

is Peasants who had lived on an estate for a long period; their exact status is 


was also the final liquidation of Russian feudalism in its earliest form. 
Yet right up to that moment feudal relationships constituted the basis 
on which were erected both political superstructures — the volost of the 
towns and the votchina of the tsars of Moscow. Both Lord Novgorod 
the Great and his successful rival, Grand Prince Ivan III of Moscow, 
ruled, as we must steadfastly bear in mind, not a colourless mass of 
subjects equally devoid of rights but a variegated feudal world of great 
and small "lordships," in each of which sat its petty sovereign, able 
behind the forests and swamps of northern Rus to maintain his inde- 
pendence no less well than could his Western comrade behind the stone 
walls of his castle. 



The chief economic characteristic of the "feudal" order which we 
have just studied was the absence of exchange. The boyar's votchina 
of "appanage Rus" was an economically self-sufficient unit. One can 
quite justly say of it, as one historian has said, not quite so justly, of 
the pomestye estate of the central zone of Russia in the eighteenth cen- 
tury, that, if all the world around it should fall away, it would continue 
to exist as if nothing had happened. Such a conception of ancient Rus 
hardly fits in, of course, with that interpretation of early Russian 
history which might be called the conventional one. This interpretation 
has already been mentioned, in connection with the views of Storch 
and his modern imitators. We shall remember that this school considered 
trade — i.e., exchange — the axis around which the whole political history 
of the Kievan period revolved, and to which the early Russian "state" 
was indebted for its very existence. Such a "philosophy of Russian 
history" seems to stand in irreconcilable contradiction to the facts we 
have just examined. What significance can trade have in view of the 
dominance of "natural economy," uninterrupted for many centuries? 
This a priori consideration is apparently so irresistible that one of the 
representatives of the materialistic tendency in Russian history, N. 
Rozhkov, has brought himself to declare flatly and in entire contradiction 
to the "conventional" view that "in Kievan Rus trade was weak. 
Natural economy prevailed, and only foreign trade had any influence 
on the economic position of the upper strata of society." The simplicity 
and plausibility of this view has won the sympathy even of scholars 
far removed from the materialistic conception of history. The modern 
investigator of The Princely Law of Ancient Rus [in Russian], A. 
Presnyakov, justifies his radical departure from Professor Klyuchevsky 's 
interpretation, as follows: "It [the customary interpretation] is based 
on an extreme exaggeration of the depth of the influence exerted by 
trade on the tribal life of Eastern Slavdom." In support of his view 
this author gives a rather long excerpt from the works of the material- 
istic historian just mentioned. 

Nevertheless, a number of phenomena in early Kievo-Novgorodan 
history — the social groupings that we find in Kiev and Novgorod, the 
forms of authority, so unlike anything before or since, and, finally, 



many things in the economic life of this period — all this will be quite 
incomprehensible if we agree that in those times trade "was weak" 
and stop there. Yet, whether exchange was weak or strong, if we 
disregard it, the existence of the town and the "town-province" of 
the tenth to the twelfth centuries becomes a pure enigma, whereas their 
existence marks the chief distinction between ancient, pre-Muscovite, 
Rus and Russia's Middle Ages, the Rus of Moscow. 

The Scandinavian sagas even called ancient Rus Gardarik, "the 
land of towns" [gorod = town]. That Arab writer of the beginning 
of the tenth century, Ibn-Dasta, whom we have already cited, goes 
even further. In his words, the "Rus," whom he, like many of the 
Arabs, distinguishes from the Slavs, had "neither hamlets nor ploughed 
fields" but at the same time had "a great number of towns" and were 
"living in ease." This ease the "Russy" obtained by their "sole 
occupation" — "by trade in sable, squirrel, and other furs." Ibn-Dasta 
does not forget to mention that in payment for its wares Rus "received 
coins"; in other words, this was not barter of the kind practised by 
various civilised and semi-civilised peoples in their relations with savage 
hunters. No, this was regular trade ; in quest of customers Russian 
merchants went as far as Baghdad itself, and it was a rare ruler of 
eastern lands who did not have a shuba [pelisse] stitched of Russian 
furs. Arab writers go into such details in regard to the furs that it 
is impossible to doubt the Arabs' immediate acquaintance with this 
merchandise and its vendors. That is to say, Ibn-Dasta 's statement, so 
astounding at first sight, that the Russians had no hamlets at all, only 
towns, is not to be regarded as a pure fable easily explained away by 
the writer's ignorance of the question he was treating. Evidently, the 
"Rus" of the tenth century appeared to close observers as pre-eminently 
an urban people. A slight disregard of historical perspective — and 
imagination is ready to draw us a picture of a wealthy country, sown 
with great trading centres, with a numerous and relatively civilised 
population. But the Arabs, with the unsparing realism of steppe- 
hunters just converted into world-traders, are ready to correct us; the 
best-informed of them draws a most unsavoury picture of the manners 
of Russian merchants when "abroad" in the Bolgar capital. And there 
is every reason to think that their manners ' ' at home ' ' were still worse ; 
for not only in the tenth century — when Ibn-Fadlan observed his 
"Russy," washing together with the same water from one and the 
same cup, into which, incidentally, they also spat — but even in the 
twelfth century, Russian merchants did not feel the need of written 
contracts but ratified all agreements verbally, by the testimony of wit- 
nesses. The Russkaya Pravda treats the illiterate trader as the norm ; 


written obligations, "tablets," do not appear before the thirteenth 

What mediaeval trade amounted to, and how we should picture the 
mediaeval merchant, are not peculiarly Russian problems; nor is it 
only Russian historians who have settled them optimistically, in the 
spirit of Storch. Trade, like agriculture, used to be regarded in eco- 
nomic history as an unfailing mark of civilisation ; the old German his- 
torians peopled the innumerable multitude of German towns, large and 
small, mentioned in mediaeval charters and chronicles with a "mer- 
chantry in the modern sense of the word." For this they incurred 
raillery, and justly, in the opinion of Werner Sombart, a modern his- 
torian of the economic development of Germany. He acknowledges, 
however, that the old historians were entirely right as far as the 
number of persons taking part in trade is concerned. In mediaeval ex- 
change we encounter the same peculiarity as existed in the rural 
economy of the Middle Ages — the dominance of petty enterprises of 
artisan type. On this point the modern historian and economist whom 
we have just mentioned has collected some figures for Western European 
trade in the Middle Ages. The anecdotal quality of these data does 
not prevent them from being very significant. In 1222, near Como in 
Northern Italy, two merchants from Lille were robbed; their entire 
stock of merchandise consisted of 13y 2 pieces of cloth and 12 pair of 
breeches. A hundred and fifty years later a similar misfortune overtook 
a whole caravan of merchants of Basel on their way to the Frankfurt 
fair ; their losses did not exceed 100-200 florins each. 1 This same author 
fixes the average capital of a German merchant trading in Novgorod 
in the fourteenth century at 1,000 marks silver — "less than 10,000 
[German] marks at the present [1902] exchange." It is more than 
probable that his contemporary Russian competitor had a like amount 
of capital at his disposal. In order to become a member of the very 
oldest, largest, and most stable trading association of Novgorod, which 
was grouped around the Church of St. John the Baptist, one had to 
invest no more than 50 silver grivnas 2 (1,000 silver rubles in present 
[1910] currency). To appreciate the real significance of such a "capi- 
tal," let us compare it with other data of the same period. Fifty silver 
grivnas were equivalent, at the very most, to 150-200 grivnas kun; 
while eighty grivnas kun was the highest norm for a penal fine {vira) 
in the Russkaya Pravda. But penal fines, worked out case by case, 
had in view, of course, not capitalists but representatives of the masses, 
peasants and artisans. Eighty grivnas was what the prince exacted 
for murder of a druzhinnik, the man he most needed. Let us admit 

1 Werner Sombart, Der Moderne Kapitalismus (Leipzig, 1902), Bd. I, p. 173. 

2 The grivna was a money of account; the grivna kun was the circulating medium. 


that he deemed it just to punish such a crime, particularly serious in 
his eyes, by "confiscation" of the culprit's whole property; then 80 
grivnas constitutes the average estimated value of the whole homestead 
of a peasant or petty burgher, with all it contained. And a man who 
had two and a half times this amount could become one of the first 
merchants of Novgorod! Not less illuminating in this connection than 
the scale of capital is the scale of transport. For Western Europe 
one figure cited by the author quoted above is very significant. The 
whole annual carriage across the St. Gotthard pass, even at the end 
of the Middle Ages, would need but two present-day freight trains. 
For Russia the dimensions of vessels, both river- and sea-going, are 
indicative. Some idea of them may be had from certain passages in 
Byzantine writers, Russian chronicles, and the Busskaya Pravda. On 
the average the Russian "ship" of the tenth to the twelfth centuries 
carried 40-60 men. According to Aristov's calculations the smallest 
of the types mentioned by the Busskaya Pravda could accommodate some 
2,000 puds of merchandise; if their rating in the Pravda corresponds 
to their burthen, the largest of them could carry 6,000 puds (about 
100 tons). Nowadays the little coasting steamers plying between the 
small ports of the Black or Baltic Seas have such a capacity; then 
vessels of this size carried on trading relations between world commercial 
centres such as Constantinople and Kiev, Lubeck and Novgorod. But 
there is every reason to think that Aristov's computation is exaggerated. 
He sets out from the assumption that vessels designated by the same 
term in early Russia and in modern Russia had approximately the same 
dimensions, that the "barge" of the Pravda was the same thing as 
the "barge" of the 1860 's, when he wrote The Industry of Ancient Bus 
[in Russian]. But this is not by any means necessarily true; in fact, 
it is hardly credible. From the citations of Aristov himself it is evident 
that they put the "barge" on rollers; to put a boat of even 30-40 tons 
on rollers is quite impossible without mechanical devices, and there is 
no evidence that there were machines in early Rus. The terms used in the 
Busskaya Pravda correspond to the type, not to the dimensions of boats. 
Of the dimensions even of Russian "sea-going" schooners (rated in 
the Pravda at thrice the "barge") one foreign observer says that they 
could float in the shallowest places; in other words, they were simply 
big boats. 3 

The dimensions of the vessels throw light on the proportions of the 
Old Russian war flotillas, which at first sight seem so fantastic. If 
Oleg on his campaign of 907 had, according to the chronicle, some 

3 Some idea of Old-Russian vessels is also given by the "Viking ships" found 
preserved in burial kurgans. One of them, now in Oslo, is 15 metres in length and 
3% in greatest breadth; it could accommodate 60-80 men. 


2,000 "ships" and, according to Byzantine data, more than 1,000, this 
is not fiction; we hear of "a thousand boats" in genuinely historic 
times. But this was precisely a thousand "boats," nothing more. And 
the petty scale of trade in general explains the great number of "mer- 
chants" in the pages of the chronicle. When we read that in 1216, 
in Pereyaslavl Zalessky alone, there were a hundred and fifty merchants 
of Novgorod, and in Torzhok, one of the chief transfer points of 
Novgorod's trade, perhaps even some 2,000 merchants, we are not in 
the least astonished if only we think of the Old-Russian "gost"* as 
a man who (like Nekrasov's Uncle Jake) 5 carried his merchandise in a 
single cart or, for the most part, in a hamper on his back ; the present- 
day pedlar most resembles the typical trader of the Middle Ages, 
and not in Russia alone. "Everywhere is presented one and the same 
picture ; not counting a few greater merchants, who for the most part, 
however, did not engage in professional trade, everywhere we meet a 
swarming mass of insignificant and altogether petty traders, such as are 
even now seen at petty country fairs or on the highways of remote 
provinces, with hamper on shoulders or in a cart harnessed to a single 
jade." 6 

But not all mediaeval merchandise could be carried on the back, 
nor is its small scale the only peculiarity of mediaeval trade. The first 
Russian merchants whom the Arabs were able to observe closely imported 
into the Bolgar capital, along with the furs of sables and black foxes, 
young girls, and in such numbers that from the Arab narratives this 
commodity might be assumed to be the chief article of the Russian 
export trade of the time. From a description of the miracles of Nicholas 
the Miracle-Worker, it is evident that in Constantinople the Russian 
merchant was, above all, a slave-trader, while a twelfth-century traveller 
met Russian slave-traders even in Alexandria. Russian sources supply 
a mass of indirect, and sometimes direct, confirmation of the tales of 
foreigners. For instance, the chronicles tell about the hundreds (if not 
thousands) of "concubines" of St. Vladimir (972-1015) before his 
baptism ; a modern church historian, Golubinsky, quite justly sees in this 
a reference, not so much to the personal immorality and the personal 
harem of this prince in the pagan period of his life as to the stores of 
human merchandise kept by this prince, the greatest Russian merchant 
of his time. Likewise, that it was not a question of paganism is proved 
by the sermons of Bishop Serapion, a younger contemporary of the 
Tatar invasion (he died in 1275). Among the sins that were bringing 

4 A merchant trading abroad, as distinct from the ordinary merchant (kupets). 
s Cf. Poems by Nicholas Nekrassov. Translated by Juliet M. Soskice. London, 
1929, pp. 123-127. 
s Werner Sombart, op. cit., p. 174. 


divers scourges on the Russian land Serapion mentions the following 
one: "... our brethren we plunder, slay, and sell into paganism." 
That is to say, even in the thirteenth century Russian merchants did 
not hesitate to sell Russian slaves in foreign markets, including both 
Musulman and pagan lands. Of the fact that even around 1300 men 
went to Rus "to buy girls" we have documentary evidence in the com- 
plaint of one such purchaser, a Rigan merchant, against the prince of 
Vitebsk, who had put him in prison without reason; for it is obvious 
that the arrest had nothing to do with the scarcely respectable purpose 
of this Rigan 's journey into the land of Vitebsk, but was simply an 
ordinary manifestation of princely tyranny. This trivial case reveals the 
fate, not always clear from the chronicles, of those ' ' captives ' ' who were 
the inevitable sequel to the princely feuds of those times. When a prince 
returned home "having captured domestics," it did not, as is usually 
imagined, mean that he and his druzhina had acquired a certain number 
of new bond-servants, male and female; rather, it meant that in the 
conquerors' hands remained a marketable commodity, perhaps the most 
valuable commodity of that time. Hence the Old-Russian feudal lords 
coveted "domestics" far more than their peasants' offerings in kind. 
For the latter there was no market; for the former there existed even 
in those days an "international market," able to swallow up any quantity 
of human merchandise. The twelfth-century princes openly avowed their 
exploits of this nature, evidently regarding the "capture of domestics" 
as a perfectly normal transaction. No less a man than Vladimir Mono- 
makh (1113-1125), he who has supplied so many sentimental pages to 
the official textbooks, relates how he and his allies "devastated" a 
Russian town, leaving in it "neither domestics nor cattle." As we 
see, for complete and thorough devastation of Russian provinces there 
was not the slightest need for a Tatar invasion. And when a distant 
descendant of Monomakh, Michael of Tver (1365-1399), falling on 
Torzhok in 1372, led captive to Tver "of men and women an innumerable 
multitude, ' ' he was acting not as a pupil of the Mongol conquerors, but 
as a perpetuator of an old and respected, genuinely Russian tradition. 
The existence of such "merchandise" no doubt further emphasises 
the "natural" character of medieval economy; the slave market was 
indispensable, precisely because there were no other workers on the 
market. But this involves another consideration. How could a man be 
made merchandise when nothing else was merchandise? From the cita- 
tions just made it is clear that under the economic methods to which 
we are accustomed such a miracle could not have been accomplished. 
To extra-economic compulsion in the province of production corresponded 
extra-economic appropriation in the province of exchange. Not only 
human merchandise but also the sable furs and the precious metals that 


circulated on the market of that day were not obtained by way of 
exchange with the original proprietors, not even by exchange effected 
by deception, violence, or similar "abuses," such as even now occur 
in the colonial trade of "civilised" peoples with "uncivilised"; they 
were obtained directly, by open violence. The first stage of exchange 
was not trade by barter, as economic history was still teaching not so 
long ago, but purely and simply "robber trade" (Raubhandel — a term 
absolutely scientifically established by the history of economy in our 
time). The line which is now so carefully drawn, separating the peace- 
ful trader, even though he be unfair, from the plunderer, did not exist 
for the naive men of the early Middle Ages. Robber into merchant and 
merchant into robber were conversions accomplished with astonishing 
facility ; with incomparable realism the Scandinavian sagas, for example, 
mention both these professions side by side in connection with one and 
the same person without being in the least embarrassed for their hero. 
"There was a man of wealth and of illustrious origin, Lodin by name; 
he frequently undertook trading journeys, and sometimes engaged in pi- 
racy, " runs with truly epic calm a passage of the Heimskringla of Snorre 
Sturleson. How simply and naturally this transition from the province 
of civil law into that of criminal law was accomplished, a tale from the 
same saga will show, a tale which, in view of its striking details, is worth 
setting forth at length. The envoys of King Olaf, Karl and Gunnstein, 
and their travelling-companion, Thorer "the Dog," arrived in Biarmiya 
(the later Zavolochye of Novgorod, along the Northern Dvina) and 
there carried on extensive trade with the natives, exchanging fox and 
sable furs for goods brought from Scandinavia, and in part for money. 
When the trading was ended, and with it the truce which the Northmen 
had concluded with the local population for the precise period and 
purpose of trade, the travellers immediately began to seek new sources 
of lucre. Thorer "the Dog" asked his fellow-travellers whether they 
desired to obtain wealth ? Upon their answer, in the affirmative naturally, 
Thorer explained to them that wealth was, so to speak, within their 
grasp ; they needed but a little boldness. The natives were in the habit 
of burying silver articles with their dead, while the idol of their chief 
god, Yumala, was all covered with precious ornaments. They had but to 
rifle the cemetery and the sanctuary of Yumala, which stood in the cen- 
tre of it, and the merchant Northmen would augment their capital con- 
siderably. We shall not relate the details — not devoid of drama and 
picturesqueness — of this tenth-century nocturnal expropriation. It ended 
perfectly successfully, though the retreating Northmen had to wage a 
regular battle with the worshippers of Yumala, who, being awakened, 
ran to the scene of pillage. Let us note only one detail. On the way 
home, Thorer "the Dog," despoiled his fellow-travellers also, so that 


Saint Olaf received from this expedition less return than might have 
been expected. 

Thus we see that when our old acquaintance Ibn-Dasta writes of 
Russian merchants that they "make raids on the Slavs, come upon them 
in ships, come ashore and make captive the people, whom they later 
despatch to Khazeran and to the Bolgars and there sell, ' ' — he is but de- 
scribing realistically what was in his day a quite common affair, and is 
not by any means inventing fables. But we also see that the originality 
of early mediseval trading must be supplemented by many features, and 
that very little remains of the enlightened merchants Storch depicted. 
The social setting which was bound to form around "robber trade" 
was no more like the setting of present-day capitalistic exchange than 
the boyar's votchina of "appanage" Rus was like a present-day rural- 
economic enterprise. 

The mediseval trader, in setting out for merchandise, "by custom took 
with him a sword, ' ' as the Rigans related in their complaint about their 
comrade who was injured by the prince of Vitebsk. A treaty of Prince 
Mstislav of Smolensk with these same Rigans (1229) contains the stipu- 
lation, at first glance very strange, "that the Latin [i.e., the German] 
shall not go to war, either with the prince or with Rus, if he himself does 
not wish ; likewise the Russian shall not go to war with the Latin [prince] , 
either in Riga or on the Gothic coast [island of Gothland] ; if he himself 
wishes, let him go." The aim of the treaty was "to order peace anew" 
between Rus and all the "Latin tongue, whoever visits in Rus" [i.e., car- 
ries on trade with Rus], because earlier "it was not peaceful to all mer- 
chants" trading between Smolensk on the one hand, Riga and Gothland 
on the other. The "Latin" and the "Rusin" of the treaty were the Ger- 
man and the Russian merchants, men "by old custom" girded with a 
sword ; their co-operation in war was valuable to any prince, all the more 
so since the wars of the prince were often nothing less than a peculiar 
form of "primary accumulation" of trading capital. The merchant 
himself also made war very willingly. Nevertheless, however willing 
the trader was to fight, a compulsory military obligation might hinder 
his trading operations; this is why the Riga-Smolensk treaty stipulates 
the consent of the merchant himself as an immediate condition of his 
participation in a foreign campaign. On the other hand, once it became 
a question of the defence of their own trading community and its in- 
terests, the merchants were appealed to first, and there was no doubt of 
their willingness; they were a militia ever ready for war. The veche 
[town assembly] of Novgorod, having quarrelled with Prince Vsevolod 
Mstislavich and foreseeing an inevitable armed conflict, first of all con- 
fiscated the belongings of the boyars, the "friends" of the prince, "giv- 
ing them to the merchants to equip themselves for war." When Lithua- 


nia unexpectedly fell upon Staraya Russa, the town was defended, not 
only by the hastily thronging townspeople but by the landholders of the 
neighbourhood, mercenary Scandinavian soldiers, "and whoever was a 
merchant, and the gosts." In Novgorod's war with Michael of Tver, 
when "by the will of God there was done not a little mischief," there 
fell on the field of battle, besides "men of the boyars of Novgorod," 
"many good merchants." 

The trader was a military man, merchandise was military booty, and 
the place for the safekeeping of merchandise was, naturally, a military 
camp. This conception of merchandise is clearly revealed by the ety- 
mology of the word tovar [merchandise] ; to the Old Russian chronicler 
the primary meaning of tovar was property of any kind whatsoever. 
When a villa of Prince Igor Olgovich was attacked, his enemies found 
there "many supplies, including much heavy tovar of all kinds, both iron 
and copper," so much that it could not be carried off on their carts; 
furthermore, that portion of the belongings which was destined for 
sale — tovar in the modern sense — was in no way distinguished from the 
general mass. The chronicle of Novgorod relates how Prince Mstislav 
Mstislavich ("the Bold") attacked Torzhok, seized the followers of 
his rival, Svyatoslav, put them "in irons" and seized "the goods of 
those whom his hand could reach." Prince Mstislav 's reach was long, 
and his rival — or rather, the latter 's father, Vsevolod, since Svyatoslav 
himself was a minor — felt his hand. At first he thought of attempting 
reprisals, seizing the gosts of Novgorod and their wares. But when 
Novgorod, in its turn, replied with the arrest of Svyatoslav and the 
remnant of his retinue, Vsevolod made peace (1209) "and Mstislav let go 
Svyatoslav and his men, while Vsevolod let go the gosts with their wares. ' ' 
This utter unwillingness to distinguish consumption value from exchange 
value is exceptionally characteristic of the period of natural economy; 
but in the connection we are investigating another confusion is still 
more characteristic. When St. Vladimir, setting out to war with the 
Pechenegs, obtained the consent of the Pecheneg prince to decide the 
quarrel by a duel between two warriors, a Russian and a Pecheneg, he 
"came to the tovars, sending a herald through the tovars," asking: 
Is there not a man who will take upon himself to fight with the Pecheneg ? 
Nowhere, perhaps, is politics, as the outward shell of economics, revealed 
with such naive simplicity. The economic content of the concept was 
brought to light; of the trader girded with a sword the sword alone is 
visible, but the ear detects the reason why the sword was needed, betray- 
ing a hint of the days when the military camp of a Russian prince was 
simply an abode of robbers, a depot for the stolen goods with which 
they intended to trade in foreign lands. 

This blending of trading depot and barracks persisted for a long 


time after armed force had ceased to be the sole condition of exchange. 
In this later stage, though the original acquisition of tovar still de- 
pended on violence, its further transfer, at least, was accomplished 
in peaceful, legal forms. A Russian historian, Nikitsky, thus describes 
the settlement of German merchants in Novgorod : " As places intended 
to serve as a safe asylum, both courtyards, the Gothic and the German, 
were surrounded by a high fence, the maintenance of which was one of 
the most constant cares of the German merchantry. Strong gates main- 
tained communication between these foreign citadels and the rest of the 
population of the alien and often hostile city. . . . Every precaution 
was taken to secure enforcement of the laws designed to maintain order 
in the courtyard [Hof]. Special attention was paid to the external 
security of the courtyard. Day and night guards defended the court- 
yard, and whoever of the knechts neglected his duty paid fifteen kuns, 
or his master was held responsible if the neglect was attributable to him. 
In addition, in the evening were unleashed large, valuable dogs, which 
threatened to tear apart any uninvited arrival. As a storehouse, the 
church was the object of special solicitude. Each night two men slept 
in it; under no circumstances might they be brothers or companions 
or even servants of one and the same master, and he who brought them 
into the church in the evening had to lock the door behind them and 
deliver the keys to the alderman. Church guard was performed in 
rotation and extended similarly to the dwellings, both inside and out- 
side the courtyard. Those who kept the latter guard had at meal time 
to remind of their impending duty those who immediately followed them. 
Besides the internal church guards proper, at the gates of the temple 
stood also, throughout the night, a third, who watched lest any of the 
natives slip into the vicinity of the church ; fear of them was so great 
that it was forbidden, under penalty of scourging, to carry the key so 
openly that it might be seen." 

It may be thought that all this was simply a matter of tradition, a 
survival already devoid of significance, or that such precautionary meas- 
ures were necessary only in barbaric Russia, and that the enlightened 
West stood much higher in this respect. But let us take the first three 
references in the chronicle of Novgorod to the trading journeys of 
Novgorodans to that same West. The earliest of them recites the ad- 
versity of the elements : ' ' Both themselves were lost, and their wares. ' ' 
But in the second we meet with social relationships: "In the same year 
... a Novgorodan was slaughtered beyond the sea in Denmark." And 
in the third these relations take a yet more palpable form: "came a 
Swedish prince with a bishop ... to trade ; they had come from beyond 
the sea in three boats ; they [the Swedish prince and bishop] were beaten 
without any success . . . [we] took their three vessels and slew of them 


[the pirates] some hundred and fifty men. ..." This piratical bishop 
once more reminds us of the participation of the mediaeval Church in 
mediaeval trade, with all its peculiarities. But usually the representatives 
of the Church took to themselves the less active role — not of acquirers, 
but of storers of "tovars. " The centre of the German trade citadel in 
Novgorod was the Catholic Church of St. Peter. But Orthodox churches, 
too, systematically fulfilled the same function. We already know that 
around one of them, John the Baptist, was grouped the chief of the 
commercial companies of Novgorod, that of the traders in wax. Others 
were simply warehouses. In describing Novgorod's colossal fire of 1340, 
the chronicler complains of the "evil men," who not only looted what 
their brothers had, but slew others over their wares, taking the wares 
to themselves, "but even [looted] in the holy churches — which any 
Christian, even to the abandoning of his own home, would rescue." In 
the Church of the Forty Martyrs "all the wares, whatever they were, 
they looted; icons and books they did not allow to be carried out. As 
soon as they themselves [the thieves] had run out of the church, every- 
thing caught fire, and they slew two guards. And at the Church of the 
Holy Virgin in the Market-place a priest was burned ; others say that 
they slew him over the merchandise, that the whole church was burned, 
both icons and books, but that the fire did not even touch his hair; but 
all the merchandise they looted. ' ' For the very widespread prejudice on 
the score of the strength and influence of religious feeling in the Middle 
Ages this realistic picture of the chronicle's is most instructive. The 
practical Germans were right when, not relying on the "sanctity of 
the place, ' ' they kept around their church-warehouse good, valuable dogs 
and an armed guard. 

Unless we keep in mind this combination of war, trade, and robbery, 
we shall understand nothing of the organisation of the Old Russian 
town. For example, the role of the thousand-man — the commander-in- 
chief of the town "warriors" — will remain a complete riddle. 
Even without turning to the matter of economic relationships, we can 
understand the position of the thousand-man as the person first after 
the prince. The Russkaya Pravda, in enumerating Monomakh's col- 
laborators in his famous legislation for the relief of debtors, places first 
after Vladimir Monomakh himself, "Ratibor, thousand-man of Kiev, 
and Prokopy, thousand-man of Belgorod, and Stanislav, thousand-man 
of Pereyaslavl. ..." "Izyaslav, " relates the Lavrentyevsky Chronicle, 
"sent two men ahead of him to Kiev, to his brother Vladimir and to 
Lazar the thousand-man. ..." "Yury of Rostov and the thousand- 
man," says the Ipatyevsky Chronicle under 1130, "mounted in silver the 
tomb of Feodosy, abbot of Pechersky. ..." We can understand also 
how the court of the thousand-man in Novgorod in certain cases super- 


seded the court of the prince. But when we come to differentiate these 
cases, and try to fix the competence of the thousand-man, no modern 
analogies will help us. We are accustomed to think of a general as an 
important person, but should a modern 7 Russian governor-general decide 
the lawsuits of business-men, it would seem very strange. Yet the chief 
general of Novgorod— the "Ilerzog," as the German merchants called 
him— tried just such cases. The thousand-man was the president of the 
commercial court, and in this field he was just as independent as was the 
lord-archbishop in ecclesiastical cases. "And I, Grand Prince Vsevolod," 
says the charter of John the Baptist, "have established for Saint John 
three elders from the men of means, and from the common men a thou- 
sand-man, and from the merchants two elders, and they shall judge all 
cases pertaining to [the church of St.] John, both of trade and of the 
gosts and the trading court; and Miroslav, the posadnik [burgomaster] 
shall not meddle with it, nor shall other posadniks, nor shall the boyars 
of Novgorod; in what pertains to John they shall not meddle at all." 
"And with the prelate's court and with the thousand-man's, w r ith that 
it is not for you to meddle . . . ," wrote the Novgorodans in a later 
treaty, concluded by the still free city and explaining its "antiquity 
and custom" to the Polish king, Casimir IV. Remembering the Rigan 
merchant girded with a sword who appeared in the province of Vitebsk 
to purchase girls, we shall understand why the head chief of all those 
who bore swords was also the head judge of all who traded, on exactly 
the same basis on which the commander-in-chief of an army is the highest 
judge in a military camp. But if a general was the head chief of all 
the merchants, then it is natural that his colonels, the "hundred-men," 
were his vice-chiefs, and that the Old Russian merchants were divided 
into "hundreds" just as modern Russian merchants formed guilds. 
From a fairly old supplement to the Russkaya Pravda we learn that 
these "hundreds" were named after their commanders — "David's hun- 
dred," "Ratibor's hundred," "Kondrat's hundred" — like Russian regi- 
ments in the time of Emperor Paul, and that they possessed quite definite 
territorial significance, for which reason the duty of cleaning the streets 
of Novgorod was apportioned by hundreds. It is evident that originally 
such a merchant settlement represented something in the nature of the 
German Courtyard, the whole population of which was linked by unity 
of discipline and command, and that later it was gradually converted 
into one of the quarters of the town. 

Only in the light of all these facts does the role of the Old Russian 
veche become clear to us. The time has long since passed when veche 
organization was accounted a specific peculiarity of certain town com- 
munities, which were consequently called "veche-towns" — Novgorod, 

7 Written in 1910. 


Pskov, and Vyatka. Veche communities began to represent an exception 
to the general rule only when that rule had already died out ; they were 
the last representatives of an order of things which until the thirteenth 
century had been common to all Russia. "Veches assemble in all the 
provinces," says Sergey evich. "They constitute the duma of the prov- 
ince. . . . Such is the evidence of a contemporary. There is not the 
slightest reason to suspect its accuracy. ..." "From about the twelfth 
century we have more than fifty private attestations to the veche life of 
early towns from every part of the Russia of that time." In order to 
bring out in greater relief this institution's independence of the local 
conditions of Novgorod, Sergeyevich intentionally omits all data relating 
to the veches in the province of Novgorod. And this has by no means 
deprived his picture of its vividness ; quite the contrary. ' ' It may even 
seem incredible that the accounts given in our old records about the veche 
practice of Novgorod and Pskov are scantier than the reports of Kievan 
practice. Yet it is so. The Kievan chronicler has left us quite a com- 
plete picture of the veche of 1147 ; the Northerners have given us 
nothing similar." 

The events of 1146-47, described by the chronicle in great detail, and 
in places most realistically, are actually one of the most valuable ac- 
counts of veche practice that we have. For the present we shall not 
touch upon the question of the origin of veche organisation, nor of its 
evolution, for it would be very imprudent to think that throughout its 
history the veche remained unchanged, as it might seem from reading 
the scholar just cited. The Old Russian "republics" began with an 
aristocracy of birth but ended with an aristocracy of capital. But in the 
interval they passed through a stage which can be called democratic ; in 
Kiev this stage falls just in the first half of the twelfth century. In 
this period the real master of a Russian town is the people. Let us see 
what this signified. Take the Kievan veche of 1146. At it the people 
decide the most important of political questions — who shall be prince in 
Kiev; before us is a sort of constituent assembly. The representative 
of the candidate for the prince's throne — his cousin — is carrying on 
negotiations with the veche as an equal with equals. The negotiations 
are ended, the parties have made their statements, there remains the 
concluding ceremony of the reciprocal oath ; the citizens must swear that 
they will bear obedience to the newly elected prince, while the latter 's 
representative, and later the prince himself, must swear that they will 
honourably fulfil the conditions on which he, the prince, has been elected. 
"Svyatoslav [brother of the newly elected prince Igor Olgovich] alighted 
from his steed and on that kissed the cross to them in veche assembled ; 
and all the Kievans, alighting from their steeds, began to say, 'Thy 
brother is prince and thou. ' And on that all the Kievans with their chil- 


dren kissed the cross, that they would not betray Igor and Svyatoslav." 
Let us consider first the latter of the expressions we have italicised. 
What does it mean? Did they bring little children to the veche and 
make them kiss the cross? No, those kissing the cross first "alighted 
from their steeds"; there could, then, be no minors among them. This 
means that the oath to Igor was taken, not only by the heads of families, 
"the masters of the house" in modern parlance, but actually by the 
whole people, i.e., by all the adult males capable of bearing arms. This 
is indisputably evident from the two expressions we have italicised. 
The whole scene bore a purely military character ; both negotiating par- 
ties sat on horseback and were, of course, armed. Prince Igor was 
elected by these "warriors," whose representative, the thousand-man, 
was at the same time president of the commercial court ; the town militia 
elected the prince. Politically it was precisely this body that represented 
the town. 

Let us now take the veche of 1147. Only a year had passed, but 
during that eventful period a series of changes had taken place in Kiev. 
Igor, to whom they had just kissed the cross, was no longer prince ; he 
was shut up in the monastery of St. Fedor, while a man popular among 
the Kievans, Izyaslav Mstislavich, as a representative of the "stock 
of Monomakh," was on the throne. But already discords had arisen 
between him and the capital town, and he had gone to war against his 
uncle, Yury, without the town militia ; only his druzhina and volunteers 
from the burghers had set out with Izyaslav. The war had gone badly ; 
the Olgoviches, kindred of the deposed Igor, had taken Yury's part. 
Izyaslav has to settle his affairs with Kiev, and he sends envoys to the 
veche. They first make sure of the support of the foremost personages in 
the town — the metropolitan and the thousand-man, — and then they ap- 
peal to the people. When all the Kievans, "from small to great" (we 
know now what this means), assemble "to Saint Sophia onto the court- 
yard" and "begin as a veche," one of the envoys addresses them in 
these words: "Your prince kisses you. I declared to you, he says, that I 
intended with my brother Rostislav, and with Vladimir and with Izya- 
slav, sons of David [these were relatives of Igor] , to go upon my uncle, 
Yury, and I summoned you with me. But you said to me : we cannot 
raise hands against Yury, against the stock of Vladimir [Monomakh], 
but against the Olgoviches [i.e., against the relatives of Igor] we will 
go with thee even with the children. Now I declare to you that Vladi- 
mir and Izyaslav, sons of David, and Svyatoslav, son of Vsevolod, to 
whom I have done much good, kissed the cross to me ; yet later secretly 
they have kissed the cross to Svyatoslav Olgovich [brother of Igor] and 
have sent to Yury, and have betrayed me, have wished either to slay me 
for Igor's sake or to seize me, but God has preserved me and the honour- 


able cross on which they swore to me. Thus behold, brother Kievans, 
now has come what you wished, and the time has come to fulfil your 
promise ; go with me upon Chernigov, against the Olgoviches, from small 
to great, whoever has a horse, on a horse, and whoever possesses not a 
horse, in a boat ; for they want to slay not me alone, but to exterminate 
you as well.' And the Kievans said: "We are glad that thee, our 
brother, God has saved from great treason ; we will go with thee with the 
children as well, if thou wishest." Let us for a moment leave this 
fraternisation, in itself highly significant, between the prince and the 
veche ; rarely do the two stand out so clearly as two forces quite equal 
in rights. But with whom did Izyaslav fraternise? To whom was it 
possible to address such a speech : " Go for me, whoever has a horse, on 
a horse, and whoever possesses not a horse, in a boat"? Before us again 
is the armed town, a people's militia with the rights of a supreme con- 
stituent assembly. 

Whatever veche we consider, whether it be a south Russian one or 
even one of later date, of Novgorod, we find the same general picture. 
Rarely, to be sure, will it be so clearly limned as in the case of the 
veche which the men of Smolensk organised in 1185 in the very heat 
of a campaign against the Polovtsians, when their prince had led them 
farther than had been stipulated. But even in Novgorod in 1359 a 
political dispute was decided by one of the "ends" 8 of Novgorod in its 
own favour only because its inhabitants had had the forethought to go to 
the veche in full armour, while their more numerous opponents, not hav- 
ing taken this precaution, were "slain and half-captured." The continual 
fights at veches, which in the good old times historians naively attributed 
to the "turbulence" of the Novgorod "rabble," are best understood if 
we think of the veche as a sort of soldiers' meeting — an assembly of men 
little accustomed to parliamentary discipline but very much accustomed 
to arms and not restrained in the use of that weighty argument. Re- 
membering this peculiarity of the Old Russian democracy, we shall 
likewise very easily understand why, in disputes with the princes, the 
veche alwaj^s proved the stronger, right up to the time when the mili- 
tary structure of early Rus changed, and the town militias yielded place 
to the peasant-noble army of the grand prince of Moscow. The 
veche was the incarnation of that material force on which the prince 
directly depended in a struggle with his rivals. The prince's druzhina, 
counted usually by hundreds, rarely rising to thousands, was, in a 
military sense, something midway between a detachment of body guards 
and a general staff. Qualitatively, from the standpoint of military 
preparedness, it was the best part of the army, but quantitatively it was 
so weak that in Novgorod, for example, the princes never even tried to 

s The five "quarters" of Novgorod were called "ends" (kontsy). 


rely on it against the armed veche. Without the town ' ' warriors ' ' it was 
not possible to undertake any serious campaign, and their refusal to 
obey the prince was in fact the end of his authority; without any 
"revolution" in our sense, he ceased to be prince, i.e., military leader. 
For, if the veche was an autocratic army, the significance of the exist- 
ence of the prince was comprised in the fact that he was commander-in- 
chief of this army, an autocrat himself while it obeyed him, but more 
powerless than any village elder as soon as it failed him. 

The comparison of the prince of Kievo-Novgorodan Rus to a village 
elder, "to whom each in the mir is obedient, but all the mir is higher 
than he and can replace and punish," is not ours; it belongs to K. 
Aksakov. With all its scientific defects, the Slavophil interpretation 
of Russian history, due to the peculiar angle of vision from which it 
regarded Old Russia, possesses great merit; as long as sixty years ago 
it had put an end to that modernisation of the political institutions of 
Old Russia which made of the prince a sovereign in the modern sense 
of the word. One of the first culprits in this matter of modernisation, 
it is true, was a very ancient person — the Kievan chronicler himself, 
who in the first quarter of the twelfth century compiled the "initial 
digest." The chronicler, a contemporary of Vladimir Monomakh, who 
had, in fact, come forward with a broad socio-political programme, and a 
pupil of the Byzantine chronographers with their Biblico-Roman con- 
ception of state authority, was ready to depict even the first Russian 
prince in the form and likeness of the Old Testament rulers and the 
emperors of Constantinople. But the Roman empire — the eastern as well 
as the western — though, in the opinion of the blessed Augustine, it arose 
from a robber band, was in historical times a stable police organisation, 
whereas the purpose of the calling of Rurik was acknowledged to be the 
establishment of internal "order." Although this purpose is set forth 
as though in the very words of those ninth-century Slavs in veche assem- 
bled, this literary form must not deceive us. Not a single fact of the 
internal arrangements, either of the time of Rurik or of his immediate 
successors, was the chronicler able to cite; the little that we do glean 
from him can be summed up, as follows: Rurik "hewed a town 
on the Volkhov" and repeated the operation in other places, everywhere 
"hewing towns" and putting Varangian garrisons in them. Again and 
again we come upon Oleg, Igor, and Svyatoslav, but only in the role of 
directors of military activity, and only in regard to Olga do we learn 
anything of the internal work performed by princely authority ; yet this 
internal work came down merely to the establishment of : ' tribute and 
dues." Saint Vladimir, it would seem, began the struggle against rob- 
bers, and at first unsuccessfully. With his son Yaroslav the Wise 
tradition links the appearance of the Russkaya Pravda. But this tra- 


dition found its way into the chronicle very late; in the oldest copies 
of the first chronicle of Novgorod it does not appear; and from the 
essence of the matter it is quite clear that this collection of judicial 
decisions could not be the product of the creative genius of any one 
legislator. The most that can be done is to attribute to the "wise" 
prince the first of the decisions — it is unknown when and by whom in- 
scribed — and even that must be done with all possible reservations, for 
the heading, "Justice of Yaroslav Vladimirovich, " cannot be traced 
back further than the end of the thirteenth century. Between the death 
of Yaroslav and that time two and a half centuries had elapsed; it is 
easy to imagine how many legends might arise in that space of time. In the 
main, the chronicle gives much the same information concerning Yaroslav 
as about his predecessors: he "defeated Bryachislav," "all Belz, " 
"went upon the Yatvyags," "went upon Lithuania." At the same time 
it is curious that the older the copy of the chronicle, the less we find in it 
about Yaroslav, despite the fact that certain items — the laying of the cor- 
nerstone of St. Sophia, for example — are repeated twice under different 
years. In a word, in order to find a prince-reformer, striving, after a 
fashion, to establish order in the land, we have to pass to the first half 
of the twelfth century, when, in the person of Vladimir Monomakh, we 
find what is in all probability the original of the portrait which the 
chronicle has copied in many variants. But Monomakh 's activity, 
as we shall see further on, was by no means the norm even for early 
Rus in general. It is to be noted that even this consummator of the 
Kievan "democratic revolution" of the eleventh and twelfth centuries 
valued in himself, first and foremost, the valiant and successful general, 
who had accomplished eighty-three major campaigns, not counting minor 
ones. Of them he tells in great detail in his celebrated Precept, but 
of his domestic activity we find there only the most meagre indications. 
In the case of his contemporaries and descendants we do not find even 
that much. The most the chronicler tells us is how energetically 
this or that prince collected his judicial revenue from fines and fees. 
But too much energy along this line gave a prince a bad reputation ; 
the population was inclined to regard any increase in the collection of 
penal fines as an abuse of power and to compare it with plunder. In- 
ternal order the population knew how to maintain itself; when in the 
land of Novgorod the court of a veche town had taken final form, the 
prince's initiative was removed from it altogether. But even Novgorod 
could not dispense with its prince, for "grievous" it was then to the 
town to which there remained "no prince at all," as was the case with 
Kiev in 1154. But why it was grievous to the town without a prince 
is quite definitely explained by the old friend and old enemy of 
Novgorod, Vsevolod "the Great" (otherwise known as "Big Nest," 


1176-1212). "In your land there is a war," he said to the Novgorodans 
in 1205, "while your prince, my son Svyatoslav, is little; so behold! 
I give you my older son, Constantine. " In the thirteenth century, as 
in the ninth, the prince was needed, before all else, to lead the army; 
whence one of the gravest charges against a prince was, that he "went 
from his regiment before all," as did Vsevolod Mstislavich in 1136. 
With especial realism this "military obligation" of the prince is de- 
picted in a rather late charter of Novgorod (1307 or 1308) — a treaty 
with Grand Prince Michael. In those times, it seems, Novgorod main- 
tained, not one but several princes, but all for the same purpose. Of 
one of them the charter complains in such expressions as: "they gave 
him ... a capital town Pskov, and he ate bread, but when war came, 
he departed, deserted the town. ..." Why should they feed a prince 
who in war was good for nothing ? 

In the fourteenth century, also in Novgorod, a prince answered for 
his faults to the veche. Was it always and everywhere so? Were 
even Rurik and his immediate successors the "hired guards" of the 
Russian land? Was the veche in the democratic form known to us 
an immediate offshoot of "primitive democracy," or was democracy, 
then as now, the result of a long and stubborn social struggle? The 
chronicle's narrative of the calling of the princes makes the decision 
of a veche the starting point of all Russian history ; to call the meeting 
of the Chuds, Slavs, and Kriviches, which decided to call Rurik and 
his brothers, anything but a veche is, of course, impossible. But just 
as the characterisation of any prince by the initial chronicler reflected 
Vladimir Monomakh, so also the characterisation of the political situation 
of the ninth century necessarily reflected the conditions of the twelfth 
century. The whole story has undoubtedly been polished, and so much 
so that it is almost impossible to get at its historical basis. We know 
that they bought off the Northmen, that the first prince whose name 
tradition remembered was Rurik, that he came from the north, and 
that he "warred everywhere." All the rest may be the imagination 
of the compiler, or may equally well be a tale that has strayed; it is 
well known that the legend of the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain 
is almost word for word the same as the Russian story of the calling 
of the princes from beyond the sea. The first documents of Russian 
history, such as the treaties entered into with the Greek emperors by 
the first two genuinely historical princes, Oleg and Igor, are very con- 
vincing; the authenticity of the documents themselves, never disputed, 
has long since ceased to be subject to any doubt. It is very remarkable 
that neither Oleg nor Igor stands out in them as sole representative of 
a definite state, whether called Rus or anything else. Both these 
princes are simply called "grand," i.e., senior among the very many 


Russian princes "existing under the hand" of the grand prince; these 
other princes are, however, independent, and so much so that they 
have their own special diplomatic representatives; they have special 
"servitors," whose names are here enumerated. The treaty appears 
as the expression of the will of all these princes ("by the wish of our 
princes"). But, evidently, this did not suffice to give it legal force 
in Russian eyes ; to Oleg 's treaty is added the phrase : ' ' and from all 
existing under his [Oleg's] hand in Rus, " while Igor's treaty concludes 
the roster of envoys with "and from all the men of the Russian land." 
The princes were only the representatives of a certain whole, which 
had no intention of alienating all its rights in their favour. The prince 
handles current business, but in unusual cases all "Rus," i.e., all the 
trading urban population, comes forward ; precisely this meaning of 
the word "Rus" is established with perfect clearness by the first of the 
judicial decisions inscribed in the Busskaya Pravda, later editions of 
which even found it necessary to add this meaning ("burgher") in 
parenthesis, as it were, to the term "Rusin," which by the thirteenth 
century was not generally intelligible. 

The treaties of Oleg and Igor are in themselves sufficient to dispel 
any thought of an alleged "great power" founded by the first of these 
princes, only to fall apart later into a multitude of petty principalities. 
The "grand princedom" of Oleg was a temporary union, in the hands 
of a single person, of authority over many independent political units ; 
later another such unification of Rus took place under Monomakh and 
his son Mstislav. But juridically neither Oleg nor Monomakh ever 
abolished this independence ; in all probability it never entered their 
heads to do so, any more than it entered the head of a boyar of that 
time to deprive of its economic independence even a single one of 
the hundreds of peasant homesteads united on his estate. On the con- 
trary, the more individual princes there were "existing under the hand 
of" a grand prince, the greater was the latter 's importance. Like 
the grand prince himself, lesser princes had authority in their capital 
towns only in so far as the local population supported them. The 
"federal" and "republican" character of the Russian "state" in the 
very earliest known stages of its evolution is thus quite definitely 
established. In view of the given economic setting we could expect 
nothing else. Old Russian towns were by no means markets in the 
contemporary sense of the word, economic centres for the surrounding 
country. Even Novgorod did not wholly succeed in becoming such a 
market ; this most progressive of Old Russian trading centres could 
have been taken out of its province without very much affecting the 
latter, while its predecessors, the towns of the "great waterway" of 
the times of Oleg and Igor, were simply abodes of merchant-robbers, 


far more closely connected with the foreign markets to which these 
merchants delivered their wares than they were with the surrounding 
country, in relation to which the urban population was a typical parasite. 
There was no soil here for a "unitary" state nor, in fact, for any state 
in our contemporary sense of the word. Military-trading associations, 
at first purely improvised, later ever more and more stable, periodically 
produced from their midst leaders who stood out in the eyes of neigh- 
bouring peoples in the guise of "princes" of Rus. We do not know 
under what conditions the profession of leader in a number of centres 
was monopolised by the members of a single family, the descendants 
of Igor; but in itself, under the given order of things, inheritance of 
the princely profession was just as natural as inheritance of the mer- 
chant's, and of the merchant we know from the charter of St. John 
the Baptist that he was hereditary. This fact leads to a further con- 
clusion ; if the authority of the prince and the profession of trade were 
organised on the patriarchal principle of the hereditary estate, it is 
natural to suppose that the same principle underlay the whole order 
of things in the Old Russian town, and that the Rus, mentioned in 
the treaties, was a combination not of individual persons but of families — 
something in the nature of the "pechishche" or "dvorishche" which 
constituted the basic social unit of rural Rus. A fact supporting the 
idea of the patriarchal structure of the earliest urban community is 
the existence of those mysterious "town elders" whom we find along 
with the boyars in the duma of St. Vladimir (d. 1015). But one ought 
not to see in them an elected "board of town elders," as certain 
scholars do; the elective principle in the Old Russian town did not 
weaken but grew stronger with the course of time. An elective institu- 
tion might change its name, but there was no reason for it to die out. 
It is another matter if we admit that the "town elders" were the 
heads of the pechishches that made up the original town ; then their 
gradual extinction, as we shall presently see, is perfectly natural. 



Patriarchal life economically was closely connected with natural 
economy. The pechishche might persist for centuries or slowly evolve 
into a votchina, preserving only its character as an autonomous economic 
entity. The town did not offer this fundamental economic condition. 
A few pechishches, which had in early times fortified themselves on 
this or that happily selected spot and had formed the town aristocracy, 
very soon found themselves enveloped by a dense mass of the most 
diverse elements, which the old patriarchal organisation could not 
assimilate or swallow up, and which with difficulty it held in check for 
a time. Some idea of the motley crowd that accumulated in great 
centres along the Volga and in the Dnieper basin is given by the story 
of an Arab writer about Itil, the Khazar capital. ' ' There are established 
seven tribunals: two for the Mohammedans, two for the Khazars, who 
judge on the basis of the Mosaic law, two for the Christians living 
here, who judge on the basis of the Gospels (!), and one for the 
Slavs, the Rus, and other pagans, who judge by the laws of the pagans. ' ' 
The population of Kiev must have presented similar diversity. The 
Germans whom the Polish king, Boleslaw the Fat, brought with him 
to the aid of Svyatopolk, on their return to their fatherland related 
to their bishop (Dietmar of Merseburg) that Kiev was a very large 
town ; it had some four hundred churches and was peopled ' ' by fugitive 
slaves and swift Danes," as the Germans called all Scandinavians. 
From the Life of Feodosy and the Pechersky Paterik we learn of still 
another non-native element in the composition of the population of 
Kiev ; there were many Jews, disputes with whom about faith constituted 
one of the occupations of Feodosy as noted by his biographer. Reading 
such a precious record of manners and customs as the Pechersky Paterik, 
we get an extraordinarily vivid and clear presentation of the ethnographic 
motley of the Kiev of that time. Within the walls of the Pechersky 
Monastery we see, one after another: the Varangian prince, Simon, 
who had come from beyond the Baltic Sea; a prince's physician— an 
Armenian by birth, competing so unsuccessfully with the native phy- 
sicians of Pechersky, who with a monastery cabbage cured the very 
strangest diseases, which had nonplussed the Armenian physician ; Greek 
artists, who had come in search of work and who to win friendship 



related miracles which had befallen them, most flattering to the Pechersky 
cloister ; Hungarians from the banks of the Danube, and Polovtsians from 
the neighbouring South Russian steppe — in a word whomsoever the 
current of trade caught up in its waves. In this motley array of 
raiments and persons, of tribes and dialects, there predominated, of 
course, men without clan, without tribe. That is, they had clan and 
tribe, but they had left them somewhere afar; their natal land had 
long since become alien to them, and for the most part they did not 
expect to return to it. Family law no longer protected nor hindered 
them ; they had but one father-master — trade, and this had brought them 
to Kiev. The place of the family organisation, of the pechishche, is 
taken by the artificial military organisation, the "hundred," with which 
we have already come in contact. Along with the "elders of the town" 
appear the ten-men and hundred-men and the thousand-man, and soon 
the former are crowded out by the latter. 

This process of the decomposition of the old patriarchal units de- 
termined the evolution of the veche of Kiev. The democratisation 
of the latter did not lie in the fact that the power of the people increased 
and the authority of the prince declined. The latter 's rights were 
never limited juridically; while he enjoyed the confidence and support 
of the "burghers," he might, without hindrance, do whatever he pleased. 
From the Kiev o-Pecher sky Paterik we learn that a prince might seize 
any man, even from outside his own principality, begin to torture him, 
and even torture him to death, seeking after "treasure" to which the 
prince had as little right as did the man he tortured. In a military 
republic, such as was the old Russian town, inviolability of the person 
was quite unknown. When the prince's abuses exceeded the bounds 
of his subjects' patience, they simply deposed him and sometimes slew 
him, and that ended the matter. In this respect fifteenth-century 
Novgorod really differed but little from eleventh-century Kiev. There 
had been development, not so much of juridical concepts and political 
forms (some changes that may be traced in this field we shall consider 
at the end of this chapter) as of the social composition of the masses, 
politically incarnate in the autocratic popular assembly. Around the 
original kernel of a few merchant clans, the founders of the town, 
accumulated a multitude of petty men, common labourers and artisans, 
whose memory remains in the names of the Potters' and Carpenters' 
"ends" of Novgorod. As early as the days of trouble which followed 
on the death of Saint Vladimir (1015), these petty folk were already 
playing a certain role; the chronicle relates that Svyatopolk "the 
Accursed, ' ' on becoming prince of Kiev, ' ' summoned the men and began 
to give to some clothing, to others money, and distributed a great deal." 
It was impossible to bribe the merchant aristocracy in this fashion. In 


Novgorod at that time the artisan population was already playing such 
a role that Yaroslav (1019-1054), having slain the "eminent men" 
who had attacked his Varangian druzhina, was nevertheless able to 
assemble a militia of forty thousand, which his antagonists in mockery 
called the "carpenters." Kiev at that time was a more conservative 
town, and, as we learn from an exceedingly curious description of the 
events of the year 1068, the mass of the population was not armed and 
organised in military fashion. This was the year of the first great 
Polovtsian onslaught on Rus, when the system of defence created by 
Yaroslav proved inadequate. The sons of Yaroslav, having gone out 
to meet the steppe-dwellers on the River Alta, were completely defeated 
and fled with the remnants of their warriors — Izyaslav and Vsevolod to 
Kiev, and Svyatoslav to Chernigov. The remnant of the Kievan militia, 
having summoned a veche on the market-place, appealed thus to Izyaslav : 
1 ' The Polovtsians have scattered over the land ; let the prince give arms 
and horses — we shall yet fight with them. ' ' From the compressed account 
of the chronicler (who perhaps had not quite accurately conceived the 
picture — we must remember that he had a twelfth-century point of 
view) it is immediately obvious that the speakers were demanding arms 
and horses for themselves. But how could men who had lost their horses 
in battle flee from the Polovtsians, and why was it necessary for 
merchants, who themselves always went armed, to appeal to the prince's 
arsenal? The demand obviously was for the creation of a new army 
from those elements of the population which had not previously partici- 
pated in campaigns and were not armed. Izyaslav had grounds for not 
trusting them, and he did not comply with their demands. For this he 
paid with his throne. The Kievans freed his rival, Vseslav of Polotsk, 
from captivity and pronounced him their prince, while Izyaslav and 
his druzhina had to flee to Poland. Unfortunately, the chronicle imparts 
nothing of the order of things established in Kiev after this revolution, 
the first in Russian history. It is evident only that in a military respect 
the new regime was not strong ; the strata of the population accustomed 
to bear arms either stood aside or left with Izyaslav; when the latter 
returned seven months later with Polish auxiliaries, he regained authority 
without a battle. Deserted by their new prince, who fled to Polotsk, 
the Kievans became truly desperate, threatening to burn their town 
and abandon the site, thus inviting the immediate intervention of 
two other sons of Yaroslav, Svyatoslav and Vsevolod. The town was 
thereby saved from destruction, but none the less it had to experience 
a most savage repression; seventy men were executed, others blinded 
or "destroyed" in some other way, probably sold into slavery. It is 
noteworthy that the chronicler does not call those executed "eminent 
men," like those whom Yaroslav slaughtered in 1015, but simply "chil- 


dren" or "men." No less significant is a police measure taken by 
Izyaslav in anticipation of similar events in the future; he "drove out 
trading to the hill." The hill was the very oldest part of Kiev, where 
the town aristocracy lived. Up there, in the year 1068, stood the 
homestead of the thousand-man Kosnyachek, whom at the time of the 
uprising the crowd had sought, and not with good intentions. The 
transfer of trading to the aristocratic part of the town was bound to 
forestall the formation of a democratic meeting in the market; far 
from their homes and surrounded by the dependable element, the popu- 
lace was less dangerous and easier to cope with. 

But the triumph of the prince's authority could not prevent the de- 
composition of the old, patriarchal organisation. Indeed, the prince's 
authority, which had established its rights with the aid of an alien 
military force, relied on the latter more than on the old town aristocracy. 
Izyaslav later, in all his misfortunes (he was expelled from Kiev again 
in 1073, this time by his own brothers, Svyatoslav and Vsevolod), sought 
aid in Poland (unsuccessfully this time), from the Western emperor, and 
even from the pope; but there is no evidence that he had at home 
anything in the nature of his own party, or that he tried to create 
one. The decline of family law is vividly expressed, moreover, in 
judicial usage. To the administration of the sons of Yaroslav — it is 
unknown whether before or after the revolution of 1068, but in any 
case before the second expulsion of Izyaslav from Kiev — are credited 
a number of judicial decisions which put an end to blood vengeance, 
and, what is still more indicative, established individual responsibility 
for murder in place of the former family responsibility. "If an 
ognishchan be killed in a quarrel," says the first of these decisions, 
"the murderer shall pay 80 grivnas, while his people shall not pay." 
Only for robbery did the whole clan union answer as of old. In addi- 
tion, one of the decisions established that an ognishchan might be slain 
with absolute impunity, "like a dog," if caught in the act of stealing. 
In such case the ognishchan group did not dare to avenge its fellow-mem- 
ber, so w r eak had the material strength of the family union become. The 
new custom was undoubtedly directed against the clan aristocracy; yet 
it compels us to suppose that, having gained a political victory over 
the lower social groups, the prince afterward made certain social con- 
cessions to these same groups, making peace with them at the expense 
of the heads of their social enemies. The scanty data in the chronicle 
and other records do not permit a complete restoration of the picture 
of the socio-economic process that was decomposing the old society. 
Only here and there do we succeed in seeing, now this, now that 
corner of it. The chronicle relates that the third of Yaroslav 's sons, 
Vsevolod, who survived his two older brothers, in old age "began to 


love the ideas of the young and with them held counsel," from which, 
of course, it does not follow that he surrounded himself with immature 
youth. The chronicler immediately explains: the "youth" had crowded 
out from Vsevolod his "first druzhina," the high born counsellors who 
were wont to surround the prince. The author (in this case hardly 
the "initial chronicler," but rather one of his sources; he would not 
have related evil of Vsevolod), sympathising with those displaced, ex- 
plains the people's dissatisfaction with the last of Yaroslav's sons 
precisely on the ground of this change. But the grievance of the people, 
of course, was not that the town aristocracy had lost power ; the essence 
of the trouble lay in the economic conditions, in that strengthening of 
commercial and money-lending capital then taking place. A curious 
fact in this connection comes to us, not from the chronicle but from 
the Pechersky Paterik, in a tale about one of the miracles of St. Prokhor 
" Notch- weed. " If we purge this story of the fabulous details about 
the sweet bread from notch-weed and the ashes by a blessing from 
Heaven converted into salt, there remains the historical fact that the 
Pechersky Monastery supplied the poorest classes of the Kievan popula- 
tion with meal (apparently not without adulteration) and salt, whereby 
it acquired the riches that excited the envy of Prince Svyatopolk, son 
of Izyaslav, who replaced Vsevolod on the throne of Kiev. Taking 
advantage of this envy, competitors of the monastery, the traders in 
salt (obtained from present-day Galicia), who apparently had been 
quite crowded out of the market by the monastery, applied to the prince 
for the prohibition of monasterial trade. The monk-author insinuates 
that they did this for the purpose of establishing monopoly prices on 
salt, since relations with Galicia had at that time been made difficult 
by a war, and salt was therefore dear. But, besides this, the 
protest of petty commercial capital against the incipient large-scale 
capital of the monasteries is only too clear. Svyatopolk, himself a very 
typical representative of "primary accumulation," took the part of 
the petty traders, not disinterestedly but for the quite definite purpose 
of compelling the monastery to divide the profits with him. Apparently 
it did so ; the upshot of the whole story was that the prince ' ' began to 
have great love for the cloisters of the Holy Virgin," and the cloisters 
continued to "distribute" salt freely to the people. 

That capital was at work, not only in the town but also in a wide 
area around it, we can judge from the development of peonage (zakup- 
nichestvo) 1 among the rural population. Material was accumulating 
for a new explosion, this time more social than political. The signal 
was given by the death of Svyatopolk, the friend of the money-lenders, 

i The zakup was a peasant bound by indebtedness to work another's land [za 
kupu = in return for a loan]. Cf. infra, p. 58. 


of the grain and salt speculators. The details of this second Kievan 
revolution (1113) are just as obscure as those of the first. The rebellious 
lower groups displayed no more consciousness or organisation than be- 
fore. They were at first incited against foreign representatives of capital, 
"going upon the Jews and plundering." But from the outset the policy 
of provocation was not wholly successful ; the homestead of the thousand- 
man suffered along with the Jews ; as in 1068, in the eyes of the people 
the thousand-man was a representative of the town aristocracy. Shrewd 
men among the latter foresaw that if they allowed the movement to 
spread the disturbance would not be confined either to the "Jews" or 
to the thousand-man and the hundred-men, but would extend to the 
boyars, to the monasteries, and to the widow of the money-lender prince, 
try as she might to buy off the Kievan democracy by liberal distribution 
of alms from the estate of the deceased Svyatopolk. But now there was 
no Polish army at hand, and the masses had long since become accus- 
tomed to arms ; as early as 1093 a Kievan regiment had held a veche 
during a campaign and had compelled the princes and their aristocratic 
marshals to give battle against their wish. It was necessary to effect a 
compromise with the urban, and in part with the rural, poorer classes. 
It had long been felt that the rural element was also beginning to play 
a political role ; in this same year 1093 the leaders of Kievan society 
referred to the fact in advising Svyatopolk against the campaign, re- 
marking that "the land had been impoverished by wars and fines." 
How deeply contemporaries were impressed by the anxiety ruling circles 
felt about the peasants is attested by the curious fact that Monomakh 's 
well-known remarks about the peasant's arable and the peasant's horse, 2 
which every text-book quotes, were reported twice by the compiler of the 
initial digest, under 1103 and under 1111, so pleased was he with this 
theme. It was time to be anxious about the peasants, and in more 
than words. There was need of a mediator between the restless lower 
classes and the terrified upper classes of Kievan society, and the most 
available man was Vladimir Monomakh, then prince of Pereyaslavl. He 
was peculiarly fitted for the role. The upper social classes had long 
felt confidence in him ; in 1093 he had made common cause with the 
leaders of the Kievan militia, insisting on cautious tactics in opposition 
to the opinion of the mass of the Kievan "warriors," who demanded 
decisive action. At the same time he knew how to touch the democratic 
chord of the Kievans, whom he had called in as mediators in disputes 

2 Svyatopolk had urged that spring was not the time to fight the Polovtsians, 
for the peasants and their ploughing would be ruined. Vladimir Monomakh replied: 
"I am amazed that you are so considerate of the plough horses and do not consider 
this: the peasant begins to plough, the Polovtsian comes, strikes the peasant with 
an arrow, takes his horse, comes to his village, carries off his wife and children and 
all his property. Do you consider his horse and not consider him himself?" 


between the princes themselves; when he and Svyatopolk had proposed 
to decide a quarrel "before the townsmen," Oleg Svyatoslavich had 
replied roughly, calling the Kievans " smerds," 3 thus playing into the 
hands of Monomakh's diplomacy. Of no little service to him also were 
his good relations with the Church, the significance of which as an 
economic force we have already seen in the case of the Pechersky Mon- 
astery. As is quite evident from the chronicle 's narrative, the initiative 
in inviting Monomakh came from above. But Monomakh did not leave 
Pereyaslavl at once. The chronicler gives this delay and the resultant 
negotiations a moral-religious tone; Monomakh, it is said, did not come 
to Kiev at once because he was mourning for Svyatopolk but finally 
consented in view of evidence that, if he delayed longer, the Kievans 
would plunder the monasteries. The spicy propinquity of the monas- 
teries to the Jewish money-lenders is, of course, significant ; here historical 
verity has laughed up its sleeve at the pious lucubrations of the chron- 
icler. But Monomakh probably knew enough about the practical side 
of monasteries to understand their dangerous position at such a moment 
without special evidence from any one. And the outcome of the negotia- 
tions — the celebrated "legislation of Monomakh" — compels us to sup- 
pose that the discussions between Monomakh and the representatives 
of the ruling circles of Kievan society did not centre on the monasteries. 
The "statute" of Vladimir Monomakh has come down to us in a com- 
paratively very late edition ; the oldest manuscript of the Russkaya 
Pravda in which we find this "statute" is referred to the end of the 
thirteenth century, i.e., at least 150 years later than the events of 1113. 
In this oldest manuscript the "statute" is very brief; it comprises but 
a few lines. In manuscripts of a later time it spreads to such propor- 
tions that it becomes in itself a sort of supplementary Russkaya Pravda; 
indeed, it is sometimes called "Monomakh's Pravda." It is not, how- 
ever, difficult to notice that of the articles ' ' on the zakup, ' ' for example, 
only the first constitutes anything in the way of a principle ; it offers 
the zakup the right of suit against his master. "If a zakup flies to the 
judges to complain of injury from his master, then for that he shall 
not be returned into slavery [as for any other flight], and his case must 
be examined." The full significance of this innovation we shall under- 
stand if we remember that in the sixteenth century the master-creditor 
was still the sole judge of his debtor: "whoever keeps a man in money," 
says a charter of Grand Prince Vasily III (1505-1533) to the men of 
Smolensk, "he himself shall judge that man and my [officers] shall not 
meddle in that." The further articles relating to zakups discuss various 
concrete cases of litigation between a peasant and his master. But, judg- 
ing from the method by which law was created in ancient Rus — by way of 
3 The old and contemptuous word for peasants; cf. infra, p. 60. 


generalisation from individual decisions, case by case, — it is hardly- 
probable that all these concrete examples had been foreseen in advance 
by the legislator, Monomakh, and by his ' ' druzhina, ' ' the thousand-men 
of the most important towns along the Dnieper, assembled around him at 
Berestov, near Kiev. Most probably they represent the application of a 
fundamental principle to individual cases, i.e., a further development of 
Monomakh 's legislation. The later editor, systematising in a perfectly 
correct juridical manner all the articles about zakups, brought them into 
the one chapter that we now read in the later copies of the Russkaya 
Pravda. In all probability, however, the most accurate historically 
is the oldest copy, with its brief but comprehensive decisions. 

It is, however, time to quote the "statute" in extenso. "On the death 
of Svyatopolk, Vladimir [Monomakh] convoked at Berestov his druzhina 
— the thousand-men Ratibor of Kiev, Prokopy of Belgorod, Stanislav 
of Pereyaslavl, Nazhir, Miroslav, Ivanka Chudinovich, the boyar Olegov 
[Prince Oleg Svyatoslavich of Chernigov] ; and at the meeting they 
decreed : whoever took money on condition of paying interest on two a 
third [i.e., 50% per annum], from him such interest shall be taken for 
only two years, and after that the principal only shall be sought, and 
whoever takes such interest for three years, he shall not seek the principal. 
"Whoever takes 10 kuns interest from the grivna by the year [i.e., 20%], 
such interest shall be admitted in case of a long-term loan." Then, in 
the majority of copies, come two decisions regulating concrete cases of 
indebtedness, interesting because they explain who was the object of 
usurious money-lending; both treat of the merchant trading on another's 
capital. Especially curious is the first of them. In Old Russian law, 
as in archaic law generally, a debtor answered for non-punctual payment 
of a debt, not only with his property but with his person. Under nat- 
ural economy, as we saw, a man was exchange value par excellence and 
consequently the most reliable security imaginable. The transition to 
more modern forms of credit everywhere began, as a rule, with the 
abolition of this barbarous method of payment. In ancient Rus this 
transition is marked by Monomakh 's legislation or by the decrees which 
developed immediately from it. Sale into slavery for debt was not 
abolished, but it remained, so to speak, only in the law of criminal re- 
covery. Now they did not sell every debtor into slavery, but only such 
as drank or gambled away, or by gross negligence lost, the merchandise 
taken on credit. The "unfortunate" bankrupt, the sufferer from fire or 
shipwreck, did not answer for the debt with his person "because this 
misfortune is from God, and he is not guilty in it." As the reader sees, 
it is not without reason that Monomakh 's "statute" may be compared 
with Solon's debt legislation, which "shook off" indenture for debt 
from the shoulders of the Athenian debtor of the sixth century B.C. 


Though not going so far, the "statute" developed the law in the same 
direction, developing it, moreover, in a revolutionary way, reversing 
agreements which even yesterday had been quite legal. Thus the success 
of the Kievan masses, who from now on hold complete sway on the 
political stage, was consolidated juridically. The veches of 1146-1147, 
which we have already studied, give a picture of "popular rule" more 
complete than anything in the sources for Novgorodan history. 

But it was not only juridically that indenture for debt fell from the 
shoulders of the debtor more completely in Athens of the sixth century 
B.C. than in twelfth-century Kiev; geographically, too, if it may be so 
expressed, the reform of Solon was the broader — not only was it impos- 
sible to sell a man into slavery for debt, but "debt sums" could not be 
taken from land. In Kievan Rus of the twelfth century the position of 
the rural debtor was only somewhat lightened ; he remained indentured 
all the same. The chronicle does not make at all clear the participation 
of the rural population in the events of the year 1113. That it mentions 
the peasants and peons serves as proof that they were not altogether 
outside the political arena. But did the peasant have the same rights 
as a member of the town democracy, as the merchant? This is very 
doubtful, and doubtful not only because it was naturally very difficult 
for the peasantry to take an active part in the town veche ; that the 
peasant could not go to town to a meeting every day is too elementary 
an explanation to be satisfactory, if only because, as we know, there were 
analogous conditions both in ancient Greece and in mediaeval Italy. 
Yet nowhere do we find such a sharp line dividing the townsman from 
the peasant, "town law" from "country law," as in ancient Rus. 

The most common name for the masses of the rural population in Old 
Russian records is "smerds. " The chronicle quite definitely regards 
the peasants as a distinct group of the population, standing lower even 
than the very lowest category of townsmen. After gaining the victory 
over Svyatopolk the Accursed, Yaroslav the Wise liberally rewarded his 
forty thousand militia, already mentioned; he gave "to the elders 10 
grivnas each, and to the smerds a grivna each, and to the Novgorodans 
10 each to all." It is not important to us precisely how much Yaroslav 
gave to any one ; it is important that the chronicler rated each townsman, 
without distinction, ten times higher than the rustic, although in Yaro- 
slav 's militia their functions were quite identical. Under such condi- 
tions, it is evident that, in the eyes of an Old Russian, country origin by 
no means served as a mark of respect ; when another chronicler, not a 
northerner from Novgorod but a southerner from Galicia, wanted to 
sting two of his prince's boyars, he called them "lawless men of smerds' 
stock." There is nothing remarkable in the fact that on the lips of the 
princes themselves "smerd" was pure abuse, especially obnoxious to 


the townsmen, apparently, as may be concluded from the negotiations 
we have cited above between Oleg and Monomakh. When the latter 
wanted to show commiseration for a poor peasant, he found for him no 
more flattering epithet than ''lean one." But this is everyday, common 
parlance, so to speak. The chronicle 's report of the congress of Vitichev 

(1100) gives us an example of the official use of the word. Meeting at 
Uvetichy, the princes address to Volodar and Vasilka the demand, among 
others: "and deliver our bondsmen and smerds. " Thus, in diplomatic 
negotiations the peasant proves to be something in the nature of a 
bondsman of the prince. The special dependence of the peasants on the 
prince is alluded to, not only in this passage but in a whole series of 
chronicle texts. When one of Svyatoslav's voevodas [governors] found 
two "sorcerers" at Beloozero, before beginning to deal with them, he 
asked: "Whose smerds are they?" and, on learning that they were his 
prince's, demanded of the population their surrender. Of a Kievan 
or a Novgorodan, of a free man, it was not possible to ask whose he was, 
while of the peasant it was asked. With Kievans or Novgorodans a 
prince could not deal at will, while with peasants he could. In 1229 
Prince Michael Vsevolodovich came to Novgorod from Chernigov "and 
kissed the cross to all the freedom of Novgorod ' ' ; such was his relation 
to the townsmen, while to the smerds he himself "gave freedom for five 
years not to pay tribute." In the one case it was the liberty of the 
veche, in the other, the liberty of the prince. And if there was any 
limit to the latter, it was certainly not set by the liberty of the peasants, 
but by the veche, which, in Novgorod at least, accounted itself the 
supreme arbiter over the rural population, too. When the Novgorodans 
drove out their prince Vsevolod (1136), they listed among his trans- 
gressions: "does not watch over the smerd." Finally, the Russkaya 
Pravda names a special punishment (a fine of three grivnas) "if any one 
torments a smerd without the prince 's word ' ' ; further on it speaks 
about the "tormenting" (evidently, torture) of an ognishchan — but here 
nothing is said about the prince's word. In other words, the prince had 
the right to hand over a peasant to torture whenever it pleased him. 
This closer dependence of the peasants on the prince's authority long 
ago attracted the attention of scholars, and they have depicted the 
smerd, now as the prince's serf, now as a "state peasant." Such 
modernisation of social relationships was a logical consequence of mod- 
ernisation of the prince's authority; depicting the Old Russian prince 
as a sovereign, it was difficult to formulate the relationship of the peas- 
ants to him in any other way. On the other hand, the smerd of the 
Russkaya Pravda has all the features of a juridically free man ; the 
concept of a "state peasant" evidently does not fit in with the setting 
of the twelfth century; where there was no state, it is hard to find 


"state property," live or dead. Hence a quite natural reaction and 
attempts to prove that the relationship of the peasant to the prince 
was the relationship of a "subject," nothing more. Literally this char- 
acterisation is quite correct; the smerd was precisely a "subject" [pod 
danyi] , but in the oldest meaning of this word, which, as we saw in 
Chapter I, meant a man under tribute [pod danyu], one who is obliged 
to pay tribute. The smerd is a "tributary"; this is his basic charac- 
teristic. When the Yugrians wanted to get around the Novgorodans, to 
deceive them they said to them: "And do not ruin your smerds and 
your tributes" — ruin the peasants, and there will be nobody to take 
tribute from. This basic trait of the smerd at once discloses both the 
origin of the class and its enigmatic relation to the prince's authority. 
"We know that in early Bus tribute evolved historically out of regu- 
larised plunder, if we may so express it ; at first they took as much as 
they wished and were able, later they replaced plunder by a regular 
annual levy, tribute. At a later period tribute was paid to the town ; 
of the men of Pechora, as early as 1096, the chronicle says that they 
are "people who give tribute to Novgorod." But from the same 
chronicle's narrative about Igor we know that earlier each head of an 
armed band collected tribute in proportion to the physical possibility 
of doing so ; moreover, at this earlier time, the towns themselves paid 
tribute to such chieftains. Novgorod, for example, until the death of 
St. Vladimir (and perhaps even longer) apparently paid 300 grivnas 
to the "kunning" of Kiev "for the sake of peace." One very ancient 
passage from one of the later chronicle digests links the fixing of tribute 
with the building of towns: "This same Oleg, " it says, "began to build 
towns and fixed tribute through all the Eussian land." Before us is 
a very lively picture of the building of fortified points, whence the 
newcomers periodically despoil the local population, and whither they 
slip back with their booty. From time to time the prince himself "with 
all Eus" appears in these fortresses, reckoning up the total of the 
"tovar" acquired in the course of the year. Two or three centuries 
passed. The town, from an abode of merchant robbers, succeeded in 
converting itself into a great centre of population, with four hundred 
churches and eight markets, like Kiev. It itself no longer paid tribute 
to the prince, but rural Eus paid as of old. "To go for tribute" is, as 
of old, a specially princely profession, like commanding the militia. On 
occupying another's province, the prince's first business was to send 
through it his takers of tribute, who did not hesitate because the popula- 
tion had already paid tribute to the former prince. One passage from 
the chronicle gives occasion to suppose that the prince not only collected 
tribute but also disposed of it, even at Novgorod. The Ipatyevsky Chron- 
icle itself, under the date of 1149, thus reports the conditions of the 


truce between Yury Dolgoruky, son of Monomakh, and his nephew 
Izyaslav. "Izyaslav ceded Kiev to Yury, while Yury returned to 
Izyaslav all the tributes of Novgorod." But we already know that to 
"rule" meant to "take tribute"; originally political dependence was 
expressed merely by the payment of tribute. Conversely, in early Rus, 
down to the close of the Muscovite period, whoever took imposts from 
people "governed" them in general. The status of the peasant as a 
tributary made him specially a prince's man. 

The prince, in the town a hired guard, was master-votchinnik in the 
country. Kievan Rus had to resolve this political contradiction. In the 
question, which of the two laws, that of town or that of country, should 
take precedence in further development, was involved the fate of the 
Old Russian "republics." In the final reckoning, as we know, supremacy 
remained with the country. Writers have long since noted the connec- 
tion between this issue and economic conditions. Prof. Klyuchevsky 
establishes in his Lectures two facts, closely interrelated: the decline 
in the weight of the monetary unit, the grivna, which is, in his opinion, 
explained "by the gradual diminution of the flow of silver into Rus 
in consequence of the decline of foreign trade"; and embarrassment 
of the foreign trade transfers of Rus "by the triumphant nomads." But 
the author of the Lectures was evidently somewhat confused by the 
further question involved : why did these nomads, over whom the 
princes had triumphed in the tenth and eleventh centuries, themselves 
begin to triumph in the twelfth? The decline of external power must 
in its turn be explained by internal causes, and our author names two : 
"the juridical and economic abasement of the lower classes" on the 
one hand, and the "princes' feuds" on the other. But, as we have seen, 
the position of the lower classes was not worsened but bettered in the 
twelfth century as compared with the eleventh; while the struggles of 
Vladimir and Yaropolk, the sons of Syvatoslav, in 977-980, or of 
Yaroslav, son of Vladimir, with his brothers in 1016-1026 deserve the 
name of ' ' princes ' feuds, ' ' of course, not a bit less than do the quarrels 
of Izyaslav with the Olgoviches or with Yury Dolgoruky in the middle 
of the twelfth century. With all due respect to Prof. Klyuchevsky 's 
method, we must seek another explanation for the economic impoverish- 
ment of Kievan Rus, the fact of which he justly perceived. This explana- 
tion takes us back to the starting point of the present outline — to 
"robber trade," on which the prosperity of the Russian town of the 
eighth to the tenth centuries was founded. Extra-economic appropria- 
tion had its limits. Predatory exploitation of a country which subsisted 
by natural economy could be continued only as long as the exploiter 
could find fresh, untouched fields for operation. The "feuds" of the 
princes were not casual by-products of pugnacious temperaments; "cap- 


tives" were the basis of trade. But whence was this chief article of 
exchange to be taken when half of the country was so closely bound 
with great urban centres which protected their lands from injury, while 
the other half had already been so thoroughly exploited that "neither 
domestics nor cattle" remained? The last "wild" tribe, which neither 
Vladimir nor Yaroslav had succeeded in drawing into the compass of 
their predatory endeavours, was that of the Vyatiches, but Monomakh 
made an end of them. Just as the ancient Spartan ruler had in his 
time sought "unapportioned lands," so the Russian princes of the 
twelfth century sought lands still unplundered — but sought in vain. 
Monomakh sent his sons and his voevodas [generals] against Dorostol 
on the Danube, against the Bolgars of the Volga, against the Lechs [i.e., 
the Poles], and against the Chudes, whence they "returned with many a 
captive." But the organisational resources of the Old Russian prince 
were too weak to support exploitation over such a vast territory; on 
the other hand, both the Bolgars of the Volga and the Lechs were 
themselves already sufficiently organised to offer resistance and on 
occasion to pay in the same coin. The fate of Kievan Rus presents a 
certain analogy to the fate of imperial Rome ; both lived on what they 
found at hand, and when that was consumed, and they were compelled 
to seek out resources of their own, they had to be satisfied with very 
elementary forms of economic culture and consequently of every other 
phase of culture. Moreover, as in the Roman Empire, the "decline" 
was more apparent than real, for in the thirteenth century the Rus of 
Suzdal, on the one hand, and the Rus of Novgorod, on the other hand, 
passed over to methods of production and exchange which, in compari- 
son with the preceding period, represented an undoubted economic 

No one has sketched a more vivid picture of the desolation of Kievan 
Rus than has Prof. Klyuchevsky. The facts presented by him relate 
in large part to the second half of the twelfth century, in part to the 
beginning of the thirteenth. But one of the phenomena noted by this 
author — the decline of the princes' interest in the Kievan provinces — 
can be traced somewhat further back, to the first half of the twelfth 
century, in fact. As early as 1142 there took place between the 
Olgoviches, the oldest of whom, Vsevolod, then occupied Kiev, a very 
curious dispute about the provinces, during which the younger brothers 
expressed great readiness to exchange the Kievan provinces (bad ones, 
it is true) given them by their older brother for those same Vyatiches 
whom only a quarter of a century before Vladimir Monomakh had finally 
mastered. This interest in the Vyatiches is, in its turn, very curious 
if we remember theirs was the corner of the Russian land most remote 
and least touched by robber exploitation. Vsevolod 's younger brothers 


wanted to get the Vyatiches, not, of course, in order to plunder them, 
for this could be most conveniently done from a neighbouring province. 
It is evident that the former conception of a prince as first of all a 
conqueror, a leader of the hunt for "captives," and, naturally, the 
defender of his own lands against foreign huntsmen of the same order, 
is yielding place to another conception. This changed attitude of the 
prince toward his rights and duties has for some time received atten- 
tion from historians. Even Solovyev wrote of the distinction in this 
regard between the north-eastern princes of the twelfth and thirteenth 
centuries and their southern fathers and grandfathers. Inasmuch as the 
princes seemed to him to be the sole motive force of ancient Rus, in 
the political field at least, for him it became in the main a matter of 
changed relationships between the princes themselves. The former fra- 
ternal relations between them are replaced by relations of subjection ; 
the "fatal word subject in place of prince" was first pronounced by 
Andrew Bogolyubsky. The chronicle's words about Bogolyubsky 's 
despotism he likewise interpreted in precisely this same sense. But it 
is not likely that the conduct of the "despot" of Suzdal in relation to 
his Kievan cousins differed much for the worse from the mode of action 
of Monomakh's son Mstislav, for example, who subjected his kinsmen 
of Polotsk to administrative exile. The princes liked to talk of brother- 
hood, but their actual relations by no means rested on such sentimen- 
talities; a strong "brother" always dealt as he pleased with a weak 
one, stopping neither at murder nor at blinding. Solovyev 's successors 
have quite rightly occupied themselves with another aspect of the 
"despotism" of Prince Andrew Bogolyubsky. "Prince Andrew was a 
stern and wilful master, who always acted in his own way, and not ac- 
cording to antiquity and custom, ' ' says Prof. Klyuchevsky ; 4 " . . . wish- 
ing to rule without sharing, Andrew hounded his brothers and nephews 
and his father's 'foremost men,' i.e., his father's great boyars. " This 
author thinks that " Bogolyubsky 's political concepts and governmental 
practices" had in significant degree been developed by the social sur- 
roundings in which he had grown up and under which he lived. "This 
environment was the dependent town, Vladimir, where Andrew passed 
the major part of his life." Below we shall see that the political customs 
of Vladimir, regardless of the fact that it was a new town and perhaps 
owing precisely to this fact, in no way differed from the corresponding 
customs of Kiev or even of Novgorod, so that Andrew could not have 
derived any new governmental practices from this environment. But 
if again we must reject the explanation that Prof. Klyuchevsky gives 
to the fact, the fact itself he has again rightly divined ; the originality 
of the "new" princes lies in their "domestic policy," in their methods 
4 Cf. V. 0. Klyuchevsky, op. cit., Vol. I, Chap. XIV. 


of administering their lands, and not in their "foreign policy," not in 
their relations to princes of other, neighbouring lands. 

The murder of Prince Andrew is usually represented as a case of 
court intrigue. Its proximate causes are sketched in a vein very reminis- 
cent of the end of Emperor Paul (1796-1801). Andrew had by his 
cruelties stirred up against him his own domestics, his household; 
the execution of one of his intimates, Kuchkovich, seemed the drop 
that overfilled the cup ; Kuchkovich 's comrades and relatives took venge- 
ance for his death. Such is the traditional, text-book treatment of the 
affair. Precisely such a concept of the event the chronicler undoubtedly 
wished to inspire in his readers, for he himself was a great admirer 
of Bogolyubsky, the liberal builder of churches and the inflexible pro- 
tector of Orthodoxy against all heresies. But the chronicler's literary 
skill — or, more accurately, that of the author of the "narrative" im- 
ported into the chronicle — was scarcely adequate to depict this event 
in full and at the same time to avoid contradictions. In spite of himself, 
while relating the facts in their chronological sequence, he gives a number 
of details that are quite incompatible with his general picture. First 
of all, we learn that the conspiracy extended far beyond the limits of 
the prince's court; Andrew's murderers had partisans and accomplices 
even among the "druzhina of Vladimir." This was by no means Prince 
Andrew's personal druzhina; later it appears more than once in the 
chronicle as something connected with the town, and not with this or 
that prince. To judge by the numbers (1,500 men) and by the military 
significance ascribed to this druzhina by the chronicle (without it the 
town is represented as defenseless), the chronicle is giving the name 
"druzhina" to the town militia of Vladimir, the Vladimir "thousand." 
Not without reason does the chronicler call this force now "the men 
of Vladimir," now "the druzhina of Vladimir," without distinguishing 
between these concepts. Thus, to these men of Vladimir the conspirators 
appeal immediately after the murder, striving to convince the townsmen 
that they were defending not only their own but the townsmen's inter- 
ests, too. The chronicler puts into the mouths of the men of Vladimir 
the very loyal answer: "you are unnecessary to us." But subsequently 
he is compelled to state a number of facts which cannot be reconciled 
with this loyalty. "The townsmen of Bogolyubov [the place where the 
prince was slain] looted the prince's house . . . gold and silver, gar- 
ments and precious stuffs, — property to which there was no limit ; and 
much evil was done throughout the provinces ; they looted the houses 
of [his officials], and slew them and their children and [officers], and 
plundered the houses of the latter, not knowing that it is written : where 
there is law, there is also much injury. Even the peasants from the 
hamlets came to pilfer. The same thing happened in Vladimir ; they 


did not cease to loot ' ' until the clergy went through the town ' ' with the 
Holy Virgin." 

Thus we see that the event of June 28, 1174, bears little resemblance 
to what happened in St. Petersburg on March 11, 1801. The latter was 
an officers' conspiracy, finding support, it is true, in the public opinion 
of the whole nobility, but awakening no concern in the masses of the 
population, either in St. Petersburg itself or in Russia at large. In the 
former we are dealing with an actual popular revolution, just like the 
events of 1068 and 1113 at Kiev. Not without reason did the chronicler 
deem it necessary immediately after his tale of the town riot to remind 
his readers of non-resistance to the prince's authority; he well knew 
against whom the riot was directed. The murder of the prince, the 
supreme head of the administration, was but the signal for the over- 
throw of the administration in general; and there is every reason to 
think that Prince Andrew's menials were right when they appealed 
to the sympathy of the men of Vladimir. The chronicler does not deny 
the factual bases for the popular movement; there had been many 
"injuries," and the prince's sword had been misused enough, not in for- 
eign wars, as happened in olden time, but in domestic administration. 
Thus Andrew's despotism had found expression other than the expulsion 
of the "foremost boyars," which might even have pleased the common 
people. The burden of his despotism had fallen upon the masses. 
Bogolyubsky 's administration was one of the first systematic attempts 
to exploit these masses in a new way — not by means of bold inroads 
from without, but by way of the slow but sure draining of the land 
"by fines and fees." In its results the new method was no better than 
the old; the men of Vladimir, who had become acquainted with it 
through a twofold experience, first under Andrew, then under his kins- 
men, the sons of Rostislav, accurately defined the latters' methods when 
they said that they dealt with their principality "just as with a foreign 
land." On no account did the men of Vladimir wish to recognise this 
new order of things. Two years after the deposition of Andrew a new 
revolution burst out in Vladimir, the sons of Rostislav were overthrown 
in their turn, and the townsmen secured from their new prince the 
execution of their foes with all formality; Bogolyubsky 's nephews were 
blinded (some say merely a pretense was made, to appease the agitated 
people) and their ally and patron, Prince Gleb of Ryazan, was killed 
in prison. 

However, extermination of the representatives of the new order 
could not remove the causes which had created it. Having laid waste 
by its rapacious policy the territory all around it, the Old Russian town 
fell, and no one could arrest its fall. Even before the death of Andrew, 
at the time of the celebrated siege of Kiev in 1169, the first town of 


the Russian land was defended by Torks and Berendeys, detachments of 
steppe nomads hired by Prince Mstislav. When they deserted, the town 
could no longer hold out, and the Kievans were overtaken by the fate 
they had always so feared ; they themselves became captives. Thousands 
of captives, and in particular female captives, were dragged from the 
conqueror-town to the slave markets to which it itself had supplied so 
much human merchandise in former centuries. But with the destruction 
of Kiev the devastated South lost all its interest and significance; the 
nominal conqueror of Kiev, Prince Andrew, under whose banner had 
marched the army which sacked the "mother of Russian towns," had 
not himself gone to the South; far more attractive to him was the 
new system of princely administration being consolidated in the North. 
The peculiar forms of the military-trading republic endured in the 
northwest for three more centuries ; in its vast colonies Novgorod found 
an inexhaustible source of "tovar," while its close connection with 
Western Europe implied possibilities of new organisational resources. 
In the rest of Russia the slow process of decomposition of old, predatory, 
urban civilisation into rural was bound to continue. Nothing further 
was needed but the ruin of the town, for, as we shall well remember, 
the town had brought nothing new into the country. The means of 
production remained unchanged ; the only difference was that the prod- 
ucts, which formerly the town had unceremoniously seized as far as its 
arm could reach, and not infrequently along with the producers, now 
remained at home. Novgorod and Pskov here represented an exception. 
In them local exchange had developed to such a point that the town 
was already something more than a bird of prey (though here, too, this 
role remained dominant). In the rest of Russia the town had lived 
an independent life, but little concerned with the rural Rus around it. 
The Russkaya Pravda, which develops in detail questions of "tovar," 
of money, and of interest, says extraordinarily little about land — so 
little, indeed, that some scholars have felt justified in asserting that 
the Pravda "does not contain regulations about the acquisition or aliena- 
tion of land." As a matter of fact, the Pravda mentions land four 
times; about interest rates it contains 23 regulations (in the fullest 
copies) ; about bondsmen, 27. How much more frequently than the 
landholder did the slaveholder appear in the Old Russian court! The 
town, economically alien to the country, was, as we saw, also juridically 
cut off from it by an impassable wall. In the town were free men 
and a powerful veche, in the country tributaries without rights, whom 
the princes "drove" to war, like cannon-fodder it might be said, had 
there been cannon then. This term, "drive," is extraordinarily expres- 
sive, and by no means accidental ; in the republic of Novgorod it survived 
till the last years of her existence. Even under the year 1430 the 


chronicler of Novgorod noted down: ''the peasants were driven to 
Novgorod to build a town." Only when unpaid working hands were 
needed in large number did the Old Russian democracy bethink itself 
of its "smerds. " For their part, the peasants were little concerned 
about the democracy and did not stir when Muscovite feudalism advanced 
to crush what was left of it. 

Owing to the special conditions of her existence Novgorod fell before 
her economic role had been played to the end. The southern towns, and 
likewise those of the northeast, in so far as they were not simply over- 
grown princely manors, were nearer their natural death when their last 
hour struck. But just as scarcely any living organism dies a wholly 
natural death, so the natural demise of the Old Russian trading town 
was hastened on by a series of causes that aided the conversion of 
urban Rus into rural. One of these causes, the most immediate, his- 
torians have long ago indicated ; it was the sum total of the struggle 
with the steppe, ending with the great Tatar pogrom in the thirteenth 
century. From the ninth century to the eleventh Rus was on the 
offensive against the men of the steppe ; if we compare on the map the 
southern defensive lines of Rus under Vladimir and under Yaroslav, 
we readily see an advancing southward movement. The culmination of 
this advance was Yaroslav 's victory over the Pechenegs (1034) ; in 1068 
the sons of Yaroslav were beaten by a new horde from the steppe, the 
Polovtsians. From that time on the latter hardly disappear from the 
chronicle's field of vision for a single year; even in the middle of the 
thirteenth century the Galician-Volhynian chronicle-digest calls them 
to mind. The devastations produced by their raids were great, of course, 
but it is necessary to remember that in essence they were in no way to 
be distinguished from the feuds of the princes. For the Polovtsians, 
like the princes, invaded others' lands for captives. If we add that in 
the feuds themselves the Polovtsians took a very active part, willingly 
hiring themselves out in the service of the princes, and that the princes 
by no means hesitated to intermarry with the Polovtsians, so that in the 
last analysis it could not be said whose blood flowed in the veins of 
any descendant of Izyaslav — then there is not the slightest foundation 
for thinking of the Polovtsians as an alien and obscure ' ' Asiatic ' ' force, 
as a dark cloud hovering over the representatives of "European civili- 
sation," over Kievan Rus. But in so far as Polovtsian raids increased 
the devastation quantitatively, they thereby hastened on the fatal end. 
Nevertheless, it was not they who dealt the final blow. The men of 
the steppe did not know how to take towns ; even w T hen they fell on 
Kiev unexpectedly (1096), they could not force their way into it but 
had to confine themselves to devastation of the environs. If fortified 
centres did fall into their hands from time to time, they were only 


petty ones. Not until 1203 did they succeed in playing the master at 
Kiev itself; but it was Russian princes, Rurik Rostislavich and the 
Olgoviches, who brought the Polovtsians thither. 

A different kind of enemy were the Tatars. Steppe horsemen, moving 
about just as easily and freely as the Polovtsians, they had assimilated 
all the military technique of their time. As early as their Chinese wars 
they had learned to take cities surrounded by stone walls. In the 
words of Plano-Carpini, each Tatar was obliged to have with him an 
intrenching tool and ropes for the purpose of drawing siege machines. 
In an assault on any Russian town, they first of all "encolumned" it — 
fenced it around ; after that they began to strike with battering-rams 
on the gates or on the weakest part of the wall, striving at the same 
time to set fire to the buildings inside the walls ; for this latter purpose 
they used, among other things, Greek fire, which it seems they even 
perfected somewhat. They had recourse to mines; in some cases they 
even diverted rivers. In a word, in point of military skill, as a French 
writer has justly remarked, the Tatars in the thirteenth century were 
like the Prussians in the middle of the nineteenth. The very strongest 
Russian towns fell into their hands after a few weeks', sometimes only 
a few days', siege. But the taking of a town by the Tatars meant such 
complete and unmitigated destruction as neither the Russian princes 
nor even the Polovtsians had ever encompassed, and precisely because 
Tatar strategy set itself a more distant goal than simple acquisition of 
captives. To support its "world" policy the Horde 5 needed large 
money resources ; these it extracted from conquered peoples in the form 
of tribute. In order to guarantee the punctual receipt of the latter, it 
was first of all necessary, from the military point of view, to make it 
impossible for the population to renew the struggle. To destroy the 
great centres of population, to drive out their inhabitants, in part to 
exterminate them or to lead them off into captivity — all this was admir- 
ably calculated to achieve this immediate aim. This is why the Tatars 
were such great foes of the towns, and why Baty's onslaught seemed to 
the townsman-chronicler the crown of all imaginable horrors. This is 
why, likewise, they strove to annihilate all the higher ruling elements 
of the population, including the clergy; "the better, well-born men 
never expect mercy from them," says Plano-Carpini, while the chron- 
icles persistently name among those slain or made captive by the Tatars 
"monks and nuns," "priests and priests' wives." Destruction of the 
towns and annihilation of the upper classes alike weakened the military- 
political organisation of the conquered and guaranteed their submission 
for the future. With one blow the Tatar devastation completed a process 
which had become manifest long before the onslaughts of the Tatars 

6 Literally, camp ; the government of the Mongol khans. 


and which had been produced by economic conditions — the process of 
the decomposition of the urban Rus of the tenth to the twelfth centuries. 
But the influence of Tatar conquest was not limited to this negative 
result. The Tatar Ascendancy not only contributed to the disintegration 
of old Rus but also contributed to the integration of a new Rus — the 
appanage Rus of Moscow. A few lines above the reader must have noted 
that the tendency of the Horde to exploit the subjugated population 
as tributaries perfectly corresponded to the new tendencies that we 
observed in the princely policy of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. 
But here, too, as in the matter of the conquest itself, the Tatars ploughed 
deeper. In the first place, not content with the former policy of collec- 
tion, based partly on the appetite of the taker, partly on the strength 
of the resistance of the giver, the Tatars organised a regular system 
of assessment, which survived the Tatars themselves by many centuries. 
The first registers of taxable population are directly connected with the 
subjugation of Russia by the Horde ; the first mention of ' ' plough descrip- 
tion" — of the direct distribution of imposts by tax units (the "plough" 
equals two or three workmen) — is connected with the Tatar tribute of 
the thirteenth century; earlier, in all probability, the whole clan paid 
in a lump ; for penal fines we know this to be certain, and there is no 
reason to think that the "tribute" was paid otherwise. Nothing re- 
mained to the Muscovite government but to develop the Tatar system 
further, which it did. But the Tatars did not merely introduce technical 
improvements in Old Russian finances ; in so far as it was possible for a 
force acting from without, they introduced marked changes in social 
relationships, once again in the same direction in which the latter had 
already begun to develop under the influence of native conditions. In 
the classical period of Kievan Rus only the rural population was "under 
tribute." The urban population did not pay permanent direct im- 
posts ; consequently princely exploitation in the town was expressed 
in the form of abuses in judicial penalties. The conquerors of Russia 
had no reason to have recourse to such circuitous ways, and in the Tatar 
"number" all were reckoned, townsmen and rustics indiscriminately. 
In the area of immediate conquest the Horde with no great effort suc- 
ceeded in imposing tribute; here the urban population was so weakened 
that it could not think of resistance. A different picture is presented 
by the large centres of population still inviolate physically, which 
submitted to the Horde only from fear of an invasion. The chronicle 
of Novgorod presents in an extraordinarily vivid fashion the tax reform 
there ; it was not easy for the free men of Novgorod to suffer conversion 
into unfree "tributaries." The Tatar tribute-takers appeared here for 
the first time in 1257. The chronicler does not record, and probably did 
not himself know how, but the city succeeded in ransoming itself from 


the "number," sending good presents to the "tsar" (as they always 
called the khan) and, perhaps, liberally bribing the envoys themselves. 
But the khan's administration inflexibly pursued its system; whatever 
happened, Novgorod must be taken into the "number" with all the rest 
of Rus ; two years later the Tatar officials again appeared, and this time 
bribes did not suffice. "There was a token on the moon, so that it 
could not be seen at all," relates the chronicler. "In the same winter 
came Michael Pineshchinich from the Low [the land of Suzdal] 6 with 
a false embassy and spoke thus : ' If you do not put yourselves into 
the number, behold, already our regiments are on the Low land.' And 
the Novgorodans put themselves into the number. ..." But this was 
only juridically; the veche, deceived by the "false embassy," had 
capitulated in words only. The old order of things was in turmoil 
when words began to be converted into deeds, when the Tatar haskaks 
came to Novgorod and set about the collection of the tribute. They 
began with the provinces, and the mere rumours of what was taking 
place there evoked a disturbance in the town ; the provinces of Novgorod 
were inhabited not only by peasants but also by many townsmen, arti- 
sans and merchants who had purchased land, the svoezemtsy. Now 
all without distinction had become tributaries. "When the turn of Nov- 
gorod itself came, the disturbance developed into open revolt ; ' ' the 
rabble did not wish to give the numbers, but said: we will die honour- 
ably for Saint Sofia and for the homes of the saints!" 

And men "were made in twain." The upper strata of society, know- 
ing what fate awaited them in case of a Tatar inroad, favoured a pacific 
issue, submission to the demands of the Horde. The roughly apportioned 
method of assessment, at so much from each individual economy, was 
very satisfactory to the rich. The Tatar tribute-takers rode through 
the streets and counted the houses ; each house, no matter to whom it 
belonged, paid one and the same amount. "And the boyars made it 
easy for themselves and ill for the lesser ones." Matters had apparently 
gone as far as a formal agreement between the "accursed" Tatar 
envoy, on the one hand, and the prince, Alexander Nevsky, and the 
Novgorod aristocracy, on the other; in case of further resistance of the 
"rabble" they had agreed to attack the town from two sides. It is 
unknown what averted a collision at the last minute ; according to the 
chronicler, it was "Christ's might," but a modern historian looks for 
another explanation. The chief cause, it seems, was the solidarity of the 
boyars, who felt that for them this was a question of life and death, 
that the "savage beasts," coming from the wilderness in the form of 

s The Eussian "mesopotamia," lying between the Upper Volga and the Oka, 
was downstream from Novgorod and hence was called "the Low"; similarly the 
lesser Novgorod is called Nizhny-Novgorod, i.e., Novgorod the Low. 


Tatars, would first of all "eat the flesh of the strong and drink the 
blood of the boyars. " The masses of the population were already too 
dependent on commercial capital to enter upon an open struggle with 
all the capitalists rather than with one of their mutually hostile groups, 
as usually happened in such collisions. However it was, the Tatars 
finally secured their tribute from the free Novgorodans, and the chron- 
icler did not know how to explain it except as chastisement from the 
Lord for their sins. With a sigh of regret that even this severe punish- 
ment had no effect on the impenitents, he concludes his narrative. 

The history of the Novgorod "number" shows how hostile to the 
Tatars were the democratic elements of the veche, and the Tatars were 
too versed in practical politics not to understand and appreciate this 
hostility. A series of events in other parts of Rus clearly disclosed that 
the townsmen everywhere, as soon as they had recovered from the imme- 
diate effects of the devastation, were ready to imitate Novgorod's stand. 
In 1262 the men of the land of Rostov "willed a veche" and drove out 
the Tatar tribute-takers from Rostov, Vladimir, Suzdal, and Yaroslavl. 
In 1289 the same thing was repeated in Rostov, in which case the soli- 
darity of Prince Dmitry of Rostov with the Tatars stands out very 
clearly. The alliance, which was already apparent in Novgorod in 1259, 
of the "better men" and the prince with the Tatars against the "rabble" 
was bound to become, and actually did become, a constant phenomenon. 
That in supporting the princes and their boyars in the struggle with 
the "lesser men" the Horde would in the end create the Muscovite 
autocracy, which would abolish the Horde itself as unnecessary — this 
remote prospect was beyond the Tatar politicians' field of vision, a fact 
for which there was some degree of justification. The Tatar Ascendancy 
established itself in Rus in the first half of the thirteenth century, while 
it was not until the second half of the following century that the princes 
of Moscow decided to come out openly against the "tsar." A century 
and a half of absolute subjection of Rus to the Horde was assured at 
any rate. 

As we see, then, the Tatar invasion has not without some justification 
occupied in national tradition a place that the modern science of history 
has been inclined to wrest from it. And this science is right in the 
sense that this external shock could bring into Russian history nothing 
essentially new. But, as usually happens, the external crisis helped to 
resolve the internal crisis and in part supplied the means for its solution. 
In conclusion, the reservation must be made that it would be too nar- 
row an interpretation to call the economic crisis that undermined Kievan 
Rus exclusively external. The reader has probably already noted the 
absence in our interpretation of one factor, on which, nevertheless, the 
ancient town was, as we have already said, intimately dependent, and 


with which it was more closely connected than it was with the rural 
Rus surrounding it. This factor was the foreign market — the consumer 
of the wares, animate and inanimate, of the Russian merchant. "We are 
not here dealing with the history of European trade and therefore have 
no occasion to study in detail the fate of international exchange in the 
Middle Ages. But the connection between certain quite catastrophic 
events in European trade and Russian history obtruded itself on the 
minds of Russian bookmen even of that age. Among the few facts culled 
from "universal" history by the first chronicle of Novgorod, the story 
of the taking of Constantinople by French and Italian crusaders in 1204 
occupies a quite exceptional place. Only of the Tatar invasion does the 
chronicle speak at greater length and in more detail ; all other Russian 
events are much more sparingly and drily dealt with. It is as if the 
author had seen with his own eyes the destruction of the capital of all 
Orthodox Christendom — so excited is his imagination by this picture, 
about which, however, he had only read in Byzantine chronographies. 
It is significant that what might have seemed to be most interesting 
for him — the religious aspect, the seizure of the centre of oecumenical 
Orthodoxy by the Latins — does not occupy the central foreground. On 
the other hand, what is emphasised, and this is not less significant, is 
the solidarity of the Greeks and the Varangians who jointly defended 
the city. The Novgorodan of the thirteenth century dimly felt the objec- 
tive significance of this event. It was the last link in the long chain of 
phenomena, which historians of the past designated by the general name 
of "crusades," and more recent historians prefer to call "French coloni- 
sation in the Levant. ' ' A struggle for eastern markets was in progress. 
In the first half of the Middle Ages they were wholly in the hands of 
the Arabs and Byzantines, and only through their medium did the North 
European Varangians have access to them. Just at this time the Dnieper 
and Volkhov became perhaps the most lively trading highway of 
Europe; Russia and Sweden were flooded with Eastern coins (all the 
Arab dirgems found in innumerable Russian and Scandinavian treasure- 
troves are, as is well known, not older than the end of the seventh, 
and not more recent than the eleventh century), and matters had gone 
so far that, as Russians represented it, it was impossible to travel even 
from Asia Minor to Rome except by way of Kiev and Novgorod. In 
the chronicle's well-known story about the Apostle Andrew it is said 
that Andrew was teaching in Sinope, whence he came to Korsun, "and, 
having seen that from Korsun it is not far to the mouth of the Dnieper, 
had a mind to go to Rome." But from the eleventh century on com- 
mercial Europe, still headed by Varangians, but this time from Western 
and Southern Europe, Normans and Sicilians, begins to open its own 
route to the East, wresting the monopoly of Eastern trade from the 


Mohammedans and Byzantine Greeks. The expedition of 1203-1204, 
when the chief commercial centre of the Greek East was taken and 
plundered at the hands of French knights brought on Italian ships and 
guided by the "blind doge," the incarnation of Venetian trading policy, 
perfectly characterises the conclusion of the struggle. Now the highway 
from the Black Sea to Rome went, not by the Dnieper but through 
Venice, while the "great water route from the Varangians to the 
Greeks" ended to the south in a commercial blind alley. Now it was 
easier for the Varangians to make contact with the Greek countries by 
another river, the Rhine. The union of Rhenish towns, as is well known, 
was the embryo of the Hansa, which embraced the whole Baltic with 
its counting houses; on the extreme eastern periphery of this chain 
appeared Novgorod, of Russian trading towns the only one for which 
the shifting of world trade routes was more advantageous than preju- 
dicial. All the rest of the stopping-places on the great highway of 
international exchange were converted into lonely trading villages on a 
by-road, and almost at the same time were destroyed by the Tatars. Two 
such blows simultaneously even an economically healthy country could 
not have borne without a resultant lingering decline, but such a country 
would have recovered sooner or later; for early urban Rus, already 
internally devitalised by its outworn economic forms, decline was 



The fall of Kiev is usually treated as having directly and immediately 
caused the centre of Russian history to shift northeastward, to "the 
mesopotamia of the Oka and the Volga." But the transition was not 
so direct and immediate, as must be apparent to any one not unduly 
influenced by the Muscovite point of view — Muscovite in the narrowest 
and most precise sense of the word. To a fifteenth-century grand prince 
of Moscow and his adherents it no doubt seemed possible and even prob- 
able that he had received authority from "our forefather Vladimir 
Monomakh" without any intervening stages. Yet, three hundred years 
earlier one of the ancestors of this prince, free from the fantastic ideas 
that made a former dependent town of Suzdal the capital of the world, 
looked at things more realistically. Vsevolod Big Nest saw Kiev's suc- 
cessor, not in Moscow nor even in Vladimir, but in Novgorod the Great. 
When he sent his son off to this city, he said to him: "My son Con- 
stantine! On thee God has placed the seniority among your brothers, 
while Novgorod the Great holds seniority among the principalities in 
the whole Russian land." Doubtless this story is not unmixed with 
legend manufactured in Novgorod itself, but it contains a kernel of 
truth, as Constantine himself was to find out; later the Novgorodans 
seated him on the grand-princely throne of Suzdal-Vladimir, for at the 
moment the Novgorodans were masters in north Rus, just as a hundred 
years earlier the Kievans had been in the South. 

The causes of this relative stability of the northern trading centre 
as compared with its southern rival have been noted in general outline. 
In Novgorod trade bore the same predatory character as in the South ; 
the same "tribute," i.e., products taken from the immediate producers 
by force, constituted the chief article of export. But such means of 
acquiring "merchandise" needed an extensive field of operations. There 
must be ever new and untouched, or at least only partially touched, 
areas to feed this kind of trade. The ascendancy of Kiev was maintained 
by exploitation of neighbouring Russian lands and tribes, and when these 
had been exhausted, there was no longer anything left on which to live. 
But the Rus of Novgorod had a wide colonial domain, embracing the 
whole southern littoral of the Arctic Ocean, approximately to the Obi. 
Here was a practically inexhaustible store of the objects of exchange 



most valuable at that time — first and foremost, furs. Not without rea- 
son did the fur trade first acquire a wholesale character in Novgorod. 
Nikitsky, the historian of Novgorod's economic life, says: "Furs circu- 
lated in trade usually in large quantities, by thousands, half -thousands, 
quarters, forties, dozens, tens, and fives, rarely in ones. The more 
valuable furs were usually sold in the smaller units, most of all in 
forties; the less valuable in thousands, and even in tens of thousands. 
Among the more valuable the sources mention especially furs of sable 
and beaver, marten and fox, polecat, ermine, and weasel, skins of mink 
or river otter and lynx. Among the less valuable appear bear, wolf, and 
rabbit furs, and in particular squirrel skins, which were sold in especially 
large quantities. The latter must be understood, it seems, whenever the 
sources simply mention fur goods as Schon Werk, Bussen Werk, Nauga- 
resch Werk." Almost monopolistic sway on the fur market of itself 
guaranteed to Novgorod a stable position in the system of exchange that 
grew up around the Baltic Sea toward the latter half of the Middle 
Ages. But still more important under the conditions of the time was 
the fact that in the colonies of Novgorod was to be found almost the 
sole source of precious metals in all Rus. "Trans-Kaman," i.e., Ural, 
silver flowed both to Western Europe and to Moscow after passing 
through the intermediate stage of tribute collected by Novgorod from 
the Yugrians and other tribes of the Urals, who had inherited the wealth 
of the ancient Biarmiya which had so tempted early Scandinavian 
heroes. As late as the end of the twelfth century it was possible to make 
expeditions thither that are reminiscent of the campaigns for tribute 
undertaken by Igor and his contemporaries. In 1193 the whole militia 
of Novgorod perished in the land of the Yugrians, a victim to its own 
avarice and to the guile of the natives, who "deceived" the Novgorodan 
voevoda, saying to him: ""We will amass for you silver and sables and 
all other splendid things ; do not destroy your peasants and your tribute. " 
The voevoda believed them, whereas in fact it was warriors that the 
Yugrians had amassed. When all was ready, they lured him and his 
staff into an ambuscade in which they perished. After this it was not 
difficult for the Yugrians to deal with the leaderless fighting-men, who 
were exhausted by hunger into the bargain. Only 80 men returned 
home; "and there mourned in Novgorod the prince, and the bishop, 
and all Novgorod." But individual disasters did not alter the fact 
that, by and large, "trans-Kaman silver" regularly entered the treas- 
ury of Novgorod. And not without reason was Ivan Kalita, the first 
grand prince of Moscow, so eager to secure this particular variety of 
Novgorod's tribute. A great part both of his table silver and even 
of that of his grandsons and great-grandsons was of Novgorodan origin, 
marked with the names of Novgorodan prelates and posadniks. Seizure 


of Novgorod's "tribute-takers" laden with trans-Kaman silver was for 
Novgorod's foes as favourite a method of warfare as, for English cor- 
sairs of the sixteenth century, was the seizure of Spanish galleons with 
gold coming from the New World. When Ivan the Great dealt the fatal 
blow to Novgorod, he first occupied the Dvina, hastening to cut off his 
antagonist's eastern colonies. 

But it was not silver only that came into Novgorod from the east. 
We saw that the decline of Kiev, aside from its internal, local causes, 
reflected also an external change — the transfer of Mediterranean trade 
from the hands of the Byzantine Greeks into the hands of the Italians 
and the French. This change robbed of its value the "great water 
route" from the Varangians to the Greeks along the Dnieper. But 
this was far from being the only artery of Eastern trade in the Middle 
Ages. There remained another route, by the Volga to the Caspian Sea ; 
the European end of this route, too, lay at Novgorod. One Eastern ware, 
silk, even constituted an important article in Novgorod's trade with the 
West. Thus that traffic which had long since been choked in the Dnieper 
basin continued to hold its own on the Volkhov even 200 years later. 

Novgorod was still growing when in southern Rus growth had long 
since given way to decay and ruin. From the example of Novgorod we 
can judge what Kievan Rus might have become, had its economic re- 
sources not been drained in the twelfth century. Herein lies the interest 
of the study of Novgorod's history. This interest is augmented by the 
almost complete absence (not wholly complete, as certain historians in- 
cautiously affirm) of another disturbing factor, the Tatar yoke. It is 
of course impossible to allege, as one very renowned scholar has done, 
that Novgorod "did not look the Horde's baskak in the eyes." In 
analysing the events of the years 1257-1259, we saw that there was a 
moment when she "experienced the immediate weight and dread of the 
Tatar." But in Novgorod's history this was just for a moment, whereas 
the Low land lived under this weight for centuries. In a word, on the 
Volkhov we may expect certain social combinations which did not develop 
on the Dnieper, although they were the logical sequel to the system of 
relationships that had existed in southern Russia. 

We have just discussed one example of this further development. We 
know that mediaeval trade, both in Russia and in the West, was small- 
scale, that the mediaeval trader resembled a contemporary peddler rather 
than what we now call a merchant. The attentive reader has noted, 
nevertheless, that this comparison is not applicable to Novgorod's fur 
trade. One does not carry thousands, and still less tens of thousands, 
of squirrel skins on one's back. If Kievan Rus dealt in merchandise on 
a large scale, it was in the sole case of human merchandise — slaves. There 
are cases where hundreds of slaves were in the hands of a single person. 


One of the princes of Chernigov, for example, had, according to the 
chronicle, 700 menials ; it is not likely that these were servants or even 
field bondsmen. The Novgorodans were, of course, not squeamish about 
menials. The Ushkuiniks, who in 1375 plundered Kostroma and Nizhny- 
Novgorod, sold all their "captives," predominantly women, to Moslem 
merchants in Bolgary. Just as in the times of Saint Vladimir ! But it 
is noteworthy that this article of trade does not stand out in the history 
of Novgorod as it had earlier stood out elsewhere. On the other hand 
there does stand out a new phenomenon — the accumulation in a few 
hands of large capital in the form of money. In 1209 the veche of 
Novgorod rose against the posadnik Dmitry Miroshkinich and his 
brothers, who, in alliance with the prince of Suzdal, had been striving 
to oppress the free city. For this attempt they paid with confiscation 
of all their belongings. The veche converted all the "substance" of 
the Miroshkiniches into the property of the town ; their villages and 
menials were sold ; in addition, their hidden treasures were discovered 
and seized. Everything taken was subjected to per capita division, and 
to each Novgorodan fell 3 grivnas, i.e., 40-60 rubles in pre-war currency. 
But the chronicler says that the confiscations were not without abuses; 
certain men "seized hidden things," whatever fell into their hands dur- 
ing the disturbance, and thus grew rich. In addition, besides movable 
and immovable property and ready cash there were also found in 
Dmitry's house "tablets" — bills of exchange of Novgorodan merchants; 
these were given to the prince, thus making the private possessions of 
the Miroshkiniches state property. If we take all these details into 
consideration, we see that in Novgorod as early as the thirteenth century 
there were millionaires (if we translate the money value of that time 
into that of the present). The mention of "tablets" clearly indicates 
the basis of the authority and influence of the greatest family in 
Novgorod at that time. But there is another curious aspect to the affair. 
In Novgorod Dmitry represented that new financial policy for which 
Prince Andrew Bogolyubsky had paid with his life thirty years before. 
The Miroshkiniches were accused of making innovations in the exaction 
of judicial penalties. In Novgorod financial exploitation must have pro- 
duced a still more powerful impression than in Suzdal, accustomed to 
princely tyranny ; and yet Dmitry Miroshkinich had succeeded in being 
the master for four years (1205-1209). In fact, he survived until his 
own ally, Prince Vsevolod Big Nest of Suzdal, surrendered him to the 
Novgorodans, saying to them: "Who is good to you do ye love, but 
the evil do ye punish." But this was done too late, as the sequel showed. 
Svyatoslav, son of the prince of Suzdal and himself prince of Novgorod, 
outlasted the posadnik Dmitry by only a year. In 1210 Mstislav the 
Bold of Toropets, having heard that Novgorod "suffers violence from 


the princes," appeared in Torzhok and was received with outstretched 
arms by the Novgorodans, who immediately arrested Svyatoslav "until 
there shall be justice with his father." Soon the latter had to acknowl- 
edge that the collapse of Suzdal's financial policy in Novgorod entailed 
the end of Suzdal's dominance there. Mstislav seated himself firmly 
on the throne of Novgorod, and Vsevolod Big Nest himself concluded a 
treaty with him as prince of Novgorod. 

The events of 1209 in Novgorod present, as we see, a perfect analogy 
with those of 1174 and the following years in Suzdal. But whereas the 
Suzdal revolution had no further consequences, that of Novgorod was 
the starting point of a remarkable epoch in the history of the town — ac- 
cording to the estimate of some historians the most brilliant. "For 
Novgorod set in in such days of heroism, glory, and honour, as for Kiev 
under Vladimir Monomakh," Kostomarov says of this period. If we 
remember that in those days Novgorod set up princes, both at Kiev and 
at Vladimir, and that the throne of Novgorod was contested by the most 
influential and renowned of the existing descendants of Rurik, it is 
hardly possible to add anything to its outward splendour. Unfor- 
tunately, showy external events, dazzling the eyes not only of the later 
historian but also of the chronicler himself, have left the domestic life 
of Novgorod in obscurity. We sense that for approximately forty years 
a desperate social struggle seethed in the city, but on the pages of the 
chronicle are noted only the most concrete personal results of this strug- 
gle in the form of a succession (frequently effected by violence) of 
archbishops, posadniks, thousand-men, and other dignitaries. Only 
rarely and casually do the causes of the revolution and the social forces 
involved stand out. Only once does the chronicler quite clearly disclose 
the "class contradictions" in Novgorodan society, and then only at the 
very end of the period under consideration. At this time the throne 
of Novgorod was occupied by Vasily, a son of Alexander Nevsky. The 
Novgorodans drove him out and seated in his place his uncle Yaroslav, 
who had just "fled out of the Low land"; thus, although a Suzdalan, he 
was now the candidate of the anti-Suzdal party. On learning that the 
Novgorodans had expelled his son, Alexander Nevsky went to war against 
Novgorod. He was supported by Torzhok, a town economically more 
closely connected with the land of Suzdal than with its own metropolis. 
This gave hope to the Suzdal party in Novgorod itself ; the Suzdal emigre, 
Yaroslav, who was enthroned there, took fright and fled. The pre- 
ponderant majority of the Novgorodans, headed by the posadnik, firmly 
resolved not to yield to Alexander Nevsky. This majority the chron- 
icler flatly calls the "lesser" men. "And there kissed the cross to the 
Holy Virgin the lesser men — to stand in everything for the good cause 
of Novgorod, for their fatherland, to live or die with it ; while the 


knightly men had evil thoughts — to vanquish the lesser men and to 
take a prince according to their own will." But it is significant that 
the "knightly" men were able to act only by intrigue; they lacked the 
spirit to come out openly against the veche even in sight of the Suzdal 
regiments. And the marshal of the latter entered into negotiations 
directly with the democratic elements and their representative. They 
agreed on what we should now call a "change of ministry"; the 
posadnik had to resign in favour of another. But he was not surrendered 
to Prince Alexander Nevsky, as the latter had demanded ; and, in general, 
except for this change of personnel, the veche evidently conceded noth- 
ing. Yet Nevsky attached such significance to his victory that he occu- 
pied the throne of Novgorod himself, evidently thinking that his son 
would not possess sufficient authority. The events just related are alone 
sufficient to modify significantly the opinion, very widespread in the 
literature on the subject, that the veche communities of Pskov and 
Novgorod were exclusively aristocratic in structure. 

In the case of Novgorod, indeed, we have a complete picture of the 
evolution of the veche, of which we were able to study only the first 
stages in the history of Kiev. The patriarchal aristocracy was replaced, 
not by an oligarchy of large proprietors but by a democracy of "mer- 
chants" and "common people" — of petty traders and artisans, of 
"plebes" who by reason of their plebeian outlook were akin to the 
peasantry, in relation to which at this moment of elation they were not 
so much lords and masters as political leaders, the fighting and conscious 
vanguard of these inarticulate masses. Hence the victories of the urban 
democracy were accompanied by exemptions for the peasants : the former 
won rights; the latter took advantage of this fact to get rid of an im- 
mediate material burden. As far as rights are concerned, it was, in the 
main, in this period that the Novgorodan veche made its gains. The first 
"constitution" of Novgorod that has come down to us — a charter by 
which Prince Yaroslav, Nevsky 's brother, kissed the cross "to all Nov- 
gorod" — is assigned to the year 1265, but its content is much older. 
Besides indefinite allusions to "antiquity and custom," to "fathers and 
grandfathers," there is in the charter a definite reference to the father 
of this Prince Yaroslav, Yaroslav son of Vsevolod Big Nest. 

We do not know the exact content of the charter which the earlier 
Yaroslav swore to observe, but it is possible to work out its basic features, 
in part from what the chronicle tells us, in part from later charters (of 
1265, 1270, 1305, 1308, and other years). From the chronicle we learn 
that as early as 1218 the veche wrested from the prince his right to 
remove elected town authorities, except "for fault," i.e., by judicial 
process. In this year Svyatoslav of Smolensk, who then occupied the 
throne of Novgorod, took it into his head to replace the posadnik 


Tverclislav. It is curious that it never entered the head of this prince 
from Smolensk to carry out the change on his own authority, without 
the knowledge of the veche ; the Old Russian prince was too accustomed 
to the idea that in the town the veche was master and that without the 
veche it was impossible to act. It was not on this point that the dispute 
arose, nor does its interest lie here, but rather in the fact that what 
perhaps would have satisfied any southern town did not satisfy Nov- 
gorod. The veche enquired of the prince's emissary: ''Of what has 
Tverdislav been guilty?" And, learning that the prince had no charge 
against him but simply found him inconvenient, the veche refused even 
to consider the question, simply reminding the prince of Novgorod's 
rule that without fault no one could be deprived of office, and that on 
this the prince himself had taken oath to Novgorod. Svyatoslav ap- 
parently submitted without dispute, "and there was peace." So the 
chronicler concludes the story of this episode, without stating the prince 's 
reply. Probably he did not make answer, tacitly admitting that for 
him Novgorod 's officials actually were irremovable ; for him, but not for 
the veche, which never hesitated to expel by force, not only posadniks 
but the princes themselves, whenever they gave offence. In the extant 
treaties reproducing this stereotyped rule the details at the same time 
disclose the reasons for this rule. The prince could not remove Nov- 
gorod's officials, nor could he do anything without them. Without the 
posadnik he could neither apportion the provinces, nor judge, nor give 
charters. The attempt to act personally in these cases is expressly de- 
fined by one of these treaties as taking the law into his own hands : "and 
upon taking the law into your own hands, prince, do not meditate." In 
all except his special, military function the prince of Novgorod ' ' reigned 
but did not govern." A "ministry" governed, a ministry — the posadnik 
and the thousand-man — responsible to the autocratic people, being both 
elected and removed by the veche. 

Since the administration of the provinces lay entirely in the hands of 
plenipotentiaries of the town community (". . . as to all the provinces 
of Novgorod, them, prince, hold ye not with your own men, but hold 
with the men of Novgorod . . ."), and since the prince was deprived of 
the possibility of making himself a great force in local feudal society 
(neither he, his wife, nor his boyars could purchase lands in the domain 
of Novgorod), he had no means of interfering in the domestic life of 
Novgorod. To exploit his lands "as though dealing with the province of 
another," following the example of Andrew Bogolyubsky, was not to 
be thought of in Novgorod. 

The norms of public law established in Novgorod about the first half 
of the thirteenth century betokened a complete breach with patriarchal 
tradition, and herein lies their significance, not only locally, for Nov- 


gorod, but generally, for Russia. Patriarchal ideology recognised no 
difference between the master and the sovereign, between property rights 
and state authority. In Novgorod's treaties with the princes, however, 
this distinction is drawn more sharply than almost anywhere else in 
the whole field of Russian history. Novgorod took every measure to 
prevent the prince from becoming proprietor either of an inch of Nov- 
gorod's land or of a single Novgorodan. Neither he nor his wife nor 
his boyars could purchase villages in Novgorod, and any they had pur- 
chased they must return. Neither the prince himself nor any of his men 
could accept zakladniks [debtors who pledged their person] in the land 
of Novgorod, whether peasants or traders. He could trade with the 
Germans, but only through the medium of Novgorodans. If any privilege 
was accorded him, its limits were nicely defined. Thus, he could go to 
Lake Ladoga to catch fish, but only once in three years. He could go 
hunting in Rusa, but only in autumn, not in summer. He had the 
exclusive right to kill wild boars, but only within sixty versts of the 
town ; beyond this limit any Novgorodan could hunt boars. In a word, 
the prince of Novgorod had no occasion to deem himself " master" in 
the land of Novgorod. To use an old Roman expression, the prince of 
Novgorod was the first magistrate of the republic ; this view, apparently, 
was current in Novgorod. Not without reason does the chronicler put 
in the mouth of Tverdislav, in his dispute with the prince, the phrase : 
''And you, brothers, are free both in posadniks and in princes." Be- 
tween the prince and the posadnik there was no essential difference; 
both the one and the other enjoyed authority only by virtue of its 
delegation by the town, and only until such time as the town deprived 
them of it. 

This breakdown of patriarchal ideology in itself presupposes as an 
antecedent phenomenon the breakdown of the patriarchal social order. 
This process, which in Kiev became evident in the first quarter of the 
twelfth century, had probably begun to manifest itself even earlier in 
Novgorod. By the thirteenth century the gradual disappearance of clan 
aristocracy and the appearance, on ordinary occasions as well as in 
moments of crisis, of petty men of no birth, find expression in a number 
of incidents. In relating Novgorod's losses in this or the other battle 
the chronicle calls certain of the slain by name, evidently men better 
known, the loss of whom was keenly felt. Among these outstanding men 
we constantly meet simple artisans — coppersmiths, shieldmakers, silver- 
smiths, and other artisans, a tanner's son, a "priest's son." In 1228 
two men figured prominently in the deposition of the archbishop and 
the restoration of his predecessor ; one the chronicle calls by given name 
and patronymic, the other by given name only, and he was a master 
armourer, a coppersmith. Four years earlier, when Prince Yury of Suz- 


dal demanded the surrender of the leaders of the opposition in Novgorod, 
he deigned to name only four of them with their patronymics, the rest 
are designated by diminutive given names. Nevertheless, the veche re- 
fused to surrender these petty men, just as it refused to surrender the 
greater ones. 

In view of what was for those times a tremendous development of 
commercial capitalism, this democracy of petty traders and petty in- 
dependent producers could not be more than a transitional stage; the 
"common people" could but serve as a battering-ram with the aid of 
which the bourgeoisie of commercial capitalists crushed the aristocracy 
of birth ; all this is fairly obvious if we recall why Novgorod survived the 
"mother of Russian towns" and all her other contemporaries. Artisans 
might remain masters in an industrial centre, such, for example, as was 
Florence of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but such as Nov- 
gorod never was. Wholesale trade with the West and wide colonial 
enterprises conditioned the concentration of capital in the hands of a 
few; the mass of "merchants," preserving for themselves the domestic 
market and the transport of foreign merchandise through the rest of 
Russia, speedily fell into debt-bondage to those from whom they acquired 
their merchandise and without whose help they could not get along. 
They formed an intermediate class between the lower social classes and 
the upper crust of Novgorodan society, which now consisted, not of the 
"order of boyars" alone, not of the feudal aristocracy alone, but of the 
boyars and the bourgeoisie, the "men of substance." Thus the former 
grouping of social elements, as we find it in the first treaties with 
thirteenth-century princes, dividing "all Novgorod" into the older and 
the lesser, was replaced by the more complicated grouping found in 
fourteenth-century treaties, into boyars, men of substance, merchants, 
and common people. Those who two hundred years earlier had 
dominated the town and disposed of its destinies were now reduced to 
last place in the composition of the autocratic veche. 

The social dominance of the propertied classes in the last two centuries 
of Novgorod's history found political expression in the so-called "ad- 
ministrative council," "council of lords," or simply "lords." Toward 
the last years of Novgorod 's life this council even more decisively usurps 
the rights of the veche, first of all, of course, in questions which the 
"mob" ill understood. By the fourteenth century foreign relations were 
wholly in the hands of the "lords"; in their collisions with Novgorod 
the German merchants see no one else, and they have left us the most 
detailed information about this institution. The law of Novgorod indi- 
cates that high justice also had passed into the hands of the aristocracy. 
The council granted deeds to lands and waters, directed public works, 
participated in the election of administrative officers, and directed mili- 


tary operations. The last official document of free Novgorod is the 
edict by which the Novgorodans were bound one and all to stand against 
Ivan III, prince of Moscow ; the edict is ratified by 58 seals of members 
of the council who, at this concluding moment of their activity, stood 
forth as the de facto representatives of the whole town. This was ap- 
parently one of the fullest assemblies of the "lords." Yet the German 
sources know of occasions when the bounds of the assembly were still 
further extended, and in unusually significant fashion ; one document 
mentions 300 "golden girdles." Here was all that was wealthiest in 
Novgorod ; the council of Novgorod represented not birth, as did the later 
boyar duma of the tsars of Moscow, but wealth. 

How did the masses of Novgorod react to the rise of this new oligarchy ? 
In an industrial centre such a phenomenon would probably have evoked 
an uprising of "socialistic" character, "socialistic" in that broad and 
nebulous sense in which the word was used by the bourgeois literature 
of the last century. Such was the Tumulto del Ciompi in fourteenth- 
century Florence. But Novgorod was a town not of artisans but of 
merchants, and there the social movement took on a very peculiar char- 
acter — risings of debtors against creditors. Of just such a character, 
apparently, were the tumults of the year 1418, those tumults which are 
described in detail by the chronicle, and which in modern historiography 
have served as a general pattern for "the turbulent veche of Novgorod"; 
in any case they testify to the tension reached by the hatred of the op> 
pressed toward the oppressors even half a century before Novgorod lost 
her independence. The disturbance began when "a certain man" — 
whom the chronicle calls by the diminutive given name, "Stepanko, " 
without patronymic, thus marking his plebeian origin — attacked a boyar, 
Daniel Ivanovich, on the street and began to summon a crowd, crying 
out: "Masters! Aid me against this malefactor!" Instead of seizing 
the turbulent fellow the neighbours ran up and seized the boyar, drag- 
ging him to the veche, and there "having punished him with wounds 
nigh to death," they threw him from the bridge into the Volkhov. The 
chronicler says not a word concerning the reputation of Daniel Ivano- 
vich, but this is made sufficiently clear by the course of events. When 
a fisherman rescued the boyar from the Volkhov and took him into his 
skiff, the mob was furiously indignant ; the Novgorodans rushed to the 
fisherman's house and looted it. The boyar, just saved from drowning, 
obviously could not retaliate immediately; waiting till the veche dis- 
persed, he ordered Stepanko seized and began to "torment" him. The 
tumult, however, had by no means subsided as the boyar apparently 
thought, and the news of Stepanko 's arrest added fuel to the fire. Im- 
mediately the veche was again convoked on the Court of Yaroslav ; on the 
following day it met again; "and there assembled a multitude of people 


who clamoured and vociferated for many days; we shall go on that 
boyar and plunder his house!" The agitation against Daniel Ivanovich 
little by little passed into agitation against the boyars in general, and a 
crowd of Stepanko's partisans, "coming in full panoply with a banner" 
into the most aristocratic quarter of Novgorod, plundered not only the 
house of the offending boyar but also "many other houses." The unex- 
pected popular uprising at first reduced the boyars to panic terror. The 
residents of the invaded section rushed to the archbishop and besought 
him to interfere. In proof of their submission to the veche they brought 
Stepanko to the prelate ; the archbishop sent him off to the ' ' assembly 
of the men" under escort of a priest and of an archbishop's boyar. The 
veche received both the embassy and Stepanko, but this did not put an 
end to the havoc. The mob not only plundered more boyars' home- 
steads, but also passed on to the monasteries, which served as store- 
houses for the boyars. That is, there took place in Novgorod what had 
only been dreaded in Kiev at the time of the uprising of 1113. An 
attack on the principal nest of the Novgorod boyars, Prusskaya Street, 
was, however, beaten off, for here preparations had been made for 
defence. From this moment a reaction set in ; the rebels were pushed 
back to the Torgovaya Storona [the market side of the river], the more 
democratic quarter, which had risen en masse in support of Stepanko 
and his friends. Soon the Torgovaya Storona was on the defensive, 
the bridge across the Volkhov becoming the centre of combat. Here 
arrows whistled, arms clashed, and the slain fell "as in war." But ap- 
parently the more reasonable portion of the boyars were opposed to 
aggravating matters further. The "Christ-eminent people," the "God- 
fearing men," persuaded the archbishop to go onto the bridge with a 
procession of the Cross and separate the combatants. In the prelate's 
wake appeared the boyar council. The prelate again despatched an 
embassy to the Court of Yaroslav. This time it had more success; the 
veche dispersed, "and there was peace in the town." This outcome had 
undoubtedly been prepared by antecedent negotiations; this is evident 
from the fact that the archbishop's envoys found already on the Court 
of Yaroslav the posadnik and the thousand-man, who, of course, were 
not the leaders of the "assembly of the people" which had destroyed the 
boyars' homesteads. The archbishop's appearance on the bridge was in 
reality only an official ceremony. The feud was stopped by the desire 
of the boyars to make use of their success without risking a new skirmish 
which might not have ended in their favour. 

This flash in the pan neither did nor could produce any change in 
social relationships. The merchantry of the Torgovaya Storona could 
not get along without the boyars' capital. But inasmuch as such out- 
bursts could not be advantageous to the boyars, they carefully canalised 


the energy accumulating in the masses. The ''policy of diversion" was 
just as well known to later, strongly capitalistic, Novgorod, as to many 
other lands in analogous periods. Simultaneously with the increasing 
political insignificance of the masses, we hear ever more and more fre- 
quently of colonial enterprises of the only type known to early Rus, 
plundering expeditions against border countries inhabited by aliens and 
sometimes against neighbouring Russian lands. In the latter case the 
conventions were usually observed, the affair taking on the character of 
a private enterprise ; Novgorod, as a state, remained in the background. 
The chronicle carefully distinguishes between these two types of ' ' colonial 
wars": one entry states that the expedition was undertaken "by order 
of Novgorod"; another says that the "young men" went "without the 
word of Novogorod. " Yet in both cases the chronicle is manifestly 
describing a regularly organised expedition, and the names of the com- 
manders indicate that they belonged to the aristocracy of Novgorod. 
But the former was directed against foreigners, the Norwegians of 
Murmansk ; while the latter raided the Volga, thus coming into conflict 
with the grand prince of Moscow, and the authorities of Novgorod hoped 
to evade responsibility. To be sure, Grand Prince Dmitry Donskoi, dis- 
regarding the juridical correctness of Novgorod's position, "broke the 
peace with the Novgorodans." Twenty years later Novgorod had to 
pay to Moscow 8,000 rubles as compensation for a similar expedition. 
But, since the "young men" were finding occupation other than the 
destruction of boyars' homesteads, the boyars of Novgorod could not be 
persuaded to renounce a policy so advantageous to themselves, though 
even a colonial expedition on occasion became a weapon of social strife. 
Novgorod's "imperialism" afforded the great bourgeoisie of Novgorod 
an opportunity to divert the attention of the masses, to promise the 
"common people" an equivalent for the political independence they 
were gradually losing. But at times the "common people" were so op- 
pressed that no imperialism, no mirages of colonial conquests were of 
any avail, and the "younger" men began to seek a more direct means of 
redressing their grievances against the "older." The quarter to which 
they turned was inauspicious for the independence of Novgorod. In 
1340 the Novgorodans quarrelled with Prince Simeon the Proud of Mos- 
cow over the tribute which the latter had begun to collect in Torzhok. 
As can be conjectured from the sequel, the controversy was not so much 
about the collection of tribute as about its apportionment, whether it 
was to go into the treasury of Novgorod or into the coffers of the prince 
of Moscow. War was in prospect. But the government of Novgorod 
very quickly had to lower its tone for a quite unexpected reason ; in 
Novgorod the "rabble" did not want to go to war against Moscow. 
Meanwhile in Torzhok the most serious measures had already been taken ; 


Moscow's namestniks and collectors of tribute had been fettered and 
put in prison. But when the "rabble" in Torzhok learned what was 
being done in Novgorod, it rose against the boyars so decisively that the 
latter fled to Novgorod. And the namestniks of Moscow were liberated 
by that same "rabble. 

* j 



The interval of time from the thirteenth century to the fifteenth is 
sometimes set apart as the "appanage" period of Russian history; "the 
dismemberment of the Russian land into appanages" thus becomes the 
determining characteristic of the period. It is hardly necessary to say 
that this presentation is based on the conception of the " unity of the 
Russian land" prior to the beginning of the appanage period: Rus 
crumbled; later it was "gathered" together again. But we already 
know that to speak of a "unitary" Russian state in the Kievan period 
is evidence of a confusion of thought. The expression "the Russian 
land" was known both to the chronicle and to the poetical productions 
of the time, but it denoted the Kiev area and more broadly, since Kiev 
held the hegemony of all southern Rus, all the latter as well. From 
Novgorod or Vladimir one went "to Rus," but Novgorod and Vladimir 
themselves were not Rus. Moreover, this was purely a popular term, 
not signifying any definite political idea. Politically, early Rus knew 
of a principality of Kiev, of Chernigov, or of Suzdal, but not of a Rus- 
sian state. There was therefore nothing to crumble and consequently 
nothing to "gather." 

Into the antiquated terminology, which originated with Karamzin, an 
attempt was made to breathe a new content, now by alleging that at the 
beginning of this period there was an especial disintegration of princi- 
palities, now by linking with this particular time a marked decline in 
the authority of the princes, a loss on their part of all "state ideals" 
and their conversion into simple landowners. But we do not know the 

minimum dimensions of an independent province in the preceding epoch, 
while even in the "appanage" period we see figuring prominently on the 
political stage princes of Tver, Moscow, Nizhny-Novgorod, and Ryazan, 
ruling over large provinces, no smaller than the former principalities 
of Chernigov, Smolensk, or Pereyaslavl. As regards state ideals, these 
can be found in embryo in the veche of Novgorod — which for official 
historiography was the negation of the state — but by no means among 
the old Russian princes. Not even the most outstanding of them rose 
beyond a certain foggy conception of "social justice," and all of them in 
general accounted the acquisition of thrones the chief goal of a prince's 
policy and armed raids on neighbouring provinces a prince's chief oc- 



cupation. The only public business which from time to time united 
them all was the struggle with the nomads of the steppe, but such union 
could never in the slightest degree become stable and lasting. /The mili- 
tary alliance of the northeastern princes, under the headship of the 
prince of Moscow, against the Tatars at the end of the fourteenth cen- 
tury, was no less stable than the unification of southern Rus against the 
Polovtsians in the days of Vladimir Monomakh; in this--4:egard-~" ap- 
panage" Rus had no cause to envy pre-appanage, TOevan Rus. In 
internal administration "to rule" meant the same in the thirteenth and 
fourteenth centuries as in the twelfth or even the tenth century. Both 
earlier and later it was a matter of gathering revenues in various forms, 
and even contemporaries could hardly have decided who was in this 
sense the more energetic "gatherer," Andrew Bogolyubsky or his kins- 
man of three centuries later, Ivan III of Moscow. 

As we follow the chain of events in t he chron ic! as, we easily perceive 
two catastrophes, either of which can be "made to mark a "new period 
of Russian history"; one is the,j£allr-of- j^iev in the second half of the 
twelfth century, the other the conquest of Rus by the Tatars, in the 
thirteenth. The first conditioned the shifting of the centre of the his- 
torical stage some degrees north and east, a change that fastened on his- 
torical Russia the character of a northern country of a poverty-stricken 
nature which it had not had in the mild climate and on the fruitful soil 
of the Ukraine./ The second assured that decline of "urban" law and 
that triumph of "rural" law which for many centuries determined the 
political physiognomy of the future "northern monarchy." But in both 
cases the catastrophe was more apparent than real. Both revolutions 
had been prepared by profound economic causes — by a shifting of world 
trade routes and by exhaustion of the country through predatory methods 
of economy. To make either of these catastrophes a "limit of the times" 
would be very superficial. And from this point of view one should not 
speak of a special "appanage" period of Russian history. The grouping 
of feudal units which was destined to replace the town provinces of the 
eleventh and twelfth centuries, and which has received the name of 
grand principality and later state of Moscow, grew up slowly and im- 
perceptibly, so that when the men of the seventeenth century became 
conscious of the roughly finished edifice, it ,was difficult for them to 
answer the question: who began to build it? Kotoshikhin, as is well 
knowjy was-inqlined~ tp recor d- Ivan '-fFV]- the Te rrible as the founder _of 
the Muscovite state. Later historians pushed the critical moment ever 
further and further back into the recesses of time until they came upon 
figures so like all their contemporaries that another question arose of 
itself: why did they, rather than the others, become the founders of 
the new state? The first "gatherer" of Rus, Ivan [I] Kalita — accord- 


ing to the pages of the school textbooks — emerges from the pen of a 
modern historian as "altogether devoid of the qualities of a sovereign 
and statesman," so that the formation of the Muscovite state must be 
a scribed to __aJnaky— ehanee. "Chance plays a great role in history," 
says this same scholar, V. Sergeyevich. But to appeal to chance in 
science is to exhibit a certificate of poverty. 

This redact io ad absurdum of the individualist method, which charges 
all historical changes to the actions of individual persons and remains in 
perplexity when changes are obviously taking place, and yet there are no 
persons on the stage — this catastrophe in the domain of historical litera- 
ture is nevertheless in itself a great gain for scientific history. The 
author we have just cited was able to name, along with "chance," an- 
other historical factor, impersonal but none the less absolutely concrete, 
which must be substituted for those "^ajth^rjar^-oi-Bas " whom science — 
had found bankrupt. MrJ^prcrpypviph apconnts thp minority nfLXkoifrry 
Donskoi an especially favourable moment in the development of the 
"grand principality of Moscow. "In this circumstance" — that the 
"gatherer" was nine years old — "was comprised an extraordinarily fa- 
vourable condition for the progressive development of Muscovite terri- 
tory. During the minority of a prince the administration was in the 
hands of the boyars. . . . The boyars needed rich ' feedings. ' 1 The 
fewer the princes, the more of these 'feedings.' The boyars were, then, 
the natural partisans of a unificatory policy." 

From this, it might seem, it would have been but a step to let the per- 
sonalities of the "gatherers" rest in peace and to treat the Muscovite 
state of the fifteenth century as a vast association of feudal landholders 
which, by virtue of especially favourable conditions, swallowed up all 
remaining associations. \But our authorjd oes not venture this step ; he 
continues to occupy his reader with the thoughts and deeds of the Ivans, 
Dmitrys, and Vasilys, although he has just demonstrated their political 
insignificance./;, So strong is the tradition, far older than may be thought 
and inherited by our scholarly university historiography from the pre- 
historic period of Russian recording of events, that even the Nikonovsky 
Chronicle had the Muscovite government carrying on negotiations with 
the Kazan tsar, Utemish-Girei, although the chronicle itself had noted 
that this "political actor" was but two years old (and would hardly be 
carrying on negotiations except with his nurse). But what in the old 
Russian chronicler was symbolism noteworthy in its naivete becomes in 
a contemporary historical work either artless copying or stupid super- 
stition. The reader will not be disappointed, therefore, if on the one 
hand we do not pay special attention to the distinctive characteristics of 
"appanage Rus" — for these characteristics are found on a more ex- 

1 Lucrative posts as provincial governors; cf. infra, pp. 119 et seq. 


tended scale in the Rus of Moscow — and if on the other hand we leave 
to the old official textbooks the exploits of the "gatherers" and do not 
discuss the question as to whether they were men politically ungifted or 
politically talented — the more so since over and above everything else 
the scantiness of the data regarding their personal qualities renders the 
last question quite hopeless. 

Among the impersonal factors which determined the "gathering" of 
Rus around Moscow one of the first places was long since assigned to 
economics. The original observations along this line, made by Prof. 
TOyuchevsky and accessible to all in the pages of his Lectures, were sup- 
plemented and further developed by Zabelin in his History of the City 
of Moscow [in Russian]. The latter author discusses the question, not in 
the narrow compass of the history of "appanage Rus" and the forma- 
tion of the principality of Moscow, but somewhat more broadly. He 
points to the role of the Moskva-Klyazma trade-route, which united the 
industrial region of the Kriviches of Smolensk with the largest centre 
in the Volga country of the tenth and eleventh centuries — the "Great 
City" of the Bolgars with its fair, the forerunner of those of Makaryev 
and Nizhny-Novgorod. In the immediate vicinity of Moscow two nodes 
of this route may be observed — o ne on the Rj yjg &khodna (or Vskhodna), 
thg jotheg-Qn the Yauza ./ The presence of a numerous population around 
tne former is shown by a mass of burial-mounds (kurgans). The com- 
mercial significance of the Yauza and of the portage from it to the 
Klyazma is still evident in the name of the village, Big Toll-house, a 
reminder that a customs-house once existed here. It is significant that 
the Yauza is definitely mentioned by the chronicle (under 1156) in 
its report of the building of the "town" of Moscow, i.e., of the earliest 
Muscovite fortress. Evidently this geographical reference had practical 
value for contemporaries. But on the route from western Jius-to the 
Volga pmitrtiy- Mnannw ^w«ua_f>n1 y mnp o f the n xidal-points ; it b ecame the 
most important of t bxm-jQiily thanks_to_jhe fact that- the old highway 
of eastern Jxade was intersected by t.h p ne w rnntp nf wp<afprn trad p j from 
Novgorod to southern and eastern Rus, to Nizhny and Ryazan. The 
route by the Volga from Novgorod the Great to Novgorod the Low 
describes a sharp arc, a goodly portion of which, moreover, was in the 
hands of Great Novgorod's nearest neighbour and most constant an- 
tagonist, the grand prince of Tver. /The route through Volok na Lame 
[Portage on the Lama], which belonged to Novgorod, and then by the 
Moskva and the Klyazma, was almost a chord of this arc and far less 
dependent on political vicissitudes. The princes of Moscow in early 
times seemed very mild and reasonable ; from them Novgorod saw no 
immediate danger ; and in the first half of the fourteenth century there 
was no more usual political combination than the alliance of Novgorod 


and Moscow against Tver. In their turn the princes of Moscow found 
nothing dishonourable in entering the veche-town "at the will of Nov- 
gorod . . . and glad were the Novgorodans to have their wish." "When 
the prince of Moscow^ thanks to the adroitness of his policy towarcTtEe 
Horde, Wame hprprh'tary grand pr ince of Vladimir, the Novgorod- 
Moscow alliance became an economic necessity for both parties : the Rus 
of Suzdal, now the Rus of Moscow, could not dispense with European 
wares, which, in the main, came by the Baltic route ; while the Novgorod 
gost "in the lowlands," in the modern provinces of Moscow, Vladimir, 
and Nizhny-Novgorod, as of old could not dispense with the protection 
of the grand prince of Vladimir. "And our gost shall trade in the land 
of Suzdal" stipulated Novgorod's treaties with the grand princes. But, 
it must be noted, the necessity was not equally pressing on both sides. 
Whereas Novgorodan traders, in case the Rus of Suzdal was closed to 
them, lost their chief market and almost lost their raison d'etre, Moscow 
had besides Novgorod another outlet to Western Europe. Under 1356 the 
chronicles mention the presence in Moscow of "gosts of Surozh, " traders 
from the Genoese colonies in the Crimea. "But, in all probability, even 
earlier than this year Genoese traders were already well acquainted with 
the road to Moscow, inasmuch as northern trade, which until the 
thirteenth century had been directed along the Dnieper to Kiev, had 
shifted, being directed along the Don through Moscow ; even before the 
Tatar invasion the Don had been extensively used by these same Italian 
traders from Genoa, who concentrated their businesses at the mouths 
of the Don and in the Crimean towns of Surozh and Kaf a. ' ' 

The mention of "gosts of Surozh" explains Moscow's rather un- 
expected Italian connexions, a monument of which remains to this day 
in the Kremlin of Moscow, with its Cathedral of the Assumption built 
by Aristotle Fioraventi and its Gates of the Saviour built by the "archi- 
tect" Pietro- Antonio "from the town of Mediolano. " And the inter- 
national, as well as the local, significance of Moscow is made clear by yet 
another, far more important fact. Even in the fourteenth century Ivan 
Kalita's capital was becoming a large bourgeois centre, the population 
of which was beginning to conduct itself in almost Novgorodan fashion. 
Of the size of this population the chronicles give some indication. In 
1382, when after Tokhtamysh's attack the slain Muscovites were being 
buried, Grand Prince Dmitry Donskoi — who had fled to the North from 
the Tatar havoc and who reappeared just at the time of the burial of the 
slain — paid a poltina 2 for each forty corpses, spending 300 rubles in all ; 
that is, 24,000 men were buried. It is true that this figure would include 
not only the^townsmen'liV the narrow sense but also the population of 
the immediate vicinity, who had sought protection from the Tatars 

2 1 poltina = 50 copecks. 


behind the walls of the town; on the other hand, not all, of course, of 
the urban population had been exterminated; on the contrary, one is 
led to believe that a great many survived or were led away into captivity. 
In 1390 the chronicle notes the great Moscow fire, in which were burned 
down some thousands of homesteads; five years later Moscow burned 
again, and again "some thousands" of homesteads were burned down. 
Judging by all these data, the population of the city toward the end 
of the fourteenth century may be estimated at some tens of thousands. 
For the Middle Ages, when in all Europe there were hardly three towns 
with a population of a hundred thousand, this is not inconsiderable ; in 
the Russia of that time, with the exception of Novgorod and Pskov, there 
was no town larger. 

The numbers of the townsmen of Moscow compel us to modify the 

very widespread concept of Moscow as an overgrown prince's manor, a 
concept much indebted for its popularity to the same Zabelin we have 
just cited. However numerous the household of a prince of Moscow, 
it fell far short of the tens of thousands of Moscow's townsmen; and 
however tempting it may be to see in the Weavers', Armourers', Bakers', 
and Drapers' Lanes traces of the settlements of court artisans, it is 
more prudent to see in them the Muscovite doubles of the Carpenters' 
or Potters' Quarters of Great Novgorod. In the fourteenth century, 
whenever the townsmen of Moscow appear as a political force, they 
present an aspect altogether unlike that of a prince's menials. Such a 
case was Tokhtamysh's attack (August, 1382), already referred to. . The- 
Tatars 4railr^app««r*d-on--tlie_Russian fron ti e rs qu i te - unex pecte dly, and 
the Muscovite - authorities, secular and spiritual, had lost their heads. 
Grand Prince Dmitry Donskoi, so recently the victor on the field of 
Kulikovo, fled first to Pereyaslavl and later, finding even this place too 
unsafe, to Kostroma. .He -left, the -metropolitan -i n charg e i n-the-cityj, 
but the metropolitan — Cyprian of scarcely honourable memory — was, 
of course, still less inclined to military exploits than was the grand 
prince himself. To Cyprian Tver seemed a safe refuge, and he decided 
.to flee thither. /\The "eminent boyars" also evidently prepared to 
follow the example of the prince and the metropolitan, leaving the 
townsmen to defend themselves from the foe as best they might./' And j 
behold, relates the chronicler, "the men of the town were disturbed ' j 
and agitated as though drunk, and they convoked a veche ; rioters, good- 
for-nothings, rascals rang all the bells and held a veche; and not only 
did they not allow those wishing to leave the city to pass, but they 
plundered them . . . they stood at all the city gates, from above they 
threw stones, and below on the ground they stood with boarspears and 
pikes and with naked weapons allowing no one to go forth from the 
city." Later, probably realising that in case of a siege the panic- 


stricken metropolitan and the boyars, and especially Grand Princess 
Eudocia, who was also hastening to get herself out of the city, would be 
of no use, the y l et them go but confiscated all their possessions. The 
chronicler, whose sympathy, as is evident from this excerpt, was 
on the side of the propertied authorities, would have been very glad 
to reduce the whole affair to a drunken riot, vigorously emphasising 
the bfeaking-into of the boyars' cellars and the plundering of the 
"lords' meads." But undoubtedly the "men of the town" were about 
serious business ; they were organising that very defence of the city, the 
possibility of which the metropolitan and "eminent boyars" had doubted, 
and they so organised it that the Tatars, after an unsuccessful assault, 
were compelled to resort to craft in order to take the town. On the 
wallsfof Moscow Tokhtamysh had perceived, along with old missile 
weapons, such innovations of military technique as cross-bows (arbalasts) 
and even cannon, which were still novelties even in Western Europe. 
All t.hpsp pnginps t.hp hmrr gpnis of Mosco w (the chronicle mentions a 
"clothier" named Adam, probably an Italian) ha ndled most successfully. 
But against all these Western innovations the Tatars found a Russian 
weapon, old and tried. There-^weraj n Tokhtamysh 's army two Russi an 
princes, brothers-in-law of Dmitry Donskoi, who undertook to take oath -, 
to the men of Moscow that the Tatars would do them no injury if they 
surrendered thecity. The townsmen, trusting the word of the princes, 
opened the gates; the city was plundered, and the inhabitants slain or 
led away into captivity. The whole narrative is a perfect portrayal of • 
the relationship existing between the "people" and the "authorities" / 
in appanage Rus — between the "builders" and "gatherers," selling their 
city to the Tatars, and the "rabble," capable of defending themselves 
from the Tatars far better without the "gatherers" than with them. 

The events of 1382 are not isolated in Muscovite history. Through 
the following two centuries, to the middle of the seventeenth, the towns- 
men of Moscow from time to time appeared as a political force, indicat- 
ing that the Russian bourgeoisie was far less inarticulate then than at 
times nearer our own. "But if the presence of a large commercial centre 
with abundant money resources 3 offered a point of support for the 
unificatory policy of the principality of Moscow, the active role in this 
policy was not taken by the commercial city. Had it been, the result 
would have been the formation of a new town province like that of -A , 
Kiev, not a feudal monarchy such, as- w r as the Muscovite state. A priori 
it can be assumed that feudal elements played a large part in the 
creation of this state, and that in the "gathering of Rus" the large 

3 Some idea of these resources is afforded by the levy of 200,000 rubles (some 20 
million gold rubles in pre-war currency) made by Makhmet on Vasily [II] the 
Dark in 1446. 



landholders were of determining importance. We have seen that their 
importance has been duly appraised by modern science, which, in the 
person of Prof. Sergeyevich, has recognised that the real "gatherers 
of Rus" were the boyars, who displayed far more alertness and under- 
standing than did the nominal founders of the Muscovite state. There 
is therefore no need to labour this point. We have already surveyed 
„4n detail the political significance of large landholding in early Rus. 4 
We know that at the head of each appanage principality stood not a 
single person, the prince, but a group of persons, the prince and the 
boyar duma, and that this circumstance guaranteed the continuity of 
panage policies even when — as frequently happened in appanage 
days — the nominal wielder of state authority was not available, whether 
because he was a minor, or at the Horde, or in captivity. A struggle 
between appanage principalities should be visualised as a struggle be- 
tween groups of feudatories defending their own interests at all costs. 
In the first episode of the struggle between Moscow and Tver, at the 
very beginning of the J^ourteenth century, the princes scarcely appear 
on the Russian stage > the}' are far away suing for thrones, for juridical 
title to the dignity of grand prince is obtained at the Horde from the 
"tsar." The actual struggle on the spot was carried on by the boyars. 
The boyars of Tver waged the war with Moscow, and Tver's army was 
headed, not by the prince but by the boyar Akinf ■ Moscow 's army was 
nominally headed by Ivan (the future Kalita), a younger brother of 
Prince Yury, who had gone to the Horde, but he took not a step with- 
out his boyars. Some years later Dmitry of Tver led an army against 
Nizhny-Novgorod and Vladimir and acquired the throne of the grand 
princes. But all this is only the customary symbolism of the chronicle ; 
the pretender to the grand princedom was but twelve years old, and 
what happened to him was literally the same as what the boyars of 
Moscow fifty years later did with their infant princes when, taking 
all three grandsons of Kalita (the oldest, Dmitry, the future Donskoi, 
was then not yet twelve), they went on a campaign against Moscow's 
rival, Prince Dmitry of Suzdal. Nor, under the grand princedom of 
Moscow, did the Muscovite feudatories by any means lose this habit of 
acting independently ; on the contrary, they became all the more power- 
ful and they were all the more numerous, the more extended and the 
more powerful became the patrimony of Kalita. In 1446 when She- 
myaka, taking advantage of the unsuccessful war waged by Vasily [II] 
the Dark with the Tatars, seized Moscow and took Vasily himself captive, 
he was faced with the combined resistance of the Muscovite boyars, 
headed by the Princes Ryapolovsky. This resistance compelled Shem- 
yaka in the following year to return the throne to the opponent he 
4 Cf. supra, Chap. II. 


had deposfi^-asd^iiirtiied. The conventional antithesis of "boyars" 
an3 =33 in : vil^?n Tr ~as centrifugal and centripetal forces, respectively, in 
the young state of Moscow is one of the most unfortunate survivals 
of the idealistic method, which represented the "state" as some inde- 
pendent force acting upon society from above. In _ actual fact the 
stat e in appanage Rus was, as alwa ys simply a oortain form o £- 
-organisation of the dominant social elements, and the princes of Moscow, 
for their part, did not think of denying the fact that they ruled their 
principality, not alone but jointly with the boyars, as "first among 
equals." An even more flattering characterisation of the boyars is 
ascribed by the chronicle to Dmitry Donskoi who, it reports, said at 
his death: "And you were called with me, not boyars but princes of 
my land." Even if this be literary fiction, the advice of his uncle, 
Simeon the Proud, to his successors, ' ' hearken to the old boyars, ' ' occurs 
in an official document, his will. Similarly, the most practical politicians 
of the time, the diplomats of the Horde, unhesitatingly and frankly 
recognised that Moscow 's^course of action depended upon the personnel 
of the boyar duma. 

Granted then that the Muscovite state was the creation of a feudal 
society, it was inevitable that in its construction a conspicuous role 
should be played by the Church, the greatest of the feudal organisations 
of appanage Russia as it was of mediaeval Europe generally. It would 
seem impossible to exaggerate the importance of Orthodoxy in the history 
of Russian autocracy; yet it must be acknowledged that until the 
appearance of the second volume of the well-known work of Prof. 
Golubinsky everything that was said on this point was too weak and, 
what is more important, beside the mark. The emphasis was laid chiefly 
on the influence of ecclesiastical propaganda upon the growth of the" 
idea of autocracy. It is true that Moscow's political ideology was, first 
and foremost, ecclesiastical ideology ; that the tsar of Moscow was thought 
of by his subjects, not so much as a national sovereign, the ruler of a 
definite people, aV a ruler of the whole world, the tsar of all Orthodox 
Christendom. We may see extraordinarily vivid and clear reflections 
of this central idea of Muscovite official publicism; but publicism does 
not make history. What^was the role of the-- Church-in the jgrgation 
of the objective conditions which called Muscovite tsarism to life ? What 
did the Church give, not in word but in deed, as a definite organisation? 
How was the policy of the state being created under its influence de- 
termined in the interests of this organisation? Here are questions, an- 
swers to which were first supplied by the material collected by the 
above-mentioned historian of the Russian Church, material itself entirely 
objective and devoid of any idealistic elaboration. 

Feudalisation of the Orthodox Church had begun long before the period 


now under consideration. Even in the Rus of Kiev and Novgorod the 
monasteries were large landholders, and metropolitans and bishops-exer- 
cised a large share of political authority ; among other things, they were 
the judges over the clergy in all cases in general, arid in a large number 
of cases over the whole population in general. >/f3ut, being appointed to 
their sees either by the local veche or by the local prince, the Old Russian. 
_bishops_ were _ d_epenjieiit-oii these secular political-forces, and we have 
already seen how at Novgorod party strife was immediately reflected in 
a change of archbishops. The monasteries, on the other hand, frequently 
owed their very existence to the princes ; each princely dynasty had its 
own monastery, in which the members of this dynasty were buried and, 
if anything interrupted their political careers, took the tonsure. Such 
a monastery, independent of petty secular authorities, constituted a sort 
of prince's manor, and, therefore, of course, offered no political opposi- 
tion to the princes. In a word, the dependence of the Church on the 
state in the Rus of Kiev and Novgorod had been less than its dependence 
in the modern, post-Petrine period only in so far as the Church of the 
veche town had been a democratic organisation. The-Chnxch-owedrrts- 
emancipation from this dependence to an event most grievous for the 
rest of Russia — the conquest of Rus by the Tatars. The supreme political, 
centre ef Rus was transf erred Jp_the_Horde. The bishop, except in the 
case of Novgorod, became just as independent of the veche of his native 
town as dj xl the princeWB ut at the same time he~eealjed tu be dependent 
on the prince, at least juridically, for juridically the legal position of the 
Church was now defined by the khan's yarlyk. 5 In these charters 
granted by "infidel" tsars the privileges of the Russian Church were so 
definitely and so broadly consolidated as they had never been under 
Orthodox Russian princes ; not without reason were the seven yarlyks of 
the Horde cited even by sixteenth-century metropolitans in defending 
the rights of the Church from the encroachments of secular authority. 
The first of these yarlyks, dating from the thirteenth century, perhaps 
thirty, or at most forty years after the catastrophe of the Tatar con- 
quest, granted to the Orthodox clergy not only the broadest liberty of 
religious profession but also a whole series of "liberties" of a purely 
civil character. "Priests, monks and all men of God" were exempted 
from all levies, including the Tatar tribute. The privilege was extended 
to all Church folk, i.e., including laymen in the service of the Church. 
The khan's charters thus established for the Church the most complete 
immunity enjoyed anywhere in Europe in the Middle Ages; in this 
particular Eastern Orthodoxy had no occasion to envy Western Catholi- 
cism. The reasons for such graciousness on the part of the "infidel" 
(at first pagan; later, from Uzbek on, Mahometan) conquerors of Russia 

5 A letter from the Tatar khan granting or confirming a privilege, etc. 


toward the Orthodox faith, its representatives, and even toward all in 

any way in its service, are quite explicitly set forth in the yarlyks. In 

vain does Golubinsky seek to spare the last remnants of ecclesiastical 

historical decency by attributing the attitude of the Tatar rulers to 

their customary tolerance; the whole question was far simpler. The 

yarl yk given to the Metropoli tan Alrvnn (o 1^7^ f nr pra mple, says 

\ /"Tsar Jenghiz and the first tsars, our fathers, rewarded the Church 

Js folk who prayed for them. . . . " Of course, it was public, official, 

<7 "prayer" that was meant, not private prayer; the latter was a matter 

for the conscience of the prelate and did not trouble the conscience of 

the Horde ; its viewpoint on all matters was strictly practical. What 

was important to the khan was that in Russia he should be formally 
acknowledged sovereign by those whose voice had weight and authority 
in the eyes of the masses. The Tatars understood uncommonly well the 
elementary truth that it is possible by arms t>cp#fquer a country but 
impossible to hold it by the aid of arms alone.. They could not fail to 
appreciate that the Church was putting a±_thpir disposal it s influence 
over the faithful, and in return for this it was but natural to reward 
the Church w ith privileges. That these privileges hampered the au- 
thority of the local secular rulers could not, of course, fail to please 
the Horde. The alliance between the Orthc^ies-^hurch_ajid the Taiar__ 
khan was in the early days equally advantageo us for both sides ': that in 
the sequel the alliance would prove" mot 1 *? advantageous for the Church 
than for the Horde, the Tatars could not foresee, precisely because, as 
politicians, they were too practical. Meanwhile they secured the support 
of the greatest political force, permitting them to substitute the spiritual 
for the material sword, which it was not convenient to draw from the 
scabbard too often. With the exception of Tver, the princes of which 
were not on good terms with the Church and were therefore persecuted 
by her, we nowhere have before the fourteenth century a great national 
uprising against the khan ; an d whpn thp uprising of the princes began . , 
under the headship of Moseow, the Church had already succeeded in 
making permanent all the advantages offered to her by the yarlyks. 

The Church, for a time in the service of the Tatar "tsar," did not 
by any means immediately assume a similar-rtslationship toward the 
grand prince, the future-4s ar , of Moscow-: In Russia the question of 
secular versus spiritual supremacy could be posed as late as the seven- 
teenth century, but in the fourteenth century no such question had 
arisen ; Simeon the Proud, to whom the khan handed over 3I.1 the Russian 
princes," frankly and simply recommended to his successors obedience in 
eYerything. to "our father the prelate Alexis" exactly as he recommended 
obedience to the boyars— but to the prelate first. From this will of 
Prince Simeon it has been deduced that the Metropolitan Alexis was a 


sort of president of the boyar duma ; but from later published Greek 
documents we know that after the death of Grand Prince Ivan II, 
Simeon's younger brother, Alexis was de jure regent of the principality 
of Moscow, which de facto he probably ruled until his own death in 1378. 
This circumstance must never be forgotten when we read of the "serv- 
ices ' ' rendered by the Church to the princes of Moscow in their struggle 
with their rivals — services, as we shall presently see, not always above 
reproach. For example, in 1368 ' ' Grand Prince Dmitry and his father, 
the Most Reverend Metropolitan Alexis, lovingly invited to Moscow 
'rince Michael of Tver" in order to submit his dispute with Moscow to 
an arbitration court; while there they "seized him and arrested the 
boyars who were about him," matters evidently having taken such a 
course that the Musc ovite g ovaim jnent T headed by Alexis , found it con- 
venient and seemly to get rid of its opponent with the aid of this 
trap. As often h appened in similar cases, the role of the eighteen-year- 
old Grand Prince Dmitry, who even in manhood was not distinguished 
for his strength of will, was purely_.symbolic. In collisions of this kind 
the dual functions of the metropolitan-regent made Moscow particularly 
invulnerable; if she committed a sin, she could herself remit it; what 
was more, she could subject her foes, in addition to secular chastisements, 
to ecclesiastical punishments of every kind. 5 When the ill-starred Michael 
of Tver succeeded in escaping from the Muscovite trap and in raising 
against Moscow the inevitable Litliuania r Alexis, not strong enough t-o 
injure the prince of Tver physically, attacked him spiritually, excom- 
municating him and his allies,. Sometimes it was possible to combine 
the operation of the two "swords" — the secular and the spiritual — with 
an effect still more striking. So it happened when the holy Sergius ap- 
peared in the capital city of Prince Boris of Nizhny-Novgorod, who had 
been disobedient to Moscow, and closed all the churches, i.e., laid an 
interdict on the whole city, while under its walls soon appeared the 
Muscovite regiments ; judging by his biography, Boris was very stubborn 
and put much trust in his kinship with Olgerd of Lithuania (he was his 
son-in-law), but at this juncture he hastened to yield. 

The cases we have cited suggest two hypotheses : first, that Muscovite 
policy determined the direction of ecclesiastical policy ; second, that the 
fusion of the two powers, spiritual and secular, was the result of an 
accidental and personal circumstance, of the position of -Alexis as-metr-o- 
politan and as regent of the grand principality of Moscow. But the 
first proposition would not always be true, And the second proposition is 
false. We have instances of similar fusion under Alexis' successors — 
more important cases, at that, in which the guiding role falls to the lot of 
the interests of the Church. Such was the history of the metropolitan's 
controversy with Novgorod over the "month court," the undoubted 


prologue Jx) the catastrophe that put an end to Novgorod's freedom; the 
subjection of the dioce se^oTNovgor Q_d to the metropolitan of Moscow was 
not attained until Novgorod was politically subjected to Moscow. 

But in the history of this subjection ecclesiastical matters and inter- 
ests are so intertwined that it is quite impossible to imagine the "fall of 
Novgorod" apart from ecclesiastical policy. In this the greatest episode 
of the "gathering" policy of Moscow's princes it is particularly evident 
to what extent, and not merely in ideology, the Muscovite state was 
created by the Church. The ideology quite accurately reflected the real 
relationships, while, as is hardly necessary to say, the real essence of 
the matter lay, not in those ideals of which the Church officially declared 
herself the bearer but in the Church as a definite feudal organisation. 
First of all, it was on ecclesiastical soil that the severance took place 
between Novgorod and her younger brother, Pskov, an event exception- 
ally advantageous for Moscow's policy. If the metropolitan of Moscow 
exploited the Church of Novgorod, the archbishop of Novgorod stood 
in the same relation to the Church of Pskov. The development of this 
ecclesiastical struggle gradually led the men of Pskov to desire a separate 
archbishop ; this desire, of course, they made known to Moscow, the 
ecclesiastical centre. Their request was not granted, for the history 
of the "month court" in Novgorod had made the Moscow authorities 
ill-disposed toward an increase in the number of veche churches; but 
they utilised the ecclesiastical antagonism between Pskov and Novgorod 
to make sure of an alliance with the men of Pskov in case of a war 
between Moscow and Novgorod. ^Vhen this struggle came under Ivan 
.III (1471), success was assured largely by the fact that, whereas the grand 
prince of Moscow had entirely at his disposal the forces of all his 
vassals, Novgorod was deprived of military assistance from her eccle- 
siastical lands ; for the metropolitan of Moscow, by no means for the first 
time, openly made common cause with his prince, while the archbishop 
of Novgorod lacked the courage to precipitate an open schism in the 
Church.^ -Ecclesiastical relationships even gave the final rupture between 
Moscow and Novgorod its juridical form; juridically the "worker of 
piety," Grand Prince Ivan III, did not march against the veche and 
the freedom of Novgorod; he went to re-establish Orthodoxy, which had 
been shaken in Novgorod owing to her alliance with the "Latins," per- 
sonified by the Polish-Lithuanian King Casimir. This-was~a- crusade^ all 
the participants in which were guaranteed the Kingdom of Heaven and 
remission of all the sins inevitably connected with war. Metropolitan 
Philip and the whole "holy synod" solemnly blessed Ivan III when he 
set out on the campaign "as Samuel blessed David against Goliath." 
The public opinion of Moscow was thoroughly permeated with this point 
of view, and the spirit of a crusade is superbly sustained by the Moscow 

I '/ 


chronicle: " Infidels know not God from the beginning, but these Nov- 
gorodans were in Christianity so many years, and at the end have begun 
to desert to Latinism ! The grand prince went upon them, not as upon 
Christians but as upon pagans and deserters from Orthodoxy ; they have 
deserted not only their sovereign but also the Lord God him&elf. As 
formerly his great-grandfather Grand Prince Dmitry armed himself 
upon the godless Mamai, so also the Orthodox Grand Prince Ioann went 
upon these deserters," relates the chronicler./ 7 And all the motifs of 
the individual details of the struggle are reduced to the same basic 
level. "This Martha the Accursed," says the chronicler of the woman 
who headed the anti-Moscow party, "wanted to seduce the whole people, 
to turn them from the right way, and to join them to Latinism, be- 
cause the darkness of the Latin seduction had blinded the eyes of her 
spirit. ..." 

The "darkness" of religious fanaticism actually so beclouds the last 
minutes of Great Novgorod that it is hard at first glance to discern the 
actual causes of the catastrophe. But they are significant, and they 
remind us of those two factors in the unificatory policy of Moscow which 
we_ha3»--alrea4y--iK»ted; — These were the boyars of Moscow and the 
bnnrffpnkjf nf Mosnnw. who must bv no means be forgotten although, 

because of the scantiness of records and the unwontedness of putting 
their needs into literary form, they have yielded first place to the men 
who knew how to speak "from divinity." Nowhere, it is true, do we 
hear their voice ; but the facts speak for them and speak no less elo- 
quently than do the chronicles of Moscow. The first great collision 
between Moscow and Novgorod, under Grand Prince Vasily I, in 139 
1398, was a highly typical "struggle for markets^" For the first time 
Moscow made bold to take away from Novgorod the Dvina and all the 
North Country 6 the chief source of peltry, of which Novgorod held the 
European monopoly.- This was not simply a robber raid; it was a 
colonial war in the grand style, in which Moscow acted most cautiously, 
evidently expecting to consolidate her seizure of the land. There is 
extant a charter of Vasily I to the men of the Dvina ; it is an extremely 
interesting one because it shows the direction in which internal relations 
were developing in Novgorodan society, and how the policy of Moscow 
took advantage of this development. The charter was given primarily 
to the boyars and at the outset shows anxiety for their immunity, moral 
as well as physical. On the other hand, a boyar might with impunity 
not only "insult" a man under his authority but even slay him in a fit 
of wrath. Thus we see that, if the lower classes in Novgorod were 
inclined to eye Moscow with hope, feudal Moscow was by no means 

6 Zavolochye, i.e., the territory beyond the watershed separating the basins of the 
Volga and Northern Dvina. 


inclined to look upon the lower classes with favour ; she was striving to 
assimilate those elements of Novgorod society which were markedly 
feudal. Yet, out of the mass of "common people" the Dvina charter dis- 
tinguishes one element about whose interests Moscow is no less con- 
cerned than about the interests of the boyars. This element was the 
merchantry of the Dvina. The charter frees the commercial class of the 
Dvina, not only from imposts but also from the toils of Moscow's judi- 
ciary; they were to be judged either by their own local authorities or 
directly by the grand prince himself. The prospects unfolded by Moscow 
before the- landholders^ and_. merchantry of the Dvina were so alluring 
that a Muscovite party was formed there, which all but succeeded in 
effecting a union of Novgorod's wealthiest colony to the grand princedom 
of MoscojwJyBut this would have been such a catastrophe for Novgorod 
that in the' struggle over the seizure of the Dvina she strained all her 
forces and in the end was victorious. The Dyjna andjthe North Country 
remained Jpx the tim.ejjL.the hands of the Novgorodans ; Moscow yielded 
but for a time, firmly resolving, nevertheless, that postponement-should 
_n^t_sj3ell_loss. Twice subsequently Dvina emigres with a Muscovite army 
""a ppeared in - the North Country, suddenly, without declaration of war, 
plundered, slew, and with their captives took refuge in the domains of 
the grand prince. Only strife over the throne of Moscow, in the reign 
of Vasily the Dark, checked this colonial war. When Ivan III set out 
on his crusade against Novgorod (1471), a special detachment of 
the Muscovite army was despatched to the Dvina, which it conquered 
without great difficulty ; the Novgoroda n chronicler fr R nkly amisps -4he 
men of theJDviiia_ of treaso n. But it was hardly worth while to be much 
disturDe^aDoulTthe seizure of one of Novgorod's colonies at the moment 
when the metropolis itself, with all its colonies, was about to fall prey 
to Moscow. And hardly had this come about than the princes of Moscow 
put an end to the commercial independence of Novgorod ; in 1494, 
quibbling over an insignificant pretext, Ivan III closed the German 
Courtyard in Novgorod, arresting in the process forty-nine merchants 
and confiscating merchandise to the value of 96,000 marks silver (about 
half a million gold rubles in pre-war money). This did not mean that 
trade with the West was terminated, but merely that its centre had 
passed to Moscow ; the bourgeoisie of Moscow took the place of the bour- 
geoisie of Novgorod at the same time that Novgorod definitively and 
irretrievably became the votchina of the prince of Moscow. 

The enthusiasm of Muscovite public opinion for the "worker of 
piety," Grand Prince Ivan III, had, as we see, a very material basis. 
The townsmen of Moscow could not but sympathise with a campaign 
which handed over to them the commercial hegemony of Rus. But still 
more must the boyars of Moscow have sympathised with a deed in which 


they had been the immediate leaders. \To the bourgeoisie of Moscow 
Novgorod was a trade rival, the possessor of dainty morsels whieh 
Moscow herself hankered for; similarly, to the boyars a region/rich 
in silver was an enviable source of levies and imposts of all kin^; and 
it was with good reason that these levies and imposts had made the Dvina 
such an. apple of discord-, Moscow's financial exploitation of Novgorod 
had begun even earlier than the colonial wars. As early as 1384, after 
the devastation of the principality of Moscow by Tokhtamysh, Dmitry 
Donskoi had tried to shift to Novgorod part (perhaps the larger part) 
of the Tatar contribution, assessing on the Novgorodans the so-called 
/ ' blackjeyy_ll (a capitation tax). This time the Novgorodans succeeded 
in evading payment, but Moscow did not forget its pretensions and two 
years later, having recovered from the Tatar havoc, sent an army to 
Novgorod; Dmitry Donskoi succeeded in getting 8,000 (in pre-war 
money 800,000 gold) rubles. This contribution served as the starting 
point for further disputes ; the Novgorodans regarded it as something 
extraordinary and unusual ; the Muscovite government saw in it a prece- 
dent, of which it made use ever more and more frequently.- Both Vasily I 
and Vasily II demanded the "black levy " ; and toward the end Novgorod 
had begun to pay it, apparently without haggling, especially if Moscow 
"requested" the levy urbanely and civilly. But the appetite of the 
princes of Moscow grew with eating. During the protracted feud be- 
tween Vasily II and his uncle Yury and the latter 's sons, Vasily Squint- 
eye and Shemyaka, each of the contending princes watched his oppor- 
tunity to snatch from the wealthy city something for himself, under 
the pretext, however, that Novgorod, while maintaining neutrality in 
these domestic feuds of Moscow, had harboured his rivals. It was on 
these grounds that Vasily II extorted from the Novgorodans a fresh 
contribution of 8,000 rubles just as his grandfather had done. One 
cannot but see that the city's resistance to these extortions became ever 
more and more feeble; in proportion as "the principality of Moscow" 
and "north-eastern Rus" became fused into one concept, Novgorod fell 
economically more and more into twofold dependence on the grand prince 
of Moscow. On the one hand, Novgorod, as of old, could not get along 
without grain from the Low Country; Moscow could always reduce her 
to obedience through starvation, and it was vain to hope for help from 
any of the/Other princes, because not one of them now dared to oppose 
Moscow. On the other hand, the Novgorodan merchant needed the Low 
Country as a market, while the Low Country was now a single realm 
under the headship of the prince of Moscow ; in case of a quarrel with 
Moscow, there was no place where he could either buy or sell. Moscow 
understood this and pressed ever harder upon the liberties of the veche, 
not because she was conscious of the theoretical incompatibility of the 


veche with the Muscovite order of things or was even interested in this 
aspect of the matter, but because the veche order of things impeded 
the financial exploitation of the country. Vasily the Dark had suc- 
ceeded in abolishing the sovereignty of Novgorod in fact when, after 
the campaign of 1456, which once more showed .. the military wea kness 
of the Jho-urgeoisi e. of . Novgorod, he forced the latter to renounce its 
"veche charters," in other words, to acknowledge that the urban com- 
munity alone could not issue laws without the sanction of the grand 
prince. Charters now had force only if the seal of the grand prince 
was appended to them. The significance of this limitation becomes quite 
clear when we learn that by the same treaty of 1456 the "black levy" 
was converted into a permanent tax, and judicial fines, "gifts" from 
the provinces, and all traditional imposts were secured to the grand 
prince. There was little in principle for Ivan III to add. It is note- 
worthy that after his "crusade" in 1471 he left the administration of 
Novgorod unchanged. ^ln Novgorod's treaty with him after this war — 
the last treaty to be concluded by the still nominally free city — are pre- 
served all the stereotyped limitations of the prince 's authority : not to 
deal justice without the posadnik, and not to apportion the provinces 
without him, and to administer the provinces through men of Novgorod. 
All this was of slight moment to the conqueror; his chief interest was 
that "justice [i.e., judicial revenues] be not taken from the governors," 
that "fines be not concealed," and that Novgorod divide with him, the 
grand prince, the new fines that the "code of Novgorod" introduced; 
and over and above this he took a contribution of 15,000 (1,500,000 
pre-war) rubles. The chief pretext for future controversy — the transfer 
of appellate jurisdiction to Moscow, contrary to the rule of all the 
treaties — likewise came down to a financial question, and the Nov- 
gorodans knew what they were doing when they proposed to Ivan III, 
in return for restoration of the old order, a payment of 1,000 rubles 
every four years. But. the. grand prince reckoned, and he was prob- 
ably right, that keeping the right to administer justice in the hands of 
Moscow would yield still more. The final ruin of the city, expressed 
in the transfer to the Lowlands'of 7,000 of the men of substance — the 
prosperous bourgeoisie of Novgorod — in part corresponded to the inter- 
ests of the Muscovite competitors of Novgorod, in part aimed at rooting 
out all resistance to financial exploitation. The area of the "feedings" 
of the boyars of Moscow, geographically doubled, now embraced the 
richest province of the Russia of that time, and they made such exhaus- 
tive use of the possibility opening before them, that thirty years after 
the subjection, Grand- _Prin£e_ V asily III, json — of the M wo r ke r — of- 
piety, " had to limit the judicial authority of his governor in Novgorod, 
fearing that otherwise the land would be made an utter desert. 


The coup d'etat effected in Novgorod by Ivan III was one of the very- 
clearest episodes of the "gathering" policy. With the exception of the 
struggle with Tver nowhere did open violence play such a role. But 
extensive application of open violence did not in itself impart an excep- 
tional character to the "conquest of Novgorod." Ivan III did not attack 
Novgorod in order to abolish Novgorod's autonomy; he abolished it only 
because it prevented him from- being as sovereign at Novgorod as at 
MolTcow, i.e., from collecting revenues in the same way. He would 
perhaps have left the veche — after his first victory, in 1471, he did not 
touch it — had there been any hope of securing from it "observance of 
the rights" of the grand prince of Moscow. Only recognition of the 
fact that the veche would always be the bulwark of anti-Muscovite sedi- 
tion compelled Ivan on this point to depart from that "custom" to 
which he so liked to refer, not merely hypocritically, of course. Like all 
the descendants of Ivan Kalita he was anything but a revolutionary. 
The boyar council, once the ranks of the Novgorod boyars had been 
purged, seemed more innocuous, and it was left, though it is true, we 
do not know how long ; however it happened, in 1481 a treaty with the 
Livonian Order was concluded by this very council, as had been done 
of old. 

The conservative character of Muscovite conquest was no less clearly 
manifest in the subjugation of Pskov, the "younger brother" of Nov- 
gorod, in the reign of Ivan 's son, Vasily III. The city had been deprived 
by Ivan of all financial rights over the surrounding country ; these 
rights passed to the Muscovite sovereign. When Vasily became grand 
prince, the "better" men of Pskov, mainly from the ranks of the 
bourgeoisie (the landholding aristocracy was not as strong in Pskov as 
in Novgorod), were transported to central Russia, and in their place 
appeared three hundred merchant families from Moscow and its de- 
pendent towns. With them came to Pskov the Muscovite commercial 
order of things : customs duties and probably other trade imposts and 
dues. Pskov's former privilege of free trade, both at home and in the 
lands of the Livonian Order, was destroyed ; and the merchants of Pskov 
were put on the same footing as those of Moscow. 

But Vasily confined himgelf^to the financial^ej3raojnic--«©«€ft re,s t~ f 
Pskov ^(supplemented by the introduction of Muscovite coinage in place 
of the native). AnjcLfliter-- h i s ti m e^we-fmdr in Pskovy-as- also in No vgorod, 
elected officials. More than that : perhaps in imitation of the former 
veche communities, these institutions became widespread in the sixteenth 
century over the whole Muscovite state. In any case, it was not the 
newly-come Muscovites that introduced a new order of things, but the 
reverse; among the judicial elders of Pskov half were elected by the 
Muscovite merchants who had been transferred to Pskov. And in this 


preservation of justice in the hands of the bourgeoisie Muscovite domi- 
nance did not cut across the local order, but strengthened what had 
independently taken form locally ; in Novgorod, as we know, the people 
had long since been removed from the administration of justice, and in 
Pskov evolution had proceeded in the same direction. To see here any 
conscious preservation of local peculiarities is, of course, not justifiable. 
But to remark this conservatism of Muscovite conquest is necessary in 
order not to fall into the very widespread error of imagining the "gath- 
ering of Rus" as the formation of a unitary state. The political unity 
of the "Great Russian people" we find only at the beginning of the 
seventeenth century, under the influence of economic conditions much 
later than the "annihilation of the last appanages." The Muscovite 
state of the seventeenth century was the result of the liquidation of 
feudal relations in their earlier form, but the princes of Moscow, down 
to Vasily III (d. 1533) inclusive, did not even think of such liquidation, 
since they themselves were typical feudal holders. Their sole anxiety 
was the punctual receipt of revenues, and their whole administration 
regarded the matter in this light. The charters of the early sixteenth 
century are nothing more than schedules of levies of the same type 
as on any feudal votchina. Compare the charter which Grand Prince 
Vasily granted to his "black peasants" with the charter that the Sol- 
ovetsky Monastery gave its peasants, and you perceive no differences. 
What afterwards became the function of the police state was effected by 
the inhabitants themselves; "and they shall seek out a murderer, and 
they shall surrender him to the governors and their bailiffs"; and fur- 
ther, through their plenipotentiaries, "the older and the better men," 
they shall see that the governor and his bailiffs deal with the man ar- 
rested. The grand prince's officials for their part only saw to it that 
there was no "self -justice" in the provinces: "and self-justice is this: 
who takes a thief redhanded and lets him go, and to the governor and to 
his bailiff does not appear and they detect him in that . . . " ; in other 
words, self -justice is the attempt to conceal judicial dues. The "ad- 
ministration" of the grand prince of Moscow, like the "administration" 
of his appanage forbear, was a special form of economic activity — and 
only that. When they came to organise on a broad scale the police of 
security, they imposed it "on the consciences" of the local inhabitants, 
dismissing the governors by reason of their complete unfitness for such 

And the provinces themselves, gathered in such large number in the 
hands of Kalita's descendants, continued to preserve their former 
appanage physiognomy even territorially. The boundaries of these 
provinces likewise remained inviolate, and very frequently the same 
men administered them. The Obolensk principality in the middle of 


the sixteenth century was still entirely in the hands of the Princes 
Obolensky, who had long since become servitors of the prince of Moscow. 
The grand prince of Yaroslavl, even after the annexation of Yaroslavl 
by Moscow in 1463, remained as a governor of the grand prince of 
Moscow, and after his death his son inherited this office. "In 1493, when 
the Muscovite voevoda took Vyazma from Lithuania, and brought the 
Princes Vyazemsky to Moscow, the grand prince invested them with 
Vyazma as their votchina and bade them serve him. " If we add to this 
that even in earlier times the independence of the petty appanage princes 
was never complete, 7 we shall understand that the mediatised prince, 
on ceasing to be an independent sovereign, might not perceive the fact, 
continuing to give charters "according to custom like his grandfather 
and father" even two generations after his mediatisation. Let us add 
that it would be hard for him to explain that he had ceased to be 
sovereign ; sovereign he continued to be, inasmuch as every landholder 
was a sovereign. 

7 External, diploamtic relations, in particular with the Horde, always constituted 
a prerogative of the grand prince; the right to begin war and to conclude a peace 
independently also belonged to him alone; he also collected the Tatar tribute and 
what he did with it concerned him alone, 



I. The Agrarian Revolution of the First Half of the Sixteenth Century 

The earliest historian of Tsar Ivan [IV] ''the Terrible" was Prince 
Kurbsky, who wrote while Ivan was still on the throne of Moscow. In 
explaining why Ivan ruined the Russian "princelings" "by whole fam- 
ilies," Kurbsky sounds the motif: "they had great votchinas; I think 
probably for that he destroyed them." Ivan's literary antagonist was 
distinguished neither by talent as a writer nor by an especially profound 
understanding of what was taking place around him. In mentioning 
votchinas as the cause of the extermination of his kinsmen, Kurbsky 
hoped perhaps to attain a very limited practical goal — to terrify the 
Polish-Lithuanian aristocracy, who at the time the History of the Grand 
Prince of Moscow was written were thinking of seating Ivan on the 
Polish throne, too. But practical men, just because they lack a wide 
horizon, frequently perceive the proximate causes of a phenomenon bet- 
ter than do men who look at things through the eyes of an idealistic 
theory. A long time was to pass before Kurbsky 's casual remarks about 
the causes of the "tyranny" of Ivan the Terrible were appreciated. 
Only in the 1870 's did the late Professor Zhdanov of St. Petersburg 
adopt the view that the key to the whole tragedy of the oprichnina x 
must be sought in the quarrel over land. In the meantime how many 
interpretations has not Tsar Ivan's memory had to suffer! From the 
most sublime, which, employing Hegel's method, made the autocrat of 
^Moscow the tool of a universal spirit in its destructive-creative labour, to 
the most realistic, which asserted that sixteenth-century Russia was a 
madhouse — let any one of them be applied to Ivan IV, and there is no 
tragedy at all. 

To-day the agrarian background of the oprichnina may be said to be 
a commonplace ; to-day there is no novelty in defending the views of 
the sixteenth-century historian [Kurbsky]. To contest them would be 
original. "The oprichnina was the first attempt to resolve one of the 
contradictions of the Muscovite state order, ' ' says Prof. Platonov, one of 
the most cautious of Russian historians; "it shattered the landholding 
of the aristocracy as it had existed from antiquity." All hypotheses 
about the "personality" of Ivan the Terrible lose importance before this 

i(7/. infra, pp. 142 et seq.; see also Glossary. 



simple, prosaic fact remarked by contemporaries three hundred years 
ago. But this simple, prosaic fact requires explanation no less than 
does the most complicated and romantic view of Ivan's "mental state." 
Why did Ivan the Terrible need his boyars' votchinas when he himself 
had enough such votchinas, when his father and grandfather, in putting 
the finishing touches to the Muscovite state, had dwelt in peace with the 
holders of these votchinas or at any rate had not gone so far as to ruin 
them "by whole families"? The oprichnina was but the culminating 
point of a long socio-political process, which had begun long before Ivan 
the Terrible, which did not end until long after his death, and which 
by its inexorable, elemental nature makes cogitation over "characters" 
and "mental states" peculiarly idle. The policy of the oprichnina runs 
like a red thread through the reigns of Ivan, Fedor, and Godunov alike, 
from the 1560 's right up to the Troubles, with moments of relaxation 
and moments of tension, but wholly unconnected with any one 's volition. 
Twenty years in advance (in the 1540 's) the approach of the catastrophe 
was already so definitely felt that it proved possible for a man 2 who 
perhaps did not himself live to see the oprichnina with his own eyes, 
to outline its programme. Yet in the 'forties even the "beneficent" 
period of Ivan's reign, which Karamzin contrasted with the period of 
his "tyranny," still lay in the future. As yet Ivan had not succeeded 
in becoming either "good" or "evil," though it had already been 
prophesied to him that if he " threatens not the nation with great terror, 
then he will not bring law into the land." The nickname "Terrible" 
was hovering in the air before the commission of the deeds which were 
to secure him this nickname in history. 

Ascending the throne in 1533, at the age of three, Ivan IV inherited 
from his father and grandfather the votchina of Moscow in the feudal 
guise which we have already characterised in detail. The grand prince 
of Moscow was suzerain of innumerable landholders, both large and small, 
who "held" their lands from him; one might be an appanage prince 
who had passed into the service of Moscow, another a petty vassal, a 
"knight" who, perhaps, had only yesterday been raised from amongst 
the boyars' "servitors," if not their bondsmen, into the service of Mos- 
cow. The distinction between these two strata of Moscow's vassals was 
quantitatively enormous, but qualitatively they both belonged to the 
one category ; theoretically both had agreed to serve their suzerain on 
certain conditions, and the removal of these conditions ended their obli- 
gation to serve. This was the theory. In practice observance of the 
rights of a military servitor was wholly dependent on the good will, on 
the strength, and on the ability of him whom he served. The free serv- 
itors' celebrated "right of departure," of which one can read to one's 

2 "Peresvetov," cf. infra, pp. 123 et seq. 


heart's content in old courses of Russian history, either never existed 
or existed in its traditional form right down to the time of Ivan the 
Terrible ; the answer to this question will depend on whether or not one 
considers this right apart from its connexion with "force." A powerful 
prince never hesitated to execute a weak "departer." In 1379 Dmitry 
Donskoi's government executed the boyar Velyaminov, who had "de- 
parted " from the service of Moscow to that of Tver; at that time the 
boyars of Tver and Ryazan passed freely into the service of Moscow, for 
the prince of Moscow was stronger than their former suzerains. But 
on paper the right of the military servitor to elect whom he would serve 
was still recognised in 1537 and even in 1553. Under the former year 
the chronicle relates that Prince Andrew of Staritsa, uncle of the grand 
prince, who had recently taken oath "not to call away men from the 
grand prince," began to send out letters to the pomeshchiks of Novgo- 
rod, writing, "The grand prince is young, and the boyars hold the state, 
and whom have you to serve ? Come to serve me, and I am glad to make 
grants to you." The boyars who then held the state ordered those 
pomeshchiks who had been seduced to the "granting" of the prince of 
Staritsa to be beaten with the knout and to be hanged "along the Nov- 
gorod highway, not together, but all the way to Novgorod." In 1553 
these same boyars, during what at the time all believed to be the fatal 
illness of Ivan, deliberated whether "to serve the young to the exclusion 
of the old," the infant son of the grand prince to the exclusion of the 
adult descendant of Ivan III, Prince Vladimir of Staritsa, son of the 
man who had tempted the pomeshchiks of Novgorod to their destruction ; 
the boyars deemed it possible to exchange their infant suzerain for his 
adult rival. But such cases were becoming more and more rare, for by 
purely quantitative accumulation Ivan Kalita's patrimony had destroyed 
a very essential phase of feudal relationships. The form long survived 
the content. On paper the seventeenth-century pomeshchik still "con- 
tracted" with the government about the conditions of his life. "He 
shall be on an ordinary horse, while with state pay he will be on a good 
horse," was inscribed of this or that military servitor in the general 
register. The scale of his compensation, whether in land alone or in land 
and a money salary besides, determined the quality of his service. The 
parties were supposedly still bargaining, but it was only the ritual of 
bargaining. In actual fact a pomeshchik dared not refuse the service 
that was offered him ; for in the seventeenth century there was not even 
for a moment any suzerain other than the tsar and grand prince of 
Moscow to whom it would be possible to "depart." 

Was this decay of old Russian feudalism confined to juridical rela- 
tionships? Given the old economic basis such a modification of the 
juridical superstructure would even at first glance seem incomprehensi- 


ble. The independent position of the vassal in relation to the suzerain 
was the political equivalent of the economic independence of this vassal's 
votchina from the world about him. Sitting in his manor-house, a land- 
holder rarely entered into immediate contact with the world — only on 
ceremonial occasions, so to speak. For his workaday life he had every- 
thing he needed at home. As we see, the origin of the classic pride of 
the mediaeval knight was very prosaic. In Russia in the sixteenth cen- 
tury (as in the West from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries, depend- 
ing on the country) there is abundant evidence that the economic inde- 
pendence of the feudal votchina was not so great as it had been a century 
or two earlier. The most noticeable symptom of this is the feudal land- 
holder's desire to receive his revenue in the form of money. It will be 
remembered that on the old Russian votchina peasant dues were usually 
paid in produce — grain, flax, mutton, cheese, eggs, etc. If we take the 
Novgorod registers, which contain data for several successive periods, 
we find that only dues in grain persist unchanged; by the middle of 
the sixteenth century money had to some extent, and by the end of the 
century completely replaced payment in cheese, eggs, mutton, etc. In 
this respect the grand prince and his governors did not differ from 
other votchinniks; in fact, among them we can trace this appetite for 
money to a considerably earlier period. The first charter translating 
the natural obligations of a population (Belozersk) into money pay- 
ments dates from 1488. It lists both the governor's "feedings" and 
the judicial fines in their original form, produce, but immediately sets 
down their money equivalents: "for a half shoulder of meat, 2 altyns; 
. . . for a ram, 8 dengas," etc. The introduction of money payments 
was the occasion for a great number of the extant charters of the begin- 
ning of the sixteenth century. Thus the administrative cares of the 
Muscovite government had a very real, purely economic, basis. 

Votchinniks both great and small strove to get their revenues in a 
form less unwieldy than produce intended for immediate consumption. 
But this new and more flexible form of revenue — money — would be un- 
thinkable under the economic order within the bounds of which the 
feudal votchina had taken form. An appanage prince had always 
needed money on ' ' ceremonial occasions ' ' : for example, when he was 
preparing to despatch the tribute to the Horde, or when he or his sub- 
jects bought cloth, wine, or fruits from beyond the sea. Everyday, 
workaday needs were satisfied out of their own domestic resources ; for 
this purpose money was not necessary. So long as money was but rarely 
needed, there was no occasion for desiring to receive revenues in money 
form. Thus the feudal votchinnik's adoption of money economy was 
only the outward expression of a far greater change. This change con- 
sisted in the destruction of the feudal votchina as a self-sufficient eco- 


nomic unit and in the appearance in the market as both buyer and 
seller of the landholder, who had formerly been proud of his economic 

Evidence of a votchina's connexion with the market — a connexion 
that was not casual but permanent, normal, so to speak — is first found 
in the fifteenth-century code of Pskov, which originated, it is true, in 
the economically most progressive region of the Russia of that time. 
One of the last provisions of this document deals with the obligation 
of an "old izornik" {i.e., a former peasant) to bring horses and carts to 
his lord, even though at the termination of his field labours on St. Philip 's 
Eve (November 15) he had "renounced" his master. Grain and poultry- 
were sent to town, to the market, at the first sledging, but winter might 
not begin till after November 15, i.e., after the formal cessation of the 
obligations between an "izornik" and his "lord." Then the latter might 
find himself in an embarrassing position, with something to sell but no 
one to take it to town for him. Protecting the interests of the landholder, 
the law of Pskov made the reservation that although the relations 
between lord and peasant had formally ended, the former peasant must 
none the less fulfil his last economic function ; he must take the products 
of his labour to market. "Cartage" is also mentioned in sixteenth- 
century Muscovite documents. 

Especially valuable is the evidence of the existence of petty, local 
markets. Large-scale exchange, even in objects of prime necessity, in 
grain especially, had existed even earlier in so far as there had been large 
trading centres, like Novgorod, with a numerous non-agricultural popu- 
lation. In the sixteenth century, although Novgorod preserved a good 
deal of her former importance, her place had been taken by Moscow, 
which, in the words of foreign travellers, stretched for almost nine 
versts along the course of the River Moscow and in the second half of 
the reign of Ivan the Terrible numbered more than 40,000 homesteads, 
i.e., not less than 200,000 souls. 3 According to Fletcher, who was there 
in the reign of Ivan's son, Fedor, "the citie of Mosko is not much bigger 
than the citie of London," while there is reason to believe his assertion 
that Moscow was at this time suffering mightily from the Tatar raid 
of 1571 and, it must be added, from the general economic crisis that 
was desolating all the towns of central Russia. Moscow must have ab- 
sorbed a vast quantity of the products of rural economy; and the 700- 
800 cartloads of grain that daily entered Moscow along the Yaroslavl 
road alone, as related by a foreign traveller, were in all probability no 
exaggeration. Yet this was only a quantitative change as compared 

*Cf. G. Fletcher, Of the Russe Common Wealth (London, 1591), in Sir E. A. 
Bond, Russia at the close of the sixteenth century [Works published by the Hakluyt 
Society, No. XX, London, 185G], p. 17. 


with the preceding period, though quantity was already effecting a quali- 
tative change in the economy of Moscow. From the point of view of 
economic evolution far more interest attaches to the petty urban centres 
in central and northern Russia in this same period, the reigns of Ivan 
the Terrible and his successor. We shall cite only a few examples. 
Toropets of Smolensk, once the votchina of Mstislav the Bold, in the 
sixteenth century "was of moderate size and not distinguished by the 
prosperity of its trade." None the less in 1540-1541 it consisted of 
402 taxable homesteads, as well as 80 of military servitors, 79 shops, 
and a population of about 2,400. In Solvychegodsk, in the second half 
of the same century, there were about 600 taxable homesteads, i.e., not 
less than 3,000 inhabitants, though "these places were distinguished 
neither by populousness nor by activity." In a no less backwoods cor- 
ner, Kargopol, documents of 1560 tell of 476 taxable homesteads, i.e., at 
the very least some 2,500 inhabitants. To the south of Moscow, in 
Kashira, at the end of the 1570 's, there were "about 400 homesteads of 
townsmen and a considerable market comprising more than 100 shops." 
Even the destruction of Kashira by the Tatars, who burned the town 
to ashes, did not destroy its commercial significance. In Serpukhov as 
early as 1552 a fifth of the town had been deserted, yet there still re- 
mained more than 500 homesteads and 250 shops. From this we see 
how imprudent it would be to imagine a town of Muscovite Rus as a 
fortress peopled almost exclusively with military servitors. However 
meagre by modern standards the above figures of the trading-industrial 
population, for a mediaeval country like Muscovite Rus of the sixteenth 
century one may justly speak of the bourgeoisie as a fairly distinct social 
class — a social force, the influence of which could not fail to tell at critical 
moments. This influence attained its apogee in the days of the Troubles, 
when the bourgeoisie proved strong enough to put forward its own tsar 
and to maintain him for several years. But the statesmen of the period 
of Ivan the Terrible were already reckoning with this force, and by that 
very fact compel the historian likewise to reckon with it. 

One of the largest items in the growth of commercial capital was 
the trade in salt, which was almost monopolised by the monasteries in 
Muscovite, as in Kievan, Rus. The Solovetsky Monastery sold some 
130,000 puds of salt annually. The Kirillo-Belozersk Monastery traded 
in it "on the Dvina, and in Tver, and in Torzhok, and at Uglich and at 
Kimr, and in Dmitrov, in Rostov, and on the Kineshma, and at Vologda, 
and at Beloozero with its subsidiary towns and in other places; where 
salt is dearer, there they sell," as the monastery's authorities naively 
admit their engrossing trade. Certain second-rate monasteries sold as 
much as 20,000 puds of salt a year. Along with this the monasteries 
carried on an extensive trade in other products : fish, butter, cattle. 


Monasterial storehouses in Vologda stretched for sixty sazhens 4 in 
length and eight in breadth. "When, at the end of the sixteenth century, 
the Kirillov Monastery transferred its market to a new site, the tsar's 
custom-house too had to be moved thither, to such a degre had the 
cloister become the commercial capital of the region. 

If the monasteries in engrossing salt were almost without rivals, the 
rest of society did not lag behind them in engrossing other objects of 
prime necessity. In connexion with the monasteries is significant the 
commercial role of the clergy, of which there is abundant evidence. To 
that priest and cattle-dealer whom N. A. Rozhkov discovered in a six- 
teenth-century biography may be added Silvester, archpriest of the 
Cathedral of the Annunciation, a person renowned both in history and 
in literature, Ivan's mentor in the days of his "beneficence." Urging 
his son to be honourable in payments, Silvester adduces truly bourgeois 
arguments, to which any medieval merchant would willingly have sub- 
scribed: "And when I purchased something of any one I entertained 
him kindly: payment without intriguing, and broke bread with him 
besides, and friendship forever; and he will sell nothing over my head. 
. . . And when I sold something to any one it was all in love, and not 
in deceit . . . good men have trusted me in everything, both local men 
and foreigners." This participation of a Muscovite archpriest in foreign 
trade is interesting because it indicates the circle of his relationships 
and acquaintances ; later on we shall see that certain projects of the first 
half of Ivan's reign should be linked with this very circle. Foreign 
trade was even then not insignificant, which is not surprising if we 
remember that the fall of Novgorod had not meant rupture of commer- 
cial relations with oversea countries but only concentration of them in 
Moscow itself. In the 'sixties was added one more "window to the 
West," the route opened by the English along the Northern Dvina, 
through Archangel ; but even this of course by no means wiped out the 
old route. Fletcher asserts that while Narva was in Russian hands 
(1558-1581) there sailed thence annually with flax and hemp alone not 
less than 100 ships, "large and small." It is said that some 50,000 puds 
of wax, some 100,000 puds of salt, some 100,000 hides were exported 
annually. The decline of exports by the reign of Fedor (by two-thirds 
or even three-fourths) he ascribes to the failures of Russian foreign pol- 
icy; the latter 's connection with commercial interests we shall consider 
later. On the score of Silvester it is also worth noting that besides being 
himself occupied with trade, he prepared others for the same activity; 
many of his pupils, according to his story, "work by hand at various 
industries, and many trade in shops; many visit for trade in divers 
countries for all sorts of trade." Not without reason was Tsar Ivan's 
* 1 sazhen = 7 ft. 


tutor the author of the moderate and accurate, truly petty-bourgeois 
Domostroi [household-order] ; he was the founder of commercial educa- 
tion in Russia. 

Explaining the rise of grain prices in the 'eighties, Fletcher says : 
"... the fault is rather in their nobilitie that use to engrosse it, then in 
the countrie it self e. ' ' 5 Actually, grain prices in the sixteenth century 
rose regularly and inexorably, quite independently of occasional bad 
harvests. That landholders were directly interested in grain prices is 
shown by the widespread collection of dues in "threshed grain" which 
we have already noted. 

Dues in grain, or participation of the pomeshchik in a share of the 
harvest, were the very simplest means of extracting money from an 
estate in agricultural localities, as dues in money were in non-agricultural 
regions. In 1565-1568 in the coastal section of Novgorod's territory 
threshed grain and a share of the harvest constituted 84.1% of the 
whole dues, and money only 15.9% ; in the section to the northeast the 
pomeshchiks' revenue in grain in both forms did not exceed 25%, while 
money dues supplied more than 75% of their whole revenue. But the 
colossal rise of grain prices was bound to excite the pomeshchiks of 
agricultural Russia to new and more complicated forms of production. 
Even at that time there were men to whom the traditional, petty, peas- 
ant economy did not seem productive enough. The petty economy of 
the peasant had been calculated to satisfy the needs of his homestead; 
to the lord's homestead went the smaller part of the harvest, a quarter 
or a third, according to the Novgorod registers of the end of the fifteenth 
century. But now it was advantageous for the lord to take into his 
own hands everything except what was absolutely necessary for the 
subsistence of the workers themselves. In the preceding period the 
lord's arable had served only for the satisfaction of the needs of the 
lord's homestead and therefore was usually not very great in extent. 
However, Nikitsky, the investigator of Novgorodan economy at the end 
of the fifteenth century, has noticed quite a sharp change ; ' ' with the 
establishment of Muscovite overlordship, " he writes, "the lord's arable 
increases considerably." The expanding lord's arable was worked by 
the lord's bondsmen. In the chapter on Russian feudalism we had occa- 
sion to note the role of bondsmen as military collaborators of their mas- 
ters ; now their economic utilisation begins. What proportions this 
attained is shown by the will (1545-1546) of Prince Sudtsky, a wealthy 
man of the time of Ivan's youth. In this will can be counted not less 
than 55 families of bondsmen whom the Prince bequeaths to his wife 
and daughters, not counting those he emancipates; among them are 30 
families of field hands, who worked the Prince 's arable. Ten years later, 

5 G. Fletcher, op. cit., p. 9. 


in the will of another wealthy pomeshchik, we find besides "field serv- 
ants" (i.e., bondsmen) indentured field hands, workers bound by way 
of a loan. It is curious that the testator disposes of both categories alike, 
and quite freely, as his own property, counting them by "heads" like 
cattle. Thus one of the roots of serfdom is clearly visible even in the 
1550 's. 

The labour of bondsmen on the arable was very common in the first 
half of the century; according to the computation of N. A. Rozhkov, 
on pomestye lands, in the county of Tver in 1539-1540 masters' home- 
steads constituted 4.5%, bondsmen's 8.8%, peasants' 86.7% of the total 
number of agricultural homesteads. On individual estates bondsmen's 
homesteads rose above ten per cent. But despite artificial expansion of 
the contingent of "field hands" by indenturing free peasants, the lord's 
arable grew more rapidly than the number of bondaged hands em- 
ployed on it. Striving with feverish haste to increase the area of land 
the revenue from which went wholly to him, the pomeshchik seized not 
only upon individual peasant homesteads which had for some reason 
become deserted but also upon whole hamlets and clearings. Individual 
small landholders could still get along with the labour of bondsmen 
despite the expansion of their arable; but the large proprietor in order 
to organise his economy had to seek a more extensive reservoir of work- 
ing hands. Very quickly he hit upon the idea of extending the natural 
obligations of the free peasants dwelling on his lands. The first exam- 
ples of the development of barshchina [obligatory labour] are found, as 
might be expected, on Church land, in the famous charter of the Metro- 
politan Simon which once played such a role in the controversies over 
the origin of the Russian landed commune. 6 But the document, which 
has only recently been printed in full, has proved to have capital im- 
portance in another respect ; it has irrefutably established the existence, 
even at the turn of the fifteenth century, of the regularly organised 
labour obligation of the free peasants. Barshchina was not burdensome 
at first ; for each five desyatinas of his land the peasant had to plough 
one desyatina of the Church's land. This represented, however, an 
augmentation of barshchina; the occasion for the charter was that the 
peasants "plough the arable for themselves much, while the monastery's 
arable they plough little." On this estate three-field economy had 
already been introduced; its cultivation was, for those times, quite 
intensive. Still more intensive economy, likewise accompanied by regu- 
ulated labour obligation, is found forty years later on the court votchinas 
of the grand prince; in the county of Volokolamsk the court peasants 

6 This document cannot, however, be used as proof of the existence of the com- 
mune, for the repartition mentioned in the charter was effected, not by the peasants 
but by the votchinnik. 


were obligated for each six desyatinas of their land to plough a seventh 
for the grand prince, and at the same time the scale of seeding on this 
desyatina was accurately defined : " 2 quarters of rye, and of oats double. ' ' 
The peasants had to manure the grand prince's land at their own cost; 
at the same time, not only the number of "piles" of manure to the 
desyatina but also the dimensions of each pile were exactly defined. 
The estates of middling and petty landholders had to wait a long time 
for such a rational economy. But here, too, barshchina appears quite 
early; even an investigator who asserts that until the end of the six- 
teenth century "barshchina did not exist" cites a number of references 
to barshchina estates in the first half of the century, and this number 
might be further increased. Along with economy based on indenture 
was bound up this other root of serfdom; with its further growth we 
shall acquaint ourselves when we study the economic life of Muscovite 
Rus of the seventeenth century. To the modern reader, accustomed 
to regard "bondage economy" as a synonym for retrogression, it seems 
strange to find the first beginnings of peasant bondage bound up with 
intensification of cultivation; but the feudal votchina, which knew no 
proletariat, could not construct a new system of economy on anything 
but involuntary labour in some form or other. 

In the period we are now considering, the first half of the reign of 
Ivan the Terrible, the agrarian crisis still lay far in the future, and 
no one then anticipated the blighting of the incipient economic bloom. 
Money and money economy were new ; every one hankered after money. 
The fact that grain became a commodity made the land that supplied 
the grain also a commodity. Men who desired this latter commodity 
were numerous, and seldom in early Rus had land mobilisation pro- 
ceeded more briskly than it did in the first half of the sixteenth century. 
But the fact that men were purchasing land often and in quantity 
meant that some one was selling land, i.e., making himself landless. In 
Chapter II we have seen one category of those who were losing land, 
viz., the petty votchina landholders, the peasant-proprietors. But they 
were not the only ones to make themselves landless; at the opposite 
extreme, among the greatest boyar-votchinniks, we notice the same 
phenomenon. Two conditions led to the rapid liquidation of the Mus- 
covite lat if undia of the time. In the first place, their holders rarely 
possessed the ability and the desire to organise their economy in the 
new way. Pursuing a career at court and in the army, "the boyar of 
the sixteenth century rarely visited his suburban estates, and it is hardly 
likely that he ever beheld his distant votchinas and pomestyes." In 
the second place, the feudal aristocracy was "under obligations" in 
those times, as later ; a great boyar or a mediatised appanage prince had, 
by tradition, to maintain an extensive "court," a swarm of parasitic 


menials and a retinue, sometimes, as Kurbsky testifies, of several thou- 
sand men. As long as all these people lived without expense on his 
peasants' grain, a boyar might not notice the economic burden of his 
official prestige. But when many things had to be purchased for money 
— money that was ever falling in value from year to year, in proportion 
to the growth of exchange economy — it became a grievous burden on 
the shoulders of the great landholder. Rozhdestvensky, the historian 
of military landholding in the sixteenth century, cites what might be 
called a touching episode, which clearly depicts this aspect of the mat- 
ter. In 1547 Tsar Ivan betrothed the daughter of one of his most 
eminent vassals, Prince Alexander Gorbatov-Shuisky, to Prince I. F. 
Mstislavsky, also one of the foremost boyars of Moscow; it turned out 
that the bride's mother had nothing to wear to the wedding, for her 
husband, on setting off on the tsar's service, i.e., in mobilising his 
appanage army, had pawned everything he could pawn, including his 
wife's whole wardrobe. In this respect the petty vassal was in a far 
more advantageous position ; not only did he not spend money on his 
service, but he received money for it. In the course of the sixteenth 
century a money wage to the petty military servitor becomes ever more 
customary. If we add that a small estate was far easier to organise 
than a large one since it was easy to "blend together" two or three 
hamlets or clearings and altogether impossible to carry out this operation 
over several tens and hundreds of hamlets, and that it was easy for a 
petty landholder personally to supervise the obligatory labour of his 
peasants and bondsmen whereas a great one had to do it through a 
steward who was not loath to become the real master — then we shall 
see that in the nascent struggle between large and middling landholders 
every advantage economically lay with the latter. In expropriating 
the wealthy boyar- votchinnik in favour of the lesser noble holding a small 
pomestye, the oprichnina followed the lines of natural economic evo- 
lution. Herein lay the first condition of its success. 

2. Publicism and the "Reforms" 

The political consequences of the fundamental economic fact of the 
period, the crisis in large votchina landholding, were very soon felt. 
Even in the first half of the sixteenth century the boyars felt the ground 
trembling beneath them and took measures to stabilise their shaken 
position. These measures and their consequences are very concisely and 
expressively described in a government document of the 1550 's. "For- 
merly we rewarded our boyars and princes and knights, ' ' this document 
makes the tsar say, "gave them towns and provinces as kormlenies 
[feedings], and to us from the peasants came great petitions, and the 
importunity was ceaseless, that our governors of towns and of townships 


and their [agents], exceeding our edict, inflict on them great fines 
and costs ; and from the governors of towns and of townships and from 
their [agents] came to us importunity and many petitions, that the men 
of the towns and the townships do not submit to their jurisdiction and 
do not pay them the kormlenies, and beat them, and therefore between 
them arise great calumnies and law-suits. ..." In order to understand 
this text it is necessary to have a clear idea what the governors of towns 
(namestniks) and of townships (volostels) were in appanage Rus. They 
were not at all like the governors of the nineteenth century (gubernators) 
or even like the governors of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 
(voevodas) , just as the appanage prince was not like the tsar of modern 
times. For a prince his principality was, above all else, a source of 
revenues, in the form of tribute, judicial dues, and such like. These 
revenues, in natural form, he could not everywhere collect in person, 
and sometimes it was advantageous for him in this or that locality 
to farm them out to a lesser feudatory. The latter appears in the role 
of the prince's namestnik, a kormlenshchik [feeder], as they called 
him, because he fed himself from his office. This was in the full sense 
of the word natural administration, corresponding exactly to all the con- 
ditions of natural economy. The boyar who farmed the prince 's revenues 
went to his province with his whole household. His bondsmen and 
petty vassals, his "serving men," became in the province judges, police, 
and tax-gatherers. A kormlenie was, consequently, a sort of business 
undertaking, and a very lucrative one, if we are to believe a contem- 
porary publicist, who asserted that where ten rubles were to be taken 
into the tsar's treasury a hundred slipped into the boyar 's pocket. The 
official document does not contradict this, painting a picture of savage 
extortions, as a result of which "in the towns many peasant home- 
steads, and in the townships hamlets and homesteads, were deserted." 
Of course, we must not be confused by the usual form of early Russian 
documents and chronicles, which represent matters as though the tsar 
gave towns and townships as kormlenies ; in the 'thirties and 'forties the 
throne of the universal Orthodox realm was occupied by a child, who 
could not give anything to anybody. Impoverished votchinniks greed- 
ily helped themselves to the kormlenies as the sole means of mending 
their affairs, especially after "tributes and dues" had been commuted 
into money, and the farmed grand-princely revenues had begun to come 
in in the form most advantageous for the farmers. In the colossal abuse 
of kormlenies lay those "horrors" of the boyar administration of which 
so much is to be heard both from contemporaries and from later his- 
torians. In 1547 a popular revolt, the apparent occasion for Which was 
the great Moscow fire, united into one huge outburst all the petty 


"resistances to the authorities" referred to in the charter we have cited. 
This revolt was by no means a casual disturbance among the ruins of 
the fire; the disturbance began on the fifth day after the fire had been 
extinguished, while the fact that Prince Yury Glinsky, Ivan's uncle and 
head of the Moscow government, and his officials were victims of the 
revolt emphasises quite definitely the political causes of the movement. 
It must be said that the movement was not local or confined to Moscow ; 
its instigators found asylum "in other towns"; the whole Russian land 
sheltered them. The "enterprises" of the kormlenshchiks had aroused 
every one against them — both the poor, who could get no justice from 
them, and the rich, whom the kormlenshchiks systematically robbed. It 
is enough to cite an instance of the kormlenshchiks' administrative meas- 
ures to make quite clear the attitude of the possessing classes toward 
the boyar administration. "The tsar's dignitaries in the towns and in 
the townships," relates the same publicist, "in their double-dealing and 
diabolical practices have gone so far as to exhume newly buried corpses, 
re-interring the empty coffins; they thrust a disinterred dead man, 
pierced with a boarspear or hacked with a sabre, and smeared with 
blood, into the house of some rich man ; then they find an informer who 
knows not God, and having condemned the rich man by an iniquitous 
trial they plunder all his household and his wealth." This example 
makes very vivid the contradiction of interests between the korm- 
lenshchik and the whole population. The former lived, above all else, 
on his judicial revenues; the more crimes in his district, the higher his 
revenue, whereas to society — and especially to the higher strata — order 
and security were the more necessary the more advanced it was eco- 
nomically, and we have already seen the tempo at which Russian society 
was advancing economically in the days of Ivan the Terrible. That 
which destroyed the economic basis of the boyar order likewise raised 
up opponents to it; when after the Kazan campaign "the sovereign 
rewarded all the land ' ' with kormlenies, he did so in reply to the unani- 
mous declarations, not only of the "simple populace" that had revolted 
in 1547 but of all save only the boyars themselves. Some of these 
declarations have come down to us: the most important part of the 
Vaga charter of 1552, for example, is simply a transcription of the 
petition of the men of the Vaga themselves, including all the compliments 
the petitioners had addressed to their governors, whom they baldly 
likened to "thieves, rascals, and other evil men." That other declara- 
tions of this kind have not come down to us does not mean that there 
were none. Indeed, it was more than a matter of simple petitions ; there 
Was an integral, consciously worked-out plan of reform, which found 
both private and official expression from the pens of the first Russian 


publicists and in the form of the questions which Ivan addressed to the 
Stoglav Sobor. 7 

Both the publicism of the 'forties and 'fifties and the "tsar's ques- 
tions" are especially interesting because they make it possible for us 
to discover the social forces behind the so-called "reforms of Ivan the 
Terrible." It has long since ceased to be possible to represent these 
"reforms" as the product of the wisdom of the tsar himself and of a 
close circle of his counsellors. Participation of the population in the 
"reforms," even its initiative in them, has likewise long been acknowl- 
edged. But analysis of this fact has usually not been carried beyond 
references to the "course of events" and the "force of things." Valu- 
able in themselves as a recognition of the material factor as the driving 
force of history, these phrases do not, however, suggest the concrete 
form in which the "force of things" arrayed itself. The economic 
changes we noted at the beginning of this chapter inevitably produced 
new social classes or, at least, new social groups. Now it was the mid- 
dling landholders, who had successfully adapted themselves to the con- 
ditions of the new exchange economy ; now it was the bourgeoisie, strong 
of old in Moscow itself, and, thanks to the new economy, acquiring 
peculiar importance and influence far beyond the limits of the capital. 
We have just seen an illustration of the attitude of these two classes 
toward the great feudal landholders, the masters of appanage Rus. 
But this attitude is not revealed merely by obscure hints in the sources, 
as might have been supposed. It was quite accurately formulated by 
contemporaries, and the establishment of this fact is a great scientific 
discovery still insufficiently appreciated by the historians who have made 
a special study of the sixteenth century, although the suggestion that 
there had been conscious planning of the "reforms" — planning that 
went far beyond what was actually accomplished — was made in 1876. 
Although it would seem self-evident that the tsar's correspondence with 
Kurbsky could not have been an isolated fact, for formulation of politi- 
cal views on paper and defence of them with the pen could not have 
been a habit peculiar to two men, the existence of publicism in the days 
of Ivan the Terrible evoked especial scepticism. This scepticism was 
supported by the firmly rooted conviction of the general illiteracy of 
old Muscovite Rus, but this conviction could not remain unshaken among 
those who knew that even under Ivan the Terrible literacy was a pre- 
requisite for the holding of certain offices (for example, as head of a 
guba, to be discussed below) and who knew the role played in those 

7 The "Council of the Hundred Chapters," so-called from the number of its reso- 
lutions, was held at Moscow in 1551 to give moral support and ecclesiastical sanction 
to the reforms of Ivan IV; it was attended by the higher clergy and high secular 


times by the men of pen and paper, the dyaks, who frequently seemed 
to foreigners to control the destinies of the state. There was, of course, 
no "reading public" in our sense, but in any backwoods corner might 
be found men able to read and to recount what they had read to their 
neighbours. As yet printing was not worth while (a printing press was 
set up under Ivan the Terrible for divine-service books only), but any- 
thing that found favour circulated widely enough in manuscript to influ- 
ence the minds of the upper classes at least. Thus arose a number 
of productions, written, as was usual at the time, in the form of a 
parable, an apocryphal book, or a moralising historical narrative, em- 
bodying a very practical content. It was sometimes a petition sup- 
posed to have been submitted to the tsar by some serving man ; now it 
took the form of conversations about Russia, carried on by foreign nota- 
bles of the time; now tidings of strange lands and rulers in which, 
nevertheless, it was not difficult to recognise Ivan IV and the state 
of Moscow; now revelations of holy miracle-workers. Many of the 
extant productions of this kind are connected with the name of Ivan 
Peresvetov, the "emigrant from Lithuania," undoubtedly a legendary 
person, though there were real men of that name. A "warrior" who 
had traversed the "whole world," who had in his time served "Fordynal 
the Czech" and "Yanusha, the king of Hungary," and "Peter, the 
voevoda of Wallachia," made an extraordinarily convenient screen for 
keen criticism of the order of things in the fatherland ; on the one hand, 
he wrote with the authority of a semi-foreigner, who had seen Europe 
and who could on occasion allude to conditions there ; on the other hand, 
as a foreigner, he was free to sin somewhat against Orthodox tradition. 
Peresvetov 's writings all centred around one theme : the causes of 
the fall of Constantinople, of the ruin of the Orthodox ruler "Con- 
stantine Ivanovich, ' ' 8 and of the success of the infidel ' ' Saltan Makh- 
met." The theme was then most popular in Russian literature, but no 
one had treated it from his viewpoint. Pious booklets were inclined 
to view it as a happy event : heresy had been put to shame, while the 
older piety had begun to shine like the sun, and the place of the fallen 
second Rome had been taken by Moscow, the third Rome. Decency 
demanded the shedding of a few tears over the downfall of the old 
capital of the Orthodox realm, but her heiress was ready, and there 
was really nothing to weep over. For Peresvetov the fall of Constanti- 
nople was a terrible historical example of how states perish when they 
are badly administered, when there is no "justice." The "Third Rome" 
did not interest him at all; if things were managed in the same way 
in Moscow as in Byzantium, Moscow, too, would meet a like fate. Mos- 
cow's future political career depended wholly on whether there was 

8 Constantine Palaiologus, last of the Byzantine emperors. 


"justice" there. It mattered not that in Moscow "the Christian faith 
is good and the beauty of the Church is great " ; "if there is no justice, 
there is nothing." And there would be no justice, so long as the appa- 
nage method of government was preserved. Peter, the voevoda of Wal- 
lachia, into whose mouth were put Peresvetov's very boldest sentiments 
(which needed a double pseudonym), particularly criticises Tsar Ivan 
for "letting loose private war in his realm": he gives the towns and the 
townships to magnates to hold, and the magnates grow rich from the 
tears and the blood of Christians. The kormlenshchiks thus appear as the 
prime obstacle to the realisation of "justice" in the Russian land. Sul- 
tan Makhmet had long since set an example of how to dispense with 
kormlenies: though an infidel, he "wrought works agreeable to God, great 
wisdom and law he brought into his realm," sending his loyal judges 
through all the realm, "paying them salaries from the treasury." "And 
judicial revenues he bade to be brought into his treasury" so that the 
judges should have no temptation to judge unjustly ; and he gave out 
to them law books by which they should judge and rule. 

Peresvetov's pamphlets, as can be judged from a number of indica- 
tions, appeared between the years 1545-1548, while the so-called ' ' Tsar 's 
Sudebnik [Code] " of Ivan IV was published in June, 1550. This infor- 
mation alone suffices to show how closely the publicism of the times of 
Ivan the Terrible was bound up with events of the time. But Sultan 
Makhmet did not confine himself to centralisation of judicial revenues 
alone; he introduced "unity of the treasury" for all his revenues with- 
out exception : ' ' and from the towns, and from the townships, and from 
the votchinas, and from the pomestyes all revenues he bade to be gath- 
ered into his tsar's treasury at every hour," while he paid his collectors 
salaries from the treasury. His whole military strength was organised 
in just the same way, on salary. The Muscovite state had long since 
begun to pass from natural to money economy but had not yet achieved 
any such wholesale change of the administrative apparatus as complete 
replacement of the feudal state with its vassalage by a centralised mon- 
archy with a salaried officialdom. What "Peresvetov" dreamed of was 
not to be realised until the eighteenth century. Not until a still later 
date could another of our publicist's ideas be realised. He was a great 
opponent of bondage ; his hero, Sultan Makhmet of Turkey, ordered all 
the records of bondage "burned with fire" and even permitted captives 
to redeem their liberty on the expiration of a seven-year term. And 
from the lips of a Turkish lord comes a splendid apology of the freedom 
of the people as an indispensable condition of national independence : 
"In what realm men are enslaved, in that realm men are not brave. . . ." 

But Peresvetov was not only a representative of a new economic 
philosophy; this was not a feature peculiar to him, and on this head 


he could find comrades even among his most violent opponents. The 
hoyars were not averse to taking advantage of money economy, and their 
plunderings as kormlenshchiks were a special form of exploitation of 
new sources of revenue. Peresvetov was neither a landholder-entrepre- 
neur nor a bourgeois from the city. The merchant he regards from the 
point of view usual to the medieval consumer : the merchant is a cheater ; 
he must be strictly watched ; trade must be accurately regulated ; prices 
must be fixed by the state; and, if any one cheats, gives false weight 
or measure, or takes a price "more than the tsar's regulation," "such 
shall be executed." Nor does the wealthy landholder, whoever he be, 
excite Peresvetov 's sympathy. Ivan's magnates are bad, not only because 
they grow rich "from the tears and the blood of Christians," but be- 
cause in general they grow rich "and are idle." "A rich man thinks 
not of war, he thinks of repose; and if even a valiant champion waxes 
rich, even he waxes idle. " It is easy to see where all Peresvetov 's sym- 
pathies lie; of nothing are his heroes so solicitous as of their "warriors." 
Sultan Makhmet "opened his heart to his army and made his whole 
army glad. From year to year he gave them the tsar's pay from his 
treasury, whoever was worthy of anything, — and to his treasury there 
was no end. ..." Peter, the voevoda of Wallachia, exhorts Ivan IV: 
"maintain a warrior, as one keeps a falcon — always gladden his heart 
and let not sorrow come nigh him. . . . Whatever warrior is terrible 
against the sovereign's foe to play the game of death and firmly stands 
for the Christian faith, for such warriors exalt their names and gladden 
their hearts, and add salaries from the sovereign's own treasury . . . 
and admit them to the sovereign's person and trust them in everything, 
and hear all their complaints, and love them as a father his children, 
and be liberal unto them. ..." Constantinople had fallen because 
"Tsar" Constantine's "warriors" had been impoverished and reduced 
to beggary. Yet not all military men are equally effective ; the great 
vassals of the grand prince of Moscow, who "are called his servitors 
because they go out on his service in full trappings, on horseback, 
and followed by their men but do not stand firmly for the Christian 
faith," only "impoverish" the realm of Moscow. Peresvetov 's ideal is 
the warrior who "in humble manner" came to Augustus Cassar, "and 
Augustus Csesar for that rewarded him and kept him near him and his 
family." In place of sumptuous vassals Peter, voevoda of Wallachia, 
recommends a small, but select, mercenary army — "twenty thousand 
valiant warriors with firearms." The origin of the "valiant warriors" 
matters not: "Whoever for the tsar [Sultan Makhmet] firmly stands 
against the foe, plays the game of death, breaks up the regiments of 
the foe, faithfully serves, though he be of lesser degree, His Majesty 
raises him and gives him a great name. . . . And though it is not known 


of what father they are the sons, the tsar for their wisdom raised them 
to high office. ..." 

In order to understand these allusions of the first Russian publicist 
(Peresvetov was absolutely the first lay publicist in the Muscovite state; 
Kurbsky did not begin to write until twenty years later) the modern 
reader must remember that the definitive, juridical stabilisation of one 
very celebrated Muscovite usage comes just at this period. While seek- 
ing economic support in kormlenies, the declining boyar order strove 
to find juridical support in mestnichestvo. The essence of mestnichestvo 
was comprised in the heritability of relationships between offices ; each 
family in Moscow's service occupied a definite position in relation to 
other such families, and each member of it, independently of his per- 
sonal deserts, could claim a place (mesto) in the service hierarchy cor- 
responding to the one his forebears had occupied. In form, of course, 
mestnichestvo is bound up with patriarchal concepts — with that "group 
principle" which we have already had occasion to mention more than 
once ; personal services were not taken into account because neither law 
nor manners knew how to distinguish the individual from the family 
group. As long as patriarchal concepts held full sway, there was no 
need to support them artificially; each knew his own place and did not 
encroach on another's. In case of doubt they called on old men to 
"remember," and that sufficed. If now, to reinforce custom, men begin 
to refer to written documents (and even to fabricate them), it is a sure 
sign that the usage had been shaken, and that men were striving to 
reinforce artificially what could no longer maintain itself. Modern 
research has established almost beyond dispute that like the first 
razryadnaya k?iiga [register of service appointments of the highest 
grades of the court of Moscow] the Gosudarev Rodoslovets [register of 
the most eminent families, which sought to fix the composition of the 
aristocracy of Moscow] arose in the 1550 's. What seemed an innocent, 
perhaps simply a stupid, remnant of "pre-state" tradition, was in 
reality a weapon of the class struggle, an attempt to stem the rising tide 
by artificial dikes. If the razryadnaya kniga was a selection, even though 
a very partisan one, from authentic documents, the gosudarev rodoslovets 
was crammed with tales frankly fantastic, which made all the Muscovite 
boyars "eminent foreigners." All boasted among their forebears some 
doubtful magnate who had emigrated to the service of the grand prince 
of Moscow, from the Germans, from the Lithuanians, at worst from the 
Horde. Extremely significant is this epidemic of genealogies just at a 
moment when the term "foreign" implied authority, and the "base- 
born" gained prestige by referring to their "foreign" origin. 

But such artificial props became necessary to the "well-born" only 
when the "base-born" made their existence evident in other ways than 


by studied apocrypha and political yarns, when they had become a real 
force, sufficiently menacing to be feared by the Muscovite aristocracy. 
Though maintaining their control at the centre the feudal boyars were 
compelled to surrender their position in the provinces. Reform of the 
provincial administration wts the first triumph of Peresvetov's ideas, 
and we may well pause over it, not only for its own sake but also because 
it throws most unusual and vivid light on the means by which the 
admirer of the Turkish Sultan Makhmet, the interlocutor of Peter, 
voevoda of Wallachia, expected to ''bring justice into the land." 

According to Peresvetov's story the police of security had been 
organised by Sultan Makhmet, as follows. If a theft or a robbery occurs 
in the army or in the towns "a royal inquest is carried on vigorously 
by the ten-men, by the hundred-men, and by the thousand-men"; and 
if any of these officers shelters an evil man he is executed. "And for a 
thief or a robber under the Turkish tsar there is no prison; on the third 
day they execute him, that iniquity shall not multiply ; only for suspects 
is there prison until the royal inquest. Karamzin, who regarded Pere- 
svetov's pamphlets as "fraud and invention," pointed out in part proof 
of his opinion that "this plotter" advised the tsar to "do everything 
great and good that was already being done." Generally speaking, this 
is quite unjust; we have seen that "Peresvetov's" projects were fre- 
quently in advance, not only of Ivan the Terrible but of Muscovite Rus 
in general. Yet in this case we really do hit upon something that calls 
for explanation ; the police organisation described in the lines quoted 
above, with all its characteristics — special authorities to cope with rob- 
bery, general inquest, and responsibility of the investigators for the 
results of the inquest — already existed in Rus in the 1540 's. Two char- 
ters are extant from as early as 1539 : one granted to the Belozersk region, 
the other to Kargopol; in both the grand prince "laid on the con- 
sciences" of the local population the inquest for robbers and their execu- 
tion after the inquest without trial. Herein lay the root difference 
between the new and old methods of meting out justice ; formerly all 
prosecutions, including those for robbery, were begun on private accusa- 
tion and were decided either by the oath of the parties or by the "field," 
the judicial duel. In these prosecutions the local governor "looked to his 
lucre," first and foremost seeing to the punctual payment of judicial fees 
and fines. Under such circumstances, of course, repression could be only 
very weak, even if we ignore those cases, not rare in practice, when the 
kormlenshchik simply went shares with the robbers, deeming such reve- 
nue more certain that "judicial perquisites," which he might never get. 
In both the charters referred to above mention is made of the founda- 
tion at Moscow of a special Robbery Bureau ("our boyars to whom cases 
of robbery are commended. . . ."). Its local agents were not the 


kormlenshchiks but special "heads," elected by the local population and 
assisted by elders, tithing-men, and "better men." Not only Belo Ozero 
and Kargopol but also "other towns" had "heads"; this was an all- 
Russian reform on a broadly thought-out plan. The reform undoubtedly 
hurt the pockets of the kormlenshchiks by taking from them their chief 
source of revenue, and contemporaries so understood it. The chronicler 
of Pskov, for example, relates that the governors took violent offence at 
the new order of things; "there was great dislike by the governor for 
the Christians," "to the Christians there was joy and immunity from 
evil men." What the boyar-kormlenshchiks lost passed to the pomesh- 
chiks, to the middling and small landholders ; the Belozersk charter defi- 
nitely indicates that the "heads," who waged the struggle against rob- 
bers, had to be taken from among the local knights, and the literate ones 
at that, as we have already noted. The elders and tithing-men from 
among the peasants were subordinate to them. The new authorities 
gained far more than the old lost : the kormlenshchik could initiate a 
prosecution only on a complaint; the "guba head" might on his own 
initiative put any man to torture and punish a man who confessed under 
it. In the whole guba [police-unit] there was no one who was not 
dependent on him. Moreover, the old judicial guarantees — duel and 
oath — were abolished for cases of robbery, and new ones not introduced ; 
the new system was not trial but "inquest"; they hunted robbers as 
one hunts wild beasts in the forest and, on finding them, slew them 
without further formalities, quite in accordance with Peresvetov's advice 
' ' to execute the robber and the thief and the slanderer and every spoiler 
without any accounting." If the terror of Ivan's reign consisted in 
summary punishments, and not of boyars alone, then Ivan became "the 
Terrible" in 1539 when the "tyrant" was but nine years old. But 
why did the publicist of the democracy of military servitors need to 
knock at an open door almost nine years later? To this there can be 
only one answer: the basic ideas of Peresvetov's writings are consider- 
ably older than the edition in which they have come down to us; the 
story of Sultan Makhmet probably existed in the 1530 's. 

Peresvetov's pamphlets were far from reflecting all the economically 
progressive currents of their time. They reflected the thoughts and 
desires of the "needy warriors," the masses of the petty vassals of the 
grand prince of Moscow; but these "warriors" were not the only active 
element in the Muscovite social order of the time. We have seen that the 
military servitors were suspicious of commercial capital, but its repre- 
sentatives could regard the military servitors in no better light. The 
political views of the two groups were naturally very different, and it 
needed both time and quite exceptional conditions to make possible an 
alliance between them. In the days of Ivan's youth this was a thing 


of the remote future. Transfer of local police into the hands of the 
pomeshchiks did not at all satisfy the interests of the burghers ; both 
then and later, in the seventeenth century, the guba ''head" was, for 
them, more often a foe from whom they must defend themselves than 
a defender and protector such as Peresvetov described him. The guba 
reform had not prevented a revolt of the townsmen of Moscow in 1547. 
Something more was needed; just what this something was the towns- 
men expressed no less loudly than did the "base-born." It was not 
by chance that the Moscow rebellion brought together the tsar and the 
archpriest Silvester, whose intimacy with commercial-industrial circles 
is so definitely attested by his own words. In all probability, it was he 
who edited the "questions" which the tsar addressed to the Stoglav 
Sobor and which expressed the programme of the townsmen more con- 
cisely, but no less fully, than Peresvetov 's writings expressed the pro- 
gramme of the petty military servitors. 

As the latter programme found fulfilment in the guba "heads" and 
the guba inquest, so from the town programme resulted the "zemsky 
reform" of Ivan IV. In 1555 or a little earlier the kormlenshchiks 
were withdrawn from the towns and the townships and replaced by 
"elected heads." Of the "bourgeois" character of this reform there 
can be no doubt, if only because the transfer was immediately accom- 
panied by the conversion of every sort of "feeding" into a money due, 
the despatch of which to Moscow constituted the first duty of the ' ' elected 
heads"; such a tendency could come only from the town. If matters 
had ended here, there would still have been no collision of class interests. 
But the "elected heads" inherited from the kormlenshchiks their judicial 
rights; thus in some places they came to be called "elected judges." 
Here was manifest an evident parallelism of town and pomeshchik insti- 
tutions. "We have seen that the appearance of guba "heads" was a clear 
diminution of the authority of the kormlenshchiks. Was not the appear- 
ance of elected judges a limitation, even though only a geographical 
one, of the rights of the guba "heads"? In certain cases at least this 
was undoubtedly true. The special business of the guba authorities was 
the capture of robbers ; but on the Vaga, for example, with the intro- 
duction of the "zemsky" elective authorities those who "go about to 
steal or to break in, or whoso goes about to slander, or whoso goes about 
to commit forgery, or bandits who go about to rob, go about to play 
dice, or to commit any such thing, or whoso has intercourse with evil 
men" were ordered to be handed over to "their elected heads," who had 
all the rights that in other places belonged to the guba "heads." The 
plenipotentiary of the townsmen was put on the same footing as the 
plenipotentiary of the local landholders and received even broader rights ; 
for the guba "heads" dealt only with robbery, but the "elected" with 


all criminal cases without exception. In the north of Russia, where 
there were hardly any pomeshchiks, or none at all, there could be no 
collision on this score, but everywhere else the struggle between the 
military servitors and the townsmen over the control of local adminis- 
tration was protracted far into the seventeenth century. 


ivan the terrible (Continued) 

3. The Oprichnina 

The circumstances under which a rapprochement between the towns- 
men and the great feudatories took place are not specifically given in 
the sources. We know only the bare facts that the representative of 
the bourgeois element, the archpriest Silvester, was in every court con- 
flict aligned with the representatives of the old aristocracy, and that 
the literary exponent of the latter 's views, Prince Kurbsky, was a great 
admirer of the archpriest of the Cathedral of the Annunciation. But 
there have survived in the records certain indirect allusions. Through- 
out the sixteenth century the Moscow townsmen were closely connected 
with the boyar family of the Shuiskys, whose eminence put them in the 
first rank of the appanage princes "despoiled" by the descendants of 
Ivan Kalita. The family votchinas of the Shuiskys, in the [pre-revo- 
lutionary] province of Vladimir, were even then hives of industry; the 
family's last historically renowned descendant, Tsar Vasily (1606-1610), 
his opponents contemptuously called "shubnik," an allusion to the fact 
that his prosperity was based on the labour of the hand-workers who 
supplied all Moscow with sheepskin jackets (shubas). The ancestors 
of this "shubnik" played a conspicuous political role during the minor- 
ity of Ivan IV. In manhood the "terrible" tsar recalled with indigna- 
tion how two of the Shuiskys "set themselves up" as his guardians, 
"and thus enthroned themselves." The rule of the Shuiskys had con- 
tinued "for a great time," regardless of the fact that they evidently 
were a great source of irritation to the youth Ivan. When he (or rather 
the Shuiskys' opponents, manipulating him) desired to be rid of them, 
Ivan Shuisky "summoning all his men and putting them on oath, brought 
a host to Moscow," and a palace revolution took place. The Shuiskys' 
opponents were arrested and banished; and even the metropolitan was 
roughly handled by the mob. A squabble took place in the grand- 
prince's dining-room where many boyars were likewise "jostled" and 
"pulled about." Ivan IV was at this time in his thirteenth year, so 
that he could well remember these events; and despite all the special 
pleading of the crowned publicist the historian rarely catches him in a 
downright invention. Ivan was too clever for that, and, as far as the 
Shuiskys in particular are concerned, his stories are generally confirmed 



by other sources. But these stories present the spectacle, not of an 
ordinary palace intrigue but of a mass movement; the disorders in the 
palace were of course not committed by the princes themselves but by 
the intruding mob, the ' ' Judas throng, ' ' which must have been composed 
of the burghers of Moscow. Connexions of industrial magnates with 
commercial-industrial circles were in themselves probable, while the 
fact that these two elements were very soon faced with common foes, 
and that in 1547 the townsmen of Moscow beat and slew the Glinskys, 
who had ever been the rivals of the Princes Shuisky, supplies strong 
factual foundation for this probability. The events of the 'thirties and 
'forties, obscure in the chronicles, are most correctly to be regarded as 
portents of the great movement that preceded ' ' the reforms of Ivan the 
Terrible." The alliance between the townsmen and the boyars may 
have been formed at this time, and an alliance so stable that only the 
oprichnina could paralyse it — and then only temporarily — and only the 
catastrophe of the Time of the Troubles could destroy it. 

From a general political point of view there was nothing surprising 
in such an alliance. In foreign policy the interests of the Muscovite 
bourgeoisie and of the Muscovite feudatories had long coincided, as may 
be seen, for example, in the history of Moscow's last conflict with Novgo- 
rod ; while the foreign policy of the boyars in the middle of the sixteenth 
century, which involved the seizure of the great Volga route by the con- 
quest of Kazan and Astrakhan, likewise corresponded perfectly to the 
demands of the commercial class. In this foreign policy, for that matter, 
the interests of all the dominant social groups temporarily coincided; 
the middling landholders looked with envy on the rich black-earth of 
the Volga country and would gladly have exchanged for it the exhausted 
clay-soil of the counties round Moscow. Indeed, in one of Peresvetov's 
writings we find an extraordinarily curious project — the transfer of the 
capital to Nizhny-Novgorod; there should be "the throne of a tsar, while 
Moscow is the throne for a grand prince." The realm of Kazan seemed 
to the pomeshchik publicist almost a paradise, "a heavenly land, fit 
for all " ; and he very cynically declares that ' ' such a land ' ' ought to 
be conquered even if it "were in friendship" with Rus. Inasmuch as 
the men of Kazan were in fact harassing Rus, there was an excellent 
pretext for settling accounts with them. Thus three hundred years ago 
a sixteenth-century writer ruthlessly shattered the well-known historical 
interpretation that makes the interests of state defence the mainspring 
of Moscow's whole policy; to Peresvetov this "state defence" was simply 
a good pretext for seizing "extremely fit" lands. 

On the basis of this community of interests, apparently, was estab- 
lished that compromise between the feudal aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, 
and the petty pomeshchiks which lasted approximately until 1560 and 


is usually described as the "happy time" of the reign of Ivan the 
Terrible. The petty vassals were satisfied, in the first place, by the 
establishment of guba institutions and the abolition of "feedings," and 
further, in anticipation of allotments of "heavenly" lands, by a large- 
scale special distribution of land in the counties round Moscow ; in 
1550 a thousand of the better nobles x and knights from the provinces, 
who formed a sort of tsar's guard, were given pomestyes immediately 
round Moscow. The distribution was of course attributed to military 
considerations, but it is easy to see that there were no military reasons 
for placing the select part of the army round the capital itself. This 
was the moment of supreme tension in the Kazan wars, and from a 
strategical viewpoint one might have expected concentration of the best 
part of the Muscovite army somewhere round Nizhny. In actual fact 
the distribution was a sop to the upper stratum of the pomeshchik class, 
nor was the boyar youth cheated of its share; as is well known, among 
those who received pomestyes near Moscow was Prince Kurbsky, then 
twenty-two years old. The townsmen were satisfied with the "zemsky 
reform" and with the transfer to them of the collection of indirect 
imposts, effected about this time. Modern historiography has been in- 
clined to represent this "credit service" as a peculiar kind of burden, 
supposedly very onerous for the Russian merchantry. But complaints 
of the burdensomeness of "credit services" are not heard until the 
middle of the following century when Russia had become definitely a 
nobles' state and the competition of the pomeshchiks in every field had 
become intolerable to the commercial class. In essence, the handing over 
of the indirect imposts "on credit" was a less burdensome form of farm- 
ing the taxes; the tax-farmer assumed the same obligations as the col- 
lector ' ' on credit, ' ' but he had to advance a large sum to the government 
whereas the credit "head" had the same advantages as the tax-farmer 
without expending a single copeck in advance. That some "credit 
heads" really were ruined is possible, but tax-farmers, too, were some- 
times ruined ; every enterprise has this reverse side. In the majority 
of cases, of course, concentration of enormous sums from customs and 
tavern levies in the hands of a few merchants immensely facilitated the 
concentration of merchant capital. 2 

What Kurbsky and Ivan relate, each from his own point of view, 
of the organisation of the supreme administration in these years sug- 
gests that the compromise extended to the political field. Into the 

i The word "noble" has been adopted throughout for the Russian "dvoryanin" ; 
it should be understood that these were not titled nobles and that the "boyars" are 
not included among them. 

2 One of the first cases of handing over customs revenues "on credit" — not to an 
individual but to a company of 22 men — dates from 1557. 


personnel of the government were introduced representatives of groups 
which hitherto had had no place in the tsar 's ' ' curia ' ' ; along with the 
princes and boyars we find our old acquaintance, the archpriest Sil- 
vester, and a man sprung from the ranks of the petty military servitors, 
Alexis Adashev, whom Ivan, to use his own words, "had taken from the 
dung-hill and ranked with the magnates." Adashev 's functions, so far 
as we know them, quite definitely indicate that he entered the ruling 
group as a representative of the anti-boyar opposition. He was entrusted 
with the receipt of "petitions from the poor and the oppressed"; at 
the same time he was recommended not to fear "the strong and the 
renowned who snatch honour for themselves, and who by their violence 
ruin the poor and the impotent." There is no doubt that he had an 
intimate share in the liquidation of "feedings" and the celebrated 
"reconciliation" of the kormlenshchiks with the people. To the modern 
eye, of course, he occupied a rather strange official position; he was valet 
de chamore to Ivan IV and washed the tsar in the bath, which supplies 
the occasion for speaking of him as Ivan's "favourite" and thus explain- 
ing his political significance. But we should not forget that this was 
in the heyday of the Middle Ages, and that even at a later period the 
household of the tsar could not be distinguished from the administration 
of the state. The degree to which everything bore a purely mediaeval 
character is shown by the means employed by the archpriest Silvester 
to influence Ivan, means on which there is essentially absolute agreement 
in testimony from the most diverse sources, from Kurbsky and Peres- 
vetov and Ivan himself. The latter 's words about "childish bugbears" 
are fully supported by what his opponents say about "nightmare ter- 
rors" set in motion by the archpriest to curb the young tsar's manners. 
Peresvetov's constant allusions to "magic and sorcery" indicate that this 
practice had very soon become well known to quite wide circles. Just 
what Silvester frightened Ivan with we do not know. Probably it was 
a matter of "visions" and "apparitions"; later, in the Time of the Trou- 
bles (1598-1613), as we shall see, these began to be manufactured to 
order. In any case, fictitious miracles as a means of attaining the pre- 
dominance of one's own political party yield nothing to Ivan Kalita's 
successful attempt to use the relics of the Metropolitan Peter as a means 
of attaining the political predominance of Moscow over Tver. In this 
respect no great change had taken place from the fourteenth century to 
the sixteenth. 

Introduction into the Muscovite "curia" of new, unwonted elements 
was accompanied by some change in the mechanism of administration. 
Inasmuch as this change has left no documentary traces (except one 
negative one, of which we shall speak later), it is not surprising that 
historians have failed to notice it or have paid it little attention. At 


the head of the Muscovite state, as at the head of the appanage prin- 
cipality of Moscow, stood the boyar duma, the council of the greatest 
vassals under the presidency of the suzerain. Historians have long since 
remarked that even from the first half of the sixteenth century there 
appear in this council, along with members by position, so to speak (such 
were all the former appanage princes and their descendants), members 
by appointment, "the knights who are in the duma." It has likewise 
long been remarked that in proportion to the expansion of the circle 
of obligatory members of the duma, whom it was usual to invite, the 
grand prince of Moscow ever more and more frequently manifests a 
tendency, in matters especially affecting the grand prince's authority, 
to summon not all the members of his duma but only a few. But this 
has always been regarded as a manifestation of the personal will of 
the sovereign. Without pausing over the question of whether such 
was the case before Ivan the Terrible, we can affirm that in the days 
of Ivan's youth it was not so. At the head of the administration there 
stood not the whole duma but a small conference, in part members of 
the duma, in part, perhaps, not members of the duma; but the mem- 
bers of this conference were chosen not by the tsar but by some one else. 
Later, in the heat of a polemic, Ivan even affirmed that it was purposely 
packed with men repugnant to him, but from his words it is clear that 
they were repugnant to him by reason of their independent attitude 
toward the tsar's authority, and it is possible that this very factor 
determined their selection. If Kurbsky's words be taken literally, this 
conference was accordingly called the "council of deputies" (or "elected 
council"), deputies, of course, of the full membership of the boyar 
duma though not always from this membership. Bowing to circum- 
stances, the boyars had to admit to it men who did not belong to their 
corporation, but as a preliminary they fixed the membership of this 
corporation with precision. We have already mentioned that the social 
struggle had compelled the Muscovite boyars just about this time to find 
artificial support for mestnichestvo usages. One phrase of Ivan's sug- 
gests that in this self-defence the Muscovite aristocracy did not confine 
itself to ex post facto compilation of razryadnya knigas and the Rodo- 
slovets, 3 but that mestnichestvo was given the force of law, binding 
on the sovereign himself. Ivan accuses Silvester and Adashev of taking 
from the tsar the power to define the precedence of the boyars in the 
duma. Sixty years later, in a mestnichestvo dispute, the boyar duma 
formally declared that the sovereign can reward only "with money and 
a pomestye, but not with otechestvo [hereditary rank]"; at that time 
this sounded like an anachronism, a survival of moribund antiquity, but 
in the 1550 's it was evidently a living reality. Unless we assume that 
3 Cf. supra, p. 126. 


at this time mestnichestvo calculations acquired juridical force, binding 
even upon the state authority, and that thus the personnel of the order 
of boyars was guaranteed against arbitrary reshuffling from above, we 
shall not understand the famous codicil to the Tsar's Sudebnik, which 
has evoked so many learned controversies. As is well known, this codicil 
runs: "whatever new matters there be, not inscribed in this sudebnik, 
as such matters are dealt with on the tsar's presentment and with the 
sentence of all the boyars, these matters shall be added in this sudebnik. ' ' 
Prof. Sergeyevich has drawn from this the conclusion that thenceforth 
"the tsar was only the president of the boyar college and without its 
consent could not promulgate new laws." He explains this innovation 
by the "pretensions" of the elected council, thus evoking the legitimate 
perplexity of Prof. Dyakonov: why should this "elected council," i.e., 
a comparatively narrow circle, bother about legislative rights for all the 
boyars? Inasmuch as the sudebnik 's formula is frequently repeated 
even after the fall of the "elected council," Prof. Dyakonov concludes 
that it is futile for Sergeyevich to attach any special importance to it. 
But, as we have seen, the "elected council" represented precisely "all 
the boyars" or, rather, was their executive organ; the vitality of the 
formula only proves how lasting was the gain of the boyar order in 
1550 (or perhaps a little earlier; we first meet with the formula in 
1549). The oprichnina itself was an indirect recognition of this gain; 
the tsar would not have needed extraordinary full powers, had he not 
in the usual order of things been bound by the decisions of the boyar 
college. The expression "all the boyars" would have no meaning if 
the personnel of these "all" had not been defined with precision and 
made independent of arbitrary action from above ; thus, the codicil to 
the sudebnik indirectly supports the deduction that about 1550 mest- 
nichestvo calculations acquired binding juridical force. 

As we see, the classic "reform" of Ivan the Terrible must be sought 
in the changes that had taken place in the position of the boyar order. 
"Reforms" always mean that the ruling class or group, at the price 
of more or less serious concessions in details, saves the foundation of 
its position. Ivan's boyars made many concessions, and capital ones; 
chief among them were the abolition of "feedings" and the introduction 
of the commercial priest Silvester and of Alexis Adashev into the 
"elected council." On the other hand, the boyar families became a 
closed corporation, the membership of which became inviolable for any 
one whatsoever, and without the counsel of the full membership of this 
corporation the tsar could not undertake what was then the most impor- 
tant legislative matter, a supplement to the sudebnik. The boyars dis- 
played great political tact; by renouncing many materially advan- 


tageous privileges, they maintained in their own hands the source of 
them all, the sovereign authority. 

The compromise could endure so long as all the "contracting parties" 
could deem their own interests satisfied. That only the boyars had made 
permanent gains could not fail to become clear, and in fact soon did 
become so. First, apparently, were dissipated the hopes of the middling 
and petty pomeshchiks who had expected great and rich favours in con- 
nection with the subjugation of Kazan. In the first place this subjuga- 
tion proved to be no easy matter ; six years after the fall of their capital 
the population of the khanate of Kazan was still offering obdurate resist- 
ance, and the Russian towns constructed in the newly subjugated prov- 
ince "were besieged by them" all the time. The seriousness of the 
rebellion is evidenced by the fact that the insurgents succeeded in 
annihilating a large Muscovite army headed by the boyar Boris Morozov, 
whom they took captive and later slew. In Kurbsky's words, so many 
Russian military servitors perished in the pacification "as is unlike to 
truth." The "heavenly land" had cost Peresvetov's comrades dear. 
Moreover, the first to enjoy it were not the pomeshchiks but the peas- 
ants. Long before the country had been sufficiently pacified to permit 
of the establishment of pomeshchik economy, long files of emigrants had 
trailed eastward in the wake of the Russian detachments. They per- 
ished by the tens of thousands ; but freedom was so alluring, and there 
was so little free land left in the central provinces, that destruction of 
the vanguard did not check those who followed. From certain symp- 
toms we may conclude that the ebb of population to the east began 
parallel with the Kazan campaigns, without waiting for their success : by 
1552 the town of Serpukhov had already lost about one-fifth of its 
taxpayers ; in the same year, the Vaga land with good reason asked and 
obtained the right "to bring back its old taxpayers without term and 
without fee." At the beginning of the 'fifties the peasant is already 
becoming a rare article, which men are striving to bind to their land 
by all possible means and to entice from their neighbours' land. The 
pomeshchik 's best means to that end was "investment of silver" in 
peasants; the prospect of a fat money loan, procurable at home, with- 
out going away, was the only thing that could offset the hope of "free 
land." The pomeshchiks needed money capital as never before, and 
we have clear evidence of what this quest brought them to. The 1550 's 
are marked in Russian history by legislation for the relief of debtors 
similar to that enacted in Kiev at the beginning of the twelfth century, 
except that it now served the interests of a different social class, the 

There were two possible avenues of escape. The first had long been 
insisted upon by pomeshchik publicists ; rather than borrow from usurers, 


secure money from the treasury in the form of the "sovereign's wages." 
"The tsar's liberality to his warriors is his wisdom," Ivan Peresvetov 
had written : "a liberal hand never grows poor, and gathers great glory." 
The other way out consisted in an exchange of one's desolated pomestye 
for another in good working order. The "princelings' votchinas," the 
estates of the former appanage princes, abounding in permanently estab- 
lished "old dwellers," where weak exploitation of the peasants and low 
dues in kind gave no occasion for emigration, must long since have 
attracted the greedy glances of the poorer pomeshchiks, threshing about 
like fish out of water. How much land was wasted in the hands of these 
"idle rich"! But the "idle rich" blocked the first avenue, too. The 
"sovereign's wages" were pay for a campaign; no campaigns, no wages. 
But the great boyars, who had to mobilise whole regiments at their own 
expense, did not look upon war as did those for whom war meant extra 
money in the pocket. The Colloquy of the miracle-workers of Balaam, 
which represented the point of view of the boyars, preached a peaceful 
foreign policy: only "infidels strive in hosts for murder, and for rob- 
bery, and for lechery, and for every impurity and iniquity with their 
braveries, and of them they boast." Another publicist, akin in spirit 
to the author of the Colloquy, rates the "tsar's great wisdom" far higher 
than the "tsar's bravery." The elected council resolutely insisted that 
defensive wars were to be preferred to offensive ones. The "men brave 
and valiant," with whom Prince Kurbsky is much in sympathy, "coun- 
selled and urged" Ivan the Terrible after Kazan to begin a great cam- 
paign against the Tatars of the Crimea, setting forth, as a moral motif, 
the necessity of "freeing the numerous captives" languishing in Crimean 
slavery. For the mass of military servitors this was the most uninter- 
esting campaign imaginable — difficult, long, and very unremunerative 
since it was impossible to reach the Crimea itself, and in the waste steppes 
of South Russia there was nothing to be appropriated. On the other 
hand, when some of the tsar's advisers, doubtless from the ranks of the 
"warriors," raised the question of a campaign in Livonia, promising 
easy and rapid seizure of the lands of the former Livonian Order, the 
project met with stubborn resistance on the part of the "elected council." 
"With bitterness did Ivan IV later recall "what verbal oppression he 
suffered" in those days "from the pope Selivester, and from Alexis," 
and from the boyars. "Whatever affliction comes to us, it all happens 
because of the Germans"; Silvester explained even the fatal illness of 
the Tsaritsa Anastasia as a punishment from on high for the Livonian 
War. This "cruel oppression" of the tsar by the boyars, in favour of 
a passive, and against an active, foreign policy, could not be kept secret 
from wide circles among the military servitors any more than had the 
same Silvester's "magic and sorcery." 


The Livonian "War was the first apple of discord cast into the midst 
of the social groups that had struck hands before the conquest of Kazan. 
At the same time, it disclosed how useless to the lower military servitors 
was the modicum of representation in the "elected council" that the bo- 
yars had been willing to concede. Stumbling into the midst of the feudal 
aristocracy, Alexis Adashev very quickly made a boyar of himself; in 
1555 he became formally a member of the boyar college, receiving one 
of the higher duma grades, and quietly followed the lead of his high- 
born colleagues. This was very keenly felt at the time of the celebrated 
conflict of 1553 when Ivan the Terrible had fallen grievously ill — 
fatally, it was thought at the time. The boyars wanted to take advan- 
tage of his demise to impose on the throne of Moscow a purely feudal 
candidate, Vladimir, son of the "rebel" of the 'thirties — the appanage 
prince, Andrew of Staritsa. The success of this candidate would have 
definitely consolidated the victory gained by the boyars in 1550; a tsar 
elected by the boyar corporation, with no hereditary right to the throne, 
actually would have been only primus inter pares. It is significant that 
later Kurbsky was ashamed of Vladimir's candidacy and repudiated 
it; and not less significant is it that the Adashevs favoured it and only 
very reluctantly took oath to Ivan's son under pressure from the oppos- 
ing party, which was headed by the Zakharins, the future Romanovs. 
This was the first instance of an open breach between the tsar and his 
"elected council." But this was not so important as the fact that the 
mass of the nobility, outside of the high-born, was bound to become con- 
vinced that its man in this council had become a boyars' man. Adashev 's 
political career ended the very moment he formally entered the ranks 
of the Muscovite aristocracy. 

War with the "Germans" was a decisive victory for the "warriors" 
and, for the first few months, evidently better corresponded to their 
expectations than had the conquest of Kazan. The Protestant Reforma- 
tion had undermined the political power of the Order of Knights that 
ruled Livonia ; from this point of view, therefore, the moment had been 
most happily chosen. The absence of almost any formal pretext for 
beginning military operations (one could hardly take seriously non- 
payment by the bishop of Dorpat of some semi-mythical tribute, which 
at Moscow had been forgotten for fifty years) was offset by religious 
considerations; the Livonian Germans, "who had deserted the Christian 
faith," "taking to themselves a new name, calling themselves Evan- 
gelicals, ' ' had in one of their fits of Protestant fanaticism burned, among 
other things, Russian icons. Thus, as in the case of the subjugation of 
Novgorod, the war was undertaken "for the faith." The objective of 
the military operations was Narva which, as we have already indicated, 
was then very important to Russia's export trade. In May, 1558, Narva 


was taken, and a week later Syrensk, where the Narova flows into Lake 
Chud ; the road from Pskov to the sea was now entirely in Russian hands. 
Success encouraged the "warriors." The campaign of 1558 had yielded 
enormous booty ; war in a wealthy, cultivated country was not at all the 
same as a struggle with men of alien race in far Kazan or as a chase 
through the steppes after elusive Tatars. The pomeshchiks were already 
dreaming of the permanent conquest of all Livonia and of the distribu- 
tion as pomestyes of the wealthy country-seats of the German knights; 
in fact, this distribution had already begun. But passage of the whole 
southeastern Baltic littoral into the hands of Russia aroused all Eastern 
Europe ; neither the Swedes nor the Poles could permit it. The former 
occupied Reval (1561). The latter went much further: at first, by the 
treaty of Vilna (1559), they bound themselves to defend the holdings 
of the Livonian Order against Moscow; later (November, 1561) they 
annexed Livonia altogether, guaranteeing it domestic autonomy. The 
motives that provoked the interference of Poland were accurately formu- 
lated by contemporaries. "Livonia is renowned for its position by the 
sea, for its abundance of harbours," we read in a contemporary record. 
"If this country shall belong to the king, then to him will belong lord- 
ship over the sea. All the aristocratic families of Poland testify to the 
advantage of having harbours in the realm ; the prosperity of private 
persons has increased extraordinarily from the time when the kingdom 
secured control of the Prussian harbours, and now our people yields to 
few peoples of Europe in luxury as regards clothes and ornaments, in 
abundance of gold and silver ; and the royal treasury grows rich by the 
collection of commercial taxes." But if Livonia were ceded, all this 
would pass to a "dangerous neighbour." "What Russian commercial 
capital was seeking to grasp was equally coveted by Polish capital, and 
the latter 's military resources were infinitely superior to those of the 
Muscovite Rus of Ivan the Terrible, whose military organisation was 
still purely feudal. Even before the direct intervention of the Poles, 
when they were merely giving their support, the master of the Livonian 
Order, Ketler, had proved able to hold his own against the Muscovite 
armaments. Russian victories in this period of the war were assured 
only by the colossal numerical preponderance of the armies of Ivan the 
Terrible ; where the Order was able to put forward hundreds of soldiers, 
the Muscovites had tens of thousands. As soon as the Polish-Lithuanian 
troops appeared on the field of battle, Russian progress was retarded, 
even though the Polish government evidently hoped to gain its end with- 
out serious warfare, by demonstrations alone, and without breaking off 
negotiations with Moscow. At the beginning of 1563, by straining all 
the forces of Moscow, and under the personal leadership of Ivan him- 
self, Polotsk was taken. That the Muscovite government strove to exag- 


gerate the importance of this victory clearly indicates that it was neces- 
sary to "maintain morale" at Moscow. The tsar's envoy who went to 
the capital with tidings of the victory had to organise in all the towns 
along the road solemn prayers with ringing of the bells "that God had 
shown his great mercy to the tsar and grand prince, had given his patri- 
mony, the town of Poltesk, altogether into his hands." The tsar him- 
self returned to Moscow, as he had done after the taking of Kazan. But 
all this could not disguise the fact that immediately after this splendid 
victory a truce was concluded ; evidently they did not have very much 
hope of further successes. When the truce was ended, it was still clearer 
that things were going from bad to worse. The best of Moscow's gen- 
erals, Prince Kurbsky, with 15,000 men, lost a battle to 4,000 Poles, and 
in January of the following year (1564) a whole Muscovite army was 
wiped out under Orsha, and all the senior generals perished, including 
the commander-in-chief, Prince Peter Shuisky ; the remnants of the army 
fled to Polotsk only "with their heads," leaving all their artillery and 
baggage in the hands of the foe. 

The boyars had not desired the war; now the boyars were losing the 
war; clearly this was boyar treason. Quite inevitable was such a train 
of thought in the heads of the ' ' warriors, ' ' who were now living in hope 
of Livonian lands, as earlier they had lived in hope of the lands of 
Kazan. The Terror of the oprichnina can be understood only in con- 
nexion with the misfortunes of the Livonian War, as the French Terror 
of 1792-1793 with the invasion of the allies. And in both cases indi- 
vidual instances were bound to reinforce and exaggerate the mood of 
suspicion. Rumours of the treason of the boyars frightened the boyars 
themselves ; the block and the stake already haunted them ; on the other 
hand, the war itself had been a victory for the petty vassals over the 
coalition of boyars and townsmen (who had very soon abandoned the 
war party) . All this is sufficient explanation of the emigration of boyars, 
instances of which become frequent just at the beginning of the 'sixties. 
Here we encounter the very greatest names of the feudal aristocracy of 
Moscow: now we hear of a Prince Glinsky's attempt to "depart"; now 
surety is taken for Prince Ivan Belsky ; now Prince Belsky himself goes 
bail for a Prince Vorotynsky. Naturally, the most profound impression 
was produced by the flight to Lithuania in April, 1564, of Prince Andrew 
Kurbsky, the Muscovite commander-in-chief in Livonia; in the moral 
preparation for the coup of the following January 3 there was perhaps 
no moment more decisive. Ivan might now speak of "boyar treason" 
with the facts in his hands, as they say. 

The objective conditions were as follows: the war in the west, like 
the war in the east, had not satisfied the land hunger of the petty vas- 
sals, and, in general, had not justified the expectations with which it 


had been undertaken. Foreign policy no longer promised either lands 
or money ; both the one and the other must be sought within the confines 
of the state. But the state was still ruled by the boyars. They were 
the government, and really held matters in their own hands; the tsar 
was only a symbol, an ideal magnitude, which in practice neither 
helped nor hurt the pomeshchiks. Boyar publicists willingly acknowl- 
edged that "by God from on high all had been given over to the anointed 
tsar and grand prince elected by God," but, "having given over" all 
authority to the tsars, the Lord "bade" them "hold the state and 
have authority with the princes and with the boyars." In this respect 
ecclesiastical ideology hallowed feudal practice; the Church, as an insti- 
tution, needed a strong Muscovite state but by no means a strong Mus- 
covite sovereign. On the contrary, for the personal restraint of the 
tsar's will new means were offered by the ascetic morality of the 
Church; one needs but to read the "correspondence" of Ivan the Ter- 
rible to see how carefully the tsar's whole household was regulated by 
the archpriest Silvester. Ivan IV learned by personal experience that 
it is pleasanter to be a simple, ordinary, secular sovereign — even though 
one like Sultan Makhmet of Turkey — than to be a God on earth. And 
when he wrote, "The Russian autocracy from the beginning ourselves 
do hold over all the men of the realm, and not the boyars and the mag- 
nates, ' ' he was uttering, notwithstanding the semblance of historical 
allusion, a great new idea, — though perhaps not one that belonged to 
him personally, for obscure allusions to Peresvetov are frequent in the 
"letters" of Ivan the Terrible, and it is still a question whether the 
"letters" themselves represent the product of personal or collective 

There is nothing more unjust than to deny that there was a principle 
at stake in Ivan 's struggle with the boyars or to see in this struggle only 
political stagnation. Whether Ivan IV was himself the initiator or 
not — most probably he was not — yet his "oprichnina" was an attempt, 
a hundred and fifty years before Peter's time, to found a personal 
autocracy like the Petrine monarchy. The attempt was premature, and 
its collapse was inevitable ; but he who ventured it unquestionably ranked 
above his contemporaries. The "warriors' " road lay over the dead body 
of old Muscovite feudalism, a fact which made the "warriors" progres- 
sive, whatever the motives that immediately guided them. The old 
votchinas within the realm were now the only source of land at the 
expense of which middling pomestye landholding might expand, the 
tsar's treasury, the only source of money capital. But to enjoy either 
it was necessary to take into their own hands the power that was in the 
hands of a hostile group, which held it not only with all the tenacity 
of secular tradition but also with all the force of moral authority. 


Peresvetov might have the audacity to declare that politics is higher 
than religion, "justice" than "faith," but his rank-and-file partisans 
would not have countenanced such a sentiment, much less have expressed 
it, and still less have acted upon it. The coup of January 3, 1565, was 
an attempt, not to infuse a new content into old forms, but to set up 
new forms alongside the old and, without touching old institutions, so 
to act that they might serve merely as a screen for new men who did 
not have the right to enter these institutions as actual masters. Peter 
was bolder; he simply seated his officials in the boyar duma and called 
it the Senate, and every one made the best of it. But by Peter's time 
the boyars were in the eyes of all already a "riven and falling tree." 
A hundred and fifty years earlier the tree had, it is true, begun to lose 
its foliage, but its roots were still firmly fixed in the ground and were 
not to be torn out at the first wrench. 

Denying to the "oprichnina" significance in principle, historians 
have, on the other hand, depicted its appearance in most dramatic form. 
How Ivan the Terrible, on an unusually solemn expedition, suddenly 
left for Alexandrovsk (they generally explain the location of this mys- 
terious place that so unexpectedly bobs up in Russian history), how 
from there he began to exchange letters with the "people" of Moscow, 
and what effect this produced — all this, of course, you have read many 
times, and there is no need to repeat the story. In fact, like everything 
in the world, the event was much more workaday. Alexandrovsk had 
long been Ivan 's summer residence ; in the chronicle we constantly find 
him there in the intervals between military campaigns and his very 
frequent trips through the Muscovite provinces, on pilgrimage and for 
economic purposes. The suddenness of his departure is considerably 
weakened by the fact that Ivan IV took with him all his valuable 
movables — all the "holy things, icons and crosses, with gold and precious 
stones adorned, ' ' his gold and silver vessels, his whole wardrobe and his 
whole treasury, and mobilised his whole guard — "the nobles and knights 
selected from all the towns, whom the sovereign had taken to be with 
him." All these preparations could not have been made in one day, 
or in two — especially since the tsar's courtiers were ordered to "go with 
wives and with children. ' ' Setting forth, Ivan did not disappear some- 
where for a whole month ; the Muscovites knew very well that the tsar 
celebrated the day of Nicholas the Miracle-Worker (December 6) at 
Kolomensk, that on Sunday, the 17th, he was at Taininsk, and that on 
the 21st he arrived at Troitsa to spend Christmas. In a word, this 
was the customary itinerary of his trips to Alexandrovsk, except for 
the passing visit at Kolomensk, explained by the thaw and the overflow 
of the rivers, unusual in December. While the fact that matters moved 
so swiftly at Moscow — on the 3rd the courier arrived with the tsar's 


letter, on the 5th the embassy from Moscow was already at Alexanclrovsk 
— clearly shows that the month had not been wasted, that while the tsar 
was travelling, his partisans had been carefully preparing the dramatic 
effect that so beguiles modern historians. If during this month Ivan 
the Terrible really grew grey and aged by twenty years, as foreigners 
relate, it was, of course, not because he had been quaking all this time 
for the success of his unexpected "prank," but because to break with 
the whole past was not an easy thing for a man reared and educated 
in a feudal environment. Peter was born in a different environment, 
and from childhood was accustomed to think and act without reference 
to custom. Ivan in his thirty-fifth year had to smash everything; that 
was something to grow grey over. That material strength lay in his 
hands, that the external, so to speak, physical success of the coup was 
assured for the tsar and his new counsellors, — this was so evident to all 
that we find not the least attempt at resistance on the part of the old 
counsellors. And, of course, not because in their servility they did not 
dare think of resistance ; flight from the tsar of all the Orthodox to the 
service of the Catholic king of Poland-Lithuania was a leap incomparably 
greater than would have been an attempt to repeat what Andrew of 
Staritsa had done only thirty years before when he raised the pomesh- 
chiks of Novgorod against the Moscow government. But now the boyars 
would have had no one to raise against their foes ; the pomeshchiks were 
siding with Alexandrovsk, and the Moscow townsmen were now siding 
with the pomeshchiks, not with the boyars. The gosts, the merchants, 
and "all Orthodox Christendom of the city of Moscow," in answer 
to the gracious letter of the tsar, which was read at an assembly of the 
higher Muscovite merchantry, "in order that they might retain no 
doubt, that there was no wrath upon them and displeasure," unani- 
mously replied that they "stand not for the sovereign's evildoers and 
traitors and themselves destroy them." And in the embassy despatched 
to Alexandrovsk, along with bishops, abbots, and boyars, we find gosts, 
merchants, and even simple "common people," who, it would seem, had 
no place at all in a matter of state. The Moscow townsmen gave up 
their allies of yesterday. For negotiations with them, in all probability, 
the future oprichniks had needed a whole month, and their decision 
definitively tipped the scales to the side of the coup. What evoked 
this decision is easily determined from the sequel; commercial capital 
itself was associated with the oprichnina, and this promised advantages 
that no amount of protection from the Princes Shuisky could counter- 
balance. Soon after the coup we find merchants and gosts acting as 
official agents of the Muscovite government both at Constantinople, and 
in Antwerp, and in England — in all the "seaboard states," toward which 
they yearned so much; and they were all equipped not only with all 


sorts of safe-conducts, but also with "bologodet" [subsidy] from the 
tsar's treasury. "Into the oprichnina fell all the chief [trade] routes, 
with a great part of the towns located along them, ' ' says Prof. Platonov ; 
and here he gives a very convincing list of these towns. "Not for noth- 
ing did the English who had business with the northern provinces beg 
to be taken into the oprichnina ; not for nothing did the Stroganovs seek 
to be included ; commercial-industrial capital, of course, needed the sup- 
port of the administration that controlled the country and, as is evident, 
did not fear the horrors attendant upon our conception of the oprich- 
nina. ' ' Why should capital fear what it itself had helped to create ? 

Just as the "reforms" had been the work of a coalition of the bour- 
geoisie and the boyars, the coup of 1564 was carried out by a coalition of 
the townsmen and the petty vassals. This explains, in all probability, one 
peculiarity in the tsar's letter as read at Moscow which hitherto has not 
attracted great attention but possesses great interest. In form the coup 
was an act of self-defence on the part of the tsar against his great vassals, 
who "had begun to betray." But these "treasonous matters" are men- 
tioned very obscurely and only at the end of the letter. On the other 
hand, the document develops three points in detail. First, the conduct 
of the boyars during the minority of Ivan IV — ' ' who committed treasons 
and caused losses to his realm before he the sovereign reached maturity." 
Second, that the boyars and voevodas "seized upon the sovereign's 
lands" and, holding great pomestyes and votchinas, by unlawful means 
gathered great wealth. This motif, taken straight from Peresvetov, 
envisaged a quite definite fact, which had already led to a partial con- 
fiscation of votchina lands three years before the coup. On January 15, 
1562, Ivan IV "decreed with the boyars [not with 'all the boyars'!] : 
whatever old votchinas are in the possession of the princes of Yaroslavl, 
Starodub, Rostov, Tver, Suzdal, Obolensk, Beloozero, Vorotynsk, 
Mosalsk, Trubetsk, Odoev, and other serving princes, 4 those princes shall 
not sell nor exchange their votchinas." The right of these men to dis- 
pose of their lands had been reduced to a minimum ; they could bequeath 
estates only to their sons. If there were no sons, the votchina reverted 
to the sovereign, who did what was necessary — "ordered his soul," i.e., 
dealt out lands to the Church for prayers for the soul of the deceased, 
allotted a portion "for life" to his widow, dowries for his daughters, 
etc. What is more, the sovereign confiscated, without compensation, all 
votchinas of this category that had been sold fifty or twenty but not less 
than ten years before the publication of the edict. The basis for such 
an extraordinary measure was that under decrees even of the times of 
Ivan III and of Vasily III, father of Ivan the Terrible, princes' votchinas 

4 Formerly independent "appanage" princes who had accepted dependence on 
Moscow and as boyars rendered military service to the grand prince. 


might be sold only with the licence of the grand prince : a new land- 
holder meant a new vassal and, in accordance with widespread feudal 
custom, not peculiar to Russia, the suzerain must be asked for his con- 
sent. Votchina lands were simply treated as the sovereign's, and arbi- 
trary disposal of them as embezzlement of treasury property. Finally, 
the third point made in the letter — it, too, occurs in Peresvetov — is the 
aversion of the boyars to an active foreign policy; they "did not wish 
to take care of all Orthodox Christendom" and did not wish to defend 
Christendom against the Crimea, and Lithuania, and the Germans. 
These were all themes popular among wide masses, and those who read 
or heard the proclamation did not, of course, stop to question why in his 
thirties the tsar had a mind to punish the boyars for sins and faults 
committed in the days of his youth. Had it been a palace coup organised 
from above, these demagogic methods would, of course, be very strange ; 
but the point is that in December, 1564 — January, 1565, as in 1547, and 
as in the 'thirties under the Shusikys, the masses of the people were on 
the stage and must be addressed in a language they could understand. 

Yet the content of this proclamation, as of any other, by no means 
defined the current policy of those who published it. "When business 
negotiations began between Ivan the Terrible and the Moscow deputation 
that had come to Alexandrovsk, the tsar put forward demands relevant 
to the immediate causes of the coup, demands that had nothing to do 
with recollections of the days of his youth. In these demands two aspects 
must be distinguished. In the first place, Ivan insisted on fulfilment of 
the promise, given freely by the merchantry of Moscow and subscribed 
to by the terror-stricken boyars and officials left in Moscow, namely, to 
surrender his foes to him unconditionally. In fulfilment of this demand 
in February of the same year (the negotiations had taken place, we 
shall remember, at the beginning of January) a number of boyars of 
old princely families were executed, others given the tonsure, still others 
banished for life to Kazan with their wives and children, while the 
property of all of them was confiscated. Banishments and executions at 
once gave into Ivan's hands a supply of land probably sufficient to 
remunerate the immediate participants in the coup d'etat. To secure 
them a money salary the tsar and grand prince decreed that for his 
expenses a hundred thousand rubles (about 5,000,000 rubles gold, accord- 
ing to the reckoning of Professor Klyuchevsky) be taken from the treas- 
ury of the land. From this aspect the coup was only the affair of a 
small circle, but Ivan was serving the interests of a class. Not all the 
pomeshchiks could be satisfied out of the proceeds of a few banishments 
and a small appropriation from the treasury chest. The form devised 
to satisfy the "warriors" was as old-fashioned as the content of the 


change effected was new. In the state the sovereign could not give 
orders without his boyars, the suzerain without his curia; but on his 
"domain," in his court economy, he was as absolute as was any votchin- 
nik at home. Conversion of half the state, and the wealthiest part of it 
at that, into the sovereign's domain made it possible to hold sway over 
a vast territory without consulting the feudal aristocracy. "Without 
violating the decrees of 1550, he might here do all that he liked, not 
only without the assent of "all the boyars" but without that of even 
a single boyar; the right of the boyar college did not, of course, extend 
to the sovereign's court management. And for the tsar's court, now in- 
creased to colossal proportions, a very old name was at first chosen ; the 
tsar demanded that "from his realm be set apart an oprichnina." This 
was the name given to the estates in former times portioned out to wid- 
owed princesses ' ' for life. ' ' Later there came into use the more accurate 
and newer term, dvor [court]. In its arrangements this "dvor" was an 
exact copy of an old sovereign's votchina, so exact that one modern 
scholar has even doubted whether the oprichnina had any institutions 
of its own, or whether new men were not simply seated in the old institu- 
tions along with the old "clerks," for management of "oprichnina" 
(select) matters. While effecting a genuine revolution, the creators of 
the oprichnina apparently strove to conceal all juridical traces of it, and 
we cannot but see in this fact a conscious purpose, issuing from the same 
impulses as were reflected in the tsar's proclamation that we analysed 
above. The people needed a scapegoat, and they were assured that the 
coup was directed against individual persons, however numerous, the old 
order remaining inviolate. 

The sovereign's dvor began to expand enormously, but it never came 
to embrace the whole country, and the zemshchina, which administered 
all that remained outside the limits of the oprichnina, was more than 
merely decorative. The best study of the territorial composition of the 
oprichnina has been made by Professor Platonov; we shall therefore 
describe it in his words. "The territory of the oprichnina," says this 
scholar, "taking form gradually, in the 1570 's comprised the towns and 
townships lying in the central and northern parts of the state. . . . Rest- 
ing to the north on the 'great sea-ocean,' the lands of the oprichnina 
cut into the zemshchina like a wedge, dividing it in two. On the east 
were left to the zemshchina the Perm and Vyatka towns, the Low coun- 
try and Ryazan; on the west the border towns 'of the German frontier' 
(Pskov and Novgorod), 'of the Lithuanian frontier' (Veliky Luki, 
Smolensk, and others), and the Seversk towns. To the south these two 
zones of the 'zemshchina' were connected by the frontier towns and the 
' wilderness. ' The Moscow North, the Littoral, and two of the Novgorod 


pyatiuas 5 the oprichnina ruled integrally ; in the central provinces its 
lands were interspersed with those of the zemshchina in a patchwork 
that is as hard to understand as to describe, ' ' but that can nevertheless 
be characterised in a general way. ' ' In the oprichnina administration, ' ' 
says Professor Platonov in another passage, "were gathered the old 
appanage lands." The goal toward which the law of 1562 had striven, 
by inches and within legal bounds, was attained three years later, all 
at once and by a revolutionary road; the most valuable part of the 
territory of the Muscovite state, together with the greatest commercial- 
industrial centres, became immediately an appanage of the sovereign 
where, unrestrained by the old boyars, the men of the "Peresvetov party" 
now began to hold sway. The old authority retained the worst and 
poorest regions; it is curious that just as Kazan had become a place 
of exile, so the newly-conquered lands in the west were now willingly 
ceded to the "men of the zemshchina." The Novgorodan "knights" 
from the Obonezh and Bezhets pyatinas, when these were taken into the 
oprichnina, received pomestyes around Polotsk, on the recently annexed 
and very insecure Lithuanian lands. 

The tsar's edict, even in the brief resume preserved in the official 
Moscow chronicle (like a great part of the official documents of this 
stormy time, the original edict on the oprichnina has not come down to 
us), states quite distinctly in whose favour and for what proximate goal 
all this shuffling of lands was effected. "And to give to the sovereign 
in the oprichnina princes and nobles and knights, of court and town, 
1,000 head, and to them to give pomestyes in those towns which he took 
into the oprichnina/' says the chronicle. Modern historians have seen 
in this something in the nature of the establishment of a corps of 
gendarmes charged with the detection of domestic sedition, the protec- 
tion of the tsar, and the defence of the realm. But tempting as is this 
analogy, one must not yield to it. Police work, and that alone, has always 
been the task of gendarmes ; not they — there were too few of them for 
that — but the standing army has constituted the material support of the 
government. The oprichniks represented something quite different. The 
detachment of a thousand knights really constituted a corps of ten or 
twelve thousand men, inasmuch as each appeared for service with several 
armed bondsmen. Not a single large landholder, even among the former 
appanage princes, could have such a retinue ; even two or three together 
of the very greatest probably would not have raised so many men. 
Besides this mounted detachment there were in the oprichnina infantry as 
well — "and he ordered the streltsy to be to him especially," says the 
chronicler. To cope with a ' ' domestic foe ' ' such a force would have been 

s Novgorod's territory was divided into five pyatinas [fifths] corresponding to 
the five kontsy [ends] that made up the town itself. 


more than sufficient ; the grand prince of Moscow was now, in his single 
person, the very greatest of the Muscovite feudatories. The oprichnina 
army was a logical corollary to the oprichnina dvor of the sovereign, 
and, it must be added, the very possibility of forming this dvor had been 
conditioned by the existence of such an army; for the novelty of this 
part of the edict was not the appearance close to the tsar of a "thousand 
heads" but the quartering of them on lands unceremoniously taken 
from other holders — ' ' and the votchinniks and pomeshchiks who are not 
to be in the oprichnina [the sovereign] bade to be removed from these 
towns." A detachment of a thousand had long existed, even from 1550, 
and in the coup of January 3, 1565, it had played exactly the same 
role as did the Paris garrison in the coup of December 2, 1851. This 
tsar's guard, founded, as we shall recall, by the boyar government as 
a concession to the upper crust of the pomeshchik masses, had become a 
powerful weapon in the struggle of the pomeshchik class against the 
boyars themselves. Only by its closeness to the tsar is to be explained 
the fact that the "base-born" now standing around him dared so auda- 
ciously to raise their hands against their feudal lords of yesterday, and 
in the tsar's train this "picked" thousand, moving "after the tsar with 
men and with horses, with all service attire," was, of course, the most 
imposing part. In all probability, all of them, with the exception of a 
few individuals, were taken into the oprichnina corps, so that actually 
the latter represented nothing new. And as before, so also after 1565, 
along with its military and police significance it continued to have politi- 
cal significance; there entered it the "better," i.e., the most influential, 
elements of the local bodies of nobles. As Klyuchevsky has explained 
in detail, they did not while in the tsar's guard lose contact with the 
local communities ; in other words, they were the political leaders of 
the pomeshchik class, and distribution of oprichnina lands to them sig- 
nified nothing else than that along with the old, boyar-votcliina state, 
now more than cut in half, there arose a new, noble-pomestye state. 
Clear proof that the coup meant merely the establishment of a new 
class regime, of which the tsar's personal authority was only a tool, and 
not the personal emancipation of Ivan from the boyar tutelage that had 
trammelled him, is the singular assembly that was held in Moscow in the 
summer of the following year (1566). On June 28, 1566, the Tsar and 
Grand Prince Ivan IV of All Rus "spoke" with Prince Vladimir of 
Staritsa, with his archbishops, bishops, and the whole "Holy Synod," 
with all the boyars and officials, with the princes, with the knights and 
military servitors, ' ' and with the gosts, and with the merchants, and with 
all trading men." The subject of this conversation was a truce proposed 
by the Polish-Lithuanian government on the basis of uti possidetis. 
Thus, it was proposed that Ivan the Terrible renounce his original goal, 


the seizure of all Livonia. In essence, the question was put : is it worth 
while to keep on fighting? And it is significant that Ivan and his new 
government did not presume to decide this question upon their own 
responsibility but referred it to the judgment of all those in whose name 
they ruled. It would, of course, be very naive to imagine that this 
"zemsky sobor of 1566," the first sobor whose existence is historically 
indisputable, 6 even remotely resembled modern popular representative 
bodies ; the very worst of them, if only in theory, speaks in the name of 
the "people," a concept alien to feudal Europe. Mediaeval assemblies, 
both in Russia and in the West, represented, not the people but ' ' estates, ' ' 
etats, Stande. From this point of view the important point about the 
sobor of 1566 was the role of two "estates" whose political importance 
had hitherto scarcely been openly recognised — the petty vassals or ' ' nobil- 
ity," and the bourgeoisie. Quantitatively the pomeshchiks even consti- 
tuted a majority of this assembly. The Livonian War had been decided 
on by the boyars, unwillingly and under pressure from below, and now 
they were asking the "warriors" and the "trading folk" whether this 
war should be continued. Between 1557 and 1566 lay a wide gulf. The 
details of the debates at the sobor, assuming there were debates, have 
not come down to us. The one-day sobor was, of course, not summoned 
to learn the opinions of those assembled; the pomeshchiks and the mer- 
chants were summoned because their opinions were already known, and 
it was hoped that the authority of their voices would reinforce the 
authority of the declarations of Muscovite diplomacy. The sobor was, 
in essence, a ceremonial facade ; the real negotiations took place, of 
course, before the sobor met and, apparently, by no means inspired the 
government with the confidence breathed by the solemn speeches at the 
sobor itself. The sobor decided to continue the war, come what might ; 
but in fact negotiations were continued and a few years later terminated 
in a truce on the conditions proposed by the Poles. The suzerain Ivan 
needed the formal promise of his new, extensive vassalage to "die for 
the sovereign on horseback" in case of war, and of the trading men to 
give their last red cent if need be. This promise Ivan received, and on 
their speeches the military-serving and the trading men kissed the cross. 
Whether or not to make the fullest use of this promise was the business 
of the government, which was, of course, guided by the views of its sup- 
porters, but these views were not ascertained at the sobor. 

With the 'sixties terminates, properly speaking, that intensive evo- 
lution of class relationships which fills the second third of the sixteenth 
century. In rebellion against their feudal lords, inferior landholders 

e It was long conventional to reckon this as the second sobor, but it may now 
be considered unconditionally proved that the so-called "first" sobor of 1550 is a 


in 1537 were hanged as rebels along the highways "not together but all 
the way to Novgorod " ; in 1566 they were masters of the situation, while 
yesterday's lords were now "executed and hanged" as rebels. The 
economic revolution, the collapse of old votchina landholding, found 
political expression in the accession to power of a upw snpjal o~\*ss~ Of 
further struggle within the oprichnina (that there was one, we cannot 
doubt) we know nothing. In studying this period of Ivan's reign the 
historian is faced with a difficulty similar to that presented by imperial 
Rome ; detailed accounts are to be had only from the camp of the boyars, 
and it is not surprising that we find nothing there except the "horrors 
of the oprichnina." That the pomeshchik regime was terrorist there can, 
of course, be no doubt. Under the given circumstances, in the face of 
powerful "traitors" and of a foreign foe who was becoming more terrible 
every hour, and in whom the "traitors" easily found support, revolu- 
tionary governments even of more civilised times have ruled with the aid 
of terror. In the sixteenth century terrorism was the usual and accepted 
practice. Twenty years before the oprichnina the nobles' publicist de- 
picted the way in which his hero and favourite, Sultan Makhmet, dealt 
with unjust judges: "the ruler did not accuse them, he only ordered 
them flayed alive and said: if they grow new skins, the fault shall be 
forgiven them. And their skins he bade to be peeled off, and bade paper 
to be nailed on, and bade them to be affixed in the law courts with an 
iron nail, and bade to be inscribed on their skins : without such terrors 
justice cannot be brought into the realm." Such was the theory. The 
practice, exemplified in guba institutions, did not lag behind the theory. 
The guba "head" might subject any inhabitant to torture, not only on 
direct accusation, but simply on the basis of evil rumours about him. 
Simple suspicion that a given person was an "evil man" was enough to 
begin to pull his joints out and break his bones, to lacerate his body 
with the knout and burn him with fire. This was the norm of criminal 
law then generally accepted, and Ivan appealed to it in reply to Kurb- 
sky's reproaches of "unheard-of cruelty," writing that if traitors be 
not punished, then robbers and thieves cannot be tortured — "then all 
realms are in disorder and all are corrupted with intestine quarrels." 

4. Economic Balance Sheet of the Sixteenth Century 

By the end of the sixteenth century, in the old counties of the Mus- 
covite state, middling, pomestye landholding definitely prevailed. Large 
votchinas survived only as exceptions. Petty landholding had also been 
definitively swallowed up by pomestye landholding. The typical hold- 
ing was from 150 to 525 desyatinas, under the three-field system, with 
all the characteristics of the "new" economy: lord's arable, money dues, 
and peasants bound to the land by unpaid debt. However strange to 


modern eyes, in the first half of the century this had been the economi- 
cally progressive type, as we noted at the beginning of the present chap- 
ter. Its victory ought to have signified a great economic advance, the 
definitive triumph of a ''money" over a "natural" system. In fact, 
we see something quite different. Natural obligations, which had been 
crystallised into a complicated whole known to us under the name of 
"serfdom," reappear in the centre of the stage and this time hold their 
ground tenaciously. The free wage-labourer, dreamed of by the nobles' 
publicist of the first half of the century and in places actually estab- 
lished on more advanced estates, vanishes for two centuries ; Ivan Pere- 
svetov has no successors until the nobles of the "Manchester school" in 
the 'forties and 'fifties of the past century. The bitter land hunger of 
the middle of the century, so vividly expressed in the confiscations of 
the oprichnina, would seem to indicate that in the centre of the realm, 
at least, a great part of the available lands had already been made use 
of. Not so, however: according to the registers of 1584-1586, in eleven 
subdistricts of the county of Moscow, there were only 23,974 desyatinas 
of arable to almost 120,000 desyatinas of waste, land neglected and aban- 
doned, in part grown over anew with forest. Contrast this with the first 
half of the century when the forests had been so radically reduced that 
around Moscow foreign travellers found nothing but stumps and saw no 
"forest beasts" but rabbits, at which they were much amazed, accus- 
tomed as they were to think of Muscovy as a forested land abounding 
in all sorts of wild beasts. One very authoritative scholar even makes 
bold to assert that the retrogression was not merely quantitative, but 
that the technique of agriculture declined in Muscovite Rus parallel with 
the triumph of middling landholding. "In the majority of these [cen- 
tral] counties," says N. Rozhkov, "with remarkable regularity the three- 
field system, prevalent in the fifteen-sixties, is replaced toward the end 
of the century by a cruder system of fallowing; the sole exception is 
the county of Moscow, and that only in part." The pomeshchik, having 
crushed the feudal votchinnik in the name of economic progress, himself 
very quickly becomes an economically backward type. Such is the para- 
dox that concludes the history of Russian national economy in the epoch 
of Ivan the Terrible. 

Among the economic conditions which toward the end of the epoch 
of Ivan the Terrible hampered the development of money economy in 
Russia (and this general condition coloured all the details), the most 
palpable was the course of foreign policy. The Livonian War, it must 
not be forgotten, was a war for trade routes, i.e., indirectly, for markets. 
The future was to show that the economic evolution of Russia, in its 
tempo at least, was three-quarters dependent on whether or not she suc- 
ceeded in establishing direct connections with the more progressive coun- 



tries of the "West. Contemporaries understood this and expressed it 
quite distinctly. The port of Narva, which remained in Russia's hands 
even after the first setbacks of the Livonian War, very seriously per- 
turbed her competitors. "The Muscovite sovereign daily increases his 
might by obtaining the goods that are brought into Narva, ' ' the king of 
Poland anxiously wrote to Elizabeth of England in striving to dissuade 

I the English from trade relations with Moscow, ' ' for hither are brought 
not only merchandise but also weapons hitherto unknown to him ; they 
bring not only productions of the arts, but thither go the artists them- 

i selves, by whose aid he obtains the means to vanquish all. Your Majesty 
knows not the strength of this enemy and the authority he enjoys over 

I his subjects. Hitherto we have been able to vanquish him only because 

,he was a stranger to education and knew not the arts. But if Narva 
shipping continues, what will remain unknown to him?" All this was 
patent to them at Moscow, and inasmuch as the harbour of Narva was 
only a narrow wicket to the west, they strove to obtain wide gates by 
mastering one of the great ports of the Baltic Sea. But the repeated 
attempt to seize Reval (in 1570 and 1577) only led to a war with Sweden, 
in which the Muscovite state lost Narva, too, — and not Narva alone but 
its Russian suburb, Ivangorod as well ; the Baltic was now hermetically 
closed to the Russians. This loss of the principal stake of the war and 
the expulsion of the troops of Ivan IV from the Livonian towns he had 
occupied at the beginning of the war had great moral significance, though 
later historical narratives say a great deal about the campaigns of 
Bathory of Poland, and only a couple of words about the war with the 
Swedes. The appearance of a Polish army under the walls of Pskov, 
the greatest of the commercial centres on the western frontier still in 
Russian hands, only marked the close of the whole "Livonian adventure." 
In the last years of .his life Ivan the Terrible no longer thought of con- 
quests in the west; he was only defending himself and was glad not to 
lose his own. Lithuanian detachments burned down Rusa and laid waste 
the country round the headwaters of the Volga; it was even anticipated 
that Moscow itself would have to be defended from Bathory. Long before 
this critical moment, central Russia, and the outer town of Moscow itself, 
had already experienced such destruction as no one could recall since 
the times of Tokhtamysh. This was the raid of the Crimean Tatars in 
1571, which is not sufficiently stressed in modern historiography but was 
fully appreciated by contemporaries. It was directly connected with the 
Livonian War; the khan of the Crimea had been an ally of the Poles 
from the very beginning. Less clear, though none the less real, is its 
connexion with the domestic affairs of Russia: the khan was led to 
Moscow by four fugitive ' ' knights, ' ' probably acting on commission from 
Prince Mstislavsky. In its immediate destructiveness the Crimean raid 


far exceeded all the burning and plundering of the Lithuanian partisans. 
The whole outer town of Moscow the Tatars burned to ashes ; and, as we 
shall remember from Fletcher's account, seventeen years later it was not 
yet fully restored. A number of other towns were overtaken by the 
same fate. According to contemporary accounts, in Moscow and its 
vicinity alone some 800,000 people perished, and 150,000 were led away 
into captivity. The general loss of population must have exceeded a 
million, out of a possible total of ten million inhabitants and, at that, 
it was the old and most cultivated regions that were subjected to deso- 
lation; not for nothing did the men of Moscow long afterwards reckon 
from the Tatar devastation as in the nineteenth century men long reck- 
oned from " 1812. " 

To the devastation wrought by the Tatars must in large measure be 
assigned the depopulation, almost sudden, which scholars find in the 
central counties, beginning at this very time. "The beginning of the 
'seventies of the sixteenth century is the chronological starting point of 
the depopulation of a great part of the counties of the centre of Mus- 
covy, ' ' says N. Rozhkov, the historian of the rural economy of Muscovite 
Rus whom we have already cited more than once. ' ' The weak beginnings 
of the ebb of population to be observed in certain of these counties in 
the 'fifties and 'sixties are now converted into an intensive, strikingly 
acute, phenomenon of the flight of peasants from the central region." 
Perhaps the desire to get farther away from the Tatars explains the 
migration of the population from the centre to the infertile regions of 
northern Rus which is to be observed about this time. The towns along 
the newly opened Dvina trade route (it had been opened by the English 
in the 'fifties) to Archangel had begun to play a conspicuous role even 
in the preceding decade. We frequently see the tsar here on his trips 
to the Kirillo-Belozersk Monastery, and he evidently regards them as 
something more than stopping-places on his pious excursions ; in Vologda 
he laid the foundation of a "stone town" and later made a special trip 
to see how it was being built. Apparently this was not merely a fortress 
but a tsar's palace, for the sovereign went to "inspect" not only the 
"town foundation" but also "all of his the tsar's buildings in Vologda." 
Not for nothing did the English here build themselves a house ' ' huge as 
a castle. ' ' Around the newly rising urban centres the countryside came 
to life ; it was natural that, in the wake of traders and artisans, peasants, 
too, trailed hither. But what displaced them from their comfortable 
berths? The extent of the depopulation shows that mere dread of the 
Tatars is insufficient as an explanation. In those subdistricts of the 
county of Moscow where, following the registers of 1584-1586, we have 
noted such a preponderance of waste over arable land, there were 2,182 
deserted holdings and only 3 clearings to 673% hamlets ; deserted hamlets 


constituted 76% of the total, newly arisen ones only 0.1%. Even this, it 
seems, was an improvement; from incomplete data for the same county 
(for a smaller number of subdistricts) for the preceding years (1573- 
1578) may be counted, in one case 93%, in another as much as 96%, 
deserted holdings. Other central counties fared no better ; in Mozhaisk, 
for example, on individual estates deserted hamlets constitute 86%, in 
Pereyaslavl-Zalessky 50% to 70%. Moreover, the depopulation affected 
also the more northerly counties of the centre, which were safe from 
the Tatars; of the Tver court hamlets of Prince Simeon Bekbulatovich 
(whom Ivan for sport ranked among the tsars of Moscow) half were 
deserted in 1580. Between Yaroslavl and Moscow even Chancellor, in 
the middle of the 'fifties, had found a multitude of hamlets "remarkably 
filled with people." Another Englishman, Randolph, who was in Russia 
a little later than Chancellor, also speaks of the dense population of 
these localities, while in the 'eighties their compatriot Fletcher was 
amazed by the deserted hamlets there. But the Tatars of the Crimea 
did not go far north of Moscow; in the raid of 1571 Ivan IV himself 
sought refuge from them no farther north than Rostov. Besides, dread 
of them must have been particularly strong in the first years after the 
devastation, while in the words of the author we have quoted above ' ' the 
flight [of peasants from the centre] does not cease until the very end 
of the century, as a number of facts convincingly attest." This non- 
correspondence, both chronological and geographical, between the "Tatar 
devastation" and the area of depopulation compels us anew to seek 
other, more potent and less accidental, causes of the latter. 

One of these the same author notes in passing. "In the sources," 
he says, "have been preserved curious facts, illustrating the acts of 
violence and the plundering of the pomeshchiks and the consequent 
well-nigh irreparable injury to the economic value of pomestye land." 
Unfortunately he cites only one such fact, but it is an extremely vivid 
one. "At the very end of the sixteenth century, in the village of 
Pogorelitsy, county of Vladimir, lived 'among the peasants' a certain 
Ivan Sokurov. In 1599 Pogorelitsy was granted in pomestye to the 
'knight' Fedor Sobolev. The latter, in Sokurov 's absence, appeared at 
his homestead and there wrought complete havoc : he took three bonds- 
men; led away his horse, cow, ox, and four sheep; took from Sokurov 's 
wife one ruble 13 altyns in money (=35 rubles gold) ; and carried off 
as much as he could of rye, oats, barley, flax, and 'three bees.' More, 
when Sokurov returned, the pomeshchik took possession of his home- 
stead, too." The picture of such an expulsion of a peasant from his 
nest by a landowner is by no means peculiar to Russia ; about this time 
we find a number of similar phenomena in Germany, where a special 
term has been coined for them — Bauernlegen. The conditional character 


of pomestye tenure of course has nothing to do with the question, but 
it is not hard to imagine how the peasant masses must have reacted to 
the goings-on of thousands of such Sobolevs, suddenly invading lands 
theretofore untouched by pomestye landholding. And this is just what 
happened when the oprichnina, with its shuffling of land, caused a num- 
ber of princes' votchinas, with their traditional feudal order of things, 
with peasant obligations that were not burdensome and that at the 
same time were handed on from generation to generation, to be simul- 
taneously converted into pomestyes. Like ants from a disturbed ant- 
hill the population ran off from these old cultivated places, seized by 
the oprichnina — ran off with no thought but how to save themselves 
from the new order of things so abruptly ushered in. It is no accident 
that the maximum depopulation of the county of Moscow coincides with 
the peak of the oprichnina. 

Nor is the oprichnina in and of itself, as a "measure of state," 
involved in the present question, of course; the example we have just 
cited does not relate to the oprichnina ; in 1599 the oprichnina was a 
thing of the past, and Sobolev probably had never served in it. It is 
merely that in the 'sixties and 'seventies a phenomenon common to all 
pomestye landholding was augmented to unusual proportions. Preda- 
tory exploitation of an estate, the desire to squeeze out of it in the 
shortest possible time as much money as possible, are just as character- 
istic of Russian pomeshchiks of the sixteenth century as of any "entre- 
preneurs" in the early period of money economy. One contemporary 
publicist, writing shortly after the Troubles, gives from his own personal 
impressions an extraordinarily striking general picture of that unre- 
strained speculation, a petty example of which we have just cited. In 
his words, at the time of the great famines under Boris Godunov many 
not only put their money into circulation but capitalised all their move- 
able property, including their wearing apparel, "and gathered into their 
granaries all seeds of every grain," thus making a profit of thousands 
per cent. To a considerable extent this speculation explained the famines 
themselves ; let us recall that even twenty years earlier Fletcher ascribed 
the rise of grain prices to engrossing by the pomeshchiks. If our author 
is to be believed, there were at the height of the famine great stores of 
grain, so that afterward, when civil war had actually devastated the 
country, and seeding had been much curtailed, all Russia was fed from 
these old stores, which the grain speculators, in order to keep up prices, 
had not let out of their hands during the famine. Judging by the 
description of society in the time of Godunov as given by this publicist, 
cornering grain offered great profits. In his words, even the provincial 
nobility, rich in gold and silver utensils, with horses in the stable and 
menials in the homestead, "resembled the first magnates and the kins- 


men of the tsar ' ' ; nor was it only among the nobility ' ' but also among 
the merchants were men of substance and among the cultivators. ' ' From 
the sumptuous attire of their wives and daughters one could not tell 
what they were, they wore so much gold, silver, and all other adorn- 
ments; "all were boyars at this time." 

Given such a state of affairs, it was evidently more profitable to 
plunder one's peasants, converting their property into money, than to 
carry on regular economy ; this fact, and not any juridical norms, 
impelled the pomeshchiks to predatory exploitation of their estates. Reg- 
ular economy demanded each year more and more outlaj'S of money 
capital, for the value of money fell with amazing rapidity. According 
to N. Rozhkov's calculations the ruble of the beginning of the sixteenth 
century was approximately equal to 94 rubles gold, and the ruble of the 
end of this century to only 24-25 gold rubles ; in less than a hundred 
years the value of money had fallen 75%. In Western Europe during 
this century it fell as much as 80%, but there was a definite external 
cause for this — the discovery of America with its gold and silver mines. 
This cause undoubtedly exerted its influence on Russia, too, a fact which ? 
shows how mistaken is the opinion that the realm of Muscovy was com- 
pletely isolated from the rest of Europe. Moreover, enough facts have 
been cited to show how early had begun the economic ' ' Europeanisation 
of Russia." The "triumph of cupidity" thus had an entirely objective 
basis; more was involved than the "greediness" of the pomeshchiks. 
Another cause, in Russia, was the rapid growth of money economy, fos- 
tered by compulsory liquidation of the large feudal estates with their 
"natural" order of things. Such a mass of land was thrown on the 
market that land values fell by almost one third. In the first half of 
the century a desyatina of land was worth 0.3 rubles, in the second 0.7 
rubles, but when translated into gold money the first figure becomes 28 
rubles, and the second only 17. 

By the end of the sixteenth century predatory economy, ever tending 
to liquidate and convert into money as quickly as possible both stock 
and buildings, and even the peasants themselves, as we shall presently 
see, was confronted with its own inevitable consequence — a shortage of 
labour on the land. The peasantry, stampeded by the new order, scat- 
tered from the centre like chaff before the wind — both to the far north, 
where grain was cropped only three times in five years, and into the 
steppe, regularly visited almost every year by the Tatars of the Crimea ; 
most of all, of course, to the Oka and the Volga, to places even then 
comparatively safe. One chronicle as early as the middle of the reign 
of Ivan the Terrible noted the ebb of population from the counties of 
Mozhaisk and Volokolamsk "to Ryazan, and into the Meshchera, and 
into the lowland towns, to Nizhny-Novgorod. ' ' In all these regions arose 


new settlements even while the centre was suffering depopulation. The 
crisis we have observed was, then, by no means an all-Russian one. It 
was above all a crisis of pomeshchik economy just as the first half of the 
century had witnessed the crisis of the old votchina economy. The old 
votchinas had perished because they were not able to adapt themselves 
to the conditions of the new money economy ; the pomeshchiks made too 
good use of it, wishing to take at once the maximum that it could offer. 
The decline in the value of money drove them forward on this road; 
what one could "live on decently" became insufficient in ten years' time. 
It was necessary to drain more and more an economy that was already 
sufficiently ruined. It was necessary to invest capital in it; but where 
get the capital? It was necessary to bind to the estate the working 
hands that tended irresistibly to leave it, but how was this to be done 
without capital, without the "silver" with which the peasants might 
be bound? This dual dilemma faced pomeshchik economy on the eve 
of the Troubles. Indeed, at the root of the Troubles lay the attempts 
of the pomeshchiks to get out of the blind alley created by their own 

Money might be gained through speculation — a game of chance in 
grain and in men. From as early as the 1550 's there is evidence to 
show that trade in peasants by no means waited for the official estab- 
lishment of serfdom. In a petition of this date one pomeshchik 
complains of another in the following terms: "I sent my men to effect 
the disavowal of two peasants from a homestead in his hamlet, and he 
. . . accepted their disavowal and took the pozhiloe [residence fee] ; and 
I sent to have those peasants brought to me, but he did not let those 
peasants leave him and is holding those peasants by force. ' ' The pozhiloe 
was in form a rent for the homestead occupied by the peasant, but by 
the middle of the sixteenth century this formality no longer bore any 
relation to reality, for the annual rent for a homestead was equal to 
one-fourth of the value of the homestead itself. Inasmuch as the resi- 
dence fee was, as we have just seen, actually paid by the new master 
to whom the peasants passed, payment for the homestead was essentially 
masked payment for the peasant himself. This is why documents of the 
time call pozhiloe a "fee" and the taking away of a peasant without 
pozhiloe taking away "without fee." If the peasant had, in addi- 
tion, taken the "lord's silver," the factual difference between him and 
the lord's bondsman almost disappeared; "disavowal" on the part of the 
peasant was then replaced by "release" on the part of the master. 
Indebted peasants were, of course, more easily made the object of specu- 
lation. It must be added that the men of Moscow were by no means 
such worshippers of legality as they are made out to have been by certain 
modern scholars, who even perceive in the evolution of the institution 


of peasant bondage certain features reminiscent of Roman law. The 
law of Moscow was still feudal law, i.e., when it did not rest on force, 
it meant nothing. A pomeshchik never made any bones about whether 
a peasant actually owed him anything or not, and the rates of pozhiloe 
established by the sudebnik he observed only when he wished. Docu- 
ments are extant attesting that when a lord did not want to release a 
peasant, he "threw him into irons" and demanded from him a pozhiloe, 
not of one ruble, as the law decreed (50 rubles gold, in the middle of 
the century), but five, and even ten rubles (250 and 500 rubles). In 
general, it may be regarded as the rule that without the master's consent 
a peasant could not "disavow." 

"Lord's silver," the peasant's debt to the landholder, was in Mus- 
covite Rus not a juridical means of indenturing peasants but a means 
of enticing them from other pomeshchiks or an antidote against peasant 
flight; the momentary advantage might tempt the less far-seeing and 
restrain them from attempts to seek happiness elsewhere. Hence the 
abolition of peasant "disavowal" must be regarded, not as the starting 
point of peasant bondage but as one of the aspects of the crisis of 
pomestye landholding. From the tangled snarl of lawsuits over peasants 
which clogged the courts of the time there was no escape except to forbid 
"disavowals" altogether, binding the peasants to those on whose lands 
they were settled at the given moment. Then would have ceased the 
pomeshchiks' destruction of each other, and the money that went into 
the struggle to secure labourers might have been otherwise employed. 
But as expenditures on the "disavowal" of peasants grew beyond the 
power of the pomeshchiks, they were driven to desperate means to get 
along without money. Most interesting in this connection is a transi- 
tional step to the abolition of peasant "disavowal" which we find in an 
unofficial document (the so-called "Code of Fedor"), but borrowed, of 
course, from current practice : ' ' write double indentures on the peas- 
ants. " Demand for double repayment of the peasants' debt must, of 
course, have restrained those who desired to disavow him. But the 
peasant had become such a "rare bird" that the wealthier landholders 
did not balk even at this; the mass of military servitors therefore pro- 
cured a new limitation of ' ' disavowal, ' ' which we find in the well-known 
edicts of 1601-1602, the first documentary evidence of peasant bondage. 
These edicts limited the number of "taken" peasants to not more than 
two, and only petty pomeshchiks could "take" from one another; com- 
petition by large landholders was excluded in advance. "Disavowal" by 
this time was an exception; as a rule the peasants were settled on the 
lands of those owners with whom the registers of 1590-1593 had found 
them. Rid of money expenditures on the peasants, the pomeshchik was 
at the same time rid of expenditures on the state; in the registers of 


1592-1593 the lord's arable was excepted from assessment. All sorts 
of palliatives were devised to appease the money hunger of the nobility, 
but the crisis developed with irresistible force and the pangs of hunger 
became ever keener. To the pomeshchik a sop from the treasury was not 
enough; he needed the whole treasury. In the days of the oprichnina 
he had left some power to the boyars, taking for himself only the very 
fattest morsels. Now he did not want to leave anything to anybody; 
he needed all power for himself. 



1. The Feudal Reaction; Godunov and the Nobility 1 

The crisis in pomestye economy, like the crisis in large-scale votchina 
economy at the beginning of the sixteenth century, was bound to have 
political consequences. In the earlier case the political result of economic 
revolution had been the oprichnina — the liquidation of the dominance of 
the feudal aristocracy in favour of the middling landholders. In the 
present case the result of economic reaction was bound to be the revival, 
even though partial and temporary, of political feudalism. 

In the first place, the feudal aristocracy was not nearly so completely 
ruined by Ivan the Terrible as he might have wished, and as certain 
modern historians have assumed. "To raise from stones the seed of 
Abraham" proved harder in practice than on paper. The mere fact 
that all the frontiers of the Muscovite realm, i.e., all its military defences, 
had to be left in the hands of the "zemshchina," that is, of the feudal 
boyar duma, is significant enough. Nor is it less significant that the 
oprichnina, as an institution, predeceased Ivan IV by several years; 
and we are hardly surprised when we are told that Ivan the Terrible 
"commended" his children — the one, Dmitry, a minor, the other, Fedor, 
an imbecile — to three representatives of old boyar families, Ivan Petro- 
vich Shuisky, Ivan Fedorovich Mstislavsky, and Nikita Romanovich 
Yuryev. It is true that the last-mentioned was closely related to the 
dynasty, and that the first two belonged to the most complaisant families 
of the old aristocracy, the Shuiskys having gone so far as to serve in the 
oprichnina themselves. Yet not one of them had been created by it, and 
all of them, according to mestnichestvo reckoning, stood at the very 
apex of feudal society. This stability of the hierarchical position of the 
old families was but emphasised by the political misfortunes of individual 
members of them. The senior representatives both of the Shuiskys and 
of the Mstislavskys perish in exile ; yet in the campaign against the Ta- 
tars of the Crimea, who in 1591 again threaten Moscow, the commander- 
in-chief is the son of the exiled Mstislavsky. The Shuiskys were the 
acknowledged mortal enemies of the Godunovs; yet at the head of the 
army sent by Boris Godunov against the False Dmitry we find these 

i Cf. supra, p. 133, N. 1. 



very Princes Shuisky, including the most untrustworthy of them, Vasily 
Ivanovich, the future tsar; and the Shuiskys are succeeded in this post 
by members of another old boyar family, the Princes Golitsyn. The first 
project of a Russian constitution, an historically famous one (the treaty 
with Sigismund of Poland, February 4, 1610), puts the boyar duma at 
the head of the administration of Russia, and after the defeat of the 
partisans of this constitution the old boyar family of the Romanov- 
Yuryevs is placed on the throne of the tsars. And under the first 
sovereign of this family, the boyar duma has occasion, God knows how 
many times, to state that as reward for service the tsar may bestow 
"money or a pomestye, but not otechestvo [rank]." The system of 
places (mestnichestvo), already tottering in 1555, survived juridically 
until 1682, and as a matter of fact even the members of Peter's collegia 
occasionally disputed over the question of precedence. 

But the oprichnina not only did not kill off the old aristocracy, it 
created a new one. Men from the middle nobility, on becoming intimates 
of Tsar Ivan, very quickly familiarised themselves with their new station 
and became a copy of the high-born order of boyars they had displaced. 
A typical example of such feudatories sprung from the oprichnina was 
Bogdan Belsky, the "squire" of Ivan the Terrible, close to him, how- 
ever, not because of this his official duty but because of other, unofficial 
and much less honourable functions. In the last years of Ivan's life, if 
we are to believe one of his contemporaries, well acquainted with the 
service relationships of the time, Belsky was the "first intimate and 
chief counsellor" although he bore no duma title; "the heart of the tsar 
was always burning for him. ' ' Resting on such a purely personal foun- 
dation, his position could not be a lasting one ; no sooner had Ivan closed 
his eyes than Belsky saw himself out of employment. He made an 
attempt to take advantage of what was in fact an interregnum ; the one 
tsarevich was in swaddling clothes, the other was an idiot; some one or 
other must rule in their names — why might not this "some one" be 
Belsky? In contrast to the regency of the Shuiskys in the minority of 
Ivan the Terrible we see no social force behind this candidate to the 
regency. His hope lay wholly in court connections (he was close to the 
Nagois, the brothers of little Dmitry's mother) and, probably, in his 
own armed servants, with whom later he was to appear in Moscow to 
support his candidacy to the very throne of the tsars. At least, otherwise 
it is difficult to understand how he succeeded in seizing the Kremlin, 
when from the chronicle's narrative it is evident that the military force 
(knights and streltsy) was not on his side. The intervention of this 
military force decided matters; seeing the artillery directed against the 
Kremlin, Belsky surrendered (not without a battle, however, since the 
chronicle mentions killed and wounded), but not unconditionally. The 


victorious side had to be content with his exile from Moscow, at first to 
the governorship of Nizhny-Novgorod; later, it appears, he resided on 
his votchina, living the life of a wealthy feudatory. Such lenient be- 
haviour toward Belsky on the part of the government which dealt se- 
verely with the Mstislavskys and the Shuiskys could be motivated only by 
fear. The former "squire" of Ivan IV was personally, as a landholder, 
so strong a man, apparently, that it was no easy task to reach him on his 
estates, and at the same time he was not so dangerous as to warrant 
risking new troubles on his account. He never gave up hope of returning 
to power, and scarcely was Tsar Fedor (1584-1598) dead than, as we 
have mentioned, Belsky again appeared in Moscow "with many people," 
this time reaching straight for the tsar's throne. He was once more to 
be convinced that his "household" alone was not enough to make him a 
political force; he was again left at the post, and again we see him in 
honourable exile. But he still cherished ambitions; having failed to 
become tsar, he was ready to content himself with an appanage princi- 
pality. On the southern frontier of the Muscovite realm, whither they 
had sent him to establish border fortresses against the Tatars of the 
Crimea, he conducted himself as absolute master; at his own expense 
he maintained the troops more generously than it was possible for the 
Moscow government to do; he built fortresses "according to his own 
plan " ; he lived in them like a tsar and boasted that Boris Godunov was 
tsar at Moscow, and he, Belsky, was tsar here. Here, of course, he 
was more dangerous than in the interior of Russia, for now he was the 
nearest neighbour of the Crimean Tatars and, as we shall remember, even 
in the time of Ivan the Terrible, the Muscovite feudal opposition had 
been suspected of treasonable dealings with this foe ; at the same time his 
antagonist held power firmly in his hands and was free to act. They 
seized Belsky, his "court" was dismissed, his estates confiscated, and he 
himself, after ignominious punishment, was "appointed" to "far 
places." He appears on the stage again at the time of the False Dmitry, 
but this time he did not play for high political stakes. 

Boris Godunov had succeeded in disposing of the greatest of the new 
feudatories the oprichnina had created. But on a closer examination of 
Godunov and his career we see the same familiar traits of a great feudal 
seigneur. That this feudatory proved to have a head for politics was an 
individual peculiarity, which did not change his objective position. The 
tragedy of the fate of Boris lay in the fact that he was woven of contra- 
dictions ; resolution of these contradictions terminated in catastrophe. 
Our historical literature has persisted in giving Godunov the reputation 
of a man who stood for the interests of "the plain service people, who- 
soever serve from petty votchinas and pomestyes"; in other words, he 
was a ' ' nobles ' ' ' tsar, in contrast to the boyars ' tsar, as Vasily Shuisky 


is usually represented to have been. But to interpret Godunov's whole 
policy, from beginning to end, as protection of the interests of the nobles 
is to make the end of his reign a complete enigma, for, as we shall pres- 
ently see, it was precisely the masses of the nobility that overthrew the 
Godunovs. Why, then, did the nobility destroy its own instrument ? For 
treason? But in favour of what social class can Boris be said to have 
played traitor — Boris who persecuted the boyars almost as much as Ivan 
the Terrible had done and who enserfed the peasantry? If his history 
unquestionably supplies a number of facts that permit us to speak of his 
"nobles' ' policy, we have also a body of evidence from well-informed 
contemporary foreigners, who unanimously affirm that "under Boris the 
common peasant was better off than under any former sovereign," and 
that the peasants looked upon him "as upon God." Had we toward the 
end of Godunov 's reign but consulted the nobles themselves, they would 
no doubt have declared him a peasants' tsar just as confidently as our 
modern historians declare him a representative of the pomeshchik 
class. And the boyars were not all and not always his enemies. With 
the Romanovs he even had some special agreement, to which, almost more 
than to anything else, Boris owed the tsar's throne; with the Shuiskys 
an open quarrel broke out, but toward the end, as we have seen, he 
trusted them in the matter that was most important for him and for his 
whole family. In view of all this, we see that "the tsar of the nobles," 
"continuator of the oprichnina," is perhaps a not altogether untrue, but 
all the same a very summary characterisation of so complex a figure as 
was this "slave tsar," without any "otechestvo" [hereditary rank], who 
had perched himself on the topmost pinnacle of Muscovite boyardom. 
Boris began, let us repeat, as one of the magnates of the oprichnina — 
like Belsky, if you like, but in a more honourable role. Personal in- 
fluence and family position — these formed the starting point of his 
career. Second in influence during the last years of Ivan's life (Belsky 
had stood first) and brother-in-law of the elder tsarevich, Fedor (who, 
though weak-minded, was "competent" and the most likely successor to 
Ivan IV), Boris reached by a legal path that goal toward which his rival 
had aspired illegally and became a kind of appanage prince, or "prince 
of the blood," if you like. Barely two years after the death of Ivan the 
Terrible, foreigners were calling him "prince" and "lieutenant of the 
empire." A few years later this had become his official title; Muscovite 
diplomatic documents style him "imperial brother-in-law and lieutenant, 
servant and master of the horse, commander of the guard and lord of the 
great states, the realms of Kazan and Astrakhan, Boris Fedorovich. ' ' To 
foreigners it was explained that he was "not a standard for any one," 
for he was above all the serving princes, tsars, and tsareviches. He 
treated independently with foreign governments, with the Holy Roman 


emperor, with the khan of the Crimea. One old document, which well 
preserves what was said about Godunov among the masses of the people, 
ascribes to Tsar Fedor the following words : " 'To you all I say, do not 
bother me with any petition, go on any business to petition the great 
boyar Boris Godunov, ' thus the Sovereign Tsar and Grand Prince Fedor 
Ioannovich was pleased to call him great, 'for I have ordered him to set 
the whole realm in order, and to deal out all justice to it, and to punish 
for fault and to pardon, and there should be no bother to me at all,' " 
and Fedor himself "applied himself to sacred writings, and chanted all 
the night." If we take these words literally, it follows that Godunov 
was tsar in fact long before his election, an impression confirmed by the 
document we have cited, which says of Boris : ' ' The damned fellow has 
not the name of tsar, but all the power is in his hands." In reality, 
popular fantasy, as always, exaggerated ; Godunov was not quite alone 
on the topmost pinnacle of the feudal hierarchy. But there was some- 
thing to be exaggerated ; the personal position of Boris Godunov, over 
and above support from any social force, is such as we should strive in 
vain to match in the history of Moscow, always excepting the case of 
Metropolitan Alexis in the days of the youth of Dmitry Donskoi. No 
favourite nearer in time to Godunov can be compared to him ; when some 
one speaking of Boris to a Muscovite diplomat mentioned the name of 
Alexis Adashev, the diplomat was absolutely right in replying: "Alexis 
was clever, but this man is not of Alexis' stature." Adashev held his 
own by force of intellect and by the support of the social class that had 
pushed him forward ; Godunov personally had in his hands such material 
strength that he did not fear the fate of Adashev. 2 

If from the very beginning the policy of Boris Godunov bears a defi- 
nite class impress, it is only because any and every policy is a class policy 
and cannot be anything else. Very tempting is the idea of exhibiting the 
base-born "tsar's favourite," "the slave and Tatar of yesterday," as the 
leader of the base-born small-pomestyed nobility in the struggle with 
high-born boyardom; but such a combination would be historically un- 
true. Godunov 's opponents strove hard to injure him, after his death, 
because he had come "from the lesser servants," but, during his lifetime, 
they ascribed to this fact hardly more significance than to the fact that 
Boris was "not used to Godly writing," was a man uneducated theologi- 
cally, another fact that the opposing party always recalled with satis- 
faction. In no feudal society does origin play an independent role, and 
the pride of birth of Muscovite boyardom need not be exaggerated; the 
"elected council" had suffered in its midst men taken "from the dung- 

2 Contemporaries put the revenues of the Godunovs from their lands at 94,000 
rubles (2,500,000 in pre-war currency). From their own votchinas they could equip 
a whole army. 


hill," and princes descended from Rurik, yes, even of the very oldest 
according to the Rodoslovets, had taken service in the oprichnina along 
with Vaska Gryazny [Jack the Dirty] and Malyuta Skuratov. The petty 
vassals were the first to support Boris in a scuffle, not with the boyar 
order, but with a magnate sprung from the oprichnina such as Belsky ; in 
1584 the crowd that collected to bombard the Moscow Kremlin was 
headed by the Ryazan knights, the Kikins and the Lyapunovs, the future 
leaders of the nobility at the time of the Troubles. And they were 
aiding not Godunov alone but all "the boyars," i.e., in general they 
were for the existing government against an individual usurper. The 
first clear and definite case of class struggle occurs three years later, and 
again the struggle of the nobility against boyardom as such was not 
involved. We have two versions of this affair; the one is undoubtedly 
partisan, the other knows the externals but does not know the inner 
workings. But in a diplomatic document the Moscow government itself 
blabbed out that in 1587 "they sat in the Kremlin-fortress in siege and 
placed a strong watch," and that this was done "on account of the 
trading louts," who had organised a revolt. This is sufficient in con- 
firmation of what the partisan account of the events has to say about the 
"popular assembly of a multitude of the men of Moscow," which had 
assembled "to slay" Godunov "and all his kin without mercy with 
stoning. ' ' It was an anti-Godunov revolt, organised by the townsmen of 
Moscow, who were supported not only by the Shuiskys and other "great 
boyars" but also by Dionysius, metropolitan of Moscow and of all Rus. All 
these circumstances show that it was by no means a matter of more or 
less casual street disturbances, but that a coup d'etat had been prepared, 
for which both the juridical form and what then passed for political moti- 
vation had been thought out. The motivation was that Godunov 's rule was 
said to threaten the very existence of the dynasty ; Fedor had no children 
and the Tsaritsa Irene, Boris' sister, was to blame. And so the metropoli- 
tan, the "great boyars," and "the magnates of the tsar's palace and the 
gosts of Moscow and all the trading folk held counsel and bound them- 
selves in writing to petition the Sovereign Tsar and Grand Prince Fedor 
Ivanovich of all Rus, that he the sovereign be gracious to all the lands 
of his realm and take a second bride, and that the Tsaritsa Irene be 
pleased to retire into a convent ; and that he take a bride for the sake of 
offspring." To make this political conspiracy an episode of palace 
struggle within the narrow circle of the Muscovite court aristocracy is 
very convenient, perhaps, from the point of view of artistic interest (the 
reader probably remembers the scene from Tsar Fedor Ivanovich 3 ), but 
historically it is quite incorrect. It would, of course, not have entered 
the Shuiskys ' heads to risk their necks in this business, had they not felt 
3 Cf. the novel by Alexis Tolstoi. 


behind them the "popular multitude" which half a century before had 
made their fathers the powerful guardians of the little Ivan IV. But 
this time the correlation of forces proved to be different. After the first 
fright the Godunov government, which had taken refuge in the Kremlin, 
made short work of the conspirators; Dionysius was deposed from the 
metropolitan throne, the Shuiskys and a number of other boyars were 
banished, and six gosts of Moscow were executed. There is no doubt 
that the affair was decided, not by the weak will of Tsar Fedor but by 
those same "knights" whose presence in the Kremlin is disclosed by the 
diplomatic document we have just mentioned. Ivan IV 's old guard, 
his oprichnina "dvor," was now loyal to Boris Godunov, who, it may 
be said in passing, was its immediate commander. 

The clash of 1587 was the greatest event in Moscow's social history in 
the interval between the death of Ivan the Terrible (1584) and the 
election of Godunov as tsar (1598). It marked the factual disintegra- 
tion of the oprichnina, which juridically had ceased to exist some years 
before Ivan's death. The oprichnina had been a bloc of the urban 
bourgeoisie and the middling landholders; without the townsmen the 
coup of January 3, 1565, probably would never have occurred. Pre- 
viously the bourgeoisie had been on good terms with the boyars; the 
pomeshchik party had made a great gain in tearing it away and trans- 
ferring it to their side. Now we find again, as it were, the combination 
of 1550 — the "merchant folk" together with the "great boyars." As 
it were — because now the initiative belonged rather to the "merchant 
folk," while the "great boyars" were acting as a group of separate 
families, not as a class; Godunov, you see, was himself a "great boyar" 
and had with him a whole boyar party, many "boyars of the tsar's 
palace seduced by him," together with the nobles. The significance of 
the event does not lie in the revival of a feudal-bourgeois opposition, but 
in the appearance of the bourgeoisie as an independent political force. 
The Moscow townsmen had probably been disenchanted with their 
aristocratic leaders even before the oprichnina; the story regarding 
Fedor 's divorce took away the last remnants of their authority, if in- 
deed they still had any. The bitter words of the Moscow merchants, 
addressed to the Shuiskys — "you have made your peace [with Godunov] 
at the price of our heads" — served as the epitaph of the alliance of 
boyars and townsmen. It is remarkable that connexions with the 
Shuisky family remained; economically these holders of industrial vot- 
chinas were more closely connected with bourgeois circles than with 
their titled brethren. When the bourgeoisie needed ' ' its tsar, ' ' it sought 
him in the ranks of this family. In 1587 that critical moment was still 
far in the future; this first political appearance of the "merchant folk" 
had a more limited aim. Yet this outbreak was a political event and 


not a palace intrigue as was presently made evident by Boris' foreign 
policy. The experience of the Livonian War had made the Muscovite 
government very pacific; but in 1589 the Muscovite envoys, sent (and 
not for the first time) to negotiate with the Swedes for retrocession of 
the Russian towns occupied by the latter, were instructed to talk "on a 
big, lofty scale" and to demand "for the sovereign's part Narva, Ivan- 
gorocl, Yam, Koporye, Korela without indemnity, without money. ' ' This 
was a challenge, and in January of the following year (1590) a Russian 
army moved on Narva with Tsar Fedor himself, Boris Godunov, and 
Fedor Nikitich Romanov at its head. The Muscovite government de- 
clared that it would not make peace without Narva, i.e., without the 
restoration of Russia's Baltic trade. Narva was not taken, but in 
general the campaign was not a failure, for three other Russian towns 
seized by the Swedes, Yam, Ivangorod, and Koporye, passed back into 
Russia's hands. This whole chain of events becomes intelligible if we 
remember that it was a question of foreign policy that had caused the 
townsmen to break with the boyars and to effect a rapprochement with 
the "warriors," and that the failure of the Livonian War had been the 
first thing to alienate the bourgeoisie from the pomeshchiks. Now 
Godunov was trying once more to carry on a bourgeois policy, but cau- 
tiously and not persistently; the bourgeoisie was not the chief piece on 
his chessboard. 

If this great feudatory wanted to keep himself in power, there was 
no one for him to rely upon except the "warriors." It was not his 
personal social position that determined his policy; on the contrary, it 
was his policy that conditioned his social sympathies. An occasion to 
repay his allies very soon presented itself. In 1591, as we have already 
mentioned, the Tatars of the Crimea again appeared under Moscow, 
but this time they utterly failed to take the city. The experience of the 
preceding Tatar inroad had been turned to good account by the Mus- 
covite generals; new means of coping with the horsemen of the steppe 
had been worked out which proved most effectual. Contemporaries 
ascribed special importance to the "walking town," a movable wooden 
fortress on wheels, said to be an invention of Prince M. I. Vorotynsky, 
though something very similar had been projected long before in one 
of "Peresvetov's" writings. As a means of defending the city, Go- 
dunov had greatly strengthened the artillery. 4 In a word, the Tatars 
were confronted with a picture very different from that of twenty years 
before, and they withdrew without even making an attempt to take the 
city. But to repulse them a huge army had already been called out ; all 
the service landholders of central Russia, and even of Novgorod and 

4 The famous "Tsar-Cannon" has survived as a monument of the skill of Russian 
founders of those times. 


Pskov, had been set in motion. The pomeshchiks, of course, did not 
do their duty for nothing ; they were paid for the campaign, paid ex- 
ceptionally rapidly 5 for the dawdling Muscovite exchequer, and on an 
augmented scale ; so augmented indeed that the service men themselves, 
it is said, were amazed and said that in former times a high-born 
man had not been given for a difficult campaign and many wounds 
what rank-and-file knights were now given for a war that was more like 
a manoeuvre, for only the Muscovite vanguard had got a glimpse of 
the Tatars, and the main forces had remained far in the rear. If we 
remember the significance of the sovereign's money wages to pomesh- 
chik economy, we shall realise that Boris could have found no better 
way to attach the "warriors" to himself. With good reason was all 
grumbling against the state administration stilled for long after this 
campaign, a fact attested by authors not at all favourable to Boris. 

Disposing of vast personal means (and presumably an enormous 
coterie of personal satellites) ; having reconciled, even though only in 
part, the bourgeoisie, which was now beginning to raise its head ; having 
the full support of the petty vassals, the whole armed force of the 
state, — Boris stood so firmly that, it would seem, he could have wished 
nothing more. Tsar Fedor was not yet old and might still have chil- 
dren; a year later (1592) a daughter was born to him, the Tsarevna 
Fedosia (d. 1594). Under a son, who would have been Boris' nephew, 
his position as regent would, in all probability, have remained just as 
firm as under the father. It would be exceedingly strange if in such a 
position a man should begin to "strengthen" himself by means of 
crimes — crimes that were very clumsily committed and, as it might 
seem, purposely devised to compromise the reputation of Boris Godunov. 
However, the preponderant majority of historians accept as trust- 
worthy the story that in these very years, with the cognisance, if not at 
the direct command of Godunov, the Tsarevich Dmitry, the younger 
son of Ivan the Terrible, was murdered — murdered with the purpose of 
"clearing Boris' way to the throne." If one needed a special illustra- 
tion of the infantile condition of the very important discipline called 
"historical criticism" and of the pressure on our historical science of 
circumstances and interests that have nothing in common with any 
science, no better one could be thought out than the "affair of the 
murder of Tsarevich Dmitry." 

The first categorical assertion that Boris was the murderer of Dmitry 
is found in a source, the most superficial analysis of which is sufficient 
to discredit its testimony. In 1606, having been seated on the throne 
by means of a coup d'etat, over the dead body of the Pseudo Dmitry, 

5 Apparently contrary to custom, the distribution was begun while the troops 
were still in camp, without waiting for the end of the campaign. 


Tsar Vasily Shuisky found it necessary to offer juridical and historical 
justification for his conduct, to prove that the murder of this tsar had 
been an act of "necessary self-defence" and that rights to the throne 
of Moscow had belonged to the Shuiskys from time immemorial, al- 
though — purely from modesty — they had not hitherto preferred their 
claims. For this purpose a whole collection of documents was circu- 
lated, of whose falsification nobody, it seems, ever had doubts, and a 
little historical tract, very well written, to be sure, was distributed to sup- 
ply a "historical introduction," as it were, to these documents. From 
these documents it appeared that the "serf, notorious robber, apostate, 
heretic, unfrocked monk, Grishka Bogdanov, son of Otrepyev" had 
wanted no more no less than to slay the "boyars, and nobles, and offi- 
cials, and gosts, and all the better people, and wanted to destroy the 
whole Muscovite state to its foundations, and to scorn the Christian 
faith, and to destroy the churches, and to build Roman chapels." 
Clearly, to murder him was not only permissible, it was obligatory. 
The introduction was phrased to confirm the reader in the idea that 
there was no one who could rightfully take the place of the murdered 
heretic except Prince Vasily Shuisky, "from the beginning of his fore- 
bears fearing God and holding in his heart great faith toward God and 
unhypocritical truth toward men." If all these qualities had not earlier 
gained the pious Prince the throne, the fault had lain in the oppression 
"from a certain slave, called Boris Godunov," who "was like unto the 
ancient serpent that formerly in Paradise did tempt Eve and our fore- 
father Adam and deprived them of the enjoyment of the food of Para- 
dise." When in the midst of a text like this one reads that Boris 
Godunov sent the murderers to the Tsarevich Dmitry, elementary his- 
torical fairmindedness compels one to regard the story with a high 
degree of incredulity. This feeling is bound to be heightened when the 
reader perceives that, on the one hand, our excellently informed author 
is not able to give a single, vivid, concrete detail of the crime but 
confines himself to a conventionalised picture of the "murder of an 
innocent lad," outside of time and space, and that, on the other hand, 
all the other "independent Russian writers of the seventeenth cen- 
tury . . . ," as Platonov writes, "speak of Boris' participation in the 
murdering of Tsarevich Dmitry reluctantly and very cautiously." 
To this analysis of the original accusation against Boris may be added 
one more very interesting observation: the further from the event of 
1591, the more details about it do we find in literature. The detailed 
story of the murder, cited by Solovyev and well-known from text- 
books, is to be read in the so-called New Chronicle, a historical compila- 
tion on the Times of the Troubles, the definitive redaction of which is no 
older than 1630. Forty years after the event more was known about it 


than an interested and partisan author had been able to collect after 
fifteen years ! Such a phenomenon, familiar to every historical scholar, 
can have only one explanation; we have here a typical case of the rise 
of a legend. Popular imagination supplied what history lacked, gradu- 
ally, detail by detail, giving colour to the dry outline of the accusation 
originally thrown out without any proofs. Any one who knows the 
relations between Godunov and the Romanovs, 6 who occupied the throne 
when the history of the Troubles was first written, will not be surprised 
that contemporary popular imagination imparted this particular bias. 
But for any "independent" Russian historian of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, it would, in view of all these facts, seem obligatory to reject 
entirely the fiction put in circulation by the Shuiskys' pamphlet, even 
if we had no documents, contemporary with the event, that asserted the 
contrary. But there is such a document ; the genuine brief on the 
murder of Dmitry — the "inquest" held on the hot trail in Uglich by a 
commission of the boyar duma — is extant, and in this brief by a series of 
depositions (among them those of the uncles of the tsarevich, the Nagois) 
it is established that he fell a victim to an unfortunate accident, that he 
injured himself while playing a game with his knife. The investiga- 
tion, it is true, was conducted by that same pious Prince Vasily Shuisky, 
with whose publicist activity the reader is already acquainted; for a 
very great sceptic, it may be agreed, this offers grounds for suspecting 
the documentary report of the investigation. But, in the first place, 
Shuisky was not alone in the investigation, and, if we are to suspect 
official documents that Vasily Shuisky had anything to do with, what 
confidence does his unofficial publicism deserve? 

A hundred years ago a historian, not in academic service but none the 
less fairminded for that, drew from all the facts enumerated above 
the only possible conclusion, that if we are not to adopt the viewpoint 
of absolute scepticism, we must credit the brief of the investigation 
rather than the literary records. And he wrote in his book that Tsare- 
vich Dmitry perished in 1591 at Uglich by accident. But the public 
was not to read such a heresy. Academic science kept strict watch, and 
one of its most eminent representatives hastened to cut off the evil at 
the root ; at his insistence the offending page of heretical history, already 
printed, was torn out of every copy and burned. This scholar's argu- 
ment, it seems, was just as simple as it was convincing : if Dmitry was 
not a martyr who had innocently suffered at the hands of malefactors, 
how could his miracle-working relics have survived? From this we can 
see how sagacious Tsar Vasily Shuisky was in converting the younger 
son of Ivan the Terrible into a saint and miracle-worker almost on the 
day after he ascended the throne (Shuisky became tsar May 18, and 

e Cf. infra. 


the relics of Dmitry were in Moscow on June 3). The measure he 
had taken proved sufficient to influence the "public opinion," not only 
of the beginning of the seventeenth century but also of the times of 
Emperor Nicholas I (1825-1855). 

As for the "murderer of a saint," Boris Godunov, he, it seems, suf- 
fered not so much from pangs of conscience over an evil deed he had not 
committed as from doubts — strange enough to our view, although until 
lately there were still lone scholars who shared them. There are grounds 
for thinking that Boris doubted whether Dmitry actually was dead. 
If the personality of the. weak-minded Fedor was in his hands a power- 
ful means of maintaining his own power, the little tsarevich might in the 
hands of Godunov 's opponents, if given the opportunity, be similarly 
used against him. And this peril became the more imminent, the clearer 
it became that children could not be expected of Fedor, and that 
Dmitry, were he alive, was the sole representative of the descendants 
of Ivan Kalita. Rumours that the tsarevich was alive and was some- 
where abroad, perhaps in Poland, became current in Moscow even before 
Fedor 's death. Only a month after his death a Polish frontier governor 
had heard of some sort of proclamation in Dmitry's name that had 
appeared in Smolensk. Only in this connexion can be understood 
those exceptional measures taken by the Muscovite government, i.e., by 
Godunov 's government, in these very days. ' ' On the death of the tsar, ' ' 
writes Platonov, "the frontiers of the state were immediately closed, 
permitting no one to pass them either way. Not only on the high 
roads but also on the bypaths they placed a guard, lest any one bring 
tidings out of the realm of Moscow into Lithuania and to the Germans. 
The Polish-Lithuanian and German merchants were detained at Moscow 
and in the frontier cities, Smolensk, Pskov, and others, with their wares 
and servants, and all these people received bread and hay even from 
the treasury. Official couriers from neighbouring states were likewise 
kept under guard and as soon as possible sent back beyond the Mus- 
covite frontier by the border governors. At Smolensk they did not 
even allow the courier of the Polish governor of Orsha to lead his own 
horse to the water-trough, and buying anything in the market was not 
to be thought of." Simultaneously with these police measures were 
taken extraordinary measures of military defence, and precisely on the 
western frontier. "The walls of Smolensk they hastily finished, bring- 
ing various building materials in thousands of carts ; to the two generals 
already at Smolensk were added four more. The reinforced garrison 
of Smolensk not only kept watch in the fortress itself but sent out 
patrols in its environs. At Pskov likewise they observed the greatest 
precaution." All this, of course, is not to be explained by the desire 
of the Muscovites to hold the election of the new tsar ' ' in secret from the 


eyes of outsiders." They quite definitely were afraid of relations 
between some one in Moscow and some one whom they suspected to be 
beyond the western boundary of the Muscovite realm; relations, more- 
over, which might end in a sudden apparition of foreign troops on the 
Russian frontiers. In a word, in 1598 they prepared for what actually 
happened in 1604. The "pretender" was not a black speck that sud- 
denly appeared on the cloudless horizon of Boris' reign; this dramatic 
picture we must leave to Pushkin's tragedy. 7 In actual history the 
figure of Dmitry was discernible in the wings the whole time, and 
Godunov waited nervously until he should at last make his entry. In 
this sense, perhaps, the late tsarevich disturbed his dreams, not in the 
form of a "bleeding child," but rather at the head of a Polish-Lithu- 
anian host, in the very guise in which he did appear in Rus on the eve 
of Boris' death. 

These fears explain the unusual circumstances that surrounded Boris 
Godunov 's election to the throne in the spring of 1598. This curious 
episode has passed through several stages in modern historiography. At 
first historians felt unconditional confidence in the very circumstantial 
account of this event given in Shuisky's above-mentioned pamphlet; in 
it may be found all that Russian readers have been familiar with from 
childhood — the bailiffs at whose command the people began to bow and 
shout, the spittle as a substitute for tears in dry eyes, and the fines 
imposed on those who were unwilling to go to the Novodevichy Mona- 
stery to pray Boris to become tsar. But since there were no special 
grounds for trusting Shuisky in this question, reason soon got the upper 
hand, gossip ceased to be scrupulously believed, and into the centre of 
the stage moved the zemsky sobor that elected Boris ; it was emphasised 
that in the make-up of this sobor "it is impossible to observe any traces 
of electoral agitation or any packing of members." The intriguer, who 
had perched himself on the tsar's throne by guile, turned out to have 
been legally and regularly elected by a "representative assembly," 
which "was acknowledged as the legal mouthpiece of public interests 
and opinions." There is no doubt that Boris' election was an act 
juridically quite correct; we shall presently see that it was surrounded 
with every juridical formality, perhaps even in superfluous profusion. 
No tsar either before or since has so striven to convince his subjects of 
his right to reign. But this solicitous argumentation of his rights — 
we can in part trace it even in process of evolution and observe how 
some arguments are replaced by others that seemed more convincing — 
in itself compels us to be somewhat suspicious of what was taking place, 
independently of any contemporary pamphlets whatever. No one cares 

7 Cf. A. Pushkin, Boris Godunov. Rendered into English verse by Alfred Hayes, 
London (1918). Cf. also Moussorgsky's opera, Boris Godunov. 


so much for juridical impeccability as do intelligent and experienced 
swindlers. Besides, we have already emerged from the stage of political 
development in which "electoral agitation" seems something "in the 
nature of packing" public opinion. We are now all very well aware 
from personal experience that it is impossible to conceive of any organ- 
ised mass action without preliminary agitation, and if the people of 
Moscow on February 21, 1598, surged "in the wake of the patriarch" 
to the Novodevichy Monastery, it is obvious that some one had taken 
the lead in this affair and prepared it. The assertion that there had 
been preliminary agitation in favour of this manifestation is therefore 
no "slander" on Boris, but the insinuation that it was effected by 
measures of a police nature, through bailiffs, is a different matter. It 
is this that the lampoon put in circulation by the Shuiskys dwells on. 
Other authors, not at all sympathetic with Boris, say only that the 
latter had "assistants" (electoral agents, as we say) everywhere and 
"strong-talking zealots," whom we should now call agitators. Thus, 
there was "agitation," but there was no "packing." Nor could there 
be ; it was quite unnecessary, for when the popular manifestations 
began, the decision of the zemsky sobor had already been taken and 
consecrated by religious authority; on February 18, in the Cathedral 
of the Annunciation, they had solemnly prayed the Lord God to grant 
to Orthodox Christendom, on its petition, the Sovereign Tsar Boris 
Godunov. The vassals great and small (the boyar duma, of course, 
attended the sobor in full force) and the Church had already recognised 
Boris as tsar when the people set out to beseech him. Godunov was not 
content with the social forces usually constituting the "body politic" 
of the Muscovite realm — the "estates" represented at the zemsky sobor; 
he needed the participation of "all multitudinous popular Christen- 
dom." As far as we know, he was the first tsar to summon to his aid 
the masses of the people, for the "appeals to the people" of Ivan the 
Terrible really were addressed to the upper strata of the merchantry 
of Moscow. Boris' action was unusually important for the future but 
is no less important in characterising his position at this moment. The 
unusually solemn character of the election must have barred the way 
in advance to any "adventurers," whom they evidently expected. 

Similar anxiety permeates both the very act of election, which has 
come down to us in two editions, and the oath the population had to take 
to the new tsar — and take in an unusually solemn setting, in the 
churches, and during service. Boris' opponents here found new cause 
for complaints ; on account of the noise raised by the throngs taking the 
oath, it was impossible even to hear the divine chanting in the Cathedral 
of the Annunciation, so that devout Muscovites who wanted to pray 
were this day left without mass. The zemsky sobor 's "act of election" 


was placed in the shrine of the Metropolitan Peter, which on this oc- 
casion was opened to the public ; this, of course, was interpreted as mani- 
fest and intolerable sacrilege. In content both these documents — the 
oath and the decision of the sobor — are very curious, especially the latter, 
which has come down to us not only in its definitive form but also in a 
rough draft. It is remarkable for the abundance of reasons assigned 
for the election of Boris ; there are so many of them that they even in- 
terfere with each other, and in the definitive edition it was found advan- 
tageous to omit some of them. The mere enumeration of them is 
interesting ; before us is revealed the series of layers of which by the end 
of the sixteenth century the Russian law of succession to the throne was 
made up. The oldest layer was appanage tradition, in virtue of which 
the "sovereign's vot china," like any one else's, passed by bequest, 
though only within the circle of the given family, not to outsiders. The 
document notes that Godunov is a "kinsman of the great sovereign" and 
alleges that even Ivan IV had appointed Boris his successor in case of 
Fedor's death. But the appanage of Moscow had managed to convert 
itself into the universal Orthodox realm; its throne could not be dis- 
posed of as private property. As a matter of common sense, it was clear 
that the Orthodox Church could best determine who was worthy to be 
tsar of all the Orthodox; the document asserts that the bishops have 
from the Apostles the power, "when met in synod, to establish for their 
fatherland a pastor and teacher and tsar." But in 1598 this stage, too, 
was a thing of the past, and the decisive argument is the "petition of all 
multitudinous popular Christendom," an argument so decisive that at 
the end of the document all others are forgotten on account of it. 
Kinship with the dynasty, the testament of Ivan the Terrible, and the 
decree of the Church in synod, all were forgotten by the editor of the 
document ; he remembered only that Boris was an elected tsar, that this 
was an innovation, and that this innovation might be objected to in 
order to dispute the right of the Godunovs to the throne — the Godunovs, 
for, of course, the whole family was elected; the oath was taken to the 
whole family, including the "Tsarevna Oxinia [Boris' daughter 
Xenia]." In the definitive text of the "act of election" nothing is said 
about Tsar Ivan's testament; this bold assertion would have been too 
hard to prove. On the other hand, this text lays more stress on the 
kinship of the Godunovs with the last descendant of Ivan Kalita through 
Irene, sister of Boris and wife of Fedor. That there might be still other 
persons having hereditary or some other rights to the throne this docu- 
ment does not say; but the oath mentions one such person, and the 
mention is startlingly unexpected. We remember that Ivan the Terrible 
once, not exactly as a joke, not exactly for the sake of observing for- 
malities, set up as special tsar over the "zemshchina" the baptised 


Tatar tsarevich, Simeon Bekbulatovich. He was now a blind old man, 
probably himself but poorly remembering that he had sometime been 
' ' caliph for an hour. ' ' None the less, Boris found it necessary to ask his 
subjects whether they wanted Tsar Simeon to rule the state. One 
modern scholar has drawn from this the conclusion that the former tsar 
of the zemshchina was, as it were, a serious candidate for the throne at 
a certain moment of the electoral campaign. As a matter of fact this 
remarkable detail only shows how scrupulously careful the new tsar was 
and what measures he took lest perchance even the very dead should 
walk. Boris would probably have preferred to mention his real op- 
ponents: the children of Nikita Romanovich Yuryev, who were also 
kinsmen of Tsars Ivan and Fedor, and of still longer standing than the 
Godunovs; and the not exactly living, not exactly dead, Dmitry of 
Uglich. But it was impossible to mention the latter officially, for offi- 
cially he was in the next world ; and with the Romanovs Boris had some 
sort of agreement, even ratified by oath. The essence of this agreement 
is not known to us, but one circumstance is significant: the Romanov 
version of the history of the Troubles, which found its earliest expres- 
sion in an author of unknown name, used by the very well-known 
Avraam Palitsyn for his compilation, seeks to lay the blame for violation 
of the agreement on Boris, at the same time carefully concealing from 
the reader just why Godunov banished the sons of Nikita. It is a sure 
enough sign that their integrity could not be proved as indisputably as 
this author would have liked. 

Thus, as soon as he ascended the throne, Boris felt himself unsteady 
on it and strove to find the greatest possible supports, both juridical 
and material, for his power. The rule of Godunov had outlived itself ; 
as regent he had met no serious impediments to his authority, but 
hardly had he become tsar when revolution boiled up under his feet. 
According to the generally accepted view, the boyars prepared this revo- 
lution. But just at this period we should seek in vain for a united 
boyar opposition; had there been one, the affair would scarcely have 
ended with such a strange adventure, risky and most unpleasant for the 
boyar order itself, as the appearance on the throne of Moscow of the 
Pseudo-Dmitry, brought to Moscow by pomeshchiks from the Ukraine 
[frontier] in alliance with robber cossacks and Polish adventurers. In 
examining Boris ' policy, we readily see that the rift between him and the 
dominant elements went much deeper than is usually supposed. If his 
policy down to 1598, the policy of Godunov the regent, was still a class 
policy in favour of the noble class (though not so much because of his 
close connexion with that class as because all the other classes were at 
the time opposed to him), the policy of Tsar Boris begins to assume a 


quite original character, as new and unexpected as the electoral prin- 
ciple advanced by Boris was new in the field of public law. 

With the exception of the pamphlet circulated by Tsar Vasily, all 
authors, whether sympathising with Boris (they are very few) or sym- 
pathising with his opponents (they are the majority), testify with one 
voice to the extraordinary solicitude, unprecedented in Russia, of this 
sovereign for the masses of the population. The partisan of the house of 
the Romanovs whom we have just mentioned asserts without any reser- 
vations that Tsar Boris "thought much of the poor and the lowly and 
there was great mercy from him to such" and that he "was fond of 
building for the sake of such people." The clerk Ivan Timofeyev 
greatly disliked the "crafty and insidious lover of power"; yet when he 
comes to this aspect of Boris' rule, this bilious official, who had care- 
fully collected the most odoriferous scandals about the brother-in-law 
of Tsar Fedor, pens something like a panegyric to Godunov, nor is it 
written without feeling, as though the author were delighted with this 
bright isle in the midst of the sea of filth he himself had collected in the 
pages of his Annals. The most objective of all the historians near in 
time to Boris, the author of the articles on the Troubles in the Chronog- 
raphy of 1617, has on his palette hardly anything but bright colours for 
Godunov: "made liberal gifts to all . . . many were fed to repletion 
from his generous hands . . . blooming like a date-tree with foliage of 
good works." If we pass from these general estimates to individual 
concrete points of Godunov 's policy, we find one on which a whole series 
of writers, both Russian and foreign, agree: Boris sternly prosecuted 
extortions and venality. "None of the judges or officials dares take any 
gifts from suitors," wrote the French adventurer, Margeret, who had 
been in Godunov 's service: "for if a judge is accused either by his own 
servants, or by the givers (who rarely report, concealing it in the hope 
of winning the case), or by other people, the man detected in extortion 
loses all his property and, having returned the gifts, is subjected to 
distraint, for payment of a fine set by the tsar, of 500, 1,000, or 2,000 
rubles, according to his rank. But a guilty clerk, not too beloved by the 
sovereign, is punished with the knout, i.e., flogged with the lash and not 
with rods, and around his neck is tied the purse of silver, the fur, pearls, 
even the salt fish or other object taken as a present ; then they send the 
man punished into exile, with a warning to cease illegality for the 
future." "Despite all this, extortions are not exterminated," Margeret 
melancholically adds, again agreeing with the Russian author who in- 
forms us that though Boris strove very zealously to root out such ' ' unde- 
sirable business" as administrative abuses, "yet it was not possible at 
all." "We shall not fall to wondering at this; in practice, all police 
states have broken their necks over the insoluble task of combining 


"justice" with complete absence of rights on the part of their subjects. 
Peter the Great met with no better luck on this road than did Godunov ; 
but for the end of the sixteenth century the very ideal of a well-ordered 
police state was a forward step. 

Our knowledge of Boris ' social and fiscal policy is too fragmentary to 
permit us to form a comprehensive judgment of his projects in this field. 
Foreigners ascribe to him a very bold design, grandiose for its time, 
namely, legislative regulation of the obligations of the peasants to the 
landholders. It is reported that he tried to shift the fiscal centre of 
gravity to indirect taxation ; in condemning his ' ' ill-smelling gains, ' ' his 
opponents give prominence to the increase in the farm of the public- 
houses, "and many other farms there were beyond measure." This 
remark is interesting, among other reasons, because it discloses the class 
relationships existing under Godunov. "We know that there were in 
Muscovite Rus two means of collecting indirect imposts, by farm and 
"on credit," and that the latter, contrary to a widespread opinion, was 
more advantageous for commercial capital. The author whom we have 
just cited displays rare understanding of the economic relationships of 
his time and, judging by another work of his, was very close to the 
townsmen. His disapproval of Godunov 's fiscal policy therefore carries 
much weight; the bourgeoisie was not now on Boris' side, and the 
Moscow townsmen did not "hold their peace in dread" when the 
Godunovs fell ; they were simply completely indifferent to this fact. It 
was not their dynasty. 

And it had long since ceased to be the nobles' dynasty. In regard to 
the pomeshchiks Boris was faced with a problem frankly insoluble. On 
the one hand, the ever continuing crisis demanded ever more and more 
pumping of silver from the treasury chest into the pockets of the mid- 
dling landholder. Boris did his best; on the occasion of his election he 
organised a frankly fictitious campaign against the khan of the Crimea 
and distributed double wages for it. But this kind of thing could not 
be kept up ; the state was living on that same roving peasant whom the 
pomeshchiks were unable to bind to their lands. Boris could not make 
up his mind to rob the town in favour of the nobles, as was to happen 
later, in the seventeenth century; after the events of 1587, at least, the 
benevolent neutrality of the bourgeoisie seemed indispensable. The only 
other course was to sacrifice temporarily the class interests of the nobles 
and to check the peasant dispersion by creating for the peasants toler- 
able conditions of existence in the central provinces. By actively colon- 
ising the frontiers at the same time, Godunov 's government might hope 
to emerge from the crisis in a few years. Meanwhile the hunger of the 
pomeshchiks was satisfied by confiscations of the estates of Boris' op- 
ponents, by "stealing the homes and villages of the boyars and mag- 


nates"; in this particular Boris could not and probably did not wish 
to depart from the course bequeathed by the oprichnina. The red 
thread which runs through the whole second half of the sixteenth 
century may be traced through the reign of Godunov also ; hence, upon 
a general survey, from a bird's-eye view, as it were, it appears to us, as 
it appeared to contemporaries, to be a continuation of the reign of Ivan 
the Terrible. But Boris' significance did not lie in the fact that he 
was an oprichnik. For him confiscations were not a universal means 
of unravelling tangled agrarian relationships ; under the existing cir- 
cumstances they were only a continuation of the destruction of the old 
votchinas. But one fine day there would be nothing more to destroy, 
and catastrophe would be inevitable ; how long it could be warded off 
was the only question. Was not Boris too late with his policy of im- 
proving the condition of peasant economy? History alone could 
answer. Its answer was not in favour of Godunov. 

The agrarian question was brought to a head by the famine of 1602- 
1604, itself the combined result of speculation in grain by the nobles, 
of the depopulation of the provinces nearest the capital, and of acci- 
dental atmospheric causes which destroyed the grain. For the pomesh- 
chiks the immediate effect of the famine was appallingly advantageous; 
parallel with an enormous rise in grain prices (eighty-fold, if we are to 
believe the chronographer) there was an extraordinary decline in the 
price of working hands; men went into bondage gratuitously, for bread 
alone. These cheap bondsmen their masters did not even deign to feed 
the year round; keeping them until field labours were over, they then 
drove them out to the four winds, with complete confidence that the 
spring would find abundant workers still cheaper. The relations be- 
tween lord and peasant were already such as to remind us of the 
eighteenth century, the classic era of serfdom, even to the bondage 
harems. Subsequently the famine was bound to aggravate and actually 
did aggravate the crisis, creating an enormous "reserve army" of 
roaming folk, ready material for an anti-noble movement, and driving 
out in all directions the last "old-dwellers." But no one thought of 
the morrow. Godunov 's government made an attempt to feed the starv- 
ing, but the undertaking proved too much for the technical resources 
of the administration; the sums disbursed by the government sufficed 
for about one-third of what a man needed at the established grain prices. 
Besides, famine relief was concentrated in the cities; there the needy 
congregated in masses, prices were further inflated, and the famine 
situation became still more aggravated. Boris was powerless to relieve 
the people 's need, but in the effort he completely lost the sympathies of 
the pomeshchiks. Any insignificant occasion would have been sufficient 
to make the social isolation of Godunov 's regime, long a possibility, a 


fact evident to all. The occasion soon presented itself nor was it an 
insignificant one; from Poland, the long-expected Dmitry appeared, at 

2. The Rebellion of the Nobles 

"Who was the first False Dmitry?" was once considered an im- 
portant question in Russian history. That historians no longer give 
attention to it is a manifest proof that this science has attained greater 
maturity. "For our purpose there is not the slightest need to pause 
over the question of the first pretender's identity," writes Professor 
Platonov, one of the latest historians of the Troubles. "Whomsoever 
we consider him to have been, whether the real tsarevich, or Gregory 
Otrepyev, or any third person, our view of the character of the popular 
movement raised in his favour cannot be changed ; this movement is 
perfectly clear in and of itself." Let us add only the comment that 
this author continues to call Dmitry "pretender," even though Solov- 
yev two generations earlier had demonstrated quite conclusively that he 
did not of himself assume the role of tsarevich, but that others created 
the role for him, others called him Dmitry, and he believed it just as 
afterwards the masses of the people believed it ; therefore the term 
"Alleged Dmitry," coined by Kostomarov, is so much more apt that 
we shall employ it. With this reservation, the opinion of the modern 
historian of the Troubles may be accepted as definitive, and the question, 
"Who was Dmitry?" may be replaced by the question, "Who put 
Dmitry forward?" 

The earliest version of the answer to this question is to be found in 
that same pamphlet of Shuisky's in which Godunov, for the first time 
in Russian letters, figures as the murderer of the real son of Ivan the 
Terrible. This coincidence is in itself sufficient comment on the value 
of the version, but this has not prevented it from becoming the domi- 
nant one in our historical literature and from finding its way into all 
the textbooks. To make it more plausible, this story was worked into 
the fabric of the testimony of "a credible witness," the "delation" of 
a certain monk Varlaam, supposed to have fled over the border together 
with "Grishka Otrepyev" and to have long accompanied him in his wan- 
derings. Undoubtedly he was one of Godunov 's spies, sent to watch Dmi- 
try as soon as rumours about him had reached Moscow. For his zeal in 
this direction he fell into a Polish prison, but he had already succeeded 
in collecting a good deal of information about the future pretender's 
Polish connexions; thus his story gives facts and details that, it seems, 
have misled modern scholars. In working over this "police spy's 
report" the editor of the pamphlet did not eliminate all that he might 
have; for example, he preserved a reference to the "privity" of the 


Slmiskys, a fact important and useful for Godunov's government, which 
had ordered the monk Varlaam on reconnaissance, but superfluous, of 
course, for the Shuiskys themselves. Aside from a certain carelessness 
in finish (a carelessness easily understood since the pamphlet was in- 
tended to produce a general impression, and on a wide public which 
would not delve into such trifles), the Shuiskys' pamphleteer was able to 
give the "delation" a bias in perfect harmony with the general tone of 
the work in which it was inserted. Here Dmitry figures as really a 
"pretender"; the idea of declaring himself tsarevich is his personal 
idea, the product of his personal moral perversity and of the "violent 
heresy" into which he had fallen. His chief support and first guides 
are Polish pans [magnates], whose purpose is clear — to destroy the 
Muscovite state and to introduce into it the "Jesuitical faith." The 
"delation of the monk Varlaam" thus augmented the list of documents 
intended to justify Shuisky's coup d'etat of May 17, 1606. The 
original text of the report of Godunov's spy, let us repeat, presented a 
different picture: it made evident Dmitry's long-standing Muscovite 
connexions ; it made evident the absolutely exceptional position that 
this boy-monk (Dmitry was given the tonsure at the age of 14) occu- 
pied in the household of the patriarch of Moscow, who took him with 
him even into the sovereign 's duma. But even if we restore the genuine 
"delation," removing the bias imparted to it by the pamphleteer (which 
is not so easy, for we do not know just what cuts he made), we still do 
not, of course, get an accurate and truthful story of the first steps of 
the future tsar of Moscow. It is therefore interesting to turn to another 
Russian version of the affair; this is a much later one, nor is it free 
from official interpretation, but it gives the story that was circulated 
widely in Muscovite society ; this does not, of course, guarantee accuracy 
in details, but it does remove the one definite bias. In this version the 
monk Varlaam is absent altogether ; absent also are the adventures sup- 
posed to have attended the joint journey of Varlaam and the "tsare- 
vich" from Russia; and there is no "Polish intrigue." Everything is 
presented much more simply and plausibly. Dmitry turns to the circle 
most likely to interest itself in his fate, to the Russian population living 
under Lithuanian rule, which in those days included many outright 
Muscovite emigres. Varlaam 's report, in a totally different connexion, 
names quite a few of the latter, connecting them in strange and unex- 
pected fashion with the ' ' loutish townsmen of Kiev. ' ' This scrap of the 
original "delation," accidentally left in by the Shuiskys' pamphleteer, 
is fully explained in the later version; among the population of "the 
mother of Russian towns," among both natives and newcomers from 
the confines of Muscovy, the cause of the Tsarevich Dmitry found its 
first proselytes. Soon Kiev becomes a centre whither flows all outlaw 


Rus ; Dmitry is visited by agents from the Zaporozhian cossack brother- 
hood and by a deputation from the eossacks of the Don; finally, but 
only when he already has a following, the Polish government begins 
to take an interest in him. The Poles were not so naive as to be taken 
in by a high-sounding name ; but when they sensed real strength behind 
the bearer of this name, this strength entered into the calculations of 
Polish diplomacy. Likewise it was no accident that Dmitry's party 
was formed on the Russian-Lithuanian border ; we have direct evidence 
that this region had long been the scene of agitation in his favour, 
that rumours of a tsarevich had been circulating here since 1601. Delv- 
ing into Dmitry's Muscovite past, so far as it is accessible, scholars 
invariably find that every agitation originates with the Romanov family, 
the Muscovite family second only to the Godunovs, connected with 
them by a certain "vow of testamentary union," but ultimately ruined 
by Tsar Boris. No one now considers the accusation and banishment of 
the Romanovs to have been utterly unwarranted; there can apparently 
be no doubt that a serious conspiracy lay at the root of the matter. 
And some modern historians are inclined to link this conspiracy with 
the appearance of the Tsarevich Dmitry. Evidently, Godunov's police 
did not succeed in arresting (or did not bother to arrest) all the par- 
ticipants in the affair; some, perhaps considered unimportant and 
secondary, remained at large. Tsar Boris was content to punish the 
most influential and popular of the conspirators, calculating, as an 
administration often does in like cases, on terrorising the rest. And, as 
almost always happens, the calculation went astray. The revolutionary 
elements were so numerous and multiplied so rapidly that the remnants 
of the conspiracy easily fused into a new organisation, which Godunov 
did not succeed in arresting. When its subterranean activities came out 
into the open, military measures had to replace police measures. But 
this put the odds in favour of the revolution. 

The movement against Godunov immediately assumed the character 
of a military rebellion, a fact not to be lost sight of for a minute in 
appraising its successes. The Romanov pamphleteer, whom we have cited 
more than once, is far more intelligent and perspicacious than the ' ' mer- 
cenary pen ' ' of the Shuiskys ; he gives a very clear and able description 
of the social elements that the Alleged Dmitry, advancing on Moscow 
from Kiev, was most likely to meet. The Russian ukraines [southern 
frontier provinces], through which he must pass, were the military 
boundary of the Muscovite realm; here it was not unusual to see one- 
half of the population reaping or mowing, the other half under arms, 
guarding the farmer from a sudden raid by the Tatars of the Crimea, an 
event hardly more uncommon in these areas than is a good thunder- 
storm in summer or a good snowstorm in winter. Pomeshchiks from 



central Russia regarded appointment to these posts as exile and came 
hither with extreme reluctance. In order to colonise these areas the 
government had to resort to the services of real exiles; as early as the 
reign of Ivan IV it had become the custom to commute punishments for 
crime, even capital punishment, into exile to these frontier provinces. 
Here they strove to utilise every newcomer, especially as a military 
element; a man sent from Moscow under arrest was immediately taken 
into the sovereign's service, received an arquebus or a horse, and became 
a strelets or a cossack. Under Godunov political exiles were added to 
this criminal element; they began to send to the Ukraine "unreliable" 
men not dangerous enough to be executed and not famous enough to 
merit confinement in a monastery. This political contingent increased 
with extraordinary rapidity; the ruin of boyar families, first of the 
Mstislavskys and Shuiskys, later of the Romanovs, Belsky, and others, 
sent to the Ukraine wave after wave of fresh involuntary colonists. All 
who were in any way connected with the fallen families, their whole 
"clientele," fell into the category of " unreliables, " especially their 
"courts," i.e., their military retainers. The author we have mentioned 
fixes the number of such exiles (of course, purely offhand, with no pre- 
tension to statistical accuracy) at twenty thousand souls. In any case, 
a whole army might be mustered from them alone, all the more so since, 
of course, they remained armed. Those who were taken directly into 
the sovereign's service represented the most untrustworthy of Boris' 
subjects; those who did not happen to be taken into the service joined 
that mass of men swaying from side to side of the border, who served 
the Moscow government when they found it advantageous and instantly 
converted themselves into "foreigners" as soon as this advantage van- 
ished. The term "cossackdom" is usually applied by historians to this 
very mass, which was, however, not by any means amorphous or abso- 
lutely unorganised; military organisation is just what it did have and 
its elected atamans were able to maintain discipline over their fol- 
lowers as well as could any Muscovite general. This, too, was a ready 
military force, not a whit inferior to the forcibly recruited garrisons of 
the Ukraine fortresses. To draw a line of demarcation between these 
men and others in these areas would be an impossible task ; yesterday 's 
"free" cossack to-day becomes a cossack in the sovereign's service, 
and to-morrow is "free" again. Just as difficult would it be to make 
a social distinction between these petty military servitors, who fre- 
quently secured small pomestyes, and genuine pomeshchiks, who in 
these areas never held large pomestyes. Among the cossacks there were, 
of course, wholly democratic elements, fugitive bondsmen, but their in- 
fluence should not be exaggerated as is sometimes done. It was not they 
who worked out the ideology of the mass of cossacks. When this mass 


became a political force, it did not raise the slogan of freedom for the 
serfs, hut a demand for estates, which would, of course, be worked by 
these serfs. The cossack was, as a rule, a petty pomeshchik in embryo, 
while the petty pomeshchik, of course, had no higher dream than to be- 
come a great one. Hence the cossacks and the mass of military servitors, 
Peresvetov's "needy warriors," understood one another so well and in 
the political outbreaks of the Troubles so often made common cause. 
Both the First and the Second Dmitrys were simultaneously the tsars of 
the cossacks and of the nobles. And it was only when it had defi- 
nitely become clear that there were not enough estates for all, and that 
the new military servitors who had come with the "tsareviches" could 
become landholders only at the expense of the old ones, that the "nobles 
and knights ' ' finally began to offer serious resistance to the ' ' cossacks. ' ' 
When these rivals had again been crowded back to the Ukraine, there 
arose anew that unstable equilibrium from which the Troubles had 
begun — and which was to become more stable only in proportion as the 
nobility consolidated its grip on Russia. 

The appearance of the cossack armaments under Dmitry's banners 
was, therefore, the beginning of the rebellion of the nobles, and it was 
no accident that from the very first the pretender made promises "to 
give the military orders landed estates and to heap riches upon them." 
The decline of Boris' popularity among the nobles, then, was evidently 
no secret to the Russian emigres in Lithuania ; on the contrary, this was 
the very thing they had been speculating on when they revived the 
Romanov conspiracy. Had Tsar Boris been on the same terms with 
the pomeshchiks as in the year of his accession, it would have been 
ridiculous folly to raise a revolt against him. But now Godunov's army 
had to be driven into the field, and it was ready to take advantage of 
any convenient opportunity to decline battle. If the campaign of the 
alleged tsarevich was not wholly a triumphal procession, the explanation 
lies, on the one hand, in the mistakes of the immediate leaders, on the 
other, in the fact that Boris' military forces were not made up of his 
vassals alone. The Muscovite emigres were not free from infatuation 
with the West (Dmitry's own Catholic sympathies are only one aspect 
of this phenomenon) ; they rated too low the military qualities of the 
force that rallied to them unsolicited, the military servitors of the bor- 
der and the cossacks, and expected too much of the Polish detachments 
they had hired. As a matter of fact the latter cut no great figure, 
whereas the former saved the cause ; surrender without a battle, 
in the course of the first weeks of the campaign, of a whole series of 
Ukrainian fortresses — Chernigov, Putivl, Rylsk, Sevsk, Kursk, Belgorod, 
Tsarev-Borisov — put in the hands of the "tsarevich" a number of 
bases from which Boris' generals could not dislodge him even in what 


were for Dmitry the darkest days of the war. In substance, the splen- 
did defence of Kromy by the Don ataman Korela decided the campaign ; 
here the Muscovite army was definitely convinced that Godunov was not 
competent to cope with the "pretender," whence it was but a step to 
the conclusion that it was more advantageous to serve the Alleged Dmi- 
try than to serve Tsar Boris. On closer examination of the military 
operations, beginning with the fall of 1604, we see that every time Dmi- 
try meets serious resistance (as under Novgorod-Seversk, for example), 
the field is not held by the feudal army, but by the streltsy of Moscow 
(later the Guard) and foreign mercenaries, the rudiments of a regular 
military force. This fact was soon appreciated by Dmitry himself; 
he made haste to take Boris' landsknechts into his service and strove in 
every way, and with some success, to win the sympathy of the strelets 
army. But for these elements, new to the Muscovite army, the death 
agony of Boris' reign would have been of still shorter duration. 

Yet there was nothing left but the agony. From the moment the 
"tsarevich" appeared in the open, Godunov 's government lost its head 
and knew not what to do. Its military measures were most irresolute 
and stupid ; it did not concentrate its armies where they were needed ; 
it sent smaller armies than were needed ; and it put at their head mar- 
shals manifestly untrustworthy, Mstislavskys and Shuiskys and Golit- 
S3 r ns. At the same time it vigorously strove to prove to all (and espe- 
cially, it seems, to itself) that the "Tsarevich Dmitry" was none other 
than Grishka Otrepyev, as though calling the leader of the anti-Godunov 
revolution by his real name were enough to put an end to the revolution. 
This confusion on the part of their superiors was fully appreciated by 
the lower ranks, and the government army had begun to dis- 
perse even before Boris' death. At the moment of his death (April 13, 
1605) it comprised, aside from the small regular detachments, hardly 
any but the most untrustworthy regiments, the local military servitors 
of the northern Ukraine, who had not yet had time to go over to the 

Under such circumstances there was no difficulty in forming a new 
conspiracy. There is such definite documentary evidence as to the ele- 
ments that composed it as to leave no room for dispute; those who rose 
against Godunov were the middling pomeshchiks, who had been his 
chief support in the days when he was struggling with his rivals for 
power. The cossack movement was now passed on to the upper strata 
of the "warriors." Indeed, the chronicle even gives the names of those 
who were "in council" against Boris and his son; they were knights 
of Ryazan, Tula, Kashira, and Alexin, and foremost among them was 
"Prokopy Lyapunov with his brother and with his counsellors." Other 
sources name the knights of Novgorod as well as the "towns beyond 


the Oka." But the decisive fact, of course, was that the conspiracy 
was joined by the pomeshchiks of the provinces geographically nearest 
to the theatre of war. Half the Muscovite realm was actually in Dmi- 
try's hands. If the other half had stood as resolutely for the reigning 
dynasty, there would have ensued civil war on a grand scale. That 
this was objectively possible the reign of Shuisky was to show. But the 
other half of the Muscovite realm, where land tenure conditioned on 
military service did not prevail, was made up of towns and a "black- 
plough" (unbondaged) peasantry, economically and socially linked to 
the bourgeoisie, and the bourgeoisie was not at all disposed to sacrifice 
itself for the Godunovs. Its relations with Boris had always remained 
a "bad peace," which was, of course, better than a "good quarrel," 
such as that in 1587, but which was very far removed from devoted 
loyalty. The "tsarevich" had good reason to count on the support of 
the townsmen, explaining in his letters that, under Boris, the gosts and 
trading folk had not had freedom in trade and customs, and that a third 
of their chattels had been taken by Godunov's government. In this 
respect both of Boris' policies — both the "noble" one of the first years 
and the "democratic" one of the later years — came to the same thing; 
whatever the tsar's treasury set about, whether gifts to the pomeshchiks 
or "feeding of the hungry," it had to be replenished at the expense of 
commercial capital. To save such a regime the townsmen gave not a 
single mite nor a single warrior. The collision between the noble con- 
spirators headed by Lyapunov, and the detachments still loyal to Boris 
of the army besieging Kromy was the last act of the campaign of 1605. 
The correlation of forces was such, and so great was the confusion of 
the troops still left to the government, that the knights of Ryazan in 
alliance with the cossacks scattered them, almost without resort to arms. 
The Alleged Dmitry, who had continued to "sit it out" in Putivl, 
much to his own surprise received tidings (at the beginning of May, 
1605) that there was no longer any one for him to fight. The boyars 
who nominally were commanding the now vanished armies and adminis- 
tering the country had no other recourse than to acknowledge the pre- 
tender. Their political role at this moment was as piteous as at the 
height of the oprichnina; again the rebellious nobility was the actual 
master of the state, and the boyars, no longer as a class, but simply as 
a throng of classic "courtiers," could utilise the moment merely to 
avenge on Boris' family what they had suffered in their time from the 
"slave tsar," who had raised the base-born above the well-born. 
Vengeance was so sweet that one of the best-born, Prince V. 
V. Golitsyn, did not refuse the function of executioner; under 
his eyes and under his guidance Godunov's widow and son were stran- 
gled. But even here the boyars were merely carrying out the designs of 


others, for the overthrow of the Godunovs was organised by agents of 
the "tsarevich" who had come from the army, and its accomplishment 
was possible only thanks to the neutrality of the Moscow townsmen, who 
not only did not lift a finger in defence of the "lawful government" 
but took an active part in the plunder of Godunov's "chattels," 
remembering how the late tsar had taken "a third of the chattels" from 
the townsmen. 

The similarity between the order of things established at Moscow in 
the summer of 1605 and the oprichnina of Ivan the Terrible was not 
confined to the depressed position of the boyars. Like their fathers just 
forty years before, the pomeshchiks who had brought Dmitry to Moscow 
made extensive use of their victory; such an orgy of land distributions 
and money compensations had not been seen at Moscow for a long time, 
not even, indeed, in the days when Godunov was paying special court 
to the nobility. According to Tsar Dmitry's secretary, Buchinsky, 
the alleged son of Ivan the Terrible distributed in the first six months 
of his short reign seven and a half million rubles (at least a hundred 
million in modern rubles). Part of this money went into the pockets of 
the cossacks and the Polish mercenaries, but by far the greater part 
melted away in the form of wages to the Russian military servitors, 
whose money salaries without exception were exactly doubled: "who 
had 10 rubles pay, to him he bade be given 20 rubles, while whoso had 
a thousand, to him two were given." They evidently distributed all 
it was possible to distribute; the Russian chroniclers well remembered 
that "in this reign of the abominable Unfrocked Monk the abundant 
tsar's treasures of the Muscovite realm, gathered over many years, were 
exhausted." The author cited ascribes this, in the main, to the greed 
of the Polish and Lithuanian men of war; but another contemporary 
historian does not conceal the fact that the bounties of the "Unfrocked 
Monk" were not poured out on foreigners alone. Of the extraordinary 
distributions of land, paralleling the doubled pay, in 1605-1606, such 
a mass of documentary evidence has been preserved that we do not need 
to depend upon the chronicles; what is significant in the latter is the 
identification of "all the towns" (i.e., the knights, the pomeshchiks, 
of all the towns) with "all the land"; as in the days of the oprich- 
nina, the pomeshchiks were "all the land," because all the land was 
held by them. The enormous estates of the Godunovs might at first 
satisfy the new masters' greed for land; but there were in prospect 
measures of a more general character. They had already begun to con- 
fiscate portions of Church land, turning at the same time to the wealth 
of the monasteries to fill the rapidly emptying treasury chests ; this cir- 
cumstance should be constantly borne in mind when we hear of the 
"heresies" of the Alleged Dmitry. And confiscations of boyar estates 


threatened to extend beyond those of the kinsmen of the deposed 
dynasty; the fall of Vasily Shuisky, who in the first days of the new 
dynasty was condemned and banished, whether for an actual conspiracy 
or simply for malicious rumours about the new tsar, was another ominous 
reminder of the oprichnina. 

Tsar Dmitry certainly recalled to men's minds his alleged father, 
and if there was no boyar conspiracy in the first weeks of his reign, 
when Shuisky was banished, one was bound to be formed very soon from 
the sheer instinct of self-preservation. All the more so since the posi- 
tion of the boyars was now less hopeless than it had been forty years 
before. Then they could demand justice from Ivan the Terrible- only 
with the aid of Lithuania, a course imperiling their own orthodoxy; 
now the Orthodox Church itself was quite ready to co-operate with the 
boyars against the "Latinising" tsar. In Ivan's time — and this was 
most important — the military servitors had been supported by the Mos- 
cow townsmen, and the boyars, taken both in front and in rear, had no 
place of retreat ; now the townsmen were very soon convinced that they 
had no more to expect from Dmitry than from Godunov, and ferment 
among the Moscow townsmen became more perceptible from day to day. 
Scattering references in the chronicles and other documents throw some 
light on the spread of this ferment among the various strata of the bour- 
geoisie of Moscow. The small traders, the shopkeepers, and artisans 
were not among the malcontents. The silver that found its way into 
the pockets of the nobles and of the cossacks was quickly converted 
into consumption values, and in the Moscow bazaars trade was brisk. 
Here, then, to the great chagrin of pious writers like our old friend the 
Romanov pamphleteer, very little attention was paid to the "heresies" 
of the "pretender." Here men were not disturbed until on the occa- 
sion of the tsar's marriage the unwonted influx of Poles (counting the 
household, armed and unarmed, there were some 6,000 of them), taken 
together with absurd rumours circulated by conspirators, roused down- 
right fear for their skins ; then the bazaars ceased to sell the newcomers 
powder and lead. Uneasiness must have developed much earlier amongst 
the large capitalists. Among those who had brought the Alleged Dmi- 
try to Moscow had been the most democratic elements of the ' ' warriors, ' ' 
the pettiest pomeshchiks of the Russian South and even those who, like 
the cossacks, were only candidates for that status. Even under Ivan 
the Terrible the p^tty military servitors had been in the clutches of 
money capital, and the Tsar's Sudebnik of 1550 had had to limit their 
right to sell themselves into bondage by restricting its exercise to those 
"whom the tsar released from service." The indenturing of military 
servitors had continued under Godunov; at this period very many 
wealthy men, beginning with the tsar himself, ' ' took to themselves many 


men to serve in bondage," and among these bondsmen were "chosen 
swordbearers, strong with weapons in warfare," and at the same time 
holding "villages and vineyards." The spread of indentured bondage 
was, then, a fact to which the military-serving masses were by no means 
indifferent, and which for the lower ranks was wholly undesirable. A 
decree of Dmitry's boyar duma (January 7, 1606), considerably re- 
stricting indenture by making it purely personal (so that on the death 
of the master the bondsman became free), was therefore in harmony 
with the policy of the new tsar in favour of the nobles, merely remind- 
ing us that he had behind him, not only wealthy pomeshchiks like the 
Lyapunovs, but also petty military servitors. With good reason did 
the pettiest of the petty, the cossacks, now walk the streets of Moscow, 
where in their time more than one of them had experienced bondage, 
with shining faces extolling their "blessed sun," Tsar Dmitry. But 
this turn of the government's policy could not be pleasing to those who 
made a business of money-lending, and the Romanov pamphleteer, who 
was close to upper bourgeois circles, severely condemns both the "rob- 
ber cossacks" and the fickle Muscovites who hearkened to them. 

This new policy manifestly served the interests of the lower strata of 
the military-serving masses rather than of the whole class ; sometimes 
perhaps it was not without prejudice to the interests of the upper 
strata and thereby affected Dmitry's security; the fact that the coup 
against him met with hardly any resistance at Moscow itself was not 
at all unconnected with the fact that the nobility of the vicinity of the 
capital had received fewest of the tsar's favours. The alleged son of 
Ivan the Terrible was not merely the tsar of the nobility but, more 
immediately, the tsar of a very definite group of the nobility, of the 
knights of the Ukraine and from beyond the Oka, as another boyar de- 
cree (February 1, 1606) makes apparent. This decree deprived pomesh- 
chiks of the right of seeking and demanding back those peasants who 
had left them during the years of the famine; "he was not able to feed 
his peasant in the famine years, and now he shall not seize him." But 
Muscovite emigration had been from north to south and from the centre 
to the frontiers ; it was at the expense of the depopulated regions round 
Moscow that the ever multiplying estates of pomeshchiks were growing 
up like mushrooms in the black-soil of the southern steppe where there 
was a shortage of labour. It was not surprising that Dmitry's name was 
so popular in the south, popular long after its bearer had been slain and 
burned, and his ashes scattered to the winds. 

To depose the armed Dmitry seemed far more difficult than to over- 
come the Godunovs deserted by their army. The Alleged Dmitry was 
genuinely tsar of the military men, and his military suite did not for a 
minute forsake him. Through the city he always "went with many mili- 


tary, before and behind him they walked in armour with partisans and 
halberds and many other weapons," so that it was "dreadful for all 
to see the multitude of gleaming weapons"; in these excursions the 
boyars and magnates had no part. And the military men loved Dmi- 
try; when conspiracy penetrated the Strelets Quarter, the streltsy slew 
the traitors with their own hands ; and on the day of the catastrophe they 
were the last to quit the tsar. 

But there was a reverse side to the picture. A military man by na- 
ture, Dmitry could not sit still. The interests of the southern pomesh- 
chiks, who suffered chronically from the Tatars of the Crimea, also 
urged him to a campaign — and in the south; the men of Moscow, terri- 
fied in the past by Tatar raids, said, not without terror and not without 
reproach to the tsar, that Dmitry was "teasing" the khan of the 
Crimea, sending him, it was said, a pigskin coat. In the central and 
northern provinces men did not feel toward a distant campaign in the 
steppe as did men in the south. Meanwhile, such a campaign was daily 
becoming more inevitable; Dmitry was actively mobilising his army 
and organising enormous magazines at Yelets; thither he ordered the 
greater part of the Muscovite artillery, thereby adding to the terror 
of the Muscovites, who felt that the tsar "had emptied Moscow and 
other cities for that fortress." All these fears were played on by con- 
spirators, who systematically circulated rumours that the tsar was "stir- 
ring up the race of the Hagarenes" for no good purpose, and for no good 
purpose was stripping the centre of the realm of its military forces; 
all this was being done to "betray the Christian race" and to facilitate 
the seizure of unarmed Moscow by the Poles. These rumours found 
favourable soil even in the ranks of the military-serving class; a cam- 
paign against the Crimea alienated the sympathies of the northern 
pomeshchiks from the Alleged Dmitry. The knights of Belozersk or 
Novgorod were not at all pleased with the prospect of going a thousand 
versts to fight for the interests of their confreres beyond the Oka. At 
the same time, in moving the troops in the direction of the steppe, it was 
the northern regiments that were gathered around Moscow, while the 
southern ones were waiting for the tsar on the steppe frontier. Three 
thousand Novgorod knights turned out to be the military force of the 
conspiracy, in conjunction with the "courts" of the boyar conspirators 8 
and the townsmen, whom the boyars provided with arms ; these were 
sufficient to cope with Dmitry's German guard and even to make the 
Moscow streltsy waver. In any case, they sufficed for a surprise attack, 
on which the Shuiskys and their companions were counting. 

Their calculations were strengthened by the self-confidence of Dmi- 

s There is information that on this occasion the Shuiskys in particular mustered 
their full strength from their hereditary estates. 


try, who believed that he "held all in his hands, like an egg, and was 
utterly loved by many." This self-confidence had certain objective 
bases; the tsar's calculations were not merely evidence of his light- 
headedness, they were the result of false political courses, a political 
mistake. The history of his accession must have given him a false no- 
tion of the specific gravity of the Muscovite boyars; he had not for- 
gotten their humble and passive role on that occasion or the absence of 
solidarity among them that had been so manifest in the case of Shuisky, 
deserted by every one as soon as the tsar's ban overtook him. To Dmi- 
try it seemed that there was nothing to be feared from the boyars at all ; 
at the same time recollections of his childhood and early youth must 
have given him an equally false notion of the correlation of forces within 
boyar circles. Brought up by the Romanovs, Dmitry had easily become 
accustomed to the idea that they stood at the head of the Muscovite 
aristocracy, and that, with them on his side, there was nothing to be 
feared from the others. With the Romanovs he had striven to remain 
on good terms : Fedor Romanov, banished and given the tonsure by 
Godunov, became the Metropolitan Filaret ; Ivan, the only other surviv- 
ing brother, became a boyar. The indubitable participation of the 
Romanovs in the conspiracy against Dmitry constitutes one of the most 
obscure aspects of this affair. It offers some notion of the hostile temper 
in Moscow itself toward the end of his reign; even those whom Tsar 
Dmitry cherished did not venture to support him. That even in the 
mantle of a metropolitan Fedor Romanov remained a boyar and had no 
reason to feel particular sympathy for the tsar of the nobility, who had 
manifest "Latin" inclinations at that, may also have played a role. 
However that may be, those on whose "love" Dmitry had some reason 
to reckon actually stood in the ranks of his opponents. For this blow 
from behind he was utterly unprepared, and he cannot be blamed for 

The decisive factor was the downright tactlessness of Dmitry's Polish 
partisans, who throughout his brief history brought him far more trouble 
than profit. The mercenaries brought by the Polish guests who gathered 
for the wedding of the tsar and his Polish bride conducted themselves 
very disreputably, and, as we have seen, they were so numerous that 
the rumours of Polish usurpation began to seem justified. In connexion 
with all that had gone before, this brought the Moscow mob to such a 
nervous pitch that the conspirators began to fear a premature outburst. 
It is possible that they had previously intended to make an end of the 
tsar during the campaign; now they had to risk the bolder stroke of 
reaching Dmitry in his own palace. The confidence the Alleged Dmitry 
placed in his intimate servants undoubtedly facilitated matters. It is 
noteworthy that the boyar conspirators, in sounding the tocsin in the 


bazaars, did not venture to move the townsmen against the Kremlin 
but directed them against the Poles ; for the immediate purpose of mur- 
dering the "Unfrocked Monk" they despatched a small detachment, 200 
strong and specially selected, which was readily admitted to the very 
sleeping-quarters of the tsar because it was headed by the foremost 
boyars of Moscow. The chronicles agree in naming Prince Vasily Shui- 
sky, who had recently been allowed by the "Unfrocked Monk" to return 
from exile, and his brother Prince Dmitry; but they were accompanied 
by "many other boyars and magnates." Later we find Mstislavsky, the 
Golitsyns, and Ivan Romanov active on the streets of Moscow. Accord- 
ing to later narratives Vasily Shuisky had a most direct part in the 
murder; in defending him from Tsar Dmitry, "many boyars and no- 
bles" are said to have thrown themselves on the tsar. But the Shuiskys' 
pamphlet, as well as the Romanovs' pamphleteer, alike skim over the 
details of this tragic night ; evidently these recollections brought satis- 
faction neither to the one nor to the other. 

One would think that in going about this business, which must in- 
evitably result in leaving the throne of Moscow vacant, the conspirators 
must beforehand have thought over how this vacancy was to be filled. 
As a matter of fact, however, they had not done so ; for two whole days 
and nights Moscow was without a tsar. In boyar circles they had been 
silent about a candidate, an indication how burning was the question. 
They might quarrel over it, they feared, on the eve of the event and 
thus break up the whole conspiracy. This in itself should dispel the 
idea, so widespread in modern literature, of an "aristocratic camarilla," 
a "boyar cabal." A camarilla would have been able to agree to work 
in harmony, but here we perceive no accord of opinions or actions. If 
any of the conspirators had a definite plan of action, it was Vasily Shui- 
sky alone, and he hastened to make use of his advantage. While the 
rest of the boyars were confusedly talking about the need of "holding 
a council . . . and by common counsel electing a tsar over the Mus- 
covite realm," of the need of sending out letters about a zemsky sobor, 
as had been done in 1598, — talking, evidently, with the sole purpose of 
protracting matters — the Moscow townsmen acclaimed Vasily Shuisky 
tsar. That his accession was a sort of conspiracy within a conspiracy, 
a complete surprise for the majority of the members of the fancied 
"camarilla," is equally attested by Russian and by foreign sources. 
The semi-official chronicle of the Troubles, which we have just cited, 
after relating the boyars' perplexed talk of a zemsky sobor, con- 
tinues: "but certain of the magnates and of the people made haste and 
without common counsel elected a tsar from the magnates — the boyar 
Prince Vasily Shuisky . . . ; not all had a share in his election, either 
in the provinces, or even at Moscow itself. ' ' The author of the Romanov 


pamphlet gives a consonant version: "by certain small men of the tsar's 
palaces Vasily Shnisky was chosen to be tsar ... by none of the mag- 
nates disputed, by the rest of the people not entreated." The latter 
author is undoubtedly biased on this point, for in 1606 the Romanovs 
were rivals of the Shuiskys, as they had been of the Godunovs in 1598 ; 
but his bias is expressed in the fact that he denies the people's participa- 
tion in the election of Shuisky, and not in the fact that he denies the 
boyars' participation. Shuisky "raised himself up without the will of 
all the land" inasmuch as not all the estates and not all the provinces 
of the Muscovite realm had shared in making him tsar. But the "people" 
had been involved, and the meaning of this term is made quite plain by 
a foreigner who witnessed the election. "The crown was offered him," 
Conrad Bussow says, "by the inhabitants of Moscow only, loyal fellow- 
participants in the murder of Dmitry, merchants, bootmakers, pastry- 
cooks, and a few boyars." Shuisky was the townsmen's tsar, as the 
Alleged Dmitry had been the tsar of the nobles. Herein was the nov- 
elty of his position. There had been more than one tsar of the nobles ; 
such had been Ivan the Terrible in the second half of his reign, and 
Godunov in the first half of his. But not once had a representative of 
the bourgeoisie sat on the throne of Moscow; it remained a question 
whether he could keep it when quiet had been restored in Moscow, and 
life had resumed its normal course. 

The "self-enthronement" of Vasily Shuisky for the moment abso- 
lutely stupefied boyar circles, all the more so since, apart from the new 
tsar's relatives, the "few boyars" initiated into the second conspiracy 
apparently meant none but the Romanovs. Filaret [Romanov], it seems, 
was to be patriarch, while Shuisky was to be tsar. Why the agreement 
was not kept, and why Filaret had to go to Tushino for his patriarchate 
are not questions of great historical interest. Whether in consequence 
of the breach between the Shuiskys and the Romanovs or from some 
other cause, the confusion of the boyars soon began to pass off; once 
there was no question of sharing the Cap of Monomakh, the boyars again 
formed the same friendly wall as when they had gone to slay the "Un- 
frocked Monk." Since they had not succeeded in setting up their own 
tsar, they must insure themselves against the other fellow's, and it 
seemed likely that Shuisky, relying on the merchants, would offer less 
resistance than had Dmitry, surrounded by the "warriors." During 
the coronation ceremony, in the church, was enacted a strange scene, at 
first sight utterly unintelligible. The tsar-designate suddenly began to 
talk about wanting to take an oath that he would not take vengeance 
on any one for what he had suffered in Boris' reign, and that in general 
he "would wreak" nothing on any one "without common counsel." 
The boyars and others began to tell him not to do so and not to take oath 


on it: "for never had such been done, and he should do nothing new." 
But Shuisky did not listen and took the oath. 

If we accept the customary view of Shuisky as the boyars' tsar, none 
of this can be understood. The boyars had long wished to limit the 
tsar's power, to protect themselves against tyranny from above; the 
new tsar undertakes to swear he will not be tyrannical, and the boyars 
attempt to dissuade him. But if we read Shuisky 's words attentively, 
we shall understand what a loophole this astute diplomat had left him- 
self. ' ' Common counsel, ' ' both in the general language of that time and 
in the particular narrative of Shuisky 's election in the New Chronicle, 
which we are citing, is a synonym for "zemsky sobor. " The boyars had 
just been appealing to this institution against Shuisky; now he is ap- 
pealing to the sobor against the boyars, declaring that he is prepared 
to limit his authority, but only by "common counsel," not by the boyar 
duma. Thereupon the boyars very naively give themselves away, dis- 
closing that they themselves had not been talking seriously about the 
zemsky sobor, but merely for the sake of delay. But Tsar Vasily him- 
self wished only to frighten the boyars ; in actual fact, of course, it was 
no part of his plan to summon the vassals of the Muscovite realm, the 
majority of whom were undoubtedly on the side of the murdered Dmi- 

In this very first skirmish it was shown that the boyars were the 
stronger; in the official copy of the oath circulated in the provinces the 
tsar promised "not to hand over any man to death, without judging him 
by true judgment with his boyars." Contrary to the opinion of certain 
modern historians, this was a colossal gain for the boyars. Even if 
Shuisky 's oath merely ratified traditional Muscovite usage, it would 
have no less significance than had ratification of mestnichestvo usages 
under Ivan the Terrible. But we have no assurance at all that since the 
time of the oprichnina political trials had been handled in conjunction 
with the boyar duma, "by true judgment"; on the contrary, there is 
every reason to believe that they were dealt with by inquisitional (not 
judicial) methods, on the model set by guba institutions. The boyars 
who had "harassed and chided" the Romanovs at their prosecution 
under Godunov were not judges but prosecutors appointed by Boris. 
Shuisky 's oath restored judicial process where since the time of the 
oprichnina an administrative tribunal had prevailed. 

But the oath went further ; it contained limitation of judicial reprisal. 
Hitherto the latter had been collective ; the ban fell upon the whole fam- 
ily, and all the hereditary estates of the banned family were subjected 
to confiscation. Herein, as we saw, had lain the economic significance 
of oprichnina policy; hereditary lands had passed en masse into the 
hands of the "warriors." Now there was to be an end to these mass 


confiscations: "hereditary estates, and homesteads, and chattels shall not 
be taken from their [the condemneds'] brothers, and wives, and chil- 
dren, be they not with them in thought." This substitution of individ- 
ual for group responsibility is extraordinarily important from the 
sociological viewpoint; but for the present we shall not discuss this 
aspect of the matter. Let us merely note that it lends special emphasis 
to the boyar character of Shuisky's "constitution"; it was only the 
boyars who suffered from confiscation of the hereditary estates of rela- 
tives. The authors of the document felt this themselves, and inasmuch 
as the new government really rested on the support, not of the boyars 
but of the Moscow townsmen, the "boyar" articles of the constitution 
received a no less curious supplement : ' ' likewise in the case of gosts and 
trading folk, though by trial and by inquest it be a capital offense, their 
homesteads and shops and chattels shall not be taken from their wives 
and children, be they not guilty with them in that offence. ..." 

The Russian "charter of liberties" thus protected the interests of the 
boyars on the one hand and the gosts and trading folk on the other. 
The nobility, however, it did not affect, and in the struggle with the rebel- 
lion of the nobles that immediately broke out afresh, executions and 
exile by administrative process were employed at every step. This was 
limitation of the tsar's authority, not in favour of "all the land" but 
in favour of only two classes, which after all had at the moment no posi- 
tive interests in common. They did have a common foe, the middling 
and petty military servitors, who through the medium of the tsar's 
treasury had exploited the trading folk and through the medium of the 
tsar's authority had expropriated the boyars. So long as this common 
foe remained unconquered, they managed in some way to maintain an 
alliance. But when this foe gave way and the allies had to build anew, 
it soon developed that their interests were incompatible. Economic 
kinship proved stronger than a temporary political combination, and 
in the end the two economically new classes, the townsmen and the 
pomeshchiks, made common cause against the representatives of economic 
reaction, the boyars. Shuisky's four-year reign was a sort of mariage de 
convenance between commercial capital and boyar hereditary landhold- 
ing, in which both parties hated and suspected each other but could not 
make up their minds to break off the union until an external impetus 
compelled it. 

The boyars could not break the alliance, if only for the reason that 
without the aid of commercial capital they simply could not rule. The 
murdered Dmitry had prepared a grievous lot for his foes; upon his 
accession the new tsar was confronted with empty treasure chests. ' ' The 
tsar who lacks great treasure and valiant friends is like unto an eagle 
without plumes and without beak or talons ; poverty and straitness have 


come to all the men of war," and the men of war did not follow Tsar 
Vasily. The extraordinary measures to which he was driven in order 
to give even minimum pay to the military servitors who did support 
him showed to what "straitness" he was reduced. The zealot for Ortho- 
doxy, who had just vanquished the "unclean heretic," had to follow in 
the latter 's footsteps; laying hands on the monasteries' treasuries and 
even on the monasteries' sacristies, he melted down the church utensils 
offered up ' ' for the soul ' ' by former tsars. But all this did not suffice, 
and if Shuisky's government held out for four years, it was due only 
to the ' ' trading folk ' ' ; without the aid of the littoral and lowland towns, 
both in men and in money, it would not have survived the first rebellion. 
This rebellion, it may be said, inevitably ensued from Dmitry's mur- 
der. The brief reaction under Boris (after the pretender's first acci- 
dental failure) had cost the frontiersmen who had brought the Alleged 
Dmitry to Moscow so dear that they dared not wait for a reckoning 
from the Muscovites, who had now vanquished the "Unfrocked Monk." 
In the words of a contemporary, the frontiersmen were confident that 
the new tsar was preparing for them the fate that Novgorod had experi- 
enced under Ivan the Terrible. "One may be astonished," writes Pro- 
fessor Platonov, "how quickly and heartily the southern [fortress] 
towns rose against Tsar Vasily Shuisky. As soon as news of the preten- 
der's death reached the [frontier provinces], Putivl, Livny, and Yelets 
immediately fell away from Moscow, and were soon followed by the 
whole Ukraine, as far as Kromy. A little later rose the country beyond 
the Oka around Ryazan. The movement spread eastward from Ryazan 
to the province of the Mordvins. It even crossed the Volga to Vyatka 
and Kama into the Perm region. Remote Astrakhan rose. From the 
other direction, interference took place on the western frontiers of the 
realm, in the districts of Tver, Pskov, and Novgorod. ' ' In October, 1606, 
less than six months after Vasily 's accession, the southern insurgents 
were already under Moscow itself. The author we have just cited quite 
correctly says that "in the Ukraine in 1606 those who rose against 
Shuisky's government were the same men who had earlier been active 
against the Godunovs." But there were new elements also, and here he 
characterises the southern movement of this year as a "revolt of bonds- 
men and peasants against their lords." This is precisely the title of 
the chapter dedicated to the subject in the New Chronicle. The com- 
piler of the latter was, apparently, particularly close to the patriarch's 
court, and the light he gives on the southern revolt is undoubtedly bor- 
rowed from the patriarch's letters of the period; these letters of the 
Patriarch Hermogen have come down to us in the original (or, what for 
our purposes amounts to the same thing, the official) version. In them 
it is actually said that the "knaves" (in Muscovite official language this 


term corresponded to "malefactors" in modern police documents) in 
their "cursed sheets" (proclamations) "bid the boyars' bondsmen slay 
their lords, and promise them their wives and their estates, and they 
bid the despicable and unspeakable knaves to slay the gosts and all the 
trading folk and to plunder their chattels, and they summon their 
knaves to them and want to give them the rank of boyars and voevodas 
and other high officials." But this text makes evident the imprudence 
of the assertion that the "knaves" posited "as the goal of the popular 
movement not only a political but also a social revolution." What kind 
of a social revolution would it be to transfer the estates of Shuisky's 
partisans to those of their bondsmen who had joined the movement? 
The estates would have changed hands, but their internal organisation 
would, of course, have remained intact. This stability of the old order 
is particularly clear in the other promise of the "knaves," namely, to 
make the bondsmen boyars and voevodas and other high officials ; that 
is, the whole Muscovite hierarchy was to be taken over, and when the 
"knaves" had firmly established themselves near Moscow, it was repro- 
duced at Tushino, the "knaves' " capital. 

There is no doubt that we are here dealing with twofold demagogy. 
In the first place, in raising against the boyars the enserfed population 
of the boyars' hereditary estates, the leaders of the rebellion against 
Shuisky did not hesitate to make promises, not expecting that they 
would have to redeem them and trusting that in case of need the armed 
pomeshchiks could easily cope with a peasant revolt if it got beyond 
useful bounds. In the second place, in inciting against the "knaves" the 
urban bourgeoisie and such of the landholders of northern and central 
Russia as were still wavering, the patriarch laid emphasis on just those 
aspects of the "knaves' ' programme that were bound to be particularly 
odious to these classes. The result was a picture of something very like 
social revolution, a picture somewhat premature. The chief fighting 
force of the insurgents' army was again made up of those same nobles 
and knights of Ryazan, headed by the Lyapunovs and the Sumbulovs, 
who had tipped the scales in favour of the Alleged Dmitry in May, 1605. 
When Shuisky succeeded (in November, 1606), by way of what were 
doubtless grievous sacrifices, in winning over this portion of the rebels, 
he was at once able to take the offensive. Along with them, of course, 
we find the cossacks; one of the deserters who followed Lyapunov and 
Sumbulov was the "cossack ataman Istomka Pashkov," who, with a 
retinue of four hundred men, "beat his forehead" into the service of 
Tsar Vasily, evidently calculating that this rather than revolt was the 
easiest way for him and his comrades to become pomeshchiks. Istomka 
Pashkov himself, moreover, was a typical example of that intermediate 
class that wavered constantly between the "free cossack" and the "liege 


knight " ; a " cossack ataman ' ' in the chronicle, in official documents he 
is noted as a military servitor, and not even as one with a very small 
pomestye. The social side of the movement is represented by the for- 
mer bondsman Ivan Bolotnikov, after whom the whole rebellion is fre- 
quently called " Bolotnikov 's revolt." But how little this meant as yet 
is evident from the fact that his former master, Prince Telyatevsky, 
was one of the leaders of the same "knave" army. The social move- 
ment was beginning to rise — but only later was it to reach flood-tide. 

The immediate outcome for Prokopy Lyapunov serves as a good ex- 
ample of the motives behind the movement and of the means Shuisky 
employed to cope with it. After his betrayal of the insurgents' cause 
Lyapunov became a member of the sovereign's duma and together with 
his comrade, Sumbulov, was appointed voevoda at Ryazan ; in other 
words, Shuisky surrendered Ryazan to the nobles' party, which had 
supported the Alleged Dmitry, both before and after his death. Hav- 
ing become masters in their own house, the men of Ryazan agreed to 
suffer Shuisky at Moscow, and henceforth we see them among the loyal 
subjects of Tsar Vasily. Only relatively, as we see, can this be called a 
"victory" for Shuisky, even if we overlook the circumstance that he 
never recovered the lost Ukraine. One more example of the government 
publicism of those days, constituting a good parallel to the pamphlet 
we are already acquainted with, may serve as evidence of his critical 
position in the first year of his reign. That pamphlet, as we shall re- 
member, was issued in the summer of 1606 and confined itself to falsifi- 
cation of natural, mundane events. In the autumn, heavenly forces were 
brought into play; a certain archpriest, Terenty (whose literary talent 
had previously served the Alleged Dmitry, and who later entered the 
service of the Polish King Sigismund), disclosed to the Moscow public 
the visions that had appeared to "a certain cleric," who wished to re- 
main unknown. In the night the holy man, half asleep, half awake, 
found himself in the Moscow Cathedral of the Annunciation, and there 
he saw an awful scene : Christ Himself, in the presence of the Virgin 
Mary, John the Baptist, and all the apostles and saints, who had point 
for point the same appearance as when depicted on icons, was meting 
out justice to Moscow, its tsar, patriarch, and people. The sentence 
was severe, and the people of Moscow, the "new Israel," would for 
their numerous sins have been condemned to perdition but for the inter- 
vention of the Virgin Mary, who prayed the Saviour to give the Mus- 
covites time to repent. At the tsar's command the "vision" was read 
in the cathedral, and there can, of course, be not the slightest doubt 
that the dexterous and pliant pen of the Moscow archpriest was working, 
here as always, in strict conformity with official instructions. Moscow's 
position in these days (mid-October, 1606) was really such that there 


seemed to be no possibility of getting out of it except in a supernatural 
way. "The accursed ones," writes Shuisky's official publicist, "plotted 
to beset the city round about and to close all the roads, that no one 
might go out of the city or into the city, that no one might bring aid 
to the city from anywhere; and thus they did. In the city of Moscow 
on all men was great fear and alarm; from the beginning of the city 
never was there such woe." The "vision," testifying that the Virgin 
Mary herself was protecting the city with her prayers, was bound to 
raise the spirit of the unfortunate Muscovites, who might now in their 
turn expect what the frontiersmen had expected from Moscow on Shui- 
sky's accession. To save themselves from such a calamity it was per- 
missible to seat more than one of the "knave" voevodas in the duma. 

Even after the militia of the southern pomeshchiks and cossacks had 
been dissipated by desertions, and the first army from the north (the 
streltsy from the towns along the northern Dvina) had come to the aid 
of Tsar Vasily, the tsar 's armies were for long unable to crush the rem- 
nants of Bolotnikov's militia. Shuisky's generals were beaten off from 
Kaluga; Tula, where Bolotnikov later established himself, was taken by 
treachery after a long and difficult siege and even then not uncondi- 
tionally; the last soldiers of the "knave" army, having surrendered their 
leaders, took oath to Tsar Vasily. Yesterday's political offenders to-day 
again became military servitors of the tsar and grand prince. It was 
quite evident that at the first pretext things would begin all over again. 
By the time that Tula surrendered, the occasion was already at hand ; 
the capitulation took place on October 10, while since the end of August 
the "miraculously saved" Dmitry had been at Starodub-Seversk with 
a military force far more terrible as such for the bourgeois tsar than 
Bolotnikov's bands had been — with approximately ten thousand regular 
Polish cavalry and infantry, headed by the most experienced and tal- 
ented Polish condottieri, Rozynski and Lisowski. The march to Moscow 
with the first Dmitry had for men of this type served as a reconnais- 
sance. Now they "knew the road" and saw that the Muscovite govern- 
ment was as weak as ever; it would have been strange not to make use 
of this knowledge. In the spring of 1608 the Second Dmitry (whose 
identity has interested absolutely no one, not even in his own time) 
routed the Muscovite armament sent south against him, and in the sum- 
mer of this year Moscow was again in the same position as at the height 
of Bolotnikov's revolt. For the capital to be in a state of siege (external 
not internal) was becoming the normal condition of this reign. 


the troubles (Continued) 

3. The "Better" Men and the "Lesser" Men 

At first sight the last two years of Shuisky's reign (from the summer 
of 1608 to July 15, 1610) seem a repetition of the events of 1605-1607, 
a new outburst, in the old form and under the old slogans, of the same 
civil war. On the stage again appears a Dmitry, juridically identical 
with the one who in the autumn of 1604 had entered the field against 
Godunov. Again he is supported by the cossacks, loyal to the end, and 
by the mass of the petty military servitors, the nobles and knights 
of the provinces. The social soil that nourished " pretenderisni " was 
absolutely independent of local conditions; everywhere and always, 
with the most diverse personal motives and under the most diverse 
pretexts, the petty vassals followed Dmitry. The petty pomeshchiks 
around Moscow joined the men of Tushino, who were besieging the 
Troitsa Monastery, lest their estates be plundered; in Vyatka the com- 
mandant of the town and the streltsy "drank a cup in the tavern to Tsar 
Dmitry" because they did not want the fighting men to be taken from 
their region to Moscow. Even where they were acting as "government 
troops" against the "knaves," the provincial pomeshchiks soon made 
common cause with the latter. The knights of Kostroma and Galich 
arrived under Yaroslavl to fight Lisowski's detachments, then wanted to 
carry off the tsar's artillery for the men of Tushino, and a little later 
we see them with Lisowski's men destroying Kostroma. 

The townsmen, on the other hand, always showed themselves loyal 
servants of Shuisky ; when, toward the spring of 1609, victory seemed 
to be inclining to Tsar Vasily's side, he himself ascribed this gain to 
the men of Vologda, Belozersk, Kostroma, Galich, Vyatka, and "the 
elders and townsmen of divers other towns." They did indeed stand 
up for him "without sparing their chattels"; Ustyug Veliki alone up 
to the spring of 1609 had sent five "hosts" to the aid of the Moscow 
government, i.e., it had raised recruits five times and, failing to recruit 
a sixth "host" only because there were no men left to take, had fallen 
to hiring "free cossack volunteers" for the service of the sovereign. Of 
special importance to Shuisky in those years was Vologda, which tem- 
porarily replaced besieged Moscow as the centre of foreign trade. There 
"all the better men gathered, the gosts of Moscow with valuable wares 



and their treasury, and the tsar's great treasury, sables from Siberia 
and foxes, and all kinds of furs," and in addition, "English Germans"? 
also gathered there with "expensive wares" and with "fine drink" (im- 
ported wines). Even more clearly than in the case of the military servi- 
tors who supported Dmitry, social motives definitely superseded local 
interests ; not only the local people, the men of Vologda and the Moscow 
merchants who had come to Vologda, but also the foreign gosts aided 
Moscow. The English merchantry, too, was on the side of Shuisky. 

Least of all on the side of this "tsar of the boyars" (as the text- 
books have it) were the boyars themselves. By the end of his rule it was 
hardly possible to find among Vasily's partisans, aside from his personal 
relatives and kinsmen, a single representative of the feudal aristocracy.. 
The Romanovs and their circle were the first to leave him, and it was 
they who took the most extreme steps. Ivan Nikitich Romanov, sent 
with an army against the Second Dmitry, became involved in ,a regular 
conspiracy, designed to repeat what had happened under Kromy in May, 
1605. The conspiracy failed, and the Romanovs' nearest relatives were 
banished for it. From exile they soon passed into the camp of Tushino, 
where gradually assembled the whole Romanov clan, headed by its senior 
member, the Metropolitan Filaret. In Tushino Filaret became patri- 
arch, an episode which was afterward deemed so compromising that it 
was not mentioned in his official biography; but contemporaries refer 
to it so frequently and with such unanimity that there can be no doubt 
about the fact itself, even though loyal and pious men, from perfectly 
intelligible motives, have striven to explain it in a light favourable to 
Filaret Nikitich. The Golitsyns, next in rank to the Romanovs and the 
Shuiskys, followed a different course, but they, too, were numbered 
among the open ill-wishers of Tsar Vasily; their most eminent repre- 
sentative, Prince V. V. Golitsyn, later headed the rebellion that deposed 
the Shuiskys. The lesser "princelings," without presuming, like the 
Golitsyns, to essay an independent political role, did not eschew the 
"knave's" court since the Romanovs by their presence there had given 
it a certain respectability. A Prince Shakhovskoi was ' ' servant ' ' to the 
"knave," a Prince Zvenigorodsky was steward; the Princes Trubetskoi, 
Zasekin, and Baryatinsky sat as boyars in his duma. A Polish spy's 
report from Moscow at the end of Shuisky 's reign said that only a few 
clerks ' ' act uprightly ' ' toward the tsar, and hardly any of the boyars. 

"With a duma so constituted, and with a Romanov as patriarch, 
Tushino seemingly differed but little from the capital of the First Dmi- 
try. Nevertheless, on closer examination of the army that followed the 
second "pretender," we perceive marked differences from that host of 
nobles which, in 1605, had brought the First Dmitry to Moscow. The 
first of these differences, and the earliest to strike both contemporaries 


and later historians, consists in the predominant role the Poles played 
at Tushino. The Romanov pamphleteer, apparently writing at the end 
of 1609, while Shuisky was still tsar (that is, before Sigismund's 
attempt to seize the throne of Moscow, and therefore before the struggle 
assumed a nationalist complexion), none the less discusses this fact at 
length and with great pathos. In his words, the Poles, though in the 
minority, dealt with the Russian "traitors" as with their own subjects 
and, sending them first into battle, took the best part of the booty for 
themselves. "We must not, we repeat, see a nationalistic tendency in 
this; there was as yet no room for that. Our author's characterisation 
of the Poles is in general rather sympathetic; in contrast to the Rus- 
sians of Tushino they are depicted as men not devoid of a certain 
chivalry : for example, they did not kill their prisoners and did not 
permit their Russian comrades to kill them when they acted together in 
battle; whereas, when acting alone, the Russian "knaves" committed 
the greatest excesses. 

And yet, in the description of these "knaves" is revealed another, 
and much more curious, feature of the Tushino movement; it presents 
a social physiognomy other than what we should expect from a rebellion 
of military servitors against a boyar who had been made tsar by the 
bourgeoisie. The Tushino detachments are particularly fond of ruining 
the wealthy and taking away their possessions. "Where the possessions 
were too numerous to be carried off, they destroyed them, chopped them 
up, threw them into the water; "they smashed all the entrances and 
barriers, so that no one might dwell there." Here we have a picture 
strikingly similar to the familiar scene of the destruction of a landlord's 
mansion in Russia of the early twentieth century. "When the author 
passes to acts of personal violence, we find "many bondsmen abusing 
their lords" and slaying them. We shall not torment the reader with a 
description of the furies of servile vengeance, but noteworthy in the 
highest degree is the author's admission that there were grounds for 
vengeance, that the lords had deserved the ferocious hatred of their 
slaves. The picture of how the wealthy "live by filthy usury" and 
take trouble with the taverns "in order to tempt all the world," and 
with the money acquired by extortions and depredations "found 
churches of God," and hear not the voices of the poor, "bid them be 
beaten on the face and on the breast, and with rods, which are wickeder 
than wicked, they break their bones, and to fetters and to dungeons . . . 
they condemn them" — this is one of the most vivid pictures, not only 
in this pamphlet but in all the literature of the Troubles. But if the 
excesses of Tushino could be explained only by bringing to mind all 
the social evil that had accumulated in Muscovite Rus by the beginning 
of the seventeenth century, it is evident that our author was not con- 


cerned with the mere rancour, "more malignant than devils," of the 
Russians who had taken the part of the "tsarlet" of Tushino. The 
rebellion of the lower social classes against the higher, which it would 
have been premature to trace in the cossack movements or in Bolotni- 
kov's revolt, now really begins to manifest itself under the protection 
of the Tushino detachments. 

Here the national composition of the latter was not irrelevant; 
pomeshchiks in revolt still remained pomeshchiks, and as regards peasant 
flights and peasant bondage Shuisky's foe was at one with Shuisky's 
partisan. Gathering under Moscow with the cossacks at the most critical 
moment — the summer of 1611 — the knights do not for a minute forget 
that fugitive peasants and bondsmen must be "given back on inquest to 
the old pomeshchiks. ' ' Had the army of Tushino been composed only of 
Russian landlords, the Romanov pamphleteer would have had no oc- 
casion to describe the scenes we have presented above. The Polish 
mercenary detachments were in a different position; though nobles 
themselves, they were not bound by community of interests with the 
local pomeshchiks since they did not intend to remain in the country. 
The dual difficulty of coping with a social movement indirectly sup- 
ported by foreign detachments who were parasites in the country could 
not but be clear to men observing matters at close range and in such de- 
tail as is no longer possible to us, especially when these men were directly 
interested in the matter. The patriotism of the Russian pomeshchiks, 
which blazed up so brightly in 1611-1612, was not without foundation. 
It was, like all patriotism, a special form of class self-preservation. 

We shall presently see what special causes after the fall of Shuisky 
intensified this feeling and compelled the pomeshchiks to forget all their 
differences and to move in serried ranks against the foreigners who had 
taken root in the country. But we shall likewise see that this movement, 
which was purely the affair of the nobles, was predestined to failure, 
whereas the pomeshchik rising of 1612, which relied on commercial capi- 
tal, was to triumph. What interest did capital have in the struggle 
against the Polish-Tushino army ? Thus far we have accepted as a fact 
that the townsmen were on Shuisky's side; but this requires more ex- 
planation than the mere fact that the bourgeoisie of Moscow had seated 
Tsar Vasily on the throne. Long before 1610 the bourgeoisie had evi- 
dence enough that its chosen sovereign was "unlucky," and that on 
his account "Christian blood flows ceaselessly." 

It is time to analyse this concept of "bourgeoisie," which we have 
hitherto employed as self-explanatory. Fortunately our sources supply 
sufficient material for the purpose. In standing for Tsar Vasily and 
later against Tsar Vladislav, the towns, frequently cut off from their 
organisational centre at Moscow, were bound to elaborate their own 


organisation, and to this end they maintained active relations among 
themselves. A number of documents relating to their correspondence 
with each other are extant; the earliest are the "answers" of the men 
of Ustyug to the men of Solvychegodsk at the end of November, 1608. 
The starting point for the correspondence between Ustyug and Solvy- 
chegodsk was the tidings of the taking of Rostov and Vologda by the 
men of Tushino (temporarily even these great towns had submitted 
to the "knave") ; the men of Ustyug regarded this event as a manifes- 
tation of God's "just wrath upon all the land of Rus" and only trusted 
that the distance was perhaps too great for the wrath of God to reach 
them. But since an agent of Tushino, Nikita Pushkin, had already 
arrived, geographical arguments did not seem particularly consoling 
even to them themselves, and they had to console themselves with the 
hope that it was still uncertain who would win ("it is not to be guessed 
how it will turn out") and encourage themselves with rumours, quite 
absurd even then, that Prince M. V. Skopin-Shuisky had "destroyed 
Tushino." However that might be, the necessity of taking oath to the 
"knave" seemed imminent, a necessity extremely unpleasant in view 
of the consequences that had usually accompanied the event in other 
towns. In Yaroslavl, when "the rabble with Prince Fedor Barya- 
tinsky kissed the cross to the Tsarevich Dmitry," "the better men, 
abandoning their homes, fled away." And here, in Ustyug, we find the 
"better men" at the head of the anti-Tushino movement; Mikhalko, a 
farmer of the liquor monopoly, assumed the role of chief orator at the 
meeting, the decision of which is reported in the first of the "answers." 
And the bourgeoisie of Ustyug appealed to their social compeers in Sol- 
vychegodsk, the "better men of the town and township," recommending 
to them in their turn that they talk it over "with the Stroganovs. " 
The most complete picture of this intra-urban social struggle, which 
presents a perfect parallel to the rural movement described by the 
author of the Romanov pamphlet, is supplied by the chronicler of 
Pskov. Next to Moscow (after the ruin of Novgorod by Ivan IV) 
Pskov was probably the greatest economic centre of Russia at that time. 
Class relationships, as they then existed, were there highly developed, 
and the succession of classes in power therefore stands out in the 
chronicle in peculiarly sharp relief. The antagonism between the "bet- 
ter" men and the "lesser" men was here very soon perceptible, and 
precisely in connection with the recognition or non-recognition of 
Shuisky's government. Even in the days of Bolotnikov's revolt Shuisky 
had asked financial aid of Pskov as well as of other towns. The munici- 
pal government, the gosts, were ready to give the money, not their own, 
of course, but money levied on all Pskov. The "common people" sub- 
mitted to the payment very reluctantly and sent to Moscow their own 


deputies, whom the gosts denounced as seditious ; at Moscow these 
deputies established very close relations with the streltsy from Pskov, 
who were ■ very soon to desert Shuisky. The voevoda of Pskov, the 
boyar Sheremetev, who, like almost all the boyars of the time, was 
hostile to Tsar Vasily, played a double role. Officially he was on the 
side of the ' ' lawful authority, ' ' of the representatives of the commercial 
class, the gosts, who ruled Pskov; sub rosa he was aiding the agents of 
Tushino. But as long as the "lesser" men were unarmed, they did not 
go beyond "seditious speeches." Matters were brought to a head by 
the appearance at Pskov of the streltsy, who had deserted the Moscow 
government, and of Tushino detachments in the environs of the town. 
The petty military servitors, with whom Pskov's subordinate towns 
(the border fortresses) were filled, took oath to Dmitry. In the city 
itself the "people," now mustering courage, "seized the better men and 
the gosts and threw them into the dungeon." This was in August, 
1608. The voevoda who had played a double role followed the gosts to 
prison. The "lesser" men, with the streltsy, were masters of the city. 
But the democracy of Pskov lacked confidence in its complete victory ; 
it seemed to it that even in prison the "better men" were organising 
conspiracies against it, and on the first of September were enacted in 
Pskov scenes vividly recalling the "September massacres" of the great 
French Revolution. When it was rumoured through the city that ' ' Ger- 
mans" were coming from Novgorod, hired, it was said, by Shuisky, a 
crowd of men of Pskov threw themselves "on the municipal authorities 
and on the eminent men of the city and slaughtered those who had 
been put in the dungeon ' ' : some they seated on stakes, others they 
beheaded, still others they subjected to corporal punishment, and they 
confiscated the property of all ; the former voevoda, Sheremetev, was 
strangled in prison. All this chastisement was carried out in the name 
of Tsar Dmitry. But confiscation did not stop with the property of 
those executed ; the democratic leaders appropriated for the city the 
treasure of the bishop and of the monasteries and subjected the gosts 
to just such a compulsory levy in favour of the Tushino government 
as the "common people" had formerly been subjected to in favour of 
Tsar Vasily. 

Nor did the democratic Terror stop with the September massacres. 
A great fire soon occurred in Pskov, during which the Kremlin was 
destroyed by the explosion of a powder cellar. "The men of Pskov, 
the common people and the streltsy, rushed up crying: 'The boyars 
and gosts are burning the city,' and began to drive them into the very 
fire with stones as they ran out of the city; and, gathering in the 
morning, they began to drag along the eminent nobles and gosts, to 
torture and to punish them, and to put them in the dungeon." But 


the petty military servitors soon proved to be poor allies of the petty 
bourgeoisie of the town, a fact which the "aristocrats" of Pskov were 
able to use to excite the common people against the streltsy. The latter 
were driven from the city, and the popular party was deprived of its 
armed force ; as a result, for a short time the city passed again into the 
hands of the gosts. A savage reaction set in; some of the "leaders of 
the assembly" were "given over to execution," others simply "slain." 
But the triumph of the wealthy merchantry was ephemeral. In the 
first place, they too quickly displayed their true political physiognomy 
by proposing to take the oath to Shuisky. Furthermore, those leaders 
of the democracy of Pskov who had escaped execution found support 
in the mass of rustics, the "smerds" of Pskov, whom we have already 
met in the pages of this history. Crowds of peasants appeared on the 
streets of Pskov, and with their co-operation the reactionary govern- 
ment was overthrown. More than two hundred representatives of the 
aristocracy of Pskov, "nobles and gosts," together with "monks and 
priests," were again in prison, and their property confiscated. The 
host sent by Shuisky to the aid of the ' ' whites ' ' of Pskov came too late ; 
the streltsy and the Tushino cossack detachments were in the city once 
more, and the tsar's voevoda, Prince V. Dolgoruky, after besieging the 
city for a time, retired. The men of Pskov, preparing for further war- 
fare, hired Polish detachments ; ' ' Lisowchiks ' ' appeared in Pskov. Never- 
theless, the democracy of Pskov is not on this account to be accused of 
lack of patriotism; Shuisky 's party had summoned the Swedes to its 
aid, though to no avail. First Lisowski, then the "false tsar and knave 
Matyushka" 1 and his cossacks, defended the city until 1613. It was 
only the victory of the "better men" throughout Russia that tipped the 
scales to their side at Pskov, too. The leaders of the popular party 
were again arrested and this time despatched to Moscow, where "order" 
had finally triumphed. 

Within Tushino itself there proved to be a class contradiction, which 
threatened the cause of the Second Dmitry with inevitable ruin. The 
rising initiated by the middling landholders was in fact assuming the 
physiognomy of a "servile revolt." Hence, in contrast to the First 
Dmitry, who in the main had relied on the military-serving masses, 
the Second Dmitry was, toward the end, supported almost exclusively 
by Polish mercenaries and by the cossacks. But the cossacks were 
always ready to take the side of the pomeshchiks, if only they, too, 
were furnished with land and given a share in the ' ' sovereign 's wages. ' ' 
The higher military servitors among the Tushino masses were bound 

i After the First Dmitry the cossacks fell to turning out "tsareviches" by factory 
methods, so to speak; there were tsareviches named "Augustus," Lavrenty, two 
Peters, Fedor, Clementy, Savely, Simeon, Vasily, Yeroshka, Gavrilka, Martynka, etc. 


soon to understand that the Poles represented the chief danger, though 
at the same time they represented the chief fighting force of Tushino. 
The Patriarch Filaret and the other titled men of Tushino, on the one 
hand, and those pomeshchiks and knights who adhered to the Second 
Dmitry, on the other hand, were thus confronted with the question of 
how to render the Poles harmless without losing their aid, which in a 
military sense was invaluable. In such a situation it was quite natural 
to appeal from the "knights" who were the masters in Russia to their 
government in Poland. It is true, there were among the Polish soldiers 
of Tushino not a few emigres, outlaws even from the Polish point of 
view, the celebrated Lisowski, for example. It was, of course, impossible 
to make them obey the Polish authorities, but it was possible to attract 
them to the side of "order" by the hope of legitimation. The others, 
who had not broken their ties with the fatherland, the Polish king 
could simply order to abandon the "bondsmen" and to aid the pomesh- 
chiks. Only one thing was clear: King Sigismund would not interfere 
in Moscow's troubles for nothing; it was necessary to interest him in 
some way, necessary to make the cause of the Russian pomeshchiks his 
cause. Under such circumstances there emerged in the camp of Tushino 
at the beginning of 1609 the candidacy of the king's son Vladislav for 
the throne of Moscow. In becoming the father of the tsar of Moscow, 
Sigismund, of course, would receive the strongest inducement to restore 
order in the Muscovite state. 

The idea of a Polish candidate for the throne of Moscow was by no 
means a new idea. Even in the days of the First Dmitry, before 
Shuisky and the Moscow townsmen carried off the prize, the tsar the 
boyars desired was this very Vladislav; their agent at Cracow had 
been carrying on negotiations along this line, negotiations which were 
interrupted without result by the coup of May 17, 1606. In 1608, when 
Shuisky 's instability on the throne had finally become clear, the question 
bobbed up again, and again the boyars conspired. It is sufficient to 
remember the position of the "ruler" in the Polish-Lithuanian state 
to understand why the sympathies of the boyars turned in this direction. 
Not for nothing were Filaret and his circle the first at Tushino to 
remember the Polish candidate. But in these days the boyars were 
already so weak politically that alone they could not possibly seat their 
own candidate on the throne. Reaction of the mass of the pomeshchiks 
against the Tushino "tsarlet," who, without his will and assent, but in 
virtue of the inexorable course of events, was becoming the tsar of 
bondsmen, lent them unexpected support ; the nobility likewise needed 
a new tsar and had no candidate of their own. The desire, identical in 
both the controlling groups at Tushino (the boyar opposition to Shuisky 
and the provincial nobility), to render the Polish "knights" harmless 


very soon brought about a reconciliation of these two old opponents, 
who, it seemed, now had nothing to divide them. In January, 1610, 
an embassy representing both groups appeared before Sigismund and 
put the question of Vladislav on an absolutely business basis; the 
superior elements of the Tushino army renounced their questionable 
tsar and bound themselves to make every effort to seat the Polish king's 
son on the throne of Moscow. 

The Polish king had at this time a special reason for interfering in 
Muscovite affairs, and in particular for interfering against Shuisky, 
i.e., for Tushino, though of course not for the "knave." The Polish 
regular cavalry in the latter 's service had compelled Tsar Vasily, who 
had, moreover, been deprived of the support of the majority of his 
military servitors, to seek elsewhere an equivalent force to oppose to it. 
There was no one for him to turn to except the Swedes. On February 
28, 1609, a treaty of offensive-defensive alliance between King Charles 
IX and Tsar Vasily was signed in Vyborg; the inevitable consequence 
of this treaty was a war between Moscow and Poland since the latter 
was then at war with Sweden. From the point of view of Shuisky 's 
government this was perfectly reasonable ; the Poles were supporting 
Tushino anyway, war was being waged unofficially, and the royal army 
was little more to be feared than were such partisans as Rozynski and 
Lisowski. And so it turned out; even by the autumn of this year (1609) 
King Sigismund had succeeded in collecting no more than 5,000 foot 
and 12,000 horse, and the latter were inferior to the Tushino bands. 
With these forces the king advanced to Smolensk, which, as a great 
commercial centre (its inhabitants were reckoned at 70,000), of course 
supported Shuisky 's party. Under Smolensk, the siege of which was 
conducted very indolently and unsuccessfully, the envoys of Tushino 
met with Sigismund. 

The treaty they concluded with Sigismund (it was signed, as a private 
agreement, under Smolensk, February 4, 1610, and on August 17 of the 
same year, being accepted by the boyars who were ruling Moscow, it 
became an official document) enjoys high renown in Russian historical 
literature as the first "project of a Russian constitution." Properly 
speaking, the first document comprising a limitation of the tsar's power 
was Shuisky 's oath; but it had included only negative provisions; it had 
defined what the tsar must not do, whereas the treaty of 1610 tried to 
define how the tsar must rule. On closer inspection, however, this 
document does not at all justify its high reputation. First of all, there 
is no "project" here; on the contrary, the authors take every precaution 
to avoid the appearance of proposing anything new. Everything must 
be done "as formerly"; the reservation is specifically made that "the 
former customs and ranks, which were in the realm of Moscow, are not 


to be altered." Under such circumstances the whole treaty appears, not 
a programme for the future but a retrospective survey of Muscovite po- 
litical usage, with a manifest attempt to restore in all inviolability not 
only what had existed before the Troubles but also what had existed 
before the oprichnina. As in the days of the "elected council," it was 
proposed to concentrate all power in the hands of the boyars; the tsar 
must do nothing without consulting them. "And all that," concludes 
the treaty, "shall be done by the sovereign with the advice and consent 
of the boyars and all men of the duma ; without the duma and without 
its consent such business shall not be accomplished." Reproducing the 
substance of Shuisky's oath, the treaty lays special emphasis on the 
participation of the boyars in the administration of justice ("whoever 
is guilty . . . shall be punished for his fault, having first been con- 
demned by the boyars and by the men of the duma . . ."). From 
our point of view, of special importance is the control of the budget by 
the boyars : ' ' the sovereign 's revenues . . . over and above former cus- 
toms, shall not be augmented without consulting the boyars. ' ' But here 
too, of course, there was nothing new; earlier, too, taxation had been 
within the competence of the boyar duma. 

The sole innovation in this treaty, an innovation not very bold but 
very remarkable, is the mention of the zemsky sobor as an indispen- 
sable participant in legislation: "at Moscow and in the provinces 
judicial decisions shall be made and shall be executed according to 
former usage, according to the Sudebnik of the Russian realm ; and if 
there shall be desire to supplement it for the strengthening of the 
courts, the Sovereign shall consult with the duma of boyars and of all 
the land, that all shall be just." Prior to the oprichnina legislative 
power had been exercised by the tsar and the boyars; now they shared 
this power with the nobles, who made up the preponderant majority of 
the "council of all the land." Thus did the treaty of 1610 discount the 
political changes that had taken place during the sixty years since the 
publication of the Tsar's Sudebnik — a hard bargain, if we remember 
that during this interval the nobility had seated two tsars upon the 
throne of Moscow, and now were about to unseat a third, principally 
because the pomeshchiks "do not love" him "and do not want to serve 
him." When the Muscovite boyars wielded the pen, the political usage 
of the Muscovite state made concessions to the "spirit of the times" 
only in the most homeopathic doses. This is particularly clear if we 
take into account that the initiative in the summoning of the zemsky 
sobor remained entirely in the hands of the boyars (the "desire" 
refers only to those who judge, i.e., to the boyars), and that they were 
striving to make the personnel of this omnicompetent college more per- 
manent than it had been made in the fifteen-fifties. "Muscovite prince- 


ling and boyar families shall not be depressed and abased in rank and 
honour by foreign newcomers," said the final text of the treaty. In the 
original edition this promise was mitigated by the addition: "men of 
lesser station" shall be raised in accordance with personal deserts. As 
has often been remarked it is particularly significant that this reserva- 
tion was omitted in the official text; that which had been proclaimed 
by the oprichniks of Ivan the Terrible, namely, that the sovereign 
"like God makes the little great," the Muscovite boyars refused to 
acknowledge even thirty years after Ivan's death. To this juridical 
inviolability of "great stations" corresponded, of course, guarantee of 
their economic basis; Vladislav pledged himself "not to take relatives' 
hereditary estates from any one." On this point the restrictive pro- 
visions of Shuisky's charter were extended to the new sovereign. 

The "boyar rule" for which historians have sought in vain in the 
reign of Tsar Vasily was now to begin; nothing offers such convincing 
proof of the perplexity of the pomeshchik masses when faced by the 
rebellion of their rural inferiors as does the political portion of the 
treaty of 1610. Peresvetov's great-grandsons now agreed to hand over 
all power to the "idle rich," merely to maintain their own social posi- 
tion. This was guaranteed by the treaty on both sides, so to speak, both 
from above and from below. From above the pomeshchik obtained the 
money capital on which his economy existed ; from below he strove to 
attach working hands to this economy. The boyars, on becoming the 
government of Moscow, formally promised in the name of Tsar Vladi- 
slav "to bid that pay be given . . . according to former custom." Thus, 
only the traditional rate of pay was guaranteed, presumably without 
taking into account the decline in the value of money. Alteration of 
the rate was admitted, but the initiative rested with the boyars: "and 
be anything added to any one . . . not according to their desert, or 
. . . diminished without fault . . . about this the sovereign shall con- 
sult with the boyars and with the men of the duma. " The boyars did 
not want the sovereign to make pay a means of increasing his popularity, 
as it had been under Godunov and the Alleged Dmitry. 

With respect to working hands special measures of precaution had to 
be taken; now the landholders of neighbouring Lithuania might be 
drawn into competition. Hence the treaty laid it down: "trading and 
plough peasants shall not go to Lithuania from Rus or from Lithuania 
to Rus. " " Likewise within Rus peasants shall not go away, ' ' and serfs 
shall not be given freedom, added the original text of the unofficial 
agreement. Very curious is this fear of an emancipatory policy on the 
part of the new tsar; the pomeshchiks as it were remembered that 
Godunov had once meditated something of the kind. But again the very 
prohibition of "going away" merely copied Shuisky's legislation; by an 


edict of March 9, 1607, it had been provided: "whatever peasants fifteen 
years ago were recorded in the registers of the year 101 [1593] shall 
remain under whomsoever they were enrolled." At the time, however, 
this measure had been directed primarily against the pomeshchiks of the 
Ukraine, who ' ' did not want to serve ' ' Shuisky ; in the famine years 
they had attracted a mass of peasants whose former masters were now 
authorised to seek them out and take them back. In the treaty this 
reservation, directed especially against those elements of the nobility 
that had been politically hostile to Tsar Vasily, naturally lapsed, and 
there remained only the general rule of his edict: "take not another's." 
If the treaty slighted the interests of the middling landholders, it 
practically ignored the interests of the bourgeoisie; it was deemed un- 
necessary to make any reservations except for free trade with Poland 
and Lithuania on the old basis. And this was but natural ; the position 
of the pomeshchiks was difficult, but the position of the townsmen of 
Moscow, by which men judged the bourgeoisie in general, was frankly 
hopeless. In the course of 1609 the Tushino detachments closed the 
road to Ryazan, and Moscow was without grain; Tsar Vasily 's attempt 
to fix a maximum price for grain led nowhere ; it was merely taken 
advantage of by speculators, and the "rabble," agitated by the "dear- 
ness of bread," expressed itself very definitely in favour of the Tushino 
"tsarlet." So definitely that the Polish government had to reckon 
with these sympathies of the Moscow "rabble"; it would have been 
very glad to remove altogether the now extremely inconvenient figure 
of the Second Dmitry, but it could not bring itself to kill him lest his 
murder raise the mass of the Moscow populace against the Poles. Any 
day the scenes at Pskov might be re-enacted at Moscow, and it was not 
for the "better men" of the capital to be over-fastidious in the choice 
of allies or to impose any conditions on them. 

There is reason to suppose that in concluding the treaty with Sigis- 
mund, the boyars and military servitors thought to get rid of both tsars 
at once — both the one at Moscow, whom the Moscow townsmen were 
now indolently supporting, and the one under Moscow, whom the su- 
perior elements of his host were now renouncing. But they had to put 
up a while longer with both the one and the other. The "knave" suc- 
ceeded in penetrating the designs of his counsellors and fled from 
Tushino (in the early part of January) ; in itself this would not have 
mattered, but all the cossack detachments left with him. If the treaty 
neglected the military servitors and ignored the townsmen, it dealt most 
strangely with the cossacks. Their very existence was made dependent 
on the permission of the "boyars and men of the duma"; the latter 
were to decide whether in future cossacks were "necessary" or not. 
This was, it is true, entirely in accord with the "antiquity and custom" 


which the agreement of February 4 preserved; "according to custom" 
there was no place for the cossacks in the Muscovite social order. But 
here the obsolescence of the boyars' views was promptly punished, and 
in a most painful way. Cheated by the Polish-boyar agreement, the 
cossacks were all the more bound to value the symbol of the tsar's 
authority that remained in their hands, and they resolved to support 
the "knave" with all their strength. Only the Polish detachments 
fell away from him, and from a military point of view he still remained 
a magnitude not to be ignored. Shuisky unexpectedly became a similar 
magnitude. In the latter part of February his deposition was just 
on the point of being effected at Moscow ; the nobles, headed by the ever 
disloyal men of Ryazan and with the active support of Prince V. V. 
Golitsyn, gathered an "assembly" against Tsar Vasily and almost 
seized the Kremlin. But the Moscow townsmen saw no great difference 
between Vasily and these foes of his, and in reply to their summons 
they did not stir. After creating some disturbance, the disappointed 
nobles went off to Tushino. In this affair, according to the chronicle, 
Shuisky displayed great firmness, which was, of course, influenced by 
the neutrality of the Moscow townsmen, but still more by the fact that 
the Treaty of Vyborg had at last begun to bear fruit. Mercenary 
Swedish detachments, under the command of the tsar's nephew, M. V. 
Skopin-Shuisky, had cleared the northern roads to Moscow of the men 
of Tushino and had by this time reached Alexandrovsk. On March 12 
Skopin was already in the city, while a few days earlier Rozynski had 
burned the Tushino camp and retired to the northwest with his Poles, 
drawing closer to the royal troops operating under Smolensk. For the 
first time since the surrender of Bolotnikov at Tula, and after an in- 
terval of two years replete with failures, Tsar Vasily was again victor 
on the field of battle. 

Given the existing state of affairs this could be nothing more than a 
respite. The Swedish army, like every European army of the period, 
was a mercenary one, recruited from adventurers of all countries, who 
served only so long as their wages were paid regularly. But this condi- 
tion was the very one that Shuisky had the most difficulty in meeting. 
The bourgeoisie of the seaboard contributed as long as the Tushino 
danger — and with it the danger of a democratic rebellion — was immi- 
nent. In proportion as Skopin cleared the north, its liberality dimin- 
ished, and by the summer of 1610 Tsar Vasily again resembled a 
"plumeless eagle." In the first battle with King Sigismund's troops, 
under Klushino, June 24, Shuisky 's "Germans," who had not received 
their pay, went over to the enemy without further ado, and Tsar 
Vasily 's war with Poland, and likewise his reign, were at an end. 
Contemporaries of course ascribed this turn of affairs, so unexpected 


after his recent victory, to personal changes, to the fact that the Mus- 
covite army was no longer headed by the popular Skopin 2 but by Tsar 
Vasily's brother Dmitry, whom no one liked. That the ungifted Mus- 
covite commander had to deal with one of the most talented Polish 
generals, the hetman Zolkiewski, could not but be reflected to a certain 
extent in the course of the battle. But once there was no money, no 
ability could have warded off the desertion of the ' ' Germans ' ' ; had the 
Muscovites won this battle, they could not have offered another and 
would only have secured a new respite, measured in weeks not in 

From the strategical point of view there was restored after the battle 
of Klushino the same correlation of forces as before the fall of Tushino. 
Under Moscow stood the Poles, an organised military force ; opposed to 
them stood Shuisky, weaker than ever, deprived of Swedish assistance 
and of the support of all the military servitors inasmuch as Lyapunov 
and the men of Ryazan were now against him. Now the men of 
Moscow could still less afford to delay, for the "knave," too, was in 
the field, and his presence continued to agitate the "common people" 
of Moscow. The Polish troops were the only guarantee of "order," 
if they would but agree to assume that function ; but they agreed only 
under the very definite condition that the Muscovites recognise the 
treaty of February 4. The broadsheets of Hetman Zolkiewski con- 
stantly impressed this on the public of Moscow; the significance these 
broadsheets had in the deposition of Shuisky is evident from the fact 
that their argument (on account of Tsar Vasily "Christian blood flows 
ceaselessly") was reproduced word for word by the official announce- 
ment of Vasily's deposition from the throne. The ruling circles, dread- 
ing an alliance between the Moscow populace and the troops of the 
Second Dmitry, for a time enacted a comedy, officially representing the 
Poles as foes for a week or two even after Shuisky had been "brought 
down" and given the tonsure; let Zolkiewski close in on Moscow and 
confront the population with the dilemma — either fight the Poles (for 
which there were neither means nor forces) or admit them to the city. 
At the same time the election of Vladislav must be properly prepared, 
inasmuch as the Tushino envoys had not officially been vested with 
plenipotentiary powers to treat of the destinies of the throne of Moscow. 
In the light of modern research it can hardly be doubted that Vladis- 
lav's election was to have been staged with as much solemnity as later 
marked the election of Michael Romanov and earlier had marked that 
of Godunov ; they had intended to summon all the ' ' estates ' ' of the 
Muscovite realm and to ratify the deed by the decision of a zemsky 

2 He had died two months before, supposedly "despatched" by Shuisky, but proba- 
bly from typhus, and very opportunely for his military glory. 


sobor, but time did not allow. They had to be content with an assembly 
of representatives of the estates of Moscow only : for that matter, such 
an abridged edition was not unusual in those times and was not ac- 
counted illegal even for the election of a tsar; Peter and Ivan, sons of 
Alexis, were later acknowledged by just such an abridged sobor (1682). 
In these cases the oath of the other towns served as tacit recognition of 
Moscow's decision, and in 1610 this condition was observed: "so in all 
the Russian land," says the chronicler, "they kissed the cross of the 
Lord that they would serve Vladislav, son of Sigismund, in everything." 
The traditional description of the following period as an "interregnum" 
is a pious deceit; in actual fact, from August 17, 1610, Vladislav was 
tsar at Moscow with no less right than his predecessor, Vasily Shuisky, 
had possessed. 

Tsar Vladislav was in even greater degree than certain of his prede- 
cessors a mere symbol of the tsar's power. A minor, he did not come to 
Moscow ; but this circumstance did not prevent the Moscow government 
from acting in his name with hardly any opposition — hardly any, 
because, as might have been expected, difficulties were immediately made 
by the Church. The position of the Church at that moment is especially 
curious to us, who usually think that the men of Moscow were excep- 
tionally devoted to Orthodoxy, and that for them religion was of su- 
preme importance. In actual fact, in the Muscovite state the Church 
was very closely bound up with the fate of other feudal forces. 
Regardless of the antagonism between the large landholders and the 
monasteries, the Church was closest to the boyar order, and the ruin of 
the latter by Ivan the Terrible very perceptibly diminished the inde- 
pendent importance of the Church. The patriarchs of the late sixteenth 
and early seventeenth centuries were political tools in the hands of the 
secular authority and changed with the tsars. Godunov's patriarch, 
Iov, gave way to the Greek Ignatius when the Alleged Dmitry seized 
power; when the latter was slain by Shuisky, Hermogen became pa- 
triarch. The role of Hermogen, a man whom contemporaries call 
shallow and weak, easily subject to others' influence, was under Shuisky 
quite pitiable. The clergy did not love him, on account of his rudeness 
and cruelty to subordinates, while laymen cherished no respect for a 
patriarch who was always the humble servant of Shuisky and was ready 
to cover all Tsar Vasily 's deeds with the authority of the Church. The 
nobles, when they organised an "assembly" against Tsar Vasily in 
Shrovetide, 1610, as Hermogen came out to exhort them, "abused him 
every way"; they kicked him from behind, threw dirt in his face, took 
him by the neck and shoulders and shook him. It was quite natural 
that in drawing up the treaty with Sigismund, Hermogen 's wishes were 
not consulted ; probably they deemed the Church sufficiently represented 


in the person of the Tushino patriarch, Filaret Romanov. But when 
the treaty entered the official stage, the patriarch of Moscow could not 
fail to express himself on it, and he expressed himself adversely. It 
is very probable that Hermogen was on this occasion only a screen for 
a few great boyars of Moscow, like Prince V. V. Golitsyn, who himself 
was not averse to sitting on the tsar 's throne, and for whom, presumably, 
Vladislav was only a melancholy necessity. A pretext for putting a 
spoke in the wheel of the candidacy the Romanovs had initiated was 
immediately found. The tsar of all Orthodox Christendom must, of 
course, be Orthodox, but Vladislav had been born a Catholic and had 
been baptised in the Catholic rite. It is, we repeat, exceptionally note- 
worthy that the Tushino envoys who carried on the negotiations with 
Sigismund had not faltered on account of this circumstance ; Peres- 
vetov's aphorism, "justice transcends faith," politics must go before 
religion, had evidently become a current truth in Muscovite military- 
serving circles of the beginning of the seventeenth century. In the treaty 
they were content with the promise that the new tsar would not "in any- 
thing destroy and dishonour the Christian Orthodox faith of the Greek 
law" and with his pledge to "introduce no other faiths." But whether 
he himself would, openly and solemnly, join the Orthodox Church, for 
which, according to the concepts of the time, a second baptism in the 
Orthodox rite would be indispensable — on this point the text of the 
treaty was silent, while Hetman Zolkiewski, when the question was put 
to him, gave the evasive answer that on this score he had "no instruc- 
tion" from the king. With our notions of Old Russian Orthodoxy it is 
hard to imagine how the Orthodox took oath to a sovereign who him- 
self was not yet Orthodox ; but this undoubtedly took place in 1610, and 
it alone is a sufficient answer to those who would like to make religious 
motives dominate the conduct of the men of those times. The pa- 
triarch's protest did not prevent the election; its only consequence was 
the decision to despatch another solemn embassy to Sigismund with the 
petition that he permit his son to be baptised in the rite of the Ortho- 
dox Church. 

Hetman Zolkiewski, who was not only a good general but a clever 
diplomat, was able to make splendid use of this circumstance in favour 
of Polish policy. On an embassy charged with such important business 
it was, of course, necessary to appoint the most respected men in the 
realm; and so, as "grand envoys" were despatched to Smolensk the 
heads of the most influential boyar families, Filaret Nikitich Romanov, 
converted from patriarch to metropolitan again, and Prince V. V. 
Golitsyn. The latter was invited to organise the embassy, which was 
of course made up of men devoted to him ; thus the only really serious 
rival of Vladislav led his whole party out of Moscow. As for Filaret, 


the hetman himself later acknowledged in his memoirs that they wanted 
to have him "as a sort of pledge," as the father of another possible 
pretender; the candidacy of Filaret's son, Michael Romanov, was even 
then in the air. The trip of these influential men to the Polish camp 
was exceptionally advantageous for Sigismund; from the point of view 
of Russian interests, it was an idle expenditure of time, even apart from 
the fact that the Muscovite realm could expect no great advantages from 
Vladislav's baptism. For in the council of the Polish king it had long 
since (in February) been decided to regard the candidacy of the king's 
son as merely an intermediate stage; once it was accomplished, it was 
time to strive without delay for the final and really serious goal of the 
whole campaign, the union of the Muscovite state and the Polish Re- 
public on the same conditions as those on which forty years before 
Lithuania had been united to Poland. Then all Eastern Europe would 
be converted into one enormous power with Poland at its head and, of 
course, under one sceptre ; Sigismund was to become tsar of Moscow 
just as he was king of Poland and grand prince of Lithuania. In 
despatching the "grand envoys," Zolkiewski had been perfectly well 
aware of this plan ; we may imagine how he laughed in spirit at the 
Muscovites fussing over the Orthodoxy of a Polish boy, who could make 
no difference to Moscow, anyhow. 

The contemporary historiography of the Troubles, especially the 
works that came from the Romanov camp, fearfully exaggerated the 
importance of the "grand embassy." It would almost seem that the 
whole destiny of the Muscovite state depended on the "firmness" of 
the envoys ; what efforts did not Sigismund and his councillors employ 
to shake the "grand envoys" — and all in vain! But one of the mem- 
bers of the embassy, Avraam Palitsyn, the cellarer of Troitsa, despite 
his Orthodoxy and despite his exaggerated loyalty, could not but admit 
that the embassy had done nothing. There had been nothing for it 
to do except to sit in Poland in honourable captivity ; juridically Vladi- 
slav had long since been recognised by the Russians as tsar, and all had 
taken oath to him ; in fact half of his realm was soon in a state of open 
rebellion against the new tsar for reasons that had nothing to do with 
the Orthodox faith. Vladislav's candidacy had been accepted by the 
ruling circles of Russian society under one condition and with one 
hope — that the Polish troops would restore "order" in the Muscovite 
realm by stifling the social revolt, thus making it possible for the 
pomeshchik to receive the tsar's pay punctually and to carry on economy 
on his estate, and for the merchant to trade peacefully as in the days of 
Boris Godunov, whom in his own day they had failed to appreciate. The 
stability of a Polish tsar on the throne of Moscow depended entirely on 
whether this condition was fulfilled. And it was very soon manifest 


not only that Sigismund's government could not satisfy this funda- 
mental demand of the possessing classes of Muscovite society, but also 
that it and its agents at Moscow were a new ferment of decomposition. 
Never yet had anarchy attained such propoitions as in the first months 
of Vladislav's reign; moreover the forms this anarchy took were par- 
ticularly dangerous, as well for the bourgeoisie as for the middling 

First of all, at Moscow they had deceived themselves with the hope 
that Sigismund would have but to give a command, and the Tushino 
"tsarlet," who had exercised such a bad influence on the "common 
people" of Moscow and on the bondsmen, would vanish like smoke. 
Tushino had vanished, yet the Second Dmitry remained. He had estab- 
lished himself in Kaluga with his cossacks, who plundered and deva- 
stated all the more as their hope of becoming pomeshchiks waned. As 
was to be expected, even the disappearance of the "knave" did not put 
an end to this state of affairs. The Second Dmitry was killed, whether 
accidentally or not (for history this has very little importance) ; but 
Marinka, the widow of the First Dmitry, who was officially the wife of 
the Second also, produced a son, and the cossacks began to make every 
one within reach of the "knave's" detachments, take oath to him. 
Patriarch Hermogen vigorously instilled into his flock that " Marinka 's 
son" was "anathematised of the holy synod and of me"; but the pa- 
triarch's words had of course even less influence on the cossacks than 
on the merchants and pomeshchiks. Tushino, materially destroyed, 
threatened to become immortal as a symbol in the Russian land. Nor 
were the Polish partisans troubled by the fact that the Polish king's son 
now nominally occupied the throne of Moscow; the "Lisowchiks" con- 
tinued to plunder just as before, merely transferring the theatre of 
their operations farther from Moscow so as to avoid the unpleasantness 
of meeting their fellow-countrymen on the field of battle. 

What consequences such a state of affairs led to in the field of ex- 
change, for example, can be seen from a single instance : in June, 1611, 
the men of Kazan complained to the men of Perm that they in Kazan 
"took in no money" because "neither from upstream nor from down- 
stream did big salt vessels or any other vessels come from any towns." 
All Volga trade had ceased even in an object of such prime necessity 
as salt, and, of course, a Polish general occupying the Kremlin with a 
small detachment could not succour the distress of the men of the Volga. 
But matters were no better at Moscow itself. Chronic peril of a pro- 
Tushino riot kept Moscow in a chronic state of siege. Some of the 
Kremlin gates were closed ; at the others an armed guard was constantly 
on duty, vigilantly inspecting every one who entered. Polish patrols 
constantly traversed the streets; they even removed some of the police 


barriers lest they impede the operations of the Polish troops in case of 
need. By night all movement was stopped. Moreover, however con- 
scientiously the Polish officers tried to maintain discipline in their 
detachments, the discipline of a mercenary force of those times could 
not be strict. The Polish soldiers took anything they fancied in the 
bazaars, and if they paid, they paid not what the merchant asked but 
what seemed "just" to the soldiers themselves; at the slightest objection 
the sword leapt from the scabbard, thus ending the dispute. The result 
was that two months after the entry of the Poles into Moscow "the 
gosts in the market and the trading folk in the bazaars did not sit 
behind their counters [for fear] of the men of Lithuania"; if we take 
this police report literally, we might suppose that trade had at that 
time ceased altogether in Moscow. In reality the masters probably 
merely bolted their shops as quickly as possible and crept out into God's 
world whenever one of the "knights" was visible in the neighbourhood. 
But it was enough to make them remember with regret the times, not 
of Godunov even, but of Shuisky. 

The worst sufferers from Polish dominance were its initiators, the 
pomeshchiks and the boyars. It is impossible to imagine the bitter dis- 
appointment that the authors of the treaty of 1610 must have experi- 
enced, they who had been so diligent to secure the inviolability of old 
customs. Boyar government did not really last for more than two 
months. At the end of this period the duma, which nominally held 
everything in its hands, was in reality converted into something like 
an advisory council under the Polish commandant of Moscow. The fact 
that the latter, Alexander Gonsevski, himself became a boyar by the 
favour of the new tsar, was, of course, little consolation to the old 
boyars. "To the boyars in the duma thou didst come," these latter 
described his conduct to his face, "only, having come, thou didst sit 
down, and around thee didst seat thy councillors, Michael Saltykov, 
Prince Vasily Masalsky, Fedka Andronov, Ivan Gramatin, and their 
comrades, and it was not for us to hear how thou with thy councillors 
didst speak and speak again: and what thou badest be done on any 
petition, thus they do, and thy councillors sign the petitions. ..." 
High-born men were bound to resent especially the duma role of Fedor 
Andronov, a wealthy gost of Moscow, who had become a noble of the 
duma in Tushino, and under Vladislav was made one of the first men in 
the duma. Even his nearest comrades in military-serving circles could 
not endure the exclusive confidence that King Sigismund reposed in 
this "trading lout." "From Mstislavsky and his comrades and from 
us affairs have been taken away," Michael Saltykov (who had in 1610 
headed the embassy that concluded the Treaty of Smolensk) complained 
to the Polish chancellor Sapieha, "and on such a one the government 


has reposed its faith." Even his confreres, the townsmen, hated An- 
dronov as a renegade to his class, who was serving the tsar of the nobles 
against the tsar of the merchants. And the author of a pamphlet of the 
time, who was of the townsmen's circle or at least was addressing him- 
self to it, finds no words in the Russian tongue to express his contempt 
for Tsar Vladislav's treasurer; he takes refuge in Greek. "For our 
innumerable sins how does not the Lord abase us, and what punishments 
does He not send us, and whom does He not bid to rule over us!" he 
exclaims. "You yourselves see who he is, be he a man and it is unknown 
who : not of the tsars' kin, nor of boyar estate, nor of the chosen heads of 
the host; they say, he is of stinking slaves." And while this "it 
is unknown who" held sway, genealogically senior members of the 
duma, Prince Golitsyn (brother of the "grand envoy") and Prince 
Vorotynsky, were under household arrest as suspects. Such "former 
custom" had not been seen since the days of the oprichnina! 

But the oprichnina had had a definite social basis; it had rested on 
the alliance of the bourgeoisie and the pomeshchiks. We have already 
seen how the former felt toward Tsar Vladislav's government. What 
the Polish regime meant for the latter is well told by members of the 
government itself. "It must be prevented, gracious lord," Fedor 
Andronov wrote to Sapieha, "that they distribute pomestyes without 
sense ; his grace the lord hetman, and Ivan Saltykov likewise, are giving 
writs to pomestyes; while formerly they were given only by him to 
whom the tsar gave orders." Michael Saltykov, in complaining of this 
same Andronov, wrote: "the men of Moscow are extremely afflicted that 
the king's favour and pay have failed, and many men are injured by 
divers oppressions and ruin." He also alluded to the senseless dis- 
tribution of pomestyes and found that there had been no such shuffling 
of land even in the days of the oprichnina: "Tsar Ivan [IV] was a 
born tsar, and he did not so," wrote Saltykov, insinuating that the new 
tsar might well be more cautious than the born tsar. With good reason, 
when the rebelling military servitors assemble under Moscow, do they 
demand, before all else, that distribution of pomestyes be carried out 
according to former custom as had been done "under former Russian, 
born sovereigns, ' ' and that any pomestyes given in the name of the king 
or of the king's son, be taken away just like those which the boyars 
established in Moscow "had divided among themselves." The pomesh- 
chiks petitioned that, over and above a share of land, pay should be 
issued punctually by the treasury ; but in fact it turned out that they 
could not even count the land-grant their own, for it might be taken 
away at any minute by a royal charter issued a thousand versts away. 

By the late fall of 1610 it was quite certain that Tsar Vladislav's 
councillors would soon be overtaken by the fate the Godunovs had ex- 


perienced in 1605, that they would find themselves socially isolated, with 
not a single social class willing to support them. A handful of Polish 
soldiers in Moscow was all they could count on. Shuisky, struggling 
with his first revolts, had been far stronger ; Moscow had supported him, 
and so had all the towns along the Northern Dvina and along the Volga. 
All things considered, Vladislav's government was bound to be far 
shorter-lived than Tsar Vasily's government. But it does not follow 
that its existence had no influence on the course of events in those days. 
On the contrary, negatively it played an enormous role. Threatening 
the interests of all the ruling classes and not even supported by the 
masses of the people, on which Godunov had been fain to rely, it gave 
cause for the reconciliation of those elements which had been at enmity 
throughout the Troubles. Its heterodox and foreign origin created the 
basis for a national-religious ideology, under cover of which an opposi- 
tion movement could be organised as never before. Class self-preser- 
vation became national self-preservation ; herein lies the meaning of the 
events of 1611-1612. 

One of the earliest and most interesting examples of this ideology is 
the proclamation that appeared at Moscow at the end of November or 
the beginning of December, 1610. From a literary point of view it 
stands very high, strongly resembling the work of that publicist, sympa- 
thetic to the Romanovs, of whom Avraam Palitsyn made use in his 
History for the Memory of Future Generations [in Russian], and 
whom we have cited more than once. Indeed, it is quite possible that 
this publicist and the author of our proclamation (to which some one 
later gave the clumsy heading, A New Narration on the Illustrious 
Russian Realm, though there is no "narration" in it) are one and the 
same person ; both were close to the bourgeoisie ; both, despite their very 
great piety, never have recourse to supernatural motifs in their 
explanation of events, a practice so common in the literature of the 
Troubles. There is also an external resemblance between them; neither 
one avoids the rhythmic rhymed prose so well suited to the style of the 
proclamation of the time, which could not be read by individual 
passers-by (too few of them were literate) but must be read aloud to a 
whole crowd by some literate person. If we should succeed in proving 
the identity of the two authors, we should have an extraordinarily 
curious coincidence ; the first summons to rebellion against Vladislav 
would then come from Romanov circles, whence was to come Vladislav's 
successor. The fact that there was no mention of the Romanovs in the 
proclamation itself is no evidence to the contrary; we must not forget 
that in these days Filaret Romanov, one of the ' ' grand envoys, ' ' was ' ' as 
a sort of pledge" to the Poles, and any such allusion might cost him 
dear. However that may have b°en, in issuing a summons to rebellion 


against the Polish king's son, the author let slip not a word on the score 
of who ought to be seated in his place, though this question was of course 

The central figure in his presentation is Hermogen, and the pamphlet 
is all the more interesting as one of the first examples of "the legend 
of Hermogen." The author recognised that a direct summons to re- 
bellion could not be expected from the patriarch. But in his exposition 
he let it be understood that Hermogen was the soul of resistance to the 
Poles; "he stands alone against them all . . . like a giant without arms 
and without an armament of war." "When this did not produce a 
sufficient impression, a further step had to be taken ; letters of Hermogen 
appeared, which, however, as the distributors themselves admitted, did 
not issue directly from him since the patriarch had "no one to write, 
all the clerks and copyists and all the men of the household had been 
arrested." Thus was gradually created the legendary figure that 
adorns the pages of modern narratives of the Troubles and, it seems, 
has little in common with the real Hermogen. 

The movement of the ' ■ better ' ' men needed a symbol such as ' ' Dmitry 
Ivanovich" had long since become for the "lesser" men; to contrast the 
patriarch, the strict guardian of Orthodoxy, with the tsar who ' ' does not 
want to be baptised," was undoubtedly to make a very powerful appeal 
to wide masses. But it is noteworthy that the Moscow bourgeoisie, from 
which the author had probably sprung, and to which, in any case, he 
addressed himself, could rise above such plebeian appeals. Some pages 
of the New Narration suggest the patriotism of classic antiquity. The 
author praises the men of Smolensk, who had continued to resist 
Sigismund, because they "want to die gloriously, rather than live dis- 
honourably and bitterly." The threatened devastation of "such a great 
realm" undoubtedly touches him more than the anticipated corruption 
of the Orthodox faith, and in the slogan he throws out for the masses of 
the townsmen only one-third is allowed to this faith: "let us stand 
together for the Orthodox faith . . . and for our fatherland and for 
the inheritance that the Lord has given us." And in repeating this 
slogan, he puts "realm" even before "faith." For him, indeed, the 
motif of the rebellion is not so much that Vladislav is not Orthodox as 
that, in general, nothing is to be expected of Vladislav; the essence of 
the proclamation is the disclosure to the Moscow public of the secret of 
the Polish conspiracy — annexation of the Muscovite realm. The author 
very skilfully uses as an argument the incapacity of the Poles to restore 
order in the country. If Sigismund had actually reserved the realm for 
his son, would he have permitted such havoc? "Not only does he not 
reserve it for his son, but he himself does not wish to live here," and 
the Muscovites will be ruled by such men as Fedor Andronov. 


The bourgeois author was somewhat premature in summoning the 
Muscovites to rebellion; the sequel was to show that the movement of 
the towns could not be concentrated in Moscow, the only town in which 
purely military preponderance was unconditionally on the side of the 
Poles. The Moscow "barricades" of March 17, 1611, ended in complete 
failure; the Poles burned the city almost to ashes and compelled the 
surviving population to take oath anew to Vladislav. Nizhny-Novgorod 
came to be at the head of the movement, not only because the Volga 
traders were more interested than any one else in the restoration of 
order, but also for the simple reason that there were no Polish troops on 
the Volga, and no one to hinder the movement in its initial stages. The 
surprising thing is not that under such conditions the movement of the 
townsmen and nobles finally got the better of the Poles (for a handful of 
soldiers in the Kremlin could no more stifle an all-Russian rebellion 
than it could maintain order in all Russia), but that this movement 
needed so much time, almost a year and a half, to get under way. It is 
hardly possible to account for this by the purely technical peculiarities 
of the time, by the absence not only of railroads but also of any decent 
roads at all except water-ways. It is true, events of this kind were 
then not measured in weeks, as now, but in months; yet the first army 
of the insurgents, the Lyapunov armament, arrived under Moscow in 
April, 1611, whereas the first summons to rebellion had been distributed 
in December of the preceding year. The causes of the delay must be 
sought elsewhere, where contemporaries saw them ; the author of the New 
Narration saw the "worst of all" in the fact that "division had taken 
place in our land." The two halves of the "better" men, urban and 
rural, the townsmen and the pomeshchiks, had for the last four years 
been waging a desperate struggle against one another, and it was not 
now easy for them to combine for common action. When such common 
action was effected in Shuisky's reign, men talked of it as a rarity and 
were proud of it. And when the rebellion of the nobility began under 
the leadership of the men of Ryazan, Prokopy Lyapunov and his com- 
rades expected to find allies among the cossacks and even among the 
most democratic elements of the Tushino army rather than among the 
burghers. "And let bondsmen come without any doubt and fear," 
wrote Lyapunov at Kazan as late as June, 1611, "they will all have 
freedom and pay like other cossacks." 

The "zigzag" described by the rebellion against Vladislav, the tem- 
porary failure of this rebellion and the temporary disintegration of the 
insurrectionary army in July, 1611, is mainly attributable to this cause. 
The original rebels, as listed in Lyapunov 's February letter to Nizhny, 
were the men of Ryazan "and of Kaluga, and of Tula, and of Mik- 
hailov, and all the men of all the towns" of the frontier provinces. 


Such an armament had, in 1606, failed to take Moscow even when de- 
fended by Shuisky with hardly more than the streltsy of the Dvina, and 
now the Kremlin was held by regular European troops. The towns 
"sympathised" with Lyapunov but for the time being gave him no 
assistance. The cossacks were a technically necessary ally, and inability 
to appreciate this fact ruined Lyapunov. The cossacks were not con- 
sciously class foes of the pomeshchiks, as they had many times proved 
during the Troubles. But they wanted to be regarded as equals, whereas 
the Ryazan voevoda and his comrades were wholly unwilling to recognise 
the cossacks as the equals of the nobles. Though addressing dema- 
gogic appeals to the cossacks and even to the bondsmen, 3 when it came 
to fixing the status of the masses in rebellion against Vladislav, the 
pomeshchiks took almost the same viewpoint as had the boyars in the 
treaty of 1610. In the celebrated "decree" of the Lyapunov armament 
under Moscow (June 30, 1611) the nobles were willing to guarantee pay- 
ment in land and wages in money, not to all the cossacks but only to 
those who had long been serving the Muscovite state. Admission to 
administrative office was flatly denied to these younger brothers of the 
military servitors: "from commissionerships from the towns, and from 
the court villages and from the peasant townships the atamans and 
cossacks shall be dismissed," the decree provided, "and to the towns 
and into the townships shall be sent for kormlenies good nobles, and 
with them, to do errands, knights and cossacks and streltsy." For 
Lyapunov 's pomeshchiks the cossack was of old a "suitable" servitor, 
who was of most use as an orderly to a " good noble. ' ' With the lowest 
elements of the Tushino army, whom Lyapunov had decoyed, the decree 
dealt still more simply: "peasants and bondsmen," it prescribed, "are 
on inquest to be given back to the old pomeshchiks." 

This decree so sharply emphasised class interests that it cost the 
leader of the nobles' armament his life. When they saw themselves 
being edged out of the picture, the cossacks "conspired" and were met 
with strict disciplinary measures, including "seating in the water"; an 
explosion occurred, and Lyapunov was killed at a meeting of the cos- 
sacks. After this the movement of the nobles for the time being lost 
its centre, and Vladislav's government was able to hold out for another 
year. But the defeat of the pomeshchiks was in a way advantageous 
to them; the townsmen finally ceased to fear them, and the towns now 
began to hire the knights into their service, thus taking the place of the 
First and Second Dmitrys. 

Contemporaries have described the state of affairs as it took shape 

3 It may be supposed that this was not the first time Lyapunov had done so, and 
that Bolotnikov's "sheets" were not distributed without the privity of the noble 
leaders of the armament that marched against Tsar Vasily. 


under Moscow immediately after Lyapunov 's death, as follows: "The 
old authors of great evil, atamans and cossacks, who had in Tushino 
served the false-named tsar . . . slew Prokofy Lyapunov and began to 
commit all evil according to their cossack wont." Here the reader, 
accustomed to the traditional presentation of the cossacks, expects 
descriptions of attempts on Muscovite "statehood"; but the author of 
the letters, a military servitor (none other than the celebrated Prince 
Pozharsky), knew nothing of cossack anarchism. For him the "all 
evil" was comprised in the first place, in the fact, that the cossacks 
"dealt mortal infamy to the nobles and knights" and, in the second 
place, and principally, in the fact that "the chieftain" of the cossacks, 
ataman Zarutsky, "took to himself many towns and court villages, and 
peasant townships, and monasteries' estates, and distributed them to his 
councillors, nobles and knights, and atamans, and cossacks." The 
anarchism of the cossacks was expressed in the fact that they them- 
selves took what the nobles' armament had refused them and arbitrarily 
made themselves pomeshchiks. To this development the towns were in- 
different; but should the cossacks become masters of the situation, they 
would become dangerous to the upper strata of the townsmen, too, as 
soon as their victory over the nobility began to have political conse- 
quences. The cossack leader, Zarutsky, had his own candidate for tsar, 
and the son of the Tushino "tsarlet" was a terror to all the "better 
men" in the last years of his existence. The cossacks were not par- 
ticularly dangerous as long as they were encamped under Moscow, but 
a cossacks ' tsar, successor of the Tushino bondsmen 's tsar, was an imme- 
diate menace. Dread of this eventuality had compelled the bourgeoisie 
to support Shuisky with treasure and men; dread of it now compelled 
the towns to assemble their own army, since after the seizure of lands 
and treasury by the cossack atamans the military servitors were left 
without pay and with the prospect of being deprived of their estates. 
As soon as tidings of the catastrophe to Lyapunov had reached the 
Volga towns, they immediately resolved "all to be united in counsel"; 
' ' if the cossacks undertake to elect over the realm of Moscow a sovereign 
at their own pleasure, alone, without consulting with all the land, we do 
not want that sovereign over the realm." The material basis of this 
union of the Volga towns, to which the Dvina towns also soon adhered, 
was the treasure collected in Nizhny-Novgorod, not, of course, at the 
individual initiative of Minin, but simply because without a military 
force the union of the towns was an empty phrase, and a military force 
was not to be had without money. Contemporary letters, and the 
chronicler as well, describe this hiring of the nobles by the bourgeoisie 
with the greatest realism, and see nothing amazing in this simple prosaic 
fact. In Pozharsky 's letter to the men of Solvychegodsk the activity 


of the men of Nizhny is thus described : ' ' In Nizhny-Novgorod the gosts 
and all the zemsky townsmen, zealous for God, for the Orthodox 
Christian faith, not sparing their possessions, have thought the nobles 
and knights of Smolensk and of many other towns to be worthy of a 
liberal money wage. . . . Whatever money, masters, was collected at 
Nizhny has been distributed to the nobles and the knights and to all the 
men of war; and now from all the towns . . . come all men, and peti- 
tion all the land for a money wage, and there is nothing to give them. 
And it is for you, masters, whatever revenues there are at Solvy- 
chegodsk to send to us at Yaroslavl, for wages for the men of war." 
"Everywhere hither hurries the assembly," relates the "New Chroni- 
cler," "and from many towns men of war begin to gather; the first 
comers were those of Kolomna, and the men of Ryazan, after them from 
the towns of the Ukraine many men, and cossacks, and streltsy, those 
who sat in Moscow under Tsar Vasily, and to all pay is given ; and there 
was calm there then among all men." The men of war offered their 
hands, the townsmen purchased them with the money they had collected ; 
"patriotic fervour" cannot be better translated into the language of 
materialistic history than it was by these simple and naive Russian men 
of the beginning of the seventeenth century. 

Description of the military operations which in the late fall of 1612 
led the pomeshchik army, assembled by the townsmen, into the Kremlin 
of Moscow is no part of our task. There is no doubt that the successful 
issue of the second campaign was decided chiefly by its solid financial 
basis. Having undertaken to pay all the men of war, the bourgeoisie 
acted handsomely; to the men of Smolensk, for example, they gave "to 
the first category 50 rubles each, to the second 45 rubles each, to the 
third 40 rubles each, and to none less than 30 rubles." For purposes 
of comparison it is worth noting that the provincial knights of Godu- 
nov's times had received not more than 6 rubles, and even the "select" 
ones (the guardsmen) not more than 15 rubles pay; in former years 
only guard officers had received what was now given to military servitors 
of the rank-and-file. But it must not be thought that the towns col- 
lected the needed sums exclusively from voluntary contributions. The 
great bourgeoisie that ruled the towns filled the treasury of the arma- 
ment they had assembled in the same way as Shuisky had once filled 
his — by compulsory levy. In the case of wealthy capitalists this was 
usually a forced loan; in this way, for example, the men of Nizhny 
got money from the Stroganovs and their agents. On the petty towns- 
folk they simply imposed new taxes, exacting them, as usual, without in- 
dulgence, "with the aid of God putting fear on the idle." A delin- 
quent might be indentured, be given over into service on a "life writ- 
ing," the money for his service being paid in advance, not to him but 


to the town treasury. And this, as a modern historian of the Troubles 
justly remarks, is no proof of the personal severity of Kuzma Minin 
and his comrades. It was a peculiarity of the social order, the victory 
of which brought the Troubles to an end. 



1. The Liquidation of the Agrarian Crisis 

The official close of "The Time of the Troubles" does not by any 
means mark the real cessation of the Troubles. Michael Fedorovich 
Romanov had been on the throne for a long time, but the civil war 
and its offspring, the foreign war, still continued. As one modern 
scholar, Gautier, has observed, the maximum of destruction was reached 
in those very years "when the national and political crisis of the 
Time of the Troubles was at an end ' ' and when a ' ' lawful government ' ' 
had been installed at Moscow for some time. This observer sees the 
"devastation" at its height in 1616, if not, indeed, in 1620; only after 
the latter date is it at all possible to speak of perceptible and lasting 
improvement. Almost fifteen years of civil war could not fail to have 
their effect on a country, even if its economy had previously been in 
an entirely satisfactory condition. 

The Troubles, it seems, were bound to bring to "complete annihila- 
tion" the Muscovite Rus that had been undermined by the agrarian 
crisis of the sixteenth century. If at the end of the preceding century 
the central provinces had been considerably depopulated, in the 'tens 
and 'twenties of the seventeenth century "recorders" and "reporters" 
sent "to inspect" the land found in places almost a complete desert. 
In Gautier 's words, on the estates of the Troitsa Monastery, scattered 
in twenty counties beyond the River Moscow (and therefore more or 
less characteristic of the general condition of the country), "the extent 
of the arable is in the year 1616 one-twentieth what it was in the years 
1592-1594; the number of peasants settled on the Troitsa estates de- 
creases to less than one-seventh." Even as late as the close of the 
1620 's, on those estates in the counties of Moscow, Zubtsov and Klin, 
the history of which we can trace, the waste, that is, the land given 
up and abandoned, constituted not less than 80%, rising sometimes to 
95% ; but the land remaining under cultivation did not exceed 18.7% 
of the whole area, sometimes falling to 5.2%. To the south, in the 
modern province of Kaluga, for example, things were no better: on an 
estate on which in 1592-1593 there had been 161 peasant homesteads, 
in 1614 there remained only ten. In the county of Moscow the de- 



crease of the arable can be estimated at, on the average, one-third the 
amount under cultivation at the height of the crisis that had preceded 
the Troubles. 

Upon examining the details of this ruin of the countryside, we are, 
however, soon in a position to be discriminating in our ideas about 
the economic results of the Troubles. Every one was ruined, more 
or less; but some more, others less. Thanks to the Troubles and their 
consequences, the independent peasantry was bound finally to disappear 
wherever there were pomeshchiks. The first phenomenon that strikes 
one in studying the Russian countryside of the second and third decades 
of the seventeenth century is the enormous growth of cottar home- 
steads at the expense of peasant homesteads. If we take the estates 
of the Troitsa Monastery as an example — a very good example, as we 
saw — we obtain the following figures: in the county of Dmitrov, ac- 
cording to the registers of the end of the sixteenth century, there were 
on the Troitsa estates forty cottar homesteads to 917 of peasants; the 
registers of the 1620 's give 207 homesteads of cottars to 220 homesteads 
occupied by peasants. In the first case the cottar homesteads consti- 
tute 4.1% ; in the second, 48.4%. For the county of Uglich the cor- 
responding figures would be 2.6% and 56.6%. What then were these 
cottars? On the ground that the cottar homestead paid only half the 
tax exacted from the peasant, Belyaev defined them as peasants settled 
on half a vyt 1 [virgate]. Gautier has proved that in the majority of 
cases the cottars had no arable at all. For example, he gives an ex- 
cerpt from the inventories in 1612 of the estates of the Troitsa Monas- 
tery. "The village of Kochyugovo . . . the cottar homestead of Vaska 
Antipyev, he had been a peasant, and had been made poor by war and 
taxes ; they said he did not plough any arable, it lay neglected, but he 
had had three diets 2 of arable." Of other cottars living in the mon- 
astery's hamlets it is reported that "they became impoverished through 
the Lithuanian destruction, they go around the community and are fed 
in the name of Christ." "Idle cottars," "lame roving cottars" — are 
epithets met with in the registers at every turn. A cottar, as a rule, 
was not a proletarian in our sense of the word ; he was a proletarian 
in the ancient sense of the word — not a worker deprived of the tools 
of his labour but a peasant deprived of land because he had nothing left 
with which to cultivate it. A man maimed in war, or a man whose 
last horse had been taken by the military, or whose homestead they 
had burned down with all his possessions — all alike fell into this category. 

But, on the other hand, the peasant deprived of land could easily 

i A variable land measure, reckoned as 6 desyatinas of good land, 7 of medium 
land, or 8 of poor land. 
2 1 diet = Y a desyatina. 


be enserfed. In Russia serfdom rapidly grew up out of the ruin 
wrought by the Troubles just as in Germany it grew up out of the 
ruin wrought by the Thirty Years' War. We have more than once 
noted that the progress of serfdom signified in Russia not so much the 
loss of rights by the peasant — in feudal society he was always more 
the object than the subject of rights — as the cessation of that gambling 
in peasants, so ruinous for the landholders, which had been so char- 
acteristic of the preceding period. In that period the peasant had not 
infrequently been an object that could be sold, bought, or bartered as 
they had bartered, bought, and sold bondsmen. Both at the end of the 
sixteenth century and in the middle of the seventeenth the peasant, 
already bound to his landlord 3 in one way or another, was the latter 's 

Only two changes may be remarked. In the first place, the methods 
of binding were changed; in conjunction with the economic results of 
the Troubles it is here interesting to note that the loan, which formerly 
had been a very widespread means of attaching the peasant to an estate, 
now acquires paramount importance. "In official language after the 
middle of the seventeenth century," writes Dyakonov, "the term 'loan 
contract' completely supplants the old nomenclature of the peasant 
'contract.' " Formerly the loan had been an economic necessity to 
any well-ordered economy. Thus, in 1598 the authorities of the 
Blagoveshchensk Monastery in Nizhny-Novgorod complained to the 
Patriarch Iov that the monastery was impoverished and had not the 
means to erect buildings, or to pay wages, or to give loans to new peas- 
ants. Now the loan becomes a juridical necessity for any peasant set- 
tling on the land ; without a loan it is impossible to become a peasant. 
The Ulozhenie of 1649 recognises that peasants give "loan and guar- 
antee contract." Numerous new articles in this code speak only of 
loan contracts with peasants. The old term "contract" becomes a pro- 
vincialism, clung to, paradoxically enough, in the economically most 
progressive localities ; in the Pskov peasant registers it may be found 
even at the very end of the seventeenth century. Everywhere else 
after the Troubles, the peasant actually could not set up his economy 
without a loan; those not needing a loan were the exception, and the 
law of Moscow did not reckon with this exception. 

In the second place, and this is incomparably more important and no 
less noteworthy, the peasant ever more and more manifests the tendency 
to be converted from movable into immovable property. We can ob- 

3 For the convenience of the reader the word pomeshchik is here translated as 
"landlord," the meaning of the term in modern Russian ; where the original con- 
notation of the word is still involved, the Russian word will be retained. See 


serve this interesting process from two angles, — the private and the 
official, if we may so call them. In the first place, not only the loan 
but also the obligation to live "immobile" under the given landlord, 
"steadfastly and without the right to go away," is an unfailing con- 
dition of the new type of peasant contract. The peasant's "right to 
go away," for the abolition of which the landlords had made so many 
demands during the Troubles, both on Shuisky and on Vladislav, had 
proved very tenacious and had to be undermined now by private agree- 
ments which forced the peasants to renounce their right to leave (i.e., 
to be taken away by another landlord) just as they were forced to accept 
the loan. But this did not mean, of course, that the official agitation 
ceased. The civil war was not yet over, and the "lawful government" 
had scarcely had time to establish itself at Moscow when the Troitsa 
Monastery began to search throughout the country for any who had 
run away from its estates during the whole period of the Troubles. By 
reason of the extent of the monastery's estates the operation assumed 
such proportions that it required the sanction of a boyar decree (March 
10, 1615), which acknowledged the right of the Troitsa authorities to 
bring their peasants back within eleven years of their flight ; the decree 
strove to protect the interests of other landlords only if the monas- 
tery's fugitives had been living on their lands "twenty years and more." 
An eleven-year limit, it would seem, was sufficient ; a limitation of more 
than fifteen years was unknown to the law of that time, and later a 
ten-year one was deemed satisfactory. But the landholders were striv- 
ing to make peasants more immobile than the land itself, and the first 
half of the seventeenth century is therefore filled with petitions of 
nobles and knights agitating for permission to seek out their peasants 
beyond the statutory limitation, if not without any statute of limitations 
at all. In 1641 the ten-year limitation on actions for the recovery of 
fugitive peasants, which formerly had constituted the privilege of a 
few landholders, such as the Troitsa Monastery and the sovereign's 
court, was extended to all landlords; in 1649 the Ulozhenie of Tsar 
Alexis provided that "fugitive peasants and cottars be surrendered, 
according to the registers, to men of all ranks without a time limit." 
It is interesting that even after this law, which would seem to be quite 
clear, the landlords continued to exact from peasants making new con- 
tracts the personal promise "not to go off with any one else." The 
peasant who did not give such a promise was not accounted, and did 
not account himself, bound. In 1690, almost fifty years after the 
Ulozhenie, one peasant settling on a Troitsa estate relates how a land- 
lord with whom he had dwelt "about three years" began to demand 
of him "written bonds, that he might dwell as his peasant, and not hav- 
ing given bonds he left the village." 


Thus a free peasant was not juridically impossible in Russia even 
at the beginning of Peter's reign; but actually he was so rare an ex- 
ception that Muscovite law, crude and summary, registering facts in 
the mass, did not take account of this phenomenon, just as it did not 
admit that the peasant was capable of carrying on his economy without 
a loan from his lord. The "free" peasant, who survived in places, 
was not in the least bothered by the fact that the law ignored him, and 
under Tsar Alexis he continued to "contract" with his lord just as ho 
had done under Ivan the Terrible. Only two years before the Ulozhenie 
a Novgorod landlord, Ivan F. Panov, offered to his peasant Ivashka 
Petrov, the following contract : "I shall not evict him, Ivashka, and 
shall not sell or barter him to any one, and shall not put him in pawn, 
and shall not inflict any evil on him, and shall keep him as my, Ivan's, 
peasant as other nobles keep their peasants." In case Panov failed 
to observe these conditions, "he, Ivashka, shall be free to depart whither 
he will." A piece of property that bargains with its proprietor about 
the conditions under which it permits him to hold it is, of course, some- 
thing contrary to all juridical logic; but the men of Moscow had no 
idea of altering their methods in the interests of any logic and con- 
sulted their convenience in each individual case. 

Immobilisation of the peasantry, usually defined as "the definite 
legalisation of serfdom" (although we have just seen that the legal 
aspect of the matter was the least complete), was one of the most 
sweeping innovations in Russia's economic life in the period after the 
Troubles and well exemplifies the nature of their influence. The Trou- 
bles did not introduce, nor could they introduce, any economic change. 
The first step toward the binding of the peasant on a given estate and 
to a given landlord had been taken, if we overlook the "pozhiloe" of 
the time of the Sudebniks, in the famous law of November 24, 1597, 
which had established a five-year limitation on suits for the recovery of 
fugitive peasants. Its basis had been the agrarian crisis and the de- 
population of central Russia. The Troubles had merely carried these 
two phenomena to the utmost possible limits — and thus furnished the 
occasion for making them responsible for all possible consequences. 

With the cessation of the destruction, however, the influence of this 
cause was bound to diminish progressively. To use a current expres- 
sion, the Muscovite state "righted itself" from the Troubles rather 
quickly. At the lowest point of the decline (1614-1616), on the above- 
mentioned Troitsa estates, in the counties beyond the River Moscow, 
the arable constituted 1.8% of the whole area and the waste 98.2%. 
But according to the registers of the third and fourth decades of this 
century the first figure rises to 22.7%, and the second falls to 77.3%. 
In an estate record of the 'twenties "is a reference to the colonising 


activity of the landholders : the great boyar, Prince Suleshov, who had 
bought an extensive estate in the county of Pereyaslavl, introduces on 
it a new economy — 'founds a new' homestead of the proprietors and 
five whole clearings at once." There were landholders who prepared 
homesteads beforehand for future peasant colonists: on an estate in 
the county of Dmitrov, belonging to S. Larionov, a government official, 
there stood at the end of the 'twenties three empty homesteads "estab- 
lished anew." By the 'forties this "internal colonisation" had made 
great progress : in the county of Pereyaslavl, for example, in 1646 ' ' ap- 
peared a whole series of new settlements which formerly (in the time 
of the census of the 'twenties) had not been in existence." These set- 
tlements included, besides the homesteads of landlords of various cate- 
gories and of non-taxable dependent cultivators of the soil, 143 home- 
steads of tax-paying peasants with a male population of 439 and 301 
homesteads of cottars with a population of 709 men ; about 2,300 
desyatinas of land had been ploughed up anew. In Gautier's words, 
"the brief economic crisis evoked by the Troubles passed as quickly 
as it had arisen." 

But the phenomenon we have noted, the immobilisation of the peas- 
antry, by no means disappeared ; on the contrary, it was consolidated 
throughout the seventeenth century. Evidently the Troubles merely 
helped to disclose something the roots of which lay deeper than a stratum 
that civil war could wash away. The tension of the agrarian crisis 
passed simultaneously with the civil war. Yet the economic prosperity 
of the early years of Ivan the Terrible was not to be repeated. There 
remained a chronic depression to which pomeshchik economy gradually 
adjusted itself and from which recovery set in anew, but not until much 
later, not before the end of the seventeenth century. In this respect 
the first three-quarters of this century bear the clear imprint of a reac- 
tion or, if you like, of a restoration. The latter term is more apt, for 
in essence there was a restoration, a revival of the old, a resuscitation 
and a reinforcement of those economic features that a century earlier 
had seemed lifeless or at least enfeebled. 

The peasants of the seventeenth century, bound to the estates, have 
probably reminded the reader of the "old-dwellers" of the old boyar 
votchinas who dwelt in one and the same hamlet from generation to 
generation until scattered by the oprichnina. But there are other points 
of resemblance. Payment of dues in kind, which a hundred years earlier 
had seemed to be dying out, was exceedingly common in the middle 
of the seventeenth century. The boyar N. I. Romanov received annu- 
ally from his hereditary estates a ram, a half carcass of pork, a certain 
quantity of poultry, and thirty flints* of cow's butter for each vyt. 

4 1 fnnt = 0.9 lb. avoirdupois. 


The boyar Lopukhin also collected his revenue from his estate near 
Moscow in rams and fowls. The peasants of the court villages of the 
county of Pereyaslavl likewise discharged their obligations with rams, 
lambs' wool, sheepskins, cheeses, and butter. The tenacity with which 
obligations in kind persisted on court estates is of special interest; it 
will be recalled that in the sixteenth century the first experiments with 
rational economy, i.e., with extensive and regular seigniorial ploughing, 
were met with on these same court lands. In the seventeenth century 
the seigniorial ploughing on such estates was gradually curtailed. In 
the court village of Klushino, as late as the 1630 's, there were 250 
desyatinas of the "sovereign's arable," but in the 'seventies we find 
them added to the taxable peasant lots. In the county of Pereyaslavl 
on one court estate the sovereign's arable diminished in the space of 
forty years from 546 desyatinas to 249 desyatinas — to a little less than 
half ; on another the whole of it had been given over to the peasants 
in return for dues. Ultimately, seigniorial ploughing was continued 
only on court estates near Moscow, where it was less a business enter- 
prise than a means of serving the immediate requirements of the tsar's 
numerous court. Elsewhere it was replaced by dues, not in kind, how- 
ever, but in money or in "threshed grain." We shall see the signifi- 
cance of this fact presently; meanwhile let us note that the phenomenon 
referred to was not peculiar to court estates but was common to all 
large estates of the time. Even if this absence of rural-economic enter- 
prise had been characteristic only of large landholding, we should have 
an example of great economic inertia, the survival into the seventeenth 
century of an agrarian type well known in the first half of the six- 
teenth. But it seems that even the middle-sized economies, which in 
the days of Ivan the Terrible had switched over to a new track with 
such bewildering rapidity, a hundred years later, had not only not ad- 
vanced but had even gone backward. At least, in the only case known 
to us, and relating to the county of Kostroma, the seigniorial arable had 
declined from a little over 90% in the 1620 's to 16% by 1684-1686. 

Different relationships existed in the south, where the pomeshchik 
reserved a great part of the plough land for himself; but this was a 
very special kind of pomeshchik controlling on the average one peas- 
ant's and one cottar's homestead (in the counties of Belgorod and 
Putivl), at best three such homesteads (in the county of Voronezh), 
and sometimes not even one (in the county of Oskol). Throughout the 
enormous extent of these four counties 5 Gautier found, excluding the 
monasteries, only one pomeshchik, using the term in its modern sense 

s They embraced the eastern part of the province of Chernigov, the whole southern 
part of Kursk, almost all of Voronezh and the southeastern part of Tambov, almost 
all of Kharkov, and the northeastern part of Poltava. 


of landlord; he had three homesteads of retainers, 11 of peas- 
ants, and 5 of cottars, with about 750 desyatinas of land. Moreover, 
the number of peasants and cottars on estates in south Russia was not 
increasing in the seventeenth century, but decreasing. In one of the 
districts of the county of Belgorod there were 146 homesteads of peas- 
ants and cottars in 1626, 130 in 1646, and in 1678 there remained but 
21. For another district of this county, in the same years, we have 
the following figures: 255, 141, and 60. "In actual fact," writes 
Miklashevsky, "the number of cottar homesteads of private landhold- 
ers had decreased in far greater degree inasmuch as in very many 
new settlements of the county the cottars lived on the lord's land." If 
we are not hypnotised by the division of Muscovites into "military 
servitors" and "taxpayers" — a division purely political and bearing 
no relation to economics — nothing will prevent us from identifying, from 
the economic point of view, the pomeshchiks of Moscow's southern fron- 
tier with peasants. This is virtually what the scholar we have cited 
says when he asserts that here "the dominant type was a petty econ- 
omy, suggesting modern peasant economy, with only this essential dif- 
ference, that the petty landholder of the seventeenth century was assured 
of land in abundance, at least in the first half of the century. ' ' It must 
be noted that the Moscow government did not allow itself to be hyp- 
notised by this division. In 1648 a document was sent to the village 
of Bel-Kolodez and the crossroads and hamlets pertaining to it, bidding 
the peasants refuse in future service under the pomeshchiks ; they were 
to serve as dragoons and at the same time were freed from payment of 
various imposts. Each was now obliged to have an arquebus, a pike, 
and an axe, but their land holdings were left unchanged. Thus by a 
single stroke of the pen taxpayers were converted into military servitors 
while their economic organisation remained inviolate. 

It remains for us to make general application of the observation to 
which we were led by the microscopic "pomeshchiks" of the frontier 
counties. Throughout Russia petty landholding of the peasant type 
was "dominant," i.e., economically dominant in the seventeenth cen- 
tury, surviving the crisis that ruined the pomeshchik-entrepreneur. 
When the lord abandoned his arable, it was not left to lie idle; it was 
leased by the peasant. We have seen this in the case of court estates; 
the monasteries and the private landholders adopted the same practice. 
The peasant allotment grew with inexorable regularity, while the lord's 
arable at best stood still. At the end of the sixteenth century, at the 
height of the crisis, peasant arable in central Russia did not exceed 2.6 
desyatinas to the homestead; in the first half of the seventeenth cen- 
tury it had already reached 6 desyatinas to the homestead, and in the 
second half a little more than 9 in some places. Gautier, from whom 


we have taken these figures, sees an offset to this phenomenon in the 
fact that the amount of arable per male soul did not increase during 
this time but, with the exception of court estates, even diminished 
slightly. He perceives in this "a fresh depression of peasant econ- 
omy"; but he leaves out of sight the fact that on two and a half 
desyatinas it is impossible to maintain any economy at all, while on 
six, and all the more on nine, it is possible. The growth of the peasant 
homestead, which it would be very shortsighted to explain by financial 
influences alone (from 1630 taxes were levied not on the amount of 
land under cultivation but on the number of homesteads), is part of the 
general picture of economic restoration in the seventeenth century. 
The "big household" of appanage times, the direct descendant of the 
"pechishche" of the earliest period, is resurrected, significantly enough, 
concurrently with the decline of the pomestye [service-estate] and, as 
we shall presently see, with the resurrection of the votchina [hereditary 
estate]. It was now necessary, because it was the most stable economic 
organisation under a regime of natural economy, and Muscovite Rus- 
sia was now nearer such a regime than it had been during the preced- 
ing hundred years. 

This great stability of course did not lead to a "depression of the 
level of peasant economy." On the contrary, the best index of the 
way matters were tending is the gradual disappearance of cottar home- 
steads along with the amazing increase, in some localities, of the num- 
ber of peasant homesteads. Gautier has gathered from the registers 
such data as the following: in the county of Bezhetsk in the 1620 's 
there were computed to be (on the five estates traced by the author) 
155 peasant homesteads inhabited by 158 male souls; according to the 
registers of the 'eighties, there were 175 6 homesteads inhabited by 5,797 
souls ; while in the first case there were 218 cottar homesteads, in the 
second only 75, and the number of cottars in them had declined during 
these sixty years from 227 to 197. On 18 estates in the county of 
Dmitrov in the same period the number of peasants' homesteads rose 
from 125 to 611, and the number of cottars' decreased from 83 to 17. 
In general, on all the 115 estates investigated by our author, the num- 
ber of peasant homesteads increased two and a half times, but their 
population increased almost five times ; formerly there were less than 
two souls to the homestead, now there were almost three and a half. The 
number of cottars' homesteads decreased by one-half, and their popula- 
tion remained unchanged. 

e This figure is evidently an error for 1,7... All these figures are taken from a 
table in Gautier, The region beyond the Moscow [in Russian], p. 259; another table 
in the same work (p. 511), based on the same pistsovye knigi [registers] gives the 
figures in slightly variant form. Addition of the latter figures gives 154, 157, 1731, 
and 5726, respectively. 


Another symptom of the way matters were tending is the ratio of 
arable to waste as given in the registers of the 'eighties. In contrast 
to what we have seen at the beginning of the seventeenth century, or 
even at the end of the preceding one when the crisis was at its height, 
the arable now decidedly predominated. Our author cites a number 
of estates in the counties of Shuya, Yurev Polski, and Kostroma where 
either all the land was under cultivation, with the exception of meadow- 
land, and there was no waste at all, or the waste was reduced to the 
insignificant proportion of 6-7% of the whole area. On the average 
the arable is to waste in the ratio of 2 :1, while in the 'twenties the ratio 
had been 1 :5. Not only had the wounds dealt by the Troubles been 
healed, but the crisis in pomestye landholding may be said to have 
been liquidated by this time; and the element that profited by the 
liquidation was not the element that had lost a hundred years before. 
The predatory forms of pomestye money economy, which had destroyed 
both pomeshchik and peasant, disappeared for some time; they were 
destined to be seen anew, though in a totally different economic setting, 
during "the Age of Catherine." On the other hand, the peasant, 
enslaved as in the appanage period, to a certain degree recovered his 
appanage prosperity — the prosperity of a well-fed slave, it is true. 
That he was, however, not too discontented with his position is shown 
by the rapidity with which the population of central Russia, which had 
diminished so considerably in Fedor's reign, grew in the seventeenth 
century. From the 'twenties to the 'forties it increased, in various 
districts, from 2.3 to 6.3 times; in certain places there was by the 
'eighties 7.5 times the population of the years immediately after the 

It remains for us to trace one more aspect of this retrogression, this 
time not economic but socio-juridical. The triumph of the pomeshchiks 
in 1612 was, it would seem, bound to complete the process begun by 
the oprichnina and to consolidate its results — to convert all the land 
under cultivation into pomestyes. At first sight it was so. No sooner 
had the cannonading under the Kremlin of Moscow ceased, than court 
and "black" (free peasant) lands began to be handed over wholesale 
to the nobles, so that by the spring of 1613 not less than 45,000 
desyatinas of court land and some 14,000 desyatinas of "black" land 
had been distributed, principally to the leaders of the pomeshchik host, 
to its generals and officers. Somewhat later came the turn of the rank 
and file ; about 1627 there took place a distribution of pomestyes to the 
young nobles who were old enough for service but who were still with- 
out land allotments and consequently were living at the expense of 
older relatives. The sources for this great distribution and for many 
other petty ones that took place at intervals were once again the court 


and black lands and, in part, lands confiscated from other landholders ; 
but now they confiscated not "princelings' " votchinas (there were 
hardly any of these left) but rather those lands which had been granted 
by the political opponents, now beaten, of those who had triumphed 
in 1612, i.e., granted by the Tushino "knave" and in particular by the 
"king and king's son" — the Polish-boy ar government of 1610-1611. 
It is particularly noteworthy that the "knave's gifts" were not re- 
voked with such regularity as were those of the "king." Tsar 
Michael's government could not forget that Tushino had once been the 
"nobles' nest," which had fledged the Romanovs. The total amount 
of land thus distributed in small lots far exceeded, of course, what the 
"early birds" had seized in large morsels immediately after their 
victory. Whole townships were distributed, sometimes 300 pomestye 
portions at once; in one famous case the amount of arable distributed 
in one place amounted to 4,500 desyatinas, in another even to 7,500. 
We can hardly estimate the exact total ; we do not know every case 
of distribution ; but the total sum would have to be reckoned in hun- 
dreds of thousands, if not in millions, of desyatinas. 

This, however, was an obvious consequence of the victory won by the 
nobility. What is more interesting is that these lands, distributed as 
pomestyes were, a generation later, held, not as pomestyes, but as 
votchinas. This phenomenon is perceptible enough even in the 'twen- 
ties. At this time in one of the districts of the county of Dmitrov 
it was possible to count 6 old votchinas and 10 acquired ones, granted 
as a result of the two sieges of Moscow, the one under Tsar Vasily and 
the other under Michael, "at the coming of the king's son," when the 
king's son Vladislav encamped under Moscow. In individual districts 
of the counties of Zvenigorod, Kolomna, and Rostov a similar ratio 
held between "old" (i.e., inherited) votchinas and votchinas gained 
through service. In the county of Uglich out of 114 votchinas 59, again 
a majority, had appeared in the first quarter of the seventeenth cen- 
tury. In the county of Moscow votchina lands constituted almost two- 
thirds of all estates, pomestye lands little more than one-third. In one 
county (Luga) votchina landholding makes its first appearance in this 
period. Moreover, the tendency was for the best pomestye lands to 
be converted into votchinas. Even in these same 'twenties, i.e., long 
before the recovery at the end of the century, the ratio of arable to 
waste on votchina lands was far more satisfactory than on pomestye 
lands; sometimes on votchinas there was ten times more arable under 
cultivation than on the pomestyes of the same county. 

But this of course does not mean, as the author from whom we have 
borrowed these statistics thinks, that votchina economy was more stable 
than pomestye; economically the two types, when of similar size, did 


not differ in any respect. Even juridically the distinction was not so 
great as we have become accustomed to think through following the 
lead of the historians of Russian law, who have very facilely transferred 
to feudal Rus the norms of modern bourgeois relationships. Pomestyes 
almost always passed by inheritance and were transferred from one 
hand to another even in defiance of special prohibitions. For example, 
the government strove hard to isolate the pomestye portions given to 
foreigners in its service (their number steadily increased in the sev- 
enteenth century) ; nevertheless the documents disclose a number of 
men, indubitably Russian, but holding foreigners' pomestyes. All that 
it had any success in attaining was that "lands should not go out of 
service." The holder of a pomestye, like every Orthodox Christian, de- 
sired to "order his soul," to make sure that the Church would pray 
for him after his death, and, like every landholder, he attained this 
end by sacrificing a part of his lands to some monastery or other. This 
practice had been common in the sixteenth century ; in the seventeenth 
century it became an every-day phenomenon, regardless of a series of 
formal prohibitions; and thus a number of pomestye allotments were 
fused with monasteries' votchinas. To teach a Muscovite the differ- 
ence between "ownership" and "tenure" was no easy task, especially 
when the right of property was violated at every step, not only by the 
supreme authority, as in the case of every banishment in the times 
of Ivan the Terrible or of Godunov, but by any powerful feudatory. 
"What I hold is mine until they take it from me"; this juridically 
incorrect but psychologically quite intelligible notion was lodged in 
the brain of every early Russian landholder, whether he held by votchina 
or pomestye tenure. 

We shall most readily understand the difference between votchina 
and pomestye if we consider, not the obligations to the state incident 
to one or the other type of landholding but the economic interests of 
the holders. Then we shall readily understand why the favourite type 
" in the second half of the sixteenth century was the pomestye, and in 
the following century the votchina. In the period of feverish, preda- 
tory exploitation of the land they had seized, men had striven to make 
a profit out of it as quickly as possible ; then they had abandoned it and 
set about exploiting new land. When relationships had again assumed 
mediaeval stability, it was natural that there should be a tendency to 
secure to oneself and one 's family the land occupied ; and not less 
natural was it that this tendency should be first displayed in respect 
to the more valuable estates. As pomestye they now took only what 
they would not regret abandoning. Little by little, however, to secure 
an estate to oneself became just as much a habit of the landholder as 
to bind the peasant on this estate, and then the "pomestye element" 


in Muscovite landholding, especially near Moscow, "came very close 
to extinction." In the county of Borovsk, for example, in 1629-1630, 
pomestye lands constituted two-fifths of all the land, and votchinas 
three-fifths, while in 1678 the former were only one-fourth of all the 
estates, and the latter three-fourths. In the county of Moscow in 1624-5 
pomestye lands still constituted 35.4%, but in 1646 only 4.4%. 

This juridical restoration would be quite a riddle to us if we did 
not appreciate the economic soil that had nourished it. To the resur- 
rection of the old type of economy, with dues in kind and weakly de- 
veloped seigniorial arable, corresponded the resurrecton of the old landed 
right. It was natural that the old type of tenure should be resurrected. 
The ' ' old-fashioned ' ' boyar votchinas of the sixteenth century as a rule 
had been latifundia; the pomestyes that replaced them had been an 
example of middling landholding. In the eighteenth century once more 
we find latifundia; their revival falls entirely within the first reigns 
of the new dynasty. The very day after the Troubles there began a 
regular orgy of great distributions of land, a sort of restoration of 
what the oprichnina had upon a time annihilated. In 1619-1620 was 
distributed the whole county of Galich, i.e., all of its "black" lands, 
occupied by a peasantry still free. Only in rare cases was this pomestye 
distribution by small lots; far more frequently we find a whole town- 
ship handed over to a single person with a more or less "historic" 
name. Here we find the boyar Shein (the commandant of Smolensk 
at the time of its siege by Sigismund), and the boyar Sheremetev, and 
Ivan Nikitich Romanov, and the Princes Mstislavsky, Buinosov-Ros- 
tovsky, and Romodanovsky. The county of Galich, of course, is only one 
example : we find a mass of such cases in other places, both before 
1620 and after; the greater part, almost 60,000 desyatinas, distributed 
in the first months of Michael's reign, passed into large votchinas, and 
in the 'twenties and 'thirties it is possible to find a number of cases 
when by the tsar's granting there fell into one person's hands at the 
same time 300 homesteads of peasants and 1,500 desyatinas of land. 
As a result, by the end of the seventeenth century there remained no 
"black" lands at all in the region beyond the River Moscow, and from 
one and a half to two million desyatinas of court lands had been dis- 
tributed among a few persons. 

The closer we are to the end of this period, the more grandiose be- 
comes the sweep of the process. Even under Tsar Fedor II (1676- 
1682) a good half of all the lands granted in his short reign constitute 
large distributions. From 1682 to 1700 there were distributed as 
votchinas "16,120 homesteads and more than 167,000 desyatinas of 
plough land, without counting meadows and woods, which were some- 
times given in enormous amounts to favoured holders of votchinas." 


Among the grantees first place is taken by the tsar's kin: Apraxsins, 
Miloslavskys, Saltykovs, Naryshkins, Lopukhins. Sometimes at a single 
stroke there fell into the same hands, as in the case of the Naryshkins in 
1683-4, some 2,500 homesteads and 14,000 desyatinas of land. But this 
was nothing in comparison with the latifundia that began to arise under 
Peter when Menshikov alone acquired more than three townships, with 
20,000 desyatinas. During only eleven years of Peter's reign (1700- 
1711), of court lands alone about 340,000 desyatinas of arable land and 
27,500 homesteads of peasants were distributed, as against 167,000 desya- 
tinas and 16,000 homesteads converted into latifundia in the course of the 
preceding eighteen-year period. Thus, the nobles definitely seated them- 
selves in the place of the boyars ; and out of their midst arose a new 
feudal aristocracy that made possible the flowering of the "new feudal- 
ism" of the eighteenth century. 

2. Political Restoration 

Regeneration of the old economic forms was bound to be accompa- 
nied by revival of the old political regime. All the text-books are filled 
with descriptions of the "abuses" of Muscovite administration in the 
seventeenth century. These are usually represented as the product 
of the free "evil will" of the officials of the time. Sometimes phrases 
are added about the "lack of culture" of Tsar Alexis' contemporaries, 
and the historian deems explanation exhausted if he reminds his reader 
of the decline of the "zemsky [autonomous] principle" in local gov- 
ernment and its replacement by the "prikaz [bureaucratic] principle." 
Not so long ago "bureaucracy" was, in the eyes of the average Russian 
intellectual, so universal an explanation of every social evil that to 
dig deeper into the "causes of things" seemed a luxury absolutely 

To simplify the question it is desirable from the outset to give up 
our preconceived ideas about the "prikaz principle." If we understand 
the triumph of the latter to mean replacement of local self-government 
by a tyrannous bureaucracy, we find no historical facts to support such 
an explanation. All those organs of local self-government which were 
the product of the sixteenth century remained under the same names 
during the seventeenth century right down to the time of Peter, and 
in slight disguise till a much later date. No great change, the reader 
will agree, could result from the fact that the "zemsky starosta" 
began to be called "burgomistr," the "zemsky tselovalnik" "ratman," 
and the " 'zemskaya izba" "magistrat." The guba authorities likewise 
survived until Peter, and the fact that in his reign we find a "landrat" 


or commissar in place of the " gubnoy golova," marks no change in the 
essence of things. 

If the evolution of the prikaz principle be taken to mean the forma- 
tion of a group of professional officials (in the seventeenth century con- 
cerned almost exclusively with finance or diplomacy, jurists being added 
much later), this differentiation was effected at the cost of the feudal 
regime, not at the cost of "autonomy." Feudal Russia, like feudal 
Europe, had known but one division of governmental functions — the 
division into spiritual and temporal. Representatives of the one and 
of the other, each in their own sphere, performed all those functions 
now executed by the most diverse professional officials, — the adminis- 
tration of justice, the collection of taxes, the carrying on of diplomatic 
negotiations, and the command of the troops. 7 The growing complexity 
of governmental machinery, which paralleled economic development, 
caused the first three functions to be assigned to separate specialists, 
in part of bourgeois origin; only the military command was left ex- 
clusively to the feudal aristocracy. This was the "formation of a 
bureaucracy," in Russia as in the "West, a fact which can be regretted 
only by representatives of historical romanticism, who sigh for the 
lost "harmony" of mediasval life. The contemporary reader, bour- 
geois or non-bourgeois, has not the slightest reason for joining in these 
sighs. The correlation of social forces could not be changed because 
the method of operation of these forces became more complicated; the 
character of the regime was determined by its class physiognomy, and 
not by whether it was effected by "civilians" or by military men. 

But the rise of the "prikaz order of things," in this second and 
only correct sense of the word, does not constitute a feature charac- 
teristic of the realm of the first Romanovs. The enormous influence 
of the professional officials, the dyaks, had been remarked by the con- 
temporaries of Ivan [IV] the Terrible. In the following reign two 
dyaks, the brothers Shchelkalov, had sometimes seemed to foreigners 
the very embodiment of the Muscovite government ; in the words of 
one Russian contemporary, Boris Godunov was more than a little in- 
debted for his rise to one of the Shchelkalovs, a view shared by modern 
historians. In the Time of the Troubles, as we have seen, a former 
dyak of merchant origin, Fedor Andronov, had for a time ruled the 
Muscovite state. The seventeenth century offers more numerous ex- 
amples of a similar character, though not a single one so vivid. The 
dyaks of Tsars Michael and Alexis were somewhat more unassuming 

7 The representatives of the spiritual power in Russia usually exercised this last 
function indirectly, through the medium of their boyars; duties as military com- 
manders sometimes fell to the lot of the heads of a few monasteries (Troitsa or 



than these wielders of the destinies of the realm of Moscow. The cir- 
cumstance, which is usually commented on, that under these tsars the 
nobles, who had formerly disdained "lean grade," did not look askance 
at a dyakship (the best known noble family to make its career in official 
posts was that of the Lopukhins) can also be observed in earlier times; 
even in 1610 Moscow nobles had petitioned Sigismund to appoint them 
dyaks. The examples cited by Kotoshikhin of the power of bureau- 
cratic institutions, such as the Bureau of Secret Affairs, in part mark 
the first steps in a further development with which we must acquaint 
ourselves in more detail when we study the so-called "Petrine reform," 
in part are simply an exaggeration of the authority of the dyaks, — an 
exaggeration natural to the pen of a podyak [assistant dyak] author. 
In general, the central administration of the Muscovite state makes 
no perceptible progress in this direction until the very beginning of 
the following century when suddenly, within a few years, the whole 
system of the old central administration is destroyed, both duma and 
prikazes [bureaux]. The chief reform in the field of local administra- 
tion, the establishment of the voevoda's authority, has all the charac- 
teristics of a typical feudal institution; the voevoda commands the 
troops, administers justice, and collects the taxes. The loss of this last 
function is, again, one of the signs of further progress at the very end 
of the period we are studying. 

We must, then, renounce the simple and easy method of explaining 
the "abuses" by reference to the "evil will" of the "bureaucracy"; 
and on the question of "culture" serving as an antidote to "abuses," 
the United States and France of the present day offer such brilliant 
answers that it remains but to apply to the Muscovite state the method 
we should apply to them and seek not abuses but illustrations of a 
class regime. Setting out on this road, we shall see, first of all, that 
there was no inherent antagonism between "autonomy" and "abuses"; 
that, on the contrary, the former, as it then existed, was a very favour- 
able breeding ground for the latter. 

The Dvina and Volga regions were the classic land of "zemsky" 
institutions in the seventeenth century as they had been in the six- 
teenth. The northern and Lowland towns were centres of the Mus- 
covite bourgeoisie, in contrast to the southern towns, which were mili- 
tary-agrarian centres, behind the walls of which the local agricultural 
population took refuge from the foe, and whence the commanding ele- 
ments of this population "ruled" the surrounding country. In the 
north it was otherwise ; in consequence of the weak development of 
large landholding on the infertile soil, unfit for rural-economic enter- 
prise, until the eighteenth century there here survived in large measure 
a juridically free peasantry, economically enserfed, not by pomeshchiks 


but by urban capitalists. Here arose real bourgeois landholding, with 
which the nobles' government of the seventeenth century did not know 
what to do, accustomed as it was to see the land exclusively in the 
hands of military men; at one moment it took from the "gosts" and 
traders and all other ranks the hamlets "purchased and mortgaged," 
at another moment it gave them back. 

The extent of differentiation within the town population in the 
seventeenth century may be shown by two or three examples. In 
Usolye, in the second quarter of the century, are found merchants 
whose homesteads were valued at from 500 to 1,000 rubles (in modern 
money from 5,000 to 10,000 rubles) ; but we must take into account 
that, in the then forested north, building materials were literally not 
worth a red cent, so that the value of buildings as compared with mov- 
ables was not what it is to-day. Not 1,000, but 300 rubles constituted 
a real capital, and a large one at that, for the merchant of those times; 
in Tobolsk, the chief town of Siberia, no one then had a larger capital. 
A man whose house with all its furnishings was worth about 1,000 
rubles corresponded to the man worth a hundred thousand rubles at 
the beginning of the twentieth century; and God knows Usolye was 
no great centre. Ustyuzhna Zhelezopolskaya was still smaller, and 
there for the misdemeanour of a "young" man they took only one 
ruble and for a misdemeanour of a "trader" five rubles; the higher 
members of urban society were just five times greater than the lower 
ones. In Nizhny-Novgorod were four categories of the town population, 
the highest of which were the "better men," the wholesale traders and 
boat-owners, and the lowest the "base men," who, however, had home- 
steads of their own ; homeless cottars were not included at all. 

We have seen what a notable page in the history of the Troubles 
the struggle between these "better" and "lesser" men of the town of 
the time had constituted. The Troubles had ended with the victory 
of the "better" men, and the organs of zemsky autonomy, both in the 
town and in the county attached to it, had passed into their hands. 
The most modest of them took advantage of this only for the purpose 
of not "bearing tyaglo" [taille] along with the mass of the town popu- 
lation, in other words, of unloading on the latter the principal burden 
of state taxation. Thus, at Solvychegodsk in the 1620 's there was a 
zemsky tselovalnik (in later language, a member of the county board) 
who, together with a few others, was not included in the general town 
assessment and was not responsible for the town poor. Not, of course, 
because he and his comrades were poor men ; on the contrary, they 
were local bigwigs, who not only held homesteads but also possessed 
salt-boileries, shops, and warehouses in the town, and in the county 
had "little fields" and "meadows." Another zemsky tselovalnik, in 


the county of Totma, displayed still more aggressiveness; together with 
other "strong men" he seized a number of waste plots and vacant 
peasant lots but paid no taxes on them, leaving this for the peasants to 
do under the mutual guarantee. When the peasants took it into their 
heads to complain of him, he reminded them that the very collection 
of taxes was in his hands ; he began to put the complainants to distraint 
"in excessive taxes and mir levies" "and beat them without mercy." 
The "prikaz" official sent from Totma to examine into the complaints 
proved to be on the side of the "strong men," and so openly and shame- 
lessly that a commissioner from Moscow had to put him in prison; 
whether the commissioner himself did anything, we do not know; in 
any case, after his departure matters probably went on as before. There 
could, of course, be no question of any control exercised by the "lesser" 
men over the "better" men. At Vologda not only the "lesser" men 
but even the "middling" men could not obtain permission to "exam- 
ine" the zemsky starostas [elders]; the "better" men preferred to 
settle everything within their own circle, and friendly and amicable 
apportionment of the revenues evidently took the place of control. At 
Khlynov matters were still simpler; there the starosta and tselovalniks 
simply "assigned" among themselves the monies collected from the 
mir [community], continuing to exact them promptly from the tax- 
payers. In this way many both in town and country "were impover- 
ished and indebted greatly with debts and, abandoning their home- 
steads, were scattered asunder." The growth of indebtedness was 
fostered by the starosta and tselovalniks, who, among other things, 
engaged in usury. The depopulation of Khlynov attracted attention 
at Moscow, and the townsmen were permitted to elect examiners for 
the purpose of effecting a reform of the zemsky administration of 
Khlynov; it remained a question, however, who, under the conditions 
existing at Khlynov, might be examiners, and what practical results 
such a reform would yield. 

The state of affairs that had existed before the Troubles and that 
during them had evoked a series of urban outbursts and had made the 
Tushino "knave" tsar of all the oppressed and injured — this state of 
affairs continued to prevail in Russian towns after the termination of 
the "Time of the Troubles." Naturally the social struggle of the 
Time of the Troubles was bound to break out, now here, now there, and 
the fact that it did not assume the same acute form as it had when all 
Russia was in the throes of civil strife does not detract either from 
its social meaning or from its interest. In the 1670 's the county of 
Ustyug was completely in the grip of the urban capitalists of Great 
Ustyug; in a petition the men of the county very graphically de- 
scribe the state of affairs at the time. "The peasants were in every- 


thing enslaved to them, the townsmen, and by their wealth the zemsky 
starostas of the town have in their pride oppressed the peasants, and 
treated them as slaves, and by their might and great goods have pur- 
chased from our brothers, from the poor peasants, the best hamlets in 
the county of Ustyug and have begun in many townships to be the 
proprietors, and thence we, the peasants, have grown poor under their 
violence, and because of this poverty the peasants work on their [the 
townsmen's] hamlets instead of slaves. ..." But here, too, there finally 
came a moment when the "strong men" split, and apparently more seri- 
ously than anywhere else in a similar case. The starosta of the customs, 
himself a large trader, of course, utilising the quite unique pretext of 
the passage of a Dutch envoy (we shall not forget that in those days 
the Northern Dvina was the highway to Western Europe), assembled 
a meeting and at it effected a sort of municipal revolution. The assem- 
bled peasants elected their own separate "zemsky starosta of the whole 
county, " " and set up a special, paid, new-fangled volost izba beside the 
old general zemsky izba of the townsmen." 8 A remarkable peculiarity 
of the Ustyug conflict was the fact that the local voevoda took the part 
of the "rebels." "We do not know his reasons, but at Moscow the day 
was won by the deputies of the countrymen only because they did not 
begrudge money, in a single day distributing a hundred rubles each 
to the Moscow podyaks; this fact, far more than the voevoda 's leader- 
ship of the insurrection, which in itself might have been an accident, 
proves that the Ustyug peasantry was backed by an opposition among 
the local capitalists; purchasing the support of Moscow with the assist- 
ance of this merchant opposition, the men of the county of Ustyug even 
subjected the townsmen and acquired the right to fine the "better men" 
if they were unwilling to "pay along with the peasants," i.e., if they 
did not include themselves in the general assessment. 

It must, moreover, be noted that the sympathies of the Moscow au- 
thorities for the "lesser" men in town and country was not always 
occasioned by the personal greed of these or those "authorities." In 
the days of the Troubles the great bourgeoisie of the towns and the 
pomeshchiks had been allies, it is true. But hardly had those days 
passed and the common menace — the danger of a revolt of the "lesser" 
men, supported by Tushino — subsided, than the old antagonism swiftly 
revived, and the basic contradiction of interests of these two elements 
with respect to the state treasury, of the pomeshchik as payee, of the 
bourgeois as payer, was bound to be felt ever more and more keenly. 

But guba, and not zemsky, institutions were the chief battleground 

s That is, the peasants of the township {volost) set up their own autonomous 
organs of administration, independent of the county government controlled hy the 


of the two dominant classes of Muscovite society. We know that this 
form of "autonomy" had borne a class character from the very be- 
ginning, that the guba head or starosta was always a noble or knight. 
But, in the first place, though elected from one definite class, he was 
elected by all classes of society except the bondaged peasantry. In 
the second place, he did not act alone, but with tselovalniks, who were 
always non-nobles; the guba head, a noble, was only the president of 
this commission, which was really composed of all classes. His rights 
were, as we saw, very broad, but he could not alone pronounce final 
decision, and if he unduly offended the interests of the non-nobles, 
he exposed himself to the resistance of his democratic colleagues. In 
central Russia — a pomeshchik country from time immemorial — these 
restrictions on the power of the guba starosta might be, and probably 
were, an empty formality. But in the north, where the bourgeoisie 
was powerful and strong, it sometimes succeeded, even in the seven- 
teenth century, in deposing unpopular guba heads and replacing them 
with its own candidates. In Ustyuzhna Zhelezopolskaya in the 1640 's, 
the nobles' candidate for guba starosta twice had to give way to the 
townsmen's candidate, though he, too, of course, was taken from the 
military servitors. Twice the nobles and knights regained the upper 
hand, but the third time the conflict was ended by the townsmen gain- 
ing the right to elect a separate starosta, who was to administer the 
town alone, without the county. 

Under such conditions the fact that election by the nobles and knights 
alone was ever more and more frequently deemed sufficient, and the 
opinion of the townsmen not consulted, acquires special significance; 
though sometimes the townsmen participated in the elections, yet their 
votes did not count, since a pretext could always be found for declar- 
ing their candidate "unfit" to hold guba office. Still more curious 
is the evolution of the guba college. The tselovalnik, in the sixteenth 
century a colleague of the guba starosta, in the seventeenth is only his 
subordinate ; the starosta administers the oath and makes known to him 
the orders that come from Moscow. In 1669 the tselovalniks were abol- 
ished altogether or, rather, they were converted into prison guards, 
for prison tselovalniks, who guarded men under arrest, were retained 
until the end of the century. But this office had long since ceased to 
interest any one, and in places even in the 'twenties the townsmen "did 
not give prison money and did not attend to the prison at all." 

This very much surprised the nobles, who felt that, though guba mat- 
ters were their business, the taxpayers were bound to bear the expenses 
of them as of the nobles' state in general. But for the taxpayers the 
guba starosta had long been, not an "organ of autonomy" but a weapon 
of class oppression, and naturally their concern was not whether guba 


institutions were well served (who cares about the good quality of the 
chain with which he is fettered?), but rather how to get rid of them. 
Gradually they came to think that a prikaz man would be better, for 
at least he would not be directly elected by their foes, the local pomesh- 
chiks. Each outburst of desperation on the part of the townsmen was 
utilised by the central nobles' government to deprive them of the last 
shreds of their autonomy ; a local voevoda received instructions to see 
to it that "the guba starosta does not accuse [the townsmen and the 
peasants of the county] on an oral report and that he does not for the 
sake of his greed commit oppression and inflict fines ; if an oral report 
be made against the townsmen and the peasants of the county the 
voevoda and the dyak are bidden to inquire into it directly and justly 
and to execute the law by the sovereign's edict and by the Ulozhenie, 
but if it is an important matter, or one not written in the Ulozhenie, 
to write to the sovereign at Moscow." 

The naivete of the townsmen's hopes concerning the impartiality of 
the "prikaz" men from Moscow is quite apparent. In the 'sixties the 
men of one town who had exchanged their guba heads for voevodas thus 
characterised one of the latter, one evidently no worse than his prede- 
cessors: the voevoda "beats us . . . without inquest and without fault, 
and puts us in prison for his avarice ; and taking out of prison, beats 
with cudgels half to death without cause and without fault. And in 
the past year 172 he, the voevoda, shutting himself up in his home- 
stead, beat the tselovalnik of the customs chest, Volodka Selivanov, half 
to death and made great loss to the customs revenue. Many traders 
who came to deal in salt and fish he injured and ruined, and put in 
prison; and many traders who had come he drove out and scattered 
the market, and thy customs revenue, Great Sovereign, he stopped ; and 
us, thy orphans, elected men, in the end he has ruined with his great 
oppression, and taxation, and fining, and murder. ..." This example, 
which could be reproduced as often as one liked, is in itself interesting 
because in it stands out very distinctly the social class that suffered 
from the voevodas' acts of violence. These are not the petty folk who 
petitioned against their "zenisky" authorities; these are the authorities 
themselves, the zemsky starostas and wealthy merchants, dealers in 
fish and salt. The whole bourgeoisie suffered from the nobles' admin- 
istration; the higher elements, as in the days of the youth of Ivan the 
Terrible, suffered even more than the lower, since they had more to 

In enriching themselves, in using their power to make immediate 
material profits, lay the essence of the whole business for the voevodas 
and other prikaz men. "When we see a prikaz man beginning his ad- 
ministrative activity by taking "entry" from those he administers, 


and then, just like the kormlenshchik of the good old times — the times 
not of Ivan the Terrible even, but of Ivan III — beginning to drag out 
of these people under his administration all sorts of kormlenies in 
kind — rye, barley, wheat, calves, rams, butter, eggs, fish, sheep, hay — 
at any or all of these things we are not at all surprised. The reader 
has long since become acquainted with the familiar picture of a korm- 
lenshchik 's administration. The essence of the administrative restora- 
tion, of which the above cases of guba and voevoda tyranny were indi- 
vidual manifestations, was the revival of kormlenies. 

After the keen criticism of kormlenies that we read in Peresvetov, 
after what we know of Godunov 's administration, which tried to realise 
in practice the ideal of a police state, the feudal order of things in 
the seventeenth century cannot be regarded as a simple survival. The 
new "kormlenies" were too universal a phenomenon for that. What 
"social conscience," in the person of the nobles' publicist of the times 
of Ivan the Terrible, had sharply condemned, the nobles of the seven- 
teenth century regarded with the utmost complaisance, as an absolutely 
normal affair. Offices of an "elective" character (guba offices, for 
example) they considered, not as abuses but as offices just like any 
others. The guba starosta was, as we know, to prosecute thieves and 
robbers, and worthy historians of Russian law have been seriously con- 
vinced that the Moscow government had lost its head over how it should 
deal with robbers. With sublime tranquillity it appointed to guba 
office a blind man precisely because he was blind. And this was the 
general rule. In 1601 it was forbidden to appoint as voevodas and 
prikaz men nobles and knights who were not injured, not maimed but 
healthy ; a kormlenie, you see, was a reward for service, somewhat in 
the nature of a pension; why give it to a healthy man, a man still fit 
for "regimental service"? At the very beginning of the period under 
consideration, immediately after the Troubles, Moscow had sometimes 
bethought itself, as it were, of the Godunov traditions; in the voevodas' 
instructions of the 'twenties the voevodas were strictly enjoined "not 
to cause any injuries or levy taxes on any one out of avarice and to 
plough and thresh grain for themselves, and harvest hay, and not to 
take feed for horses, and to distil spirits, and not to bid firewood to 
be cut and any obligatory labour to be done, and from the town and 
the county not to take food and drink and money for food and drink, 
that there be no injuries upon them and no petitioners to the sovereign 
for any acts of violence." In the 'seventies, however, on abolishing 
a prikaz office, the government unceremoniously imposed on the in- 
habitants a due for " voevoda 's revenues," as it might have done in 
the first half of the sixteenth century for the "namestnik's feeding." 
The famous case related by Tatishchev, in which Tsar Alexis was trying 


to find for a favourite noble a town with a "revenue" of six hundred 
rubles and found one of only four hundred, is not merely an anecdote. 
And probably the story of the same Tatishchev that all the towns had 
a fixed tariff, and that whoever paid the price got the town, is also more 
than an anecdote. 

If we add to all this that on his estates every landholder was the 
judge over his peasants in all except guba (chiefly, robbery) cases, 
and that in all cases, guba ones included, he had the right of prelimi- 
nary investigation as it was then understood (i.e., including torture), 
our picture of the "dominance of private law" will need but one final 
touch. In the seventeenth century, as in the preceding one, immuni- 
ties continued to exist ; that is, there was special jurisdiction for special 
categories of persons and institutions. "We have already seen how easily 
the least of these privileges — emancipation from the jurisdiction of the 
nearest local court — was obtained. It was not impossible to gain a great 
one — subjection in judicial matters to the central institutions exclu- 
sively. Such a privilege was enjoyed by the posterity of Kuzma Minin, 
but it was also given to persons altogether unrenowned. In 1654, for 
example, Ivan Kikin and Afanasy Strunnikov, townsmen of the town 
of Gorokhovets, received a perpetual and hereditary immunity; using 
appanage terminology, "the grand prince or whom he orders" was to 
judge them. A similar immunity was enjoyed by all the gosts and 
men of the gost hundred; only the tsar or the tsar's treasurer judged 
them. Strange as it may seem, a privilege might in a certain sense be 
a progressive feature, as we shall see later; such was the special juris- 
diction for foreigners, who were tried in the Posohky Prikaz [Bureau 
of Foreign Affairs]. The widest immunities, of course, were obtained 
by ecclesiastical institutions. The archpriest of the Moscow Cathedral 
of the Annunciation tried Church people and peasants belonging to the 
cathedral in all cases, not excepting guba cases, and was obliged to 
report to the sovereign only if he himself could not decide the case. 
It was a rare monastery that did not know how to obtain the same 
privilege ; in 1667 it was made general by a Church council, which pro- 
vided that according to the rules of the holy fathers Church people, 
including the numerous peasantry dwelling on Church lands, were 
subject only to the jurisdiction of the Church. 

The organs of the central government were less affected by the class 
struggle than were the provincial institutions, for in respect to 
class the central administration was far more homogeneous. The 
bourgeoisie very rarely penetrated into the central institutions, and then 
only by losing its immediate class physiognomy. Kuzma Minin, like 
Fedor Andronov before him, had to convert himself into a military 
servitor in order to take his seat in the tsar's council; from a bour- 


geois zemsky starosta lie became a "noble of the duma." But the 
number of such anoblis was insignificant in the Muscovite state of the 
seventeenth century, far more insignificant than, for example, in France 
of the same period. The democracy of the Muscovite sovereign's duma 
was made up of "base born" pomeshchiks and dyaks, two elements 
which, as we have seen, then displayed a strong tendency toward fusion. 
During the Petrine recovery a wave of this democracy washed away 
the last remnants of the old aristocracy; in the boyar lists of the last 
years of the duma appeared a variety of names of men scarcely bear- 
ing duma ranks, like the celebrated Romodanovsky, and even of "men" 
like the no less celebrated Alexis Kurbatov, a former bondsman of 

The "great destruction" of the Muscovite state at the beginning of 
the century had prepared this result long in advance, but it came 
tardily rather than prematurely. Mestnichestvo survived until 1682, 
and under the first two tsars of the new dynasty the personnel of the 
central institutions bore a more archaic character than might have 
been expected. The political influence of the old boyar order, as a 
social group, was already insignificant in 1610; yet as late as 1668 it 
supplied almost half of the entire personnel of the duma (28 out of 
62), simply because, as Kotoshikhin testifies, precedence was still given 
to "high birth" rather than " learnedness " and personal deserts. The 
durability of old prejudices is, perhaps, still better expressed in what 
Kotoshikhin says on the score of the hierarchical position of the tsar's 
relatives. "And whatever boyars are relatives of the tsar through the 
tsaritsa, they do not sit in the duma and at the tsar's table, because it 
is a disgrace to them to sit below other boyars, and they are not able 
[to sit] above [them], because by birth they are not high." Neither 
the favour of the tsar nor even kinship with the tsar could add "ote- 
chestvo" to a man ; on the other hand, not only the tsar's favour but just 
simple physical propinquity to the source of power gave him a real 
influence on affairs. The antinomy of feudal society, where the king 
could not seat a marquis below a count, but where both count and mar- 
quis alike bowed low to the king's valet-de-chambre, was integrally re- 
produced by Moscow's court society of the times of Tsar Alexis. Ac- 
cording to Kotoshikhin 's story, highest in the hierarchy of Muscovite 
grades, highest in fact and not merely for purposes of display, stood 
the postelniks [chamberlains] and spalniks [gentlemen of the bedcham- 
ber]. The former made the tsar's bed and slept in the same room 
with him, and at the same time kept the seal for the tsar's "hasty 
and secret" affairs, i.e., they stood closest of all to that extra-duma 
legislation, "edicts of the sovereign," which was destined to crowd out 
the obsolescent mechanism of the boyar duma. The spalniks clothed 


and booted the tsar in the morning, undressed and unbooted him in the 
evening, and in consequence found themselves in the very first ranks of 
the tsar's men of the duma. Made boyars or okolniches 9 (according 
to their ' ' otechestvo ' ' — this was strictly observed ! ) , they bore the title 
of "blizhny [privy] " or "komnatny [chamber] " boyars and okolniches; 
they had the immense privilege of unannounced entry into the tsar's 
cabinet [Jcomnata], whither the other members of the duma could enter 
only when summoned, and they could stage a sitting of the duma when- 
ever the tsar needed its sanction but did not wish to share his thoughts 
with all of its members. "When the tsar chooses to think of anything 
secretly," writes Kotoshikhin, "in that duma are those boyars and 
okolniches and blizhnys who have been recruited from gentlemen of 
the bedchamber or who have been ordered to come ; while the other 
boyars and okolniches and men of the duma do not come into that sit- 
ting of the duma for any business." 

The central institutions, as was natural under this feudal regime, 
were likewise of feudal character. We have not yet had occasion to 
discuss the mechanism of the central administration of Muscovy, and 
for the reason that the administration of the "votchina" of Ivan 
Kalita's descendants did not differ in any essential way from that 
of other votchinas, except for the difference that the unusual size of 
this "estate" might introduce. It is no accident that "prikaz" 
[bureau], the appellation given to a Muscovite ministry, comes from 
the same root as the modern " prikazchik" [steward or overseer] ; in 
point of the origin and character of their authority the ministers of the 
tsar of Moscow did not differ from the overseers of any private votchina. 
Nor is this the sole example of the descriptiveness of Muscovite ad- 
ministrative terminology. At the end of the sixteenth century the de- 
partments of the Bolshoi Prikhod, the ministry of finance of the 
time, were, quite characteristically, named for the dyaks who had 
charge of them. Later these departments were given geographical 
names, but the character of a personal "prikaz" [command] was re- 
tained by their further subdivisions until the end of the seventeenth 
century. Moreover, the towns and counties were distributed among 
them in the most fantastic disorder; not one of these ministries or de- 
partments had charge of a definite, continuous territory. On the other 
hand, there was not one of them that had no territory at all to admin- 
ister; even the Posolsky Prikaz [ministry of foreign affairs] controlled 
several towns, and not frontier ones, either. 

In the list of Muscovite bureaux of the time of Tsar Alexis, and 
even later, institutions of a public character and the different sections 
of the tsar's private economy are interlocked in great confusion while 

» The oJcolnich ranked next below the boyar in the duma. 


very often functions of both types are fulfilled by one and the same 
institution. There was the bureau of the Bolshaya Kazna [Great Treas- 
ury], which around 1680 drew together about one-half of all the state 
revenues — a real ministry of finance; but it is not to be confused with 
the Kazcnny [Treasury] Bureau, which had charge of the tsar's ward- 
robe and at the same time controlled a few traders of the towns. The 
Bureau of "Gold and Silver Work" was, properly, occupied with the 
tsar's gold and silver service, but even under Peter there entered its 
competence certain cavalry regiments "of foreign order" — dragoons, 
cuirassiers, and lancers. Sometimes this combination of diverse func- 
tions in one and the same institution confronts the historian of public 
law with a genuine enigma. Why, for example, was the Stable Bureau 
charged with the tax on baths? There can be only one answer: at 
some time or other both these functions had been entrusted to one and 
the same steward ; perhaps he was a clever man, who could handle 
much at once, or perhaps they wanted to increase the revenues of the 
tsar's master of the horse — a very important person in the Muscovite 
realm, like his counterpart the "constable" in the mediaeval kingdom 
of France. 

In connexion with the political restoration that we are considering, 
it is significant that this feature — the blending of the sovereign's own 
economy and the administration of the realm — is peculiar both to the 
old bureaux inherited by the Romanovs from the times before the 
Troubles and to the new central institutions that arose in the seven- 
teenth century. It is customary to cite as the typical example of the 
nascent bureaucratic organisation the "Bureau of Secret Affairs," 
which arose under Tsar Alexis. Properly, the "secret" of this bureau 
lay in the fact that hither "the boyars and men of the duma did not 
enter and did not handle affairs." But, on the other hand, the bureau 
itself had charge of the men of the duma ; the officials who sat in it, the 
"podyaks," were sent with men of the duma when the latter were ap- 
pointed as ambassadors, as voevodas of regiments, etc. "And those 
podyaks keep watch over the envoys and over the voevodas and on their 
return tell the tsar; and whatever envoys or voevodas commit negli- 
gence in their affairs, they suffer the tsar 's displeasure ; and they make 
presents to those podyaks and respect them above measure, so that 
they, being near the tsar, shall praise up their envoys and not report 
evil. That bureau was set up in the time of the present tsar [Alexis] 
that his tsar's thought and deeds be fulfilled, all according to his liking, 
and that the boyars and men of the duma should not handle anything 
at all." We have already said that in all probability Kotoshikhin 
exaggerated the power of the podyaks of the secret bureau; neverthe- 
less the very idea of putting the men of the duma under the control 


of men not of the clurna was indubitably a new idea; but this did not 
prevent the new bureau from administering, among other things, the 
tsar's falconry. Yet the most typical survival of feudal administra- 
tion in the seventeenth century was the bureau of the Bolshoi Dvorets 
[Big Court; in modern terminology, the Department of the Tsar's 
Household]. To the very end of the century it remained the greatest 
financial institution of the realm next to the Bolshaya Kazna and col- 
lected a number of purely public imposts, both direct and indirect — 
customs and liquor duties, the streltsy tax, the post and prisoner taxes 
— and along with these it collected the dues from the court villages 
and townships. 

Among the "survivals" of feudalism with which the Muscovite state 
of the seventeenth century is filled, it is impossible to overlook one 
that sums up all the rest. We refer to an institution that has acquired 
a famous, and not altogether deserved, though quite comprehensible 
reputation in modern times, the zemsky sobor. The bitterness that 
down to the revolution of 1905 marked the controversy over the zemsky 
sobor of early Rus has since evaporated. Nowadays hardly any one 
wants to argue as to whether it was something like the constitutional 
assemblies of Western Europe or a remote prototype of the official 
commissions of the days of Alexander III, whether it was a house of 
national representatives or a "consultation of the government with its 
own agents." Probably neither the one nor the other modernisation 
of the Muscovite "council of all the land" would now find protagonists. 
Historians have correctly surmised that it was something unique, not 
to be comprehended in the conventions of modern, bourgeois public 
law; but in vain they have seen in the zemsky sobors a national pe- 
culiarity. It was a peculiarity not native to any one country, but to 
all countries at a certain period. 

The local peculiarity of Russian assemblies of this sort was, perhaps, 
the fact that in Russia they survived, in their crudest and most rudi- 
mentary form at that, up to a stage of social evolution at which in 
Western Europe either we do not find them at all, or they there assume 
a more up-to-date guise. Every mediaeval sovereign constantly acted 
on the advice of the council of his great vassals, spiritual and tem- 
poral, and in more important cases with the council of all his vassals, 
all of whom, of course, were not invited, but only the most influential 
and authoritative among them. In the grand principality of Moscow 
we know of at least one such assembly, which preceded the campaign 
of Ivan III against Novgorod in 1471; Ivan had at that time con- 
sulted, not only with the bishops, princes, boyars, and voevodas, but 
with "all the warriors." Under the latter, as historians quite justly 
surmise, can be understood none other than the petty vassals, the 


"knights." The only innovation that distinguished the first zemsky 
sobor in the true sense (the sobor of 1566) from this assembly was the 
participation in it of representatives of the bourgeoisie — gosts and mer- 

It is self-evident that the norms of "representation of the people" 
and equally the terms "consultative" or "deciding voice" were abso- 
lutely inapplicable to any such "duma" [thinking] of the sovereign 
with his vassals. The vassals were not the people even in the restricted 
sense that the words "people" and "representatives of the people" 
have in countries where there is no universal suffrage. The sobor was 
really an "instrument" of the sovereign, i.e., something without which 
he could not act; here we cannot speak of a "deciding" or a "non- 
deciding" voice. A present-day public authority is physically perfectly 
well able to act without the consent of the representatives of the people ; 
in such case all its actions cease to be in accordance with law, but their 
material effect is then even more forcible than normally, for they usually 
strive to supplement the lack of law with force. The mediaeval sover- 
eign was not at all bound to listen to his vassals ; juridically his declara- 
tion of will was quite enough to legalise the step he had taken. But 
he lacked the physical possibility of undertaking anything his vassals 
did not wish to execute. Any man "has the right" to bind his feet, 
but having bound his feet, he cannot move, wherefore not a single 
man in his sane mind will try to practise this his incontestable right. 

The reader must have already guessed when the end of the mediaeval 
"estates of the realm" had to come; it had to come the moment the 
suzerain ceased to be dependent on the natural obligations of his vas- 
sals, i.e., when he got into his hands a force that permitted him to 
purchase services instead of begging them. This is why the definitive 
triumph of money economy has always been the critical moment for 
the "rights and liberties" of the feudal nobility. Real power then 
passes into the hands that have the money, into the hands of the com- 
mercial bourgeoisie, which did not need and was not at all interested 
in the mediaeval estates, in which the landed nobility were predominant. 
Only where landholding became bourgeois, or where the bourgeoisie was 
of no importance, were mediaeval institutions preserved, though in altered 
form; the former was the case in England, the latter in Poland. In 
Russia and in France matters took another course, a more normal one, 
it might be said; in both countries the growth of commercial capital 
and its influence on affairs coincides with the growth of absolute 
monarchy and the decline of those forms of "political liberty" that 
were closely connected with natural economy. 

The quickening of the zemsky sobor in the first half of the seven- 
teenth century was, then, very closely connected with the economic 


and political restoration which marked this epoch. Whereas the pre- 
ceding century knows only two, at the very most four 10 sobors, in the 
course of half a century, in the forty years from 1612 to 1653 we know 
of ten sobors (and there would be nothing surprising if still others be- 
come known to contemporaries) ; for nine years, from 1613 to 1622, the 
sobor functioned annually. But this material invigoration of the institu- 
tion was not accompanied by its evolution from primitive forms to more 
modern ones. The representatives were not consolidated into class 
groups like the separate ''Estates" of Western Europe in the Middle 
Ages. In the sobor of 1642 (better known to us than any other) the 
military servitors other than the boyars, i.e., the nobles, knights, and 
officers of the streltsy, voted in seven separate groups, based mainly on 
geography. It was the same with the "third estate," the gosts con- 
sulting and voting apart from the headmen of the lesser townspeople. 
The representation of the "fourth estate," the peasantry, was distin- 
guished by a still more accidental character. The peasantry was not 
fused with the "third estate" as in France, and was not separated out 
into a special corporation as in the Scandinavian realms. Yet it was 
not systematically put aside as in the Polish diet. The peasants (of 
course not the serfs, for whom their masters answered, but the ' ' black, ' ' 
or court, peasants) appear at the sobors, though only very sporadically. 
At the sobor of 1682 there were deputies from court villages, never 
met with earlier. Deputies of the "black peasantry" must have par- 
ticipated in the sobor of 1613, a fact which was long disputed and is 
sometimes disputed to this day, but of which there is documentary evi- 
dence. There has been preserved a charter inviting the men of Uglich 
to send "ten peasants of the county," that they, together with the depu- 
ties of the townsmen, should "be free in place of all and every man of 
Uglich to speak about state and about local business without any 
dread." There are, however, no signatures of peasant plenipotentiaries 
on Michael 's election charter ; it is hard to say whether this means that 
the peasant deputies for some reason did not get to the sobor, or whether 
they were without exception illiterate. 11 

Just as undefined was the competence of the sobor, if we approach 
it from our point of view. On the one hand, all the Eussian tsars 
from Boris Godunov (and perhaps from Fedor I) to Peter were elected, 
and elected by a sobor. Recognition of the tsar "by all the land" was 
deemed the prime condition of the legality of the tsar's authority from 
the point of view of Russian public law of the seventeenth century. 

io If we accept the existence of the sobor of 1549 and count as a sobor what took 
place at Moscow at the accession of Fedor I in 1584. 

ii The signatures of nobles, abbots, and archpriests frequently appear in the char- 
ter "in the place of all the men of the county." 


The rebellions against Shuisky were made under the slogan that he 
was "made tsar" "without the consent of all the land." The impos- 
sibility of organising elections throughout the land was from the very 
beginning a great handicap in the candidacy of Vladislav. It would 
seem that "supreme constituent power" was in the hands of the zemsky 
sobor. Nevertheless, on the one hand, the seventeenth-century Mus- 
covites attached little value to this prerogative of theirs. In 1636 the 
voevoda of Galich exhausted himself in organising elections to the 
zemsky sobor in the county of Galich but, try as he would, he could 
not raise more than twenty pomeshchiks, and the deputies of these 
twenty had to be sent on behalf of the whole county. Toward the per- 
sonnel of the "supreme constituent assembly" (it is true, in 1636 there 
was no tsar to be elected) the population bore itself with, it may be 
said, outrageous indifference; the majority of the nobles and knights 
of Galich, writes the voevoda, "do not vote, holding their peace." On 
the other hand, the Moscow government made no bones about ignoring 
the demands of the "people's representatives." To the sobor of 1648- 
1649, which established the "Ulozhenie," the deputies brought many 
petitions. Some of them were respected; others the boyars who ruled 
the country declared "capricious," and no one thought of taking them 
into consideration. 

But both the apathy of the electorate and the indifference of the gov- 
ernment become quite comprehensible if we remember that the suzerain 
was not obliged to consult his vassals on all occasions. Where his de- 
mands did not go beyond the customary circle, he could present them 
categorically, and it was not possible to disobey them; having once 
recognised a sovereign, his vassals by that very fact obligated them- 
selves once for all to execute all his normal commands. The assent of 
the vassals came into question only where the demands exceeded the 
norm, i.e., when they bore an exceptional character. Here it was not 
a matter of demanding, but of asking and sometimes imploring. When 
in 1634 Tsar Michael's exhausted treasury needed resources for the 
struggle with Poland, and commercial capital was subjected to an ex- 
traordinary levy ("fifth money," a 20% tax), and the pomeshchiks 
had to agree to something in the nature of a compulsory loan, the tsar's 
speech at the sobor was expressed as follows : ' ' This your present direct 
donation will be pleasant to God the Maker Himself. The Sovereign 
Tsar and Grand Prince Michaelo Feodorovich of All Rus will bear this 
your aid ever in memory and never forget, and in future will see that 
his sovereign wage is paid in full measure. ' ' The zemsky sobor was ever 
the synonym for an extraordinary request; given such a character, it 
was hard for it to make itself popular. 



1. Commercial Capitalism in the Seventeenth Century * 

In the seventeenth century the domestic and in part even the foreign 
trade of Muscovite Rus still bore a handicraft character, almost un- 
changed since the days of Kievan Rus. In industry small-scale, handi- 
craft production prevailed exclusively. Europeans, who in the second 
half of the seventeenth century were no less acquainted with Russia than 
we now are with China, knew and valued Russian handicraft; at that 
time it filled approximately the place now held by the exhibits of various 
"Oriental" bazaars. And in part the round of merchandise was the 
same ; Kilburger enumerates cartridge belts and divers articles for the 
road — chests, knapsacks, bags, silk scarfs, cowls of camel wool, etc. Very 
frequently even the methods of manufacture were borrowed from the 
East. A Polish author, who had witnessed the Troubles, wrote of con- 
temporary Russian hand- workers : ' ' All the Russian artisans are excel- 
lent, very skilful and so intelligent that a thing they have never made 
or even seen before they understand at the first glance and execute as 
well as though they were accustomed to it from infancy, especially Turk- 
ish things — horse-cloths, harness, saddles, swords with gold damascening. 
None of these things are inferior to the Turkish." Later they imitated 
"Western models just as successfully. The renowned Olearius, who was 
in Moscow a quarter of a century later, confirms what has been said about 
the manual skill of Russian artisans and their ability to imitate, citing 
as an example that their edged and sharp articles were "no worse and 
even better than the very best of those that are made in Germany." 
"Foreigners who want to keep the secret of their art for themselves 
should not practise it in the presence of Muscovites," he adds, and he 
goes on to relate how quickly the Russians had penetrated all the secrets 
of the iron-founders' art regardless of the fact that the foreign iron- 
founders invited by the Moscow government had taken every precaution 
to conceal them from the natives. 

Some products of Russian handicraft not only were not inferior to 
those imported from abroad but even themselves found a market abroad ; 
such were, in particular, all kinds of leather work. As early as the 
'thirties Olearius speaks of "Russian hides" as an article of export, 

* For an explanation of the use of this term cf. Glossary. 



mainly from Novgorod. An exceptional reputation was enjoyed by ' ' Rus- 
sian leather," which the realm of Moscow seems to have supplied to all 
Europe. In de Rodes' time (the 1650 's) it occupied the first place among 
Russian exports, and there were sent abroad annually some 75,000 rolls, 
amounting to 335,000 rubles (not less than five million rubles gold), 
while the total exports slightly exceeded one million rubles. Leather 
mittens were another object of wholesale foreign trade ; they were pro- 
duced in Moscow by hundreds and sent to Sweden in large quantities. 
It must, however, be noted that in the Muscovite realm stock-raising was 
then in bad condition, and the hides of Russian cattle were unfit for use. 
"The finest and largest hides are collected and bought up by the Rus- 
sians everywhere," says de Rodes. "They make use of the sledging- 
season, when the engrossers of hides and preparers of leather set out 
for Poland, for Podolia and the Ukraine in particular, and there buy up 
whatever they can lay their hands on. ' ' Then they soaked the hides till 
spring, at which season began the ardent, feverish work of preparing 
them for despatch by the spring flood from Vologda, by the Sukhona and 
Dvina, to the Archangel fair. 

This example shows very clearly that it was only in the field of foreign 
trade that commercial capitalism had mastered Russian handicraft. 
Within the country the Russian artisan, like the Russian trader, held to 
the mediasval viewpoint. Foreigners relate with amazement the cheap- 
ness of the products of Russian handiwork: according to Kilburger, 
silver buttons were sold at Moscow for as many copecks of silver as the 
buttons themselves weighed, a phenomenon which he could explain only 
by the fact that the silver used by Russian jewellers was of very low 
assay; but it must be said that the silver copeck of the time was also 
made of very poor silver. Olearius came nearer to a correct understand- 
ing of the matter when he explained the cheapness of Russian products 
by the cheapness of foodstuffs in Russia; the artisan did not value his 
labour and demanded only that his work should feed him, for which pur- 
pose the most insignificant profit was sufficient. If we add that handi- 
craft was frequently a subsidiary occupation (the streltsy, for example, 
were largely engaged in it as well as in petty trade), the cheapness of 
Russian handicraft production becomes perfectly clear. But once West- 
ern Europe showed interest in any aspect of this handicraft, large capital 
entered the field, and the situation changed abruptly. 

Commercial capitalism fame to Russia from the West; to Western 
Europe Russia was then a sort of colony. An extraordinarily interesting 
illustration of this "colonial" status is afforded by the attempt of the 
Dutch, in the first half of the seventeenth century, to make Russia their 
"granary." Until recent years very little attention has been paid to 
this attempt ; the extremely interesting negotiations on this score between 


the government of the Netherlands and Tsar Michael Romanov did not 
become known in all their details until the beginning of the present 

The ancestor of Russian-Dutch trade was the Reverend Trif on, founder 
of the Pechenga Monastery, the most northerly of the monasteries of 
Russia. This monastery carried on an extensive industrial economy, 
marketing its products — fish, cod-liver oil, etc. — to the Norwegians in 
near-by Vardo. A Dutch merchant who chanced thither proved to be 
a more profitable customer, and since the Norwegians, jealous of their 
monopoly, prevented him from trading in Vardo, he was invited by the 
monks to visit them at Pechenga. In the very next year (the incident 
occurred just about the time that Ivan the Terrible was creating his 
oprichnina) a regular company was formed by merchants of the Nether- 
lands, which procured from Philip II of Spain, who still ruled all the 
Netherlands, a monopoly of trade with the Russian north. The matter 
proved more complicated than the parties had thought. On the Murman 
coast there still survived the traditions of "robber trade" of Viking 
times, and the first trading caravan from the Netherlands was plundered 
by Russians, and its crew slain. 

But this did not interrupt relations. Ships from the Netherlands 
continued to visit Murmansk regularly, from year to year, and the 
cloister of the Reverend Trifon became a great commercial centre. In 
the year of the monks' first acquaintance with the Dutch the monastery 
numbered only 20 monks and 30 lay-brothers; only five years later 
there were 50 of the former and some 200 of the latter, including 
workers. To Pechenga came traders from Kholmogory and Kargopol, 
while the monastery's fishing-boats pushed even into Norwegian waters, 
so that the Muscovite authorities had to intervene to curb the spirit 
of industrial enterprise of the anchorites of Pechenga. But what the 
latter managed to catch in Russian waters was sufficient to supply a 
very wide market; not content with their original correspondents, the 
above-mentioned Antwerp company, the Pechenga brotherhood con- 
cluded another treaty, this time with a commercial house of Amsterdam. 
This may, however, have been the result of a certain northward move- 
ment of trade-centres in the Netherlands, for, with the emancipation of 
the northern Netherlands from the Spanish yoke, this trade became ever 
more and more Dutch in the narrow sense of the word. At the same 
time, the ships from the Netherlands ceased to confine themselves to 
Pechenga alone and, gradually pushing to the south, reached first Kola 
(where in the year of the first coming of the Dutch there were only 
three houses, while seventeen years later there was a regular little city, 
with its own voevoda and fortress) and later Archangel. 

It was to the Dutch, as modern historians have disclosed, that the 


latter town owed its origin. The Norwegians had continued to look 
askance at these competitors, while the Norwegian sovereign, who was 
also king of Denmark, had special reasons for not encouraging Russian- 
Dutch trade on the White Sea; such trade would mean the "circum- 
vention" of his customs duties, an abundant tribute hitherto levied on 
all ships going to and from Rus by way of the Baltic Sea, through the 
Sound. Accordingly, he declared the sea between the coasts of Norway 
and of Iceland a "Sound," a "strait," and demanded that ships pass- 
ing around Norway through this "strait" must pay customs duties 
to the Danes. Since the Dutch refused to acknowledge that the Danes 
owned half of the Atlantic Ocean, they were declared smugglers ; Danish 
cruisers began to look for "contraband" as far as the Russian coast 
itself, for the Muscovite state had no fleet and could only argue with 
the Danes on paper. Seeking safety from the Danes, one Dutch captain 
ascended the Dvina as far as Cape Pur-Navolok, where then stood only 
the Monastery of Michael the Archangel. It was this accidentally dis- 
covered harbour that proved far more convenient than the former Eng- 
lish landing-place in the Bay of St. Nicholas, where large sea-going 
vessels could not enter ; soon in the wake of the Dutch the whole foreign 
trade of Moscow passed to the "New Town" of Archangel. 

But first place was firmly held by those to whom belonged the honour 
of opening the new port. In 1603 an English author wrote: "We [the 
English] have in the course of seventy years carried on a considerable 
trade with Russia and fourteen years ago still sent thither a great num- 
ber of ships ; yet three years ago we sent to Russia four ships, and last 
year only two or three. The Dutch are sending thither 30-40 ships, each 
of which is twice as large as ours." The importance the Dutch them- 
selves attached to trade with Russia is evident from a project submitted 
to the States General at the end of the sixteenth century. "The wealth 
of our Netherlands is based on trade and navigation," says the author 
of this project, "if we do not engage in them, not only can we not get 
the means for waging the war [with Spain], but our whole people will 
be impoverished, and disorders may break out. Nevertheless, there is no 
doubt that God Almighty will not permit this and will not abandon us, 
inasmuch as He shows us a new path, which is just as lucrative as sailing 
to Spain, and this is the path to Moscow." But, for the Dutch, trade 
with Spain meant trade with the New World, with Mexico and Peru, 
which in the eyes of the Europeans of the time were fabulously wealthy : 
this was the trade that was now to be supplanted by "Muscovy." 
Admitting that, like any proposer of such a project, the Dutch author 
was somewhat carried away, nevertheless it can hardly be supposed that 
the States General was paying serious attention to the mere extravagant 
phantasy of a leisured dreamer. When he said that "neither Germany 


nor our Netherlands can get along without the trade with Russia," and 
that this trade "is a matter of the greatest importance for our country 
and its inhabitants," he was evidently saying things that to many 
seemed quite reasonable. A quarter of a century later, not individual 
promoters but the Netherlands government itself made such a radical 
attempt to divert all Dutch trade in Eastern Europe through "Mus- 
covy" that the "greatest importance" of the new market for the Nether- 
lauds is incontestable. There remained only the question whether the 
other party, "Muscovy" itself, acknowledged these relations to be of 
the "greatest importance." 

In order to understand the origin of this first attempt of European 
commercial capitalism to "conquer Russia," we must have in mind the 
condition of commercial relations in what was for Moscow the Far West. 
By the seventeenth century foodstuffs had been added to commodities 
of international exchange; an international grain market was already 
beginning to take form. The price of rye in Danzig determined the 
cost of living in Madrid or Lisbon. Enormous quantities of corn were 
carried annually from the agricultural countries of Eastern Europe, 
Prussia and Poland chiefly, to France, Spain, and Italy. The inter- 
mediaries in this exchange were the Dutch, whose participation in the 
grain trade was measured by thousands of ships, so that for the pros- 
perity of the Dutch merchant marine this trade was hardly less impor- 
tant than was the far better-known trade with the colonies. "The sea- 
borne grain trade is almost exclusively in the hands of our nation," the 
envoys of the Netherlands said at Moscow in 1631. 

But it was not only the Dutch marine that was concerned ; the Dutch 
themselves, who had very largely given up the raising of grain for the 
cultivation of vegetables, could no longer feed themselves on their own 
grain. But the usual source of grain supply for the new republic had 
two drawbacks. In the first place, Prussia and Poland and the coun- 
tries along the Baltic coast had already developed their own manufac- 
turing industry ; hence by the end of the sixteenth century the products 
of Dutch workshops were finding a very poor market there. At least, the 
author of the Dutch project we have cited very definitely asserts that 
' ' every ship to Russia or from Russia to the Netherlands brings in more 
than seven, eight, or even ten ships coming from Danzig, for example, 
because the ships bound for Muscovy are laden with valuable merchan- 
dise and not with ballast like those going to Danzig, Riga, or France." 
Trade with Riga or Danzig then meant an "unfavourable balance of 
trade" for the Dutch. This disadvantage was aggravated by a second 
condition of Baltic trade, already familiar to us, — the "Sound tolls" 
which the king of Denmark levied on every ship entering or leaving the 
Baltic Sea. These tolls might have been tolerated for the sake of the 


cheapness of Polish or Livonian grain ; but the price of grain mounted 
with extraordinary rapidity in proportion to the increase of its inter- 
national importance. "At the beginning of 1606 a last 1 of rye cost 
only 16 guldens at Danzig ; in the decade 1610-1620 the price fluctuated 
from 45 to 65 guldens ; in September of the following year it rose to 80 
guldens, and in 1622 to 120 guldens." In 1628 a last of rye in Amster- 
dam had soared to 250 guldens, "and subsequently the price did not 
fall but attained an unheard-of height." Here the Dutch bethought 
themselves that "the Russian land is great and rich in grain" and that 
in Rus "on monastery and other lands constantly lie great stores of corn 
and they frequently even rot," as the representative of Maurice of 
Orange, the famous Isaac Massa, explained at Moscow. 

Massa did not succeed in putting his business through, apparently be- 
cause he was too much concerned about his own personal commercial 
interests, thus evoking the strong displeasure of all the other Dutch 
merchants doing business at Moscow. His plenipotentiary powers were 
taken from him, but the negotiations with the Muscovite government 
touching the trade in grain were not halted, since they were not a per- 
sonal caprice. The whole commercial community of Holland was in- 
terested in the matter ; there appeared projects promising unusual 
profits from the new enterprise and counter-projects showing that trans- 
fer of the Dutch trade from the Baltic to the White Sea would ruin the 
Dutch fleet. Finally, in 1636 a formal embassy from the States General 
appeared in Russia to conclude a commercial treaty. This embassy's 
report gives us an idea of the grandiose character of the designs of the 
Netherlands. It was proposed to exploit the Russian grain market on 
the colonial principles usual at the time : the Dutch were to receive a 
monopoly of the export of grain from Russia. What was more, grain 
plantations were to appear in the Muscovite realm ; Dutch entrepreneurs 
were to receive the right to go to Russia and there cultivate "new 
lands," i.e., lands lying idle, which, the Dutch thought, were extraordi- 
narily abundant in the Muscovite realm. Incidentally, it was proposed 
to apply the same principles in utilising another valuable raw material 
to be found in Russia — the magnificent forests of mast-timber growing 
in abundance along the banks of the Dvina and its tributaries. The 
advantages to the Muscovite state would, according to the Dutch 
projects, be expressed chiefly in tolls on the raw materials exported ; 
again and again they tempted the Muscovite diplomats with grandiose 
figures of exports, showing, for example, that the Netherlands needed 
not less than 200,000 chetverts of grain alone. 

But at Moscow they evidently had a better understanding of trade 
conditions than the Dutch credited them with; they were not averse to 
i 1 last = 120 puds. 


making the grain trade a monopoly, but a monopoly of the tsar's. There 
was a good precedent for the immediate participation of Eastern Euro- 
pean sovereigns in the grain trade: the king of Sweden was the chief 
competitor of the Dutch in the Baltic. Moscow was not averse to fol- 
lowing this precedent. But why should the tsar bind himself to trade 
with the Dutch alone? "To our grand sovereign and his father, the 
grand sovereign the most holy patriarch," the boyars and dyaks replied 
to the Dutch ambassadors, "the great Christian sovereigns — King 
Charles of England, King Christian of Denmark, King Gustavus 
Adolphus of Sweden, and other sovereigns — do send their ambassadors 
and envoys, and they write in their letters that in their realms there is 
scarcity of grain, and that for the sustenance of their subjects there is 
insufficient corn." Under such conditions why should the Dutch alone 
be permitted to export grain? 

Subsequently it was revealed that at Moscow they had some under- 
standing of grain prices in Western Europe ; for a first test consign- 
ment of 23,000 chetverts, the Muscovite commercial agent, the gost 
Nadya Sveteshnikov, fixed such a price that Dutch hopes of cheap Rus- 
sian grain immediately faded. The envoys declared that at that price 
they could get grain at home. Then Sveteshnikov yielded, but very 
little; it was quite clear that of the kegs of gold the Dutch promoter 
had dreamed of, the Muscovite sovereign intended to keep half, if not 
all, in his own treasury. It goes without saying that in calculating 
on keeping the Muscovite grain market in its own hands the government 
of Tsar Michael could not agree to Dutch "grain plantations" in Rus- 
sia. Dutch traders and others, it replied to the ambassadors, "cannot 
be admitted to the Muscovite realm for agriculture, because, if Dutch 
traders are permitted to engage in agriculture in the realm of Moscow, 
it will be grievous to Russians ; it will evoke disputes about the land 
and will work loss to their grain trade." It could hardly have been 
more clearly conveyed that it was proposed to keep the profits from the 
grain trade for the "Russian men," i.e., for Nadya Sveteshnikov and 
his colleagues. 

Thus Western European commercial capitalism gave rise to the com- 
mercial capitalism of Russia. Like any novice in a similar case, it 
proved itself too greedy, and it miscalculated on the grain trade proper ; 
its refusal of the Dutch proposals of 1630-1631 brought it no luck at 
all, and until the second half of the following century the export of 
grain from Russia remained an occasional, sporadic phenomenon. Yet 
it must not be supposed that Russian commercial capital expired in such 
slight travail ; in a number of other cases it actually succeeded in estab- 
lishing, in its own favour, monopolies which were regarded with envy 
in Western Europe. 


In the first place, though attempts to establish a regular grain trade 
with foreign countries met with no success, yet such occasional trade as 
there was became a tsar's monopoly. One of the foreigners we have 
cited above gives precise information about this, while another of later 
date confirms his story. Up to 1653 the tsar's agents bought up annu- 
ally some 200,000 chetverts; a chetvert of rye, including the cost of 
transportation to Archangel, came to no more than one ruble, yet it 
was sold for not less than 2^-2^4 thalers; since a thaler recoined at 
the Moscow mint yielded 64 silver copecks, the net profit to the tsar's 
treasury on the grain sold constituted from 60 to 75 per cent. To 
await high prices, grain was sometimes kept in storehouses for several 
years, as was Moscow's common practice with all her wares. In a 
short period, it is said, the monopoly yielded more than a million 
thalers, or 640,000 rubles (9,000,000-10,000,000 gold rubles). Yet it 
was abandoned before Kilburger's time; "all the grain now remains 
in the country, since the distilleries consume it in large quantities," 
writes this author. As a result of the rapid growth of population in the 
second half of the seventeenth century the customary supply of whiskey 
was insufficient, and purchase abroad (in the Ukraine and in Livonia) 
was necessary to enable the tsar's taverns to meet the demand; under 
such conditions it proved more profitable to distil the grain into whiskey 
than to trade in it. 

The treasury's revenue from the state liquor-shops was enormous. 
Olearius informs us that there were more than a thousand of these 
"privileged" institutions, nor were they small shops: three Novgorod 
taverns were farmed for 12,000 thalers (more than 100,000 gold rubles). 
And this was in the middle of the reign of that very Tsar Michael who, 
when Russia was emerging from the Troubles, was so concerned about 
popular sobriety. Collins, court physician to Tsar Alexis, avers that 
there were certain taverns, each of which was farmed for ten or even 
twenty thousand rubles (some 300,000 gold). Therefore the figures 
for tavern revenues given by Kotoshikhin (100,000 rubles a year) seem 
very low, to be explained by the fact that Kotoshikhin, as he himself 
remarks, took into account only that portion of the spirit monopoly 
handled by one bureau, whereas probably many other bureaux had a 
hand in this levy. In 1680 the customs and tavern revenues together 
amounted to 650,000 rubles (some 10,000,000 gold). Unfortunately, it 
is not possible to separate out the customs revenue from the spirit- 
monopoly revenue. 

But whiskey was far from being the only commodity of trade subject 
to monopoly by the tsar's treasury. The first tsars of the House of 
Romanov monopolised the sale of practically all the most valuable 
articles. "The tsar is the first merchant in his realm," says Collins, 


who had lived long in Russia. Enumeration of the tsar's monopolies 
gives us an interesting picture of the concentration of Russian exports 
that laid the foundation for native commercial capitalism, which, in the 
person of Nadya Sveteshnikov, so disheartened the Dutch when they 
thought to profit from Muscovite backwardness. Modern readers, per- 
suaded that Russian food products did not begin to penetrate the West 
until our own day, simultaneously with Russian literature, are not a 
little surprised at the exact information given by Kilburger and de 
Rodes in regard to the outstanding commercial significance then pos- 
sessed by the trade in caviar. In this the Dutch secured what they had 
unsuccessfully sought in the case of grain ; the export of caviar was at 
an early date concentrated in the hands of a single commercial company, 
at first of a Dutch-Italian one, and later, apparently, of a purely Dutch 
one, though the chief consumers of Russian caviar were Italy and 
Catholic countries in general, which needed food for fast days. In the 
1650 's the export of caviar had already reached 20,000 puds a year; by 
the 1670 's, when Kilburger wrote, this figure remained almost un- 
changed. The tsar's agents delivered caviar at Archangel at a price 
stipulated over quite a long period of time ; with the Dutch, for in- 
stance, they had a ten-year contract. In the 1650 's the company paid 
iy 2 rubles, and twenty years later 3 reichsthalers (almost two rubles) 
a pud ; the total value of the exports thus amounted in the first case to 
about 30,000 rubles, in the second case to about 40,000 (450,000 and 
600,000 rubles gold). They exported pressed caviar only, since they 
did not know how to preserve the soft caviar ; for that matter, they did 
not prepare the pressed caviar very well, and it often spoiled ; in that 
case the gosts who served as the tsar 's commercial agents were obligated 
to take it themselves, at one ruble for ten puds. This they sold within 
Russia, disposing of it in large quantities to "poor people"; "not for 
nothing," as one of the foreigners commenting on this operation adds, 
lest any one suspect that the tsar's treasury would give even spoiled 
goods to any one for nothing. Along with caviar the tsar's monopoly 
included isinglass, the sale of which amounted to 300 puds at a price 
of from 7 to 15 rubles a pud, and salmon, the annual catch of which 
was more than 200 lasts (some 25,000 puds) ; two Dutch ships came 
specially for this every year. The fisheries on the lower Volga were the 
business of the treasury to such an extent that the fishermen refused to 
sell fish to Olearius and his fellow-travellers, asserting that severe pun- 
ishment would overtake them for it; "for that matter," adds Olearius, 
"they later very gladly netted us a fish for a few hookers of whiskey." 
The most popular of all the tsar's monopolies was that in furs; the 
most valuable kinds of furs, sables for example, could be found only 
in the tsar's treasury, just as in the case of pressed caviar. De Rodes 


gives, from the Archangel customs records, quite detailed information 
about Russia's fur exports. Their total value he fixes at approximately 
100,000 rubles, three-fifths of which is for sables (1,500,000 rubles 
gold). Yet furs, that ancient Russian product on which the com- 
mercial capitalism of Novgorod had thriven, were already beginning to 
lose their past importance, for valuable fur-bearing animals could now 
be found only in Siberia ; at the same time we begin to pick up inf orma- ' 
tion about the importation of fur goods into Russia, e.g., from France 
fox furs were brought to Archangel. Still more did wax and honey, 
another ancient branch of Novgorod's trade, lose importance. These 
were now consumed almost entirely at home — wax because large quan- 
tities went into church candles, honey because it was consumed in such 
quantities by the tsar's spirit monopoly. Therefore these traditional 
categories of Russian exports evaded attempts to establish monopolies, 
attempts which embraced even "fish teeth" (walrus tusks, which found 
a very good market as a substitute for ivory) and oil (which then had 
not even a thousandth part of its present commercial importance, but 
which could be secured at Moscow only through the tsar's treasury). 
On the other hand, the monopolisation of wares coming, as of old, 
through Russia from the East assumed tremendous importance; among 
them first place was held by the silk monopoly. 

"The trade in silk is without doubt the most important of all those 
carried on in Europe," Olearius reminds his readers, as he enters on 
his narrative about the trip of the Holstein embassy to Muscovy and 
Persia. The trip itself was occasioned by the desire of Frederick, duke 
of Schleswig-Holstein and Oldenburg — he did not then suspect that he 
would be one of the ancestors of the Russian ruling house — to monopo- 
lise this most precious commodity in Western Europe just as the Russian 
tsar had done in Eastern Europe. Duke Frederick was not the first and 
not the last to make this attempt; no princess in a fairy tale ever had 
more suitors than the boyars of Moscow had foreigners suing for leave to 
pass through the realm of Muscovy to Persia, then the chief export 
market for raw silk. 

In 1614 had come to Russia the English factor, John Merrick, the 
well-known intermediary in the peace negotiations of Moscow with 
Sweden which led to the Peace of Stolbovo (1617). From the outset he 
expressed the desire of the English crown that English merchants be 
permitted to pass freely along the Volga. Merrick was a useful man, 
and English aid was never more necessary ; the Russians tried courteously 
to dissuade the English, suggesting to them that "it would be dreadful 
at the present time for English merchants to go into Persia and other 
eastern realms," that on the Volga "many robbers rob," and many Rus- 
sian traders had been despoiled, and "now our traders do not go to 


Persia." Merrick did not give up, and after the conclusion of the 
Peace of Stolbovo he renewed the conversation more insistently. This 
time they answered him more openly. ' ' Our Russian traders had become 
impoverished, ' ' they told him ; ' ' now they buy from the English at 
Archangel certain commodities, cloths for example; these they carry to 
Astrakhan and sell them there to the Kizil-Bashi [Persians] , exchanging 
them for their commodities, from which they derive profit, and the 
treasury likewise; but if the English should go direct to Persia, then 
they will not sell their commodities to the Russians at Archangel; they 
will carry them direct to Persia, and the Kizil-Bashi will cease to come 
with their wares to Astrakhan; they will trade with the English at 

In 1629 came a French ambassador, des Hayes Courmenin; he, too, 
asked, among other things, that "the tsar's majesty should permit the 
French to go to Persia through his realm." The boyars replied that the 
French might buy Persian wares from Russian merchants. In 1630 ap- 
peared our old friends the Dutch; they likewise did not confine them- 
selves to the grain trade — the Dutch monopoly was to extend to Persian 
wares. "With their customary preconception of the cheapness of things 
Muscovite, they proposed 15,000 rubles a year for the Persian monopoly. 
The boyars replied that it was impossible ; they had refused the king of 
England (and what a friend he was!) at the petition of the traders of 
the Muscovite realm. A little later came Danish envoys, who likewise 
carried on negotiations for Danish merchants to be given a road to 
Persia. The boyars replied quite laconically that they had not com- 
manded that any one be given a road to the land of the shah. 

The Holsteiners came nearest to having any luck; they promised to 
pay for the Persian monopoly, for ten years, 600,000 yefimoks 2 (some 
5,000,000 rubles gold) a year. Evidently Olearius' opinion that there 
was no trade more important for Europe than the silk trade was fully 
shared by his countrymen. At Moscow the figure proposed seemed 
imposing, and consent was unanimous. But it immediately became 
apparent that in Holstein theory was stronger than practice, and that 
they could reckon better than they could pay. When it came to the 
question of payment, it proved that the Holsteiners did not have the 
necessary capital, and the grandiose enterprise ended most regrettably 
in a diplomatic quarrel between the government of Tsar Michael and 
Duke Frederick. 

Thanks to the almost continuous water route from Persia to Archangel 
— by the Caspian Sea, the Volga, Sukhona, and Northern Dvina — the 
transport of silk through Russia offered enormous advantages in com- 
parison with its carriage overland. Whereas every bale carried from 

2 The yefimok was the German thaler reissued by the Muscovite mint. 


Gilan to Ormuz on the back of a camel cost not less than 35-40 rubles 
gold, the same bale by sea to Astrakhan cost no more than one ruble, i.e., 
15 rubles gold. It is not surprising that merchants of the time, influenced 
by such figures, should conceive projects no less grandiose than the 
Dutch plan of converting seventeenth-century Russia into the "granary 
of Europe," a position she was to occupy in the middle of the nineteenth 
century. Aside from the cost of freight there might be uncertainty as to 
the political relations between the Persian shah and the Turkish sultan, 
whereas the realm of Moscow assiduously maintained the very best rela- 
tions with Persia. With all this in mind, de Rodes proposed to the 
boyar Miloslavsky, father-in-law of Tsar Alexis, the organisation of a 
company of the greatest European merchants, which, using the Russian 
route, should take into its own hands all the trade with Persia (not 
merely the trade in raw silk) and incidentally a good share of the trade 
with India and China. Three hundred years before the building of the 
Siberian railway and the projecting of the Iranian railway, a Riga 
merchant attempted to minimise the results of Vasco da Gama's dis- 
covery by making the Volga and Dvina competitors of the great ocean 
route to the Far East. Unfortunately for him, de Rodes had only dreams 
and no capital, while Miloslavsky, like all the members of the Moscow 
government, was not the man to release a bird in the hand for the sake of 
two in the bush. 

At Moscow they followed the lines of least resistance and did the very 
simplest thing that could have been done in the given case. They did 
not admit Persians beyond Astrakhan and did not deliver the silk to 
Europeans further inland than Archangel, while they observed two 
rules : first, they always asked the highest possible price, both for Russian 
wares offered in exchange for silk at Astrakhan and for the silk itself 
offered in exchange for European manufactures, or still better for ready 
cash, at Archangel ; second, they never reduced a price once received. 
Among the wares sent to Persia were Russian linen, copper, and especi- 
ally sables and other valuable furs. Copper actually cost, including 
carriage to Persia, 120 thalers a berkovets, 3 but in Astrakhan the tsar's 
gosts, 4 who alone were permitted to trade in it with the Persians, did 
not supply it for less than 180 thalers a berkovets. For linen 4-5 thalers 
a piece was a good price ; they sold it to the Persian traders for 8-10 
rubles ; even against payment in ducats they artificially inflated the rate 
of exchange, which was 12 per cent, higher than the customary European 
rate. All of this they could do because at Astrakhan trade with the 
Persians was strictly forbidden to every one except the agents of the 

3 1 berkovets = 10 puds. 

4 The greatest wholesale traders, who were granted special privileges by the tsar 
and were, in reality, his commercial agents. 


government monopoly, the gosts. The Persians had only the alterna- 
tives, either not to take at all goods they needed or to pay the price set 
by the Moscow gosts. Under such conditions a pud of raw silk, delivered 
at Archangel, cost no more than 30 rubles, but it was sold for 45 rubles ; 
thus the profit to the tsar's monopoly was 50 per cent. The trade turn- 
over, however, was extremely slow; the silk caravan came to Archangel 
only once in three years. Its burthen usually amounted to some 9,000 
puds at a total value of 405,000 rubles (more than 6,000,000 rubles gold) ; 
here they brought only the raw silk, so highly valued in the West at the 
time that in France, for example, there was scarcely a place where they 
did not attempt to rear the silk-worm; even the king occupied himself 
with it at Fontainebleau. The trade in silk fabrics, also brought from 
Persia, and to some extent from the still more remote East, was free, and 
prior to the 1670 's a number of Persian and even Indian traders lived 
at Moscow. Though it did not supplant the world route discovered by 
the Portuguese, yet the tsar's trade with Persia was undoubtedly the 
greatest commercial enterprise of Muscovite Russia. The Persian cara- 
van which the Holstein embassy overtook between Saratov and Tsaritsyn 
consisted of 16 large and 6 small vessels. The very largest Volga 
"barges" of the seventeenth century went as high as 1,000 lasts (i.e., 
2,000 tons) burthen, and had crews of some 400 men (properly speaking, 
tow-men, who hauled the vessel with a hawser when there was no wind). 
In the matter of dimensions modern Volga barges probably have not 
made much advance over their predecessors of the pre-Petrine period. 
It must be noted that for the most part the large vessels on the Volga 
were in the service of the tsar's monopoly; two other huge barges that 
Olearius met belonged, one to the tsar, the other to the patriarch ; both 
were carrying caviar. 

We have not yet exhausted all the tsar's monopolies mentioned by 
contemporaries; the trade in rhubarb, for example, was also concen- 
trated in the treasury ; but the essence of the matter must already have 
become clear to the reader. In handicraft Russia, which hitherto had 
known only small-scale trade, as well as small-scale production, the 
concentration of hundreds of thousands of rubles (millions in gold 
rubles) gave rise to commercial capital. But we should be very much 
mistaken if we supposed that all this capital was in the hands of the tsar. 
Actually it was controlled by the gosts, who in the tsar's name carried 
on the trade both with the East and with the West. "The gosts are the 
tsar's commercial advisers and factors; they hold unlimited sway over 
trade throughout the realm. This selfish and pernicious group, which 
is fairly numerous, has a head and elder, and they are all merchants; 
among them are several Germans. . . . They are scattered throughout 
the realm, and in all places, according to their calling; they enjoy the 


privilege of buying first, even though they may not be acting on the 
tsar's account. Inasmuch as they alone, however, are not in condition 
to cope with such a widely extended trade, they have in all the large 
towns subordinates in the person of two or three of the most eminent 
merchants dwelling there, who in the capacity of factors of the tsar 
enjoy the privileges of the gosts, although they do not bear the name, 
and on account of their private greed everywhere cause divers restraints 
of trade. The ordinary merchants observe this and know it very well; 
they speak ill of the gosts, and it may be feared that, in case of an 
uprising, the rabble will wring the necks of all the gosts. They [the 
gosts] handle the appraisal of goods in the tsar's treasury at Moscow; 
they control the catching of sables and the collection of the sable tithe in 
Siberia, just as they control the Archangel caravan ; and they give the 
tsar advice and schemes in the matter of establishing tsar's monopolies. 
Day and night they strive completely to stifle trade on the Baltic Sea 
and nowhere to permit free trade, in order that their dominance may be 
the more stable, and that they may the more easily fill their own money- 

The foregoing characterisation of the gosts by Kilburger, which well 
represents, if not the actual facts, at least the impression that these facts 
produced upon a very attentive and very well-informed observer, is 
splendidly illustrated by the well-known Pskov episode. At Pskov, 
under the pretext that the petty traders were tools in the hands of 
foreign capitalists, who by lending them money actually converted them 
into their commissioners, the gosts monopolised all foreign trade without 
exception, thus converting all the second-rate merchantry into their, the 
gosts', commissioners. Not one of the local merchants of the second 
order had the right any longer to trade on his own account ; they were 
all assigned to the great capitalists of Pskov and, receiving loans for 
their operations from the zemskaya izba [town hall] , had to deliver there 
' ' to the better men, to whom they had been assigned, ' ' all the goods they 
purchased. For convenience of control all trade with foreigners was 
limited chronologically to two fairs (January 9 and May 9) and topo- 
graphically to three bazaars, two for foreign and one for Russian wares ; 
goods could be exchanged only at these times and at these places. As a 
measure of "protection" to native commercial capital in its struggle 
with foreign capital, the Pskov decree of 1665 was, for its time, an 
exceptionally bold step, testifying to the great class consciousness of its 
authors ; it is no accident that it was connected with the name of Ordin- 
Nashchokin, the father of Russian mercantilism. But it also shows the 
reverse side of the picture; we see how hard it was for Russian capi- 
talism to hold its own in the struggles with the West without artificial 


The very methods of capitalistic exchange spelled disaster for trade 
of handicraft type, as, taken by and large, Russian trade of the seven- 
teenth century remained. ''And the Germans living in Moscow and in 
the towns go through Novgorod and Pskov to their own land five, six, 
and ten times a year with news of what is being done in the realm of 
Moscow, what prices are being paid for wares," bewailed the Moscow 
traders in their petition of 1646, "and whatever wares sell dear in 
Moscow, these they begin to prepare, and they all act according to their 
private information and according to letters, agreeing in concert. ' ' Out- 
raged by such an invention of the devil as a postal system, the Russians 
go on to cite an exceptionally striking instance of their helplessness 
before the wily foreigners. Relying on the high price of raw silk in past 
years, the Russian traders had bought up the whole supply of silk from 
the tsar's treasury in the expectation of selling it to the "Germans" at a 
profit. But on the European market at the time the price of silk had 
fallen, and the "Germans" not only did not buy a single bale at the 
price which seemed "just" to the Russians but even laughed at them. 
"Gracious sovereign," implored the outraged Russian merchants, "have 
mercy upon us, thy bondsmen and orphans, the traders of all the realm ; 
look upon us, miserable ones, and do not permit us, thy majesty's born 
bondsmen and orphans, to be in eternal poverty and destitution at the 
hands of these unbelievers ; forbid our trades, ours from the beginning, to 
be snatched from us, miserable ones. ' ' 

The commercial role that the postal system was already playing at 
that time is evident from the arguments and projects of de Rodes, who 
wrote less than ten years later than the petition we have just cited. He 
ascribes the successful competition of the Dutch with the Swedes mainly 
to the circumstance that the Dutch correspondence through Riga reached 
Moscow more quickly than the Swedish through Narva. He therefore 
advises absolute prohibition of the despatch of letters direct from Riga 
to Moscow through Pskov and the making of Narva the central post- 
office for the whole Baltic littoral; then all correspondence coming to 
Moscow from the West by way of the Baltic would be under uniform 
conditions. But Russian government circles and the business-men close 
to them were in this matter good enough Europeans not to grant the 
Swedes the postal monopoly. In 1663 the Muscovite state established its 
own foreign post, handing it over for exploitation to a private entre- 
preneur, John of Sweden. The post was despatched regularly every 
Tuesday to Novgorod, Pskov, and Riga, and was received at Moscow 
every Thursday. The Narva route, on the contrary, was completely 
abandoned ; here the Swedes suffered a complete defeat. A letter from 
Moscow to Riga took not less than 9-10 days, and postage was, to modern 


eyes, incredibly high ; to send one zolotnik 5 to Novgorod cost six copecks, 
to Pskov eight, and to Riga ten (0.9, 1.2, and 1.5 rubles, respectively, in 
gold). Another foreign route went to Vilna and Konigsberg; letters to 
Germany, if sent by this route, took two days. A letter reached Berlin 
in 21 days and cost 25 copecks (3.75 rubles gold) per zolotnik. Letters 
coming from abroad were first delivered to the Foreign Office ; no secret 
was made of the fact that there they were opened and read by the 
clerks in order that the government might be the first to know the 
foreign news. The concept of the "se*crecy of private correspondence" 
was then absolutely foreign not only to the Muscovites but also to their 
foreign teachers ; at least, Kilburger writes of this obligatory perlustra- 
tion as of a perfectly normal fact. 

For the mass of the people, on the other hand, the very existence of 
the post long continued to be a highly abnormal phenomenon. "And 
they came and cut a hole from our realm into all their lands, that they 
might see clearly all our state and business affairs," complained Pososh- 
kov as late as c. 1701. "The hole is this: they set up a postal system, 
and whether there is profit in it for the great sovereign, God alone knows ; 
but how much ruin has been wrought by that post throughout the realm 
it is impossible to calculate. And whatsoever is done in our realm is 
peddled about in every land ; foreigners alone grow rich from this, while 
the Russians grow poor. And on account of the post foreigners, laughs 
ing at us, carry on trade, while the Russians strain all their strength 
to make a living." Naturally Pososhkov's advice was to "close that 
hole up firmly," "if possible altogether abandon" the post, and even 
forbid private persons to carry letters with them. Granting the back- 
wardness of Pososhkov's views (on the point in question it is interesting 
to contrast him with another promoter of the Petrine period, Fedor 
Saltykov, whose advice was to establish, along with the out-of-town post, 
a city post, at the very cheapest rates), his sentiments cannot be ex- 
plained by backwardness alone. Like every weapon of commercial com- 
petition, the post still further strengthened the strong and weakened the 
weak; since foreign capital was always far stronger than Russian, the 
advantages from improved means of intercourse accrued to the former. 
In the 1670 's Kilburger could communicate to his reader the astounding 
fact that all the trade of Archangel was in the hands of a few men from 
Holland, Hamburg, and Bremen, who maintained permanent stewards 
and factors at Moscow; the Russians did not go to Archangel. Here he 
enumerates a number of German merchants who specialised in the trade 
between Archangel and Moscow and never went abroad themselves. 
What was more, foreigners had, in his words, penetrated into the college 
of gosts, and not only in the capacity of tsar's agents abroad, like Klink 

5 1 zolotnik = Yqq funt = 2.4 drams. 


Bernhard and Fageler at Amsterdam, but, like Thomas Kellerman, even 
at Moscow itself. 

For the characterisation of foreign trade it remains to add that 
imports as well as exports had, by the seventeenth century, already 
assumed mass proportions. The time had long passed when only articles 
of luxury were imported into Russia from abroad, as had been the case 
in the time of Ivan the Terrible and in part even at the beginning of the 
seventeenth century, when we find on the list of imported wares gilded 
halberds, apothecaries' supplies, organs, clavichords, and other musical 
instruments, carmines, threads, pearls, travelling utensils, mirrors, lus- 
tres, etc. Lists of wares imported in the 1670 's furnish the following 
figures, for example : in 1671 they imported through Archangel 2,477 
tons of herring, in 1672 1,251 tons; in the former year 683,000 needles, 
in the second year 545,000 ; 5 tons of dyestuffs of every kind and, besides 
this, 809 kegs of indigo; 28,454 reams of paper. Especially significant 
of the development of Russia's industry is the importation of iron and 
iron wares, bearing in mind that, as we shall see further on, the Musco- 
vite realm had at that time its own iron-works, with a very great output. 
None the less, without counting iron wares, there were imported through 
Archangel in 1671 1,957 bars of Swedish iron, so great was the demand 
for this material in Russian workshops twenty years before Peter. 

The commercial capitalism of the seventeenth century had an enor- 
mous influence both on the foreign and on the domestic policies of the 
Moscow government. Until the conquest of the Ukraine (1667), and in 
part even until Peter, foreign policy was chiefly interested in the south ; 
colonisation of the southern frontier, which had now fallen completely 
into the hands of Moscow, furnished the immediate occasion both for 
Prince V. V. Golitsyn's expeditions to the Crimea (1687-1689) and for 
Peter's expeditions against Azov (1695-1696). The changed orientation 
of this policy in connection with the Northern War (1700-1721) was 
due mainly to the interests of Russia's foreign trade. De Rocles had 
already shown, in the 1650 's, that the traditional route through Arch- 
angel was cutting the profits of the capitalists in half at least, since 
owing to climatic conditions commercial capital could be turned over 
only once on the White Sea (this turnover was accomplished in five 
months), but on the Baltic two or even three times (if we reckon the 
shipping season of Riga or Libau at nine months, and the turnover with 
maximum rapidity at three months). Formally de Rodes was working 
in favour of Sweden, but as a matter of fact rather in favour of his native 
city, Riga, whose trade was growing very markedly in the second half 
of the seventeenth century. From 1669 to 1686 the exportation of flax 
doubled (from 67,570 to 137,550 puds) ; exports of hemp more than 
trebled (from 187,260 to 654,510 puds, reaching 816,440 puds in 1699) ; 


everything else increased in proportion. The territories that fed the 
trade of Riga were : first, Lithuania ; second, the neighbouring provinces 
of the Muscovite realm. Economically the city was apparently more 
closely connected with these territories than with its juridical "father- 
land, ' ' Sweden, to which it then belonged ; Reval, the second Baltic port 
after Riga, was in a similar position. 

The Swedish government, one of the best bureaucratic governments of 
Europe at the time, was perfectly conscious of this fact, as is evidenced 
by an interesting decree of Queen Christina (June 3, 1648). By this 
decree trade in Reval was given exceptionally favourable conditions, and 
every effort was made to attract thither as many foreign merchants as 
possible by making it quite simple for them to become citizens of Riga, 
and consequently for them to enjoy the commercial privileges given in 
such abundance to the local population as against the foreigners. Soon 
after the Peace of Kardis (1661) the Swedish government secured "free 
trade" between Russian and Swedish subjects. A little earlier, when 
the Russians, under the influence of the Dutch, deprived the English 
of their trade privilege and closed the English factory at Archangel, 
Sweden had attempted to transfer English trade to her own port of 
Narva. But all these efforts had accrued to the advantage of Sweden 
as a political unit rather than to her Baltic subjects. Liberally granting 
to foreigners the privileges enjoyed by burghers of the Baltic towns, the 
Swedish kings were very illiberal in granting the privileges enjoyed by 
Swedish merchants proper. We have noted the role played in the trade 
of the time by the "Sound" tolls collected by Denmark from all ships 
entering or leaving the Baltic. The Swedes had secured their abolition, 
but for themselves alone ; the men of Riga and Reval continued to pay 
them. In the second half of the seventeenth century Livonian grain 
exports had begun to increase rapidly (from 2,380 lofs in 1669 to 
6,991 in 1686 and 14,939 in 1695). But Charles XI had hastened to 
impose high export duties on it in order to create preference for Sweden, 
which then needed imported grain. The Baltic ports were as naturally 
attracted to the east as they were repelled by their Scandinavian suze- 
rain. When Peter began the Great Northern War with a campaign 
against Narva, he appeared, as a matter of fact, as the emancipator of 
Baltic commercial capital, held captive by Swedish violence. Riga was 
bound to become a Russian port, since Russian trade had already out- 
grown Archangel; on the other hand, Riga needed to free herself from 
Swedish shackles, for otherwise Konigsberg, year by year enticing away 
Riga's clients, would kill her, taking advantage of the fact that the 
Konigsberg tolls were somewhat lower than the Swedish. Peter was 
thrown back to St. Petersburg, after he had failed to master Narva, 


while his allies, the Saxons, suffered a great defeat under Riga; the 
immediately manifest strategical advantages of an advanced post on the 
Neva were bound to secure it primacy even later, when matters were 
going more successfully. But from a commercial standpoint, for long 
afterwards St. Petersburg could not compete with the natural route 
through Riga or even through Archangel; it was necessary to create a 
whole list of restrictions on both of these ports — to prohibit the importa- 
tion into Riga and Archangel of certain wares, the trade in which St. 
Petersburg was to monopolise. 

On the other hand, the Russian government strove in every way to 
facilitate Riga's competition with Konigsberg, whereas we learn from 
one document that the Swedes, who had been so concerned about "free 
trade," had in 1690 farmed Riga's whole trade in manufactured goods 
to four men, while the rest of the merchantry could trade in manufac- 
tured goods only during the fair (from June 20 to August 10). The 
famous "reduction," or confiscation from the Livonian nobility of the 
crown estates they had seized in past years is usually assigned as the 
cause of the transfer of the Baltic provinces, but by no means occupies 
first place among the causes that brought on the war. As far as Russia's 
conquest of the east coast of the Baltic is concerned, the "reduction" 
played no role at all. The Baltic nobility looked, not to the east but to 
the south, desiring union not with the Muscovite realm but with Poland. 
Patkul, the leader of the nobles' opposition, was much dismayed when 
he saw the front of the Russian advance turning toward the west, 
toward Narva; he would have preferred to see Peter in Finland. On 
the other side, the burghers of Riga evidently did not feel the least 
desire to pass from Swedish rule to Polish, and in 1700 it was not so 
much the small Swedish garrison that defended Riga from the troops of 
King Augustus as the armed citizens, whereas the Livonian nobility, in 
the treaty with the same Polish king, proposed to deprive the Rigan 
burghers of their immemorial privileges and to hand over the adminis- 
tration of the city to the landlords of the environs. The alliance of 
the Baltic barons with the Russian government dates from a much later 
period, when the nobles' reaction, which in Peter's time temporarily 
gave way before the alliance between commercial capital and the new 
feudal aristocracy, had gained the upper hand. 

Commercial interests on the Baltic Sea determined the combination 
of powers at the outbreak of the Great Northern War, a combination 
which endured, with interruptions, throughout the war. On such a 
basis the alliance between Russia and Poland was just as natural as was 
the attraction of Riga toward the Muscovite realm ; both powers needed 
for their exports a "free" Baltic Sea, i.e., annihilation of the Swedish 
monopoly. On this point Denmark was at one with them, though pri- 


marily in the name of the Sound tolls, which she could not compel the 
Swedes to pay, to say nothing of the traditional competition on the 
Baltic of the two Scandinavian powers. 

On the other hand, the Dutch who, precisely on account of these 
Sound tolls, had fled to the White Sea, were bound to be very unsym- 
pathetic toward the Russian-Polish enterprise. The mutual relations 
between Peter and the Dutch republic during and on account of the 
Northern War may serve as the very best illustration of how all 
"cultural" influences bow before economic influences in case of conflict. 
What, would it seem, could have been stronger than Dutch influence 
on the "carpenter of Saardam," who even in his signature slavishly 
copied the country that was in his eyes the embodiment of European 
civilisation ? Yet in beginning the war he knew that his friends regarded 
it more than coldly. Even the promise to halve the customs duties, as 
against those at Archangel, did not thaw the ice. "Your present war 
with the Swedes is very displeasing to the States," Matveyev, Peter's 
representative at The Hague, wrote to the tsar, ' ' and it is quite worthless 
to all Holland, because it is your intention to take a port on the Baltic 
Sea from the Swede." When the news of the defeat of the Russians 
at Narva reached The Hague, it produced "untold joy" there. Peter's 
friends, together with the English, did not hesitate even to break up 
Peter's alliance with Poland by fixing up a separate peace between King 
Augustus and Charles XII. On Denmark, too, pressure was exerted in 
the same direction. At the same time, all Peter's tempting promises on 
the score of the commercial advantages that Baltic trade held out as 
compared to that on the White Sea, owing to the more rapid turnover 
of capital (de Rodes' old argument), had absolutely no effect on the 
English. The Dutch formally declared to the Russian representative 
that they were "bound by old treaties to aid Sweden in everything." It 
needed the victory of Poltava on the one hand, the manifest consolida- 
tion of the Russian's grip on the shores of the Gulf of Finland on the 
other, to effect some change in the attitude of London and The Hague 
toward Peter's foreign policy. 

2. Mercantilism 

Peter's foreign policy, then, was based on mercantilism. Mercantil- 
ism, however, is a name given to any economic policy which, setting out 
from the identification of wealth with money or with the precious metals 
in general, sees in trade, which brings precious metals into the country, 
the source of a nation's wealth. The first beginnings of mercantilism in 
Western Europe are traced back to the end of the Middle Ages (the 
thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries), and its full bloom to the epoch of 
Louis XIV. Its theory, however, did not remain unchanged; whereas 


early mercantilism had rested entirely on trade in valuable raw ma- 
terials, especially from the colonies, in the seventeenth century men 
had begun to be conscious of the advantages in the sale of manufactured 
goods, especially when the manufactures were worked up from raw 
materials of which other nations had little or none. This second stage 
of mercantilism, connected with the name of Colbert (and therefore 
sometimes called Colbertism) and characterised by protection of native 
manufacturing industry, has, as every one knows, survived to our own 
time, constituting an integral part of state wisdom as preached by all 
conservative parties. 

To the Russia of Peter the Great both these stages were familiar. 
The first had found juridical expression as early as 1667, in the cele- 
brated Novotorgovy Ustav [New Commercial Statute], published at the 
instance of Ordin-Nashchokin. The Ustav begins with a characteristi- 
cally mercantilist declaration : " In all the surrounding realms free and 
lucrative markets are accounted among the first matters of state; they 
watch the markets with great caution and in liberty they keep them 
for the collection of tolls and goods from all the world." The phrases 
about "freedom" and "liberty" must not confuse us; there is here no 
question of "free trade" in the eighteenth-century sense of the term, 
but rather of abolition of all feudal impediments and levies of a nar- 
rowly fiscal character, which had impeded trade for the sake of an 
immediate penny profit to the tsar's (earlier the grand-prince's) treas- 
ury. A multitude of petty levies, left-overs from appanage times, were 
abolished by the Novotorgovy Ustav and replaced by a uniform customs 
duty, which aimed less at immediate profit to the treasury than at crea- 
tion of a favourable balance of trade ; thus, the duty on foreign spirits 
was increased, while precious metals might be imported without any 
duty. The importation of luxury articles, "objects of adornment," was 
prohibited except by special licence. 

In reality the tendencies of the Novotorgovy Ustav represent nothing 
new. In France as early as the end of the thirteenth century, lest ' ' men 
of no estate should be impoverished," persons having less than 6,000 
livres annual income were forbidden to acquire gold and silver utensils, 
to order more than four suits of clothes a year, etc. ; in Germany only 
knights could wear velvet ; gold ornaments on the hat also constituted 
a privilege of the nobility ; and as late as 1699 a servant girl who made 
bold to don a dress with a train or one worked with lace risked banish- 
ment from the ball to the police-station. 

In Russian letters the exponent of the views of this early mercantilism 
is Pososhkov, who, though he wrote in Peter's time, partly indeed at 
the end of his reign, is essentially characteristic of the second half of 
the seventeenth century. In Pososhkov 's opinion "it would not be bad 


if every rank had its own designation : the townsmen, all the merchantry, 
should wear their special clothes, so that they should not be like the 
military or the official. Now by the clothes it can in no way be told of 
what rank a man is, whether townsman, or official, or noble, or bondsman, 
and that not only with the military men but also with the tsar's court 
there is no distinction." Further on comes a project for uniforming all 
the categories of the town population, in which provision is made not 
only for the material of which the clothing is to be made, but also for its 
cut and colour. Parallel is the advice to forbid the importation of silk 
wearing-apparel and foreign spirits. Pososhkov was much disturbed 
because foreigners presumed to fix a rate of exchange for Russian money 
instead of accepting it at the value stamped on it by the tsar. 

As it happened, three-quarters of a century before he wrote his book, 
On Poverty and Wealth [in Russian], an attempt to reduce his cur- 
rency theory to practice had been made at Moscow. Relatively success- 
ful debasement of the currency during the simultaneous wars with 
Sweden and Poland had inspired the government with the idea of coin- 
ing copper rubles in place of silver. But the attempt to circulate this 
fiat money had disastrous consequences: prices soared; private persons 
began to bring prodigious quantities of the baser metal to the mint for 
coinage; the copper ruble declined to one-seventeenth the value of the 
silver ruble. The economic crisis provoked a serious revolt, which was 
energetically suppressed ; according to Kotoshikhin, more than 7,000 
were executed and more than 15,000 banished. 

The "copper ruble" was the most striking episode in the early period 
of Russian mercantilism, aiming as it did to gather into the treasury 
chests as much gold and silver as possible. But Europe was too near, 
and European influences too powerful. Such typical Muscovites as 
Pososhkov had already begun to understand that mere "firmness" in 
dealing with foreigners did not enrich a country; Pososhkov under- 
stood that a rich treasury is possible only in a rich country. "All the 
wealth that is in the nation is the tsar's wealth; likewise the national 
impoverishment is the tsar's impoverishment," he wrote in one passage, 
though, it is true, he was thinking only of a confiscated sable coat that 
had rotted in the tsar's treasury. That the wealth of a nation is not 
drawn from commercial profits alone was also quite clear to him; in 
Pososhkov we find the quite definite transition to industrial mercantilism 
of the Colbertist type. He would have been glad to have everything 
made at home — "children's toys" and spectacles included — without 
buying anything of the kind from foreigners, "not even at half price," 
and was confident that once they set smartly about a business like glass- 
ware, for example, "we can fill all their realms." The measures he pro- 
poses for the improvement of Russian industry — detailed control over 


the good quality of each individual article, fining of "negligent" crafts- 
men, etc. — are purely mediaeval. But when he urges the erection of 
cloth mills in Russia on the ground that then "those monies will be 
ours in Russia," he is at one with contemporary European mercantilists; 
perhaps he was even borrowing something from them, passed on by 
Russians who had been abroad. 

Russian official circles were acquainted with more modern economic 
tendencies at first hand from the projects of the Holsteiner, Luberas, 
who was vice-president of the Collegium of Mines and Manufactures 
under Peter. In one of the memoranda he presented to Peter, this 
cultured German official begins with what is really a severe criticism 
of the Muscovite order of things, but without naming the Muscovite 
realm. "It is well known," he says, "that in certain countries, despite 
the fact that a great trade is carried on, the subjects get little benefit 
from it. This happens when the inhabitants sell their products in the 
raw state ; in this case the subjects of other countries work up the raw 
material and derive a great profit, while the former owners earn a 
scant subsistence. ... Or when the sovereign either carries on a cer- 
tain trade for his own account or permits other men a trade monopoly 
for an annual payment; it may seem that thus, at the beginning, the 
treasury may gain a little, but in reality the manager of the enterprise 
extracts the most profit ; general trade, which flourishes only when it is 
carried on freely by private entrepreneurs with the aid of their own 
credit and their own individual efforts, experiences great injury to its 
regular course. ..." "Acquaintance with the past and with the 
present makes it indisputable and clear as day that after the blessing 
of God there exist two chief ways, the neglect of which, or attention 
to which, conditions alike either the enslavement and ruin of countries 
or their prosperity and growth; these are shipping and industry. ..." 
As an example, Luberas refers the Russian tsar to his [the tsar's] own 
country, "the excellent and indispensable products of which to this day 
depend on foreign exportation and are balanced in exchange against 
foreign merchandise, in part not necessary at all, since Your Majesty 
possesses the possibility of carrying on the like manufactures of his 

Luberas could not show just what manufactures it was necessary to 
establish in Russia since, as he said, the native specialties of the Rus- 
sian realm were unknown to him. Another promoter set about this 
task, this time a native Russian whom Peter had sent to England to 
build ships, where during his lifetime he was almost arrested by the 
English creditors of the Russian government and after his death was 
sought for arrest on the tsar's order; this much-suffering man was 
named Fedor Saltykov, a grandson of the Michael Saltykov famed in 


the history of the Troubles and a kinsman of the tsar's family through 
the Tsaritsa Praskovia, wife of Peter's brother, the weak-minded 
Ivac V. In his "declarations beneficial to the realm," written in 1714, 
along with a string of the most diverse projects (on the annexation of 
Livonia to Russia, on the writing of the history of Peter the Great, on 
the education of orphans of both sexes, on a municipal post-office, etc.), 
Saltykov sketches a complete plan for creating "workshops" in Russia 
for the production of silk brocades, cloth, paper, glass, needles, pins, 
white iron, and tar. 

Pavlov-Silvansky, the scholar who first published Saltykov's projects, 
calls his readers' attention to the fact that by 1714 the government could 
draw little that was actually new from the "propositions and declara- 
tions." "Peter had begun to look to the production of silk stuffs, glass, 
and writing-paper from 1709-1710 on," he writes. "In 1709 Peter 
handed over to an Englishman, William Leid, the glass works existing 
at Moscow, with the obligation to extend production and to teach Rus- 
sian craftsmen the perfected method of glass production. In 1712, at 
the order of the government, supplies for the glass business were sent 
in from abroad. One young man, a certain Korotkin, Peter despatched 
to Holland to study the writing-paper craft, and on his return to Russia 
in 1710 lie received an order to build near Moscow a paper mill and 
manufactory in the 'Dutch manner,' and several young men were 
handed over to him as pupils; immediately afterward Count Apraxin, 
on Peter's order (1712), constructed a paper mill at Krasnoe Selo. 
The first silk factory was erected in 1714, prior to Saltykov's projects." 

We may add that all these "beginnings" of Peter's represented in 
themselves nothing new at all. Glass works had existed in the Musco- 
vite realm in the third quarter of the seventeenth century. The first 
paper mill was built almost as far back as the reign of Ivan the Ter- 
rible ; construction of another had been begun at the command of the 
Patriarch Nikon (1652-1666), but it had not been completed; while 
by the 'seventies of the same century there were in operation two paper 
mills, one the tsar's, the other private, belonging to our acquaintance, 
John of Sweden, the farmer of the foreign post. The latter mill was 
working in the ' ' Dutch manner " ; its products have been preserved, 
with watermarks in imitation of the foolscap, the then celebrated foreign 
mark. The first cloth factory had been founded by the same John of 
Sweden in 1650 ; the first iron-works had appeared even somewhat 
earlier ; and if the first needle manufactory in Russia did not arise until 
three years after Saltykov's presentation of his projects, that fact does 
not, of course, mean that without the advice of this promoter it would 
never have appeared. 

The theory of Colbertism, in Russia as elsewhere, arose on the basis 


of practice ; the theory was an attempt to systematise the practice. "We 
have seen that Moscow's export trade at the end of the seventeenth 
century presented a system of quite regularly and stably organised 
monopolies. Now large-scale industry was striving to adopt the same 

At the beginning of the century industrial production in the Mus- 
covite realm had, like trade, borne a handicraft character. The tsar's 
trade had been the first to take on the character of large-scale com- 
mercial enterprise; the tsar's (or court) industrial institutions were 
among the first examples of large-scale industry in Russia. Next to the 
tsar in the business of creating commercial capitalism in the Muscovite 
realm came foreigners ; after the tsar they are the first mill-owners and 
manufacturers in Russia. Moreover, like the foreign merchants, native 
industrial entrepreneurs operated constantly under the protection of the 
tsar's authority and in close alliance with him. From two examples we 
can very well see how the tsar's manufactories evolved from branches 
of the court economy. 

In the court village of Izmailovo, near Moscow, glass production for 
the domestic needs of the court had long existed. As the tsar's court 
grew, more glassware was needed ; as early as 1668 we find at Izmailovo 
a glass works with Russian craftsmen. But court tastes became finer 
and were no longer satisfied with the rough work of their own crafts- 
men ; only two years later Venetians were assigned to the plant, one of 
whom, a certain Mignot, proved to be especially deserving of his reputa- 
tion, and the craftsmanship of the Izmailovo works was acknowledged 
even by foreigners to be "exquisite enough." The plant continued as 
before to serve court requirements ; in the expense books of the Izmailovo 
palace for 1677, for example, it is noted that on June 14 there were de- 
livered to the Tsaritsa Natalia 25 tall glasses and 25 flat and divers 
other glassware. Yet foreigners speak of the Izmailovo glass works 
simply as a manuf actory belonging to the tsar, along with another simi- 
lar manufactory belonging to a certain Kojet, who in 1634 had received 
from the tsar a privilege for 15 years. The difference was only in the 
fact that Kojet 's plant produced rough glass, for windows and bottles. 

In 1632 the Dutchman, Vinius, received from the tsar a privilege for 
the construction of an iron-works, with a guarantee of treasury orders 
for cannon, shot, and other iron products, and with the right to export 
any surplus abroad; this was, then, a formal agreement between a 
foreign entrepreneur and the Russian government. Vinius failed, but 
this did not mean the collapse of his enterprise; it merely passed into 
other hands. The new proprietor, the Dane, Marselis, still controlled the 
plant "as full hereditary property" when Kilburger wrote; he had 
only just become the sole proprietor, having bought out three-fourths of 


the enterprise from his son-in-law, Thomas Kellerman; for these three- 
fourths Marselis had paid 20,000 rubles (300,000 gold)— i.e., the whole 
enterprise was valued at 400,000 modern rubles. They used water 
power; the ore was very good and was so easily secured that they did 
not take the trouble to pump the water out of the shaft ; when too much 
water had collected they simply began to dig in another spot. Accus- 
tomed as we are to think of the first Russian plants as devoted exclu- 
sively to the supply of "state" demands, we expect to find cannon, 
shot, swords, cuirasses, etc., their only product. But a contemporary, 
specially interested in Russian industry, asserts that Marselis' cannon 
were very poor, though an attempt was made to export them to Holland 
(we shall remember that this had been anticipated by the contract) ; 
when they were tested, they all burst. This information is borne out 
by the complaints of the Moscow government to its agent ; in the words 
of the Muscovite diplomats, who before the Dutch Estates accused the 
foreign entrepreneurs of divers deficiencies, the Tula plant supplied to 
the treasury cannon "much worse than German work." As for small 
arms, both Marselis' and the tsar's armoury made only "sumptuous" 
ones ; real ones, as of old, were ordered from Holland, where the Moscow 
government ordered some 20,000-30,000 musket barrels. Even Peter's 
infantry was in 1700 armed with Liege and Maestricht weapons. Of 
sword blades "they made [in 1673] few, and they were altogether bad." 
As for cuirasses we learn an eloquent detail from a lawsuit between the 
mill-owners, Vinius on the one side, Marselis and Akema on the other; 
the former accused the latter, among other things, of not making armour 
at all at their plants (contrary to the contract about the delivery of 
weapons) ; they replied that they had kept an armourer for several 
years, "but since the tsar's majesty had no work for him, they had let 
him go back abroad." It must be added that at Akema 's plant no 
weapons at all were made; this was a wholly "civilian" plant. 

What then was produced by these plants, which, as we have been 
assured, were founded for the satisfaction of "state" requirements? 
The same things as modern factories, i.e., they served the domestic 
market. Marselis' plant prepared bar and plate iron, iron doors and 
shutters, moulded cast-iron plates for thresholds, and similar articles 
which found an ever greater and greater market, thanks to the ever- 
growing use of brick construction. Akema 's plant, beside this, prepared 
ship anchors (indirect evidence of the wide extension of river ship- 
ping) and was especially renowned for its bar iron, "splendid, supple, 
and elastic, so that every bar could easily be bent in a circle." The 
tsar's iron-works near Klin prepared absolutely the same kind of wares. 
In 1677 were credited to income, including a remainder from the preced- 
ing year, 1,664 puds of joint-iron {i.e., iron joints for brick construe- 


tion), 633 puds of bar iron, 3 barrels of "white" iron, 2,480 ham- 
mered nails, 400,100 two-inch nails, etc. Eight years later there were 
in the stores 1,901 puds of joint-iron and 1,447 puds, 35 funts of bar 

There were instances in which the tsar appeared as entrepreneur pure 
and simple with no relation to the court economy. Collins tells of the 
huge rope manufactory built by Tsar Alexis for the purpose of giving 
employment to the needy, who, it is said, were brought together there 
"from the whole empire"; the needy, working in the tsar's enterprise, 
earned their keep so that they cost the tsar nothing. Encouraged by 
this experience, which so vividly recalls Michael's anxiety about na- 
tional sobriety, Tsar Alexis began "each day to organise ever new and 
new manufactures" with workers of the same type, whose scanty pay 
was given in kind, while the monies "which the taverns afford him 
are in this way preserved. ' ' 

3. Peter's Industrial Policy 

Thus in the Russia of the end of the seventeenth century there were 
present all the conditions requisite for the development of large-scale 
production: there was capital (though in part foreign); there was a 
domestic market; there were working hands. These factors are more 
than sufficient to prevent comparison of Peter's factories with arti- 
ficially forced hothouse plants. And nevertheless the collapse of 
Petrine large-scale industry is a fact just as indubitable as the other 
facts we have just stated. The manufactures founded under Peter 
failed one after another ; hardly a tenth part of them dragged out their 
existence to the second half of the eighteenth century. 

A closer examination of this, the first industrial crisis in Russian 
history, shows that nothing could have been more natural, and that it is 
to be explained by the very fact formerly assigned as the cause of the 
rise of large-scale industry in the reign of Peter. It is an absolutely 
mistaken opinion that political conditions forced the growth of Russian 
capitalism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries ; but it is quite 
true that the political framework of a state that was controlled by the 
nobles prevented this capitalism from developing. Here, as in other 
fields, Peter's autocracy could not create anything, but it did destroy 
much; in this respect the history of the Petrine manufactures supplies 
a perfect parallel to the picture of administrative havoc so well depicted 
by Mr. Milyukov in his book. 

"The merchantry of Your Majesty are very few, and it may be said 
that already there are none," as an unknown Russian "who was in 
Holland" wrote to Peter in 1715. His explanation was the competi- 
tion of "exalted personages." But, over and above competition, Peter's 


very method of influencing industry was such as to frighten capital 
away rather than to attract it. Even in the Muscovite period industry 
had been hampered enough by monopolies and privileges; but both of 
these restricted the application of capital negatively, so to speak, by 
showing it what it could not do. Peter tried to teach capital what it 
must do and where it ought to go, and he executed his task with the 
energy and force ever native to him, but with a naivete that might vie 
even with the methods of Pososhkov, who made the amount of trading 
profit depend on the trader's firmness of character. Commands in the 
spirit of Pososhkov (and in the spirit of mediaeval mercantilism in gen- 
eral) — for example, that serfs should wear Russian cloth only and 
should not dare to wear imported cloth, and in case cloth failed should 
sew clothes of kersey, or that no one should dare to wear clothes with 
galloon, "for the English are richer than we, and they do not wear 
galloon" — were the mildest and most indirect methods employed by 
Peter to influence the development of industry. 

He was capable of acting far more directly and simply. An edict 
to the Senate (January, 1712) prescribed: "so to multiply plants, and 
not in one place, so as in five years not to purchase an imported uni- 
form, and to give an establishment to the trading men, having collected 
a company, whether they are willing or not, and not to assess this plant 
heavily so that they should have encouragement to earn in that busi- 
ness." "We have heard a good deal about serf labour under Peter; but 
of serf entrepreneurs we have heard far less often, and this type is 
incomparably more interesting. In 1715 it came to Peter's ears that 
Russian leather was not thought much of abroad since dampness soon 
spoiled it, thanks to the Russian method of tanning it. Immediately it 
was prescribed that the leather be made in a new way, for which pur- 
pose craftsmen were despatched through the whole empire; "for this 
instruction a term of two years is to be given, after which if any one 
makes leather in the old way, he shall be sent to penal servitude and 
deprived of all his property." 

The results of such paternal care are shown by the well-known fate 
of the north Russian linen-weavers. As we know, Russian linen and 
linen-cloth went abroad in large quantities. Foreign merchants chanced 
to reproach the tsar because the Russians sent them very narrow linen- 
cloth, which was disadvantageous in use and therefore was priced far 
more cheaply than if it had been broad. Immediately Peter most strictly 
forbade the weaving of narrow linen-cloth and linens; but in the huts 
of the Russian domestic-workers there was no room to set up broad 
looms, and the domestic weaving of linen languished, ruining many 
merchants engaged in the marketing of this merchandise. Similar were 
the results of prohibiting the men of Pskov from trading in flax and 


flax products with Riga, a measure designed to stimulate the trade of 
the port of St. Petersburg. That this whole campaign against domestic 
weaving was intended to support the large-scale manufactories of linen- 
cloth which were then being established (one of them belonged to the 
empress) can hardly be doubted. 

But Peter lacked the patience to wait until capital began of itself 
to flow into the business, and he tried to drive capital into the manu- 
facture of linen-cloth with a club. As a result, in place of the tens of 
thousands of weavers now ruined, he got only the linen-cloth manufac- 
ture conducted by a certain Tamesz ; it is true, this establishment made 
goods, as foreigners declared, no worse than foreign goods, but it could 
make ends meet only thanks to the fact that it was bolstered up by 
having ascribed to it a large village (Kokhma) of 641 peasant home- 
steads. A factory that had to be maintained by the labour of serfs 
was no capitalistic enterprise. It was flaunted before foreign travellers 
as a nursery of Russian craftsmen, but it does not appear that they later 
found application for their skill. 

Peter firmly believed in the club as a tool of economic development. 
"Is not everything done by compulsion?" he asked his imaginary oppo- 
nent in an edict of 1723, as usual passing from the tone of legislator 
to the tone of publicist ; ' ' already much thanksgiving is heard for what 
has already borne fruit. And such is not to be accomplished in manu- 
facturing by propositions alone, but must also be compelled, and aided 
with instruction, machines, and all manner of means ; and one must be 
like a good manager, with compulsion in part. For example, it is 
proposed : where they felt fine sledge-covers, there compel them to make 
hats (supply craftsmen), so that it is not permitted to sell sledge-covers 
if the proposed parts of the hats are not there ; where they make leather, 
there hides for chamois and other things made of hides ; and when it is 
established, then it may be without supervision." But this "be without 
supervision" meant still remaining under inspection, only not of the 
central authorities but of the "burmisters of that town" where the 
manufacture was established. 

The most European measure in this catalogue of compulsions was 
the protective tariff; "whatever factories and manufactures are estab- 
lished among us, it is incumbent to impose on such imported articles 
a duty on everything except cloths. ' ' In fulfilment of this desire of the 
edict of 1723 the tariff, published in the following year, imposed on a 
large part of the manufactures imported from abroad a duty of 50-75 
per cent ad valorem. It is evident that the domestic market must have 
reacted to this tariff, since among the wares subject to a high duty was 
iron, which for fifty years had been an object of mass consumption. 
How rationally the tariffs were worked out is attested by an interesting 


petition of the silk manufacturers, in whose interests silk-weaving had 
already been subjected to prohibitive duties. They asked that the im- 
portation of silk brocade be permitted again, on the ground that their 
own manufacture "cannot soon come into condition to be able to satisfy 
all the realm with brocades ' ' ; they deemed it more advantageous to get 
into their own hands control over the trade in foreign silk goods, "in 
order that we, at our own discretion, might permit the importation of 
some brocades and prohibit others." Capital, driven into industry with 
a club, sought permission to go back into commerce. . . . 

This petition bears the signatures of three of the greatest personages 
of Peter's court, Admiral Apraxin, Vice-Chancellor Shafirov, and Peter 
Tolstoi. Their enterprise, in point of capital outlay, was most likely 
the very greatest in the Petrine period. Something like a million gold 
rubles (in modern values) had been invested in it; of this total the 
treasury had supplied one-third, not counting the fact that it had pro- 
vided the "company" with buildings, materials (we shall remember 
that trade in raw silk was a tsar's monopoly), etc. And all this support 
was lavished on a branch of production that had minimum significance 
for the domestic market, and in view of Peter's medievally mercantilistic 
measures against the spread of luxury among the masses ought not to 
have had any at all. Meanwhile, in Peter's reign silk factories grew 
like mushrooms; in Moscow alone there were five of them, and who was 
there that did not rush into this profitable business! Here we meet 
ministers of state (like those mentioned above), servants of the tsar's 
palace (Milyutin), post-masters (Sukhanov), and Armenian sojourners. 
In view of what we already know of Russia's position at that time in 
the silk trade of the world, the attractiveness of the idea of selling the 
"West silk products instead of silk is quite comprehensible. But it was 
a childish fancy for a state in which industry had only just been born 
to try to compete with Lyons or Utrecht. The warden of the Moscow 
drapers' market officially declared that silks woven in the fatherland 
"cannot compare in work with foreign [products], and in price are sold 
from the factories higher than foreign ones ' ' ; and in behalf of all the 
drapers he asked for free importation of foreign silk stuffs. The whole 
enterprise was a typical adventure and soon crashed, although the 
treasury had spent large sums on it, and capital had been diverted 
from other manufactures. 

In a different, but just as unhealthy, way Peter's mercantilism mani- 
fested itself in the iron industry ; almost prohibitive duties were imposed 
on iron, and at the same time the treasury plants at Tula were wholly 
absorbed (from 1715) in the manufacture of the arms needed in such 
quantities for the army as reformed by Peter. Supply of the popular 
demand was wholly in the hands of privileged monopolist entrepreneurs 


like the celebrated Demidov or the tsar's kinsman, A. L. Naryshkin. It 
was more advantageous to the treasury, both politically and financially, 
to have its own small-arms and its own cannon than to be dependent on 
Holland for them. But probably more favourable for the development of 
the iron industry in Russia on a large scale had been the times when 
Marselis made poor cannon and good frying-pans. 

The intensive and compulsory development of Russian manufactures 
under Peter had, of course, a third consequence, one long since noted 
by historians ; Peter 's reign marks the beginning of the bondage factory. 
The advantages of free labour in manufacture were as well recognised 
then as in the preceding period; Tamesz was bound by contract, like 
Vinius and Marselis in their time, ' ' to hire as apprentices and workmen 
free men and not serfs, with payment for their labour of a worthy wage." 
But when it was a matter of putting a hundred enterprises into opera- 
tion all at once, including some very large ones (Tamesz had 841 work- 
ers; at the Moscow cloth factory of Shchegolin's there were 730; at 
another, Miklyaev's Kazan cloth manufactory, 742; at the Sestroretsk 
arms plant 682; at the Moscow treasury sail-making factory 1,162; etc.), 
the small number of free workers available could not be sufficient. On 
the other hand, the monopolist entrepreneur was not much interested 
in the quality of his products. The quality did not matter, for there 
was no one else to buy from. Hence arose a natural tendency to replace 
free labour with substitutes, and the government was willing to meet this 
effort half way. "By the edict of February 10, 1719, it was prescribed 
to send off to the linen-cloth factories of Andrew Turchaninov and his 
colleagues, 'for the spinning of flax, the women and girls, who, whether 
by the central offices at Moscow or by other provinces, are punished for 
their faults.' By an edict of 1721 this measure was made general ; women 
guilty of various offences were sent, at the discretion of the Collegium 
of Manufactures and Mines, for work in company factories for a certain 
term or even for life." The edict of January 18, 1721, permitting 
merchants to purchase inhabited hamlets for factories and workshops, 
definitely legalised this state of affairs. But if the factory owner could 
now carry on his business with the labour of serfs, who prevented the 
serf -holder from establishing a factory ? Peter 's measure brought little 
advantage to Russian industrial capitalism, but it was one of the fore- 
runners, remote enough as yet, of bondage, or landlord, capitalism. 
Given a uniform character, and consequently uniform quality of labour, 
the landlord's factory had every chance of defeating the merchant's; 
and so it turned out in the course of the eighteenth century. By drawing 
the string too taut, Petrine mercantilism broke it altogether. 

But we should be very much mistaken if we ascribed this outcome to 
the individual error of the "Reformer." Even the method by which 


he introduced industrial mercantilism into Russian life was not a per- 
sonal peculiarity of his; Pososhkov, a typical representative of the 
average Russian bourgeois of the time, attached just as much importance 
to "volitional impulse" and recked just as little of the objective condi- 
tions as did Peter himself. Brought up on the tsar's monopolies and 
surrounded by the conditions of handicraft production, Russian com- 
mercial capitalism was very ill-adapted to the wide field of action on 
which it found itself at the beginning of the eighteenth century, not led 
thither by its own sweet will so much as driven thither by the pressure 
of Western European capital ; to the latter fell the lion's share of all the 
profits. Whereas in the seventeenth century the maximum number of 
ships at Archangel, then the only Russian port, had not exceeded one 
hundred, in the year of Peter's death (1725) there were 242 foreign 
vessels in St. Petersburg and besides that 170 at Narva, 386 at Riga, 
which had now also become a Russian port, 44 at Reval, 72 at Vyborg — 
only Archangel itself was deserted, whither came only twelve vessels 
from abroad ; from 1718 trade through this port had been hedged about, 
in the interests of St. Petersburg, by such difficulties that foreigners had 
begun to avoid it. In general, in point of the number of ships, Russia's 
export trade had grown in half a century, since Kilburger's times, from 
eight to ten fold. 

Yet the Russian merchantry at this time were "very few, and it may 
be said that there are none at all, for all the trades have been taken away 
from the merchants, and there trade in those wares exalted personages 
and their men and peasants." This expression of the unknown pro- 
moter "who was in Holland" was fully supported, indirectly, by the 
"exalted personages" themselves very soon after Peter's death. In 1727, 
in the commerce commission of the Supreme Privy Council, Menshikov, 
Makarov, and Osterman gave an "opinion," in which they agreed that 
"the merchantry in the Russian realm is almost entirely ruined," and 
that it was necessary "immediately to establish a commission of good and 
conscientious men to consider that merchantry and to seek to heal 
this so necessary nerve of the state from the root and from the foun- 

By way of physic it was proposed to repeal certain arbitrary measures 
of Peter's, for "the merchantry requires freedom," and in part to 
return to Muscovite practice by reopening Archangel. But, and this 
was the chief thing, it was proposed to review the industrial enterprises 
of the Petrine epoch, deliberating on the factories and manufactures, 
"which of them are to the advantage of the realm, and which a burden," 
and for the future to forestall excessive multiplication of such "burden- 
some" enterprises by forbidding the merchantry "in future to purchase 
hamlets." "And [forbidding] the landlords themselves to trade," the 


"opinion" diplomatically added; "but rather to bid them to render 
powerful aid to their peasants in industries and in the multiplication 
of rural workshops of all sorts. ' ' Giving a few sops to the bourgeoisie, 
it was thus proposed to perpetuate trade by eminent personages through 
their dependents. Thus appears before us, along with foreign capi- 
talists, another social group reaping the fruits of the "reforms"; this 
was the new feudal aristocracy, which, under the name the "supreme 
lords," began to rule Russia the day after Peter's death. 

4. The New Administrative Machinery 

So long as Russia was under the control of the nobility, the work of 
administration had been directly performed by those who held the 
political power ; in the seventeenth century the vassals of the Muscovite 
sovereign, the military landholders, had collected taxes, had administered 
justice, and had maintained a police system just as they had done a 
century earlier, and as, in reality, they were to do two centuries later if 
we consider the social meaning of the phenomenon rather than its juri- 
dical formulation. The uniform background presented by the regime 
of the nobility, however, is very distinctly marred at the end of the sev- 
enteenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries; for the shifting of 
the economic centre of gravity could not fail to affect the apportionment 
of power among the several groups of society. The springtide of com- 
mercial capitalism brought with it something absolutely unprecedented 
for Muscovite Russia, a bourgeois administration. 

Russian historians have long since described how on the border line 
between the two centuries, in 1699, the nobles' voevoda, a man who, 
in return for service and wounds, had been appointed to his post to 
"feed himself to satiety," had to surrender his post to the townsman's 
burmister, a man who was something between "the responsible finan- 
cial agent of the government" and (but more like this latter) an account- 
able steward. But with their customary faith in the miraculous power 
of the state, these historians have not been arrested by the fact ; for why 
should not the state hand over local administration to the merchants if 
it suited its convenience? Had not even Ivan the Terrible boasted that 
from stones he could raise up the seed of Abraham ? To make a trader a 
judge and administrator was many times easier than this. Yet if we 
remember what a gigantic smash had accompanied the transfer of the 
administration from the hands of the boyars, i.e., the representatives of 
large landholding, into the hands of the nobles, i.e., the representatives 
of middling landholding, we shall be able to understand how great a leap 
was the transfer of authority, even though only of local authority, into 
the hands of men who did not belong to the landholding class at all. 

There is, perhaps, no better illustration of the revolutionary, catas- 


trophic character of Peter's reforms than this change, which it has 
become customary to explain by meagre considerations of state con- 
venience. To deprive one class of power and transfer it to another 
simply in order "more reliably to regulate financial responsibility" (as 
Mr. Milyukov explains the reform of 1699) — this is something that not 
one state in the world has done, simply because not one could do it. 

It is true, Petrine Russia did not succeed in making the transfer for 
long; in less than thirty years the nobles' state had regained the upper 
hand. But even the attempt could not have been made had there not 
existed a very special correlation of forces; it needed that alliance of 
the bourgeoisie with the foremost members of the landholding class to 
which we have already referred. When the new feudal aristocracy had 
no further use for its bourgeois ally, the latter had to return to its 
former political insignificance. But it immediately became clear that 
without this meagre support the "supreme lords" themselves were quite 
unable to hold their ground ; coming face to face with the nobility, which 
had been pushed into the background, they rapidly had to give way to it, 
and the nobles again steadied themselves in the saddle, this time for 
almost two centuries. 

The alliance of the bourgeoisie and the "supreme lords" even ante- 
dated Peter. From 1681 date two projects, rather strange if taken 
separately : one of them has long been familiar ; the other, if we mistake 
not, was first expounded in detail by Professor Klyuchevsky, though 
from the "state" point of view. Both have remained "interesting epi- 
sodes ' ' of unknown inception and import. The one aimed at centralising 
the collection of indirect imposts throughout the Muscovite realm in the 
hands of the capitalists of the city of Moscow. The higher grades of 
merchants at Moscow were to set up customs and liquor-excise officials all 
over Russia. We need hardly say that our jurist-historians immediately 
fell to pitying the poor gosts, who were charged with such a difficult 
business, and explained the project itself by "the deficiency of state 
arrangements. " But the gosts, in declining the proffered honour, did not 
refer to the difficulty of the business but declined on the ground that 
they knew no men in the province on whom they could rely — a reply the 
meaning of which we shall grasp if we remember Kilburger's account 
of the attitude of the provincial merchantry toward the privileged 
factors of the tsar; the gosts of course knew even better than did stray 
foreigners that the local merchants had a mind to "wring their necks." 
In saying that they did not know whom to trust in the provinces, they 
were really acknowledging that in the provinces no one trusted them. 
It is possible that they were also disturbed over the indefiniteness of 
their relations to the local noble administration. 

The other project, whether connected with this or not, but advanced 


at the same time, was a project for the reform of the local adminis- 
tration. "It was proposed to divide the realm into several palatinates 
and to set over them available representatives of the Muscovite aristoc- 
racy with the power of actual and at the same time irremovable pala- 
tines." The projected palatinates were to coincide with the separate 
"kingdoms" that had entered into the composition of the Muscovite 
realm — Siberia, Kazan, etc. — so that they would be "not the petty 
counties into which the Muscovite realm was divided but integral his- 
toric provinces." This time the project did not fall through because of 
the dissent of those upon whom such difficult functions were to have been 
imposed, but for a different reason altogether ; the Church, the guardian 
of tradition, rose against it in the person of the Patriarch Ioakim. This 
fact alone ought to show that there was no question of restoring boyar 
rule, but of doing something absolutely new and, for Moscow, unprece- 
dented. Twenty years later, when the voice of the patriarch no longer 
meant anything, this new and unprecedented something was moulded 
into two institutions, the very names of which negated Muscovite tradi- 
tion ; these were the ratusha [town council] and the guberniya [province, 
from the French gouvernement]. 

The project of 1681 was a failure in so far as it was a bold attempt 
to concentrate the collection of taxes in the hands of the representatives 
of great commercial capital; yet it did not remain altogether a dead 
letter. Beginning with the 'eighties, the voevodas and agents of the 
central bureaux are systematically removed from the financial adminis- 
tration ; not only are the indirect taxes taken from them, but newly 
introduced direct ones no longer fall to them ; such was the fate of the 
new strelets tax, the assessment of which was fixed by the gosts. 

The first extant edict on the ratusha (March 1, 1698) refers to edicts 
of similar import issued by Tsars Alexis and Fedor II. The language of 
the edict of 1698 leaves no doubt that it was not merely a question of 
"financial convenience," but of taking power from one social group and 
transferring it to another. And in this sense it was understood by both 
parties, both by the nobles' administration and by the townsmen. In 
Vyatka, for example, the townsmen not only ceased to pay the voevoda 
anything at all but did not even want to sell him foodstuffs at the 
customary price, very indelicately intimating to their chief of yesterday 
that it was time for him to betake himself out of the town. For their 
part, the voevodas replied by collective retirement and attempts at 
obstruction ; newly appointed ones refused to go to their posts, and old 
ones shunned all business, conducting lengthy correspondence with the 
Moscow bureaux on the topic of what they were to do now. As might 
have been expected, the poorer townsmen turned out to be on the side 
of the voevodas. They did not at all like to pass under the authority of 


the hated gosts, and a number of provincial towns attempted to evade 
the innovation (33 out of 70, according to Mr. Milyukov's reckoning). 
The government had to make concessions ; in favour of the townsmen they 
lowered the amount of taxation originally fixed ; the voevodas and agents 
of the central bureaux kept under their administration the localities 
where serfdom prevailed. In other words, Russia of the nobles remained 
under the administration of the nobles ; bourgeois administration held 
its own only in the towns, and the countryside fell under its control 
only where there were no landlords, the whole north of the Muscovite 
realm being left to the "burmisters. " This Dutch name was, it seems, 
the only thing in the whole reform that belonged to Peter personally; 
he had then just returned from his trip to Holland. 

The principal feature of the project of 1681 was reproduced in full 
in the edicts of 1699-1700 ; the administration of bourgeois Russia was 
concentrated in the hands of the Moscow merchantry, who this time 
evidently found no objections to the "burden" imposed on them. The 
Moscow "burmisters" were to control the burmisters of all the other 
towns, and the Moscow "ratusha" was to serve as a centre for all levies 
based on the new system. In the hands of the plenipotentiaries of the 
Moscow bourgeoisie was almost one-fifth of the whole budget, and far 
more if we count in all the industrial enterprises of the tsar's treasury, 
which were in fact administered by this same bourgeoisie. The system 
of monopolies had never attained such development as in the first years 
of the eighteenth century. The sale of whiskey had never ceased to 
be an exclusive privilege of the treasury; tavern monies comprised the 
bulk of the " ratusha 's" budget. From 1705 salt likewise became a 
tsar's monopoly, yielding annually from three to five hundred thousand 
rubles (three to three and a half millions gold). A little later tar, 
chalk, train-oil, tallow, and bristles became treasury merchandise. 

As "Whitworth wrote in 1708, "the court here is turned quite merchant 
and not content with ingrossing the best commodities of their own coun- 
try as tar, potash, rubarbe, isingglass, etc., which they buy at low rates, 
and all others being forbid to sell, put it off to the english and dutch 
with great profit, but are now further incroaching on the foreign trade 
and buy up whatever they want abroad under the name of particular 
merchants, who are only paid for their commission, but the gain and 
risk is the czar's." 6 In exactly the same way Russian wares were sold 
abroad direct, the tsar's "gosts," invested with the new name of "high 
commissioners," being sent even as far as Amsterdam. There is no 
need to say that, like the gosts of olden times, they traded not only for 
the tsar but also for themselves personally, without using any special 

6 Whitworth to Harley, April 29, 1708. Sbornik, v. 39, p. 262. 


care to distinguish the one function from the other. The influence then 
enjoyed by the merchantry in the financial administration may be 
judged by the right conferred on the ratusha (1703) to control the dis- 
tribution of the sums that passed through its hands. As a result, the 
whole financial apparatus of Peter's army was under the supervision 
of the burmisters ; they distributed the wages in the provinces and 
checked up on the use of their disbursements by the military authorities. 

Nevertheless, even for the Petrine era such a state of affairs was too 
incongruous to last long. Influential as the bourgeoisie (more foreign 
than native) was economically, political power was not in its hands. 
The ratusha with its bourgeois centralisation had long had a rival, in 
whose name and for whose profit the bourgeoisie was really working. 
The project of the "palatinates" of 1681 had no more fallen from the 
sky than had the project of an all-Russian "House of Burmisters." 
Even in the 1650 's we find on the frontiers of the Muscovite realm 
authorities with extraordinary full-powers, and always drawn from the 
great aristocracy, close to the tsar's court. Such was Prince Repnin, 
who ruled first at Smolensk, later at Novgorod ; when he went to Moscow 
for a time, his son assumed the command — just as though it were a 
question of a real appanage principality. Such were Prince Romoda- 
novsky at Belgorod and the famous B. A. Golitsyn at Kazan, who, in 
the words of a contemporary, "ruled all the Low [all the Volga coun- 
try] as absolutely as if he had been the sovereign." As befitted feuda- 
tories, they were, in the first instance, military authorities — in modern 
terminology, commanders of the troops of this or the other area ; but, 
in accordance with feudal usage, the military authorities were the 
authorities in general. The voevoda of Belgorod administered the towns 
ascribed to Belgorod, not only in military but also in financial and 
judicial respects. In 1670 several towns of the Smolensk area were 
handed over to that of Novgorod, "with all service and with all the 
revenues of those towns, and with trial and jurisdiction, both pomestye 
and votchina matters." 

To a foreigner contemplating the Muscovite order of things from a 
bird's-eye view, so to speak, and from whom, therefore, the details of 
Muscovite administrative technique could not conceal the essence of the 
matter, the order of things established by the end of the seventeenth 
century seemed a formal "partition of Rus. " The English seaman, 
Perry, who arrived in Russia in 1698, writes that "such of the chief 
Lords who were Favourites and commonly were of the greatest Families 
in Russia . . . acted as sovereign Princes under the Czar, in the several 
Provinces into which the Empire was divided; who had the Liberty to 
make use of the Czar 's Name for their Authority in the issuing forth their 
Orders, and might be said to have the sole Power of Mens Lives and 


Fortunes in their Hands. And for the Examination of Causes, and for 
the Execution of their Orders, each of these Lords, or Princes, held 
apart an Office or Court of Justice in Mosco, where these great Lords 
usually resided, and to whom there was an Appeal from the District of 
all the lesser Towns and Cities in each respective Province. A Bench 
of Diacks (or Chancellors) sate as Judges in each of these principal 
Offices or Courts in Mosco, whose Business it was to hear and determine 
Matters ; and to sign Orders, as well relating to the Treasury, and the 
Military, as to the Civil Matters ; and to make a Report from Time to 
Time of their Proceedings to their respective Lords, under whose Com- 
mand they acted, and the said Lords seldom coming themselves in Per- 
son to hear any Causes, the Diacks represented Matters to them in such 
Form and Colours, as they thought proper : And beyond which, in 
case of any Grievance, there was at that Time no higher Court of 
Appeal. Each of these Lords had the sole Power also lodged in them, 
to appoint and send Governors to the several Towns and Cities, to which 
each Province was again subdivided into lesser Districts. . . . These 
Governors . . . had the Power ... to return such sums as they col- 
lected . . . into the grand Precause, or proper Office of each Boyar, 
residing in Mosco, where the Account of the Collections made in each 
Province was made out, (such as was thought fit), with the Account also 
of what was expended on the several pretended Occasions, for the Serv- 
ice of each respective Province ; the rest sent into the office of the 
great Treasury in Mosco, as aforesaid." 7 

"On Peter's part the organisation of the 'ratusha' was an attempt 
to counteract" this rending asunder of the state by the "chief Lords 
who were Favourites"; if we substitute for the symbolic figure of Peter 
commercial capital, which at the beginning of the Northern War domi- 
nated the situation, this appraisal of Mr. Milyukov's is entirely correct. 
At the peak of its power the commercial bourgeoisie crowded Peter's 
satraps into the background, and they did not even venture to offer 
serious resistance (Perry does speak of some kind of opposition of the 
boyars to the institution of the ratusha). But very soon the "chief 
Lords who were Favourites" got their way. In 1707 or 1708 8 all the 
towns except those that were within 100 versts of Moscow were "as- 
signed" among the frontier centres: Kiev, Smolensk, Azov, Kazan, 
Archangel, and St. Petersburg. 

The guiding principle in the "assignment" of towns is clearly stated 
by Tatishchev, a well-informed contemporary. The " gubernators " 

i J. Perry, The State of Russia under the Present Czar, London, 1716, pp. 187- 

s The year of the institution of the guberniyas is not accurately known — an ex- 
ample of how little even the bare facts of the history of the "period of reforms" has 
been studied. 


tried to get hold of as many as possible of the richest possible towns: 
thus, for example, Menshikov ascribed Yaroslavl to St. Petersburg "for 
the wealthy merchantry " ; as the person nearest to Peter he received 
two of the towns in his guberniya, Yamburg and Koporye, outright as 
personal property. For the same reason, Menshikov had begun to get 
towns even before the official "assignment" of them by guberniyas; 
as early as 1706 Peter had handed over to Menshikov the government of 
"Novgorod, Velikie Iraki, and the other towns belonging to them." But 
the other " gubernators " were also men very close to the tsar; the 
guberniyas of Azov and Kazan were in the hands of the brothers 
Apraxin, one of whom, the Admiral F. M. Apraxin, was, next to 
Menshikov, closer to Peter than any one else; that of Kiev was given 
to Prince D. M. Golitsyn, who later became so famous as the leader of 
the "supreme lords" in 1730, and whom Peter especially esteemed; in 
Smolensk sat the tsar's kinsman, Saltykov. 

We should be very much mistaken if we explained this local concen- 
tration of authority in the hands of the tsar's confidants by considera- 
tions of expediency — by a desire to be better acquainted with local 
matters, to exercise a more direct influence on them, etc. This was out 
of the question because it was impossible to be near to the tsar and near 
to one's province simultaneously. The gubernators were for the most 
part to be found wherever the centre of power was, and during the 
Northern War they "usually were with the army." The one who was 
most settled in his province was Prince D. M. Golitsyn ; but in place of 
Menshikov in "Ingermanland" ruled the "landrichter" Korsakov; in 
place of F. Apraxin in the province of Azov ruled Kikin ; in place of 
Peter Apraxin in Kazan ruled the vice-governor Kudryavtsev; the 
governor of Siberia, Prince Gagarin, whom Peter later had to have 
hanged for an unimaginable robbery, was at Moscow for the most part. 
The administration through the "Diacks (or Chancellors)" spoken of 
by Perry thus continued even after the new division of the country 
among the "chief Lords." 

All that Peter demanded of them was that they should share their 
revenues with the central authorities ; re-establishing the money con- 
tributions of the mediasval vassal to the mediasval suzerain, the guber- 
nators brought the tsar "gifts." These might be large (up to 70,000 
rubles at one time) or small (reckoned in tens of rubles), regular (from 
year to year) or extraordinary (on special occasions). 9 Of them all, 
the governor of Kazan, Peter Apraxin, most comforted Peter with his 
"gifts," sending the tsar in three years 120,000 rubles out of his zeal 
(in modern gold currency somewhat more than a million) ; on the other 

s On the occasion of Peter's wedding to Catherine the gubernators had to send 
fifty rubles from each town. 


hand, under him "were made waste" in the province of Kazan 33,215 
homesteads of non-Russian subjects who paid tribute in furs, and 
thence it soon proved "impossible to collect not only the extraordinary 
but also the ordinary levies — on account of the great increase in the 
number of abandoned homesteads." During his administration in the 
province of Kiev, D. M. Golitsyn collected in "extra money levies" 
500,000 rubles (4,500,000 gold), "and by those burdens and by the extra 
levies the province of Kiev was made a desert. ' ' And still Golitsyn was 
accounted the best governor! 

The "chief Lords" had in their time been opposed to the organisation 
of the ratusha. What was the attitude of the bourgeois ratusha toward 
the institution of the guberniyas? Here, too, there were attempts at 
resistance. The chief inspector of the ratusha, the famous Kurbatov, 
protested bitterly against the "rending asunder" and strove to touch the 
tsar in his most sensitive spot by pointing to the possible diminution of 
revenues under the new order of things. Were it not for the ratusha 
there would be no sinews of war, he threatened. It was hard for Peter 
to find an answer to his arguments. He who was so soon to create the 
bureaucratic regime in Russia now cavilled at the bureaucratism of 
the ratusha, referring ironically to the ten receipts every paymaster 
must take, and now harped on the outworn theme of the difficulties of 
absentee rule. This theme was unapt for the very reason that, as 
we have seen, the gubernators were for the most part absentee rulers, 
although it is true that they gave themselves no trouble about receipts 
or about accounts in general. Kurbatov 's objections merely delayed 
matters a little. The sole concession to the bourgeoisie was that Kurba- 
tov, the representative and defender of its interests, was made chief of 
the guberniya of Archangel, the most bourgeois of them all. Commer- 
cial capital and the feudal aristocracy thus delimited their spheres terri- 
torially, the latter securing nine-tenths and the former retaining only 
one-tenth of the whole territory and of all authority. 

Yet this partition could not make a clean sweep. In the first place, 
as Mr. Milyukov puts it, Peter "gradually created for himself ... a 
special sphere of direct state-economic activity, taking under his per- 
sonal direction the exploitation of a number of regalia." In other words, 
as in the seventeeth centurj^, the largest economies of private votchinniks 
were surpassed by the tsar's economy. Moreover, there remained a city 
and the region around it not subject to territorial division ; Moscow and 
the adjacent counties could not be included in the partition because they 
were at one and the same time the centre both of the new feudal aris- 
tocracy and of the greatest bourgeoisie. Since geographically Moscow 
coincided with the centre of the tsar's economy, there was nothing more 
natural than concentration in the same hands of authority over the 


"guberniya of Moscow" and of the management of the tsar's enter- 
prises. If we did not become confused by associations evoked by a state 
of affairs much later than 1711, if, besides, we were not under the 
hypnosis of names, we should long since have found the correct place in 
the history of Russian institutions for the Petrine Senate. 

This "rare and strange" creation of Peter's, as the old jurist- 
historians deemed it, was primarily an assembly of the tsar's responsible 
stewards. This is perfectly clear if we read attentively the famous 
"points" of March 2, 1711, by which the tsar, then setting out for the 
Pruth campaign, 10 defined the activity of the "ruling" centre he had 
just created. There were nine "points" in all; here are the last five: 
"check bills of exchange and keep them in one place; inspect and ex- 
amine the goods whether farmed out by chancellories or guberniyas; 
try to farm out salt and take care of the revenue from it ; lease the 
Chinese trade, forming a good company ; increase the Persian trade and 
show favour to the Armenians as much as possible and make it easy for 
them, as far as is fitting, so that they may desire to come in great num- 
bers." Kilburger's "college of gosts" had fulfilled the same functions 
in its time. The fact that this college now included, along with Vasily 
Yershov, a former bondsman who had become "intendant" of the 
guberniya of Moscow, a great number of former boyars (not of the 
first rank, it is true), is only additional evidence of how all concepts 
were mixed up with the displacement of the economic centre of gravity. 
The functions of those boyars who happened to become senators were 
perfectly consonant with their new role. Of the original personnel of 
the Senate, Samarin was General-Kriegs-Zahlmeister, i.e., paymaster- 
general of the army; Opukhtin had charge of the silver bazaar, the 
Merchants' Hall, etc.; Prince Volkonsky of the Tula arsenals, etc. 

Not one of the "supreme lords," such as Menshikov and Apraxin, 
entered the Senate; they wrote "edicts" to it, whereas the Senate's 
right to send edicts to them was very doubtful. From a number of 
Peter's edicts we learn that the gubernators paid not the slightest at- 
tention to the orders of the Senate, regardless of the menacing declara- 
tion of the edict of March 5 : "we have appointed a Governing Senate, 
to which, and to the edicts of which, every one will be obedient as to us 
ourself, under pain of severe chastisement or of death, according to the 
fault." These words of the creator of the Senate have evidently 
produced more impression on later historians than on those to whom 
they were more directly addressed. Even after this edict the governors 
more than once drove Peter to threaten to deal with them "as is meet 
for robbers," and they took not the least notice, understanding very 

io After the battle of Poltava Charles XII of Sweden took refuge in Turkey, 
whither Peter attempted to follow him in 1711. 


well that words accomplish nothing. Historians, paying most attention 
to the title of the institution and to the first point of Peter's instruc- 
tions ("deal out true justice," etc.), have worn themselves out talking 
about the rare and strange institution, alleged to have been borrowed 
from Sweden. In fact, the Senate of Peter the Great had nothing in 
common with the Swedish, aristocratic and genuinely "governing," 
Senate except the name. 

It would not have been at all surprising had the tsar's stewards been 
invested with wide judicial and administrative powers at the beginning 
of the eighteenth century, since at the end of the century it was nothing 
to convert the tsar's valet-de-chambre into prime minister. Opposition 
to the Senate could appear only in case it, like the ratusha, acquired a 
social significance and became a weapon of the bourgeoisie in its strug- 
gle for power with the nobility. But the bourgeoisie's centre, such 
as the ratusha had been, had by the time of the Senate's appearance 
been definitely destroyed; the "supreme lords" had "rent asunder" 
among their guberniyas all that the merchant administration had man- 
aged to get together. Reform of the Senate itself was necessary only 
when the "supreme lords" had entered this institution, in which origi- 
nally they had not been represented and had been little interested. 

But even before this final note in Peter's administrative reforms had 
been struck, the fierce hatred of the middling and petty military servi- 
tors had been earned by the fiscals, an instrument of senatorial 
administration possessed of two basic features : in the first place, this 
institution was actually, not in name alone, borrowed from the West; 
in the second place, a large share of influence on affairs was left, though 
indirectly, in the hands of non-nobles. The name "fiscals" is so defi- 
nitely associated with the idea of secret investigation and espionage 
that it is not so easy to discover the real meaning of this institution. 
Nevertheless, taking it as it is depicted in contemporary documents, 
particularly in the instruction of March 17, 1714, which put the finish- 
ing touches on the fiscal's office, it is not hard to see that in Peter's 
imagination there was floating, in rather nebulous form, something in 
the nature of the modern public prosecutor. 

The fiscal was the representative of the public interest, protecting 
"the people's interests" against encroachments on the part of private 
persons. Hence his jurisdiction included not only "extortions and 
peculation" but also all cases in which no private person had occasion 
to intervene. If a traveller was murdered, or if an estate was left with- 
out an heir, the investigation, or the protection of the untended estate, 
was the business of the fiscal. In Muscovite Rus the public interest as 
such had had no guardian of its own ; the nearest approach to the fiscals 
were the "guba heads," but they had protected the interests, not of 


society as a whole but only of the local population, whose organs they 
were. But these functions of the fiscals, which had been inspired by 
acquaintance with European customs, were sloughed off or relegated 
to the background even in Peter's time, as soon as the office of public 
prosecutor appeared under its own name [procuratura]. 

In the imagination of contemporaries and in the memory of pos- 
terity was far more vividly imprinted the other task of the fiscals, the 
attempt to increase the tsar's revenue; their method was very original, 
consisting not in securing new sources of revenue, but in doing away 
with the drain on the revenue arising from abuses and peculation. Yet 
the old method of increasing the revenues did not wholly vanish from 
the practice of the fiscals; the famous Nesterov in his "report" enumer- 
ates among his services, not only the disclosure of abuses but also his 
project of founding a merchant company to protect the interests of the 
native merchantry from the competition of foreigners. But this is only 
one of the points in the ' ' report, ' ' and the last one at that ; in the rest, 
it is a question of detecting or anticipating stealing, whether from the 
tsar's enterprises (e.g., velvet entrusted to an agent for sale) or from 
the state treasury (e.g., from the mint) ; nor is it evident that this 
servant of Peter the Great was aware of that imponderable distinction 
between what was the sovereign's and what the state's under the regime 
of an absolute monarchy, a distinction which our jurist-historians have 
drawn with such subtlety. The tsar 's fiscal, with the indef atigability of 
a bloodhound, pursued equally the theft of the tsar's velvet and the 
bribes that the court judge, Savelov, had taken, striving to convert this 
hunt for grafters into an hereditary profession. "They are a common 
company of nobles," Nesterov complains of his colleagues, "while I, 
thy slave, have been mixed among them alone with my son, whom I am 
accustoming to the office of fiscal and have as a clerk. ..." And from 
this same passage of the "report" we learn, incidentally, that only this 
one non-noble fiscal took his business seriously; the rest, the "company 
of nobles," "avoiding service and errands, flive themselves like down- 
right parasites in their own hamlets and care about them and not about 
their duties as fiscals." Granted that this former bondsman was on 
this occasion finding fault with his former masters, yet Peter's edicts 
themselves testify that the tsar did not esteem the nobles as guardians 
of the tsar's revenues. 

The office of fiscal was at once thrown open to the bourgeoisie. "Select 
the chief fiscal, a clever and good man, of whatever grade he be," reads 
Peter's first detailed command about the new office (the edict of March 
5, 1711; in the edict of March 2 fiscals are only mentioned). In ac- 
cordance with this requirement (to select without reference to grade), 
the first chief fiscal was taken from among the secretaries of the Pre- 


obrazliensk Bureau, Peter's police department. The men of rank 
immediately adopted obstructive tactics against their superintendent 
of no standing, and with such success that the new chief fiscal, appointed 
in April, 1711, by August had no subordinates, no chancellory, not even 
office room. But Peter, or rather the bourgeois circles that had not yet 
lost their influence over him, were not deterred, and even the edict of 
March 17, 1714, requires that at least two of the fiscals attached to the 
Senate should be of the merchantry; in exactly the same way some of 
the posts as fiscals in the provinces had to be given to the bourgeoisie. 
In one of the later edicts of the Senate we actually find that municipal 
fiscals were to be "elected of the provincial fiscals and of all the mer- 
chant folk of the town." 

As a matter of fact Nesterov was the last chief fiscal not drawn from 
the nobility; his place was taken by a noble, a colonel of the Guard. 
But when the bourgeoisie first appeared in the guise of defender of the 
public interest and comptroller of the nobles' administration, it in- 
evitably provoked the men of rank to an outburst of rage difficult to 
describe; only the original words of an orator who had absorbed all 
the nobility's rancour against the new institution can give any idea of 
their feelings. In his famous Lenten sermon (1712) Stefan Yavorsky 
sounded frankly revolutionary notes: "The law of the Lord is pure, 
but the laws of man mayhap are impure. What kind of a law is it, for 
example, that sets up a superintendent over a court and gives to him the 
freedom that whom he wishes to accuse, he accuses, whom he wishes to 
dishonour, he dishonours ; and to lay calumny on a privy judge is free 
to him. Not so ought it to be : he sought my head, laid calumny on me, 
and did not bring proof — now let him lay down his own head ; he spread 
a net for me, let him be taken in the toils ; he dug a pit for me, let him 
fall into it himself, the son of perdition. . . . Whatever objection you 
make to him [the fiscal] he considers as an insult to his honour." This 
rather original theory of the criminal responsibility of the prosecutor 
in case of the defendant's acquittal was actually put into practice; the 
edict of March 17, already cited, provides for fiscals a "light fine" for 
unintentional mistakes, and a penalty equal to that which the person 
accused would have been subject to in case of proven malicious intent 
on the part of the fiscal. But this meant the conversion of the fiscal 's 
inquest into a sort of duel between the investigators of abuses and the 
"abusers": either you me, or I you. Heroes, fanatics of their fiscal 
duty like Nesterov, were as rare here as everywhere. This point of the 
edict of March 17, 1714, was a great victory for the nobility over the 
bourgeoisie — the beginning of the end of bourgeois administration in 

Although doomed, this administration was able, if we are to believe 


certain very authoritative statements, to deal one more blow to the old 
nobles' administration. Vockerodt, who wrote not more than twelve 
years after Peter's death (he was, consequently, almost a contemporary 
and in any case had heard much from contemporaries), thinks Nes- 
terov's reports as fiscal the starting point of Peter's greatest administra- 
tive reform, the introduction of the "collegia." He presents the matter 
as follows: for the first thirty years of his life Peter "cared little or 
nothing" about the internal administration of the realm, being com- 
pletely absorbed in the reform of the army and creation of a fleet. It 
was not foreign policy alone, as we are wont to think, that urged him 
on in this direction ; Peter was conscious, says Vockerodt, ' ' what signifi- 
cance a standing army has for autocratic power." We shall presently 
see that in this passing observation the Prussian diplomat "briefly, 
clearly and as usual intelligently" (the characterisation that Mr. 
Milyukov gives Vockerodt) had noted one of the cardinal lines of Peter's 
policy. Thus, Peter, who for the first thirty years of his reign had not 
concerned himself with questions of internal administration, first turned 
his attention to it when it had become utterly chaotic ; and what first 
opened the tsar's eyes, according to Vockerodt 's assertion, was a memo- 
randum composed and submitted by Nesterov in 1714. At that time 
Peter may have been persuaded that the reform of the army and the 
fleet on European models had yielded splendid results; it was most 
natural that he, a military instructor and marine engineer, should con- 
ceive the idea that, by applying the same methods in the field of civil 
administration, he might easily make it a masterpiece just as he had 
the Baltic fleet or the Preobrazhensk grenadiers. Since Sweden had 
been the nearest exemplar in military and naval matters, it was no less 
natural that he should turn thither for models of administration also. 
So he sends to Sweden (with whom he was then still at war) a trusted 
man, giving "money on money," to secure, to purloin, so to speak, the 
statutes and regulations of Swedish administrative institutions, as one 
might purloin the plan of a fortress or the model of a ship. When this 
peculiar spy returned to Russia with his booty, the documents secured 
were hastily translated into the Russian language, and there were 
created in Russia a number of administrative organs presenting an 
exact copy of the Swedish ones. Since instructors invited from abroad 
had played a conspicuous role in military and naval matters, they now 
hastened to find some more instructors; a large number of foreigners, 
especially Germans, were invited to serve in the newly founded "col- 
legia." It soon developed, however, that those who had been invited 
were ill acquainted with Swedish technique, and what was still more 
important, that good administration requires more than technique. 
Moreover, the new central institutions proved to be an island in the sea 


of old "prikaz" Rus, for the provincial administration remained un- 
changed. All this compelled Peter to bide his time in the further de- 
velopment of the new institutions and even to undo much that he had 
done. The "collegia" preserved their names, but their system reverted 
in many respects to the former, Muscovite type, while at the same time 
Peter energetically set about a re-working of the local administration. 

This much simplified and even naive interpretation has been so re- 
touched by modern historians as to destroy the classic clarity of the 
picture sketched by Vockerodt. We know now that the introduction of 
the "collegia" was not such a childishly simple operation as he repre- 
sented it to have been ; that Peter had at his disposal, not only the re- 
ports of his spy but a number of detailed projects of divers origin ; that 
the "collegia" were not introduced suddenly, as though by a military 
command; that several years elapsed between the first idea of the "col- 
legia" and the realisation of this idea; finally, that the civil instructors 
invited from abroad were no worse than the military ones, and among 
them we find such men as Luberas and Fick, on whose administrative 
ideas political circles of the time depended long after Peter's collegiate 
reform. But, in complicating the picture, in correcting its rough con- 
tours, modern scholars have not annihilated Vockerodt as completely as 
might seem to be the case. Even now we must acknowledge that the 
starting point of the reform was the administrative chaos, which actu- 
ally did attain its apogee in 1714, and that in the disclosure of the situa- 
tion to Peter his bourgeois administration, represented by the fiscals, 
really must have played a great role. 

The only enduring result of the reform, as Vockerodt particularly em- 
phasises, was the introduction into Russian fiscal administration of those 
methods of strict accountability "which exist in commercial establish- 
ments. ' ' At the instigation of commercial capitalism the reform had been 
undertaken ; under its tutelage it was consolidated ; to recognise the 
"collegia," quite apart from their salaried bureaucratic personnel, as 
part of that same "bourgeois administration," it is not necessary even 
to refer to the share in their system allotted to the interests of capital- 
ism and capitalists. The "collegia" were the highest organs of the cen- 
tral administration, corresponding to modern ministries; but whereas 
under Nicholas II both trade and industry were content with a single 
ministry (and until shortly before the Great War with a single depart- 
ment of the one ministry), under Peter not only did there exist separate 
"collegia" for trade and industry, but an attempt was made to create 
a special ministry of factories, the "Collegium of Manufactures," 
apart from the Ministry, or Collegium, of Mines. If we add that finance 
and accounts were allotted three entire central institutions (the Kam- 
mer, Staats, and Revision Collegia) or as many as all foreign policy 


taken together (Foreign, War, and Admiralty Collegia), but that for 
public instruction and even for police there were no central institutions 
at all (among the "collegia" there was none corresponding to the Min- 
istry of the Interior), the comparison with a "commercial house" does 
not seem overdrawn. 

Perhaps there is nothing more remarkable about the collegiate reform 
than that it grew out of anxieties about trade. A collegium appears 
under Peter's pen for the first time in the edict of January 16, 1712, 
which says: "found a collegium for commercial matters and administra- 
tion, in order to bring them into better condition, for which are requi- 
site one or two foreigners (whom it is requisite to make content, that 
they may show truth and zeal in that) sworn to establish a better order 
of things, for it is incontrovertible that their trade is incomparably 
better than ours." For this first Russian collegium Peter's represen- 
tative at The Hague was charged specially to seek out bankrupt Dutch 
merchants, since it was assumed that those "to whom any injustice had 
been done in their fatherland" would, in the first place, more willingly 
enter foreign service and, in the second place, more zealously serve their 
new sovereign, having no interest in concealing from him the secrets of 
the commerce of their fatherland. As a matter of fact, however, they 
did not succeed in realising this most original collegium of bankrupts, 
and the Commerce Collegium was organised on the Swedish model, with 
the aid of the same Fick and Luberas. 

That it was the fleet and the army that led Peter to the idea of 
"collegia" is another point on which, apparently, Vockerodt is not to be 
corrected ; in proof he needed only to refer to the famous edict prescrib- 
ing that the regulations of all the ' ' collegia ' ' should be drawn up on the 
model of the Admiralty. What is good on shipboard cannot be wrong 
anywhere. But this subjective aspect of the collegiate reform does not 
prevent it from having been objectively a tool of the selfsame com- 
mercial capital that was served by the whole Petrine reform in general. 
However, the "collegia" came too late for the bourgeoisie to be able to 
make use of them. We shall presently see that in contrast to the 
ratusha, which was in merchant hands for a number of years, the 
"collegia" were not in them for one moment, and that the "supreme 
lords" did not have to "rend asunder" the new institutions simply 
because they immediately became masters in them. 

But this was the practical aspect of the matter; it is of exceptional 
importance that in theory the collegiate reform constituted a great con- 
cession to the public opinion of the nobility, so unceremoniously dealt 
with in 1699. In introducing the new institutions, Peter, as we saw, 
was consciously guided by technical considerations, and unconsciously 
was serving the interests of that economic force that was driving Russia 


into Europe, irrespective of any one's subjective plans and intentions. 
But when he begins to explain the reform to his own subjects, we hear 
notes, quite unexpected and in harsh dissonance with all that we are 
accustomed to expect when we think of Peter the reformer. The fanat- 
ical worshipper of the cudgel, confident that everything depends on 
giving good orders and seeing that they are executed, suddenly begins 
to worry about what his subjects will say of him. Wherefore are the 
colleges being introduced? "Lest intractable men should slander and 
say that the monarch commands this or the other by force and out of 
caprice rather than by justice and by truth," is Peter's answer through 
the mouth of Feofan Prokopovich. For thirty years this man Peter 
had been convinced that by force he could do anything ; now he talks of 
not wanting to be reproached for using violence. 

Captivated by his own argument, Peter's secretary (such was, of 
course, Prokopovich when he wrote this preface to the Ecclesiastical 
Regulation) launches on nothing more nor less than a critique of per- 
sonal power in general and a laudation of political liberty. ' ' The truth 
is more certainly discovered by corporate counsel than by a single per- 
son. ..." And what is most important, "A collegium has the freest 
spirit for justice : not as under a sole ruler is the oppression of the 
strong to be feared." But what would have happened to nine-tenths 
of Peter's edicts without dread of the "oppression of the strong"? 
What is most interesting is that these were not mere words. In organ- 
ising the Collegium of Justice, Peter recalled that it "relates to all the 
realm" and that there might be "reproaches that they had chosen some 
one out of partiality"; therefore it was prescribed, in the first place, to 
elect its members "by all the officers whoever are here" and, in the 
second place, "to pick out a hundred of the better nobles, and they 
likewise ' ' should elect three members of the Collegium of Justice. When 
later, in 1730, the nobility talked about "balloting" by all the nobles 
for the members of the Senate they had a splendid precedent at hand ; 
did the Senate "relate to all the realm" any less than did the Collegium 
of Justice? 

But so far these were only concessions in favour of the nobility — and 
not made by the bourgeoisie ; who wielded authority in the new institu- 
tions is sufficiently evident from the roster of presidents of the "col- 
legia." At the head of the War Collegium stood Menshikov, of the 
Admiralty Apraxin, of Foreign Affairs Golovkin, of the Kammer Col- 
legium Prince D. M. Golitsyn, of the Commerce Collegium Peter Tolstoi ; 
if we add to these the most influential senators, Musin-Pushkin, who 
became president of the Staats-Collegium, and Prince Yakov Dolgoruky, 
who occupied the same post in the Revision Collegium, then the roster 
of the "supreme lords" who had been controlling Rnssia as "guberna- 


tors" is almost entirely coincident with the roster of the new ministers. 
The only exception is the president of the Collegium of Mines and 
Manufactures, the celebrated Bruce; and this exception is no less to 
be remarked than was the fact that the "guberniya" of Archangel had 
been left in the hands of Kurbatov. There still remained a little corner, 
territorial in the earlier case, organisational in this case, in which the 
"supreme lords" did not venture to exercise direct control. But Bruce 
was a more complaisant man than Kurbatov and even easier to get along 
with. He flatly refused appointment as a member of the "privy coun- 
cil" on the ground that he was a foreigner. And one of Peter's edicts 
inadvertently reveals why the ministry of factories and works was 
turned over to this modest man; in 1722, in taking the "collegia" from 
their former presidents, the emperor remarks that this change should 
include the Collegium of Mines — "and I know not a man out of the 
ordinary." Bruce was not a politician but simply a good technician ; it 
was not easy to find any one to replace him, and at the same time he 
was in no one's way. His presence among the presidents of the "col- 
legia" did not mar the general picture of the "supreme lords" holding 
sway over Russia through the "collegia." 

The "rending asunder" of the national inheritance was bound to be 
continued without hindrance, although in a different form. The famous 
case of Shafirov reveals a bit of collegiate economy in the first years 
after the reform. The introduction of accountability had, as we know, 
been one of the very strongest points of the reform. But it sufficed to 
put at the head of a collegium the "Most Serene Prince" for it to be 
removed from all control; Menshikov promptly demanded for his de- 
partment everything that was appropriated for the whole army, and 
to demands that he "give accurate account of receipts and expendi- 
tures" he replied with contemptuous silence. Meanwhile, the army 
never attained its full complement, with the result that each year large 
surpluses remained at the disposal of its commander-in-chief. But the 
attempt to penetrate the secret of the use to which they were put al- 
most cost Shafirov his head. Upon his banishment from the personnel 
of the "supreme lords" the last man retired who both by his origin 
(Shafirov was of a Jewish merchant family) and connexions stood 
closest to the bourgeoisie. The feudal character of the supreme admin- 
istration became purer than it had ever been, while the distinction 
between the "old" aristocracy, represented by the Golitsyns and Dol- 
gorukys, and the "new," represented by the Menshikovs and Tolstois, 
never was so great as to create grounds for a political realignment. 

But under such conditions the new institutions were bound very soon 
to become bankrupt, not in consequence of technical causes, as Vockerodt 
thought (the ignorance of the hastily hired German officials and the in- 


adaptability of the central administration to the local), but for purely 
social causes. Recognition of this bankruptcy led to what was, chrono- 
logically, Peter's last reform, the reformation of the Senate and "col- 
legia" in 1722. Officially, of course, this change was motivated by 
considerations of state advantage ; the edict of January 12, 1722, begins 
by describing how difficult is the task of the Senate and of the senators, 
and how impossible it is to be president of a collegium and a Senator 
at one and the same time. The direct conclusion following from this, 
it would seem, was that the presidents must be released from their 
"labours" in the Senate; this was done in the cases of Menshikov, 
Golovkin, and Bruce. They were released from the obligation of attend- 
ing the Senate at the usual time but were left complete masters at 
home, each in his own collegium. But Golitsyn, Tolstoi, Pushkin, and 
Matveyev (president of the Collegium of Justice) were rather unex- 
pectedly treated in just the opposite way; they were "released" from 
command in their "collegia" but were left seats in the Senate. In other 
words, the real one-man power wielded by each of them (it is hardly 
necessary to explain to the reader that the "collegiate character" of 
the Petrine institutions was just as much an empty form as was the 
collegiate character of the later bureaucratic "board") was taken from 
them, and they were left one vote each in an institution where the most 
important questions of state were jointly deliberated. This simply 
meant, as when in later times a minister was appointed a member of the 
Council of State, honourable discharge. Those contemporaries who, 
like foreign diplomats, were closely observing the course of events were 
never so naive as to accept, as do modern historians, the edict 's explana- 
tion at its face value. "The tsar has dismissed from office almost all 
the presidents of the collegia or councils," the French ambassador 
Campredon informed his government. "All these lords are senators, and 
henceforth they will simply sit in the Senate, before which formerly 
they supported their opinions." 

Though he did not realise that the nobility was recovering lost ground, 
Peter did see one thing clearly : that he could not rely on that group of 
men with which he was accustomed to deal ; that its interests differed in 
some fatal fashion from the interests of the business he had in hand; 
that these men were not accelerators but brakes, if not indeed conscious 
foes of his undertakings ; that under his eyes feudalism, revived by the 
seventeenth-century restoration, was struggling with the new economic 
forms brought in from without ; that of course what was native would 
assimilate to itself what was brought from the West, and not the other 
way about ; that his whole attempt was condemned to failure in advance. 
Meanwhile, the requirements of this same business compelled him to go 
to Persia, two thousands versts away. And it is significant that whereas 


on going away in 1711 he created an organ of administration — the Sen- 
ate, — on going away in 1722 he left behind him an organ of supervision 
■ — the office of procurator-general. 

History has subsequently made of the procurator-general a sort of 
vizier, a minister of all affairs, or, if you like, the tsar 's chief burmister. 
But this was not at all what Peter had in view for him. His procurator- 
general, as sketched by the instruction of April 27, 1722, administers 
nothing. He merely watches, watches diligently the sly and lazy slaves 
who bear the title of senators and privy councillors — both that they 
should not waste their time, should work "truly, zealously, and in or- 
derly fashion," and that they should not forget the rules laid down for 
them by Peter, should act "according to the regulations and edicts," 
and not in appearances only ("not on the table only should accomplish 
business but in real action should execute the edicts"), and especially 
that they should not steal or be venal ("that the Senate in its calling 
should act righteously and unhypocritically"). In the person of the 
procurator-general Peter hoped to have a telescope, with the aid of 
which he might from Astrakhan and Derbent follow the last red cent 
that fell from the treasury chest into the pockets of the "lords of the 
Senate." Thus he defined the new office, "our eye," and threatened 
this living telescope with the most severe fate if it functioned badly. 
It was no accident that this office was intrusted to a man comparatively 
young and not particularly outstanding in the ranks of the statesmen, 
yet on the other hand in unusually close relations with the tsar; this 
was P. I. Yaguzhinsky, who seems for several years to have occupied 
under Peter the position which, according to common conviction, 
Menshikov had earlier occupied. When in France in 1717, Peter had 
not parted with him for a moment and all the time had not taken his 
eyes off him. 

But the young tsar's favourite was, it seems, too weak for this role of 
universal examiner. Upon his return from Persia, Peter decided to take 
the business of supervision directly into his own hands. Vockerodt re- 
lates that Colonel Myakinin, the new chief fiscal, was established in one 
of the rooms of the palace nearest the tsar's bedroom, and this chief of 
the whole inquisitional system was made the chief and constant adviser 
of the emperor. In long conversations with him Peter insisted on one 
thing — the rooting out of all abuses. Every one's life hung on a hair, 
even Menshikov 's and Catherine's. But this plan of universal exter- 
mination reeked too much of madness to yield any practical results. It 
merely indicates that by this time it was not Peter's physical health 
alone that had been worn out, and that the catastrophe of January 28, 
1725, came in the nick of time. 


the reforms of peter (Continued) 
5. The New Society 

The triumph of commercial capitalism over feudal Russia, however 
temporary and unstable, was necessarily accompanied by great changes 
in the customs of Russian society. Superficially the transformation was 
probably sharper than any that Russian society had experienced in the 
whole thousand years of its history ; it appears particularly striking if we 
view the Russian social pyramid from above. At its very apex had 
formerly strutted something in the nature of a living icon, in strict 
Byzantine style, making its slow and solemn appearances before the 
eyes of the reverent throng, only to withdraw immediately into the 
obscure depths of the terem. In its place was now seen a nervous figure, 
active, bustling, in a working-jacket, constantly among men, constantly 
on the street. Nor was it possible to distinguish where the street ended 
and the tsar's palace began, for both were equally indecorous, noisy, and 
drunken ; both were frequented by a motley and unceremonious throng, 
in which the tsar's minister in gilt caftan and ribbon of St. Andrew 
rubbed elbows with a Dutch sailor come straight from his ship or with 
a German shopkeeper come straight from behind his counter. 

It is true that the further one went from the palace, the less this 
change was felt. The military servitor donned a German costume rather 
willingly, and somewhat less willingly shaved his beard; but though he 
now sat in a collegium of foreign pattern, he was fain as of old to 
engage in the traditional disputes over precedence. At home he ob- 
served the rules of the old decorum; if he ever admitted the street, it 
was only with great reluctance and at the strict command of the tsar. 
Below the military servitors came the dense mass of "schismatics and 
bearded men ' ' ; even in their outward appearance they remained unaf- 
fected by the changes about them and for a hundred and fifty years, 
down to the novels of Pechersky and the comedies of Ostrovsky, they 
preserved their "customs" inviolate. Nor could any change at all be 
discerned in the multi-millioned muzhik masses ; the new order had not 
lightened the old bondage yoke, while the new "capitalistic" barshchina, 
with its more subtle means of exploitation, still lay far in the future. 
The "court" was more affected than was the "town," while the country- 



side was changed not at all ; the ' ' court ' ' was the centre, the ' ' town ' ' the 
theatre of the economic revolution. "We shall, of course, not fall to 
talking of "Petrine culture" as a new era for the whole Russian people, 
which was not to be "Europeanised" until the second half of the nine- 
teenth century; yet the task of tracing the influence of this economic 
change even on "manners" and "customs" is not devoid of interest. 
It is all the more interesting in that we have here a succession of phe- 
nomena which does not constitute a national peculiarity of the Russian 
people. There is a photographic likeness between what took place in 
Russia at the beginning of the eighteenth century and what Western 
Europe had experienced in the sixteenth century. Despite the lapse of 
two centuries and despite their own ignorance of Europe's past, Peter's 
Russian contemporaries reproduced, even to details, the Italian and 
Flemish "Renaissance." 

Let us take Taine's classic description of the Renaissance. "The pic- 
turesque festivals held in all the towns, the solemn entries, masquerades, 
cavalcades, constituted the chief pleasure of the people and of the sov- 
ereigns. . . . When you read the chronicles and memoirs, you see that 
the Italians liked to make life a lavish holiday. To them all other cares 
seemed stupidity. ' ' x We must not be confused by the general defini- 
tion, "Italians"; among the examples cited by our author flash the 
names of Galeazzo Sforza, duke of Milan, Cardinal Pietro Riario, Lo- 
renzo Medici, Popes Alexander VI and Leo X. The "Italians" who were 
striving to convert their life into a lavish holiday were, once again, the 
"court" and, in part, the "town"; the Italian peasantry lived then 
just as it did two hundred years earlier or two hundred years later. 

Take the memoirs of any contemporary of Peter's reforms who had 
opportunity to observe Russia "from above," even though it be the 
famous diary of Bergholz. It makes us feel that the Russians, like the 
Italians of the sixteenth century, had decided to make their whole life 
a continuous festival and to deem all else stupidity. From a rout at 
the Summer Garden we pass to a ball at the palace ; from the ball to the 
launching of a new ship, worth ten balls ; from the launching of the ship 
to the masquerade on the occasion of the Peace of Nystadt. It is incor- 
rect to say "to the masquerade," for there were several of them, and 
each lasted several days. A thick pall of vinous fumes hangs over this 
detailed and loquacious odyssey of the Holstein court at St. Petersburg 
as related by Bergholz; not without a sigh of relief does he sometimes 
(so rarely!) inform us that "to-day we were permitted to drink as 
much as we wished," for usually one was obliged to drink as much as 
the tsar wished. Lorenzo the Magnificent, vainly striving to procure an 
elephant for one of his processions, might have envied Peter, at whose 

i H. Taine, Philosophie de Vart, Vol. I, p. 175. 


service was a whole menagerie. And probably no Italian prince could 
have staged such a masquerade as the Russian winter gave Peter when 
a whole fleet passed through the streets of Moscow on sleighs. The tsar's 
own carriage presented an exact copy (in miniature) of the newly- 
launched Fridemaker, the greatest ship of the Russian fleet. On it 
were several young boys executing all the naval evolutions "like the very 
best and most experienced boatswains." At Peter's command they set 
the sails as the direction of the wind required, "which proved good 
assistance to the 15 horses that dragged the ship." It was armed with 
8 or 10 real cannon, with which Peter fired salutes from time to time ; he 
was answered from a similar "ship" by the hospodar of Wallachia, who 
came at the end of the parade. There were about 60 sleighs in all — 25 of 
ladies and 36 of men ; the very smallest were drawn by six horses. This 
"serious" or "genuine" masquerade was preceded by a mock proces- 
sion of the "prince-pope" with his cardinals and Neptune, the god of 
the sea. "All things considered, the emperor amused himself in truly 
regal fashion." We need not inquire how much this pleasure cost the 
sovereign who liked to say that "a copeck saves a ruble." It was not 
the first diversion of the kind within a very brief space of time ; only a 
few months before, also in celebration of the Peace of Nystadt, there had 
been a lavish masquerade at St. Petersburg, likewise lasting several days 
and taking place alternately on dry land and on the Neva. Some thou- 
sand masks participated. The ladies were dressed as shepherdesses, 
nymphs, blackamoors, nuns, harlequins, scaramouches; they were pre- 
ceded by the empress with all her maidens and ladies of honour in the 
costumes of Dutch peasant women. The men went in the costumes of 
French wine-growers, Hamburg burgomeisters, Roman warriors, Turks, 
Indians, Spaniards, Persians, Chinamen, bishops, prelates, canons, ab- 
bots, Capucins, Dominicans, Jesuits, ministers in silk mantles and enor- 
mous periwigs, Venetian nobles, ship-carpenters, miners, and, finally, 
Russian boyars in high sable caps and long brocade garments, "likewise 
with long beards and riding on tame live bears." Behind them, closing 
the train, the tsar's jester, "giving a very natural representation of a 
bear, ' ' whirled in a huge squirrel-wheel ; then came an Indian Brahmin, 
bedecked with cowries, in a hat with the widest of brims, and American 
Indians covered with variegated feathers. For two hours this procession 
passed before the eyes of the Petersburgers, who from small to great 
had gathered on the Senate Square ; at its head was the tsar himself, 
indefatigably beating on a drum, clad now as a Dutch boatswain, now 
as a French peasant, but not leaving off with his noisy instrument in 
any costume. 

Bergholz many times repeats that everything in the procession was 
very "natural." Among other masks, for example, was Bacchus "in a 


tiger's skin, bedecked with, the clusters of the vineyard." "He gave a 
very natural representation of Bacchus; he was an unusually fat, short 
man with a very full face; they had made him drink unceasingly for 
three days before, giving him no time to sleep." Here the health of 
the wretched Bacchus was sacrificed to "art." But Peter loved to jest 
at others' expense and simply for the sake of the joke, with no thought 
of consequences. During the river part of the masquerade his renowned 
"prince-pope" was drawn across the river on a special machine, con- 
sisting of a raft on which was placed a cauldron full of beer ; in the mid- 
dle of the cauldron, in an enormous wooden cup, floated the unhappy 
"mock patriarch," while behind, in barrels, floated the no less unhappy 
cardinals, more dead than alive. When the "machine" reached the 
shore, and its passengers had to be disembarked, those to whom the tsar 
had entrusted this operation overturned, by his special command, the 
cup with the prince-pope, who received a beery bath. At a dinner at 
Chancellor Golovkin's "the tsar amused himself with the tsaritsa's chef, 
who was serving at table ; when he put a plate of food before the tsar, 
the latter seized him by the head and made horns on his head." This 
was a delicate allusion to the fact that the chef's wife had been un- 
faithful, a circumstance which Peter had signalised at the time by 
ordering a pair of stag's horns hung over the door of the chef's dwelling. 
The butt of the tsar's jests did not take them very patiently, and the 
tsar's orderlies had to restrain him. He struggled, and not in jest; 
once he seized the tsar by the fingers so hard as almost to break them. 
Such scenes were constantly taking place between Peter and this man, 
Bergholz was told; nevertheless, Peter fell to teasing him whenever he 
saw him. Twenty years earlier Korb had witnessed a similar but still 
more expressive scene. The incident occurred at a "sumptuously given 
feast, ' ' with the envoy of the Holy Roman Emperor as host. Among the 
aristocracy invited along with the tsar was the boyar Golovin, who 
"nourished an innate aversion to salad and the use of vinegar; the tsar 
bade Colonel Chambers squeeze the boyar as hard as possible, and him- 
self began forcibly to thrust salad into his mouth and nose and to pour 
in vinegar until Golovin had a violent fit of coughing and the blood 
spouted from his nose." 

In the sixteenth century the head of the Christian Church in the West 
had found pleasure in watching "devil's jokes" with Fra Mariano and 
the presentation of a comedy, the mere subject of which made Rabelais' 
countrymen blush. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the head 
of the oecumenical Orthodox realm took special delight in making sport 
of ecclesiastical rites. We have already made passing mention of the 
"prince-pope"; his appearance with his College of Cardinals was the 
very choicest number in the masquerade described by Bergholz. The 


college consisted of the "greatest and most dissolute drunkards of all 
Russia, but all men of good birth at that." We shall not repeat the 
naive explanations of this ritual which Bergholz borrowed from the 
lips of Peter's courtiers, namely, that it was something between a satire 
on drunkenness (the tsar's court of the time might itself well have 
served as the incarnation of such a satire) and a mockery of the Catholic 
Church (with which Peter had nothing to do). The testimony of a man 
who had witnessed the foundation of the "mock college" leaves no doubt 
that Catholicism was in no way involved. "Now one must not forget 
to describe in what way the play patriarch was set up," Prince Kurakin 
begins his description of Peter's pastimes in his History of Tsar Peter I 
[in Russian]. And though Kurakin strives to soften the impression with 
reservations, such as that "the attire was made in some sort jesting, and 
not just like the patriarch's trimmings," yet he could not leave unmen- 
tioned that "in place of the Gospels was made a book in which were 
several flasks of whiskey," and that a caricature of the patriarch's 
solemn riding of an ass on Palm Sunday was one of the chief sports ; on 
that day they rode the "patriarch" on a camel "into the garden by the 
bank to the French wine-cellar." 

Another eyewitness, Korb, has left us a still more vivid description of 
one of these ceremonies. On February 21, 1699, the "patriarch" conse- 
crated Lefort's palace, reproducing in every detail the Church ritual; 
instead of burning incense they smoked tobacco, while two pipes placed 
one across the other served in lieu of a cross during the consecration. 
This latter circumstance produced an exceptionally powerful impression 
on the pious Catholic; "who will believe," Korb concludes his account 
"that a cross thus fashioned, the most precious symbol of our redemp- 
tion, should be the object of laughter?" But men more familiar with the 
facts would have believed more than that. Insult to the Gospels and to 
the cross was the most innocent part of the "mock" ritual. Just as in 
his time a spectator of a comedy presented in the pope's theatre had not 
ventured to report its content but had only hinted at the impression it 
produced on the spectators, so Prince Kurakin did not venture to 
describe in detail the ceremony of the consecration of the "patriarch." 
"In such terms," he says briefly, "as we do not find it meet to expatiate 
on, but we may briefly say, — drunkenness, and lechery, and every de- 
bauchery." Yet this author is a great realist in describing the tsar's 
pastimes and cites examples of Peter's "jests" that it would be unseemly 
to repeat nowadays. One may imagine what it was that even he found 
it necessary to be silent about! 

Were Peter's "humoristics" simply the fruit of cynicism and coarse- 
ness, as the sober-minded German Vockerodt thought? During the Re- 
naissance jests at monks passed into earnest denial of Church tradition. 


Men laughed at sacred things because in the depths of their souls they 
had already ceased to account them sacred. When the popes sensed this, 
they ceased to play with fire ; then the Jesuits appeared, and at the papal 
court jests at monks disappeared. But humanism was not confined 
to the papal court ; outside of it there was room enough for the triumph 
of the "secular mood," and its expression was not confined to jests. Did 
this serious side of religious freethinking affect Peter himself? Con- 
temporaries describe him as a man who, in this field, observed the old 
customs, did not omit Church services, liked to accompany the chanters 
in the choir, and never entered a church in a German periwig ; this was 
the only occasion on which the tsar himself forsook the Western fashion 
he had introduced. But when it was a matter of more than harmless 
concessions to usage, when usage clashed with practical necessity, Peter 
proved himself a freer thinker than might have been expected of a man 
of such conservative habits. During the campaign of 1714 Peter's com- 
missariat deemed it the part of piety to feed the soldiers on lenten fare 
during the Fast of St. Peter. Contemplating the results of this piety, 
Peter wrote to Kikin, the man responsible: ''Your pious order — for five 
weeks rotten fish and water — the soldiers have obeyed for two weeks, 
whence little short of 1,000 men have fallen ill and have been lost to the 
service ; wherefore I have been compelled to stop your law and to give 
them butter and meat. . . . True, if the Swedes were to be thus fed, 
matters would be tolerable ; but I am not a stepfather to our men. ' ' 

Toward the raskolniks [schismatics], who depicted Antichrist and his 
host in the uniforms of Peter's Guard, Peter had no reason to be par- 
ticularly well-disposed. But the schism was powerful among the mer- 
chantry, a fact with which the tsar had to reckon, ready as he was to im- 
port even bankrupt merchants from abroad. On being informed that Old 
Believing merchants were "honourable and diligent," Peter expressed 
a sentiment, abridged perhaps but hardly invented by his historian: "if 
they are really such, then for my part let them believe what they will ; 
when it is impossible to turn them from superstition by argument, 
neither fire nor sword will avail ; as for being martyrs to stupidity, they 
are not worthy of the honour, nor will the state have profit. ' ' The schis- 
matics of the R. Vyg were given formal permission to worship according 
to the old books, under the condition of working in the Povenetsky mills ; 
this was probably the first case of religious toleration in Russia in respect, 
not to "heretical" teaching but to a "sect" arising within Orthodoxy. 
The declaration in the famous edict of 1702 about the tsar's unwilling- 
ness to "constrain the human conscience" was not an empty phrase, 
and we have an example of what was, for those times at least, the 
tolerant attitude of Peter and his government toward formal "free- 
thinkers." A Moscow physician, Tveritinov, loudly said — and not only 


said but wrote and offered his writings to be read — such things as : ' ' An 
icon is only a painted board without the power of working miracles; 
if you throw it in the fire, it will burn and will not save itself " ; "it is 
not meet to bow to a cross, which is only soulless wood, having no power 
at all"; "monkish celibacy is not kept in the sense of Holy Writ." The 
spiritual authorities, headed by Stefan Yavorsky, guardian of the patri- 
archal see, of course brought the bold doctor to book. Yet not only was 
he not burned as a result of the inquiry, as he undoubtedly would have 
been fifty years earlier, but he even received attestation of his Orthodoxy, 
after formal penance, it is true. In the Senate, where Tveritinov's case 
was discussed, his spiritual prosecutors had to listen to things that were 
very unpleasant to them. "Monkling — rogue!" the senators shouted 
at the monk who accused the physician, "thou hast sold thy soul for a 
flask of wine." The Metropolitan Stefan himself was unceremoniously 
expelled from one session of the Senate on the ground that he was not a 
senator, and that there was no place for him at the trial (of a heretic, 
let us note). On the score of monasticism the emperor himself, toward 
the end of his life, expressed opinions that would probably have been 
very displeasing to Yavorsky, had he been alive. If not the origin, at 
least the spread of monasticism he was inclined to attribute to the 
"bigotry" of the Greek emperors, "and particularly of their wives," 
and to the fact that, making use of this bigotry, "certain rascals came" 
to them. "This gangrene among us was to spread at first under the 
protection of the Church monarchs, but still the Lord God has not so 
deprived former rulers of blessings, as the Greeks." 

The breach with tradition was of course bound to be more strongly 
expressed in literature than in life. Specialists have long since noted 
the realism and secular mood of the Russian narrative of the seventeenth 
century. The mediaeval writer, like the mediaeval artist, knew only the 
abstraction, and not the living man; he was interested in examples of 
good life, not of human personality. Interest in the individual, "indi- 
vidualism," constitutes one of the most marked features of both the art 
and the literature of the "Renaissance." Russia's artistic literature of 
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was only translation and imita- 
tion ; the more genuine mood of Russian society may be found only in the 
historical works of the period. Even the historians of the Troubles, 
writing in the first half of the seventeenth century — the Pseudo- 
Palitsyn, Katyrev-Rostovsky, and especially the author of the pertinent 
chapters in the so-called " chronography of the 2nd edition" — are not 
interested in their heroes as abstract moral examples but as perfectly 
concrete beings. 

Prince Katyrev-Rostovsky was the first to wish to collect data about 
the physical appearance of Russian sovereigns, beginning with Ivan the 


Terrible, and he tried to characterise each of them individually. Far 
higher than he in this respect stands the chronography of 1617. In it 
Godunov, the Alleged Dmitry, and Hermogen are almost living men. 
You can feel Dmitry's impetuosity and impatience, his loquacity and 
lively intellectual interests. And in order to sustain the classic type of 
the "heretic and unfrocked monk," the author — who in the depth of his 
soul was probably very disturbed because he was writing what was not 
mee t — has to lavish vilification that is absolutely out of harmony with 
the facts he himself adduces. Over Patriarch Hermogen he could not 
restrain himself and in place of the stereotyped model of a " sufferer for 
the truth," gave a portrait which is, it is true, an excellent explanation 
of Hermogen 's fate, but which might well cause scandal even in centuries 
other than the seventeenth. "Not sweetly speaking," "in manners 
rough," "not quick to distinguish good and evil, but diligent in flattery 
and double-dealing," "heeder of rumours" — such realistic features in 
the physiognomy of a near-saint so troubled one of the later editors of 
the chronography that he found it necessary to accompany the charac- 
terisation with an extended refutation, in which he proved that "this 
writer wrongly said all these things about this holy man about Ermo- 
gen. ' ' But fortunately he did not destroy the characterisation itself. 

The realism of Kotoshikhin is so well known that we need not dwell 
on it. From our present point of view he is interesting, among other 
reasons, in that he is the first to attempt to explain historical changes 
as the result of the activity of individuals. To him the rise of the 
Muscovite state is a matter of the personal policy of conquest pursued 
by Ivan the Terrible; and, if Tsar Alexis was not made to grant a 
charter limiting his power, it was because of his personal character — 
"they thought him most quiet." In the writings of the greatest historian 
of the Petrine epoch, Prince B. I. Kurakin, we find the same method, 
on an incomparably grander scale. The History of Tsar Peter I plunges 
us fairly into the midst of a "renaissance," just as did Peter's masquer- 
ades. Prince Kurakin 's passion for Italian citations is quite in keeping 
with this spirit. When you read his work the image of the great Italian 
historian inevitably rises before you ; and perhaps there is no better way 
of measuring the relative profundity of the Renaissance and of its 
remote and unconscious Russian imitation than to compare Machiavelli's 
History of Florence with Kurakin 's History. The former, despite its 
seeming dryness and restraint, describes with arresting dramatic effect 
how the Florentine people gained their freedom — and lost it. The latter, 
just as soberly, concisely, and accurately, sketches divers "accidental 
men," seizing power by intrigues and, thanks to the intrigues of others, 
losing it. In the former, a vast amphitheatre, suited, if you like, to 
ancient Rome ; in the latter, a petty domestic scene. And thanks to its 


restricted proportions, thanks to the insignificant number of persons in 
action, the latter was better adapted to treatment from the individualistic 
point of view. In Machiavelli parties and, still deeper, classes, are too 
clearly evident behind the individuals; with good reason has he become 
one of the forerunners of modern "economic materialism." 

There is no historian further from the idealisation of reality, more 
"materialist" in his cosmic philosophy, than Prince Kurakin; but there 
is no room in his philosophy for economic interpretation. He knows no 
other motives than the egoistic, no other sources of social changes than 
personal will. If he has to explain the mutiny of the streltsy, it is, of 
course, the intrigues of the Tsarevna Sofia. But since Sofia was a 
' ' princess of great mind, " " never was there such wise rule in the Russian 
state. ' ' Both the economic and the cultural development of the Musco- 
vite realm at the end of the seventeenth century are to be explained by 
this fact and by nothing else. ' ' The whole realm came during her reign, 
in the space of seven years, into the flowering of great wealth. Com- 
merce and crafts of all kinds likewise multiplied ; and learning began to 
restore the Latin and Greek languages." Peter loved foreigners; this 
similarly is due to the personal influence of Prince Boris Golitsyn. "He 
was the first to consort with foreign officers and merchants. And out of 
this his inclination toward foreigners he brought them openly to the 
court, and the tsar's majesty took them into his favour." Men began to 
wear German clothes ; again Kurakin is able to identify this change with 
an individual 's name : ' ' There was an English trader Andrew Krevet, 
who bought his majesty all kinds of things, ordered them from abroad, 
and was admitted to court. And from him men first learned to wear 
English bonnets, such as Sirs wear, and under-jackets, and swords with 
belts." Might it not seem that there is nothing less individual than 
drunkenness and debauchery ? Yet here, too, Kurakin has no difficulty in 
finding the culprit. "At that time the so-called Franz Yakovlevich Le- 
fort came into extreme favour and confidence through amorous in- 
trigues. The aforesaid Lefort was a diverting and prodigal man, what 
you might call a French debauche. And ceaselessly he gave dinners, sup- 
pers, and balls at his house. And here in this house it began to come to 
pass that His Majesty the Tsar consorted with foreign ladies, and his first 
amour was with a merchant's daughter named Anna Mons. True, the 
girl was passable and intelligent. Here in the house [of Lefort] began 
debauchery and drunkenness so great as can not be described; for three 
days, shut up in that house, they were drunk, and it befell many to die 
therefrom. And from that time to this date and till now drunkenness 
continues and has become the fashion among great houses. ' ' And it does 
not enter Kurakin 's head that it was not from Lefort that the old 
"prince-cassar, " F. Y. Romodanovsky, was "drunk by She whole day," 


or the tsar's uncle, Leo Naryshkin, who was " incontinent in drinking," 
had learned to drink. 

This individualism of the period of the reforms found expression in 
law as well as in literature, or rather, in two laws, both of which may be 
said to be more literature than law, for both remained dead letters. These 
are the law of 1714 on primogeniture and the edict of 1722 on the suc- 
cession to the throne. Undoubtedly both measures were outwardly 
related since Petrine primogeniture, as is well known, meant not 
inheritance of the whole property by the oldest son but inheritance by 
one of the sons at the father's discretion, to the exclusion of the rest. 
In this right of the father to dispose of his property at his discretion lay, 
in the opinion of Peter and his councillors, the whole essence of the 
institution. An extant memorandum, supplying Peter with information 
about the English system, asserts that "by the common law of the Eng- 
lish land fathers can cut off and remove from their children all lands 
which are not appointed to them by will or otherwise, and they can leave 
all to one son only and nothing to the others, which keeps children in 
duty and obedience." The manifesto of 1722 merely reproduces this 
opinion (absolutely erroneous, it need hardly be said) about the "com- 
mon law of the English land, ' ' when it says : ' ' that always it may be at 
the will of the reigning sovereign, to appoint the succession to whom he 
wishes, and to replace the designate again, on seeing any worthlessness, 
that his children and descendants fall not into such evil as written 
above, having this curb on them." Here is a correspondence so literal 
that we do not even need the references in this edict to the law of 1714 to 
see the connexion; in both cases Peter felt it important to extend the 
limits of paternal authority, without bothering in either case about the 
customs operative in the Muscovite realm. In the Muscovite realm 
neither the hereditary estate nor the tsar's throne could be disposed of 
at personal discretion. In electing Michael to the throne they had in 
effect elected the Romanov family, and the oldest son of the family auto- 
matically, so to speak, had become sovereign on the death of his father. 
This automatism seemed to Peter a "bad, old custom," though it was 
the very thing that lay at the basis of English primogeniture, which he 
valued for what was not in it ; and he strove to convert family property, 
such as land was in Russia, into personal property, like moveables, 
chattels and money. In this penetration of bourgeois views into the 
sphere of inheritance of land and succession to the throne, into the very 
heart of feudal law, so to speak, lies the enormous cultural interest of 
both these abortive laws. Nor was the borrowing altogether unconscious ; 
when the edict of 1714 was being prepared, Russian agents abroad had 
been required to report on the "inheritances and division," not only of 
"noble," but also of "merchant families." 


The ' ' individualism ' ' of the Petrine epoch should, however, not deceive 
us any more than the individualism of the Italian Renaissance. Litera- 
ture, which is permitted to idealise everything, may, of course, represent 
the heroes of the Renaissance, not only as bold and beautiful, but also as 
refined and elegant, profound and cultured even to the eyes of a twen- 
tieth-century reader. The historian has no such right ; he has to state that 
the pleasures of this period were extremely coarse, as we have seen, that 
the philosophy of the humanists was a mixture of the most naive preju- 
dices, bequeathed by the Middle Ages, with hastily garnered and ill- 
digested fragments of classical wisdom, and that the most resplendent 
signors, though patrons of humanism, sometimes did not know how to 
write. Fortunately, there are no such prejudices with respect to the level 
of Petrine culture ; indeed, we are accustomed to regard the Academy of 
Sciences of those days with even more scepticism than it perhaps deserves. 
The scientific interests of Peter himself — if one may speak of such things 
— did not go beyond the collecting of "monsters" and "experiments" 
like the attempt to create a race of tall men by marrying an ' ' exception- 
ally tall" Finnish woman the tsar had secured somewhere to a French 
giant who appeared in show-booths for money. To the reformer of 
Russia the trade of barber, which in those simple days combined the 
functions of both dentist and surgeon, did not seem beneath his dignity ; 
next to a yachting trip or work with an axe or at a turning-lathe, nothing 
seems to have given Peter such pleasure as pulling teeth. Since it 
apparently gave his patients somewhat less pleasure, the tsar's orderlies 
were charged with the delicate duty of finding him opportunities to 
exercise his skill as a dentist. Bergholz relates with what difficulty he 
managed to save his own teeth when he had the imprudence to complain 
of a toothache in the presence of one of these scouts. The tsar was not at 
all squeamish about his patients' social status and honoured with his 
professional visits not only courtiers or foreign merchants but even their 
servants. No less than pulling teeth did he like to let water from those 
suffering with dropsy. 

The milieu surrounding Peter was still more primitive in this respect. 
Though to the end of his life Peter's writing was frightfully illiterate, 
even from the Old Russian viewpoint, he always loved to read, and in 
languages other than Russian. He followed attentively the Dutch news- 
papers of the time, noting in them what interested him, and ordered books 
from abroad. The two persons who stood next to him in rank, Catherine 
and Menshikov, were most likely wholly illiterate; at least, contempo- 
raries insist that in the art of writing Menshikov had not advanced 
beyond ability to write his family name ; as for Catherine, legend has it 
that when she had become autocratic empress, her daughter, the Tsarevna 
Elizabeth, signed her edicts for her. Let us repeat, hardly any one will 


seek to exaggerate the culture of Petrine society ; but it is hard for us to 
visualise the simplicity of the manners of the time. The titles of minis- 
ters, field-marshals, and "cavaliers" involuntary hypnotise us, and we 
are inclined to see something "European" in Peter's court. Contem- 
porary Europeans, as in the case of the Germans, though they themselves 
might not have made much progress in external culture, must have easily 
rid themselves of this illusion. Take, for example, a scene described by 
that same verbose Holstein gentleman-of-the-bedchamber who was so 
fond of describing Peter's masquerades. "All the aristocracy of Russia" 
was assembled at a banquet at Prince Romodanovsky's. After the tsar 
had left, a quarrel broke out between the "prince-cassar" and one of his 
guests, Prince Dolgoruky; one reminded the other of some old offence, 
and Dolgoruky refused to drink when invited by Romodanovsky. ' ' Then 
both old men, freely exchanging the most repellent insults, clutched each 
other by the hair and for a good half hour pounded each other with their 
fists, while none of those present interfered or tried to separate them. 
Prince Romodanovsky, who was very drunk, was worsted ; then he called 
the guard and, master in his own house, had Dolgoruky arrested. When 
the latter was released, he refused to go out from under arrest and, it is 
said, demanded satisfaction from the emperor. But the affair will, of 
course, blow over, because such drunken fist-fights happen too often and 
are not even talked about." In fact, the picture of the tsar's ministers 
clutching each other by the hair occurs again in the pages of Bergholz's 
diary; this time the incident happened in the presence of the duke of 
Holstein, who, understanding the customs of the country, turned away 
and pretended not to notice. Korb gives us an almost identical scene be- 
tween Romodanovsky and Apraxin, Peter's future admiral-general; but 
the latter, under the fresh impression, it must be, of his foreign acquaint- 
anceships, acted more "in European style"; he drew his sword, which 
terribly frightened Romodanovsky, who was accustomed to having the 
affair end with fists. 

After such scenes as this, we are scarcely impressed by the spectacle 
of Peter's daughter Praskovia receiving foreign visitors while dressed 
only in her shift; while the "princess" extended one hand to be kissed, 
with the other hand she covered her nakedness with a cloak hastily taken 
from one of the court ladies. On another occasion, in the apartments of 
the same tsarevna and her sister Catherine, Duchess of Mecklenburg, a 
king of some kind, who had just received 200 blows with rods, was deemed 
worthy, as if nothing had happened, of the honour of playing with their 
Highnesses. The famous "cudgel of Peter the Great" begins to outline 
itself in its real setting. With men so "simple" other men than Peter 
would not have stood on ceremony. Contemporaries have noted only 
cases in which the cudgel affected very noteworthy persons, or when the 


consequences of its application unexpectedly proved tragic. "When the 
tsar suddenly despatched to the next world a soldier who had stolen a bit 
of copper during a fire, it caused talk in the city ; the incident astounded 
foreigners, the Saxon resident Lefort, for example, who retails it. 
But Lefort is scarcely correct in drawing the conclusion that Peter was 
"not distinguished by a humane character"; that is, of course, true, but 
the particular instance was not at all exceptional. The tsar's intimate 
servant, the turner Nartov, cannot deny himself the satisfaction of 
recalling how the cudgel used to play along the back of Menshikov and 
other titled personages. "I have often seen," he relates, "how for the 
fault of men of high rank the sovereign prepared a cudgel here [in the 
turner's shop], how afterwards they came out into other rooms from the 
sovereign's direction with a merry appearance so that outsiders should 
not notice anything and on that same day were honoured by admission 
to his table." And a naive provincial like Syrensky, the burgomeister 
of Novgorod, who had become acquainted with court life, might let slip 
the opinion : "those who dwelt with Christ lost their heads, but those who 
dwell with the tsar lose both their heads and their backs." Yet the 
members of Peter's court, and Peter himself, deemed the cudgel the very 
mildest form of punishment or, rather, no punishment at all but, so to 
speak, a reminder of the possibility of punishment. "Now for the last 
time the cudgel," said the tsar to Menshikov after one of the "privy" 
scenes described by Nartov, "in future, Alexander, beware!" 

This crudity proves on examination to have noteworthy features. 
Consider one of the scenes to be witnessed at festivals in the Summer 
Garden. "Presently came several evil apostles, inspiring almost every 
one with dread and alarm ; I mean a half dozen or so grenadiers of the 
Guard, who, in pairs, were carrying on hand-barrows basins of the com- 
monest grain alcohol, which gave off such a powerful odour that many 
sensed it while the grenadiers were still in another walk, more than a 
hundred paces away. "When I saw that many people immediately fled 
as though they had seen the devil, I asked a friend standing beside me 
what had happened to these people that they disappeared so hurriedly. 
Seizing my arm, he pointed out some advancing youths, whom I had not 
at first noticed, and we began to run with all our might, which was very 
prudent, inasmuch as soon afterward I met several men who complained 
bitterly of their misfortune in being unable to get the taste of whiskey 
out of their throats. Since I had already been warned that there were 
many spies to see to it that all received the bitter cup, I did not trust a 
single person but pretended to be suffering even more than they. But 
one conscienceless rogue knew how to verify whether I had drunk or not 
and asked me to exhale. I replied that it was useless since I had rinsed 
my mouth with water, to which he retorted that I should not tell him 


such a story ; he knew that nothing would help ; ' even though you put 
cinnamon or cloves in your mouth, for not less than 24 hours the mouth 
would smell of whiskey all the same, and you would not get rid of the 
taste for a still longer time'; he added that I, too, should experience it in 
order to be able to tell of these festivals in the best possible way. I 
declined with thanks, mentioning the fact that I absolutely cannot drink 
whiskey ; all would have been vain, had it not been for my good friend, 
who was pretending to be a fiscal in order to tease me. But if any one 
falls into the clutches of a real fiscal, neither pleading nor tears will 
help him; he must submit, even to the point of standing on his head. 
Nor are even the daintiest ladies free from this obligation, for the 
tsaritsa herself sometimes drinks with the others. Majors of the Guard 
followed the tub of whiskey everywhere in order to compel any to drink 
who had not obeyed the simple grenadiers. One must drink the health 
of the tsar from the cup offered by one of the rank and file ( it will hold a 
good beer glass, but they do not pour it equally full for everybody) ; they 
call it the 'health of our colonel,' but it is one and the same thing. 
When I later made inquiry why they use [for this purpose] such a 
nasty product as this whiskey, they answered that it is done partly be- 
cause the Russians prefer this common grain alcohol to all the Danzig 
and French whiskeys in the world. Another reason is love for the 
Guard, which the tsar cannot flatter enough, for he often says that 
among his Guardsmen there is not one to whom he could not trust his 
life freely and without danger." 

The Guard made up the inevitable background of every festival. Both 
at the Summer Garden, where the court made merry, and on the 
Tsaritsyn Meadow might constantly be seen its dark green square, varie- 
gated with the red collars of the Preobrazhensky Regiment and the blue 
of the Semenovsky. And in their midst was frequently conspicuous the 
tall figure of the tsar, regaling himself with the w T hiskey of his soldiers 
before they went to regale the ministers and chamberlains with their 
beverage. To these guests on the Tsaritsyn Meadow Peter was more 
attentive than to the guests at the Summer Garden. The latter must 
quietly submit to the tsar's whims — drink what the tsar bade them, 
dance when he wished it. Very often Peter withdrew from the rout to 
rest (he always slept during the day) or on some business or other ; but 
on his return he wished to find the merriment in full swing. At all the 
exits of the Summer Garden were placed sentries of the Guard, who let 
no one leave on any pretext. During one of these balls under arrest, it 
rained in bucketsful ; the covered galleries were too small to accommodate 
all the guests, and many of them were drenched to the skin. But whereas 
at the Summer Garden all had to await the tsar's pleasure, and the ball 
could not end without his command, on the Tsaritsyn Meadow the tsar 


had to wait patiently until the whole military ceremony had ended. On 
his name-day, June 29, 1721, Peter was very distraught about something ; 
his head was shaking and his shoulders twitching, with him always a 
sign of strong agitation ; he scarcely looked at the courtiers assembled to 
greet him and went straight past to the Guard's square. Nor could he 
stay long there; he wished to leave when he had heard the first salute. 
But the Guard was to repeat the salute three times; Menshikov caught 
up with the retiring tsar and reminded him of the fact ; Peter turned and 
remained till the end of the salute. 

In our historical literature is firmly rooted the characterisation of 
Peter the Great as the "craftsman-tsar." In fact, a tsar in the ship- 
yards, with axe or plane in hand, is a picture far more unusual and 
therefore more effective than a tsar on the parade-ground. But if we 
are not striving for effect, we must admit that Peter became a soldier 
long before he became a craftsman, and that in his time he had studied 
the science of the drum with no less zeal than he later studied the trade of 
ship-carpenter. Nor did the latter ever crowd the former out of his 
head. Immediately on his return from his first trip abroad, with the 
memory of the Saardam shipyard still fresh in his mind, Peter set off 
to inspect his troops before he had seen the tsaritsa and the tsarevich, 
and as soon as he had arrived in the German Suburb. "As soon as he 
was convinced how far these hordes were from being real warriors, he 
himself showed them various gestures and motions, teaching these dis- 
orderly masses what bodily carriage they must strive for by bending his 
own body." 

To the end of his life the drum remained his favourite instrument. All 
his pleasures bore a distinctly military stamp; they all "smelled of 
powder." In proving that the tsar had enough resources to continue the 
Swedish war in 1710, the Austrian resident Pleyer cites the considera- 
tion that "for two years not a single powder-mill has been working 
because there is still a great supply of powder in perfect readiness, 
despite the fact that in the instruction of recruits, as soon as they learn 
to handle firearms, there occurs incessant and violent shooting ; when 
the tsar is present, or the heir, or Prince Menshikov, whether at Moscow 
or in the country, after almost every dinner, at every toast to any one's 
health, during a ball or a dance, on name-days and birthdays, or on the 
occasion of the most insignificant victory, muskets are fired incessantly." 
Descriptions of Peter's lavish fireworks reoccur throughout contemporary 
memoirs ; they were admired, too, by men like Prince Kurakin, who was 
well acquainted with Europe. Whether the tsar banqueted at Lefort's, 
or a ship was launched, or there was a masquerade through the streets 
of Moscow, we hear a ceaseless discharge of cannon. At the New Year 
festival in 1699 "a salvo of twenty-four cannon marked every solemn 


toast." One of the foreign diplomats regarded this waste of powder 
on the air as a serious item of expenditure imposing a real burden on 
the state budget. 

Whenever Peter made merry, he was far more the boisterous soldier 
(the drunken landsknecht, if you like, for we are not so far from the 
Thirty Years' War) than the tipsy craftsman. Wielding the cudgel 
when sober, in his cups Peter was prone to reach for the sword. At a 
banquet at Lefort's, toward the end of the dinner, becoming provoked at 
the voevoda Shein, ' ' the tsar became so incensed that, dealing blows indis- 
criminately with his drawn sword, he reduced all his dinner-companions 
to terror; Prince Romodanovsky received a slight wound in the finger, 
another in the head; Nikita Zotov [the 'mock patriarch'] was injured 
in the arm by a backhand movement of the sword ; a far more disastrous 
blow was preparing for the voevoda, who undoubtedly would have fallen 
by the tsar 's right arm, steeped in his own blood, had not General Lef ort 
(to whom almost alone this was permissible), clasping the tsar in his 
arms, averted his hand. The tsar, however, fell into violent displeasure 
that there should be any one who dared to interfere with the conse- 
quences of his perfectly just wrath, immediately turned around, and 
dealt the meddler a heavy blow in the back; there was only one person 
who could straighten matters out, he who held first place among the 
Muscovites as regards the tsar's attachment to him. They say that this 
man was raised by destiny from the lowest milieu to a pinnacle of power 
envied by all. He succeeded in so softening the tsar's heart that he 
refrained from murder, confining himself to threats. This violent storm 
was succeeded by pleasant and clear weather. ' ' The beneficent sorcerer, 
whom Korb does not name, was Menshikov ; the passage we have cited is 
one of those on which is based the familiar notion of the character of 
the relations between Peter and his "Alexander." 

Were this love for the military and these soldier's habits merely a 
matter of personal inclination, or do they represent a conscious tendency 
on Peter 's part ? We must not forget that the world had not yet known 
the "great Frederick," who "made all kings corporals"; the soldier's 
trade was not yet the king's trade par excellence. Of preceding Russian 
tsars not one, except the Alleged Dmitry, had liked military things. 
Peter's childhood must have played a certain role, passed as it was under 
the impression of the long wars of Tsar Alexis, just terminated; most 
likely previous tsareviches had not had so many military playthings. 
The struggle for the Ukraine and the war with Sweden were bound to 
stir deeply the military instincts of Moscow 's high society, dormant since 
the Troubles. Yet, besides instincts, contemporaries or near-contempo- 
raries saw a serious political aspect in Peter's militarism — and not the 
one usually advanced. We have already made passing mention of 


Vockerodt's remark that Peter "was sufficiently convinced from experi- 
ence what a strong support to monarchical power a regular army offers," 
and that for this very reason he "devoted himself in particular and with 
all zeal to the improvement of his troops. ' ' Vockerodt assigns only second 
place to the influence of military needs in the narrow sense. As is well 
known, the old prejudice that Peter was the creator of a regular army in 
Russia has long since been abandoned; the first regiments "of foreign 
order ' ' appeared in Russia under Tsar Michael ; during Peter 's minority 
these regiments, together with the streltsy, who also were a standing army 
rather than a feudal militia, made up the bulk of the Russian army. 
True, this was an inferior regular army, probably like the Turkish or 
Persian soldiers of the first half of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, 
there were professional soldiers in Russia before Peter's time, and 
Peter's Guard represented nothing new from the standpoint of military 
technique. Nor was its establishment connected with military technique. 
Let us trace its gradual development, as it stands out in strong relief in 
Kurakin's History. At first there were 300 "playmates"; these were 
organised in sport ; it is not likely that there was any serious calculation 
behind it. But in the collision with Sofia the "playmates" proved to be 
a force that could be relied on, especially since his opponent 's adherents 
among the streltsy also numbered only a few hundred. Thus, "on his 
return from the Troitsa campaign of the year 7197 [1689]," i.e., after 
his flight from Preobrazhensk to Troitsa and the settlement of accounts 
with Sofia and her supporters, Peter "began formally to recruit his two 
regiments, the Preobrazhensky and the Semenovsky. ' ' For the seventeen- 
year-old tsar they remained playthings; but for his mother's kindred 
and for B. A. Golitsyn, the real author of the coup d'etat of 1689, they 
were a serious military and police force, capable of being opposed, in 
case of need, to the unreliable streltsy. Ten years later it fell to the lot 
of the Guard to play this very role. From their inception the Preo- 
brazhensky and Semenovsky Regiments were needed against the domestic 
foe ; it was only later that they moved against a foreign foe. 

This origin of the Guard explains its significance under Peter. The 
Guard officers played a role very like that of the gendarme officers of the 
time of Nicholas I. All the more or less intimate investigations into 
peculation and other abuses committed by persons very close to Peter 
were made with their assistance. Thus, the fiscal 's report against Prince 
Ya. F. Dolgoruky was examined by a commission consisting of Major 
Dmitriev-Mamonov, Captain Likharev, Lieutenant-Captain Pashkov, and 
Lieutenant Bakhmetev. Before the establishment of the procurator- 
general, Peter had thought of making the staff officers of the Guard into 
an organ to supervise the whole Senate. Majors of the Guard were to 
attend sessions of the Senate and see that the senators carried on business 


properly ; if they saw anything ' ' contrary to this, ' ' they might arrest the 
culprit and take him to the fortress. 2 It is not surprising that the mem- 
bers of the Senate "rose from their places before a lieutenant and con- 
ducted themselves toward him with servility, ' ' as the agent of Louis XV 
remarked with amazement; he had some ground for finding that the 
"dignity of the empire" was "abased" thereby. 

But the servility of senators before a lieutenant was nothing compared 
with the position in which provincial administrators were placed. The 
Guard officers, when sent to the provinces, had the right, in case their 
demands were not fulfilled, ' ' to chain by the legs the governor as well as 
the vice-governor and other subordinates and to put a chain on their 
necks and not to set them free until they prepare" the reports demanded 
by the Guardsmen. Later a similar right was bestowed not only on 
officers but even on non-commissioned officers. The picture that Moscow 
(no backwoods corner!) presented under the yoke of non-commissioned 
officers is vividly portrayed in a letter of the well-known Petrine diplo- 
mat, Count Matveyev. "A non-commissioned officer sent here from the 
Kammer-Collegium, Pustoshkin by name," he relates, "caused an atro- 
cious commotion and made havoc of the whole chancellory, and all the 
administrators here, except those of the War and Justice Collegia, 
he humiliated with chains not only on their legs but on their necks. 
Among them the local vice-governor, Master Voeikov, merely replied to 
the commissioner that he was willing to be put in chains but that he 
should be told his fault ; which he, Pustoshkin, dared not do without the 
order of the "War Collegium. Nevertheless, he, the vice-governor, is kept 
by him, Pustoshkin, in the chancellory of that province just as straitly 
as the rest. ... I, visiting those prisoners out of Christian duty, verily 
with tears did see in the chancellory of the province here a multitude 
of children and women and honourable individuals, and floods of tears 
surpassing outright penal establishments." This was at Moscow, and 
the man chiefly injured was a vice-governor and brigadier, who found 
an intercessor in the person of an intimate of the tsar, a man who had 
recently been envoy at the court of one of the great powers, as Holland 
then was, a man who was almost one of the "supreme lords." What 
men suffered in remote provinces may be judged from the complaint of a 
Vyatka official against the "soldier," Netesev. This Netesev, relates the 
official, "comes into the chancellory drunk at hours not appointed . . . 
at two or three o 'clock at night and beats the corporals of the guard and 
the sentries with a stick, and, without declaring any fault and without 
any reason, holds us under arrest in the watch-house and at other times 

2 Even then, according to Vockerodt, the Fortress of Peter and Paul played less of a 
military than a police role; it never defended any one or anything, but it was "a 
sort of Bastille." 


in chains, and, seizing on inhabitants of Vyatka, as well townsmen as 
countrymen of the better sort, ex-burmisters and [other officials] . . . 
keeps them under guard beneath the local government office and in 
chains, where heretofore robbers were kept, and takes bribes." "This 
soldier," adds Bogoslovsky, from whom we borrow these tales, "had at- 
tained a sort of intoxication with authority, which in his case seems to 
have coincided with intoxication with whiskey. Repeatedly he made 
boastful speeches that, 'coming to the chancellory, he would fetter and 
torture to death the chancellor and his secretary ; and if they would not 
put themselves in irons, he would beat them with those irons and break 
their heads open.' The wife of the secretary he threatened to cut up 
with his sword into small pieces and swore to fulfil this his intention, 
kissing the image of the Saviour in the presence of witnesses." 

Bourgeois on the surface, Petrine society continued to be military at 
the core. The mention of "soldiers" may have inspired in the reader 
the illusion that we were speaking of something new, of a sort of military 
democracy. Nothing of the sort; the kernel of Peter's Guard was com- 
posed of "princes and simple nobles." This vital fact had at once 
impressed itself on foreign observers, who strove to explain it according 
to their lights. "He is gracious with all," says the French diplomat 
Campredon, "and pre-eminently with the soldiers, most of whom are 
children of princes and lords, who are serving him as a pledge of their 
fathers' loyalty." In fact, even under Peter, the nobility had begun 
to elaborate the central organ which was to aid it in resuming authority 
under his successors. The thin bourgeois veil had no more changed the 
nature of the Muscovite state than had the German cloak changed the 
nature of the Muscovite man. When Peter died, only the small group of 
"supreme lords," devoid of social support among the masses, stood 
between the nobility and power. The "supreme lords," having failed to 
create a bourgeoisie, were like a staff without an army, while the old 
military-serving class, clad in the Preobrazhensky uniform, merely 
awaited a convenient moment to "break the lords' heads for them." 

6. The Agony of the Bourgeois Policy 

The military force very quickly managed to make itself a political 
force. Scarcely had Peter closed his eyes in death when the Guard was 
master of the situation. Without the consent of the Guardsmen no one 
could ascend the Russian throne, so lately filled by "their colonel." 

The impact of commercial capitalism on Russia had cost her very dear ; 
nor were Russia's losses to be measured by her expenditures in men and 
money. No "active policy" can ever dispense with such outlays, and in 
this particular Russia in 1725 did not differ essentially from France at 
the moment of the death of Louis XIV, from Prussia at the close of the 


Seven Years ' War, or even from England at the end of her struggle with 
Napoleon. The population had been ruined and had scattered. The 
effects were felt long before the close of the war; by 1710 the loss of 
population, as compared with the last pre-Petrine census, has been calcu- 
lated by Mr. Milyukov as reaching 40% in some places. However unre- 
liable the statistics of the time (even contemporaries had no confidence 
in the census of 1710), they give a fairly definite general impression, 
especially where they are supplemented by comments. Of the province of 
Archangel the official document remarks that "losses of homesteads and 
their inmates have appeared because the men have been taken as recruits, 
as soldiers, as carpenters, to St. Petersburg as workers, as settlers, as 
smiths." Of the 5,356 homesteads "lost" in the Shekhona country, 
1,551 had been abandoned because of conscription for the army or for 
labour on public works, and 1,366 because of flights. To foreigners it 
seemed that the central provinces had been absolutely depopulated 
thanks to the Northern War; and though this opinion must be taken 
with the same reserve as the assertion of these same foreigners that the 
clay-soil near Moscow was among "the best lands in Europe," this sum- 
mary impression was not pure fantasy. A document of 1726, which bears 
the signatures of almost all the "supreme lords," accepts unquestion- 
ingly the following "reasons" for non-payment of the soul tax: "since 
the census many peasants who were able to earn money by their labour, 
have died and been taken as recruits and run away . . . while of those 
who now by labour can get money to meet the state taxes there remain 
but a small number." Nor did the "supreme lords" dispute a reference 
to the decline of peasant economy: "besides that, for several years now 
there have been crop failures, and in many places the peasants sow little 
grain, and those who sow are compelled to sell the grain in the ground to 
meet state taxes, and hence they go running into far places where it 
would be impossible to seek them out." Yet in this second quotation we 
already have an explanation of peasant ruin by other than political 
factors ; for obvious reasons the official document is silent about the social 
causes, which were, however, clearly evident to foreigners, who, in ac- 
counting for the depopulation of central Russia assigned to the ' ' savage 
dealings of the masters ' ' as much weight as to the Northern War. 

The bankruptcy of Peter's system lay not in the fact that "at the price 
of the ruin of the country Russia was raised to the rank of a European 
power" but in the fact that, regardless of the ruin of the country, this 
goal was not attained. Foreigners in Russian service rated the might of 
Peter's empire far lower than did foreigners looking on from a 
distance, or than later historians have done. Field-Marshal Munnich, in 
an intimate conversation with the Prussian envoy, Mardefeld, did not 
conceal from him that the Russian troops were in a very lamentable 


condition : the officers were good for nothing ; among the soldiers were 
many untrained recruits ; there were no cavalry horses at all — in a word, 
had there appeared another opponent like Charles XII, he might with 
25,000 men have settled accounts with the whole "Muscovite" army. 
And he said this only two years after the Peace of Nystadt, so brilliantly 
celebrated! The fleet was no better off; only the galleys were worth 
anything, and while they were very practical for a little war in the 
fiords of Finland, they were not fit for the open sea. For the sake of 
speed, ships were built of green wood ; they rotted with extraordinary 
rapidity in the fresh waters of the Kronstadt haven. This was one of the 
chief reasons for Peter's attempt to transfer his fleet base to Rogervik 
(later "Baltic Port," near Reval), situated close to the open sea, where 
the water was salt. But Peter's engineers could not cope with the large 
waves ; every violent storm swept away all the fruits of their toil, so that 
the construction of Rogervik became synonymous with the labours of 
Sisyphus. The personnel of the fleet was no better than its materiel. 
Peter was soon disappointed in his foreign-trained "midshipmen" and by 
the end of his reign was no longer sending them abroad to study. The 
condition of the sailors is best indicated by a report one foreign diplomat 
made to his government, a report made at the very time of the magnifi- 
cent masquerades in celebration of victory over the Swedes. "By way 
of anticipating disorders and preserving tranquillity the number of the 
guard in the residency here was doubled. I was told that the cause of 
the multiplicity of precautions taken on this occasion lay in the fact that 
a very considerable number of sailors, whose wages, despite the order 
given by the tsar before his departure that they should be paid off, had 
not been paid, and who had not a piece of bread, had conspired to gather 
in a crowd and loot the houses of the inhabitants of the residency here." 
At the same time Russia was on the eve of a new war. Commercial 
capitalism, which had forced Peter to fight for twenty years for the 
Baltic Sea, now drove him to the Caspian. Ere the Peace of Nystadt 
was concluded, Peter had already prepared a new detailed map of the 
latter sea, for which the French Academy elected the tsar to membership. 
The officers who made the map brought, as foreign diplomats said, the 
important information that the chief centres of silk production lay near 
the border of the tsar's dominions. "Here they all flatter themselves 
with the hope that since the Persians have not a single naval vessel, it 
will be possible to attract a great part of the silk trade here and to 
extract great revenue from it, ' ' the Prussian envoy wrote to his king. It 
was only the Prussian diplomat who discovered this America ; the Russian 
court had of course never forgotten that "greatest trade in Europe" 
after which there had been so many seekers in the seventeenth century. 
Peter's Persian campaign was the inevitable complement to the silk 


manufactories he had planted. A year later it was being talked of quite 
definitely. ' ' The tsar wishes, for the safety of his trade, to have a port 
and fortress on the other side of the Caspian Sea and desires that the 
silks, which are usually sent to Europe through Smyrna, should hence- 
forth go to Astrakhan and Petersburg, ' ' wrote another diplomat in 1722 ; 
soon afterward he heard a similar explanation from the lips of Peter 
himself, except that the tsar naturally spoke, not of seizure of the silk 
trade by the Russians but of "freedom" for this trade. 

Hardly had the military operations against the Swedes been brought 
to a close than the troops engaged in them began to be drawn off toward 
Moscow, and thence onward to the banks of the Don and the Volga. On 
the latter rapidly grew up a military and transport fleet, for service of 
which 5,000 sailors were transferred from Kronstadt through Moscow to 
Nizhny Novgorod. As usual, there was no lack of pretexts for war. At 
Shemakha the tsar's "gosts" had been robbed of anywhere from fifty 
thousand to five hundred thousand rubles ; later three million was men- 
tioned. Moreover, the tsar's "gost" was so near to being a government 
official that it was impossible not to view the incident as downright dis- 
respect for the dignity of the Russian sovereign. True, the plunderers 
were rebels against their own sovereign, the shah of Persia ; but all the 
less reason had he to be angry at the appearance of Russian troops in his 
dominions. It was for him, in the last analysis, that they were restoring 
order ; he was bound to appreciate this fact, and at the Russian court it 
was even hoped that perhaps the shah would freely assign the silk 
monopoly to Russia, out of pure gratitude. 

All these iridescent hopes, however, were bound soon to fade. If not 
the Persian government itself (which at the time it was not easy to find, 
as several pretenders were struggling for the throne), then its vassals on 
the shores of the Caspian Sea, in alliance with the mountaineers of 
Daghestan, offered the Russians desperate resistance. The Caspian fleet 
turned out no better than the Baltic ; most of it was destroyed by storms. 
The climate was a foe deadlier than storms and the Persians ; diseases and 
horse murrain raged in the Russian camp. Peter, who had set out on 
the campaign in the spring of 1722, returned to Moscow in the following 
Januarjr; his very meagre conquests had cost "15,000 horses, more than 
4,000 regular troops, without counting a far greater number of cossacks 
and a million rubles." But these immediate losses were nothing in 
comparison with those the future threatened. 

Russia's rival for the silk trade, Turkey, understood Peter's Caspian 
expedition as a direct threat to her ; one war involved another, and that 
incomparably more dangerous. "I can, as it seems to me, assure Your 
Majesty," Campredon wrote to Louis XV in April, 1723, "that, however 
the Russians boast and with whatever obstinacy they throw dust in one 's 


eyes, they