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Time of Troubles in Russia in the 16th and 17th Century

Russia had experienced only a relatively short period of effective and unified rule before the onset of the Time of Troubles, which would prove to be a period that witnessed foreign powers such as Poland-Lithuania and Sweden weaken the Russian state. Given the impact that a revitalised Russia had upon such countries it was certainly a sound strategy upon their part. Russia as will be examined emerged stronger than ever after the Time of Troubles came to an end during the course of the seventeenth century. Some have argued that it did not finally end until Peter the Great secured his highly autocratic grip upon power in the late 1690s.

Internal weakness as well as foreign intervention and invasions of Russia was not an experience unique to the Time of Troubles during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was in the interests of other countries to keep Russia weak, even if none of these countries had accurately predicted how powerful Russia would become from the eighteenth century onwards (Roberts, 1995 p. 188).

The Russian Dukes of Moscow held a great deal of ambition in the period before the onset of the Time of Troubles. That ambition did not go away even when no one was able to effectively wield all the powers that went with the position of being tsar (Roberts, 1995 p. 189). When, in 1453, Constantinople perished at the ands of the all-conquering Ottoman Turks, it was taken for granted that Moscow, the strongest of the Russian principalities, would become the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and it provided a further excuse to extend Russian authority as well as its territories. Moscow becoming the center of the Eastern Orthodox Church gave Ivan the Terrible the pretext for becoming the tsar instead of the less prestigious title of duke (Crystal, 1998 p. 482).

When Ivan III came to the Russian throne in 1462, by which time the Russians had already successfully repulsed the attempted invasions or interventions by Lithuanians, Poles, Germans and Swedes – he played up the Russian State’s connection with Byzantium. He did this by declaring himself to be the only true heir of the last of the Greek Byzantine emperors who had killed in 1453. He adopted the imperial insignia of the Byzantine double-headed eagle. The main problem was that the stability of Russia depended upon the smoothness of dynastic succession, when it faltered political instability was the result (Woodruff, 2005 p.68).

In 1471 the rival states of Novgorod and Kiev were subdued by Moscow; in ver suffered the same fate; the fall of Pskov, and Ryazan followed. Underpinning Ivan Ill’s autocratic rule was the class of the gentry’s cavalry, which became the corps of his army, which reduced his dependence on the feudal lords. He also introduced the practice of recruiting infantry from the towns. The English via imports landed at the port of Archangel on the White Sea met his need of weapons. By 1547 old the Kievian tradition of a confederation of equal sovereign rulers gave way to the absolute rule of Ivan IV, the Terrible (Woodruff, 2005 p. 69). Ivan the Terrible being increasingly powerful showed his power by being crowned the first Russian tsar during 1547 (Marsh & Carrick, 2007 p. 117).

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