1902 Encyclopedia > Moscow > History of Moscow

(Part 6)


History. -- The Russian annals first metion Moscow in 1147 as a place where Yuri Dolgoruki met with Svyatoslav of Syeversk and his allies. The site was inhabited from a very remote antiquity by the Merya and Mordvinians, whose remains are numerous in the neighbourhood, and it was well peopled by Great-Russian in the 12th century. To the end of the 13th century Moscow remained a dependency of the princes of Vladimir, and had to suffer from the raids of the Mongols, who burned and plundered it in 1337 and 1293. It is only under the rule of Daniil, son of Alex ander Nevsky (1261-1602), that the prince of Moscow acquired some importance for the part he took in the wars against the Lithuanians. He annexed to his principality Kolomna, situated at the confluence of the Moskva with the Oka. His son in 1302 annexed Pereyaslavi Zalessky, and next year Mojaisk (taking thus possession of the Moskva from its head to its mouth), and so maugurated a policy which lasted for centuries, and consisted in the annexation by purchase and other means of the neighbouring towns and villages. In 1300 the Dremlin, or fort, was enclosed by a strong wall of earth and wood, offering a protection to numerous emigrants from the Tver and Ryazan principalities who went to settle around the new city. Under John Kalita (1325-1341) the principality of Vladimir—where the princes of Kieff and the metropolian of Russia had taken refuge the wars that desolated south-western Russia—became united with Moscow; and in 1325 the metropolitan Peter established his seat at Moscow, giving thus a new importance and powerful support to the young principality. In 1367 the Kremlin was enclosed by stone walls, which soon proved strong enough to resist the Lithuanians under Odgerd (1368-1371). The son and grandson of Kalita steadily pursued the same policy. The latter (Dmitry Donskoy) annexed the dominations of Strodub and Rostoff, and took in the renowed battle of Kulikovo (1380), where the Russians ventured for the first time to oppose the Mongols in a great pitched battle. The church, which strongly supported the prince of Moscow, ascribed the presumed victory to him and to the holy pictures of the Moscow monasteries.

At this time Moscow occupied a wide area covered with villages. The Kremlin had there cathedrals—old, small, and dark buildings, having narrow windows filled with mica-plates—which were surrounded by the plain wooden houses of the prince and his boyars (SEE Footnote). To the east of the Kremlin was the posed, or city, also enclosed by a wall, and even then an important centre for trade. Different parts of the town belonged to different princes. In 1366 Moscow suffered from pestilence. Two years after the battle of Kulikovo it was taken and plundered (for the last time) by the Khan (Toktamish). The gradual increase of the principality continued during the first half of the 15th century, and at the death of Vasili II. the Blind, in 1462, it included not only the whole of what is now the government of Moscow, but also large parts of the present governments of Kaluga, Tula, Vladimir, Nijni-Novgorod, Kostroma, Vyatka, Vologda, Yaroskav, and Tver. Still the prince, although assuming, like several others, the title of Great Prince, had simply

A little more influence than other independent rulers in the affairs or north-eastern Russia, and was recognized as the eldest prince by the khans. The towns which recognized his supremacy were quite independent, and only paid to his representatives the judiciary taxes, in exchang for military protection. It is only under Ivan III. (called the Great by some Russian historians) that the prince of Moscow asserted his claims on other parts of Russsia, and called himself "Ruler of all Russia" (Hospodar vserya Rossii). It was about this time, when the wealth of Moscow was rapidly increasing by the extension of its trade, that the embellishment of the town began. In room of the old cathedral Uspensky, a new structure was built by Fiorventi of Bologna. Aided by Novgorod masons. The cathedral Arkhangelsky was also rebuilt, and a third, Blagovyeschensky, was erected, as well as a stone palace and other buildings. The Kremlin was fortified by strong towers, and the houses and churches built close to the walls were destroyed. In 1520 Moscow was said to contain 45,000 houses and 100,000 inhabitants. Its trade was very active. Ivan IV, finally annexed Novgorod and Pskov, to Moscow,and subdued Kazan and Astrakhan. But after this reign Moscow suffered for a long time a series of misfortunes. In 1547 two dreadful conflagrations destroyed nearly al the city, and a few days later the Khan of the Crimea advanced against it with 100,000 men. He was compelled to retire from the banks of the Oka, but in 1571, taking advantage of the state into which Russia was brought by the extravagances of Ivan, he took Moscow and burned all the town outside the Kremlin. The gates of the Kremlin having been shut, thousands of people died in the flames the annals record that of the 200,000 who then formed the population of Moscow, only 30,000 remained. In 1591 the Mongols were again in Moscow and avenged their repulse from the Kremlin on the inhabitants of the open town.

By the end of the 16th century Moscow was large city, not less than 14 miles in circumference. The "Great Posad," or city, containing several Gostinoy Dvors for merchants of all nationalities was enclosed in 1534 by a French and stone wall, which still exist. The "White Town" which enclosed the Kremlin and Great Posad from west and north was also fortified, in 1586, by a stone wall (destroyed in the 18th century); and in 1588 a third enclosure, a palisaded earthen wall, the Zemlynoy-Gorod, was begun including all the town that surrounded the three former subdivisions; it remained until the end to the 18th century. Foreigners who visited Moscow spoke with astonishment of its wealth and its beauty. But the internal affairs of the capital were in very bad case. During the century, owing to the increase of population, new annexations, and a lively trade, the power of the boyars had gradually increased. The peasants who settled on their lands, or on the estates o the prince given to boyars, had gradually become their serfs; and political tendency of the boyars, supported by the weathier middle classes (which had also a rapid development in the same century), was to become rulers of Russian, like the noblesse of Poland. During the reign of Theodore, Boris Godunoff, the regent, ordered the murder of the heir to the throne, Demestrius, son of Ivan IV., and himself became czar of Russia. Moscow suffered severely in the struggle which ensued, especially when the populace rose and exterminated the Polish garrison, on which occasion the whole of the town outside the Kremlin was again burned and plundered. But in had acquired in the eyes of the nation a greatly-increased moral importance, as a stronghold against foreign invasions. The monastery of Troitsa, which the Poles besieged without taking, was invested with a higher sanctity. The town also by and by recovered its commercial importance, and this the more as other commercial cities were ruined, or fell into the hands of foreigners; and thirty years after 1612 Moscow was again a wealthy city. Owing, however, to the ever-increasing concentration of power in the hands of the czars, and the steady development of autocracy, it lost much of its political importance, and assumed more and more, especially under Alexis Mikhailivitch, the character of a private estate of the czar, its suburbs becoming mere dependencies of his vast household.

During the whole of the 17th century Moscow continued to be the scene of many troubles and internal struggles. The people several times revolted against the favourites of the czar, and were subdued only by cruel executions, in which the streltzy—a class of citizens and merchants rendering hereditary military service—supported the czar. Afterwards appeared the raskol or nonconformist movement, and in 1648, when the news spread that Stenka Razin was advancing on Moscow "to settle his accounts with the boyars," populace was kept from rising only by severe repressive measures and by the defeat of the invader. Later on, the streltzy themselves engaged in a series of rebellions, which led the youthful Peter. I. to shed rivers of blood. The opposition encountered at Moscow by his plans of reforming Russia according to his ideal of military autocracy, the conspiracies of the boyars and merchants, the distrust of the mass of people, all compelled him afterwards to leave the city, and to seek, as his ancestors had done, for a new capital. This he founded on the very confined of the military empire he was trying to establish.

In the course of the 18th century Moscow became the seat of a passive and discontented opposition to the St Petersburg Government. Peter I., wishing to see Moscow like other capitals of western Europe, ordered that only some stone housed be built within the walls of the town, that the streets should be paved, and so on; but his orders were only partially executed. In 1722 the Kremlin was restored. In 1739 the city became more than the prey of a great conflagration; two others followed in 1748 and 1753, and gave an opportunity for enlarging some streets and squares. In 1755 the first Russian university was founded at Moscow. Chatherine II. tried to conciliate the nobility, and applied herself to benefit the capital with new and useful buildings, such as the senate house, the foundling’s and several other hospital, salt stores, &c. The cemeteries within the town were closed after the plague of 1771; several streets were enlarged, and the squares cleared of the small shops that encumbered them. Water was brought by an aqueduct from the Mytischi villages. In 1787 the city had 303 churches, 24 monasteries and convents, 8965 houses (of which 1595 were of stone), one printing-office, and manufactories and larger workshops. The last public disaster was experienced by Moscow in 1812. On 13th September, six days after the battle of Borodino, the Russian troops evacuated Moscow, leaving 11,000 wounded, and the next day the French occupied the Kremlin. The same night, while Napoleon was waiting for a deputation Moscow notables, and received only a deputation of the rich raskolnik merchants, the capital was set on fire by its own inhabitants, the Gostinoy Dvor, with its stores of wine, spirits, and chemical stuffs, becoming the first prey pf the flames. The inhabitants abandoned the city, and it was pillaged by the French troops, as well as by Russains themselves, and the burning of Moscow became the signal of a general rising of the peasants against the French. The want of supplies and the impossibility of wintering in a ruined city, continually attacked by Cossacks and peasants, compelled Napoleon to leave Moscow on 19th October, after he had unsuccessfully tried to blow up certain parts of the Kremlin. (P. A. K.)


The name of boyars, or bolars, was given to the descendants of the former military bands of the princess, who had become counselors and landowners.

The article above was written by: Prince Peter Alexeivitch Kropotkin, recipient of the Gold Medal of Russian Geographical Society, 1864; crossed North Manchuria from Transbaikalia to the Amur, 1864; author of General Sketch of the Orography of East Siberia; In Russian and French Prisons; Recent Science in the Nineteenth Century; and Memoirs of a Revolutionist.

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