How Moscow Became Capital in 1327


Harvard academic Dr. Richard Pipes who specialized in Russian history described in his most famous book published almost 50 years ago, the way Moscow became the capital of the realm that would become Muscovy first, and later – ‘Russia’. It is very important to see the ways and methods by which it achieved that status, because it explains a lot about its future history and sheds a new light on its current war on Ukraine. Here is the quote: “Ivan’s [1st] most serious rival for Mongol favour was the prince of Tver, who, after Ivan’s elder brother Iurii’s death, had succeeded in wresting from Moscow the title of Great Prince. In 1327, the population of Tver rose against the Mongols and massacred a high-level deputation sent from Sarai to oversee the collection of the tribute. After some hesitation, the prince of Tver sided with the rebels. As soon as this news had reached him, Ivan left for Sarai. He returned as the head of a combined Mongol-Russian punitive force which so devastated Tver and a great deal of central Russia besides that the region was not yet fully recovered half a century later. As a reward for his loyalty, the Mongols invested Ivan with the title of Great Prince, and appointed him Farmer General of the tribute throughout Russia“. Do we recognize any of this in the current Russia’s onslaught on Ukraine? Asian-Russian punitive forces, devastating everything in their way? It appears that even Karl Marx was correct when he concluded that Muscovy was formed by Mongol slavery. And it means that Moscow is in no way a successor of medieval noble Kyiv, but rather a replica and successor of Sarai, the second capital of the Golden Horde. Speaking of Kyiv, by 1327, Kyiv had freed itself from the Mongols and had been part of the Grand Dutchy of Lithuania for 7 years already. As can be seen on the map in the Wiki article, Grand Duchy was a huge territorial realm at the time that included a larger part of present-day Ukraine and the state of Belarus in its entirety. Yale Prof. Timothy Snyder in his “The Reconstruction of Nations” provided an interesting insight into the new formation: “The Orthodox boyars of Rus’… could regard Lithuania not as conqueror but as ally. As Lithuanian military power flowed south, to Kyiv, so the civilization of Rus’—Orthodox religion, Church Slavonic language, and mature legal traditionflowed north to Vilnius”. Speaking of Vilnius, the city was first mentioned in written sources only in 1323 and to a Ukrainian ear its name sounds very close to Ukrainian word “vilnyi” which translates as “free” into English. (The generally accepted etymology of Vilnius is that it derives from the Vilnia River. But the fact of Kyiv’s language flowing in that direction just at the time the name of the new capital appeared, gives grounds to at least consider the new etymology). The mature legal tradition of former Kyiv Rus in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania meant order in many spheres of life including conducting trade and other business activites. It was the realm of free (vilnyi) nations and in all aspects, the Grand Duchy was an opposite to Muscovy. Muscovy was all about keeping its population in submission and slavery utilizing the methods of the Horde as was demonstrated by the case of Tver. One can easily discern those methods even in the 21st century and especially during the current war Moscow wages on Kyiv. And when the Ukrainians call the invading Muscovite army the horde, it is not an emotional simile, it is a historically accurate term for who the”Russians” truly are.

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