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Medieval Russia

RurikEurope is populated by different nations: Germanic (for example: Germans, the British, Swedes), Romanic (the French, Italians, Spaniards), the Slavs and other people that differ, mainly, in language. The Slavic people are subdivided into three groups: the Southern Slavs - Bulgarians, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes. The Western Slavs - Poles, Czeches, Slovaks. The Eastern Slavs - Russian or Great Russians, Byelorussians and Ukrainians, earlier named Small Russians. The East Slavs formed in past several big tribes: the Polyans (near Kiev), Drevlyans, Kriviches, Slovens (near Novgorod) and others. They were pagans, prayed to idols - statues representing different gods. Perun was one of main gods, a god of thunder and lightning. Beside the main gods, the Slavs believed in water spirits, mermaids, wood-goblins and brownies. According to the annals of 862 the people of Novgorod invited Rurik (from a tribe 'Russ') to become their prince. Some historians consider that tribe to be Scandinavian. Others believe that it was Slavic, and Rurik - a Slavic prince. Rurik proclaimed Novgorod a capital of his state that was named Russia (Russ). When Rurik died his son Igor was still young, and Oleg, Igor's uncle, became a prince. He moved the capital to Kiev. Oleg became famous for the victory over Byzantium. He nailed his shield on the gates of Tsarcity (as Russians named the capital of Byzantium - Constantinople). Byzantium was the strongest state of the world that time. After Oleg's death it was Igor who reigned, then - Oleg's widow Olga, the first Russian ruler who adopted Christianity. The Russian Orthodox Church ranked her among the saints. Svyatoslav, Olga's successor, was a great warrior, talented and tireless commander. He did not adopt Christianity however. Russia became wholly Christian only in the reign of Olga's grandson - Grand Duke Vladimir. Christening of Russia took place in the year of 988. The people of Kiev were christened by clergy in the Dnepr River. Vladimir also was ranked among the saints and named Ravnoapostolny (equal to the apostles - because he, as well as the apostles, distributed Christianity). When Vladimir died, his sons started the fight because each of them wanted to become the Grand Duke of Kiev. Finally, it was Yaroslav who succeeded. He was a very wise person. He spoke several languages and possessed a big library. Yaroslav married his daughters to kings of France, Hungary and Norway. It was a great honour to marry a daughter of the Grand Duke of Russia.

'The Russian Pravda' - the first code of laws, that defined rights and duties of inhabitants of the Kiev Russia, was assembled in the time of reign of Yaroslav the Wise. To guard his sons from fratricidal wars, the Grand Duke Yaroslav declared that the elder brother becomes the Grand Duke in Kiev, and younger - take other cities. After the death of the elder brother, the next elder brother becomes his successor, not his son, and so on. Yaroslav the Wise hoped that thus all the brothers would have an opportunity to become the Grand Duke and there would be no hostility between them which is a great calamity for the state. Unfortunately, it turned out another way.

Russian Princes continued to quarrel with each other. In 1223 the Mongolo-Tatars came from Asia (in Russia they were named Tatars). Russian Princes could not resist nomads. However, the latter reYaroslav the Wiseturned to Asia and appeared again in Russia only 14 years later. They won one princedom after another and enslaved Russian people. Russian forces heroically resisted aggressors, but they were separated. In 1240 the Tatars seized Kiev and destroyed it. It was the time of terrible for Russian people Tatar Yoke that lasted 240 years. Russian State saved the Western Europe from enslavement, but Russia itself, having taken the main blow of conquerors, was very weakened and fell behind the other countries of Europe. The Tatars ravaged the whole Russia. Only Pskov and Novgorod remained untouched. It was difficult to reach them through woods and swamps, but these cities also had to render tribute after all.

Russian western neighbours, the Swedes, decided to take advantage of the difficult situation in Russia. In 1240 they planned an attack on Novgorod, but Prince Alexander, having only his personal armed force, met the Swedes and defeated them on the Neva River. He was named Alexander Nevsky in honour of this victory. Two years later, in 1242, German knights seized Pskov and also were moving to Novgorod. Prince Alexander gathered a big army and faced the Germans on the ice of Chudskoye Lake. The Germans were defeated as well. Many of them sunk (the ice on the lake was not thick and could not bear heavy metal armour of the German knights). The Tatars respected Alexander Nevsky and made him the Grand Duke (during the Yoke they appointed Grand Dukes). Being a skilful politician, Alexander Yaroslavovich weakened, as he could, burden that was laid upon all the people of Russia. He asked the Tatar Khan to be gracious and for this purpose he visited the Golden Horde several times. During one of these journeys Alexander Nevsky died. The Russian Orthodox Church ranked him among the saints. The Tatars oppressed Russians, demanded big tribute, but they did not interfere in Christian religion. Paying respect to the religion they did not take any tribute from churches and monasteries. Alexander Nevsky saw that, he also knew that Russia was still weak to wage war against the Tatars. That is why he was defending only from the Swedes and Germans, who intended to subordinate Russia to the Pope and make Russians adopt Roman Catholicism. In the course of time Russia, with the capital already in Moscow, gained powers, and the Tatars, who quarreled among themselves, became weaker. And in 1380 the Grand Duke of Moscow Dmitry having gathered many Russian Princes with their forces, moved against Khan Mamai, who was coming to Moscow. Sergey Radonezhsky, the Russian saint, gave his blessing to the Russian Army, he sent Dmitry also two Enoches, Peresvet and Oslyablya. The Battle took place on Kulikovo Field near the Don River. Russian Army was smaller, than the Tatars', but they battled doughtily and won. Moscow Prince fought the enemy like an ordinary soldier, he was close to be killed. In honour of this historical victory near the Don River he was named Dmitry Donskoy. Russian people learned then that, being united, they can defeat any enemy. As a result, Moscow began to render the less and less tribute to the Golden Horde and in the reign of Ivan III ceased payments completely. Ivan III tore off a portrait of the Khan and refused to pay, when Khan's envoyIvan the Terribles came to collect tribute. That was the end of the Tatar Yoke. Ivan III married Greek Princess Sofia, and the arms of Russia became a Two-Headed Eagle who was the arms of Byzantium earlier. Having become the Tsar, Ivan IV (he was the first who named himself Tsar) defeated and added two Tatar Khanates to Russia: Kazan and Astrakhan. During his reign first books were printed in Moscow (the first typography belonged to Ivan Fyodorov). Trade with Europe began through the White Sea.

Ivan the Terrible (Ivan IV) wanted to summon masters of various trades from abroad, but the Germans, Livonian knights, passed nobody to Russia. Ivan the Terrible declared them war, which lasted 25 years and was unsuccessful for Russia. After the death of his beloved wife, Anastasia Romanova, Ivan the Terrible became very irritable and mistrustful, he trusted no one. It seemed to him that everybody around was against him. Ivan IV established Oprichnina (special police) for punishment of the state traitors. However Oprichniki (the policemen) abused the power, they killed and tortured even innocent people.

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