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Vasily II the Dark
Kiriyenko S.V.
Kasyanov M.M.
Chernomyrdin V.S.
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Vasily II the Dark

Vasily II the DarkVasily II the Dark (1425-1462)

New grand prince was no more than 10 years old. Similarly to his father and grandfather in the beginning of their reign, he depended on seigniorial council. His regents were Sofia Vitovtovna, her father Vitovt, and also princes Andrey and Peter Dmitrievichi.

In 1432 Vasily married Maria. Feasting at Vasily and Maria's wedding, Yury's sons Vasily Kosoy and Dmitry Shemyaka offended the groom, but received the fitting rebuff from Vasily's mother Sofia who took off Dmitry Don's gold belt from Vasily Kosoy's waist.

Brothers Vasily and Dmitry Yuryevichi, having raised an army, decided to revenge the grand prince. Soon Vasily was captured. Yury Dmitrievich handed down to him the reign of Kolomna. Having arrived in Kolomna, Vasily Vasilyevich started recruiting people. Moscow did not support Yury Dmitrievich.

Then Yury Dmitrievich voluntarily left Moscow for Galich. June 6, 1434 Yury Dmitrievich suddenly died. Having taken advantage of the situation, the Moscow throne was seized by his son Vasily Kosoi. But he did not manage to keep it.

Vasily Vasilyevich tried to maintain friendly relations with the khan, regularly paid the tribute. The great khan Mahmet (Ulu-Muhammed) of Golden Horde was expelled from board by brother Kichim (Kichi-Mahmed, Kichik-Muhammed) in 1437. Mahmet searched for refuge in Russia, but Vasily Vasilyevich refused his request.

Having chosen another, better place near an old fortress, in 1438 Tatars constructed new wooden city and granted it as a refuge to the Kama's Boulgars who lived there in the incessant alarm caused by often attacks of the Russians. In few months the new city of Kazan was filled with people. Next year Mahmet went to Moscow. But Tatars did not manage to seize Moscow, then they burned Kolomna and left with considerable loot. In 1440 Dmitry the Red died in Galich. Dmitry Shemyaka inherited Dmitry the Red's principality and as early as one year amicably lived with Vasily Vasilyevich (grand prince's son Ioann was born that year).

Internal disorder prevailed in Novgorod in 1443 - 1445. To adjust somehow good-neighbourhood relations, Novgorod concluded peace with Pskov and an armistice for 25 years with the German order. Events of greater importance took place in the Moscow princedom. After death of Vitovt Lithuania broke off connections with Russia. However, there was no war till 1444. This year Tatars and Moscowits devastated cities and villages entering the Lithuanian borders almost up to Smolensk. In response seven thousand of Lithuanians ruined defenseless vicinities of Kozelsk, Kaluga, Mozhaisk, Vereya.

More threatening enemy came from the other side. Kazan khan Mahmet captured Nizhni Novgorod without fight and went to Murom. Grand prince raised an army, and Tatars receded.

The message came in spring again, that the Kazan army besieged Nizhni Novgorod, they also set out to Suzdal. Grand prince Vasily in the given fight showed personal courage. Being strongly wounded, he was taken prisoner. Kazan khan Mahmet in connection with capture of his capital by the other khan Lebey was compelled to solve his urgent matters and released Vasily Vasilyevich from captivity with the requirement to pay him a moderate tribute. September 1, 1445 Vasily Vasilyevich was released.

Fearing the grand prince, Dmitry Shemyaka ran to Uglich, there he entered the union with Ioann Mozhaysky who was misleaded by slander on the grand prince. Boris Aleksandrovich Tverskoy deceived by Dmitry Shemyaka also joined conspirators. They agreed upon capture of Moscow and of the grand prince. Waited only for a chance.

Vasily Vasilyevich, following the custom of father and grandfather, in February 1446 went to pray to the monastery of the Saint Trinity. Same night Dmitry Shemyaka made the way to Moscow and seized it. Vasily Vasilyevich was declared a captive of Dmitiry Shemyaka and was taken to the capital.

February 16, 1446 Vasily Vasilyevich was brought to Dmitry Shemyaka's courtyard and on the fourth day he was blinded. It was made by Dmitry Shemyaka, Ioann Mozhaysky and Boris Tverskoy's command. Vasily Vasilyevich together with wife was sent to Uglich, his mother Sofia - to Chuhloma, children Ioann and Yury were taken out to prince Ioann Ryapolovsky to the village Boyarovo, near Yurievo. Then sons of Vasily Vasilyevich were transported to Murom.

Dmitry Shemyaka, having accepted a title of grand prince, gave Suzdal to Ioann Mozhaysky, but then took it back. Newly appeared sovereign was afraid both of national anger and children of Vasily Vasilyevich. All the family of Vasily Vasilyevich was in custody. Dmitry Shemyaka did not keep the promise given earlier, about granting own principality to Vasily Vasilyevich.

Under the bishop's pressure Dmitry Shemyaka nevertheless decided to release Vasily Vasilyevich. However, he soon realized the mistake. Vasily Vasilyevich nicknamed after blinding the Dark, went to Belozersky Kirillov monastery for a prayer, where clever hegumen Trifon blessed Vasily Vasilyevich for great reigning and calmed his conscience.

Vasily the Dark didn't go to Vologda, but arrived in Tver. Prince Boris Aleksandrovich asked Vasily Vasilyevich for marriage of his seven-year old son Ioann to his daughter Maria. Solemn betrothal that strengthened a great princedom was held. Vasily the Dark decided to go to Moscow. From the other side princes from Lithuania escaping from Dmitry Shemyaka hastened to the capital.

Dmitry Shemyaka camped near Volok-Lamsk. Boyar Pleshcheev arrived in Moscow secretly from Vasily the Dark with a small team. For half an hour all associates of Dmitry Shemyaka were chained in a circuit, and the townspeople again swore to Vasily Vasilyevich. It happened in 1447.

Having learned about hapening, Dmitry Shemyaka and Ioann Mozhaysky left to Galich, therefrom to Chuhloma and to Cargopol. They took away Vasily's mother Sofia with them, but were compelled to release her. Vasily Vasilyevich met his mother in the Trinity - Sergiyev cloister.

In 1449 Vasily the Dark ratified ten-year old son Ioann a co-regent and grand prince so that people ahead of time got used to see him as a future sovereign.

The new perfidy of Dmitry Shemyaka broke calmness of grand prince Vasily Vasilyevich. Dmitry Shemyaka set his camp near Galich, strengthened the city. The fight took place on January 27, 1450. Moscowits won, Dmitry Shemyaka ran to Novgorod, Galich was again joined to Moscow. Novgoroders were not afraid to accept Dmitry Shemyaka. Few months later on the 29th of June 1450 the mutinous prince occupied Ustyug. Tatars constantly disturbed Moscow with raids. In 1451 Tatars of the Nogaisk Horde attacked Russia from the east, demanding a tribute. June 1 a battle took place by the walls of Moscow. The weather was dry and windy. The enemy burnt out posaVasily II the Darkds of the capital; rich clouds of smoke dimmed the Kremlin. Soldiers choked with fumes and soot. In the evening when the fire died down, Moscowits made a sortie. Fought with Tatars till night and compelled them to recede, having left the stolen goods.

Last years of his life Vasily the Dark, probably, did not pay tribute to Tatars or paid it poorly, as they frequently disturbed Russia. Grand prince had not reached the old age yet, but misfortunes and emotional sufferings undermined his forces. The wounds received in fights with Tatars also had an effect. Vasily Vasilyevich passed away on March 27, 1462, at the age of 47. He is unfairly called the first autocrat of Russia. However this grand prince made a lot for the successor. He was not very successful in the beginning of his reign, but left the Moscow state stronger, than it was before.

Russian people regretfully took this news for he regarded Tsargrad as the second spiritual fatherland, from which the orthodox religion came to him.

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