XVI century in the words of an outstanding historian A.A. Zimin was a "threshold" of a new time in Russian history. First of all for the elapsing in 1592 seventh millennium from the creation of the world had not brought the Doomsday so much expected in Russia. However, the time reckoned since then became "new" indeed. It is difficult to consider that century as something whole. Economic rise of its first third was immediately replaced by stagnation in the middle of the century and then by an economic crisis in 70-90's. The process of strengthening of the grand-ducal and then the Tsar's power was also interrupted by two periods of distemper: after Vasily III's death in 30-40's, and in 80-90's - after Ivan IV's death. Development of public thinking, slowed down a little in the beginning of the century by the first in Russia inquisitional processes and burned at the stake religious freethinkers (December 1505), reached the peak of its bloom in the middle of the century, and then, in the years of oprichnina and economic collapse of the end of the century practically completely vanished from the public life. In that sence, the teaching of slaves of Feodosy Kosoy was especially prominent against such historical background.
Born a year before the overthrow of the Mongolo-Tatar Yoke, in 1479, Vasily III came to the throne in October 1505 and continued the work of his father on gathering of the Russian Lands. Pskov joined Muscovy in 1510, Smolensk- in 1514, Ryazan - in 1521. However, the Russian Lands associated in the first third of XVI century at that time still preserved much of their independence. In the beginning of Vasily III's reign there existed four independent principalities of his younger brothers who could lay real claims to the throne of the Grand Duke. But by the end of his reign there remained only two such lands, and the land of his brother Yury Ivanovich was liquidated almost right after the death of Vasily III. The noble princes who served to the Grand Duke (the Vyazemskyes, Odoyevskiyes, Trubetskiyes) had enormous power in their own lands but could not count on gaining the Moscow throne. The social structure of the upper strata of the Russian State was rather complex: apanage princes (brothers of the Grand Duke); the princes who served to the throne and at the same time had their own lands; the princes of newly annexed lands; the old Moscow nobility (boyards); the boyards of independent principalities and joined princedoms.
In XVI century the process of change of the Grand Duke's vassals into his subjects was steadily going. So, the significant part of princely possessions in the reign of Vasily III was turned into his ancestral lands: some princes became deputies of the Grand Duke in their own lands, the others got patrimonial estates in other parts of the country; ancestral lands were being subdivided and became much smaller. The Grand Duke was interested in the lands being distributed by his own will. There were still enough free lands (the lands of Novgorod, Tver, the territories of the state peasants). Estates were given not only to people without lands, but also to boyards and princes. A special care was given to big monasteries that had large incomes. The Grand Duke saw the strongest support in monasteries to his centralization policy, however, he tried at least to make the grow of their incomes controllable, since any attempts to limit the monastic possessions failed in XV and XVI centuries.
The process of centralization included strengthening of the grand-ducal power. The Boyards Duma existed as deliberative body. The number of members of the Duma did not exceed 24. Since XVI century princes also could become the Duma boyards. Up to the middle of the century there existed only two nation-wide central establishments: the Palace, managing the lands of the Grand Duke, and The Treasury - not only the financial centre, but also the State Chancellery. In the middle of the century the Treasury was divided into departments - the central bodies: the Patrimony Department, managing lands distribution among noblemen; the Counting Department that supervised provision of pays to servicemen and took stock of them; 'the Predatory Department' was in charge of the criminal situation in the State; the Ambassadorial Department, the Department of Complaints.
The State was separated into uyezds (that were territorially close to former princedoms) and volosts. The posts of deputies in these state districts were given, as a rule, for former military service. Therefore administrative and judicial duties turned out to be only burdensome 'makeweight' to the power and privileges of a deputy.
Absence of stable local authorities made the power of the Grand Duke more strongly atop the social system than in the provinces. The question of centralization of the State was already solved in XVI century, though the position of the head of the state still remained a source of dynastic distempers (Vasily III was childless).
The first Zemsky Sobor (the Lands Council) became an important stage in the history of Russia. It was summoned in Moscow in February 1549. It consisted of the Boyard Duma, the church hierarches, representatives of various layers of feudal lords. On the whole this council represented a significant step in development of the classes-representative monarchy in Russia. Historical data testifies that such councils were summoned in the years of 1575, 1576, 1580, 1584, although, they did not become a regularly body in XVI century.
The classes-representative bodies at the local level proved to be more viable. Okrug headmen were chosen by noblemen in uyezds; cities were headed by city elders. State peasants' volosts and cities chose their aldermen from peasants and craftsmen.
A peasants' commune played a great role. Its functions were extending during the centuries, they included: land tenure, allotment and tax collection. Communes in XVI century had their own, though rather limited, jurisdiction. They were governed by a branchy system of elective posts and had several levels. A commune often opposed feudal lords and representatives of the government, asserting interests of its members (far from always unsuccessfully) using the law, justice and petitions.
A Russian city, originally created as a centre of feudal power, in the course of time turned into a centre of crafts and trades. The lower forms of the classes organizations of urban population had a significant value. Activities of elected elders were strictly controlled by a city community. The State was compelled to take such classes democratism into consideration.
A new Code of Laws was also compiled in the course of the whole State centralization. It was issued in 1530. In its turn it was based on the Code of Laws 1497, but included more ordered clauses regulating resettling of peasants; it also limited rights of deputies; toughened punishment for robbery; included new clauses on punishment for bribery; increased some taxes.