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Government and Political System of Russia in XVI century.
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Reforms of the middle of XVI century
The Oprichnina (1565-1572)
The Reign of Tsar Feodor Ivanovich (1584-1598).
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Reforms of the middle of XVI century

Wild developments of 1547 called forth the necessity of fundamental state reorganization. Soon a group of persons in attendance formed around the young Tsar. Prince A.M. Kurbsky, one of its members, afterwards called it 'Izbrannaya Rada'. This court circle in fact was headed by two men: A.F. Adashev, originated from a rich but not very noble family, and Silvester, the Tsar's confessor and the dean of the Blagoveshchensk Cathedral of the Kremlin. They were accompanied by noble princes D. Kurlyatev, A. Kurbsky, N. Odoevsky, M. Vorotynsky and others. A Duma clerk I. M. Viskovaty, the first head of the Ambassadorial Office, was also among Rada members. Metropolitan Makary actively supported this society.

Formally being no official body Izbrannaya Rada as a matter of fact was the government of Russia and during 13 years ruled over the state on behalf of the Tsar. It realized a series of reforms. In the essence these reforms coincided with petitions, which were written in 1549 by a talented publicist and nobleman I.S. Peresvetovy. He firmly supported strengthening of the Russian State.

An important step made by the government was calling of the first Zemskoy 'Sobor Primereniya' (the Council of Lands Reconciliation) in 1549. The council made a resolve to compile a new Code of Laws (ratified in 1550). New legal procedures were included: administrative control over deputies, collection of the standard State Tax, etc. The right to collect trade duties passed to the Tsar administration. Population had to pay 'tyaglo' - aggregate of natural and monetary duties. In the middle of XVI century a unified measure of tax collection was set over the whole State - "Sokha" - a land unit that depended on location and quality of soils (400 - 600 hectares on average).

With a view to strengthen armed forces in 1550 Ivan IV's government started military reforms. Order of seniority was abolished (before, during military campaigns people were postattituded according to their gentility). 1078 provincial noblemen were called up in Moscow Uyezd - they were to form a core of nobleman's irregulars - the main support of autocracy.

A standard procedure of military service was established: now people served by origin and on enlistment. Noblemen and children of boyards served 'by origin'. Military service was regulated by 'The Service Code' issued in 1556. The service was inherited and began when a nobleman was 15 years old. Up to this age a nobleman was considered as minor. This category of servicemen was formally provided with a salary (150 - 450 dessiatinas in three fields plus 4 - 7 roubles a year). But actually the State had neither money, nor enough free lands for that. Noblemen and boyards were obliged to render one soldier from every 150 dessiatinas of their lands. A fine was imposed in case of deficiency in supply.

Strelets troops were formed from enlisted men in 1550. They were armed with both fire-arms and cold steel. Initially there were 3 thousand streletses who were grouped into 6 elements. These troops were the body-guard of the Tsar. By the end of XVI century the standing Strelets troops contained 25 thousand soldiers. It was the strongest combatant force of Russian army.

Izbrannaya Rada paid a lot of attention to strengthening of the Tsar state machinery. Administrative system was also improved.

'The Court Book' - the list of the Tsar's court circle was issued in 1552. It included about 4 thousand men: courtiers, military leaders, city voevodes, diplomats, etc.

Stoglavy Council (1551). Tsar's regime was interested in the church's support; that is why it could not pass by reforms in the sphere of religion. The question about the church's landed property was crucial as far back as the reign time of Ivan III and Vasily II. In course of Stoglavy Council this question was raised again. It was decided that churches and monasteries would preserve their lands, but in further any purchase or gift of lands would be possible only on Tsar's approval.

The reforms of the middle of XVI century strengthened central authorities considerably, what allowed Ivan IV to proceed to the tasks of foreign policy.

Izbrannaya Rada existed till 1560. Difficulties with the family of the first wife of the Tsar, Anastasia Zakharina, who died that year were one of the reasons that caused the fall of Izbrannaya Rada. But the main reason, however, was the choice of the basic direction of political course of Russia. Izbrannaya Rada supported gradual reforms aimed for centralization. Ivan IV who was lately named Ivan the Terrible chose the way of terror that promoted fast strengthening of personal authority. Rada leaders A.F. Adashev and the dean Silvester fell into disgrace and died in exile.

In 1564 Prince Andrey Kurbsky, one of former heads of Izbrannaya Rada and now a commander of Russian army, deserted to Poland. He was afraid of Ivan IV. This treason reinforced jealousy of the Tsar. Since then he mistrusted his entourage.

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