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Moscow, grand duchy of

Moscow or Muscovy, grand duchy of, state existing in W central Russia from the late 14th to mid-16th cent., with the city of Moscow as its nucleus. Its formation and eventual ascendancy over other Russian principalities and over the Tatars of the Golden Horde (see Golden Horde, Empire of the) came about gradually and resulted particularly from its central location, its importance as a trade artery, its dynastic continuity, its circumspect loyalty to Tatar overlords, and its prestige as a religious center. After the decline of Kiev in the mid-12th cent., Russian territory broke up into a number of separate political units, among which the principality of Vladimir-Suzdal (see Vladimir) was the most important. The rulers of Vladimir were the only Russian princes who bore the title grand duke, and they were regarded as suzerains of the other princes. According to tradition, Moscow was founded on a strategic site on the Moskva River as a military outpost of Vladimir-Suzdal; by the mid-12th cent., when its existence is first mentioned in Russian chronicles, it had become a walled town. The first known prince of Moscow was Daniel (d.1303), son of Grand Duke Alexander Nevsky. Daniel received Moscow as a separate appanage. His son, Yuri (1303–25), launched the struggle for Moscow's predominance in Russia, competing for leadership with the prince of Tver for both the title of grand duke and the allegiance of the less powerful Russian princes. Yuri was temporarily appointed grand duke of Vladimir by the khan of the Empire of the Golden Horde. His younger brother, Ivan I (Ivan Kalita; 1328–41), was not only granted the title of grand duke (1328) but was given the right to collect Tatar tributes from neighboring principalities. Moreover, during Ivan's reign Moscow became the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church. The adjacent areas were subdued or acquired, and Moscow's importance continued to increase, particularly under Ivan I's grandson, Dmitri Donskoi (1359–89), who was probably the first to bear the title grand duke of Moscow. Dmitri's successors, above all Ivan III (1462–1505) and Vasily III (1505–33), laid the basis of Muscovite absolutism, built the Great Russian state, and threw off the Tatar yoke. By the mid-16th cent., therefore, the unification of the Great Russian lands had been completed under the princely dynasty. The Muscovite rulers now bore the title grand duke of Moscow and of all Russia, and the history of the grand duchy of Moscow became that of Russia.

See J. L. I. Fennell, The Emergence of Moscow, 1304–1359 (1968); S. Khromov, History of Moscow (1981).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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