| p. 455-468
Three thousand miles to the east, at the other extremity of Christendom, the shift of the Christian-Moslem frontier was having equally unsettling effects. By 1452, almost the whole of the Orthodox Christian world was subject to foreign rule. The Orthodox of the Greek Rite, with the exception of the tiny Byzantine Empire and its dependencies, had fallen under Ottoman rule. The Orthodox of the Slavonic Rite, with minor exceptions, had all fallen under Tartar, Polish-Lithuanian, or Hungarian rule. So, when Constantinople surrendered, it looked as if the Orthodox of Europe were set to endure the same unending captivity that the Orthodox of Asia and Africa had endured since the seventh century. In one place alone, in the city of Moscow, there were thoughts of a different destiny.
Moscow in the mid-fifteenth century, though nominally subject to the Tartar khan, enjoyed a wide measure of autonomy. It was ruled by the Grand Prince Vassily II (r. 1425-62), who, having lost his sight, relied heavily on his son and heir. Ivan III (r. 1462-1505), therefore, was already an experienced politician when he mounted the throne. The once powerful Tartar Horde was greatly weakened, and Moscow had avoided payment of the annual tribute since 1452. As a result, Ivan had hopes of escaping 'the Tartar yoke' for good. In this, it was obvious that he should stress his role as the champion of the Orthodox Christians against the Muslims of the south and the Catholics of Poland-Lithuania to the west. If only he could gain recognition of his sovereignty, he would then become the one and only independent and Orthodox prince on earth.
Oddly enough, Ivan's ambition was greatly assisted by the schemes of the Roman Pope. After the disaster of 1453 the Papacy had accepted the wardship of Zoe Palaeologos (b. 1445), niece of the last Byzantine Emperor. Zoe, daughter of Thomas, Despot of Morea, had been born in Greece, but had been well educated by tutors in Rome. In 1469 she was a bright young woman of 24, eager to escape her guardians. Pope Paul II, a Venetian, thought that he could revive the union of Florence and forge a Muscovite alliance against the Turks. So, when he heard that ((456)) <...> ((457))Ivan III was recently widowed, he produced the ideal candidate. Papal emissaries appeared in Moscow, and the match was made. Zoe travelled after them via the Baltic port of Reval. She was readmitted to the Orthodox faith, and married to Ivan on 12 November 1472. The prestige which attended Ivan's marriage to a Byzantine princess is hard to exaggerate. Up to then, Moscow had been the most peripheral province of the most downtrodden branch of Christendom. Its princes were barely on the map. But now they were touching the mantle of the Caesars. They were only one step removed from adopting the imperial mantle for themselves.
In 1477-8 Ivan moved against Novgorod the Great, whose five provinces far exceeded the territory of Moscow. Novgorod had recently conceded the secular overlordship of Lithuania and the ecclesiastical authority of the Metropolitan of Kiev. Ivan saw this as a personal affront, and his army soon forced the poorly defended city to capitulate and to switch allegiance. A second visitation was made to suppress sedition, and was followed by mass executions and deportations. Pskov and Vyatka received the same treatment. In the summer of 1480 Ahmad, Khan of the Golden Horde, launched the third of his expeditions to enforce payment of Moscow's tribute. He had counted on the aid of Poland-Lithuania, but it did not materialize. When Ivan held firm, and Ahmad retired empty handed, Moscow's dependence on the Horde was taken to have finally lapsed. Moscow was free. By that time Ivan had started to refer to himself as 'Tsar' and 'Samodyerzhets' — Russian equivalents of Caesar and Autokrator. Like Charlemagne almost 700 years before, a semi-barbarian prince was building his image not as the founder of a modern state, but rather as the reincarnator of the old, dead, and barely lamented empire of the Romans.
The Feast of Epiphany, 6 January 1493, the Kremlin, Moscow. The celebration of the holy day was proceeding amidst the splendours of the Grand Duke's private chapel in the Blagoveshchensky Sobor, the Cathedral of the Annunciation. It was the twelfth day of Christmas, the final stage of the season of the Nativity, a remembrance of the time when Christ made himself manifest to the Three Kings. Sonorous voices intoned the Byzantine Rite in words of Old Church Slavonic, which echoed round every corner of the cathedral's domes and frescoed walls.
The icon screen, which cut off the inner sanctuary, was far older than the church. It was covered by rows of icons painted by Moscow's greatest medieval artists — Theophanes the Greek, Andrei Rublev, Prokhor of Gorodets. Black-robed and bearded priests moved round the chancel, performing the preliminary ceremonies of vesting, censing, and veiling of the gifts.
This being Epiphany, the alternate liturgy of St Basil the Great took the place of the more usual liturgy of St John Chrysostom./41/ In its Slavonic version, it was essentially the same as that which was used by the Orthodox of the Balkans. Though familiar, it was no more intelligible to the Russian congregation standing patiently before the screen than Latin was to Italians or Spaniards. The public ((458))
Map 15. The Growth of Muscovy
((459)) service, the Synaxis or Assembly, began as the celebrants entered the nave, and a deacon recited the Litany of Peace: 'For peace from on high, and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord. For the peace of the whole world ...' There followed hymns, ferial anthems, psalms, the Beatitudes, lessons from the Apostles and from the Gospel, prayers, further litanies, and the Cherubic Hymn of the Thrice-Holy. The Gospel reading, introduced by the usual Preface, was taken from the first verses of Matthew 2:
The priest, bowing as he takes up the Book, and coming out of the holy doors preceded by tapers, turns to the west and saith:
'Wisdom, be steadfast, let us hear the holy Gospel. Peace be with you all.'
Choir. 'And with thy spirit.'
Deacon: 'The Lesson of the holy Gospel according to St Matthew.'
Choir. 'Glory be to Thee, O Lord.'
Priest. 'Let us give heed.'
The deacon then reads the Lesson:
(Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the Tsar, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying: Where is he that is born Tsar of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him ... )/42/
The second part of the service, the Anaphora or offering of the gifts, began with the Great Entrance, when priests and deacons processed round the nave with Prayers, censers, and candles. There followed the recital of the Creed, the preparation of the bread and the wine, the Lord's Prayer, and the Communion. During Communion, the choir sang 'Receive ye the body of Christ, Taste ye of the fountain of immortal life'. The priest, in the Orthodox tradition, mentioned every communicant by name. 'The servant of God, Ivan, partaketh of the holy precious body and blood of... Our Saviour Jesus Christ, unto remission of his sins and unto everlasting life.' After the thanksgiving, the priest distributed the blessed bread, held up the Cross for the people to kiss, then re-entered the chancel before the gates were shut behind him. The closing words of the Dismissal — 'Lord, now est Thou Thy servant depart in peace' — were accompanied by hymns ending the Contakion of the Sixth Tone: ((460))
Unshakeable foundation of the Church hast Thou shewn Thyself,
Unto all mankind bequeathing an assured mastery
Sealed by Thy ordinances,
Basil by heaven proven most holy,
Both now, and for ever and world without end. Amen.
Far away, unbeknown to the people of Moscow, the Admiral of the Ocean was battling at that very time against midwinter gales on the final stage of his return voyage to Spain. He would land at Palos within the week.
That year, the Christmas celebrations in Moscow were coloured by very special emotions. Learned monks had been predicting for some time that no one would live to see the year completed. According to Orthodox calculations, August 1492—the month when Columbus had set sail on his outward voyage — marked the end of the seventh millennium since the Creation; and it had been widely foretold to be the End of the World. Indeed, no steps had been taken to calculate the Church calendar for the following years. Although the Orthodox used the same Julian calendar that was current in the Latin Church, they had a different system for counting the anni mundi, the years of creation. Also, as in Byzantium, it was their custom to start the ecclesiastical year on 1 September. So, given their belief that the 'seven days' of creation were a metaphor for seven millennia, and their dating of the Creation to 5509 вс, AD 1492 was reckoned equivalent to 7000 AM, and the likeliest date for Judgement Day. 31 August was the critical date. Failing that, the crack of doom might be delayed until 31 December, the last day of the secular year — and the midpoint of the season of Nativity. When Epiphany was reached without incident, Moscow breathed a sigh of relief./43/
Moscow, in fact, stood on the brink of a new career. Its Grand Duke, Ivan III, had not been counting on the Day of Judgement. He was nearing completion of grandiose plans to remodel the Kreml or 'fortified city' of his capital. By symbolic and ideological means, he was preparing to launch the powerful Russian myth which was to be a fitting partner for Moscow's growing political might.
Most of the cities of Rus' had their kremlins. But the Kremlin of Moscow, as redesigned by Ivan III, outshone anything that existed elsewhere. In January 1493 the vast enclosure of its red-brick walls and tall round towers had been completed only a few months earlier. It covered an irregular triangle round a perimeter of 2.5 km, enough to envelop the whole of the City of London. At its heart was the airy expanse of an open square, round which were ranged four cathedrals and the grand ducal residence. The Cathedral of the Annunciation was in pristine state, having received its finishing touches only three years earlier. Its neighbour, Uspensky Sobor, the Cathedral of the Dormition, the seat of the Metropolitan, was now thirteen years old. It had been built by the Bolognese architect Aristo Firavanti, whose brief was to adapt the ancient Vladimir style to modern uses-became a standard for Muscovite church architecture. Its interior provided a large open space, without galleries, under matching domed and vaulted compartments Its frescos were still being painted in the inimitable bright colours and elongated ((461)) figures of Dionysius the Greek. On the other side the Church of the Razpolozhenie, 'of the Deposition of the Robe', was seven years old. The Archangelsky Sobor, with its Renaissance facade, was still on the drawing board. The Granovitaya Palata or 'Palace of the Facets' by Marco Rulto and Pietro Solano — so called from the diamond-cut stones of its facade — had just been occupied by Ivan's household. They moved in after several years sharing the house of his favourite minister. It replaced the former wooden hall which had served Ivan's predecessors for centuries. Few capitals in Christendom short of Rome or Constantinople could compare with such splendour.
Within the Palace of Facets, Ivan's household was riven by the rivalry of two powerful women — Zoe Palaeologos, his second wife, and Elena Stepanovna, his daughter-in-law. Zoe, the niece of the last Byzantine Emperor, had married Ivan after the death of his first wife, Maria of Tver. Her preoccupation was to protect the interests of her seven children, headed by the thirteen-year-old Vasily. Elena was the daughter of Stephen IV, Hospodar of Moldavia, and widow of Ivan's first heir and successor, Ivan the Younger, who had recently died. Her concern was to preserve the interests of her nine-year-old son, Dmitri. In 1493 Ivan III had not yet decided whether he should name his son Vasily or his grandson Dmitri to succeed him: he was to favour each by turns. The tension beneath the surface in the Kremlin must have been electric./44/
Ivan III is popularly remembered in Russia as the Tsar who threw off the Tartar yoke. He might be better considered as an exponent of Tartar financial, military, and political methods, who used the shifting alliances of khans and princes to replace the Tartar yoke with a Muscovite one. In his struggle with the Golden Horde, whose hegemony he definitively rejected after 1480, his closest ally was the Khan of the Crimea, who helped him to attack the autonomy of his fellow Cristian Principalities to a degree that the Tartars had never attempted. From the Muscovite point of view, which later enjoyed a monopoly, 'Ivan the Great' was the restorer of 'Russian' hegemony. From the viewpoint of the Novgorodians or the Pskovians he was the Antichrist, the destroyer of Russia's best traditions.((462)) When he came to write his will, he described himself, as his father had done, as 'the much-sinning slave of God'./45/
Ivan III had first called himself Tsar or 'Caesar' twenty years before. He did so in a treaty with the republic of Pskov, presumably to laud his superiority over other local princes; and he repeated the exercise on several occasions in the 1480s But Tsar, though a cut above Grand Duke, was not the equivalent of the Byzantine title of Basileus. It could not be construed as a full imperial dignity unless accompanied by all the other trappings of Empire. Caesar, after all, was the term that had been used to designate the co-emperors and deputy emperors of the supreme Augustus.
In 1489 Ivan III had considered another proposition. In his dealings with the Habsburgs, he was told that a royal crown could be procured for him from the Pope. His standing in the West would certainly have been enhanced by regal status. But the tide of rex or korol' had connotations that offended Muscovite pride. [KRAL] To accept would be to repeat the alleged treason to the True Faith which the Greeks had committed at Florence. So Ivan refused. 'My ancestors', he explained, 'were friendly with the Emperors who had once given Rome to the Pope.'/46/ What he did do, though, was to borrow the Habsburgs' imperial emblem. As from the 1490s, the double-headed eagle began to appear as the symbol of state in Moscow as in Vienna, as indeed in Constantinople, [AQUILA]
Apart from its fears about the end of the world, the Muscovite Church was enduring a period of great uncertainty. It had broken with the Patriarch of Constantinople (see pp. 446-7) without yet finding a fully independent role. Unlike the Metropolitan of Kiev, who was a resident of Lithuania, the Moscow Metropolitan was elected by his bishops, and headed an ecclesiastical organization which admitted no superior. For forty years it had been impossible to reconcile this state of affairs with the absence of an emperor, and hence with the Byzantine tradition that Church and State were indivisible. Just as there could be no emperor without the true faith, there could be no true faith without an Emperor. Some had pinned their hopes on the reconquest of Constantinople for an Orthodox Christian emperor — the so-called 'Great Idea'. Others hoped that some arrangement might be reached with the German Emperor of the Latins. But that was rejected. The one remaining alternative was for Moscow to do what both Serbia and Bulgaria had done in the past — to find an Emperor of their own.
The immediate problem, however, was to draw up a new paschal canon, with its calculations of the Easters for the eighth millennium. This is the task to which Metropolitan Zosimus had been putting his mind in the autumn of 1492. 'We await the Advent of our Lord,' he wrote in the Preface, 'but the hour of his coming cannot be established.' He then appended a brief historical summary. Constantine had founded the New Rome, and St Vladimir had baptized Rus'. Now Ivan III was to be 'the new Emperor Constantine of the new Constantinople — Moscow'./47/ This was the first indirect mention of the pedigree with which Moscow would now be clothed.
Also in 1492, and also for the first time, the 'new Constantinople — Moscow' ((463)) may have been given its more familiar label of 'the Third Rome'. In that year Archbishop Gennadius of Novgorod supposedly received a translation of the Roman Legend of the White Klobuck, and with it a preface explaining how a manuscript of the legend had been found in Rome. Scholars disagree about the age of this text, parts of which may have been interpolated at a later date. But it is not irrelevant that the Preface contains a clear reference to Moscow as the 'Third Rome'. The author of the Preface is sometimes equated with a known translator who was working on the Apocalypse of Ezra. This work was part of Archbishop Gennadius' project to endow the Muscovite Church with a complete version of the Bible equivalent to the Latin Vulgate./48/
Once the Russian principalities were brought to heel, Moscow's imperial ambitions would obviously be directed against the Grand Duchy of Lithuania — Muscovy's western neighbour. Lithuania had benefited from the Mongol invasions, using its base on the northern periphery to expand its annexations among the fragments of the former Rus', just as Moscow had done. By the end of the fifteenth century Lithuania, like Muscovy, controlled a huge swathe of territory— essentially the Dnieper basin — which stretched from the shore of the Baltic to the confines of the Black Sea.
Unlike Muscovy, however, Lithuania was open to Western influences. For more than a century the Grand Duchy had flourished under the personal union with Poland (see pp. 429-30). By the 1490s the Lithuanian court at Wilno and the Catholic ruling elite were to a large extent polonized in language and political culture. The Lithuanian dynasty was in possession not only of Poland and Lithuania but of Bohemia and Hungary as well. Unlike Muscovy, Lithuania permitted a wide measure of religious diversity. The Roman Catholic establishment did not impede either the numerical predominance of Orthodox Christianity or the steady influx of a strong Jewish element. Unlike Muscovy, the Orthodox Church in Lithuania had not broken with Constantinople nor with its ancient Byzantine loyalties. The Metropolitan of Kiev had every reason to resist Moscow's separatist line, which was dividing Slavic Orthodoxy and moving inexorably towards the formation of a breakaway Russian Orthodox Church.
In January 1493 Moscow's relations with Lithuania were about to take a new turn. Six months earlier Casimir Jagiellonczyk, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, had died, dividing his realm between his second and third sons. The Polish kingdom passed to Jan Olbracht, Lithuania to the unmarried Alexander. (The eldest son was already King of Bohemia and Hungary.) Ivan III had seen the possibilities. On the one hand, he was preparing an embassy which would travel to Wilno, and would launch negotiations leading to a political marriage between Grand Duke Alexander and Ivan's daughter Elena. At the same time, he was setting conditions which would undermine the previous modus vivendi of the two states. For the first time in Moscow's history, he armed his ambassador with instructions demanding recognition of the hitherto unknown title of gosudar' vseya Rusi — 'lord of all-Rus' './49/ It was a classic diplomatic double hold — one part apparently friendly, the other potentially hostile. Ivan was deliberately pulling ((464)) Lithuania into an engagement that called into question the future of all the eastern Slavs.
To make his point, Ivan staged a sensational demonstration. Some time before Christmas he had arrested two Lithuanians employed in the Moscow Kremlin. He charged them with plotting to poison him. The accusations against Jan Lukhomski and Maciej the Pole did not sound very credible; but their guilt or innocence was hardly relevant. They were held in an open cage on the frozen Moskva River for all the world to see; and on the eve of the departure of Ivan's envoy to Lithuania, they were burned alive in their cage.50 As the ice melted under the fierce heat of the fire and the heavy iron cage sank beneath the water, taking its carbonized occupants down in a great hiss of steam, one could have well imagined that something was being said about Lithuania's political future.
The title 'Lord of All-Rus'' did not possess much basis either in history or in current reality. It came into the same category as that whereby the kings of England laid claim to France. In the 1490s, two-and-a-half centuries after all traces of a united Kievan Rus' had been destroyed, it had the same degree of credibility that the king of France might have enjoyed if, in his struggle with the German Empire, he had proclaimed himself 'Lord of all the Franks'. By that time, it conflicted with the separate identity that the 'Ruthenes' of Lithuania had assumed from the 'Russians' of Moscow. Indeed, it all seemed sufficiently unreal for the Lithuanians to accept it as a small price to pay for Ivan's good humour. They were not to know it, but they were conceding the ideological cornerstone of territorial ambitions that would be pursued for 500 years.
By 1493, therefore, all the main elements of the ideology of the 'Third Rome' were in existence. There was an autonomous branch of the Orthodox Church looking for an emperor; there was a prince, related to the last Byzantine Emperor, who had already called himself Tsar; and there was a claim to the lordship of all-Rus'. All that was lacking was a suitably ingenious ideologue, who could weld these elements into the sort of mystical theory that was demanded by an intensely theocratic state. Such a man was at hand.
Philotheus of Pskov (c.1450-1525) was a learned monk of Pskov's Eleazar monastery. He was familiar with the biblical prophecies of Ezra and Daniel, with historical precedents from Serbia and the second Bulgarian Empire, with the Pseudo-Methodius and the Chronicle of Manasses, and with the Legend of the White Klobuck. Such knowledge was not unique. Philotheus was unusual only in his willingness to use these things for the benefit of the Muscovite princes. Pskov, like Novgorod, lived in fear and trembling of Moscow. Most of its monks were fiercely anti-Muscovite. When they made references in their Chronicle to Nebuchadnezzar's Dream, or to the four beasts of Daniel's Vision, they were apt to do so in a manner that identified Nebuchadnezzar with Moscow. For whatever reason, Philotheus was prepared to turn the material round to Moscow advantage. In 1493, in his early forties, he held no office of authority in the monastery where he would later rule as hegumen or abbot; and he had not yet written any of the public Epistles which were to make him famous. But the ferment ((465)) in the Church which was to shape his views, was already in progress. In due course he was to be the advocate of the total submission of all Christians to the Tsar, and of total opposition to the Latin Church. In his Epistle to Ivan's successor, he enjoins the new Tsar to rule justly, because the world was now entering the terminal phase of history:
And now I say unto Thee, take care and take heed, pious Tsar: all the empires of Christendom are united in thine. For two Romes have fallen, and the Third exists; and there will not be a fourth. Thy Christian Empire, according to the great theologian, will not pass away. And, for the Church, the word of the blessed David will be fulfilled: 'she is my place of eternal rest'.../51/
Later, in his Epistle to Munexin, Philotheus would fulminate 'Against the Astrologers and the Latins':
And now, alone, the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of the East shines more brightly than the sun in the universe; and only the great Orthodox Tsar of Rome, like Noah saved from the flood in the ark, directs the Church... /52/
Here, twenty years after Ivan Ill's death, but clearly inspired by his policies, was the definitive formulation of an ideology of Church and State that left no inch for compromise.
Later Russian tradition was to hold that Moscow had simply inherited the Byzantine mantle. In reality, whilst Byzantine forms were retained, the essence of the Byzantine ethos was lost. Muscovite ideologues had little interest in the universal and ecumenical ideals of East Roman Christianity. The most distinguished historian of these matters has described the ideology of 'Third Rome' as 'a meretricious substitute'. 'The Christian universalism of Byzantium was being transformed and distorted within the more narrow framework of Muscovite nationalism.'/53/
Muscovite theology was disturbed in Ivan Ill's later years by a couple of related controversies that would both be settled in favour of the most uncompromising elements. One controversy centred on the views of a sect or tendency known as the zhidovstvuyushchie or 'Judaizers'. The other centred on the supposed scandal of Christian monasteries growing rich through the possession of land. Joseph, Abbot of Volokhamsk, was the organizer both of the 'anti-Judaizers' and of 'the Possessors'.
Landed property was inseparable from the power of the Muscovite Church. But it was opposed by a company of puritanical monks led by the 'Elders beyond the Volga' who cherished Orthodox monasticism's older, eremitical tradition. Ivan seems to have prepared a scheme for secularizing monastic wealth, but was Persuaded to desist. Matters only came to a head after his death, when his former favourite Patrikeev, now turned monk, published a new edition of the Nomocanon, the Orthodox manual of canon law. One of Patrikeev's associates, Maxim the Greek, who offered a 'non-possessorial' interpretation of the Church's landed property, was lucky to escape with his life. ((466))
The Judaizers provoked still greater passions. They had emerged in the 1470s in Novgorod, where they were said to have formed an anti-Muscovite faction. Their views were allegedly inspired by Jews from Poland and Lithuania, and their members were said to be clandestine adherents of Judaism. Their activities do not seem to have worried the Tsar, who appointed a suspect Novgorodian to be archpriest of the Uspensky Cathedral; and they may have enjoyed the support of Elena Stepanovna. Despite a Council convened in 1490 to examine charges of antitrinitarianism and iconoclasm, they continued to circulate in the highest circles. But Abbot Joseph did not give up. In 1497, in his Prosvetitel' or 'Enlightener' he named none other than Metropolitan Zosima as the chief 'Judaizer and Sodomizer', 'a foul evil wolf'./54/ Abbot Joseph and his partner, Archbishop Gennadius, were both admirers of the Spanish Inquisition, and their zeal was eventually rewarded by a grand auto-da-fe. They had succeeded in persuading their compatriots to believe what would prove a recurrent theme in Russian history — that evil came from the West. In their day, the West meant in the first instance Novgorod, and beyond Novgorod, Poland-Lithuania.
Ivan III's diplomacy was taking the same direction./55/ Diplomacy in those days moved extremely slowly. Muscovite embassies took anything between six months and four years to return and report from foreign countries; and ambassadors often found on arrival that the situation no longer matched their instructions. Even so, it was clear by the 1490s that the encirclement of Lithuania was becoming Moscow's top priority. Ivan's father had kept the peace with Lithuania for decades; and on his death Ivan and his mother had been entrusted to the care of 'my Brother, the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, Casimir'./56/ All this was being revised.
By 1493, Ivan III was coming to the end of twenty years of intensive diplomatic activity. The common thread was to check and to encircle the Jagiellons. His treaty with Stephen IV, Hospodar of Moldavia, sealed by the marriage of his son, had tried in vain to prevent Moldavia paying homage to the Polish king. His scheme for an anti-Jagiellonian pact with Hungary was ruined by the sudden death of Matthias Corvinus, and by the subsequent election of Wladyslaw Jagiellon as King of Hungary. He even made contact with the independent dukes of Mazovia. As from 1486, Ivan III repeatedly exchanged embassies with the Habsburgs, who until then had wrongly thought that Muscovy was a fief of Lithuania. In 1491 an Austrian envoy, Jorg von Thurn, outlined plans for a grand anti-Jagiellonian coalition made up of the Empire, the Teutonic Knights, Moldavia, and the Tartars. In January 1493 Ivan's envoy, Yuri Trakhaniot, tracked Maximilian down to Colmar only to find that the Emperor had already made his peace with the Jagiellons an was now more interested in a Crusade. Ivan Ill's relations with the Crimea included an important anti-Lithuanian component. His main use for them was as allies against the Golden Horde; and in June 1491 he sent three armies to help disperse camp which the Golden Horde had established at the mouth of the Dnieper. At the same time, he could not fail to notice that the Tartars, when sweetened by Moscow, spent most of their energies raiding Poland and Lithuania.((467))
In the winter of 1492-3 Muscovy was engaged in a desultory frontier war with Lithuania. Several of the border princelings had changed sides. The Prince of Ryazan' was preparing to challenge a punitive incursion mounted by the Lithuanian Voivode of Smolensk. The Muscovite army, which had orders to capture the city of Vyazma on the headwaters of the Dnieper, moved off within a few days of the Muscovite peace mission to Wilno. Whether peace or war was uppermost in Ivan's mind was anyone's guess.
In this age of discovery, therefore, Moscow, though remote, was not totally isolated. Each of the Muscovite embassies returned with foreign engineers, architects, and gunners in tow; and German and Polish merchants came every year to buy large stocks of furs. It is true that there was no direct contact with Tudor England, with Valois France, or with the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella. The Baltic trade with the Netherlands stopped in Livonia, and the route round the North Cape had not yet been opened. Even so, Moscow had well-established lines of communication with the rest of Europe. In the north, the 'German Road' led through Novgorod to Reval or to Riga, and thence by sea to Lubeck. Overland, the forest trails stretched westwards to the frontier before Smolensk, and thence to Wilno and Warsaw. Ivan III had inaugurated a system of posts and post-horses, whose upkeep he commended in his will./57/ To the south, the ancient river carried travellers rapidly to the Caspian or the Black Sea, and thence by ship to all points of the Mediterranean. Despite the Ottoman advance, Moscow was still in close touch with the old Byzantine world — that is, with the Balkans, with Greece, especially Athos, and via Greece with Italy.
Moscow, in any case, was making discoveries of its own. In 1466-72 a merchant of Tver, Afanasii Nikitin (d. 1472), made a six-year journey to Persia and India. He travelled out via Baku and Hormuz, and returned via Trebizond and Caffa. His adventures were written down in an early travel book, Khozenie za tri moria (A Journey Beyond the Three Seas). Ten years later the military expedition of Saltyk and Kurbskii crossed the Urals and reached the headwaters of the Irtysk and the Ob (a feat equivalent in scale to that of Lewis and Clark in America 300 years later). In 1491 two Hungarian prospectors had penetrated the Arctic tributaries of the Pechora, where silver and copper had been discovered. This discovery probably explains the arrival in Moscow in January 1493 of an Austrian prospector called Snups, who carried letters from the Emperor Maximilian asking him to be allowed to explore the Ob. Since Ivan's link with the Habsburgs was no longer convenient, Snups was refused.
As for the Admiral of the Ocean, news of his exploits were brought to Moscow with a quarter of a century's delay in the company of Maxim the Greek. Maxim Grek (Michael Trivolis, c.1470-1560) belonged to the dying Byzantine world whose parts still formed one cultural region. He was born at Arta in Epirus under Ottoman rule, whence his family moved to Venetian Corfu. In 1493 he was in fence, studying with the Platonists and listening with approval to Savonarola's sermons. After further studies at Venice and at Mirandola, where he specialized in the exegesis of Greek texts, he took the vows of the Dominican order in ((468)) Savonarola's own monastery of San Marco. Later, as the monk Maximos, he worked for a decade as a translator in the Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos in a pan-Orthodox and graeco-Slav environment, where the schism between the Orthodox and Catholic traditions did not apply. He was then invited to Moscow to organize the Tsar's collection of Greek and Byzantine manuscripts, which Muscovite scholars were no longer trained to decipher. He soon fell foul of the hard-line faction of the Muscovite Church, which accused him of sorcery, espionage, and respect for the Patriarch of Constantinople. Yet he survived his lengthy imprisonment, met Ivan IV in person, and enjoyed his patronage. He was 'one of the last of his kind'./58/
Maxim's writings, which appeared in the 1550s, make mention of 'a large island called Cuba'./59/ There is no doubt that by then he had a firm knowledge of Columbus's landings in the Caribbean. But the chronology of his career is important. Since Maxim spent three decades incarcerated in a Muscovite gaol, it is reasonable to suppose that he brought the information with him when he first travelled to Moscow in 1518, twenty-five years after Columbus's first voyage.
It is one of the wonderful coincidences of history that modern 'Russia' and modern 'America' both took flight in the same year of AD 1493. Europeans learned of the 'New World', as they saw it, at the self-same moment that Muscovites learned that their 'Old World' was not yet coming to an end.