Ivan III

Born: 1440, Moscow
Died: 1505, Moscow

Ivan III was the first child and eldest son of Grand Prince Basil II the Blind and Princess Maria of Borovsk. He was born in Moscow on 22 January 1440. Tall and slim, he suffered from a slight stoop, which led to the nickname of “Ivan Gorbaty” or “Hunchback.” Although handsome, he had a stern gaze, often causing women to faint when he stared directly at them. Ivan was cautious, slow and calculating in affairs of state. Anything begun was taken to its logical conclusion. Daring and courage were not encouraged, while pity was not part of his character.

During the reign of Ivan III, Moscow increased five times in size. When he ascended the throne, he ruled over 400,000 square kilometres; by the time he died, his domains exceeded two million square kilometres. Ivan annexed Yaroslavl in 1468, Perm in 1472, Rostov in 1474, Novgorod in 1478, Tver in 1485 and Vyatka in 1489. Many west Russian lands broke away from Lithuania in 1503 and became part of Muscovite Rus. The annexations of Novgorod, Vyatka and Perm – home to non-Russian peoples – created a multi-national state.

Before he died in Moscow on 27 October 1505, Ivan III divided his territory between his five sons, awarding Basil III seniority and sixty-six towns. The four younger sons were given a smaller number of towns and forbidden to strike their own coins or enter into diplomatic relations with other nations. Russian historian Nikolai Karamzin wrote about Ivan III: “He left a remarkably large state, with strong people and a strong authority.”

Moscow rose from the main town of the Muscovite princedom to become the capital of the whole of Russia. Ivan III built stone walls and mighty towers around the Kremlin. He invited the Italian architect Aristotele Fioravanti to build a five-cupola church inside the Kremlin – the Dormition Cathedral. The Palace of Facets and a large stone palace were also constructed.

Under Ivan III, the prince of Moscow became known as the “grand prince of all Rus.” In his dealings with Lithuania and the German kingdoms, the prince was the “tsar of all Rus.” When addressing their ruler, the boyars called him “Ivan Vasilyevich, Sovereign and Grand Prince of All Rus.” Ivan III introduced the coronation ceremony, first performed on his grandson Dmitry, when the metropolitan called Ivan the “tsar” and “autocrat.”

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