Basil III

Born: 1479
Died: 1533

Basil III was the first child and first son of Ivan III and Sophia Palaiologina. He was born on 25 March 1479. He continued the policies of his father, displaying firmness, consistency and patience in his domestic and foreign policy. Basil is sometimes known as the “final gatherer of the Russian lands,” as he abolished the old system of appendage princedoms, uniting the whole of Russia under his single autocratic authority.

During the reign of Basil III, the Crimean Tatars launched a series of raids on Russian territory. The grand prince tried various ways to protect his lands. One way was paying gifts known as pominki to the khan and princes. Basil incited the Crimeans to attack the Lithuanians, who responded by urging them to attack Russia. In 1521, the Tatars advanced as far as Moscow. Basil was not in the capital at that time and the boyars were forced to pay a ransom demand. The Crimeans were only defeated when Kabar Simsky raised an army and routed them near Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky. Basil’s behaviour was criticised by the boyars.

Basil III was suspicious of the boyars and cautious in his dealings with them. None were sentenced to death or fell into disfavour (the only exception was the relatively undistinguished Bersen Beklemishev). The prince did not like dissent and paid little attention to the duma of boyars, preferring to rely on his deacons and a small circle of trusted friends, including Ivan Shigona. He was nevertheless forced to appoint the boyars to the key posts in the army and government.

Basil III died in great pain of an abscess on 3 December 1533. Before his death, he took the habit under the name of Barlaam, giving his blessing and crown to his three-year-old son, the future Ivan the Terrible.

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