chapter
34 Pages

INTRODUCTION

Ivan III, who ruled in Moscow from I462 to I505, earned his title of 'the Great' largely by his absorption of the territory belonging to Novgorod, hitherto the dominant Slav state in the Russian plain. In so doing, Ivan advanced his frontier to the northern Urals, for the Pechora basin, a region renowned for its fur resources, had long been a colony of Novgorod; and Novgorod, which was above all interested in trade, attached special importance to the fur trade. I van sent expeditions to this newly-acquired territory: one under Prince Fedor Kurbskiy in I483 and another under Prince Semen Kurbskiy in I499· These consolidated the Russian presence, chastened the native inhabitants, and carried their operations beyond the Urals into the lower Ob' valley. From I484 Ivan added to his titles 'Lord ofYugra'- a somewhat vague place-name connoting the land on both sides of the northern Urals. 1

But this eastward advance took place only north of about the 6oth parallel, in a region, therefore, far to the north-east of Moscow. The more direct route to the east was blocked by the Tatar khanate of Kazan'. This was all that survived, in much diminished form, of the Golden Horde, the Mongol state which emerged in south Russia after the great conquests of half the world under Chingis (or Gengis) Khan. The Mongol, or Tatar, domination (Tatar is here used to signify the Turkic-speaking peoples who served in the Mongol forces) held Muscovy and other Slav principalities in subjection for well over two centuries, but for the latter part of this period its power was crumbling. The independent khanate of Kazan' was formed in the middle of the I 5th century, and soon afterwards the land of Sibir', on the Irtysh river, also subject to the Golden Horde, broke away to become another independent khanate. 2 The process of dissolution made it likely that when a resolute blow was struck, resistance would not be great. That time came in I552, when Ivan IV defeated the Tatar army and took Kazan'. Four years later, he took also the khanate of Astrakhan, and the

wholelengthoftheVolgawasinhishands.Themoredirectroutetothe eastnowlayopen.