Friday, October 24, 2014

The Empire of Russia: From Ivan III

My previous observation that Russia had not had a single constructive interaction with the West changes with the Pope sending the Greek princess Sophia to marry Ivan III.  What happens over the next several decades is a gradual transformation of Russia into a united kingdom with laws.  Under Ivan IV, siege is given to the Mohammedan Tatars of Kazan who are defeated (1552).  According to Dr. Wiki, the Tatars were immediately slaughtered.  According to this history, Ivan tried hard to make peace, but the spiritual need to commit terror caused the population to continually engage in war, thus, he was eventually compelled to convert them, expel them, or let them fight to the death.  Further terror raids would continue for more than a century from other Tatar hordes, thus, leaving much of the adjacent regions of Russia as depopulated wastelands for hundreds of miles.  The success against Kazan, however, allows Russia to expand all the way to the Pacific Ocean, since there wasn't any significant population in Siberia.

For a time it appeared that the Mongols were settling (early 1,300's), becoming civilized, and embracing Christianity.  But then they converted to Islam en masse, and renewed the practice of seeking out any settlement to burn, kill and capture victims for the slave market, which continued into the 18th century.  Eventually Russia gets enough strength to slaughter much of the horde by the Caucasus.  Shortly afterwards, this horde together with the Turks manages to take Moscow, which they pillage, burn and then kill 150,000 or so civilians.  This last episode they termed "revenge", as if this had been some sort of tit for tat fight all along.  The Cossacks make their appearance during this phase as militarized bands who wander the unsettled areas of Russia that were periodically swept by the Tatars.  Their allegiance to the Eastern Orthodox Church would make them a natural enemy of the Tatars.

During this period, Russia is anxious to bring in learning from the West and various craftsmen and artisans were enticed to come to Russia to further this aim.  Trade and friendly relations begin with England and Holland, although clashes with Poland and Sweden are the norm.  Considering the propaganda I was taught growing up, the distinctive here is that all the learning that arrives in Russia is from the West, and it is to the West that Russia turns when it seeks learning.  Another contrasting item is the relatively constructive role of the Russian church.  I suspect that one of the reasons is the rules regarding married clergy in the Russian church.  Whatever the cause, it seems that the Russian clergy were constructively leading their flocks during periods where the Roman clergy were sexually abusing and robbing those who were put into their care.  This is likely the reason that the Reformation was a Western European phenomenon.

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