Ivan the Great of Russia: Facts, Accomplishments & Timeline

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  • 0:01 Introducing Ivan III
  • 1:26 Age 12: Co-Ruler and Husband
  • 2:03 Ambition and Expansion
  • 3:32 Mongol Threat Gone
  • 4:32 Timeline of Ivan the Great
  • 5:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Thomas Davis

Thomas has taught high school age students for 34 years, undergraduate 12 years, and graduate courses for the last 8 years. He has a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University in Evanston, Illinois.

Ivan III Vasilyevich was the first ruler to use the title of Tzar and Ruler of Russia. His achievement of making Moscow the center of Russian power was rewarded by adding 'the Great' to his name.

Introducing Ivan III

Ivan the Great, also known as Ivan III, was both the first titled Tsar and an expansionist who expanded the influence of Moscow over a great deal of territory. Growing up, he served a long apprenticeship as co-ruler that prepared him to be a very productive and efficient leader. Wars, threats, influence, diplomacy - whatever he needed to do, he was well versed. One of his greatest accomplishments was to rid Russia of any Mongol control. Ivan's marriage to Byzantine princess Zoe Paleologa allowed Moscow to grow culturally to what some considered to be a third Rome. Keep watching to examine the life and accomplishments of Ivan the Great.

Born in Moscow in 1440, Ivan III was of noble blood, the product of generations of grand dukes of Moscow. Ivan III was the son of Vasily II and Maria of Borovsk. Vasily the II was also known as 'Vasily the Dark,' because of an injury during his involvement in the civil war; his cousin, Dmitry Shemyaka, attempted to take over, exiling Vasily, but not before blinding him. Despite the injury, Vasily won out - Dmitry returned him from exile due to the upset of Vasily's many supporters. Vasily then assumed his son's succession to control by naming Ivan co-ruler. At the unripened age of six, Ivan III was in power.

Age 12: Co-Ruler and Husband

Being a ruler at age six, marriage was not far off. At age twelve, Ivan married Maria Princess of Tver. The marriage was arranged as part of a land acquisition by Ivan's family. With the princess came Moscow's future annexation of Tver, a long-time rival. For his first ten years as co-ruler, Ivan followed his father around and learned the craft of leadership. This apprenticeship taught him a great deal and served him well as a ruler. He took the throne at age 22. Although little happened in his early years of rule, when complicated matters arose or a firm hand was needed, he was ready.

Ambition and Expansion

Ivan III was a very ambitious ruler. He expanded the size of Russia more than three-fold from what it was when he took rule. The first to fall to his ambition was Novgorod. From 1470 to 1478, the war raged on, but in the end, northern Russia was established from what is now Finland (then Lapland) all the way to the Ural Mountain range.

When war was not necessary, Ivan III used his wit to gain a tremendous amount of land from weaker rulers. His promise of alliance carried a great amount of influence with his less confident neighbors. The King of Poland (also Grand Duke of Lithuania), Alexander I, was forced to surrender several towns to Russia as a result of two wars.

During the Russian expansion, Ivan III's first wife died in 1467. He then married Zoe Paleologa, who was a Byzantine princess. This proved to be a great move for Russia. Zoe took the orthodox name of Sophia. She brought an openness to Russia that had seldom been seen in history. Some even thought Moscow could become the third Rome behind Constantinople and, of course, Rome itself. Italian architects were brought to design buildings in Moscow. The double-headed eagle became the symbol of Moscow, the same as in Constantinople. The title of Tsar, which is believed to have come from Caesar, was now the title of the ruler in Russia. Sudebnik was introduced as a code of law for the people - the first set of written laws in Moscow's history.

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