Moscow, Grand Principality of

Moscow, Grand Principality of


a feudal state in Russia. It was formed around the middle of the 14th century through the expansion of the Moscow Principality, which had emerged in the first half of the 13th century as an appanage of the Vladimir-Suzdal’ Principality. In 1276, Daniil Aleksandrovich became the prince of Moscow, and in the early 14th century the Moscow Principality expanded considerably by annexing Kolomna (1301), Pereslavl’-Zalesskii (1302), and Mozhaisk (1303).

The Grand Principality expanded and grew stronger primarily because of its central location in the part of Russia where the Russian nation was evolving and where the most important water and land trade routes intersected. An important factor in its rise was the intensive development of agriculture, handicrafts, and trade. Taking advantage of their growing material strength, the Moscow princes waged a persistent struggle for political domination in the Russian lands. Relying on the support of Great Novgorod and on his alliance with the khans of the Golden Horde, Prince Iurii Danilovich became the grand prince of Vladimir in 1318, but in 1325 the title of grand prince was transferred to the Prince of Tver’. For suppressing an uprising in Tver’ in 1327, Ivan I Kalita won the Khan’s trust, and in 1328 he became grand prince of Vladimir. Ivan Kalita’s skillful policies (he ruled from 1325 to 1340) gave the Moscow Principality a long respite from Mongol incursions, which made possible an economic and cultural flowering.

In the 1360’s Dmitrii Donskoi (1359–89) became prince of the Grand Principality of Moscow after a struggle with the prince of Suzdal’-Nizhny Novgorod. In 1380, Dmitrii Donskoi led a united Russian force against the army of Mamai, a toman commander, and the victory at the battle of Kulikovo in 1380 bolstered the Grand Principality’s dominant position in the Russian lands. Dmitrii Donskoi was the first prince to bequeath the Grand Principality to his son Vasilii I Dmitrievich (1389–1425) as his patrimony without the sanction of the khan of the Golden Horde.

In the late 14th and early 15th centuries the Grand Principality of Moscow steadily expanded. Nizhny Novgorod was annexed in 1392. Appanages were formed within the Grand Principality as early as the first half of the 14th century. However, the eldest heir was always strong enough to control the other Moscow princes. A prolonged feudal war within the Grand Principality of Moscow in the second quarter of the 15th century ended with the victory of the Grand Prince Vasilii II Temnyi (1425–62). By this time the Grand Principality covered an area of 430, 000 sq km and had a population of about 3 million. In the second half of the 15th century the Grand Principality became the nucleus of an evolving unified Russian state.