Ivan III Vasilevich

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ivan III Vasil’evich


Born Jan. 22, 1440; died Oct. 27, 1505, in Moscow. Grand prince of Moscow from 1462. Oldest son of Vasilii II Temnyi. Referred to as grand prince from 1450, when he became coruler with his father. A prominent state figure who demonstrated outstanding military and diplomatic ability.

Under Ivan III the formation of the territorial nucleus of the centralized Russian state was completed. The principalities of Yaroslavl (1463) and Rostov (1447), the Novgorod feudal republic (1478), the grand principality of Tver’ (1485), the lands of Viatka (1489), and the greater part of the Riazan’ lands were annexed to the principality of Moscow. Its influence on Pskov and on the grand principality of Riazan’ was increased. After the wars of 1487–94 and 1500–03 against the Grand Principality of Lithuania, numerous west Russian lands passed to Moscow, including Chernigov, Novgorod-Severskii, Gomel’, and Briansk. After the war of 1501–03, Ivan III compelled the Livonian Order to pay a tribute (for the city of Iur’ev). During the 1460’s through the 1480’s, Ivan Ill’s government successfully fought the Kazan Khanate, which came under the strong political influence of Rus’ in 1487. A centralized state machinery began to take shape under Ivan HI. The prikaz (departmental) administrative system was born, and the Sudebnik (code of law) of 1497 was compiled. The pomest’e landholding system (landholding conditional on military service) developed, and the political importance of the dvorianstvo (nobility or gentry) increased greatly. Ivan III fought the separatism of the appanage princes (for example, of his brothers Boris Volotskii and Andrei Bol’shoi in the 1480’s and 1490’s) and considerably restricted their sovereign rights. By the end of his reign, many appanages had been eliminated.

The most important achievement of Ivan Ill’s reign was freeing Rus’ from the Tatar-Mongol yoke. Under pressure from the masses of the people, he was forced to organize a strong defense effort against the invasion of Khan Akhmat. The international prestige of the Russian state grew during his reign: diplomatic ties were established with the papal curia, the German Empire, Hungary, Moldavia, Turkey, Iran, and the Crimea. Under Ivan III the full title of the Grand Prince of “All Rus’” began to be used. (In certain documents, he is already called tsar.) Ivan III took Zoe (Sofia) Paleologos, the niece of the last emperor of Byzantium, as his second wife.

During Ivan Ill’s reign, extensive construction work unfolded in Moscow (the Kremlin, its cathedrals, and the Halls of Facets); stone fortresses were built in Kolomna, Tula, and Ivangorod.


Brazilevich, K.V. Vneshniaia politika Russkogo tsentralizovannogo gosudarstva. Vtoraia polovina XV v. Moscow, 1952.
Cherepnin, L.V. Obrazovanie Russkogo tsentralizovannogo gosudarstvav XIV-XV vv. Moscow, 1960.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.