Moscow as the Third Rome

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Moscow as the Third Rome


a 16th-century Russian political theory that asserted the global historical significance of Moscow, the capital of the Russian state, as a political and religious center.

Expounded in a religious form characteristic of medieval thought, the theory of Moscow as the third Rome maintained that Muscovite Rus’ was the historical successor of the Roman and Byzantine empires, which in the opinion of the founders of the theory had fallen because of their deviations from the “true faith.” Thus it could be stated that “two Romes have fallen, a third stands, and a fourth there shall not be.” The theory of Moscow as the third Rome emerged in the mid-15th century and was fully elaborated early in the 16th century in the epistles of the Pskov monk Filofei to the grand prince of Moscow, Vasilii III Ivanovich.

The theory of Moscow as the third Rome evolved as a result of the prior development of political thought in Russia, the growth of national consciousness during the years of reunification of the Russian lands, final liberation from the Tatar yoke, and the consolidation of the independence of the Russian state. It played a significant role in forming the official ideology of the centralized Russian state and aided the struggle against the Vatican’s attempts to extend its influence to Russian territory. The theory of Moscow as the third Rome served as the basis for the idea of unity among the Slavic countries of the Balkan peninsula during the 16th and 17th centuries and had great significance for the struggle of the southern Slavs against the Turkish yoke. At the same time, the theory also contained such reactionary features as national exclusivity and “divine favoritism.”

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Their dissemination to every part of Russia and installation in every conceivable setting helped to keep alive the idea of Holy Russia as a sacred space constructed on the religious-political notion of Moscow as the Third Rome.