Russian Czar. He was a member of the Ryurikovich Dynasty, the dynasty that ruled Russia before the Romanovs. Known as Ivan the Great, he became the first Sovereign of All of the Russias and laid the foundations for autocracy in Russia. His parents were Vasiliy II (also known as Vasiliy the Blind) and Mariya of Borovsk. In 1462 he took power, and, timidly at first, continued the policy of unification that the ruling Grand Dukes of Muscovy before him had. However, he avoided pursuing this policy too strongly, not wanting violence to occur until the circumstances would be very strong in his favor. He wanted to unify Russia subtly and gradually. By the time Ivan became Grand Duke of Muscovy, Muscovy was by far the most powerful area in Russia, while the surrounding kingdoms had grown considerably weaker. His first move as Grand Duke was to go to war in 1470 with the Republic of Novgorod, which was concerned at how large and powerful Muscovy had become. Novgorod had allied itself with King Casimir IV of Poland for protection, which Muscovy felt was a galling act of apostasy. After waging very successful military campaigns at Shelona and on the Dvina River, Muscovy was triumphant, and Novgorod was forced to sue for peace. They attained this peace by permanently breaking their alliance with Poland, paying 15,000 rubles in war indemnity, and ceding a large amount of their northern colonies. Having won this victory, Ivan constantly thought about his next pretext for completely destroying Novgorod. His opportunity came in 1477, when Novgorod's ambassadors publicly addressed him as Gosudar (Sovereign) instead of Gospodin (Sir). Ivan felt this was recognition of his sovereignty, and as soon as these ambassadors had been repudiated by Novgorod, Ivan went to war against them again. Novgorod surrendered all of their possessions, among them the entirety of Northern Russia, and prerogatives in early 1478 and recognized Ivan as their autocrat. Ensuing revolts in Novgorod in 1478 and 1479 were put down by sending the republic's wealthiest and oldest families into exile in Vyatka, Moscow, and other cities located in Central Russia. Hencefore Novgorod was no longer independent. All of the other principalities in Russia were absorbed by purchase, conquest, or marriage contract, and the republic of Pskov only retained its political independence because of its strong support of Ivan. He also triumphed in wars he engaged in with the principalities his brothers were ruling. In 1480 Ivan refused to pay the Grand Khan Ahmed the tribute that had usually been paid to him, causing the Khan to go to war with him. Fighting was strong until the following year, when Khan Ahmed was routed, attacked, and killed by Khan Ivaq of the Nogay Horde; thereupon the Golden Horde, which had terrorized Russia for over 200 years, fell apart. Ivan's relations with other khanates were peaceful and friendly, and Mengli Ghiray, Khan of the Crimea, supported him against the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and helped him to open diplomatic relations between Russia and Istanbul. His kingdom increased even further in size during his war with Lithuania, when the death of King Casimir IV left his weak son Aleksander on the throne. Aleksander was incapable of defending his territories against Muscovy, and to try to save them he married Ivan's daughter Yelena. However, Ivan's designs on Lithuania were so strong that his son-in-law was finally compelled to go to war against him, and in 1503 King Aleksander ceded nineteen of his towns to Ivan. Ivan also had marital ties to Constantinople. After the death of his first wife, Mariya of Tver, in 1467, he remarried to Zoe Palaiologina, niece of Constantine XI, the last Byzantine emperor. It was from Zoe that Ivan acquired many of his ideas about his own autocracy and how his royal court should be conducted. To present his empire as the logical successor to Byzantium, Ivan adopted the double-headed eagle for Russia's coat of arms and the symbol of its court. Also following in the Byzantine tradition, Ivan began to distance himself from his boyars and no longer consulted them on state affairs. Hencefore the boyars became little more than slaves who were completely dependent upon the sovereign's will. Their rebellion against this treatment was short-lived. Another large change Ivan brought to Russian society was the writing of the Sudebnik (Code of Law) by Vladimir Gusev in 1497. The Sudebnik established a universal system of justice, dealing with such things as criminal law, the death penalty, punishments for various crimes, regulation of legal fees, and the creation of a universal day (November 26) for peasants who wanted to change masters. Because he wanted his court to emulate that of Constantinople, Ivan invited many foreign artists to come to Muscovy. The most famous of these was Rudolfo di Fioravante, an Italian engineer and architect with the nickname Aristotle. He built a number of palaces and cathedrals, most notably the Uspenskiy Sobor (the Assumption Cathedral). In 1502 Ivan's younger son Vasiliy was crowned co-regent with him. Ivan the Great, one of the most powerful and influential of all of the Ryurikovich rulers, died at the age of sixty-five.
Bio by: Carrie-Anne