The lure of the Kremlin: Ivan the Terrible (31 Jan 2012)

Uploaded by UCLLHL on 03.02.2012

>> In the sixteenth century,
Russia dramatically expanded its border.
To a large extent, that was thanks
to the aggressive military policy
of the czar, Ivan the Terrible.
And here we have the portraits of the date
of his reign, 1533 to 1584.
Ivan conquered several very important territories,
and here we have this map showing the growth of his realm.
So the territory in gray is what he annexed and conquered.
And among the annexations, we have the Tatar state of Kazan
on the Volga River here which was conquered in 1552.
In 1556 he continued his advance down the Volga River
and conquered another Tatar [inaudible] or Astrakhan.
And as you can see with this conquest,
practically the whole basin of the Volga River was now
in the hands of Ivan the Terrible.
In the early 1580s, in 1582, the colonization of Siberia started;
so Russia started moving westward in this direction.
Ivan also tried to engage with his Western neighbors,
and in 1558 he started the Livonian war,
which actually was one of the longest wars in Russian history.
As you can see, it continued until 1583.
And the war ended with disaster for Ivan, huge human losses,
economic losses, no gain at all for Ivan in this conflict.
And, finally, another interesting event in terms
of Russia's engagement with the outside world was so-called
British discovery of Russia in 1553.
What happened in that year,
a group of London merchants sent three ships
to find a northern sea route to China,
which was probably a bit optimistic.
But these ships were caught by storm in the White Sea.
And one of the ships under the command
of Richard Chancellor landed on the shore of the White Sea here
where the port Archangel --
the port of Archangel would be established later.
And this accidental discovery resulted
in the British discovery of Russia, as it is known.
Commercial relations between England
and Muscovy were established.
And, also, we have numerous accounts
of Muscovy written by Englishman.
In English works, Russia appears as far-lying exotic country,
largely isolated from the outside world.
And Richard Chancellor himself made important contribution
to this image.
If we come to this quote from his account,
we can see what he wrote.
"All studies and letters of humanity, they -- Russians --
utterly refuse; concerning the Latin, Greek,
and Hebrew tongues, they are altogether ignorant in them."
Well, one might ask how many English captains including
Chancellor himself knew Latin, Greek,
and Hebrew in the 16th century.
But by the standards of educated 16th century English elite,
Russia indeed almost lacked knowledge
of the classic languages.
Another Englishman, Charles Fletcher, who was ambassador
to Russia in 1588, '89 took the theme of the lack
of knowledge further, and he connected this --
linked this idea with another assertion
that the tsars deliberately kept Muscovy locked away
from the outside world.
Let's take a look at his quote.
This is what he tells us.
"Russians excel in no kind of common art,
much less in any learning of literal kind of knowledge."
Well, we already heard that from Chancellor.
But then something new follows: "Which they are kept
from on purpose as they are also from all military practice,
that they may be fitter for the servile conditions wherein now
they are and have neither reason nor valor to attempt innovation.
For this purpose also they are kept from traveling
that they may learn nothing nor see the fashions
of other countries abroad.
Neither do they suffer any stranger willingly to come
into their realm out of any civil country" --
which means, of course,
a Western country -- "for the same cause."
Well, again, Fletcher was correct that Russia tried
to keep its borders closed largely due
to this long protracted Livonian war.
It is also true that foreign diplomats
in Muscovy were often confined to their residences
so they couldn't freely move around the city
or around the country.
But Fletcher's account glosses over many other forms
of economic and cultural interaction between Russia
and the surrounding world.
From the 13th to the 15th century, Russia or Rus
as it was known then was part of the huge Mongol empire.
And this means that Russia was involved in intensive cultural
and commercial exchange.
From the 15th century on, Russia also established contacts
with Western countries, first of all, Italy, the Habsburg Empire,
later England and other countries.
In the 16th century, Muscovy, in fact, was involved
in global commercial network.
And here you can see the map representing commercial
connections in the 16th century.
Well, in these, the most important [inaudible] partners
for Moscow would be Isfahan, the captor of Persia; and Istanbul,
of course, the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
We also have different routes from Moscow to Europe,
so this would be the route of the English.
And through these partners, Russia was also linked
with huge network of commercial routes going all the way
around Africa to India and so forth as you can see.
So from Turkey and Persia, Russia would receive silk --
there was no silk weaving industry in Russia then --
decorative fabrics, arms, armor, weapons, saddles,
and other items of horse gear.
From England, there would be, of course, clothes first of all;
tableware, silver, luxury items, sugar, paper, copper powder,
sulfur, probably weapon to [inaudible] the demand.
From Italy, for example, again clothes was supplied, glassware,
mirrors, liquor, and beads.
From Russia in turn we have the export of wax, tallow,
skins, flax, hemp ropes.
And ropes were actually manufactured locally
by English merchants who set up production facilities there
in the Russian north, and then they brought ready product
to England.
And, of course, probably the most famous item
of Russian export which would be fur known as soft gold.
The biggest consumers of imported goods
in Russia were the court and the church.
Thanks to the identification of diplomatic
and commercial contacts with the outside world,
the Czar's court accumulated and consumed great quantities
of luxury items, prestigious armor, luxurious fabrics.
For example, the collection of English silver
in the Kremlin is one of the best in the world.
Here we can see some examples of English silver.
Muscovite court has also demonstrated a keen interest
in Eastern armor.
Here we have an example from the arsenal
of Prince Fedor Ivanovich Mstislavskii, who belonged
to one of the most prominent families at Ivan's court.
He was a descendant of Gediminas, who was the founder
of the Lithuanian ruling dynasty, further became a boyar,
which was the highest court rank in 1575; after the extinction
of Ivan the Terrible's dynasty,
further was considered a candidate for the throne.
He died in 1622.
And here we have this superb shield from his armory
which was actually produced
by the Iranian maker, Muhammed Mumin.
It's forged from one piece of Damascus steel
and carved fantastic images based
on fairy tales, Persian poems.
And here I have some examples of this imagery.
Further also demonstrated --
[ Pause in audio ]
Can you hear me now?
>> Yes. It's back.
>> Okay. Turkish armor, so here we have this gorgeous helmet
manufactured in the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century.
These pieces of armor belonged
to very traditional type of protective weapon.
Critical Westerners would call this type
of armor obsolete probably even barbaric because, for them,
firearms would be the typical example
of technological progress which was, of course,
associated with Western Europe.
However, the East was also a source of firearms
for the court of Ivan the Terrible.
Here we have another example of a Turkish flintlock
from the arsenal of the arms bearer Bogdan Bel'skii.
This courtier was a very interesting character.
He was Ivan the Terrible's personal bodyguard.
He was also a member of the oprichnina, this special group
of servitors chosen by Ivan
to protect him from alleged threats.
He was also head of the apothecary chancery,
and there were rumors that Bogdan even poisoned the czar,
well, apparently totally groundless.
But audible in his capacity as the head of the chancery,
Bogdan was involved in a regular context
with Western court physicians and was to an extent exposed
to Western medical knowledge as well.
And according to one account, Ivan the Terrible died
when he was playing chess with Bogdan so very dramatic.
Ivan was actually trying to put the king and then collapsed
and didn't finish the game.
So the court of Ivan the Terrible used imported
silverware, expensive prestigious armor
without changing it, without altering it.
One may ask whether this can be actually classified
as cultural exchange.
Well, after all, every dictator wants to have a Rolls Royce,
and some have dozens of them in their garage.
But this doesn't sound to me as cultural exchange,
probably more greedy because, in order to have proper exchange,
we need engagement with this object.
We need their acculturation and domestication.
And Muscovite court culture gives us very interesting
examples of such acculturation.
The rulers of Muscovy capitalized
on the Mongol tradition of using parade helmets
for ceremonial purposes.
The Mongol rulers' guards didn't use crowns of the Western type.
Instead, they would have gorgeous helmets normally
decorated with precious stones, pearl,
inscriptions glorifying Allah and military victories,
the ruler, his heir, and so on.
15:06. So Prince Vasilii III, father of Ivan the Terrible,
commissioned similar helmet for his son to --
[ Pause ]
-- to emphasize the succession of power in his dynasty.
Well, as you can see in this helmet,
we have actually two types of inscriptions.
So one inscription goes around the helmet.
Well, this is a [inaudible] inscription
which actually reads -- it's in Arabic --
Muhammed is the messenger of God.
Very famous phrase.
Okay. When the helmet was brought to Moscow,
what Vasilii's masters did,
they added another Russian description.
Here you can see it,
which actually identifies the commissioner,
tells us about the purpose of commissioning this helmet.
So it tells us it was intended for Ivan.
Another interesting and probably the most famous example
of such cultural interaction is another piece of headgear,
which is the Cap of Monomakh.
According to the legend, this is a gift
from the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Monomakh,
to Prince of Kiev and then Muscovite rulers including Ivan
the Terrible inherited it.
Well, the legend is too nice to be checked,
completely anachronistic.
And, in fact, this cap was made of parts of two similar helmets.
Probably they were actually even more impressive
than the helmets commissioned by Vasilii III
because they were made of gold.
As we can see, they were decorated profusely
with all these stones and pearls.
So -- but, as we can see from design of this cap,
it was relically transformed to make it fit
for the orthodox tsar.
What they did, they put this cross on top of it
and thereby turned it into the crown of an orthodox tsar.
And Ivan the Terrible used this cap to --
during his coronation as tsar in 1547,
and later tsars also used this cap.
Female members of the dynasty were also exposed
to external cultural influences.
Here we have the cap, so-called volosnik,
of Tsarina Anastasia Romanovna, first wife of Ivan IV
and the ancestor of the Romanov Dynasty.
This is typical Muscovite female headgear.
Every married woman including the Tsarina had
to cover her hair.
But this royal cap, of course,
is made to highest possible standards.
It's made of imported silk which, of course,
reflects the higher social status of its owner.
But which is interesting is
that here important material is domesticated, so it became part
of local domestic culture and tradition.
Cross-cultural influence was not limited to the court.
And if you look at -- sorry -- if you look at these examples,
these are liturgical vestments made of Italian fabric.
In this case, foreign fabric become --
becomes involved in the orthodox religious ritual.
So we can see that here we have cultural exchange going beyond
the barriers of religious beliefs which were, of course,
absolutely crucial for 16th century people.
Also imported material helped the tsar
to sustain close relations with the church.
If you look at this vestment, it was donated by the tsar
to Metropolitan Makarii, who was a very important figure
in the Orthodox church and in Muscovite culture in 1549.
Let's take a look at book culture.
Book culture was also a very specific area,
which was heavily dominated by the Orthodox church.
Practically everything that was written in Muscovia --
old books were in one way
or another controlled by the church.
So mostly all Muscovite books
from that period would be religious.
Nevertheless, if we look at the official chronicle
of Ivan the Terrible, this is a huge chronicle containing ten
volumes and about 16,000 miniatures in it.
Ivan commissioned this chronicle at the end of his reign.
So here we can see Ivan sending merchants to England,
to Elisabeth I of England, okay?
So this is highly conventional art.
As you can see, all faces are similar, okay?
So there is no individual features.
All gestures, poses are strictly controlled.
So here we have Moscow, and this is Ivan sending his merchants.
The merchants go by ship across the waters, and this is London.
Would you be surprised?
And Elisabeth herself.
Well, several interesting things about this image,
and there are many similar images in the chronicle.
First, it demonstrates very intensive interest in contact
with Western Europe, in this particular case, England.
Furthermore, if you look at the crowns of both monarchs, first,
they're identical; so here we have Ivan
in this crown and Elisabeth.
This is actually a Western crown.
We have seen Ivan's real crown, which has nothing to do
with what they depicted there.
So what they wanted to demonstrate was
that the domestic status of both rulers was similar, so they were
on the same level in terms of domestic hierarchy.
And Moscow itself looks very interesting.
So you have these nice gothic spires,
these higher roofs in Moscow.
Well, would you be surprised if I tell you there were not
so many gothic buildings in Moscow in the 16th century?
Actually, the place was made of wood apart from the Kremlin.
So the question is: Where do all these particular images
come from?
They come from Western prints because we know that Western
and in particular German prints circulated
in Russia in the 16th century.
And, obviously, you'd have gothic towns
and cities in those prints.
So what the master of this miniature did,
he used Western patterns but, again, [inaudible] reworked them
because this is not the Western print.
This is typical Muscovite miniature.
But it does incorporate very interesting elements
of Western domestic culture as we can see from the headgear
and also elements of Western architecture
which the master learned from the prints, from German prints.
This means that cultural exchange goes beyond the limits
of material culture and reveals intensive interaction
in visual imagery.
Western patterns are created and become integral part
of Muscovite book culture.
The last question we need to address is:
What did Russia contribute to the global network of exchange?
I also mentioned some items of Russian expert.
Here we have -- this is a Western engraving depicting
Russian ambassadors at the Austrian court
of Emperor Maximilian II in 1576.
Well, the group is divided in two parts.
This would be the -- the heads of the mission,
and that would be their servitors.
And, as you can see, they are bringing these furs,
and there are actually different kinds of furs here and here.
So, obviously, fur was very important item both in trade
and in diplomatic relations as a diplomatic gift.
The image also reflects very interesting
cross-cultural interaction.
If you look at these figures, these four figures,
their garments would be made of Italian fabric because,
in Russia, they didn't know how
to manufacture pattern fabric in the 16th century.
So this means that these people appear at the Western court
in cloth that is made of Western fabric; but, again,
it was the design of the clothes that is purely Muscovite.
So, again, we have very interesting transformation
and interaction of different material
and different cultural traditions,
so it's another type of acculturation.
And, finally, let's come back
to the original portrait I showed you at the beginning
of this lecture, but now let's identify this portrait.
This is a Western portrait, a portrait of Ivan the Terrible
which was actually made
by the gun maker called Karsten Middeldorp of Lubeck in 1559.
Practically this is the end of a gun manufactured by Middeldorp.
So this image is very interesting in several respects.
Well, first Middeldorp's Ivan has the Cap
of Monomakh on his head here.
He was very severe look, so he appears as a very strong ruler.
And if you look at the date, 1559, by that time, Ivan,
as we remember, conquered Kazan, Astrakhan.
He also won several victories in Livonia,
so he's successful conqueror here.
And this is how Russians actually would
like Westerners to see their tsar.
What is interesting is that the gun was commissioned by the city
of Reval, Tallinn, and Ivan besieged Reval in 1559.
So practically the gun is commissioned by Ivan's enemies.
Nevertheless, they feature quite the impressive portrait
of Ivan the Terrible on this gun.
So we can say that Middeldorp, who probably didn't care much
because he was in Lubeck, so he was not involved.
He was not in Reval, so you might assume
that he would produce another portrait if he was there.
But here Middeldorp capitalizes
on the official Russian representation
of Ivan the Terrible's power.
To conclude, in the 16th century,
Russia lacked many cultural features typical
of Western Europe.
There were no universities in Russia, no tradition
of classical learning.
Russia remained largely outside the influence the Renaissance
and humanism.
However, this didn't preclude Russia from commercial
and cultural interaction with the outside world.
Exchange in commodities, technology,
and ideas was diverse, intensive, and global.
Thank you very much.
[ Applause ]
>> Okay. Excuse me.
You veterans will know that we have entered the question
and answer phase.
We have about ten minutes for questions.
But, equally, veterans know that, when you are called upon
to ask a question, you have to wait until one
of our microphone bearers makes their way to you
so that everyone on the Internet can hear your question as well
as everybody in this room.
So who is up for some questions?
One in the back corner.
And you'll be here in a second.
>> Thank you for that most interesting talk.
Something I wonder if you could explain to me is the links
with the Hanseatic League because, by that period,
the league was very strong
and presumably would have wanted the kind
of relations you were describing.
Thank you.
>> Thank you very much.
So the relationship with the Hanseatic League,
well, two things.
First, it was very important commercial partner.
And the Hanseatic League was involved in trade with Muscovia,
but there is one thing we need to remember.
By the middle of the 16th century,
the commercial importance
of the league dramatically declined largely thanks
to the great geographical discoveries of the late 15th,
early 16th century, also the fact
that the English established a route around --
if you come back to the map.
So here, so the Hansa would, of course,
operate in the Baltic Sea,
but the English offered an alternative route
across the -- across Scandinavia.
And given the fact that starting from the middle
of the 16th century the Baltic region was involved in a series
of very dramatic military conflicts,
not only the Livonian war but we also have other conflicts
between Sweden and Denmark and so on.
This means that, in the second half of the 16th century,
the Hanseatic League was not as important as it was before.
Thank you.
>> What was the rough population of Moscow at this time
and how did it compare with the cities it traded
with in other parts of Europe?
>> Right. The population of Moscow and the size of Moscow,
unfortunately, we have no statistics for Moscow
for the middle of the 16th century.
But the English who visited Moscow,
they actually mentioned that, in terms of space,
Moscow was larger than London.
That was mainly due to the fact
that there were no stone buildings in the city,
so practically you would have --
each household would be combination of many structures.
Plus, of course, you have gardens;
you have kitchen gardens.
So the area of the place was huge,
and the Englishmen mentioned that it was larger
than London, actually.
But they didn't, of course, fail to notice then in terms
of esthetics of architecture was inferior.
>> Can I ask you very briefly:
You mentioned the image of the tsar.
What -- was there any coinage?
His image on the coinage, was this a means
by which his image might have been spread?
What's your position about this?
>> The coinage, Muscovite coinage,
that was very interesting
because you do have very specific symbol.
That would be horseman with a spear
in this hand sometimes beating the dragon;
sometimes you don't have dragon.
And there is actually --
there are many speculations about who is depicted
on Muscovite coins, and some chronicles tells us
that it's actually the prince.
So they did have the image of the prince on the coins.
But, again, that would be very symbolic conventional image
with no -- any individual features.
What is interesting that some foreign masters
like Italian masters, for example, they produced coins.
So those Italians who worked in Muscovite
like Aristotle Fioravanti, for example,
very famous Italian architect who built the Kremlin
or many churches and cathedrals in the Kremlin.
He was also involved in coinage.
So we have actually a number of coins or types
of coins manufactured by him.
>> I noticed on the list you didn't mention timber
as an export from Muscovy.
And also on the map there's no mention of China.
Is there any reason for that?
>> Well, yes.
You're absolutely correct about timber,
which was a very important item.
And the English, of course,
brought what they called tall timber for ship masts.
So that's -- of course, that was a very important commodity.
And in terms of China, well,
this map represents largely the --
probably the situation in the second half of the 16th century.
When you speak about China, of course,
that would be The Great Silk Road.
And when I mention the Mongol Empire, The Silk Road operated
for such a long period precisely
because the Mongols heavily guarded and provided security
for merchants traveling across the route.
With the collapse of the Mongol Empire, of course, the silk road
and the geographical discoveries I mentioned
so The Silk Road became not that important unfortunately.
But before, you're absolutely correct.
It was actually vital for commercial networks.
>> More questions?
Way up here.
[ Pause ]
>> What was the domestic and political situation of women?
Did they have much power or much influence professionally
or jobwise, or were they consigned really
to child rearing and to the fields?
What was their position?
>> The position of Muscovite women, well, first thing we need
to distinguish is peasant women, which would probably account
for the vast majority of the population, and the elite women.
Practically all our knowledge about Muscovite women comes
from the elite circles for obvious reasons
because the elite was involved in written culture,
was exposed to written culture.
Traditionally, it is argued
that Muscovite women indeed spends most
of their time isolated in the terem,
which was a separate structure in the Muscovite house,
and played no role at all apart
from child care, as you mentioned.
But recent studies tell us
that the picture was much more complicated.
They fulfilled very important social roles
because Muscovite society like, actually,
many other premodern societies operates through network
of kinship and marriage.
And this means that women, especially elite women,
were absolutely crucial for members of the court
like Mstislavskii, Bel'skii, who I mentioned,
for keeping relations among themselves,
for creating this network of patronage,
clients, friends, and so on.
Another very important function we need
to mention was the spiritual role of women.
And if you look, for example, at what the tsaritsa is doing.
What's Anastasia doing when Ivan goes on war against Kazan?
She's praying.
She's praying for the survival of her husband, for his victory.
And that was a very important cultural function,
so they provided spiritual link between the ruler
or another member of the elite and spiritual forces which,
of course, would be able to give him his support.
And so we know that Muscovite women actively donated
to the church, to the monasteries,
so they also performed this very important cultural task
which we shouldn't, of course, forget about.
>> Would rich women as they did in --
before the poor [inaudible] in England,
would they expand their patronage or their generosity
to the poor in Russia, or was there a divisive division
that didn't permit that?
>> Oh, yes, they were exposed.
Well, we need to remember that many women became nuns.
And as nuns, of course, they were involved
in charity work, as well.
And they created networks of friends and clients.
And we have very interesting rules, for example,
for Muscovite elite women.
And these rules tell us
that a good Muscovite woman was supposed to take care
of her friends, of her servants, dependent people.
So in this respect, yes, yes.
The poor were part of this network of dependent people.
>> Okay. I'm afraid that's all we have time for today.
If you could join me in another round
of applause, that would be great.
[ Applause ]