The Princes of Novgorod and
The Grand Princes of Moscow (7-11)

Compiled by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewski, B.F.A.


Vasilii II (son of Vasilii I) "The Blind," was Grand Prince of Moscow (1425-1462). Vasily II died of gangrene in March 1462. He married Mariya of Yaroslav/Borovsk, who died in 1485. Vasilii was blinded by a rival. Vasilii II's reign was marked by civil strife and Tatar invasions, yet he added further lands to the grand princedom and, in 1456, signed a treaty with Novgorod. In 1510, Vasilii II regained control or Pskov. Vasilii died October 27, 1505 of natural causes.

The sons of Vasily II were: Ivan III, Yury (died in infancy), Yury (died in 1473), Andrei, "the elder," (died in 1493), Simeon (died in infancy), Boris (died in 1494), Andrei "the younger" (died in 1481).


Ivan IV

Ivan III

Ivan III Vasilyevich was born January 22, 1440 in Moscow. He was called "The Great" because of all the battles and land he got for Moscow. He was the Grand Prince of Moscow (1462-1505)and, in 1452, he married (1) Princess Mary of Tver at age 12 and received Tver. The children of Mary and Ivan were:

(1)Ivan Ivanovich, "the younger," who died in 1490. Ivan was born in 1458 and had a son named Dmitry by Yelena/Elena Stepanovwa, of Moldavia.

..... Dmitry Ivanovich lost his claim to the throne in 1502, when his grandfather, Ivan, named Vasily (his half-uncle) his co-ruler. Dmitry was jailed and died there in 1509.

(2)Dmitry Ivanovich, died in 1509.

Their mother Maria also died in 1467.

After the death of his wife and two sons, Ivan next married (2) Zoe Sophia Paleologus in 1472. Sophia was the niece of the Byzantium Emperor, Constantine XI (killed May 29, 1453) and Emperor John VIII (d: 1448). She was described as being extremely obese. Her bed broke under her weight on her first night in Moscow.

The Imperial Eagle,
the emblem of the Palaeologus family

Sophie's father and mother were Thomas Palaeologus, Despot of the Morea, who died in Rome in 1465 and Caterina Zaccaria. After marrying Sophia, Ivan thought of himself as heir to the Byzantine Empire. To his family coat of arms he added a two-headed eagle, the Byzantine version (see above) was carried at the head of the Roman Legions, and to Ivan's titles he added "czar" and "autocrat." He also adopted the Byzantium cornation ceremony. Ivan's lineage was traced back to Rurik, but his inventors also made a fictious chart back to the brother of Augustus Caesar, thus showing his own lineage to Rome, not just through his marriage to Sophia. The children of Ivan and Sophie were:

  1. Yelena Ivanovich was born in 1474
  2. Yelena Ivanovich was born in 1476
  3. Vasily Ivanovich was born in 1479 and a struggle began between his daughter-in-law, Elena and Zoe, his second wife about which son would be Ivan's heir.(see below)
  4. Dmitry Ivanovich was born in 1481.
  5. Feodosia Ivanovich was born in 1485
  6. Simeon Ivanovich was born in 1487
  7. Andrej Ivanovich was born in 1490
  8. Evdokia Ivanovich was born in 1492

Ivan was said to have preferred to send his troops into battle, not lead them. It was rumored he was frightened of the dark (most likely a rumor begun by one of his enemies). Ivan's brothers Boris and Andrei rebelled against Ivan in 1480. Ivan made a compromise since he needed their help with the Tartars, however, by his death, Ivan had control of all of Andrei's land and half of Boris's. By marriage, agression, and inheritance, Ivan acquired the principalities of Vercia, Beloozero, Yaroslavl, Rostov, Tver, and the city-state of Viatka and part of Riagan. He also received Novgorod when they broke a treaty (made in 1456) by allying with Casimir IV of Lithuania. In 1471, he defeated the Novgorod army. In 1478, he took the estates of all the anti-Moscovities, which gave him a total of three million acres of Novgorodian land. Novogorod appealed to Lithuania for help and they refused. Land registers for the 15th century Novgorod show that before Ivan's confiscations just twenty-seven (27) men had owned one-third of all the land held by the 1,632 lay proprietors listed.

Ivan III died on October 27, 1505, at age 65. Anna Glinskaya, Ivan's mother-in-law was strangled for witchcraft.


Vasilii III, was born March 25, 1479 in Moscow. He was the Grand Prince (1505-1533) and married (1) Solomonia Saburova who remained childless for twenty years (20). Their marriage was annulled in 1525 and she was forced to take the veil. She was originally the choice out of 1,500 noble virgins. She was a beautiful girl from the line of Rurik. She was very unhappy that her husband would cast her aside, and she did not give-in to the church without having her say, and placed a curse on Vasilii's children by her successor. This curse seemed to work since his second marriage produced both a deaf mute and a beastly man known as Ivan, the Terrible. Vasilii married (2) Elena/Yelena Glinskaya, who died in 1538. Vasily died December 3, 1533 of blood poisoning. The children of Vasily and Elena were: Ivan IV (below), Yury of Ulgich was born in 1532, a deaf mute, and he died in 1563. His son was Vasily who died in 1560. Elena, sister of Vasilii III, married Alexander of Poland. Elena died in 1513. Vasilli enjoyed hunting and religious pilgrimages. Two of his brothers died without issue, therefore his need of heirs.


Portrait of Ivan "the Terrible"

Ivan IV, "the Terrible," was born December 3, 1533 on a dark and stormy night in Kolomenskoe. He was king at age three. He was raised by his mother and her lover. He was the first tsar of Russia from 1547-1584, and was crowned on January 1547 (a 17-year old boy) in the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin. Ivan's married his first wife, Anastasia Romanov, daughter of the boyar, Roman Lurievich Zakharin, when he was only 17. Anastasia died in 1560, when Ivan was 30. He was said to have been deeply in love with Anastasia, and he suffered a severe emotional collapse upon her death. He thought that one of his boyars had poisoned her. Ivan had many wives after Anastasia, none whom offered him much satifaction:

  1. Anastasia Romanovna Zakharina died in 1560. Her children were:

    Anna Ivanonovich was born in 1548
    Maria Ivanovich was born in 1551
    Dmitry Ivanovich was born in 1552 and was drowned as an infant when his nurse dropped him in a river.
    Ivan Ivanovich was born in 1554. Ivan was married three times and was the most likely heir to the throne. However, his first and second wives his father banished to nunneries, thinking they were unsuitable. Wife three, Yelena Sheremetieva was not his favorite either. In 1581, Ivan thought Yelena was inappropriately dressed for a pregnant woman. He knocked her down and kicked her. When His son, Ivan, came to her defense, his father lashed at him with an iron-shod staff and fractured his skull. Ivan, his son, died a few days later, and Yelena miscarried and died soon after her husband.
    Evokia Ivanovich was born in 1556
    Feodor Ivanovich was born in 1557, Fedor was physically and mentally feeble.(see below)

  2. Kucheney (aka Marie Temrivkovna or Cherkassaya) was a Circassian princess. He married her in 1561 and she died in 1569. He child was:
    Vasily was born in 1563, and died in infancy.
  3. Marfa Sobakina was from Novgorod. Their marriage was never consummated. He married her in 1571 and she died shortly after the marriage.
  4. Anna Koltovskaya was banished to a convent in 1575 for not producing children, only three years after they married. He married her in 1572.
  5. Anna Vassilchikova died in 1577. She lived two years after he married her in 1575.
  6. Vassilissa Melentievna was married to Ivan in 1576, and was sent to a convent for adultery in 1577. Her lover was killed.
  7. Maria Nagaya was the daughter of a court official of Tatar descent. He married her in 1580 and she died in 1608 (19 years after their marriage). Her child was considered illegitimate because the Orthodox Church only allows one to have three wives:

    Dmitrii Ivanovich was born in 1582 and was murdered (see story below)

Ivan IV was reputed to have repented his sins (such as murdering his own son and daughter-in-law) at St. Basil's Cathedral. He was intelligent and farseeing, but thought mad, since he ordered the death (by torture) of thousands, and took pleasure in inventing new means of agony that he could watch. As a child, Ivan was deprived of friends, food, and the proper clothes. He was said to have thrown small animals out of the windows of the Kremlin tower. When he was old enough to ride, he went around Moscow slashing the faces of his subjects with a whip. Anyone who he thought was rude, or he disliked the way they looked at him, he had decapitated.


Portrait of Fedor I

Fedor I (1584-1598) married Irena/Irina Godunov, sister of Boris Godunov, who made himself ruler of Russia. She died in 1604.

Dmitrii died mysteriously in 1591, with his throat cut, when he was 10-years old. He was said to have playing with a knife, had an epiletic seizure, and killed himself. Most of the court thought Godunov ordered Dmitrii's death. Dmitrii was an infant when his father died. Godunov also tried to eliminate all the Romanovs.

Modest Mussorgsky composed a opera called Boris Godunov.

A Pseudo Dimitrii (1605-1606) was crowned in his place as tsar, but later was lynched. His body laid in the courtyard for three days until they finally burned it. After burning they took the ashes, loaded them in a cannon, and fired them towards Poland because, in 1604, he came with a band of Polish warriors who antagonized the Muscovities.

Boris Godunov (1598-1605 married Mariya Skuratova who was killed in 1605. His son, Feodor II was killed in 1605. ans his son, Vasilii IV died in 1612, thus ending this line of Moscovite rulers. From this point on the House of Romanov ruled, beginning with Mikhail III (Mikhail Fedorich Romanov). A surviving branch of the Romanovs that Boris Godunov sought to eliminate. The Romanovs began the era known as Imperial Russia. To see the opulence of Imperial decorative arts, Click Here

CLICK HERE to view Russian Imperial Crowns.
CLICK HERE to view information about Russian Orders.

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