January 01, 2016

Novgorod's Subjugation

A small war was raging in Rus in January and February 1456. Its origin could largely be traced back to events three years earlier, when Dmitry Shemyaka, the prince of Zvenigorod and a long-time enemy of Moscow’s Prince Vasily II, fled to Novgorod, where he died under mysterious circumstances (rumor had it he had been poisoned by the cook). Vasily accused the Novgorod boyars of treachery for having harbored the fugitive prince.

Moscow’s army made short work of the Novgorod Republic’s forces, yet Novgorod mostly maintained its independence after the fighting was done. On the other hand, its people lost many of their rights, and the Muscovite prince became their supreme judge.

Over the succeeding decades, Vasily (and his son Ivan III even more so) would make increasingly aggressive use of this power, demonstrating to the people of Novgorod that they could turn to Moscow for protection against their own boyars.

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