The June 4, 2000, Dr. Jon Kardatzke Collection Parts II & III, Sale 5
Land of War and Diversity
The Early History
Mighty Russia! Today, it is a confederation of peoples constantly at war with themselves, or at the very least with the idea of being Russian. And so it has been through more than two thousand years of almost constant strife: this vast land of emptiness, in its earliest recorded history, survived hundreds of years of barbarian savagery (much like that of pagan Germany) and first took the notion of statehood, or nationality, during the ninth century, centering in Kiev and around its legendary occupation by Oleg. The Russian faith, culture, art, language, and a larger sense of place all took root here.
Yet diverse influences were still to be injected-from cultures now known as Iranian, Slavic, Scythian, Byzantine and Islamic. Kiev had been born out of chaos and prospered as a center of religion, craft and business. When trade routes altered dramatically in the eleventh century, the city on the Dnieper lost the edge which had brought it prosperity. One of several new eras was about to begin.
In the thirteenth century, Russia became a land of princely udels, or appanages. Fiefdoms we might call them more familiarly. Populations were broadly spread, yet a concentration of peoples was occurring on the east European plain and began to be known as Muscovite Russia. Before the middle of the twelfth century, when it was walled in, Moscow itself was nothing more than a princely village.
Barbaric England had its Viking invasions, and into Russia came the Mongols with a sudden fearfulness in 1223, conquering by 1240. Strife and murder took on new meaning. Entire towns were massacred, including the once-great Kiev, whose few survivors were enslaved. A papal legate of 1246 found field after field around the city strewn with uncountable numbers of skulls and human bones. For over two centuries, the Mongol invaders segregated themselves in every way from the natives of the land and remained nomadic through this vast territory, playing the role of overlords of the Russian princes and exacting savage justice on any who defied them.
Slowly during this terrible period, Russia was forming itself into geographic and political states. When the Mongols finally left, Russians turned gladly to Byzantium's cultural and religious institutions. Absolute monarchies sprang up quickly, with Moscow being the strongest. Yet little is known of the facts of these princes of the late thirteenth century. An early prince among princes was Ivan 1st, or Ivan Kalita, which literally means "John the Moneybag." It was wealth that defined power, then as now. And Ivan I remains the prototype for the early monarchs of Russia, who emerged as victorious and preeminent among their peers largely because of their financial and administrative talents. These were precisely the qualities which the Mongol hordes had lacked.
In 1326 the head of the church, Metropolitan Peter, died while visiting Moscow; he came to be worshiped as a saint, a shrine was erected to him there, and his successor settled in. As a result, Moscow became the cradle of Russian Christianity, more or less sealing its fate as the future capital and the political center of Russia.
It was left to Ivan III (the Great) to galvanize Moscow's fate in the fifteenth century. By absorbing old rivals from surrounding principalities, and thus expanding the geography of the city-state, he brought single rule to Muscovite Russia-through both war and inheritance. By 1493, he declared himself the first Sovereign of All Russia.
Final warfare with the Mongols followed when Ivan cut off money tributes. When he married the Byzantine princess Sophia, his fame and prestige grew to noble proportions. He added the Byzantine dual-headed eagle to the Saint George on his family crest, and began informally using the title of Czar (Caesar).
Both Ivan the Great and Basil III laid down the infrastructure (buildings, roads and social institutions) that began to make Moscow great, but Ivan IV (the Terrible) showed that a czar could be tyranical as well. Moscow copied Rome during this period, in its grandeur and intrigues. This Ivan was the first to have himself crowned czar, rather than grand prince. The age of majesty had begun.
Ivan IV was a cruel young man, but a happy marriage and a terrible fire that swept Moscow in 1547 made him repent his ways. He worked for ecclesiastical accord and just legal codes, reformed the military and modernized artillery and engineering. But the 1550s brought war to Moscow from the peoples of the steppe. Devastating raids by the Tartars caused Ivan to retaliate and wage war on the Crimea. More than five years of war ensued, and Ivan emerged victorious.
But war taught Ivan suspicion, and his reign ended in internal battle against advisors and other nobility. He earned his nickname by the means he used to put down political intrigue. He seemed to have gone mad after the death of his beloved first wife, walled himself into a new palace, seized lands from political enemies, and waged a reign of terror using the first political police in Russia's history, who exterminated entire towns. Alternately wild with rage and repentant, he saw traitors everywhere, tortured and executed at will, and even, in a fit of violence, killed his own son and heir. He died in 1584, probably of poisoning.
Ivan's feckless remaining heir became Czar Theodore, but his reign was dominated by a fascinating, avaricious man, Boris Godunov, who sought the throne eventually and was implicated (but never prosecuted) in the murder of the czar's 9-year-old brother, Dmitrii-who had his throat cut, legend has it, because he was the only other male member of the royal family. When Czar Theodore died childless in 1598, Moscow had no natural successor, and without a ruler Muscovite Russia fell into chaos again-a period widely known as the Time of Troubles.
Famine struck the peasantry as the century turned, Godunov seized the crown briefly, and both internal and external war erupted. Starvation took the lives of over a hundred thousand Muscovites and caused survivors to loot and battle troops. The cossacks, clans of warring adventurers who detested Moscow, ravaged the borders. The populace blamed all this on Godunov just as a pretender to the throne appeared, claiming to be the murdered brother of Czar Theodore, and he boldly invaded Russia with an army of only some fifteen hundred cossacks and Polish adventurers. At just that moment, Godunov suddenly died, the army committed to the cause of the pretender, Godunov's family were murdered, and False Dmitrii entered the capital triumphantly. He was quickly recognized as the heir to the throne of Russia.
Among Godunov's political enemies who were brought back out of exile by Dmitrii was an abbot by the name of Theodore Romanov.
Intrigue ensued, Dmitrii was accused by the pardoned nobility of being an impostor, and a coup led to his swift murder. Because the Poles were hated and Dmitrii had used them to come to power, Dmitrii's body was burned in Red Square and his ashes fired from a cannon in the direction of Poland. Prince Basil Shuisky, leader of the coup, became Czar to the shouts of a Muscovite crowd.
Civil war erupted. Seeming madness reigned, as one pretender after another emerged from nowhere. Confusion ruled Russia. Long-time enemies Poland and Sweden took opposing sides in the civil war, further fragmenting Basil Shuisky's authority until a group of powerful Muscovites forced him to relinquish the throne and seek protection within the Church as a monk.
For a few years it seemed that Russia would come under Polish rule. Amid this dreadful war, Russians united in kindred spirit against this threat and proposed that the new czar should be the son of the abbot Theodore Romanov, now Metropolitan or chief cleric of Moscow. His name was Michael.
The Polish army held Moscow and much of the surrounding countryside, and Sweden declared war, invading the north. Outlaws roamed at will. And civil war still raged. The church emerged as the one trusted institution, and it roused the nationalism of internal enemies, including the cossacks, to form a large army. In battle after battle, this Russian force triumphed against all enemies of the Muscovite power. When the dust finally cleared, Moscow was free again and all foreigners expelled or killed. An assembly of princes, gentry, serfs and clergy selected Michael Romanov to be Czar. His descendants ruled Russia for more than three hundred years, from 1613 until the revolution of 1917.
Russia had saved itself from civil war and from old enemies. Mighty Russia-united at last under the Romanov Dynasty.
RUSSIA-KASHIN (TUER). Copper Pul, ND (Period of 1400). Novodel (Struck in the 19th Century). 17 mm. Bird. Reverse: Legend. Striking weakness in center. Choice About Uncirculated.
Estimated Value $150-200.
RUSSIA. 14th to 16th Century Silver Lot: Includes Silver Denga period of 1380 and Silver Denga and Silver Kopeck period of 1500's. Lot of 3 coins. Fine.
Estimated Value $150-200.
RUSSIA. Denga, ND. Novodel (Struck in the 19th Century). 17.79 mm. Czar and Grand Duke Michael Romanov, 1613-1645. Ruler on horse holding sword. Reverse: Six line legend. Uncirculated.
Estimated Value $150-200.
Michael (or Mikhail) Romanov, the founder of his dynasty, began his reign as a teenager given direction in matters of state by a council of nobles, or boyer duma. He had much to overcome: a country devastated financially and otherwise by the civil war, and even a capital nearly burned to the ground. Bands of roving thieves, some of them numbering in the thousands, sacked the countryside, while cossack raids continued and yet other pretenders to the throne appeared. Peace came at last with Poland and Sweden, but at the cost of Russian land on the borders and payments of much-needed money, keeping the treasury empty. Michael's father, the great prelate, ruled jointly with him near the end of his reign. They put down most of the rebels and outlaws, but when the Czar died in 1645 at age 48, the finances of the land remained desperate.
Michael's only son, Alexei, was the same age when he became Czar as his father had been, sixteen. Quiet and thoughtful, he was subject to fits of anger, perhaps madness, but is remembered for his kindness, as a dedicated churchgoer, and as the first ruler of Russia to introduce Western ideas to the homeland, particularly in architecture. He too depended heavily on advice from family and advisors. It was needed, for he dealt with Swedish threats and another war with Poland, ongoing cossack raids, a people's rebellion over an unpopular salt tax and the legalization of tobacco, detested by the Church. Money problems continued, and Alexei allowed the coinage to be debased in 1656 (copper was mixed with silver), which caused both inflation and the "copper coin riot" of 1662. Yet he introduced a new legal code that brought such fairness to trials that it stood unchanged until 1835.
Alexei's death left the Romanov throne to his eldest son, Theodore, just fourteen in 1676 and always sickly. Although ineffective as a Czar, Theodore (who died at age 20) was scholarly and managed to abolish the antiquated system of service appointments known as the mestnichestvo, thereby laying the groundwork for state reforms that would permit Peter the Great to govern so effectively.
RUSSIA. Jefimok, 1655. Alexei Michailovitch, 1645-1676. Rider and date counterstamps on Holy Roman Empire Undated Archduke Ferdinand, 1564-1595 Taler, Dav-8097. Very Rare. Very Fine.
Estimated Value $2,500-UP.
RUSSIA. Jefimok, 1655. Alexei Michailovitch, 1645-1676. Rider and date counterstamps on Netherlands-Kampen 1649 Reichstaler, Delm-705. Light gray, very pleasing. Very Fine.
Estimated Value $1,000-UP.