August 20, 2022

The Third Rome: Origins of the Russian Tsardom


An excerpt from, "“The Third Rome”: From Eschatology to Political Myth" By Pavel Kuzenkov:

The fall of Byzantium in 1453 was viewed in the eyes of contemporaries as a terrible event which nonetheless had its own logic and was long awaited. Even a significant part of the Byzantine elite admitted that it was “better to see the Turkish fez than the Latin biretta” in Constantinople. And when Mehmed II’s troops entered Constantinople, which defended herself desperately, many people viewed this as deserved retribution for the betrayal of the Orthodox faith.

By the mid-fifteenth century there was not a single Orthodox country left in the world. The New Rome had fallen under the heel of the Turks. Bulgaria, Serbia, Walachia and Moldavia had long been captured by the Ottomans. The last remnants of the Byzantine world, Trebizond and the Crimean principality of Theodoro, fell in 1461 and 1475. There remained only Georgia and Russia. But they, divided into several parts, eked out a pitiful existence under the yoke of Muslim powers. Who then would pick up the fallen banner of the Last Kingdom? Many believed that the fullness of time had come and that the world stood on the verge of the Second Coming, even more so as the 7000th year anniversary of the creation of the world was drawing near.

Yet not all were so apocalyptically inclined in their passive acceptance of the end of the world. Some bishops turned their gazes towards the sole corner of the Orthodox world where the Union of Florence was openly condemned by both the secular authorities and the Church. It was there, to distant Moscow, that there set off in the 1460s the Patriarch of Jerusalem Joachim, who had condemned the naivety of expecting help from the West against the Turks by joining the Union. Joachim died in Crimea without reaching Moscow. But soon after him there would make their way to Russia entire queues of petitioners and intercessors from all over the Christian East. And among Russian thinkers the notion of the special role which Muscovy would play began to gain traction.

In 1472 the Grand Prince of Moscow Ivan III Vasilievich entered into a marriage with Sophia (Zoya), the niece of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine Paleologos. And soon afterwards, in 1480 Muscovite Rus was finally free from paying tribute to the Golden Horde, and from 1493 Ivan III was titled the ‘sovereign of all Russia.’ The 7000th year since the creation of the world, which evoked so much fear, came and went and there began a new millennium dating from the creation of the world which would become an epoch of the rapid growth of a new Orthodox power in the form of the Russian state.

. . .

In spite of the widespread opinion to the contrary, the Russian grand princes and tsars never laid any claim to the so-called Byzantine legacy. The marriage between Ivan III and Sophia Paleologos, the niece of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI Monomachus, had no legal consequences as the heir was Sophia’s brother Andrew, who sold his legacy to the King Charles VIII of France (and then later to Ferdinand of Spain). So, if we are to call Moscow the heir to the Second Rome, then it is only in the sense that it is a spiritual heir and a mystical burden of the “last earthly realm.”

The concept of the “Third Rome” found no expression in the laws and documents of the Russian state. It is evident that the rulers of Moscow treated the theory with circumspection. Misunderstood, this theory could have been taken to mean a claim to the heritage of Byzantium, which would inevitably have led to a worsening of relations with the Ottoman empire. War with the powerful sultan was not one of the plans of Russia’s rulers, even though their Western “partners’ encouraged them in this direction, as did too many Greeks who dreamt of liberation from the Ottoman yoke.

An excerpt from, "Untilted" By Eric Vandenbroeck and co-workers,

Being an Orthodox theocracy, Russia initially considered her growing size and strength as serving a divine purpose. In Muscovite Russia of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, this idea appeared in the shape of the doctrine of Moscow as the Third Rome (Moskva - Tretii Rim), a messianic doctrine that was based on the legacy of the Byzantine Empire (the `Second Rome'). The latter had proclaimed itself as the future universal Christian empire with a divinely ordained mission to extend its Orthodox `truth' to the entire world. After the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, this train of thought was adopted by the Grand principality of Moscowy who had claimed title to the spiritual heritage of the Byzantine Empire.

The Grand Princes of Moscow proclaimed themselves as successors of the tsars of Byzantium investing themselves with the title `Tsar, autocrat, chosen by God'. Orthodoxy, the cornerstone of Russian nationalism later on in history, was often used as an argument against the secularised and superficial West. It was to represent pure and true Christianity in contrast to Catholicism, which was seen as the heir to Roman paganism, and to Protestantism, which it viewed as the gateway to barren individualism. Needless to say, this train of thought implied that the rulers of Russia had the right to rule and protect all the Orthodox people in the world and, by implication, to bring them under Russian suzerainty. Moreover, as Orthodoxy was proclaimed the only true Christian faith, the rulers considered themselves universal Christian sovereigns, i.e. the rulers of all the 'Christians’. Thus, Russia's imperialistic policy of geographical expansion during the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries could be theologically justified. Solzhenitsyn's explanation is characteristic:

By 1945, the Soviet Union was like a carbon copy of Hitler's Germany in some important respects: its system had become dictatorial, nationalist and anti-Semitic. Disguised as Soviet patriotism Russian nationalism had manifested itself in the form of large-scale deportations of ethnic groups like the Crimean Tatars and Volga Germans, who were suspected in having collaborated with Germany. During the war, the occupied territories had been a hotbed of anti-Semitism. This ideological climate reached even the ranks of the partisans and the Red Army. Russian traditional anti-Semitism was refueled by its German modern equivalent.

After 1945 and, especially, with the outbreak of the cold war in 1946, a far-reaching isolationism took effect in the Soviet Union. The political atmosphere became outright xenophobic, and the anti-Semitic feelings were to intensify. In 1948-53, this policy continued as a campaign against `Zionists' and `rootless cosmopolitans'. In plain language, the state and party hierarchy, the arts and the theatres, the universities and colleges and the mass media should be cleansed from Jews.

The poorly camouflaged anti-Jewish campaign culminated in November 1948, when the Jewish anti-fascist committee was disbanded and almost all its members arrested. A show trial of Jewish doctors was held in March 1953.  Stalin saw in the trial a way to prepare the ground for exiling the Jewish population from the centre of the Soviet Union and largely responsible for the growth of Israel during the 1950’s followed by the decade of the Israeli “six day war”.
. . .
Russian geopolitical thinking with deep roots in history has always influenced the country's foreign policy - under the Soviet regime it was disguised. Only after August 1991 was geopolitics officially accepted as a political doctrine. Neo-Eurasianism became the most important and influential version of it. This anti-Western theory had its roots in Eurasianism, a theory introduced by Russian émigrés in the 1920s. It was based on two conceptions: the view of a declining West and the conspiracy theory. The first-mentioned view has its precursors even in the West - in Friedrich Nietzsche's and Oswald Spengler's writings as well as in the national socialists' worldview.

The view of the decrepit West, however, has always been combined with the so-called conspiracy theory according to which the West is a hotbed of evil forces conspiring against Russia. In plain language, all misfortunes and shortcomings in Russia's history can be explained as having been caused by the West dominated by Jews and Masons.

Video Title: 12: The Third Rome: Origins of the Russian Tsardom (Lecture). Source: Apostolic Majesty. Date Published: November 22, 2021. Description: 

Lecture on Ivan III & IV, the Muscovite state's transformation into the Tsardom of Russia.