The Grand Principality of Muscovy Russia

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 3, 2012

The Grand Principality of Muscovy

The principality of Muscovy, with the city of Moscow at its center, became the core of the Russian empire through a combination of geographical and political factors.


Muscovy had no natural borders to define it, nor any geographical features such as mountain ranges to protect it from invasion. This explains its conquering mentality: Moscow could maintain its position of power only by remaining constantly on the attack. Successful attacks gave the rulers of Muscovy control over major rivers, which were essential for transportation and trade. Conquering more territory also enriched the royal treasury because it meant a larger population paying tax to the crown. In addition, Moscow was unifying Russia by consolidating power into the hands of one prince.


Moscow’s ruling family, the Danilovitch, was abler and more shrewd than ruling families of the other principalities. As part of their policy of achieving a greater position of power in Russia, they arranged several important dynastic marriages to create alliances between Muscovy and the other principalities. Family connections, like territorial annexation, helped to unify the various states into one empire.

The Orthodox Catholic faith also served as a unifying force in the creation of the Russian empire. As Moscovy expanded far beyond its borders into sparsely inhabited territory, a shared form of worship helped to establish a sense of community and belonging. The Orthodox Church supported political unity among the principalities of Russia, because a strong central rule meant greater control over the people. Orthodox leaders saw political control as a useful supplement to religious control. By the 1400s, the metropolitan (head of the Orthodox Church in Russia, analogous to the archbishop of Canterbury in England) had accepted Moscow as the center of the empire.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

Czars of Russia Practice Test

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