The Rise of Muscovite Russia
If you were to ask someone to name the center of Russian cultural identity and political power, odds are they’d say Moscow; after all Moscow is the current capital of the Russian Federation and was the capital of the USSR before it. But the importance of Moscow goes back even further than the USSR; it was the capital of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, the country that would go on to form the Russian Empire. For such an important city and region, it surprising then that so many Americans don’t know just how it rose to power, after all the city just didn’t sprout up from the ground. So, how did Moscow reach such prominence? To fully understand that question, we must first look back in history to see what came before Moscow.
For those who don’t know the history of Russia and its people, it might shock them to learn that the Russian heartland wasn’t always in the northern part of Russia or the city of Moscow; instead it was the city of Kiev. The easiest way to demonstrate just how important Kiev was to the Russian sense of identity is to read about its mythical founding in the Russian Primary Chronicles. According to this chronicle, written by a Russian monk, the city of Kiev was founded
“when [Saint] Andrew was teaching in Sinope and came to Kherson, … he observed that the mouth of the Dnipro [the Dnieper River] was nearby. Conceiving a desire to go to Rome, he thus journeyed to the mouth of the Dnipro. Thence he ascended the river, and by chance he halted beneath the hills upon the shore. Upon arising in the morning, he observed to the disciples who were with him, ‘See ye these hills? So shall the favor of God shine upon them that on this spot a great city shall arise, and God shall erect many churches therein.’ He drew near the hills, and having blessed them, he set up a cross. After offering his prayer to God, he descended from the hill on...