When Emperor Maximilian died on January 12, 1519 the states of Lower and Upper Austria, Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola refused to give homage until their rights and privileges were confirmed. Maximilian had used a thousand ducats to persuade the German electors to choose his grandson Charles as his successor, and according to rumor Charles used more than two tons of Hapsburg gold to outbid France’s King François. He was crowned Emperor Charles V on October 26, 1520, but the Austrians refused to recognize the Old Regiment in Vienna, preferring their own. The new Sultan Suleiman left Istanbul (Constantinople) on May 10, 1521, and his army took over Sabacz on July 10 and then besieged Belgrade by the end of the month. On August 25 Charles V and Henry VIII of England confirmed their alliance in a treaty at Bruges.
In 1521 Charles gave the Hapsburg hereditary lands of Lower Austria to his younger brother Ferdinand to govern, and the next year he added Tyrol with its silver mines. Confirmed by the Convention of Brussels on February 7, 1522, this put Archduke Ferdinand in charge of Austria, Carinthia, Carniola, Styria, and Tyrol and gave his descendants the right to inherit Austria. Both Charles and Ferdinand were brought up in Spain and did not speak German. In 1515 Ferdinand had been betrothed to Anna, princess of Bohemia and Hungary.
The Hapsburgs tried to suppress religious reformers, and in 1524 Kaspar Tauber was executed in Vienna. The Anabaptists managed to establish the Moravian Brethren. After the Ottoman Turks defeated the Hungarians on August 29, 1526, Ferdinand I of Austria was elected King of Bohemia in October, King of Hungary in December, and King of Croatia in January 1527. That year Ferdinand established a Privy Council and an Aulic Council as a supreme court of justice and a Court Chancellery to administer the government. On September 27 his army with few losses defeated the Hungarians led by Janos Zapolya at Tarcal while the Hungarians suffered 5,000 casualties. The Austrians defeated them again in March 1528, and Zapolya fled and became a vassal of the Ottoman empire. Sultan Suleiman’s army of 120,000 besieged Vienna from September 27, 1529 until October 15 when the Turks withdrew for the winter after losing 15,000 men killed, captured, or wounded.
Charles V lost the duchy of Burgundy in the Peace of Cambrai on August 3, 1529. On February 24, 1530 Pope Clement VII crowned Charles Holy Roman Emperor, and he was the last person to be so crowned by a pope. Ferdinand was elected King of the Romans as successor on January 5, 1531, and in February the Protestant princes responded to the crowning of another Catholic by forming the Schmalkaldic League. Ferdinand married Anna of Bohemia and Hungary on May 25. In 1534 he organized criminal justice under four district courts.
In 1532 the Turks again advanced toward Vienna, and Charles V asked the Nuremberg Diet to provide an imperial army in defense. The Turkish invasion was stopped in 1533, but Ferdinand agreed to a treaty that divided Hungary with the Hapsburg portion in the west and Zapolya’s kingdom in the east under the Ottoman Empire. The Protestant Germans with support from France and England invaded Württemberg and forced the Hapsburgs to surrender in 1534. On April 14, 1536 the Fuggers loaned Charles 100,000 ducats at 14% interest that would be repaid in bullion from America. He borrowed another 100,000 ducats from them on February 26, 1537, and a well provided fleet arrived at Seville. That year the Empire began minting the lighter gold coin called the escudo.
In 1537 Ferdinand began trying to regain his territory in Hungary against the Zapolyas in Eastern Hungary, and Bohemian and Hungarian lands were exempted from the Aulic Council. In the treaty of Nagyvarad in 1538 Ferdinand persuaded Zapolya to recognize him as his successor, though this was cancelled two years later when Zapolya had a son. Ferdinand reacted by invading Hungary, but the regent, Bishop Gyorgy Martinuzzi of Varad, appealed to Sultan Suleiman who marched an army into Hungary and drove the Austrians back to western Hungary. To avoid more war Ferdinand agreed to pay tribute to the Ottoman Empire. In 1543 he made a treaty with Poland and married his daughter Elisabeth to Prince Zygmunt Augustus of Poland. Ferdinand now could speak German, Spanish, Latin, Czech, and Hungarian.
To counter the Protestant Schmalkaldic League, the Catholics formed the League of Nuremberg on June 10, 1538. Moritz of Saxony withdrew from the Schmalkaldic League in 1542 to support Charles V in his war against France. That year the Estates General of the united territories met to pay for the Turkish wars, and the Bohemians were asked to pay two-thirds. In 1545 Ferdinand had run out of resources and asked Suleiman for a truce. In the armistice of 1547 Ferdinand agreed to pay the Turks 30,000 ducats annually to keep the peace.
In 1549 Martinuzzi changed his policy to recognize Ferdinand’s claim to Eastern Hungary, and Hapsburg armies invaded there. In the Weissenburg treaty of 1551 Zapolya’s widow Isabella and young Janos II Zsigmond Zapolya abdicated in Hungary. Ferdinand betrothed his daughter to Janos II and recognized him as his vassal in Eastern Hungary which came to be called Transylvania. When Cardinal Martinuzzi went back to Suleiman for support, Ferdinand approved his execution for treason by his General Castaldo. Pope Julius III excommunicated Ferdinand and Castaldo; but Ferdinand sent 87 articles of treason and the testimony of 116 witnesses, and the Pope ended the excommunications in 1555. The war between the Hapsburgs and the Turks went on for five years until 1556 when the Hungarian nobles at the Diet of Szaszsebes elected Janos II King of Eastern Hungary.
Meanwhile Protestants had spread to Slovenian Carniola. Emperor Charles V persuaded Pope Clement VII to summon a General Council at Trent near Hapsburg territory in 1545. The imperial army defeated the Schmalkaldic League at Mühlfeld in 1547, enabling Charles to impose the Interim of Augsburg in 1548 to re-establish the Catholic faith in the Empire. In 1550 at Konigsberg a defensive alliance against the Hapsburgs was formed and led by Hans of Küstrin, Johann Albrecht of Mecklenburg, and Duke Albrecht of Prussia. French envoys negotiated with Moritz (Maurice) of Saxony and made an agreement at Lochau on October 5, 1551 which led to the Protestant princes allied with Henri II of France in the treaty of Chambord on January 15, 1552 joining with Wilhelm of Hesse and Johann Albrecht of Mecklenburg on February 19. In 1552 the Emperor’s former ally Moritz of Saxony led a mostly Protestant army to stop Charles who managed to escape being captured at Innsbruck.
Emperor Charles V besieged Metz in December; but this failed in January 1553, and Charles resigned his political positions at the start of 1555. The Peace of Augsburg established the principle that in the Empire the religion of the ruler was to be the religion of his subjects. This was signed by Ferdinand as Charles refused to do so but instead resigned as ruler of the Netherlands in 1555 and of Spain in 1556, yielding his imperial office to Ferdinand on August 27. Charles retired in Spain and died in 1558.
Ferdinand did not go to Rome to be crowned Emperor by the Pope. He supported the Catholic counter-reformation and had invited Jesuits to Vienna in 1551. In 1556 the Aulic War Council was formed to organize the Hungarian campaign against the Turks, and the Court Chancellery became imperial rather than Austrian. In 1557 the Hapsburg army defeated the French at St. Quentin and took over Italy. In 1562 Ferdinand tried to reconcile with Protestants at the Council of Trent, but the Catholics rejected his proposal. He designated his son Maximilian as his heir in the Empire, Bohemia, and Hungary, and he gave Upper Austria to his son Ferdinand and Inner Austria to his son Charles. Ferdinand became more interested in the Protestant religion, and he was frustrated that Rome would not accept more reforms. He died of a fever on July 25, 1564.
Emperor Maximilian II (1564-76) mastered the six major languages of Europe and agreed to a truce with the Turks in 1568. That year he granted the Lower Austrian estates the right to exercise the Augsburg Confession, and in 1571 he legalized the Protestant religion in Lower Austria and made concessions in Protestant Bohemia. On October 7, 1571 the Holy League of Catholic nations defeated the Ottoman’s armada at Lepanto. One of the commanders was Johann of Austria, the illegitimate son of Charles V. Maximilian believed in religious tolerance and made concessions, and Bohemians adopted the Confession of 1575. He sent his sons to be educated in the court of Felipe II of Spain. Maximilian resided in Vienna while his son Rudolf lived at the royal castle in Prague. Maximilian II was preparing to invade Poland when he died at Regensburg on October 12, 1576.
On October 27, 1575 Maximilian II’s son Rudolf was elected King of the Romans. He had been crowned King of Hungary in 1572 and King of Bohemia on September 22, 1575. Rudolf II (1576-1612) succeeded his father Maximilian II as Holy Roman Emperor. Usually the archduchy of Austria had been shared by the brothers, but Rudolf did not share the government but in 1578 only provided them with annual pensions, establishing primogeniture in the Hapsburg succession. Rudolf had been educated by Jesuits at the court of Spain, and he promoted the Catholic religion as well as science and the arts. He invited to his court the astronomer and alchemist Tycho Brahe and the astrologer and astronomer Johannes Kepler who was the first to publish a defense of the Copernican system. Rudolf’s son also studied in Spain, and his younger brother Maximilian III became master of the Teutonic Order and regent of Inner Austria and Tyrol. Ernst ruled Lower Austria and Inner Austria, and he governed the Netherlands for Felipe II until 1595.
The cleric Melchior Khlesl led the Counter Reformation in Lower Austria. Rudolf II announced he would continue his father’s policy of tolerating Protestants, but he had three prominent ministers expelled from Vienna. Religious conflict in Inner Austria in 1578 revived the Catholics. Rudolf II had renewed Maximilian’s armistice with the Sultan in 1584.
When the Hapsburg government levied a tax for a war against the Turks in 1531, Wilhelm Reublin opposed the autocratic Widemann and advised against paying what he called “blood money” because “there is little or no difference between slaying with our own hands and strengthening and directing someone else when we give him our money (to slay) in our stead.”1 This idea influenced Jacob Hutter, who had become an Anabaptist in Tyrol in 1526. As he took over the leadership of the Austerlitz community from Widemann, they began to develop a communitarian way of living together. Many Hutterites migrated from Tyrol to Moravia, hoping to find religious tolerance from the Hussite tradition; but in 1535 they were persecuted and refused to give in to any form of violence. Hutter wrote to the governor of Moravia,
Ere we would knowingly do injustice
to anybody for a penny’s worth,
we would rather suffer to be deprived of a hundred florins….
And ere we would strike our worst enemy with our hand,
let alone with pike, sword, or halberd, as the world does,
we would rather die and have our lives taken from us.
Moreover, we do not possess material arms,
neither pike nor gun, as anybody may well see
and which is known everywhere.2
Hutter himself was burned at the stake on February 25, 1536. His followers continued to practice communal sharing because they believed that private property was the root of human conflict. Their fellowship spread and grew in the next century to more than twenty thousand members in about a hundred Brüderhofe communities.
Hutterite ideas on nonviolence were explained well by Peter Ridemann, who wrote his Account of Our Religion, Doctrine, and Faith (Rechenschaft) while he was in a Hessian prison in 1540 and 1541. He agreed with the Schleitheim Confession that no Christian is a ruler, and no ruler is a Christian, and so Christians in abandoning the sword must divest themselves of authority. Ridemann considered the Hutterites a separate people in a world of sin who endeavored to preserve the Christ’s message intact. Not only would they not fight in wars, but their metallurgists would not manufacture any weapons such as swords, spears, and muskets so as not to be “partakers of other men’s sins.” Knives and axes could be used as tools because they were not made for slaying and harming. Ridemann also said they refused to pay taxes that were raised for the purpose of war, although they did pay taxes for useful purposes. Starting in the 1570s the Hapsburg war with Turkey led to government confiscation of Hutterite property to cover their taxes, and this happened again in 1584.
Lajos (Louis) II had married Mary of Austria in 1515 and succeeded his father as King of Hungary in 1516. Palatine Perényi died in 1519, and the nobility chose Istvan (Stephen) VII Bathory to succeed him. He was supported by Count Janos Zapolya, but some barons formed a league against them in 1522. After Sultan Selim I died in 1520, Hungary did not renew the truce. Sultan Suleiman led the Ottoman invasion of Hungary in May 1521 and besieged Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade), which fell on August 29. The Turks also took Sabac and Zimony. That year the Estates devalued the currency which caused a reduction in revenues such that the government stopped minting money in 1525. The Turks continued to advance, and by the end of 1523 Hungary’s annual revenue was down to 88,000 florins. Only the Holy See was still sending financial aid regularly. The Diet of 1523 ordered that the followers of Luther should be punished with loss of life and property. Archbishop Ladislaus Szalkai was Palatine and Chancellor and formed a league to stop the nobility as civil war threatened. The government was replaced as the nobles elected Istvan Werboczy to be Palatine and Paul Vardai to replace Szalkai as Chancellor and Archbishop of Esztergom.
At the Diet in April 1526 Queen Mary of Hungary triumphed as Werboczy and Szobi were convicted of treason. Istvan VII Bathory became Palatine of Hungary again and in 1529 Vajda of Transylvania. Also in April 1526 Sultan Suleiman launched another invasion of Hungary with 80,000 troops. In August they crossed the Drava River without resistance. King Lajos II arrived with an army of 25,000 men. On the plain south of Mohacs on August 29 the Ottoman forces defeated the Hungarians, and Lajos was drowned. Hungary lost a thousand infantry, almost all the cavalry, many barons, and most of the bishops. The Turks occupied Buda on September 10, but by the end of October they returned across the Danube River with more than 100,000 captives.
The Hapsburg Ferdinand I of Austria was proclaimed King of Bohemia at Prague on October 24, and the Diet of Pozsony elected him King of Hungary on December 17. However, Archbishop Peter Perenyi crowned Zapolya King of Hungary on November 11, 1526. Yet Ferdinand’s army captured Buda the next summer and defeated Zapolya at Tokay on September 26, 1527. Zapolya fled to Poland, England, and France, but early in 1528 Suleiman recognized him as King and promised him military support against the Hapsburgs. In November the Archbishop crowned Ferdinand King of Hungary. Also in 1528 the Hungarian Chamber was established to manage royal finances, and in 1531 it was moved to Pozsony.
In March 1529 Germans meeting at Innsbruck voted to give 120,000 Rhenish guilders to defend against the Turks, and in May the Diet of Speyer authorized an army of 16,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry. Suleiman led his army of 200,000 men and met Zapolya at Mohacs. They captured Buda, and Zapolya resumed power there and went with the Turkish army on its march to Vienna which they reached by September. Zapolya appointed the Venetian banker Aloise Gritti treasurer, commander-in-chief, and regent. King Ferdinand transferred the Hungarian Chancellery to Vienna. When Palatine Istvan VII Bathory died in 1530, Ferdinand eliminated that office and replaced him with a royal lieutenant who was chairman of a council. In 1532 Suleiman moved his army north but met resistance at Koszeg. The Turks invaded Styria before returning to Hungary. In 1536 an Ottoman army invaded eastern Slavonia and held it against a Hapsburg attack the next year.
From the late 1530s on the Reformation spread in Hungary. The priest Peter Méliusz Juhasz helped Calvinism become the most popular creed. The Catholic establishment remained but as a small minority despite efforts to implement the reforms of the Council of Trent. Biblical scholarship simulated a Hungarian-Latin dictionary and the first Hungarian grammars in 1539 and 1549.
On February 24, 1538 Ferdinand and Janos Zapolya agreed by the treaty of Nagyvárad to divide Hungary with Zapolya getting the eastern two-thirds, but he died on July 22, 1540. He had married Isabella, daughter of King Zygmunt I Jagiello, in 1539. Their infant son was elected King Janos II as the Treasurer Gyorgy Martinuzzi, Bishop of Varad, governed. In August 1541 the Ottoman army captured Buda and took over eastern Hungary, making Zapolya a vassal of Suleiman while the Turks also took over one-third of Hungary. This ended fifteen years of civil war in Hungary. Sultan Suleiman gave the land east of the Tisza River to Isabella and Janos II which became the new state of Transylvania. In 1542 Margrave Joachim of Brandenburg with an army of 55,000 tried to regain Buda but could not even enter Pest. Suleyman arrived and conquered Valpo, Siklos, Szekesfehervar, and Esztergom on the bank of the Danube River. In 1543 King Ferdinand allowed the palatinal lieutenant to be elected, but he was still subordinate to the royal lieutenant.
Borders were set during a truce on June 19, 1547 when Sultan Suleiman and Emperor Charles V agreed to an armistice for five years. Ferdinand had to pay the Turks 30,000 gold florins as taxes from his portion of Hungary. That year peasants regained the right to migrate temporarily, and it became permanent in 1556. After 1550 many people were forced to pay taxes to the Ottoman Empire, Hungary, the Church, and their landlords. On July 19, 1551 the treaty signed at Weissenburg recognized Ferdinand as ruler of Hungary and Transylvania, replacing Zapolya’s widow Isabella Jagiello with Janos II Zsigmond Zapolya who ruled Eastern Hungary or Transylvania as Ferdinand’s vassal. Pasha Kara Ahmed led the siege of Temesvar which surrendered on July 27, 1552. By 1556 King Ferdinand had soldiers in about fifty forts, and that year they established the Military Court Council. The Hapsburgs were determined to keep Hungary from becoming part of the Ottoman Empire, and in 1556 the Diet of Szaszsebes made Janos II Prince of Transylvania. In 1559 the Hungarian Chancellery informed the Austrian court that the ordinances from their German chancellery would no longer be valid in Hungary.
When the war against the Turks resumed in 1566, Suleyman sent Prince Janos II Zsigmond of Transylvania to attack northern Hungary while his two armies advanced. Pasha Pertev’s 30,000 men took two months to conquer the fort Gyula. On February 17, 1568 the second Peace of Edirne ended the war, and Transylvania became independent.
In 1570 by the Speyer treaty Janos II Zsigmond Zapolya agreed to renounce Hungary, and Maximilian recognized him as the Prince of Transylvania. After Janos II died on March 10, 1571, Istvan Batory (1533-86) ruled Transylvania and later Poland as Stefan Batory. Emperor Maximilian II’s son Rudolf was crowned King of Hungary in 1572, and he secured the succession of the Bohemian throne in 1575. On October 17 Rudolf was unanimously elected Roman King. In 1574 Maximilian renewed the peace with the new Sultan Murad III.
Bohemia took over Moravia in the 10th century and since the 14th century included Silesia and Upper and Lower Lusatia. These five lands were governed by a king and a General Diet, but Bohemia controlled the Crown, the Royal Council, the Chancellery, and the Aulic Court. King Lajos II came to Bohemia from Hungary in 1522, and he dismissed the tyrannical and corrupt Burgrave Zdenek Lev of Rozmital, making people happy. Jan of Wartenberg became burgrave, and the King appointed Duke Karel of Münsterberg to be regent.
Lajos II was killed in the battle at Mohacs, and the news reached Prague on September 9, 1526. On October 24 the Diet elected Archduke Ferdinand I of Austria King of Bohemia, and he ruled until his death in 1564. Regent Karel favored Utraquists (Hussites) and reached out to Lutherans in Germany. Ferdinand asked Pope Clement VII for financial aid and reinstated Lev of Rozmital. He claimed the inheritance of Lord Petr of Rosenberg and started a feud against that family which divided the country. Ferdinand was busy trying to defend Hungary against the Turks, but he tried to unite the Catholics with the Hussites in order to stop the spread of the Lutherans. In 1527 he established the Chamber Court with bureaucrats directly responsible to him, and they could issue documents without the chancellor. They administered the royal property and debts and prepared financial proposals for the Diet. Other areas were also governed by Moravia’s master of rents, the Silesian Chamber, and the captains of the two Lusatias. In 1528 Ferdinand required the convocation of local assemblies to get royal permission. In 1534 the King granted the nobles the right to mine their own lands.
In 1537 Ferdinand called a meeting of the Romanists and Utraquists who forced several of the Bohemian Brethren to retire. The King wanted two bishops, one Catholic and the other Utraquist; but the Catholics would not agree to equality, and the Utraquists became more Lutheran. In 1541 a fire at Prague destroyed state documents, and Ferdinand persuaded the Estates to accept his rule as hereditary rather than elected. The nobility paid taxes on real property and on income from feudal dues, but townsmen paid only on real property. After 1542 tax was collected on the income and real property of peasants. Also in 1542 the Bohemian lands raised mercenary armies of 10,000 cavalry and 14,000 infantry.
In 1545 Ferdinand negotiated a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire, stopping the war for a while. He aided his brother Emperor Charles V by attacking the lands of the Elector of Saxony; but the Diet opposed the invasion, and the Bohemian troops refused to cross the border. On January 12, 1547 Ferdinand summoned troops again, but only a few Romanists and Utraquists came. The citizens of Prague led a revolt that was supported by nobles and knights. They demanded that a Diet be called, and the Estates met at Prague on March 18 and formulated 57 articles to revive the elective and limited monarchy and to proclaim religious liberty. They elected a committee of twelve from the three estates but did not try to attack the King; four of the nobles and knights on the committee were Bohemian Brethren. The Estates equipped an army and appointed Kaspar Pflug von Rabstein to command, instructing him to go to the Saxony border. He went to Joachimsthal but did not enter Germany without an order.
After Charles V defeated the Protestants at Mühlberg on April 24, 1547, the Bohemian troops dispersed. Ferdinand demanded that the Estates not negotiate with Protestant princes in Germany, and he marched to Prague with his imperial forces. The capital capitulated on July 8. Ferdinand limited the privileges that curtailed his authority and appointed royal judges to control the municipalities of Bohemia, and he took over the mines of royal towns. Pflug fled, but four rebels in Prague were beheaded in the square on August 20. Ferdinand summoned the Diet on that bloody day and confiscated landed estates. He blamed the rebellion on religious sects, especially the Unity of the Bohemian Brethren which was democratic and had gained great influence. On October 8 he re-enacted laws aimed at the Brethren. Meetings were prohibited, and they were ordered to make restitution to the Catholics or Utraquists for churches they had taken. Estates of nobles were confiscated, and Brethren were imprisoned or driven into exile. Unity Bishop Augusta was falsely accused and tortured in the White Tower at Prague and imprisoned in a dungeon for sixteen years.
In 1548 Ferdinand created the Council on Appeals so that they could discuss cases from throughout the kingdom, but only the courts of the royal towns, the noble courts of the Lusatias, and some Silesian duchies submitted them. In February 1549 Archduke Maximilian was recognized as heir by the Bohemian Estates. King Ferdinand departed and left his second son Archduke Ferdinand to govern. In 1556 King Ferdinand established the Jesuits in Bohemia, but 22 years later they still had only 40 members. King Ferdinand succeeded Charles V as Emperor in 1558, and his son Maximilian was crowned King of Bohemia in 1562. Ferdinand had been negotiating with Pope Pius IV a reconciliation of moderate Utraquists with the Catholic Church when he died on July 25, 1564.
Emperor Maximilian II (1564-76) was also King of Hungary and Bohemia, and he let Archduke Ferdinand continue governing in Bohemia. Maximilian visited in 1567 to assemble the Estates and get aid against the Turks. He left religious questions to the Pope and the Church. He authorized Church reforms and included the Lutheran Church and the Unity of the Bohemian Brethren. From 1569 to 1575 a sales tax of one-thirtieth was imposed. The salt trade became a royal monopoly in the 1570s.
Georgius Agricola has been called the “father of mineralogy,” and his De Re Metallica was published in 1566, the year after his death. He described various mining methods used in central Europe.
Because of the war against the Turks, Maximilian II summoned the Estates for support again in 1575. Lutherans allied with the Bohemian Brethren and presented the Bohemian Confession based on the Augsburg Confession, and it was adopted. The Consistory Council continued, and Lutherans were exempted from its jurisdiction, being allowed fifteen defenders from the three estates to supervise their Church. The papal nuncio persuaded the Utraquist Consistory to renounce the teachings of Jan Hus. Maximilian’s son Rudolf was crowned King of Bohemia at Prague on September 22, 1575, and he became Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II on October 12, 1576. He moved his court to Prague in 1583.
Poland and Lithuania had been reunited in 1501 when Lithuania’s Grand Duke Alexandras became King of Poland as well. He died in 1506, and his brother Sigismund (Zygmunt in Polish and Zygimantas in Lithuanian) succeeded him in both positions and would rule until 1548. At the coronation ceremony the Polish king was required to declare that he would defend the Catholic Church and her ministers and that he would rule the kingdom according to justice with God’s aid. Hungary and Bohemia were ruled by childless Lajos II (1516-26), and they were associated with the Poland-Lithuanian Empire under the Jagiellon dynasty (1440-1572) until 1526. Russia fought another war against Lithuania and Poland. On March 10, 1517 Russia allied with the Teutonic Grand-master Albrecht, and they defeated the Polish-Lithuanian army at Opoczka in Pskov. The Muscovites attacked Polock, but a Polish army defeated them in July 1518.
Bona Sforza brought a large fortune from Milan and married Zygmunt I on April 18, 1518 and was crowned queen. She used her wealth to buy land in Poland and Lithuania to increase her political influence, and she founded towns, promoted agricultural trade, and introduced better economic management on her properties, using the profits to invest in Mazovia. She also brought the Italian crops of parsley, lettuce, and cauliflower to Poland. In 1518 Zygmunt renounced his right to arbitrate.
The Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I had allied with Zygmunt in 1515, but he died on January 12, 1519. Sultan Selim renewed his armistice with Poland on October 1 for three years. Three Muscovite armies invaded and ravaged Lithuania as far as Krewo. Lithuanian delegates signed an armistice on September 2, 1520, and negotiations in Moscow led to a five-year peace treaty on September 14, 1522 which was later extended to the end of 1533.
Border skirmishes provoked Zygmunt to recruit an army to invade Prussia, and in December 1519 Hetman (Commander) Firley led 4,000 mercenaries who occupied Pomerania. The following May they attacked Konigsberg, but the Teutonic Grand Master was saved by Danish and German mercenaries. The Prussians retaliated by invading Poland in October 1520 with 10,000 men led by Schonburg and Isenburg, and they seized Miedzyrzecz, Chojnice, Starogard, and Tczew; but they suffered losses when trying to take Danzig (Gdansk) in November. In 1521 Duke Albrecht of Prussia invaded Chelmno, but negotiations produced the Torun truce on April 5 which allowed the Reformation to proceed. Zygmunt’s edict on March 7, 1523 increased the penalties against spreading Luther’s ideas to burning at the stake. An edict on August 22 authorized searching homes for heretical books. On July 5, 1525 Albrecht decreed that the holy Gospel was to be preached on pain of exile. The Duke established in Konigsberg a university to educate Protestant ministers and a press which printed thousands of Polish religious pamphlets and books. In 1525 Mazovia tried to keep reforms out as the Warsaw City Council and decreed death and confiscation of property for possessing or reading Luther’s writings or for teaching them.
The monk James Knade had been preaching reform in Danzig since 1518, and by 1522 conservative nobles (szlachta) and the radicals had a majority for the Lutheran reforms. Conservatives were led by the Franciscan friar Alexander and the radicals by the preacher James Hegge who criticized the Church in July 1522. The conservative government freed the monks and nuns from vows while restraining them from preaching, hearing confessions, soliciting donations, and visiting homes. Jan Laski at Danzig in March 1524 concluded an alliance with Denmark. Danzig controlled four-fifths of Poland’s foreign trade. Most of the Polish profits were spent on the luxuries of the nobles and grand buildings. Early in 1524 the aristocratic Danzig City Council was replaced by radicals who closed monasteries and convents, abolished Roman rituals, confiscated Church property, and appointed Lutheran preachers. Catholic King Zygmunt reacted by leading a force to Danzig, decapitating fifteen radical leaders, and restoring the conservatives and Roman worship. Yet people had become Lutherans, and the King finally accepted that in 1540. Many Teutonic knights converted to Lutheranism. The Grand Master asked Zygmunt to take Prussia into Poland with himself as a duke, and he did homage at Krakow on April 10, 1525. That year the Polish Sejm of Piotrkow authorized special taxes for a war against the Teutonic Order in Livonia.
Lithuanians allied with Crimean Tatars in the war against Russia which ended in 1520. In the peace agreement of 1522 Lithuania ceded to Russia some of its Ruthenian lands including Smolensk. Pawel Kaufmann headed a metallurgical consortium from 1525 and controlled royal finances. He was succeeded by his nephew Seweryn Boner (1486-1549). The Latin poet Andrzej Krzycki satirized Luther, and in 1519 he and Bishop Jan Lubranski of Poznan founded the humanistic college Lubranscianum. That year Armenian law was codified. Poland got a new law code in 1523, and Church law was codified in 1527. The First Lithuanian Statute was published on September 29, 1529, granting consultation to the Great Council.
In 1526 Poland annexed Mazovia, and Zygmunt confirmed the privileges of the nobles (szlachta) in Warsaw and received their allegiance. The szlachta were nearly one-tenth of the population and believed they were descended from the Sarmatians of Scythia rather than the Slavs, but they included Lithuanians and other nationalities. The aristocratic nobles dominated the others, and both exploited the cheap labor of the peasants. At the end of 1529 the Sejm incorporated Mazovia into Great Poland, and they got a law code in 1540. Those who favored execution of the laws were called Executionists, and they worked to eliminate the legal differences in different regions.
In 1517 the Bible was the first book published in Ruthenian (similar to Polish and Russian). In the 1520s Lithuania suffered 300% inflation while wages went up only 100%. The Zloty coinage system was introduced in Poland in 1526 and was extended to Prussia in 1528 and to Lithuania in 1569. In 1529 Queen Bona Sforza persuaded Zygmunt I to designate their 9-year-old son as his successor, and he was crowned Zygmunt II in 1530. After that the King was called “Zygmunt the Old.” Many protested this because Polish kings were usually elected, but they promised not to repeat this.
Turkish troops of the Ottoman Empire invaded Little Poland in 1524 led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The Turks conquered much of Hungary by defeating and killing King Lajos II at the battle of Mohacs on August 29, 1526. The Turks threatened Vienna in 1529. King Zygmunt encouraged immigration, and many came from Austria. Abraham Ezofowicz was a Jew who became Treasurer of Lithuania, and he converted to Christianity; but his brother Michal became a noble in 1525 and continued to practice as a Jew. A Jewish Tribunal was created in Lublin in 1530. That year Pope Clement VII complained about the pro-Turkish policy of Archbishop Jan Laski and demanded that Zygmunt remove him or be excommunicated, but Laski died in 1531.
Russians had been invading, and the Polish Parliament raised taxes on the serfs to recruit mercenary soldiers, adding 2,500 cavalry and 650 infantry to the army in 1528 while Lithuania recruited 2,000 Cossacks and peasants. In 1529 Moldavians led by Hospodar Petrylo invaded Pokucie in the name of the Sultan without his permission. The Polish army of 4,800 cavalry and 1,200 infantry was commanded by Grand-Hetman Jan Tarnowski, and they stopped the attack in the battle of Obertyn on August 22, 1531. The Moldavians had 7,746 cavalry killed and 1,000 men taken prisoners while the Poles had only 256 men killed. Poland made an “eternal” peace treaty with the Turks in 1533. In March 1534 the Sejm of Wilno (Vilnius) declared war against Moscow, and in August Hetman Jerzy Radziwiłł organized an army of 20,000 Lithuanians. The new tax law got 61% of the revenues from direct rural taxes mostly on land, 14% from direct urban taxes, and 25% from the sale of alcohol. The following winter three Muscovite armies invaded and ravaged central Lithuania as far as Wilno and Nowogrodek. The Lithuanians called upon a Polish army of 7,000 led by Tarnowski, and in July they moved into the district of Seversk and fought until the summer of 1536. Negotiations led to a five-year armistice on February 17, 1537. Zygmunt renewed this in March 1542 for seven more years.
In 1535 the Executionists persuaded the Sejm to decree the execution of all Crown laws, and the next year they demanded that the elective kingship be confirmed. They also wanted Royal Prussia and Silesia in full union with Lithuania. Zygmunt agreed to get money to fight Moldavia, and in 1537 they presented 36 demands. Zygmunt had to grant them, and the Parliaments of 1538-39 forced him to accept the rights of the lower house. In 1539 Duke Albrecht of Prussia renounced claiming noble properties when there was no male heir, and he got his brother Wilhelm appointed Archbishop of Riga. That year the Executionists got a royal decree guaranteeing freedom of the press.
The Renaissance in Poland was mostly literary and scientific. The Jagiellonian University had outstanding rectors such as Paulus Vladimiri and Bishop Tomicki. Cardinal Olesnicki and Archbishop Laski were also influential. In 1519 Maciej Miechowita’s Cronica Polonorum was published, but the Church censored it because it named the woman who returned from a pilgrimage to Rome in 1493 with the first case of syphilis. Polish goods garnered high prices, and many Poles could afford to travel for better education. In the 16th century more than a quarter of the students at the University of Padua were Polish. In 1534 Stefan Falimierz published the first medical dictionary in Polish.
Nicholas Copernicus was born in Torun, Prussia on February 19, 1473. He studied astronomy at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, earned a law degree at Bologna, learned medicine and law at Padua for four years, and was awarded a doctorate in canon law at Ferrara in 1503. He was fluent in German, Latin, Greek, Polish, and Italian. Copernicus returned to Royal Prussia and was an administrator for the Warmia bishopric and wrote a treatise on money to reform coinage in 1526. He attended the Prussian diet, worked on defenses, was a canon at Frauenberg, tax-collector, and judge. As a practicing physician he supervised public health during epidemics. He collected a library of books on astronomy and made suggestions on the Gregorian calendar.
In 1514 Copernicus began circulating his Commentariolus criticizing the geocentric Ptolemaic view of the universe because it did not adequately explain the retrograde movements of the planets. About 1532 he completed his famous On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, proposing his heliocentric theory that the Earth orbits the sun like the other planets. He presented his theory before Pope Clement VII in 1533, and he was requested to publish it in 1536. His disciple Georg Joachim Rhaticus took the manuscript to Nuremberg in 1540, but Luther and Melanchthon opposed printing it. His revolutionary book was finally printed in 1543, and it is said he first saw it on the day he died on May 24.
Polish monarchs had long ignored any objections from Popes on their choosing bishops, and no Church taxes went to Rome either. Yet Poles and Lithuanians complained about papal support of the Teutonic Order and persecution of the Czech Brethren. In 1520 Zygmunt I blocked the writings of Luther from entering Poland, and additional edicts in the next few years authorized searching houses for forbidden literature. In 1523 a synod excommunicated heretics and approved confiscating their property. After the 1527 synod bishops watched parishes more carefully. Nonetheless Danzig and many other cities converted to the Lutheran faith. In 1525 Albrecht Hohenzollern became a Lutheran and secularized Ducal Prussia, allowing Lutheranism to spread. He also maintained the succession rights of his Hohenzollern family. Calvinism recognized the importance of lay elders and eventually became popular, but the northern cities remained Lutheran. Anabaptists came from Germany in the 1530s and Hussites from Bohemia in 1548.
On April 19, 1539 Katarzyna Weiglowa was burned as a heretic in Krakow because she had converted to the Unitarian faith and denied that Jesus was a son of God. That year Piotr Gramat became Bishop of Krakow and Primate of Poland. He presided over synods in 1542 and 1544 to battle Protestantism by improving church conditions as advised by the younger Jan Laski. In 1545 Gramat instigated an inquisition and appointed Hosius as an inquisitor. Jan Seklucyan published his Protestant Confession of Faith in 1544, hymnals, and a Polish translation of the Gospels in 1551, the New Testament in 1552, and the whole Bible in 1563. Martynas Mazvydas published the first book in Lithuanian in 1547.
Zygmunt II Augustus (r. 1548-72) was born on August 1, 1520 and began ruling as Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1529 with his father’s help. He was a practicing Catholic but was interested in reform and corresponded with Calvin; he did not engage in religious quarrels. Zygmunt II married Elisabeth of Austria on May 5, 1543, but she died two years later. His father sent him to Lithuania in 1544 and allowed him to rule independently in Vilnius with two courts; one spoke Polish and the other Lithuanian. In 1547 he secretly married beautiful Barbara Radziwiłł, daughter of Hetman Jerzy Radziwiłł, because he thought she was pregnant. His father refused to recognize the marriage, though Old Zygmunt gave him command of Polish forces in the war against Prussia before his death on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1548. That year the Bohemian Brethren in exile stopped in Great Poland, where they were protected by the Gorkas family before going on to East Prussia.
Stanislaw Orzechowski was a nationalist who encouraged attacks against the Muslims. He sent his “Instruction for the making of a good ruler” to the new King Zygmunt II Augustus. At the first meeting of the Sejm in October the deputies threatened to renounce their allegiance unless Zygmunt II repudiated his wife. The King relied on the magnate families and was opposed by the gentry who demanded union with Lithuania, Prussia, and the Silesian duchies. They demanded constitutional reforms through elections and procurators to control the administration and that finances be better organized to provide for the military. On July 2, 1549 Bishop Hosius of Chelmno negotiated an alliance with King Ferdinand and Emperor Charles V. At the second Sejm in 1550 things turned in the King’s favor. Merchants got a law passed barring nobles from engaging in trade. Barbara Radziwiłł was crowned Queen on December 7, 1550 but died on May 8, 1551, and many believed she was poisoned by the Queen Mother Bona Sforza. Some suspect that Bona had also killed Elisabeth.
On July 19, 1551 Zygmunt’s sister Isabella Jagellon, who was acting as regent after her husband Zapolya died in 1540, made a treaty with Ferdinand renouncing her claim to the Hungarian throne in exchange for Silesian duchies. Yet she opposed the Hapsburg party and returned to Transylvania with Polish help in October 1556 and ruled there until her death on September 15, 1559. On June 23, 1553 Zygmunt II married his cousin Katharina of Austria. He did not like her interfering in politics but could not get it annulled. So he lived alone, and she left Poland in 1566. On July 28, 1553 the Polish envoy Stanislaw Teczynski confirmed the Polish-Turkish peace pact. Polish Calvinists formed a synod in 1554, but the next year they achieved only a compromise confession. In 1556 Bona Sforza left Poland with 430,000 ducats and returned to her duchies in southern Italy where she died on November 19, 1557. She left her properties in southern Italy to Spain’s Felipe II and may have been poisoned by his agent Gian Lorenzo Pappacoda.
Jan Laski’s son of the same name helped Erasmus of Rotterdam financially by buying his library and letting him use it until his death in 1536 when Laski took it to Poland. He also visited Calvin in Geneva and Thomas Cranmer in England, leaving in September 1553 with Protestants who found refuge in Danzig. He worked for Christian unity but died in 1560, ten years before the Consensus of Sandomierz was enacted. He prepared a Calvinist Bible that was published in 1563.
Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski studied at the University of Wittenberg and became a friend of Melanchthon. In Poland he worked with Laski in the Executionist movement and became a royal secretary. Modrzewski wrote On the Reform of the Republic (De Republica Emendanda). Influenced by the classics, he recommended Cicero’s mixed constitution with an elected king. Book One on morals emphasized essential human goodness and the humanist concern for education. Book Two asserted legal equality for all. Book Three defined just wars as self-defense, and unjust wars as aggressive. These books were printed in 1551. Books Four and Five were banned by Pope Paul IV, and the complete book was published in Protestant Basel in 1558. Book Four endorsed Catholic dogma but advocated that international Church councils should prevail over the Pope and his bureaucracy. He called for social equality and the election of bishops and the Pope by more people. In Book Five Modrzewski proposed selling church benefices and rich monasteries to use the money for education.
By the 1550s most of the deputies in the Sejm were Protestants. Zygmunt II wanted to bring Livonia into his kingdom. In 1554 the Livonian Master Heinrich von Galen agreed to an armistice with Moscow for fifteen years and promised not to ally with Poland. He was opposed by Albrecht’s brother Wilhelm Hohenzollern who was Archbishop of Riga and was imprisoned in June 1556. At the 1555-56 Sejm at Warsaw the King persuaded them to raise taxes for a war against Livonia. After war was declared, he left Wilno (Vilnius) with his Lithuanian and Polish troops led by Jan Mielecki. Ferdinand persuaded Galen’s successor, Master von Fürstenberg, to do homage before Zygmunt in his camp at Pozwol on September 14, 1557. Archbishop Wilhelm was released, and the Livonian Order and Lithuania made an alliance against Moscow, though it was not to take effect until the armistice ended in 1569. However, in January 1558 Russia’s King Ivan IV invaded Livonia, seizing Narpa, Dorpat, and the Livonian Grand Master. Gotthard von Kettler replaced Fürstenberg, and on August 31, 1559 he made an agreement at Wilno that Lithuania would defend Livonia against Moscow, ceding southeast Livonia to Zygmunt who was preoccupied with the Livonian war until his death. In 1558 Hetman Jan Tarnowski founded Polish military science by publishing Consilum Rationis Bellicae, reviving the Hussite tactic of forming a square as a mobile fortress.
In 1559 the Parliament refused to approve taxes for the Livonian War, but in 1561 the Catholic Church in Poland contributed 60,000 thalers for the military. An attempt to confiscate the estate of the Protestant of Lasocki was stopped by a thousand armed people on May 14. On November 28 King Zygmunt II signed a treaty with Kettler and Wilhelm secularizing the Livonian Order and the archbishopric, and Kettler became the hereditary duke of the new Duchy of Kurland in southwest Livonia. In January 1562 Muscovite armies invaded Mscislaw beginning a war against Poland over access to the Baltic Sea. Sweden’s King Erik XIV allied with Ivan IV and threatened Livonia, but Poland gained an alliance with Denmark against Sweden. A treaty in March put Riga and its territory under Zygmunt II.
In 1562 Lithuanian nobles met in camp with Hetman Mikolaj Radziwiłł the Red and demanded union with Poland. At the parliamentary session of 1563 Zygmunt II persuaded them to pass the quarter tax by which a quarter of the revenues from all starosties (castles or noble domains) was to pay for troops. The Sejm also stopped exempting the Church from taxes for war. Poland’s Maritime Commission licensed fifteen privateer ships to fight for the Narva trade, angering Danzig merchants. The Lithuanian army had begun fighting in 1560 and the Polish army in 1563 when Polotsk was lost. Zygmunt divided Livonia with the southern part in Poland and the north in Lithuania. Concerned that the German Empire might ally with Moscow, Zygmunt guaranteed the hereditary succession in Prussia to get the support of the Elector Albrecht of Brandenburg. In 1564 they attended a joint parliament with Lithuanian delegates in Warsaw. Lithuanians wanted union with Poland, and on February 12 Zygmunt II transferred his rights in Lithuania to the Crown of Poland. On July 1 a royal proclamation began parliamentary reforms that made the Lithuanian Sejm equal to Poland’s.
Zygmunt II endorsed the Council of Trent’s Catholic reforms in 1564, but he rejected the Catholic courts’ claims to try religious crimes and did not enforce their decrees. Nearly half of all nobles in Poland were Protestants but less than a fifth in Lithuania, but Protestants did not influence Mazovia at all. After a Lithuanian victory over the Russians, Lithuanian Chancellor Mikolaj Radziwiłł the Black tried to block unification, but he died in 1565. His cousin Mikolaj Radziwiłł the Red was the Lithuanian Hetman (Commander) and led the Wilno Parliamentary session of 1565-66 to give lesser Lithuanian nobles the rights and status of Polish nobles and the Lithuanian lower house powers similar to the Polish Sejm. They also prohibited Polish merchants from traveling overseas though they encouraged foreign merchants to come to Poland. Lithuania preserved its law code with a statute in 1566, and the gentry began putting their rights into practice. As alliances changed, the Russians defeated the Polish-Lithuanian armies by 1567. For seven years the Polish-Lithuanian army camped at Radoszkowice near Wilno and debated the constitution, hoping the Muscovites would relent. In 1568 they agreed on a constitutional union and disbanded the camp.
The Sejm assembled in Lublin on December 22, 1568, but the Lithuanians were controlled by Mikolaj Radziwiłł the Red, Jan Chodkiewicz, and Ostafi Wollowicz. After two months the King Zygmunt II summoned Radziwiłł and Chodkiewicz, but they fled in the night. The Diet still had 70 Catholics to 58 Protestants and 2 Greek Orthodox. Zygmunt annexed the Ukrainian palatinates of Volhynia, Bratslav, and Kiev into Poland, and demanded that the Lithuanian nobles with estates there swear allegiance to the King of Poland. Soon the Lithuanian provinces of Podlasie, Volhynia, and Kiev incorporated in the Korona. Two Podlasian officers refused to swear allegiance to Poland and lost their lands and offices. In April the four leaders of the Ukraine joined the Polish Senate. On June 17 Chodkiewicz returned and submitted for his peers. Zygmunt said with tears,
God dwells where Love is, for such is the Divine Will.
I am not leading Your Lordships to any forced submission.
We must all submit to God, and to earthly rulers.3
Chodkiewicz accepted the Union, and the Senate approved. There was to be one republic with an elected king with freemen and equals with equals and with one currency. The Act of Union was sealed on July 1, 1569, and they called it the “Most Serene Republic of the Two Nations.” They also integrated Royal Prussia into Poland.
Zygmunt II wanted peace with Moscow, and in 1570 Poland and Russia agreed to an armistice. Envoys from Sweden, Denmark, Lübeck, the German Emperor, and Poland met at Stettin. Sweden and Denmark agreed to recognize the Emperor’s sovereignty over Livonia, and Narva was opened to free commerce. Calvinists and Lutherans agreed on reforms at Wilno and then formed a union with the Bohemian Brethren in the Consensus of Sandomierz on April 14.
Zygmunt II was childless, and the Sejm was distracted by discussions of his marital affairs. Moscow’s Ivan IV was infuriated by the Union and used tampered evidence to show that the Archbishop and Governor of Novgorod were guilty of treason for contacting Zygmunt. Ivan had a thousand inhabitants of Novgorod tortured and killed each day for five weeks, and the city was devastated. In 1570 the Sejm debated tax reform but passed no taxes. In 1571 they postponed the King’s requests, and Denmark devastated the Polish fleet. Now the Polish Senate had 36 Protestants, 25 Catholics, and 8 Orthodox Christians in the prominent seats. The Olesnicki family started a Calvinist Academy in Pinczow. Zygmunt II worked for a succession to Duke Henri Valois of Anjou before his death on July 7, 1572, leaving Poland and Lithuania a united and elective republic. That year a plague spread.
Mikolaj Rej (1505-69) helped establish Polish as a literary language with his poetry. In 1543 he published his satire of the clergy and the collecting of tithes as compared to morals and religious faith. He expressed Executionist views for a stronger government to overcome the magnates in his poem Short Conversation between a Noble, a Bailiff, and a Village Priest. He translated the Psalms into Polish. Rej wrote the poetic dramas, The Life of Joseph and The Merchant in the 1540s. His Postilla in 1557 made poetic translations and comments on the Gospels. The next year his Faithful Image of an Honest Man explored the ideas of Aristotle, Epicurus, and other ancient philosophers. His last book, The Mirror, offered the wisdom to live moderately and morally with worldly enjoyment while being philosophically alert.
Jan Kochanowski (1530-84) wrote vernacular poetry as he described the beauty of nature and humans, and he loved Cicero’s writing. In 1564 his Harmony called for peaceful resolution of religious and constitutional controversies, and The Satyr criticized deforestation in order to produce grain and buy foreign luxuries. In 1569 he expressed his pride in Poland becoming a great power in The Banner, or Prussian Homage. In 1578 his play, The Dismissal of Greek Envoys, was set before the Trojan War, but it reflected King Batory’s desire to invade Russia. He doubted that politicians could ever prevent war. Kochanowski also translated the Psalms by 1579, and in 1580 his Laments expressed his grief over his little daughter’s early death.
Lelio Sozzini (Socinus) came from Siena and visited Poland in 1551 and spread the Antitrinitarian or Unitarian faith. In 1551 Mennonites from Holland found refuge in Poland. The Czech Brethren rejected the Trinity and practiced communism and were called “Socinians.” They gained converts and soon had 200 temples and 40,000 members. In 1552 the Sejm ended secular executions for religious crimes. The Polish Brethren began in 1565 and were called “Arians” or “Socinians.” Lelio’s nephew Fausto Sozzini came to Poland in 1579 and settled in Krakow. They developed the catechism of Rakow which was published in 1605.
Zygmunt I had tolerated Orthodox Christians, Armenians, and Jews. The first documented ritual murder charge against a Jew was in Mazovia in 1547, but royal investigations always exonerated the accused. Only one Jew was executed before his case was appealed. In 1564 Zygmunt II issued an edict to release all Jews from prison into the custody of other Jews. Szymon Budny reconciled with the Jews and translated the Bible into Polish. A Talmudic Academy was founded in Lublin in 1567 with Solomon Luria as rector. Karaites were Jews who accepted the Bible but not the Talmud. Joseph ben Mardoc Malinowski and Abraham of Troki wrote in Hebrew The Fortress of the Faith which Voltaire considered the best argument against the divinity of Christ. Stanislaw Orzechowski (1513-66) was the Canon of Przemysl, and he was excommunicated for marrying; but he debated the issue by publishing a pamphlet, and political pressure got it lifted.
Stanislaw Hozjusz (1504-79) used the Latin name Hosius. He was well educated, corresponded with Erasmus, worked for church reform in the 1530s, and was a secretary to bishops and the King. In 1545 he was an inquisitor. In 1551 Hosius published his influential Confession of the Catholic Faith to confirm Catholic teachings which was translated into many languages. He became chairman of the Council of Trent when it resumed in 1562 and completed its work by 1564. He sent Giovanni Francesco Commendone, Bishop of Zacynthos (Zante), to Poland as apostolic nuncio, and he worked to get decrees from Trent accepted by King Zygmunt II. Hosius introduced Jesuits to Poland and Lithuania.
After Martin Krowicki (1501-73) left the Church, he wrote his Defense of True Learning. Bishop Uchanski became Primate of Poland, but in 1555 he announced he approved of the marriage of priests, communion in both forms, and using the vernacular. That year a majority of the Sejm demanded they establish the Church of Poland with these reforms. Zygmunt II sent Stanislaw Maciejewski to Rome with four demands, but Pope Paul IV considered them heretical. After Nicholas Radziwiłł the Black died in 1565, his sons Nicholas Christopher and George became Catholics. During the counter-reformation in Poland only a dozen Protestants were executed compared to more than 500 in England and nearly 900 in the Netherlands.
The Jagiellonian dynasty (1386-1572) was over. Senators formed a national government. Magnates from Great Poland met with the Primate Jakub Uchanski, Archbishop of Gniezno, on his estate at Lowicz while those from Little Poland assembled in Krakow with the Calvinist Grand Marshal Jan Firlej. Others met at Knyszyn in Lithuania where Zygmunt II’s body lay in state. Deputies suggested meeting in Protestant Lublin and proposed Firlej as regent until a king was elected, but bishops and senators approved the Archbishop of Gniezno as regent. He ordered the nobles to elect a king at Warsaw. Bishop Piotr Myszkowski of Plock nominated Emperor Maximilian II who was a cousin of the Jagiellonians, and Zygmunt II’s brother-in-law Johan III of Sweden was also suggested.
They ratified the choice of the late Zygmunt II by electing 22-year-old Henri Valois, brother of France’s King Charles IX. He was considered responsible for the St. Bartholomew Day massacre of Protestants on August 24, 1572, but they imposed constitutional conditions to assure religious freedom. Bishop Jean de Monluc of Valence presented the case for Henri, and he was supported by Jan Zamojski who believed that all nobles had the right to vote. More than 50,000 nobles gathered in a field near Warsaw on January 6, 1573, and they voted unanimously for Henri. On January 28 the Diet passed the Confederation of Warsaw granting religious freedom for all denominations, but a clause allowed them to punish rebellious servants in order to avoid a peasant rebellion. They cancelled the special privileges of the Catholic Church. Primate Uchanski formally nominated Henri Valois, and the nobles elected him on May 16. A common parliament was elected; but the Lithuanians boycotted the first session to elect a new king until they agreed on Henri Valois.
Bishop Adam Konarski of Poznan was sent with eleven ambassadors to Paris to negotiate the terms of Henri’s election. Henri realized he had to accept religious tolerance, and he agreed and took an oath in Notre Dame Cathedral on September 10 to respect Polish liberty and the law on religious freedom that had just been passed. He also promised not to summon the military or start or end a war without agreement from the Parliament. He had to summon Parliament at least every two years. These Henrician articles would be applied to future monarchs as well.
Henri Valois arrived in Poland in January 1574 with 1,200 gentlemen, and he was crowned at Krakow on February 21. He postponed confirmation of the Henrician Articles, and Parliament dissolved abruptly on April 2 without accomplishing anything after the coronation. Henri spent his time with his French courtiers eating, drinking, and gambling with cards, losing money he took from the treasury. On June 13 he learned that Charles IX had died, and six days later he departed to claim the French throne. Castellan Jan Teczynski caught up with him in Czech Silesia and extracted a promise that he would return within four months. In a letter he wrote he wanted to remain as King of Poland-Lithuania after becoming King of France, but he never came back to Poland nor did he renew the alliance.
In August 1574 the Sejm met at Warsaw and gave Henri nine months to return. If he failed to return by May 12, 1575, they would form a confederation, though Lithuania and Prussia declined to join. Parliament declared the throne vacant in May. A small Parliament met in October and set the election for November 7 in Warsaw. In September 1575 the Khan of the Crimea, Davlet Girej, had led 100,000 Tartars into Ruthenia, and they carried away 35,340 nobles as slaves. The Primate Uchanski had declared that the Hapsburg Emperor Ferdinand II was elected. Nobles could not accept a Hapsburg and suggested three natives of Poland. A mixed commission worked on a compromise to avoid a civil war. On December 12 one group elected Maximilian II of Austria king, but three days later others elected the Jagiellonian Anna and her fiancé Stefan Batory as co-rulers.
Stefan Batory was well educated at Padua, served the imperial court at Vienna, and he had spent fifteen years fighting as a commanding general, spending three years imprisoned in Prague. He defeated the Hapsburg party in Hungary. In 1571 he had been elected the ruler of Transylvania under the Ottoman Empire, though they were basically independent of Turkey. He was a devoted Catholic, but he governed Transylvania tolerating their four independent religions. While Maximilian II delayed, Batory moved to accept the Polish kingdom. He assigned his younger brother Christopher to rule Transylvania. At a Diet on January 18, 1576 at Jedrzejow 20,000 voted to declare the election of Maximilian illegal and acclaimed Batory as their king. He accepted their conditions on February 8 and arrived in Krakow on March 23. Batory married Anna and was crowned by Bishop Karnkowski on May 1. Queen Anna was 53 years old and could not bear a child.
Jan Zamojski (1542-1605) was the son of a senator. He studied in Paris at the new College de France and became rector at the University of Padua. He published a treatise on the Roman Senate and became a Catholic. When he returned to Poland, he was appointed secretary to Zygmunt II. His rhetorical skill made him a leading politician, and he inherited land and increased his holdings. Batory appointed Jan Zamojski Vice Chancellor and summoned a Diet to meet at Warsaw in June 1576. The new King gave his opponents fifteen days to declare their allegiance. When Laski failed to do so, his estate was besieged until he gave in.
In 1570 Karnkowski had led a commission to Danzig (Gdansk) that revised their laws to increase the power of the Polish King. Merchants persuaded the city of Danzig to oppose Batory as king with military force, and he imposed a commercial blockade on September 24, 1576. When German burghers raided the Oliva monastery and burned church property, Batory sent Jan Zborowski with an army. The Diet refused to fund the military even after Maximilian II died on October 12; some who wanted to expand Poland to the southeast still objected to Batory’s promise to keep peace with Turkey. On April 17, 1577 the Polish army led by Zborowski killed nearly twice their number of Danzigers. The Diet voted for military spending, and in June an army of 10,000 began the siege of Danzig which got financial and military support from Denmark. Poland had no fleet to stop the ships, but Batory persuaded Ernst Weyher to gather privateers at Puck, and a Polish squadron was organized at the port of Elblag to which he transferred the commercial privileges formally held by Danzig. After negotiating for months they signed the Peace of Malborg on December 16, 1577. Batory abolished the Karnkowski Statutes for 200,000 zlotys and got 200,000 more from Brandenburg when he appointed Georg Friedrich to be Elector with a hereditary succession.
In 1577 King Batory supported the bishops in their efforts to observe the decrees of the Council of Trent. Jan Zamojski was promoted to Chancellor in 1578 and then to Crown Great Hetman for life in 1581. He became the most powerful and richest man after King Batory. While enriching himself he decreased fraud. In 1578 the Sejm claimed the exclusive right to ennoble people except the king could still grant arms on the battlefield. Batory stopped hearing appeals and created noble tribunals in Poland in 1578 and in Lithuania in 1581, but he retained jurisdiction over criminal cases and the royal exchequer. In 1581 he appointed Karnkowski primate of Poland, and he sent Jesuits to Krakow, Riga, and Polotsk in White Russia. The King helped Wilno College become a university, and it was later renamed Stephen Batory University. In 1582 a law was passed that enabled Livonia to reorganize its government, and Batory aided the revival of Catholicism there with a bishopric at Wenden. He executed Samuel Zborowski on May 12, 1584 for trying to instigate a war against Turkey in order to help the Hapsburgs. Batory hired Hungarian, German, and Scottish mercenaries before getting permission from Parliament in 1578. That year they organized military service that allowed peasants to join the infantry.
Meanwhile Moscow’s Ivan IV took advantage of Poland’s war against Danzig to invade Livonia in the fall of 1577. Batory demanded that Moscow return all of Livonia and asked the Diet to support a war against Russia. Poland made an alliance with Turkey on November 5; but the Sultan did not ratify it until Batory executed the Cossack Ivan Podkowa for having seized Moldavia. Batory declared war on Moscow on June 26, 1579, and the Poles attacked Polotsk with 56,000 men and captured it on August 30. The next year he sent Zamojski with 48,000 troops, and he took Veliki Luki on September 5. Also in 1580 Zamojski founded New Zamosc as a model city with four churches, a synagogue, a university, a library, public baths, and three market squares. He often cited ancient history and the classics and taught at the Hippeum (Academy).
Batory returned to attend the Diet in Warsaw on January 22, 1581. Parliament approved the King’s campaign against Pskov which had 7,000 cavalry and 50,000 infantry, but Poland had 170,000 knights and servants. Russia had lost 300,000 people in the war, and on January 15, 1582 the Muscovites agreed to a ten-year truce and let Poland have Livonia, Polotsk, Velizh, and Ushviata while they kept Veliki Luki. On February 4 the Muscovite garrison left Dorpat after 24 years of occupation. After Ivan IV died in 1584, the Parliament refused to grant taxes for another war against Russia.
Batory continued as a Catholic and founded three Jesuit academies in Lithuania, but he tolerated all sects. He adopted the controversial Gregorian calendar in 1582. In 1584 without waiting for Senate approval he had thirty Zaporozhians executed for having invaded Turkey without permission. In Lithuania the Radziwiłł family was given all the chief offices in the government and the church. Batory was described by the historian Reinhold Heidenstein as a strong leader who recognized the truth in others and did not avoid it for his own sake. He urged his subjects to guard their own freedom. Stefan Batory died suddenly on December 12, 1586, and some suspected poison.
The priest Jakub Wujek (1541-97) became a Jesuit in 1565 and was chancellor of the Jesuit college at Poznan in 1571 and at the Wilno Academy in 1578 before founding the Jesuits province of Koloszwarz in Transylvania. He influenced many people by publishing his Catholic sermons delivered before the Diet and his Lives of the Saints.
Among the Polish Anabaptists the Lublin pastor Marcin Czechowic wrote an eloquent defense of nonviolence in Polish in his Christian Dialogues, published at Krakow in 1575. A Teacher, apparently representing the author, answers the questions of a doubting Pupil. The Teacher begins by saying that a true Christian is willing to renounce the world and take up the cross. Thus Christians must be ready to suffer persecution and be prepared to lose their property and possibly even their lives to endure and tolerate whatever injuries are inflicted upon them without resisting. Thus the Christian renounces the use of any injurious force even for self-defense or for the defense of others. The wars of the Old Testament gave way to the law of love in the new covenant of Christ. When the Pupil asks if Christians wage war at all, the Teacher replies,
Christian warfare has nothing in common
with the instruments of war in use in this world,
which godless people employ among themselves
lying in wait to hurt each other.
But it has its own weapon in the word of God
as revealed in the New Testament,
and with this weapon it fights but does not kill
or take away the life of any mortal being.4
The Teacher then lists the Christian weapons as faith, hope, love, humility, gentleness, patience, truth, justice, peace, spiritual joy, petitions, prayers, and other virtues. The faithful disciples of Christ obey their commander Jesus. Czechowic’s Teacher precludes any participation in government or recourse to law courts. Kings and magistrates are to be obeyed except when their commands are wrong. Servants of the Christ are not to wield a sword nor train for war nor participate in an army even without a weapon. Czechowic wrote an appendix in Latin in which he cited early Christians such as Tertullian and Lactantius as well as many of the writings of Erasmus.
Vasily III ruled Moscow 1505-33. Concerned about the Crimeans supporting Lithuania from 1514 to 1521 Russians built stone walls around Tula south of Moscow and Oka. Khan Mehmet Emin of Kazan was allied with Russia but died in 1518 without an heir. Vasily III tried to impose 13-year-old Shah Ali (Shagali), but he was overthrown by the Khan of Crimea with aid from Poland-Lithuania. His Crimean raid reached as far as Moscow in 1521. Moscow’s governor (Vasily’s brother-in-law) eventually negotiated a truce with Lithuania in 1526.
Printing came late to Russia. Frantsisk Skoryna of Polotsk had parts of the Bible and a small almanac printed at Prague 1517-19 and at Vilnius in 1525, but printing presses did not begin operating in Muscovy until the 1560s. In the 1520s Moscow began claiming that their dynasty derived from the ancient Roman emperors while they looked down on Polish-Lithuanian rulers as descended from a “stable-boy.” After Rome was sacked in 1527, the monk Filofey argued that Rome and Constantinople had fallen, leaving Moscow as the third and last imperial capital. Vasily III made pilgrimages to the Trinity Monastery, and he began the Russian tradition of celebrating the Magi and the baptism of Jesus on Epiphany (January 6). Vasily forbade his brothers from marrying until he had produced an heir, but his first wife Solomonya Saburova bore no children. She refused to accept a divorce but became a nun on November 28, 1525 in the Pokrov monastery. The Metropolitan Daniel granted the divorce so that Vasily could wed young Elena Glinskaya in early 1526. On August 25, 1530 she gave birth to Ivan. Vasily died on December 3, 1533.
Cyril of Novoezersk left a monastery in 1512 and lived as a hermit in the forest for five years before starting a monastery at New Lake near Bielozersk. In 1546 the monk Feodor built a monastery between Vologda, Kargopol, and Vaga and later he was given a license to settle land within twelve versts. Ephraim founded a monastery on the Upper Volga, and in 1559 his successor got a similar license. By 1582 the Monastery of Saint Cyril of Bielozersk owned about 57,000 acres.
Fedor Karpov studied with Maxim the Greek and was a diplomat who used astrology and cited Aristotle, Cicero, and Ovid to support classical ideas on law, property, and human dignity. He along with Maxim and Nil Sorskij criticized absolute rule and wrote a letter to the Metropolitan Daniel (1522-39) who tried to support absolute rule but was removed anyway. In 1525 Daniel had Maxim arrested on false heresy charges, and in 1531 did the same to the prince and monk Vassian Patrikeev who was an influential disciple of Sorskij, the founder of the Sora Hermitage and advocate of monastic hesychasm (stillness). Sorskij translated the lives of the early and medieval ascetics in Egypt, the Levant, and Greece for the Russians. Maxim had been trying to educate Russians, and in 1531 popular protest got his status changed to house arrest so that he could write.
Before he died, Vasily III made his wife Elena Glinskaya and her uncle, Prince Mikhail Glinsky, guardians of their two infant sons, Ivan and Yuri. However, she relied on her lover, the young Prince Ivan Telepnev-Obolensky who was added to the Council in January 1534. She spread rumors that Mikhail had poisoned Vasily and had him imprisoned in August, and he starved to death on September 24. Vasily III’s brother Yuri had been imprisoned in 1533 and died there in 1536. The other brother Andrey rebelled against Elena in 1537; he tried to negotiate but was imprisoned and died in December. Elena had the coinage reformed by unifying monetary units in the realm. When Elena died suddenly in April 1538, poison was suspected. Prince Vasily Shuisky and his brother Ivan Shuisky dominated the Council, and with the Belskys and other boyar families they quickly overthrew Obolensky and struggled for power which changed hands three times as the Metropolitans changed twice. The Shuiskys prevailed, and three of them ruled in succession for their own interests. Land surveys were conducted, and tax burdens were increased. Vasily Shuisky claimed the regency for young Ivan IV in 1538, but he died the next year and was succeeded by this brother Ivan Shuisky who removed Metropolitan Daniel in 1539. Joasaphus Skripitsyn was elected Metropolitan of Moscow, and he supported Maxim the Greek but was sent into exile in 1542.
Makarii supported the Shuisky prince and was Metropolitan of Novgorod from 1526 until he became Metropolitan of Moscow in 1542. Ivan IV was only 13 years old when he had his servants arrest Andrey Shuisky and throw him into a cell of hungry dogs who killed him in 1543. In the next three years young Ivan traveled on hunting trips and pilgrimages to monasteries. Ivan came of age in 1545 and was given ethical advice on how to be a good ruler by Maxim the Greek. He should issue good laws, control his anger, ignore slanders, and strive for justice. His grandmother Anna Glinskaya and her sons Mikhail and Yuri still dominated the court.
On January 16, 1547 Makarii crowned Ivan IV who was the first to use the title “Tsar of all the Russias.” Then on February 3 he married 17-year-old Anastasia Romanovna. In April and especially on June 24 great fires burned most of Moscow and killed about 3,000 adults while displacing 80,000. People blamed the Glinsky family, and a mob stoned to death Yuri Glinsky, Ivan’s uncle, in a cathedral. The riot weakened the Glinsky family and strengthened the authority of the young Tsar. Anastasia was a good influence on Ivan, and they formed the Chosen Council of enlightened advisors which included Metropolitan Makarii, the priest Sylvester, and the treasurer Alexis Adashev. Ivan sent the Saxon Schlitte to western Europe, and he brought back scholars and artisans. In 1547 the Church in Muscovy canonized 22 Russians, and in 1549 they added 17 more saints.
In February 1549 Ivan summoned representatives of the estates in the first large Zemsky Sobor, and they created a standing army and approved his plan to reform the criminal and civil law code which became the Sudebnik law code of 1550 that was declared binding in all of Russia. In 1551 Church representatives led by Makarii met as the Council of a Hundred Chapters, but the Church lost the right to acquire more land without the Tsar’s permission. They approved the new law code and the reforms of local government. The aim was to eliminate corruption and oppression. They modernized the army with engineers, artillery, and musketeers (streltsy) and devised the pomest’ia system that required landowners to provide cavalry.
When Kazan’s Genghisid Khan died in 1549, his heir was only two years old. Ivan IV sent forces across the Volga River, and they built a fort at Sviiazhsk in 1550. Kazan had a garrison of 20,000 men, but they agreed to restore the Russians’ choice of Khan Shigali of Kasimov as their Tsar. Alexis Adashev negotiated the treaty, and Ivan sent him to get Shigali removed in 1552. That year Crimean Tatars supported by Turkish janissaries invaded Muscovy. The Russians stopped their advance toward Moscow, and in June the Tsar Ivan led 100,000 men who marched to Kazan and surrounded it. After a siege of six weeks the commanders Prince Mikhail Vorotynsky and Prince Andrey Kurbsky used 250 cannons to destroy fortifications, and a German engineer blew up a wall, enabling them to take the city in October. Ivan returned to Moscow. The Crimean Tatars invaded Muscovy again, but their siege of Tula failed. In the next five years Russians annexed the entire khanate of Kazan, and by 1557 the lands had been distributed to the Russian gentry.
In March 1553 Ivan IV became seriously ill, and he made the boyars swear allegiance to his infant son Dmitry; but Sylvester and others resisted another reign by a minor and reluctantly took the oath. In August the English captain Richard Chancellor sailed east through the Arctic Ocean to the mouth of the Northern Dvina in the White Sea. He visited Moscow and opened relations between England and Russia. In 1555 Chancellor returned to Moscow, and the English granted commercial privileges to Muscovy. Archangel on the Northern Dvina became their entry port. A Russian mission to England returned with medical and mining specialists. The ukaz Code of Service was enacted to make sure that all land provided military service. Even allodial land not providing service could be confiscated. Sylvester may have been the author of the Domostroi (House Manager) which advised the family head how to discipline and punish his children.
In 1554 the Russians attacked Astrakhan at the mouth of the Volga River and appointed a vassal khan. The Astrakhan khanate became part of Russia in 1556 when Ivan regulated military service by defining how many warriors each landlord must provide. The law also increased the requirements for cavalry service, and some became combat slaves. Kazan and Astrakhan had mostly Muslim populations. These conquests brought the Volga River into Muscovy and provided access to the Caspian Sea and Iranian markets. Crimeans invaded Muscovy in 1554, 1557, and 1558 to steal slaves; but the Russians turned them away, and in 1558 the Russians occupied the Crimean peninsula. Ivan’s son Feodor born on May 31, 1557 may have had Down’s syndrome.
Russians wanted access to the Baltic Sea, but Sylvester and Adashev opposed this invasion, preferring another offensive against the Crimean Tatars. The truce with Livonia had been renewed in 1554. In 1557 the Livonians agreed to pay tribute, but the envoys brought no money to Moscow and were sent away. Ivan IV had installed the Lithuanian Prince Dmitry Vishnevetsky to govern Kazan whose base was in the Ukraine. He attacked the Crimeans and occupied the island of Kortitsa in the Dnieper. Russians had attacked the Swedes at Vyborg in 1555-56, and the Swedes tried to take Oreshek at the Neva’s mouth. By 1558 they had made a seven-year truce.
In September 1557 the Livonians made an alliance at Pozvol with Poland-Lithuania against Russia. In January 1558 Ivan IV ordered an attack on Livonia, and they captured twenty forts. In May the port of Narva surrendered to the Russians, followed by Dorpat on July 19. Ivan sent an envoy to Vilna that spring to propose a Russian and Lithuanian crusade against the Muslims, and Lithuania sent envoys to Moscow in June. Livonia rejected Ivan’s peace offers, and he ordered another invasion in January 1559. They agreed to an armistice from May to November.
On August 31 the Grand Master of the Livonian Order formed an alliance with Poland-Lithuania in a treaty at Vilna. Livonian forces led by Gotthard Kettler destroyed a Russian army near Dorpat in November. Ivan IV sent a force led by Daniel Adashev to build a fort on the Donets River to prepare for a Crimean campaign led by Ivan. In January 1560 Ivan refused to make peace with Livonia, and he sent Andrey Kurbsky to strengthen the troops. A force led by Prince Ivan Msistlavsky defeated a Livonian army at Ermes on August 2, and they captured the Fellin fortress and Grand Master Wilhelm von Fürstenberg who died in a Moscow prison. The Livonian Order was disbanded in 1561; its territory was secularized as the last Master Kettler became the Duke of Kurland and Semigallia as a vassal of Poland. Russians fought a Polish-Lithuanian attack and in 1563 managed to take Polotsk on the Dvina River.
Ivan’s beloved Anastasia died suddenly on August 7, 1560, and he suspected that Sylvester and Adashev had poisoned her. Sylvester was exiled to the Solovetsk monastery, and Adashev died in prison. Ivan turned against other members of his Chosen Council, and many were executed without trials. Princes who criticized the Tsar lost their lives. In March 1562 the truce with Poland-Lithuania ended, and Ivan IV sent an army to invade Lithuania. Ivan himself led an unsuccessful attack in May. Kurbsky was wounded in August, and Ivan blamed him for the defeat and returned to Moscow in September. Russians captured the Livonian fort of Tarvast and later destroyed it. In late November the Tsar Ivan led an army of 280,000 men, and they besieged Polotsk on January 31, 1563. After three weeks they capitulated. After Makarii’s death on December 31, Ivan often had future metropolitans executed. In 1564 the Lithuanian-Polish army defeated the Russians at Velikie Luki.
Andrey Kurbsky lost his commission and went over to the Lithuanians in 1564. On July 15 of that year he wrote the first of five letters over fifteen years to Ivan IV who responded with two letters. Kurbsky protested against Ivan’s autocratic rule and bitter persecution. He described his conscience as “leprous” because he killed so many people. Ivan claimed he had the divine right to rule the people and considered himself responsible to God. He accused Andrey of using treachery to try to rule Yaroslavl. Ivan denied using torture, persecution, and murder, but he admitted that he used capital punishment against treason and magic.
Ivan IV and Anastasia had six children, but only Feodor outlived Ivan to succeed him. Ivan became erratic as he went through a series of six wives who only produced two children with only the infant Dmitri surviving him. Ivan felt persecuted and would erupt in rage. He assisted Maliuta Skuratov and other oprichniki in investigations that led to torture and executions. In December 1564 Ivan IV retreated to Aleksandrov sixty miles from Moscow. He sent two letters to the Metropolitan denouncing the boyars and clergy in one but in the other expressing his love for the masses to whom the letter was read. They begged him to return, and he came back in February 1565 on the condition that they create a district around Moscow called the oprichnina that would be ruled by him exclusively with its own court. This territory expanded to become a third of Muscovy, and the remainder was called zemshchina. His servants and police were called oprichniki and increased from 1,000 to 6,000. Their job was to destroy Ivan’s enemies, and four boyars were executed in 1565. About 180 families were forced to move to Kazan; the Tsar let them return the next year, but they had lost much of their wealth.
Moscow’s Metropolitan Afanasy opposed the oprichnina, openly criticized Ivan, and resigned on May 19, 1566. At the Zembsky Sobor in June the assembly asked Ivan IV to abolish the oprichnina, but the main issue was whether to make peace with Poland’s King Zygmunt II or go to war against Poland-Lithuania over Livonia. The groups consulted included 32 clergy, 30 boyars, 97 superior gentry, 97 secondary gentry, 33 diaki from the metropolitan prikazi (chancelleries), and 75 merchants. They agreed to support the war, but afterward the service gentry demanded that the hated oprichnina be abolished. Several were arrested, and three nobles were executed.
In October 1567 Ivan IV accompanied his army to the western border, and he summoned a military council on November 12. He may have called off the campaign because of reports that nobles were plotting against him. He began confiscating Fedorov’s lands and wealth and had him killed in September 1568. According to the Sinodiki record about 500 of his retainers and their servants were also executed. Lithuanian threats led to the execution of four members of the Council and 150 other officials and servants. Metropolitan Filipp Kolychev had tried to intervene and attacked the oprichnina in March 1568. He was condemned by the Church Council on November 4 and was deposed and exiled to the Otroch Monastery in Tver. In January 1569 Lithuanians seized Izborsk near Pskov. When the Russians regained the town, those who had been taken prisoner on both sides were executed. In March about 450 families from Pskov and 150 from Novgorod were forced to move to the interior. Turkish and Crimean armies invaded and besieged Astrakhan until September 1569 when they left to attack Venetians. On October 9 Tsar Ivan accused Vladimir of Staritsa and his family of treason and poisoned them. When Filipp refused to bless Ivan’s attack on Novgorod, he was killed on December 23.
On January 2, 1570 Ivan had a force of oprichniki surround Novgorod, and he banned travel. Troops advanced, executing people as they went. Then they ravaged Tver for five days. A reported 9,000 people were killed while twice as many died of starvation and disease. Lithuanian prisoners were also executed. The oprichniki attacked churches and monasteries, arresting hundreds of clerics. Treason trials were held in Ivan’s camp outside Novgorod, and they executed at least 2,200 people. Some 13,000 rubles were taken to Moscow which took over most of the best land to establish pomestie estates that obligated the landlord to provide military service. As the number of gentry increased more state lands with their peasants were given to the nobles. Ivan in February went to Pskov where at least thirty gentry were executed. Ivan in June agreed to a three-year truce with Poland-Lithuania and to a treaty with King Magnus of Denmark, providing him with 15,000 rubles and 20,000 Russian soldiers.
In 1571 Khan Davlet-Geray led 120,000 Tatars in a march on Moscow, and on May 24 they burned the city but could not take the Kremlin. They plundered a large area and left with thousands of prisoners to be made slaves. Thousands more were captured on their way home. Famine and plague followed. Ivan used the fire to eliminate most of the remaining higher oprichniki. In October the Tsar forced a hundred merchant families to move from Novgorod to Moscow. The next summer the Russian army of about 60,000 men managed with heavy losses to defeat the Tatar invasion at the bloody battle of Molodi as the Turks had about 100,000 casualties and deaths. In October donation of land to monasteries was forbidden. Also in 1572 Ivan abolished the oprichnina, but the division remained until 1575. According to incomplete records about 3,000 Muscovites were killed during the oprichnina. The Boyar Council was revived in 1573. The Tatar Khan Simeon Bekbulatovich married Ivan’s niece, and in 1575 Ivan put him on his own throne as Grand Prince of Moscow, but then he demoted him to Grand Prince of Tver. Novgorod suffered so much under Ivan that they retained only one-fifth of their population. On June 20, 1575 Russia and Sweden agreed to a truce for two years. In November several leading boyars and oprichniki were executed.
On July 13, 1577 Tsar Ivan led 30,000 troops and Tatar cavalry under Simeon Bekbulatovich to attack southern Livonia which was occupied by Poland-Lithuania. In 1578 the Polish army invaded southern Livonia, and the next year they took Polotsk and Velikie Luki but could not capture Pskov. In September the Swedish army defeated the Russians at Wenden. Peace negotiations began in January 1579, but Poland’s King Batory declared war on Russia on June 26. Ivan gathered an army of 36,000 and moved his headquarters from Novgorod to Pskov. Batory’s army attacked Polotsk in August, and the city surrendered before Ivan and his army could get there. In the early 1580s the right of peasants to move was suspended to prevent the loss of workers. The first Slavonic Bible was printed in 1581. Russia agreed to a ten-year truce with Poland on January 15, 1582 and to a three-year truce with Sweden in August 1583.
The Stroganov family developed industries to extract salt and procure fish and furs in northeastern Russia. After Kazan was conquered, they obtained colonies in the upper Kama region. Local tribes resisted the Russians and were encouraged by the khan of Sibir beyond the Ural Mountains. In September 1581 the Stroganovs sent 840 Cossacks and other volunteers led by the rebel Ermak. Outnumbered, they used fire-arms to defeat the natives, capturing in 1582 the capital of the Siberian Khan Kuchum. In 1584 Kuchun defeated and killed Ermak in a battle with 900 men on each side. Fortified towns were built at Tiumen in 1586 and at Tobolsk in 1587.
In 1569 Ivan IV killed his cousin Vladimir, and on November 9, 1581 he even mortally wounded his own son and heir Ivan after having caused his pregnant wife to miscarry. Ivan came to be called “Grozny” which means “fearsome.” His son Dmitry was born on October 19, 1582, and Ivan IV died of a stroke on March 28, 1584.
In April 1584 Bogdan Belsky tried to seize power and continue the oprichnina policy, but he failed. Feodor (Theodore) Ivanovich was nearly 17 years old when he succeeded his father as the last Tsar of the Rurik dynasty. After forty days of mourning the leading men met in Moscow on May 14 and agreed on an early coronation, and he was crowned Feodor I on June 10. He was religious but was not strong enough physically or mentally to rule without relying on his advisors. His five-year-old brother Dmitry was sent to live in Uglich. Bogdan Belsky was sent to govern Nizhni Novgorod, and secretary Andrey Shchelkalov was overshadowed by Boris Godunov who had risen by marrying the daughter of Grigori Malyuta in 1570. Feodor had married Godunov’s sister Irina in 1580, and the capable Boris led the regency council. In January 1585 Russian envoys met with King Batory in Poland, and they agreed on an armistice that would expire on June 3, 1587. Other Russian aristocrats met with Swedish envoys near Narva in October 1585 and signed a four-year armistice.
Prince Ivan Mstislavsky led the boyars who resented the untitled Boris. His plot was discovered, and Mstislavsky was forced to become a monk in the Kirillov monastery. The Shuisky family was not implicated, but they led the opposition. Metropolitan Dionysii tried to mediate, but two merchants who said that Boris would get rid of them all were arrested and disappeared. The Shuisky circulated a petition that Tsarina Irina was barren after she had still-born children. Dionysii signed it, became unpopular, and resigned to become a monk in early 1587. Prince Ivan Shuisky was banished to Beloozero, and Prince Andrey Shuisky was taken to Kargopol; both were then strangled. Fedor Nagoi and six of his friends in the conspiracy were beheaded, and others were banished or imprisoned.
By 1588 Boris Godunov was considered the ruler and was called “His Majesty.” He conducted foreign policy, and his name appeared on all documents next to Tsar Feodor’s. Boris tried to protect those who were oppressed by the boyars or landowners, and he tried to root out corruption and crime. A judge found guilty of taking bribes had to pay a fine of up to 2,000 rubles. Dyaks who took bribes were whipped in public and then imprisoned. Many were punished, but during his rule Boris did not publicly execute a single boyar. They abolished tax privileges for large landowners and hadt a good economy in the late 1580s.
In the late 1580s Boris had to deal with leaders from the civil wars among Crimean Tatars. Muhammad Girei’s sons Saidet and Murat were given refuge in Moscow, and Tsar Fedor and Boris let them live in Astrakhan where they served Moscow. Murat put down the disobedient Nogai.
Early in 1586 Commander V. B. Sukin was sent beyond the Ural Mountains to fortify Siberia, and in 1588 Khan Seid-Akhmat was captured. An Orthodox Georgian king struggling against Muslims was accepted as a vassal of the Tsar.
1. Wilhelm Reublin quoted in James M. Stayer, Anabaptists and the Sword, p.172.
2. Jacob Hutter quoted in Freedom from Violence by Peter Brock, p. 51.
3. Quoted in God’s Playground: A History of Poland, Volume 1: The Origins to 1795 by Norman Davies, p. 153.
4. Christian Dialogues 260 by Marcin Czechovic, quoted in Freedom from Violence by Peter Brock p. 73.