The Empire of Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 601 pages of information about The Empire of Russia.
Moscow to Tauride.  The route was very imperfectly known; much of the intervening region was an inhospitable wilderness.  The Sultan of Turkey was the sovereign master of the horde, and Ivan feared that all the terrible energies of Turkey would be roused against him.  There was, moreover, another enemy nearer at home whom Ivan had greater cause to fear.  Gustavus Vasa, the King of Sweden, had, for some time, contemplated with alarm the rapidly increasing power of Russia.  He accordingly formed a coalition with the Kings of Poland and Livonia, and with the powerful Dukes of Prussia and of Denmark, for those two States were then but dukedoms, to oppose the ambition of the tzar.  An occasion for hostilities was found in a dispute, respecting the boundaries between Russia and Sweden.  The terrible tragedy of war was inducted by a prologue of burning villages, trampled harvests and massacred peasants, upon the frontiers.  Sieges, bombardments and fierce battles ensued, with the alternations of success.  From one triumphal march of invasion into Sweden, the Russians returned so laden with prisoners, that, as their annalists record, a man was sold for one dollar, and a girl for five shillings.

At length, as usual, both parties became weary of toil and blood, and were anxious for a respite.  Gustavus proposed terms of reconciliation.  Ivan IV. accepted the overtures, though he returned a reproachful and indignant answer.

“Your people,” he wrote, “have exhausted their ferocity upon our territories.  Not only have they burned our cities and massacred our subjects, but they have even profaned our churches, purloined our images and destroyed our bells.  The inhabitants of Novgorod implored the aid of our grand army.  My soldiers burned with impatience to carry the war to Stockholm, but I restrained them; so anxious was I to avoid the effusion of human blood.  All the misery resulting from this war, is to be attributed to your pride.  Admitting that you were ignorant of the grandeur of Novgorod, you might have learned the facts from your own merchants.  They could have told you, that even the suburbs of Novgorod are superior to the whole of your capital of Stockholm.  Lay aside this pride, and give up your quarrelsome disposition.  We are willing to live in peace with you.”

Sweden was not in a condition to resent this rebuke.  In February, 1557, the embassadors of Gustavus, consisting of four of the most illustrious men in the empire, clergy and nobles, accompanied by a brilliant suite, arrived in Moscow.  They were not received as friends, but as distinguished prisoners, who were to be treated with consideration, and whose wants were to be abundantly supplied.  The tzar refused to have any direct intercourse with them, and would only treat through the dignitaries of his court.  A truce was concluded for forty years.  The tzar, to impress the embassadors with his wealth and grandeur, entertained them sumptuously, and they were served from vessels of gold.

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The Empire of Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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