The next step was to be the setting aside of the old Slavonic law of inheritance, and claiming the throne of the Grand Principality for the oldest son of the last reigning Grand Prince; making sure at the same time that this Prince belonged to the Muscovite line. This was not entirely accomplished until 1431, when Vasili carried his dispute to the Horde for the Khan’s decision. The other disputant, who was making a desperate stand for his rights under the old system of seniority, was the “presumptuous uncle” already mentioned, who was, it will be remembered, commanded to lead by the bridle the horse of his triumphant Muscovite nephew. The sons of the disappointed uncle, however, conspired with success even after that; and finally, in a rage, Vasili ordered that the eyes of one of his cousins be put out. But time brings its revenges. Ten years later the Grand Prince, on an evil day, fell into the hands of the remaining cousin,—brother of his victim,—and had his own eyes put out. So he was thereafter known as “Vasili the Blind.” This wily Prince kept his oldest son Ivan close to him; and, that there might be no doubt about his succession, so familiarized him with his position and placed him so firmly in the saddle that it would not be easy to unseat him when his own death occurred.
Many things had been happening during these two centuries besides the absorption of the Russian principalities by Moscow. The ambitious designs of Lithuania, in which Poland and Hungary, and the German Knights and Latin Christianity, were all involved, had been checked, and the disappointed state of Lithuania was gravitating toward a union with Poland. More important still, the Empire of the Khan was falling into pieces. The process had been hastened by a tremendous victory obtained by the Grand Prince Dmitri in 1378, on the banks of the Don. In the same way that Alexander Nevski obtained the surname of Nevski by the battle on the Neva, so Dmitri Donskoi won his upon the river Don. Hitherto the Tatars had been resisted, but not attacked. It was the first real outburst against the Mongol yoke, and it shook the foundations of their authority. Then dissensions among themselves, and the struggles of numerous claimants for the throne at Sarai broke the Golden-Horde into five Khanates each claiming supremacy.
PASSING OF BYZANTIUM—MONGOL YOKE BROKEN
Something else had been taking place during these two centuries: something which involved the future, not alone of Russia, but of all Europe. In 1250, just ten years before Daniel established the line of Princes in Moscow, a little band of marauding Turks were encamped upon a plain in Asia Minor. They were led by an adventurer named Etrogruhl. For some service rendered to the ruler of the land Etrogruhl received a strip of territory as his reward, and when he died his son Othman displayed such ability in increasing