Overview for Chapter B: Beheaded for treason because of his opposition to the growth of autocracy in Russia before the reign of Ivan the Terrible, this outspoken nobleman serves as an important symbol of a key transitional period in Russian history. In the wake of theological disputes between Catholics and Orthodox Christians, Muscovy’s expansion, the Fall of Constantinople, and the spread of the influence of the Italian Renaissance beyond Western Europe, Beklemishev’s life captures many of the political, social, and economic tensions present in late medieval and early modern Muscovy.
(Note: I know of no image capturing Beklemishev's likeness; the image to the left is a detail from “Four Russians Dressed in the Fashion c. 1580,” (detail), print by Abraham de Bruyn, before 1581, courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, BI-1895-3811-46. )
1. Beklemishev's social standing made him politically and socially conservative. Why were other nobles more open to change?
2. Typical Russian histories devote much more attention to earlier periods (i.e. Kievan Russia and early Appanage Russia) and to later periods (i.e. Ivan the Terrible) than when Beklemishev was alive. Why would this be so? What challenges does it present for the historian? Can you identify other transitional periods in world history that have not received sufficient treatment?
1. Only a small portion of the transcript of Beklemishev's trial has been translated into English. Based on what you've read, craft the full transcript of the trial.
2. Research the early reign of Ivan the Terrible. Can you identify ways in which autocracy grew ?
3. Compare what you have learned about the early reign of Ivan the Terrible with his later years. Is there a steady progression in the growth of power or was it more haphazard. Why would this be so?
• This short article provides an informed overview of the changing historiography involving religious questions in early modern Russia. See:
Paul Bushkovitch, “Introduction: Rethinking Religion in Early Modern Russia,” Canadian-American Slavic Studies, Volume 54: Issue 1-3, (August 13, 2020), 3–6