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
Map for Chapter B: This map by the author is in the print edition of the book and shows the places that were important to Beklemishev and other individuals mentioned in the chapter.
Hagia Sophia, exterior, showing the structure in a way that emphasizes the Christian-era elements and it structural components. Photograph by the author, July, 2012.
This diagram, from a display in Hagia Sophia, shows the building's structure and the way in which the great dome rests on the domes and archways below. Photograph by the author, July 2012.
This drawing of the ceiling of Hagia Sophia emphasizes the way in which the lower domes and arches support the ones above. This diagram, from a display in Hagia Sophia, shows the building's structure and the way in which the great dome rests on the domes and archways below. Photograph by the author, July 2012.
This famous mosaic in Hagia Sophia shows Emperor Justinian on the left, holding a model of his great church, Hagia Sophia; Mary and Jesus in the center; and Emperor Constantine on the right, holding a model of the walls he built to protect the city he founded. Photograph by the author, July 2012.
"Vue générale de la grande nef, en regardant l'occident," 1852, by Haghe, Louis, 1806-1885, lithographer and
Fossati, Gaspare, 1809-1883, artist.
This image shows Hagia Sophia as a mosque. The view is looking west, towards the mihrab, which points in the direction of Mecca. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Control Number