him for his perfidious behaviour and the Russian Church refused to recognise the legitimacy of the union. Seven years later, a council of Russian bishops elected Iona of Riazan as metropolitan without reference to Constantinople, an implicit declaration of autocephaly, however respectful their subsequent explanations.70
The fall of Constantinople in 1453, perceived by the Russians as divine punishment for apostasy, confirmed this nascent independence. With the rest of Orthodox Europe and the holy city itself under Muslim rule, the Russian clerical hierarchy envisaged themselves as the last guardians of the true faith, and it is in this context that the notorious concept of the 'Third Rome' appears, first articulated in several early sixteenth-century letters commonly attributed to the Pskov monk Filofei.71 'Moscow the Third Rome' has proved particularly popular in modern historiography as an explanation for Russian political behaviours, but rather than articulating a Muscovite ideological agenda of expansionism and autocracy, Filofei was stressing the duty of the grand prince to care for the purity of the Orthodox faith - specifically with regard to issues such as the protection of church lands, the correct way of making the sign of the cross, and the need to eradicate sodomy. Rome's and Constantinople's failure to preserve Orthodoxy led to their downfall, and since a fourth Rome there will not be, the failure of Moscow to do so will herald the apocalypse. While some historians have convincingly argued that the symbolic concept of the 'Third Rome' was less widespread than that of Moscow as a 'New Jerusalem', or Russia as a 'New Israel',72 its unique appearance in an official document is significant - in the decree establishing the Moscow patriarchate in 1589, the whole of the 'great Russian Tsarstvo' is called a third Rome.73
The degree to which religiously inspired concepts such as 'Holy Russia', the 'Third Rome', the 'New Jerusalem' and their architectural, textual and
70 D. Obolensky Byzantium and the Slavs (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1994), 185.
71 For a discussion of authorship and dating, see Slovar' knizhnikov i knizhnosti Drevnei Rusi, ed. D. S. Likhachev (Leningrad: Nauka, 1989), ii, 471-3; N. Andreyev, 'Filofey and his Epistle to Ivan Vasil'yevich', Slavonic and East European Review 38 (1959), 1-31. The letters are published in V N. Malinin's Starets' Eleazarova monastyria Filofei i ego poslaniia (Kiev: Tipografiia Kievo-Pecherskoi Uspenskoi Lavry 1901). An English translation of an extract from his letter to Vasilii III can be found in G. Vernadsky, A source book for Russian history from early times to 1917, i, Early times to the late seventeenth century (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1972), 155-6.
72 See for example J. Raba, 'Moscow-the Third Rome or the New Jerusalem?', Forschungen zur Osteuropaischen Geschichte 50 (1995), 297-307; D. B. Rowland, 'Moscow-the Third Rome or the New Israel?' RR 55 (1996), 591-614.
73 D. Ostrowski, Muscovy and the Mongols: cross-cultural influences on the steppe frontier, 13041589 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 239.
Was this article helpful?