The Sovereign and His Counsellors : Ritualised Consultations in Muscovite Political Culture, 1350s-1570s
Academic dissertation, Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki, March 4, (2000)
Starting from the 14th century, the Moscow princes’ power began to spread to other Russian lands. In the course of the next two centuries, Moscow gained dominion over huge territories with a variety of economic, political and cultural traditions. In order to control and rule such an extensive and varied country, the princes of Moscow developed a special kind of power, which is generally referred to as autocracy. The autocracy was a complex system which ought not to be reduced to the figure of the monarch alone.1 The Muscovite sovereign handled domestic and foreign policy with the aid of a close circle of counsellors. These counsellors played a highly important role in political and court life, participating in the preparation and implementation of political and administrative decisions.
Historians have a variety of opinions about the nature of the relations between the monarch and his counsellors in the Muscovite state. According to Richard Pipes, the crown tended to “humiliate anyone who by virtue of ancestry, office or wealth may have been inclined to become self-important.” In contrast, Edward Keenan argues that the Muscovite state was ruled by a centralised boyar oligarchy while the grand prince/tsar was little more than a figure-head. Similar ideas have been advanced by N. Sh. Kollmann.