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9: The Later Fifteenth Century

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One of the reasons for the internal troubles in the grand duchy of Lithuania was the religious difference between the Catholics of Lithuania proper and the Orthodox of her Ruthenian provinces. Svitrigaila, though himself a Catholic, was taking advantage of the dissatisfaction in these provinces which did not share in the privileges of 1387 and 1413 that were reserved to Catholics only. It is true that in 1434 Svitrigaila’s rival, Sigismund, issued a new charter of liberties, this time for all parts of the grand duchy without any religious discrimination, and that in the same year the privileges of Polish law and self-government were extended to the Ruthenian lands of the kingdom of Poland. Nevertheless it was obvious that a religious union between Catholics and Orthodox, as already planned by Jagiello and Vytautas during the Council of Constance, could contribute to the cohesion of the political union and to internal peace in both parts of the federal system.

    That problem was part of the larger issue of a reunion between Rome and Constantinople. It had been simultaneously studied at the Council of Basle, to which Emperor John VIII Palaeologus sent an important delegation, hoping thus to obtain much needed assistance against the Turks. In this matter too, however, the regrettable misunderstandings between Pope and council delayed any solution, while the civil war in Lithuania also created unexpected difficulties. In agreement with the Metropolitan of Kiev, Svitrigaila first declared in favor of such a religious union, but he later condemned that metropolitan to be burned at the stake because he suspected him of political treason. In 1436, when Svitrigaila had hardly any real power and while his rival did not show any interest in the union of the churches, the Patriarch of Constantinople appointed another Metropolitan of Kiev and all the Russias in the person of the noted Greek humanist Isidor. In contradistinction to his unfortunate predecessor, he was at first recognized in Moscow also, and he immediately came there to win that country for the union with Rome which he had already favored at Basle as one of the Greek delegates.

    Grand Prince Vasil II authorized him to return to the council at the head of a Russian delegation but on condition that he would not bring back anything “new” to Moscow. In the meantime the pope transferred the council to Italy, where Isidor joined the other delegates of the Eastern church who had arrived from Constantinople. First in Ferrara and later in Florence, where the union was finally concluded on July 6, 1439, the Metropolitan of Kiev greatly contributed to that success and was sent to Russia as cardinal and legate of Eugene IV in order to have the union accepted there. He obtained such a result, however, only in the dioceses which were within the borders of Poland and Lithuania, where he stopped on his way to Moscow. There he was put in jail by Vasil II who rejected all decisions of the council. After escaping from prison, Isidor once more visited the Polish-Lithuanian part of his metropolis, and then went to Rome through Hungary, never to return to Russia.

    It was obvious that the Union of Florence had no chance whatever in the Great Russian State in spite of its official acceptance by the Byzantine Empire. On the contrary, when Vasil II had received information that the Greek church was now really reunited with Rome, and when he had defeated his internal opponent in a protracted civil war in which he was supported by the Russian church, in 1448 he gave another metropolitan to that Church, severing its ties with Constantinople. The conception that Moscow was to be the third and final Rome can be traced back to these events which were a further step in the separation of Muscovite Great Russia from the territories of old Kievan Rus, now included in the Jagellonian federation.

    The leading role of that federation in all East Central Europe became even more apparent when in 1440, the year after the death of Albrecht II of Habsburg, Wladyslaw III of Poland was elected King of Hungary. There he received Cardinal Isidor on his way back to Rome, and in his privilege of 1443 guaranteed full equality to Catholics of the Eastern rite in the Ruthenian provinces of Poland. In the same year (1440), his brother Casimir was made grand duke of Lithuania after the assassination of Sigismund by leaders of the local aristocracy. Though there remained important controversial problems both constitutional and territorial between Poland and Lithuania, their continued union under the same dynasty was assured.

    The Habsburg dynasty, however, not only remained in control of Bohemia, but also opposed Wladyslaw of Poland in Hungary, forcing him to postpone the struggle against the growing Ottoman danger which he had promised to conduct. But when Cardinal Cesarini negotiated an agreement with Austria in 1442, the moment had arrived to make a last effort to liberate the Balkan peoples, saving what remained of the Byzantine Empire and thus securing the Union of Florence.

    The first crusade which was undertaken in 1443 under the leadership of the young king and of John Hunyadi, palatine of Transylvania who had defended Hungary’s southern frontier in the preceding years, was a great success. In cooperation with the despot of Serbia, George Brankovich, and with the participation of many Polish knights, the Hungarian army advanced through Bulgaria and reached the Balkan Mountains. It was too late in the year to continue in the direction of Constantinople, but the Turks were beaten in several battles and another expedition was planned for the following year, in alliance with Western rulers who on the Pope’s invitation had promised to mobilize a Christian fleet and to send it to the Straits.

    There were partisans of appeasement in Hungary and in Poland, particularly among those who favored the Council of Basle in its opposition to Eugene IV. Brankovich was also influenced by the peace proposals of the Turks, and in June, 1444, a Hungarian-Serb delegation was sent to Adrianople, then the Turkish capital, and it there concluded a ten-year truce with Murad II. But King Wladyslaw faithful to his earlier engagements, refused to ratify that treaty when Turkish envoys came to Szeged in Hungary. Knowing that the Christian fleet, supplied by the Pope, Venice, Ragusa, and Burgundy, had left for the Straits, that the Turks had transferred their main forces to Asia Minor, and that the Greeks, expecting his help, were advancing from Morea, the Jagellonian undertook his second crusade which in spite of a separate peace made by Brankovich had serious chances of success.

    It so happened, however, that the fleet failed to hinder the return of Murad to Europe, and the crusaders therefore met overwhelming forces when they reached Varna on the Bulgarian coast. In the battle of November 10, 1444, King Wladyslaw was killed when he led the main attack in person; Cardinal Cesarini, who had accompanied the army, also lost his life, and the Christian army suffered a serious defeat. The last chance of saving Constantinople was lost, so that the ruin of the Byzantine Empire became unavoidable and the liberation of the Balkans out of the question. Hungary was not invaded by the Turks, and in 1448 Hunyadi again tried to fight them but was beaten at Kossovo, the place of the Serbian defeat of 1389.

    That was already under the reign of Ladislas, the son born posthumously to Albrecht II of Habsburg, who after Varna was universally recognized in Hungary and until his death in 1457 ruled that kingdom along with Bohemia and his Austrian lands. Since Frederick III, a descendant of another line of the Habsburgs, was from 1440 King of the Romans and was later to be crowned as emperor, the power of that dynasty and its influence in East Central Europe were increasing in spite of the rather poor qualifications of its representatives. The short Polish-Hungarian Union had ended in the catastrophe of 1444, and only the Polish-Lithuanian Union was strengthened when Casimir succeeded his brother Wladyslaw in Poland.

    This, however, was achieved not without difficulties. In Poland, during her king’s absence beyond the Carpathians, Bishop Zbigniew Olesnicki, soon to be the first Polish cardinal, occupied a leading position and wanted Casimir to accept the conditions of election which were unfavorable to the Lithuanians. During the years when Casimir had ruled only in Lithuania, the power of the grand duchy had considerably increased and so had the influence of the local aristocracy which did not sufficiently realize that the relations with the Teutonic Order were still unsettled and that Moscow, after her internal crisis, was aiming at supremacy in Eastern Europe. The Lithuanians not only claimed full equality in a merely personal union with Poland, but also both provinces, Volhynia and Podolia, which from the beginning had been an object of controversy between the two parts of the federation.

    The principle of equality, corresponding to the stage of cultural and constitutional development which Lithuania had already reached, was practically recognized at Casimir’s Polish election in 1446. After being crowned the following year, he successfully prepared a compromise of the territorial issue, leaving Podolia to Poland and Volhynia to Lithuania, which controlled by far the larger part of the Ruthenian (all White Russian and most of the Ukrainian) provinces, granting them their traditional autonomy. It was therefore under favorable conditions that after years of internal crisis and after the unexpected blow of Varna, the Jagellonian federation entered a new period of its development, forming by far the largest body politic in East Central Europe—the only one which remained completely free from the influence of the neighboring powers—and next to the disintegrating Holy Roman Empire, the largest in all Europe, placed at the exposed limits of what then was the European community.

    Before Casimir could begin his constructive activities aiming at an organization of the whole East Central European region, however, he had to liquidate some undertakings of the preceding years which proved beyond the forces of the Jagellonian system. Particularly hopeless was the old ambitious dream of Lithuania to control all the Russias and thus the whole of Eastern Europe. Such plans, considered in the grand duchy as late as 1448, were replaced the following year by a treaty with Moscow which tried to define the spheres of influence of both powers. Even now parts of Great Russia, opposed to Moscow’s leadership, particularly the Grand Principality of Tver, were considered to be in the orbit of their traditional ally, Lithuania, which also attempted to find guaranties for the independence of the Russian republics of Novgorod and Pskov.

    These possibilities were soon to appear as illusions, but what was a definite mistake was the appeasement in the religious sphere. Soon after the political agreement, the Orthodox metropolitan residing in Moscow, who had helped to negotiate the treaty, was also recognized as head of the Eastern Church in the Ruthenian provinces of the Jagellonian federation. That abandonment of the Union of Florence in the regions where it had the last chance of survival was not yet final and a better solution was discovered a few years later, but it was a serious indication of the growing pressure from the East at a time when equally serious problems had to be faced by Casimir in the West.


    King Casimir had scarcely settled the relations between Poles and Lithuanians and established some kind of modus vivendi with Moscow, when early in 1454 he was invited by the subjects of the Teutonic Order in Prussia to take them under his protection. The oppressive rule of the Knights of the Cross had, indeed, first led to a conspiracy and finally to an open revolt of both the German and the Polish populations of their disintegrating state. In spite of Olesnicki’s hesitation, Casimir decided to accept a proposal which would not only restore to Poland her old Pomeranian province with the flowering port of Danzig, but also unite Prussia proper with the Polish crown, thus completely eliminating the dangerous Order.

    There was also a chance for Lithuania to obtain better access to the Baltic Sea because the eastern part of the Order s possession, with the port of Memel at the mouth of the Niemen, was of course destined for the grand duchy. But the troublesome magnates who practically controlled Lithuania did not favor her participation in a war which, thanks to the energetic counteraction of the Order, both military and diplomatic, and to an initial defeat of the Polish forces was to last thirteen years. Although at the beginning almost all the castles of Prussia were occupied by the estates in revolt, and although Danzig proved particularly helpful in financially supporting the struggle, it soon became apparent that eventually the territory of the Order would be divided. In addition to Polish Pomerania, a few districts on the right bank of the Vistula, including the capital Marienburg which had been sold to the Poles in 1457 by the Order’s own mercenaries, and the bishopric of Warmia (Ermeland), were definitely liberated from the rule of the Knights. But in spite of an important victory gained in 1462 by the Poles, who also started to use mercenary forces in the exhausting struggle, the eastern part of Prussia with Königsberg as a new capital was left to the Order in the peace treaty which was concluded at Torun in 1466, through papal mediation after the failure of earlier diplomatic intervention of other powers. But the grand master was to be a vassal of the King of Poland, so that all Prussia was formally incorporated with Poland—the western part, now called Royal Prussia, as an autonomous province, the eastern part as a fief.

    Such a solution was far from satisfactory, especially since the Order almost immediately started to claim a revision of the treaty which was never finally approved by either pope or emperor, the traditional protectors of the Order whose grand masters scarcely observed their feudal obligations toward Poland. Nevertheless, the recovery of free access to the Baltic shores, where Danzig was granted a privileged position, was a tremendous success for the kingdom which now reached the height of its power and extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

    In the course of the war the king had to make new concessions to the nobility, but he succeeded in isolating the opposition of the aristocracy of Little Poland, led by Cardinal Olesnicki, and the legislative power granted to the provincial dietines in 1454 accelerated the development of parliamentary government. In the second part of Casimir’s reign, the Polish Diet (Sejm) was already constituted as a bicameral body composed of the King’s Council, now called the Senate, and of the Chamber of Deputies elected by the dietines. Nevertheless the power of the king, who tried to preserve a sound balance among all classes of society, was still so great that almost immediately after the Prussian war he could undertake a wide diplomatic action in the interest of his dynasty.

    It was, indeed, also in the interest of the Polish nation to have at least dynastic ties with the neighboring countries of Bohemia and Hungary, and it was in the interest of all East Central Europe to be united in a political system which, without being a real federation, guaranteed peace and security under a common dynasty whose members everywhere promoted free national development. The Jagellonians were therefore much more acceptable to the interested populations than were the Habsburgs who represented German penetration and the influence of the empire whose crown had been in their house since 1438.

    During the long reign of Emperor Frederick III (1440—93), the power of the Holy Roman Empire was declining more rapidly than ever before. Furthermore, the last descendant of the elder line of the Habsburgs, Ladislas Posthumous, who was king of Bohemia and Hungary, died in 1457. The elections which followed in both kingdoms gave them native kings for the last time in history: George of Podebrady, a Czech nobleman of Utraquist faith who had already been the able administrator of the country under the young Habsburg, now became King of Bohemia, while Mathias Corvinus, a son of the national hero John Hunyadi, was elected King of Hungary. Both of them hoped to found national dynasties, but not being of royal blood they encountered serious difficulties. And while the Habsburgs never gave up their pretensions to both kingdoms, Casimir Jagiello could also claim the succession, having married Elizabeth, the sister of Ladislas Posthumous. He was, however, waiting until one of his grown-up sons could be freely elected by Czechs or Hungarians or by both, and until the Prussian war would be over.

    In the course of that war, in the decisive year 1462, he made an alliance with George of Podebrady. For the king of Bohemia this was a first step toward the realization of his great design to create a league of European rulers. This league was supposed to replace, in a more efficient form, the medieval unity of Christendom under Pope and Emperor, to secure the common defense against the Turks, and also to promote the ambitious aims of George, who himself hoped to become king of the Romans if not emperor. In spite of the diplomatic action conducted by George’s French adviser, Dr. Antoine Marini, of Grenoble, the whole plan, submitted to the Polish Diet, to the Republic of Venice, and to France, hardly had any real chances, and besides the Polish alliance, George succeeded only in making a treaty with Louis XI the next year. These alliances with Catholic kings were particularly valuable at a time when George had to face serious troubles in connection with his religious policy.

    Still under the reign of Ladislas Posthumous, had been suppressed the last of the Taborites. What remained of the radical wing of the Hussite movement was organized by an able preacher, Peter Chelcicky, in a purely religious community called the Unity of Czech Brethren. But King George himself, together with the majority of the Czechs, was deeply attached to that moderate form of Hussitism which had been recognized by the Council of Basle but never completely reconciled with Rome. After a protracted conflict with the papacy, in the course of which Pope Pius II revoked the Compactates of Basle, George was excommunicated and deposed as a heretic by Paul II.

    While the King of Poland, desirous of gaining the Bohemian crown in agreement with the Czech people themselves, refused to interfere, another neighbor was ready to become executor of the papal decree. It was the King of Hungary. Mathias Corvinus’ reign was very successful in spite of the growing Turkish danger which he opposed in the long series of campaigns that followed the heroic defense of Belgrade under his predecessor. He became equally famous as a patron of Renaissance culture, which flowered at his brilliant court in Buda, particularly after his marriage with Beatrice of Aragon. And wishing to make Hungary the leading power in the whole Danubian region, he attacked George of Podebrady in 1468, resolved to face not only Czech opposition but also the rivalry of the two dynasties of the Jagellonians and of the Habsburgs.

    He seemed to be very near to his ambitious aim when a treaty concluded the next year not only gave him immediate control of all lands of St. Václav’s crown outside Bohemia proper, i.e., Moravia, Silesia, and Upper Lusatia, but also promised him the succession after George of Podebrady. But in agreement with the intentions of the latter, the Czech Estates elected Vladislav, eldest son of the King of Poland, when their own king died in 1471.

    His father Casimir tried to eliminate Mathias by attacking him in Hungary where an opposition party seemed to favor the candidature of another Polish prince, Vladislav’s younger brother, Casimir, the future saint. His expedition ended in failure, however, and the war between Mathias Corvinus and the Jagellonians dragged on until 1478. It ended in the compromise of Olomouc which left to Mathias the occupied provinces and even the title of King of Bohemia, although Vladislav remained the real king of that country.

    At the same time, the King of Poland put an end to the cooperation of Mathias with the Teutonic Order, forcing the grand master to respect the treaty of Torun. But neither Casimir nor his rival succeeded in coming to a lasting agreement with the third power that was interested in the Bohemian succession—the Habsburgs. In what was practically a three-cornered conflict, Emperor Frederick III, seconded toward the end of his reign by his much abler son, Maximilian, opposed both non-German powers only to see a large part of his own Austria, including Vienna, finally occupied by Hungarian forces.

    Hungary’s predominance in the Danubian region ended, however, with the death of Mathias in 1490. Now Habsburgs and Jagellonians openly opposed each other in claiming his succession. The Hungarians, afraid of German control, decided in favor of the Polish-Lithuanian dynasty. Unfortunately there was an additional rivalry between two sons of King Casimir. A younger one, John Albert, first supported by his father, later acting on his own account, was defeated by the much stronger partisans of his brother, Vladislas of Bohemia, who as duly elected King of Hungary united the two countries in 1491. Such a solution also ended the territorial division of the Bohemian lands, all of them being reunited with Prague, while the common ruler took up his usual residence in Buda. He was soon reconciled with his father and his brother, and Casimir’s dynastic plan seemed fully achieved when the old king died in 1492, rightly alarmed by new developments in the East.


The so-called Eastern question did not originate with the decline of the Ottoman Empire but rather with its rise, and simultaneously with that development in South East Europe similar problems appeared in the northeast of the Continent. For Asiatic pressure upon Europe was never limited to the region around the Straits, but it usually proved no less dangerous in the wide plains north of the Black Sea in the zone of transition between Europe proper and Eurasia. In both cases East Central Europe, exposed to serious dangers from two sides, was the main victim.

    In 1453 the Byzantine Empire, which never had been a real threat to any country beyond its original frontiers and during the last centuries of its precarious existence had given up any idea of reconquering its lost territories, was replaced by an aggressive, truly imperialistic power which after the conquest of the Balkans was trying to penetrate into the Danubian region. In the years following the fall of Constantinople the Turks not only occupied the last Greek states—the Despotate of Morea at the southern end, of the Balkan Peninsula and the Empire of Trebizond in Asia Minor—but completed the annihilation of Serbia and isolated the last forces of resistance in Albania, a mountain region heroically defended by Alexander Castriota (Skanderbeg) and—like Montenegro—never completely subjugated even after his death. The Turks very soon extended their raids far into the neighboring countries. While, however, the occupation of Italian Otranto in 1480 proved to be only temporary, and though the invasions of Venetian and Austrian border regions were more of a nuisance than a real danger, Hungary and the Danubian principalities were in a very critical position.

    The country of the Hunyadis was still strong enough to defend its Danube frontier, even after occasional defeats, and to keep a foothold deep in Bosnia. However, the two principalities, Wallachia and Moldavia, which in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries had been created by the ancestors of the Rumanians but were rarely united with each other, had to look for the protection of larger Christian states in order to escape the suzerainty of the sultans. The nearest of these neighbors having the same interest in checking the Ottoman advance was indeed Hungary, which included a large Wallachian population in Transylvania. But in spite of close historical ties—the Hunyadis themselves were of Wallachian origin—there was never any real cooperation between Rumanians and Magyars who wanted to connect both Danubian principalities with the Crown of St. Stephen as vassal territories.

    Vacillating between Turkish and Hungarian influence, the southern of these principalities, Wallachia, was of course the first to come under Ottoman overlordship which was already well established there at the time of the fall of Constantinople. While in Wallachia Polish influence was only occasional, in spite of the alliance concluded in 1390, Moldavia was looking for the protection of Poland against both Turkey and Hungary. The homage paid by her prince to King Jaggiello in 1387 was frequently repeated by his successors throughout the fifteenth century. At least one of these Moldavian princes, however, Stephen the Great, succeeded during his long reign (1457—1503) in making his country practically independent of all its neighbors and in defending it rather successfully against repeated Ottoman onslaughts. It was not before the loss of his Black Sea ports, Kilia and Akkerman, in 1484, to Bayezid II, that Stephen, too, tried to obtain Polish assistance by means of homage paid to Casimir the Jagellonian. But he was disappointed because Poland herself, remembering the catastrophe of Varna, did not feel sufficiently prepared to undertake the struggle with the Ottoman Empire. When she finally did so in 1497, under Casimir’s son, John Albert, a tragic misunderstanding made Poles and Moldavians turn against each other and ended in a defeat of the Polish king in the forests of the Bukovina. This was followed by the first Turkish invasions which reached far into Poland.

    Poland had entered the war with a view to retaking not only the Moldavian ports from the Muslims, but also the equally important trade center of Caffa in the Crimea, a Genoese colony which in 1462 had placed itself under Polish protection but which was conquered by the Turks in 1475. The fall of Caffa was of especial significance because it also enabled the Ottoman Empire to turn the Tartar khanate of the Crimea into a vassal state which could be used against Christian neighbors at any time. Of these neighbors, Lithuania, in cooperation with Poland, had originally promoted the creation of the Crimean Khanate—a further step in the gradual disintegration of the Golden Horde which seemed to be the most dangerous enemy. The new Crimean dynasty, the Gireys, who ruled there for almost four hundred years, was indeed an ally of the Jagellonians until the death of Hadshi Girey, the most prominent of them, in 1466. But subsequent internal troubles in the Crimea resulted in the victory of Hadshi’s ambitious son, Mengli, who, after being seized by the Turks at Caffa, returned a few years later as their vassal. Through frequent raids, he not only practically cut off Lithuania and Poland from their Black Sea coast but replaced his father’s alliance with King Casimir by an alliance with Ivan III of Moscow.

    Mengli Girey had, indeed, a common interest with the powerful grand prince who had succeeded his father, Vasil II, in 1462. Ivan considered it one of his main objectives to liberate Moscow from the overlordship of the Golden Horde, the deadly enemy  of the Crimean Khanate. But an even more  important objective of Ivan III’s policy was the unification under Moscow’s leadership of all the Russias. After his conquest of the Republic of Novgorod in 1478, which completely upset the balance of power in Eastern Europe, and after his conquest of Tver in 1485, which liquidated the last independent state between Moscow and Lithuania, the unification of all Great Russian lands was achieved and Ivan III started raising claims to the White Russian and Ukrainian territories of Lithuania.

    These claims were based upon dynastic and religious arguments since these territories of the old Kievan State had once been under the same Rurik dynasty whose Muscovite branch Ivan now represented, and because all Eastern Slavs professed the Orthodox faith. For that very reason, Casimir the Jagellonian, after trying to appease Moscow even in matters of ecclesiastical organization, had welcomed the return of his Ruthenian subjects to the Union of Florence. A metropolitan sent from Rome in 1458 was residing in Kiev and extending his authority as far as the political boundaries between Lithuania and Moscow. That separation of old Kievan Rus from the metropolitan of Moscow was to become permanent, but even the metropolitan of Kiev did not safeguard the union with Rome which a few of them tried to revive in the following decades but without much success. Nevertheless the White Russian and Ukrainian lands were definitely in a cultural sphere which was completely different from that of Moscow, and they were also under a different form of government which, while respecting their autonomy, intimately connected them with the European community. East Central Europe, to which they now belonged through a political federation, was undoubtedly part of that community, while Muscovite Russia, although freeing herself from Tartar rule, developed along entirely different lines. It was Ivan III, who in 1472 through his marriage with Zoe (Sophia), the heiress of the Palaeologi dynasty, greatly contributed to the political conception of Moscow as the Third Rome. He was building up another aggressive empire and threatening all his Western neighbors from Swedish Finland in the north to Kiev in the south, which at his instigation was sacked by the Tartars of the Crimea in 1482.

    Ivan used these Muslim allies against Casimir whom he did not dare attack directly, and similarly the Polish king and his successors would occasionally use the Tartars of the Golden Horde against Moscow. Through a strange reversal of alliances these Tartars were now usually on the Lithuanian side. Between Lithuania and Moscow there developed a tense situation of neither war nor peace which Ivan III utilized in order to occupy some border regions. These changes of the frontier were of limited importance but they created dangerous precedents and prepared the way for open aggression against Lithuania immediately after Casimir’s death in 1492.

    That fateful year was the beginning of a long series of wars which in Eastern European history had an importance similar to that of the Italian wars of the same period in the history of Western Europe. Lithuania was now under a separate grand duke, one of Casimir’s numerous sons, Alexander, who closely cooperated with his brother John Albert, the new King of Poland, and even with Vladislav of Hungary and Bohemia. But he did not receive adequate assistance, and in the peace treaty of 1494 he had to make the first territorial cessions to Moscow. These did not vitally affect the position of Lithuania, and Alexander hoped to appease his dangerous neighbor by marrying Ivan’s daughter Helen on the same occasion. But it was precisely that marriage which gave her father new opportunities for raising controversial issues by complaining, contrary to Helen’s own assurances, that she did not enjoy the promised freedom of worship in her Orthodox faith. At the same time, modest attempts at restoring the Union of Florence were branded by Ivan as persecution of the Orthodox Church. And as soon as the Polish defeat in Moldavia had affected the prestige of the whole Jagellonian dynasty, the grand prince of Moscow launched another much more violent attack against Lithuania in 1500.

    Ivan was able to keep all his initial conquests which at this time reached deep into the White Russian and Ukrainian lands almost to the gates of Smolensk and Kiev. In 1501 Alexander was also elected King of Poland, succeeding his brother, and had made alliances with the German Knights of Livonia in the north and with the last Khan of the Golden Horde in the south. In 1502 the latter was completely destroyed by Moscow’s ally, the Khan of Crimea, the isolated successes on the Livonian front were of no avail, and in 1503 only a precarious armistice could be concluded. Having renewed the union between the two countries in 1501, the Lithuanians negotiated together with the Poles, and the king of Hungary and Bohemia acted as mediator. But the Jagellonians could not concentrate in the eastern direction because they had to face growing difficulties on an equally long western front, from Prussia to Buda, at the same time.

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