Law and power. The idea of sovereignty in 16th century Russia


  • Giovanni Maniscalco Basile Third Rome University



Ivan the Terrible; Sultan Mehmed; autocracy; theory of sovereignty; absolute monarchy; customary law


The late 15th century and the first half of 16th century is a crucial period for the formation of the ideology that would support Russian autocracy until the October Revolution. In those years, Moscow transformed from a city ruled by a Prince into the capital of an empire, whose borders would reach the Sea of Japan. The stages of this transformation had a turning point in 1564, when Ivan IV Vasilyevich received a mandate from the people of Moscow to punish the traitors of the country.
This was the last piece of a complex mosaic that would make Russian autocracy a unique phenomenon in Renaissance Europe: a monarchy in which the legislative power of the sovereign was not limited by any intermediate body. The power of the Muscovite sovereign rested not only on the consent of the people, but also on the support of the Orthodox Church that consecrated Moscow as the Third and Last Rome, the last Empire of the prophecy of Daniel (2 and 7) and its ruler as the “apostle”, destined by God to save his subjects “from the fire (of Hell) with fear” and to convert all the Heathen people to Christian faith. In this article, this evolution is analysed in all its most important phases.


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How to Cite

Basile, G. M. (2014). Law and power. The idea of sovereignty in 16th century Russia. Quaestio Rossica, (2), 65–79.



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