Kalita was the biggest politician of his time. Though his activity was ambiguously estimated by historians, it nevertheless promoted the grounding of the political and economic power of Moscow, and the beginning of economic recovery of Russia.
Ivan I Danilovich Kalita (baptized as Ioannes) was born in Moscow in 1283. A more exact date is not known. He was the son of the Moscow prince Daniel Alexandrovich, the grandson of Alexander Nevsky, the prince of Moscow, the prince of Novgorod and Grand duke of Vladimir. For a long time he was in the sidelines of his elder brother Prince Yury. At the turn of the 13th -14th centuries, according to the chronicle, Ivan was a deputy in Novgorod, reigned in Pereyaslavl-Zalessky and repeatedly replaced his brother on the Moscow throne, while Prince Yuri was away in the Golden Horde.
After Yury's death in 1325 Ivan as the successor of his elder brother started his personal reign in the Moscow principality. In the very first year of his reigning he called the metropolitan Peter from Vladimir to Moscow. The event at once turned Moscow into the spiritual center of Russia and provided church support to the Moscow prince. Moscow became the residence of the metropolitan “of all Russia”, and Peter promoted Ivan in implementing the policy of centralization of Russian lands.
Ivan Kalita was a cruel ruler, at the same time clever and persistent in achievement of his goals. He managed to get on well with the Tatar-Mongolian Uzbek khan, and repeatedly visited the Golden Horde, where he found trust and favor in the eyes of the khan.
In 1327 Ivan Kalita took part in a campaign of the Golden Horde troops to Tver. Later the khan awarded him for that with the Kostroma principality, as well as the title of the Prince of Novgorod in 1328.
In 1332 Ivan Kalita gained from the Mongol khan Uzbek a decree for Kalita’s grand duchy over the Vladimir Province and his recognition as the Grand Prince of All Russia. For peaceful relations with the Golden Horde Ivan Kalita collected massive taxes from Russian population for the Tatars, and ruthlessly clamped down all attempts of national discontent that was caused by heavy charges. Moreover, by means of Tatars’s forces he eliminated lots of his political rivals – other princes. After that, according to the chronicles, silence settled in the entire North Eastern Russia for many years. Being afraid of the khan’s anger, the Tatars ceased to make incursions on the lands of Russia. Uzbek Khan even stopped sending his people to the lands of the prince, and entrusted collecting taxes from the population to Ivan himself. The latter accumulated lots of money (hence is his nickname “Kalita”, i.e. “a big purse”, “a money bag”, another version is that it came from his habit of always carrying “kalita” with money for dealing out alms).
Ivan steadily struggled for expansion of the territory of his principality and agglomerating Russian lands around Moscow. He spent the saved-up funds for purchasing the lands of his neighbors. The influence of the prince extended to a number of lands of the North Eastern Russia (Novgorod, Rostov, Tver, Uglich, Galich, Pskov, and Beloozero). Though local princes governed in these towns, they were, in essence, just deputies of the Moscow prince.
The years of Ivan’s reign were the era of strengthening of Moscow and its eminence over other Russian towns. An oak Kremlin protecting not only downtown, but also the surrounding area was constructed In Moscow. The Assumption and the Archangel Cathedrals, St. John the Climacus Church, and the Transfiguration Church with a monastery were built in Moscow under his reign. In Pereyaslavl-Zalessky Ivan Kalita founded the Goritsky (Assumption) Monastery.
Chroniclers noted that the prince safeguarded citizens, strictly persecuted and executed robbers and thieves, always held “fair trial” and assisted the poor. This is how he got his second nickname Dobryi (i.e. Kind). He enforced an agricultural law and established a new order of succession.
After the death of Ivan Kalita the throne more or less consistently passed on to his lineal descendants. The reign of Kalita laid the foundation to monarchy. He brought up four sons and five daughters.
The grand prince of all Russia Ivan I Kalita died on March 31, 1340 in Moscow. He was buried in the Archangel Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.
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