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Acta Historica Tallinnensia
ISSN 1736-7476 (Electronic)
ISSN 1406-2925 (Print)


Full article in PDF format | doi: 10.3176/hist.2009.1.02


The article provides an overview of the international situation and the situation in Livonia prior to the emergence of the project of the vassal kingdom of Livonia, and the developments and motives that pushed Duke Magnus of Holstein to overt collaboration with Tsar Ivan the Terrible. It is shown that the creation of the vassal kingdom was predominantly determined by external circumstances, primarily by Muscovy’s hope to achieve a division of Poland-Lithuania between Russia and the Habsburgs, following a normalisation of relations with the Holy Roman Empire and the imperial court after the eclipse of the male line of the Jagiellon dynasty, without relinquishing its conquests and claims of domination in Livonia. The material is presented in the form of a narrative, in view of the failure of previous historiography to effectively focus on the timeline of the events under discussion, the relevant documents, and the general background.

1. For example, Denmark’s expenses in this war were, according to the calculations of Georg Forstén, 4,762,380 thalers, or an average of 680,340 thalers per year; before the war the annual expenditures had barely amounted to 230,330 thalers, rising to 223,700 thalers a year during the post-war period; however, the annual income in post-war years was a mere 100,320 thalers (Форстен Г. Балтийский вопрос в XVI и XVII столетиях. Т. I. Тип. В.С. Балашева и Ко, Санкт-Петербург, 1893, 551–552).

2. Иоанн Грозный. Антология. Эксмо, Москва, 2004, 218.

3. In German: Havelude, Hofleute. A closer scrutiny of the composition of these units reveals that they essentially functioned as the local gentry militia. See f. e. Adamson, A. Liivimaa mõisa­mehed Liivi sõja perioodil. – Acta Historica Tallinnensia, 2006, 10, 2–47.

4. Доннерт Э. Россия и Балтийский вопрос в политике Германии 1558–1583 гг. (Исторические Записки, 76.) Наука, Москва, 1965, 206–207.

5. Хорошкевич A. Россия в системе международных отношений середиы XVI века. Moсква, 2003, 407.

6. The imprisoned Fürstenberg, brought to Moscow on September 8, 1560, was indeed treated as an appanage prince in disfavour with the Tsar. On December 6 the same year, the Tsar’s deaf and feeble-minded brother Yuri ritually pleaded for pardon to the former Master of the Order, and it was indeed granted a day later: Ivan the Terrible ordered Fürstenberg to be taken to the palace, granted him an audience and invited him to his table. In June 1561, Fürstenberg and the former Bishop of Tartu Hermann were granted the town of Lyubim for sustenance (Филюшкин А. И. Андрей Михайлович Курбский. Просопографическое исследование и герменевтический комментарий к посланиям Андрея Курбского Ивану Грозному. Издательство Санкт-Петербургского университета, Санкт-Петербург, 2007, 57–58). A. Filyushkin mentions this fact and Duke Magnus’ later vassalage to the Tsar in order to back his postulate that such transitions (into the Tsar’s service, if not the other way round), were treated by the Muscovites as natural and legitimate. However, it would probably be wrong to view Fürstenberg and Hermann as newly-minted vassals of the Tsar, or presume that Moscow took the gesture too seriously and treated them as foreign potentates who voluntarily entered the Tsar’s service. At the same time it was only to be expected that Moscow deliberately played on this impression, as it truly helped legitimise (at home and abroad) Muscovy’s conquests in Livonia.

7. See e.g. Taube, M. v. Die Uxkull. Genealogische Geschichte der Gesamtfamilie von Uxkull (1229–1954). III Teil. Kluge & Ström, München, 1955, 252–264.

8. Ibid., 261; Хорошкевич A. Россия в системе международных отношений середиы XVI века, 407. The coat of arms featured a two-headed eagle with the coat of arms of the Livonian Master of the Order at its right foot, and the seal of the Tartu Bishop at its left foot.

9. H. Staden’s writings, as several researchers have convincingly indicated (primarily – Альшиц Д. Начало самодержавия в России. Наука, Ленинград, 1988, 159–176), are not thoroughly reliable as he tends to lie about his own career. For example, he claims to have served in the oprichnina, yet presents facts that disprove the statement. He served in the zemshchina. Most certainly he did not participate in the 1569/70 punitive expedition to Novgorod, the colourful description of which has been extensively used in historiography, nor did he lead troops in a battle against Tatars in 1572. However, he was very well informed, and the facts cited in this article are credible enough. By the way, Staden wrote under the guidance of Count Palatine and Duke Georg Johann I von Pfalz-Veldenz-Lützelstein (1543–1592), an international fortune-seeker who took sincere interest in Russia and was married to the Swedish Princess Anna Maria.

10. Franz Nyenstädt’s, weiland rigischen Bürgermeisters und königlichen Burggrafen, Livländische Chronik, nebst desssen Handbuch, erstere nach ältern und neuern Abschriften, letzteres nach dessen Originalhandschrift herausgegeben von G. Tielemann. (Monumenta Livoniae antiquae: Sammlung von Chroniken, Berichten, Urkunden und anderen schriftlichen Denkmalen und Aufsätzen, welche zur Erläuterung der Geschichte Liv-, Ehst- und Kurlands dienen. Bd. II.) Verlag von Eduard Frantzen’s Buchhandlung (in Riga: Druck von W. F. Häcker), Riga, 1839, 68.

11.Штаден Г. О Москве Ивана Грозного. Пер. И. И. Полосина. М. и С. Сабашниковы, 1925,  88–89.

12. Monumenta Livoniae antiquae, II, 68–69.

13. At that time there were no other coadjutors in Livonia except Magnus. In June 1558 Tartu Bishop Hermann II had decided to place his diocese under the Danish protectorate, naming Duke Magnus as his coadjutor. The Cathedral Chapter, the Stift Council led by Bailiff Elert Kruse, and the Tartu town council agreed, and the Bishop signed the decree on July 5. Since the town was captured by the Muscovites on July 18, the decision was never implemented. Coadjutor of the Courland Bishopric Ulrich Behr in 1560 waived his rights to Magnus in exchange for material compensation, and left for Germany in 1562. The former dean of the Tartu Bishopric and coadjutor of the Tallinn Bishop, Moritz Wrangel(l), held the position of the Tallinn Bishop from March 1558 to June 1560, remaining but an electus without the Pope’s confirmation. On June 29, 1560 he voluntarily waived his rights to Magnus and was later given a fief in Audru. Coadjutor of the Riga Archbishop, Duke Christoph von Mecklenburg entered into an alliance with Erik XIV and became engaged to his half-sister Princess Elisabet. In 1563, after the death of Archbishop Wilhelm von Hohenzollern, he attempted to forcibly, and with the Swedes’ help, take over the archbishopric that had surrendered to Poland-Lithuania. After the failure, Christoph surrendered to Kettler and spent six years (until 1569) in a Polish prison, after which he relinquished all his claims to Livonia and went back to Mecklenburg. 

14. Taube and Kruse were men of great renown representing the highest ranks of the Livonian nobility. Elert Kruse had been the Tartu Dean and Stift Bailiff, Johann Taube – a judge (Mannrichter) and the Bishop’s counsellor. Both had been taken prisoner by Russians during the Livonian War (Taube was taken to Moscow in the company of Bishop Hermann in 1558, Kruse was imprisoned at the end of 1560). After release both joined the oprichnina and Taube was said to have belonged to the Boyars’ Duma of Moscow’s oprichnina part. According to Kruse, he received from the Tsar two estates with 100 peasants, a house in Moscow, cloth of silk and velvet, gold, etc. (Elert Kruse’s, Freiherrn zu Kells und Treiden, Dörptschen Stiftsvogts, Warhafftiger Gegenbericht auff die Ao 1578 ausgangene Liefflendische Chronica Balthasar Russow’s. Gedruckt bei W. J. Häcker, Riga, 1861, 39–40). New documents have been recently introduced concerning the fate of E. Kruse and J. Taube in Russia, including their letters from Muscovy – see Herzog Albrecht von Preussen und Livland (1560–1564). Regesten aus dem Herzoglichen Briefarchiv und den Ostpreussischen Folianten. Bearbeitet von S. Hartmann. Böhlau, Köln, 2008, Nos. 3249, 3249/1, 3252/1, 3277, 3277/1–3277/4. (Veröffentlichungen aus den Archiven Preussischer Kulturbesitz. Hrsg. von J. Kloorhuis, D. Heckmann. Bd. 61.) Apart from other favours, the Tsar bestowed the title of Baronupon Kruse and Taube. This could be seen as an indirect confirmation of their Duma membership – most probably as Duma nobles. The rank of Baron was then unknown in Russia, while the title of a Duma noble said nothing to Western Europeans. Russian sources even identify Taube as князь (prince). Upon entering the service of King Sigismund II Augustus in 1571/2, they were indeed created barons and given fiefs in Livonia as well as Lithuania. Kruse, then ambassador of the King of Poland-Lithuania to Prussia, died in 1586 or 1587 (Eesti biograafiline leksikon. Akadeemilise Ajaloo-Seltsi Toimetised, II. Peatoim A. R. Cederberg. Tartu, 1926–1929, 239), Taube passed away a little earlier (Eesti biograafiline leksikon, 514). Taube later acted as a Polish-Lithuanian (though most probably just Lithuanian) diplomat. Historiography traditionally depicts Taube and Kruse as adventurers, and without doubt they did have some adventurous leaning. However, it would be equally appropriate to say that they were also patriots of Livonia. It was in this vein that they themselves justified their actions. Most probably a partial rehabilitation of these two men – or at least a more detailed analysis of their activities – would be in order.

15. Monumenta Livoniae antiquae, 69.

16. For a detailed account of the negotiations see Чумиков А. Осада Ревеля (1570–1571 гг.) герцогом Магнусом, королем ливонским, голдовником царя Ивана Грозного. – In: Чтения в Императорском обществе истории и древностей российских при Московском университете. 1892. Кн. 2, 11–15.

17. For a detailed account of the negotiations see Чумиков А. Осада Ревеля (1570–1571 гг.) герцогом Магнусом, королем ливонским, голдовником царя Ивана Грозного, 15–16.

18. Ibid., 29, 52.

19. Henning, S. Livländische Churländische Chronica. (Scriptores rerum Livonicarum, II.) Eduard Frantzen’s Verlags-Comtoir, Riga, 1848, 51a.

20. Eesti biograafiline leksikon, 238.

21. Копенгагенские акты, относящиеся к русской истории. – In: Чтения в Императорском обществе истории и древностей российских при Московском университете. T. I–II. Мoсква, 1915–1916.

22. See: Hertug Magnus af Holstens forsvarsskrift af 1579 om hans forhold til tsar Ivan den Grusomme. Med F. P. Jensen – Danske Magazin. Ottende Række, Femte Bind (1975). The various fonds of the National Archives of Denmark have a wealth of Magnus’ letters and their copies, response letters and other related documents (even a dossier dating from 1570 about Magnus’ relations with J. Taube, E. Kruse and Ivan the Terrible, containing original letters as well as copies – TKUA. Livland A II: 9. Politiske Forhold 1566–1571); to a lesser extent they can be found in the National Archives of Sweden, mostly in the fund: Livonica, I. Ordenmästarens arkiv 37: Hertig Magnus av Ösel papper.

23. Копенгагенские акты, I, No. 146.

24. Hertug Magnus, 60–61.

25. Копенгагенские акты, I, No. 147.
26. Hertug Magnus, 61.
27. Копенгагенские акты, I, No. 148.
28. Ibid., No. 149.
29. Ibid., No. 150.

30. Датский архив. Материалы по истории древней России, хранящиеся в Копенгагене. Университетская типография, Москва, 1893, No. 197.

31. Датский архив. Материалы по истории древней России, хранящиеся в Копенгагене. Университетская типография, Москва, 1893, No. 199.

32. Hertug Magnus, 61.
33. Копенгагенские акты, I, No. 151.

34. Ibid., No. 152.

35. Датский архив, No. 202.
36. Копенгагенские акты, I, No. 153–157.

37. It was only in December 1569 – January 1570 that the disagreements of Frederick II and his State Council erupted into a crisis. On January 1st the King in an unusually personal and emotional letter informed the State Council, which had demanded immediate peace with Sweden at all costs, while also speaking against new taxes, about his intention to step down rather than accept an actual defeat from Sweden despite all the sacrifices and costs. On January 15th Frederick II left Copenhagen. On January 18 the state councillors, scared by the prospect of an interregnum and civil war, caved in, asked the King to return and agreed to new taxes to finance the war. See Lockhart, P. D. Frederik II and the Protestant Cause: Denmark’s Role in the Wars of Religion, 1559–1596. Brill, Leiden, 2004, 43–44; Jensen, F. P. Danmarks konflikt med Sverige 1563–1570. (Skrifter utgivet af Det historiske institutved Köbenhavns universitet. Bind XII.) København, 1982, 289.

38. Schiemann, T. Magnus, König von Livland. – In: Schiemann, T. Characterköpfe und Sittenbilder aus der baltischen Geschichte des sechszehnten Jahrhunderts. E. Behre’s Verlag, Mitau, 1877, 98.

39. Копенгагенские акты, I, No. 158.    

40. Ibid., No. 159.

41. Ibid., No. 160.

42. Indeed it was. The Administrator of Livonia proper Jan Chodkiewicz on November 5, 1570 wrote to Gotthard Kettler about Magnus’ embassy sent to Moscow (Schiemann, T. Magnus, König von Livland, 98).

43. Копенгагенские акты, II, No. 162.

44. Henning, S. Livländische Churländische Chronica, 51a.

45. Копенгагенские акты, II, No. 194.

46. Tawaststjerna, W. Pohjoismaiden viisikolmattavuotinen sota: Vuosien 1570 ja 1590 välinen aika. Suomen Historiallinen Seura, Helsinki, 1918–1920, 18–19.

47. Monumenta Livoniae antiquae, II, 70; Чумиков А. Осада Ревеля (1570–1571 гг.) герцогом Магнусом, королем ливонским, голдовником царя Ивана Грозного, 17.

48.Чумиков А. Осада Ревеля (1570–1571 гг.) герцогом Магнусом, королем ливонским, голдовником царя Ивана Грозного, 16–17.

49. Ibid., 16.

50. Ibid., 17.

51. Ibid., 17–18.

52. Копенгагенские акты, II, No. 163. The instruction came with a note according to which it was found on Kursell who was imprisoned on March 24, 1570, and sent by Erik XIV to Sigismund II Augustus, who in turn must have forwarded it to Frederick II.

53. Herzog Albrecht von Preussen und Livland (1565–1570). Regesten aus dem Herzoglichen Briefarchiv und den Ostpreussischen Folianten. Bearbeitet von S. Hartmann. Böhlau, Köln, 2008, No. 3699/1, letter from March 24, 1570. (Veröffentlichungen aus den Archiven Preussischer Kulturbesitz. Hrsg. von J. Kloorhuis, D. Heckmann. Bd. 63.)

54.Чумиков А. Осада Ревеля (1570–1571 гг.) герцогом Магнусом, королем ливонским, голдовником царя Ивана Грозного, 18.

55. Arnell, S. Bidrag till belysning av den baltiska fronten under det nordiska sjuårskriget 1563–1570. Almqvist & Wiksell International, Stockholm, 1977, 191.

56. Contemporaries placed the number of victims of the Novgorod punitive expedition at 27,000 (Послание Иоганна Таубе и Элерта Крузе. – Русский исторический журнал, 1922, книга 8, 50), 29,000, 40,000, 60,000, even up to 300,000. Later researchers suggested 40,000, 20,000, 10,000... The closer to the present day, the smaller the numbers. The eminent Russian historian Ruslan Skrynnikov, who has researched the problem in great detail, believes the correct number of executed persons to have been about 2,800. (The whole region of Novgorod at that time had a population of not more than 1.5 million, of these 25,000–30,000 lived in Greater Novgorod. The population of the whole of Muscovy halfway into the reign of Ivan the Terrible was 6–8 million, towards its end about 4–5 million, although much smaller figures have been suggested, too.) It is a matter apart that the devastation was followed by famine and plague, which claimed considerably more lives. Neither, however, was an aftermath of the punitive expedition. Plague had spread to Russia in 1569 at once from the west and from the south; the years 1569 and 1570 were also lean years. The estimated number of plague victims in Muscovy between 1569 and 1571 has been put at about 300,000. The epidemic as well as the famine also hit Livonia (crop failure in 1566–1567, plague in 1569–1570).

57. See Псковские летописи. Вып. 1. Издательство Академии наук СССР, Москва, 1941, 115–116. According to this document, the Igumen Cornelius greeted the Tsar in front of the Pskov gates, and was not killed. Instead, the years 1575 and 1577 have been suggested for the death or murder of Cornelius.

58. Count Palatine and Duke Georg Johann I von Pfalz-Veldenz-Lützelstein.

59. Hertug Magnus, 62. Leuthold’s status as a secretary suggests that F. Gross had already been sent off on his doomed mission.

60. Копенгагенские акты, II, No. 164.

61. Hertug Magnus, 62.

62. Jensen, F. P. Danmarks konflikt med Sverige 1563–1570, 306–307.

63. Копенгагенские акты, II, No. 169.

64. The letters of Frederick II to Prince Elector Augustus and Duke Ulrich from April 27 and 30, 1570, sent from Kolding. Located in the National Archives of Denmark. TKUA. Ausl. Reg. 1569–1571, folios 240p–241p, 242p–244. The letter to Duke Ulrich has been published: Mittheilungen aus dem Gebiete der Geschichte Liv-, Ehst- und Kurlands. Ed. Frantzen’s Buchh (Riga: W. F. Häcker), Riga, 1855–1856, Bd. VIII, 255f.

65. Копенгагенские акты, II, No. 223.

66. Donnert, E. Der livländische Ordenritterstaat und Russland: der Livländische Krieg und die baltische Frage in der europäischen Politik 1558–1583. Rütten & Loening, Berlin, 1963, 194.

67. Послание Иоганна Таубе и Элерта Крузе, 55.

68.Доннерт Э. Россия и Балтийский вопрос в политике Германии 1558–1583 гг., 193.

69. In the interpretation of Sergei Solovyov and Erich Donnert it was the Emperor who suggested the partition of Poland-Lithuania (Соловьев С. История России с древнейших времeн. Кн. III. Соцэкономиздат, Москва, 1960, 634; DonnertE. Der livländische Ordenritterstaat und Russland, 131).

70. See Форстен Г. Балтийский вопрос в XVI и XVII столетиях, I, 465–477.

71. Донесения агента императора Максимилиана II аббата Цира о переговорах с А. М. Курбским в 1569 году. – In: Археографический ежегодник за 1957 г. Москва, 1958.

72. Dates 1540–1571. A rival to the Habsburgs from his birth as the titular King of Hungary; in 1570–1571 the Sultan’s vassal as the Prince of Transylvania.

73. Датский архив, No. 222.
74. Ibid., No. 223–224.
75. Копенгагенские акты, II, No. 166.
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