Vasily I of Moscow

The Grand Prince of Moscow (r. 1389—1425), heir of Dmitry Donskoy (r. 1359—1389)

Vasily I of Moscow
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He ruled as a Great Horde vassal between 1389—1395, and again in 1412—1425. Mongol emir Timur's raid on the Volgan regions in 1395 resulted in the Golden Horde's state of anarchy for the next years and the independence of Moscow.

In 1412, Vasily reinstated himself as the Horde's vassal.

He had entered an alliance with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1392 and married Vytautas the Great's only daughter Sophia, though the alliance turned out to be fragile, since Vytautas would later capture Vyazma and Smolensk in 1403–1404.

Family and early life

Vasily was the oldest son of Dmitry Donskoy and Grand Princess Eudoxia, daughter of Grand Prince Dmitry Konstantinovich of Nizhny Novgorod.


Vasily I continued the process of unification of the Russian lands: in 1392, he annexed the principalities of Nizhny Novgorod and Murom.

Nizhny Novgorod was given to Vasily by the Khan of the Golden Horde in exchange for the help Moscow had given against one of his rivals.

In 1397–1398 Kaluga, Vologda, Veliki Ustyug and Komi peoples' lands were annexed.

Vasily I visiting his father-in-law, Vytautas the Great
pinterest button Vasily I visiting his father-in-law, Vytautas the Great unknown, Public Domain

To prevent Russia from being attacked by the Golden Horde, Vasily I entered into alliance with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1392 and married Sophia of Lithuania, the only daughter of Vytautas the Great.

The alliance turned out to be fragile, since Vytautas would later capture Vyazma and Smolensk in 1403–1404.

Mongol emir Timur raided the Slavic lands in 1395; he ruined the Volgan regions but did not penetrate so far as Moscow. Timur's raid was of service to the Russian prince as it damaged the Golden Horde, which for the next twelve years was in a state of anarchy.

During the whole of this time no tribute was paid to the khan, Olug Moxammat, though vast sums of money were collected in the Moscow treasury for military purposes.

Vasily I of Moscow
pinterest button Vasily I of Moscow   unknown, Public Domain

In 1408 Edigu burnt Nizhny Novgorod, Gorodets, Rostov, and many other towns but failed to take Moscow, though he had still burnt it. In 1412, however, Basil found it necessary to pay the long-deferred visit of submission to the Horde.

The growing influence of Moscow abroad was underlined by the fact that Vasily married his daughter Anna to Emperor John VIII Palaeologus of Byzantium.

Domestic policy

During his reign, feudal landownership kept growing. With the growth of princely authority in Moscow, feudals' judicial powers were partially diminished and transferred to Vasily's deputies and heads of volosts.

Russian (East Slavic) chronicles speak of a monk, Lazar the Serb, newly arrived from Serbia, inventing and building a clock on a tower in the Grand Prince's palace in Moscow behind the Annunciation Church at the request of Vasily I, in 1404.

It was the first ever mechanical clock in Russia, and also the country's first public clock. It was among the first ten such advanced clocks in Europe, and was regarded a technical miracle at the time.

Years of life: 30 December 1371–27 February 1425

Useful Information

Vasily I Dmitriyevich
Russian: Василий I Дмитриевич

Marriage and children

He married Sophia of Lithuania. She was a daughter of Vytautas the Great and his wife Anna. They had nine known children:

  • Anna of Moscow (1393 – August 1417), wife of John VIII Palaiologos
  • Yury Vasilievich (30 March 1395 – 30 November 1400)
  • Ivan Vasilievich (15 January 1396 – 20 July 1417), husband of a daughter of Ivan Vladimirovich of Pronsk.
  • Anastasia Vasilievna (d. 1470), wife of Vladimir Alexander, Prince of Kiev, son of Vladimir Olgerdovich
  • Daniil Vasilievich (6 December 1400 – May 1402).
  • Vasilisa Vasilievna. Married first Alexander Ivanovich "Brukhaty", Prince of Suzdal and secondly his first cousin Alexander Daniilovich "Vzmetenj", Prince of Suzdal. They were both fifth-generation descendants of Andrei II of Vladimir.
  • Simeon Vasilievich (13 January – 7 April 1405)
  • Maria Vasilievna. Married Yuri Patrikievich, son of Patrikej, Prince of Starodub and his wife Helena. The marriage solidified his role as a Boyar attached to Moscow.
  • Vasily II of Moscow (10 March 1415 – 27 March 1462)