[would not have guessed in 1700 that Reason, one day, would come to Moscow as the voice of a princess born in Germany…

—letter to Catherine the Great from the French writer Voltaire

Western Europeans were long unsure what to think of Russia: was RUSSia more European in its outlook and character, or was it more Asian? Not until modern times was there any agreement about where to place the geographical boundary between the European and Asian continents. Russia sprawled on both sides of the boundary hnally agreed upon—«the Ural Mountains.

Looking East

While Russia before 1750 was undoubtedly Christian, it was not the Roman Catholic or Protestant Christianity of the West. Instead, Eastern Orthodoxy had taken root in Russia. The rulers of Kievan Rus modelled the government and religious institutions on Constantinople, the seat of the Orthodox Byzantine Empire. This model was adopted by the princes of Moscovy. In time the tsars (Russian rulers) established the Russian Orthodox Church as a way to unite me people behind their leadership, claiming that they ruled by divine right mrough the Church. (Test Prep: Compose a brief outline of the connections between Russia and the Byzantine Empire. See pages 137—140.)

’ In the period when most of Europe was in the throes of the Reformation and the Renaissance, Russia experienced neither—the Mongols had tight control over the city-states and kingdoms that made up Russia and no such renaissance, or “rebirth,” took place. However, Russian princes gained wealth and power as tax collectors for the Mongols, collecting what Russians had to pay in tribute (a sum paid in acknowledgement of submission). Eventually, their local dominance would give them the capacity to shake off the Mongols and become autonomous. (To learn about Mongol control of Russia, see pages 244~245.)

Russia was also in a pivotal position when it came to trade. It was able to exchange goods and services with other cultures farther east and west. To the east, Russian expansion into Siberia resulted in a robust fur trade, giving Russia an important export to Europe and China. Russia even gathered furs

in North America and marketed them along the Pacific Coast as far south as