Russia was considered to be one of the contenders for the title of the “Third Rome.” This idea believes that the legacy of ancient Rome could be claimed by other societies and cultures in the years after the fall of Rome. The “Second Rome” was Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire. Constantinople claimed the title because it emerged as a dominant force in the world as Rome collapsed into the Dark Ages. However, Constantinople also eventually fell to the hands of invaders. As such, several cultures claimed to be the “Third Rome.” Russia was one of these, under the leadership of Ivan the III (Ivan the Great). Ivan III married Sophia Paleologue. Sophia was the niece of the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine. As such, Ivan felt that he could claim that the heritage and the lineage of Byzantium was directly passed to his realm. During his time, Ivan greatly expanded Russia and improved the country tremendously (hence the honorific “The Great”). Ivan truly believed that he was the successor to the ancient heritage of the greatest empire in the world (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014).
The concept of Russia as the Third Rome most certainly influences modern politics. While the Soviet Union did not allow religion, it did believe that it was the next great empire. A recent article on Vladimir Putin also discussed why Putin was attempting to “resurrect” the idea of Russia as the Third Rome. Putin has attempted to expand the borders of Russia (this has not met with the approval of the international community). Putin does discuss his faith in Orthodoxy as well. His attempts to recommit Russia to its religious heritage and to “recover ancient territory of imperial Russia” in an attempt to “expand the Third Holy Roman Empire” (Wood, 2014). In this way, the idea of a heritage to the Roman Empire, which collapsed over 1,500 years ago influences Twenty-First Century politics.
- Ecylcopedia Britannica. (2014). Eastern Orthodoxy. Retrieved from: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/177174/Eastern-Orthodoxy#ref64203
- Wood, T. (2014, April 29). Why Putin believes he is resurrecting the Third Holy Roman Empire. Retrieved from: http://www.westernjournalism.com/onward-christian-russian-soldiers-putin-believes-resurrecting-third-holy-roman-empire/#h34BEsOaIqYYcvrb.97