It is hard today to think of Russia as a minor power, much less as an oppressed tributary of another power but as our story begins that is the state of things in the territory around the city of Moscow. The story of how Russia went from there to the Russia of today is one of the most consequential of history.
At the birth of Ivan III (1440) Russia was all but stifled between the great Lithuanian empire of the Poles and the vast possessions of the Mongols. In vain had a succession of Muscovite princes endeavored to give unity to the little Russian state. Between the grand princes of Moscow and those of Lithuania stood Novgorod and Pskof, the two chief Russian republics, hesitating to declare their allegiance.
By the creation of new appanages the Russian princes continually destroyed the very unity for which they labored. Moreover, at a time when the great nations of the West were organizing, Muscovy or Russia had no settled relations with their civilization. The opening of the Renaissance, the progress of discovery, the invention of printing — by these the best spirits in Russia were stirred to fresh aspirations for national organization and participation in the great European movement.
This is how the selection begins. It continues here.