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France; Southern and Eastern Europe. page 2

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In Russia, government assumed its existing autocratic character in the reign of Ivan IV. (1546-1584), surnamed "the Terrible" from his tyrannous deeds. The country had seemed likely to become another Poland, in the hands of rival parties of nobles, when this strong, cruel ruler, after a long struggle, put down the feudal oligarchy, with the aid of enfranchised towns. He first assumed the title of "Tsar," a term connected with "Caesar," and the equivalent of "King" or "Kaiser," being the word applied in the Russian translations of the Bible to the kings of Judea and the Roman emperors. In his time English trade with Russia began by way of Archangel, and enlightened policy was shown in the welcome extended to foreigners whose superior knowledge in military and scientific matters might benefit the country. Much unsuccessful war was waged, but the empire was put in a state of defence by the erection of many strong fortresses; Moscow was adorned with new buildings, and the printing-press was established there in 1553. The laws were codified, and Church-matters were regulated by a council. A large part of Siberia was subdued by a conquering Cossack officer, and that region became, at the close of the 16th century, the receptacle of political and criminal prisoners. Under a feeble son and successor of Ivan, the boyars, a secondary class of nobles, recovered much of their former power, and disorder came from the quarrels of rival parties. A law was promulgated by the Tsar's brother-in-law, acting as regent, which ultimately changed the condition of the peasantry into serfdom, by abolishing the right of annual removal to another estate, and attaching the labourer perforce to the land, Early in the 17th century much trouble was caused by the appearance of an impostor claiming to be the eldest son of Ivan IV., murdered by his father in a fit of passion. This "false Dmitri" was supported by the Jesuits and by some of the nobles in Poland, and by king Sigismund, and his appearance in Russia with an army of Polish volunteers was hailed by the people as that of a lawful sovereign. Crowned at Moscow in 1605, he disappointed expectations by being a mere tool of the Poles, and was murdered in a revolt. New impostors appeared, and the country fell into an anarchical condition, while Cossacks from the Don and Dnieper wasted the provinces, and Polish forces occupied Moscow. The risings of the people in favour of the "false Dmitri" and other claimants of power were really revolts of the peasantry and small traders against the boyars who were striving to become an oligarchy like that of Poland. Order was at last restored by the union of the ecclesiastics with the people of the great towns.

An army was raised, and the patriots drove out the Poles and Cossacks, and a "General Council of the Land," representative of all classes, elected a new Tsar in Michael Romanoff, member of a popular family. Under his reign, from 1612 to 1645, there was trouble with the Swedes, the Poles, and turbulent nobles. Russia began to come more and more in contact with Western civilisation, and large numbers of foreign adventurers, including many Scotchmen - Hamiltons, Gordons, Bruces, Leslies, and others - made their way into the country, and in some cases founded families there. The death of Michael in 1645 brought his son Alexei (Alexis) to the throne, a ruler under whom much progress was made, and the days of his famous son were, in some measure, anticipated. The enforcement of serfdom by a new law caused many revolts. The States-General or Sobor (the "Council of the Land") was frequently convoked, for the revision and codifying of the laws and the reform of the local administration. Under Alexis, Russia finally had the better of Poland, and, as we have seen, gained the Cossacks as new subjects. The death of Alexis in 1676 left the way open, after the lapse of a few years, to the great man under whom Russia was to throw aside the semi-Asiatic ways introduced by Mongol occupation, and to become a European power.

In Hungary, a period of rapid decay set in after the death of Matthias, in 1490, leaving no legitimate heir. Various pretenders to the throne came forward, and the magnates chose Vladislaus, king of Bohemia. The oligarchy of nobles were the real masters of the country; the finances were in a ruinous condition, and the military institutions were disorganised. Invasion came from Poland and from Maximilian of Germany, who was only quieted by a disgraceful treaty restoring the conquests of the great Matthias. An insurrection of the peasantry in 1514 was attended by fearful outrages. These wretched people had long been the prey of plundering Turks on the one hand, and of the exactions of their lords on the other. They paid all the taxes, and the nobles, exempt from burdens, wasted their receipts in riotous living. Maddened by oppression, and headed by a Transylvanian named George Dozsa, the countrymen gathered at Pesth to the number of 40,000, and, taking the nobles unprepared, swept through the country, burning the castles and massacring their inmates. The nobles then closed their ranks, and, aided by forces from Transylvania, routed the rebels with great loss, and reduced the peasantry to the condition of serfs bound to the soil. This monstrous law, passed by the Diet in 1514, was accompanied by the important code establishing equal rights for all members of the noble class, and exempting them from taxation, limiting the authority of the clergy over lay-nobles, and denying Papal rights over Church-benefices.

Two years later Vladislaus died, and was succeeded by his son, Louis II., a lad of ten years, whose minority was marked by party-struggles among the magnates, and the general neglect of needful measures of reform. The introduction of Protestant doctrines brought new trouble in persecution of the reforming party, and then the Hungarian nobles, as if demented, grossly insulted their powerful neighbour Suleyman of Turkey, by cutting off the nose and ears of his envoy, dispatched on a peaceful errand, and sending him back to his master. This outrage on humanity and the law of nations brought prompt vengeance from the Sultan. The two strongest border-fortresses, Shabatz and Belgrade, were taken in 1521, and the tidings roused the weak king Louis from his lethargy. A victory was gained over the Turks, but in 1526 Francis I. of France stirred up Suleyman against Hungary and the Hapsburg crown-lands, in order to divide the forces of his enemy Charles V. The Sultan took the field in person with 300,000 men and a great artillery, to meet which host Louis could only bring a force of 25,000, destitute of a capable commander. On August 29th, 1526, a day of evil name in Hungarian annals, the defenders of the country were almost annihilated at Mohacs, on the Danube. The king, with countless nobles and some prelates, perished in the battle, and the pillage of the country was followed by the capture of Buda, the destruction of the famous and magnificent library collected by Matthias, and the carrying-off of 30,000 people as slaves to the Turkish victors. Suleyman then retired, bearing away on shipboard down the Danube the bronze statues and other treasures of the palace at Buda, the only great building of the beautiful city which was not burned.

The disaster of Mohacs soon brought the country under the rule of the Hapsburgs, in the person of Ferdinand of Austria, chosen by a majority of the nobles. For a century and a half the crescent-flag floated over Buda, though the people showed many instances of heroism in struggles against the power of the Moslem, defending fortresses with desperate courage, and reviving the memory of the long contest between Spaniards and Moors. Under the successors of Ferdinand of Austria - Maximilian, Rudolf, Ferdinand II., and Ferdinand III. - the utmost efforts were made to suppress Protestantism, to which the great majority of the people adhered, chiefly in the Calvinistic form among the Hungarians, and as Lutheranism among the German and Slavic inhabitants. The anti-Reformation movement, however, partly by force and partly by persuasion, won the mass of the nation, the nobles, the people of the towns, and the peasantry, back to the fold of the Catholic Church. During most of the 16th and the 17th centuries there was also a continual constitutional struggle between the privileged Hungarian class and the foreign Austrian dynasty.

Under Selim I. of Turkey (1512-1520), who came to power after the languid period of his father Bayezid I. (1481-1512), Kurdistan and other territories were annexed from Persia, Syria was subdued, and Egypt was torn away from the possession of the Mamluks, who had held it almost since the days of Saladin. This great conquest gave to the Turkish sultans authority over the sacred cities Mecca and Medina, and the inheritance of the Caliphs of Bagdad, with their symbols of office, the cloak and standard of the Prophet. The Sultan Selim was thus enabled to hold, and to transfer to his successors, the chief rule over Mohammedans, and the headship of the religion of Islam in its orthodox form. It was under his son, the famous Suleyman (or Soliman), surnamed "the Magnificent," that Ottoman power attained its zenith. For nearly half a century, from 1520 to 1566, he reigned in glory derived from military and naval successes. His capture of Belgrade, and his conquest of Rhodes from the Knights of St. John in 1522, have been already noticed, with his great victory at Mohacs and the subjugation of Hungary. In an age of great sovereigns and great events, Suleyman and his exploits were in the foremost rank. With almost all revived Europe arrayed against them, as single powers or in combination, at various times, the Ottomans held their ground, and emerged from their conflicts in many cases with triumphant success. In 1529 the great Sultan failed in a furious siege of Vienna, but the Austrian forces could not meet him in the field, and the very fact of the siege was a menace to Christendom. No sovereign of the age was this Sultan's superior in ability and wisdom, in mildness and justice, and there was none his equal in warlike achievements. In 1541 his ninth campaign in the north forced Charles V. to sue for peace, and the Archduke Ferdinand to pay tribute to Suleyman as his suzerain. In the day of great navies and commanders on the sea, of Doria of Genoa and Drake of Devon, the Sultan's ships swept the Mediterranean up to the coast of Spain, and his admirals Barbarossa, Dragut, and other famous "Barbary corsairs," were the terror of all seafaring men and maritime states. In 1538 an Ottoman fleet beat the combined squadrons of pope, emperor, and doge off Prevesa, on the western coast of Turkey, at the entrance of the Gulf of Arta. On the other hand, in 1565, many thousands of Turks perished in a fruitless siege of Malta, heroically defended by her knights. This renowned Ottoman ruler, perhaps the greatest figure in Turkish history, left to his successors an empire which none of them was ever able to enlarge except in the conquest of Candia (Crete) and Cyprus. The Turkish dominions of his time included all the most famous Biblical and classical cities, save only Rome, Syracuse, and Persepolis. The crescent was dominant on the sites of Memphis and Carthage, Nineveh and Tyre, Palmyra and Babylon it waved in triumph over Damascus and Jerusalem, Alexandria and Smyrna, Athens and Philippi. At Algiers and Cairo, Medina and Mecca, Basra (Bassora), Bagdad, and Belgrade; on the Nile and the Jordan, the Orontes, the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Danube, the Hebrus, the Ilyssus, the Tanais (Don), and the Borysthenes (Dnieper), the Turk held sway. The Propontis (Sea of Marmara), the Palus Mseotis (Sea of Azov), the Euxine, and the Red Sea were Turkish lakes; the dominion touched the Caucasus on the east, and Mount Atlas on the west, and included such famous peaks and ranges as Ararat and Sinai, Carmel and Taurus, Ida and Olympus, Pelion and Athos, Hsemus (the Balkans) and the Carpathians. Such was the splendid empire which, under the successors of Suleyman, void of energy and ability, was to enter on the downward road to steady, inevitable, and prolonged decay, relieved at times by a revival of the old spirit of warlike zeal for the faith or for conquest.

The growth of Russia and of other European powers was an external cause of decline, but the chief agent is found in the lack of the wisdom needful to maintain an empire of such a character, a dominion over many foreign races and creeds, requiring the preservation of the old military efficiency, and the exercise of conciliation towards subject peoples. Wealth and power fell into the hands of weak, indolent, and vicious sultans. The soldiery became disaffected, and, like the Praetorians of ancient Rome, raised and deposed rulers at their caprice or for bribes. The bulwarks of the throne, the Janissaries, lost discipline and martial spirit.

Believers in absolute fate, and full of conceit inspired by former glory, the Turks regarded the Giaours, or infidels, with contempt, and cared not to adopt new scientific tactics and weapons. Rapacious pashas provoked provincial revolt. The whole administration became corrupt, and able viziers or ministers were often sacrificed to the hatred of the soldiery or the priests. The officers of the army became incapable under a system of promotion due not to merit but to bribes. In short, all the causes were at work which bring great empires to ruin. Suleyman's son and successor is sufficiently described as "Selim the Sot," but many of his father's able men were yet in office, and Turkish renown was fairly maintained for a time by the subjugation of Arabia and the conquest of Cyprus. The Turkish rule of the sea had a severe check in October, 1571, when the battle of Lepanto, at the north side of the entrance to the Gulf of Corinth, was gained by a combined Papal, Venetian, and Spanish fleet, with a squadron of the Knights of Malta, under the young Don John of Austria, fresh from victory over the Moors in Spain. Into this famous conflict the allies brought 200 galleys and 6 great galleasses against a Turkish fleet of 240 galleys and 60 smaller vessels. The van of the allied vessels was led by Don John the centre, formed into a crescent, was commanded by the prince of Parma, whom we have seen in the Netherlands. A deadly fight went on for hours, until the Turkish centre was broken, with the boarding of the flag-ship and the death of the admiral. The right wing gave way, and the battle ended. About 130 Turkish vessels were captured, and over 90 were burnt or sunk. The allies lost 15 galleys and 8,000 men, while the Turks had nearly four times that number slain, and 15,000 Christian galley-slaves were liberated. The great Spanish writer Cervantes, author of Don Qinxote, received three wounds in this battle, one of which disabled his left arm for life. The moral effect of the victory was great, but Turkish energy was not yet extinct, and in a few months a new fleet of 250 vessels was ready for action. About the same time the Turks received a severe lesson from the Russians, who almost destroyed an army of 80,000 men sent to protect workmen engaged in cutting a canal from the Don to the Volga, so as to give access from the Black Sea to the Caspian. The project, which involved an attack on Astrakhan, was then abandoned. Under Selim's son, Murad III. (1574-1595), Georgia was conquered from Persia, and the reign of Mohammed III. (1595-1603) was marked by a great victory over Austrian and Transylvanian forces. The empire, however, continued to decline in power, and the Turk was no longer a terror to Europe. After some weak sultans, Murad IV. ruled from 1623 to 1640, and was the last warrior of the race of Othman, making a great campaign against Persia in which he recovered Bagdad, working in the trenches with his men, and slaying in single combat a gigantic champion sent forth from the town to challenge all comers. The chain-armour worn by Murad in this conflict, a beautiful work of interwoven steel and gold links, is still on view in the Treasury at Constantinople. Bagdad remains to this day in Turkish possession. Her conqueror, received in Constantinople with joyous shouts and saluting cannon, died at the age of 28, and the real government of the empire was henceforth chiefly in the hands of vezirs (viziers) or prime ministers.

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