IVAN III., VASSILIVICH, THE GREAT:
By: Herman Rosenthal
Czar of Russia 1462-1505. His attitude toward the Jews was friendly. Under his reign the Jew Skhariyah (Zechariah), who arrived in Novgorod with the suite of Prince Mikhail Olelkovich, founded a Judaizing sect to which several eminent Russians adhered; among them the priest Dionis, the archpriest Aleksei, Feodór Kuritzyn, the archimandrite Sosima, the monk Zechariya, and even Ivan's daughter-in-law, Princess Helena.
With the aid of Chozi Kokos (from "Chozi" = "a pilgrim to the Holy Land," and "Kok-Kos" = "the blue-eyed"), an influential Jew of Kaffa, Ivan concluded and maintained throughout his entire reign a very important alliance with Menghli Girei, Khan of the Crimea. The services rendered by Kokos to Ivan may partly explain the latter's favorable attitude toward the Jews. The part played by Kokos as the agent of the grand duke is shown by the instruction given by the latter to his emissary, the boyar Nikita Beklemishev, dated March, 1474 ("Sbornik Imp. Russ. Istor. Obschestva," xli. 8). In his letter Beklemishev is instructed by Ivan to transmit to Kokos his credentials to the court of the khan and the regards of the grand duke. Kokos is requested to discontinue the use of the Hebrew language in his further communications to the grand duke, and to use either Russian or Tatar instead.
Although there is no evidence of the existence of Jewish communities in Great Russia during the reign of Ivan, it seems certain that Jewish merchants from Kiev, Novgorod, and other towns were prominent in the commercial transactions of Moscow with Lithuania, the Orient, and the Crimea.
The fact that Ivan ordered the beheading (April 22, 1490) of his Jewish physician Leon should not in any way affect the estimate of his attitude toward the Jews as a whole; for Leon had boasted of his ability to heal the son of the grand duke, and he was punished for his boastfulness and for his failure to effect the promised cure. If the condition of the Jews of Moscow was changed for the worse, it was through the persistent efforts of the clergy, led by Gennadi, who saw a great menace to the Greek Church in the spread of the heresy.
- Sbornik Imp. Russ. Istor. Obschestva, xli. 8, 12, 40-41, 50, 71, 74, 77, 114, 309;
- Polnoye Sobraniye Russkikh Lyetopisei, vi. 763, 786, 819;
- Karamzim, Istor. Gosud. Rosis. vi. 154-156, 216, 225, notes 122, 125, 494, 595;
- Solovyev, Istor. Rossii, vol. v.;
- Platon, Kratkaya Tzerkovnaya Rossiskaya Istoriya, passim, Moscow, 1833;
- Grätz, Gesch. (Hebr. ed.), vii. 62;
- P. Pierling, La Russie et l'Orient;
- Mariage d'un Tsar au Vatican, Ivan III. et Sophie Paléologue, Paris, 1891, passim.