Moscow: History

Although archaeological evidence indicates that the site has been occupied since Neolithic times, the village of Moscow was first mentioned in the Russian chronicles in 1147. Moscow became (c.1271) the seat of the grand dukes of Vladimir-Suzdal, who later assumed the title of grand dukes of Moscow (see Moscow, grand duchy of). During the rule of Dmitri Donskoi the first stone walls of the Kremlin were built (1367). Moscow, or Muscovy, achieved dominance through its location at the crossroads of trade routes, its leadership in the struggle against and defeat of the Tatars, and its gathering of neighboring principalities under Muscovite suzerainty.

By the 15th cent. Moscow had become the capital of the Russian national state, and in 1547 Grand Duke Ivan IV became the first to assume the title of czar. Moscow was also the seat of the Metropolitan (later Patriarch) of the Russian Orthodox Church from the early 14th cent. It has been an important commercial center since the Middle Ages and the center of many crafts. Burned by the Tatars in 1381 and again in 1572, the city was taken by the Poles during the Time of Troubles (see Russia). In 1611 the Muscovites, under the leadership of Kuzma Minin (a butcher) and Prince Dmitri Pozharski, attacked the Polish garrison and forced the remaining Polish troops to surrender in 1612. The large-scale growth of manufacturing in 17th-century Moscow, which necessitated an outlet to the sea, was instrumental in Peter I's decision to build St. Petersburg on the Baltic. The capital was transferred to St. Petersburg in 1712, but Moscow's cultural and social life continued uninterrupted, and the city remained Russia's religious center.

Built largely of wood until the 19th cent., Moscow suffered from numerous fires, the most notable of which occurred in the wake of Napoleon I's occupation in 1812. Count Rostopchin denied accusations that he had ordered the blaze ignited to drive out the French. The fire was most likely accidentally begun by French looters and was fanned by fanatic patriots among the few Russians who had remained behind when Napoleon entered the city. Whatever the cause, the fire sparked an anti-French uprising among the peasants, whose raids, along with the cruel winter, helped force Napoleon's retreat.

Rebuilt, Moscow developed from the 1830s as a major textile and metallurgical center. During the 19th and early 20th cent. it was the focus of the zemstvo cooperative and Slavophile movements and became a principal center of the labor movement and of social democracy. In 1918 the Soviet government transferred the capital back to Moscow and fostered spectacular economic growth in the city, whose population doubled between 1926 and 1939 and again between 1939 and 1992. During World War II Moscow was the goal of a two-pronged German offensive. Although the spearheads of the German columns were stopped only 20 to 25 mi (32–40 km) from the city's center, Moscow suffered virtually no war damage. The city hosted the Olympic Games in 1980.

Due to inadequate public funds, Moscow's infrastructure suffered after the 1991 demise of the Soviet Union. Also, an increase in automobile ownership brought traffic congestion and worsened air pollution. The city, however, began to attract foreign investment and became increasingly westernized. In the 1990s its energetic mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, launched many ambitious reconstruction projects and by the end of the decade Moscow was experiencing a real-estate boom.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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