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From Byzantium to Russia


ISBN 978-960-14-1836-0     Pages 381


Sophia Palaeologina, by the best-selling author George Leonardos who has written fourteen novels, successful both in Greece and abroad, on the age of the Palaeologos Dynasty, traces the roots of the centuries-long, enduring and traditional bonds between Greece and Russia.

From Greek Mystra to Catholic Rome, and from there to medieval Moscow, the life of Zoe-Sophia Palaeologina traces the collapse of one civilisation and the rise of  a new one. Heir to the imperial titles of the Second Rome, vanquished Constantinople, the daring Byzantine princess managed to escape Vatican intrigues and, as the wife of Ivan III, create the Third Rome from the emerging Russian Empire. The first Tsarina in Russian history, the avowed enemy of the Tatars who had Russian lands under their yoke, comes alive in the pages of his new historical novel by Giorgos Leonardos, and sheds light on aspects of history that are not widely known.

Historical scholarship, a thrilling adventure, a reminder of the true power of Orthodoxy and of Russia, in a plot that thunders forward like a juggernaut.

The novel depicts the developing relations between the Byzantine Empire and the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The bonds strengthened after the marriage of Zoe-Sophia Palaeologos, niece of the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI Palaeologos who fell defending the City against the Ottoman invaders, to Ivan III the Great, himself a descendant of the Riurik Dynasty. With the help and at the instigation of his Greek consort, Ivan III managed to reject the Tatar yoke and unite the fragmented principalities and hegemonies under a large, and powerful central leadership, the predecessor to today’s Russia. Because of his marriage to Sophia Palaeologos, the sole heir to the Byzantine Empire, he also succeeded in making his state the heir to the vanquished and fragmented Eastern Roman Empire, and thus adopted the Empire’s symbols, such as the double-headed eagle, and also became a power in the Orthodox world, declaring Moscow the Third Rome, after Rome itself and Byzantium.

The novel begins in Rome where Zoe Palaeologina was raised and describes the machinations of the Greek Orthodox and later Catholic Cardinal Bessarion and a series of Popes, the last of whom was Sixtus IV, to marry Zoe off to Ivan III, then Grand Duke of Moscow, so that she could convert the Russians to Catholicism.

As soon as she planted her feet on Russian soil, Sophia’s Byzantine Orthodoxy awoke and she changed her name to Sophia, as the Russians considered the name Zoe to be Catholic.

At Sophia’s instigation – she often nagged him that she had not “married to become a vassal of the Tatar infidels” – Ivan managed to overthrow Tatar hegemony over the Russian people, particularly after the bloodless confrontation in the Ugra River, and make his domains a powerful state. It was for this reason, as well as his patriotism and policies that Ivan III was proclaimed ‘the Great’, the first in Russian history.

Ivan’s and Sophia’s grandson was Ivan the Terrible.

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