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  • Hi I'm John Green and this is Crash Course European History.

  • So we've talked a lot about shifting perspectives in this series; being able to see from more

  • than one angle helps us to be empathetic, but it also reminds us that there is no single

  • correct way to look at human history.

  • Zooming in to understand the individual choices of individual historical figures is important,

  • but so is zooming out to understand larger forces.

  • And if we can zoom way, way out for a moment, two of the big questions of European history

  • (and world history) are how centralized should government power be, and who should decide

  • who wields that power?

  • We've seen attempts to centralize government power over large communities in western Europe,

  • and fights over constitutionalism or absolutism.

  • But now we're going to turn east, to see how another region of Europe was governing

  • and growing in the 17th century.

  • INTRO In 1618, Poland-Lithuania was the largest

  • kingdom fully located in Europe.

  • It enjoyed a consensus form of government.

  • When a monarch died, a successor king was elected.

  • Representatives from dozens of smaller political units across the kingdom were summoned to

  • meet and determine who would be king.

  • Consensus was reached through negotiations among uppercrust aristocrats and candidates

  • for king.

  • The Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania formally came into being in 1569, but in reality it

  • had been established with the fourteenth century marriage of a Polish queen to a Lithuanian

  • Grand Duke.

  • During the religious turmoil of the sixteenth century, Poland remained Catholic.

  • Also, and unusually, the consensus-style government gave freedom to individual princes who wanted

  • to follow Luther, Calvin, or any of the other gajillion religious reformers.

  • Now of course freedom for princes isn't freedom for peasants, but still

  • Candidates for king even had to commit themselves to religious pluralism.

  • That toleration drew Jewish people from Spanish and other intolerant regimes eastward into

  • the kingdom.

  • It was a very diverse place -- both in terms of religion and ethnicity.

  • The creation of Poland-Lithuania also meant that present-day Ukraine was now part of Poland's

  • holdings.

  • The Commonwealth's ambitions sent its people and its government southward into Ukraine

  • where there were fertile lands available for settlement--not the last time that Ukraine's

  • abundant farmland would make it a center of expansionist attention.

  • And the Polish nobility followed as the kings awarded them vast Ukrainian estates, which

  • their new owners ruled with an iron handalienating both former inhabitants and new migrants.

  • So, at this point, Eastern Europe as a whole was complicated and competitive, as all theses

  • kingdoms struggled to acquire more territory for farmland and better access to resources.

  • To Poland-Lithuania's north, Sweden had a united Lutheran population and an excellent

  • fighting force; it too wanted to expand into the continent's Baltic territories.

  • The Ottoman empire, which was more powerful and controlled most of Hungary by the middle

  • of the seventeenth century, was primarily Muslim.

  • But because of its more westerly and northerly conquests, it had large pockets of Orthodox

  • Christians.

  • And hundreds of thousands of Ottoman families had moved to the Balkans and other Ottoman

  • possessions in southeastern Europe.

  • And many Jews had migrated to the Ottoman Empire because of Habsburg persecution.

  • In fact, compared to most other European rulers, Muslims were tolerant: they did not persecute

  • religious minorities by seeking them out and burning them at the stake in great numbers

  • as Christians did.

  • Instead, they were taxed at a higher rate than Muslims were.

  • Which...you know, compared to being burned alive...I would take . Let's go to the Thought

  • Bubble.

  • 1.

  • The Ottoman Empire had developed politically through the efforts of some spectacularly

  • successful leaders.

  • 2.

  • One was Mehmet I who in 1453 took Constantinople from the Byzantine Empire.

  • 3.

  • Then there was Selim I who conquered Egypt in 1517,

  • 4.

  • followed by Suleyman the Magnificent's series of triumphs across the Middle East

  • 5. and further expansion into southwestern Europe, North Africa, and the Mediterranean.

  • 6.

  • The Ottomans had a far from constitutional process for succession.

  • 7.

  • The sultan often had many concubines who lived together in the harem,

  • 8. which was not, as is often depicted, a kind of brothel,

  • 9.

  • but instead the seat of government.

  • 10.

  • It was a place for state business, policy decision-making, and other important matters.

  • 11.

  • But after any one of the sultan's partners gave birth to a son,

  • 12. she and her son usually moved to the provinces,

  • 13. where the boy learned rulership skills while also developing a network of followers.

  • 14.

  • And then when the sultan died, the oldest son usually succeeded him,

  • 15.

  • but not always.

  • 16.

  • Factions, often developed by an aspiring son's mother, struggled for a place in the empire.

  • 17.

  • Unsurprisingly, murder was often involved.

  • 18.

  • A new sultan's brothers were usually murdered on his accession to the throne so they couldn't

  • plot coups.

  • 19.

  • All in all, they could have used some good family therapy.

  • 20.

  • But on the other hand, you know, kingmaking is kind of an inherently dirty business.

  • Thanks Thought Bubble.

  • Despite that not-very-secure-sounding system, the absolutist Ottoman state was among the

  • longest lived empires in history, lasting until 1922, at which point Constantinople

  • became Istanbul, clearing the way for They Might Be Giants to record their third best

  • song.

  • In any conquered region, the Ottoman government drafted young Christian boys into its army

  • and bureaucracy, educating them, and converting them to Islam.

  • Taken from their parents, they became part of the janissary corps, in which they could

  • and did rise to the highest reaches of government alongside advisors and bureaucrats from influential

  • families.

  • The rulers and nobility also developed a different household type, including multiple wives and

  • large numbers of offspring.

  • Given Ottoman men's service as ghazis, or warriors, and given the immense slaughter

  • across the entire European population at the time, having many wives seemed like the prudent

  • thing to do. because there just weren't that many men.

  • Women in these households were often wealthy and empowered to purchase warehouses and manufacturing

  • establishments, whereas women to the west often did not have inheritance or property

  • rights.

  • And when men were off fighting, women served as unofficial replacements in the Ottoman

  • EmpireHurrem, the sole wife of Suleyman being a prime example.

  • And in communities where many girls and women were left in seclusion, other women had opportunities

  • to serve as their lawyers, accountants, and scribes, and doctors, and teachers, and other

  • professionals.

  • So the Ottomans had developed different social structures and state structures.I know it's

  • tempting to view all of this through a modern lens, and think about this is good, this is

  • bad, this is modern, and this is not modern.

  • I don't think that's the right lens through which to view all of this.

  • We're talking about the 17th Century, so we should compare it to the rest of the 17th

  • Century.

  • And in many ways, the 17th Century Ottoman Empire had big advantages over other European

  • communities, but after their failure to capture Vienna in 1683, which we'll get to in a

  • minute, the Empire's competitive edge did dull.

  • Nearby, Russia was also expanding thanks to Ivan IV, aka Ivan the Terrible, who did have

  • vicious outbursts of temper and, also, did kill his own son during a quarrel, which to

  • be fair is kind of terrible.

  • Ivan's grandfather Ivan III had begun growing the Russian empire as well as creating a modern

  • state structure, complete with administrative departments and functionaries.

  • He also oversaw extensive building at the Kremlin complex.

  • The first part of Ivan IV's rule continued Russia's institutional development with

  • the creation of an improved code of laws and better tax collection.

  • Ivan also summoned distinguished representatives of the orthodox church and the nobility along

  • with wealthy townspeople to an assembly (zemskii sobor), which continued to meet.

  • And for these accomplishments, as well as Ivan's expansionist ambitions, many historians

  • have restored the word groznyionce interpreted to meanterrible”—to the meaning held

  • by Russians of his day: Ivan theformidable,” orfearsome,” or even "awesome.”

  • Meanwhile high churchmen were working to make Ivan literally awesome by creating imagery

  • in churches of a tsar connected to the divine.

  • They also depicted the connection between the tsar and people along a divine continuum.

  • At the time, the head of the Orthodox church claimed that the Russian ruler was, quote,

  • everywhere under the vault of heaven the one Christian Tsar, mounted on the holy throne

  • of God of the holy apostolic church, in place of the Roman and Constantinopolitan [thrones]

  • in the God-saved city of Moscow."

  • So, not God Himself or anything--just mounted on the holy throne of God.

  • Rather like Louis XIV over in France.

  • Did the center of the world just open?

  • Is Jesus in there?

  • It's a crucifix.

  • You might be thinking, “did you just shoehorn in this center of the world bit?”

  • Yeah, I did.

  • And it's not the first time Jesus has been shoehorned in where he doesn't fit well.

  • If you ever read the accounts of Jesus's life, one thing that you'll note is that,

  • uh, he was never a political leader, nor did he ever choose political leaders, nor did

  • he ever express much interest in choosing political leaders.

  • But just as every religion has to adapt to the culture in which it finds itself, cultures

  • have to adapt to religions.

  • It's this endless, very complicated dance.

  • And that's how you end up with one guy mounted on the holy throne of God in Russia, and a

  • different guy mounted on the holy throne of God in France.

  • But back to Russia.

  • As it bureaucratized along the lines of the western European kingdoms, Russia developed

  • the rituals of a top-down autocratic state, which lasted into the twentieth-century.

  • Serfsthat is, laborers bound to the land and unfree in their movements--groveled before

  • their lords, who often saw these workers as not even deserving of the wordhuman.”

  • However, the nobility also groveled in front of the tsar, displaying abject submission

  • akin to what serfs showed their lords.

  • But it's important to understand that it wasn't as simple as people considering themselves,

  • and others, purely inferior or superior.

  • Instead, the belief was that everyone had a role to play within the system.

  • Now, to be clear, within that system, most people had very little freedom or what we

  • would now callhuman rights.”

  • But still, throughout history, people have found ways to express human agency no matter

  • the rigidity or oppressiveness of the system in which they are living.

  • Ivan IV was energetic, especially in the first half of his reign.

  • He took Russia's borders eastward, capturing among other conquests the Muslim stronghold

  • of Kazan.

  • Russian settlers headed for new farmland right up to the Pacific Ocean.

  • And helping Ivan in this conquest, even as absolutist tendencies developed in Russia,

  • was another group of ordinary people who were neither serfs nor noble grovellers but free

  • individuals.

  • Called Cossacks (from the word Kazak, meaning free), they survived through plunder and trade

  • and through selling their military services to rulers and nobility who needed their fighting

  • skills.

  • Until late in the seventeenth century, the Cossacks generally looked down on farming.

  • They led nomadic lives, capturing people to sell or robbing ships on the Caspian Sea.

  • Located along the Ukrainian, Russian, and Ottoman borderlands, they were more democratic

  • than the rulers to whom they often sold their services, including the Russian tsars whose

  • defeat of Kazan in 1552 they helped facilitate.

  • After that, the Cossack Yermak Timofeyevich led Russian advances deeper into Siberia with

  • its lucrative fur trade and became a Russian hero.

  • Ivan IV died in 1584 of a stroke while playing chess, and his heir Fyodor died in 1598, and

  • after that, claimants to the leaderless Russian throne abounded.

  • Poland-Lithuania spotted an opening for establishing a Polish prince as Russian tsar.

  • The sense was that Moscow was so disorganized and the monarchy was so weak that it could

  • easily fall.

  • This resulted in theTime of Troubles,” which was so named because of the famine of

  • 1601-3, as well as Poland-Lithuanian and Swedish attacks on Russia, and the general devastation

  • caused by that warfare.

  • These finally ended with Russia's victory in 1613 and the ascension to the throne of

  • Michael Romanovchosen by anAssembly of the Landof nobles and, as the new tsar

  • put it, also chosen by God and the voice of the people.

  • But mostly by the nobles.

  • Cossack troops and units from the nobility drove back the enemy, knocking Poland-Lithuania

  • and Sweden out temporarily from the competition for control of the region.

  • And for their efforts, the new tsar thanked his saviors by raising taxes, cutting back

  • on privileges, and otherwise behaving as if the tsar himself, not his military, had won

  • the day.

  • But don't worry the nobility will get back at the Romanovs in just 300 short years.

  • The Cossacks, supported by an increasingly oppressed Ukrainian peasantry, went on to

  • reduce Polish power through war that slaughtered tens of thousands of Jewish estate managers,

  • Protestant minorities, and their supporters living in Ukrainian territory.

  • In 1654, Russia joined what became known as the Russo-Polish war, at the end of which

  • in 1667 the eastern part of Ukraine including Kiev became part of the Russian empire, while

  • the western part remained part of Poland-Lithuania.

  • Fortunately, arguments over Ukrainian land had at last been resolved.

  • What's that, Stan?

  • Oh.

  • Still?

  • Stan, is he behind me?

  • Because we had a deal that he wasn't going to come out this whole series...GAH...putin.

  • Right.

  • Meanwhile, the Polish kingdom, while on a downward path because of these defeats, would

  • live to fight a fair few more battles.

  • The most famous and consequential of these battles for the continent was the battle for

  • Vienna in 1683 when elected Polish king Jan Sobieski joined forces with the Habsburg monarchy

  • to drive out the invading Ottoman forces.

  • We previewed this earlier because it's a big deal.

  • This led to Habsburg rule being solidified around Austria, and Hungary, and other east-central

  • European territories.

  • And it also meant that Europe was gaining some of the political contours that would

  • shape its modern history.

  • I mean, there wasn't yet a Germany as such, or even an Austrohungarian Empire, but the

  • scene was being set.

  • I know we covered A LOT of power and territory struggles today.

  • There was a lot of war in Europe in the 17th Century.

  • But if we zoom out, we see generations-long disagreements over how centralized communities

  • should be,