Of the Russe common wealth. Or, Maner of gouernement of the Russe emperour, (commonly called the Emperour of Moskouia) with the manners, and fashions of the people of that countrey.
Fletcher, Giles, 1549?-1611.
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Meanes vsed to draw the wealth of the land into the Emperours Treasurie.

TO preuent no extortions exacti∣ons, or briberies whatsoeuer, done vpon the cōmons by their Dukes, Diacks, or other officers in their Prouinces: but to suffer them to go on till their time bee expired, and to sucke themselues ful. Then to cal them to the Pra∣ueush (or whippe) for their behauiour, and to beat out of them all, or the most part of the bootie, (as the honie from the Bee) which they haue wrung from the commons, and to turne it into the Emperours treasurie, but neuer any thing backe againe to the right owners, how great or euident soeuer the in∣iurie be. To this end the needy Dukes, & Di∣acks, that are sent into their prouinces, serue the turne very well, being chaunged so of∣ten (to wit) once a yeere: where in respect of their owne, and the qualitie of the people (as before was said) they might be continued for some longer time, without all feare of in∣nouation. For comming still fresh vpon the commons, they sucke more egerly: like Ti∣berius the Emperours flies, that came newe still vpon all olde sore. To whome hee was Page  42 wont to compare his Praetors, and other pro∣uinciall officers.

2

TO make of these officers (that haue rob∣bed their people) sometimes a publike example, if any be more notorious then the rest: that the Emperour may seem to mislike the oppressions done to his people, & trans∣ferre the fault to his ill officers.

As among diuers other, was done by the late Emperour Iuan Vasilowich to a Diack in one of his Prouinces: that (besides many o∣ther extortions, and briberies) had taken a goose ready drest full of money. The man was brought to the market place in Mos∣ko. The Emperour himselfe present made an Oration. These good people are they that would eate you vp like bread, &c. Then as∣ked hee his Polachies or executioners, who could cut vp a goose, and commaunded one of them first to cut off his legges about the middes of the shinne then his armes aboue his elbowes (asking him still if goose fleshe were good meate) in the ende to choppe off his head: that he might haue the right fashi∣on of a goose readie dressed. This might seeme to haue beene a tollerable piece of iu∣stice (as iustice goeth in Russia) except his subtill end to couer his owne oppressions.

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3

TO make an open shew of want, when a∣nie great taxe, or imposition is towards. As was done by this Emperour Theodore Iu∣anowich, by the aduise of some about him at the beginning of his reigne: when be∣ing left very rich (as was thought) by his fa∣ther, he sold most of his plate, and stamped some into coyne: that hee might seeme to want money. Whereupon presently out came a taxation.

4

TO suffer their subiects to giue freely to the Monasteries (which for their super∣stition very many doe, specially in their last wils) & to lay vp their money and substance in them, to keepe it more safe. Which all is permitted thē without any restraint or pro∣uiso, as was & is in some countries of christē∣dome. Whereby their Monasteries grow to exceeding great wealth. This they do to haue the money of the Realme better stored toge∣ther, and more ready for their hand, when they list to take it. Which manie times is done without anie noyse: the Fryers beeyng content rather to part from somewhat (as the encrease groweth) then to loose all at once. Which they were made to doubt of in the other Emperours dayes.

To this end Iuan Vasilowich late Emperour Page  43 vsed a very strange practise,* that few Princes would haue done in their greatest extremi∣ties. He resigned his kingdome to one Velica Knez Simeon, the Emperours sonne of Ga∣zan: as though hee meant to draw himselfe from al publike doings to aquiet priuat life. Towards the end of the yeere, hee caused this newe King to call in all Charters graun∣ted to Bishoprickes and Monasteries, which they had enioyed manie hundred yeeres before. Which were all cancelled. This done (as in dislike of the fact and of the misgouernment of the newe King) hee re∣sumed his scepter, and so was content as in fauour to the Church and religious men) that they should renew their charters, & take them of himselfe: reseruing and annexing to the Crowne so much of their lands, as him∣selfe thought good.

By this practise hee wrung from the Bi∣shoprickes, and Monasteries (besides the landes which he annexed to the Crowne) an huge masse of money. From some 40, from some 50, from some an hundred thousande rubbels. And this aswell for the increase of his treasurie, as to abate the ill opini∣on of his harde gouernment, by a shewe of woorse in an other man. Wherein his strange spirite is to bee noted: that beyng hated of his subiectes, (as himselfe knew wel Page  [unnumbered] inough) yet would venture such a practise, to set an other in his saddle, that might haue ridde away with his horse, while himselfe walked by on foote.

5

TO sende their messengers into the Pro∣uinces, or shires where the special com∣modities of their countrey grow, as furres, waxe, hony, &c. There to forestall & ingrosse somtime one whole commodity, sometime two, or more, taking thē at smal prices what thēselues list, & selling them againe at an ex∣cessiue rate to their own marchants, and to marchants strangers. If they refuse to buy them, then to force them vnto it.

The like is done when any commoditie eyther natiue or forreine (as cloth of golde, broade cloth, &c▪) thus engrossed by the Em∣perour, and receiued into his treasurie, hap∣peneth to decay, or marre by long lying, or some other casualtie. Which is forced vpon the Marchants to be bought by them at the Emperours price, whether they will or no. This last yeere of 1589. was engrossed all the waxe of the countrey: so that none might deale with that commoditie, but the Empe∣rour onely.

6

TO take vp & engrosse in like sort some∣time forreine commodities (as silkes, Page  44 cloth, ledde, pearle, &c. brought into his realm by Turkish marchants, Armenians, Bou∣gharians, Poles, English, and other. And then to force his marchants to buy them of his of∣ficers at his owne price.

7

TO make a Monopoly for the time of such cōmodities as are paid him for rēt, or cu∣stom, & to inhanse the price of thē, as furres, corn, wood, &c. What time none must sell of the same kind of cōmodity, til the Emperors be all sold. By this means hee maketh of his rent, corn, & other prouisiō of victual (as be∣fore was said) about 200000. rubb. or marks a yeere. Of his rent wood, hay, &c. 30000. rubbels, or thereabouts.

8

IN euery great towne of his Realme he hath a Caback or drinking house, where is sold a∣quavitae (which they cal Russe wine) mead, beere, &c. Out of these hee receiueth rent that a∣mounteth to a great summe of money. Some yeeld 800, some 900, some a 1000 some 2000 or 3000. rubbels a yere. Wherein besides the base, and dishonourable meanes to encrease his treasurie, many foule faultes are com∣mitted. The poore labouring man, and artificer, manie times spendeth all from his wife, and children. Some vse to lay in twen∣tie, thirtie, fourtie rubbels, or more into the Page  [unnumbered]Caback, and vowe themselues to the pot, till all that be spent. And this (as he will say) for the honour of Hospodare, or the Emperour. You shall haue manie there that haue drunk all away to the verie skinne, and so walk na∣ked (whom they call Naga.) While they are in the Caback, none may call them foorth whatsoeuer cause there be, because he hinde∣reth the Emperours reuenue.

9

TO cause some of his Boiarens, or Nobles of his court, (whom he vseth vpon trust) that haue houses in the Mosko, to faine them selues robbed. Then to send for the Zemsk•• men, or Aldermen of the citie, and to com∣maund them to finde out the robberie. In default of not finding it, to praue or seasse the citie for their misgouernment in 8000. 9000. or 10000. rubbels at a time. This is many times practised.

10

IN these exactions to shew their soueraign∣tie, sometime they vse very plaine, and yet strange cauillations. As was that of Iuan Va∣silowich, father to this Emperour, after this sort. He sent into Permia fot certaine loads of Cedar wood, whereof hee knew that none grew in that Countrey. The inhabitants re∣turned answere they could find none there. Whereupon hee seassed their Countrey in Page  45 12000. rubbels, as if they cōcealed the com∣moditie of purpose. Againe he sent to the citie of Mosko to prouide for him a Colpack, or measure full of liue fleas for a medicine. They returned answere that the thing was impossible. And if they could get them, yet they could not measure them, for leaping out. Whereupon he praued, or beat out of their shinnes 7000. rubbels for amulct.

By like cauillation hee extorted from his Nobilitie 30000. rubbels, because he missed of his game, when he went a hunting for the Hare: as if their hunting and murdering of hares had bin the cause of it. Which the No∣bilitie (as the manner is) praued presently againe vpon the Mousicks, or common peo∣ple of the Countrie. This may seeme a straunge kinde of extortion, by such plea∣sant cauils to fliese his poore subiectes in good sadnesse: but that it agreeth with the qualitie of those Emperours, and the mise∣rable subiection of that poore Countrie. These, and such like meanes are practi∣sed by the Emperours of Russia, to encrease their Trea∣surie.