@Enewald: It's still got a decade or two left in it.
@wolfcity: DOH! And no more, that's all for the OE until the next book.
@Vandervecken: Moving on to Russia, from there we will move into Poland, then Scandinavia, then the British Isles, then France, then a brief interlude on the Iberian Colonial Empires, and finally back into Germany for the true shit meet fan moment.
The World of 1600
Chapter 4: The Empire of the Russias
The Empire of all the Russias
The Russian Empire was officially born in 1548, however had been growing for quite some time before this. Given the speed with which the newly reigning Ivan IV was able to begin exerting his influence following his coronation in 1546, it is likely he had already been ruling in all but name under the regency of his uncle. Pyotr himself willing gave up control of the state, however remained behind as a valuable advisor and general. In addition, he would serve as a general over the armed forces, allowing Ivan to instead focus on the affairs of state, although he himself remained in control of the armies which remained near the capitol.
The first test of this duo would come quickly, with the Russo-Kazanite war. This war would last the rest of the year 1547, and would see the Hordes completely annexed after a relatively short campaign. The Hordes themselves had become increasingly unstable following the recent death of the Khan of the Golden Horde, and the Tribal Succession Crisis they found themselves in was now at its most chaotic moment. With most of the Kazanite armies in the territory of the Horde attempting to place their own candidate on the throne, both nations were exhausted.
Pyotr would lead a campaign of nearly 30 Thousand Russian soldiers to Astrakhan, where a stunning victory over the Kazanite Horde would see virtually the entire enemy army destroyed, leaving both states ripe for the picking. With the fall of the city of Astrakhan itself, the last strong point of the Horde would be lost, and the tribal government collapsed, freeing Ivan to formally annex the remains of the dying state into his new Empire.
Kazan would suffer a similar fate, although fully annexing the territory into the Empire would take nearly decades of persuing small bands of nomadic tribes, for all functional purposes the Kazanite Horde was no longer of free political entity.
With this stunning victory, Ivan would now have the political clout needed, and in 1548, he would formally adopt the title of Tsar, claiming his new Empire of all the Russias as the successor to the Eastern Roman Empire, with the city of Moscowvy as 'The Third Rome'.
The Empire of all the Russias in 1548.
However not all would be content with this victory, as Ivan would refuse to distribute the territory gained to the nobles of the Empire, instead consolidating much of the seized territory into either his own control, in the case of the territory taken from the Golden Horde, or consolidating it into a large March under his Uncle Pyotr's control.
When the nobles learned of this, many of them rebelled, however not nearly enough of them to challenge Ivan, who had likely been preparing for this, as his response was quick and vicious. The combined armies brought against him were easily defeated outside the great city of Muscowvy itself. Thinking that the majority of the armies loyal to Ivan were away with Pyotr, the nobles had attacked without fully readying themselves, only to find a force similar in size and loyalty to that sent South and East, and the nobles were easily defeated, their lands stripped from them, and they made mere figureheads, were they to retain their heads at all.
This rebellion would prompt the first of several administrative reforms under Ivan IV. The stripping of nobles of their rights would strengthen the Empire of the Russias, roughly paralleling similar events in many of the growing Kingdoms of Europe, most notable the Kingdoms of England and Poland. With his own power growing rapidly, Ivan was quickly becoming Emperor absolutely in both name and power.
Paralleling this reform would be the shift in the economic power of the Empire. Although the city of Novgorod had been annexed the same as the Hordes, it had retained great autonomy, and remained the center of all trade within the Russias, granting it a massive amount of power. However with the acquisition of the great city of Astrakhan, itself a center of trade, and lying along routes to the rich Spice Lands of the East, Novgorod was no longer the greatest city of the Empire.
Although it would remain the center of trade in Western Russia, and would remain the most important Port of Call in the Empire, this could not stop Ivan from exerting his influence within its walls, and the rapid flight of all of its previously enjoyed autonomy.
The Boyar Rebellion
With his own power secure, and not desiring to leave himself open to attack in the face of the Suleiman and Ibrahim's newfound control over the Ottoman Empire, Ivan instead turned further East, to yet another Horde of the Steppes, the horde of Sibir. However this horde would prove far more difficult to defeat than the Kazan Khanate, as they retained a strong and wise Khan, with no crisis of succession to weaken them.
Although numerous expeditions would be launched, few would see any lasting success due to the nature of the enemy they faced, and instead the Russian Empire would experience yet further troubles in exerting its influence into the lands of nomads, and this would only be made more difficult due to the necessarily fragmented nature of the Russian control over the former lands of Kazan. Unable to truly project his power further, Ivan would instead consolidate his control over the Kazan with the construction of a large network of fortresses along the Russo-Sibir border, and encouraging further settlement in the east.
The remains of Ivan's term would be largely peaceful, the only break to peace being the War with Poland, which would see Russia enter into alliance with the Ottoman Empire, largely upon the personalities of Suleiman and Ivan, who became good friends during the campaign together.
Like the territory taken from Kazan, the territory taken from Poland would become a March, though this land would be given not to Pyotr, but to his godchild, the younger son of Ivan, Fyodor. Fyodor would remain as administrator over this march until his death, and would be a constant supporter both of his father and his elder brother Boris, who would instead be given large amounts of land near the capitol to build his reputation with the nobles.
However Ivan's reign drew to a close in tragedy, as he would take his own life following the death of his wife in 1565, and thus plunge his Empire into what would become known as the Time of Troubles.
The Russian Empire in 1565, shortly before Ivan's suicide.
This map also shows the Russian Fortresses constructed to prevent nomadic raids in Red.