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Darius Kuolys. Moscow and Lithuania: translatio imperii, translatio reipublicae

In the 15th and 16th centuries political myths and official historical narratives of the Great Duchy of Moscow and the Great Duchy of Lithuania created two different political identities of these states. The state ideology of Moscow was based on the idea of transfer of the world empire from Rome and Constantinople to Moscow. The Lithuanian political doctrine was preoccupied with the myth of Lithuanians being of Roman origin and the transfer of the Roman republic ideas to Lithuania. It was this essential difference between Vilnius and Moscow, between a free nation and a free autocracy, that influenced the respective behavior of these societies over many centuries.

The different historical narratives created by Lithuania and Moscow in the 16th century prompted the creation of historical myths and visuals that supported the political identities of Lithuania and Moscow for centuries to come. The Moscow myth declared the ruler as autocrat, and his rule — as that granted by God — free from the laws and any limitations of man. The Lithuanian narrative established the nobility as the rulers of the country. The nobles called themselves a nation and a state — „we, Lithuania” — while the political community was regarded as a republic. It was from the position of a republic that Lithuania started to evaluate Moscow, which was identified as a tyranny that did not allow for freedom of the nation.

In 1558 the third Statute of Lithuania established the firmest grounds for the ideology of the Lithuanian Republic. Over the next three hundred years this text was reprinted on numerous occasions and lay at the heart of the doctrine of a free Lithuanian Republic and the perspective of the Lithuanian nobility who saw themselves as an independent nation.