ELENA STEPHANOVNA (of Moldovia) (born in 1464-1466 - † January 18, 1505 in Moscow), Princess of Tver, Princess of Moscow and the Grand Princess of Vladimir, since January 12, 1483 the wife of  Ivan Ivanovich the Young , Prince of Tver, prince Moscow and the Grand Prince of Vladimir
The portrait of Elena Stephanovna among the members of the family of Ivan III during the coronation of Dmitry the Grandson in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin in 1498. Elena of Moldavia's shroud. End of the 15th century

ELENA STEPHANOVNA (of Moldovia) (born in 1464-1466 - † January 18, 1505 in Moscow), Princess of Tver, Princess of Moscow and the Grand Princess of Vladimir, since January 12, 1483 the wife of Ivan Ivanovich the Young , Prince of Tver, prince Moscow and the Grand Prince of Vladimir


  • Stephen III the Great, ruler of the Moldavian principality (1457–1504), Wallachian voivode


  • Evdokia Olelkovna, the first wife of Stephen the Great, daughter of Olelko (Alexander) Vladimirovich, Prince of Kiev


The year of birth of Elena Stephanovna is unknown. She was the daughter of the Moldavian ruler Stephan the Great from his first marriage with Evdokia Olelkovna. Almost nothing is known about the early years of the princess's life. In 1481 Stephan and Ivan III agreed on an alliance against the Ottoman Turks. The marriage of their children was supposed to seal the agreement: Elena was agreed to marry Ivan, the eldest son of Ivan III from his first marriage with Maria Borisovna of Tver. The wedding of the Moldavian princess and Ivan Ivanovich the Young took place in Moscow on January 12, 1483 [IX, p. 204].

In the autumn of the same year, the couple had a son, Dmitry (the Grandson). Immediately after this significant event, a scandal erupted. The chronicle reports that the Grand Prince wanted to give the daughter-in-law jewelry left over from Maria Borisovna. However, it turned out that the second wife of the Moscow prince, Sophia Palaiologina, had already given the jewelry to her niece on the occasion of the latter's wedding with Vasily Mikhailovich of Vereisk. Frightened by the wrath of Ivan III, the Vereseysk prince and his family fled to Lithuania [I, p. 235; IX, p. 22-23]. Many historians pay attention to this episode as an illustration of the difficult situation that developed at the court of Ivan III [1, ch. 4; 3; 10, p. 94; 11, p. 112; 15, p. 59; 17, p. 889]. The political ambitions of Sophia, striving at all costs to bring her own son Vasily Ivanovich to power, often went against the will of the Grand Prince, who proclaimed his first-born co-ruler. Similar episodes in sources, presenting the "Roman" Sophia in an unpleasant light, reflected the attitude towards her at court and, as noted by L.V. Cherepnin, had a symbolic meaning [17, p. 890].

The birth of Ivan the Young's son was not only supposed to consolidate the inheritance along this branch of the princely family, but also contributed to the strengthening of the grand princal power in Tver, which was living out the last years of its independence. E. Klug draws attention to the cold welcome given to the ambassador of Ivan III by the Tver prince Mikhail Borisovich, when he arrived with the news of the birth of Dmitry the Grandson [9, p. 362]. Such unkindness is not surprising: Ivan Ivanovich was the first contender for the Tver throne after his maternal uncle, childless Mikhail.

The sudden death of Ivan the Young on March 7, 1490 from gout changed the balance of power at court. Now Vasily Ivanovich had a real chance for the throne. Elena of Moldavia, trying to prevent the strengthening of the party of Sophia and Vasily, actively defended the interests of her son [2, p. 83]. Personal interests were closely intertwined with those of the state: in particular, Sophia herself was vitally interested in an alliance with Lithuania, since her daughter was a Lithuanian princess, and her niece fled there after the jewelry scandal. Elena, on the other hand, was in the center of the alliance of Ivan III with her father Stephan the Great [see: 4, ch. 3]. Both candidates were supported by different forces - the conservative-minded boyars and the children of the boyars and nobles, which turned the confrontation between the two pretenders to the throne into a dynastic crisis [see: 1].

In 1495 Elena took part in a trip to Lithuania. She brings the clerk Fyodor Kuritsyn closer to her and, sharing his religious views (Kuritsyn was one of the prominent figures in the heresy of the Judaizers), arranges a circle of Judaizers at the court.

After the unsuccessful conspiracy of Vladimir Gusev, uncovered in 1497, Dmitry the Grandson was declared heir and crowned in 1498 [I, p. 530-531; II, p. 241, 279; IV, p. 234; V, p. 246; VI, p. 366-368; VII, p. 572; VIII, part 1, p. 513; IX, p. 213-214; X, p. 330; XI, p. 132-133; 1; 3, p. 240–251, etc.] However, even the execution of several boyars - conspirators, removal from the court of those involved in the conspiracy of Sophia and Vasily Ivanovich, did not bring Elena and Dmitry the Grandson the final victory. As Y. G. Alekseev notes, Dmitry, apparently, did not become a real ruler: his name is mentioned only once in documents immediately after the name of Ivan III, most often he is called after Vasily Ivanovich and other brothers [1, ch. 4]. What prompted Ivan III to change his decision to transfer the throne to his grandson is not known for certain. The sources say only that Dmitry the Grandson and his mother "fell into disgrace." A.A. Zimin connects the fall of Dmitry not only with the internal confrontation between the two court groups, but also with changes in foreign policy: hopes for an alliance with the Moldovan ruler Stephan the Great did not come true [3; 4, p. 91-103]. However, it is obvious that the foreign policy factor was not decisive here.

In 1502 Elena was taken into custody, where she remained until her death on January 18, 1505. Elena Stefanovna was buried in Moscow in the Ascension Monastery [13, p. 145-146].


  • Dmitry Ivanovich the Grandson, Prince of Moscow and the Grand Prince of Vladimir (1498–1502)


In the winter of 1483, Elena Stephanovna arrived in Moscow with the boyars of her father Stephen III the Great, Sinka, Laika and Gerasim, their wives and numerous servants. Their further fate in Rus is unknown [16, p. 92].

The “party” of Elena Ivanovna's supporters may have included the boyar's son Vladimir Gusev, the boyar sons Grigory Pyrei and Ivan Otava Osokin-Travin, the clerk Fedor Kuritsyn, princes Vasily Ivanovich Patrikeev and Semeon Ivanovich Ryapolovsky, Yakov Zakharyich, Boris Vasilievich Kutu Khovrin *

* The composition of Elena's "party" is given according to the work of Y. G. Alekseev [1]. To date, the composition of the "parties" that supported Elena and Dmitry on the one hand and Sophia and Vasily on the other hand is debatable [6, p. 112-113; 7; 8, ch. 1; 12, p. 44-50].


The shroud "Carrying out the icon" The Mother of God Hodegetria "" (shroud of Elena of Moldavia) is an embroidery, presumably originating from the workshop of Elena Stefphanovna, the widow of the heir to the Moscow throne. Most likely, it depicts the solemn exit of the Grand Prince Ivan III on Palm Sunday on April 8, 1498 with his family during the coronation of Dmitry the Grandson. It is in the collection of the State Historical Museum in Moscow [10, p. 163-164; 14, p. 201-228; 18, p. 8].


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Internet Resources 

1. Alekseev Iu.G. Gosudar' vseia Rusi. M., 2017

2. Zimin A.A. Rossiia na rubezhe XV–XVI stoletii (Ocherki sotsial'no-politicheskoi istorii). M., 1982

3. Matasova T.A. Sof'ia Paleolog. M., 2016.