Maria Yaroslavna of Borovsk (monastic name: Marfa) Born ca. 1420-1422 in Borovsk or in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania — † 04/04/1485 in Moscow), Great Princess of Moscow (1433-1434, 1434-1446, 1447-1485); from 1433 onwards, she was married to Great Prince of Moscow Vasily II Vasilyevich the Blind (1425-1462), mother of Ivan III.
Wedding of Vasily II the Blind and Maria Yaroslavna in 1433. Miniature from the Illustrated Chronicle of Ivan the Terrible, 1560-1570.

Maria Yaroslavna of Borovsk (monastic name: Marfa) Born ca. 1420-1422 in Borovsk or in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania — † 04/04/1485 in Moscow), Great Princess of Moscow (1433-1434, 1434-1446, 1447-1485); from 1433 onwards, she was married to Great Prince of Moscow Vasily II Vasilyevich the Blind (1425-1462), mother of Ivan III.


  • Yaroslav (Afanasy) Vladimirovich, Prince of Maloyaroslavets


  • [Name unknown] Goltyaeva-Koshkina, granddaughter of Maria Goltyayev-Koshkin, daughter of boyar Fedor Fyodorovich Goltyay-Koshkin


Maria Yaroslavna was born to the Prince of Maloyaroslavets Yaroslav-Afanasy Vladimirovich and the granddaughter of Maria Goltyayev-Koshkin, daughter of the boyar Fyodor Fyodorovich Goltyay-Koshka (the name of Maria Yaroslavna’s mother is unknown). She was the great-granddaughter of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Algirdas. Her exact date of birth is unknown; we also do not have any information about her early years. She is first mentioned in a record about her wedding with Grand Prince Vasily II Vasilyevich of Moscow. The wedding took place in 1433. The bride was chosen on the initiative of Sophia of Lithuania, the widow of Grand Prince of Moscow, Vasily I Dmitrievich. Some scholars, including V. D. Nazarov and T. D. Panova [15, p. 91-95; 17, p. 248–249], suppose that the conflict that broke out during the wedding of Maria Yaroslavna and Vasily II, when by Sophia’s order a golden belt was ripped off of Prince Vasily Yuryevich Kosoy (the Squint), became a pretext for a dynastic war of the second quarter of the 15th century.

In the turbulent years of the civil war of 1425-1453, which broke out between Vasily II, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, Yuri Dmitrievich Zvenigorodsky and Galitsky and his sons Vasily Kosym, Dmitry Shemyaka and Dmitry Krasny, Maria Yaroslavna accompanied her husband on all travels. The first child in the Grand Prince’s family was born as late as four years after the wedding, which allowed T. D. Panova to conclude that Maria was very young at the time of the wedding [17, p. 248]. However, the first-born son Yuri Bolshoi died at age of three. The second son of Maria Yaroslavna and Vasily II, Ivan Vasilyevich, was to become Grand Prince of Moscow and Grand Prince of all Rus’, Ivan III.

In 1446, Vasily II’s cousin Dmitry Yuryevich Shemyaka took advantage of the Grand Duke’s departure on pilgrimage to the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius and seized Moscow. Maria, who was pregnant at that time, was captured with her children. Vasily II having been blinded, Marian along with her husband and three sons was exiled to Uglich. Another son, Andrei Bolshoy Goryai, was born to the Grand Duchess in exile.

Maria Yaroslavna managed to return to Moscow already in 1447. Shortly before that, she visited the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery, and then Tver, where she took part in the betrothal of her eldest son Ivan and a princess of Tver Maria Borisovna.

Maria Yaroslavna had to leave Moscow again in the summer of 1451, due to the invasion of khan Mazovsha. Vasily II was then on the Volga, and the defence of the capital was organized by her Sophia of Lithuania, Maria’s mother-in-law [20, p. 51].

Already at this time, Maria displayed herself as an active ruler. Together with Grand Duchess Sophia, she actively patronized churches, making numerous grants to monasteries and generously subsidizing new construction works. In 1450, the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius was exempted from taxation, and three years from salts taxes allowing the monastery to trade salt freely. In 1458, she obtained from saint Jonah forgiveness for Theodosius, Archbishop of Rostov, who had broken fast. Later, her support helped Vladika Jonah to become Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’ in 1461. In 1466 Maria Yaroslavna granted numerous villages to the Transfiguration Monastery in Yaroslavl’. A year later, in 1467, with Maria’s vivid support the construction of the main church of the Ascension Monastery in the Kremlin, started by the widow of Dmitry Donskoy, Eudoxia of Moscow, was finally completed after almost sixty years of works.

One can suppose that the Maria’s activity was quite independent even during her husband’s life. This is suggested by a huge number of charters proving her land ownership. Maria Yaroslavna’s possessions were vast. One part of them passed to her by inheritance from her grandmother Elena, daughter of Algirdas. Others, she received according to the will of Sophia of Lithuania, her mother-in-law. In addition, many villages were acquired by the Grand Duchess herself at her own expense [11, p. 36-42].

Maria Yaroslavna played a particular role in the government of the principality after the death of Vasily the Blind. According to his will of 1462, a significant amount of land was bequeathed to her (Rostov, Romanov, volosts beyond the Volga in the basin of the Sheksna River, Nerekhta, villages surrounding Moscow; in total, more than 60 volosts and villages in 14 uyezds, moreover, some of them made part of her sons’ appanages (udel)) [16, p. 144-145]. More important was, however, her right to resolve all the conflicts and disputes between her sons that was granted to her by Vasily II. Maria Yaroslavna took advantage of this right and became many times a mediator in the conflicts of Ivan III with his brothers. She managed to resolve one such conflict in 1472, when Ivan III usurped the appanage of the dead Yuri and annexed it. At her insistence, Dmitrov, Yuri’s capital, passed to Ivan, but Andrei Bolshoi received Romanov-on-the-Volga, Boris received Vyshgorod, while Tarusa passed to Andrey Menshoi [ibid.]. In 1480, Maria Yaroslavna managed not without difficulties to reconcile Ivan III with Andrei Bolshoy Gory [ibid.]. The importance of these role can hardly be overestimated: in November 1480, troops of both brothers were moved to the Ugra River where the final standoff between the Russian forces and the army of Akhmat Khan of the Great Horde took place.

Maria Yaroslavna was also active in marriage diplomacy. It was her who arranged to two marriages of Ivan III (the first, with Maria Borisovna, who died prematurely in 1467, and then the second, with Sophia Palaiologina). She also arranged an alliance of her daughter Anna with the Grand Duke of Ryazan Vasily Ivanovich and the marriages of her sons, Andrei Bolshoi (Goryai) and Boris Volotsky. Maria Yaroslavna made use of her diplomatic talents not only in intra-family affairs. As it was shown by V.D. Nazarov, Maria settled up the conflict with the papal legate Antonio Bonumbra, who accompanied Sophia Palaeologina to Moscow [ibid.].

In 1472, Maria Yaroslavna undertook her first trip to Rostov after her husband’s death. After the trip she fell seriously ill. The illness, however, did not prevent her from taking part in Ivan III’s wedding celebrations.

There is evidence of the vigorous activity of Maria’s court. She had her own Boyar Duma, household and even her own army that participated in Ivan III’s campaign against Novgorod in 1477-1478. She had her own office, her own d’yaks (clerks) and pod’yachijs [11, p. 21-36].

Up to her death, Maria Yaroslavna continued to support the Church. In 1471, she exempted Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery from duties. According to V. D. Nazarov, more than 60 monasteries received her grants and subsidies [15, p. 91–95]. Owing to her donations, monasteries were able to distribute food weekly among numerous beggars. Maria also ordered regular commemorative services of Vasily II and other members of the Grand Prince’s family.

In 1478, Maria Yaroslavna took monastic vows and a religious name Marfa. She retreated to Ascension Monastery in the Kremlin, preserving, however, the title of Grand Princess of Moscow, as well as her inheritance and all her possessions. She also preserves a considerable influence on her sons and daughters-in-law.

Maria Yaroslavna died on July 4, 1485 in Moscow and was buried in the main church of the Voznesensky monastery of the Moscow Kremlin. In 1929, her remains were transferred to the crypt of the Arkhangelsk Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.


  • Yuri Bolshoi (1437-1440)
  • Ivan (01.22.1440 –.10.27.1505) (future Ivan III, Grand Prince of Moscow 1462–1505 “the sovereign (gosudar’) of all Rus’”)
  • Yuri (Georgy) the Young (01/22/1441 – 09/12/1472), Prince of Dmitrov (1462–1472)
  • Andrey Bolshoi (13.08.1446 – 07.11.1493), Prince of Uglich (1462–1492)
  • Simeon (1447-1451)
  • Boris (07.26.1449 – 05.25.1494), Prince Volotsk (1462–1494)
  • Andrey Menshoy (the Young) (08.08.1452 - 10.07.1481), Prince of Vologda (1467-1481)
  • Dmitry (1455-1461)
  • († 1501), Grand Princess of Ryazan, wife of Grand Prince of Ryazan Vasily Ivanovich, regent of the Grand Prince of Ryazan Ivan Vasilyevich (1483-1501)
  • Mary, Grand Princess of Tver (+ 1465)


Timofeevskoe village, in Kinel in Pereyaslavl, Omutskoe village, Yushkovskoe village near Suzdal (which she granted to the Saviour Monastery of St. Euthymius in Suzdal) [II, T. 2. No. 457, p. 496; T. 3. No. 502. S. 479, 482]. In 1470s, Maria owned Shulgino village and several villages in Zvenigorod [II, T. 3. No. 59. P. 92.], the Ozeretskoe, Skolepovskoe and Teterinskoe villages in Pereyaslavl’, the Mikhailovskoe Tolbuzino village on the river. Klyazma [II, T. 1. No. 385, 386. P. 280–281; T. 3.No. 94a. P. 131]. Later, Maria’s possessions were augmented by the grants of her husband as well as those of Sophia of Lithuania. Maria Yaroslavna was granted Sol’-Galitskaya near Galich, some lands on the river Vologda, Maslena and Yangosar volosts in Vologda region, as well as Siz’ma villages and some land on the river Sizma. According to the Sophia of Lithuania’s will of 1451, Maria would get Babyshevskoye, Lystsevo, Oslebyatyevskoye villages in Kolomna and the villages her mother-in-law bought from Grigory Naumov and Ivan Bunkov near Kolomna. After Sophia’s death in 1453, Maria also received Marinina Sloboda volost in Pereyaslavl’. In 1462, according to the will Vasily II’s will she supposedly received Rostov. There are still controversies in historiography about the nature of Maria’s rights over Rostov. As some scholars thinks, one ‘part’ of the principality, Sretenskaya, has already been in her possession by the time of Vasily the Blind’s death [6, p. 76; 23, p. 170], because Vasily had granted it to Maria for term of her life. The remaining ‘part’, Borisoglebskya, was later bought by Ivan III from the Rostov princes and also granted to Maria Yaroslavna. L. V. Cherepnin, V.A.Kuchkin, V.L.Yanin understand the ‘parts’ geographically (the city and the adjacent district), while V. B. Kobrin, S. V. Strelnikov interpret them as rather judicial and economic rights over Rostov. G. V. Semenchenko, and A. L. Korzinin believe that the purchase of Rostov from local princes meant the transition of the sovereignty of Rostov lands [23, p. 174; 11, p. 19–48]. Apart from Rostov, the Grand Princess possessed the town of Romanov near Yaroslavl’ (it was acquired by Maria from the princes M. I. Deev and the children of L.D. Zubaty) and Ust-Sheksna in Poshekhonye (the former possession of the princes S. A. and V. A. Shekonsky), the volosts beyond the Volga (earlier, before 1454, they belonged to Prince Ivan Andreevich Mozhaisky), Lukoves, Arbuzheves, Matkoma, Vereteya Bolshaya, the town of Knyazhichi, etc. in Poshekhonye, Ust-Ugla volost on the Lake Beloe [2, p. 189-191], Nerekhta volost in Kostroma, numerous villages: Naprudskoe, Nogatinskoe, Novinki, Ozeretskoe, Mikhalevskoe, Oleshnyu, Luga, Pavshinskoe, Khvostovskoe, Khodynsky lug (meadow), the former villages of Peter Konstantinovich on the river. Istra in the vicinity of Moscow, Oksinskoe, Myachkovo villages, Serkizovskoe, Mezynka, Vysokoe, Shkin villages, the village of Fyodor Stepanov in Kolomna, the Marinina Sloboda volost, Ryuminskoe, Dobroe, Gorodishche, Barmazovo villages in Pereyaslavl, Frolovskoe, Krasnoe, Kurchev, Eltsy, Varvarino, etc. in Yuryev, Shokshov and Davydovskoe villages in Suzdal, the villages of Mikhail Danilov, the Koldom villages (donated to her by M. F. Saburov) in Kostroma, Pochap, Zakolpye, Chersevo villages in Murom, Chertanovskoye, Belevitsy, Ismeyskoye villages near Mozhaisk, the villages of Dolmat Yuriev in Khotun, Rostunov and Przemysl; Moshemskoye, Dymkovo villages side in Ustyug, the Gorodok, Brasov, Pesochnya volosts; Gvozdna, Ivan, Malinsky villages, etc. in Kolomna. Elda, Kadka, Vasilkovo villages; Izdemlya volost, Yudina, Yadrovo, Ondreevskoe village in Rzhev, Kostroma volosts Iledam, Komela and Obnora [4, No. 40, p. 120; No. 61. S. 195-196, 198, 199; No. 89. S. 356]. According to V. D. Nazarov, under Vasily II’s will, Maria Yaroslavna received more than 60 volosts in 14 districts of the Grand Principality of Moscow [16, p. 144-145].


Boyar duma and household

Boyars Vasily Fyodorovich Beznos Monastyrev [II, T. 1. No. 246, 247. P. 175, 176], Danila Rodionovich Zhokh Kvashnin [II, T. 1. No. 445. P. 333]; Semyon Fyodorovich Peshek Saburov [VI, T. 25. P. 313–315; T. 28.S. 119; VII, p. 18-19; VIII, p. 22, 25]; konyushij (equerry) Anany Petrovich Byakontov [IX, p. 125; X, p. 296]; dvoretskij (butler, steward) Grigory Kuritsa Romanovich Kamensky, from the Ratshi famili [IX, p. 132; 11, p. 282-287]; Rostov boyar Ilya Borisovich, the founder of the Ilyins, Gryaznykh and Oshanins [I, No. 66, p. 56] and others [11, p. 21-26].

D’yaki (clerks)

Vasily Ivanovich Beda [II, T. 1. No. 397, p. 289; No. 240, p. 169; IV, No. 61. P. 193-199]; Yakov Dmitrievich [11, p. 19-48]; Semyon Vasilievich Borodaty [II, T. 1. No. 397]; Nikifor Demidovich [11, p. 19-48]; Fyodor Dolmatov [13, p. 47-48]; Fyodor Dubensky [II. T. 2. No. 101, 102, 351; 1, p. 167-169; 3, p. 76; 5, p. 275; p. 235-236; 22, p. 228]; Lukyan Kryukov and his nephew, monk whose religious name Korniliy Fedorov, son of Kryuk (his secular name remains unknown) [II, Vol. 1. No. 487, p. 367; V, p. 306; 5, p. 250]; Stefan Nikiforovich Borodaty (who bore the nickname “Rostovets (i.e. ‘from Rostov’)”) [II. T. 1. No. 386, p. 280; No. 271. P. 196; 1, p. 161-162; 19, p. 119-127; 18, p. 345]; Semyon Vasiliev, son of the Bearded [II, T. 1. No. 397, p. 290; No. 430, p. 320; T. 2. No. 330, p. 310]; Andrey Fyodorovich Maiko [II, T. 1. No. 549, p. 428; T. 2. No. 249, p. 164; T. 3. No. 266, p. 282; No. 268, p. 283; 8, p. 385 .; 5, p. 250-251]; Yakov Kochergin [II, T. 3. No. 222, p. 241; III, p. 256]; Fyodor Myachkov [I, T. 1. No. 66, p. 56; T. 3. No. 256, p. 277; No. 270, p. 285; 12, p. 228 ; 9, No. 78, p. 370, 481; 21, p. 98]; Ivan Sukhoi Krugly [I, T. 1. No. 301. P. 293–294; II, T. 1. No. 502, p. 381; 2, p. 140, approx. 25; 13, p. 48; 22, c.228;]; Mezhenina* and others [11, 26–34].


*The identity of the d’yak Mezhenina has not yet been precisely established. For possible identification, see: [11, p. 34].


Alfery Edigei [II, T. 1. No. 340. P. 246; T. 2. No. 330. P. 310; No. 372. P. 366, No. 347. P. 254, 616-617; T. 2. No. 458. P. 497, 567], Ivan Savelov [II, T. 1. No. 445. P. 332, 333], Vasily Ushakov [II, T. 3. No. 477. P. 461–462 ; III, p. 258, 259, 261; 2, p. 138-139].

Posel’skie (village overseer?)

Kuzma Zubov [9, p. 365; 11, p. 19-48]; Grigory Efimiev [II, T. 2. No. 256, p. 166].

Tiun (bailiff)

Semyon Grigoriev [II, T. 1. N. 397, p. 288], Alexey Fedorovich Bobosha [ibid., n. 429, p. 318].


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