The article presents a program for the preservation and expansion of Hanseatic League privileges in Russia. Being in a difficult economic and political situation, Lübeck was interested not only in preserving the old markets, but also in expanding its trading activity. The shifting the centre of the international trade at the Baltic Sea (staple) in some of the Russian cities could simultaneously contribute to the preservation of the old Hanseatic trade system. The original text of a previously unknown letter of Lübeck to the citizens of Reval in 1571 from the Tallinn City Archives contains the first detailed mention of the “Russian Staple” in Ivangorod or Pskov and its characteristics: self-government, duty-free trade and guarantees of free transportation and export of goods from the Russian government. Pskov acted initially as the basis for the implementation of the program, because a trading post (Lübecker Hof) was established there. In the future, using the favor of the tsars Fedor Ioannovich and Boris Godunov to the Hansa, Lübeck tried by way of diplomacy to achieve the duty-free trade and to expand the network of its trading establishments in Russia. All the same, a small reflection of Russian affairs in the documents of the Hanseatic congresses (Hansetag) from the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries testifies to the fact that they were considered internal affairs of Lübeck. Therefore, it is possible to raise the question of an attempt to monopolize the Russian trade by Lübeck or to create its own hinterland in Russia.
Keywords: Hanseatic LeagueLübeckPskov“Russian staple”Veliky Novgorod
In the second half of the 16th century, the process of the medieval Hanseatic system destruction ended. This period was accompanied by the disappearance or decline in the activity of the Hanseatic Kontore outside the Hanseatic space and staples as places of authorized exchange of goods, the localization of the commercial interests of the Hanseatic cities (or their groups), their autonomization and, as a consequence, the fragmentation of the Hanseatic space and a loss of the prestige of Lübeck as the capital of the Hansa (
In the context of the collapse of the traditional Hanseatic “network structure” (Netzwerk) with a specific, complex, overall web of personal connections between international trade participants (Jahnke, 2014) and its replacement by the confederate community of cities, it became very important for each Hanseatic city to have and expand its own hinterland, which supplied them with export products due to the commercial connections based on daily and contractual practice. The need was explained by the predominance of agricultural and forestry products, raw materials and semi-finished goods in the range of the Baltic international trade, and, as it was well shown by the examples of Danzig (Gdansk) (Link, 2016) and Riga (Doroshenko, 1985), the presence of hinterland in the port city had a positive effect on its trade. As for Lübeck, its hinterland (
The activization of Russian trade in Lübeck was hampered by the cooperation of Livonian cities, mainly Reval (Tallinn) as the main “Novgorod staple” and Dorpat (Tartu), closely connected with Pskov (Angermann, 1995). The Livonian cities were the main platform for the Russian-Hanseatic trade with a guaranteed suply of Russian goods and their citizens, included in the Hanseatic “network”, ensured their flow to Western European markets. Reval and Dorpat represented the Hansa in diplomatic relations with Russia and were the subjects of the Russian-Hanseatic agreements, responsible for their implementation. Only from the middle of the 16th century, Lübeck began to show interest in dialogue with the Russian government. The reasons were the weakening of business activity in the Novgorod Kontor of the Hansa (German Courtyard) (Angermann, 2002), the “guest policy” of Livonian cities, which hampered mutual trade of foreign “guests” (Tiberg, 1995), and the disassociation of Reval and Narva due to their transfer to Sweden. Dorpat was incorporated by Polish Inflanty and became a part of the Riga’s hinterland (Doroshenko, 1985). The changes in the fate of Livonian cities allowed Lübeck to step aside from the traditional regulation of Russian-Hanseatic relations with the involvement of three Livonian “communes” and to form its own strategy aimed at finding a new staple through which the Russian export would have flown, and expanding its hinterland at the expense of the Russian North-West territory. The traditional alternative to trade without Livonian cooperation for the cities of the “overseas” Hansa was the use of the German Courtyard in Veliky Novgorod, but after its restoration in 1514 (the German Courtyard was closed by order of Grand Duke Ivan III in 1494) Reval claimed key positions in its administration (Bessudnova, 2019). Moreover, the German Courtyard, as the Hansa Kontor, was open to all Hanseatic people, who enjoyed equal privileges, so this also prompted the magistrate of Lübeck to make plans to organize their own trading courts.
The focus of the research is the little-studied problem of reorganization of the traditional “network” (Werknetz) structure of the Hansa during the crisis of the 16th – early 17th centuries and its transition to a confederate organization. This process is illustrated by the example of the capital of the Hansa – Lübeck – that intended to retain its leadership in changed circumstances. The means to achieve the goal, in particular, was the implementation of the idea of the “Russian staple” through the establishment of direct diplomatic contacts of Lübeck with the Russian rulers and the acquisition of royal awards. The result was the creation of a network of Lübeck trading courts in Russian trading cities, its dominant position in the sphere of Russian-German trade and the expansion of its hinterland at the expense of the Russian North-West territory.
The stated problem requires analysis of the preventive stage of Lübeck’s diplomatic activity at the turn of the 16th–17th centuries, related with the development of the concept of the “Russian staple” in 1571 in the context of a competitive struggle for participation in the “Narva campaign”. We should also characterize the main provisions of this concept and consider their phased implementation during the Lübeck diplomatic missions of 1586–1587 and 1603. It is also important to establish the fundamental differences between the “staple” policy of Lübeck at the turn of the 16th–17th centuries and the Hanseatic tradition and estimate the significance of its results.
Purpose of the Study
The study expands the incomplete idea of the Hansa transformation mechanism as a community of Low German trading cities at the last stage of its existence. The analysis of Lübeck’s diplomatic contacts with Russia in 1586–1603 and the trade privileges granted to it by the Russian rulers, allows us to define in them not only the premises for optimizing Russian-Hanseatic relations, which had been repeatedly mentioned in historical literature, but also the important factor of reformatting intra-Hanseatic structures during the disintegration of the “network” system and the formation of the Hanseatic confederation, in which Lübeck managed to maintain a leading position.
Along with numerous studies that help to present the historical context of the topic and identify the range of research problems, this study uses a number of documentary evidence from foreign archives. Based on the Lübeck pamphlet “A Brief Message ...” of 1571, the program for the formation of a “Russian staple” was recreated, while unpublished documents from the Archives of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck (Archiv der Hansestadt Lübeck) concerning the diplomatic mission of Zechariah Meyer in 1586–1587 and the Hanseatic embassy in Moscow in 1603, allows us to claim the phased implementation of the project and its undoubted success. Moreover, archival materials provide arguments to speak of the special model of the Lübeck courts in Russian cities, which in their structure and purpose are fundamentally different from the traditional Hanseatic staples.
Lübeck merchants in the first half of the 16th century had direct access to Russian trade in Novgorod and Pskov and from the beginning of the “Narva campaign” (1558), the Lübeck magistrate insisted on their free access to Narva, which was opposed by Poland and Sweden with the support of Reval (Köhler, 2000). During this confrontation, the idea of a “Russian staple” was created, initiated by the magistrate of Lübeck. It is set out in the proclamation “A Brief Narrative and Information of the Hanseatic People about [their] Original Free Sailing, Business and Trade in Livonia and Russia” (
Ivangorod in the role of the “Russian staple” was not attractive to Lübeck at first, perhaps due to the impossibility of promoting the normalization of its relations with Reval, at the same time Pskov was often mentioned in the sources as a main option. Despite the hardships of the Livonian War, Pskov continued international trade, the volume of which by the end of the 16th century significantly exceeded the indicators of Veliky Novgorod that suffered from the consequences of the oprichnina massacre (Angermann, 2004). In about 1574, the German Courtyard was restored in Pskov, replacing the first one founded in 1530 and burnt down in a fire in 1560 (Angermann, 2004). The traveler Samuel Kihel, who visited the Courtyard in 1586, left a description of it, noting the predominance of Lübeck people among its inhabitants (Kiechel, 1866). Participation in the life of the Pskov German Courtyard provided Lübeck with an opportunity to evade Dorpat’s “guest” prohibitions, according to which merchants from other Hanseatic cities were not allowed to enter Pskov, and to leave aside the Livonian cities, dependent on Sweden or Poland and not too friendly with the Hansa.
The first stage of the arrangement of Lübeck merchants on Russian soil in the first half of the 16th century is associated with the German Courtyards of Novgorod and Pskov. If taking into account the proclamation of 1571, it is clear that Lübeck was striving to provide its merchants with privileges, which were an obligatory attribute of the Hanseatic staple, and for this purpose to organize a number of embassies in Moscow. The end of the Livonian War and the legalization of international Baltic trade gave the Hanseatic cities the opportunity to resume trade with Novgorod and Pskov, which were almost destroyed during the war. Thus, Lübeck had a reason to start a diplomatic dialogue with Moscow on behalf of the entire Hansa. In reality, however, the “gentlemen” (
At the Lübeck Hansetag in October–November 1584, it was decided to send a message to Tsar Fyodor Ivanovich with a request to establish a Courtyard for Hanseatic merchants who traded in Russia (Kölner Inventar, 1903). In 1586–1587, Zachariya Meyer, the Lübeck city councilor, paid official visits to Moscow. On April 23, 1586, at the behest of Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich, he was awarded a charter for “all 72 overseas [Hanseatic] cities” for trade “as in the old days” (
The German Courtyard in Pskov, which was rebuild in 1586 as well (Graßmann, 1996), was also made exclusively for the people of Lübeck: “Special Courtyard in Pskov is only for you [Lübeck]”, built by citizens (
In the royal charter of 1586, it was mentioned that the Lübeck Courtyard was built at the expense of the state (
The “Russian issue” was almost never put on the agenda of the late Hanzetags (the exception was the Hanzetag of 1600, where the issue of an embassy to Moscow in 1603 was decided). Perhaps, it was this circumstance that gave reason for historians to talk about the reduction of Russian trade in Lübeck after the end of “Narva campaign” (Dollinger, 2012), although the expansion of the network of Lübeck Courtyards in Russian cities at the turn of the 16th–17th centuries and the strengthening of their legal guarantees are clearly contrary to this. The poor reflection of this phenomenon in the protocols of the Hanzetags can be explained, firstly, by the predominance of intra-Hanseatic problems on the agenda (Iwanov, 2016) and, secondly, by Lübeck’s obvious desire to conduct business in Moscow in a “Lübeck manner” (
The Lübeck project of 1571 to create a “Russian staple” was implemented at the beginning of the 17th century thanks to a series of preventive measures aimed at strengthening the positions of Lübeck merchants in the trading Courtyards of Novgorod and Pskov in the first half of the 16th century, and, most importantly, due to the establishment of direct diplomatic contacts with Moscow. It abandoned the custom of concluding Russian-Hanseatic treaties, in which the Russian side was represented by Novgorod and Pskov, and the Hanseatic side by Livonian cities, and in accordance with the norms of Russian foreign policy practice, it received the desired privileges in the form of a royal charter. Thanks to this circumstance, Lübeck, as a subject of royal favor, among other Hanseatic cities that had trade interests in Russia, took an exceptional position guaranteed by the will of the Russian autocrat. The favor of the Russian rulers allowed Lübeck to solve the problem of the German (Lübeck) Courtyards “in the Lübeck way”, namely, to take them out of the control of the Russian administration, which was provided for by the charter of 1586, and finally reassign under the magistrate of Lübeck, in accordance with the provisions made in 1603. All this opposed to the Hanseatic tradition, according to which the staples and Kontoren of the Hansa were under the jurisdiction of the Hansetags, while the superseding of other Hanseatic people, not Lübeck ones, from the Russian market contributed to the destruction of the “network” structure, typical for the Hansa, and its reformation on confederal principles. All the facts allow us to raise a question about Lübeck’s use of the Hanseatic traditions of “staple” trade and trade privileges for including the Russian North-West in its hinterland, thanks to which it retained its economic and political prestige. In any case, Lübeck’s trade volume, which tended to decline at the end of the 15th century, in the 16th century began to grow and in the 17th century provided it with economic recovery.
The research is carried out with the support of RSF in the framework of scientific project № 19-18-00183.
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Bessudnova, M. (2021). A “Russian Staple” In Lübeck’s Trading Strategy At The Early Modern Time. In E. V. Toropova, E. F. Zhukova, S. A. Malenko, T. L. Kaminskaya, N. V. Salonikov, V. I. Makarov, A. V. Batulina, M. V. Zvyaglova, O. A. Fikhtner, & A. M. Grinev (Eds.), Man, Society, Communication, vol 108. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 859-868). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2021.05.02.110