The author analyzes the emergence and development of “discourses” on the Livonian War. The war, which according to the author is the first most significant inter-state conflict in Eastern Europe, has been for a long time viewed from the perspective of Muscovy’s enemies due to the greater availability of the sources as well as the more advanced stage of development of Poland, Sweden and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
The author begins with the thesis that Muscovy began the war in order to gain access to the Baltics, which in time has acquired a connotation of the “first imperial design of Russia in Europe”. According to the author, there is no evidence of such a plan to gain access to the sea by Ivan the Terrible or the Muscovite establishment, whereas the idea itself seems to have been invented by the powers interested in the Baltics. The author notes differing interpretations of the growing conflict by the representatives of the Hanseatic Union, Sweden and Poland. These representatives imposed upon the actions of Ivan their own ideas of European politics. The acceptance of this discourse by the Russians the author dates by the time of Peter the Great, who used it as yet another instance of his historic right to be established in the Baltics. In the modern period, 19th century positivism and economic determinism that believed seafaring an essential part of the state development played a role in the establishment of the discourse in Russian historical science.
In the Soviet period the discourse on the Livonian war stressed the animosity between Russia and the West, accusing the latter in the attempts to bloc the Muscovites from accessing the sea and, through the sea, the larger world of the advanced civilization. This interpretation was heavily influenced by the political events of the time, in particular, the growing tension between the USSR and Germany.
Having analyzed the development of the argument that the war was required because of the needed access to the sea, the author turns to the events of the 16th century. He notes the paradoxical situation that Muscovy, in fact, did possess the Baltic seacoast from Ivangorod to Neva and in case the country needed sea access so badly it might have developed that possession. The interests of the Russian merchants lied far away from unleashing a major conflict on the Baltics, which undermined their operations. Finally, the fact that Ivan undermined Novgorod and avoided creating his own navy on the Baltics further reveals the deficiency of the thesis of the “needed access to the sea”.
The author also critically reviews the thesis according to which the war was the expression of the Russian imperial designs in Europe. According to Filiushkin, the policies of two competing powers, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Muscovy, clashed as Ivan demanded tribute from Livonia, while Sigizmund was looking for a way to repeat the subjugation of Prussia this time in Livonia. Moreover, for Muscovy, according to the author, the war was a local conflict related to financial obligations of the Order.
The conclusion of the author is that one can speak of the misfit as far as the stages of development of the competing powers were concerned. In case of the Western powers he sees the logic of new forms of bourgeois world at play, whereas in Muscovite case the continuation of the pre-modern pattern of political discourse.