Who Was the First Ruler of Unified Russia?
Ivan III was the first ruler of a unified Russian state, lands centrally governed from Moscow that had earlier been individually controlled. By the time he ascended to the position of Grand Prince of Moscow in 1462 at the age of 22, Ivan III had already established himself as a successful military leader in campaigns against the Tatars of Volga, to whom Moscow had been subservient since the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.
1 Consolidation and Expansion of Russian Rule
Ivan III unified Russia and established centralized rule in Moscow. He did so by diplomacy when possible and was able to intimidate and convince many of Russia's regional princes to accept lesser estates and authority. Ivan III also expanded Moscow's influence by force. He eventually fought and defeated armies in the Tatar regions and also forces from Novgorod and Poland-Lithuania. By the time of his death, Ivan III had tripled the size of unified Russia's held lands and established the "pomestie" system, in which estates were granted for life based on loyal service.
2 Trouble on the Home Front
Ivan III was an unpopular ruler who resorted to torture and execution of his political enemies, including many from his own family. He was referred to as "the Terrible" before the name was famously applied to his grandson Ivan IV, known as Ivan the Terrible. His reign was marked with intrigue and infighting amongst his family, culminating in his second wife Sofia's failed attempt to plot his overthrow to secure the throne for their son Vasily.