- Tsar, csar, and tzar redirect here. For other uses, see Tsar (disambiguation)
Tsar or czar (Russian царь, Bulgarian, Serbian: цар, in scientific transliteration respectively car' and car), occasionally spelled csar or tzar in English (Zar in German and most other Germanic languages), is a Slavonic term designating certain monarchs.
Originally, the title tsar (derived from Caesar) meant Emperor in the European medieval sense of the term, that is, a ruler who has the same rank as a Roman or Byzantine emperor (or, according to Byzantine ideology, the most elevated position adjacent to the one held by the Byzantine monarch) due to recognition by another emperor or a supreme ecclesiastical official (the Pope or the Ecumenical Patriarch).
Occasionally, the word could be used to designate other, non-Christian, supreme rulers. In Russia and Bulgaria the imperial connotations of the term were blurred with time and, by the 19th century, it had come to be viewed as an equivalent of King.
The modern languages of these countries use it as a general term for a monarch. For example, the title of the Bulgarian monarchs in the 20th century was not generally interpreted as imperial.
"Tsar" was the official title of the supreme ruler in the following states:
Meaning in the Slavic languages
In contrast to the Latin word "imperator", the Byzantine Greek term basileus had both political and Biblical connotations. In the history of the Greek language, the word originally meant something like "potentate", had gradually approached the meaning of "king" in the Hellenistic Period, and designated "emperor" after the inception in the Roman Empire. As a consequence, Byzantine sources continued to call the Biblical, and ancient kings "basileus", even when that word had come to mean "emperor" when referring to contemporary monarchs (while it was never applied to Western European kings, whose title was transliterated from Latin "rex" as , or to other monarchs, for whom designations such as "leader", "chieftain" were used.)
As the Greek "basileus" was consistently rendered as "tsar" in Slavonic translations of Greek texts, the dual meaning was transferred into Church Slavonic (Old Bulgarian). Thus, "tsar" was not only used as an equivalent of Latin "imperator" (in reference to the rulers of the Byzantine Empire, the Holy Roman Empire and to native rulers) but was also used to refer to Biblical rulers and ancient kings.
From this ambiguity, the development has moved in different directions in the different Slavic languages. Thus, the Bulgarian and Russian languages no longer use tsar as an equivalent of the term emperor/imperator as it exists in the West European (Latin) tradition. Currently, the term tsar refers to native sovereigns, ancient and Biblical rulers, as well as monarchs in fairy tales and the like. The title of king (Russian korol' , Bulgarian kral) is perceived as alien and is reserved for (West) European royalty (and, by extension, for those modern monarchs outside of Europe whose titles are translated as king in English, roi in French etc.). Foreign monarchs of imperial status, both inside and outside of Europe, ancient as well as modern, are generally called imperator (император), rather than tsar.
In contrast, the Serbian language (along with the closely related Croatian, Bosnian, and Slovene languages) translates "emperor" (Latin imperator) as tsar (car, цар) and not as imperator, whereas the equivalent of king (kralj, краљ) is used to designate monarchs of non-imperial status, Serbian as well as foreign, including Biblical and other ancient rulers - just like Latin "rex".
In the West Slavic languages, the use of the terms is identical to the one in English and German: a king is designated with one term (Czech král, Slovak král' , Polish król), an emperor is designated with another, derived from Caesar as in German (Czech císař, Slovak cisár, Polish cesarz), while the exotic term "tsar" (Czech and Polish car, Slovak cár) is reserved for the Russian emperor.
The sainted Boris I is sometimes retrospectively referred to as tsar, because at his time Bulgaria was converted to Christianity. However, the title "tsar" (and its Byzantine Greek equivalent "basileus") were actually adopted and used for the first time by his son Simeon I, following a makeshift imperial coronation performed by the Patriarch of Constantinople in 913. After an attempt by the Byzantine Empire to revoke this major diplomatic concession and a decade of intensive warfare, the imperial title of the Bulgarian ruler was recognized by the Byzantine government in 924 and again at the formal conclusion of peace in 927. Since in Byzantine political theory there was place for only two emperors, Eastern and Western (as in the Late Roman Empire), the Bulgarian ruler was crowned basileus as "a spiritual son" of the Byzantian basileus.
Some of the earliest attested occurrences of the contraction "tsar" (car' ) from "tsesar" (cěsar' ) are found in the grave inscription of the chărgubilja (ichirgu boila) Mostich, a contemporary of Simeon I and Peter I, from Preslav.
It has been hypothesized that Simeon's title was also recognized by a papal mission to Bulgaria in or shortly after 925, as a concession in exchange for a settlement in the Bulgarian-Croatian conflict or a possible attempt to return Bulgaria to union with Rome. Thus, in the later diplomatic correspondence conducted in 1199-1204 between the Bulgarian ruler Kaloyan and Pope Innocent III, Kaloyan — whose self-assumed Latin title was "imperator Bulgarorum et Blachorum" — claims that the imperial crowns of Simeon I, his son Peter I, and of Samuel were somehow derived from the Papacy. The Pope, however, only speaks of reges, kings of Bulgaria in his replies, and eventually grants only that lesser title to Kaloyan, who nevertheless proceeds to thank the Pope for the "imperial title" conferred upon him.
The title, later augmented with epithets and titles such as autocrat to reflect current Byzantine practice, was used by all of Simeon's successors until the complete conquest of Bulgaria by the Ottoman Empire in 1422. In Latin sources the Emperor of Bulgaria is sometimes designated "Emperor of Zagora" (with variant spellings). Various additional epithets and descriptions apart, the official style read "Emperor and autocrat of all Bulgarians and Greeks".
During the five-century period of Ottoman rule in Bulgaria, the sultan was frequently referred to as "tsar". This may be related to the fact that he had claimed the legacy of the Byzantine Empire or to the fact that the sultan was called "Basileus" in medieval Greek.
After Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottomans in 1878, its new monarchs were at first autonomous prince (knjaz). With the declaration of full independence, Ferdinand I of Bulgaria adopted the traditional title "tsar" in 1908 and it was used until the abolition of the monarchy in 1946. (In the same way as the modern rulers of Greece used the traditional title of basileus in Greek and the title of "king" or "roi" in English and French). However, these titles weren't generally perceived as equivalents of "Emperor" any longer. In the Bulgarian as in the Greek vernacular, the meaning of the title had shifted (although Paisius' Slavonic-Bulgarian History (1760-1762) had still distinguished between the two concepts) and the rulers of these countries were recognized only as kings by international diplomacy.
The title Tsar was also used in Serbia, but only by two monarchs — Stefan Uroš IV Dušan and Stefan Uroš V between 1345 and 1371. Earlier Serbian monarchs had used the royal title Kralj / Краљ (King) since 1077, which had been granted by the Papacy during an early union with the Western Church. In 1345 Stefan Uroš IV Dušan began to style himself "Emperor of Serbians and Greeks" (the Greek renderings read "imperator and autocrator of Serbians and Romans"), and was crowned as such in Skopje on Easter (April 16) 1346 by the newly created Serbian patriarch, alongside with the Bulgarian patriarch and the autocephalous archibishop of Ohrid. On the same occasion, he had his wife Helena of Bulgaria crowned as empress and his son associated in power as king. When Dušan died in 1355, his son Stefan Uroš V became the next "emperor of Serbians and Greeks". The new emperor's uncle Simeon Uroš (Siniša) contested the succession and claimed the same titles as a dynast in Thessaly. After his death around 1370, he was succeeded in his claims by his son John Uroš, who retired to a monastery in about 1373.
With the extinction of Nemanjić dynasty in Serbia in 1371, the imperial title became obsolete (though it was retained by Stefan Uroš IV's widow Elena of Bulgaria until her death in 1376/1377). The royal title was preserved by Vukašin Mrnjavčević, a Serbian ruler in Macedonia, who had been associated by Stefan Uroš V as king, but lapsed on the death of his son Marko in 1395. The Bosnian ban Tvrtko I also assumed the Serbian royal title, but he and his heirs reigned as kings of Serbs and Bosnia, while Serbian part in fact remained under the rule of princes, occasionally granted the Byzantine title of despotēs.
Several other Serbian rulers are known traditionally as tsars, although they realistically cannot be called so. They include Tsar Lazar, Tsar Jovan Nenad and Tsar Stephen the Little.
When Serbia, which had emerged as an autonomous principality after a long period of Ottoman domination, became an independent kingdom, its prince, knjaz, adopted the traditional title of king, kralj. The King's full style was, between 6 March 1882 and 1 December 1918 (New Style): Po milosti Božjoj i volji narodnoj kralj Srbije "By the grace of God and the will of the people, King of Serbia".
Again, when the Serbian dynasty came to rule an enlarged kingdom, including Croatia and Slovenia, three peoples on the Balkan peninsula, after a decade generally collectively referred to as Yugoslavs (literally "Southern Slavonic"), its full style remained accordingly:
- 1 December 1918 (New Style) - 3 October 1929: Po milosti Božjoj i volji narodnoj kralj Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca "By the Grace of God and will of the people, King of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes";
- 3 October 1929 - 29 November 1945: Po milosti Božjoj i volji narodnoj kralj Jugoslavije "By the Grace of God and will of the people, King of Yugoslavia".
RussiaThe term "tsar" was used once by Church officials of Kievan Rus in the naming of Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev. This may be connected to Yaroslav's war against Byzantium and to his efforts to distance himself from Constantinople. However, other princes of Kievan Rus never called themselves as "tsars". After the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders and the Mongol invasion of Rus (1237-1240), the term "tsar" was applied by some people of Kievan Rus to the Mongol (Tatar) overlords of the Rus' principalities. Yet the first Russian ruler to openly break with the khan, Mikhail of Tver, assumed the title of "Basileus of Rus" and "tsar".
Following his assertion of independence from the Golden Horde and perhaps also his marriage to an heiress of the Byzantine Empire, "Veliki Kniaz" Ivan III of Muscovy started to use the title of tsar regularly in diplomatic relations with the West. From about 1480, he is designated as "imperator" in his Latin correspondence, as "keyser" in his correspondence with the Swedish regent, as "kejser" in his correspondence with the Danish king, Teutonic Knights, and the Hanseatic League. Ivan's son Vasily III continued using these titles, as his Latin letters to Clement VII testify: "Magnus Dux Basilius, Dei gratia Imperator et Dominator totius Russiae, nec non Magnus Dux Woldomeriae", etc. (In the Russian version of the letter, "imperator" corresponds to "tsar"). Herberstein correctly observed that the titles of "kaiser" and "imperator" were attempts to render the Russian term "tsar" into German and Latin, respectively. This was related to Russia's growing ambitions to become an Orthodox "Third Rome", after Constantinople had fallen. The Muscovite ruler was recognized as an emperor by Maximilian I, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1514. However, the first Russian ruler to be formally crowned as "tsar of all Russia" was Ivan IV, until then known as Grand Prince of all Russia (1547). Some foreign ambassadors — namely, Herberstein (in 1516 and 1525), Daniel Printz a Buchau (in 1576 and 1578) and Just Juel (in 1709) — indicated that the word "tsar" should not be translated as "emperor", because it is applied by Russians to David, Solomon and other Biblical kings, which are simple "reges". On the other hand, Jacques Margeret, a bodyguard of False Demetrius I, argues that the title of "tsar" is more honorable for Muscovites than "kaiser" or "king" exactly because it was God and not some earthly potentate who ordained to apply it to David, Solomon, and other kings of Israel. Samuel Collins, a court physician to Tsar Alexis in 1659-66, styled the latter "Great Emperour", commenting that "as for the word Czar, it has so near relation to Cesar... that it may well be granted to signifie Emperour. The Russians would have it to be an higher Title than King, and yet they call David Czar, and our kings, Kirrols, probably from Carolus Quintus, whose history they have among them".
In short, the Westerners were at a loss as to how the term "tsar" should be translated properly. In 1670, Pope Clement X expressed doubts that it would be appropriate for him to address Alexis as "tsar", because the word is "barbarian" and because it stands for an "emperor", whereas there is only one emperor in the Christian world and he does not reside in Moscow. Reviewing the matter, abbot Scarlati opined that the term is not translatable and therefore may be used by the Pope without any harm. Paul Menesius, the Russian envoy in Vatican, seconded Scarlati's opinion by saying that there is no adequate Latin translation for "tsar", as there is no translation for "shah" or "sultan". In order to avoid such difficulties of translation and to assert his imperial ambitions more clearly, an edict of Peter I the Great decreed that the Latin-based title imperator should be used instead of "tsar" (1721).
The title tsar remained in common usage, and also officially as the designator of various titles signifying rule over various states absorbed by the Muscovite monarchy (such as the former Tatar khanates and the Georgian Orthodox kingdom). In the 18th century, it was increasingly viewed as inferior to "emperor" or highlighting the oriental side of the term. Upon annexing Crimea in 1783, Catherine the Great adopted the hellenicized title of "Tsaritsa of Tauric Chersonesos", rather than "Tsaritsa of the Crimea", as should have been expected. By 1815, when a large part of Poland was annexed, the title had clearly come to be interpreted in Russia as the equivalent of Polish Król "king", and the Russian emperor assumed the title "tsar of Poland", (and the puppet Kingdom of Poland was officially called Królewstwo Polskie in Polish and Царство Польское - Tsardom of Poland - in Russian) (see also Full style of Russian Sovereigns below).
Since the word "tsar" remained the popular designation of the Russian ruler despite the official change of style, its transliteration of this title in foreign languages such as English is commonly used also, in fact chiefly, for the Russian Emperors up to 1917.
Full style of Russian SovereignsThe full title of Russian emperors started with By the Grace of God, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias (Божию Милостию, Император и Самодержец Всероссийский [Bozhiyu Milostiyu, Imperator i Samodyerzhets Vserossiysky]) and went further to list all ruled territories. For example, according to the article 59 of the Russian Constitution of April 23, 1906, "the full title of His Imperial Majesty is as follows: We, ------ by the grace of God, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, of Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod, Tsar of Kazan, Tsar of Astrakhan, Tsar of Poland, Tsar of Siberia, Tsar of Tauric Chersonesos, Tsar of Georgia, Lord of Pskov, and Grand Duke of Smolensk, Lithuania, Volhynia, Podolia, and Finland, Prince of Estonia, Livonia, Courland and Semigalia, Samogitia, Belostok, Karelia, Tver, Yugra, Perm, Vyatka, Bulgaria, and other territories; Lord and Grand Duke of Nizhni Novgorod, Sovereign of Chernigov, Ryazan, Polotsk, Rostov, Yaroslavl, Beloozero, Udoria, Obdoria, Kondia, Vitebsk, Mstislavl, and all northern territories; Sovereign of Iveria, Kartalinia, and the Kabardinian lands and Armenian territories - hereditary Lord and Ruler of the Circassians and Mountain Princes and others; Lord of Turkestan, Heir of Norway, Duke of Schleswig, Holstein, Stormarn, Dithmarschen, Oldenburg, and so forth, and so forth, and so forth."
For example, Nicholas II of Russia (1 November 1894 - 15 March 1917) was titled as follows (notice the archaic Cyrillic spelling):
- Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію МЫ, НИКОЛАЙ ВТОРЫЙ ИМПЕРАТОРЪ и
- Московский, Кіевскій, Владимірскій, Новгородскій,
- Царь Казанскій, Царь Астраханскій, Царь Польскій, Царь Сибирскій, Царь Херсонеса Таврическаго, Царь Грузинскій,
- Государь Псковскій, и
- Великій Князь Смоленскій, Литовскій, Волынскій, Подольскій и Финляндскій;
- Князь Эстляндскій, Лифляндскій, Курляндскій и Семигальскій, Самогитскій, Бѣлостокский, Корельскій,
- Тверскій, Югорскій, Пермскій, Вятскій, Болгарскій и иныхъ;
- Государь и Великій Князь Новагорода низовскія земли, Черниговскій, Рязанскій, Полотскій,
- Ростовскій, Ярославскій, Бѣлозерскій, Удорскій, Обдорскій, Кондійскій, Витебскій, Мстиславскій и
- всея Сѣверныя страны Повелитель; и
- Государь Иверскія, Карталинскія и Кабардинскія земли и области Арменскія;
- Черкасскихъ и Горскихъ Князей и иныхъ Наслѣдный Государь и Обладатель;
- Государь Туркестанскій;
- Наслѣдникъ Норвежскій,
- Герцогъ Шлезвигъ-Голстинскій, Стормарнскій, Дитмарсенскій и Ольденбургскій, и прочая, и прочая, и прочая.
- Московский, Кіевскій, Владимірскій, Новгородскій,
- The Emperor's subsidiary title of Tsar of Kazan proclaimed the chief Orthodox dynasty as successor in law to the mighty Islamic khanate of Kazan, not maintaining its 'heathen' (khan) title (as the Ottoman Great Sultans did in several cases), but christening it. It should also be noted that Khans of Kazan were mentioned in Russian chronicles such as Kazan Chronicle as Tsars of Kazan.
- The Emperor's subsidiary title of Tsar of Siberia refers to the Tatar Khanate of Sibiria, easily subdued in the early stages of the exploration and annexation of the larger eponymous region, most of it before inhabited by nomadic tribal people without a state in the European sense.
- The subsidiary title of Tsar in chief of Transcausasian Georgia is the continuation of a royal style of a native dynasty, that had as such been recognized by Russia; it was a new, Slavonic style, imposed after the former regional superpower, which had used native and even Persian styles reflecting imperial pretences, had been reduced to a vassal unable to ward off its mighty neighbours.
- The subsidiary title of Tsar of Poland demonstrates the Russian Emperors' rule over the legally separate (but actually subordinate) Polish Kingdom, nominally in personal union with Russia, established by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 (hence also called "Congress Poland"), in a sense reviving the royal style of the pre-existent national kingdom of Poland. Internationally and in Poland, the tsars were referred to as Kings (królowie) of Poland.
In some cases, defined by the Code of Laws, the Abbreviated Imperial Title was used:
- "We, ------ by the grace of God, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, of Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod, Tsar of Kazan, Tsar of Astrakhan, Tsar of Poland, Tsar of Siberia, Tsar of Tauric Chersonesos, Tsar of Georgia, Lord of Pskov, and Grand Duke of Smolensk, Lithuania, Volhynia, Podolia, and Finland, and so forth, and so forth, and so forth."
In other cases, also defined by the Code of Laws, the Short Imperial Title was used:
Titles in the Russian Royal/Imperial familyTsaritsa (царица) is the term used for an Empress, though in English contexts this seems invariably to be altered to tsarina (since 1717, from Italian czarina, from German Zarin). In Imperial Russia, the official title was Empress (Императрица). Tsaritsa (Empress) could be either the ruler herself or the wife (Empress consort) of the tsar. The title of tsaritsa is used in the same way in Bulgaria and Serbia.
Tsesarevich (Цесаревич) is the term for a male heir apparent, the full title was Heir Tsesarevich ("Naslednik Tsesarevich", Наследник Цесаревич), informally abbreviated in Russia to The Heir ("Naslednik") (capitalized).
Tsarevich (царевич) was the term for the ruler's heir. In older times the term was used in place of "Tsesarevich" (Цесаревич). A son who was not a heir was formally called Velikii Kniaz (Великий Князь) (Grand Duke or Grand Prince). The latter title was also used for grandsons (through male lines).
Tsarevna (царевна) was the term for a daughter and a granddaughter of a Tsar or Tsaritsa. The official title was Velikaya Kniaginya (Великая Княгиня), translated as Grand Duchess or Grand Princess.
See also Grand Duchess for more details on the Velikaya Kniaginya title.
Tsesarevna (Цесаревна) was the wife of the Tsesarevich.
- When Nicholas II abdicated in 1917 he also renounced on behalf of his 12 year-old son, Alexis. He named as his heir his own brother Michael. Historians and lists of tsars differ as to whether to regard Michael or Nicholas II as the last tsar. Nicholas II was undoubtedly the last tsar to rule Russia and so was the last effective tsar. Mikhail, if he can be said to have been Tsar at all, merely reigned nominally for a very short time. Like his brother Nicholas, Michael was executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
- In 1924 Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich proclaimed himself Emperor in exile.
- Moscow and Saint-Petersburg are known as the two tsar's capitals, though the latter was precisely founded as the new capital, symbolizing the new empire after Peter had shed the formal style of Tsar.
Metaphorical usesLike many lofty titles, e.g. Mogul, Tsar or Czar has been used as a metaphor for positions of high authority, in English since 1866 (referring to U.S. President Andrew Johnson), with a connotation of dictatorial powers and style, fitting since "Autocrat" was an official title of the Russian Emperor (informally referred to as 'the Tsar').
In the United States the title "czar" is a slang term for certain high-level civil servants, such as the "drug czar" for the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, "terrorism czar" for a Presidential advisor on terrorism policy, "cybersecurity czar" for the highest-ranking Department of Homeland Security official on computer security and information security policy, and "war czar" to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
ReferencesMichael and Natasha, The Life and love of the Last Tsar of Russia, Rosemary & Donald Crawford, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London 1997. ISBN 0 297 81836 8
Sources and references
- George Ostrogorsky, "Avtokrator i samodržac", Glas Srpske kraljevske akadamije CLXIV, Drugi razdred 84 (1935), 95-187
- John V.A. Fine, Jr., The Early Medieval Balkans, Ann Arbor, 1983
- John V.A. Fine, Jr., The Late Medieval Balkans, Ann Arbor, 1987
- Robert O. Crummey, The Formation of Muscovy 1304-1613, New York, 1987
- David Warnes, Chronicle of the Russian Tsars, London, 1999
- The entry on tsar in the Eleventh Edition of Encyclopædia Britannica (1911)
- WorldStatesmen- see each present country
czarism in Bosnian: Car
czarism in Bulgarian: Цар
czarism in Catalan: Tsar
czarism in Czech: Car
czarism in Danish: Zar
czarism in German: Zar
czarism in Estonian: Tsaar
czarism in Modern Greek (1453-): Τσάρος
czarism in Spanish: Zar
czarism in Esperanto: Caro
czarism in Basque: Tsar
czarism in Persian: تزار
czarism in French: Tsar
czarism in Scottish Gaelic: Tsar
czarism in Galician: Tsar
czarism in Armenian: Ցար
czarism in Indonesian: Tsar
czarism in Italian: Zar
czarism in Hebrew: צאר
czarism in Georgian: ცარი
czarism in Swahili (macrolanguage): Tsar
czarism in Kurdish: Çar
czarism in Latin: Tzar
czarism in Latvian: Cars
czarism in Lithuanian: Caras
czarism in Hungarian: Cár
czarism in Dutch: Tsaar
czarism in Japanese: ツァーリ
czarism in Norwegian: Tsar
czarism in Norwegian Nynorsk: Tsar
czarism in Polish: Car
czarism in Portuguese: Tsar
czarism in Romanian: Ţar
czarism in Russian: Царь
czarism in Simple English: Tsar
czarism in Slovak: Cár
czarism in Slovenian: Car
czarism in Serbian: Цар
czarism in Finnish: Tsaari
czarism in Swedish: Tsar
czarism in Tagalog: Tsar
czarism in Thai: ซาร์
czarism in Vietnamese: Sa hoàng
czarism in Turkish: Çar
czarism in Ukrainian: Цар
czarism in Chinese: 沙皇