The grand dukes of Muscovy and later the tsars of Russia forged strong diplomatic and commercial ties with the Timurids, Safavids and Ottomans - their neighbours in the Golden Horde, Iran and Turkey - as a way to survive and prosper in the turbulent times from the late fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. Ambassadors of shahs and sultans presented lavish gifts to gain the tsar's political support. Envoys from Iran and Turkey, as well as Greek merchants in Istanbul, strove to secure profitable trade routes. They showed respect by offering opulent ecclesiastical items to the Patriarch of Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church. To sustain and promote these alliances, impressive embassies brought to Moscow ornate saddles and horse trappings, gold and silver arms and armour, jewel-encrusted vessels and colourful fabrics. Many of these highly valued gifts from Iran and Turkey were immediately added to the Tsar's Treasury in the Kremlin, where they were prized for their rich materials and exceptional artistry. In time, these works inspired a new aesthetic at the Russian court.
The Tsars and the East features sixty-five extraordinary objects from Iran and Turkey now housed in the Armoury of the Moscow Kremlin. In addition to presenting valuable information about these astounding works of art, this book offers unique insight into the complex political and trade relations of Ivan the Terrible in the sixteenth century and tsars Mikhail Fedorovich and Alexei Mikhailovich in the seventeenth century with shahs Abbas and Safi in Iran and Süleyman the Magnificent and his descendants in Ottoman Turkey. This volume's main essay was written by Dr. Inna Vishnevskaya; Dr Olga Melkinova, head of the arms and armour department; and curators Irina Zagorodnyaya, Elena Yablonskaya and Dr. Vasily Novoselov, among others. Rudi Matthee of the University of Delaware contributes an essay on relations between Russia and Iran in the 1600s.