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Tsar (Bulgarian цар, Russian царь, ; often spelled Czar or Tzar and sometimes Csar or Zar in English), was the title used for the autocratic rulers of the First and Second Bulgarian Empires since 913, in Serbia in the middle of the 14th century, and in Russia from 1547 to 1917 (although this usage is only technically correct until 1721). Although it is believed to be derived from the Latin title Caesar, it is more likely to be derived from the old East Iranian title Shar, which coresponds with the East Iranian origin of the Bulgarians, the first users of the title in Europe.
History of usage
The title tsar was first adopted and used in Bulgaria by Simeon I following a decisive victory over the Byzantine Empire in 913. It was also used by all of Simeon I's successors until the fall of Bulgaria under Ottoman rule in 1396. After Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottomans in 1878, its new monarchs adopted the title tsar again and used it between 1908 and 1946.
In 1547, Ivan IV of Russia changed his title from "Veliki Kniaz (Grand Duke) of the whole Rus" to "tsar of the whole Rus" as a symbol of change in the nature of the Russian state. In 1721 Peter I adopted the title Emperor (Император [Imperator]), by which he and his heirs were recognised, and which came to be used interchangeably with Tsar.
Often the word tsar is translated as emperor and vice versa. The Slavic languages often used tsar for other emperors; for example, the title of the Japanese emperor was translated as "tsar of Japan". However, in 1721, Tsar Peter the Great of Russia took the additional title of Imperator (Emperor), which, at least officially, superseded the older title of Tsar, which was henceforth formally used only for peripheral parts of the Empire.
The word "tsar" is sometimes informally applied to earlier Russian and Bulgarian rulers which were not formally crowned as tsars.
The domain or rule of a tsar is sometimes referred to as a tsardom.
Rulers that were called tsars may be found in the following lists.
Etymology and spelling
The word tsar is derived from the Latin title Caesar by way of the Old Slavonic tsesar (цесарь). The word is cognate with German Kaiser and Gothic Káisar. The contraction of цесарь into царь occurred by the way of shorthand writing of titles in old Slavonic church manuscripts, see Titlo article. One may see the examples of this, e.g., in the older copies of the Slavic Primary Chronicle.
The spelling tsar is the closest possible transliteration of the Russian using standard English spelling. Both czar and tsar have been accepted in English for the last century as a correct usage. French adopted the form tsar during the 19th century, and it became more frequent in English towards the end of that century, following its adoption by The Times. (see the Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition). The spelling tzar with 'z' is also very common, and represents an alternative transliteration of the first letter ц.
The spelling czar originated with the Austrian diplomat Baron Sigismund von Herberstein, whose Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentarii (1549) (literally Notes on Muscovite Affairs) was the main source of knowledge of Russia in early modern western Europe. It is not found in any of the Slavic languages, but is the primary spelling adopted by Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th Edition, 2003), with tsar offered only as a variant.
Modern usage seems to have standardized on the use of tsar to describe former rulers of Russia, while czar is used to informally describe an expert in charge of implementing policy (especially in the US): economics czar, drug czar, et cetera.
Correct pronunciation of tsar is in IPA though many if not most English-speaking people pronounce it /zɑr/ or /zɑ:/. This is because although English has ts in words like cats it is unusual for this sound to start an English word.
In Christian Europe the use of the title emperor is more than an affectation. A king recognises that the church is an equal or superior in the religious sphere, emperors do not. This was illustrated by Henry VIII of England who started to use the word imperium in his dispute with the Pope over his first divorce. By stating that they were emperors the Russian rulers claimed to be the head of the (Russian Orthodox) church and did not recognise any superior authority but God.
Full title of Russian tsars
The 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 art. 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 Khersones, Tsar of Grusia, Lord of Pskov, and Grand Duke of Smolensk, Lithuania, Volhynia, Podolia, and Finland, Prince of Estonia, Livonia, Courland and Semigalia , Samogitia, Bielostok, Korelia, Tver, Jugra, Perm, Vyatka, Bulgaria, and other territories; Lord and Grand Duke of Nizhni Novgorod, Chernigov; Ruler of Ryazan, Polotsk, Rostov, Jaroslavl, Bielozero , Udoria, Obdoria, Kondia , Vitebsk, Mstislav, and all northern territories ; Ruler of Iveria, Kartalinia, and the Kabardinian lands and Armenian territories - hereditary Ruler and Lord of the Cherkess and Mountain Princes and others; Lord of Turkestan, Heir of Norway, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, Stormarn, Ditmarsch , Oldenburg, and so forth, and so forth, and so forth." For example, Nicholas II of Russia was titled as follows (notice the archaic spelling):
- Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію МЫ, НИКОЛАЙ ВТОРЫЙ ИМПЕРАТОРЪ и САМОДЕРЖЕЦЪ ВСЕРОССІЙСКІЙ
- Московский, Кіевскій, Владимірскій, Новгородскій,
- Царь Казанскій, Царь Астраханскій, Царь Польскій, Царь Сибирскій, Царь Херсониса 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.
Titles for Russian Tsar's family
Tsaritsa (царица) is the term used for an Empress, though in English contexts this seems invariably to be altered to tsarina. In the Imperial Russia, the official title was Empress (Императрица). Tsaritsa (Empress) could be either the ruler herself or the wife (Empress consort) of tsar.
Tsesarevich (Цесаревич) (literally, "son of the tsesar") 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") (from the capital letter).
Tsarevich (царевич) was the term for a son. 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). 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 abdicated not just on his own behalf but also on behalf of his teenage son, who was too ill to take up the throne. He named as his heir his own brother Michael. Michael initially accepted the throne and was proclaimed as Tsar Michael II. He subsequently declined it. 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. Michael, if he can be said to be tsar at all, exercised no governmental functions and merely reigned nominally for a short time before himself abdicating. Michael, like his brother Nicholas, was executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
- In 1924 Grand Duke Cyril Romanov proclaimed himself Emperor in exile.
- The following articles list tsars, among other rulers.
- History of Bulgaria
- History of Russia
- History of Finland
- History of Belarus
- History of Ukraine
- History of Poland
- Lists of incumbents
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