Moscow emerged in its new role of the gatherer of the Russian lands as early as the close of the fourteenth century, after the battle of the Kulikovo Field where its Grand Prince, Dmitry Ivanovich, later known as Donskoi (of the Don: the Kulikovo Field lay beyond the Don River), dealt a crushing blow to Mongol - Tatar hordes led by Khan Mamai.
In Novgorod, the unifying policy of Moscow encountered stiff resistance both on the part of the boyars, who feared the loss of their vast landed possessions, and of the great merchants, who anticipated in the Muscovite state a serious rival in the field of Western European trade. Those two ruling groups of the Novgorod population pursued a course of foreign policy aimed at harassing and opposing Moscow at every turn. But their attitude was by no means universal. In Novgorod, as in other lands all over Rus, an ever increasing number of people were growing weary of the evils of feudal internecine strife, they wished for domestic peace and for a strong central administration which might bring it about. The lower and more democratic strata of the city's population openly leaned toward Moscow, hoping to find in its Grand Prince an ally against their own boyars whose riches and insolence were growing daily.
At the close of the fourteenth century, the struggle between Moscow and Novgorod was further sharpened by the refusal of the Novgorodian clergy to go to Moscow in obedience to the summons of the Metropolitan, and to submit to trial by him as head of the Russian Church.
In the first half of the fifteenth century, the anti - Muscovite faction of the Novgorod boyars gained a strong political advantage from the growing rivalry between the two great metropolitan sees, that of Moscow and that of Kiev - the latter supported by Constantinople - each of which aspired to supremacy in the Russian Church. The wily Novgorodian boyars played the two sees against one another, and wrested important concessions from Moscow by threatening to recognize the supreme authority of Kiev. At this juncture, the church question became paramount to Novgorod politics. Using the inner tensions in the Church, the energetic Euthymius II, Archbishop of Novgorod, contrived to have himself formally ordained at Smolensk, by Gerasimus, Metropolitan of Kiev. This move made the archbishopric of Novgorod independent of the Moscow see.
The anti - Muscovite tendencies of the ruling faction of Novgorod reached so high a point that the city gave refuge to two of the Grand Prince's most bitter antagonists: Dmitry Shemiaka who laid claim to the throne of Moscow, and one of his principal adherents, Vasily Grebionka.
In addition, Archbishop Euthymius II showed a marked tendency to promote Western influence, and generally to welcome foreigners. One of them, Pachomius the Serbian, a fifteenth - century author invited to Novgorod to write the Lives of several local saints and to compose church services in their honour, tells of him that "all men arriving from strange and foreign parts he would receive lovingly, comfort them, and show them favour according to their merit".