Vasily III was the son of Tsar Ivan III of Russia, and came to the throne in 1505 on his father's death. He continued his father's policies of making more Russian territory directly subject to rule from Moscow, rather than being under a subordinate prince; the city of Pskov was probably the most important conquest within Russia. He ruled that it was treason for a Russian prince to switch allegiance from the Moscow ruler to another one (at the time, this would usually be Lithuania) and continued making the nobles servants to the Tsar rather than independently powerful.

Vasily had wars with outsidersfor much of his reign, notably with Lithuania/Poland and the Mongol Tartars (peace with Lithuania was secured in 1526 after the Khazan Tartars on the southeast started attacking). He kept up diplomatic relations with the Holy Roman Empire and other European powers, and eventually married a Lithuanian princess, Helena. He also established a major trade fair in Russia to substitute for the ones Russians had previously visited in Tartar territory.

Vasily died suddenly in 1533 and left his three-year-old son, later to be called Ivan the Terrible, as Tsar with his wife Helena as regent.