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ABOUT RUSSIA / HISTORY / Distempered Time

Distempered Time

Boris Godunov's Reign

In the beginning of XVII century crisis in economy and political structure worsened considerably. It was caused, first of all, by Oprichnina and the Livonian War. Reforms that had been carried out to improve the situation had little effect.

The Russian State entered the period of Distemper. It was the time of tragic developments that put the country under the menace of destruction. This period adjoined crowning of Boris Godunov (1598-1605). Strange though it may seem, but ceremonial coronation of Godunov in September 1598 turned out to be the beginning of decay of the state centralization policy that was continued by B. Godunov after the death of Ivan the Terrible. Accession of Godunov, who belonged by his origin neither to the Ryurikoviches, nor to the Gediminoviches, in contrast to his rivals - the Mstislavsys and the Shuyskys, reinforced strifes among Russian nobility. It was widely rumored that Tsarevitch Dmitry was killed in Uglich by Godunov's order.

Tsar Boris followed the same tendencies both in internal, and in foreign policy that were outlined during the last years of Ivan the Terrible's reign. First of all, the government of Godunov cared of satisfaction of essential needs of noble servicemen who represented its main support. Abolition of tarkhans 1584 (tax-free lands) and the law about feudal lords' ploughlands allocation (the beginning of 90's) purposed the same aim.

The rise of the church's possession was strictly limited. Some invigoration of farms of servicemen began to take shape. The series of actions was carried out to stop depopulation of the country's centre. For example, registration of rural population was implemented to return people who left for privately owned landed property in cities. Lands stock-taking was carried out, the system of 'forbidden' years and the five-year term for runaway peasants pursuit were established (1597). Decrees about villeins had for an object to assign servants to nobility.

Some relaxation of internal social tension in the country was promoted by foreign activity of Godunov. Favourable conditions formed for development of the southern and south-eastern areas of the country and advance to Siberia. A stream of peasants, villeins, craftsmen who evaded famine and oppression gushed out to the Volga region, the southern and Siberian lands. In foreign policy the search of peace in the years of 1584-1598 formed a principle of maintenance of friendly relations with neighbouring countries. Russia did not wage sanguinary wars during the reign of Boris Godunov.

To realize his political program, Godunov needed a well-organized State machinery. He recruited many outstanding administrators (clerks the Schelkalovs, Druzhina Petelin, Elizary Vyluzgin, etc.) Godunov also put State Departments in order. Boris Godunov aimed to destroy the patrimonial principle of the Boyard Duma formation and replaced it by family-corporative one (when 'closeness' to the ruler played the main role).

Achievements of Boris Godunov's policy were fragile, they were based on overstrain of social and economic potential of the country. That inevitably led to a social outburst. All layers of society protested: boyards and nobility were indignant over reduction of their patrimonial rights, noble servicemen were dissatisfied with the government that could not prevent runaway of peasants, urban population opposed upgrowth of the tax burden, orthodox clergy was displeased with reduction of privileges and strict control of autocracy.

Famine of 1601-1603.

In the beginning of the century the country was struck by terrible failure of crops. This disaster ruined population. Peasants ran from famine and epidemics, they abandoned their houses and went to cities. Landowners did not wish to feed their villains and dismissed them paying no money. Crowds of hungry and wretched people roamed over the country.

Trying to weaken social pressure the government of Godunov in 1601 temporarily permitted peasants to move from one landowner to another. State construction works were organized in Moscow. They included accomplishment of Ivan the Great Bell Tower of the Kremlin. Population was provided with free-of-charge grain from the state granaries. But even this could not prevent starvation of many people. Only in Moscow, during two years died 127 thousand people.

At the same time the country had grain. Usury and unrestrained speculation prospered. Land owners - boyars, monasteries and even Patriarch Iov held huge stocks of grain in store. They waited for the price to go up. Kirillo-Belozersk Monastery, for example, stored about 250 thousand poods of grain (that was enough to support 10 thousand people during a year).

Mass runaways of peasants and villains went on, as well as refusals to pay duties. Many people left for the Don and Volga where there were cossacks settlements. Hard economic situation inside the country resulted in decrease of Godunov's government authority. In 1603 the wave of numerous disorders and revolts of starving people swelled greatly, especially in the south of the country. A large group of rebels under command of Khlopok Kosolap was active near Moscow. The governmental armies managed to stifle such "revolts" with a lot of difficulty.

The Reign of Lzhedmitry I

The neighbouring Rech Pospolitaya State (the Polish-Lithuanian State) was impatiently waiting for any occasion to interfere in domestic affairs of weakened Russia. The Galich nobleman Yury (Grigory) Otrepyev, who had become a monk of the Chudov Monastery, ran in 1602 to Lithuania and there declared that he was Tsarevich Dmitry, the son of Ivan IV, saved by a miracle in Uglich on May 15, 1591.

Most probably he was a protege of disgraced boyards the Romanovs. In the beginning the Polish King Sigizmund III helped the impostor secretly. With assistance of governor of province Yury Mnishek (whose daughter Maria was to become the wife of Otrepyev) Lzhedmitry I gathered an army of mercenaries, 4 thousand strong.

In October, 1604 Lzhedmitry entered the southern areas of the country that were in revolt. A number of cities came over to the impostor's side. His army was also reinforced by the troops of the Don and Zaporozhye Cossacks. Local rebels joint the army as well. By the beginning of 1605 "Tsarevitch" had mustered more than 20 thousand people. The battle with the Tsar's Army commanded by Prince F.I. Mstislavsky took place on January 21, 1605 near Dobrynichi Village (Kamaritskaya Volost). Lzhedmitry I was totally defeated. Still, by miracle, he managed to flee to Putivil.

In this critical for the impostor period Tsar Boris Godunov suddenly died on April 13, 1605. His 16-years son Feodor came to the throne. The boyards refused to recognize the new Tsar. On May 7 the Tsar's Army headed by voevode Peotr Basmanov and Princes the Golitsinys came over to the side of Lzhedmitry I. The Boyards-conspirators organized coup d'etat on June 1, 1605. That provoked disorders in the capital. Tsar Feodor was dethroned and strangled together with his mother.

On June 1, 1605 Moscow swore allegiance to the impostor who settled in the Kremlin. However, hopes for a "kind and just" tsar were ruined before long. The Russian throne was now occupied by the Polish protege. Foreigners flooded the capital and behaved as if they were in a conquered city. Over the whole country people spoke openly that the Monomah's Crown was now possessed by a fugitive monk. The boyards did not need a tsar-adventurer any longer. A new plot was preceded by a wedding of Otrepyev and Marina Mnishek (a Catholic was crowned with a crown of the Orthodox state). Moscow was in a rage. On the night of May 17, 1606 a rebellion of the city population flared up. Conspirators rushed into the Kremlin and killed Lzhedmitry I.

The Reign of Vasily Shuysky (1606-1610)

In three days a high-born boyard Vasily Ivanovich Shuysky, the organizer of the plot became a new Tsar of Russia. Formally the power passed to the Boyard Duma, but in fact its authority was ephemeral.

Internal political situation of the country grew worse. Russia was stirred by rumours that "Tsarevitch Dmitry" survived again. A mass revolt burst out in the south with the centre in Putivl. Revolted cossacks, peasants and urban population elected Ivan Isayevich Bolotnikov, ex-military leader of the Chernigov Prince A.A. Telyatevsky, who came with a big troop of Zaporozhye Cossacks, the Great Voevode in Putivl.

In the summer of 1606 Bolotnikov with a 10-thousand strong army of rebels started a campaign against Moscow. The army of Vasily Shujsky was defeated near fortresses Kromy and Yelets, which were captured. By October, 1606 big in number troops of noble servicemen I. Pashkov (streletses' leader), Razan voevode L. Lyapunov and G. Sumbulov joined Bolotnikov's army.

Despite of the great force rebellious troops failed to seize the capital. In a battle at Kolomnskoye Village on December 2, 1606 the Tsar armies smashed the insurgents (the noblemen's troops came over to the Tsar's side). After that the insurgent army had to retreat and in December, 1606 camped in Kaluga. In May, 1607 Bolotnikov moved the army to Tula. Hastily mustered governmental army march out to seize Tula on May 21. It was led by Tsar Vasily.

The besieging party made up a dam on the river Upa and flooded the city. That caused capitulation (October 1607). Vasily Shuysky promised to mercy the rebels. However the boyard government did not keep the word and the participants of the revolt were savagely punished. Ivan Bolotnikov was banished to Kargopol, where shortly after he was secretly blinded and drowned.

The Reign of Lzhedmitry II

A new impostor appeared in Starodub in the summer of 1607. Contemporaries speculated a lot about his origin. Barnulabovskaya Chronicles seems to be the most authentic in this respect. It states that the name of the new impostor was Bogdanka and he was a tutor of a priest in Schklov. This man became a new protege of Poland.

In May, 1608 the Tsar's armies were crushed near Volkhov. Lzhedmitry II in the head of a big army mustered by Polish and Lithuanian magnates set off for Moscow. On the way his army was enlarged by Cossacks of ataman Ivan Zarutsky and the remains of Bolotnikov's troops. In the beginning of June, 1608 the army of Lzhedmitry II reached Moscow. It was defeated at Khimki and Presnya and had to camp at Tushino. Due to this Lzhedmitry II was named 'the Tushino Thief".

The siege of the capital was laid. A part of Moscow nobility came over to the impostor's side. A new Duma and Departments started functioning in Tushino. In 1608 the Polish troops captured Rostov and took Metropolitan Filaret Romanov prisoner. He was brought to Tushino and proclaimed the patriarch.

Marina Mnishek released from Moscow in July, 1608 by the terms of the armistice with Poland went with her father to Tushino. There she recognized the impostor as her husband. It was a beginning of anarchy.

The Tushino party controlled a significant part of the territory of the state. They plundered and ravage the land. The impostor himself was totally controlled by Polish military leaders. Predatory actions of the Poles caused repulse of peasants and townspeople. 16 months (since September, 1608 till January, 1610) the Polish-Lithuanian troops of Yan Salega besieged the Troitse-Sergiyev Monastery, but its defenders managed to repulse all attacks of the enemy.

The Swedish Intervention. Semiboyarshina.

The Swedish intervention. Vasily Ivanovich decided to ask Sweden for the military assistance (the King of Poland laid claims for the Swedish throne). A 24-year-old prince M.V. Skopin-Shuysky, the Tsar's nephew, was sent to the North to gather an army. He signed a treaty with Sweden on February 28, 1609 in Vyborg. According to the treaty, Korely Uyezd passed to Sweden in return for 15-thousand strong army. But in fact Sweden provided only 7 thousands of mercenaries led by Ya.P. Delagardi.

This army was reinforced by irregulars on its way through Novgorod and Tver. M.V. Skopin-Shuysky crushed the Tushino party and raised the siege of the Troitse-Sergiyev Monastery. On March 12, 1610 the victorious commander entered Moscow. This served as a signal to the collapse of the Tushino camp. The impostor fled to Kaluga. The biggest part of the Polish army returned to King Sigizmund III. In April 1610 in Moscow during a celebration of the victory Skopin-Shuysky suddenly died. He was supposed to be poisoned by the Tsar's relatives.

In Autumn of 1609 Rech Pospolitaya started an open invasion of Russia. In September, 1609 Sigizmund III in the head of a huge army besieged Smolensk. The city garrison under command of Voevode M.B. Shein showed heroic resistance during 20 months. 'Semiboyarshina'.

The attempt made by the Tsar Vasily Shuysky to rescue the besieged Smolensk ended in failure. In June, 1610 the army of D. Shuysky, an untalented brother of the Tsar, sent to Smolensk was beaten by Polish hetman S. Zholkevsky at Klushino Village. Lzhedmitry II again came up to Moscow. This determined Shuysky's lot - the nobility revolted against him. In July 17, 1610 the Tsar was dethroned and cloistered. The power passed to the government formed of 7 boyards ("Semiboyarshina"). The government was headed by F.I. Mstislavsky. The desperate situation forced boyards to conclude a treaty with Sigizmund III. Under this treaty Vladislav, a son of the Polish King, was to become a new Russian ruler. The boyards sent official representatives to Smolensk for negotiations about Vladislav's conversion into Orthodoxy.

On the night of September 21, 1610 boyards committed the national treason - they opened the gate for Hetman Zholkevsky's army. Shortly after Hetman Zholkevsky set A. Gonsevsky in charge for the Polish garrison and left the capital. He took Shuysky as a prisoner to Poland.

In the meantime the Swedish armies started invasion of the Russian North. Later they deceitfully seized Novgorod.

Fled Lzhedmitry II settled in Kaluga again. Here, on December 11, he met his death. The impostor was killed during a hunt by a tatar prince from his bodyguard.

The Zemshina Territorial Army and Liberation of Moscow

The first Zemshina (Ryazan) Territorial Army (1611).

After the capture of Moscow by Poles Russia faced the threat of loss of its national independence. However, the great ravage of the Russian Land caused a high rise of a patriotic movement. The Ryazan Voevode Prokopy Lyapunov and the Russian Orthodox Church in the person of Patriarch Germogen dispatched official letters to Russian cities calling for help.

Prokopy Lyapunov became the organizer of the first national (Zemshina) Territorial Army, which marched out to Moscow in the beginning of March, 1611. On March 19 muscovites excited rebellion. Street fights flared up. The interventionists began to lose positions. They set Moscow on fire. The city was reduced to ashes. The Polish garrison sheltered behind the walls of the Kremlin and Kitay-Gorod.

When the Territorial Army approached Moscow, they found only the ashes. Lyapunov was joined by Tushino noblemen led by D.T. Trubetskoy and cossacks under command of Ataman Ivan Zarutsky. They laid the siege of the enemy garrison. Prokopy Lyapunov was killed by cossacks in June, 1611. The first Zemshina Territorial Army broke apart. Only Cossacks stayed under the capital.

In the meantime Sigizmund III seized exhausted Smolensk. The Swedes started negotiations with the Novgorod nobility about the recognition of the son of the Sweden King Charles-Phillip as the Russian Tsar.

The second Zemshina (Nizhniy Novgorod) Territorial Army (1612).

The Russian State had neither central government, nor army, and was on the verge of the national catastrophe. But it did not happen. All people of Russia rose to oppose the Polish-Swedish intervention.

It was Nizhni Novgorod that united people for the battle. Here, in October the Zemshina head Kuzma Minin-Sukhoruk, a petty tradesman who sold meat and fish, addressed the townspeople with an appeal to create a national army to liberate Moscow. The patriotic appeal met immediate response of population of Nizhny Novgorod. They decided to give one third of personal property on creation of the army. Under the initiative of Minin 'the Council of the Whole Land" was formed. It became the Provisional Government. Prince D.M. Pozharsky, who showed a lot of military talent during the Moscow revolt against the Poles, was offered a position of the Zemshina Army commander. In the beginning of March, 1612 the Territorial Army started a campaign against Moscow through Yaroslavl that became a base station.

In the end of August, 1612 the army of Minin and Pozharsky approached the capital. On August 22-24 a violent battle against the King's army commanded by Hetman Hotkevich took place under the walls of Moscow. Hotkevich was to help the besieged garrison. The Poles were completely defeated. The Kremlin garrison of interventionists capitulated on October 26. The capital of Russia was liberated. Complexity of political situation in Rech Pospolitaya and lack of finance for the next military campaign forced Sigizmund III to abandon the claims for the Russian throne for a time.

Liberation of Moscow allowed to restore the government in the country.

The Zemshina Council was gathered in the capital in January, 1613. It included 700 representatives of nobility, boyards, clergy, streletses and Cossacks of 50 cities. They were to solve a question of election of a new Russian tsar. Finally they elected a sixteen-year-old Mikhail Romanov (1613-1645), the son of Metropolitan Filaret.

Moscow State
Moscow State Formation
Russian State in XVI century
Restoration after "Distemper"


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