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Dmitry of Uglich


(15821591), youngest son of Ivan the Terrible, whose early death was followed by the appearance of two "False Dmitry" claimants to the throne in the Time of Troubles.

Dmitry Ivanovich, the son of Tsar Ivan IV, was born in 1582 at a time of dynastic crisis. The tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich had been killed in 1581, and his mentally impaired brother Fedor had failed to produce offspring after several years of marriage. Dmitry's mother, Maria Nagaia, was the last of the many wives taken by Ivan IV. Although their marriage was considered uncanonical, the birth of Dmitry raised hopes that the Rurikid line might continue. Upon the death of Ivan IV in 1584, Boris Godunov moved to protect the interests of his brother-in-law, Tsarevich Fedor, by removing Dmitry and the Nagoi clan from Moscow and exiling them to the town of Uglich. The Nagois were kept under close surveillance, and the young Dmitry, who suffered from epilepsy, grew up in Uglich surrounded by nannies and uncles. On May 15, 1591, the boy's body was discovered in a pool of blood in a courtyard. Upon hearing the terrible news, the Nagois incited a mob against Godunov's representatives in Uglich and several were murdered. A commission of inquiry sent from Moscow concurred with the majority of eyewitnesses that Dmitry's death was an accident caused by severe epileptic convulsions that broke out during a knife-throwing game, causing him to fall on a knife and slit his own throat. Rumors of Godunov's complicity began to circulate almost immediately, but they were not officially accepted at court until 1606. In that year tsar Vasily Ivanovich Shuisky, who had headed the commission of inquiry that pronounced Dmitry's death an accident fifteen years earlier, brought the Nagoi clan back to court and proclaimed Dmitry's death a political murder perpetrated by Godunov. Shuisky also organized the transfer of Dmitry's remains to Moscow and promoted the cult of his martyrdom for propaganda purposes. During the Time of Troubles, broad sectors of the population and influential factions at court endorsed the notion that Dmitry had miraculously escaped death. Over a dozen seventeenth-century texts excoriate Godunov for Dmitry's murder, and historians have debated the events surrounding his death and public resurrection ever since.

See also: dmitry, false; godunov, boris fyodorovich; ivan iv; rurikid dynasty; shuisky, vasily; time of troubles


Dunning, Chester. (2001). Russia's First Civil War: The Time of Troubles and the Founding of the Romanov Dynasty. University Park: Penn State University Press.

Brian Boeck

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