Fyodor Alexeyevich

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(16611682), tsar of Russia, February 9, 1676 to May 7, 1682.

Fyodor was the ninth child of Tsar Alexis and his first wife, Maria Miloslavskaya. He became heir to the throne following the death of an elder brother in 1670. Fyodor is said to have studied Latin and Polish with the Belarusian court poet Simeon Polotsky, but sources indicate that his education was predominantly traditional, with some modern elements. Just fourteen on his accession in 1676, Fyodor ruled without a regent, but was supported by a number of advisors and personal favorites, notably his chamberlain Ivan Yazykov and the brothers Alexei and Mikhail Likhachev. Less intimate with the tsar, but highly influential, was Prince Vasily Golitsyn. Members of Fyodor's mother's family, the Miloslavskys, were less prominent, although they succeeded early in the reign in securing the banishment of Artamon Matveyev and several members of the rival Naryshkin clan. There were power struggles throughout the reign. There were also rumors that Fyodor's ambitious sister Sophia Alekseyevna regularly attended his sickbed. In fact, Fyodor, although delicate, was by no means the hopeless invalid depicted by some historians. Records show that he regularly participated in ceremonies and presided over councils. He married twice. His first wife Agafia Grushetskaya (of part-Polish extraction) and her newborn son died in July 1681. In February 1682 he married the noble-woman Marfa Apraksina.

The central event of Fyodor's reign was war with Turkey (16761681), precipitated by Turkish and Tatar incursions into Ukraine, compelling Russia to abandon the fort of Chigirin on the Dnieper. The treaty of Bakhchisarai (1681) established a twenty-year truce. War determined economic policy. In 1678 a major land survey was conducted in order to reassess the population's tax obligations, providing the only reliable, if partial, population figures for the whole century. In 1679 the household rather than land became the basis for taxation. Provincial reforms included abolition of some elected posts and wider powers for military governors. Fyodor's major reform was the abolition of the Code of Precedence (mestnichestvo ) in 1682. An associated scheme to separate civil and military offices and create permanent posts was shelved, allegedly after the patriarch warned that such officials might accumulate independent power. In 1681 and 1682 a major church council sought to raise the caliber of priests and intensified the persecution of Old Believers.

Fyodor had his portrait painted, encouraged the introduction of part-singing from Kiev, and approved a charter for an academy modeled on the Kiev Academy (implemented only in the late 1680s). Polish fashions and poetry became popular with courtiers, but traditionalists regarded "Latin" novelties with suspicion. Tsar Alexis's theatre was closed down, and foreign fashions were banned. Historians remain undecided whether Fyodor was a sickly young nonentity manipulated by unscrupulous favorites or whether he showed promise of becoming a strong ruler. His reign is best viewed as a continuation of Russia's involvement in international affairs and of mildly Westernizing trends, especially via Ukraine and Poland.

See also: alexei mikhailovich; golitsyn, vasily vasilievich; peter i; sophia


Bushkovitch, Paul. (2001). Peter the Great: The Struggle for Power, 16711725. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Soloviev, Sergei. (1989). History of Russia: Vol. 25, Rebellion and Reform: Fedor and Sophia, 16821689, ed. and tr. Lindsey Hughes. Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press.

Lindsey Hughes