Michael Romanov (Russia) (1596–1645; Ruled 1613–1645)

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MICHAEL ROMANOV (RUSSIA) (15961645; ruled 16131645)

MICHAEL ROMANOV (RUSSIA) (15961645; ruled 16131645), tsar of Russia. Michael Fedorovich Romanov came to the throne in 1613 as the solution to the dynastic crisis of the Time of Troubles. The son of the important boyar Fedor Nikitich Romanov, whom Boris Godunov exiled in 1600, Michael was only sixteen when the Assembly of the Land chose him as tsar on 21 February 1613. Michael, as grandson of the brother of Ivan the Terrible's first wife, had a tenuous link to the older dynasty, but he was primarily the choice of the boyar clans still in Moscow, the church, the Cossacks, and the townspeople. His father, tonsured in 1601 with the monastic name Filaret, was in prison in Poland in the early years of the reign, so the dominant force at court was at first his mother, the nun Marfa (born Kseniia Shestova, tonsured in 1600), who relied on the boyars B. M. and M. M. Saltykov as well as others. In those years the new regime secured peace with Sweden (Stolbovo, 1617) and Poland (Deulino, 1618), losing some border territory but reestablishing control over the remainder.

In 1619 the return of Filaret and his selection as patriarch of Moscow brought a powerful figure to the court. Filaret dominated his son and was the main advocate of a war of revenge against Poland. The result was the Smolensk war of 16321634, in part the result of Swedish prompting, as Gustavus II Adolphus hoped to secure his rear in Poland while he intervened in the Thirty Years' War. The Russian army, including many European mercenary regiments, laid siege to Smolensk but were unable to take the city and had to surrender to the Polish army of relief under King Władysław IV. Filaret's death (October 1633) hastened the end. The Russian commander M. B. Shein was executed as a scapegoat, and the two sides made peace in 1634. Russia gained only insignificant border points and Władysław's renunciation of the Russian throne.

The last decade of the reign saw a fundamental change in Russian policy. The primary effort went toward a rapprochement with Poland, and as a corollary, a similar approach was taken toward Denmark. Long negotiations with Christian IV over the marriage of Michael's eldest daughter Irina to Prince Valdemar of Denmark came to an impasse over the insistence of the Russian church that he convert to Orthodoxy. The issue was unresolved at Michael's death and then abandoned. The main purpose of friendship with Poland was to allow Russia to concentrate its resources against the Ottomans and their Crimean vassals. Michael inaugurated a vast program of construction of defensive works on the southern frontier, including blockhouses, forts, Cossack settlements, and other obstacles to prevent Tatar raids. He did not, however, want to engage the Ottomans themselves, and so ordered the Don Cossacks in 1642 to return the recently captured fortress of Azov at the mouth of the Don to the Turks.

Much less is known about the politics behind Michael's internal policies. His government restored the institutions and societal structures shattered during the Time of Troubles. The boyar clans dominant before that time returned to power, and the newfound influence of the Cossacks and other lower orders gradually dissipated. Filaret took seriously his duties as patriarch and managed to rebuild the shattered institutions of the church. His attitudes toward religious culture were contradictory, for he pursued a policy of restricting contacts with the Orthodox of Poland, while simultaneously encouraging the importation of most Ukrainian religious texts into Russia. In the meantime, discontent with traditional devotional and liturgical practices grew among the clergy, a development that would lead to major conflict after Michael's death.

In these years Russia tried to recover its trade links with the Dutch and English, while trying to avoid giving them too extensive commercial privileges. Commercial relations with Sweden flourished, and merchants from Novgorod and Pskov even began to visit Stockholm. These years also saw the beginning of a long demographic boom that lasted into the twentieth century. In the short run it was crucial to the restoration of agriculture.

Michael was married twice, briefly to princess Maria Vladimirovna Dolgorukaia (1624) and then to Evdokiia Luk'ianovna Streshneva (1626), who bore his heir, Tsar Alexis I Mikhailovich, and eight other children. A devout and apparently traditional Russian noblewoman, her political role seems to have been minor. Michael founded the Romanov dynasty that ruled Russia until 1917. Unfortunately, his reign is one of the least studied periods of Russian history.

See also Alexis I (Russia) ; Cossacks ; Gustavus II Adolphus (Sweden) ; Russia ; Russo-Polish Wars ; Time of Troubles (Russia) .


Soloviev, Sergei M. History of Russia. Vol. 16, The First Romanov: Tsar Michael 16131634. Translated by G. Edward Orchard. Gulf Breeze, Fla., 1991. Vol. 17, Michael Romanov: The Last Years. Translated by G. Edward Orchard. Gulf Breeze, Fla., 1996.

Torke, Hans-Joachim. Die staatsbedingte Gesellschaft im Moskauer Reich: Zar und Zemlja in altrussischen Herrschaftsverfassung 16131689. Leiden, 1974.

Paul Bushkovitch

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Michael Romanov (Russia) (1596–1645; Ruled 1613–1645)

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