Morozov, Boris Ivanovich

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(15901661), lord protector and head of five chancelleries under Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich.

Boris Ivanov syn Morozov was an important, thoughtful leader, but he also stands out as an exceptionally greedy figure of the second quarter of the seventeenth century. His cupidity provoked uprisings in early June 1648 in Moscow and then in a dozen other towns, forcing Tsar Alexei to convoke the well-known Assembly of the Land of 16481649, the product of which was the famous Law Code of 1649.

Morozov in some ways personified the fact that early modern Russia (Muscovy) was a service state. He was not of princely (royal) origins; his ancestors had been commoners who rose through service to the ruler of Muscovy. Thus his patronymic would have been Ivanov Syn (son of Ivan), rather than Ivanovich, which would have been the proper form were he if noble origin.

By 1633 Morozov was tutor to the heir to the throne, the future Tsar Alexei. He and Alexei married Miloslavskaya sisters. After Alexis came to the throne, Morozov became head of five chancelleries (prikazy, the "power ministries": Treasury, Alcohol Revenues, Musketeers, Foreign Mercenaries, and Apothecary) and de facto ruler of the government (Lord Protector). He observed that there were too many taxes and came up with the apparently ingenious solution of canceling a number of them and concentrating the imposts in an increased tax on salt. Regrettably Morozov was not an economist and probably could not comprehend that the demand for salt was elastic. Salt consumption plummetedand so did state revenueswhile popular discontent rose.

As Morozov took over the government, he brought a number of equally corrupt people with him. They abused the populace, provoking a rebellion in June 1648. The mob tore one of his coconspirators to bits and cast his remains on a dung heap. Another was beheaded. Tsar Alexei intervened on behalf of Morozov, whose life was spared on the condition that he would leave the government and Moscow immediately. This arrangement helped to calm the mob. Morozov was exiled on June 12 to the Kirill-Beloozero Monastery, but he returned to Moscow on October 26. He never again played an official role in government, though he was one of Alexis's behind-the-scenes advisers throughout the 1650s.

Morozov's greed led him to appropriate vast estates for himself. They totalled over 80,000 desiatinas (216,000 acres) with over 55,000 people in 9,100 households; this made him the second wealthiest Russian of his time. (The wealthiest individual was Nikita Ivanovich Romanov, Tsar Mikhail's uncle, who led the opposition to Morozov's government.) In 1645 the government, in response to a middle service class provincial cavalry petition, promised that the time limit on the recovery of fugitive serfs would be repealed as soon as a census was taken. The census was taken in 16461647, but the statute of limitations was not repealed. All the while Morozov's extensive correspondence with his estate stewards reveals that he was recruiting peasants from other lords and moving such peasants about (typically from the center to the Volga region) to conceal them. Morozov was also active in the potash business: he ordered his serfs to cut down trees, burn them, and barrel the ashes for export.

See also: alexei mikhailovich; assembly of the land; boyar; chancellery system; enserfment; law code of 1649


Crummey, Robert Owen. (1983). Aristocrats and Servitors: The Boyar Elite in Russia, 16131689. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Hellie, Richard. (1971). Enserfment and Military Change in Muscovy. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Richard Hellie