Time of Troubles

views updated May 21 2018


In the decade and a half before the founding of the Romanov dynasty in 1613, Russia endured what has been known ever since as the Time of Troubles, a period of severe crisis that nearly destroyed the country. It followed the death of Tsar Fyodor I in 1598 and ended with the election of Tsar Mikhail Romanov in 1613. The Time of Troubles has long fascinated and puzzled the Russian people and has inspired scholars, poets, and even musicians. To many Russians who lived through the Troubles, it was nothing more or less than God's punishment of their country for the sins of its rulers or its people. Others since then have sought more secular explanations, noting that at the center of the Troubles was the most powerful uprising in Russian history prior to the twentieth century, the so-called Bolotnikov rebellion (named after the rebel commander, Ivan Bolotnikov). Focusing on that event, historians erroneously concluded long ago that at the heart of the Troubles was Russia's first social revolution of the oppressed masses against serfdom. Recently, that interpretation has been decisively overthrown; instead of a social revolution, the Time of Troubles produced Russia's first civil war, a conflict that split Russian society vertically instead of horizontally. The long and bloody civil war occurred in two distinct phases: 16041605 and 16061612.

The Time of Troubles began with the extinction of Moscow's ancient ruling dynasty. After Tsar Fyodor I's death in 1598, Boris Godunov (regent for mentally retarded Fyodor) easily defeated his rivals to become tsar. Nevertheless, many people questioned the legitimacy of the new ruler, whose sins supposedly included having Tsar Ivan IV's youngest son, Dmitry of Uglich, killed in 1591 in order to clear a path to the throne for himself. During Tsar Boris's reign Russia suffered a horrible famine that wiped out up to one-third of the population. The effects of the famine, coupled with serious long-term economic, social, demographic, fiscal, and political problems, contributed to the decline in legitimacy of the new ruler in the eyes of many Russians. Then in 1604 the country was invaded by a small army headed by a man claiming to be Dmitry of Uglich, miraculously saved from Godunov's assassins. Many towns, fortresses, soldiers, and cossacks of the southern frontier quickly joined Dmitry's forces in the first popular uprising against a tsar. When Tsar Boris died in April 1605, resistance to the Pretender Dmitry (also known as "False Dmitry") broke down, and he became tsarthe only tsar ever raised to the throne by means of a military campaign and popular uprisings.

Tsar Dmitry reigned for about a year before he was murdered by a small group of aristocrats. His assassination triggered a powerful civil war, essentially a duplicate of the civil war that had brought Dmitry to power. The usurper Vasily Shuisky denounced the dead tsar as an impostor, but Dmitry's supporters successfully put forward the story that he had once again miraculously escaped death and would soon return to punish the traitors. So energetic was the response to the call to arms against Shuisky that civil war raged for many years and produced about a dozen more pretenders claiming to be Tsar Dmitry or other members of the old ruling dynasty. Starting in 1609, Russia's internal disorder prompted Polish and Swedish military intervention, resulting in even greater misery and chaos. Eventually, an uneasy alliance was formed among Russian factions, and the Time of Troubles ended with the establishment of the Romanov dynasty in 1613.

origins of the troubles

The origins of the Time of Troubles were very complex. In the age of the gunpowder revolution, the princes of Moscow unified Russia, quickly transformed their country into a highly effective state geared to war, and expanded their realm with dizzying speed. In the process of building the largest country in Europe, however, they created a coercive central state bureaucracy that subjugated virtually all elements of Russian society and grossly overburdened the bulk of the population. Russian autocracy and imperialism contributed significantly to the development of a serious state crisis by the beginning of the seventeenth century. Tsar Ivan IV ("the Terrible") personally deserves some of the blame for the Time of Troubles. His unsuccessful Livonian War (15581583) and his dreaded Oprichnina contributed to Russia's serious problems, as did his imposition of high taxes and his decision to allow the lords to collect taxes directly from their peasants. Ivan's policies and actions retarded Russian economic activity and resulted in the massive flight of peasants and townspeople to untaxed lands or to the southern frontier. That in turn contributed to declining state revenue and to the weakening of the tsar's gentry militia, which was heavily dependent on peasant labor.

In spite of clear signs of economic and social distress, Tsar Ivan's successors continued Russia's imperial drive to the south. Acting as Fyodor I's regent, Boris Godunov took drastic steps to shore up state finances and the gentry cavalrymen in order to continue Russia's rapid expansion to the south and east. In the 1590s, Godunov enserfed the Russian peasants, bound urban taxpayers to their taxpaying districts, and converted short-term contract slavery into real slavery. Those harsh measures did not solve Russia's fiscal problems and actually made things much worse. Many towns became ghost towns, and Russia's already staggering economy continued to decline. Godunov's harsh policies of exploiting the population of the southern frontier and harnessing the cossacks to state service also contributed to the country's problems. By the time Tsar Fyodor I died, Russia was suffering from a severe economic and social crisis, and many blamed Boris Godunov for their misery.

the first phase of the troubles

The Time of Troubles began with the political struggle following the extinction of the old ruling dynasty in 1598. Godunov easily defeated his rivals, including Fyodor Romanov (the future Patriarch Filaret, father of Mikhail Romanov), and quickly became tsar; but his reputation suffered badly in the process. Boris was accused by his rivals of having arranged the murder of Dmitry of Uglich in 1591 in order to clear a path to the throne for himself. He also suffered from a commonly held view that boyars were supposed to advise tsars, not become tsars. During the reign of Tsar Boris (15981605), Russia's severe state crisis continued to deepen. In addition, Boris's harassment of certain aristocratic families caused some of them to enter into secret conspiracies against him. It was the great famine of 16011603, however, that ruined Tsar Boris's reputation and convinced many of his subjects that God was punishing Russia for the sins of its ruler. Successive crop failures resulted in the worst famine in Russian history, which wiped out up to a third of Russia's population. When a man claiming to be Dmitry of Uglich appeared in Poland-Lithuania in 1603 seeking support to overthrow the usurper Godunov, many of Tsar Boris's subjects were inclined to believe that this man really was Dmitry, somehow miraculously rescued from Godunov's assassins and now returning to Russia to restore the old ruling dynastyand God's grace. Tsar Boris and Patriarch Job denounced the Pretender Dmitry as an impostor named Grigory Otrepev, but that did not stop enthusiasm for the true tsar from growing, especially on the southern frontier and among the cossacks.

Russia's first civil war started with the invasion of the country by the Pretender Dmitry in October 1604. Helped by self-serving Polish lords such as Jerzy Mniszech (father of Marina Mniszech), Dmitry managed to field a small army for his campaign for the Russian throne. As soon as he crossed the border into southwestern Russia, Dmitry was greeted with enthusiasm by much of the frontier population. Several towns voluntarily surrendered to him, and many Russian soldiers (and their commanders) quickly joined Dmitry's army. Large numbers of cossacks also swelled the Pretender's forces as he advanced. In December 1604, Dmitry's army defeated Tsar Boris's much larger army near Novgorod-Seversky, but in January 1605 the Pretender was decisively defeated at the battle of Dobrynichi. Dmitry hastily retreated to Putivl while Tsar Boris's army wasted time waging a terror campaign against the local populations that had dared to support the Pretender. By the spring of 1605, Dmitry had recovered, and his forces were growing rapidly. Tsar Boris's army, by contrast, got bogged down trying to capture rebel-held Kromy, a key fortress guarding the road to Moscow. The death of Boris Godunov in April 1605 paved the way to tsardom for Dmitry. Boris was succeeded by his son, Tsar Fyodor II, but the rebellion of Fyodor's army at Kromy on May 7 sealed the fate of the Godunov dynasty. On June 1, 1605, a bloodless uprising in Moscow overthrew Tsar Fyodor. Dmitry then entered the capital in triumph, and he was crowned on June 20.


Tsar Dmitry ruled wisely for about a year before being assassinated by Vasily Shuisky, whose seizure of power reignited the civil war. Dmitry's reign is controversial; many historians have been convinced that he was an impostor named Grigory Otrepev who never commanded the respect of the aristocracy or of the Russian people. In fact, Tsar Dmitry was not the monk-sorcerer Otrepev; instead, he impressed his contemporaries as an intelligent, well-educated, courageous young warrior-prince who truly believed that he was Ivan the Terrible's youngest son. Tsar Dmitry was also a popular ruler. He did, however, open himself up to criticism for his lack of zealousness in observing court rituals and for a perceived laxity in his commitment to Russian Orthodox Christianity. Criticism notwithstanding, it is significant that Tsar Dmitry was toppled by a coup d'état involving a small number of disgruntled aristocrats, not by a popular uprising. His assassination, during the celebration of his wedding to the Polish Princess Marina Mniszech in May 1606, shocked the nation and very quickly rekindled the civil war that had brought him to power. The renewed civil war in the name of the true tsar Dmitry raged for years and nearly destroyed Russia.

Within a few hours of Tsar Dmitry's assassination, his supporters successfully put forward the story that he had once again miraculously escaped death and would soon return to punish Shuisky and his co-conspirators. One of Tsar Dmitry's courtiers, Mikhail Molchanov, escaped from Moscow and assumed Dmitry's identity as he traveled to Sambor (the home of the Mniszechs) in Poland-Lithuania. There he set up Tsar Dmitry's court and began seeking support for the struggle against Shuisky. Molchanov sent letters to Russian towns and to the cossacks of the southern frontier declaring that Tsar Dmitry was still alive and urging them to rise up against the usurper Tsar Vasily. Those appeals had a powerful effect. Enthusiastic rebel armies led by Ivan Bolotnikov and other commanders quickly pushed Tsar Vasily's forces out of southern Russia and reached the suburbs of Moscow by October 1606. During the siege of the capital, however, Shuisky bribed two rebel commanders to switch sides. Istoma Pashkov's betrayal of the rebel cause occurred during a major battle on December 2, forcing Bolotnikov's men to break off the siege and retreat south. After enduring long sieges in Kaluga and then Tula, Bolotnikov was finally forced to surrender to Tsar Vasily in October 1607, but his men (with their weapons) were allowed to go free. Many of them immediately rejoined the civil war against Shuisky by entering the service of the second false Dmitry, an impostor who suddenly appeared in southwestern Russia during the summer of 1607.

The second false Dmitry was nothing more than a puppet of his Polish handlers, but his name attracted men from far and wide. Soon Dmitry took up residence in the village of Tushino and waged war against Shuisky in Moscow. The second false Dmitry managed to attract many Russian aristocrats into his service; Filaret Romanov became Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in Tushino. When Marina Mniszech was released by Tsar Vasily, she, too, went to Tushino where she recognized her putative husband and eventually produced an heir, little Ivan Dmitriyevich. For over a year, war-torn Russia had two tsars and two capitals. Just as Shuisky's luck appeared to be running out, however, the excesses of Tsar Dmitry's foreign troops and cossacks caused a fullscale revolt against the second false Dmitry throughout much of northern Russia. Starting in late 1608, ordinary townspeople began fighting back against constant pillaging by Tsar Dmitry's troops and heavy taxes collected by his rapacious agents.

Tsar Vasily eventually turned to Sweden for assistance against the second false Dmitry. In early 1609, troops raised by King Karl IX crossed the border and assisted Shuisky's forces in clearing Dmitry's supporters out of north Russia. Karl also gobbled up Russian territory for himself, immediately provoking Polish intervention in Russia. The Polish king Sigismund III invaded Russia and laid siege to the great fortress of Smolensk. Under pressure from all sides, the Tushino camp broke up during the winter of 16091610. The second false Dmitry and Marina fled to Kaluga, but some Tushinite courtiers traveled to Smolensk to beg Sigismund to permit his son, Wladyslaw, to become tsar of Russia. The king seemed to agree, and soon a Polish army headed toward Moscow. In June 1610, at the battle of Klushino, the Poles decisively defeated Tsar Vasily's army. In July, exasperated Russian aristocrats seized Tsar Vasily and forced him to become a monk. Eventually, the powerful Russian lords who gained control of Moscow (the Council of Seven) agreed to allow the Poles to occupy the capital in the name of Tsar Wladyslaw. A grand procession of Russian dignitaries (including Filaret Romanov and Vasily Shuisky) was then sent to parley with King Sigismund about Wladyslaw's accession, but the king threw them in prison. Sigismund had decided to conquer Russia and not to rule it indirectly through his son. In Moscow, the Council of Seven was unceremoniously shoved aside as a brutal military dictatorship was established by the Poles.

The Polish occupation of Moscow shocked much of Russia, and soon ordinary people began to organize to oust the foreigners. The murder of the second false Dmitry in December 1610 was celebrated by the Poles, but it actually removed the chief obstacle to unifying the Russian people against foreign intervention. A powerful but still disjointed patriotic movement slowly began to develop throughout the land and even in Moscow. Various Russian factions warily reached out to one other and with great difficulty coordinated operations against the hated Catholic Poles. Inside Moscow, protests against the Latin heretics by Patriarch Hermogen got him thrown into prison; but, before he starved to death, Hermogen sent letters to many towns urging his fellow Orthodox Christians to rise up and throw the evil foreigners out of Russia. Hermogen's call to arms was highly effective.

By early 1611, a patriotic Russian commander, Dmitry Pozharsky, forged an uneasy alliance with forces that had been loyal to the second false Dmitry, including the cossack commander Ivan Zarutsky, who championed the cause of Marina Mniszech and Ivan Dmitriyevich. Pozharsky attempted to liberate Moscow in March; but, after bitter street fighting during which the Poles burned much of the outer city, Pozharsky's patriots were forced to retreat and regroup. By June 1611, the patriots managed to form a highly representative council of the entire realm to coordinate military operations against the foreigners and to lay the foundation for a temporary national government. Pozharsky and others made sure that militarily useful cossacks who were willing to join the national militia received adequate food and the promise of freedom even if they had formerly been serfs or slaves. Such unprecedented promises attracted many new recruits to the patriot cause. Due to rivalry among its commanders, however, the national liberation movement stumbled during the following months. The unscrupulous Zarutsky tried to take over as militia commander, but other patriots wanted nothing to do with his unruly cossacks or little Ivan Dmitriyevich. Unfortunately, various factions ended up fighting against each other, and for many months chaos reigned in Russia. Shortly after the Poles captured Smolensk in June 1611 and the Swedes captured Novgorod in July, some beleaguered Russians asked the king of Sweden to consider putting his son on the Russian throne. Most patriots, however, dreamed of a Russian tsar.

By late 1611, a new patriotic movement and a new military force capable of salvaging Russia's national sovereignty began to take shape in Nizhny Novgorod. There a butcher named Kuzma Minin convinced his fellow citizens to raise money for an army to liberate Russia and to restore order to the realm. Minin chose Prince Pozharsky to be the commander-in-chief of the new militia, and Minin himself became the patriotic movement's treasurer with very broad powers. Many Russian towns and villages quickly joined the movement, and Yaroslavl soon emerged as the headquarters of the provisional government. Pozharsky succeeded admirably in getting cossacks and others to join his growing militia; and once Zarutsky broke with the national liberation movement and rode off to the south with Marina Mniszech and Ivan Dmitriyevich, Pozharsky was able to concentrate on the siege of Moscow.

The Polish garrison in Moscow surrendered on October 27, 1612. As soon as the capital was liberated, urgent and unprecedented messages were sent throughout the country calling for representatives of all free men (nobles, gentry, soldiers, townspeople, clergy, peasants from crown and state lands, and cossacks) to come as quickly as possible to Moscow. Soon the most representative Assembly of the Land (Zemsky sobor) in Russian history gathered to choose a new tsar. Under intense pressure from the cossacks (who by then made up half of the national militia), Filaret Romanov's son Mikhail was elected on February 7, 1613.

The Time of Troubles officially ended with the crowning of Tsar Mikhail on July 21, 1613, but it took several years to restore order to a devastated land. While bureaucrats and members of the Assembly of the Land worked feverishly to rebuild the Russian government, Tsar Mikhail dispatched military forces to destroy Zarutsky, Marina Mniszech, and Ivan Dmitriyevich. They were finally captured and executed in 1614. Kicking the Poles and Swedes out of Russia proved to be far more difficult. Only after a Swedish invasion was stalled by the heroic defense of Pskov in 16151616, did King Gustavus Adolphus agree to negotiate with Tsar Mikhail. The Treaty of Stolbovo (1617) restored Novgorod to the Russians, but the Swedes kept enough captured territory to block Russian access to the Baltic Sea until the time of Peter the Great. After 1613, Polish armies tried repeatedly to try to put Tsar Wladyslaw on the Russian throne. The sturdy defense of Moscow in 1618 by Prince Pozharsky, the capital's civilian population, and the cossacks (who were very badly treated by the Romanov regime) finally convinced the Poles to negotiate. Poland gained many west Russian towns (including Smolensk) from the Truce of Deulino (1618), but Filaret Romanov was released from Polish captivity. In many ways, the celebration of Patriarch Filaret's return to Moscow in 1619 marked the real end of the Time of Troubles.

The Time of Troubles had been a terrible nightmare for the Russian people. By the time the Troubles ended, Russia's economy was shattered and many towns were ruined. As a result, the early Romanovs faced serious fiscal problems. The conditions of overtaxed townspeople, serfs, and gentry cavalrymen actually worsened during the early seventeenth century and set the stage for sharp conflicts under Tsar Mikhail's son, Tsar Alexis. Ironically, the rapid expansion of the Romanov empire after 1613 caused many people to conclude incorrectly that the Time of Troubles did not have much long-term impact. In fact, the terrifying experience of the Troubles produced a powerful consensus within Russian society in favor of enhancing the already great authority and prestige of the tsar (and the patriarch). That consensus significantly strengthened Russian autocracy and imperialism, and it also slowed down the development of capitalism and the emergence of civil society in Russia.

See also: assembly of the land; bolotnikov, ivan isayevich; dmitry of uglich; dmitry, false; fedorivanovich; filaret romanov, patriarch; godunov, boris fyodorovich; ivan iv; oprichnina; otrepev, grigory; pozharsky, dmitry mikhailovich; romanov, mikhail fyodorovich; shuisky, vasily ivanovich


Barbour, Philip. (1966). Dimitry Called the Pretender: Tsar and Great Prince of All Russia, 16051606. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Bussow, Conrad. (1994). The Disturbed State of the Russian Realm, tr. G. Edward Orchard. Montreal: McGill-Queen's.

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

Howe, Sonia, ed. (1916). The False Dmitri: A Russian Romance and Tragedy Described by British Eye-Witnesses, 16041612. London: Williams and Norgate.

Margeret, Jacques. (1983). The Russian Empire and Grand Duchy of Muscovy: A Seventeenth-Century French Account, tr. and ed. Chester S. L. Dunning. Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh University Press.

Massa, Isaac. (1982). A Short History of the Beginnings and Origins of These Present Wars in Moscow under the Reigns of Various Sovereigns down to the Year 1610, tr.G. Edward Orchard. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Perrie, Maureen. (1995). Pretenders and Popular Monarchism in Early Modern Russia: The False Tsars of the Time of Troubles. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Platonov, S. F. (1970). The Time of Troubles, tr. John T. Alexander. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.

Skrynnikov, Ruslan. (1982). Boris Godunov, tr. Hugh Graham. Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press.

Skrynnikov, Ruslan. (1988). The Time of Troubles: Russia in Crisis, 16041618, tr. Hugh Graham. Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press.

Zolkiewski, Stanislas. (1959). Expedition to Moscow, tr. and ed. J. Giertych. London: Polonica.

Chester Dunning

Time of Troubles (Russia)

views updated May 17 2018


TIME OF TROUBLES (RUSSIA). The Time of Troubles (15981613), a complex political crisis manifested in repeated palace coups, civil war, and foreign occupation, nearly resulted in the shattering of the Muscovite state. The Time of Troubles (smutnoe vremia) had three interconnected causes.

The first and most crucial cause was the temporary delegitimation of royal authority following the extinction of the Riurikid dynasty in 1598, when Tsar Fedor Ivanovich died without an heir. Fedor's successor, Tsar Boris Godunov (ruled 15981605), was never able to fully legitimate himself because of court factionalism, his failure to marry into an eminent boyar family, and the suspicion that he had engineered the mysterious death of Tsarevich Dmitrii Ivanovich in 1591.

A second cause was economic dislocation and social unrest in Muscovy's northwestern and southern provinces. In the northwest, the Livonian War, border wars with the Swedes, and overtaxation had stripped the gentry of most of their peasant tenants. This greatly hampered Moscow's ability to mobilize troops from this region, traditionally the largest reservoir of military manpower. By contrast, the entire southern frontier from Seversk in the west to the Volga in the east was experiencing accelerated military colonization to protect against Crimean Tatar raids. Because the colonists were given smaller land and cash entitlements than prevailed in central Muscovy and because they settled among state peasants on crown frontier lands who paid corvée, considerable social discontent arose on the southern frontier. The upper stratum of the middle service class in Riazan' region was also increasingly alienated from Godunov's government because it felt denied the precedence honor and promotion opportunities due it.

The third cause was Muscovy's vulnerability to entanglement in the conflict between Sweden and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. War between King Sigismund III Vasa of Poland and Charles IX of Sweden (ruled 16041611) had broken out in 1600. This war eventually spilled over into northwestern Muscovy, because that region had been weakened during the last Livonian War and because of the growing weakness of Boris Godunov's regime.

The first phase of the Troubles (15981606) was primarily a dynastic crisis after the death of Tsar Fedor and took the form of boyar intrigues and then mass revolt against the "usurper" Boris Godunov. The spread of famine and banditry in 16011603 finally provided Godunov's old enemiesthe Romanovs, Nagois, and other boyar clanswith the opportunity to turn the populace against him. They began circulating rumors that Tsarevich Dmitrii Ivanovich had not after all perished at Uglich in 1591 but had escaped Godunov's assassins and was returning to reclaim the throne. In 1603 a pretender Tsarevich Dmitrii surfaced in the grand duchy and received recognition and military support from several powerful Polish and Lithuanian magnates. This False Dmitrii invaded in 1604 and quickly won support across the southern frontier and into central Muscovy. When Tsar Boris died suddenly in April 1605, his generals came over to the False Dmitrii, abandoning Boris's heir Fedor Borisovich and allowing the False Dmitrii to take the throne in June 1605. The First False Dmitrii ruled less than a year. In May 1606 the boyar Vasilii Shuiskii, the Golitsyns, and Metropolitan Hermogen incited riots in Moscow against the presence of the large Polish retinue of Dmitrii's bride, Marina Mniszech, and in the course of these disorders Dmitrii was assassinated.

The second phase of the Troubles (16061610) was marked by a series of regional outbreaks against Tsar Vasilii Shuiskii, which ultimately provided both the Swedes and Poles grounds for military intervention. The first such insurrection began in Seversk in 1606 and spread across the south and into central Muscovy, much like the movement that had supported the late False Dmitri. Although led by Ivan Bolotnikov, a former military slave, and involving a significant number of peasant insurgents, it was not a "peasant war" but included many gentry. Bolotnikov was defeated at Tula in 1607, but his forces regrouped and joined with Cossacks and Polish and Lithuanian mercenaries to form a new army under the nominal leadership of a Second False Dmitrii. After an unsuccessful siege of Moscow, they established a rival government at nearby Tushino (1608). Several powerful boyars, most significantly the monk Fedor Romanov (who had been tonsured under Boris Godunuv), abandoned Tsar Vasilii and went over to the Tushinites. Vasilii responded by launching a counteroffensive using troops levied from Novgorod and the far north and a large number of Swedish mercenaries. The Second False Dmitrii was put to flight. But by inviting in Swedish mercenaries Tsar Vasilii had now given King Sigismund III pretext to invade Muscovy and place Smolensk under siege. Fedor Romanov and those surviving Tushinite elites unwilling to seek Vasilii's forgiveness entered into negotiations with Sigismund and invited him to send Crown Prince Władysław to rule Muscovy. A Polish army under Hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski routed Tsar Vasilii's Russo-Swedish forces at Klushino (June 1610). The next month Vasilii was deposed by the Golitsyns, Riazan' gentry leaders, and agents of Fedor Romanov.

After the overthrow of Tsar Vasilii a council of seven boyars holding power in Moscow accepted the bargain offered by the Tushinites and Polish commanders and invited Władysław to rule on the condition that he take the Orthodox faith. But instead of Władysław they were sent a Polish occupation army. In this third phase of the Troubles (16101613) no tsar ruled in Moscow, but rather a Polish military dictatorship under siege by a succession of national liberation militias raised by Muscovite provincial elites (military town governors, wealthy merchants, Riazan' gentry) in uneasy alliance with cossack leaders. Smolensk fell to King Sigismund; a Swedish army occupied Novgorod. The Second False Dmitrii was assassinated by his own lieutenants; more new pretenders appeared (including an Infant Brigand, the son of the Second False Dmitrii and Marina Mniszech) but were unable to attract large followings. In 1611 a liberation militia led by Prince Dmitry Pozharsky established a provisional government at Iaroslavl; with Cossack support it finally drove the Poles from Moscow in October 1612. An Assembly of the Realm (Zemskii Sobor) in early 1613 elected Fedor Romanov's sixteen-year-old son, Michael, as tsar.

Incursions by Polish forces acting in the name of Władysław continued for another five years. An armistice signed at Deulino in 1618 required that Smolensk and parts of Seversk and Chernigov be restored to the commonwealth. Karelia was ceded to Sweden in return for the recovery of Novgorod. Much of northwestern and central Muscovy had been depopulated, and political reconstruction was hampered by the loss of several important chancellery archives in the great conflagration at Moscow in 1612.

The Troubles did not permanently alter the political and social order, however. The consultations of Tsar Michael with the Zemskii Sobor did not mean that patrimonial autocracy had given way to estate-representative monarchy; the power of the boyar elite had not declined, and there was no "ascendancy" of the provincial middle service class. Reconstruction (under the guidance of Tsar Michael's father, now patriarch) involved the expansion and refinement of mid-sixteenth-century institutions: the central chancelleries, the military town governors, and the pomest'e system of service-conditional land tenure.

See also Boris Godunov (Russia) ; False Dmitrii, First ; Livonian War (15581583) ; Michael Romanov (Russia) ; Romanov Dynasty (Russia) ; Russia ; Russo-Polish Wars ; Sigismund II Augustus (Poland, Lithuania) ; Vasa Dynasty (Sweden) .


Dunning, Chester S. L. Russia's First Civil War: The Time of Troubles and the Founding of the Romanov Dynasty. University Park, Pa., 2001.

Platonov, S. F. The Time of Troubles. Translated by John T. Alexander. Lawrence, Kans., 1970.

Brian Davies

Mniszech, Marina

views updated May 23 2018


(15881614), Polish princess and Tsaritsa of Russia (1606).

Marina Mniszech was the daughter of Jerzy Mniszech (Palatine of Sandomierz), a Polish aristocrat who took up the cause of the man claiming to be Dmitry of Uglich in his struggle against Tsar Boris Godunov. The intelligent and ambitious Marina met the Pretender Dmitry in 1604, and they agreed to marry once he became tsar. After invading Russia and toppling the Godunov dynasty, Tsar Dmitry eventually obtained permission from the Russian Orthodox Church to marry the Catholic princess. In May 1606, Marina made a spectacular entry into Moscow, and she and Tsar Dmitry were married in a beautiful ceremony.

On May 17, 1606, Tsar Dmitry was assassinated, and Marina and her father were taken prisoner and incarcerated for two years. Tsar Vasily Shuisky released them in 1608 on the condition that they head straight back to Poland and not join up with an impostor calling himself Tsar Dmitry who was then waging a bitter civil war against Shuisky. In defiance, Marina traveled to Tushino, the second false Dmitry's capital in September 1608, and recognized the impostor as her husband, thereby greatly strengthening his credibility. Tsaritsa Marina even produced an heir, Ivan Dmitrievich. When Marina's "husband" was killed in 1610, she and her lover, the cossack commander Ivan Zarutsky, continued to struggle for the Russian throne on behalf of the putative son of Tsar Dmitry. Forced to retreat to Astrakhan, Marina, Zarutsky, and Ivan Dmitrievich held out until after the election of Tsar Mikhail Romanov in 1613. Eventually expelled from Astrakhan's citadel, the three were hunted down in the Ural Mountain foothills and executed in 1614.

See also: dmitry, false; dmitry of uglich; otrepev, grigory; shuisky, vasily ivanovich; time of troubles


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

Perrie, Maureen. (1995). Pretenders and Popular Monarchism in Early Modern Russia: The False Tsars of the Time of Troubles. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Chester Dunning

About this article

Marina Mniszech

All Sources -
Updated Aug 08 2016 About encyclopedia.com content Print Topic