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So, the sixteenth century was a time when large masses of the Russian population were uprooted. One foreign observer called it a major demographic crisis, which it certainly was. There was a rising wave of popular discontent in every social group and class. Freedom was ruthlessly eliminated by the actions of the state and the frustrated landlords. Perhaps, because of these domestic problems foreign states became involved in Russian affairs. It was certainly tempting since Russia seemed to have lost its unity and cohesion, making it a vulnerable tool for the ambitions of her more powerful neighbors. These hungry neighbors were primarily Poland-Lithuania and Sweden.
Clashes with Neighbors In 1587 Sigismund III from the Swedish house of Vasa was elected to the Polish-Lithuanian throne. Russia vigorously opposed this election since it threatened to create a large state on her western border. But, despite Russian opposition Sweden and Poland-Lithuania were joined in 1592, when Sigismund succeeded to the Swedish throne. However, the Swedes themselves objected and Sigismund was forced to return to Poland. Russia had been in an almost permanent state of war with Poland. But in 1587 a 15-year armistice was signed between Poland and Russia and Sigismund confirmed this return to peace.
Using this armistice with Poland, Russia than tried to recover some territory lost to Sweden by Ivan IV. The Russians actually occupied Yam and Ivanograd, but failed to take their major objective, Narva. Peace was finally restored again with Sweden in 1595. But Russia' access to the Baltic was still denied her and disagreements with Sweden, therefore, continued to plague Russian policy-makers and became another cause of the great war with Sweden under Peter the Great.
Dimitry Alive During this time the actual tsar was Fedor, but he was totally incapable of ruling. The real power was in the hands of a group of boyars. Among these the most powerful turned out to be Boris Gudonov, whose only claim to prominence was the marriage of his sister to the feeble tsar Fedor. Although he had no legitimate claim to the throne Boris Gudonov managed to have himself elected to the tsarship in 1598.
For a while managed fairly well, but then the problem of the Pseudo-Dimitry popped up and gave him considerable trouble. It also invited foreign entanglements.
Dimitry, the brother of Fedor and son of Maria Nagoi, Ivan IV's last and illegal wife, was the only legitimate heir. But Dimitry had apparently died at Uglich in 1591;
some think he was killed through a conspiracy of boyars inspired by Boris Gudonov.
This, of course, opened the way' for Boris to assume the throne after Fedor died in 1598. However, a series of pretenders now claimed that Dimitry had not really died and that therefore the legitimate heir was still about the land and should assume his office.
One of these pretenders was a fellow by the name of Gregory Otrepov, who set himself up on the Dniester in a castle owned by the Polish nobleman George Muiszek. He was supported by many other Polish nobles and even became a Roman Catholic in 1804. Part of the reason for the conversion was a proposed union of east and west and the introduction of Roman Catholicism in Russia. Eventually Otrepov became engaged to Marina Muiszek, the daughter of George. Yet, thus far the Polish government was not, apparently involved in these machinations. It was a purely Russian phenomenon, according to the Russian historian Platonov. Some even claim that the Jesuits and the Pope were behind this scheme, but there is no proof for that.
What does seem fairly certain is that the powerful boyar family of the Romanovs and other boyars wanted to use Dimitry as a weapon against Boris Gudonov. As a result of this Boris began to persecute the Romanov family' But this only crystallized the opposition, which began to gather around the so-called Pseudo-Dimitry.
When Boris Gudonov died in 1605 many boyars who had been loyal to Boris now would rather switch than fight and consequently went over to the forces of Dimitry. So Dimitry-Otrepov was able to install himself in the Kremlin with his Polish retinues. His success was due to three important factors:
- the weakness of the Moscow government;
- the neutrality of the upper classes; and - the enthusiasm of the underprivileged and oppressed who looked upon Dimitry as a savior and easily believed the propaganda about him being the real son of Ivan IV and hence the true tsar.
The connivance of the Polish government and the assistance of the Polish nobles certainly helped his assumption of power as well, although it was not the determining factor at this time. The small nucleus of Polish knights in Dimitry's army soon lost its identity when numerous Russian forces and peasants joined Dimitry's army as it advanced on the capital in 1604. So the dominant factor was not Polish but Russian. Yet once he was established in Moscow the Poles in his retinue began to make trouble. Many foreign mercenaries demanded their pound of flesh. Jesuits and Polish clericals in his following schemed for a re-union of the eastern and western churches.
Fatal Mistakes The Russians, both high and low, soon began to resent the foreigners whom Dimitry appointed to high office. Dimitry's Roman Catholicism and his obvious indifference to orthodox ritual troubled the Russians and made them suspicious. A kind of conservative reaction set in. A series of disputes developed over petty titles and etiquette always involving Poles versus Russians. Then in March 1606 Dimitry and Marina Muiszek were married in a public ceremony within the Kremlin. A large Polish delegation, including many Roman Catholic friars came to the wedding. A massive popular disturbance, instigated by the boyars, led to the murder of Dimitry and hundreds of Poles and Lithuanians. A boyar by the name of Vasili Shuisky now takes the reigns of government in his hands and calls himself tsar. He is offered support by Charles IX of Sweden against a group of dissident Cossacks who refuse to accept his claim to the throne.
Again Dimitry But Shuisky refused to accept the offer, probably because he feared that the Swedes also had designs on Russia. In any case, a so-called Second Pretender pops up in Poland in 1607. The Poles under King Sigismund now give more direct aid to the Russian pretender, primarily because Sigismund resents the massacre of the Poles during the wedding of the first pretender in May 1606. The Poles are also incensed at the indignities which the Russians repeatedly heaped on the Polish ambassadors in Russia. This Second Pretender was largely dependent on Polish troops and two Polish magnates, Sapia and Rozynski, assume command of the Polish army for the pretender. The dissident Cossacks are also recruited and led by the Poles.
So a war develops between the Russians and the Second Pretender's PolishCossack army with its headquarters at Tushino. This war began in the spring of and soon led to the blockade of Moscow. To aid his nephew, the tsar, prince Michael Skopin-Shuisky now decides to get into the act. The prince begins to gather his own private army of mercenary Swedes, Frenchmen, Englishmen and Scotch adventurers, totaling some 15,000 men, and marches to relieve Moscow. Meanwhile, the Second Pretender at Tushino quarrels with Rozynski and his Polish followers and thus looses his support. As a result Tushino has to be abandoned and the blockade of Moscow collapsed in 1610.
Swift Shifts The Poles meanwhile are mad at the Russians for making the alliance with Sweden and in September 1609 they decide to besiege Smolensk. Sigismund also calls on the Poles at Tushino to join his colors and as a result the Russian aristocrats and even the leader of the Russian church Filaret who had supported the Pretender go over to the Poles under Sigismund when the star of the Pretender seems to be sinking fast. These Russian nobles who changed their allegiance to the Poles were sarcastically referred to as perelety or ''migratory birds,'' which did not of course endear them to the hearts of loyal Russians, especially the common folk.
These boyar switch-hitters now made an agreement with Sigismund which promised to take Wladyslav as the new tsar of Muscovy. It also assured the inviolability of Russian institutions and the Orthodox Church, including the rights of landlords over their peasants and the rights of dvoriane to promotion on the basis of service and merit. The still dissident Cossacks meanwhile join the second Pretender who has now migrated to Kaluga. Michael Shuisky dies and is replaced by Prince Dimitry Shuisky - the Shuisky family is bound and determined to get to the seat of power - who in turn is defeated by the Hetman Zolkiewski and his Cossacks. As a result many of Dimitry's troops desert to the Poles. The Swedes, who had been fighting against some of the Cossacks decide to withdraw to Novgorod. Finally the boyar tsar Vasili Shuisky, who had managed to hang on to the slim threads of power, is dethroned and a government made up of the boyar duma takes over in July 1610.
But this boyar duma has accepted the agreement made with Sigismund by the perelety and thus the Poles become the rulers of Moscow between 1610 and 1612.
Wladyslav is elected tsar by a questionable Zemski Sobor and the population of Russia (mostly Muscovites) takes an oath of allegiance to the new tsar and to Zolkiewski after the latter defeated the Second Pretender.
Popular Uprising Opposition to the Poles built up almost as soon as the foreign dictatorship was established in Moscow. The old patriarch Hermogen stimulated anti-Catholic feeling in Moscow. Prokopy Liapunov organized an opposition army in Riazan, where there were few Poles to stop him. In Nishni-Novgorod a wholesale cattle dealer by the name of Kurzma Minin organized an army to march on Moscow and Hermogen who has bad meanwhile been arrested, spreads opposition from prison. The Cossacks are organized by Prince Trubetskoy and Zarutsky.
A large, though scattered, militia is thus organized to free Russia from the Polish intruders. While Moscow is being attacked the Second Pretender, having lost most of his following, is murdered. But the city of Novgorod, always going its own way, severs all ties with Moscow and submits to Swedish suzerainty. But a Polish army manages to storm and take Smolensk, while Rome and Poland celebrate the Polish-Catholic victory. Liapunov fails, but Minin and a new hero by name of Pozharsky organize a militia which marches on Moscow, where the Cossacks have already taken control of a large portion of the city. Two armies under Pozharsky and the Cossacks under Zarutsky are able to defeat a Polish relief army which is sent to hold Moscow. By December 1612 the Poles are completely routed and Russia is once again free of foreign control, although the situation is still faced with the difficult problem of securing a new tsar.
A Revolution that Restored the Past So in conclusion we might ask what the significance of this time of trouble really was. Some have insisted that these events constituted a kind of social revolution in Russia. If it was a revolution, it was certainly an abortive one, that achieved very little in the way of substantive social change. The masses were awakened and moved to take joint action; dynasties were changed; there was foreign occupation; there was desolation, hatred, and impoverishment. Yet not a single constructive political idea came out of it all. Energies were expanded to restore the past, not to bring about social change. Muscovite absolutism emerged unscathed from these primitive conflicts and disorders.
The only important change was the final breakdown of the ancient princely and boyar families, a process which had already started during the unification and the oprichnina. The successors to the power of the ancient aristocracy were the dvoriane who owed their new wealth and influence to the sovereigns pleasure. This new aristocracy followed the example of the old. What we have here is a mere change of personalities rather than a remodeling of the social structure. The church retained its estates and privileges, as one could have expected.
Serfdom was rejuvenated and officially accepted. In fact it was stronger than before and became the very foundation of the Muscovite state. The foreigners merely stimulated chauvinism and the fear to depart from tradition. The Cossacks, the mass of peasants and slaves gain nothing from this movement which they had mainly generated. A small minority of Cossacks were allowed to form military, semiautonomous communities and the masses of slaves and serfs were returned to their masters.
The reasons for the failure of this so-called revolution are obvious enough: the anarchistic character of the movement, the inability of the leaders to keep it under the control, the lack of revolutionary vision and the deep-rooted tradition of passive submission.
Vocabulary work Read and memorize the following words and expressions, suggest their Russian equivalents:
esprit de corps (франц.) machination, n labor shortage underprivileged, adj exodus, n oppressed, adj plight, n (e.g. the plight of peasants) savior, n (the Savior) peasantry, n connivance, n secular, adj friar, n ecclesiastical, adj (=clerical) indignity, n (=humiliation) tenant, n headquarters, n flee, v (fled, fled) insurgent, n (adj) creditor, n (ant.: debtor) cession, n blackmail, n (v) besiege, v vulnerable, adj the common folk armistice, n inviolability, n Pseudo-Dmitry wholesale, n (adj) (e.g. a wholesale cattle pop up, v dealer) entanglement, n militia, n heir, n (e.g. a legitimate heir) intruder, n conspiracy, n sever, v (e.g. to sever ties, relationship) pretender, n joint action retinue, n impoverishment, n Questions for discussion Comment on the following:
1. What factors dragged the country into the Time of Troubles Is it doomed to be a general rule that after any great period in the history of a country there follows a period of weakness and confusion 2. A phenomenon of pretenders: why are people prone to believe 3. Would you, following the author’s view, call the popular movement of the early 17th century in Russia a revolution 4. Is there really the old Russian deep-rooted tradition of passive submission What are its roots Составитель Гончарова Любовь Юрьевна Редактор БунинаТ.Д.
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