The first peasants’ war in Russia or the Time of Troubles

Bogolubov_Krestn_hod_v ‘The time of troubles’ as many historians call upon that period was turning point in Russian history, not only with its unprecedenting events, but also with its great importance. After the Soviet Era, many scholars rejected the theory that that period was the ‘first peasant war’ in Russian history, instead they were inclined to refer to it as a civil war, something which they found much more compatible to the people’s perception.

That period was indeed troubling and deserved to be called upon that name, also it was serious mixture of discontent, confusion and grievance.

Everything began with the appearance of one man, which identity is still under the scrutiny of many observations, who claimed to be Tsarevich Dmitrii, Ivan the Terrible’s youngest son who died in 1591. That man intentions were not only to put into question the Boris Godunov’s reign, but also to overthrown the tsar. His explanation how he survived and fled from the hands of death was so credible than, after being reported to Prince Adam Vishnevetskii at Brahin in Lithuania, was represented to the King Sigismund of Poland. So successful was the pretender’s plan that he eventually was taken under the patronage of Prince Constantine’s father-in-law, Jerzy Mniszech, the Palatine of Sandomierz, whose family seat was at Sambor, in Poland. Mniszech promised Dmitrii military support in return of gaining part of Russian territory, as a result the ‘lost’ son agreed and even took the daughter of the first as his wife, which was playing role as a guarantee. We could see how those even subsequently led to serious strains between Russia and Poland and the implementation of further difficulties was almost unavoidable.

However, some scholars argue that behind that unpredictable and sudden arrival of Dmitrii was an attempt of some families, between which the names of Romanovs, Shuiskii or Nagois were mentioned. On the other hand, due to lack of ample evidences the involvement of some of them was not justified or the possibility of boyars intervention, too.
After gaining enough support, Dmitrii entered Kiev with a small army of Polish troops and Cossacks, strongly determined to make his way throughout the empire. After his successful occupation of many regions like Chernigov, Putivl’, Ryl’sk and Kursk his popularity grew rapidly hand in hand with the support of many people explicitly not willing to tolerate Godunov’s policies anymore. Despite the fact that the ‘true’ tsar did not make any promises concerning the lower class society, mainly who supported him, the peasants but only expressed his views of unity against Gudanov’s regime and alternative future plan, he rose into favor even more. Those feelings were intensified even more when the sudden death of Boris Godunov took place on April 1605. Many of the boyars swore allegiance to Fedor Borisovich (Godunov’s son), but on 6th May considerable number of soldiers and army’s men changed the sides and turned to the Dmitrii. The way to Moscow was open to Dmitrii as result of that shifting nature of power and loyalty.
A proclamation wasa read out in the streets of Moscow , where people were gathering around, as a result massive revolt took place against the Godunov’s reign. No sooner did the former Tsaritsa Mariia Nagaia arrive and recognized Dmitrii as her son, he was proclaimed a tsar and his reign began( which weight was not longer than an year or less).
Some historians are quite dubious about the importance of Dmitrii’s reign due to the fact that his achievements were in shortage. We could not put so much blame on this, if we consider the short time in which he was on the throne. However, we could not turn blind eye on the fact that he granted with considerable land and money the servicemen of the southern and south-western towns who fervently supported him and also exempt them from paying taxes for fixed period of time, he indeed knew how to express his gratitude. He even planned campaign against the Turks and the Cremean Tatars, but unfortunately those ambitions were thwarted after his overthrown and dead in 1606.
As the situation continued to deteriorate, a new fresh complexion was added to the mixture, after Dmitrii’s death, on the throne came Vasili Shuiskii. As a response, everywhere around the empire a rumor was spread out that Dmitrii’s death was a fraud and he was only biding time and gathering forces. Indeed, that was sheer falsification, but new Dmitriis popped up in the scene much more quickly that it was expected. In the end, a new Dmitrii (the second false Dmitrii) made an appearance in the town of Starodub, in the Seversk region, in June 1607. His stategy was different, he entered Russia with considerable troops of Polish solders and made his own new ‘Moscow’ , just outside the city. That new ‘Moscow’ or Tushino, as this was the name of the town, had its own military support, royal court and even own Orthodox Patriarch. Moreover, the second Dmitrii was trying to alienate Moscow from the country with all the ways possible, while his supporters grew in numbers. Much more shocking events happened in his support, for instance Marina, the wife of the first Dmitrii, recognized and accounted him as her first husband, she even born a child from him. The country was relatively speaking in shock and terror, many people were shifting sides in the blink of the eye and wave of uncertainty was making his way everywhere. During that unbearable tension in the country, Shuiskii found himself in position of seeking foreign help. So, he made negotiations with the king of Sweden in possibility of war against Poland, as the second party provided military support to Dmitrii II.

Nevertheless, the grand battle between Poland and Russia occurred after Dmitrii II’s death (1610) at the very moment he ceased to be a factor. The war was triggered by another difficulty, while the army was exhausted by the events within the country, the vast majority of the boyars were ready to accept with open hands the Polish Crown Prince Ladislaus as the new Tsar as long as he maintained the Orthodox supremacy in Russia.

The Poland ‘s army was invading Moscow while someone declared Marina Mniszech and her newborn child as the rightful heirs, which was one needless action with fatal consequences. The occupation of Moscow was boiling point in Russia’ history, especially after the revolt in the city in 1611 in which the Poles troops marched towards Kremelin, after burning the outskirts of it, making the vast majority of the population homeless. A massive exposition of armies swept out the invaders from the Kremlin in October of 1612, Russian people were granted with a new tsar the year later, but the recovery from those events were not short-lived.

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