Russia in the 16th Century

Russia's Time of Troubles

IVAN IV. THE TERRIBLE had been the most successful of the Muscovite Grand Princes in regard to expansion, buth also the most ruthless. His son Feodor (1584-1598) was not of that stock. Russia changed from being a threat to it's neighbours to becoming a target.
The Livonian order had disintegrated, the Estates of Livonia and the Duke of Courland having chosen the King of Poland-Lithuania as their new sovereign; Estonia had chosen the King of Sweden. The Swedes had defeated Russian invaders in Estonia and the theatre of war had moved into Ingermanland, Russia's only province with access to the Baltic Sea.
Feodor died in 1598, and with him ended the dynasty begun by Alexander Nevsky's son Daniel. Several factions of Russia's nobility, the BOYARS, competed, each supporting another candidate for the vacant throne of the CZAR. Among the candidates were FALSE DMITRY's, impersonators of a deceased member of the royal family.
This confusion provided both Sweden and Poland with the opportunity to gain respectively regain territory and influence. The Poles conquered Smolensk, the Swedes Novgorod (1611).
A faction of Boyars offered the crown to Vassily, son of King Sigismund III. of Poland. A Polish army entered Russia and defeated the Swedes (1610), marching triumphantly into Moscow. Yet Sigismund wanted to be crowned Czar himself, and establish a Dynastic Union of Poland-Lithuania-Russia. Russia's Boyars, together with the Metropolit of Moscow, demanded that he converted to Orthodox christianity and resided in Moscow. Sigismund, a devoted Catholic, was not prepared to do so. A Russian revolt forced the Poles to leave Moscow in 1612, ending the prospects of a peaceful union of Eastern Europe under one dynasty. In 1613, Mikhail Romanov was crowned Czar, a date which is regarded the end of the time of troubles. The war with Sweden was ended in the PEACE OF STOLBOVO (1617); Russia ceded INGRIA and KEXHOLM LAND to Sweden, but regained Swedish-occupied Novgorod. In 1619, Russia and Poland signed the TRUCE OF DEULINO. Russia ceded SMOLENSK, CHERNIGOV and SEVERIA to Lithuania. In 1634, the truce was turned into a peace, and Vassily renounced his claim to the Russian throne, acknowledging Mikhail I. as the legitimate Czar of Russia.

Russia's Czars, 1547-1645
Ivan IV. the Terrible
Fyodor I.
Boris Godunov
Fyodor II. Borisovic
False Dmitry (Grigory Otryopyev)
Vassily Shuysky
Polish Interregnum
Mikhail Romanov

REFERENCE The Time of Troubles, in : John Channon and Robert Hudson, The Penguin Historical Atlas of Russia, London : Penguin 1995, pp.40-41

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on August 24th 2006

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