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The SMUTA Time
Russia Tsardom (1598 - 1613)

Smuta - the Time of Troubles (Russian: Смутное время; Smutnoe vrenya) was a period of Russian history comprising the years of interregnum between the death of the last Russian Tsar of the Rurik Dynasty, Feodor Ivanovich, in 1598, and the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty in 1613. In 1601–03, Russia suffered a famine that killed one-third of the population. At the time, during the Polish–Muscovite War (1605–18) (known as the Dimitriads), the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth did occupied the part of western regions of the Russian Tsardom and Moscow, and suffered from civil uprisings, usurpers and impostors.

After Feodor's death, his brother-in-law and closest adviser, boyar Boris Godunov, who had already acted as regent for the mentally-challenged Feodor, was elected his successor by a Great National Assembly (Zemsky Sobor). Godunov's short reign (1598–1605) was not as successful as his administration under the weak Feodor.

Under the influence of the great nobles who had unsuccessfully opposed the election of Godunov, the general discontent was expressed as hostility to him as a usurper. Rumours circulated that the late tsar's younger brother Dmitri, thought to be dead, was still alive and in hiding.


Tsar Boris Godunov

In 1603 a man calling himself Dmitri—first of the so-called False Dmitris—and professing to be the rightful heir to the throne, appeared in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Dmitri had been stabbed to death before his brother Feodor's death, allegedly by Godunov's order; but the mysterious individual who was impersonating him was regarded as the rightful heir by many of the population. He attracted support both in Russia and outside its borders, particularly in the Polish Commonwealth and the Papal States. Factions in the Polish Commonwealth saw him as a tool to extend their influence over Russia, or at least gain wealth in return for their support; the Papacy saw it as an opportunity to increase the hold of Roman Catholicism over the Eastern Orthodox Russians.
A few months later in 1603, Polish forces crossed the frontier with forces of Poles, Lithuanians, Russian exiles, German mercenaries and Cossacks from the Dnieper and the Don. False Dmitri was married per procura to Marina Mniszech, and immediately after Godunov's death in 1605, he made his triumphal entry into Moscow.


Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and borders of modern countries


Polish "flying" hussar
False Dmitry I Marina Mniszech

The reign of False Dimitri was short. Before a year had passed, Vasily Shuisky, an ambitious Rurikid prince (knyaz), formed a conspiracy against him. His forces murdered False Dimitri soon after his marriage in the Moscow Kremlin, together with many of his supporters. Shuisky has smashed polish troops. The reaction to the massacre in Poland was strong, but the government decided to postpone revenge against those responsible.

Shuisky seized power and was elected tsar by an assembly composed of his faction, but the change did not satisfy the Russian boyars, Commonwealth magnates, Cossacks, or the German mercenaries, and soon a new impostor, likewise calling himself Dmitri, son and heir of Ivan the Terrible, came forward as the rightful heir. Like his predecessor, he enjoyed the protection and support of the Polish–Lithuanian magnates. After Shuisky signed an alliance with Sweden, the king of the Commonwealth, Sigismund III, seeing the Russian–Swedish alliance as a threat, resolved to intervene and began the Polish–Muscovite War (1605–18).

Vasily Shuisky Polish king Sigismund III Vasa

Second occupation

Polish–Lithuanian troops crossed the Russian borders and laid siege to the fortress of Smolensk. After the combined Russo–Swedish forces were destroyed at the Battle of Klushino, Shuisky was forced to abdicate. Before False Dmitri II could gain the throne, the Polish commander, voivode, and magnate Stanislaw Zolkiewski, put forward a rival candidate: Sigismund's son, Vladyslav. Some people in Moscow swore allegiance to him on condition of his maintaining Orthodoxy and granting certain privileges to them. On this understanding, they allowed Polish troops to enter the city and occupy the Kremlin.

False Dmitry II Vladyslav Vasa
Polish king Vladyslav IV in future

The Polish king opposed the compromise, deciding to take the throne for himself and to convert Russia to Roman Catholicism. The contending factions were opposed and his plan aroused the anti-Catholic and anti-Polish feelings in Russia. The Swedes disapproved as they were rivals of the Poles on the Baltic coast. They declared war on Russia, supporting a false Dmitri of their choice in Ivangorod.

Russia was in a critical condition. The throne was vacant; the great nobles (boyars) quarrelled among themselves; Orthodox Patriarch Hermogenes was imprisoned; Catholic Poles occupied the Moscow Kremlin and Smolensk; the Protestant Swedes occupied Novgorod; continuing Tatar raids left the south borderlands of Russia completely depopulated and devastated; and enormous bands of brigands swarmed everywhere. Tens of thousands died in battles and riots; on 17–19 March 1611, the Poles and German mercenaries suppressed riots in Moscow; they massacred 7,000 Muscovites and set the city on fire. Many other cities were also devastated or weakened. For example, on 22 September 1612, the Poles and Lithuanians exterminated the population and clergy of Vologda.


Polish in Russia



Struggle for independence

The nation rose together under the leadership of Kuzma Minin, a Nizhny Novgorod merchant, and Prince Pozharsky. After the battle for Moscow on 22 October 1612 of Old Russian Style [o.s.] (1 November New Style), the invaders retreated to the Kremlin, and on 24–27 October O.S. (3–6 November N.S.) the nearby Polish army was forced to retreat. The garrison in the Kremlin surrendered to the triumphant Pozharsky. The festival of National Unity Day commemorating this event on November 4 was held annually until the rise of communism, when it was replaced by celebrations for the October Revolution. National Unity Day was reinstated by President Putin in 2005, though few Russians now understand its significance or even know the name of the holiday.

Kuzma Minin Prince Dmitry Pozharsky

meeting of Kuzma Minin in Nizhny Novgorod
people raise funds for national army


Russian People's Army (militia)


Russian riot in Moscow




Russian strelets'es - musketeers


Russian soldiers: strelets, nobleman, cavalryman


Russian attack


Russian army on streets of Moscow

A Grand National Assembly elected as tsar Mikhail Romanov, the young son of the metropolitan Philaret. He was connected by marriage with the late dynasty and, according to the legend, had been saved from the enemies by a heroic peasant, Ivan Susanin, he guided the polish troop in impenetrable forest and was killed by them. After taking power, the new Tsar ordered the 3-year-old son of the False Dmitri II to be hanged, and had Dmitri's wife Maryna strangled.


Tsar Mikhail Romanov

The Ingrian Wars against Sweden lasted until the Treaty of Stolbovo in 1617. Russia's Dymitriad wars against the Commonwealth would last until the Peace of Deulino in 1619. While gaining peace through the treaties, both nations forced Russia to make some territorial concessions, though they lost the majority of them over the coming centuries. Most importantly, the crisis was instrumental in unifying all classes of the Russian society around the Romanov tsars and established foundations for the powerful Russian Empire.


Russian National Heroes
Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky


monument of Minin and Pozharsky on Red Square in Moscow

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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