Monday, January 18, 2016

Time of Troubles: The Time Before the Romanovs (Part 3)

Mikhail Feodorovich is summoned to the Russian throne by Grigory UgryumovWith the Russia leaderless and the country faced mortal danger from its foreign adversaries, explore how Russia passed the last years of the Time of Troubles.

The Time of Troubles reached its pinnacle at the time when Russia had no legitimate Tsar. From 1610 to 1612, Russia had numerous governments but no absolute central ruler. After deposing Vasily Shuisky, the Boyars formed a council of seven nobles to rule Russia, or at least Moscow.

Polish Invasion Continued

Poland, by that time, advanced into the heart of Russia. King Sigismund III continued to besiege Smolensk. On the other, another Polish army continued to march to the capital Moscow.

By September, the Polish army stood in the outskirts and poised to take the capital. The Council of the 7 Boyars felt troubled and anxious over their faiths. Especially, as it seemed that the Polish wanted to ally with False Dmitry II to take the Kremlin. Nevertheless, they stroke luck. The Polish commander in the outskirts of Moscow wanted to negotiate with the council.

A Polish Tsar?

To save themselves from the Poles, the council decided to offer the Tsardom to the son of the Polish King, Prince Wladyslaw, under the condition that he must convert to the Russian Orthodox Church. The commander of the Polish army agreed. A grand embassy made of nobles including Filaret Romanov, Vasily Galitsyn, and Varlaam (the name that the former Tsar Vasily Shuisky along with his vows), delivered the offer to King Sigismund III in Smolensk. But when they offered the throne, the Polish King acted otherwise to their expectation. Instead of welcoming and accepting the offer, he declined with the intention of taking the Russian crown for himself. He had the members of the embassy arrested and sent back to Poland to remain incarcerated. With the failure of negotiations, Polish forces pressed on in Moscow and eventually captured the capital city. In addition, the offering of the throne to the Polish Prince Wladyslaw had serious implications to the reign of the next Tsar.

Death of False Dmitry II

False Dmitry, meanwhile, continued to live in Kaluga as the Polish army marched to Moscow. He ruled with an iron fist. His movement became unpopular, nevertheless he still had the support of the Cossacks. But in December of 1610, False Dmitry II passed away, leaving his wife Marina Mniszech and their son Ivan to continue the fight.

Resistance to the Poles

Patriarch Hermogenes refusing to bless the Poles 
The Russians did not easily submitted to the Poles even after the fall of their capital. In Moscow, even under captivity by the Poles, Patriarch Hermogenes called his fellow Russians to arms to fight the Polish invaders and drive them out of their holy capital city. The cries of the Hermogenes fell to many the ears of many Russians. In 1611, Prokopi Liapunov, Hetman Zarutsky, and Prince Dmitry Trubetskoi led an army in a crusade to drive the Poles out of Moscow.

But personal ambitions weakened the makeshift army. For instance, Liapunov wanted to form his own government, which caused his murder in July 1611 by Cossacks. But even without Liapunov, Ivan Zarutsky pressed on to recapture Moscow. But Zarutsky then allied himself with the Baby Brigand Ivan and his mother Marina Mniszech to assert their “claim” to the throne. They abandoned the siege and then moved to Nizhny Novgorod.

Zarutsky, Marina, and the Baby Brigand

Ivan, Marina, and Zarutsky continued to roam Russia until 1614 when Cossacks in Astrakan captured and delivered them to the authorities. They met a gruesome fate. Zarutsky executed, Marina impaled in a stake, and the young Ivan executed.

Disasters and Relief

After Moscow, other major Russian cities fell to foreign invaders. In June 1611, the Poles under Sigismund III captured the city of Smolensk. In the North, King Karl IX of Sweden captured Novgorod.

But even with these disasters, the Russians found courage to face up to the challenges. In Nizhny Novgorod, a merchant named Kuzma Minin rallied the Russian people with the support of the local prince, Dmitry Pozharsky to march against Poland. In 1612, Kuzma Minin and Pozharsky triumphantly marched to Yaroslav and their army continued to grow. Upon their capture of Yaroslav, they promised to convene a Zemsky Sobor or a national assembly once they capture Moscow.

The assembly was tasked to elect the new Tsar. With the declaration, many more joined their army, many desiring to end a decade of carnage. This army differed from the others. Here Cossacks, peasants, nobles, came together liberate their capital city and preserving existence of their mother Russia. The Council of the Seven Boyars and Cossacks under Prince Dmitry Trubetskoy joined Kuzma Minin and Pozharsky in Yaroslav. In October, their huge army marched to the outskirts of Moscow and a siege began.

On October 1612 in the Old Russian Calendar, finally, the united Russian army drove out the Poles out of Moscow and the capital was liberated. True to their declaration in Yaroslav, a Zemsky Sobor convened to elect Russia’s new Tsar. All sectors, peasantry, nobility, clergy, Cossacks, free peasants, and other minorities formed a new national assembly tasked to choose their new Tsar who would rule under the will of the Russian people.

Election and Ascension of Tsar Michael Romanov

The Zemsky Sobor convened in early 1613. Made up of 500 to 800 members from all provinces and from all sectors of society, they debated who would be Russia’s new Tsar. Arguments ran for a month until February. At the end, the assembly elected the son of the incarcerated Filaret Romanov and long distant relative of the former Tsaritsa Anasatasia Romanova, wife of Tsar Ivan IV – Mikhail Romanov or Michael Romanov – as the new Tsar and Autocrat of All Russia.

Tsar Michael faced a daunting task in his hands. He had to resolve the problems of foreign invasion. He needed to rescue his father from the Poles. And stop the pretender Ivan and his mother Marina, and their Cossack ally Zarutsky, as well as another pretender in form of Prince Wladyslaw. Nevertheless, the worst of the internal struggles and chaos finally came to an end. The election of Michael Romanov marked the end of the Time of Troubles.

Summing Up

The Time of Trouble showed a nation on the brink of becoming a failed state. Famine, social tensions, foreign interventions, intrigue and ambitions had brought out the worst out of the Russian people. Nevertheless, it showed also their best, their resiliency and to recover and unite for a cause that threatened to devour their freedom and identity. In Russian history, the Time of Troubles gave the conditions for the rise of the family that would rule Russia for three hundred years – the Romanovs. From the chaos of the Time of Trouble, the Romanovs brought stability, order, and legitimacy, which Russia would experience for many years to follow.

Explore also:

Freeze, Gregory. Russia: A History. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Langer, Lawrence. Historical Dictionary of Medieval Russia. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2002.

Moss, Walter. A History of Russia Volume I: To 1917. London: Anthem Press, 2005.

Stone, David. A Military History of Russia: From Ivan the Terrible to the War in Chechnya. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press Publishing, Company, 2006.

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