Time of Troubles
Learn more about Time of TroublesRussian: Смутное время, Smutnoye Vremya) was a period of Russian history comprising the years of interregnum between the death of the last of the Moscow Rurikids, Tsar Feodor Ivanovich in 1598 and the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty in 1613.
After Feodor's death without issue, his brother-in-law and closest advisor, Boris Godunov, 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. The oligarchical party, headed by the Romanovs, considered it a disgrace to obey a mere boyar; conspiracies were frequent; the rural districts were desolated by famine and plague; great bands of armed brigands roamed the country committing all manner of atrocities; the Cossacks on the frontier were restless; and the government showed itself incapable of maintaining order.
Under the influence of the great nobles who had unsuccessfully opposed the election of Godunov, the general discontent took the form of hostility to him as a usurper, and rumours were heard that the late tsar's younger brother Dmitri, supposed to be dead, was still alive and in hiding. In 1603 a man calling himself Dmitri, and professing to be the rightful heir to the throne, appeared in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In reality the younger son of Ivan the Terrible had been stabbed to death before his brother's death by order (it was said but never proved) of Godunov; and the mysterious individual who was impersonating him was an impostor but was regarded as the rightful heir by a large section of the population and gathered support both in Muscovy and outside its borders, in the Commonwealth and the Vatican.
A few months later he crossed the frontier with a small force of 4,000 Poles, Russian exiles, German mercenaries and Cossacks from the Dnieper and the Don, in what marked the beginning of the Commonwealth intervention in Muscovy, or the Dymitriad wars. Although the Commonwealth had not officially declared war on Muscovy (as its king, Sigismund III Vasa, was opposed to the intervention), some powerful magnates decided to support False Dmitri with their own forces and money, expecting rich rewards afterwards. Dmitri was married per procura to Marina Mniszech, and immediately after Boris's death in 1605 he made his triumphal entry into Moscow.The reign of Dmitri was short and uneventful. Before a year had passed a conspiracy was formed against him by an ambitious Rurikid prince called Vasily Shuisky, and he was assassinated in the Moscow Kremlin, together with many of his supporters. The chief conspirator, Shuisky, seized power and was elected tsar by an assembly composed of his faction, but neither the Muscovite boyars, nor the Commonwealth magnates, nor the pillaging Cossacks, nor the German mercenaries were satisfied with the change, 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 magnates. However after Shuisky signed an alliance with Sweden, the king of the Commonwealth, Sigismund III, resolved to officially intervene in the internal affairs of Russia.
Polish troops crossed the Russian borders and lay siege to the fortress of Smolensk. After the combined Russo-Swedish forces were destroyed at the Battle of Klushino, Shuisky was forced to abdicate. False Dmitrii II wasn't able to gain the throne, however, because the Polish commander Stanisław Żółkiewski put forward a rival candidate in the person of Sigismund's son, Wladislaus. To this latter some people in Moscow swore allegiance on condition of his maintaining Orthodoxy and granting certain privileges to them. On this understanding the Polish troops were allowed to occupy the city and the Kremlin.
The Polish king, however, opposed the compromise, deciding to take the throne for himself and to convert Russia to Roman Catholicism. This scheme did not please any of the contending factions and it roused the anti-Catholic and anti-Polish sentiments of the nation. At the same time it was displeasing to the Swedes, who had become rivals of the Poles on the Baltic coast, and they declared war on Muscovy and started a false Dmitri of their own in Ivangorod.
When Sigismund and Wladislaw left Moscow, the tensions grew. Russia was now in a very critical condition. The throne was vacant; the great nobles (boyars) quarrelled among themselves; Patriarch Hermogenes was in chains; Catholic Poles occupied the Kremlin of Moscow; the Siege of Smolensk (1609-11) breached Smolensk's walls; the Protestant Swedes occupied Novgorod; and enormous bands of brigands swarmed everywhere.
The severity of the crisis produced a remedy, in the form of a patriotic rising of the nation under the leadership of Kuzma Minin, a Nizhny Novgorod merchant, and Prince Pozharsky. After battle for Moscow on October 22 Old Style<ref>Sergey Solovyov History of Russia from the Earliest Times Vol. 8 "Наконец 22 октября казаки пошли на приступ и взяли Китай-город... 27 ноября ополчение Трубецкого... войско и народ двинулись в Кремль" </ref> (November 1 New Style), the invaders retreated to the Kremlin, and on 24-27 October O.S.<ref>Nikolay Kostomarov Russian History in Biographies of its main figures Chap. 30. "22 октября Трубецкой ударил на Китай-город; голодные поляки были не в состоянии защищать его, покинули и ушли в Кремль... 24 октября поляки отворили кремлевские ворота, выходящие на Неглинную, прежде всего выпустили русских людей - бояр, дворян, купцов, сидевших в засаде... 25 октября все кремлевские ворота стояли уже настежь отворенными: русские войска входили в Кремль, предшествуемые крестным ходом..." </ref> (November 3-6 N.S.) the invaders surrendered to the triumphant Pozharsky. On November 4 Russia officially celebrates the Day of National Unity.
A Grand National Assembly elected as tsar Michael Romanov, the young son of the metropolitan Philaret, who was connected by marriage with the late dynasty and had been saved from the enemies by a heroic peasant, named Ivan Susanin.
The Dymitriad wars against the Commonwealth would last until the Peace of Deulino in 1619, and the Ingrian Wars against Sweden lasted until the Treaty of Stolbovo in 1617. Both forced Muscovy to make some territorial concessions, though the majority of them would be regained over the coming centuries. Most importantly, the crisis was instrumental in unifying all classes of the Russian society around the Romanov tsars.