James W. Meng

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Units: Foreword 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6


Russia in the 17th century. Ivan the Terrible & the Time of Troubles.
3.1. The Time of Troubles.

At the beginning of the 17th century, Russian society was shocked to its core by a deep crisis that became known to contemporaries as the Time of Troubles. Driven by discontent among serfs who were enslaved, as well as Cossacks, servants, and servicemen on the outskirts of Russia, the crisis led to the confrontation of one part of society against another and eventually to all-out civil war, complicated both by foreign intervention and a prevailing atmosphere of moral decadence.

In an historical sense, this crisis is generally attributed to the effects of and attitudes toward the oprichnina: deterioration in the broader economy, higher taxes, general feudal oppression, and enslavement of the peasants. Many people, unable to withstand the hardships of life, fled to the outskirts and became Cossacks. The authorities then attempted to establish control over the Cossacks, causing further discontent. Even the nobility in the south of Russia found themselves in troubling straits, suffering from hard living conditions and labor shortages.

Following the death of Ivan the Terrible, his sick son Fyodor Ivanovich (1584-98) became head of state. During his reign, the factual head of state was the boyar Boris Godunov, who managed to make some improvements to the overall conditions in the country during his time in power. But his reign was overshadowed considerably by the death in 1591 of Tsarevich Dmitry, the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible: officially, Dmitry had died of an accident - but rumors of Boris' involvement in his death were widespread.

Fyodor Ivanovich died in 1598, leaving behind no children, which brought the dynasty of the Moscow rulers to an abrupt end and the country straight into political crisis, a situation which became further aggravated once Boris Godunov was elected to the throne and the various boyar families began to engage in an high-profile power struggle. Nevertheless, the Zemsky Sobor elected Boris Godunov to reign and thus for the first time in the country, an elected king - rather than a "natural" king - took the throne.

The beginning of Boris Godunov's rule was interrupted by a major natural and agricultural catastrophe: in both 1601 and 1602, the harvest was lost, leading to a terrible famine. Rumors of Boris' own sinful behavior had spread, particularly among the more devoutly religious, who still suspected him of the murder of the Tsarevich Dmitry and felt that his election to power was - unlike the previous dynasty - not divine. And so the country plunged yet again into a deep crisis with both political and spiritual elements. Hunger and disappointment, meanwhile, led to conspiracy theories and tall tales to the effect that Tsarevich Dmitry was still alive - and while this produced pretenders to the throne, many people saw in those very pretenders a savior who could restore justice and order to the life of the country.

The first "False Dmitry", as he came to be known, was a man named Grigory Otrepiev, who in 1603 fled to Poland and, there, declared himself the son of Ivan IV. By October 1604, he had received some support from elements of the Polish nobility and returned to Russia via its southwestern border with a small detatchment of Cossacks and Poles. In January 1605 the Tsar's troops defeated False Dmitry, after which the local population - who still viewed him as the legitimate Tsar and savior of Russia - forced him to continue his struggle. When Boris Godunov died several months later, in April 1605, the tsarist army took the side of False Dmitry.

Soon False Dmitry's troops occupied Moscow, and by July 1605 he was made head of state, drawing upon considerable popular support. But the situation in the country had deteriorated so significantly that the new Tsar was unable to cope. The huge costs of maintaining the monarch's court and its legions of foreign mercenaries had devastated the treasury. The boyar Duma was unhappy with the political course False Dmitry had chosen to pursue, as well as their loss of independence in making decisions. Meanwhile, serfdom and heavy taxes remained unaddressed in the country. In May 1606, False Dmitry was quickly overthrown and murdered. A new Tsar, Prince M.V. Skopin-Shuisky, was proclaimed at the Zemsky Sobor.

Not long after the death of the first False Dmitry, rumors began to circulate that he had in fact been rescued and was still alive. And so a popular movement arose among the lower classes against the new Tsar, headed by I.I. Bolotnikov, who quickly inflicted a series of defeats upon Tsar Shuisky. Eventually his army was forced out of the capital, and completely defeated by September 1607. The movement's leaders were quickly seized and executed.

In the summer of 1607, a second pretender, False Dmitry II, appeared with the support of the Polish nobility. Within a year he had appeared in the capital again with an army. Taking up residence in the nearby village of Tushino, for which he became known as the "Tushinsky Thief" he built an even larger following who periodically mounted raids of plunder on the local population. False Dmitri II, meanwhile, became increasingly dependent on the Polish and began serving the interests of Polish mercenaries, for which he eventually lost public support from many of his Russian followers.

Tsar Shuisky, meanwhile, formed an alliance with Sweden to fight off the impostor and his squads, with relatively rapid success. False Dimitry II then fled to Kaluga, where he was killed.

Seizing upon the prevailing environment of instability, Poland began an open foreign intervention against Russia. Polish troops besieged Smolensk, after which they headed to Moscow, defeated the tsarist army, and overthrew Tsar Shuisky himself. The boyar government, which was unable to arouse public support on its behalf, made an agreement with Poland and agreed to place a Polish prince on the Moscow throne, after which Polish troops entered Moscow in 1610.

The broader situation led to a rise in patriotic sentiment, forcing the people to overcome differences and unite to save the state and the Orthodox faith. In February 1611, a militia was formed from the regiments of Tsar Shuisky, False Dmitry II, noblemen, Cossacks, and Tatar servicemen, which beseiged Moscow with intent to expel the Poles - but the militia dissolved shortly thereafter as a result of internal disagreements. As the general state of confusion continued, a second militia was organized by Kuzma Minin, a zemstvo elder from Nizhny Novgorod; and Prince D.M. Pozharsky, who led the military effort.

The second militia, who were well prepared, liberated Moscow on the 26th of October 1612. Under the new calendar, this day is the 4th of November, and is celebrated as a national holiday - the Day of National Unity, on which Russia's existence as a sovereign nation was saved.

In February 1613, Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov was elected Tsar at the Zemsky Sobor. Representatives of almost all classes, save for serfs and slaves, took part.

By 1615, the last detatchments of Cossack rebels had been defeated. Many who cooperated with the state were granted land and agreed to serve in the military. The government once again began to pursue issues of foreign policy. In 1617 the Stolbov peace was concluded with Sweden, in which Russia lost access to the Baltic sea, but regained Novgorod. In 1618 the Deulino armistice was signed with Poland, in which Russia lost Smolensk and some southwestern lands.

In total, Russia emerged from the Time of Troubles with massive losses of territory and population. The economy had been nearly destroyed and much of the land abandoned. Internal conditions deteriorated drastically. Culturally and politically, the country had been totally isolated and its military potential was minimal at best. Only thanks to the patriotism of those who gave their lives was the Russian state saved from total destruction.

3.2. Socioeconomic development.

Growth out of the Time of Troubles came about gradually, thanks to the peaceful work of the Russian people. Beginning in the middle of the 17th century, agricultural production began to increase as the black-earthed lands at the center of Russia and the Middle Volga region began to be developed into farmland.

Urban production of handicrafts also gradually resumed. Specialization of certain regions began to occur: in the Volga region, leather; in Pomorye, wood products and salt; in Novgorod, linen; and in Tula and Kashira, iron products.

The first Russian state-run manufactories were also founded; by the end of the 17th century, there were 30 in total.

Domestic trade relations gradually covered the entire country. Moscow was the primary trading center, where open markets played a large role. Meanwhile, the structure of foreign trade remained largely unchanged. Russia exported fur, grain, flax, hemp, leather, and imported industrial products, weapons, cloth, luxury goods, and tea. Trade by sea with Europe in the north was carried out through just one port - Arkhangelsk, which operated just a few months a year and could not meet the country's economic needs. Russia also lacked its own fleet, and its foreign trade was left totally in the hands of foreign merchants. Trade with the East was carried out through Astrakhan.

In foreign trade, the Russian government consistently pursued protection of its national interests; and in 1667, the New Commercial Code put this practice into law for the first time, introducing a 10% duty on all imported goods.

Another important contribution to codified law was the formation of social structure of Russian society as set out in the Code of Laws (Соборное Уложение) of 1649. Under this system, division into separate social groups was inherently based on differences in duties and expectations with respect to the state.

The first category included servicemen on the "Sovereign's service" for which they received land grants and monetary rewards as payment. But the vast majority of the population were taxpaying people - the urban population and peasantry. Slaves were also represented.

The main part of the country's population were the peasantry, who were divided into free and dependent people (serfs). By the end of the 17th century, more than 70% of rural residents fell into this latter category. Property of serf peasants was recognized as the property of the landlord, who gradually acquired the right to dispose of him, could place legal and financial judgments against him, and could punish or even sell him. Serfdom was inherited transgenerationally by birth.

Most of the urban population (medium and small traders, as well as artisans) suffered from heavy taxes and were for all intents and purposes also enslaved by the state. Servants, meanwhile, did not pay taxes to the state as they were the property of their owners. The Cossacks were a special group let beyond the typical class structure of Russian society.

3.3. Political development of Russia. Reforms of the Orthodox Church.

The second half of the 17th century was a period of growth in the autocratic power of the Tsar. In the words of historian V.O. Klyuchevsky, "the state strengthened, and the people became poorer". The title of the monarch had changed in order to reflect the belief in the divine origin of the tsarist power and its autocratic character.

Crimes against the personality of the monarch (defamation, libel, slander) were now equated with crimes against the state, now considered a sign of absolutism. The stronger central government could now act unilaterally, without the support of the Zemsky Sobor - which was no longer convened after the 1653 decision on the reunification of Russia with Ukraine. The boyar duma also began to lose significance, with the Tsar preferring to discuss important issues of state with a narrow circle of personally selected and trusted advisors.

Perhaps the weakest institution of state during this period was the army, which lagged behind developements in the areas of armaments and combat technique and strategy relative to its Western European counterparts. The Tsars of the new dynasty Mikhail Fedorovich (1613-45) and Alexei Mikhailovich (1645-76) attempted to reform it. According to the West European model, they created several Foreign Legion regiments, which consisted of Russian hired soldiers under the command of officers who were foreign mercenaries. A shortage of funds and, therefore, lack of trained specialists prevented them from completing the reform.

In the middle of the 17th century, several reforms of the Russian Orthodox church began that led to a church schism. Reforms were undertaken due to a desire to strengthen the church in order to serve the growing needs of the state as it grappled with social instability and spiritual crisis, particularly among the urban population and the nobility. At the time, the clergy were frequently criticized for poor execution of rites and for various vices (drunkenness, constant requests for money, etc.) Church services of the day were not governed by strict norms and rules, and often the discrepancies between sacred books and real-life rituals undermined the authority of the church. It was also determined that because Russia aspired to unite all Orthodox churches and peoples under its leadership, the rites of the Russian church should be brought into line with the Greek models adopted in the Ukrainian and other Orthodox churches.

When Patriarch Nikon was elected in 1652, reforms began in earnest, first in the rituals. The traditional two-fingered cross sign was replaced by the Greek three-fingered sign. Strict methods of reform led to a split in the church, and the Church Council of 1666-67 dubbed advocates of the old rites heretics. Known as Old Believers, they were subjected to various persecution and repression by the state.

Patriarch Nikon, who believed that "the priesthood is higher than the kingdom", became effectively a co-ruler of Russia along with the Tsar, and received the title of "Great Sovereign". His overwhelming desires for power eventually became a major point of contention for the Tsar, and he was stripped of the rank of Patriarch and sent into exile.

Nikon's activities and particularly his eventual defeat greatly weakened the Russian Orthodox Church. Reforms led to the formation of the separate Old Believer sect of the Russian Orthodox Church; the Old Believers were persecuted for disobedience and many fled abroad. Nevertheless, their self-reliance and moral turpitude became a well known aspect of their unique culture abroad.

3.4. Popular movements.

The 17th century came to be known as the "rebellious" century, rooted in the Time of Troubles. The mid-century period was marked by a number of urban uprisings, and the century ended with a civil war with armed riots under Stepan Razin.

One particularly powerful people's movement was the Salt Riot of 1648 in Moscow, the result of a tax reform carried out by boyar B. Morozov (educator of the young Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich). In hopes of increasing revenues to the treasury, in 1646 he abolished a number of taxes and introduced new ones, while raising prices for essential goods - notably salt. In response, the people sharply reduced their consumption, and the government was forced to restore the original pricing regime. At the same time, the temporary change in laws resulted in the near-elimination of the population's debts on cancelled taxes for two years.

The general attitude of capriciousness and disinterest from the authorities in the needs of townspeople and servicemen led to a powerful popular uprising. By allowing the crowd to tear apart the most hated officials, the Tsar put the rebellion to a stop. Subsequently a new Code of Law was adopted at the Zemsky Sobor in 1649 - the Sobornoye Ulozhenie - which satisfied many of the people's demands.

In 1662 a major riot - known as the Copper Riot - broke out, triggered by a recent monetary reform. The lengthy Russo-Polish war had devastated the treasury, and the government had taken up emergency measures, specifically, the issue of copper money. This particularly affected servicemen who received a salary, as well as artisans and small traders. Over time, speech against this policy was suppressed, but the government gradually withdrew copper money from circulation.

Perhaps the most powerful popular movement of the era was an uprising (1667-1671) led by Stepan Razin. The movement notably involved a large number of Don Cossacks and runaway serfs, whose extradition the authorities had demanded as the autocracy grew in strength.

In May 1667, Razin brought the Cossacks from the Don to the Volga, and from there to the Caspian Sea. Here Razin and his men made successful raids on the territories of the Iranian Shah. Once Razin returned to the Don in 1669 with his loot, thousands of people came to join him. He then began to prepare them for a new campaign - not for loot, but against the boyars.

In April 1670, Razin and his compatriots came again to the Volga region. With the help of local residents they captured Tsaritsyn (contemporary Volgograd), Astrakhan, Saratov and Samara. The movement swept the entirety of the Volga region, and the rebels dealt cruelly with nobility and bureaucrats alike.

In October 1670, the Tsar's troops defeated Razin's 20,000-man army near Simbirsk (contemporary Ulyanovsk). The Cossack Hetman himself was later captured and executed in 1671. The Don Cossacks were then sworn in to loyalty to the Tsar, which began their transformation into loyal servants of the Russian throne.

3.5. Russian culture in the 17th century.

The 17th century is today thought of as a transitional period in Russian culture between the Middle Ages and New Times. One main feature in the culture of this stage was a transition to a mindset that more greatly integrated earthly and religious aspects of life, using religion to address questions that arose in the course of daily life. The notion of authorship in creative activities - particularly in literature and art - became more important. Cultural ties between Russia and the related peoples of Ukraine and Belarus with Western Europe expanded significantly.

For the first time, special educational institutions were opened to train servicemen for positions in government institutions. In 1687 the first higher school - the Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy - opened in Moscow, in which secular sciences were taught alongside classical languages and theology.

Literacy began to spread more widely outside the religious sphere with the development of printed books. Textbooks made up at least one-third of total printing output. The 17th century was also an era of great Russian geographical discoveries, and Russian travelers and explorers made many maps of various territories: in 1648, the expedition of Semyon Dezhnev came to the strait between Asia and North America; in 1649 Erofei Khabarov compiled a map of the Amur region; and the Siberian Cossack Vladimir Atlasov surveyed Kamchatka and the Kuril islands.

New genres in literature began to receive more attention. Works with features of autobiography, such as "The Life of the Protopope Avvakum, Himself Written" appeared. Historical novels also began to change somewhat in nature, with heroes taken from the ranks of ordinary people who described real events from their experience: Yermak's tale of the conquest of Siberia; "Legend" by Abraham Palitsyn on the events of the Time of Troubles, and so forth.

Entirely new genres in literature also arose: drama, poetry, democratic satire, everyday stories. One significant figure in the early development of Russian poetry and drama during this period was Belarusian scientist and educator Simeon Polotsky. Meanwhile, the genre of democratic satire was literarily accessible, used national language, and featured fictional heroes. "The Tale of Ersh Yershovich" and "The Story of Shemyakin Court" and denounced social injustice, embezzlement, and judicial corruption.

During the 17th century, stone architecture began to further develop. More buildings were built from stone; churches became similar to secular buildings, and particularly in government buildings elements of church architecture began to appear. Near the end of the century a new style in architecture known as "Moscow baroque" came into being, which after the family name of its main clients became coloquially known as "Naryshkin's baroque". Perhaps the best example of a building in this style is the Church of the Intercession in Fili, the manor house of L.K. Naryshkin.

The period of the 17th century, and particularly its latter half, was also a period of increased secularization in art, most clearly visible in painting. Works by important artists of the period began to diverge from traditional techniques, particularly away from that of traditional icon-painting. In the works of Simon Ushakov, a prominent artist of the period working chiefly in the areas of icons and miniatures, both traditional techniques and innovative developments were combined. Ushakov's best-known and recognized work may be the icon "Trinity".

3.6. External politics of Russia in the 17th century.

The primary tasks of Russian foreign policy formed as a result of the needs of its economic, political, and cultural development. During this period, the country particularly desired to reabsorb territories lost during the Time of Troubles, and in the longer term - the annexation of Ukrainian and other lands that were part of Ancient Rus. At the same time, Russia was also fighting for access to the Baltic and Black Seas in order to protect its borders and establish greater economic ties with Europe.

In 1648 a national liberation movement arose in Ukraine, which was then a territory of Poland. The Ukrainian and Belarusian Orthodox population suffered not only from an exploitative feudal relationship with the Poles, but also from oppression based on religion and nationality in a country dominated by the Catholic Church. The Cossacks of Zaporozhye were the first to start an uprising: like the Don Cossacks, they did not engage in agriculture, retained autonomy, and held off raids of Crimean Tatars for which they were remunerated by the Polish government. But payment was infrequent, and favored some members of Cossack squads at the expense of others, resulting in considerable chafing in the relationship.

The uprising was led by elected Hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky. His troops, reinforced by peasants and townspeople from Ukraine and Belarus, defeated Polish troops in a number of battles and occupied Kiev in December 1648. Khmelnitsky then appealed to the Russian government for assistance, expressing their desire for Ukraine to join territorially with Russia. But the Tsar did not dare grant his request, as it would lead to certain war with Poland. Only after the rebels were defeated in the fall of 1653 with the threat of total defeat looming large did Russia agree to grant the request. And so the Zemsky Sobor of 1653 permitted Ukraine to join with the Russian state.

In January 1654, in Pereyaslavl the Ukrainian Rada assembled to approve Ukraine's accesion to Russia. Although the treaty initially approved by the Tsar granted considerable independence to Ukraine, the gradual restriction of its rights soon began and it was eventually incorporated fully into Russia.

The reintegration of Ukraine into Russia resulted - as expected - in an extended war between Russia and Poland (1654-67). Russia experienced early successes, particularly in Belarus, where their armies were met with strong local support. Gradually, however, Poland regained strength, several Cossack regiments defected to the Polish side, and the war began to drag on extensively. Only in 1667 did Russia achieve the Andrusovo truce, through which the lands lost after the Time of Troubles (Smolensk and Novgorod-Seversk) were returned. The territory of eastern Ukraine, located on the right bank of the Dniepr, was also given to Russia. Terms of the truce were finalized in 1686, generally regarded as an historical turning point at which Russia emerged from diplomatic isolation.

A truce with Poland, however, did not bring an end to the diplomatic and military difficulties associated with Russia's reabsorption of Ukraine into its territory; instead, it eventually resulted in war (1677-81) with the Crimean Khanate and with the Ottoman Empire. The war began with a fierce Russian-Ukrainian defense against superior enemy forces of a strategically important fortress at Chigirin. The war dragged on until 1681, at which point Turkey agreed to withdraw.

Faced with Ottoman expansion, European countries attempted to unite their efforts in defense. In 1684, the Holy League was formed as a coalition of Austria, Poland, and Venice, with expectations of Russian support. This in turn prompted Poland to sign the "Eternal Peace" with Russia, leading to the rapprochement of Russia with Poland and helping to solve Russia's main foreign policy problem - securing access to the sea.

In light of its new obligations to the Holy League, Russia broke its truce with Turkey and declared war in 1686. Attempts to fully take the Crimea in 1687 and 1689 ended in failure, though they did help the Allies on the Western front.

In terms of territorial expansion, moving to the east proved far less challenging. During the 17th century, Russian explorers advanced from Western Siberia to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. The local population, which quickly agreed to become part of Russia, paid yasak, a tax on furs. Peasant colonization of arable land in southern Siberia began soon thereafter, and by the end of the 17th century the Russian population of the region was over 150,000 people.