7. The Troubled Times (Smutniye Vremena 1598-1613)
The Troubled Epoch in Russia (1598-1613). Following the death of Czar Fi6dor Ioannovich (1584-1598), the son of Czar Ivan the Terrible the Zemsky Sobor elected Boris Godun6v, a favorite of Czar Ivan, and the late Czar Fi6dor's brother-in-law, to the throne of Russia. But it was persistently rumored that Godun6v had been instrumental in the assassination, in May, 1591, of the young Czarevich Dmitry, Ivan's youngest son and Czar Fi6dor's only brother. Besides, Godun6v was of humble Tartar descent, and therefore quite unpopular among the ancient Russian boyard families.
Godunov was an enlightened ruler, and his early legislation proves that he was an able statesman. However, suspicious of boyard intrigues, he began to persecute the nobles and thus aroused among them great indignation. In i6oi Russia began to suffer from a dreadful famine which was followed by an equally devastating plague.
Popular discontent grew to a high pitch. Hunger-stricken peasants and all sorts of rebellious elements began to plunder the boyards' estates. Highway robberies spread all over Russia. In the presence of these political and social conditions, it was comparatively easy for an impostor to challenge the authority of Boris Godun6v. Such an impostor appeared in the person of a young man (exact date of birth is unknown) GrigOry Otrepiev who is supposed to have been the son of a government official.
In the latter part of the XVIth Century he settled in Moscow, where he took religious orders, and shortly thereafter he began to spread the rumor that he was Czarevich Dmitry, miraculously saved from the hands of GodunOv's assassins. Realizing the danger of such propaganda, the Czar ordered Otrepiev to be seized. But he managed to escape, fled across the Lithuanian bother and proceeded to Poland, where he enlisted in the service of a Polish magnate Wisznewezld. He convinced the latter as well as the Sandomir Wafrode Mniszek that he was the son of Czar Ivan the Terrible. Having embraced Roman Catholicism, Otrepiev, with the aid of the Jesuits, succeeded in securing formal recognition by King Sigismund of Poland of his status as lawful pretender to the Russian throne. Some isoo Polish adventurers joined his ranks. He crossed the Russian bother and the Cossacks and robbers' bands gave him active support.
In April, 1605, Godun6v died, and in June of the same year, Dmitry the Impostor triumphantly entered Moscow at the head of his rebel army. He ascended the Throne, but his avowed pro-Polish sympathies and the fact that he had married Marina Mniszek, a Roman Catholic, caused widespread discontent. Taking advantage of this situation, Prince Vasili Shuisky organized an uprising in Moscow, during which Dmitry was assassinated by the mob. From that time on, one impostor after another contested the Russian Throne.