Boris Godunov – Russian Tsar
Boris Godunov was the Tsar of Russia from 1598 to 1605. He was one of the most famous (or infamous) rulers of early modern Russia. During the 7 years of Godunov’s rule, Russia strengthened its influence and its own borders, but internal conflicts provoked the ascension to the throne of the impostor False Dmitry.
Boris was born in 1552 into the family of a landowner who lived near Vyazma. The ancestors of Boris are Kostroma boyars, who eventually become landlords in Vyazma.
Being a provincial nobleman, the young man was educated, but did not get acquainted with the Holy Scripture. The study of church books was considered a fundamental component of study, so gaps in this area were not allowed.
After the death of the parents, the uncle took care of Boris and his sister Irina, and because of constant travel he had to give the orphans to the Kremlin. The children grew up with the royal heirs. Ivan the Terrible loved to talk with Boris and even ordered him to write down his own wise thoughts.
The young man was attracted by power and court luxury, but he was amazed by the tortures. He had to watch the executions and tortures of the disgraced people. The boy quickly realized that he would not survive, unless he learned to control his emotions.
Godunov was married to the daughter of Maliuta Skuratov (the notorious boss of the Oprichnina). Boris and Maria had two children: daughter Ksenya and son Fyodor.
Irina Godunova married the son of Ivan the Terrible, Feodor, and Boris was granted the title of boyar.
Feodor became the ruler of Russia after the death of Ivan IV in 1584. However, he had the mentality of a child. In 1586, Godunov became Russia’s new master in all but name.
To tell the truth, the skillful politician had ruled the country for 13 years, using the name of Feodor Ioannovich. In that period, cities, fortresses, temples were built in Russia. The first water pipe was created in Moscow. In 1596, on the decree of Godunov, the Smolensk fortress wall was erected, protecting the western borders of Russia from the Poles.
Thanks Godunov an agreement with the Swedes was signed in 1595, which ended the Russian-Swedish war. At the same time, the Patriarchate was established, which allowed the Orthodox Church to withdraw from the Byzantine Patriarchate.
Boris was crowned on September 1, 1598 after the death of Feodor. For most Russians, the reign of Tsar Boris was an unhappy time. Indeed, it marked the beginning of Russia’s horrific Time of Troubles (1598-1613).
In 1601 there was a massive famine in Russia. The royal decree reduced taxes to help citizens. Boris took measures to save the hungry, handing out money and grain from the treasury. 127,000 people died from starvation. Peasant discontent turned into a riot. The rebels were defeated by the army. After that, the situation did not stabilize, as there were rumors that Prince Dmitry was alive.
It was rumored that Godunov had plotted to kill Prince Dimitry, the son of Ivan IV, but had mistakenly murdered another boy. In 1603 a claimant to the throne did appear, professing to be Czarevich Dimitry. When False Dmitry invaded Russia in 1604, many cossacks and soldiers joined his ranks, and many towns of southwestern Russia rebelled against Tsar Boris. They say he was Grishka Otrepyev, a runaway monk and former serf of the Romanov family.
Boris Godunov died suddenly on April 23, 1605. Many suspected he had been poisoned.
Godunov is the subject of many biographies, plays, and even an opera by Mussorgsky.
– Godunov had a reputation of treacherous poisoner. He was accused of poisoning two tsars Ivan the Terrible, and Feodor; his sister Irina; Duke Hans of Denmark a failed husband of his daughter Ksenia, and many others. It should be noted that if he was really involved in the bloody crimes, he did it very cleverly and insidiously historians have no proof.
– It was Boris Godunov, not Peter the Great, who became the first monarch focused on the European style. He maintained friendly ties with Britain and was in correspondence with the Queen of England. The city of Arkhangelsk is a monument to Russian-British relations during Godunov’s time.
– Few people pay attention to this fact, but Boris Godunov became the first tsar who took care of his family and children.
– Thanks to the efforts of Godunov Russia got its patriarch. In 1589 Job became Metropolitan of Moscow. It was the greatest event in the history of Russia: the establishment of the Patriarchate led to the independence of the Russian Orthodox Church from the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Moscow got the status the successor of Byzantium.
– Godunov introduced serfdom in Russia, declaring a moratorium on Yuri’s Day, when the peasant, after the completion of agricultural work, could move from one landowner to another. By this decision, Godunov wanted the nobility, the small landlords, to support him in the confrontation with the boyars.