Правление царя Дмитрия (1605-1606)

Лжедмитрий I (1605-1606)


Статья посвящена анализу политической истории России времени правления Дмитрия (Лжедмитрия I). В статье показаны главные черты этого этапа русской истории, роль Дмитрия в управлении страной.

Царь Дмитрий правил менее года, прежде чем он был убит заговорщиками во главе с боярином князем Василием Шуйским. Короткое правление Дмитрия является до сих пор спорным и недостаточно изученным. К сожалению, у нас всего несколько документов об его правлении, потому что по приказу узурпатора Шуйского все документы, связанные с его правлением, были уничтожены, конечно, кроме тех, которые Шуйский счел необходимым сохранить, чтобы оправдать свой собственный акт цареубийства. Тогда же вновь воскресла идея, которая появилась в правление Бориса Годунова: объявить Дмитрия беглым монахом Григорием Отрепьевым. Эта идея получила такой большой размах, что стала идеей фикс в историографии последующих столетий. В последних биографиях царя Дмитрия, например, Р.Г. Скрынникова, по-прежнему мы видим Дмитрия как злого, кровожадного и ужасного Отрепьева – виртуальная кукольная марионетка циничных бояр, которые знали, что он был самозванцем, и избавились от него, как только он стал подходить их целям. Совсем недавно, в обстоятельном изучении самозванцев в Смутное время Морин Перри не только представила царя Дмитрия как жалкого монаха Отрепьева, кто сталкивается с растущим недовольством в обществе, но даже как коварного колдуна. Сейчас настало время, чтобы выйти за рамки этих стереотипов, стремясь понять, что это был единственный русский царь, который пришел к власти путем военного похода и народного бунта.

Ключевые слова и фразы: …


Tsar Dmitrii ruled for less than a year before he was assassinated by conspirators led by the boyar-intriguer, Prince Vasilii Shuiskii. Dmitrii’s short reign is to this day still controversial and poorly understood. Unfortunately, we have few records from his reign thanks to the usurper Shuiskii’s order that all documents related to it be destroyed. In addition, Shuiskii found it necessary to justify his own act of regicide by vigorously renewing Boris Godunov’s propaganda campaign portraying Dmitrii as the debauched monk Otrepev. After the Time of Troubles, that view became a fixed idea in historiography. In the most recent biography of Tsar Dmitrii, for example, Ruslan Skrynnikov continued to present Dmitrii as the unloved, bloodthirsty, and fearful Otrepev — a virtual puppet of cynical boyars who knew that he was an impostor and got rid of him as soon as it suited their purposes. 4 More recently, in her detailed study of pretenders in the Time of Troubles, Maureen Perrie not only presented Tsar Dmitrii as the pathetic monk Otrepev who was facing growing unrest but even credited absurd propaganda and legends about him as a sorcerer. It is definitely time to move beyond these stereotypes in seeking to understand the only tsar who came to power by way of a military campaign and popular rebellion.

Key words and phrases: Dmitry, Vasily Shuisky, the Patriarch job, the time of Troubles.

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Правление царя Дмитрия (1605-1606)

The reign of tsar Dmitry (1605-1606)

Accurately assessing Tsar Dmitrii is incredibly difficult. Almost every wild tale about the evil monk has been credited by some historians, and almost every action or policy of Tsar Dmitrii has been discounted. The «impostor» has been accused of seducing or raping many women, including Boris Godunov’s daughter, Kseniia. Otrepev supposedly impregnated thirty nuns and also had sex with monks and handsome young courtiers. He has been accused of profaning Orthodox Christianity, icons, and crosses, and of practicing black magic and communicating with Satan. The impostor supposedly lived in terror of being discovered, for which reason he allegedly became less and less accessible to his people. The bloodthirsty monk also supposedly ordered many secret tortures and executions of persons who could identify him as Otrepev or who opposed his evil plans. His most fiendish plot, it was claimed, was a plan to kill all the boyars and clergy in order to convert Russia to Catholicism. In short, Tsar Dmitrii was seen as the Antichrist.

Before evaluating this lurid evidence, it should be noted that branding an assassinated ruler as a tyrant, usurper, and heretic was a common and effective strategy employed by usurpers in early modern Europe. The demonization of Dmitrii was, of course, absolutely essential in order to legitimize Shuiskii’s coup d’etat in 1606 because Tsar Dmitrii was a popular ruler regarded by many of his subjects as a sacred, Christ-like figure. Due primarily to Shuiskii’s efforts to discredit him, there developed a faulty historical image of Tsar Dmitrii as a frivolous, despised heretic who quickly lost the respect and support of his people and was toppled by an angry population led by a popular patriot and champion of Orthodox Christianity, Vasilii Shuiskii. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth; Tsar Dmitrii was a secure and confident ruler who was not facing rebellion at the time of his assassination.

Greatly complicating any evaluation of Dmitrii’s reign is the fact that some scholars came to regard him as the leader of the revolutionary masses, either as a cossack-tsar or as a cynical adventurer whose policies favoring the lower classes enraged the boyars and provoked his assassination. A variation on that erroneous theme has been that, once he rode to power on a wave of social revolution, Dmitrii abandoned the masses and ruled in the interests of the lords. Some have claimed that the rebellion against serfdom died down when Dmitrii became tsar, but the frivolous new ruler was unable to maintain boyar support and, by spring 1606, also faced growing popular unrest. In a desperate bid to maintain or regain the support of the masses, Dmitrii supposedly planned to abolish serfdom and possibly to renew class war against the lords, but he was killed by the angry boyars before he could implement such radical policies. His assassination, however, far from securing the ruling elite’s position, supposedly provoked a massive social revolution led by Ivan Bolotnikov. These interpretations of Tsar Dmitrii’s reign are, as we shall see, utterly false.

Tsar Dmitrii’s triumphal entry into Moscow in June 1605 was a joyous occasion. He was welcomed by many of his subjects as the true tsar who had been rescued by divine providence in order to restore God’s favor to Russia. Sources mentioning open opposition to the new tsar and widespread recognition of him as Otrepev were strongly influenced by Vasilii Shuiskii’s later propaganda campaign and are not accurate. Equally false are hostile sources referring to the fearful and bloodthirsty monk immediately ordering secret executions of scores of his opponents who knew he was an impostor. In fact, during Tsar Dmitrii’s first days in Moscow, thousands of people came forward to swear that he was the true tsar. Dmitrii was actually supremely confident and very reluctant to spill the blood of his opponents. Despite centuries of scholarly denial, he was from the very beginning of his reign a popular ruler. That is an essential point to keep in mind when trying to make sense out of the plots against him, his assassination, and the civil war fought in his name that raged for many years and nearly destroyed Russia. Once the propaganda and legends about Dmitrii are stripped away, what is truly noteworthy was his strikingly smooth transition to power.

Contrary to the traditional interpretation, the new tsar did not seem too radical or too Westernized to most of the Russian elite. He was able to reach swift accord with most boyars, church officials, bureaucrats, voevodas, and others, and he continued many of the same general policies of his predecessors — including those of Tsar Boris. There was never any discussion of convening a zemskii sobor in order to legitimize his claim to the throne, and, except for Vasilii Shuiskii’s foolish plot against him in the new tsar’s first days in Moscow — which was quickly discovered and crushed — Dmitrii faced no rebellions during his short reign. He certainly did not feel the need to hide his true identity, carry out major purges, or launch a terror campaign in order to stay in power. Instead, he confidently played the part of the good, wise, and just tsar who was accessible to his subjects. Contrary to traditional interpretations, his realm was a strong absolute monarchy feared and respected by its neighbors. According to Richard Hellie, Tsar Dmitrii was actually “one of the few really enlightened rulers Russia has ever had”.

Contemporaries, even some of his enemies, judged Tsar Dmitrii to be an exceptional person. The victorious young warrior-prince who «loved honor» was not only brave and bold; he was an extremely intelligent and resourceful person. He was extraordinarily well educated for a Russian tsar, well-versed in statecraft, advanced in his thinking, and very reform-minded. He was an excellent speaker who carried himself with «majesty and grandeur». He was determined to rule as a wise and clement prince, not as a tyrant, and he wished to make his subjects feel that they lived in a «free country». His manifestos displayed great care and concern for his people, and he obviously strove to gain their affection. Those efforts were more than marginally successful. Many of his subjects loved him, and he was the very first Russian ruler to be idealized as a «just tsar». He introduced the practice of receiving petitions directly from the people twice a week in order to speed up and assure justice for ordinary Russians, and he attempted to eliminate bribery among public officials. He lowered the tax burden and labor demands on the war-torn southern provinces that had supported him during his campaign for the throne. (In fact, his ten- year tax exemption for Putivl and Severia closely followed Boris Godunov’s earlier example of a ten-year tax exemption for war-torn Karelia.) Dmitrii responded to his subjects’ economic distress by attempting to set taxes at affordable rates.

According to contemporaries, he promulgated excellent laws and planned a new law code. He also made plans for promoting education and science in Russia. Tsar Dmitrii definitely had lofty military ambition; he was also the first tsar to call himself «emperor». He worked hard to improve the effectiveness of the Russian army, and he often practiced with his soldiers — who tended to adore him. More than one scholar has seen in Tsar Dmitrii a forerunner of Peter the Great.

The eminent historian Sergei Platonov suspected that much of Tsar Dmitrii’s remarkable reputation was simply due to his servants’ attempts to justify working for him. That is incorrect; even Dmitrii’s enemies praised the same virtues. Ruslan Skrynnikov regarded Dmitrii’s reforms and other actions which made him appear to be a «good tsar» as nothing more than insincere demagogery. That is also incorrect. As Maureen Perrie has observed, «we have no reason to doubt Dimitry’s sincerity» about intending «to rule with justice and mercy». She also noted the existence of “evidence that he was able to implement some positive measures of reform. Nonetheless, Tsar Dmitrii must have been quite a shock to many of his subjects. Not raised in the claustrophobic and tradition — bound Russian court, he did not behave in the usual manner of the tsars. Dmitrii proved to be an unconventional ruler who challenged many court and cultural norms. He upset some conservatives by breaches of tradition and his neglect of elaborate court ceremonies and religious rites. That aroused suspicions about him which Vasilii Shuiskii and others were able to exploit.

To begin with, Tsar Dmitrii dressed and acted in informal, «Western» ways. He was also a highly literate, independent thinker who did not conceal his disdain for the low level of education among his boyars. He preferred to surround himself with educated courtiers such as Mikhail Molchanov, Mikhail Tatishchev, Ivan T. Gramotin, and Ivan D. Khvorostinin instead of high-born aristocrats. According to Captain Margeret, Tsar Dmitrii also «sometimes showed a bit too much familiarity toward the lords» who had been «brought up in such subjection and fear that they would almost not dare to speak» in the presence of the tsar «without command». 44 Dmitrii trusted some very intelligent and well-educated foreigners with important posts in government — especially the Polish Protestant Buczynski brothers, Jan and Stanislaw. He also failed to observe and occasionally ridiculed some Russian customs. For example, he had no interest in attending church services for many hours each day. While he was careful to observe Orthodox Christian rituals in general, Tsar Dmitrii shocked some people by riding on horseback while on pilgrimages. He also «kept a joyful table» and dispensed with some of the seemingly endless religious rituals associated with dining at court. He did not fast zealously and occasionally ate food deemed «unclean» by the Russian Orthodox Church. He did not rest after dinner, as was customary. Instead, he often wandered around the Kremlin or Moscow alone or with just one or two guards — rejecting the custom of being surrounded by a crowd of boyars and courtiers wherever he went.

More shocking to many Russians were his interactions with and toleration of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. Especially scandalous was his decision to allow Catholics, even Jesuits, to have a church of their own in Moscow. Although Tsar Dmitrii kept his own contact with the Jesuits in low profile, for Russians brought up to regard the «Latin faith» as a Satanic heresy, Dmitrii’s religious toleration must have been a shock. The tsar’s enemies never tired of trying to link him to some kind of Catholic plot to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church. In fact, the mere presence of Poles and other Westerners in Moscow and at court was so disturbing to some xenophobic Russians that they did not bother to distinguish between Tsar Dmitrii’s inner circle of foreign Protestant advisers and the hated Catholics found wandering around the capital during his reign. All of them were regarded by unsophisticated Russians as suspicious heretics. It is a noteworthy aspect of early modern Russian political culture that much of the criticism leveled against Tsar Dmitrii by his enemies was remarkably similar to conservative complaints about that later «Antichrist», Peter the Great. Peter’s enemies also complained that he was a tyrant, a heretic, a tool of Satan, an immoral blasphemer, and a «Latinizer» whose Western-style dress and habits, preference for foreigners who scorned the backward Russians, and mockery of sacred Orthodox Christian rituals «proved» that he was an «impostor» and «false tsar». Unlike Tsar Dmitrii, however, Peter the Great set up an elaborate and effective mechanism to detect and punish potential traitors.

Tsar Dmitrii did not face significant opposition at the outset of his reign; instead, the general atmosphere was one of celebration. There were some dark rumors, however, spread by Vasilii Shuiskii— one of the losers in the newly emerging power structure. 56 It has been claimed that Tsar Dmitrii faced formidable boyar opposition from the very beginning of his reign and that Shuiskii’s faction was strong and planned to strike against the false tsar before he could entrench himself in power. That was definitely not the case. Close examination of sources and the issues involved reveals that most boyars were loyal supporters of the new tsar and that the intriguer Shuiskii was isolated and acting, more or less, on his own.

Tsar Dmitrii’s nemesis, Prince Vasilii Shuiskii, was one of the most senior and prestigious boyars whose family of Suzdal princes traced their ancestry back to Riurik, the legendary founder of the ancient Rus state. Short, stocky, balding, and unattractive, Vasilii Shuiskii was extremely nearsighted and looked vaguely ridiculous; yet he was a cunning and dangerous intriguer. Like Boris Godunov’s rival, Ivan Shuiskii, before him, Prince Vasilii firmly believed he was far more worthy to occupy the Russian throne than anyone else and was more than willing to shed blood to get it. He had dreamed of becoming tsar after Boris Godunov’s death only to be forestalled by Dmitrii. In desperation at losing out, Shuiskii tried to organize a hasty conspiracy against the new tsar. Within a few days of Dmitrii’s entry into the capital, Vasilii and his two younger brothers, Dmitrii and Ivan, were arrested for spreading a rumor that Dmitrii was Grishka Otrepev, a tool of the Jesuits who planned to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church. The Shuiskii brothers had apparently approached some lords, merchants, priests, and others with their claims and had actually begun to assemble a small group of trusted individuals in a plot to distract the Kremlin guards by means of arson so they could assassinate Tsar Dmitrii. Because of Shuiskii’s lofty status and Dmitrii’s desire to appear to be a just ruler rather than a tyrant, an extraordinary public state trial was held in which «persons chosen from all estates» listened to the evidence in the case. The new tsar may actually have convened a zemskii sobor for the occasion. It has been claimed that Dmitrii was forced to do this because he could not count on the boyar council, on its own, to condemn a high-born prince and that, in any case, the tsar’s real motive was not to seek the truth in the matter but to make a preemptive strike against a clan with a strong claim to the throne and strong support among the boyars. In fact, that was not at all the case. The Shuiskii brothers were not particularly popular among their fellow boyars. Dmitrii’s real motive in convening such a high-profile investigation of Vasilii Shuiskii’s charges against himself was to refute decisively the rumor campaign that some conservative boyars, clergymen, and others had been inclined to credit.

During Vasilii Shuiskii’s trial, Tsar Dmitrii personally acted as prosecutor. He stunned his subjects by his eloquent refutation of the traitor’s lies and by his testimony about how the Shuiskii clan had always been disloyal subjects. Dmitrii’s performance was so effective that the boyars immediately declared their love for the new tsar and shouted that Shuiskii deserved execution. Shuiskii thereupon made a full confession and fell to his knees, declaring that by his actions he had offended God. He was then upbraided by the new patriarch, Ignatii. Shuiskii was swiftly convicted of lese majesty and condemned to death. Not many days later he was taken to Red Square and prepared for the executioner’s ax. At the last minute, Tsar Dmitrii commuted his sentence to exile, along with his brothers, in faraway Viatka. Some contemporaries noted that this was Dmitrii’s greatest mistake since Shuiskii eventually did manage to assassinate him. Why did Tsar Dmitrii let the traitor live? It has been claimed that the false tsar’s «mother», the nun Marfa, secured the reprieve either because she knew that Dmitrii was an impostor or because she did not want her «son» to begin his reign by spilling the blood of a high-born prince. Some sources stated that the tsar’s secretary, Jan Buczynski, secured the reprieve by arguing that Dmitrii should go out of his way to pardon Russian lords and to treat them with kindness. Another source claimed just the opposite — that Buczynski argued against clemency for such a dangerous traitor. Still another source credited the state secretary Afanasii Vlasev for stopping the execution. Finally, Ruslan Skrynnikov has pointed to the precedent for last-minute reprieves set by Tsar Boris. Suffice it to say, the truth about the tsar’s ultimately fatal decision is not known. Only a minor courtier named Petr Turgenev and a merchant named Fedor Kalachnik were executed in connection with Shuiskii’s plot; Kalachnik was taunted as a traitor deserving death by the crowd gathered on Red Square.

Skrynnikov boldly asserted that Tsar Dmitrii’s two close associates, Bogdan Belskii and Petr Basmanov, urged Shuiskii’s execution to get the powerful boyar out of the way in order to secure their own positions but that the high-born princes objected to their bid for power and stood by one of their own. Supposedly, the Golitsyns, Boris Lykov, and Boris Tatev were alarmed by the rise of the «lowborn» Belskii and Basmanov and convinced other high-born nobles and church leaders to join with them in forcing Dmitrii to spare Shuiskii’s life. According to Skrynnikov, «the false tsar was rapidly becoming a prisoner of the Moscow nobility». There are a number of problems with that interpretation. Although it is true that some aristocrats resented being shoved aside by «lesser» men who were close to the new tsar, there is certainly no evidence that the minor princes Tatev and Lykov pleaded for clemency for Shuiskii. In fact, they both owed their careers to Tsar Dmitrii. Prince Boris Tatev had joined Dmitrii’s cause in 1604 and had been promoted to the rank of boyar by him. Prince Boris Lykov also joined Dmitrii’s cause during his campaign for the throne and had been promoted to a prestigious position at court by him. Although Tatev eventually joined Shuiskii’s later, successful conspiracy against Dmitrii, Skrynnikov himself wrote that the boyars involved in Shuiskii’s first aborted assassination plot were quick to denounce him as a traitor once their plan was uncovered. Would those compromised men really have pressed for clemency?

Skrynnikov also believed that Bogdan Belskii’s departure from Moscow to take up his important position as governor of Novgorod was somehow related to his «defeat» in a power struggle with the high-born princes over the issue of clemency for Shuiskii. For unclear reasons, Skrynnikov believed his own unproven hypothesis constituted evidence that the «false tsar» was not in control but had become a captive of the boyars. Actually, sending the trusted Belskii to Novgorod was more likely connected to Tsar Dmitrii’s plans for military action against Sweden later that year. Or it could have been the result of a feud between Belskii and Petr Basmanov, each angling to become Tsar Dmitrii’s most trusted ally and eyeing the other as the chief obstacle to that goal. It should also be remembered that Dmitrii had repeatedly shown himself to be a clement prince during his campaign for the throne. The tsar himself may have wished to appear as a gentle, forgiving ruler. One contemporary wrote that Tsar Dmitrii thought the conviction of Shuiskii, on its own, without execution, would send a cautionary message to all wavering lords and that the tsar felt himself to be in no further danger after the exile of the Shuiskiis.

The idea that Tsar Dmitrii did not control his own boyar council but was a virtual captive of it has been put forward several times by Skrynnikov. This notion appears to be derived both from the tradition of not taking the «impostor» seriously and from the intriguing theory that Russian autocracy was itself an illusion masking effective control by the boyars. A similar perspective on both issues has been advanced by Edward L. Keenan. In the case of Tsar Dmitrii, however, there is considerable evidence to dispute Skrynnikov’s claim. A closer look reveals that Dmitrii had strong allies on the boyar council and that he was nobody’s puppet. As noted earlier, Dmitrii had negotiated with the boyars before entering the capital about such things as the distribution of ranks and offices, the purging of the Godunovs from the boyar council, and the retention of estates. Only close relatives of Tsar Boris lost their positions and property; all others had their status and holdings even if received from Tsar Boris—confirmed by the new tsar. Dmitrii was quite mild and generous to his boyars, preferring to woo them with rewards rather than to cow them by resorting to tyranny. Following customary practice in early modern Russia, however, a few lords who had worked closely with the Godunovs and were not considered particularly trustworthy (or who had been enemies of the new tsar’s inner circle) may have been «demoted» by being shipped off to become voevodas in remote towns.

Tsar Dmitrii had many supporters on the boyar council. His initial allies included members of his own family, participants in the plot to make him tsar, other lords who had been exiled or otherwise mistreated by Tsar Boris, and those voevodas who joined his cause during his campaign for the throne. Of course, Dmitrii was especially generous to the Nagoi clan. In addition to returning his mother to exalted status in the Kremlin, Dmitrii appointed Marfa’s three brothers and two cousins to high positions on the boyar council and gave them rich rewards — including former estates of Boris Godunov. Bogdan Belskii was also richly rewarded and placed on the boyar council by Dmitrii.The new tsar also brought Ivan Nikitich Romanov back from exile, richly rewarded him, restored his estates, and made him a boyar. The monk Filaret (Fedor Nikitich Romanov) could not, of course, become a boyar again; but Tsar Dmitrii did promote him to the prestigious position of metropolitan of Rostov. The Romanovs were unquestioningly loyal to Tsar Dmitrii. Other great lords who had been disgraced, exiled, and impoverished by Tsar Boris were also readmit-ted to the boyar council by Dmitrii. For example, Ivan Vorotynskii had his estates restored and was promoted to the rank of boyar. The brothers I.P. and V.P. Golovin were both restored to favor and promoted to the rank of okolnichii. Vasilii Shchelkalov, an important bureaucrat out of favor with Tsar Boris, was also promoted to the rank of okolnichii, and newly-promoted okolnichii Prince Ivan A. Khvorostinin became a member of the tsar’s inner circle.

Tsar Dmitrii went out of his way to arrange marriage alliances between those lords returning from exile and the Nagoi clan in order to secure their firm support. Dmitrii also generously rewarded and promoted those voevodas and other officers who had joined him during his campaign for the throne — including his closest ally, Petr Basmanov, along with Ivan Golitsyn, Vasilii M. Mosalskii, Boris Tatev, Boris Lykov, Mikhail G. Saltykov, Petr and Grigorii Shakhovskoi, Fedor Sheremetev, Artemii Izmailov, Grigorii Mikulin, and Dmitrii V. Turenin. Many of those men became energetic supporters of the new tsar. A few other men who had not been out of favor under Tsar Boris but were promoted to the boyar council by Dmitrii also became his strong allies. A good example of this is state secretary Afanasii Vlasev, who was promoted to the rank of okolnichii by Tsar Dmitrii. From the very beginning of his reign, Dmitrii also made strenuous efforts to gain the support of the senior member of the boyar council, Fedor Mstislavskii — who was related to the old dynasty, had been kept from marrying by Tsar Boris, and had been suspected of pro-Dmitrii sympathies at the Godunov court. Dmitrii quickly forgave Mstislavskii for fighting against him and let him retain his chairmanship of the boyar council. The new tsar restored Mstislavskii’s property which Boris Godunov had confiscated and heaped honors and gifts on him including one of Tsar Boris’s palaces. Dmitrii’s «exaltation» of Mstislavskii included an immediate marriage alliance with the Nagoi clan. The tsar’s efforts paid off; Mstislavskii became a loyal supporter of Dmitrii. Dmitrii also restored to favor Fedor Mstislavskii’s brother-in-law, Simeon Bekbulatovich, who had been badly treated by Tsar Boris.

Tsar Dmitrii’s allies dominated the boyar council, but they did not dominate the tsar. Skrynnikov has asserted that the «false tsar» was, in effect, a terrified prisoner of the boyars and that they forced the impostor to carry out policies against his wishes or his own best interests. Skrynnikov’s perspective is tantalizingly similar to Edward Keenan’s controversial view of early modern Russian autocracy as an illusion masking boyar rule. Nevertheless, the fact that Tsar Dmitrii had many allies on the boyar council makes it essential to scrutinize Skrynnikov’s arguments carefully. He claimed that, at the outset of Dmitrii’s reign, the new tsar was forced by the boyars to dismiss his unruly cossacks and the Polish military forces that had helped him gain the throne. Dmitrii did, in fact, dismiss those men from his service, but there is no evidence that it was done under boyar pressure. Instead, it seems more likely that the new commander-in-chief of the entire Russian army no longer needed those men. He thanked and richly rewarded those faithful soldiers before sending them home—which was the usual and customary practice after military campaigns in that era. More significant evidence that Dmitrii was a captive of the boyars, according to Skrynnikov, were his decisions—made soon after exiling or imprisoning opponents — to pardon them and allow them to return to his service. In particular, Skrynnikov believed the boyars prevented Vasilii Shuiskii’s execution in the summer of 1605 and then, in late fall, managed to force the tsar to pardon Shuiskii and allow him to return to court despite protests from Dmitrii’s advisers that Shuiskii was a very real danger to the throne. The boyars must have forced this upon the tsar, Skrynnikov argued, because it was obviously not in Dmitrii’s own interest and Shuiskii immediately resumed plotting against the tsar, albeit more cautiously than before.

There is, in fact, no evidence of boyar pressure to pardon Shuiskii, and one contemporary source actually claimed Dmitrii’s secretaries, the Buczynski brothers, were the ones who repeatedly urged the tsar to forgive the traitor and allow him to return to Moscow. It is worth noting that at about the same time Tsar Dmitrii also pardoned several members of the Godunov clan, put them back to work as voevodas, and even promoted one of Tsar Boris’s relatives to the rank of boyar. Vasilii Shuiskii himself was returned to the boyar council, and Dmitrii actually arranged for him to marry a relative of the Nagoi clan. Tsar Dmitrii was a clement and forgiving prince, and he may very well have naively decided to pardon Shuiskii on his own. For what it is worth, the periods of time spent in exile during Tsar Boris’s reign also tended to be remarkably short. Suffice it to say, Skrynnikov has not proven that Tsar Dmitrii was a puppet of the boyars. Maureen Perrie has expressed healthy skepticism about Skrynnikov’s assertion, reminding us that the traditional interpretation was that Dmitrii was overthrown by the boyars precisely because they resented his independent policies and assertion of authority. Contemporary observers of the tsar, even one of his opponents, confirmed that Dmitrii dominated his boyar council, that he was much better educated in the art of government than his boyars, that his speeches were learned and wise, that his proposed policies easily prevailed, and that the tsar was personally responsible for making good laws.

No doubt some boyars grumbled about Tsar Dmitrii’s unconventional behavior and contact with foreigners. More troubling to at least a few high-born princes was their inability to break into the tsar’s inner circle. Some of those proud men had gladly abandoned the Godunovs, hoping to be able to dominate the new tsar’s government. As it turned out, Tsar Dmitrii, by his appointments to the boyar council and by his choice of close advisers, seemed to be shoving those princes into the background in favor of the Nagoi clan and pushy, well-educated upstarts. Some aristocrats deeply resented the rise of «unworthy» and «low-born» men in Tsar Dmitrii’s service. It may even have appeared to some aging survivors of Ivan the Terrible’s reign that Dmitrii was reconstructing Tsar Ivan’s personal court aristocracy. In fact, many of the men in the new tsar’s inner circle did come from families which had been active in the hated oprichnina. Of course, Tsar Dmitrii had no intention of reinstituting his father’s terror campaign, but the hatred some princes felt for the likes of Basmanov and others close to the new tsar was very real. It is likely that painful memories of the oprichnina were conjured up by Dmitrii’s enemies as they quietly sought allies among the nobility.

Conspirators plotting against Tsar Dmitrii were able to find some sympathizers among the Russian Orthodox clergy. Unfortunately, Skrynnikov jumped to the conclusion that all «princes of the church» joined with the boyars to prevent Dmitrii from executing Shuiskii. Not only is that interpretation wrong about the relationship of the boyars to Tsar Dmitrii, but it is also wrong about the relationship of the clergy to the unconventional new tsar. Dmitrii had no trouble imposing his will on the Russian Orthodox Church, whose leaders were in no position to dictate terms to the tsar. It should be remembered that in this period the church was effectively controlled by the «secular political elite» dominant in the Kremlin. Tsar Dmitrii also had allies among the church leaders who praised the new tsar, actively participated in celebrating his accession to the throne, and tried to get along with him even though many of them were scandalized by his religious toleration and contact with foreign «heretics». As noted earlier, the unpopular Patriarch Iov was removed from office and replaced by Tsar Dmitrii’s choice, the well-educated Greek Cypriot, Ignatii, who (as bishop of Riazan) had been the first church leader to recognize Dmitrii as tsar. Tsar Dmitrii’s enemies, of course, regarded the toppling of Iov as an arbitrary action taken in violation of church rules. They vividly portrayed the new patriarch as an evil man hated by the Russian people but forced upon them by the «false tsar» who was also busy raping nuns and ordering the secret torture and execution of monks and other clergymen every night. In fact, church leaders — including Iov — recognized that as Boris Godunov’s friend, Iov was no longer a viable patriarch. He was convinced to resign and offered as an excuse his advanced age and blindness. Skrynnikov found that excuse to be unconvincing, but Iov really was nearly blind by then and certainly had no interest in trying to cling to his office against the wishes of the new tsar and the hostile population of Moscow. Apparently, some clergymen who had been very close to Patriarch Iov and were therefore considered untrustworthy also lost their positions when he left office. No doubt, they became potential recruits in the plot against Tsar Dmitrii.

To be continued.

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