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 о 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 – виртуальную марионетку циничных бояр, которые знали, что он был самозванцем, и избавились от него, как только он перестал 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 и понять, что это был единственный русский царь, который пришел к власти путем военного похода и народного бунта.
Ключевые слова и фразы: Дмитрий, Василий Шуйский, патриарх Иов, Смутное время.
The reign of tsar Dmitry (1605–1606).
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.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.
Propaganda against Tsar Dmitrii made him out to be a tool of the Jesuits who planned to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church and convert the country to Catholicism. Once he became tsar, however, Dmitrii showed no interest whatsoever in converting Russia and little interest in working with or even having contact with Catholics. He clearly preferred the company of Protestants and educated Russians. (Of course, it should be noted that, to many xenophobic Orthodox Christians, Protestants were just as bad as the «heretic» Catholics).Wild tales about «Otrepev» as an evil tool of Satan who delighted in spilling Orthodox Christian blood in order to hide his true identity have made it extremely difficult for historians to look objectively at Tsar Dmitrii’s relationship to the Russian Orthodox Church. In fact, church leaders cooperated with the new tsar. False rumors about the secret executions of monks were really just part of a propaganda campaign secretly promoted by Shuiskii and by the Swedish government at a time when King Karl IX rightly feared Tsar Dmitrii was planning a war against him.
Far from being hostile to the Russian Orthodox Church, Dmitrii actually confirmed and even issued new charters of immunities to some monasteries.He also had some churches decorated. He went on pilgrimages and otherwise tried to observe the basic rituals of the Orthodox Christian faith. He did, however, encounter criticism for ordering a survey of all monastic holdings in order to gain sorely needed revenue with which to shore up his impoverished gentry militiamen in preparation for a planned crusade against the Crimean Tatars and the Turks. Dmitrii did, in fact, borrow money from rich monasteries. He also confiscated a few pieces of church property in Moscow, which resulted in the eviction of some priests from lodgings convenient to the Kremlin.
According to Skrynnikov, that relatively modest confiscation and Dmitrii’s taxation of the church’s wealth pushed an exasperated clergy into opposition to him. That is not at all clear; other tsars before and after Dmitrii, including Boris Godunov and Vasilii Shuiskii, occasionally imposed emergency taxes on the church and even seized church property without provoking any such dramatic reaction. Beyond Shuiskii’s disinformation campaign and Swedish-inspired propaganda, Skrynnikov has provided no evidence of such a reaction on the part of church leaders during Tsar Dmitrii’s reign.
What really stirred serious opposition within the Russian Orthodox Church and elsewhere was Dmitrii’s decision in the fall of 1605 to marry a Polish Catholic princess, Marina Mniszech—the daughter of his one-time military commander, Jerzy Mniszech, the palatine of Sandomierz. Some fanatic church leaders flatly opposed the marriage; others, including the zealous metropolitan of Kazan, Hermogen, demanded that Marina convert to Orthodoxy before the wedding. Marina, however, insisted on remaining a Catholic, and Tsar Dmitrii backed her up. In the end, after senior clergymen made several unsuccessful attempts to talk the tsar out of the marriage, Patriarch Ignatii blessed the union and Tsar Dmitrii ordered disgrace and exile for any church leaders who refused to go along. Metropolitan Hermogen refused to bless the marriage and was immediately sent back to Kazan and shut up in a monastery. The rest of the clergy quickly quieted down and, at least publicly, bowed to the tsar’s will.Except for Hermogen, all metropolitans, archbishops, bishops, abbots, and leading clergymen joined Patriarch Ignatii and Tsar Dmitrii’s boyars in signing off on the marriage agreement and the plan to dispatch an embassy to Poland to make the necessary arrangements. Even Metropolitans Isidor of Novgorod and Pafnutii of Krutitsa, both future allies of the intriguer Vasilii Shuiskii, signed the document approving the royal marriage.
The lone holdout (and future patriarch), seventy-five year old Metropolitan Hermogen, was a most atypical religious leader. He had lived among the Don cossacks for many years and had joined the clergy only at the age of fifty. He was an excellent speaker and very well educated for that era, and he managed to rise to the lofty rank of metropolitan of Kazan within just ten years. In Kazan, he displayed a «rare fanaticism»in his missionary work and was merciless to his enemies. Hermogen took severe measures against Islamic subjects of the tsar and even harassed many Tatars who had at least nominally converted to Christianity.
The aged metropolitan was a religious fanatic who fought against any perceived threat to the Russian Orthodox Church. He was afraid of no one and was exceedingly forthright in expressing his views. Even his friends often found him «too blunt in word and deed». Long before the issue of Dmitrii’s marriage came up, Hermogen had already defied Patriarch Iov and Tsar Boris by refusing to sign Godunov’s coronation charter. By late 1605, he was once again in disgrace. It is not known whether Vasilii Shuiskii, newly returned from exile himself, contacted the old metropolitan—who became his future ally and patriarch. Because of the fact that both men were known opponents of Dmitrii, a more cautious Shuiskii was probably not in a hurry to approach Hermogen. Instead, he may have been content to begin working secretly with sympathetic church officials who were not in disgrace. Shuiskii’s contacts may have included Metropolitans Pafnutii and Isidor, both of whom emerged as his allies once he managed to seize the throne. Nonetheless, even those two church officials’ possible involvement in Shuiskii’s plot is mere conjecture, and there is certainly no evidence to support the claim that the entire clergy opposed Tsar Dmitrii.
As soon as Vasilii Shuiskii returned to Moscow in late 1605, he began secretly conspiring to assassinate Tsar Dmitrii, presenting himself to carefully chosen ultra-Orthodox individuals as the champion of the Russian Orthodox Church and the «first sufferer» for the faith at the hands of «Otrepev». He promised to halt the «flood of heresy» the false tsar had introduced to Russia. Shuiskii found some willing supporters among monks and priests, and he may have found additional recruits among resentful, low-ranking courtiers who had served Tsar Boris and had then been dismissed when Dmitrii came to power. Shuiskii may also have been able to recruit a few secretaries and clerks in the tsar’s bureaucracy who had been dismissed as unreliable, had opposed Dmitrii’s policies, or—more likely—had been punished for corruption or had at one time or another been on the receiving end of one of the tsar’s periodic outbursts against his bureaucrats for stupidity and arrogance. In any case, Shuiskii’s small group of conspirators made their first feeble attempt to assassinate the tsar in the Kremlin in January 1606. Three persons were apprehended and executed without naming their accomplices. One contemporary was astonished that Shuiskii’s involvement in the plot was not discovered.
At that time, Moscow was filled with false rumors about secret executions of monks who opposed the «false tsar». Tsar Dmitrii responded to the incident by increasing Kremlin security. Among other things, he created an elite bodyguard of several hundred foreign mercenaries led by the intelligent and trustworthy Captain Jacques Margeret.Dmitrii’s enemies later portrayed this as an «heretical innovation» that greatly upset the Russian lords. That is an exaggeration. The persons really disturbed by this wise precaution were potential assassins. It is worth noting that after Tsar Dmitrii’s murder, the usurper Vasilii Shuiskii—who dismissed many of the foreign troops Tsars Boris and Dmitrii had recruited over the years—did not feel any great pressure to dismiss the captain of Tsar Dmitrii’s foreign bodyguard. Instead, Shuiskii attempted to retain him in his own service.
In the early months of 1606, Shuiskii’s conspirators concocted several more assassination plots in an attempt to kill Dmitrii before his bride-to-be arrived in the country or the traitors themselves were discovered. With access to the tsar in the Kremlin now more carefully guarded, they temporarily switched tactics and planned to assassinate Dmitrii during one of the many winter military exercises in which the bold tsar took active part and exposed himself to great risk. The assassins were unable to find an opportune moment in the field, however, and were soon forced to turn to yet another strategy. By then, the conspirators had managed to gain a few supporters among the Moscow Streltsy, but seven of those men were indiscreet enough to be discovered. In March 1606, before an assembly of the entire Moscow Streltsy detachment, Tsar Dmitrii — flanked by Petr Basmanov (who served as the head of the Streltsy prikaz), Fedor Mstislavskii, and the Nagois—made an impassioned speech in which he assured his soldiers that he was indeed the son of Ivan the Terrible. His speech made a strong impression; the streltsy immediately tore the traitors in their ranks to pieces. After that dramatic and bloody incident, opposition to the tsar temporarily quieted down. The conspirators had to be extremely cautious as they made new plans and sought additional allies.
According to tradition, by early 1606 the Shuiskii brothers were able to count on wide support in their struggle against the «false tsar». Because of various assassination attempts, lurid propaganda, and a lingering prejudice against Tsar Dmitrii, historians have often taken at face value the assertions by Dmitrii’s enemies that he had basically been abandoned by most Russians—even his former allies—in the months before his assassination. There are, however, a number of problems with that interpretation. For example, historians have usually credited evidence that during the winter of 1605-6 the Shuiskiis were joined in their conspiracy by the Golitsyns, other disillusioned boyars, and even Dmitrii’s mother. It is alleged that the false tsar angered the nun Marfa by contemplating the desecration of the real Tsarevich Dmitrii’s grave in Uglich, and that Marfa then secretly aided the Shuiskiis and Golitsyns in making secret contact with King Sigismund to complain about the impostor and to offer the throne to Sigismund’s son, Prince Wladyslaw, in return for assistance in overthrowing «Otrepev». In fact, it is very likely that the Golitsyns did join Shuiskiis conspiracy, but the basis for the colorful story of Marfa and the boyars contacting the king of Poland is extremely weak. It consists of the Polish general Stanislas Zolkiewski’s memoirs, written many years later, in which he credited a dubious Swedish source’s absurd tale about treason in Moscow. Historians should have been more skeptical about this information, especially since the king of Sweden was at that time actively pursuing a propaganda campaign to undermine Tsar Dmitrii. Scholars have also taken at face value a story about Tsar Dmitrii’s ambassador to Poland, Ivan Bezobrazov, secretly informing Sigismund that the Shuiskiis, the Golitsyns, and others wished to get rid of the impostor in favor of Prince Wladyslaw. Again, the source of this story is the same Swedish propaganda-influenced Polish general’s memoirs. In fact, historians have been so anxious to credit Zolkiewski’s information that they have ignored obvious problems with it. For example, Zolkiewski claimed that the recently pardoned Vasilii Shuiskii was the person who recommended Bezobrazov for the embassy to Poland—which is extremely unlikely. Bezobrazov also supposedly told the Poles that he grew up as a neighbor and playmate of Otrepev and recognized him as the man playing the role of Tsar Dmitrii. Why would a false tsar send such an ambassador?
Other evidence has also been distorted in order to fit the traditional interpretation ofTsar Dmitrii. For example, in December 1605, Dmitrii sent his secretary, Jan Buczynski, to Poland; in January 1606, Buczynski sent the tsar a letter stating that King Sigismund was aware that his own internal foes hoped to make use of Tsar Dmitrii in a plan to topple the king. That information has been erroneously interpreted to mean that Dmitrii himself planned to topple Sigismund, which in turn supposedly forced Sigismund to join in a conspiracy with Dmitrii’s boyar opponents. It has also been alleged that Buczynski’s letter convinced the tsar that some of his boyars must be traitors who had secretly informed the Poles of his intentions. In fact, all that is pure conjecture. The case against Dmitrii on this particular point is not helped by the fact that rumors circulating in Poland maintained that the tsar planned to send against Sigismund an army commanded by one of the Shuiskii princes! Nor is the case against Dmitrii aided by Skrynnikov’s erroneous notion that the large sum of money Dmitrii sent to his future father-in-law, an ardent Catholic, was actually intended to finance a rebellion against Sigismund by Protestant and Orthodox noblemen. Skrynnikov was also utterly convinced that King Sigismund became involved in the plot against Dmitrii. However, there is no proof of that. For what it is worth, Sigismund later denied any involvement; and the pope was at the time actually urging Sigismund to cooperate with Tsar Dmitrii, not to try to topple him for being slow to convert Russia to Catholicism.
The eminent historian Sergei Platonov boldly declared that by January 1606, Dmitrii’s secretary Buczynski warned him of a rumor that «Moscow was completely convinced that Dimitry was not the real tsar». A serious problem with that assertion is that Buczynski was in Poland when he supposedly informed Dmitrii of that startling rumor. In fact, historians have frequently made use of the lies Buczynski was coerced into telling by Shuiskii’s henchmen after his master had been assassinated. Skrynnikov even went so far as to credit the story about the return to Russia at the beginning of 1606 of one of the Russians who had earlier identified Dmitrii as Dmitrii to Polish authorities. Supposedly, the renegade Khripunov met at the border one of Dmitrii’s Polish officers who was then on his way home and informed the officer that Moscow knew Tsar Dmitrii was an impostor and would soon be rid of him. The problem with that source, which Skrynnikov neglected to mention, is that Khripunov, whatever he may have said, had by then been living in Poland-Lithuania for several years. What would he really know about popular sentiment in Moscow? We are told by historians of similar discussions about the false tsar in taverns and virtually everywhere in Russia, but no credible sources have ever been cited. In fact, scholars have been so eager to credit the idea that Dmitrii was widely regarded as an impostor that they have often made use of the extremely dubious story told by the Saxon mercenary Conrad Bussow about the tsar’s closest ally, Petr Basmanov. Supposedly, Basmanov casually admitted to some of his soldiers that Dmitrii was an impostor. It is, however, absurd to think that Basmanov ever committed such a foolish act of lese majesty.
The difficult truth for historians to accept is that in early 1606 Tsar Dmitrii was still a popular ruler while the conspirators represented only a relatively small group of disgruntled and ambitious individuals. Nevertheless, Shuiskii’s allies busied themselves by spreading false rumors, and they were secretly joined by at least a few boyars and other lords. The motivation to commit treason at this time for princes such as the Golitsyns, far from being a function of Orthodox fervor, may simply have been the closing off of any further opportunities for advancement at Tsar Dmitrii’s court. Edward Keenan has reminded us that one of the only paths to power in early modern Russia was by marriage alliances with the tsar and that sharp political struggles at court over royal marriages sometimes resulted in murder.
Furthermore, according to Keenan, the tsar was not free to marry whomever he pleased but was forced to take into account the wishes of his boyars and the balance of power among the boyar clans. Foreign marriages were supposedly “taboo” for the tsars because they cut off opportunities for Russian aristocrats to advance at court. Keenan may have exaggerated somewhat in declaring tsarist foreign marriages taboo. Nonetheless, his point is well taken, and with respect to Tsar Dmitrii is supported by at least two contemporary sources. Conrad Bussow declared that the tsar’s planned wedding displeased Russian lords because «he was disregarding the daughters of the magnates», and Isaac Massa bluntly stated after Dmitrii’s assassination that he would still have been in power had he, among other things, chosen to «marry a Muscovite princess».
Vasilii Shuiskii probably gained an ally or two among the boyars and other Russians for gently rebuking the tsar for serving «unclean» veal at a banquet in April 1606. Mikhail Tatishchev, previously assumed to be greatly favored by Dmitrii, stood up for Shuiskii on that occasion and was extremely rude to the tsar. Dmitrii immediately banished him from court—much to the alarm of the conspirators. It is probable that one of the traitors, Vasilii Golitsyn, somehow managed to convince his half-brother, Petr Basmanov, to prevail upon Dmitrii to forgive Tatishchev and return him to court in time for the tsar’s wedding. Captain Margeret noted that everyone suspected Tatishchev was already involved in a plot against the tsar and stated that his «recall was a mistake approaching that of recalling Shuiskii, for Tatishchev was known to have a malicious temperament and to be incapable of forgetting any injury».
Tsar Dmitrii really was foolhardy not to be more cautious. This particular incident may have convinced Shuiskii and his co-conspirators that it was too dangerous to postpone their strike against the tsar much longer. To deflect suspicion from themselves, however, they encouraged a rumor that some lords wished to replace Dmitrii with Simeon Bekbulatovich. It is possible that, because of those rumors, Dmitrii may have ordered Simeon tonsured; however, there is no evidence that the blind old man became a monk against his own wishes, and he had actually been treated very well by Tsar Dmitrii.
In spite of the defection of a few great lords, the majority of Tsar Dmitrii’s boyars remained loyal to him. It was therefore necessary for the aristocratic conspirators to be extremely careful and publicly to continue to appear to be friendly to the tsar. It has often been incorrectly asserted that Dmitrii, faced with growing opposition among the boyars, turned to the gentry for support. In fact, Tsar Dmitrii was very popular among his troops, and he did focus much attention and resources on the pomeshchiki, but he did not do that in order to counterbalance wavering boyars. It is important to remember that the tsar was a warrior-prince with military ambition. He had personally tested the mettle of the Russian army in combat and found it wanting. In order to improve the fighting capability of his military forces, he decided it was necessary to shore up the battered, demoralized gentry militiamen.
Contemporaries were struck by Dmitrii’s love for and generosity to his military forces. Shortly after coming to power, he ordered a general survey of the conditions of his cavalrymen to make sure they had adequate salaries and landholdings. Many, of course, did not, so the tsar lavished resources on them. He raised their salaries and, in the process, depleted an already shrinking treasury. Dmitrii’s enemies later claimed that he squandered the treasury frivolously; but the lion’s share of his expenditures were made to strengthen his military forces. The tsar went out of his way to find out directly from his pomeshchiki what their problems were, and he promised to help solve them and to improve their lives. Dmitrii distributed a huge amount of land to his pomeshchiki and constantly sought more for them. He continued and refined Boris Godunov’s policy of excluding the sons of the nongentry from the ranks of pomeste estate holders by adding sons of townsmen to the list of persons ineligible to join the militia. Dmitrii also confiscated the estates of some former slaves who had been promoted into the ranks of the gentry by Tsar Boris.Some historians of the peasant war school saw the removal of such «dangerous» lower class elements from the militia as an attempt to suppress a mythical «antifeudal» movement developing in the country. Actually, the poor performance and unreliability of such forces, vividly demonstrated at the siege of Kromy in 1605, affected the tsar’s decision far more than any alleged fear of the lower classes. Dmitrii wanted a first-rate military force and wished to set it apart from the rest of Russian society. In many ways, his «warrior caste» in formation was the logical culmination of the increasing stratification of Russian society in the late sixteenth century.
In addition to shoring up the economies of the gentry, Tsar Dmitrii sharpened their martial skills by requiring his men to receive active training, especially in siege warfare. According to a contemporary, the tsar personally «took part in these exercises as a common soldier, and spared nothing to instruct the Muscovites in the science of war». He also ordered the production of a large quantity of new artillery, especially mortars built to fire grenades. Dmitrii personally tested some of the new cannons. In addition, the tsar ordered the construction of new ships for transporting his army and its supplies.Dmitrii was also always on the lookout for foreign military specialists, and he and Captain Margeret may have introduced some basic reforms concerning infantry maneuvers in battle.
Initially, Tsar Dmitrii planned possible military action against Sweden, intending to regain the port of Narva (lost to the Swedes by Ivan the Terrible) and to aid Sigismund III in his long struggle against Karl IX. By September 1605, Petr Basmanov was reported to be gathering large forces near the Swedish border.The king of Poland was soon informed that up to forty thousand Russian troops were available for action against Sweden. Sigismund’s great victory over Karl’s forces at the battle of Kirkholm in September 1605, however, changed the strategic situation in Livonia; soon Dmitrii’s offers of military aid to Poland turned into financial assistance instead. It has been asserted that Tsar Dmitrii changed his mind about war with Sweden because of boyar opposition at home. In fact, he really was worried about appearing to be too pro-Polish at the very same time he was making plans to marry a Polish princess. By then rumors were circulating about Dmitrii’s secret promise of territorial concessions to Sigismund, and the tsar tried to scotch them by publicly quarreling over the titles the Polish king used in addressing him. At the same time, a worried King Karl was offering to recognize all of Dmitrii’s titles and proposed a peace treaty with Russia.What really influenced the tsar’s decision to change his military plans, however, was the arrival in Moscow late in 1605 of a group of Don cossacks with the captured commander of the strategically important Tatar fortress of Azov. Dmitrii soon became extremely enthusiastic about leading a Christian crusade against the Crimean Tatars and the Turks.
Tsar Dmitrii dreamed of achieving a great victory over Islam, undoubtedly influenced by Ivan the Terrible’s conquest of Kazan and Astrakhan. He was probably also influenced by the need to find additional lands for his gentry and the desire to pacify the southern frontier—especially the Astrakhan region, where there was continuing cossack unrest. The tsar’s militiamen shared his enthusiasm about the plan. Dmitrii attempted to enlist the aid of Sigismund III, the pope, and others in the crusade; he received encouraging replies but no offers of military assistance. Sigismund actually urged him to lead his army to victory over the Tatars and Turks in order to earn the title «tsar».
In fact, Dmitrii did plan to personally lead his army in a major campaign against the Crimean Tatars once his wedding festivities (planned for spring 1606) were completed. During the winter of 1605-6, he had huge quantities of food, munitions, and artillery, along with siege engines and a large number of troops forward based to the strategically located southern frontier fortress of Elets. He also sent a sizable military force, including many Streltsy, to Astrakhan under the command of Fedor Sheremetev. By spring 1606, Dmitrii had reportedly massed up to one hundred thousand men in the Elets region. Additional troops levied in the spring were to move south with the tsar from Moscow soon after the royal wedding. Months earlier, Tsar Dmitrii had sent a large sum of money to his future father-in-law, Jerzy Mniszech, asking him to bring with the wedding party those Polish, Belorussian, and Lithuanian veterans from Dmitrii’s campaign for the throne who wished to rejoin the tsar’s service for the planned crusade against Islam. More than a thousand well-armed men took him up on the offer and accompanied Marina and the wedding party to Moscow for just that purpose. In preparation for the upcoming military campaign, Tsar Dmitrii apparently sent a letter to the Crimean khan in which he repeated an insulting message Ivan the Terrible had sent to the khan’s predecessor many years earlier.
Vasilii Shuiskii and his small group of co-conspirators decided they had to act before the tsar departed on campaign, where he would be more carefully guarded and more difficult to kill than in Moscow. They chose the tsar’s upcoming wedding celebration as the time to strike and began making careful preparations. According to the flawed traditional interpretation of Tsar Dmitrii’s reign, by the time his fiancée arrived in Moscow in late spring 1606, the «false tsar» was trembling in fear of boyar plots. In reality, Dmitrii was well aware of rumors about plots but did not take them seriously. Instead, he remained serene and self-confident, displaying no fear of his subjects.
In assessing Dmitrii’s last days, historians have, in general, been overly influenced by Shuiskii’s propaganda campaign to discredit him once the tsar was dead. Dmitrii’s enemies claimed that the trapped impostor had felt the need to take desperate measures to protect himself, and they hurled the most ridiculous charges at him.For example, he was falsely accused of wanting to give land away to the Crimean Tatars or of wanting many Russian soldiers to die on his planned crusade against Islam in order to facilitate Polish Catholic colonization of Russia. He was also accused of planning to massacre the boyars, the clergy, and even the inhabitants of Moscow. And, of course, he continued to be accused of vile heresy, sorcery, and wild sexual misconduct. Furthermore, it has even been claimed that Dmitrii was so terrified that he planned to move the capital of Russia away from Moscow or to flee from the country in order to save his life.
One of the most outrageous and enduring charges against Dmitrii was the accusation that he encouraged the cossacks to raid Russian merchants along the Volga and even invited the cossack pretender «Tsarevich Petr» to come to Moscow in order to intimidate the «false tsar’s» opponents. That absurd accusation has been the source of great confusion in scholarship and eventually grew into a complex «peasant war» interpretation of the desperate «Otrepev’s» problems in the spring of 1606. In fact, the Terek cossacks, frustrated by their inability to shoot their way into Astrakhan during the winter of 1605-6, took their cue from Dmitrii and created their own copy-cat pretender to the throne as a pretext for raiding merchants on the Volga and possibly to gain entry into Astrakhan itself. «Tsarevich Petr», represented as the son of Tsar Fedor Ivanovich, and up to four thousand Terek cossacks proceeded up the Volga and caused enough harm to gain Tsar Dmitrii’s attention by April 1606. In an attempt to neutralize the brigands, Dmitrii wrote to Tsarevich Petr, knowing full well that he was dealing with an impostor. According to Captain Margeret, in his letter Tsar Dmitrii invited Petr to Moscow, promising that «if he were the true son of his brother Fedor he would be welcome». However, Dmitrii added, «if he were not the true son of Fedor, he should withdraw from the emperor’s lands». Petr understood completely the meaning of the tsar’s letter and did not ride toward Moscow. Instead, he and his men stayed safely out of Tsar Dmitrii’s way.
Nonetheless, after Dmitrii’s assassination, his enemies spread the rumor that Dmitrii had really intended to invite Petr to the capital. One contemporary expressed uncertainty about the rumor’s meaning, seeing in it either an expression of friendship on Dmitrii’s part or as a ruse to capture the brigands. Adding to the confusion, one faulty and reworked source actually had Petr writing to Dmitrii, calling him an impostor and demanding the throne for himself. Those propaganda-influenced versions of events have been credited by scholars who came to view Dmitrii as a desperate impostor who hoped to use Petr against his boyar opponents.
In fact, Tsar Dmitrii would never have considered an alliance with Petr, and if Petr had been foolish enough to go to Moscow he would surely have been arrested and executed. Part of the problem in interpreting this episode has been that historians have incorrectly assumed that Tsarevich Petr’s intention from the beginning was to travel to Moscow.That was clearly not the case. His goal was booty, and his path did not lead toward the capital. Petr and his cossacks may very well have been, as Margeret put it, «discontented with Dmitrii, reckoning that they had not been recompensed by him as they had hoped to be». Those brigands were in no position, however, to threaten Tsar Dmitrii. Among other things, the tsar had a large army advancing down the Volga toward Astrakhan at that very same time.
The most extreme interpretation of the Tsarevich Petr episode was put forward by Vadim Koretskii, a major contributor to the Marxist model of the First Peasant War. Whereas most scholars—correctly—viewed the Bolotnikov rebellion as being triggered by Tsar Dmitrii’s assassination; Koretskii and a few other scholars have asserted that Tsar Dmitrii was himself facing an impending peasant rebellion before his assassination and, in desperation, suddenly changed his policies in the spring of 1606 in order to appease cossacks and peasants.
According to Koretskii, Tsar Dmitrii was caught between a growing boyar conspiracy and a mass revolt against serfdom and the entire feudal order. In desperation he turned to Tsarevich Petr in a bid to shore up his position with the masses. Supposedly, if Dmitrii had not agreed to placate the cossacks and peasants, or perhaps even begin some kind of class war against the boyars, his own authority over the southern frontier would have evaporated—he would no longer be considered the «true tsar» by Tsarevich Petr and others. Therefore, Dmitrii was forced to seek an alliance with Petr and to make plans to fulfil the social utopian dreams of his lower class supporters. Koretskii described a terrified Dmitrii making hasty plans to restore the St. George’s Day privilege of peasant departure and being assassinated by the boyars before he could implement such a radical policy. But the assassination, we are told, only served to intensify the developing peasant war. Koretskii’s fantastic theory, which demands the suspension of many of the most basic assumptions of early modern Russian political culture, was based upon incredibly shaky evidence. Koretskii cited growing unrest in southern Russia during the winter of 1605-6. It is, however, by no means clear that the winter disturbance on the southern frontier should have been of any real concern to Tsar Dmitrii. Even Koretskii was forced to admit that it was not aimed against Dmitrii but rather naively against some unpopular local administrators who had acted unfairly and without the tsar’s consent or knowledge. Indeed, in the spring of 1606, just when he was supposedly most fearful of revolt,
Tsar Dmitrii ordered punishment for those men responsible for the disturbance. Whatever one makes of this incident, Dmitrii’s response to it certainly does not lend much support to Koretskii’s view of the period. Koretskii also tried to portray Tsarevich Petr as a social revolutionary whose very existence was a symptom of a growing peasant rebellion and around whom the disgruntled population of the southern frontier supposedly began gathering in a menacing mass movement. There is, in fact, very little evidence of burning class consciousness and commitment to class war operating in Petr’s mind in the spring of 1606. For all his later representation as a social revolutionary, at that time Petr was just an adventurer; brigandage, not revolution, was uppermost in the minds of Petr’s followers. Even if Petr had been a true revolutionary in the spring of 1606, he probably would not have found all that many supporters to join him in rebellion against Tsar Dmitrii. Many southerners, after all, had fought for Dmitrii in 1604-5 and later had their tax burden lowered by him. Koretskii certainly did not prove that the southern provinces were on the verge of rebellion against Tsar Dmitrii.
Koretskii assumed that, by the time of Petr’s appearance, Tsar Dmitrii had already made up his mind to change his policies in order to placate the masses. The plots in Moscow against the tsar were cited as evidence that Dmitrii was probably ready to turn against the Russian aristocracy. Actually, there is no evidence that Dmitrii took any of those plots seriously or ever considered a radical change in his policies. What evidence did Koretskii cite to show that Dmitrii was about to change his social policies in the spring of 1606? He was able to cite only one undated, unsigned document concerning the restoration of the peasants’ right to move after the fall harvest. Koretskii believed that this controversial document (the Svodnyi sudebnik) was a rough draft of Tsar Dmitrii’s new law code and represented the tsar’s desperate attempt to placate the masses, an attempt that virtually guaranteed his assassination by the lords. However, Koretskii provided a weak case at best for Dmitrii needing to placate the masses, and the Svodnyi sudebnik by itself does not provide enough additional evidence to prove his theory. It is worth noting that not all Soviet historians were convinced that the Svodnyi sudebnik in any way represented Dmitrii’s thinking or even belonged to the period of his reign.
Despite all the confusion in sources and historiography, it is clear that Tsar Dmitrii ruled in the interests of the lords and never contemplated the abolition of serfdom. His peasant policy was actually more conservative than Boris Godunov’s. Dmitrii’s decrees on slaves and fugitive peasants, made in early 1606, have been somewhat misleadingly described as «concessions» to his lower class supporters in order to maintain his appearance as a «good tsar». It is true that the tsar did prevent lords from using loopholes in the law to retain a slave who legally sought freedom after his master’s death. Dmitrii also prevented lords who had forced their peasants to flee during the famine (by not feeding them) from being able to forcibly return those miserable souls to bondage. Nonetheless, Tsar Dmitrii clearly ruled in the interests of the lords. Serfs not returned to their old masters were not freed; they were merely tied to the land of the lords who had fed them. Some scholars, recognizing the enserfing nature of Tsar Dmitrii’s social policies, claimed that Dmitrii’s peasant policy specifically favored the gentry of southern provinces who had supported him during his campaign for the throne. Richard Hellie, however, has effectively countered that faulty notion. Tsar Dmitrii actively supported his entire gentry, not just southern pomeshchiki, and the Russian gentry strongly approved of his social policies.
Close analysis of Tsar Dmitrii’s reign reveals that, despite Shuiskii propaganda and historians’ hostility toward him, Dmitrii was a popular ruler who was not facing an impending social revolution or any kind of rebellion when he fell victim to Shuiskii’s conspiracy during the tsar’s wedding celebration in May 1606. It was the regicide and usurper, Vasilii Shuiskii, who faced the «Bolotnikov rebellion». In many ways, it is the assassination of Tsar Dmitrii that provides the key to understanding the real Time of Troubles, the rekindled civil war that raged in Russia from 1606 to 1612.