July 01, 2012

The Summer of 1612

The Summer of 1612
Minin and Pozharsky (M.J. Skotti, 1850)

By the summer of 1612, the Tsardom of Muscovy was at a low point. In fact it was questionable whether or not it deserved the name.

The tsardom’s various lands were bound together by the most tenuous of ties. Some were controlled by Cossack detachments (the term “bands” might be more apt). The tsardom’s northeastern region around Novgorod and Pskov was occupied by the Swedes, who refused to leave this prosperous area until they were paid for the military assistance they had provided Vasily Shuisky (Vasily IV, 1552-1612), who had been overthrown two years earlier and died soon thereafter. The western portion was controlled by the Poles. In 1610 the boyars of Muscovy had invited the Polish Prince Władysław to rule over all of Muscovy. This is not to say that Władysław actually risked coming to Moscow (he was only fifteen when elected), but as part of the deal, a Polish garrison was stationed at the Kremlin.

Some parts of the tsardom still considered Vasily Shuisky (who was still alive, but would soon die in Polish captivity) to be their ruler, while others did not believe that the False Dmitry had really been killed, or that he was False, for that matter, believing him to be Ivan the Terrible’s rightful son, who miraculously survived his enemies’ various attempts to do away with him.

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