History of RussiaHeads of the state
Tsar Boris Godunov (1552 - 1605)
Maria Grigoryevna Skuratova-Belskaya (?-1605), daughter of Grigory Lukianovich (Malyuta) Skuratov-Belsky.
Married in 1571/72.
Fedor (see Fedor).
- 1598 - The irregular army of the nobility forestalls an invasion by Khan Kaza-Girej and the Crimean Tatars.
- 1600 - The Romanov family is accused of plotting against Boris Godunov and banished.
- 1601-04 - Famine leads to mass deaths, epidemics and a wave of public disorders.
- 1602 - False Dmitry I surfaces in Poland, claiming to be the son of Ivan the Terrible.
- 1603 - Freedom is granted to all menial servants whose owners refuse to feed them during the famine. Uprising of peasants and menial servants led by Ataman Khlopko.
- 1604 - False Dmitry I and two thousand Polish mercenaries invade Russia. Foundation of Tomsk.
- January 1605 - Defeat of False Dmitry I at the Battle of Dobrynichi.
......1584 - 1605 Boris Godunov was an energetic, ambitious and talented statesman. He continued the policies of Ivan the Terrible, expanding Russian control over Siberia and the Caucasus. The tsar built new fortifications to defend Moscow - White Town and Earth Town - and Russian's frontiers.
......1589 - 1605 Boris Godunov had two children - a son called Fedor and a daughter called Xenia. Fedor was an intelligent young man who received an excellent education from foreign tutors. From an early age, his father prepared him for the throne. Famed for her beauty, Xenia was also well educated.
......1600 Boris Godunov built an unprecedented number of new towns and Churches. In 1600, the Ivan Bell Tower inside the Kremlin was extended. At a height of 260 feet, it was the tallest building in Moscow. The words "king of glory" were emblazoned on the cross and the tower was popularly known as "Ivan the Great".
Boris Godunov was descended from a Tatar who had abandoned the Golden Horde during the reign of Ivan Kalita. He took the Christian name of Zacharius and founded the Ipatiev Monastery in the outskirts of Kostroma (named after St Hypatius Gangrsky). In Russia, the Saburov and Godunov families both traced their ancesty from Zacharius.
Boris Godunov began his career in the oprichnina after marrying the daughter of the tsar's (Ivan the Terrible) confidant, Malyta Skuratov. In September 1580, Godunov became a boyar and eventually one of the closest associates of Ivan the Terrible. He amassed a large fortune and during the reign of Ivan's son, Fedor I, was the de facto ruler of Russia. Boris Godunov had two children - a son called Fedor and a daughter called Xenia. Fedor was an intelligent young man who received an excellent education from foreign tutors. From an early age, his father prepared him for the throne.
When Fedor I died without leaving any heirs, the government of the country automatically passed to Patriarch Job. The head of the Russian church believed that Boris Godunov should become tsar, on the strength of his success during the reign of Fedor I.
When the official period of mourning came to an end, a council of 474 people was convened on 17 February 1598. After spending five days discussing Boris's candidature, the council offered him the crown on 21 February. The coronation was head at the Dormition Cathedral on 1 September (Russia still followed the Julian calendar and ! September was New Year's Day).
Boris Godunov was a shrewd and clever politician. He centralised state power, relying on the support of the nobility. In order to ingratiate himself with the common people, he made several handsome gestures. Rural inhabitants did not have to pay any taxes for a whole year. Merchants were freed of paying customs for two years, while public servants received an additional year's salary. Boris Godunov was an energetic, ambitious and talented statesman. He continued the policies of Ivan the Terrible, expanding Russian control over Siberia and the Caucasus. The tsar built new fortifications to defend Moscow - White Town and Earth Town - and Russia's frontiers. Boris Godunov did all he could to strengthen the Russian state. Godunov built new towns, fortresses and churches and invited foreign experts to come and work in Russia. He even wanted to open a school in Moscow run by foreigners, but ran up against the opposition of the church.
In 1600, the Ivan Bell Tower inside the Kremlin was put up above the existing church of St John (Ivan) Climacus. At a height of 260 feet, it was the tallest building in Moscow. The words "king of glory" were emblazoned on the cross and the tower was popularly known as "Ivan the Great".
Godunov was famous for his lavish banquets. One feast in the town of Serpushov lasted six weeks; another was held a million troops. The food was served on gold and silver plates, while the beverages were poured into silver goblets. The tables literally groaned under the weight of the dishes. Wine and vodka were kept in special silver barrels, while beer was served from silver basins. Guests were presented with rich fabrics - velvet, brocade and silk.
News of the high quality of Russian vodka spread outside Russia and Shan Abbas of Persia asked Boris Godunov to send him a distillery. In September 1600, Russian envoys set sail for Persia, carrying "two goblets, pipes, lids and trivets" and "two hundred buckets of wines". The shah never received his vodka distillery - five miles before Saratov, the envoys ran into a storm and their ship sank.
Boris Godunov was equally cunning in his foreign policy. Talking advantage of domestic problems in Sweden in 1595, he forced the Swedes to sign a treaty returning lands lost during the long Livonian War.
Although Boris Godunov had been elected tsar of Russia by the Land Council, after the death of Tsar Fedor I in 1598, the boyars still regarded him as a low-born upstart.
Members of the Romanov, Shuisky and Mstislavsky families believed that they had more right to sit on the throne. They supported the rumours that Tsarevich Dmitry was alive and on his way to Moscow to demand his father's crown. In 1601 and 1602, the harvests failed and famine swept the country, followed by a wave of epidemics. Over 127,000 people died in Moscow alone. The price of bread increased one hundred times and there were reports of cannibalism. Although the duma of boyars was summoned in 1603, nothing could be done to solve the problems. People began to murmur that the troubles were an affliction sent by God to punish Russia for illegally electing Boris Godunov as tsar.
A series of popular uprisings broke out, the largest of which was led by Khlopko in 1603. In October 1604, a defrocked monk called Grishka Otrepiev claimed that he was really the son of Ivan the Terrible, Tsarevich Dmitry, and invaded the country with a Polish army. Although government forces under the command of Basil Shuisky managed to defeat the pretender in January 1605, he escaped to Putivl and rumours of the tsarevich's survival continued to sweep Moscow.
Boris Godunov died of gout in Moscow on 23 April 1605, although it was rumoured that he had poisoned himself in a fit of despair. He was buried inside the Kremlin, in the Archangel Cathedral.
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