A Short History of Russia's First Civil War: The Time of by Chester S. L. Dunning

By Chester S. L. Dunning

Upon booklet in 2001, Russia's First Civil struggle greeted by way of students as a 'historical travel de force,' the 1st significant post-Marxist reassessment of the Time of problems. Now to be had in an abridged paperback, a quick historical past of Russia's First Civil conflict is fitted to school room use.

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Tsar Ivan’s own policies inadvertently boosted the enslavement of poor pomeshchiki. His 1556 decree, which required holders of pomeste and votchina estates to bring additional soldiers with them on campaigns, resulted in a significant number of combat slaves being added to the gentry militia. Especially prized were competent warriors, including impoverished deti boiarskie. A down-and-out pomeshchik or the son of a poor syn boiarskii who reached age fifteen could now sell himself into slavery and remain in military service as a well-equipped and well-fed retainer of some prosperous magnate or dvorianin (singular form of dvoriane).

Tsar Boris’s reputation suffered even more when a “resurrected” Tsarevich Dmitrii appeared in Poland-Lithuania in 1603, claiming to have miraculously escaped from Godunov’s henchmen in 1591. When the pretender Dmitrii then launched an invasion of Russia to overthrow the “usurper” Boris Godunov and even managed to become tsar in 1605, that seemed to prove to many observers that Tsar Boris must have been guilty as charged of attempted assassination in 1591. When Tsar Dmitrii was himself assassinated in 1606 and Vasilii Shuiskii seized power, the new ruler desperately needed to “prove” that the real Dmitrii had 44 R u s s i a’s F i r s t C i v i l Wa r died in 1591 and that the dead tsar had been an impostor, so he arranged to elevate Tsarevich Dmitrii of Uglich to sainthood as a “martyr” at the hands of the evil Boris Godunov—forever locking into official Russian government and church views the fixed idea of Godunov as the murderer of little Dmitrii.

Such lands virtually disappeared in central Russia during the second half of the sixteenth century as taxes on them more than doubled and as they were increasingly and arbitrarily converted into pomeste estates. Quite naturally, peasants who lived on those lands and had 32 R u s s i a’s F i r s t C i v i l Wa r regarded them as their own property were extremely upset at suddenly being forced to work for a lord, especially a pomeshchik. Peasants paid dearly for the tsar’s wars and to support his military servitors.

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