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 Boris Godunov


Born:   21 February 1598
Deceased:   23 April [O.S. 13 April] 1605

From 1587 to 1598 he was the actual governor of the state, and in February, 17th 1598 became the Russian tsar.

      

Boris Fyodorovich Godunov was born around 1551 (the exact date is unknown). He was brought up at the court of Ivan the Terrible. From a private soldier of Ivan the Terribles secret police (oprichnina) he became a confidant of the tsar. Godunov was married to a daughter of Malyuta Skuratov, the head of tsars bloody oprichnina. Boris sister Irina became the wife of Fyodor, the son of Ivan the Terrible.

In 1584, shortly before his death, Ivan appointed Nikita Romanovich, the uncle of Fyodor, his trustee for the purpose of managing state affairs, since he did not trust mental faculties of his son. However, in 1586 Nikita Romanovich died, and Boris Godunov (a member of Regency Council) became the guardian and the actual governor of Russia.

Boris ruled skillfully and gained national recognition. He put an end to the terror of Ivan the Terrible but continued his policy of strengthening the autocratic power of the tsar. Godunov continued relying on serving nobility that was generously remunerated for service with estates. Peasants came to be totally tied to landowners. Boris strengthened public finances, supported trade with England and Holland, and aspired to establish relations with Western Europe.

As a result of the war with Sweden of 1590-1593 the towns of Yam, Oreshek, Ivangorod and others were returned to Russia, and the influence of Russia extended to the Caucasus and was strengthened in Siberia.

The eminence in 1589 of the Moscow metropolitanate to the patriarchy status that made Russian church independent from Greek church was the main achievement of the period of Boris guardianship. In 1598, after the death of Fyodor who had not left any successors, Boris was elected the tsar by the Assembly of the Land. The death of Fyodor ended the Ruriks imperial dynasty, since his half brother Dmitry died under mysterious circumstances in 1591.

Boris continued the policy carried out by him during his guardianship. However terrible hunger befell the country in 1601-1603. The discontent of people and boyars intrigues created threat to the imperial power. In 1603 a pretender to the throne appeared in Poland; he declared himself to be Dmitry, who allegedly avoided death by some miracle. In 1604 with support of the Poles the impostor undertook a campaign to Moscow. False Dmitry failed to succeed till April, 23rd, 1605, when Boris suddenly died. The death of Boris marked the beginning of the crisis epoch in the history of Russia the Time of Troubles which lasted till 1613.


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