Russia’s crisis: 6 real and 3 fake Tsars in 15 years

When Tsar Feodor I of Russia died in 1598 without any children to ascend the throne, Russia was facing a huge crisis. The Rurik dynasty had ruled the country since 862 up until that point.

For a few years Boris Gudonov, a high ranking aristocrat, declared himself Tsar. He died in 1605 and his son became Feodor II at age 16. The people however had other plans and strangled the young man in the same year. During that time, another young man wanted to become Tsar and claimed to be Dmitry Ivanovich, Feodor I’s younger brother who died as a boy. The imposter was so convincing -and probably a useful puppet for powerful men behind the scenes- that he gained a growing following and eventually became Tsar. Today he is known as False Dmitry I. He ruled from 1605 to 1606, where he was also killed, most likely due to angering the Russian Orthodox church by marrying a catholic woman named Marina. Right after False Dmitry I was dead, another man claimed to be the deceased Dmitry. Conveniently, the widow Marina “recognized” her dead husband in him. He became False Dmitry II and raised an army 100’000 strong. Of course, he was killed too by angry men. He never officially was recognized as Tsar. Nevertheless a third man tried his luck in 1612, but -you probably guessed it- was executed as well. In the meantime, while all this took place, 2 other men were “officially” the Tsar: Vasily IV (1606-1610) and Vladislav I (1610-1612). In 1613 these chaotic times finally came to an end. Michael I became Tsar and founded the Romanov dynasty which ruled until 1917.

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By ru:Самокиш, Николай Семёнович и другие [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons