Alexis I of Russia

Alexis I of Russia

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Aleksey Mikhailovich Romanov (9 March 1629 (O.S.)
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

 – 29 January 1676 (O.S.)
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

) was the Tsar
Tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

 of Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 during some of the most eventful decades of the mid-17th century. On the eve of his death in 1676, the Tsardom of Russia
Tsardom of Russia
The Tsardom of Russia was the name of the centralized Russian state from Ivan IV's assumption of the title of Tsar in 1547 till Peter the Great's foundation of the Russian Empire in 1721.From 1550 to 1700, Russia grew 35,000 km2 a year...

 spanned almost 2000000000 acres (8,093,720 km²).

Early life and reign


Born in Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 on 8 March 1629, the son of Tsar Michael
Michael of Russia
Mikhail I Fyodorovich Romanov Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov was the first Russian Tsar of the house of Romanov. He was the son of Feodor Nikitich Romanov and Xenia...

 and Eudoxia Streshneva
Eudoxia Streshneva
Eudoxia Streshnyova was the second wife of Tsar Mikhail. She was a daughter of a nobleman Lukyan Stepanovich Streshnyov from Mozhaysk, who died in 1630, and his wife Anna Konstantinovna Volkonskaya.- Biography :...

, Alexei acceded to the throne at the age of sixteen after his father's death on 12 July 1645. He was committed to the care of the boyar
Boyar
A boyar, or bolyar , was a member of the highest rank of the feudal Moscovian, Kievan Rus'ian, Bulgarian, Wallachian, and Moldavian aristocracies, second only to the ruling princes , from the 10th century through the 17th century....

 Boris Morozov
Boris Morozov
Boris Ivanovich Morozov was a Muscovite statesman and boyar who led the Russian government during the early reign of Tsar Alexis, whose tutor and brother-in-law he was....

, a shrewd and sensible guardian sufficiently enlightened to recognize the needs of his country, and by no means inaccessible to Western ideas.

Morozov's foreign policy was pacificatory. He secured a truce with Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 and carefully avoided complications with the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. His domestic policy was scrupulously fair and aimed at relieving the public burdens by limiting the privileges of foreign traders and abolishing a great many useless and expensive court offices. On 17 January 1648 Morozov procured the marriage of the tsar with Maria Miloslavskaya
Maria Miloslavskaya
Maria Ilyinichna Miloslavskaya was the first wife of tsar Alexis of Russia and mother of the tsars Feodor III of Russia and Ivan V of Russia, as well as regent princess Sophia Alekseyevna.-Biography:...

, himself marrying her sister, Anna, ten days later, both daughters of Ilya Danilovich Miloslavsky (1594–1668).

Morozov was very unpopular however, regarded as a typical self-seeking 17th-century boyar, and was generally detested and accused of sorcery and witchcraft
Witchcraft
Witchcraft, in historical, anthropological, religious, and mythological contexts, is the alleged use of supernatural or magical powers. A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft...

. In May 1648 the people of Moscow rose against them in the so-called Salt Riot
Salt Riot
The Salt Riot, also known as the Moscow Uprising of 1648 , was a riot in Moscow in 1648, triggered by the government's substitution of different taxes with a universal direct salt tax for the purpose of replenishing the state treasury, which, in turn, made salt a much more expensive commodity.-The...

, and the young Tsar was compelled to dismiss them and exile Boris to the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery
Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery
Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery , loosely translated in English as the St. Cyril-Belozersk Monastery, used to be the largest monastery of Northern Russia. The monastery was dedicated to the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, for which cause it was sometimes referred to as the Dormition Monastery...

. Suffering from the forced separation, Alexei sent many tender letters to his mentor, and urged the guards to treat him as civilly as possible.

His associates and policies


The successful issue of the Moscow riots was the occasion of disquieting disturbances all over the tsardom culminating in dangerous rebellions at Pskov and Great Novgorod, with which the government was so unable to cope that they surrendered, practically granting the malcontents their own terms. One man only had displayed equal tact and courage at Great Novgorod, the metropolitan Nikon
Patriarch Nikon
Nikon , born Nikita Minin , was the seventh patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church...

, who in consequence became in 1651 the Tsar's chief minister.

In 1653 the weakness and disorder of Poland, which had just emerged from the Khmelnytsky Uprising
Khmelnytsky Uprising
The Khmelnytsky Uprising, was a Cossack rebellion in the Ukraine between the years 1648–1657 which turned into a Ukrainian war of liberation from Poland...

, encouraged Alexei to attempt to annex from her rival the old Rus’
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

 lands. On 1 October 1653 a national assembly
Zemsky Sobor
The zemsky sobor was the first Russian parliament of the feudal Estates type, in the 16th and 17th centuries. The term roughly means assembly of the land. It could be summoned either by tsar, or patriarch, or the Boyar Duma...

 met at Moscow to sanction the war and find the means of carrying it out, and in April 1654 the army was blessed by Nikon (now patriarch). The campaign of 1654
Russo-Polish War (1654–1667)
The Russo-Polish War of 1654–1667, also called Thirteen Years' War, First Northern War, War for Ukraine was the last major conflict between Tsardom of Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Between 1655 and 1660, the Second Northern War was also fought in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth,...

 was an uninterrupted triumph, and scores of towns, including the important fortress of Smolensk
Smolensk
Smolensk is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River. Situated west-southwest of Moscow, this walled city was destroyed several times throughout its long history since it was on the invasion routes of both Napoleon and Hitler. Today, Smolensk...

, fell into the hands of the Russians. It was also during this war that Ukrainian Hetman
Hetman
Hetman was the title of the second-highest military commander in 15th- to 18th-century Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which together, from 1569 to 1795, comprised the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, or Rzeczpospolita....

 Bogdan Khmelnitsky appealed to Tsar Alexei for protection from the Poles, and got it in the form of the Treaty of Pereyaslav
Treaty of Pereyaslav
The Treaty of Pereyaslav is known in history more as the Council of Pereiaslav.Council of Pereyalslav was a meeting between the representative of the Russian Tsar, Prince Vasili Baturlin who presented a royal decree, and Bohdan Khmelnytsky as the leader of Cossack Hetmanate. During the council...

 which brought about Russian dominance of the Cossack Hetmanate
Cossack Hetmanate
The Hetmanate or Zaporizhian Host was the Ruthenian Cossack state in the Central Ukraine between 1649 and 1782.The Hetmanate was founded by first Ukrainian hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky during the Khmelnytsky Uprising . In 1654 it pledged its allegiance to Muscovy during the Council of Pereyaslav,...

 in Left-Bank
Left-bank Ukraine
Left-bank Ukraine is a historic name of the part of Ukraine on the left bank of the Dnieper River, comprising the modern-day oblasts of Chernihiv, Poltava and Sumy as well as the eastern parts of the Kiev and Cherkasy....

 Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

.
In January 1655 the rout of Akhmatov arrested their progress; but in the summer of the same year, the sudden invasion by Charles X of Sweden for the moment swept the Polish state out of existence; the Russians, unopposed, quickly appropriated nearly everything which was not already occupied by the Swedes, and when at last the Poles offered to negotiate, the whole grand-duchy of Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 was the least of the demands of Alexei. Fortunately for Poland, the Tsar and the king of Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 now quarrelled over the apportionment of the spoils, and at the end of May 1656 Alexei, encouraged by the Habsburg
Habsburg Monarchy
The Habsburg Monarchy covered the territories ruled by the junior Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg , and then by the successor House of Habsburg-Lorraine , between 1526 and 1867/1918. The Imperial capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague...

 emperor and the other enemies of Sweden, declared war.

Great things were expected of the Swedish war, but nothing came of it. Dorpat was taken, but countless multitudes were lost in vain before Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

. In the meantime Poland had so far recovered herself as to become a much more dangerous foe than Sweden, and, as it was impossible to wage war with both simultaneously, the Tsar resolved to rid himself of the Swedes first. This he did by the Peace of Kardis ( 2 July 1661), whereby Russia retroceded all her conquests. The Polish war dragged on for six years longer and was then concluded by a truce, nominally for thirteen years, which proved the most durable of treaties.

By the Treaty of Andrusovo
Treaty of Andrusovo
The Truce of Andrusovo was a thirteen and a half year truce, signed in 1667 between Tsardom of Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which were at war since 1654 over the territories of modern-day Ukraine and Belarus....

 ( 11 February 1667) Vitebsk
Vitebsk
Vitebsk, also known as Viciebsk or Vitsyebsk , is a city in Belarus, near the border with Russia. The capital of the Vitebsk Oblast, in 2004 it had 342,381 inhabitants, making it the country's fourth largest city...

, Polotsk and Polish Livonia
Livonia
Livonia is a historic region along the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It was once the land of the Finnic Livonians inhabiting the principal ancient Livonian County Metsepole with its center at Turaida...

 were restored to Poland, but the infinitely more important Smolensk
Smolensk
Smolensk is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River. Situated west-southwest of Moscow, this walled city was destroyed several times throughout its long history since it was on the invasion routes of both Napoleon and Hitler. Today, Smolensk...

 and Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

 remained in the hands of Russia together with the whole eastern bank of the Dnieper River. This truce was the achievement of Afanasy Ordin-Nashchokin
Afanasy Ordin-Nashchokin
Afanasy Lavrentievich Ordin-Naschokin was one of the greatest Russian statesmen of the 17th century. His career is quite unprecedented in Russian history, as he was the first petty noble to attain the boyar title and highest offices of state owing not to family connections but due to his personal...

, the first Russian chancellor and diplomat in the modern sense, who after the disgrace of Nikon became the Tsar's first minister until 1670, when he was superseded by the equally able Artamon Matveyev, whose beneficent influence prevailed to the end of Alexei's reign.

When Charles I of England
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

 was beheaded by the Parliamentarians under Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader who overthrew the English monarchy and temporarily turned England into a republican Commonwealth, and served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland....

 in 1649, an outraged Alexei broke off diplomatic relations with England and accepted Royalist refugees in Moscow. He also banned all English merchants from his country and provided financial assistance to "the disconsolate widow of that glorious martyr, King Charles I."
Henrietta Maria of France
Henrietta Maria of France ; was the Queen consort of England, Scotland and Ireland as the wife of King Charles I...

 

Assessment


It is the crowning merit of the Tsar Alexei that he discovered so many great men (like Fyodor Rtishchev
Fyodor Rtishchev
Feodor Alekseyevich Rtishchev was a boyar and an intimate friend of Alexis I of Russia who was renowned for his piety and alms-deeds....

, Ordin, Matveyev, the best of Peter's precursors) and suitably employed them. He was not a man of superior strength of character, or he would never have submitted to the dictation of Nikon. But, on the other hand, he was naturally, if timorously, progressive, or he would never have encouraged the great reforming boyar Matveyev. His last years, notwithstanding the terrible rebellion of Stenka Razin
Stenka Razin
Stepan Timofeyevich Razin Тимофеевич Разин, ; 1630 – ) was a Cossack leader who led a major uprising against the nobility and Tsar's bureaucracy in South Russia.-Early life:...

, were deservedly tranquil.

Alexei's letters have earned him a place in the history of Russian literature
Russian literature
Russian literature refers to the literature of Russia or its émigrés, and to the Russian-language literature of several independent nations once a part of what was historically Russia or the Soviet Union...

, as assessed by D.S. Mirsky:

A few private letters and an instruction to his falconer
Falconry
Falconry is "the taking of wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of a trained raptor". There are two traditional terms used to describe a person involved in falconry: a falconer flies a falcon; an austringer flies a hawk or an eagle...

s is all we have of him. But it is sufficient for Sergey Platonov
Sergey Platonov
Sergey Fyodorovich Platonov was a Russian historian who led the official St Petersburg school of imperial historiography before and after the Russian Revolution.Platonov was born in Chernigov and attended a private gymnasium in St...

 to proclaim him the most attractive of Russian monarchs. He acquired the moniker Tishayshy, which means "most quiet" or "most peaceful". Certain aspects of Russian Orthodoxy
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

, not its most purely spiritual, but its aesthetic and worldly aspects, found in him their most complete expression. The essence of Alexei's personality is a certain spiritual Epicureanism
Epicureanism
Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of Epicurus, founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following Aristippus—about whom...

, manifested in an optimistic Christian faith, in a profound, but unfanatical, attachment to the traditions and ritual of the Church, in a desire to see everyone round him happy and at peace, and in a highly developed capacity to extract a quiet and mellow enjoyment from all things.

Family and children


Alexei's first marriage to Miloslavskaya was a success, and she bore him thirteen children in twenty-one years of marriage: five sons and eight daughters, and died weeks after her thirteenth childbirth. Four sons survived her, (Alexei, Fyodor, Semyon, and Ivan) but within six months two of these had died, including Alexei, the sixteen-year-old heir to the throne.
Their children were:
  • Tsarevich Dmitri Alexeevich (1648–1649)
  • Tsarevna
    Tsarevna
    Tsarevna or czarevna is the daughter of a Tsar or Tsaritsa, similar to a princess being the daughter of a King or Queen. A Tsarevna could also be the wife to a Tsar's son....

     Yevdokia Alexeevna (1650–1712)
  • Tsarevna
    Tsarevna
    Tsarevna or czarevna is the daughter of a Tsar or Tsaritsa, similar to a princess being the daughter of a King or Queen. A Tsarevna could also be the wife to a Tsar's son....

     Marfa Alexeevna (1652–1707)
  • Tsarevich Alexei Alexeevich (1654–1670)
  • Tsarevna
    Tsarevna
    Tsarevna or czarevna is the daughter of a Tsar or Tsaritsa, similar to a princess being the daughter of a King or Queen. A Tsarevna could also be the wife to a Tsar's son....

     Anna Alexeevna (1655–1659)
  • Tsarevna Sofia Alexeevna (1657–1704)
  • Tsarevna
    Tsarevna
    Tsarevna or czarevna is the daughter of a Tsar or Tsaritsa, similar to a princess being the daughter of a King or Queen. A Tsarevna could also be the wife to a Tsar's son....

     Ekaterina Alexeevna (1658–1718)
  • Tsarevna
    Tsarevna
    Tsarevna or czarevna is the daughter of a Tsar or Tsaritsa, similar to a princess being the daughter of a King or Queen. A Tsarevna could also be the wife to a Tsar's son....

     Maria Alexeevna (1660–1723)
  • Fyodor III
    Feodor III of Russia
    Feodor III Alexeevich of Russia was the Tsar of all Russia between 1676 and 1682....

     (1661–1682)
  • Tsarevna
    Tsarevna
    Tsarevna or czarevna is the daughter of a Tsar or Tsaritsa, similar to a princess being the daughter of a King or Queen. A Tsarevna could also be the wife to a Tsar's son....

     Feodosia Alexeevna (1662–1713)
  • Tsarevich Simeon (1665–1669)
  • Ivan V
    Ivan V of Russia
    Ivan V Alekseyevich Romanov was a joint Tsar of Russia who co-reigned between 1682 and 1696. He was the youngest son of Alexis I of Russia and Maria Miloslavskaya. His reign was only formal, since he had serious physical and mental disabilities...

     (1666–1696)
  • Tsarevna
    Tsarevna
    Tsarevna or czarevna is the daughter of a Tsar or Tsaritsa, similar to a princess being the daughter of a King or Queen. A Tsarevna could also be the wife to a Tsar's son....

     Yevdokia Alexeevna (1669–1669)


Alexei remarried on 1 February 1671, Nataliya Kyrillovna Naryshkina ( 1 September 1651 – 4 February 1694). She was brought up in the house of Artamon Matveyev and was a ward of his wife, the Scottish-descended Mary Hamilton.

Their children were:
  • Peter I
    Peter I of Russia
    Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov Dates indicated by the letters "O.S." are Old Style. All other dates in this article are New Style. ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from until his death, jointly ruling before 1696 with his half-brother, Ivan V...

     (1672–1725)
  • Tsarevna
    Tsarevna
    Tsarevna or czarevna is the daughter of a Tsar or Tsaritsa, similar to a princess being the daughter of a King or Queen. A Tsarevna could also be the wife to a Tsar's son....

     Natalya Alexeevna (1673–1716)
  • Tsarevna
    Tsarevna
    Tsarevna or czarevna is the daughter of a Tsar or Tsaritsa, similar to a princess being the daughter of a King or Queen. A Tsarevna could also be the wife to a Tsar's son....

     Fyodora Alexeevna (1674–1677)


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Ancestry