PSEUDO- DEMETRIUS (or False), the name by which three Muscovite princes and pretenders, who claimed to be Demetrius, son of Ivan the Terrible, are known in history. The real Demetrius had been murdered, while still a child, in 1591, at Uglich, his widowed mother's appanage.
1. In the reign of Tsar Boris Godunov (1598-1605), the first of these pretenders, whose origin is still obscure, emigrated to Lithuania and persuaded many of the magnates there of his tsarish birth, and consequently of his right to the Muscovite throne. His real name seems to have been Yury or Gregory, and he was the grandson of Bogdan Otrepev, a Galician boyar, and a tool in the hands of Tsar Boris Godunov's enemies. He first appears in history circa 1600, when his learning and assurance seem to have greatly impressed the Muscovite patriarch Job. Tsar Boris, however, ordered him to be seized and examined, whereupon he fled to Prince Constantine Ostrogsky at Ostrog, and subsequently entered the service of another Lithuanian, Prince Wisniwiecki, who accepted him for what he pretended to be and tried to enlist the sympathy of the Polish king, Sigismund III., in his favour. The king refused to support him officially, but his cause was taken up, as a speculation, by the Polish magnate Yury Mniszek, whose daughter Marina he afterwards wedded and crowned as his tsaritsa. The Jesuits also seem to have believed in the man, who was evidently an unconscious impostor brought up from his youth to believe that he was the real Demetrius; numerous fugitives from Moscow also acknowledged him, and finally he set out, at the head of an army of Polish and Lithuanian volunteers, Cossacks and Muscovite fugitives, to drive out the Godunovs, after being received into the Church of Rome. At the beginning of 1604 he was invited to Cracow, where Sigismund presented him to the papal nuncio Rangoni. His public conversion took place on the 17th of April. In October the false Demetrius crossed the Russian frontier, and shortly afterwards routed a large Muscovite army beneath the walls of Novgorod-Syeversk. The sudden death of Tsar Boris (April 13, 1605) removed the last barrier to the further progress of the pretender. The principal Russian army, under P. F. Basmanov, at once went over to him (May 7); on the 20th of June he made his triumphal entry into Moscow, and on the 21st of July he was crowned tsar by a new patriarch of his own choosing, the Greek Isidore. He at once proceeded to introduce a whole series of political and economical reforms. From all accounts, he must have been a man of original genius and extraordinary resource. He did his best to relieve the burdens of the peasantry; he formed the project of a grand alliance between the emperor, the pope, Venice, Poland and Muscovy against the Turk; he displayed an amazing toleration in religious matters which made people suspect that he was a crypto-Arian; and far from being, as was expected, the tool of Poland and the pope, he maintained from the first a dignified and independent attitude. But his extravagant opinion of his own authority (he lost no time in styling himself emperor), and his predilection for Western civilization, alarmed the ultraconservative boyars (the people were always on his side), and a conspiracy was formed against him, headed by Basil Shuisky, whose life he had saved a few months previously. A favourable opportunity for the conspirators presented itself on the 8th of May 1606, when Demetrius was married to Marina Mniszek. Taking advantage of the hostility of the Muscovites towards the Polish regiments which had escorted Marina to Moscow and there committed some excesses, the boyars urged the citizens to rise against the Poles, while they themselves attacked and slew Demetrius in the Kreml on the night of the 17th of May.
See Sergyei Solovev, History of Russia (Rus.), vol. viii. (St Petersburg, 1857, &c.); Nikolai Kostomarov, Historical Monographs (Rus.) vols. iv.-vi. (St Petersburg, 1863, &c.); Orest Levitsky, The First False Demetrius as the Propagandist of Catholicism in Russia (Rus.) (St Petersburg, 1886); Paul Pierling, Rome et Demetrius (Paris, 1878); R. N. Bain, Poland and Russia, cap. io (Cambridge, 1907).
2. The second pretender, called "the thief of Tushino," first appeared on the scene circa 1607 at Starodub. He is supposed to have been either a priest's son or a converted Jew, and was highly educated, relatively to the times he lived in, knowing as he did the Russian and Polish languages and being somewhat of an expert in liturgical matters. He pretended at first to be the Muscovite boyarin Nagi; but confessed, under torture, that he was Demetrius Ivanovich, whereupon he was taken at his word and joined by thousands of Cossacks, Poles and Muscovites. He speedily captured Karachev, Bryansk and other towns; was reinforced by the Poles; and in the spring of 1608 advanced upon Moscow, routing the army of Tsar Basil Shuisky, at Bolkhov, on his way. Liberal promises of the wholesale confiscation of the estates of the boyars drew the common people to him, and he entrenched himself at the village of Tushino, twelve versts from the capital, which he converted into an armed camp, collecting therein 7000 Polish soldiers, 10,000 Cossacks and 10,000 of the rabble. In the course of the year he captured Marina Mniszek, who acknowledged him to be her husband (subsequently quieting her conscience by privately marrying this impostor, who in no way resembled her first husband), and brought him the support of the Lithuanian magnates Mniszek and Sapieha so that his forces soon exceeded 10o,000 men. He raised to the rank of patriarch another illustrious captive, Philaret Romanov, and won over the towns of Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Vologda, Kashin and other places to his allegiance. But a series of subsequent disasters, and the arrival of King Sigismund III. at Sinolensk, induced him to fly his camp disguised as a peasant and go to Kostroma, where Marina joined him and he lived once more in regal state. He also made another but unsuccessful attack on Moscow, and, supported by the Don Cossacks, recovered a hold over all south-eastern Russia. He was killed, while half drunk, on the 11th of December 1610, by a Tatar whom he had flogged.
See Sergyei Solovev, History of Russia (Rus.), vol. viii. (St Petersburg, 1657, &c.).
3. The third, a still more enigmatical person than his predecessors, supposed to have been a deacon called Siderka, appeared suddenly, "from behind the river Yanza," in the Ingrian town of Ivangorod (Narva), proclaiming himself the tsarevich Demetrius Ivanovich, on the 28th of March 1611. The Cossacks, ravaging the environs of Moscow, acknowledged him as tsar on the 2nd of March 1612, and under threat of vengeance in case of non-compliance, the gentry of Pskov also kissed the cross to "the thief of Pskov," as he was usually nicknamed. On the 18th of May 1612 he fled from Pskov, was seized and delivered up to the authorities at Moscow, and there executed.
See Sergyei Solovev, History of Russia (Rus.), vol. viii. (St Petersburg, 1857, &c.). (R. N. B.)
- Please bookmark this page (add it to your favorites)
- If you wish to link to this page, you can do so by referring to the URL address below.
This page was last modified 29-SEP-18
Copyright © 2018 ITA all rights reserved.