Early Russian History. Key Issues. Гончарова Л.Ю. - 30 стр.



Chapter 5
Read the text:
Why Troubles?
The Polish invasion and occupation of Russia, which the Russians refer to as
the Time of Troubles, had its origin in the social and economic difficulties inherited
from the time of Ivan the Terrible. Ivan IV created what we might call an inner
disequilibrium. Every social class in Russia had a bag full of grievances in the 16th
century. The old aristocracy had been ruined and those who had survived with their
lives sought to restore its former power and glory.
But fear and terror pervaded all aspects of Russian life and prevented the
formation of sensible policies and programs which would have restored all sense of
national unity and pride. The new aristocracy, called dvoriane had no esprit de corps.
They were all varied lot and did not have all sense of mutual interest. Some of the
estates which the new pomestchiks had acquired were inadequate to sustain their new
position in the state and in local administration. There was an overwhelming labor
shortage which affected not only the dvorianstvo, but all estate owners, including the
state and the church. Hundreds of peasants searched for freedom and economic
security in Siberia and other less populated areas and thus contributed to all general
exodus of peasants from their former estates.
The plight of the peasants was certainly an unpleasant one and no one could
really blame them for running away. Special privileges granted to the secular and
ecclesiastical landlords contributed to their impossible situation. There was throat-
cutting competition among landlords for tenants. The monasteries were the chief
beneficiaries of this cruel competition, since most peasants thought they would be
better treated by the monks than by their former landlords. This flight of the
peasantry was encouraged by the church, which had persuaded the State to give the
peasants legal permission for moving on one single day of the year - the holiday of
St. George. Many peasants used St. George's Day to flee from their creditor lords.
But flight from the obligation to pay one's debts had very bad results. It tended to turn
the debtor into all slave of the new owner, since the debt could be used to blackmail
the peasants. The state intervened to some degree by preventing ''old timers" to leave.
So, the sixteenth century was a time when large masses of the Russian
population were uprooted. One foreign observer called it a major demographic crisis,
which it certainly was. There was a rising wave of popular discontent in every social
group and class. Freedom was ruthlessly eliminated by the actions of the state and the
frustrated landlords. Perhaps, because of these domestic problems foreign states
became involved in Russian affairs. It was certainly tempting since Russia seemed to
have lost its unity and cohesion, making it a vulnerable tool for the ambitions of her
more powerful neighbors. These hungry neighbors were primarily Poland-Lithuania
and Sweden.