Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Guest Post from Today in Alternate History: What if Ivan the Terrible's son Dmitry didn't die?

In 1591,on May 15 in the courtyard of the Uglich Fortress, Maria Nagaya frustrated a brutal assassination attempt by Boris Godunov's agents to kill her ten year son Dmitry Ivanovich, the Tsarevich of Russia. 

Following the death of her husband Ivan the Terrible, the Regency Council had moved them to safety one hundred miles north of Moscow in the fortress on the on the Volga River. Uglich was a backwater of the new Imperium, a border town of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, it was burned several times by Lithuanians, Tatars, and the grand prince of Tver.

But now, seven years later, Godunov was making a powerplay to establish himself as the first non-Rurikid tsar. This involved a bloodthirsty plot to remove the Ivanovich dynasty who were vulnerable because Ivan the Terrible had killed his eldest son in a fit of rage, and his two surviving sons the intellectually disabled Feodor and the infant Ivan of Uglich (to distinguish him from another child called Ivan who died in infancy in 1553)).Instead, a new Regent was appointed and Dmitry later succeeded to the throne upon his maturity [1].

Viewed in retrospective over the following centuries, the assumption of a strongman might well have benefited the Empire which now began to exhibit many of the ill-fated characteristics of the history of Uglich. Of course it is impossible to determine with certainty whether Godunov was a destructive character of pure evil or rather a potential savour willing to get his hands dirty for the good of Russia. Perhaps such a "knight in rusty armour" - or even a dynastic handover say to the Romanovs - might well have been a blessing because what happened next was that Ivan the Terrible's line set about destroying the patriarch's legacy. Nevertheless the preservation of his line was understandable, after all, he had reorganized the Russian hierarchy during his development from Grand Prince of Moscow to Tsar of all the Russias. But what was left being was a vassal state easily manipulated by Lithuanian, Polish, and Swedish interests with the Orthodox Church rising the fill the vacuum of authority.


In reality the 10-year old boy was found dead with his throat cut in the palace courtyard. [1] in reality his death passed the line to his younger brother Ivan; he died in 1583, Gordunov became Tsar.

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