Alexis I of Russia

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Aleksey Mikhailovich Romanov (Russian: Алексей Михайлович) ( 9 March 1629 (O.S.) – 29 January 1676 (O.S.)) was the Tsar of Russia during some of the most eventful decades of the mid-17th century. On the eve of his death in 1676, the Tsardom of Russia spanned almost 2 billion acres (8 million square kilometres).

Contents

Early life and reign

Born in Moscow on 8 March 1629, the son of Tsar Michael and Eudoxia Streshneva, 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 Boris Morozov, 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 and carefully avoided complications with the Ottoman Empire. 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, 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. In May 1648 the people of Moscow rose against them in the so-called Salt Riot, and the young Tsar was compelled to dismiss them and exile Boris to the Kirillo-Belozersky 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, 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, encouraged Alexei to attempt to annex from her rival the old Rus’ lands. On 1 October 1653 a national assembly 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 was an uninterrupted triumph, and scores of towns, including the important fortress of Smolensk, fell into the hands of the Russians. It was also during this war that Ukrainian Hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky appealed to Tsar Alexei for protection from the Poles, and got it in the form of the Treaty of Pereyaslav which brought about Russian dominance of the Cossack Hetmanate in Left-Bank Ukraine.

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