Boris Godunov

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Boris Fyodorovich Godunov (Russian: Бори́с Фёдорович Годуно́в, IPA: [bɐˈrʲis ɡədʊˈnof]; c. 1551 – 23 April [O.S. 13 April] 1605) was de facto regent of Russia from c. 1585 to 1598 and then the first non-Rurikid tsar from 1598 to 1605. The end of his reign saw Russia descend into the Time of Troubles.


Early years

Boris Godunov was the most famous member of an ancient, now extinct, Russian family of Tatar origin, which came from the Horde to Kostroma in the early 14th century. He was descended from the Tatarian Prince Chet, who went from the Golden Horde to Russia and founded the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma. Boris was the son of Feodor Ivanovich Godunov "Krivoy" ("One-eyed") (died, c. 1568-1570) and his wife Stepanida. His older brother Vasily died young and without issue.

Godunov's career began at the court of Ivan the Terrible. He is mentioned in 1570 as taking part in the Serpeisk campaign as an archer of the guard. The following year, he became an oprichnik - a member of the Ivan's personal guard and secret police. In 1570/1571, Godunov strengthened his position at court by his marriage to Maria Grigorievna Skuratova-Belskaya, the daughter of oprichniks' head Malyuta Skuratov-Belskiy. In 1580, the Tsar chose Irina (Alexandra) Feodorovna Godunova (1557 – 26 October/23 November 1603), the sister of Godunov, to be the wife of his second son and eventual heir, the fourteen year old Feodor Ivanovich (1557–1598). On this occasion, Godunov was promoted to the rank of Boyar. On 15 November 1581, he was present at the scene of the Tsar's murder of his own eldest son, the crown prince Ivan. Godunov tried to intervene, but received blows from the Tsar's sceptre. Ivan immediately repented and Godunov rushed to get help for the Tsarevich, who died four days later.[1]

On his deathbed, Ivan appointed a council consisting of Godunov, Feodor Nikitich Romanov, Vasili Shuiski and others, to guide his son and successor, for Feodor was feeble both in mind and body; "he took refuge from the dangers of the palace in devotion to religion; and though his people called him a saint, they recognized that he lacked the iron to govern men."[2]

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