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Soviet Union

The Romanovs

The most immediate task of Romanov rule was to restore order. Fortunately for Muscovy, its major enemies, Poland and Sweden, were in bitter conflict with each other, and Muscovy obtained peace with Sweden in 1617 and a truce with Poland in 1619. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain Smolensk from Poland in 1632, Muscovy made peace with Poland in 1634. The Polish king, who had been elected tsar during the Time of Troubles, renounced all claims to the title.

Mikhail Romanov was a weak monarch, and state affairs were actually in the hands of his father, Filaret, who in 1619 became patriarch of the Orthodox Church. Similarly, Mikhail's son, Alexis (1645-76), relied on a boyar, Boris Morozov, to run the government. Morozov abused his position by exploiting the populace, and in 1648, after an uprising in Moscow, he was dismissed.

The autocracy survived the Time of Troubles and the rule of weak or corrupt tsars because of the strength of the government's central bureaucracy. Its functionaries continued to serve, regardless of the tsar's legitimacy or the boyar faction controlling the tsar. In the seventeenth century, this bureaucracy expanded dramatically. The number of government departments (prikazi) increased from twenty-two in 1613 to eighty by mid-century. Although the departments often had overlapping and conflicting jurisdictions, the central government, through provincial governors, controlled and regulated all social groups, trade, manufacturing, and even the Orthodox Church.

The extent of state control of Russian society was demonstrated by the comprehensive legal code introduced in 1649. By that time, the boyars had largely merged with the elite, who were obligatory servitors of the state, to form a new nobility (dvorianstvo). Both groups, whether old or new nobility, were required to serve the state, primarily in the military. In return, they received land and peasants. Peasants, whose right to move to another landlord had been gradually curtailed, were thereafter attached to their domicile. The state fully sanctioned serfdom, and runaway peasants became state fugitives. Landlords had complete power over their peasants and sold, traded, or mortgaged them. Peasants living on state-owned land, however, were not considered serfs. They were organized into communes, which were responsible for taxes and other obligations. Like serfs, however, state peasants were attached to the land they farmed. Burghers, who lived in urban areas and engaged in trade and handicrafts, were assessed taxes and were also prohibited from changing residences. All segments of the population were subject to military levies and special taxes. Flight was the most common escape from state-imposed burdens. By chaining much of Muscovite society to its domicile, the legal code of 1649 curtailed movement and subordinated the people to the interests of the state.

Increased state exactions and regulations exacerbated the social discontent that had been simmering since the Time of Troubles. A major uprising occurred in the Volga region in 1670 and 1671. Stenka Razin, a cossack from the Don River area, spearheaded a revolt that drew together dissatisfied cossacks, escaped serfs, and Turkic ethnic groups. The uprising swept the Volga River Valley and even threatened Moscow. Ultimately, tsarist troops defeated the rebels, and Stenka Razin was publicly tortured and executed.

Data as of May 1989