When Ivan IV’s son, Feodor, died in 1598 his regent, Boris Godunov, was elected tsar. Godunov’s initially enlightened rule was beset by devastating famine (1601–03): social order broke down and, upon his death (1605), the political order also collapsed. The three ‘False Dmitris’, pretenders claiming to be the youngest son of Ivan IV, successively led rebellions. Ivan Bolotnikov led a peasant’s revolt (instigated by disaffected boyars), and a confederation of non-Slavic tribes followed suit. Prince Vasily Shuisky seized the throne, killing the first False Dmitri, and briefly restored a semblance of order. But Poland exploited the unrest to invade, occupying Moscow (1610–12). For a time, a Polish tsardom seemed likely, but their massacre of 7,000 Muscovites, and the strident Catholicism of their claimant, King Sigismund, alienated both boyars and people. They were expelled and Michael Romanov was elected tsar, making peace with Poland and Sweden (1617–18).
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