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Alexis I of Russia
Alexey Mikhailovich Romanov (In Russian Алексей Михаилович Романов) (March 9, 1629 (O.S.) - January 29, 1676 (O.S.)) was a Tsar of Russia during some of the most eventful decades of the mid-17th century.
Early life and reign
The son of Tsar Mikhail I and Eudoxia Streshneva, he was sixteen years old at the time of his father's death on July 23, 1645. Acceding to the throne, he was committed to the care of the boyarin 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 severely equitable, 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 the 17th of January 1648 he 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 blamed for sorcery and witchcraft. In May 1648 the people of Moscow rose against them, and the young Tsar was compelled to dismiss them and exile Boris to the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery. Suffering from the forced separation, Alexis 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 czardom 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 czar's chief minister.
In 1653 the weakness and disorder of Poland, which had just emerged from the savage Cossack war, encouraged Aleksey to attempt to recover from her secular rival the old Russian lands. On the 1st of 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 Left-Bank Ukraine.
In January 1655 the rout of Ochmatov arrested their progress; but in the summer of the same year, the sudden invasion by Charles X of Sweden for the moment swept the Polish state out of existence; the Russians, unopposed, quickly appropriated nearly everything which was not already occupied by the Swedes, and when at last the Poles offered to negotiate, the whole grand-duchy of Lithuania was the least of the demands of Alexei. Fortunately for Poland, the Tsar and the king of Sweden now quarrelled over the apportionment of the spoils, and at the end of May 1656 Aleksey, stimulated by the emperor and the other enemies of Sweden, declared war against her.
Great things were expected of the Swedish war, but nothing came of it. Dorpat was taken, but countless multitudes were lost in vain before Riga. In the meantime Poland had so far recovered herself as to become a much more dangerous foe than Sweden, and, as it was impossible to wage war with both simultaneously, the Tsar resolved to rid himself of the Swedes first. This he did by the peace of Kardis (July 2, 1661), whereby Russia retroceded all her conquests. The Polish war dragged on for six years longer and was then concluded by a truce, nominally for thirteen years, which proved the most durable of treaties.
By the Treaty of Andrusovo (February 11, 1667) Vitebsk, Polotsk and Polish Livonia were restored to Poland, but the infinitely more important Smolensk and Kiev remained in the hands of Russia together with the whole eastern bank of the Dnepr River. This truce was the achievement of Afanasy Ordin-Nashchokin, the first Russian chancellor and diplomat in the modern sense, who after the disgrace of Nikon became the Tsar's first minister till 1670, when he was superseded by the equally able Artamon Matveyev, whose beneficent influence prevailed to the end of Alexei's reign.
It is the crowning merit of the Tsar Alexei that he discovered so many great men (like Nikon, Ordin, Matveyev, the best of Peter's precursors) and suitably employed them. He was not a man of superior strength of character, or he would never have submitted to the dictation of Nikon. But, on the other hand, he was naturally, if timorously, progressive, or he would never have encouraged the great reforming boyarin Matveyev. His education was necessarily narrow; yet he was learned in his way, wrote verses, and even began a history of his own times. His last years, notwithstanding the terrible rebellion of Stenka Razin, were deservedly tranquil.
His family and children
Alexei's first marriage to Miloslavskaya was a success, and she bore him thirteen children in twenty-one years of marriage: five sons and eight daughters, and died in her fourteenth childbirth. Four sons survived her, (Alexei, Fyodor, Semyon, and Ivan) but within six months two of these had died, including Alexei, the sixteen-year-old heir to the throne.
Their children were:
- Grand Duke Dmitri Alexeevich (1648-1649)
- Grand Duchess Yevdokia Alexeevna (1650-1712)
- Grand Duchess Marfa Alexeevna (1652-1707)
- Grand Duke Alexei Alexeevich (1654-1670)
- Grand Duchess Anna Alexeevna (1655-1659)
- Tsarevna Sofia Alexeevna (1657-1704)
- Grand Duchess Ekaterina Alexeevna (1658-1718)
- Grand Duchess Maria Alexeevna (1660-1723)
- Fyodor III (1661-1682)
- Grand Duchess Feodosia Alexeevna (1662-1713)
- Ivan V (1666-1696)
- Grand Duchess Yevdokia Alexeevna (1669-1669)
Aleksey remarried on February 1, 1671, Nataliya Kyrillovna Naryshkina (September 1, 1651 - February 4, 1694), of obscure and petty nobility. She was brought up in the house of Artamon Matveyev and was a ward of his wife, the Scottish-descended Mary Hamilton.
Their children were:
- Peter I (1672-1725)
- Grand Duchess Fyodora Alexeevna (1673-1716)
- Grand Duchess Natalya Alexeevna (1674-1677)
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