Election of Michael Romanov as Czar

Michael Romanov’s election as czar ushered in a new Russian dynasty that followed several decades of internal confusion, civil war, and foreign occupation.

Summary of Event

Michael Romanov’s Romanov, Michael ascension to the throne of Russia marked the end of the Time of Troubles Time of Troubles (1584-1613) (1584-1613), a period of tremendous upheaval both domestically and in Russia’s relations with its western neighbors. Internal problems following the death of Ivan the Terrible in 1584 and controversy surrounding the rule of Boris Godunov Godunov, Boris (r. 1598-1605) led to widespread peasant discontent, Cossack unrest, power struggles of political factions within Russia seeking to take power in Moscow, plus the added pressures resulting from foreign invasion by Sweden and Poland and their occupation of Russian territory. [kw]Election of Michael Romanov as Czar (Feb. 7, 1613)
[kw]Czar, Election of Michael Romanov as (Feb. 7, 1613)
[kw]Romanov as Czar, Election of Michael (Feb. 7, 1613)
Government and politics;Feb. 7, 1613: Election of Michael Romanov as Czar[0630]
Russia;Feb. 7, 1613: Election of Michael Romanov as Czar[0630]
Romanov, Michael

These years had witnessed the rapid rise and fall of numerous pretenders to the Russian throne, including two Polish claimants, Polish king Sigismund III Vasa Sigismund III Vasa and his son Władysław Władysław IV Vasa . Sigismund had taken advantage of the internal chaos in Russia to send troops to help elements of the Russian nobility who supported his efforts to secure the Russian throne for Władysław. By 1610, the Poles had occupied Moscow, where a hastily gathered assembly gave its approval to the accession of Władysław as czar. When Sigismund immediately sought to remove his young son and take the crown for himself, the Muscovite nobles, confident of their ability to control Władysław, feared that the powerful Polish king would ignore the interests of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church in favor of those of Poland and Roman Catholicism. Consequently, a national reaction to the Polish influence developed in Russia, which had been spearheaded by leaders of the Russian Church and loyal Cossacks, whose army encircled Moscow and drove the Polish garrison within the walls of the Kremlin fortress. By October, 1612, the Polish troops had capitulated, and the capital once again passed into Russian hands.

An attempt by Sigismund to recapture Moscow in December, 1612, failed. Two months later, in February, 1613, an assembly of notables, the zemskii sobor, or council, met in Moscow to formally elect a new czar. Potential candidates included several Russians as well as at least one Swedish prince. The winning candidate was sixteen-year-old Michael Romanov, who came from a well-established aristocratic family. Michael’s great aunt Anastasia had married Ivan the Terrible (r. 1547-1584) and was the mother of Fyodor I Fyodor I (r. 1584-1598). This Romanov connection provided a link with Russia’s former ruling dynasty, and several scholars maintain that this influenced the choice of the new ruler who was installed as czar in July, 1613.

The reluctant Michael’s two other outstanding qualities, which recommended his election by the zemskii sobor, were his Russian nationality and his inability to rule. The second of these qualities meant that Michael spent much of his long reign watching others use the power that was rightfully his. During the first several years of his reign, the czar relied on the zemskii sobor for its guidance during the period of national reconstruction and unification. Eventually the most important influence over Michael was his father Filaret Filaret , who from 1619 to 1633 ruled with, or more accurately for, him and was patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Russian Orthodox Church .

Released in 1619 from several years of Polish captivity, Filaret returned to a nation that had barely begun to recover domestically from the Time of Troubles and had recently been forced to surrender extensive western territories to Poland and Sweden. Michael was more than content to stand aside, allowing Filaret to administer the affairs of state and institute vitally needed reforms, among which were a new tax system to ensure increased revenues, the training of a new army along western lines, and the establishment of munitions plants to supply Russia with modern implements of war. In addition, Filaret, in his capacity as patriarch, sought to improve the education of the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Russian czar Michael Romanov was the first ruler of the Romanov Dynasty (1613-1917).

(Francis R. Niglutsch)

The death of Filaret in 1633 found Michael little more competent to rule than he had been in 1613, and so the czar soon fell under the influence of court favorites. One significant event in the closing decade of his reign was that in 1634, Władysław, now king of Poland, agreed at the end of an inconclusive two-year war with Russia to renounce all claims to the Russian throne. Otherwise, Poland emerged from the conflict apparently as strong as before.


While Russia under Michael Romanov was barely able to hold its own against Poland, under subsequent Romanov rulers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Russia participated in the weakening and eventual destruction of the Polish state.

The Romanov Dynasty also moved gradually toward the creation of an absolute monarchy. By Michael’s death, the zemskii sobor rarely met or had any authority over the monarch. When Michael’s young grandson Peter the Great Peter the Great came to power in 1682, he developed an autocratic political system that remained as the dominant practice in Russia until the early twentieth century.

Further Reading

  • Bain, R. Nisbet. The First Romanovs, 1613-1725: A History of Muscovite Civilization and the Rise of Modern Russia Under Peter the Great and His Forerunners. New York: Russell & Russell, 1967. A reprint of an early twentieth century assessment of the first years of the Romanov Dynasty.
  • Cowles, Virginia. The Romanovs. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. Good character studies of the famous Russian dynasty through its long history (1613-1917), supplemented by excellent illustrations.
  • Dunning, Chester S. L. Russia’s First Civil War: The Time of Troubles and the Founding of the Romanov Dynasty. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001. In this post-Marxist reassessment, Dunning maintains that the Time of Troubles was not a Russian peasant rebellion but a long and violent civil war. Includes information about Michael Romanov’s election to the throne.
  • Florinsky, Michael T. Russia: A History and Interpretation. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1947, 1953. This detailed work is considered by many to be the best account of the complex history of early seventeenth century Russia. Includes a glossary, bibliography, and an index in each volume.
  • Lincoln, W. Bruce. The Romanovs: Autocrats of All the Russias. New York: Dial Press, 1981. Lincoln’s solid research traces the dynasty from its beginnings.
  • Platonov, S. F. The Time of Troubles: A Historical Study of the Internal Crisis and Social Struggle in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Muscovy. Translated by John T. Alexander. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1970. A leading Russian scholar describes the devastating effects of the Time of Troubles on Russia’s government and society.
  • Riasanovsky, Nicholas V., and Mark D. Steinberg. A History of Russia. 7th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. A comprehensive overview of Russian history that includes information about Michael Romanov’s ascension to the throne and his reign as czar.
  • Skrynnikov, R. G. The Time of Troubles: Russia in Crisis, 1604-1618. Edited and translated by Hugh F. Graham. Gulf Breeze, Fla.: Academic International Press, 1988. A detailed account of Russia’s problems in the time period, including Michael’s early years as the Russian czar.
  • Soloviev, Sergei M. The First Romanov: Tsar Michael, 1613-1645. Edited and translated by G. Edward Orchard. 2 vols. Gulf Breeze, Fla.: Academic International Press, 1991-1995. An English translation of an important biography by a noted Russian historian of the czarist period.

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