Young Folks' History of Russia - Nathan Dole

The Story of a Brigand,


The people of Moscow thought that the "Vampire "was forever laid when they scattered the ashes of the false Dimitri to the four winds. It was rather like sowing seed.

Prince Basil Shuiski was made Tsar, but he was scarcely on the throne before the report came that three men in disguise had crossed the Oka by night. One of them gave the ferryman an extra fee, saying,—

"You have just ferried the Tsar over: when he comes back with a Polish army, he will not forget your services." Again the turbulent cities of the South and West arose. The tribes of the Volga revolted under the pretext of sustaining the son of Ivan the Terrible. The flower of Polish cavalry came to his aid. The Kazaks of the Don joined him. In his ranks were five or six impostors, all of whom claimed to be relations of Ivan the Terrible. The seed of the Vampire was of quick growth. During the next century hundreds of impostors re-enacted the same folly.

The name of the second false Dimitri is not known; his origin is uncertain; it was said by some that he was a Jew, by others that he was the son of a priest. At all events he was a bold and crafty impostor.

With all his forces he marched against Basil, defeated the Tsar's army, and established his court at a village near Moscow. Hence he is known in Russian history as the "Brigand of Tushino."

His camp soon became a city of 100,000 inhabitants. An ambitious crowd of Russians flocked to his standard. The beautiful Marina, in hopes of getting her crown again, flew to his arms. Famous Polish captains came to his aid, and besieged the Trinity Monastery, which, with its seven hundred friars and one hundred and ten thousand souls, or male peasants, sheltered behind its solid ramparts and towers, was able to resist the Polish artillery. The peasantry, whose cattle were driven off, organized themselves into little bands for self protection. Woe befell the Poles who came into their hands. They plunged them under the ice, saying savagely, "There, you wretches, you have eaten our cows and our calves, now eat our fish."

Basil turned to Sweden for help; his nephew, with five thousand Swedes, began to make headway against the Brigand. Suddenly Skopin Shuiski died, and the people declared that his uncle had poisoned him. The King of Poland openly declared in favor of the impostor; his army defeated the Tsar's brother, Dimitri Shuiski; the mercenaries, after trying in vain to retrieve the day, passed over to Sigismond's service. Basil, never very popular, was utterly ruined. The people dragged him from his palace and forced him to become a monk.

[Illustration] from History of Russia by Nathan Dole


Russia was now without a Tsar. Who should fill the vacant throne? The "Brigand "was plainly a brutal impostor. One of the boyars suggested the son of the King of Poland. The citizens of Moscow went so far as to take the oath to the Polish Tsar, who promised to maintain orthodoxy and secure the Russian people their rights and liberties.

When the "Brigand "heard of this proposition he marched upon Moscow. The boyars then invited the Polish troops to enter the Kreml; the Brigand," deserted by his foreign troops and in danger of capture, fled, crying, "If I get my crown once more, I will not leave one foreigner alive in my states." He was soon after assassinated by a Tartar prince. King Sigismond, a vain and ambitious man, and a tool of the Jesuits, determined to claim the throne for himself, and refused to send his son to Moscow. The Patriarch Hermogenes, a patriotic old man of eighty, was the first to raise the alarm; he was arrested and starved to death by the Poles. Prince Liapunof put himself at the head of a new band, called himself the defender of the faith and the White Tsar. "Where his horse passed, the grass grew no more." At his approach a quarrel broke out in Moscow, between the Russians and the Poles. The Poles massacred seven thousand Russians, set Moscow on fire, and then shut themselves into the Kreml, where they were besieged by a hundred thousand men. Discord broke out among the besiegers; the Kazaks of the Don fell upon Liapunof and cut him to pieces; the great army was scattered. Meantime Novgorod the Great gave itself to a son of Charles IX. of Sweden; Kazan and Viatka proclaimed the son of Marina and the Brigand of Tushino; Sigismond reduced Smolensk by fire and famine, and tortured its brave defender. On hearing of the revolt of Moscow, he imprisoned the Russian hostages and went back to Warsaw in triumph, dragging Basil Shuiski a prisoner in his train.

Picture the state of Russia! The throne vacant, the Patriarch starving in prison, the Swedes at Novgorod the Great, the Poles at Moscow; the higher nobility playing traitor; bands of brigands everywhere desolating the land; famine driving the people to eat human flesh!

Palitsin and the patriotic monks of the Trinity Monastery came to the rescue. They sent letters to all the cities of Russia. When the letter came to Lower Novgorod, and was read to the citizens assembled in the market-place, Kozma Minin, the butcher, arose and said, "We must spare neither our lands nor our goods. Let us sell our houses; let us put our wives and children to service; let us raise money for an army." The butcher and other citizens gave a third of their wealth; one woman who had 12,000 rubles gave 10,000 of them; no one held back. Three days of fast were commanded. Prince Pozharski, who had led the revolt at Moscow, was put at the head of the rising. Bishops and monks marched in the ranks; the sacred images went in the van. The Poles were compelled to" leave the Kreml and deliver up their prisoners. Sigismond came too late to their aid. Russia was saved.