The Sonderbund War

 

We have four more days before my next podcast episode goes online, so while you’re waiting for it, here’s another story about an obscure war that I recently added to the website.  This one took place in Switzerland, believe it or not, and I added it to Chapter 13 of the European history series.

The Sonderbund War

We don’t get many opportunities to discuss Switzerland in a European history narrative, because the Swiss kept to themselves most of the time, and the outside world didn’t bother them much. The most recent outsider who did bother them was Napoleon Bonaparte, who conquered Switzerland in 1798, and turned most of it into a "Helvetian Republic." Then in 1803, because the Swiss refused to cooperate with him, he brought back the previous canton system, though the cantons remained satellite states of the French Empire until 1814. With the Congress of Vienna, Switzerland’s independence was restored, and Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva were added as new cantons, establishing Switzerland’s present-day boundaries. Most important of all, the Congress declared Switzerland neutral, and the Swiss have followed this to the letter; they have not been involved in any foreign war since 1815, nor will they join any international organization.

However, the Swiss could still fight other Swiss, and they did that once, in a conflict that was short and is now nearly forgotten. Thanks to Ulrich Zwingli, today’s Swiss population is predominantly Protestant, but a large Catholic minority remained after the Reformation era ended. In the 1840s a new liberal party rose, the Free Democratic Party of Switzerland. This party wanted a new constitution that would turn the Swiss Confederation into a more centralized state, and it wanted to reduce the power of the Catholic Church, especially in the schools. To protect their rights, seven cantons that were both conservative and Catholic formed an alliance called the Sonderbund ("Separate Alliance"). This was illegal according to the 1815 treaty and the constitution. The liberals ordered the alliance dissolved, and the Sonderbund members refused. Among the other cantons, fifteen supported the Bern government, and two were neutral.

The resulting Sonderbund War lasted less than four weeks, in November 1847. The Protestants had the advantage of numbers, recruiting 99,000 troops to go against the Sonderbund’s 79,000. In response, the Sonderbund requested aid from the two strongest Catholic nations in Europe, France and Austria. Therefore, Bern’s strategy was to win the war as quickly as possible, before any foreigners could get involved. The Sonderbund began the fighting by launching two offensives, against Ticino and Aargau, but they failed to gain anything important before the government struck back. Those counter-offensives conquered Fribourg and Lucerne, and broke the Sonderbund forces. By December 1 the last Sonderbund canton (Valais) surrendered, and it was all over.

There is nothing "civil" about most civil wars, but the Swiss managed to make the Sonderbund War one of the most polite conflicts of all time. The government army commander, Guillaume-Henri Dufour, refused to equip his army with Congreve rockets, a weapon the enemy did not have, because he felt the rockets would cause too much damage. And he actually let the other side know where he was planning his next attacks, in the hope that this would make them surrender before the attacks took place. In addition, a lot of people in the Sonderbund did not really want to secede from Switzerland, so when government troops entered rebel towns, they received a warm welcome. Finally, both sides had standing orders to give medical aid to wounded enemies. All this meant that casualties were minimal (60 federal troops and 26 rebels killed), and when a new constitution was introduced in 1848, one which turned Switzerland into the federal state that exists today, the Catholics were willing to give it a chance. In fact, they are still in Switzerland now. As for General Dufour, he went on to preside over the First Geneva Convention, which founded the International Red Cross in 1864.

The Free State of Van Zandt

 

On the podcast, in the latest episode I mentioned America’s first war in Korea, the Shinmiyangyo Incident of 1871.  Now here is another strange war in the 1800s that most people have forgotten, to the point that I just heard about it.  On The Xenophile Historian, I have added it to Chapter 4 of the North American history series.

The Free State of Van Zandt

One part of the South that wanted nothing to do with slavery and Reconstruction was Van Zandt County, in northeastern Texas.  Almost no one in this county owned slaves, and they didn’t like the idea of fighting for someone else’s right to own slaves.  When Texas seceded in 1861, some folks in Van Zandt County proposed seceding from Texas, so that like West Virginia, they could remain with the Union.  However, the threat of military intervention by the state of Texas was enough to keep the citizens of Van Zandt from acting, for the duration of the Civil War.

After the war, the citizens of Van Zandt decided that another thing they didn’t like was letting Union troops and carpetbaggers run around in the county.  In 1867 Texas was readmitted into the Union, and a convention was held in Van Zandt to propose seceding from Texas, the Confederacy, and the United States of America!  The county commissioners approved of this move, and drafted a declaration of independence, which looked a lot like the more famous 1776 Declaration of Independence.

Naturally General Sheridan saw this move as an act of rebellion, and he sent a cavalry unit to deal with it.  However, the heavily forrested terrain of Van Zandt County canceled the advantage cavalry normally has, and the rebels knew their home ground well enough to surprise their opponents.  The first (and only) battle of the Free State War was won by the rebels, who ambushed and drove off the cavalry.  Then, to celebrate the ultimate David-vs.-Goliath victory, the rebels gathered in Canton, the main town of Van Zandt County.  At the party they drank too much, and while they were totally blotto, Sheridan’s troops returned, arrested the whole bunch, and built a stockade near Canton to hold them.

You’d think that would be the end of the story, but it has an epilogue.  One of the prisoners, a former Confederate soldier named William Allen, had a knife in his boot that was not discovered by his captors, and over the course of several days he used the knife like a file, wearing down the anklets restraining him until he could break them off.  Around the same time the rainy season started, and the guards posted on the site were reduced to one, who did his best to keep an eye on the prisoners by simply walking around the compound.  This allowed Allen to free the other prisoners while the guard wasn’t looking, and when they broke out of the stockade, most of them fled in two different directions, one group going north to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and the other going west to the neighborhood of Waco, TX.

Arrest warrants were put out for all the prisoners that escaped, but Federal troops did not look very hard for them, and none were caught.  Even Allen was able to return after most people forgot about the affair, and he spent the rest of his life as a doctor in Canton.  As for the Feds, they departed as soon as they brought Van Zandt County back into Texas, considering their work complete.  Nobody bothered to void the county’s declaration of independence, so technically the county is still independent.  Today the county calls itself "The Free State of Van Zandt," though today it isn’t clear if it got that name from the 1867 secession, the 1861 secession attempt, the county’s lack of slaves, or some incident that happened even earlier.

The Xenophile Newsletter, #28

 

The Xenophile Historian Newsletter, #28
( http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/ )

Greetings once again to all my loyal readers!  Charles Kimball is here again, to give you the latest news on my world history website and podcast. 

For this newsletter I have exactly two announcements.  That’s right, just two.  For one thing, it has only been four months since the last newsletter came out.  And since then, I have added more pictures to existing pages and corrected a few typos, but that was never stuff I considered worthy of announcing.  Also, I have been busy in the outside world lately.  Nevertheless, I managed to stick to my goals of what I wanted on both the Website and the podcast.  So this newsletter will be short and sweet, compared with previous ones.

======================================

On the website itself, I completed the history of the fourteen South Pacific nations.  Chapter 5 covers events from 1945 to the present.  As it turned out, the most convenient way to present the subject was to divide it into four parts.  Here are the URLs for the webpages, and the subheadings for each one:

http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/pacific/pacific5a.html

Part I

First, A Word on the Cargo Cults
The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and Nearby Atolls
Australia: The Menzies Era
Rabbits Gone Wild
Recolonial New Zealand

http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/pacific/pacific5b.html

Part II

Independence Comes to the Islands
     Western New Guinea: From One Colonial Overlord to Another
     Western Samoa
     Nauru and Tonga
     Fiji
     Papua New Guinea
     The Solomon Islands
     Tuvalu and Kiribati
     Vanuatu
     The Free Association States

http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/pacific/pacific5c.html

Part III

The Australian Constitutional Crisis
Australia in Recent Years
New Zealand: Labour and National Reforms

http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/pacific/pacific5d.html

Part IV

The Smaller Island Nations Since Independence
     The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and Palau
     Fiji: Too Early to Tell
     Kiribati: Every Day and Every Year Begin Here
     Tuvalu: The First Nation to Go Under?
     Nauru: The Island That Lost its Future
     Papua New Guinea: A Troubled Young Nation
     Samoa: No Longer Western, But Looking Southwest
     The Solomon Islands: Are They A Nation Yet?
     Tonga: It’s Good to Be King
     Vanuatu: Harmony With Disunity
     New Caledonia: Unfinished Business
Conclusion for the Islands

However, I have one more task, requiring another history paper, before I will consider the South Pacific project finished.  That task is to write a history of the exploration of Antarctica, so the Antarctic can be included somewhere on the website.  I decided the best place for an essay on the South Pole would be to put it with the ones on the South Pacific, because most of the South Pacific is below the equator, too, and Chapters 1-3 also had much to say about exploration.  Come back in 2017 to read one more chapter!

======================================

The other news is that my podcast, on the history of Southeast Asia, continues to grow by leaps and bounds.  As of November 21, 2016, nine episodes have been recorded and uploaded, ten if you count the introduction.  So far there have been 4,710 downloads, to 3,355 devices (computers, laptops and smart phones).  Divide that by ten, and it works out to an estimated 335 listeners.  Most of that happened because I have successfully promoted the podcast, especially on Facebook.  Hopefully it won’t be long before I have enough listeners and downloads to attract a sponsor, and then I can make some money from this venture.

At the rate I am going, two episodes per month that average forty minutes each, I expect it will take the rest of this year to get finished with the Middle Ages, and I probably won’t cover twentieth-century conflicts (e.g., World War II, the Vietnam War) until sometime in 2018.  Still, as I have done on the website, I plan to include interesting content in each episode, including a number of strange and obscure stories the listeners probably haven’t heard before.

Since getting started last June, I have submitted the podcast’s RSS feed to four popular websites that host podcasts, and have found three more websites that posted links to the episodes without any input from me.  Therefore, at this time I know of eight sites where you can listen to or download the episodes:

Blubrry, the original host ( https://www.blubrry.com/hoseasia/ )
Acast
Google Play
iTunes
MyTuner
Player.fm
Podfanatic
Stitcher

And again, here is the podcast’s Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/historyofsoutheastasia/

If you haven’t listened to the podcast yet, check it out!

======================================

So there you have it.  For the near future, I will continue putting out podcast episodes, and compose the Antarctica page mentioned above.  Then I will probably update another history series.  Most likely it will be the Russian history, because I finished the last chapter in 2000, right after Boris Yeltsin resigned, so maybe now it is time to cover all the things Vladimir Putin has done to revive the Russian state, and what the other former Soviet republics think about that. 

And when that is done, sometime in 2017, I think it will finally be time to write the Central Asian history I have been promising to myself for a quarter century, so at last I can say The Xenophile Historian contains the history of the rise and fall of just about everybody.  Thank you for reading and listening.  If you observe holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah, have a great holiday season, and I’ll see you in the New Year!

======================================

If you missed older issues of this newsletter and want to see them,

they can be downloaded in a zip file from http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/download/index.html .  And the links below go to topics I mentioned in previous issues, that are still valid.  Please visit them, if you haven’t already:

The Xenohistorian Weblog, this site’s official blog.

https://xenohistorian.wordpress.com

My world history textbook, "A Biblical Interpretation of World History."

http://www.rosedogbookstore.com/biinofwohi.html
or
http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/worldhis/index.html

My business website:

http://charlesskimball.legalshieldassociate.com/

 

Take Care and God Bless,

Charles Scott Kimball

=======================

You received this newsletter because you subscribed to my mailing list, provided by http://www.ymlp.com/ .  It comes out 1-3 times a year, when there have been major changes to the website.  I AM NOT in the spam business, so when you subscribed here, your address was not sent to any third parties.  If for any reason you wish to unsubscribe, or would like to subscribe a new e-mail address, go to my homepage ( http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/ ), scroll down about four fifths of the way to the bottom, enter your address where it says "Enter your e-mail address to receive the site newsletter!" and hit the "subscribe" or "unsubscribe" button.

Chapter 5: Oceania Since 1945

 

Over the past four and a half months, I have been giving priority to the new podcast, as you can see from my previous messages.  Even so, I have not neglected the website, and have continued to write for the website’s current history project — the South Pacific.  It has been a bit of a challenge prioritizing the writing and the podcasting, so I can keep to my schedule of uploading two episodes every month.  For a while, for instance, I would write the scripts for my episodes and record them on weekdays, while writing for the website on weekends.  Perseverance paid off, and now the fifth chapter of the South Pacific history is now online!

This time we wrap up the whole narrative, covering the fourteen nations in this region from the end of World War II to the present.  As it turned out, the most convenient way to present the subject was to divide it into four parts.  Here are the URLs for the webpages, and a list of subheadings on each one:

http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/pacific/pacific5a.html

Part I

* First, A Word on the Cargo Cults
* The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and Nearby Atolls
* Australia: The Menzies Era
* Rabbits Gone Wild
* Recolonial New Zealand

http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/pacific/pacific5b.html

Part II

* Independence Comes to the Islands
     * Western New Guinea: From One Colonial Overlord to Another
     * Western Samoa
     * Nauru and Tonga
     * Fiji
     * Papua New Guinea
     * The Solomon Islands
     * Tuvalu and Kiribati
     * Vanuatu
     * The Free Association States

http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/pacific/pacific5c.html

Part III

* The Australian Constitutional Crisis
* Australia in Recent Years
* New Zealand: Labour and National Reforms

http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/pacific/pacific5d.html

Part IV

* The Smaller Island Nations Since Independence
     * The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and Palau
     * Fiji: Too Early to Tell
     * Kiribati: Every Day and Every Year Begin Here
     * Tuvalu: The First Nation to Go Under?
     * Nauru: The Island That Lost its Future
     * Papua New Guinea: A Troubled Young Nation
     * Samoa: No Longer Western, But Looking Southwest
     * The Solomon Islands: Are They A Nation Yet?
     * Tonga: It’s Good to Be King
     * Vanuatu: Harmony With Disunity
     * New Caledonia: Unfinished Business
* Conclusion for the Islands

It looks like I am done with this project, but while working on it, I decided to write something on the exploration of Antarctica, so the Antarctic can be included somewhere on the website; we might as well put the paper on the South Pole together with the ones on Australia.  Therefore, look for one more paper on Antarctica to show up sometime in 2017, and then the complete South Pacific history will be considered finished.  Stay tuned for one more chapter!

The Xenophile Historian Newsletter, #27

 

The Xenophile Historian Newsletter, #27
( http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/ )

Greetings once again to all my loyal readers!  Charles Kimball is here again, to give you the latest news on my world history website, and more. 

This time the main announcement is that I am trying a new online venture — podcasting.  I was prompted to do this by my discovery last fall, that history-related podcasts were appearing all over the World Wide Web.  There are no longer just a few individuals in the business, like Dan Carlin.  Most of the podcasts I listened to were enjoyable, especially if I learned something, but with those that weren’t so good, my reaction was, “I can do better than that!”  In June one of the podcasters I listened to went on Facebook and asked for comments, and when I told him about the episode where I thought I could have done better, he agreed!

After that, I considered making my own history podcast, But I didn’t want to start by doing a topic that someone else had already covered.  Thus, I considered what areas of history I am strong at, and one of them is Southeast Asian history.  A quick Google search told me that no one is doing a podcast on that yet, so that became my subject.  I read up on how to make a podcast, bought a good microphone, chose a host for the MP3 files, wrote my first script, and off I went.  There were some technical issues when I uploaded the first episode on June 29, and they were resolved on July 1, so I consider July 1 the official launch date for the podcast.  That episode was just an introduction, and the second episode began the actual historical narrative; I uploaded it on July 15.

Thus, the History of Southeast Asia Podcast is fully underway.  My goal is to upload two episodes a month, each around 30 minutes in length.  Let’s see how long I can keep it going; if I make it to the mid-twentieth century, this will become the official podcast about the Vietnam War, among other things.  Next, I want to get some advertisers, and otherwise find ways to make money doing this, because I am still out of work at this time.  Here is the URL that goes directly to my host.  Check it out.

https://www.blubrry.com/hoseasia/

You can also subscribe to it on iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/history-of-southeast-asia/id1130762848

And I made a page on Facebook to promote the podcast:

https://www.facebook.com/historyofsoutheastasia/

======================================

Now, what is happening back on the main website?  Another chapter in my South Pacific history series has been completed and uploaded, as you might expect if you have read my previous newsletters.  In composing Chapter 4, the main issue was that since we only have 102 years to cover to get to the present (1914-2016), should it all be done in one chapter?  At first I thought so, but then it occurred to me that the part dealing with World War I & II in the South Pacific can stand by itself, and I am keeping you from seeing it if I wait until the postwar material is done before uploading everything.  Thus, the narrative now has Chapter 4 for the period between 1914 and 1945, and a future Chapter 5 will go from 1945 to the present.  Here is how the chapter is organized:

Chapter 4: The Great Pacific War

1914 to 1945

http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/pacific/pacific4a.html

Part I

World War I: The Prologue
The Pacific Islands in the Interwar Period
The Interwar Years: Australia
The Cactus War and the Emu War
New Zealand: Between Liberal and Labour
"Under A Jarvis Moon"
The Flight of Amelia Earhart

 
http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/pacific/pacific4b.html

Part II

The Pacific War Begins
From Pearl Harbor to the Coral Sea
The Battle of Midway: The Tide Turns
The New Guinea Campaign, Part 1
Guadalcanal
The New Guinea Campaign, Part 2
Climbing the Solomon Islands, and Part 3 of the New Guinea Campaign
The Pacific Drive
The Last Carrier vs. Carrier Battle
The End of the War is in Sight

======================================

As for existing pages on the site, I only have one update to report, but it’s a big one.  In May I went back to the Russian history series.  This time I did a major rewrite Chapter 2, the Medieval Russia chapter.  The motivation is the same that prompted me to compose Chapter 1 in 2013; I felt the need to give equal time for non-Russians living in places that would be considered part of Russia in later eras.  For medieval times, that will include the Mongols, Germans, and Lithuanians.  I ended up adding so much new content, including pictures, that I split Chapter 2.  The new Chapter 2, called “Kievan Russia,” covers the years from 862 to 1300, while the material for the years 1300-1682 became a new Chapter 3, called “Muscovite Russia.”  Of course the chapters that were previously numbered 3-5 were renumbered 4-6.  Chapters 2 and 3 are now organized thusly:

http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/russia/ru02.html

Chapter 2: Kievan Russia

862 to 1300

The Kievan Principality
A Christian Russia
The Decline of Kiev
The Mongol Conquest
The Baltic Crusades Begin
Alexander Nevsky
The Golden Horde

 

http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/russia/ru03.html
 
Chapter 3: Muscovite Russia

1300 to 1682

The Rise of Lithuania
The Rise of Muscovy
The Golden Horde Breaks Up
Ivan the Great
Ivan the Terrible
North to the Orient
The Time of Troubles
The Conquest of Siberia
Russia Under the Early Romanovs

======================================

That’s it already.  Concerning what’s next, just two things come to mind.  First, I will finish the South Pacific history series; doing that by the end of this year is a worthy goal.  Second, I will build on the new History of Southeast Asia podcast; how far can I go with this?  Thank you for reading and listening, and have a great life until we touch base again!  ‘Bye for now.

======================================

If you missed older issues of this newsletter and want to see them, they can be downloaded in a zip file from http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/download/index.html .  And the links below go to topics I mentioned in previous issues, that are still valid.  Please visit them, if you haven’t already:

The Xenohistorian Weblog, this site’s official blog.

https://xenohistorian.wordpress.com

My world history textbook, "A Biblical Interpretation of World History."

http://www.rosedogbookstore.com/biinofwohi.html
or
http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/worldhis/index.html

My business website:

http://charlesskimball.legalshieldassociate.com/

And my page on Tsu.

https://www.tsu.co/Berosus

 

Take Care and God Bless,

Charles Scott Kimball

=======================

You received this newsletter because you subscribed to my mailing list, provided by http://www.yourmailinglistprovider.com/ .  It comes out once or twice a year, when there have been major changes to the website.  I AM NOT in the spam business, so when you subscribed here, your address was not sent to any third parties.  If for any reason you wish to unsubscribe, or would like to subscribe a new e-mail address, go to my homepage ( http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/ ), scroll down about four fifths of the way to the bottom, enter your address where it says "Enter your e-mail address to receive the site newsletter!" and hit the "subscribe" or "unsubscribe" button.

The Time of Troubles, Updated

 

I now declare my rewrite of my medieval Russian history papers complete.  The section covering the chaotic period from 1584 to 1613 is the last where I made major changes, so here it is.  I also moved a section about sailing the “Northeast Passage” (“North to the Orient”) here, from my European history folder, and added a few maps and one or two new paragraphs to the section entitled “The Early Romanovs,” but I don’t think those changes are big enough to warrant retelling those stories here.  If you want to check out those sections, go to http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/russia/ru03.html .  And now let’s look at the anarchic time between Ivan the Terrible and Michael Romanov.

The Time of Troubles

1584 to 1613

For 29 years after the death of Ivan the Terrible there was no competent leadership in Moscow. Part of this was Ivan’s fault; in 1581, in a moment of rage, he killed his only promising son (also named Ivan) with a blow from the iron staff he habitually carried around. That left two other sons, the mentally retarded Fyodor and an infant named Dmitri. Unfortunately, with a monarchy you have to take what the royal family gives you, so Fyodor received the crown by default. He spent his 14-year reign saying prayers and listening to church bells, while his father-in-law, a member of the service gentry named Boris Godunov, ran the daily affairs of the country.

Ivan IV by Repin

Ivan the Terrible reacts with horror upon realizing that he killed his son. Painting by Elias Repin.

Halfway through the "reign" of Fyodor I, his brother Dmitri was found dead with his throat cut. It was never proved whether this was an accident or a murder. Official investigators, appointed by Godunov, declared that Dmitri suffered an epileptic seizure while playing with a knife and killed himself. Some Russians (including the nineteenth century writer Pushkin) believed that Godunov was responsible, in order to give himself a better claim to the throne; it is also possible that a boyar committed the deed, in an act of revenge against the family of Ivan the Terrible. Whatever the case, it was the death of this ten-year-old boy that caused all of the tragic events that followed in this period.

Seven years after Dmitri, Tsar Fyodor died childless, and with that the 700-year-old dynasty founded by Rurik came to an end. The Zemsky Sobor elected Boris Godunov to be the next tsar. Boris had proven himself to be a good prime minister, but after he became tsar nothing went right. The people never accepted him wholeheartedly because he could not trace his ancestry to the Rurikide tsars. Many boyars, including the influential Romanovs, opposed him for personal reasons, and the Church denounced his attempt to set up a Western-style university in Moscow as "foreign contamination." Boris accused the head of the Romanov family, Fyodor Romanov, of treason, and exiled him to a monastery outside Moscow, where he was forced to become a monk and change his name to Philaret. Meanwhile, drought and famine ravaged the land, causing armed mobs of desperate men to roam the countryside, plundering the estates of the rich.

Boris Godunov.

Boris Godunov.

On top of all this, a mysterious young man appeared (modern historians call him "False Dmitri"), who claimed that Dmitri’s assassins bungled their assignment and killed the wrong boy; now he, the "real" Dmitri, was coming out of seclusion to claim his rightful throne. He went to Poland, promised to make Russia a Catholic country if he gained the throne, and got a Polish army to back him up. Then he marched on Moscow, his band of warriors swelled by Cossacks and peasants along the way. Boris Godunov went to fight him, but bad luck intervened one more time; he had a fatal heart before he could battle the pretender. False Dmitri triumphantly entered Moscow, removed Godunov’s son (Fyodor II) from the throne, and was crowned tsar.

The young ruler, whoever he was, only lasted thirteen months. His obnoxious Polish guards & retainers offended the Muscovites. The Russian Orthodox Church was offended because he married a Polish noblewoman after becoming tsar, but allowed her to remain a Catholic. Some Muscovites suspected that he was not even a Russian at all, because he never took a bath.(5)A conspiracy, led by a boyar named Vasili Shuisky, slaughtered the Poles and False Dmitri. Shuisky was elected tsar and he showed what he thought of False Dmitri by burning his remains, stuffing them into a cannon and shooting it off in the direction of Poland.

Vasili IV, the "boyar tsar" (1606-10), found himself even less popular than his predecessors. A second False Dmitri appeared, as well as a "False Peter," who claimed to be the non-existent son of Fyodor I. In the south a former slave named Ivan Bolotnikov led a mass revolt of Cossacks, runaway peasants and vagabonds against all authority; the rebellion got all the way to the gates of Moscow before it was driven back. Vasili IV appealed to Sweden for military assistance in stopping False Dmitri II, and the king of Poland, Sigismund III, let Swedish intervention become his excuse to launch a second Polish invasion. The Poles took Smolensk in 1609, and Moscow in 1610; they removed Vasili, and persuaded the boyars to elect Sigismund’s son Wladislaw as the next tsar. However Sigismund opposed this move, partly because Wladislaw was a minor, and partly because the boyars expected Wladislaw to convert to Orthodoxy, so Sigismund claimed the throne for himself. Later, when Sigismund realized the Russians would never accept him as their ruler, he agreed to a compromise where he would act as regent until Wladislaw came of age. At any rate, the situation in Moscow was too dangerous for the Polish king and prince to stick around, so they left without a coronation taking place, meaning that for three years there was no tsar. To the northwest, Sweden launched its own invasion to get the Poles out of Moscow, taking Novgorod in 1611 and supporting a third False Dmitri’s claim to the tsar’s throne.

It looked like Russia would disintegrate completely as a nation, but it was saved by a miraculous reuniting of the people. Since we last saw him, Philaret had become a metropolitan (archbishop), and now he used the pulpit to rally the people in the name of patriotism and Orthodox Christianity; Holy Moscow, the "Third Rome," must not be allowed to fall to the Catholic "heretics" of the West. The Poles arrested Philaret and sent him to Poland as a prisoner, but his message went forth. Russians who heard it gave up one third of their possessions to finance a war of liberation, and soon a great national army–which to the Poles must have appeared to spring spontaneously out of the earth–marched on Moscow, led by a butcher named Kuzma Minin and a boyar named Dmitri Pozharsky. Praying, fasting, and implacable, it wiped out the Poles and liberated Moscow in November 1612, though it would take several more years and concessions of land to get the Poles and Swedes out of Russia altogether.

5. A common practice at the time. Russians bathed regularly but most Europeans avoided it as much as possible, thinking it unhealthy (!) and morally questionable, because the bathhouses of early medieval times were a good place to get your personal possessions ripped off.

Ivan the Terrible, Redone

 

The end of this rewrite project is in sight!  For this section I did not add or change as much as I did in the others.  Again, this is from Chapter 3 of my Russian history series.

Ivan the Terrible

1533 to 1584

Ivan IV was only three years old when his father Vasili III died. From that time until he grew up, the government was run first by his mother, then after her death by the boyars. The latter had seen enough of autocracy from the two previous tsars, so they tried to regain their lost privileges while they had the opportunity. According to Ivan’s own account, the boyars treated him with contempt verging on cruelty. They kept him separated from his friends and favorite servants and lolled about on his late father’s bed with their boots on. A group of them once burst into the boy’s chamber at dawn and engaged in a furious argument, frightening him into a panic. In public they beat their foreheads on the ground before him, but when alone Ivan had to go hungry and without proper clothes. Perhaps as a result of this, Ivan began very early to display the streak of sadism that marked him all his life; his earliest amusement was throwing small animals from the window of a Kremlin tower. In 1543, at the age of thirteen, Ivan had the most troublesome boyar murdered by the Kremlin dogkeepers, and thereafter he was ruler of Russia in fact as well as in name.

The early part of Ivan’s reign, up until about 1560, was his "good" period; most of the time he was rational, an able ruler who surrounded himself with advisors from all walks of life, including those from a peasant background; Ivan knew that ability and status are not necessarily found in the same people. He rewrote the law code and asked for forgiveness, both from God and from the people, for the past sins he had committed. Up until this time the boyars had been a most difficult group to control, since they had inherited large amounts of land and felt that they had no responsibilities to the tsar and the state beyond paying taxes. Many of them had private armies and dispensed justice within their own territories, making their lands virtually independent states within the state. Moreover, they could look across the border into Poland-Lithuania and see how much the nobility can do when the king is not watching them all the time; sometimes only anti-Catholic prejudice could keep them loyal to Muscovy. Ivan required the boyars to supply officers and men for his military campaigns, and used arbitrary confiscations and an occasional murder on those who disobeyed. Since the boyars were not trustworthy even when they complied, Ivan created a new nobility that was: the service gentry. Those who made up the service gentry were officers, given small to medium-sized estates as a reward for their service. Since the tsar could give or take away their lands at the drop of a hat, the service gentry remained loyal to him, and he used them as a check against the hereditary nobility.

Another way to limit the influence of the boyars was to limit what the boyars’ assembly, the Duma, could do. In 1550 a new assembly, the Zemsky Sobor ("Assembly of the Land"), convened for the purpose of checking the Duma. Its membership was made up of service gentry, clergy, merchants and a few loyal boyars. This was not a true parliament in the Western sense; its members were appointed, not elected, and it was meant to approve the tsar’s proposals, not debate or veto them. Still Ivan listened carefully to the grievances that were presented and took steps to remedy the causes of some of them.

Ivan IV

Ivan IV.

It was in his military campaigns that Ivan acquired his epithet, "the Terrible"; not because he was terrible to the Russians (though he was), but because he was terrible to Russia’s enemies. The introduction of gunpowder weapons had eliminated the old superiority of the mounted archer vs. infantry, and now the numerically superior Russians took the offensive. The Mongol Khanate of Kazan was conquered in 1552.(1) In 1554 Ivan installed a puppet ruler over the Khanate of Astrakhan, and when this individual rebelled, the Russians conquered Astrakhan, too (1556).

After the Volga conquests, Ivan IV gave tax breaks and vast land grants between the Volga and the central Urals, to Anikey Stoganov, one of the country’s richest merchants, who in turn organized settlement of the lands, farming, hunting, saltworks, fishing, ore mining, trade with Siberian tribes — whatever brought a profit. The local tribes gave the Stroganov family no trouble until 1563, when a member of the Shaybanid family, Kuchum, took over the nearest state, the Khanate of Sibir. In the 1570s he sent raids against the nearest Russian communities, including Perm. Ivan’s land grants included authorization to defend the lands against attacks by Russia’s enemies, so the sons of Anikey Stroganov hired a Cossack hetman named Yermak Timofeyevitch to command the defenses. A military expedition was organized, and 840 armed men crossed the Urals in late 1581. Following a three-day battle with Kuchum’s forces (the battle of Chuvash Cape, 1582), they captured Qashliq/Sibir; Yermak presented the Khanate, along with 5,200 furs collected from the natives, as gifts to the tsar. However, Kuchum could still gather reinforcements; in 1584 they attacked at night, took back Sibir and killed Yermak. The Cossacks had to withdraw to the European side of the Urals — their biggest gain at this point was the knowledge gained from exploring Siberia’s northwest corner — and this area saw a seesaw struggle between Russians and Siberians until 1598, when Kuchum conceded he was getting too old to keep on fighting, and went into exile. In 1587 Tobolsk was founded, where the Tobol and Irtysh Rivers meet and about twelve miles from the ruins of Sibir; this was the first Russian city in Siberia.

The one Mongol state remaining, the Khanate of the Crimea, could not be conquered because as we saw earlier, it was backed by the the Ottoman Empire. In fact, a devastating raid on Moscow by the Crimean Tatars in 1571 killed 100,000 people, showing that Russia’s weak spot was in the south.

Russia 1598

Russian expansion under Ivan IV and Fyodor I.

Ivan first turned his eyes toward Europe in 1553, when the English explorer Richard Chancellor, while searching for a "northeast passage" to the Orient, sailed into the White Sea. We will talk more about this expedition in the next section. From the White Sea Chancellor journeyed overland to Moscow and "discovered" Russia, a nation his countrymen knew almost nothing about. There was a political reason for this isolation; all of the states on Russia’s western frontier–Sweden, Poland, and the Ottoman Turks–were enemies, and they would not allow commerce between Russia and the rest of the world to pass through their territories. The king of Poland made this clear when he told England’s Queen Elizabeth I, "Up to now we could conquer him only because he was a stranger in education and did not know the arts." Despite this a trade agreement between England and Russia was signed, and the seaport of Archangel was built at the mouth of the Northern Dvina River to handle the trade. For most of the time between Ivan IV and Peter the Great, this would be Russia’s only port.(2)

On the shores of the Baltic, the Protestant Reformation finished off the Teutonic Knights; the last Grand Master dissolved the Order when he became a Lutheran in 1525, and while he continued to rule Prussia, he did so as a secular duke. However, the branch of the Order that had ruled Estonia and Latvia, the Livonian Knights, stayed in business, and now reappeared on the map of eastern Europe. Ivan looked west, saw that the Baltic lands were loosely organized and poorly defended, and thought this was an opportunity for an easy western victory to match his nearly bloodless ones in the east. At first it looked like it might work that way; the Livonian Knights suffered a crushing defeat in 1560 and were dissolved a year later. But Sweden, Poland and Denmark were in agreement that the eastern shore of the Baltic must not become Russian, so all of them now entered the fight. Thus, the Livonian War dragged on for 24 years (1558-82), and ended with a division of the disputed territory among the three Baltic powers: Sweden got northern Estonia, Denmark got the Estonian island of Saaremaa, and the rest went to Poland.(3)

In the same year that Ivan met the English expedition, he began slipping into the "bad" period of his life. First he suffered a nearly fatal illness, and he called the boyars to swear loyalty to his infant son. None of them did, and when he recovered he hated them more than ever. Then in 1560 his wife died, and Ivan really went crazy. Convinced that the boyars had poisoned her, he conducted a bloody purge in which not only boyars but their families and servants were murdered or imprisoned. Then he took his treasures and a few trusted servants, and moved to the town of Aleksandrov, 60 miles away. He stayed there in seclusion for a month, until thousands of people, both rich and poor, came there and begged Ivan to return; to them even a mad tsar was better than no tsar at all.

Ivan agreed to return on condition that he be given unlimited power against the "traitors" to the state. To do this he divided the country into two states within the state; the loyal half of Russia became the Oprichnina, and the rest was called the Zemshchina. The borders between Oprichnina and Zemshchina were a fantastic gerrymander that almost defies description; some streets in Moscow were part of the Oprichnina, for instance, but not others. Even individuals were divided; service gentry, the Stroganov family and English traders were classified as Oprichniks while most boyars and other Russian merchants were not. Then the citizens of the Oprichnina were turned loose to destroy all potential rebels, and anyone in the Zemshchina was fair game. For the next eight years (1564-72) lawlessness and terror swept the land, with people killed and dispossessed everywhere. Ivan went back to Aleksandrov and ruled a weird parody of a monastery. His Oprichniks were "monks" and he was the "abbot." After prostrating himself before an altar with such vehemence that his forehead would be bloody and covered with bruises, he would preach sermons on Christian virtues to his drunken retainers, fresh from torturing and raping victims in the cellars (He often participated in that, too.). Afterwards he would send lists of the victims to the Church so that prayers could be said for their souls; when the bloodbath killed so many that he lost track of the victims, Ivan merely remarked, "God knows their names."

When Ivan finally dissolved the Oprichnina, all resistance to his rule was dead, but the hereditary aristocracy had not been eliminated as a class; after they recovered they would cause trouble in the next generation. Ivan returned to Moscow and spent his last days wandering and howling through the palace, his cries audible to those outside. No longer even pretending to be a Christian, he brought in witches from parts of the far north where paganism still existed. One day in 1584 he looked better and called for his chessboard, but before he could begin the game he suddenly toppled backward and died. He was only 54.

FOOTNOTES

1. Russia’s most famous building, the dazzling St. Basil’s Cathedral, was built to commemorate the victory over Kazan. Legend says that when it was finished, its beauty made Ivan so jealous that he blinded the architect, so that he would never build anything as gorgeous for somebody else.

2. Ivan once sent a marriage proposal to England’s Queen Elizabeth I, which she promptly turned down. It’s just as well; neither of them knew what they were missing!

3. In case you are wondering what happened to Lithuania, the Lithuanian government was dissolved with the signing of the Treaty of Lublin in 1569. Henceforth the Polish-Lithuanian union, now run by an elective monarchy, will be referred to as simply Poland.