Summary of the
Vasilii Shuiskii was born in 1552 to Ivan
Andreevich Shuiskii. (Some authorities believe he was the son of Ivan Petrovich
Shuiskii a more prominent member of the clan). The Shuiskii family owed its
position to its descent from Alexander Nevski's
younger brother, Andrei of Suzdal. The entire family from Andrei to Vasilii is
shown on this chart. In keeping with their exaulted
position they numbered important and famous military commanders among their
family. They had controlled the government during Ivan IV's youth and retained
their power throughout his difficult reign. Ivan
Petrovich was one of Fedor Ivanovich's regents. Thus they were political
rivals and enemies of the Gudunov family. Vasilii Ivanovich was promoted boyar
in 1584, along with Ivan Petrovich's son, Andrei.
Vasilii Ivanovich managed to stay out of trouble during the struggle for power
between Ivan Petrovich Shuiskii and Boris Gudunov. When the Shuiskiis fomented
a riot in Moscow in 1586, Ivan Petrovich and his son Andrei Ivanovich were
banished and confined until they died in 1588 and 1589 respectively. Vasilii
Ivanovich and his three younger brothers were also banished, but survived in
Vasilii regained his position as an important military commander and was in the
boyar council by 1591. In that year he chaired the commission that investigated
the death of Dmitrii Ivanovich in Uglich. When Fedor Ivanovich died in 1598 the
struggle between the Gudunov's and Shuiskii's began behind the sceens as
Vasilii remained publicly aloof. Boris remained suspicious and had the
Shuiskii's carefully watched, then banished once more.
During the defensive campaign against the False Dmitrii's invasion of 1604
Vasilii Shuiskii was sent to the front to take charge from the wounded
commander. His conduct enabled Dmitrii to escape from serious defeat. When Tsar
Boris died in April, Vasilii returned to Moscow. At that time he continued to
proclaim that the real Dmitrii had died at Uglich and appeared to support
Feodor's position as the new Tsar. In June, when Feodor was turned out of
power, Vasilii Shuiskii quickly reversed himself and proclaimed his allegiance
to False Dmitrii as a legitimate Tsar. Shortly, Vasilii changed his story again
and began a revolt against the newly enthroned Dmitrii. This was discovered and
Shuskii was again banished briefly. Still a survivor, in 1605 Vasilii began to
plot anew, trying first to enlist the aid of the Polish king without success
and then entering into agreement with the Swedish king.
Shuskii attended Dmitrii's wedding to Marina Mniszech in May of 1606 but by
then had already organized a coup d'etat. The following week his forces broke
into the Kremlin and murdered yet another reigning tsar, False Dmitrii. Shuskii
turned the Moscow mob against the Polish wedding visitors to generate still
more confusion. He again publicly claimed that this Dmitrii was an imposter.
Then he promptly had himself proclaimed Tsar by his noble supporters, and was
crowned on 1 June.
But he was not destined to rule unhindered. His four years in official, but
mostly nominal, power were a time of constant civil war. The first opponent was
Ivan Bolotnikov, who raised armies of peasants and cossacks all across south
Russia. The struggle shifted back and forth until 1607, when Bolotnikov was
besieged by Shuiskii in Tula. Bolotnikov surrendered on terms in the fall, but
by then a new False Dmitrii had appeared again out of Poland was was advancing
with a Polish, Cossack host through Orel. By June of 1608 this new figure,
called the Second Pretender, had reached the outskirts of Moscow at Tushino.
Remarkably, Marina, the widow of the first False Dmitrii, proclaimed that this
new fellow was actually her first husband who had miraculously escaped
assassination. During 1609, with the help of mercenaries sent by Sweden and the
brilliant military ability of his nephew, Mikhail
Skopin-Shuiskii, Vasilii managed to confine the rebellion to Tushino and parts
of south Russia.
At that point King Sigismund of Poland decided to reveal his hand and take
charge of the stalemated situation in Muscovy. A large Polish army invaded and
drove the Second Pretender out of Tushino. Skopin-Shuiskii disposed of the
remaining rebels and regained control of Moscow in March 1610. He then prepared
to deal with the Polish army to the west but suddenly died under suspicious
circumstances. Vasilii Shuskii then appointed one of his own brothers, Dmitrii,
to command the Muscovite Army against the Poles. Dmitrii was badly defeated by
the superior Polish army on 24 June at Klushino, leaving the road to Moscow
Now the Poles and army of the Pretender both raced toward Moscow. Yet another
uprising in the capital, this one supported by rival families of the Shuiskii's
including the Romanovs and Golitzyns, forced Vasilii to abdicate. The boyars
agreed to a settlement supporting Sigismund's son, Wladislaw, as a new tsar.
The Polish army took control of the Kremlin in September and the second
Pretender was forced to flee to Astrakhan. The Poles took all the potential
Russian claimants they could find off to Poland. These included the ill-fated
Vasilii and his two remaining brothers, Dimitrii and Ivan. They all died there
without heirs, thus ending the famous or infamous Shuiskii clan.
The Poles went on a rampage sending raiding detachments as far as Kostroma, but
failing in a long siege to take the strongly fortified Trinity - St Sergius
Monastery at Sergiev Posad.