Room 21. Foreign Policy and Armed Forces of Russia in the 16th and 17th Centuries

Authentic objects from the epoch were used in the room decor – for example, you may see forged iron-gates from the Purekh community near Nizhny Novgorod, the patrimonial estate of Prince D.M.Pozharsky, in the doorway of the gable. The Purekh district was presented to the prince for liberating Moscow from Poles in 1612.

On the room’s walls are three canvases and two portraits donated to the Historical Museum by Emperor Alexander III. Painted by an unknown Polish artist in the early 17th century, the pictures depict the scenes of Marina Mnishek’s betrothal in Krakow, her solemn entry to Moscow and coronation at the Assumption Cathedral of the Kremlin in May 1606. However the full-dress portraits of Marina Mnishek and her husband tsar False Dmitry I placed on both sides of the room entrance are of special interest. Marina and False Dmitry arc represented in stately postures dressed in appropriate clothes. The portraits are accompanied by explanatory notes where both are called «Emperors of Moscow», and Dmitry is also described as a son-in-law of Sandomir voevode Yury Mnishek. Hence the dependent standing of the Impostor is emphasized. The enthronement of False Dmitry was actually organized on the money of Polish nobility and king himself. The exhibited collection of art is truly unique, since no other portraits of those who were involved in the events of the early 17th century simply exist.

The room’s exposition includes two large sections. The first section (cases 1-5, 8-10) presents the main events and priorities of Russian foreign policy in the 16th and 17th centuries.

case 1
A set of things in case 1 pertains to the early reign of Ivan the Terrible and deals with the important event of Russian history – the fight of the Russian State against the remains of the Golden Horde, Trans-Volga khanates. In 1552 tsar Ivan IV launched the third victorious campaign against the Kazan khanate while in 1556 the Astrakhan khanate was also annexed by Moscow. Russia got rid of aggressive neighbours, secured «paradisiacal lands» in the Trans-Volga region and an access to the shores of the Caspian Sea, having gone in for in brisk trade with oriental countries.

The central exhibit of the case is a «baidana» – a coat of mail made from flat iron rings. Inscriptions on the rings helped ascertain the owner’s name – Ivan G.Vyrodkov, contemporary of Ivan the Terrible and chief of the military department. Vyrodkov is known, above all, as a military engineer and «town builder». Under his supervision the fortress of Sviyazhsk was built that became a bridgehead of the Russian Army during the Kazan campaign of 1552.

The «baidana» itself was discovered in the middle of the 19th century during the construction works in the monastery of Orsha city. Presumably, the owner lost it, when the Russian Army was deprived of a huge string of carts loaded with arms and ammunition in this district as result of the enemy’s sudden attack.

case 2
In the middle of the 16th century Russia made an attempt to gain access to the marine trade transportation links opening a direct way to Western Europe. In 1558 Ivan the Terrible commenced a war against the Livonian Order possessing the Baltic lands. Ivan Vyrodkov was one of the first builders of Russian ports in the Baltic region – even before the Livonian War he had been in charge of building a fortress in the estuary of the Narova River, downstream from Ivangorod, and during the war he led a large military unit.

Case 2 is dedicated to the fight against the Livonian Order and gaining access to the Baltic shores. The central exhibit shows the West-European semi-armour of the XVI century, a typical defensive armament of Livonian Knights. The defence of Pskov in 1581 from the army of Polish King Stefan Batory is a heroic chapter in the history of this war. The city withstood the siege with dignity and never surrendered to the enemy. The Story of Stefan Batory Attacking the City of Pskov tells of the «Pskov sitting».

case 3
Presented in cases 3-5 are materials on the history of the Time of Troubles in the early 17th century, a period of liberation fight of the Russian people against the military intervention of the Polish-Lithuanian State and Sweden. Capitalizing on the crisis that ensued in Russia at the beginning of the 17th century, Rzeczpospolita and Sweden tried not just to weaken their eastern neighbour, but also to stamp out Russian statehood and to make good at the expense of Russian lands.

On display in case 3 is the armour of the Polish warrior, «the winged hussar». Its most remarkable feature is «a wing» from swan’s plumage fixed in the middle of the back. It is believed that feathers would make an unpleasant noise during swift riding, and «the wing» was supposed to frighten hostile soldiers by its appearance and sound.

case 4
Very interesting is the medal depicting False Dmitry I, which had been stamped by the time of the Imposter coronation (case 4), as some believe. In the same place visitors may see two big gold ducats called «gold Hungarian» coins in Russia. Such coins were used as decorations awarded for participation in campaigns. False Dmitry I was planning to reward his soldiers with these gold coins during the forthcoming campaigns against the Crimean khanate. One more documentary proof is a receipt with the personal signature of False Dmitry I for 4 thousand gold coins from Polish king Sigismund III. Two of these receipts are kept at the Historical Museum.

case 5
A sabre and a broadsword in a sheath adorned with precious stones take a special place in case 5 This armament is unique, as it belonged to the heroes of the fight against foreign aggression – Princes D.M.Pozharsky and M.V.Skopin-Shuisky. Young and talented general Skopin-Shuisky gained brilliant victories over the intruders and did not let them tear away northwest lands from the Russian State.

Prince Dmitry Pozharsky led irregulars in 1612, took the Moscow Kremlin where Poles had retired by storm and liberated the city from the aggressors. As the tradition goes, grateful Muscovites offered this sabre to the prince. It is rightly considered the oldest Russian reward weapon.

cases 6, 7, and podium
The second section of the exposition (cases 6-7, a podium with canons) is dedicated to the military system of the Russian State in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Case 6 presents a set of the nobleman’s armament. The gentry’s cavalry, a core of the armed forces in those days, was formed under Ivan III according to the feudal principle: landowning gentry should have presented themselves at court «mounted, armed and with their retinues» at the tsar’s first call. The nobleman’s armament – sabre, bow and arrows -was quite typical for that time. The armour consisted of a coat of mail, gauntlets, leg covers and a helmet.

case 7
The need in regular military units armed with spitfire in the State was more acutely felt under Ivan the Terrible. In 1552, the first strelets regiments participated in the victorious Kazan campaign. Exhibited in case 7 is the armament of the «strelets» (marksmen); next to the «caftan» is the flint rifle of the 17th century whose barrel would rest on a poleaxe.

In the second part of the case one can see the armament of «regiments of foreign style», which appeared in the reign of Mikhail Feodorovich and became forerunners of the regular army of Peter the Great. The regiments were organised and armed ad exemplum European armies. On the case podium is The Doctrine and Stratagem of Infantry Formations by J.Y. von Wahlhausen. This textbook on military art translated from German and published by the Moscow Printing Works became the first Russian secular printed book.

At the turn of the era presented in the exposition Russia approached the threshold of the New Time marked by transformation of the Russian State into an empire.

case 8
The reuniting of Russia and Ukraine in the middle of the 17th century became an outstanding event in the history of the Moscow State. Beside the engraved portrait of Bogdan Khmelnitsky in case 8 there is the only personal thing of his kept in the collection of the Historical Museum – a silver bowl with the blazon of hetman of the Zaporozhian Cossacks regiments. The possessory inscription consists of the title’s initial letters «Bogdan Zinovy Khmelnitsky, Hetman of His Worship’s Army of Zaporozhye. This title was granted to Khmelnitsky after his victory over the royal army near Zborov in 1648.

cases 9-10
Exhibited in cases 9-10 are the documents highlighting the main priorities of Russian foreign policy in the 17th century. Apart from the war against Poland for reuniting with Ukraine, Russia was also waging wars against Sweden and the Crimean khanate for access to the seas.

The exposition recounts the Azov campaign of young Peter the Great in the 1690s against Turkey that was in control of the Don estuary and the Crimean khanate, its vassal. Therefore the main goals and priorities of Russian foreign policy for the next two centuries became clear in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Podium with canons
Presented on the podium are artillery specimens of those days. In the central part is a field gun going back to the times of Ivan the Terrible – an iron canon with its snake-shaped barrel crowned with an open snake jaws. Already by the end of the 15th century the field and rampart artillery had been created and further built up under Ivan the Terrible.

The remaining canons dated to the 17th century are superb samples of bronze casting manufactured by the craftsmen of Moscow Foundry. Many of them carry inscriptions often indicating the names of manufacturers. Thus, the name of craftsman Yakov Dubina is clearly discernable on one of the canons. Russia surpassed all European countries in terms of artillery quality and quantity.

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