1598 Boris Gudonov Elected Czar of Russia

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I guess it really isn’t surprising that when you have a lunatic on the throne for a while – yeah, I’m talking about you Ivan the Terrible – that anyone who provides a relative amount of stability would be much appreciated. Now, don’t get me wrong, Boris Gudonov did some great things. He opened up Russia for increased trading with English merchants in the early 1590s, which Shakespeare alluded to in Love’s Labour’s Lost with what is probably up there in the competition for his most racist stage direction:

Enter Blackamoors with music; MOTH; FERDINAND, BIRON, LONGAVILLE, and DUMAIN, in Russian habits, and masked

But Boris Gudonov wasn’t all fun and games. He also tied the peasants to the land, preventing nobles from exchanging them. This “reform” would actually come to result in probably the most oppressive European economy by the nineteenth century. (Of course, let’s not forget that Russia freed the serfs (1861) before the Americans freed their slaves (1863), so no high horses, please.)

Well, at least he inspired some great opera!

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