Posted October 22, 2020 in Featured News


To conclude: the story told by Possevino in his Moscovia contained a number of statements that were not true. At the age of seventeen, Ivan was betrothed to Eudoxia Saburova, who had previously been proposed as a bride for Tsar Ivan. The Tsar had rejected Eudoxia as a bride for himself but she was later married to the Tsar's son. 29 MPV V, 194. The Tsar wanted his daughter-in-law to produce an heir very quickly, and this did not happen, so the Tsar banished her to a convent and got his son another bride.

The stories began to circulate at the Polish army camp at Kiverova Gorka near Pskov at the end of December, 1581. Possevino wrote to Rome early in 1586 again as advocate for the king’s plans, and in the summer the Roman authorities called him back. King Stefan’s plans for conquest only grew more extravagant, but the new (May, 1585) Pope Sixtus V was even more skeptical than his predecessor. Basically, both groups wanted in some way to put Russia and the Polish‑Lithuanian state together, with Russia either as a subject state (the royal agenda) or as some sort of partner (some circles among the szlachta represented in the diet). However, when the political circumstances changed, Shuisky retracted his earlier claim of accidental death and asserted that Dmitry was murdered on Godunov's orders. A Livonian prisoner named Bykovski raised a sword against the elder Ivan, only to be rapidly stabbed by the Tsarevich. This second wife was Praskovia Solova, who quickly met with the same fate as her predecessor, and was also put away into a convent. Both the Pope and Emperor were unhappy with the continuing conflict, since it made it impossible to recruit either Poland or Russia as allies against the Turks.7 The result was two journeys by Possevino to Russia, the first on 5 August‑5 October, 1581, to meet the tsar at Staritsa. Possevino’s unpublished correspondence with the Vatican, Polish officials, and the Venetian Senate shows that he returned to the subject of the tsarevich several times in the ensuing year 1582 but never mentioned murder or killing, only death. Possevino’s account of his journeys, his observations of Russia, his discussion with Ivan and the story of the killing of Ivan Ivanovich appeared in the first chapter of his Moscovia, first published in Wilno in 1586 and later reprinted several times. 13In other words, Possevino was hearing rumors from the Polish authorities. 33 Paul Pierling, Bathory et Possevino : documents inédits sur les rapports du Saint-Siège avec les Slaves (P. : Leroux, 1887), 168‑193. Both of Possevino’s interpreters were Lithuanians, one of whom had been with the tsarevich [apud eum] and in Graham’s translation of Possevino’s words “looked into the cause of his death and gave me the more probable account of it”.
The second theory is that Dmitry stabbed himself in the throat during an epileptic seizure, while playing with a knife (this version was supported by historians Mikhail Pogodin, Sergei Platonov, V. K. Klein, Ruslan Skrynnikov and others). In other words, Possevino was hearing rumors from the Polish authorities. Finally, in Possevino’s unpublished (at the time) correspondence with Rome and the Polish authorities he does not mention any incident, illness, or death of the tsarevich until early January when he heard the first rumors circulating the Polish camp (see below). The elder Ivan immediately threw himself at his son, kissing his face and trying to stop the bleeding, whilst repeatedly crying, "May I be damned! The result was the well‑known story of Ivan’s blow to the wife of the tsarevich and the subsequent quarrel and blow to the son.10 Hugh Graham’s English conveyed Possevino’s caution but literally the story was “put about (note the irresponsible passive voice: by whom?) As Pierling established, the text is actually a composite of the 28 April 1582 letter of Possevino to Claudio Acquaviva, the head of the Jesuit order, and the report on Russia by his companion in 1581, Giovanni Paolo Campana S.J. 20 Possevino, Istoricheskie sochineniia, 238 ; Possevino, Moscovia, 1586, 18‑18v ; Cf. Here he did mention Ivan Ivanovich. Perhaps he did not want to be too open at that point, but in his remaining correspondence with Bolognetti and Galli the subject never came up. The Italian translation was more definite : “per manifesto inditio” for “certiore indicio” and “vera” for “veriore” : Possevino, Commentarii, 38‑39. One is that the story arose from rumors in the Polish camp, which formed part of the larger history of the intentions of the kings of Poland and other Polish political actors toward Russia, and their understanding of Russian politics in the sixteenth century. Cf. He also published in Latin on return to Vienna a diary of the mission, long exploited as a source for the early years of Peter’s reign.
They are not in any way definitive. 3The presence or absence of unpublished archival material is not merely a matter of antiquarian interest. The diplomats all had a concrete task and were supposed to report back to their sovereigns what they actually saw and did, not to provide propaganda for this or that cause or stereotype.

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