Dmitry of Uglich

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Dmitry Ivanovich
Tsarevich of Russia
1899. Tzarevich Dmitry by M. Nesterov.jpg
Tsarevich Dmitry (1899), by Mikhail Nesterov.
Born19 October 1582
Died15 May 1591(1591-05-15) (aged 8)
Uglich later moved to Moscow
FatherIvan IV
MotherMaria Nagaya
ReligionEastern Orthodox
Dmitry of Uglich
Icon of St. Dmitry, 18th Century
the Wonderworker, Slain Crown Prince or Pious Crown Prince
Venerated inEastern Orthodox Church
FeastMay 15/ 28

Tsarevich Dmitry or Dmitri Ivanovich (Russian: Дмитрий Иванович, tr. Dmitrii Ivanovich; 19 October 1582 – 15 May 1591),[1] also known as Dmitry of Uglich (Дмитрий Угличский, Uglichskii) or Dmitry of Moscow (Дмитрий Московский, Moskovskii), was a Russian tsarevich famously impersonated by a series of pretenders after the death of his father Ivan the Terrible.


Dmitry was the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible and Ivan's only child born to Maria Nagaya. After the death of Ivan IV, Dmitry's older brother, Feodor I, ascended to power. However, the actual ruler of the Russian state was Feodor's brother-in-law, a boyar, Boris Godunov, who had had a claim on the Russian throne. According to a later widespread version, Godunov wanted to get rid of Dmitry, who could have succeeded the throne in light of Feodor's childlessness. In 1584, Godunov sent Dmitry, his mother and her brothers into exile to the Tsarevich's appanage city of Uglich. On 15 May 1591, Dmitry died from a stab wound, under mysterious circumstances.

Accident or murder?[edit]

The Death of Tsarevich Dmitry, by Pavel Pleshanov

Russian chroniclers and later historians offered two possible scenarios of what could have happened to Dmitry. The first theory is that Dmitry was killed by the order of Boris Godunov, the assassins making it look like an accident (this version was supported by the prominent 19th-century historians Nikolai Karamzin, Sergei Soloviev, Vasily Klyuchevsky and others). The critics of this version point out that Dmitry was Ivan's son from his fifth (or seventh) marriage, and thus illegitimate by the canon law (a maximum of three marriages are allowed in the Russian Orthodox Church). This would make any claim of Dmitry's for the throne dubious at best.

Scene of the crime: Dmitry was found dead a few steps from his residence.

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). The detractors of this scenario assert that, since during an epileptic seizure the palms are wide open, the self-infliction of a fatal wound becomes highly unlikely. However, the official investigation, done at that time, asserted that the Tsarevich's seizure came while he was playing a svaika game or with a knife (v tychku) and thus holding the knife by the blade, turned toward himself. With the knife in that position, the version of self-inflicted wound on the neck while falling forward during seizure appears more likely.

There is also a third version of Dmitry's fate, which found support with some earlier historians, such as Konstantin Bestuzhev-Ryumin, Ivan Belyaev and others. They considered it possible that Godunov's people had tried to assassinate Dmitry, but killed somebody else instead and he managed to escape. This scenario explains the appearance of impostors, sponsored by the Polish nobility (see False Dmitry I, II, III). Most modern Russian historians, however, consider the version of Dmitry's survival improbable, since it is hardly possible that the boy's appearance was unknown to his assassins. Also, it is well known that many Polish nobles who supported False Dmitry I did not believe his story themselves.


Church of St. Demetrius on Blood in Uglich (17th century) - commemorates the murder of Tsarevich Demetrius
The Coat of Arms of the city of Uglich, featuring Tsarevich Dmitri

The death of the Tsarevich roused a violent riot in Uglich, instigated by the loud claims of Dmitry's mother Maria Nagaya and her brother Mikhail that Dmitry was murdered. Hearing this, enraged citizens lynched fifteen of Dmitry's supposed "assassins", including the local representative of the Moscow government (dyak) and one of Dmitry's playmates. The subsequent official investigation, led by Vasily Shuisky, after a thorough examination of witnesses, concluded the Tsarevich had died from a self-inflicted stab wound to the throat. Following the official investigation, Maria Nagaya was forcibly tonsured as a nun and exiled to a remote convent.

However, when the political circumstances changed, Shuisky retracted his earlier claim of accidental death and asserted that Dmitry was murdered on Godunov's orders. On 3 June 1606, Dmitry's remains were transferred from Uglich to Moscow and his cult soon developed. In the calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church, he is venerated as a "Saint Pious Tsarevitch", with feast days of 19 October, 15 May and 3 June. In the 20th century, the majority of Russian and Soviet historians[who?] have given more credit to the conclusions of the first official investigation report under Shuisky, which ruled Dmitry's death to be an accident.[citation needed]

Cultural references[edit]

The story of murder is presumed in Aleksandr Pushkin's play Boris Godunov, made into an opera by Modest Mussorgsky.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The name is also translated as Demetrius or transliterated in numerous other ways. See Dmitry.
  • Sergey Platonov. Очерки по истории смуты в Московском государстве XVI-XVII вв. Moscow, 1937.
  • Ruslan Skrynnikov. Лихолетье. Москва в XVI-XVII веках. Moscow, 1988.
Russian royalty
Preceded by
Feodor I
Heir to the Russian Throne
Succeeded by
Feodor II