Ivan Isayevich Bolotnikov (Russian: Ива́н Иса́евич Боло́тников) (1565-1608) was the leader of a popular uprising in Russia in 1606–1607 known as the Bolotnikov Rebellion (Восстание Ивана Болотникова). The uprising was part of the Time of Troubles in Russia.
Little information is available about Ivan Bolotnikov’s life before the uprising. It is known that he was a kholop and belonged to the household of Prince Andrei Telyatevsky. It appears that Bolotnikov fled from his master’s estate, then was captured by the Crimean Tatars, and sold to the Turks as a galley slave. He somehow managed to escape from his owners, reached Venice, and then was captured in Poland en route to Russia by the associates of Mikhail Molchanov (one of the assassins of Feodor Godunov, who had successfully fled from Moscow and was again contemplating the second coming of False Dmitry).
Molchanov sent Ivan Bolotnikov to the town of Putyvl to meet a voyevoda named Grigory Shakhovskoy. The latter received him as the new tsar’s envoy and put him in charge of a Cossack unit. Ivan Bolotnikov used this opportunity to muster a small army of runaway kholops, peasants, outlaws, and vagabonds, disgruntled with social and economic situation in Russia. He promised them to exterminate the ruling class and establish a new social system. By the order of Grigory Shakhovskoy, Bolotnikov and his army advanced to Kromy (today’s Oryol Oblast) in August 1606, defeating the Muscovite army under the command of Prince Yury Trubetskoy. From there, he moved towards Serpukhov and ravaged the city.
At the time there were several other rebellions taking place across Russia, the participants of which would join Ivan Bolotnikov’s army. Most of the insurgents (Cossacks, gentry, service class people, and even boyar children) organized themselves into three main groups under the command of Grigory Sumbulov, Prokopy Lyapunov, and Istoma Pashkov. All these rebels united and besieged Moscow, settling in a village of Zagorye on October 12, 1606. The consensus among these rebellious groups, however, did not last long. Soon, the noblemen realized that most of Ivan Bolotnikov’s plans had really been aimed against them, so they figured it would be much safer to return their support to Vasili Shuisky.
On November 15, Sumbulov and Lyapunov left Zagorye and gave themselves up to the authorities, asking the tsar for forgiveness. Now that Bolotnikov’s army had lost some of its men, Vasili Shuisky decided to make his move. On December 2, Prince Mikhail Skopin-Shuisky (tsar’s cousin) attacked the enemy near Kolomenskoye. During the battle, Istoma Pashkov and his men decided to switch camps and joined the Muscovite army. Left all by himself, Ivan Bolotnikov suffered a defeat and fled to Kaluga. Vasili Shuisky’s commanders Fyodor Mstislavsky and Ivan Shuisky laid siege to the city, but Bolotnikov and his Cossacks managed to repel their attacks until the end of winter.
Help from Prince Andrei Telyatevsky
In the spring of 1607, another imposter by the name of False Peter (also known as Ileyka Muromets; he claimed to be the son of Feodor I of Russia) came to Tula with a whole mob of robbers to meet with Prince Grigory Shakhovskoy. Immediately after this, the latter dispatched Prince Andrei Telyatevsky and his men to help out Ivan Bolotnikov, forcing Prince Mstislavsky to lift the siege of Kaluga. Bolotnikov moved to Tula. Thus, all the rebels met together in one place, their joint forces numbering some 30,000 people. It was then that Vasili Shuisky decided to attack all of them at once and left Moscow on May 21, 1607. He besieged Tula, but the insurgents managed to hold out until October despite deprivations and hunger.
Surrender and death
Finally, Bolotnikov decided to negotiate his surrender. The tsar promised to pardon the insurgents in return for Tula. On October 10, the rebels surrendered to the authorities. Shuisky, however, did not keep his promise. Instead, he transported all of the rebel leaders to Moscow on October 30, and then executed each of them in a different way. Ivan Bolotnikov was transported to Kargopol, blinded and then drowned.
This article includes content derived from the Russian Biographical Dictionary, 1896–1918.