Born Mar. 19, 1629; died Jan. 29, 1676. Russian tsar from 1645; son of Mikhail Fedorovich.
In the first years of Aleksei Mikhailovich’s reign, the state was actually governed by his tutor (“manservant”), the boyar B. I. Morozov. However, by the early 1650’s, Aleksei Mikhailovich began to take an important part in state affairs himself. He created the Prikaz (Office) of Privy Affairs (1654–76), which was directly responsible to him and was his means of control over the state administration. Aleksei Mikhailovich read petitions and other documents himself. He wrote or edited many important edicts and was the first Russian tsar to sign them personally. He participated directly in many military campaigns (at Smolensk, Vilno, and Riga); directed diplomatic talks with the Swedes, Poles, and others; and strengthened control over the activity of Russian ambassadors. Aleksei Mikhailovich was an educated man for his times.
He was married twice. The future tsars Fedor and Ivan and Sofia, a future ruler, were born of his first marriage to Maria Il’inichna Miloslavskaia; the future tsar Peter I was born of his second marriage to Natal’ia Kirillovna Narysh-kina.
The period of Aleksei Mikhailovich’s reign was characterized by more intensive feudal exploitation of the peasants and increased economic oppression. This policy produced a number of urban uprisings even in the early years of his reign: in Moscow, Tomsk, Sol’ Vychegodsk, Ustiug Velikii, and elsewhere in 1648 and in Pskov and Novgorod in 1650. In this context, the Zemskii Sobor (National Assembly) was summoned. In 1649, it adopted a new Ulozhenie (code), which satisfied the fundamental demands of the nobility (removal of a time limit on the recapture of fugitive peasants, etc.) and the artisan and merchant upper classes (the liquidation of untaxed settlements, etc.). The masses responded with an antifeudal struggle, which assumed particularly broad dimensions in this period (Moscow Uprising of 1662; Peasant War under the leadership of S. T. Razin, 1670–71). The popular uprisings were cruelly suppressed by Aleksei Mikhailovich.
In economics, Aleksei Mikhailovich’s government encouraged industrial activity and supported the native merchant class, protecting it against foreign competition. The Customs Statute (1653) and New Trade Statute (1667) aided the development of domestic and foreign trade.
Aleksei Mikhailovich persistently developed and realized the concept of the unlimited nature and divine origin of tsarist authority. He struggled successfully against Patriarch Nikon’s attempts to place the power of the church over that of the tsar. Under Aleksei Mikhailovich, the activities of the Zemskii Sobors ceased, the role of the Boyar Duma was curtailed, and so forth.
In foreign policy, his greatest success was the reunification of the Ukraine with Russia (1654) and the return of some lands belonging to Russia from time immemorial—Smolensk, Seversk including Chernigov and Starodub, and so forth. On the whole, the role of Russia in international affairs grew markedly in this period. The “new-style regiments” were introduced in the army during Aleksei Mikhailovich’s reign.
REFERENCESIstoriia SSSR. S drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei, vol. 3. Moscow, 1967.
Zaozerskii, A. I. Tsarskaia votchina XVII v., 2nd ed. Moscow, 1937.
I. A. BULYGIN