First Volunteer Corps of 1611

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

First Volunteer Corps of 1611


a volunteer corps recruited in Russia for the struggle against the intervention of the Polish feudal lords.

The conditions that led to the formation of the First Volunteer Corps came about in 1610. In August 1610 the boyar government (in the hands of seven boyars) concluded an agreement with the Poles, recognizing Sigismund Ill’s son Władysław as Russian tsar. After the conclusion of the agreement, Polish troops headed by the Polish hetman A. Gosiewski entered Moscow in Sepember. Various strata of the Russian people rose up against the Polish interventionists and the boyar traitors. Appeals were sent throughout the country from Moscow and other cities, including those from Patriarch Germogen, calling for a struggle against the enemy.

The initiators of the First Volunteer Corps were the residents of Riazan’, where P. P. Liapunov was voevoda (military governor). The movement was joined by Yaroslavl, Nizhny Novgorod, Suzdal’, Vladimir, Murom, Kostroma, and other cities and their districts. The corps included dvoriane (nobles or gentry), boiarskie deti (lesser gentry), strel’tsy (semiprofessional musketeers) and cossacks serving in city garrisons, chernososhnye krest’iane (state peasants who paid the tax known as the sokha), burghers, and datochnye liudi (conscripts for life). It also included Tushino camp boyars and voevody, soldiers from the Kaluga camp of the Second False Dmitrii (Prince D. T. Trubetskoi), I. M. Zarutskii’s cossack detachment from Tula, and A. Prosovetskii’s cossack detachment from Suzdal’.

In early March 1611 the First Volunteer Corps set out from Kolomna for Moscow, where a popular uprising against the Polish interventionists had already begun. During the fighting, the insurgents (including posadskie liudi [merchants and artisans], strel’tsy, and peasants) drove the interventionists out of Belyi Gorod (the central district of Moscow). Prince D. M. Pozharskii participated in the fighting at Lubianka. The main forces of the corps approached the capital on March 24. By that time the interventionists had succeeded in suppressing the uprising.

During the siege of Moscow, conflicts within the First Volunteer Corps intensified between the dvoriane and the cossacks, among whom there were many fugitive peasants and kholopy (enslaved serfs) who had been attracted by promises of “freedom and a salary.” A “resolution” was adopted on June 30, 1611, that generalized the governmental and political acitivity of the volunteer corps elite and confirmed the structure of the supreme authority—the Council of the Whole Land. The resolution provoked the dissatisfaction of those from the Tushino camp, especially the cossacks, because it proclaimed a return to the old norms of owning pomest’ia (fiefs), abolished the legality of the Tushino pay system, placed cossack detachments acting for the state under the leadership and control of dvoriane, and, most important, obligated all fugitive peasants and kholopy to return to their former masters.

The provisional government included Trubetskoi, Zarutskii, and Liapunov. In essence, Liapunov became the head of government. The cossacks’ discontent with the policy of the dvoriane led to the assassination of Liapunov on July 22, after which most of the sluzhilye liudi (military service class) left the corps. Those who remained at Moscow were mainly members of cossack detachments (about 10,000 men). The liberation of Moscow and the conditions for driving the Polish and Swedish invaders out of the country were achieved by what became known as the Second Volunteer Corps, or the People’s Volunteer Corps of Minin and Pozharskii.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.