People's Volunteer Corps of Minin and Pozharskii

People’s Volunteer Corps of Minin and Pozharskii

 

Second Volunteer Corps, an amalgamation of patriotic forces in Russia during the final stage of the struggle against the Polish-Lithuanian and Swedish intervention in the early 17th century.

The people’s volunteer corps was formed after the invaders had seized a large part of the country, including Moscow and Smolensk, and the First Volunteer Corps of 1611 had disintegrated. In Nizhny Novgorod in September 1611, the zemskii starosta (elder) Kuz’ma Minin appealed to the posadskie liudi (merchants and artisans) to collect money and create a volunteer corps for the liberation of the fatherland. Official documents calling on the people to volunteer were sent to other cities. Besides merchants, artisans, and peasants, the petty and middle dvoriane (nobility or gentry) took part in the volunteer corps. Prince D. M. Pozharskii was asked to be the military commander. The main forces were formed in the cities and rural districts of the Volga region. Along with the Russian people, the Cheremis, Chuvashes, and Komi, as well as other nationalities of the Volga region and the north, took part.

The goal of the volunteer corps was to liberate Moscow from the interventionists and to create a new government. Patriarch Germogen refused to carry out the demands of traitorous Moscow boyars and condemn the patriotic movement for the liberation of the country. In March 1612 the volunteer corps left Nizhny Novgorod, and in early April it arrived in Yaroslavl, where detachments from other cities and districts were approaching. There was created in Yaroslavl the provisional Council of the Whole Land—a government organ in which the main role was played by the merchants, artisans, and representatives of the petty service gentry. At the same time detachments of the Polish-Lithuanian interventionists were expelled from the Volga region. The leaders of the cossacks and of the southern Russian dvoriane, I. M. Zarutskii and D. T. Trubetskoi, maintained secret ties with the interventionists while they entered into negotiations with Minin and Pozharskii about combined participation in military action.

At the time that a large detachment of Polish-Lithuanian troops under the leadership of Hetman J. K. Chodkiewicz approached Moscow the volunteer corps left Yaroslavl and in late July and early August 1612 drew near to Moscow. It occupied a position along the western walls of Belyi Gorod. In an engagement on August 22–24 during which Trubetskoi’s cossacks offered support, Chodkiewicz’s detachment failed to break through to Moscow and was defeated. This victory sealed the fate of the enemy garrisons in the Kremlin and Kitai-gorod, which capitulated on Oct. 22–26, 1612.

The liberation of Moscow by the people’s volunteer corps set the stage for the restoration of state power and served as a powerful impetus for the liberation movement of the masses against the interventionists throughout the country. In November 1612 the leaders of the volunteer corps sent official documents to the cities concerning the convocation of a zemskii sobor (national assembly) for the election of a new tsar. The composition of the zemskii sobor of 1613 reflected the growing role of the posadskie liudi and the petty service gentry, as well as the cossacks, in the war of liberation against the interventionists.

REFERENCES

Platonov, S. F.Ocherki po istorii smuty v Moskovskom gosudarstve XVI-XVII vv. Moscow, 1937.
Liubomirov, P. G.Ocherk istorii Nizhegorodskogo opolcheniia 1611–1613 gg. Moscow, 1939.
Istoriia Moskvy, vol. 1. Moscow, 1952.

A. M. SAKHAROV

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