Is it true that the expulsion of the Poles in November 1612 is the pinnacle of Russian patriotism? Spoiler: yes! Interview with a historian

In 2005, a new public holiday was established in Russia – National Unity Day, which is celebrated on November 4th. It is still called artificial. The fact that the holiday did not take root among the people, He speaks and crime statistics.

At the same time, the events to which this formal date refers – the creation of the second militia and the expulsion of the Poles – according to modern researchers, are indeed one of the most important in Russian history. This is a moment of patriotic upsurge, successful horizontal organization and unification of cities.

“Paper” asked the St. Petersburg historian Alexei Vovin to tell how the second militia was organized and why in this case the state rhetoric turned out to be right.

Research Fellow, St. Petersburg Institute of History, Russian Academy of Sciences

– The second militia is a moment in Russian history, when for the first time ideas about the nation are openly formulated, the first signs of the formation of national consciousness appear. The second militia was gathered not for the sake of the tsar, but for the sake of protecting the Russian land.

At that time, the future looked unsettling and uncertain. The Seven Boyars in Moscow invited Prince Vladislav from the Commonwealth to the Moscow throne, despite the fact that it was not entirely clear whether he agreed to be baptized into Orthodoxy – this was, of course, the most fundamental point in the matter of his invitation.

The feeling that the Russian land was under threat was perceived not only by the elites, but by the underprivileged sections of the population. The second militia is very variegated in its composition: it represents different social groups of the inhabitants of the Muscovite state, which are united around a common idea.

– In the period preceding the second militia, during the reign of Vasily Shuisky, a situation developed when the tsar in Moscow was practically cut off from a number of territories of the Moscow state and, first of all, northern cities.

At that time, strong traditions of local self-government no longer existed, as, for example, it was 200 years ago in Pskov and Novgorod. But in conditions of isolation from the Moscow government, Russian cities have shown their subjectivity – the ability to act independently, to negotiate with each other.

Nizhny Novgorod became one of these centers of urban movement – the second militia began to form there.

Do not underestimate the figure of Kuzma Minin, who headed it. But at the same time, one should not think that the second militia was successful only thanks to him. First of all, this is a certain socio-political situation, the readiness of people to act.

So, at a general meeting of Nizhny Novgorod residents, it was decided that everyone would give part of their income in favor of the militia, which needed money for supplies, provisions, salaries and other military items of expenditure. Of course, there were those who disagreed. And here, a feature characteristic of the Middle Ages, the principle of “unity”, appeared very interestingly: if a collective body makes a decision, then it is binding on all its members. Those who refused to pay had their property taken away, and in some cases [их] turned into slaves.

Around Nizhny Novgorod, a circle of cities began to form in which similar phenomena occurred: the assembled residents decided to support council of all the earth, as the leadership of the militia called itself. The second militia included people from different lands, mainly from the cities of the north and northeast, which were not affected by the main events of the Time of Troubles.

A military leader was elected – Dmitry Pozharsky. He did not belong to a very noble family (we should not be misled that he was a prince: in the hierarchy of the elites of the Moscow state, many princes were not very high), but he was a fairly experienced military leader. The choice fell on him, because he participated in the first militia, which was assembled the year before, but was defeated. In addition, Pozharsky had estates near Nizhny Novgorod.

– The second militia lasted about a year. Most of that time was spent gathering and training it. Not all participants had combat experience, so preparation was required. The militia was preparing and at the same time slowly moving west. For example, for several months it stood in Yaroslavl, strengthening its position both in the military and in the political field, after which it marched towards Moscow.

There was a Polish garrison in Moscow. He could not resist the approaching second militia in a direct open field battle. In order to increase the size of the garrison and bring food to it, a strong detachment was moving towards Moscow under the leadership of Hetman Khodkevich. He tried to break through to Moscow. There was a battle in which Khodkevich was defeated. After that, the fate of the Polish garrison in Moscow was decided, primarily because the garrison had nothing to eat.

The second militia stormed Kitay-Gorod, that is, the penultimate line of Moscow fortifications. Shortly thereafter, on November 5 (New Style) 1612, unable to continue resistance, the Polish garrison surrendered.

The second militia did not have a long combat history, its victory was not ensured by some ideal fighting qualities. But it was large enough at a time when the forces of all the participants in the Troubles were already at the limit, no one had resources and troops. In addition, the second militia had an idea that motivated people.

— The Time of Troubles is an important barrier between the Middle Ages and the New Age, between the archaic and the modern. There are endless disputes about when the Middle Ages ended in Russia and the New Age began. But if we talk about political culture, then the events of 1612 are the borderline case, when another is born from one.

The “unity” mentioned above was undoubtedly a very ancient institution, dating back to ancient times, when collective social organisms positioned themselves as a single indivisible political body. On the other hand, the ideas of the nation, electivity belong to the coming or coming modernity.

The concepts of patriotism, nation and self-sacrifice for its sake are alien to the previous period. The political was represented mainly by “small forms”: individual cities or lands.

Until the end of the 15th century, when the Muscovite state appeared, there could be no question of any national unity of the Russian people. There were only vague ideas about the Russian land, but more as a cultural and religious community. The appearance of the Muscovite state under Ivan III, of course, leads to certain changes, but the fruits of these changes become visible only more than 100 years later, during the Time of Troubles.

New time belongs to the concepts of patriotism, nation, state betrayal. For the first time in Russian history, there is a reference to the idea of ​​an impersonal homeland, or Russian land. This idea is not of loyalty to the sovereign, but of the fact that the Russian land, which has no tsar, is in danger and must be saved. And the second militia is remarkable precisely for this.

Cover photo: The victory of the people’s militia over the Poles. A fragment of a high relief from the monument to Minin and Pozharsky. shakko (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

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