Although they weren’t the first dynasty to rule over Russia, the Romanov’s were the last family at the heart of Russian Imperialism and as such, they are by far the most famous. The man who started the family reign was Michael Romanov and he was charged with uniting Russia at a very early age.
Michael Romanov was born in 1596 at a time when the country had been plunged into chaos. Relatively little is known about his life and his claim to the Russian throne could be seen as quite tenuous.
Michael was in fact, related to the last Tsar of the Rurik dynasty and when the country needed a new leader in 1613, he was sought out as the answer to the national turmoil.
A country in crisis
The period from 1598 to 1613 became known as the Time of Troubles. The period spans the time between the last Tsar of the Rurik reign and the accession of Michael Romanov.
For part of this period, Russia was run by the ‘False Dimitry’, a man who claimed to be the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible and who is sometimes referred to in history books by the usurped title of Dimtry II.
This period included the Russian famine of the early 17th century and the Dimitriad Wars with the invading Polish army.
Assassination of the False Dimitry
In 1606, shortly after his marriage ceremony in the Kremlin, Dimitry and his supporters were assassinated by the Boyars but the Times of trouble were far from over.
The Boyars installed a nobleman by the name of Vasily Shuysky and although he gained support from the Boyars and merchants throughout the land, he was an unpopular ruler with the majority of Russian people.
The search begins
In 1613, elected representatives were called to Moscow as the quest for a new Tsar began. Eventually it was decided that the 16 year old Michael Romanov, with his connection to the Rurik dynasty, was the man to unite the nation and take the country forward in a more stable era.
However, when the decision was made, Michael was in hiding with his mother who protested that he was far too young for such a responsibility. The Boyars then declared that if he continued to refuse, they would hold him responsible to God for the destruction of Russia.
Under the circumstances, it seemed wiser for Michael to accept.
The Romanov dynasty begins
Michael proved to be a popular leader but it is often suggested that as a gentle soul by nature, he often hid behind his counsellors and let them do the decision making for him.
In addition, he was troubled by a leg injury that he sustained as a result of a horse riding accident which restricted his leadership capabilities. At the end of his life he was unable to walk and died at the age of just 49 in 1645.
As such, Michael as a ruler was fairly unremarkable and much of his work in uniting Russia was done for him. However, as the first Romanov, he will always be remembered as a man at the start of the most incredible period in Russian history.