Russian Pretenders of the Early 17th Century
The career of the first Russian pretender, the 'False Dimitry' who briefly occupied the throne in 1605-06, is familiar to music-lovers from Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov . Rather less well-known, however, is the fact that this Dimitry was only the first of a series of pretenders who appeared in Russia in the period of civil war and foreign intervention from 1603-13 that is known as 'The Time of Troubles'.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries pretenders were a common phenomenon in Russia. One historian has called pretence a 'chronic disease' of Russia, but it was not an exclusively Russian malaise. Probable sixteenth-century models for the first Russian pretenders were a series of pretenders to the Moldavian throne and the false Don Sebastians in Portugal. The English pretenders Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel may also have served as precedents.