Tsar Alexis Goes to War
The invasion of Poland by Tsar Alexis of Russia in May, 1654, marked the emergence of his country as a major European power. As Philip Longworth argues here, it was also to inaugurate, albeit indirectly, a decisive stage in the Westernisation of Russia.
In May, 1654, the second Romanov Tsar, Alexis Mikhailovich, rode out from Moscow to make war against the state of Poland-Lithuania. It was a scene of medieval brilliance. The young Tsar – he was only twenty-five – was preceded by a forest of banners, including his personal standard sewn with gold with its double-headed eagle and the motto 'Fear God and Obey the Tsar'. He and his retainers were dressed magnificently even the hooves of his horse were set with pearls – and he was followed by a huge and glittering retinue. The towering figure of Nikon, the Patriarch of' Moscow, sprinkled holy water over them, and. on the serried ranks of warriors, as they passed. Thus began a series of campaigns that was to mark Russia's emergence as a major European power. It was also to change Alexis' own perceptions of the world, his ambition, his tastes – and thus inaugurate, albeit indirectly, a decisive stage in the Westernisation of Russia.