3 Guys Named False Dmitry (and the Terrible Coins of Ivan the Terrible)

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by John Conduitt, Jan 14, 2021 at 11:33 AM.

  1. John Conduitt

    John Conduitt Well-Known Member

    Happy New Year! Well, in Russia at least, where 14 January is ‘Old New Year’, since the Orthodox Church still uses the Julian Calendar. As if Russians needed an excuse to drink, they’ve given themselves two New Years, split by Christmas on 7 January.

    The Russians have often done things their own way. The Cyrillic alphabet. Onion-domed churches. Vodka made from potatoes. And while other nations cast their planchets, the Russians sliced theirs from wire and beat them flat. That produced strange, misshapen flans that rarely fit the coin’s design.

    Dmitry Shemyaka Denga, 1447
    upload_2021-1-13_23-33-49.png
    Moscow. Silver, 0.5g. Head right, barbarous unreadable legend around. Prince with a crown, К-H in fields, KHѦZЬ ВЕЛИКИ ДМИТРЕИ, ‘Grand Prince Dmitri’ (Huletski, Petrunin and Fishman No. 605B).
    Dmitry Shemyaka was twice Grand Prince of Moscow and a cousin and rival of Vasily II the Blind, great-grandfather of Ivan the Terrible. He was the second Muscovite Grand Prince called Dmitry but not one of the False Dmitrys.

    By the time of Ivan IV the Terrible, Russia’s first tsar, the coinage across this vast and growing country had been standardised. The larger coins from the northern cities Novgorod and Pskov became kopeks, while the smaller coins elsewhere became dengas (from the Mongolian tengah). One kopek was worth two dengi. (The plural, dengi, is now the Russian word for ‘money’, which is confusing if your browser auto-translates a page about dengas). The country and its coinage were beginning to take shape – even if both were rather ragged.

    Ivan IV the Terrible Denga, 1535-1547
    upload_2021-1-13_23-35-17.png
    Tver. Silver, 0.4g. КHSЬ /ВЕЛÏKI /IBAN, ‘Grand Prince Ivan’ (KG 67). Ivan was Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547 and the first tsar of Russia from 1547 to 1584. This is about as good as Ivan’s coins get – a recognisable horseman and a clear, complete legend.

    Then things started to go wrong, both for the Rurik Dynasty (who’d been in power for 700 years) and their coins. Ivan IV assaulted his daughter-in-law over what she was wearing, killing his unborn grandson. When his son and heir, the boy’s father, complained, Ivan murdered him with a sceptre. Ivan died himself a few years later in 1584, leaving two sons incapable of ruling Russia: Feodor (from his 2nd marriage) and Dmitry Ivanovich (from his 7th, who was therefore illegitimate since Orthodox canon law only allowed 3 marriages).

    Feodor took over as tsar, but being ‘feeble-minded’, left things to his brother-in-law, Boris Godunov. Meanwhile, Dmitry Ivanovich died when he viciously stabbed himself in the throat while having an epileptic fit. At least that was the view of Boris’s advisor, the boyar Vasily Shuisky (who will feature later). So, when Feodor died childless in 1598, Boris became tsar. What followed was one of the most bizarre succession crises in history, known as the Time of Troubles.

    Feodor I Kopek, 1597
    upload_2021-1-13_23-35-50.png
    Novgorod. Silver, 0.72g. ЦPЬ И ВЕ/-ЛIКИI КН(З /Ф)EOДОР IBA/(-НО)ВИЧ В(СЕ/-Ѧ РУСI), ‘Tsar and Grand Prince Fyodor Ivanovich of all Rus’ (KG 115). Feodor’s coinage perpetuated Ivan IV’s poor strikes, ill-defined images and difficult-to-read legend fragments – there are no spaces between words, which often wrap off-flan. But the horseman/legend format was the standard for over a hundred and fifty years.

    At first, Boris was popular. He tried to catch up with the West with educational and social reforms. He pursued access to the Baltic Sea and cultivated friendly relations with the Scandinavians. But Boris had a dark secret. It was rumoured he’d murdered Ivan IV’s second son, Dmitry Ivanovich. Worse, a man claiming to be this Dmitry turned up in Moscow, saying he’d escaped death and had been hiding in monasteries ever since. Boris ordered him seized, but ‘False Dmitry’ fled to the enemy Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

    Boris Godunov Kopek, 1599
    upload_2021-1-13_23-36-19.png
    Pskov. Silver, 0.7g. (ЦР)Ь (И К/-Н)SЬ ВЕЛ(И)/-КИ ФЕѠ(Д)/-ОРЪ ВСЕ(Я) /РУСИ, ‘Tsar and Grand Prince Feodor of All Rus’ (KG 161). Boris’s coinage has been described as the ‘classic period of the Russian silver kopek’, by which they clearly meant it was at the height of its awfulness. But it still took 8 months to change the name on his coins from his predecessor’s.

    In the middle of Boris’s reign, 30% of the population died in a famine caused by record cold winters (themselves caused by the eruption of a Peruvian volcano). The country was in turmoil. When Boris died in 1605 his 16-year-old son, Feodor II, took over. Seeing an opportunity, the Poles sent False Dmitry and an army to Moscow. In response, a number of boyars, who weren’t keen on Feodor, strangled him and his mother. False Dmitry became tsar. Some said he did indeed resemble Ivan IV’s son, including the real Dmitry Ivanovich’s mother.

    False Dmitry I Kopek, 1605
    upload_2021-1-13_23-36-50.png
    Novgorod. Silver, 0.69g. ЦРЬ I ВЕ/-ЛIКIИ КНSЬ /ДМIТРI ИВ(А)/-НОВИЧЬ ВС(Е/-Ѧ РУСI), ‘Tsar and Grand Prince Dmitri Ivanovich of all Rus’ (KG 247). This coin might look terrible, but at least the horse has a head.

    The Godunov family was massacred, save for Feodor’s sister Xenia, who Dmitry raped and kept as a concubine. The noble families Boris had exiled, including the Romanovs, returned to Moscow. Dmitry planned political and economic reforms to Westernise the country. But when he married a Catholic, rumours spread that he’d promised the Poles he’d help reunite the Russian and Catholic Churches. Russians began to see Dmitry as anti-Russian.

    The lead boyar, Vasily Shuisky (remember him?), stirred up popular support. The Kremlin was stormed, and Dmitry and his supporters were killed. Dmitry was cremated and his ashes fired from a cannon towards Poland. Vasily Shuisky became Tsar Vasily IV in 1606.

    Vasily IV Shuisky Kopek, 1606-1610
    upload_2021-1-13_23-37-24.png
    Moscow. Silver, 0.61g. ЦРЬ I ВЕ/-(Л)IKИ КНS(Ь) /BЯCIЛE ИB/-ЯHOBIЧЬ B/-CEѦ РУ(СI), ‘Tsar and Grand Prince Vasiliy Ivanovich of All Russia’ (KG 251). A dreadful coin for a dreadful ruler.

    Vasily IV had been a supporter of Boris Godunov. He’d then professed support for False Dmitry I, claiming to recognise him despite having previously said he’d killed himself, before turning against him once again. Unsurprisingly, Vasily IV had no authority, even in Moscow. He remained tsar for 4 years only because there was no-one to replace him.

    Who should appear at this opportune moment but Dmitry. In fact, False Dmitry II first pretended to be a Muscovite boyar, but when tortured he confessed to being Dmitry Ivanovich. He was reunited with his wife, who despite having seen him cremated and fired from a cannon, claimed to recognise him as False Dmitry I (who had in turn been recognised as the real Dmitry by the real Dmitry’s mother). The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth backed him and provided an army. After capturing several towns, they marched on Moscow and routed Vasily’s army.

    False Dmitry II Kopek, 1608
    upload_2021-1-14_0-7-48.png
    Pskov. Silver, 0.72g. (ЦРЬ И ВЕ/-Л)ИКИI КНѦ/(-S)Ь ДМIТРI /ИВАНОВИЧ /ВСЕѦ РУСI, ‘Tsar and Grand Prince Dmitri Ivanovich of all Rus’ (KG 291).
    As if wire kopeks weren’t already very similar, False Dmitry II’s coins were minted with False Dmitry I’s dies, the only difference being the weight: coins heavier than 0.70g are probably False Dmitry II.

    Now with 100,000 men, several cities pledged allegiance to False Dmitry II. But this was the peak for him. The Polish King, Sigismund III Vasa, turned up in Smolensk, and the Poles defected. Although he still held all south-eastern Russia and was able to launch another attack on Moscow, Dmitry got drunk one night and was shot and beheaded by a Tatar prince he’d flogged. The Polish army captured Moscow. Władysław IV Vasa, son of the Polish King, became tsar in 1610. But he didn’t take up the throne, preferring to keep away from the uprisings and become King of Poland at a later date.

    Władysław IV Vasa Kopek, 1610-1611
    upload_2021-1-13_23-38-26.png
    Novgorod. Silver. (ЦРЬ I ВЕЛИ)/-КИI КНѦ(SЬ/ ВЛ)AДИCЛAB /ЖIГIMO(HT)/-OB(IЧЬ ВСЕ-/Ѧ РУСI), ‘Tsar and Grand Prince Vladislav Zhigimontovich of all Rus’ (KG 300 III). The Novgorod mint didn’t operate long under Władysław. They swore allegiance to him in October 1610 but by January 1611 they’d revolted and become independent. It was probably due to the state of the coins.

    This power vacuum left room for the return of…Dmitry. A man appeared suddenly in 1611 from over the River Narva in Ivangorod, claiming to be Dmitry Ivanovich. The Cossacks, who were busy attacking Moscow, recognised him as tsar in 1612, as did the boyars of Pskov (under threat of violence). But a couple of months later False Dmitry III was taken to Moscow and executed. He may have struck coins, in Pskov (where they appreciated a False Dmitry), but only 2 are known and aren’t definitely his. The coins remain as enigmatic as him.

    Another uprising against Władysław started in Nizhny Novgorod in 1611, led by another Dmitry (Pozharsky, who was not at all False). It shifted to Yaroslavl in 1612 and that August the rebels besieged the Poles in the Moscow Kremlin. They surrendered after 2 months. The rebels minted coins in the name of the deceased Fyodor I, the last legitimate tsar as they saw it, and later in the name of their new man, Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov.

    Second Yaroslavl Uprising Kopek, in the name of Mikhail, February-October 1613
    upload_2021-1-13_23-39-5.png
    Moscow temporary mint. Silver, 0.43g. (Ц)РЬ I (BE/-Л)IKI KH(SЬ MI)/-XЯЛO ФЕA(Д/-РOB)ИЧ BCE(Ѧ /РУСI), ‘Tsar and Grand Prince Mikhail Fyodorovich of All Russia’ (KG 320). If you thought wire kopeks couldn’t get any worse, try those made by a temporary mint during an uprising.

    The Time of Troubles ended with the election of 17-year-old Mikhail as tsar in 1613. He’d been chosen against his mother’s wishes after several other options were rejected (including Polish and Swedish royalty). Wire kopeks lasted another 100 years, until Peter the Great’s reforms in the early 1700s when some decent coins were introduced. That’s probably why he’s called ‘the Great’. (He also switched New Year to 1 January, although Russia stuck with the Julian Calendar until the 1917 October Revolution, which under the Gregorian Calendar happened in November).

    The Romanovs lasted all the way to the Bolshevik Revolution. There’s only been one other Dmitry in the top job, and it wasn’t a Romanov. It was Dmitry Medvedev, so not a False Dmitry either. Obviously.

    Mikhail I Kopek, 1618-1625
    upload_2021-1-13_23-39-41.png
    Moscow. Silver, 0.46g. oM. ЦРЬ I (BE/-Л)ИKI KH(SЬ) /MИXЯ(IЛO Ф)/-EAДPOB(IЧ/-Ь) BCE(Я P)/-УС(И), ‘Tsar and Grand Prince Mikhail Fyodorovich of All Russia’ (KG 482). Both Russia and Russian coins started to look a little better under the Romanovs.

    As terrible as the coins of Ivan and his successors are, they cost an appropriately small amount. Only rarities exceed $50. The least expensive here (False Dmitry I) cost $14 shipped, and Ivan IV’s start at $1. Not bad for 500-year-old coins struck while St Basil’s Cathedral was being built.

    (Ivan was Terrible at coins, but great at churches. Incidentally, the statue in front of St Basil's commemorates Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin, leaders of the Second Yaroslavl uprising, who expelled the Poles and put an end to the Time of Troubles in 1612. It was moved to where it is from Red Square by the Communists to make room for their military parades).

    Wire kopeks are also fun to attribute, not least because dealers and auction houses often misattribute them (if they try at all). Even though they’re all incredibly similar, they would have to be virtually blank for you not to be able to work out a catalogue reference.

    This site http://silver-copeck.ru/index.html is invaluable for identification, with precise drawings of the obverse and reverse dies (and you need to be precise!). Your browser will translate the website, but being familiar with the 33 letters of the Cyrillic alphabet (and a few archaic ones like omega Ѡ and yus Ѧ) might help decipher the coins https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrillic_script. Still, if all you can do is recognise fragments of the phrases Tsar and Grand Prince (ЦРЬ I BEЛИKI KHSЬ, ‘Tsar i veliki knyaz’) and of All Russia (BCEѦ PУСI, ‘Vseya Rusi’) you have it nailed.

    For older (and much more expensive) Russian coins, sometimes equally terrible, Russian coins 1353-1533 is a good reference: https://www.academia.edu/39159505/H...zcv4VZ3-1wLrKSO-4Wcyk32v7iLxJ42trA3AswM9jF05s

    Sources:
    Russian Coin Project http://silver-copeck.ru
    Russian coins 1353-1533, Huletski, Petrunin and Fishman https://www.academia.edu/39159505/H...zcv4VZ3-1wLrKSO-4Wcyk32v7iLxJ42trA3AswM9jF05s
    Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_Dmitry_I (and all the other Dmitrys)
     
    jgenn, Siberian Man, Chris B and 6 others like this.
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  3. scottishmoney

    scottishmoney Я люблю черных кошек

    Will the real Dmitry please stand up?

    Amazing write up - I have a small pile of wire kopeks somewhere, all unattributed. It is one of those one day projects.
     
    John Conduitt likes this.
  4. Amit Vyas

    Amit Vyas Well-Known Member

    Excellent write-up, coins, and images. I also find Huletski’s “Russian Wire Coins 1533–1645” a good reference.

    The reported fate of poor Dmitry Ivanovich reminds me of Blackadder:
    931C614D-593C-4984-B46A-C480928DCB3B.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2021 at 2:16 AM
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  5. Siberian Man

    Siberian Man Senior Member Moderator

    A delightful theme. And a good knowledge of Russian history!
    The identity of False Dmitry the First is still a mystery. Russian historians believe that he was not the son of Ivan the Terrible, but sincerely considered himself such. He ruled for less than 1 year, but proved to be a good ruler.
     
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  6. Siberian Man

    Siberian Man Senior Member Moderator

    I can help You in the identification of ancient Russian coins. I can read Old Slavonic texts.
     
  7. Siberian Man

    Siberian Man Senior Member Moderator

    In modern Russian historiography, the personality of Tsar Ivan the Terrible is evaluated positively. He annexed Siberia, the Kazan Khanate and the Astrakhan Khanate to Russia. He subdued the old aristocracy, carried out the codification of legislation. In my opinion, Henry VIII Tudor was a much more brutal ruler. It is Henry who deserves the nickname the Terrible. In the reign of Henry, at least 1.5% of the population of England was hanged.
     
  8. Siberian Man

    Siberian Man Senior Member Moderator

    Tsar Fyodor I (1584-1598) was a very pious man. He attended church services daily and paid little attention to the administration of the country. In reality, the country was ruled on his behalf by his son-in-law, Boris Godunov. By the way, after the death of Fyodor, the crown passed to his wife Irina Godunova. She ruled for 37 days, and then went to the monastery.
     
  9. Siberian Man

    Siberian Man Senior Member Moderator

    Boris Godunov (1598-1605) was a talented ruler. He did much to strengthen the state, but was poisoned on April 13, 1605. By the way, I was born and live in Tomsk. This city was founded by order of Tsar Boris in 1604. After the death of Boris Godunov, the crown passed to his son, Fyodor II Godunov. He ruled for 49 days and was killed by the conspirators. During his short reign, a number of silver coins bearing his name were issued.
     
  10. Siberian Man

    Siberian Man Senior Member Moderator

    False Dmitry I ruled for 11 months (1605-1606) and was killed by rebels on 17 May 1606. Silver coins bearing his name were also issued during his reign. They are rare and have significant numismatic value. This picture shows the False Dmitry at the moment when he learns about the mutiny. The picture is called "The last minutes of the life of False Dmitry I".
    Лжедмитрий.jpg
     
  11. Siberian Man

    Siberian Man Senior Member Moderator

    Modern Russian historians consider False Dmitry I a talented ruler. Probably, he would have achieved a lot for Russia if he had not been viciously killed.
     
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