Ivan Susanin
Ivan Susanin (died 1613) was a Russian folk hero
Folk hero
A folk hero is a type of hero, real, fictional, or mythological. The single salient characteristic which makes a character a folk hero is the imprinting of the name, personality and deeds of the character in the popular consciousness. This presence in the popular consciousness is evidenced by...

 and martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

 of the early 17th century's Time of Troubles
Time of Troubles
The Time of Troubles was a period of Russian history comprising the years of interregnum between the death of the last Russian Tsar of the Rurik Dynasty, Feodor Ivanovich, in 1598, and the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty in 1613. In 1601-1603, Russia suffered a famine that killed one-third...



In 1619, a certain Bogdan Sobinin from Domnino village near Kostroma
Kostroma is a historic city and the administrative center of Kostroma Oblast, Russia. A part of the Golden Ring of Russian towns, it is located at the confluence of the Volga and Kostroma Rivers...

 received from Tsar Mikhail one half of Derevischi village. According to the extant royal charter, these lands were granted him in reward for his father-in-law's exploits. The latter's name was given as Ivan Susanin.

Subsequent charters (from 1641, 1691, and 1837) diligently repeated the 1619 charter's phrases about Ivan Susanin being "investigated by Polish and Lithuanian people and subjected to incredible and great tortures in order to learn the great tsar's whereabouts but, though aware about that and suffering incredible pains, saying nothing and in revenge for this being tortured by Polish and Lithuanian people to death".

In the early 19th century the charters attracted attention of nascent Russian historiography and Ivan Susanin was proclaimed a Russian national hero and a symbol of Russian peasants' devotion to the tsar. Gradually, there evolved the following legend about Ivan's life and death.


The village of Domnino used to be owned by Xenia Shestova, wife of Fyodor Romanov and mother of Mikhail Romanov. Upon the latter's election to the Russian throne in 1612, the Zemsky Sobor
Zemsky Sobor
The zemsky sobor was the first Russian parliament of the feudal Estates type, in the 16th and 17th centuries. The term roughly means assembly of the land. It could be summoned either by tsar, or patriarch, or the Boyar Duma...

 sent Prince Vorotynsky and several other boyar
A boyar, or bolyar , was a member of the highest rank of the feudal Moscovian, Kievan Rus'ian, Bulgarian, Wallachian, and Moldavian aristocracies, second only to the ruling princes , from the 10th century through the 17th century....

s to inform Mikhail, then living in Domnino, about his election.
There were many Polish detachments still roaming Russia, however. They supported Sigismund III Vasa
Sigismund III Vasa
Sigismund III Vasa was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, a monarch of the united Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1587 to 1632, and King of Sweden from 1592 until he was deposed in 1599...

, who refused to accept defeat
Polish-Muscovite War (1605–1618)
The Polish–Muscovite War took place in the early 17th century as a sequence of military conflicts and eastward invasions carried out by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, or the private armies and mercenaries led by the magnates , when the Russian Tsardom was torn into a series of civil wars, the...

 and still laid claim to the Russian throne. One of these discovered the news and sent troops to Kostroma to find and kill the young tsar.

It is said that they did not know the road to Domnino very well, so they started to ask the locals for directions. In woods near the village they met a logger, Ivan Susanin, who promised to take them via a "shortcut" through a forest directly to the Hypatian Monastery
Ipatiev Monastery
The Ipatiev Monastery —sometimes translated into English as Hypatian Monastery—is a male monastery, situated on the bank of the Kostroma River just opposite the city of Kostroma...

, where Mikhail apparently was hiding. The enemies followed him and were never heard from again. It is presumed that Susanin led them so deep into the forest that they could not find a way out, and they perished in the bitter cold February night.

Susanin's grandson, whom Susanin secretly sent ahead via a different route, warned Mikhail Romanov, and the monks concealed him from further Polish raids. Mikhail was crowned tsar and ruled Russia for 32 years, founding the Romanov
The House of Romanov was the second and last imperial dynasty to rule over Russia, reigning from 1613 until the February Revolution abolished the crown in 1917...



Stories and images of Ivan Susanin as an iconic Russian patriot
Patriotism is a devotion to one's country, excluding differences caused by the dependencies of the term's meaning upon context, geography and philosophy...

 inspired many artists, composers, and writers, especially in the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

. Kondraty Ryleyev glorified Susanin's exploits in a poem. Mikhail Glinka
Mikhail Glinka
Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka , was the first Russian composer to gain wide recognition within his own country, and is often regarded as the father of Russian classical music...

 wrote one of the first Russian operas of international renown, "Ivan Susanin
A Life for the Tsar
A Life for the Tsar , as it is known in English, although its original name was Ivan Susanin is a "patriotic-heroic tragic opera" in four acts with an epilogue by Mikhail Glinka. The original Russian libretto, based on historical events, was written by Nestor Kukolnik, Georgy Fyodorovich Rozen,...

" (aka "A Life for the Tsar"). The opera saw several name changes. The original title of the opera was to be "Ivan Susanin", after the hero, but when Nicholas I
Nicholas I of Russia
Nicholas I , was the Emperor of Russia from 1825 until 1855, known as one of the most reactionary of the Russian monarchs. On the eve of his death, the Russian Empire reached its historical zenith spanning over 20 million square kilometers...

 attended a rehearsal, Glinka changed the title to "A Life for the Tsar" as an ingratiating gesture. This title was retained in the Russian Empire until the Russian Revolution, when it reverted back to "Ivan Susanin". The opera's openly monarchist libretto was edited to comply with Soviet ideology. The Tsar's anthem melody on Tchaikovsky's 1812
1812 Overture
The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E flat major, Op. 49, popularly known as the 1812 Overture or the Overture of 1812 is an overture written by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1880 to commemorate Russia's defense of Moscow against Napoleon's advancing Grande Armée at the Battle of...

 finale was in turn replaced by the chorus "Be glorified, be glorified, holy Rus'!", Славься, славься, святая Русь! from Glinka's Opera.

In 1838, Nicholas I
Nicholas I of Russia
Nicholas I , was the Emperor of Russia from 1825 until 1855, known as one of the most reactionary of the Russian monarchs. On the eve of his death, the Russian Empire reached its historical zenith spanning over 20 million square kilometers...

 ordered a monument built to Susanin in Kostroma, but this was destroyed by the Bolsheviks, who were offended by the tsar's statue which the monument incorporated. Later they erected another monument to the hero.

Nikolay Kostomarov
Nikolay Kostomarov
Nikolay Ivanovich Kostomarov , of mixed Russian and Ukrainian origin, is one of the most distinguished Russian and Ukrainian historians, a Professor of History at the Kiev University and later at the St...

, a historian opposed to Nicholas's regime, was the first to raise the issue of the legend's doubtful historicity. He was nonplussed by the fact that it was in the Ipatiev Monastery
Ipatiev Monastery
The Ipatiev Monastery —sometimes translated into English as Hypatian Monastery—is a male monastery, situated on the bank of the Kostroma River just opposite the city of Kostroma...

 and not in the village of Domnino that Mikhail Romanov was residing in 1612. His arguments were dismissed by the more orthodox scholars, most notably Mikhail Pogodin
Mikhail Pogodin
Mikhail Petrovich Pogodin was a Russian historian and journalist who, jointly with Nikolay Ustryalov, dominated the national historiography between the death of Nikolay Karamzin in 1826 and the rise of Sergey Solovyov in the 1850s. He is best remembered as a staunch proponent of the Normanist...

 and Sergey Solovyov
Sergey Solovyov
Sergey Mikhaylovich Solovyov was one of the greatest Russian historians whose influence on the next generation of Russian historians was paramount. His son Vladimir Solovyov was one of the most influential Russian philosophers...


The name "Susanin" has become an ironic cliché
A cliché or cliche is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel. In phraseology, the term has taken on a more technical meaning,...

 in the Russian language for a person who leads somewhere claiming to know the way, but who eventually proves not to.

See also

  • Matvey Kuzmin
    Matvey Kuzmin
    Matvey Kuzmich Kuzmin was a Russian peasant-patriot who was killed in World War II. He was posthumously named a Hero of the Soviet Union on May 8, 1965, becoming the oldest person named a Hero of the Soviet Union based on his age at death.- Early life :...

    (1858–1942): the World War II Russian hero who led a German battalion into an ambush, sacrificing himself.

External links

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