On July 11, 1613, the coronation ceremony of Mikhail Romanov took place at the Uspensky Sobor (Dormition Cathedral) at the Moscow Kremlin. The sixteen-year-old Mikhail was now the Tsar of all Russia and the founder of the Romanov dynasty that lasted 300 years.
The son of Fyodor Romanov and Kseniya Shestova, Mikhail was elected Tsar by the people of Russia and a council of nobles during the “Time of Troubles”, which was a period during the Polish-Lithuanian invasion, severe political, economic and social crisis. According to historians, no other noble family at that time in Russia enjoyed such love among the people as the Romanovs did, but getting Mikhail onto the throne proved to be a difficult task.
Mikhail refused to take the role when the news of his election reached him. His mother was in despair, scared for his safety, believing that he was too young and tender to rule in such a troublesome time. They both went into hiding in the Ipatiev Monastery, near Kostroma, from the nobles searching to appeal to Mikhail and convince him to take the crown.
Mikhail’s accession to the throne formed the basis of the Ivan Susanin legend, according to which a peasant named Ivan Susanin saved Mikhail’s life from Polish invaders. According to the legend, as soon as the Poles discovered that Mikhail Romanov was selected as the Tsar, they decided to get rid of the rival and dispatched a detachment of troops to Kostroma to find and kill Mikhail.
It is said that they did not know the road to Kostroma very well, so they started asking the locals for directions. This is when they met local peasant Ivan Susanin, who asked them why they wanted to find him; in response they said that they wished to congratulate the Tsar. But Susanin did not believe them and sent his grandson to warn Mikhail about the danger and himself told the troops “This is not the right way, let me show you a shortcut, through the forest”. They believed him and followed.
A night went by. Susanin led them deeper and deeper into the swampy forest in the dead of winter, deliberately getting them lost in the wilderness. When the Poles began to suspect him it was too late, Susanin said “Now, you can do with me whatever you like, but know this: the Tsar has been saved and you will never reach him!” The next day, the peasants who were in search of Ivan Susanin found the frozen bodies of the Polish troops. Ivan Susanin’s body was there too.
When the Moscow nobles found Mikhail and his mother safe and sound in the Ipatiev Monastery, they convinced them to come to Moscow where he was crowed Tsar on this day. Mikhail Romanov ruled Russia for 32 years and brought order and peace to his country, marking the start of the great dynasty.
The legend of Ivan Susanin has it that his family was generously rewarded by the Tsar and that Mikhail Romanov was present at the funeral of the man who had given his life for him. The image and story of this iconic Russian hero had inspired artists, composers and writers. A statue of Susanin stands in the historical city of Kostroma.