In the famine years, many landowners went to the fact that they released their peasants so that they would not have to support them. No less than the nobles did it quite vilely, driving people away with the expectation that after the end of the famine they would simply find them and return them to themselves. As a result, driving along the roads was, to put it mildly, unsafe. Crowds of starving slaves were engaged in robberies and robberies on the roads. Many also rushed to Moscow, having learned that the king generously distributes money from the treasury.
In the meantime, everything was no better in Moscow. According to the testimony of Abraham Palitsyn from the Trinity-Sergius Monastery, at least 127 thousand people died from starvation or problems with it in the capital. These problems are obvious. In addition to the growth of crimes, the number of patients has increased, the cholera epidemic has begun. There have been cases of cannibalism. Those who were not ready to feed on their own kind sometimes fed on manure.
How sovereign fought with hunger. Estimates of contemporaries
Contemporaries assessed differently how the authorities helped the starving. The well-known Isaac of Mass considered that the distribution of alms only intensified the famine in Moscow, because the needy people from the whole region reached out to the capital. Moreover, the issued money was simply stolen by officials.
Differently estimated measures Godunov Russian chroniclers. One contemporary described the state of affairs in Moscow: “And in Moscow, and within it, they ate horsemeat, and dogs, and cats, and people ate, but the royal alms still keep themselves miserable ...”. Helping the starving poor really was invaluable.
According to the chronicle news, to provide work for the distressed population, Godunov started large-scale construction work, including the construction of the tallest building in Russia
Isaac Massa, however, notes that the sovereign could have done more. For example, it was as if the king could, but did not order in the strictest manner noble gentlemen, monks and other rich people who had full barns of bread, to sell their bread. The patriarch himself, possessing a large supply of food, allegedly announced that he did not want to sell grain, for which with time it would be possible to gain even more money. In the literature one can find multiple references to the above words of the Masses: “... there were more grain stocks in the country than all the inhabitants could eat in four years ... among the noblemen, and also in all the monasteries and many rich people the barns were full of bread, part of him was already rotting from lying down for a long time, and they did not want to sell it; and by the will of God the king was so blinded, despite the fact that he could order everything he wanted, he did not order in the strictest possible way that everyone would sell their own bread. ”
The credibility of this evidence, however, is in doubt. The “patriarchal discourse” conveyed by Massa is imbued with the mercantile spirit characteristic of a Dutch merchant, but not of Patriarch Job. Boris's closest aide could not act as an open supporter of bread speculation, when the authorities took all measures to curb them.
Cathedral Square at the time of Godunov
We can say that the assessment of the Dutchman rather one-sided. Probably due to the fact that he watched it from a contemporary point of view. Now we can estimate that time more objectively. For example, we know that monasteries were the largest holders of grain stocks. On the eve of the famine, grain stocks, for example, of the Vologda Savior-Prilutsky Monastery, amounted to 2834 quarters of rye and oats. A year later, they were reduced to a minimum of 942 quarters; monks were forced to start purchasing grain.
Causes of hunger
Breading by monks, wealthy nobles and merchants was one of the reasons that aggravated the disasters of the population, but they were not the main cause of the famine in Russia at the beginning of the 17th century. The harsh climate, the scarcity of the soil, the feudal system of agriculture made it impossible to create such grain reserves that could provide the country with food in the conditions of a three-year crop failure.
Nowadays, according to meteorologists, due to the eruption of a volcano in Spanish Peru, a small ice age began. This is exactly what ruined the harvest of 1601, and then 1602 and 1603. Historians and economists blame the crisis of the feudal system common to all Europe, caused by overpopulation. The old order simply could not feed the crowds. Smoot was gaining momentum.
People in search of not happiness, but at least bread left their native lands. Until the end of the century, the Russian kingdom will still experience what happened in the Time of Troubles, of which famine has become a terrible part. The uprisings of the Cossacks and peasants on the Volga, Don and Yaik, city revolts will give the name of the XVII century - “rebellious age”.