Tsarina Sophia Assassinates
by Jeff Provine
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Day in Alternate History Please note that the opinions expressed in this
post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
By August 30th 1689,
the Tsardom of Russia stood as a massive Eurasian power first organized
during the reign of the Khans. Ivan the Terrible had transformed the
tributary of the falling Mongolian empire into a new kingdom for the Rus
with his coronation in 1547.
Since that time, Russia continued to expand in all directions, stretching
west through Siberia to the Pacific Coast. The latest of these gains had
been made by moving into the Amur Valley in Manchuria, causing conflict
with the Chinese to the south.
Conflict bubbled in the Russian nobility as well. In 1676, Tsar Alexis had
died, leaving the ill Feodor III as tsar until his own death in shortly
thereafter in 1682. Ivan V, the next son in line for the throne, was also
ill both in mind and body. Seeing problems of continual poor rule, the
nobles in their Duma put forth as tsar ten-year-old Peter, a son from
Alexis' second marriage. Though ratified by the people, Sophia Alekseyevna,
a daughter of Alexis, led a coup by the Streltsy, the elites of the
military. Through murder and intrigue, she placed herself as regent and
the young Ivan and Peter as co-tsars.
"Can\'t see Sweden annexing Russia out of hand
(population and religious conflicts rule it out), however breaking it up
among various Boyar factions or encouraging a legislature like the Polish
Sjem will insure that it never becomes a major player in Europe and
probably fails to make much headway on the Ottoman/Persian/Turkistani
front" - reader's commentSophia ruled the country well, carrying
out successful campaigns against Turkey, signing an eternal peace
agreement with Poland, and working with China on peace agreements in the
east. In 1689, however, Peter had come of age, and in the summer he began
his plans to take power. She hoped to use the Streltsy to overthrow Peter,
but many of them had deserted her camp and taken up with the young prince
as he fortified himself in the Troitsky monastery. She invited Peter to
join her at the Kremlin, but he refused and demanded execution and exile
of her highest advisers.
It did not seem that she could win a civil war, and Peter was remaining
resolute against her intrigue, so Sophia decided on one of politics'
oldest tactics: assassination. Stalling for time, she and Peter debated
through couriers for weeks until finally she was able to coax his guard
weak enough for an assassin to strike. Peter was stabbed with poison
blades and, though the assassin was quickly killed by his guards, died
after a week of fever. Without their leader, the wayward Streltsy deserted
again, and a few policing battles secured power for Sophia.
"Yeah. I'd see Russia more as a puppet state with
heavy Swedish influence than outright Swedish rule. " - author's responseShe
proclaimed herself tsarina, co-ruler of Russia with Ivan V, who was
weakening by the year and died in 1696. Ruling alone, Sophia worked to
keep the Russian army politically strong against the nobles, with whom she
had several squabbles as she delivered rights to peasants. Infighting kept
Sophia busy maintaining her control over the vast tsardom.
As the Great Northern War (1700-1721) broke out, Sophia would see her
power come to an end. Charles XII of Sweden had swept through Denmark and
Poland and even liberated Ukraine. She brought the full might of her
armies down on the Swede, but the technologically superior Scandinavians
and their allies outmatched any number of Russian soldiers. As Charles
approached Moscow, the nobles would finally overthrow Sophia, who died
shortly thereafter in a convent. Charles' terms were hard but fair to the
nobles, and Russia found itself formed up as part of the growing Swedish
With their massive force, the Swedes came to dominate Europe with their
allies in Prussia, even overthrowing the growing power of the British in
the War of Austrian Succession and, more importantly, the Seven Years'
War. Seizing many of Britain's colonies, the Swedish Empire would find
itself overstretched by the 1770s and unable to halt the American
Revolution against the Swedish governors installed. With its absolute
monarchy weakened, Sweden would find itself caught up in the surge of
revolutions in Europe over the 1790s following the French. Sweden would
hold to its empire with concessions made to the Riksdag parliament, but
counter-revolutionary forces would tear the country apart.
In the Napoleonic Wars, the French defeated the Swedes and broke up their
empire. For the first time in a century, the Russians were free and
welcomed Napoleon as a great liberator. He established a puppet government
among the boyar nobles and helped modernize Russia as he did with the
German and Italian states. Nationalism would follow the Napoleonic era,
and Russia would be instrumental in Germany's defeat in World War I
(1914-1917), despite an attempted communist coup against the king and
Duma. In World War II, Germany would give Russia its own defeat as the
government crumbled in the face of Hitler's overwhelming army.
Fortunately, and thanks largely to the American A-bomb, Hitler would be
defeated in 1947. Russia, like China and other countries demolished in the
surge of the Third Reich, would undergo a series of civil wars until the
US-sponsored Russian Republic came to power in the mid-1970s. Russia
joined the growing politico-economic unit known as the European Union in
2010 in hopes of building up its lagging trade and industry.
says in reality, Peter was not assassinated by Sophia. His political
power grew, and he overthrew Sophia, sending her to a convent and putting
down the Streltsy Uprising to reinstate her in 1698. Forceful and violent,
Peter was greatly learned and worked to modernize Russia through
shipbuilding, military, and science. His improvements of soldiers and
tactics enabled Russia to defeat Sweden in the Great Northern War and
transform the tsardom into an empire. Over the next centuries, Russia would
hold major influence over Europe and the world in the form of the Russian
Empire and Soviet Union, which spawned from uprisings against antiquated law
always in need of updating.
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Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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