The death of the Russian army in the battle of Klushino

The attack of the banner of the winged hussars in the battle of Klushino. Painting by Shimon Bogushovich

410 years ago, a battle took place between the Russian-Swedish army and the Polish troops. The Battle of Klushino ended in the disaster of the Russian army and led to the fall of Tsar Vasily Shuisky. In Moscow, power was seized by the boyars, who let the Poles into the capital.

Troubles. March of Skopin-Shuisky

At the beginning of the 16th century, the Russian state was seized by the Troubles, caused by the subversive actions of a part of the elite against the ruling Godunov dynasty and by external interference. All this was superimposed on a series of socio-economic problems and natural disasters that worsened the situation of ordinary people more than usual. The country was engulfed in riots, the Godunovs were killed, the capital city was seized by an impostor, behind whom stood Poland and the papal throne.

When False Dmitry was killed, the Troubles did not end. New impostors appeared, the country was plundered and raped by assorted bandit formations of Poles and Lithuanians, thieves’ Cossacks. Moscow was besieged with his army by the Tushinsky thief. The country, in fact, split into two Russia, one swore allegiance to the Moscow tsar, and the other to the “king of thieves” False Dmitry II. Tsar Vasily Shuisky, unable to cope with the Tushins and Lyakhs on his own, decided to turn to Sweden for help. Shuisky needed Swedish mercenaries to free the capital from the siege.

The Swedes did not want its rival in the struggle for the Baltic region, Poland, to be strengthened at the expense of Russia. It was obvious that the development of the current situation, the Poles will capture Smolensk, Pskov, possibly Novgorod and other cities. They will even put their prince in Moscow. All Russia was subject to polonization (following the model of Little Russia). Sweden was in danger from the strengthened Rzeczpospolita. As a result, the Swedish throne decided to help Shuisky. It is clear that it is not free. The bargaining began. The negotiations with the Swedes were led by the tsar’s nephew Skopin-Shuisky. In February 1609, an agreement with Sweden was concluded in Vyborg. The Swedes sent several thousand mercenaries under the command of De la Gardie to help the Moscow tsar, who were generously paid. Sovereign Vasily Shuisky refused the rights to Livonia, and Sweden was also promised the eternal possession of the town of Korela with the district.

In the spring of 1609, the Swedish army approached Novgorod and, with the support of the tsarist voivode Choglokov, utterly defeated the Tushin people. After that, the northern Russian lands and cities were cleared of bandit formations. Then the troops of Skopin-Shuisky and De la Gardie moved to the rescue of Moscow. Skopin, having received help from Smolensk, defeated the enemy near Tver, occupied Pereyaslavl-Zalessky. However, the Swedish mercenaries, when 130 versts were left to Moscow, refused to go further under the pretext that they were paid only in two months, and not in four, and that the Russians were not clearing Korela. Tsar Vasily ordered to clear Korela for the Swedes and gave a large amount of money to the Swedes.

Meanwhile, Poland entered the war against Russia. The entry of Swedish troops into Russia was a pretext for war. Although large detachments of Polish lords, nobles and adventurers have ravaged the Russian land since the time of the first impostor. In September 1609, the Polish-Lithuanian army laid siege to Smolensk (Heroic Defense of Smolensk; Part 2). A large corps of Little Russian Cossacks arrived here. The Polish king promised to “restore order” in Russia at the request of the Russian people themselves. The Smolensk fortress, despite the fact that the most combat-ready part of the garrison was sent to help Skopin, withstood enemy attacks. The Lyakhs planned to take the fortress on the move, there was little infantry, and there was no heavy artillery for a long siege (they had to be transported from Riga). A long siege began.

The Tushino camp was falling apart. False Dmitry, who became hostages of the Polish lords, fled to Kaluga and began to gather a new army. Tushino Patriarch Filaret, nobles and Poles sent an embassy to Sigismund. The Polish king himself wanted to take the Moscow throne, but decided to deceive the Russians and began negotiations about his son Vladislav. In February 1610, the agreement was accepted. Vladislav was supposed to become king (although Sigismund retained the opportunity for himself to become a Russian sovereign), the Russian faith remained inviolable. As a result, the Tushino camp finally disintegrated. The Cossacks fled in all directions, some to their native places, some to Kaluga, some just to “thieves”. The Poles were drawn to the royal camp. Russian noble Tushins partly deserted to Vasily, another part with Patriarch Filaret (he was captured on the way by Russian-Swedish troops) moved to Smolensk to Sigismund.

Smolensk campaign

In March 1610 Skopin-Shuisky and De la Gardie solemnly entered Moscow. Ordinary townspeople with tears fell to the ground, beat their foreheads and asked to clear the Russian land of enemies. Contemporaries compared Skopin’s reception with the triumph of David, whom the Israelites honored more than King Saul. However, Tsar Vasily was pleased with his nephew. The tsar’s brother, Prince Dmitry Shuisky, an unlucky tsarist voivode who did not win a single battle, behaved differently. Tsar Vasily had no sons, his daughters died in infancy. Dmitry was considered the heir to the throne. In Skopin, Dmitry saw a competitor whom the people loved. With the then disorder, Skopin could well have taken the throne. A young national hero, beloved by the people and soldiers, a talented commander.

On the occasion of the victory, feasts were held in Moscow almost every day. On April 23, 1610, the young military leader was invited to a feast at the Vorotynskys on the occasion of the christening of the son of Prince Ivan Vorotynsky. Skopin was supposed to be the godfather. The wife of Prince Dmitry Shuisky Catherine (daughter of the guardsman Malyuta Skuratov) became the godmother. From her hands the commander took a cup of wine at the feast. After drinking it, Shuisky suddenly felt bad, blood gushed from his nose. After a two-week illness, he died. Contemporaries blamed Vasily and Dmitry Shuisky for the death of Skopin, who feared for their power.

Skopin’s death was a disaster for Vasily Shuisky. Russia lost the best commander at that time, who was adored by the warriors. Rumors circulated in the capital about the murder of Skopin-Shuisky by the tsar and his brother, demoralizing the troops. At this time, a campaign was being prepared to liberate Smolensk from the siege. The tsar appointed his incompetent brother Dmitry as commander of the army. Apparently, he hoped for other governors and Swedes. 32 thousand Russian soldiers and 8 thousand Swedish mercenaries (Swedes, Germans, French, Scots, etc.) moved to Smolensk. Previously 6 thousand. a detachment of the tsar’s voivode Valuev and prince Yeletsky occupied Mozhaisk, Volokolamsk and marched along the large Smolensk road to Tsarev-Zaymishche.

The Polish king sent part of his troops under the command of Hetman Zolkiewski to meet the Russian-Swedish army. A total of about 7 thousand soldiers, mostly cavalry, without infantry and artillery. The rest of the Polish army continued the siege of Smolensk. Stanislav Zolkiewski was the most talented Polish military leader. He was already an elderly military leader, beat the Swedes, Cossacks and Polish rebels. On June 14, 1610, Zholkevsky laid siege to Tsarevo-Zaymishche. Voevoda Valuev sent for help to Shuisky, who was with the army in Mozhaisk. The Russian army slowly began the offensive and camped near the village of Klushino, the governors were “frightened” of the heat.

Zholkevsky and the hussars. Polish artist V. Kossak

Klushin catastrophe

Zolkiewski divided his corps. A small detachment (700 soldiers) continued the blockade of Valuev in Tsarevo-Zaymishche. The main forces went to Klushin, 30 versts from Tsarev-Zaymishche. The Polish commander took great risks. With skillful leadership, the allied army could crush a small Polish corps. Risk is a noble cause. Zholkevsky took a chance and won. At this time, the allied generals, Dmitry Shuisky, Delagardie and Horn, were drinking, confident of a future victory. They knew about the small number of the enemy and planned to launch an offensive the next day and overturn the Poles. On the night of June 24 (July 4), 1610, the Polish hussars attacked the allies, who did not expect an attack. At the same time, the transition through dense forests was difficult, the Polish troops stretched out and concentrated for a long time, which saved the allies from an immediate defeat. The only two Polish cannons (falconets) got stuck in the mud.

The Russian cavalry fled. The infantry settled in Klushino and met the enemy with strong rifle and cannon fire. At first, the mercenaries fought back stubbornly. Shuisky and De la Gardie were ruined by stupidity and greed. On the eve of the battle, the mercenaries demanded the money they deserved. Shuisky had money in the treasury. But the greedy prince decided to postpone the payment in the hope that after the battle he would have to pay less. Zholkevsky learned about this from the defectors. At a critical moment in the battle, when the Russians could come to their senses and use a large numerical superiority, the Polish commander offered the mercenaries a large sum. The Scots, French and Germans immediately went over to the side of the Polish hetman. Other mercenaries were promised life and freedom if they did not fight against the Polish king, and they left the battlefield.

Upon learning of the betrayal of the mercenaries, the Russian commander fled shamefully. Other governors and warriors followed him. The army collapsed. The Swedish soldiers, led by Delagardie and Gorn, went north to their border. The Poles did not bother them. Thus, Zholkevsky won a complete victory. He captured all the Russian artillery, banners, baggage train and treasury. Valuev in Tsarevo-Zaymishche, learning about the terrible defeat, surrendered and kissed the cross to the prince Vladislav. Following the example of Tsarevo-Zaymishch, Mozhaisk, Borisov, Borovsk, Rzhev and other cities and settlements swore allegiance to Vladislav.

The scheme of the battle near the village of Klushino on June 24, 1610. Source: E.A. Razin. History of military art


It was a disaster for Tsar Vasily. About 10 thousand Russian soldiers joined the army of Zholkevsky. True, Zholkevsky could not take the Russian capital himself, he lacked strength. Near Moscow, Shuisky had about 30 thousand more soldiers. True, their morale was low, they did not want to fight for the Shuisky. Vasily Shuisky, in a panic, asked the Crimean Khan for help. The Tatar corps with Kantemir-Murza approached Tula. Cantemir took the money, but did not want to fight the Poles. He ravaged the neighborhood, captured several thousand people and left.

In Moscow, a conspiracy was drawn up against the tsar, led by princes Fyodor Mstislavsky and Vasily Golitsyn. They were joined by the former Tushino boyars, led by Filaret, who were spared by Vasily. On July 17 (27), 1610, Vasily Shuisky was overthrown.

On July 19, Vasily was forcibly tonsured into a monk. “Monk Varlaam” was taken to the Chudov Monastery. Boyar Duma created its own government – “Seven Boyarshchina”. The boyar government in August concluded an agreement with the Poles: Vladislav was to become the Russian tsar. In September, Polish troops were admitted to Moscow. The Shuiskys were taken to Poland as a trophy and forced to take the oath to Sigismund.

The forcible tonsure of Vasily Shuisky (1610). Engraving by P. Ivanov. 19th century

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