The foundation of the town
Historians still have not reached common ground on who founded Uglich and when it happened. According to some data, Uglich was founded by Prince Igor in 937 or by Princess Olga in 947. Other sources claim that Uglich was mentioned in historical chronicles only in 1148.
For a long time Uglich had been playing a major role in the Russian state. During the period of feudal disunity it was the capital of the eponymous apanage principality.
The Uglich Kremlin (15th century). Alexxx Malev (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Russia’s descend into the Time of Troubles
After Ivan IV, also called the Terrible, died (1584), his son Fyodor Ivanovich ascended to the Russian throne. However, he could not rule the state and real power was concentrated in the hands of Fyodor’s brother-in-law – the boyar Boris Godunov.
Soon Ivan’s last wife was exiled to Uglich with her little son – Tsarevich Dmitriy.
In 1598, the last ruling member of the Rurik dynasty Fyodor Ivanovich passed away, and Boris Godunov proclaimed himself a new Russian tsar.
Let’s go back to Uglich. In 1591, it became the scene of a great tragedy. Epileptic Tsarevich Dmitriy was found stabbed to death there.
The Church of St. Demetrius on the Blood (1692) on the territory of the Uglich Kremlin. Alexxx Malev (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Ivan the Terrible’s widow accused Boris Godunov’s thugs of committing this crime since the boyar wanted to seize power and mount the Russian throne.
Angry mob executed several representatives of Boris Godunov.
A special commission headed by Vasily Shuisky left Moscow and came to Uglich to investigate the case. It was stated that Tsarevich Dmitriy killed himself with a knife while being in a seizure. Nowadays this explanation seems to be ludicrous.
Due to the conclusions drawn by the commission the residents of Uglich were prosecuted (the so-called “Godunov’s desolation”). Many of them were murdered or sent to Siberia. The reputation of Uglich as a major Russian town was seriously undermined. Ivan the Terrible’s widow was admitted to the veil and exiled to a distant nunnery. Back then it was a popular way to get rid of political undesirables.
The history of the Uglich bell
The residents of Uglich were informed about Tsarevich Dmitriy’s death with the help of the bell which sounded the tocsin.
The commission from Moscow that investigated the circumstances around Tsarevich Dmitriy’s death found the bell guilty too! They tore out the bell tongue to prevent it from ringing and sent the bell to Tobolsk.
The Church of Korsun icon of the Mother of God (the Russian baroque). Alexxx Malev (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The devastation of Uglich
However, Boris Godunov achieved certain results in foreign policy, a severe crisis broke out in Russia.
The year 1601 was marked by numerous natural disasters, including long rain and early sub-zero spells. It resulted in famine.
Peasants had been suffering from its deadly consequences for several years and raised many uprisings. This situation caused dangerous rumors that Tsarevich Dmitriy was alive.
Following these whisperings, several pretenders appeared in Poland. Each False Dmitriy proclaimed himself survived Tsarevich Dmitriy and set his sights to the Russian throne.
The military campaign of False Dmitriy II became a disastrous event for Uglich. In 1608, the Polish-Russian forces occupied the town. However, the Polish-Lithuanian invasion turned out to be much more devastating. As a result, Uglich was captured, many residents were executed, and the town was virtually burnt to the ground.
Minin and Pozharsky’s militia completely liberated Uglich only in 1612. Unfortunately, it took people many decades to restore Uglich after these drastic events.
St. John the Baptist Church (1681) in the Alekseevsky monastery (1371). Alexxx Malev (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Assumption Church (Divnaya) (1628) in the Alekseevsky monastery. Alexxx Malev (CC BY-SA 2.0)
In 1613, the representatives of all Russian towns and classes gathered in Moscow to elect a new tsar. The council chose Mikhail Fyodorovich and put an end to the Time of Troubles. The Romanov dynasty replaced the Rurik one, and had been successfully ruling Russia for 300 years.
The coat of arms of Uglich is the only of its kind, depicting a boy with a knife in his hand (Tsarevich Dmitriy).