1612: Khroniki smutnogo vremeni (aka 1612) (2007)




Director:     Vladimir Khotinenko. 

Starring:     Pyotr Kislov (Andrei),  Artur Smolyaninov (Kostka),  Michal Zebrowski (Polish hetman),  Violetta Davydovskaya (Kseniya Godunova),  Aleksandr Baluyev (Brigand Osina),  Marat Basharov (Military commander Navoloka),  Ramón Langa (Alvar),  Mikhail Porechenkov (Prince Dmitri Pozharsky),  Aleksandr Samoylenko (Mordan),  Valeriy Zolotukhin (Stylite).

Russian film set in the Time of Troubles and the Polish-Muscovite War (1605-1618)


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

1604. In Warsaw, King Sigismund of Poland recognized Grigory Otrepiev, a runaway monk, as Tsar Dmitry, the son of Ivan the Terrible. This "False" Dmitry secretly embraced Catholicism and rallied an army against Moscow.

Summer of 1605. After Boris Godunov’s sudden death, his son Feodor ascended the throne, but his reign was short-lived. He and his mother were murdered by conspirators on June 1, 1605. A fellow comes out saying: "The damned Godunov family is no more."

One month later "False" Dmitry’s army entered Moscow. The Boyar Duma pledged allegiance to the imposter. The time of Troubles began in Russia.

Rome Autumn, 1605. The Pope sends a clergyman on a mission to bring the word of God to the barbarians. He tells the Pope that he would even gladly become a martyr of the faith. But the Pope says he has a more important mission for him. He is a Pole and he will be sent to Russia.

Moscow River, Shrovetide of the year, 1606. The Tsar has a flame thrower machine built and now he shows it off to the people. The Pope’s man is there with the Tsar. "False" Dmitry reigned only a year and displeased both the Russians and the Poles. They drag his body through the streets, burn it, stomp on the skeleton and bring the bone pieces and ash to shoot the remains out of a cannon to the west where he came from.

1610. Moscow, Devichye Field.

Four years of chaos and lawlessness ensued after "False" Dmitry’s ashes were scattered over Moscow. The Russian land languished without law or authority. The Russians are confused as to who the new Tsar is. Some say it is Sigismund of Poland or his son Wladislaw. The high priest there says kiss the cross to Tsar Wladislaw.

Mercenaries arrive via a boat. They are pulled along by ropes pulled by serfs, a group of near-slaves One of the serfs is Andrei. On the boat a Spaniard named Alvar kills another mercenary over a gambling game. The only survivor of the Godunova family, Ksesniya Godunov, is on the boat.

The Polish Hetman and his right-hand man talk together while their army marches.

Prince Pozharsky is rallying a people’s army, says the Hetman's right-hand man. But what about Kseniya?  The Hetman will bring her and together they will go to Moscow to put the lawful Tsarina on the throne.

The clergyman from Rome wonders how long this Time of Troubles has lasted because he has been here seven years and it is still going on. Kseniya sarcastically asks him if he thinks everything will settle down when they accept the Catholic faith? The clergyman says yes.

At night Andrei pulls up the stake holding him to the ground. He goes into the river and works his way over to the boat. He climbs aboard. Kseniya sees him and tells the serf to leave. The men catch him and the next day they lash him.

As a boy he remembers seeing Kseniya nude with other young ladies. A woman grabs him and scolds him for looking at a Tsarina. Andrei goes and jumps off the pier into the water.

The servant Kostka talks with Andrei after his lashing. Andrei puts his chain around his neck and tells him to tell his Spanish master that he wants him to buy Andrei. Kostka agrees. Andrei says to himself that he has been praying for seven years on end.  Andrei remembers as a boy how the Tsarina picked up a broken-off piece of a carved unicorn’s horn and gave it to him. It is the same piece that he still carries around his neck. Alvar buys Andrei and Andrei and Kostka become good friends. Andrei remembers the time the soldiers under the Hetman came to snatch Kseniya. The soldiers killed both his mother and father.

The Hetman tells Kseniya that she will go to Moscow and become the Tsarina. She asks the man to tell her about Yuliya, her daughter. He has a necklace from Yuliya to give to Kseniya.

Andrei remembers back again, this time to an incident that happened when he was learning about sword fighting with the young Tsar with Kseniya. He teased Andrei about taking a peak at the Tsarina and her ladies. Andrei got so mad that he put his sword to the side of the neck of Tsar Feodor. For this an aide threatened Andrei that if he did something like that again he would be to be beaten until he pissed blood.

Andrei and Kostka serve the mercenaries dinner. A blind man comes in saying he is the Tsar. Andrei asks him his name and he tells him it is Feodor, the son of Boris Godunov. Andrei tells him not to lie, because he personally saw how Feodor was killed. The Hetman broke his neck with a boot.

Kseniya tells the Hetman that she is tired. She wants him to let her go and for him to find someone else for his schemes. He won’t do it. He says no one will love her as he does. Kseniya says God cursed her with his love. She also says he is a murderer. Andrei climbs up the steps and hears some of the conversation. He sees Kseniya with the Hetman who killed his mother and killed Tsar Feodor II and this upsets him. (But the Hetman did pull a rapist off of the Tsarina in the same attack.)  In the morning the mercenaries move out. The Tsarina is taken to see the holy man.

Some bandits lay in ambush at the bridge. The ambushers don’t see the Hetman or the Tsarina. But the ambush takes place and a number of the mercenaries are killed on the bridge. A man betrays Alvar and stabs him in the stomach area. The assassin then is shot by one of the bandits with an arrow while leaving the scene. With the bandits is a pretty blonde named Matrena. Kostka and Andrei find their master dead. Andrei decides to take the identity of Alvar.

The Tsarina goes up to speak to the Holy Man. He stands on a platform and says he will not come down until the Time of Troubles is over.  He tells Kseniya to promise her Christian clergyman that she will become Catholic. Promise it, but don’t do it.

Andrei gets all dressed up in the Spanish armor. But what he needs to be more like Alvar is a scar on the right side of his face. So Andrei cuts himself with a knife.

Town of Navolok. June, 1612. Prince Pozharsky tells the people of the village that if they want to fight the Poles, they will have to have provisions for five days. The crowd is not too sure it wants to fight. Pozharsky says that they will choose their own Tsar. And they will liberate Moscow from the Poles. One man says he hears that the Poles are bringing a Tsarina.  The Prince is very disappointed with the lack of will on the part of the villagers to fight the Poles. 

Nikolo-Solbensky Convent. Andrei and Kostka show their papers to the Hetman. He accepts them into his ranks. Andrei notices the Tsarina in the background. A Spaniard invites Alvar/Andrei to supper. To prevent a real Spaniard from finding out his real identity, Andrei starts a fight. They sword fight and Andrei wins, but he is stopped by the Hetman.

The bandits come into the Hetman’s camp disguised as entertainers. They plan to kill the Tsarina. They go to the party that Andrei also attends. Andrei talks with the Tsarina and she wants to know what he is up to. He knows she wants to run away from the Hetman and he will help her. She doubts his ability to help her saying he can’t even pull off playing the part of a Spaniard.  Just then the entertainers make their move. But Andrei is able to fight them off and protect the Tsarina. The Hetman comes looking for Kseniya and finds Andrei guarding her with blood on his sword.

The warning goes out among the local Russians that the Poles are coming. The unwilling-to-fight villagers that gave Prince Pozharsky a hard time run into the fortress for protection. The Poles take the village but still have to take the fortress. Andrei protects a woman from being raped and has to fight four swordsmen. While fighting he speaks in Russian and the Hetman hears this. Andrei defeats the four men, but the Hetman gets the better of Andrei in a sword fight. The Hetman’s assistant hits Andrei with a log and knocks him out. The Tsarina winces at the blow. The Hetman says at dawn they will impale Andrei. Until then, they tie Andrei’s hands together and then hang him by a rope tied to his hands.

During the night Kostka saves Andrei. They then grab the Tsarina. A woman who likes Kostka shows them the secret passage into the fortress. The four of them are now save in the fortress. Andrei makes a cannon for the defense of the fortress. The people recognize the Tsarina and want to tear her apart because she was with the Hetman. Once again Andrei saves her.

The battle starts with a blast from their one big cannon that takes out a big piece of the fortress. Then the Hetman comes to demand the Tsarina back. The fortress commander doesn’t even know what he is talking about. The Hetman says the Tsarina is the one with the false Spaniard. The commander won’t give her back.

Andrei and Kostka fire a red hot ball right into the ammunition depot of the enemy. The depot blows up killing a lot of the men. The Hetman is thrown to the ground and shaken up

The next day the Poles launch a massive assault with cannons and mortars. Many of the villagers are being killed and the wall sare gradually falling apart. Now the Polish troops and the mercenaries start firing their arquebuses at the fort. They bring ladders to get over the walls. The fort’s most effective weapon is the grenades the defender launch over the wall. The Poles retreat.

Now the Poles aim all their cannon at the second chain on the front gate. They hit the chain and the gate comes open. The Polish cavalry starts to go through the doorway, but the cannon takes a bunch of them out and scares the others off.

The Hetman calls out to speak with Andrei. He gives Andrei a little doll that the Tsarina’s daughter Yuliya made and says if the Tsarina doesn’t come out by tomorrow morning, it will be the last doll she ever receives. Andrei delivers the message and Kseniya tells Andrei that the Hetman is holding her daughter as a hostage.

In the morning the Hetman comes to get the Tsarina. He tells her she can love anyone she wants to as long as she takes him to the throne of Russia. The people start turning on Andrei, holding him responsible for the loss of so many of their people. But the commander tells them that yes, he is guilty – guilty of making them fulfill their duty. And now the Poles go on to take Moscow. But their people had a hand in a least mauling the Polish beast.

Moscow, Devichye Field, September 1, 1612. The two armies face each other.  They Boyars consider making Andrei the Tsar.  Andrei is at the battle in command of the artillery.  The battle at Moscow continued for three days.  The Boyars decide to nominate the "Spaniard" to the Congress.

On September 3, 1612, the Polish Army was defeated while trying to get through to Polish troops besieged in the Kremlin.

The holy man sent by the Pope on a mission to Russia comes back to Rome. All the way back he talks about his regrets for every going to Russia in the first place. The Pope refuses to see him, because the man failed in his objective.

The Hetman and the Tsarina are to be hanged. Andrei and Kostka ride to Pozharsky’s headquarters because he’s got Kseniya. Pozharsky says that Kseniya Godunova will take the veil to atone for her sins by prayer. She breathes a sigh of relief. But the Hetman wants her to hang. He tells everyone that she converted to Catholicism and this shocks the Russians.

Andrei arrives. Kostka runs up to Pozharsky and tells him that Andrei is their future Tsar. Pozharsky tells the people Andrei will be their future Tsar. Andrei and the Hetman will sword fight. Kseniya asks the Hetman where is their daughter. He tells her that their Yuliya died a long time ago. A dwarf was making the dolls he was giving her. Andrei wins the sword fight by sticking the sword through the mouth of the Hetman and back out the back of his head.

The Russian Holy Man finally descends from his perch. The Time of Troubles are over.

Kseniya is still sentenced to live the rest of her life in a convent. She thanks Andrei and says she will pray for him. And away she goes to the convent.

On November 4, 1612 the Polish-Lithuanian troops left the plundered Kremlin and surrendered to the victors. On February 28, 1613, Mikhail Romanov was crowned as Tsar. The Romanov dynasty reigned in Russia for more than 300 years.


Good movie.  It covers a lot of history that is pretty complex even though some of the Tsars are not mentioned during the Time of  Troubles.   I'm glad I read the history of the times so I could understand what was going on.  And it's not only Russian history, but Polish history as well.  The history is changed a bit here and there, probably to make the story more compelling.  But you can read what happened in the historical background below from Wikipedia.  Even though I read the history, it still took me awhile to figure out the movie.  (I had a bit of trouble matching the film's use of history with the real history.) 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


10th to 17th century -- a boyar was a member of the rank of the feudal Moscovian and Kievan Russian aristocracies just below the ruling princes.

15th to 18th century – hetman was the title of the second highest military commander (after the monarch) used in Poland, Ukraine and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

1547-1584 – reign of Ivan IV (the Terrible).

1584-1598 – reign of Feodor I. Reputedly he was mentally retarded. He only became a candidate for Tsar because of the murder of his elder brother Ivan Ivanovich. He let his very able brother-in-law Boris Godunov rule for him. He left no heirs.

1587-1632 – reign of Sigismund III in Poland.

1598-1613 – Time of Troubles.

1598-1605 – reign of Boris Godunov.

1605 (April to June) – reign of Fedor II. (Son of Boris Godunov.) Imprisoned with his mother by the "False" Dmitriy, they were late killed.   The only survivor of the family was Xenia (aka Ksenia Borisovna Godunova).  False Dmitriy spared her but he also raped her and kept her in his palace as a concubine for five months. Before the arrival of his bride Marina Mniszech, Ksenia was sent to a monastery.

1605-1606 – reign of the "False" Dmitriy I. He was one of three impostors claiming to be the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible, tsarevitch Dmitriy Ivanovich, who had supposedly escaped a 1591 assassination attempt. His real name was Grigory Otrepyev. He had to flee to Poland for awhile. Several of the Polish nobility decided to support the usurper. Some of the Russian boyars also supported him. Later Prince Vasili Shuisky plotted to get rid of him. He was shot dead by the conspirators.

1605-1618 – Polish-Muscovite War.

1606-1610 – Vasili Shuisky. He was forced off the throne by the Seven Boyars and made a monk. Seven Boyars later invited the Poles into Moscow. Died in 1612.

1609 – Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth formally at war with Russia.

1610 – the Poles enter Moscow at invitation of the Seven Boyars. 

1610-1612 – Władysłlaw IV Vasa with the Council of the Seven Boyars. As a teenager he was elected the Tsar by the Seven Boyars but he did not assume the throne because of opposition from his father, Sigismund III of Poland (who wanted the Russian throne for himself). The son later reigned as King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1632 to his death in 1648.

1611-1613 – Council of All the Land. (In opposition to the Poles and Władysłlaw IV.)

1613-1645 – reign of Mikhail I Fyodorovich Romanov. The first of the Romanov Dynasty, which lasted until 1917.  He was the son of Feodor Nikitich Romanov and Xenia Shestova.  His father was a Russian boyar who become patriarch of Moscow and later de-facto ruler of Russia during the reign of his son, who was only seventeen when he was crowned..


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