The tsarist state in the 17th century was not very different from what it had been under the 16th-century Ryurikids. The monarch ruled in alliance with the leading aristocratic families, but his power was enhanced by the steady growth of the (still small) bureaucracy and the minor provincial landowning nobles. The tightening of serfdom and of the state’s control over the frontier Cossack communities led to a number of peasant and Cossack rebellions, of which the most famous was that of Stenka Razin in 1670.
During the reign of Michael’s son Alexis (1645-1676), Russia became involved in the struggle between Cossacks living in present-day Ukraine and that region’s Polish rulers. The Cossacks, supported by Ukrainians, revolted against the Poles, but they requested Russia’s aid to sustain their success. In 1654 Alexis extended his help in return for a Cossack pledge of loyalty, which immediately led to war between Russia and Poland. The war was settled in 1667 by a treaty that split Ukraine into two parts, divided by the Dnieper River.
Poland retained the land west of the river, and Russia gained the land to the east and Kyiv. Western influences entered Russia partly through Ukraine but encountered fierce resistance, especially in the religious sphere. In the 1650s Nikon, the patriarch of Moscow, initiated a series of liturgical reforms that caused a major schism in the Russian Orthodox Church. The loss of the so-called Old Believers—those members of the church who rejected the reforms—did long-term damage to the Orthodox Church’s vitality, to its ability to remain independent of the state, and to its hold on the peasantry. "Russia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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