The beginning of the Romanovs' dynasty reign was the bloom of the class-representative monarchy. In the time of young Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich the actual power was concentrated in the hands of Boyard Duma, the crucial role in which was played by the kin of the new tsar - the Romanovs, Cherkasskys, Saltykovs.
However, strengthening of centralized power in the state demanded constant support of nobility and prominent townspeople. Therefore, Zemskoy Coincil in the years of 1613 - 1619 was in session practically without a break.
"The Great Moscow Ravage" of the beginning of XVII century devastated Russia. Restoration of economic life both in cities and villages went with great difficulties. Internal political situation remained unstable. Smolensk was under Poland, Novgorod - under the Swedes. Many regions were terrorized by gangs of former Tushio people.
After unsuccessful attempt in 1615 to seize Pskov, Sweden started peace negotiations with Moscow. On February 27, 1617 the peace treaty was signed at Stolbovo Village. Novgorod Land passed back to Russia, Sweden preserved Ivangorod with Izhora Land, the town of Korela with its uyezd and the town of Oreshek. Russia was stripped of the only outlet to the Baltic Sea.
The Polish army of the king's son Vladislav and Ukrainian cossacks under command of Hetman P. Konashevich-Sagaydachny made a new campaign against Russia. In October, 1618 the enemies approached Moscow. The city defense was commanded by Voevode D.M. Pozharsky.
December, 1 the same year the armistice between Russia and Poland was concluded at Deulino Village (near Moscow) for the period of 14 and a half years. Rech Pospolitaya held Smolensk and Chernigovo-Severskaya Land. The principal condition of the armistice was that Vladislav did not refuse Russian throne.
Thus, having signed these two not enjoying equal rights agreements, Russia left the period of Distempered Time and the Poland-Swedish intervention. Russia preserved national independence and provided further development in foreign and internal policy. In 1619 Filaret (Feodor Nikitovich Romanov), the father of Tsar Mikhail, was finally set free and returned from Poland, in past he himself had strong claims to the throne. In Moscow he became the Patriarch and was titled "The Great Sovereign". From this moment he was the actual governor of the state till his death in 1633.
Certain measures to strengthen autocracy were taken. Prominent secular and church land owners were given vast grounds and even towns. The biggest part of estates of gentry became patrimonies. New estates were given for the service to the new dynasty. Boyard Duma changed its structure and importance. All authority concentrated in hands of the so-called Blizhnyaya Duma that consisted of four boyars at that time. All of them were relatives of the Tsar (I.N. Romanov, I.B. Cherkassky, M.B. Shein, B.M. Lykov). A new state seal was introduced in 1625. The tsar title gained a word "autocrat".
While the competence of Boyard Duma was restricted the Departments got broader privileges. The most powerful were: Land-owners', Ambassadorial Department, the Department of Domestic Affairs, the Treasury. In the course of time the practice to subordinate several departments to one influential person - the head of the government became customary. Local administration underwent changes as well - the power in uyezds gradually passed to voevodes.
The Church improved its position in the time of Filaret. The Tsar gave the Patriarch power to judge clergy and monastic peasants by a special decree. Patriarchal judicial and administrative-and-finance departments were formed. The patriarchal court was arranged in a similar manner to that of the tsar.
Consolidation of absolutism in Russia began after Alexey Mikhaylovich, the elder son of Tsar Mikhail, accession to the throne in June, 1645. B.I. Morozov, the tutor of the young Tsar, became the most important person of the Court. The governmental policy of saving resulted in bribery and arbitrariness of the Departmental machinery. This evoked discontent of servicemen and in 1648 the ruling clique was changed. Now it was I.D. Miloslavsky who played the first fiddle in Duma.
Preparation of a new Law Code started under the pressure of nobility. This new Code was called to maintain interests of landed gentry and rich townspeople and reinforce autocracy.
In 40's the tsar's confessor Stefan Vonifatiyev formed a circle of clergymen that initiated a church reform. It started with correction of prayer books and unification of church ceremonies. However, when the question of sacred images was raised, the clergy disaccorded. One of them preferred the Old Russian canon, the others stood for the Greek one. The latter were headed by Patriarch Nikon (since 1652), whose reformatory activity was approved by the Church Council and the Tsar.
The state was strongly interested in such reform - the authority of the church was limited. Unification of orthodox churches would facilitate reunion of Ukraine and Russia. Though, the growing personal authority of Patriarch Nikon caused displeasure of the Tsar, boyards and hierarchs of the church. In 1658 Nikon was forced to leave Moscow, still, he preserved the position of the Patriarch.
Church Council 1666 with participation of patriarchs of eastern lands defrocked Nikon.
Since then the Tsar himself directed the church reform. Russian society was split into supporters and opponents of the reform. The latter was called Old Believers. Archpriest Avvakum became their leader. Old Believers were savagely victimized. Their movement got social coloration. In 1682 Avvakum, the ideological inspirer of Old Believing was faggoted. But despite of persecutions, the movement grew stronger in XVIII century.
An important innovation in executive system was formation of Secret Affairs and Accounting Departments under the initiative of Tsar Alexey Mihaylovich. The Secret Affairs Department obeyed directly the Tsar. It supervised all other official bodies and political figures. The Secret Affairs Department was governed by F.M. Rtishchev and D.M. Bashmakov. The Accounting Department had the functions of the sate revenue.
When Alexey Mihaylovich died in 1676, his elder son Feodor became his successor. Feodor was an unhealthy boy of 14. So, the power was controlled by his relatives from the mother's side - the Miloslavskys and his sister Sofia, who was distinguished by strong will and a lot of energy. A very clever and talented Prince V.V. Golitsyn, who was a favorite of the tsarevna, headed the ruling circle. A strong blow on the class privileges of aristocracy was stroke in 1682, when the order of seniority was abolished. Now personal merits became more important than the origin.
The death of childless Feodor Alekseevich in 1682 called the matter of a successor into question. His brother Ivan was weak-headed. The other brother Peotr, the child of the second marriage was only 10 years old. A court struggle flared up between relatives of the tsarevitches. Ivan's party was formed by the Miloslavskys led by Tsarevna Sofia, while the Naryshkins supported Peotr. Peotr was proclaimed the Tsar at a session of 'Osvyashenny Council' and Boyard Duma. However, on May 15, 1682 streletses rebelled in Moscow. They were incited by the chief of Streletsky Department Prince I.A. Khovansky. All important adherents of the Naryshkins were killed.
On demand of the streletses both tsareviches mounted the throne. Tsarevna Sofia became the regent. When Peotr came of age in 1689 regency of Sofia lost legal ground. Sofia did not want the power to slip out of her hands. She intended to organize a new coup d'etat with the help of her protégé F. Shalkovity, the chief of Streletsky Department. But this attempt failed. Sofia was deprived of the power and cloistered in the Novodevuchy Monastery. Her closest followers were executed or banished.