Peter and his mother had no idea the mob was coming. When the soldiers arrived they were frozen with terror. It was too late to close the gates to the Kremlin. They didn’t know what to do. Natalya and Peter came down with the sixteen year old Ivan at the request of his regent Artemon Matveev, to show the mob Ivan was alive. Ivan himself told them he was not being mistreated.
Artemon Matveev said to them, “Here is the Lord Tzar Peter Alexeevich. And here is the Lord Tzarevich Ivan Alexeevich. Thanks be to God, they are well and have not suffered at the hands of traitors.” The streltsy were stunned at having been mislead. He was able to calm down the mob saying, “How could you stain your great reputation with a rebellion based on rumor and falsehood? There is no need to protect the royal family, they are unharmed. Disperse and go home.’” But then Matveev made a great mistake by taking the two boys and Natalya and went back inside the palace.
Prince Michael Dolgorukis gave them an excuse to explode. The streltsy hated him. He had been formally accused of allowing corruption, graft and turning his back while their wages were stolen. After Peter went inside with Matveev, Prince Dolgorukis told the troops to go back to their barracks, they had humiliated him and he would punish them.
The crowd became furious and turned on him. That was the beginning. Charging up the stairs they threw Michael Dolgorukis onto their pikes and hacked him to pieces. They brought the body to his father who was an invalid. Out of fear of them he gave the mob gave drinks. But he told his grieving wife, “Let us wait for the opportunity of being avenged.” His comment was overheard and the streltsy returned to kill him too.
Inside the Kremlin and completely unaware Artemon Matveev was talking to Peter‘s mother Natalya who had Ivan and Peter by her side. The mob entered the internal palace in a swarm. They pulled Matveev away with his hands clinging to the robes of Peter. Prince Michael Cherkassy tried to fight them off. His efforts were futile. Artemon Matveev was pull off and dragged away to be thrown down the stairs onto pikes and chopped to pieces with axes.
Peter, his half brother Ivan and mother were terrified. They huddled together in a corner of the banquet hall. His mother whispered, “Don’t worry they can’t hurt us or it will be treason.” That day the streltsy soldiers ran over the Kremlin and then all of Moscow. Forty people were killed. A dwarf pointed out where Peter’s uncle Athanasius was hiding behind an alter in a church and slit his throat.
Most of the dead were important officers in the military like Gregory Romodansky. Others were in the government like Ivan Maksimovich Yazikov, who was pulled from a church and murdered; or Larion Ivanovich Ivanov, official assistant to the Duma, who was killed along with his son Vasily by the awful mob when they entered his house. But some of those killed were not even remotely related to the government or politics. They killed a foreign doctor named Daniel von Gadena saying he had poisoned Tzar Fyodor. The dead had their remains piled up in Red Square.
That night Peter, his mother Natalya, four remaining uncles, Ivan, Martemyan, Lev and Theodore and his grandfather Cyrill Poluektovich Naryshkin hid together in the bedroom of Peter’s sister. Natalya was eight years old at the time. The next day they all moved to the apartments of Marfa Apraxin. She was the widow of the Tzar Fyodor and was only fourteen at the time at the time of the violence. She hid them in a cellar in the dark and kept them protected from the mob for two days.
The next day they were given notice that uncle Ivan had to be given up to the insane mob. The mob leaders said if the family give him up, the rest of them would be left alone and the crowd would disperse.
In tears Natalya asked her brother what he wanted to do. Ivan agreed to give himself up for the sake of them all. He said his confession and took his last rites. Then he prepared himself to face the mob and put religious icons on covering his body. He went out to meet them holding an icon of the Blessed Virgin.4 They didn’t care. The mob tortured him horribly to get a confession which he would not give. In the end they strung him up with his bones broken and stabbed him repeatedly. His arms and legs were cut off while he was still alive. Then they chopped off his head and killed him.
The mob then had accomplished their mission and began to dissipate. The worst of the riots lasted for three days. Seventy people were killed. Altogether it took 7 days to end the riot completely.
Afterward the streltsy demanded Ivan and Peter rule together. On May 26 1682 they were declared co-Tzar. The three uncles of Peter who were still alive, Martemyan, Lev and Theodore escaped the Kremlin disguised as peasants. Andrei Matveev managed to get out by posing as a groom leading a dwarf named Komar on horseback. But Peter’s grandfather Cyril Poluektovich Naryshkin did not escape. He was captured by the strelsty who forced him to take vows as a monk at the monastery of St. Cyril-Belozersky. He died there. His wife, grandmother to Peter, Anna Leontiev was still alive when he died.
This was the way the Miloslavsky family retained their power. For the first seven years of the reign of Peter, Sophia took over as regent and Peter ruled as co-Tzar with Ivan. Sophia made a double silver throne with an open square behind the co-Tzars so she could tell them what to do and say. She was a good ruler, better than the mother of Peter who followed her as regent. Once she even tried to get herself declared the ruler of Russia, though she was not successful. But she was not good to Peter, and wished him dead.
Peter learned in a single week of terror that a Tzar could not trust his family or the aristocrats.
Thus his childhood ended and the core of his character, a sad understanding of what it meant to be a ruler anywhere, began.