Boris Fedorovitch Godunoff, a czar of Russia, born in 1552, died in 1605. He was a brother-in-law of the czar Feodor I., whose infirmities of body and mind enabled Godunoff to obtain complete control of the government. He aspired to the throne, and had most of his rivals put to death or exiled. Among his victims was Demetrius, the younger brother of Feodor and heir to the crown, who was banished to Uglitch, where he died by violence in 1591. On the death of Feodor, in 1598, Godunotf succeeded to the throne, mainly through the aid of the patriarch of Moscow, the head of the national church. He sought to distinguish his reign by various reforms and by promoting education, and to dazzle the people by magnificent monuments. Great disaffection arose in the empire, and in 1604 a pretender claiming to be Demetrius appeared from Poland at the head of a considerable army. He won a battle at Novgorod, but was signally defeated at Dobrynitche. (See Demetrius.) At this juncture Godunoff suddenly died, and bis death was popularly ascribed to poison administered by himself. His son and successor, Feodor, perished soon after.
Russian historians generally consider Godunoff as a usurper; but the house of Romanoff regard him as a legitimate sovereign.