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Boris Godunov began his career of court service under tsar Ivan the Terrible, became virtual ruler of Muscovy during the reign of Ivan's imbecile son Fedor (1584-1598). In 1598 Fedor died without an heir, ending the Rurik Dynasty. Boris Godunov then convened a zemskiy sobor, a national assembly of boyars, church officials, and commoners, which proclaimed him tsar on January 6, 1598. He conducted a successful war against Sweden (1590-1595), promoted foreign trade, and dealt ruthlessly with those boyar families which opposed him. In 1604 boyar animosity combined with popular dissatisfaction ushered in the 'Time of Troubles' - a confused eight-year dynastic and political crisis. Boris Godunov died suddenly in 1605.
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Boris Godunov is also the title of Modest Mussorgsky's opera, written in 1868 and revised in 1871 and 1873. See Boris Godunov (opera).
Boris Godunov is also the title of a play by Aleksandr Pushkin.