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Treasures of the Smuta. Coins from the times of Ivan The Terrible and Boris Godunov found in Staraya Ladoga


Archeologists from St. Petersburg have stumbled upon a treasure chest from the times of Boris Godunov. The historic discovery was made during a search through the Tainichnaya Tower at Staraya Ladoga. Alexander Brius was totally fine with counting someone else’s coins.


Coins with St. George, quarters and halves. Some bear distinctive signs and stamps of certain rulers. The great Prince Boris – meaning Godunov, Ivan the Tsar – talking about Ivan the Terrible. The treasure from the Smuta epoch has been discovered by archeologists at the Staroya Ladoga’s fortress.   

116 silver coins is a hefty sum, just about a full ruble. You could buy a cow with it, while the annual salary of a bowman was only 5 times more. Unclear whether the treasure was found in a sack or a wooden box, but it seems to have belonged to someone from the garrison. It will be hard to establish the proprietor, but there are many guesses. Scientists are sure these go back to 1610. Those were the times of the Livonian war and advances by the Swedish troops on this very fortress. 

Natalya Grigoryeva, deputy head of archeological expedition: “People here expected major upheavals, so they were eager to hide their valuables. There are two churches in the inner yard of the fortress. This may have belonged to the church’s funds”

Alexander Brius, reporter: “The alleged owner of the coins used these stairs to go down the Tainichnaya Tower right before the Swedish attack. Some believe these massive stairs led straight to an underground passage which led to the water. That’s where – in one of the walls – the silver treasure was found. Archeologists believe it may have belonged to a royal deserter. He was hiding his belongings with haste, only slightly covering it with dirt”

Vladimir Lapshin, director of IIMK RAS: “Judging by the fact that the treasure stayed here, its owner must have perished – in that attack or later”

Vladimir Lapshin – head of expedition to Staraya Ladoga – made his first treasure discovery back in his student days. Now he’s in charge of hundreds of young archeologists – digging for the sake of history. One of them – a student from Simferopol – found the coins and created a sensation with a simple brush in his hand. Then he got off shift and went home ranked as a hero. Such luck serves as motivation for many other still in the field.

Veronica Khalinova, member of archeological expedition: “Everyone dreamt of finding it. And I think this inspires everyone, not just me”

The expedition at Staraya Ladoga has existed for more than 40 years. Every year dozens of bits of tapestry and weaponry are uncovered from beneath. But this has been the first find of its type here. At the end of spring, after detailed research, the silver treasure will be handed over to a local museum. By the year 2020 the Tainichnaya Tower will be fully restored. So will the entire complex.