|Tsar Šćepan Mali|
BackgroundIn 1762, the Russian Tsarina, Catherine II, had her husband, Tsar Peter III, murdered. There were many witnesses to this crime and there was no doubt that the murder actually occurred.
Rise to Power
Despite the obvious reality behind the murder, a Serbian farmer, known as Šćepan Mali, or Steven the Little, walked into the Balkan state of Montenegro and claimed to be Tsar Peter III. Steven claimed that he had escaped the assassins of Catherine II and had run away from Russia to Montenegro. No one really knows if the Montenegrin people really believed Steven or just went with his plan, but they kicked out the current ruler of Montenegro, and put Steven into his position. Steven became the ruler of the Council of Nobles of Montenegro. Surprisingly, Steven the Little was one of the best rulers that Montenegro had ever seen. Steven brought internal stability to Montenegro, uniting the warring factions within the nation. He also organized Montenegro's first national census, improved the Montenegrin road network, and created a central police force. Steven was also able to bring the Balkan nations into a state of peace, which is pretty amazing, considering that the Balkans are never at peace.
Dealing with the Russians
Steven, of course, had to deal with the reality that some people, namely the Russians, knew for a fact that Tsar Peter III was dead. Tsarina Catherine II sent a group of nobles to Montenegro to declare that Steven the Little was not Peter III. Steven, instead of arguing with these nobles, welcomed them with open arms and gave them drinks and women. When the Russian nobles left, they had not punished Steven in any way and did not declare anything about Steven not being Tsar Peter III.
Dealing with the Ottomans
Now, if you look at Ottoman-Turkish history, you can clearly see that they do not like Russians. There have been so many battles between the two nations that historians have simply stopped naming them, so if you're the Sultan of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, and you hear that the Tsar you thought was dead is actually sitting in a nation that's right on your doorstep, you'd probably not be to happy, so the Ottomans went to war with Montenegro. The Ottomans marched on Montenegro with 60,000 soldiers armed with muskets and canons. When Steven heard about this army, he formed a volunteer army of about 10,000 citizen-soldiers armed with pitchforks and any makeshift weapons they could find. After a day of fighting, the Montenegrin army was in pretty bad shape, but somehow, the Montenegrins were able to force the Ottomans back. Steven became the hero of Eastern Europe and the Christendom, saving both from the terror that was the Ottoman Empire. This heroism solidified Steven's position as the ruler of Montenegro.
Steven the Little died on September 22nd, 1773 when he was strangled in his sleep by his personal barber. It turned out that the barber had been payed off by the Turks. Steven the Little is on our list of people because he pulled off what is arguably the biggest con in history.