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Moisture record of the Upper Volga catchment between AD 1430 and 1600 supported by a δ13C tree-ring chronology of archaeological pine timbersInvestigations of interactions between climate change and humans suffer from the lack of climate proxies directly linked to historical or archaeological datasets that describe past environmental conditions at a particular location and time. We present a new set of pine tree-ring records (Pinus sylvestris L) developed from burial timbers excavated at the historical center of Yaroslavl city, Russia. A 171 year delta C-13 tree-ring chronology from AD 1430 to AD 1600 evidences mostly wet summers during the 15th century but exceptionally dry conditions of the 16th century at the Upper Volga catchment. According to the tree-ring record there were four major droughts (<-1.5 sigma) lasting from 9 to 26 years: 1501-1517, 1524-1533, 1542-1555 and 1570-1596, and major pluvials (>+1.5 sigma) lasting from 70 to 5 years: 1430-1500, 1518-1523, 1534-1541, and 1556-1564. We discuss a plausible contribution of these droughts to crop failures and city fires documented with historical chronicles for the Upper Volga catchment. The devastating drought regime of the 16th century corresponds to the loss of independence of the Yaroslavl principality to the Grand Duchy of Moscow and the formation of the centralized Russian State during the reign of Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584) underpinning the emergence of the Russian Empire. This study substantiates the value of archaeological timbers from the oldest Russian cities and inclusion of stable carbon isotope analysis for understanding hydroclimatic regimes across the mid latitudes of East European Plain, and their relationship to the history of Russia. (C) 2016 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.