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Ivan the Terrible

Ivan The Terrible

Also: Ivan IV, Ivan Grozny
1530-1584
CZAR OF ALL RUSSIA 1547-1584


Ivan IV, know as Ivan the Terrible, is most known for his brutal ruling, centralised administration of Russia and expantion of the boundaries of the Russian Empire. He was born in Moscow on August 25, 1530, the oldest son of Vasilij III.

Ivan was only three years old when his Father, Vasilij III died. Ivan's Mother, Yelena Glinskaya was leading Boyar (Noble) Family established a regency, but it soon degenerated into intrigue, denuncation and wild violence as rival boyars disputed the dominance of Glinsky Family. Yelena died in 1538 and misrule continued. Ivan had a poor health, he was largely ignored and his education was neglected.

Ivan the Terrible assumed the throne in 1547 at the age of seventeen and immediately proclaimed himself “Tsar” (Czar) , instead of Grand Duke. In the same year Ivan married Anastasia Romanov. When Anastasia died in 1560, he remarried. Among his wives are Marie Tscerkaski (1561) and Maria Sobakina (1571).

Ivan justly deserved his reputation as a tyrant and his reign was peppered with battles with foreign invaders. Kazan was finally wrestled from the grasp of the Tartars in 1552 and St. Basil's Cathedral was built on Red Square to celebrate the occasion. Ivan seized Astrakhan on the Caspian Sea two years later, and having repelled the Tartars completely, he looked west to the Duchy of Livonia, which he invaded despite protests from Poland and Sweden.

Painting by Repin - Ivan the Terrible killing his son In 1560 the Tsar was devastated by the death of his beloved wife Anastasia and turned on his once favored courtiers and nobles, blaming them for her death. Although Ivan abdicated in 1564 in protest, he was urged back to power and began a rule of terror never before seen in Russian history. He divided the country into two clean-cut spheres, the one (the oprichnina) encompassing his personal domain, and the other (the zemshchina) representing the rest. Ivan broke the power of the Muscovite boyars, exiling thousands of them to Siberia, and created a new militia. These hand-picked oprichniki, as he named them, were devoted to his orders and were encouraged to rape, loot, burn, kill and torture in the Tsar's name. They spread terror throughout Russia, culminating in the atrocious massacre of Novgorod in 1569, when as many as 60,000 citizens were tortured to death for supposedly plotting to side with Poland.

In 1571 the Tartars raided Moscow, burning much of the city and taking thousands of citizens away as slaves. Ivan fled to Yaroslavl, where he spent much of his remaining decade in power plotting to usurp the Polish throne. In 1581 a combined Polish and Swedish invasion prompted the Tsar to concede Livonia to the Poles.

In 1582, in an attack of unexplained rage, Ivan had killed his eldest son, Tsarevich Ivan, by striking him with an iron rod. He died on March 18, 1584. Although the transition from Ivan to his son and successor, Feodor I, was relatively easy and quiet, Moscow was, according to most observers, on the verge of anarchy as a result of Ivan The Terrible's policies.



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