Ivan IV of Russia

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"Ivan the Terrible" redirects here. For other uses, see Ivan the Terrible (disambiguation).
Image:Vasnetsov Ioann 4.jpg
Tsar Ivan the Terrible, by Viktor Vasnetsov.

Ivan IV Vasilyevich (Russian: Иван IV Васильевич) (August 25, 1530, Moscow – March 18, 1584, Moscow) was the Grand Duke of Muscovy from 1533 to 1547 and was the first ruler of Russia to assume the title of tsar. His long reign saw the conquest of Tartary and Siberia and subsequent transformation of Russia into a multiethnic and multiconfessional state. This tsar retains his place in the Russian tradition simply as Ivan Grozny (Russian: Ива́н Гро́зный which translates into English as Ivan the Fearsome or 'Thunderous', listen ). He is commonly referred to in English as Ivan the Terrible.


[edit] Early reign

Ivan (or Ioann, as his name is rendered in Church Slavonic) was a long-awaited son of Vasili III. Upon his father's death, he formally came to the throne at the age of three, but his minority was dominated by regents. Initially his mother Elena Glinskaya acted as regent, but she died when Ivan was only eight. She was replaced as regent by boyars from the Shuisky family until Ivan assumed power in 1544. According to his own letters, Ivan customarily felt neglected and offended by the mighty boyars from the Shuisky and Belsky families. These traumatic experiences may have contributed to his hatred of the boyars and to his mental instability. He was known to throw cats and dogs out of the Kremlin windows, among other cruel acts.
Image:Ivans ivory throne.jpg
Ivory throne of Ivan the Terrible.

Ivan was crowned tsar with Monomakh's Cap at the Cathedral of the Dormition at age sixteen on January 16 1547. Despite calamities triggered by the Great Fire of 1547, the early part of his reign was one of peaceful reforms and modernization. Ivan revised the law code (known as the sudebnik), created a standing army (the streltsy), established the Zemsky Sobor, the council of the nobles (known as the Chosen Council), and confirmed the position of the Church with the Council of the Hundred Chapters, which unified the rituals and ecclesiastical regulations of the entire country. He introduced the local self-management in rural regions, mainly in the Northeast of Russia, populated by the state peasantry. During his reign the first printing press was introduced to Russia (although the first Russian printers Ivan Fedorov and Pyotr Mstislavets had to flee from Moscow to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania).

In 1547 Hans Schlitte, the agent of tsar Ivan, employed handicraftsmen in Germany for work in Russia. However all these handicraftsmen were arrested in Lübeck at the request of Poland and Livonia. The German merchant companies ignored the new port built by tsar Ivan on the river Narva in 1550 and delivered the goods still in the Baltic ports owned by Livonia. Russia remained isolated from sea trade.

Ivan formed new trading connections, opening up the White Sea and the port of Arkhangelsk to the Muscovy Company of English merchants. In 1552 he defeated the Kazan Khanate, whose armies had repeatedly devastated the Northeast of Russia <ref>Russian chronicles record about forty attacks of Kazan Khans on the Russian territories (mainly the regions of Nizhniy Novgorod, Murom, Vyatka, Vladimir, Kostroma, and Galich) in the first half of the 16th century. In 1521, the combined forces of Khan Muhamed Giray and his Crimean allies attacked Muscovy and captured more than 150,000 slaves. The Full Collection of the Russian Annals, vol.13, SPb, 1904</ref>, and annexed its territory. In 1556, he annexed the Astrakhan Khanate and destroyed the largest slave market on the river Volga. These gains of tsar complicated the migration of aggressive nomadic hordes from Asia to Europe through Volga and transformed Russia into a multinational and multiconfessional state. He had St. Basil's Cathedral constructed in Moscow to commemorate the seizure of Kazan. Legend has it that he was so impressed with the structure that he had the architects blinded, so that they could never design anything as beautiful again.

Ivan married 7 times, sometimes divorcing his wife a week after the marriage.

Other less positive aspects of this period include the introduction of the first laws restricting the mobility of the peasants, which would eventually lead to serfdom. The dramatic change in Ivan's personality is traditionally linked to his near-fatal illness in 1553 and the death of his first wife, Anastasia Romanovna. Ivan suspected boyars of poisoning his wife and of plotting to replace him on the throne with his cousin, Vladimir of Staritsa. In addition, during that illness Ivan had asked the boyars to swear an oath of allegiance to his eldest son, an infant at the time. Many boyars refused, deeming the tsar's health too hopeless to survive. This angered Ivan and added to his distrust of the boyars. There followed brutal reprisals and murders of innocent people, including Metropolitan Philip and Prince Alexander Gorbatyi-Shuisky.

Also problematic was the 1565 formation of the Oprichnina. The Oprichnina was the section of Russia (mainly the Northeast) directly ruled by Ivan and policed by his personal servicemen, the Oprichniki. This whole system of Oprichnina has been viewed by some historians as a tool against the omnipotent hereditary nobility of Russia (boyars) who opposed the absolutist drive of the tsar, while others have interpreted it as a sign of the paranoia and mental deterioration of the tsar.

[edit] Later reign

The latter half of Ivan's reign was far less successful. Although Khan Devlet I Giray of Crimea repeatedly devastated Moscow region and even set Moscow on fire in 1571, the tsar supported Yermak's conquest of Tatar Siberia, adopting a policy of empire-building, which led him to launch a victorious war of seaward expansion to the west, only to find himself fighting the Swedes, Lithuanians, Poles, and the Livonian Teutonic Knights.

For twenty-four years the Livonian War dragged on, damaging the Russian economy and military but winning Russia no territory. In the 1560s the combination of drought and famine, Polish-Lithuanian raids, Tatar attacks, and the sea-trading blockade carried out by the Swedes, Poles and the Hanseatic League devastated Russia. The price of grain increased by a factor of ten. Epidemics of the plague killed 10,000 in Novgorod. In 1570 the plague killed 600-1000 in Moscow daily. <ref>R.Skrynnikov, "Ivan Grosny", M., AST, 2001</ref>. Ivan's closest advisor, Prince Andrei Kurbsky, defected to the Lithuanians, headed the Lithuanian troops and devastated the Russian region of Velikie Luki. This treachery deeply hurt Ivan. As the Oprichnina continued, Ivan became mentally unstable and physically disabled. In one week, he could easily pass from the most depraved orgies to prayers and fasting in a remote northern monastery.
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Ivan the Terrible killing his son by Ilya Repin

Because he gradually grew unbalanced and violent, the Oprichniks under Malyuta Skuratov soon got out of hand and became murderous thugs. They massacred nobles and peasants, and conscripted men to fight the war in Livonia. Depopulation and famine ensued. What had been by far the richest area of Russia became the poorest. In a dispute with the wealthy city of Novgorod, Ivan ordered the Oprichniks to murder inhabitants of this city, which was never to regain its former prosperity. Between thirty and forty thousand might have been killed during the infamous Massacre of Novgorod in 1570; many others were deported elsewhere.<ref>According to the Third Novgorod Chronicle, the massacre lasted for five weeks. Almost every day 500 or 600 people were killed or drowned. The First Pskov Chronicle estimates the number of victims at 60,000. These sources are not impartial, however.</ref> Yet the official death toll named 1,500 of Novgorod big people (nobility) and only mentioned about the same number of smaller people. Many modern researchers estimate number of victims between two and three thousand. (After the famine and epidemics of 1560s the population of Novgorod did not exceed 10,000-20,000.) <ref> Having investigated the report of Maljuta Skuratov and commemoration lists (sinodiki), R. Skrynnikov considers, that the number of victims was 2,000-3,000. (Skrynnikov R. G., "Ivan Grosny", M., AST, 2001) </ref>

In 1581, Ivan beat his pregnant daughter-in-law for wearing immodest clothing, causing a miscarriage. His son, also named Ivan, upon learning of this, engaged in a heated argument with his father, which resulted in Ivan striking his son in the head with his pointed staff, causing his son's (accidental) death. This event is depicted in the famous painting by Ilya Repin, Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan on Friday, November 16, 1581 better known as Ivan the Terrible killing his son.

[edit] Death and legacy

Ivan's murder of his son brought about the extinction of the Rurik Dynasty and the Time of Troubles.

Although it is thought by many that Ivan died while setting up a chess board, it is more likely that he died while playing with little boys along with Bogdan Belsky on March 18 1584. When Ivan's tomb was opened during renovations in the 1960s, his remains were examined and discovered to contain very high amounts of mercury, indicating a high probability that he was poisoned. Modern suspicion falls on his advisors Belsky and Boris Godunov (who became tsar in 1598). Three days earlier, Ivan had allegedly attempted to rape Irina, Godunov's sister and Fyodor's wife. Her cries attracted Godunov and Belsky to the noise, whereupon Ivan let Irina go, but Belski and Godunov considered themselves marked for death. The tradition says that they either poisoned or strangled Ivan in fear for their own lives. The mercury found in Ivan's remains may also be related to treatment for syphilis, which it is speculated that Ivan had. Upon Ivan's death, the ravaged kingdom was left to his unfit and childless son Feodor.

[edit] Epistles

D.S. Mirsky called Ivan "a pamphleteer of genius". His epistles are the masterpieces of old Russian (perhaps all Russian) political journalism. They may be too full of texts from the Scriptures and the Fathers, and their Church Slavonic is not always correct. But they are full of cruel irony, expressed in pointedly forcible terms.
Image:LebedevKV CarIvan4GrozPrMI.jpg
Ivan's repentance: he asks a father superior of the Pskovo-Pechorsky Monastery to let him take the tonsure at his monastery.

The shameless bully and the great polemicist are seen together in a flash when he taunts runaway Kurbsky with the question: "If you are so sure of your righteousness, why did you run away and not prefer martyrdom at my hands?" Such strokes were well calculated to drive his correspondent into a rage. "The part of the cruel tyrant elaborately upbraiding an escaped victim while he continues torturing those in his reach may be detestable, but Ivan plays it with truly Shakespearian breadth of imagination".<ref>D.S. Mirsky. A History of Russian Literature. Northwestern University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8101-1679-0. Page 21.</ref>.

Besides his letters to Kurbsky he wrote other satirical invectives to men in his power. The best is his letter to the abbot of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, where he pours out all the poison of his grim irony on the unascetic life of the boyars, shorn monks, and those exiled by his order. His picture of their luxurious life in the citadel of ascetism is a masterpiece of trenchant sarcasm.

[edit] Sobriquet

The English word terrible is usually used to translate the Russian word grozny in Ivan's nickname, but the modern English usage of terrible, with a pejorative connotation of bad or evil, does not precisely represent the intended meaning. Grozny's meaning is closer to the original usage of terrible—inspiring fear or terror, dangerous (as in Old English in one's danger), formidable, threatening, or awesome. Perhaps a translation closer to the intended sense would be Ivan the Fearsome. (Compare the city name Grozny.) The Russian people gave Ivan this nickname after he seized Kazan.

Preceded by:
Vasili III
Grand Prince of Muscovy
Succeeded by:
became Tsar
Preceded by:
Tsar of Russia
Succeeded by:
Feodor I

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes


[edit] References

  • Bobrick, Benson. Ivan the Terrible. Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 1990 (hardcover, ISBN 0-86241-288-9).
  • Madariaga, Isabel de. Ivan the Terrible. First Tsar of Russia. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2005 (hardcover, ISBN 0-300-09757-3); 2006 (paperback, ISBN 0-300-11973-9).
  • Payne, Robert; Romanoff, Nikita. Ivan the Terrible. Lanham, MD: Cooper Square Press, 2002 (paperback, ISBN 0-8154-1229-0).
  • Troyat, Henri. Ivan the Terrible. New York: Buccaneer Books, 1988 (hardcover, ISBN 0-88029-207-5); London: Phoenix Press, 2001 (paperback, ISBN 1-84212-419-6).
  • Ivan IV, World Book Inc, 2000. World Book Encyclopedia.

[edit] Further reading

  • Cherniavsky, Michael. "Ivan the Terrible as Renaissance Prince", Slavic Review, Vol. 27, No. 2. (Jun., 1968), pp. 195–211.
  • Hunt, Priscilla. "Ivan IV's Personal Mythology of Kingship", Slavic Review, Vol. 52, No. 4. (Winter, 1993), pp. 769–809.
  • Perrie, Maureen. The Image of Ivan the Terrible in Russian Folklore (Cambridge Studies in Oral and Literate Culture; 14). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987 (hardcover, ISBN 0-521-33075-0); 2002 (paperback, ISBN 0-521-89100-0).
  • Perrie, Maureen. The Cult of Ivan the Terrible in Stalin's Russia (Studies in Russian and Eastern European History and Society) . New York: Palgrave, 2001 (hardcopy, ISBN 0-333-65684-9).
  • Perrie, Maureen; Pavlov, Andrei. Ivan the Terrible (Profiles in Power). Harlow, UK: Longman, 2003 (paperback, ISBN 0-582-09948-X).
  • Platt, Kevin M.F.; Brandenberger, David. "Terribly Romantic, Terribly Progressive, or Terribly Tragic: Rehabilitating Ivan IV under I.V. Stalin", Russian Review, Vol. 58, No. 4. (Oct., 1999), pp. 635–654.

[edit] External links

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Ivan IV of Russia

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