Ivan the Terrible

Ivan Vasilyevich or Ivan IV was the first Tsar of All the Russias and Grand Prince of Moscow. He is popularly known as Ivan the Terrible or Ivan the Fearsome for his explosive temper. He conquered the Khanates of Astrakhan, Kazan and Sibir and under his reign Russia had an area of over one billion acres.

He established a centrally administered Russian state and included non-Slav states in his empire. Ivan also led several unsuccessful military campaigns against Sweden and Poland. He was an intelligent and able ruler who was very popular among the masses. Ivan is however; also remembered for his bouts of rage and the harsh treatment he meted out to Russian nobility in the name of establishing discipline in the state.

Ivan the Terrible

Early Life: Ivan was born on September 3, 1530. His father was Vasili III, Grand Prince of Moscow and his mother’s name was Elena Glinskaya, second wife of Vasili. Ivan was only three years old when his father died of frail health. He was appointed Grand Prince of Moscow at the age of three in 1533. His mother acted as regent but she was assassinated in 1538 when Ivan was only eight years old.

The next nine years of his life were difficult as he felt neglected and offended by the clans of warrior caste called ‘Boyars’. These families tried to control the young prince for their own benefits. This instilled a lifelong hatred for Boyars in Ivan’s heart. In 1547, at the age of only sixteen, Ivan became the first Tsar of All the Russias. By assuming the title he tried to send a message to all dissenters that he was now the sole ruler of all the territories.

The Great Fire of Moscow

The very first year of Ivan’s reign was marred by the Great Fire of Moscow. A large part of the city was destroyed by the fire. In his early years as the ruler of Russia, Ivan followed the agenda of reformation and modernization. These early years were peaceful as well. During these years, Ivan revised the code of law and introduced Sudebnik of Ivan, a new code of laws.

what did Ivan the terrible do and Accomplishments

He created a standing army and established a council of nobles called Zemsky Sobor. In 1552 Ivan conquered Khanate of Kazan and in 1556, he invaded Khanate of Astrakhan. In 1553, Ivan ordered establishment of Moscow Print Yard, the first publishing house in Russia.

Ivan launched a military campaign to take control of Livonia (present day Latvia and Estonia) in 1558. The war continued for many years and despite some early success, ended in a defeat for Russia against a joint army of Sweden, Lithuania and Poland. During 1560s, great misfortunes befell Russia.

Wars against Poland and Sweden were lost and marine trade routes were blocked by Swedish flotilla. Famine and drought hit Russian people badly. One of Ivan’s advisors, Andrei Kurbsky defected to join Lithuanians and commanded Lithuanian army against Russians.

Ivan the Terrible Spouse

In 1563, Ivan’s first wife, Anastasia also died which was a great personal loss for him. In 1564, he moved to Aleksandrova Sloboda and wrote a letter to announce his abdication. In his absence Boyars could not control the affairs of state and requested him to reconsider his decision.

Ivan agreed on the condition that he would have absolute power. He then divided Russia in two parts. The part in north was called Oprichnina and Ivan held exclusive power in this territory. The second part was called Zemshchina and was ruled by the Boyar Council. Ivan then treated nobility of Russia very harshly.

How did Ivan the Terrible Die

Ivan died on March 28, 1584 while playing chess with his close friend Bogdan Belsky. Ivan, in a fit of rage, had himself killed his heir apparent and elder son Ivan Ivanovich in 1581.

As a result, after his death he was succeeded by his younger son Feodor, who was not as able and intellectually gifted as his elder brother.

Ivan the Terrible Facts

  • Interestingly Ivan the Terrible became the Crown Prince of Moscow at the young age of three years old. Unfortunately, he spent most of his childhood in prison it wasn’t until his mother passed away that he was able to become the leader of the country.
  • It’s rumored when he was young he liked torturing small animals and generally getting up to mischief. Drinking and having people killed seem to become part of his life at a young age.
  • At 13 years of age, he had his first rival executed.
  • When he was 16 in 1547 he became the Tsar of all Russia.
  • He was the first Tsar in Russian history.
  • His first wife was Anastasia Romanovna who became the first Tsari of Russia
  • He got married in 1547 and had six children Anna, Maria, Dmitry, Ivan, Eudoxia, and Feodor.
  • Unfortunately, Anna and Maria both died before they were one year old and Eudoxia before reaching two.
  • Tragedy didn’t seem to be far away and a boating accident in 1553, unfortunately, led to the eldest son Dmitry drowning.
  • His wife fell ill and passed away in 1563 this led to Ivan the Terrible having an emotional collapse because he was convinced that she had been poisoned by the boyars. Some of them were later tortured to death.
  • On December 15 64 Ivan the Terrible shocked the Russian people by announcing his abdication.
  • The Russian people begged him to come back which he did but he wanted to be the absolute monarch and have the power to do whatever he wanted.
  • He was a very popular leader although he did lots of terrible things many of the lower-class people adored him.