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Ivan IV, "The Terrible", was crowned Russia's first Tsar at the age of 17.

Ivan the Terrible was the fallen angel.
He started as a very wise Tsar and ended as a devil. Ivan IV, "The Terrible" was a cruel tyrant, who never knew the meaning of moderation; he drank too much, laughed too loudly and hated and loved too fiercely.

He took easily offense, and he never forgot any insult, imaginary or not. He was definitely shrewd, and his called name "Grozny", meaning "The Terrible", was very appropriate.

Ivan was only 3 years old when his father died. His uncle Yuri challenged his rights to the throne, was arrested and imprisoned in a dungeon.

Elena Glinskaya, mother of Ivan IVIvan's mother, Elena Glinskaya, assumed power and was regent for five years. She had Ivan's other uncle killed, but a short time afterwards she suddenly died, almost surely poisoned. A week later her confidant, Prince Ivan Obolensky, was arrested and beaten to death by his jailers. While his mother had been indifferent toward Ivan, Obolensky's sister, Agrafena, had been his beloved nurse. Now she was jailed in a convent.

Ivan the TerribleNot yet 8 years old, Ivan was an intelligent, sensitive boy and an insatiable reader. Without Agrafena to look after him, Ivan's loneliness deepened. The boyars alternately neglected or molested him; Ivan and his deaf-mute brother Yuri often went about hungry and threadbare. No one cared about his health or well being and Ivan became a beggar in his own palace.

Ivan was crowned Russia's first Tsar at the age of 17.
Three weeks later he married, having chosen his bride in a national virgin competition. Virgins over the age of twelve were brought to the Kremlin to be paraded before him. He married the youthful Anastasia Zakharina, who charmed him with her beauty and soft femininity.

Ivan at the Usupov Palace.He had lost his virginity at 13; contemporaries say that he had several hundred lovers in the course of those first three years. And now, a week after his marriage, the boyars could not recognize their czar: gone were rough-and-tumble practical jokes with bears and jesters, the obscene songs, the whores who filled every room of the palace ... Ivan was notably courteous and helpful towards the needy. He even released many prisoners from his dungeons. This change was believed to come from the influence of his young wife. Alas, things turned back "to normal" in the third week of his honeymoon.

Anastasia Zakharina, first wife of Ivan IVHis first marriage lasted for 13 years, in the course of which Anastasia, who lived the life of a recluse, bore six children and was the only one person who could hold his cruelty in check. Disease and the never-ending insults of her husband wore the Czarina out, and she died before the age of 30.

Ivan accused his nobles of poisoning her, and became even more mentally unstable. Until recently, most scholars have dismissed Ivan's accusation of murder as evidence of his paranoia. But recent forensic tests on Anastasia's remains have revealed more than ten times the normal levels of mercury in her hair. It is likely, that Anastasia was indeed murdered, sending Ivan into a downward spiral of murder and cruelty.

Ivan the Terrible, Palech lacquer painting.

He set up a bodyguard that has been described as Russia's first 'secret police' - the Oprichniki - as a religious brotherhood sworn to protecting God's Tsar. In reality, they became marauding thugs, ready to commit any crime in the Tsar's name. Ivan sentenced thousands to internal exile in far flung parts of the empire. Others were condemned to death; their families and servants often killed as well. Ivan would give detailed orders about the executions, using biblically inspired tortures to reconstruct the sufferings of hell. Ivan's victims suffered heartless torture. Many were drowned or strangled or flogged to death; some were impaled, others roasted on a spit, still others fried in large skillets.

Ivan the Terrible

Ivan the TerribleHe became famous for torturing and executing thousands of people. More than 3,000 people lost their lives in Ivan's attack on Novgorod alone. Even members of the Russian Orthodox church were not exempt from Ivan IV's executions.

The church had traditionally been a check on the power of the rulers, however when church leaders expressed disagreement with Ivan' IV's policies they were often tortured and executed. Oddly, Ivan IV was a member of the Russian Orthodox church and he offered prayers for those he had executed.

Old Russia. Victor Vasnetsov.

The Orthodox Church allows only three marriages. Yet there was no law for Ivan, and - apart from constant orgies in the Kremlin, with at times 1,000 -1,500 girls - he married not less than six more women.

Shortly after each marriage the bride was exiled to a monastery dungeon, or simply executed, allegedly because of "exceeding whorishness" !!!

During his long rule (1533-1584), Ivan IV expanded the Russian lands and made Russian culture more religious than it had ever been.
He was responsible for centralizing the administration of Russia and expanding the boundaries of the Russian empire. He also established the empire in Siberia and promoted trade with various European countries, including England, France and Holland. He was noted for his highly progressive administrative policies.

He died on March 17th 1584. Before his death, Ivan was re-christened as the monk Jonah and buried in his monk's habit - in the hope of finding ultimate forgiveness.

The movie

The movie "Ivan The Terrible", part I + II of the unfinished trilogy, an epic cinematic portrait of Tsar Ivan IV by Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein was released in 1946. Eisenstein died in 1948 before he could realise the end of his dream.

Ivan the Terrible was first proposed by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who wanted to recuperate the tsar as a great leader and one of his historical forerunners. Many still find it odd that Stalin would chose Ivan IV for this project. Stalin probably assumed that, if Ivan's reputation could be recuperated, his own tyranny would be more accepted.

Great use of the expressionist method by an always inspired Eisenstein who managed to please Stalin and the movie lovers in the same time. A classic.

In 1581, Ivan killed his son Ivan, the successor to the throne, in a fit of rage. Ivan's son had his father's temperment.

One day, Ivan IV walked into the apartment of Ivan (the son) and started criticizing Ivan's seven month pregnant wife about her dress. Ivan was so enraged by her unacceptabe dress, that he started to hit her. His son heard her screaming and ran in. He tried to stop his father. Ivan IV was so furious with his son's actions that he took his taff and struck his son on the head, killing him. Because of his kicks and blows, Ivan's daughter-in-law also lost her child.

In one day, Ivan killed the future Tsar and Tsarvich of Russia. Recognizing this, Ivan was instantly remorseful about his actions, but nothing could be done.

ivan the terrible peter the great  |  nicholas the second  |  anastasia  |  imperial style  |  regalia  |  jewellery    

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