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
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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 "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.