Ivan the Terrible Coronated as Tsar, 1547

How is it that I have gone this long without a single post about Russian history? I need to remedy this immediately!

So, without further ado, on this day in 1547, Ivan IV Vasilyevich was coronated. Ivan IV is best known by his nickname Ivan the Terrible because he was… well… terrible.

Ivan the Terrible looking quite menacing, via

Before Ivan became  “terrible,” he was born on August 25, 1530 in Kolomenskoye, Grand Duchy of Muscovy, Russia. Ivan IV was the grandson of Ivan the Great and the son of  Vasili III, the current Grand Prince of Moscow. When Ivan IV was only 3 years old, Vasili III died. As per his father’s request, Ivan IV was named the new Grand Prince of Moscow. His mother served as his regent until he was 8 years old, and she died from what is speculated to be an assassination through poison. Ivan IV was neglected as a child, and he filled his time by torturing animals and reading (he possessed a terrifying mix of intelligence and mental illness).

On January 16th, 1547, when Ivan IV was only 16 years old, he became the first official “Tsar of All the Russias.” His grandfather Ivan the Great , though called a Grand Prince of Moscow, acted like a tsar because he gathered Russia’s lands and created the basis for a Russian state. Ivan IV was really just the first ruler in Russia with the title tsar.

Ivan IV had “Great” shoes to fill (see what I did there?). His successes include significantly expanding medieval Russia into a growing empire and centralizing the Russian government. Furthermore, Ivan IV decreased the abuse of power of the nobility, or boyar class. However, the way he achieved this was quite-for lack of a better word- terrible.

In 1560, Ivan IV began his Reign of Terror which helped him earn his nickname, Ivan the Terrible. In this year, Ivan IV’s first wife died, and he suspected that the boyars– whom he already despised- were responsible. During his Reign of Terror, Ivan IV destroyed much of the boyar class, massacred 60,000 citizens of Novgorad because he suspected them of treason, and ordered mass public executions in Moscow, among other awful acts.

During this time of extreme paranoia, Ivan the Terrible beat his pregnant daughter-in-law because he believed she was dressed immodestly, thus causing her to miscarry. When Ivan’s son confronted him about it, Ivan fatally beat his son- the only of his three sons who was considered fit to be his heir.

Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan by Ilya Repin, via

On March 18, 1584, Ivan the Terrible died of a heart attack during a game of chess. Ivan left behind the Russian empire to his feeble-minded son Feodor, who led the country into the Time of Troubles.

Ivan the Terrible is known for expanding Russia and centralizing the government, but also for his paranoia and outbursts of rage. He was a very complex man and fascinating to study because he is enshrouded in so much mystery.

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