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During the confusion surrounding the capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, the library of the Byzantine Paleologi Emperors was sent north to Moscow and installed by Ivan III under the Kremlin. The Kremlin was rebuilt in brick to protect this valuable new addition, which was nothing less than the library of the Roman Empire. Following the death of Ivan IV, the location of the library was lost.
As Denis observed right away, no such library is known to exist.
Ivan the Terrible
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Ivan the Terrible, Russian Ivan Grozny, byname of Ivan Vasilyevich, also called Ivan IV, (born August 25, 1530, Kolomenskoye, near Moscow [Russia]—died March 18, 1584, Moscow), grand prince of Moscow (1533–84) and the first to be proclaimed tsar of Russia (from 1547). His reign saw the completion of the construction of a centrally administered Russian state and the creation of an empire that included non-Slav states. Ivan engaged in prolonged and largely unsuccessful wars against Sweden and Poland, and, in seeking to impose military discipline and a centralized administration, he instituted a reign of terror against the hereditary nobility.
What was Ivan the Terrible’s childhood like?
Ivan’s father died when he was three, and his mother died—possibly by poison—before his eighth birthday. Ivan’s formative years would be spent as a pawn in the struggles between rival groups of aristocrats.
What was Ivan the Terrible’s family like?
Ivan had at least six wives—including five in a period of just nine years—and his marriages frequently ended in the poisoning or imprisonment of his spouse. He murdered his son Ivan in a fit of rage and savagely kicked Ivan's pregnant wife, causing her to miscarry. These actions virtually guaranteed the demise of the Rurik dynasty.
How did Ivan the Terrible change the world?
Ivan used terror to centralize the Russian state, and his disastrous involvement in the Livonian War nearly bankrupted his newly established empire. He also promoted the Orthodox Church and oriented Russian foreign policy toward Europe.
Where is Ivan the Terrible buried?
Ivan is interred in the royal crypt at the cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel within the Kremlin in Moscow.
What made Ivan so terrible?
What made Ivan so terrible? How did this Muscovite Prince gain such a reputation that over four hundred years of history never forgot him or his informal namesake? It is said that a picture speaks a thousand words. In the case of Vicktor Vansnetsov’s Portrait of Ivan, painted 313 years after he had died, it is clear that Ivan’s terrible reputation preceded him. Yet by other accounts he was a man who was deeply religious and expanded Russia’s cultural heritage. The Iconic St Basil Cathedral with it’s onion shaped domes was commissioned by Ivan to commemorate key victories in the Russo-Kazan war. He also reformed the legal codes of Russia bringing order to his vast kingdom and expanded Russian influence into Serbia. It was said that Ivan had in his procession ancient Greek and Latin manuscripts in a secret library, some dating back to the very dawn of Christendom and it was widely known that he was a great scholar of history.
Ivan showing off the wonders of the Russian Empire to an english diplomat sent by Elizabeth I
Yet despite his accomplishments he was also known to suffer violent paranoid mood swings. After a near fatal illness and the death of his wife, Anastasia, his behavior became increasingly erratic. Fearing the nobility were plotting against him he instigated a rule of terror through a newly created secret police force which enforced his dictatorial will over the Russian population. In 1570 one of the largest commercial hubs within the Russian Empire, Novgorod, was sacked and it’s inhabitants put to the sword after Ivan believed that the entire population of the town was plotting to overthrow him. Ivan led the attack himself, slaughtering thousands.
Ivan at the bedside of his beloved first wife Anastasia
He then accidentally killed his son, the heir apparent, with a walking stick after a disagreement – he beat him to death as he was in the throws of a violent psychotic episode. It is said that he even had the architects of St Basil blinded, after he feared that they might build a more beautiful cathedral elsewhere.
Ivan in the grips of madness having just beat his son to death after a disagreement
The legacy of Ivan will always be one of controversy. He expanded the Russian Empire and consolidated rule at home through his political and cultural policies. His unstable personality on the other hand meant that he will always be remembered with infamy. Which brings us back to his legendary name, Ivan the Terrible. This too is a source of debate. According to Russian sources, terrible is a translation from the word grozny which more closely translates as ‘ inspiring fear of terror’, ‘threatening’ or ‘awesome’ rather than ‘terrible’. Could it be that his contemporaries actually wanted him remembered as a Tsar who could inspire fear rather than as a Tsar who was terrible? Since his career was so checkered it is difficult to know for sure.
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The Missing Secret Library of Ivan the Terrible
Instead of doing work today, I decided to fall down this really cool historical rabbit hole: the search for Ivan the Terrible's lost library. Also known as the "Golden Library", the collection of manuscripts is thought to contain rare Greek, Latin, Egyptian, and Chinese texts from the Libraries of Constantinople and Alexandria. The collection started in 1472 as a dowry from Princess Sophia Palaiologina, the Byzantine wife of Ivan the Great (Ivan the Terrible's grandfather). The collection is thought to have grown over next century, and it is alleged that Ivan the Terrible secretly had many of the documents translated into Russian. Ivan the Terrible died suddenly in 1584, having never revealed the location of his secret library. Myths have spurted up around the library for centuries since, with many believing that Ivan the Terrible cursed the location, causing those who found it to inexplicably go blind when they were close to finding the library, or that he was using the texts to teach himself black magic to terrorize his subjects.
It's been speculated for centuries that the collection was buried somewhere in the labyrinthian tunnels beneath the Kremlin to protect it from fires and war. Since the death of Ivan the Terrible, treasure hunters, historians, archeologists, and emperors including Peter the Great and Napoleon have continued to searched for the library to no avail. Russian archaeologist Ignatius Stelletskii was granted excavation privileges by the Soviets in 1929, but those efforts were stalled by political tension and the eventual outbreak of WWII. As of the 1990's, efforts were still underway, with the search extended to different courts Ivan used and outlying villages. While it's likely that by this point the books would be quite damaged, the search is still ongoing.
Ivan the Terrible
Born – 25th August 1530 – Kolomenskoye, nr Moscow, Russia
Parents – Vasili III, Elena Grinskaya
Siblings – Yuri
Married – 1. Anastasia Romanovna Zakharina
2. Maria Temrjukovna
3. Marfa Sobakin
4. Anna Koltovski
5. Anna Vasilchikov
6. Vasilisa Melentev
7. Maria Dolgoruki
8. Maria Nagaya
Children – Anna, Maria, Dimitri, Ivan, Eudoxia, Feodor, Vasili, Dimitri,
Died – 18th March 1584
Ivan IV Vasilyevich was born in Russia on 25th August 1530. At the age of 3 he became Grand Prince of Moscow when his father died. His mother acted as regent for the first five years of his reign but then she died and the regency was taken over by family members.
Ivan reached his majority at the age of 16 and was crowned on 16th January 1547. The early years of his reign saw reform of the legal system, the creation of a standing army and reform of local and national government.
St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow was built at his request and legend tells that he was so impressed with the work that he ordered the architect to be made blind so that he could not design anything better.
He introduced laws that would eventually lead to the serfdom of the Russian peasant population.
After the death of his first wife in 1560 Ivan became suspicious of everyone around him, mentally unstable and violent. He married a further 7 times between 1561 and 1581 each wife being either found dead in mysterious circumstances, murdered or sent to a convent
During the later years of his reign Russia was ravaged by war, terror and famine. Ivan became increasingly unstable and violent and in 1581 flew into a rage because his pregnant daughter-in-law was not properly dressed. He beat her and she miscarried. His son then argued with him. This provoked Ivan further and he hit his son with a staff. His son died of his injuries.
Ivan was given the nickname ‘Grozny’ which translates into English as terrible (dangerous, fearsome, creating terror). He died on 18th March 1584 and was succeeded by his son Feodor.
The death of the Tsarevich
Finally, perhaps one of Ivan’s worst actions as head of state was the killing of his son and only heir to the throne, Tsarevich (heir to be) Ivan Ivanovich. The relationship between the two was already strained due to the young Tsarevich’s military ambitions especially evident during the Livonian war where he begged his father for a military contingent to use to relieve the Siege of Pskov, a request denied by the headstrong Tsar.
Ivan’s paranoia would overcome him on 5 November 1581 where during an argument with the Tsarevich about his military ambition’s and the Tsar’s apparent assault of the Tsarevich’s wife he would get violent. In anger, the Tsar struck his son in the temple with his sceptre leaving his only heir to the throne on the floor with blood flowing out of his temple.
The Tsar immediately realised what he had done and collapsed on the floor saying “May I be damned! I’ve killed my son! I’ve killed my son!”. This iconic moment is captured in one of my favourite paintings by Ilya Repin used in this article’s thumbnail. With his last breath the young Tsarevich whispered to his father:
“I die as a devoted son and most humble servant”
With that statement, the Tsarevich fell into a coma from which he would not wake up from. His death was pronounced on 19 November 1581. The Tsarevich’s death also meant the death of the Rurikid dynasty as he was Ivan’s only son. With the Tsarevich’s wife also experiencing a miscarriage due to the Tsar previously assaulting her it meant that the newly formed Tsardom of Russia was left without a concrete heir, paving the way to the Time of Troubles.
The Time of Troubles was the period of interregnum between the death of the last of the Rurikid dynasty, namely Ivan’s successor Feodor I and the takeover of the throne by the Romanov dynasty by Michael I in 1613. This was a time where the country was ripped apart by internal conflict due to the confusion around who should lead the country after Fedor’s death. A conflict purely caused by Ivan’s killing of his son as a result of his rampant paranoia.
Ivan’s title as “the Terrible” has always been contested by historians. With both good and bad coming out of his reign of Russia it is hard to draw a clear conclusion on the legitimacy of this title. Regardless of the conclusion drawn it is evident that Ivan the Terrible played a large role in Russian history and, as an extension, in the history of Europe in general, leaving behind a legacy similar to the one of Stalin. A legacy of brutal autocratic rule.
Why was Ivan so terrible?
Today, the word ‘terrible’ can be used to describe anything from a particularly bad meal to a natural disaster that kills millions of people. Back in the 16th Century when it was a nickname bestowed on the Russian ruler Ivan IV, it specifically meant ‘awe-inspiring’, ‘powerful’ and ‘formidable’. However, if we examine the reign of one of the most paranoid, bloodthirsty and unpredictable men who has ever ruled the country, maybe the modern definition of ‘extremely bad’ isn’t so wide of the mark after all? So, what exactly made Ivan so terrible?
The seeds of the dreadful human being Ivan would become were sewn in his miserable childhood. His father, Vasili the Grand Prince of Moscow, died when Ivan was just three years old and his mother passed away when he was eight. The young prince then became the object of power struggles between various members of the nobility, in particular, the powerful Shuisky and Belesky families. While the royal court descended into a dangerous chaos of murder and intrigue, Ivan and his deaf-mute brother Iurii were treated no better than a couple of street urchins.
Ivan the Terrible
There were times when Ivan and his sibling were left clothed in rags and on the verge of starvation. 'My brother Iurii, of blessed memory, and me they brought up like vagrants and children of the poorest,' Ivan wrote in a letter to his close friend Prince Andrei Kurbsky. 'What have I suffered for want of garments and food!' Being neglected and treated as a political football made Ivan mistrust the nobility: a mistrust would fester into blinding hatred as he grew older. When he became Tsar, his mistreatment would come back to bite the noble families of Ivan’s realm in the most spectacular fashion. However, that was all in the future. Unable to take his frustrations out on his tormentors, Ivan took his anger and resentment out on animals instead, pulling the feathers out of live birds and throwing dogs and cats out of windows.
At the age of thirteen, Ivan finally bared his teeth. The powerful Shuisky family were by this time the de facto rulers of Russia having emerged victorious from their power struggle with the Belskeys to have control over the prince. However, they had not reckoned on the boy they had ignored and abused for so many years. At a feast held in 1453, Ivan accused the most powerful of the Shuiskys, Prince Andrei, of mismanaging the country and had him arrested and put to death. Some say the unfortunate Andrei was torn apart by hungry hunting dogs, though a more credible story is that Andrei’s jailers beat him to death.
Full power was transferred to Ivan on his sixteenth birthday. Two weeks later, he married his first wife, Anastasia. There was nothing particularly terrible about Ivan’s early years on the throne. Indeed, it was a time of relative peace and progress. He introduced reforms that included an update of the penal code introduced by his grandfather, the establishment of a standing army and the introduction of regional self-governance. Ivan also introduced the first printing presses into Russia and ordered the construction of the magnificent St. Basil’s Cathedral following his conquest of the Tartar region of Kazan. There is a story that persists to this day that Ivan was so impressed with the finished cathedral that he had the architect blinded so he could never produce anything so beautiful again. There is no evidence that the blinding ever took place, but it’s a testament to Ivan’s reputation that many are still prepared to believe he was capable of such a vile and uncultured act.
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What tipped Ivan over the edge and turned him from a reasonable ruler into a full-blown tyrant were two events that both took place in 1558 and 1560. The first was the betrayal of his great friend Prince Kurbsky. The nobleman defected to the Lithuanians during Ivan’s ill-fated attempt to conquer the Baltic territory of Livonia in 1558. Kurbsky took charge of the Lithuanian army and, alongside forces from Poland and Sweden, handed Russia a defeat that left Ivan beside himself with fury and more convinced than ever that his country’s nobility was out to get him. The second event was the death of his beloved wife Anastasia in 1560. Ivan was certain that his wife had been poisoned by his enemies. While no evidence could be found of poison at the time, a 20th Century examination of the Tsarina’s bones uncovered unusually high levels of mercury, indicating that the paranoid young monarch might well have been right for once.
Ivan’s initial reaction to the death of his wife and the betrayal of his friend was to remove himself from Moscow to Alexandrov, a town located 120 kilometres northeast of the Russian capital. Here, he wrote two letters signalling his intention to abdicate. His council of noblemen and clergymen attempted to rule in his absence, but when this proved impossible, an envoy was sent to beg Ivan to change his mind. He did so, on the proviso that he be given the right to seize the lands of those who had betrayed him and execute anyone he suspected of treason. The desperate council and clergy agreed to Ivan’s demands. It was to prove a costly mistake.
Favourite execution methods included boiling alive, impalement, being roasted over an open fire or being torn limb
Ivan returned to Moscow and set about separating the country into two administrative areas. One would be ruled by the nobility and the other, named the Oprichnina, would be governed by Ivan himself in any way he saw fit. This, it turned out, involved the torture and execution of the vast majority of his political rivals and pretty much anyone else who got in his way. To police his new territory, Ivan created the Oprichniki. Dressed all in black, the Oprichniki were Ivan’s personal bodyguard and enforcers who roamed the newly created territory doing the Tsar’s bidding. The Oprichniki were given carte blanche to torture and murder anyone Ivan suspected of betrayal. A gang of paid thugs loathed and feared by everyone in the Oprichnina, the Oprichniki rode around with severed dogs’ heads attached to their saddles to symbolise the sniffing out of traitors. It soon became a common sight in the towns and villages of the Oprichnina to see peasants, the middle classes and the high-born fleeing for their lives as word spread that the Oprichniki were in the area.
The Oprichniki were utterly ruthless. Anyone Ivan suspected of disloyalty was tortured and horribly put to death. Favourite execution methods included boiling alive, impalement, being roasted over an open fire or being torn limb from limb by horses. To live in the territory ruled over by Ivan and the Oprichniki was to live in a permanent state of fear, as was amply demonstrated by the terrible fate that fell on Novgorod – Russia’s second-largest city and Moscow’s most powerful rival.
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Convinced that the city’s leaders, clergy and most prominent citizens were conspiring against him, Ivan ordered an assault on the city in 1570. Priests and monks were rounded up and beaten to death while their churches and monasteries were ransacked. Prominent merchants, officials and noblemen were tortured and executed many were roasted alive on specially constructed frying pans. As these poor unfortunates suffered slow and agonising deaths, their wives and children fared no better. They were rounded up, tied up and thrown in the river Volkhov. Any unfortunates who tried to escape were pushed under the icy waters and drowned by soldiers armed with boat hooks, spears and axes.
It would take centuries for Novgorod to fully recover from the attack
Merchants lower down the social ladder were targeted by the Oprichniki, who were ordered to seize all profitable goods and destroy storehouses and shops. Anyone who attempted to resist was killed, as indeed were many who offered no resistance. The poor fared no better. The city was full of destitute peasants looking for work as a result of a series of famines that had occurred in the region over the previous few years. Along with the evicted merchants and their families, these poor souls were thrown out of the city and left to freeze and starve to death in the harsh Russian winter.
All in all, the orgy of bloodshed and destruction visited on Novgorod resulted in the deaths of an estimated 12,000 of its citizens. With its administrative and religious structures destroyed, its prominent citizens executed, its commercial centre a gutted shell and most of its wealth stolen, the city was so decimated by the attack that it ceased to be Russia’s second city. Most of what remained of its population fled the ruins for a better life elsewhere. It would take centuries for Novgorod to fully recover from the attack, and it would never again be a rival to Moscow. Novgorod was just one of many examples of Ivan’s merciless approach to conquest. He was very much 'a sack the city and kill everyone in it' kind of man throughout the long years of his brutal rule.
Nobody, not even his own family, was safe from Ivan the Terrible.
The massacre of Novgorod proved to be the last moment in the sun for the hated Oprichniki. Ivan’s crushing paranoia had already led him to begin to suspect its leaders of conspiring against him before the sacking of the city, and an attack on Moscow by the Tartars that the Oprichniki failed to repel convinced Ivan that they were not as loyal as they professed to be. The organisation was disbanded and many of its leaders were executed in 1571. The Oprichnina region itself was abolished in 1572, after which it became an offence punishable by death even to mention the word.
Ivan’s constant warmongering, brutalising of his own population, attacks on the clergy, nobility and middle classes, torturing and executing of anyone he felt was against him and raiding of the nation’s wealth eventually brought the Russian economy to its knees, and things did not improve as Ivan aged and his mental health deteriorated even further. One of the last brutal acts of his reign occurred in 1581 when, upon encountering his heavily pregnant daughter-in-law in a state of undress, he beat her so severely that she miscarried. On hearing the news of the loss of his unborn child, Ivan’s second son confronted his father. Ivan, who always carried a sharpened baton around which he used to to beat anyone who displeased him, hit his son over the head so hard that he collapsed and died several days later. Nobody, not even his own family, was safe from Ivan the Terrible.
Ivan died from a stroke while playing chess with a close friend in 1584 at the age of fifty-three. His kingdom passed to his middle son, a feeble-minded fool called Feodor who died childless in 1598, plunging Russia into a period of lawlessness and anarchy that came to be known as the ‘Time of Troubles’.
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From butchering his subjects to slaughtering the citizens of the towns and cities he conquered to the killing of his own son, Ivan was terrible in both the old and new definition of the word. He had started as a reasonable ruler, but his escalating paranoia and the deterioration of his mental health from 1558 onwards turned him into a monstrous tyrant who left death, destruction and economic ruin in his wake. Yes, Ivan the Terrible truly was as terrible as his nickname suggests.
Photo, Print, Drawing Ivan the Terrible
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It is still useful to discuss how false identification testimonies arose. Here it should be noted that we have an intersection of two problems at once here: the false memory problem, which was largely unrecognized at the time (cf. Satanic panic), and the very problematic area of visual identification, especially identification after decades after the fact.
One of the leading experts in false memory research, Elizabeth Loftus, chose not to testify for the defense (she explained that due to her Jewish background the personal cost would be too high for her), but she recommended her acquaintance, the memory expert Willem Wagenaar to testify in Jerusalem. He did, and then wrote a meticulously detailed study of witness identifications in the case, identifying Ivan. A case study in legal psychology (1988, Harvard University Press), a detailed summary of which with numerous quotes you can read in the appendix at the last link.
Basically, there were only 9 survivors who claimed to recognize Demjanjuk during the official interrogations. Whereas there were at least 15 (including one survivor who lived in the camp the longest, knew Ivan well, and was forced to help to build the gas chambers) who either did not recognize Demjanjuk or said he was not Ivan.
The first two witnesses who testified in May of 1976, Turowski and Goldfarb, did not recognize Demjanjuk at first. The third witness to testify in May, Rosenberg, said the face was familiar but literally “declined” to “identify with certainty”.
All other witnesses were interrogated from September 1976 on, which is significant, since on each August 2, the day of the uprising, the Treblinka survivors in Israel used to meet in Tel Aviv and there’s no chance the shocking “discovery” that Ivan was alive was not discussed there. All the subsequent positive identifications came from the Israeli survivors.
The fourth positive witness, Czarny, failed to identify Demjanjuk on the first try. Boraks and Lindwasser identified him with certainty. Epstein used phrases like “this is how I remember him”, “reminds me very strongly of” – so no certainty, and he also falsely identified Nikolay (Shaleyev) on an unrelated photo. Levkowitch made a positive identification, Rajchman took half an hour to reach the conclusion of “fairly certain”.
So only three witnesses – Boraks, Levkowitch and Lindwasser – identified Demjanjuk immediately and with certainty. Unfortunately, their testimonies cannot be shown to be independent since they were late and it had to be investigated what they knew before their identifications from the other survivors.
However Levkowitch did not testify during the trial (her testimony was withdrawn), Lindwasser died before it and Boraks’ memory more or less completely failed him during the trial, so the issue remained uninvestigated – but most probably their testimonies were not independent of those of Turowski, Goldfarb, and Rosenberg. Due to deaths and for other reasons only 5 witnesses testified in the Jerusalem court (Rosenberg, Czarny, Boraks, Epstein, and Rajchman).
During the trial itself the witnesses who were either not completely sure during the first identification sessions or did not recognize him at all at first, suddenly claimed they recognize him with complete and utter certainty. Which only shows that such confidence is not worth much. They simply convinced themselves with the time that they got the right man (and Wagenaar explains the psychological mechanisms of it happening).
Aside from the problems with the witnesses themselves, there were huge problems with identification procedures which were irredeemably flawed (due to the investigators either completely untrained or inadequately trained in such procedures). The photo spreads were completely wrong and biased (e.g. there was no one remotely resembling Demjanjuk among the foils, which made him stand out), the investigators were leading the witnesses, different albums with the same person we’re shown to the same witnesses (a no-no), the issue of the independence of the identifications was not even touched upon, the crucial negative results were not systematically gathered, and so on.
We have to say it directly: anyone still relying on these completely flawed and false memories has no clue whatsoever, which is not to blame survivors themselves, who were also victims in this case. If the blame has to be apportioned, we’d say the investigators would be the culprits (but even then apparently not due to evil intent but rather due to ignorance).
Plus even if we didn’t have the rich documentary and testimonial evidence that proves conclusively that Demjanjuk was not Ivan the Terrible, the flawed identification results had to be thrown away and that alone would have destroyed the first case against Demjanjuk. So the first instance court is also to blame – for sentencing a man to death based entirely on obviously flawed evidence.
But, in the end, who was Ivan Demjanjuk? He was a guard in the extermination camp Sobibor (and also at Majdanek and Flossenbürg). He was sentenced in a German court for being an accomplice to the murder of about 28,000 Jews that were killed in the camp in the months he served there (though, darkly ironically, due to him dying before the appeals process took place he is formally innocent according to the German law).
Due to the rotation of posts he probably, at some point, directly took part in the unloading of the transports and driving the Jews into the gas chambers, though we don’t have specific evidence for specific cases. This was also confirmed by the Wachmann Ignat Danilchenko, whose statement the court found credible after close analysis.
August 25, 2017, marks the 487th anniversary of the birth of Tsar Ivan IV Vasilyevich (1530—1584), whose character and acts earned him the name of Grozny. A lot of documents and materials that tell about a situation in which all contradictions of this historical person were growing ripe, and reflecting the spiritual growth and firmness in carrying out the necessary transformations in Russia have been collected in the Presidential Library stock. This is, in particular, a historical essay entitled Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich Grozny (1868), an electronic copy of which is available on the Presidential Library website, public video lecturing The epoch and a personality of Ivan the Terrible by Vyacheslav Shaposhnik, PhD in Historical Sciences, and other electronic materials of the Presidential Library.
Born in 1530, Ivan Vasilyevich was the eldest son of the Grand Duke of Moscow Vasily III and Elena Glinskaya. Three years later his father died, and the three-year-old Ivan became ruler of Russia. Under the will of Basil III until the age of 17, the boy had to remain in the custody of boyars, who in their own way were implementing this order, trying to get from this guardianship a “strategic,” as they assumed, benefit. Later, Ivan IV recalled the boyar’s foster care: “What a great need in clothes and food did we have to withstand with my brother George,” — as it articulated in a book by Nikolai Firsov entitled “Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich Grozny” (1892) from the Presidential Library fund.
In Nikolai Fomin's book of 1834, A notable marriage of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, it is said: “The character of Tsar Ivan the Terrible belongs to the number of those few characters that nature seems to appoint to revile its strength in them. Born in an unenlightened century, among the rude people, alien to education, still standing on the first stage of civil society, he showed extraordinary abilities in the wise science of governing, and, perhaps, would deprive Peter of his fame of being the first Sovereign in Russia, if the fate, to our misfortune, did not connect all possible circumstances to entice him from the path of immortality: he became a tyrant.”
The guardians of the young prince, the boyars of Shuysky, “confronted him with only disastrous thoughts about his strength, power, indulged his cruel inclinations, fulfilled all the whims, hoping to gain the favor of the future Sovereign… They wanted Ivan, forgetting their insolence, to remember only the indulgences Ivan, on the contrary, forgot all the pleasing and remembered only frustrations,” — according to a historical essay of 1868 Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich Grozny.
In 1547, a solemn coronation of Ivan Vasilyevich for the tsardom took place in the Assumption Cathedral, from now on at his own proposition he became “Tsar of all Russia”. In the same year, Moscow was overwhelmed by the largest fires, which almost incinerated the entire city. Wearing a crown Ivan seriously thought about how to properly manage his people, to protect them from any hardship and wars. He decided, apart from just collectively, to rule inviting people from all Russian zemsky (i. e. territorial) settlements.
It was from this year that the Zemsky Sobor began assembling. Detailed information about the first veche (assembly) of the entire Russian land could be found in the above-mentioned essay of 1868 Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich Grozny: “Elected from all Russian cities and from all classes of society gathered in Moscow. Tsar opened Zemsky Sobor with his speech: “The people of God… be generous! It is impossible now to correct the past evil, I can only save you from such harassment and robbery from now on. Forget all that does not exist any more and will never happen again!” That way, under Ivan IV in old Russia the prototype of future civil society came into view.
The contribution of Ivan the Terrible to the development of the Russian state is great. During his reign, in addition to conquering the Kazan and Astrakhan khanates, Western Siberia, Bashkiria, and the lands of the Nogai Horde were annexed to the Russian state. In memory of the conquest of the Kazan Khanate in 1555, Tsar ordered to build in Moscow a church with the nine domes, which remained to the present time and is known under the name of the Cathedral of Intercession of the Virgin (Pokrovsky Cathedral) or the Church of St. Basil the Blessed.
In addition, the reforms in the military service, the judicial system and public administration, including the introduction of elements of self-governing at the local level, were carried out. Book printing began in Russia, the history of which is told in the digitized copy of a book by Mikhail Schelkunov about The history, technology, and the art of printing (1926).
In Robert Wipper's book entitled Ivan the Terrible (1922), an electronic copy of which is available on the Presidential Library website, we can read about him: “Ivan the Terrible, a contemporary of Elizabeth of England, Philip II of Spain and William III of England (Prince Orange), has to solve military, administrative and international tasks, similar with the goals of the creators of the new European powers, but in a more difficult situation: with his diplomatic and organization talents, he, perhaps, exceeds all of them.”