Ivan The Terrible
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We have all heard stories of Ivan the Terrible the Russian Tsar known for torture. There exists a plethora of books concerning his days in Russia. Many are not worth the paper they are written on and give a very narrow description of the events of the time. One such book is I just finished reading it called Ivan The Terrible by Henri Troyat, a Frenchman. Save yourself some time and don’t bother with it. The conclusions he jumps to are beyond belief.
Ivan’s father died when he was aged five. The Boyars around him treated him like dirt and were constantly engaged in plots to usurp the throne from him before he came of age. Ivan was virtually a prisoner who was trotted out for pomp and display and then locked back in the closet. It appears he decided early on to even the score one day.
At an early age upon taking the throne Ivan received a 1000 virgins in Moscow in order to choose a wife. He picked Anna Romanov and thus began the Romanov dynasty which lasted until the coup by Lenin and resulted in their murder and the communist revolution predicted by Russia’s most famous seer, Rasputin.
Upon coming of age Ivan made his move. He began by confiscating everything the nobility owned. The Boyars soon realized that by confiscating their villages, peasants and property he meant to break their power forever and consolidate the “rule of the Tsars, God’s representatives on earth.”
Thus began a vast move of sorting out. The powers that be were no longer given the right to exploit the lands or to own them. This power was given over to his secret service called the “oprichniki.”
Twelve thousand aristocratic families were deported to the far regions and stripped of their land and influence. They all had connections to ones who had conspired against Ivan becoming tsar. They had even decided that Ivan’s son would not precede him when they thought he was on his death bed. Unfortunately for them, Ivan did not die.
In short the Oprichniki in 1565 was an extension of the program conceived by Ivan and his advisors back in 1560 for bringing the nobility to heel. The princes of high birth and the former Praetorian guard were replaced by those from modest families who owed their rise to Ivan and their worth was determined by their allegiance to the throne and their loyalty to the motherland.
At first there were a thousand Oprichniki, then 6000. Their assignment was to root out traitors. The new guard killed the men, burned their houses and forests as well as the fields of those who were considered traitors with ties to the old order. Many of them were even suspected of being involved in the poisoning of several of Ivan’s wives including Anna Romanov his first wife.
It is recorded that Ivan and his son witnessed the torture of some of the unfortunate politically incorrect in dungeons. Some were paraded into the Moscow center square where bears were unleashed upon them. One religious prelate found to be conspiring with Poland against the czar was placed on a keg of gun powder and ignited virtually turning into a mist. The Tsar explained he wanted to help him get to heaven faster.
He at one time offered to take the hand of queen Victoria but the response was met by sending trade representatives. There were also Jesuits who appeared to negotiate the establishment of the Roman church to represent all, but were rebuffed by Ivan who considered himself Tsar of Tsars and God’s representative on earth, stating that his Tsar was Jesus Christ.
Under Ivan The Terrible’s reign, Siberia was consolidated by Russian armies and somehow Troyat tells us that Ivan was not even aware of this taking place. No explanation is given for his seeming unawareness. Great leaps in story telling. No Ivan stopped the advance of Moslem and Tatar raiders in the south and consolidated Russia under the Tsars, making way for the eventual coronation of Peter the Great who would bring culture to Russia.
Ivan was self educated as there were not many books in Russia at the time. He read the bible extensively. Before his death he laid out some precious stones explaining to his entourage how each was used in healing. The court seers announced that he would die on March 18th. Ivan jokingly said that fine either he would die on that day or they would. When march 18th rolled around he mentioned to his seers that he was yet still alive and they responded the day is not over yet. He indeed expired on that very day, unable to lift the chess pieces of a game in which he was engaged.