Biography of Ivan the Terrible, Tsar of All Russias

Biography of Ivan the Terrible, Tsar of All Russias

Ivan IV Vasilievich, better known as the Terrible, was born August 25, 1530 in Kolomenskoye, Russia. He was son of the Tsar Basilio III and Elena Glinskaya and he was the grandson of Ivan III Vasilevich the Great. On December 4, 1533, the Tsar died, so Ivan would rule under the his mother's regency.

During this time various noble families fought for power. Family like the Glinsky, to which his mother belonged, the Bielsky or the Shuisky are some of the most prominent. These nobles made the coffers were empty and they ruined part of the political work that had been carried out by previous rulers. All this was increased when his mother died five years later, possibly poisoned.

During those years chaos reigned in the country. Ivan was harassed and humiliated by the usurpation of power and land by the nobles, which generated a great mistrustby this social class. All this made him the cruel being he later became.

He assumed power in 1547 as Ivan IV. He wanted to get an alliance with one of the most influential families of the time, the Romanovs, so He married Princess Anastasia Romanovna that same year. In addition, he recovered the title of tsar that was used only sporadically by some of the predecessors, naming himself Tsar of All Russias, which also contained a certain religious power.

To establish its power, in 1548 he surrounded himself with a private council, the Izbramnaia Rada, where the most influential and trustworthy members were, such as his tutor Macario or his secretary Alexei Adashev.

One of the first measures he carried out was the estrangement from boyar nobility that had caused so much havoc during the regency. He drew up new court orders and tried to lay the foundations for a unified and centralized state administration, in addition to including the participation of the people. He gathered and codified all the ordinances in the code 'Sudiébnik'In 1550. The previous year he had convened the'Zemski-Sobor ', a kind of Russian states general, and soon after organized a council to make a Church more in line with its purposes.

Faced with the impossibility of recruiting mercenaries for his troops, he was forced to resort to the noble levies passed and fixed to the peasants a gleba. This allowed him to control the peasantry and the origin of serfdom was determined. He formed his own armed body, the 'Streltsy'. However, the peasants began to flee towards the southern border. Because of that, the aristocrats could not fulfill their services to the tsar, so the centralization of power and the subordination of the aristocracy were in danger.

Had to stop the peasant rebellion. It is then when he begins to show his cruelty, since to tackle the problem he ordered that they were indiscriminately murdered and even tortured. He also lashed out at the boyars who had betrayed him who were thrown before hunting dogs to be eaten alive. This aroused the pleasure of throwing dogs off the Kremlin walls and seeing how they agonized to death.

In order to solve his problems, he decided to extend his foreign policy and begin to conquer territories. He conquered Kazan in 1552 and Astrakhan in 1554. It also occupied the Volga valley and tried to extend its territories beyond the Ural Mountains region, towards Siberia.

The internal situation worsened when In 1553, the only male child of the Tsar, Dimitri, diedat the same time that he was seriously ill. The problems in Europe and this produced revolts among the peoples of the newly conquered territories and among the nobles, including some loyal supporters. When he recovered, he saw that he could not trust anyone and his time of terror began, when he would begin to be known as Ivan the Terrible.

A sick distrust was generated and began to arbitrarily punish with large doses of cruelty and sadism to anyone who might consider an enemy or opponent of their form of government. In the following years his son Iván and Fiódor would be born, who ensured the dynastic continuity.

Tried to expand then towards the baltic sea, but its attempt of expansion collided with the interests of several European nations like Lithuania, Poland or Sweden. The European powers decided blockade the principality of Muscovy, preventing the advance of the tsar. This caused the conflict to drag on for 25 years, after which there was no mercy for the losers.

Sweden and Poland united against the Tsar, forcing him to spread terror through the guard that he himself had created. This guard was dressed in black suits, they rode on equally black horses and carried as symbols a broom (to clean Russia) and a dog's head (to constantly watch). This dreaded guard produced a endless indiscriminate deaths. Thousands of people were impaled, drowned, strangled, whipped, burned alive and even roasted. They were especially fattened with the nobility, producing almost its extinction. This brought a third of Russia under their control.

An example of their repression is the Novgorod city. The town was on the border and had shown its dissatisfaction with the Tsar over the problems caused by the war. Iván described it as treacherous city and he sent the guard to destroy the city. More than 60,000 people were killed.

But nevertheless, the biggest madness he did was kill his firstborn in 1581 for having reproached him for the mistreatment he gave his pregnant wife. The latter, mad with anger at the affront, struck him with an iron cane with such force that it caused his death. This fact increased his madness to unsuspected limits.

His troops were exhausted and the economic crisis and all the social and political problems that Russia had made him had to cede the territory of Livonia to Poland and the regions of Ingria and Karelia to Sweden, in addition to having to give up his intentions to reach the Baltic Sea.

He died on March 18, 1584 in Moscow. His third son, Fyodor, succeeded him, but his mental problems led him to be influenced by his brother-in-law Boris Godunov, who was named regent and later ruler. When Fyodor died under strange circumstances, the Rurikid dynasty ended.

Images: Public domain

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