Ivan IV

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Ivan IV

Ivan IV or Ivan the Terrible, 1530–84, grand duke of Moscow (1533–84), the first Russian ruler to assume formally the title of czar.

Early Reign

Ivan succeeded his father Vasily III, who died in 1533, under the regency of his mother. When she died (1538), the regency alternated among several feuding boyar families (see boyars). Boyar rule ended only in 1546, when Ivan announced his intention of becoming czar. He was crowned in 1547. As czar, Ivan attempted to establish czarist autocracy at the expense of boyar power. In the early years of his reign, he reduced the arbitrary powers of the boyar provincial governors, transferring their functions to locally elected officials. The former boyars' council was replaced by a “chosen council” consisting of members who owed their status to the czar.

In 1566, Ivan summoned what was probably the first general council of the realm (Zemsky Sobor), composed of representatives of different social ranks, including merchants and lower nobility. After reorganizing the army, Ivan conquered Kazan (1552) and Astrakhan (1556), thereby inaugurating Russia's eastward expansion. The conquest of Siberia by the Cossack Yermak took place late in his reign (1581–83). Ivan also began trade with England via the White Sea in the mid-1550s. To improve his access to the Baltic Sea, he undertook (1558) a campaign against Livonia. In the resulting war with Poland and Sweden, he was at first successful but was later defeated by Stephen báthory, king of Poland and Lithuania. The peace treaties (1582, 1583) forced the czar to renounce his territorial gains and cede additional territory to Sweden.

Later Reign

In his later years, Ivan's character, always stern, grew tyrannical. Apart from the reverses of the war, the change has been attributed to humiliations at the hands of the boyars during his childhood; a serious illness (1553) and resistance at that time to his efforts to secure the succession of his infant son; the death of his wife, Anastasia Romanov (1560), whom historians credit with exercising a moderating influence; and the defection to Poland of his favorite, Prince Andrew Kurbsky (1564). Suspecting conspiracies everywhere, he acted ruthlessly to consolidate his power. In 1565 he set aside an extensive personal domain, the oprichnina, under his direct control. He established a special corps (oprichniki), responsible to him alone, to whom he granted part of this domain at will. With the help of this corps, he diminished the political influence of the boyars and forcibly confiscated their lands in a reign of terror. Many boyars were executed or exiled.

Ivan formally abolished the oprichnina in 1572, although in effect it continued until 1575. Fits of rage alternated with periods of repentance and prayer; in one of his rages he killed (1581) his son and heir, Ivan. Although the exact number of his wives is uncertain, Ivan probably married seven times, ridding himself of unwanted wives by forcing them to take the veil or arranging for their murder. Despite his cruelty, he was a man of intelligence and learning. Printing was introduced into Russia during his reign. Two sons, Feodor I and Dmitri, survived the czar, but after his death his favorite, Boris Godunov, gained power.


See biographies by C. Francis (1981), B. Bobrick (1987), T. Butson (1987), and H. Troyat (1988); study by M. Perrie (1987).

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Ivan IV

known as Ivan the Terrible. 1530--84, grand duke of Muscovy (1533--47) and first tsar of Russia (1547--84). He conquered Kazan (1552), Astrakhan (1556), and Siberia (1581), but was defeated by Poland in the Livonian War (1558--82) after which his rule became increasingly oppressive
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
(13) "Oprichnina" was a system developed by Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible) for the Russian state in which he placed property under his domain (this process was attended with terror and confiscation of boyar possessions).
For the tsars, meanwhile, the opportunity to monitor foreign trade became a way of managing both their own domestic authority and Russia's international presence (to his enemies at least, Ivan IV became known as 'the English Tsar').
I have interpreted the Russian phrase "gnev venchannyi, Ivan IV" as a copula formed by a comma, because both nouns are in the nominative case, whereas the verb is masculine singular.
In one long chapter, "The Birth of Conservative Ideology," Pipes begins with fifteenth- and sixteenth-century "Possessing" controversies and then shows that these ideas affected ideas of private property and autocratic public authority in the eras of Ivan IV, the first Romanovs, and Peter the Great.
By the seventeenth century, one observer claimed that the conquest of Kazan' was the event that made Ivan IV a tsar and Muscovy an empire.
Thus, when Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible), who in 1547 was crowned as Tsar (the Russian word for Caesar), proposed marriage to Queen Elizabeth of England and was rejected, he subsequently taunted her for sharing power with commoners, including merchants, whom he called "trading boors." It was not until 1702 and the reforms of Peter I (Peter the Great) that Western secular political doctrine first came to Russia.
Madariaga makes no claim to original research in this biography of Ivan IV but does bring to her task a life-time's expertise in Russian history.
The very first czar, Ivan IV (1533-1584), crushed the power of rival dukes and boyars and became an emperor.
Remembered by the Russians for his cruelty and the punitive expeditions of his secret police, oprichniki, Ivan IV (1530-84) went down in history with the epithet "Groznyi," translated as "Terrible." According to a popular legend, he was born during a thunderstorm or "groza" (in Russian the word also means "terror").
Almos 20 years would pass before 16-year-old Mikhail Romanov, a distant cousin of Ivan IV's wife, Anastasia, would be crowned Tsar.