Ivan the Terrible also known as Ivan IV and Ivan Vasilyevich was crowned the first czar of Russia. He also was the Grand Prince of Moscow. While he was in power he ruled over 1 billion acres of land and created centrally governed Russian states including non-Slav states.
During his reign Ivan the Terrible appealed to the masses of people but he suffered from bouts of rage that led to mass killings of Russian nobility while forming his centrally governed states.
Ivan the Terrible was born in 1533 in present-day Moscow and was the grandson of Ivan III the Great. He was the first son of Vasili III who was the Grand Prince of Moscow. His mother was Elena Glinskaya who was half Serbian and half Lipka Tatar.
At the age of three years old, his father passed away from failing health. Ivan the Terrible was crowned the Grand Prince of Moscow. His mother ruled in his place until she was assassinated when Ivan the Terrible was only eight years old.
During his childhood years his brother Yuri and himself felt neglected and were bullied by the powerful boyars of the Shuisky and Belsky families. Ivan the Terrible was crowned the first czar of all of Russia when he was 18 years old.
After he became czar he was instrumental in telling the world and all of Russia he was the only ruler of the country and his actions would not be questioned. In the same month he married Anastasia Romanovna who gave birth to two sons later in life.
During the first years of his rule, Ivan the Terrible was able to modernize Russia. For instance he brought the first printing press to the country. He also created a standing army and he altered the law codes.
In addition, Ivan the Terrible formed the Zemsky Sobor which was a council of nobles. He made the church subservient to the state while systemizing rituals and regulations of the church.
Ivan the Terrible formed new trading partners by opening the White Sea. He opened the Port of Archangel which led to trading with English merchants. Other important achievements included building St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow as well as making Russia larger by annexing both Kazan and Astakhan.
Not everything was positive during Ivan the Terrible’s reign. He crafted laws limiting peasants which eventually led to serfdom. In 1564, he created the Oprichina which was a portion of Russia ruled only by Ivan the Terrible.
He formed the Oprichinicks that is similar to his own private secret service and police force. This organization was brutal to anyone or any organization that opposed his rule or laws.
Ivan the Terrible went to war with Sweden, Lithuania, Poland, and the Teutonic Knights. The war would last for 22 years while crushing the economy of Russia. He did not gain any lands from the wars. While at war with Poland his wife was murdered by the Boyars.
As he grew older he became more violent. The Oprichinicks had become the Russian people’s worse nightmare. His secret service would kill thousands of peasants and nobles which left the Oprichina portion of the country poor and without the necessary population to flourish.
Ivan the Terrible also feuded with Nizhny Novgorod and he ordered the Oprichinicks to kill between 30,000 and 40,000 people associated with Novgorod. His worst mistake as ruler was killing his only stable son and beating his son’s wife until she had a miscarriage.
Ivan the Terrible died in 1584 leaving his kingdom to his mentally challenged son Feodor.
Ivan the Great
St. Basil’s Cathedral