- NAME: Ivan the Terrible
- OCCUPATION: Prince, Tsar
- BIRTH DATE: August 25, 1530
- DEATH DATE: March 18, 1584
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Kolomenskoye, Duchy of Muscovy, Russia
- PLACE OF DEATH: Moscow, Russia
- AKA: Ivan the Terrible
- AKA: Ivan Chetvyorty Vasilyevich
- AKA: Ivan Grozny
- AKA: Ivan IV
- AKA: Ivan Vasilyevich
- Nickname: "Grozny"
Best Known For
Ivan the Terrible, or Ivan IV, was the first tsar of all Russia. During his reign (1533-1584), Ivan acquired vast amounts of land through ruthless means, creating a centrally controlled government.
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While his initial efforts were successful, Ivan the Terrible's methods disrupted the economy and culture. He seized private lands and redistributed them among his supported, and created a police force dressed all in black, astride black horses, that existed more to crush dissent than to keep the peace. Thusly, Ivan was not a popular leader, and his unpopularity would continue to grow over the next several years.
Upon the death of his first wife in 1560, Ivan IV went into a deep depression and his behavior became more erratic. His suspicion that she had been murdered by the boyars only deepened his paranoia. He left Moscow suddenly and threatened to abdicate the throne. Leaderless, the Muscovites pleaded for his return. He agreed, but on the condition that he be granted absolute power of the region surrounding Moscow, known as the oprichnina. He also demanded the authority to punish traitors and law breakers with execution and confiscation of property.
Over the next 24 years, Ivan IV conducted a reign of terror, displacing and destroying the major boyar families in the region, and earning the moniker by which he's now best known. (He's also known by the nickname "Grozny," which translates as "awesome.") It was during this period that Ivan beat his pregnant daughter-in-law, causing a miscarriage, killed his son in a subsequent fit of rage, and blinded the architect of St. Basil's Cathedral. It was also during this time that he created the Oprichniki, the first official secret Russian police force.
In 1584, with his health failing, Ivan the Terrible became obsessed with death, calling upon witches and soothsayers to sustain him, but to no avail. The end came on March 18, 1584, when Ivan died of an apparent stroke. He had willed the kingdom to his unfit son, Feodor, whose rule spiraled Russia into the catastrophic Time of Troubles, leading to the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty.
When Ivan the Terrible died, he left the country in disarrary, with deep political and social scars. Russia would not merge from the chaos until the reigh of Peter the Great more than a century later.
Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein's two-part epic about the infamous leader, Ivan Groznyi (1945, 1958), is considered one of the finest films of the Soviet era.
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