Imperial Russia Term Paper

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Imperial Russia



The image of the "Terrible Tsar" has resonated profoundly in both popular historical imagination and the hearts of the Russian people for hundreds of years. Since 1533, tales of the awe-inspiring, dangerous leader have been chronicled in text, folk song, story, and historiography. Talk of the "Dread" ruler evokes memory of arbitrary killing, torture, and malevolent leadership at the hands of a monstrous tyrant who soiled the landscape of Russia as the Groznyi tsar. While most historians provide a similar final analysis, Andrei Pavlov and Maureen Perrie reexamine the sadist tsar's rule under equitable microscope, finding a powerful leader whose religious and personal beliefs birthed a powerful Russian led by a dangerous renaissance prince.

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In his fifty-four years of life, Ivan Vasliyevich became the first Russian leader to assume the title of tsar, assuming a place in historical tradition as Ivan Terrible. Ivan began his illustrious career as the wealthiest monarch in all of Europe as the long-awaited heir to the throne of his father, Vasily III. He first took the throne at three, but his minority rule was overseen by what historians deem an authoritative, domineering mother. The time under his mother's thumb is cited as the Freudian source of his later terrors; during his childhood, he felt so neglected by the ruling Shuisky and Belsky families that he later transferred his acclimated power into an articulated hatred against the mighty boyars.

Term Paper on Imperial Russia Assignment

While he terrorized his citizens as he felt the boyars shunned him throughout his rule, he brought initial growth to the monarchy, providing a thorough reexamination of both mythology and reign. Best remembered for his reign of terror and the Oprichnina, Ivan pursued not only cruelty and twisted sadism, but also a novel approach to religion, a divine rule which he proceeded to apply to his state. The story of his reign was one of absolute power and total tyranny; under his powerful leadership, he oversaw the emergence of modern Russia.

At age sixteen, he was crowned tsar at the Cathedral of the Dormition on January 16, 1547. In the hallowed halls of the Upsensky Sobor at the Moscow Kremlin, Ivan IV was installed as the head of the nation with the Monomakh's Cap, the filigreed symbol of the Russian autocracy. In his early years, Ivan administered the office so provided with peaceful reforms and waves of modernization. He revised the law, created a standing army, and established the Zemsky Sober, the council of the nobility.

In addition to changes inside the country, Ivan brought transformation far past the hinterlands of Russia, opening up the nation to the White Sea and the port of Archangel. There, the English merchants' Muscovy Company, the first major joint-stock trading company in the region, established lines of trade that would quickly assume a monopolistic line of commercial interaction with the tsar. Their large ships and wealthy exchange so impressed the dictator that he greeted the British at royal court in Moscow, only one facet of his affinity for the largesse. As the greatness of the Muscovy Company struck him with such awe, so did the structure he had built to commemorate his annexation of Kazan and Astrakhan Khanates in the east, the start of his multinational dominion. After the construction of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, he is rumored to have had the architects blinded so that they might never again design anything as beautiful; his fierce command for control and blinding attraction to the fantastic were ever present in his tyrannical reign.

As he tended to greatness that might serve to further cultivate his own crown, he denied those less glorified even the hope of upward mobility, not only socially, but also politically, and geographically. In 1553, his abrupt change from expansion and focus on the building of the nation came at the same time as his near-fatal illness; historians traditionally associate his fear of death and illness to his approach to life and the manner in which he led his territory. This socio-interpersonal change was made greater by the death of his first wife, Anastasia Romanovna, whom the ruler suspected to have been poisoned by the boyars in hopes of putting his cousin Vladimir on the throne.

While he felt his own abilities strictly threatened in royal light, he manipulated his leadership to equally curtail the livelihood of others. No longer did he allow peasants to move about the totality of the Russian region, but instead Ivan IV limited their mobility with a series of laws that set the foundation for their eventual serfdom. As he continued to fear the boyars, his despise for them grew in the wake of Anastasia's death; he desired revenge with the same contempt he had felt as a child under his mother's thumb. Bloodthirsty requital became a political campaign unto itself; Ivan ordered the mass murders of hoards of innocent Russians, including the Prince Alexander Gorbatyi-Shuisky, a celebrated general from the powerful Shuisky family and critical in the expansion into Kazan in 1547, and Metropolitan Philip, commonly known as Saint Philip II, whose Muscovy boyar heritage and deign to speak against lay authorities scripted his certain death.

Ivan's requiem for the destruction and disestablishment of the boyars was perpetuated by the 1564 establishment of the Oprichnina, a territory of Russia to be ruled directly by Ivan and run by his own police, the Oprinichniks. The boyars, whose inherited authority seemingly could not be undermined, stood in direct opposition to Ivan's desire for total control and absolute rule. Some historians associate the psychological degeneration and paranoia of the tsar, but still others propose the more fitting thesis that the action was a tool to directly flaunt the political power of the boyars and support Ivan's amassing control and territorialism. Perrie and Pavlov go against historical trend and provide a new paradigm for analysis of Oprichnina; they argue consistently in sections six and nine that Ivan viewed his power over the people of Russia as divinely ordained. Just as sinners are punished to hell, it was not only the right but also the responsibility of the tsar to punish his treasonous subjects to an earthly hell.

As his struggle against the boyars edged onwards, Ivan extended his desire for total control to his external realities; unable to control his own country's leaders, he sought the assumption of others'. The Don Cossack Yermak Timofeyevich sponsored the subjugation of Siberia to Russia with the support of Ivan, but the victory encouraged the power hungry leader on a campaign of western seaward expansion. Unfortunately, his military engagements against the Livonian Teutonic Knights, Poles, Lithuanians, and Swedes increased national expense and failure, further frustrating his thirst. As the war dragged on for twenty-two years, the once rich Russian economy dwindled dry, and even Ivan's closest advisor defected to the other side.

It was rumored that within one week, the maddening tsar could be seen traveling from raucous orgies to religious fasts and back again as quickly; his mental capacity weakening, the onset of physical disability made the tsar angry, violent, and futile in leadership. His approach to the nation as a whole changed, and the Oprichnicks with him; they murdered peasants and nobility, conscripted men to the fruitless battles raging onward from Moscow, and destroyed the fabric of Russian society. Depopulation and famine became the true dictators of daily Russian life, and after a dispute with the Ural-populated Novgorod Republic, the deranged, enraged Ivan ordered the annihilation of the city's inhabitants in their entirety; as many as thirty thousand people died at the hands of their tsar.

The official death toll, however, reflected Ivan's blatant refusal to acknowledge the existence of what he called the "small" people, whose various states of peasantry and poverty precluded them from count among the 1,500 Nvogorod nobility murdered. It was at this point in his career that Ivan ran into trouble with his religious leaders, particularly Metropolitan Philip, the boyar whose role in the church credited him with the ability to refuse to bless the tsar. After the mass-murder in Nvogorod, Philip did just that, and combined with his open opposition to the Oprichnina, he too was dead within a year.

Confounded stress in his public life followed the tyrant to his personal life, reaching particular height in 1581. At that time, Ivan beat his pregnant daughter-in-law for immoral wardrobe choice, inflicting such physical damage that the girl miscarried the tsar's great grandchild. Upon learning of the event, Ivan V turned to his father in rage, and their heated argument quickly grew violent, resulting in the accidental death of the son at the hands of his father, Ivan the Terrible.

Three years later, the tsar too suddenly died, on the very date previously prophesied for his death; upon recent examinations of his remains, high contaminants of mercury suggest that the leader was most likely poisoned by two men who had witnessed the recent rape of one's sister. Historians suggest that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Imperial Russia.  (2005, September 7).  Retrieved March 31, 2020, from

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"Imperial Russia."  September 7, 2005.  Accessed March 31, 2020.