Ivan the Terrible Term Paper

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Ivan the Terrible

Ivan IV, remembered for his cruelty and the excessive punishments, is awarded the epithet, "Groznyi," meaning "Terrible," and according to popular legend, he was born during a thunderstorm, or "groza," which translated in Russian means "terror."

For the last five centuries, many in Western Europe have referred to Russia as the Evil Empire and the Enemy of Christendom, and regard it as a backward, ignorant and barbarous kingdom. Although some sources suggest that these negative views date back into the thirteenth century, most evidence is found from the late fifteenth century onward, beginning with Ivan III, whom most thought was Terrible until they met his grandson, Ivan IV. Sometime around 1558, the city of Revel wrote a missive to Grand Master Furstenberg of the Livonian Order, referring to Russia as a barbaric empire, and Furstenberg's succesor, Grand Master Gotthard Kettler referred to Russia as Christianity's archenemy. In 1560, the Polish King Sigismund Augustus wrote to Queen Elizabeth of England calling Ivan IV the Terrible "a most barbarous and cruel enemy."

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Vasili III Ivanovitch (1505-1533), divorced his wife because she had born him no children and married Helena Glinski, and after his death she took the regency for her three-year-old son Ivan IV Vasiliyevitch. When Helena died, young Ivan was all but ignored, and at times left destitute. Seeing brutality everywhere around him, he took it as an accepted mode of behavior, adopted the most cruel sports, and grew into a moody and suspicious youth. For example, in 1544, at the age of thirteen, he threw to his dogs Andrei Shuiski, leader of a boyar faction, and seized command of the state.

Three years later he had himself crowned tzar by the metropolitan of Moscow and ordered a selection of noble virgins to be sent to him and from them he chose and married Anastasia Romanovna, whose family name would soon designate a dynasty.

In fact, Tsarism began with Ivan IV, and despite his cruelty and madness, he was also a talented ruler.

Term Paper on Ivan the Terrible Assignment

On January 16, 1547 in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, Grand Prince Ivan Vassilyevich IV, was led to his throne by Metropolitan Makary, who placed on the young prince the symbols of the title of tsar, which included the Cross of the Life-Giving Tree and the robes and headgear of Monomakh. Following the initiation into the Holy Secrets, Ivan IV was anointed with unction, a ritual that Orthodox Christians believed prepared anointees for tsardom, and an elaborate feast was held for Russian church-men and titled persons. He took immediate aggressive action against the Tartars of Kazan, who persistently raided Muscovy for loot and slaves for the markets of Persia and Turkey.

Ivan IV was the first to be crowned tsar, although beginning with his grandfather Ivan III, Moscow's rulers had adopted the title 'autocrat,' and sometimes called themselves tsar. The word 'tsar' actually came from the Latin Caesar, which had been taken from the name of Julius Caesar, and transformed into a title meaning Emperor.

By assuming the title tsar, Ivan IV demonstrated Russia's independence from the Golden Horde. In 1237, Northeastern Russia had been attacked by Mongol hordes and forced to unite with their Empire, and the ritual of crowning the Russian grand princes took place under the Horde where the khan would hand the grand prince a sword before the eyes of the court. After liberation in 1480, attitudes to title and attribute of power changed, and Ivan III, held inauguration for the grand princedom according to ancient Constantinople traditions, thus he declared his grandson Dmitry Grand Prince in a special ceremony using tsar's regalia as symbols of power. The title tsar allowed Russia's ruler to put himself on equal footing with Europe's only emperor, the Holy Roman Emperor, and made himself unassailable by other Russian princes. Moreover, all the teachings of the Byzantine church fathers on reverence of the tsar were now transferred to Russia's ruler.

When Ivan's mother died in 1538, battles for the regency became the norm, with palace coups, murders, imprisonment and exiles, and it is in this atmosphere that the young prince learned the pleasure of inflicting pain, beginning at the age of twelve by throwing animals off high roofs, an entertainment that soon involved doing the same with people. But rather than scolding, he received praise from the boyars who noted, "Oh how brave and courageous this tsar will be!" During the Great Fire of 1547, mobs killed one of Ivan's uncles and demanded that the rest of the family be handed over, however the Tsar succeeded in persuading them to disperse. It is believed that a priest called Sylvester accused Ivan of "frenzied temperament," and declared that the fire was God's punishment for his sins. It is reported that Ivan repented publicly in Red Square and promised to rule in the interests of the people, yet Ivan's interpretations of what constituted the "interests of the people" varied dramatically depending on where he saw evil, for medieval man, "the means, whether it be good government, murder and execution or devout prayer, were always justified by the end - the defeat of evil."

Perhaps it was this promise that led Ivan to begin making changes in 1549, although these changes cannot be called reforms, for the word 'reform' did not enter the Russian language until the end of the eighteenth century, and for Ivan and his contemporaries, things were subject to change only if they were defined as ungodly or did not correspond to ideas of justice and truth.

In 1550, Ivan IV summoned the first national assembly, Zemski Sobor, of all Russia, and confessed to it the errors of his youth, and promised a just and merciful government. A motion was passed by which all alodial lands deeded to the Church were to be restored, all gift made to the Church during Ivan's minority were canceled and monasteries could no longer acquire certain types of property without the tsar's consent. Moreover, he took the priest Sylvester as his spiritual director and made him and Alexis Adashef his chief ministers. Thus, supported by able aides, Ivan IV at the age of twenty-one was master of a realm that spanned from Smolensk to the Urals, and from the Arctic Ocean almost to the Caspian Sea.

Ivan's first concern was to strengthen the army, and to balance the forces provided by the unfriendly nobles with two organizations responsible directly to himself, Cossack cavalry and Strieltsi infantry armed with harquebuses (matchlock firearms invented in the fifteenth century). The Cossacks originated in that century as peasants whose position in South Russia, between Moslems and Muscovites, forced them to be prepared to fight at a moment's notice, but it also allowed them opportunities to rob the caravans that carried trade between north and south. Noted for their daring courage, the Cossack horsemen became the main support of Ivan IV at home and in war.

Ivan's foreign policy was simple: he wanted Russia to connect the Baltic Sea with the Caspian, however the Tatars still held Kazan, Astrakhan, and the Crimea. In 1552, he led 150,000 men against the gates of Kazan in a siege that lasted fifty days. When, after a month, the men lost heart, Ivan sent to Moscow for a miraculous cross, and this displayed to them reanimated the men. Then when a German engineer mined the walls, they collapsed and the Russians poured into the city, crying "God with us," while massacring all who could not be sold as slaves. According to legend, Ivan wept with pity for the defeated, saying, "they are not Christians, but they are men." When he repopulated the ruins with Christians, Russia acclaimed him as the first Slav to take a Tatar stronghold and celebrated the victory. It was this campaign that earned him the title "Grozny," which is generally translated as "terrible," however is really closer to meaning "awesome," thus reflecting his positive qualities as a great ruler, rather than an instigator of terror. Part of the victory celebrations included the building of several monuments, the most noted being the Intercession Cathedral on Red Square, now commonly called St. Basil's, after a holy man Basil the Blessed who predicted Ivan's evil deeds, which came later in his reign. Of note, St. Basil's is one of only a handful of world treasures that has come to symbolize certain cultures to the rest of the world, such as the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, and the Pyramids.

Having cleared his frontier to the east, Ivan now looked longingly toward the west, and dreamed of Russian commerce flowing west and north along great rivers into the Baltic. He envied the industrial and commercial expansion of Western Europe, and looked for any opening which by which the Russian economy might attach itself to that development. Although he had signed treaties giving the London and Muscovite Company special trading privileges in Russia, he did not consider these treaties as doors or windows into the West, but rather knotholes.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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