"Mystery of the Mind". Secrets of Ivan the Terrible’s identity available in the Presidential Library’s materials

25 August 2022

Moscow Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible was born on August 25, 1530, - according to the book of the historian and writer E. A. Tikhomirov The First Tsar of Moscow, Ivan IV Vasilyevich the Terrible (1892).

Many legends surround this controversial historical figure, which are spotlighted in the selection Grand Prince. Tsar of the collection State Authority. Their study gives an idea of ​​the ambiguous personality of the tsar, who attracted the attention of contemporaries and descendants and caused both admiration and horror.

Historian, writer and publicist Kazimir Valishevsky in his book Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) (1912) expresses the opinion what the nickname of Ivan IV "the Terrible" means. The researcher, referring to Domostroy and the words of the tsar himself, where the word "thunderstorm" has the meaning of "inspired respect", explains that in legends and in historical criticism the epithet "Grozny" mistakenly became a synonym for unjustified cruelty carried to extremes - "the word imposed a false concept on things”.

Ivan the Terrible certainly inspires respect - under him, the convocation of Zemsky Sobors began and the Sudebnik of 1550 was drawn up, reforms of the military service, the judiciary and public administration were carried out: labial, zemstvo and others that introduced elements of self-government at the local level. Kazan and Astrakhan khanates, Western Siberia, the region of the Don Cossack Army, Bashkiria, and the lands of the Nogai Horde were annexed. Thus, under Ivan IV, the territory of Russia almost doubled, and by the end of his reign, the Russian state was larger than the rest of Europe.

Ivan became tsar at the age of 3, when the death in 1533 of Tsar Vasily III, Ivan's father, and 5 years later his mother, Elena Glinskaya, possibly poisoned by the boyars, led to a fierce struggle for power, led by the Shuisky brothers. The Shuiskys behaved like sovereign masters, plundering the royal treasures, and the young sovereign was in need, deprived of even food and clothing. As Grozny later recalled, Ivan Shuisky would sit down in his presence and put his feet in boots on his father's bed. The pride of the young sovereign was offended by the behavior of the boyars, whom he hated more and more every day.

The researchers write that in front of the boy, despite the pleas, his nurse Agrafena was captured, then Ivan’s favorite, the butler Fyodor Vorontsov, was removed from the court under threat of death. Pursuing Metropolitan Ioasaph, who had taken refuge in the palace, Shuisky's supporters broke into the bedroom of twelve-year-old Ivan, woke him up and frightened him - "the sovereign's insurance will be done".

In such an atmosphere, according to Valishevsky, "the future despot ripened - vindictive, extremely nervous, quick-tempered and cruel".

For their own benefit, those around him fulfilled all his whims, indulged him. He was inspired by thoughts of strength, power, the greatness of his power.

Crowned at the age of 16, he, according to the writer Yevgeny Solovyov in his biographical essay Ivan the Terrible: His Life and State Activities (1893), “loved to show himself as a tsar almost exclusively in punishments and unbridled whims: he played with favors and disgrace, self-willed to prove his independence. <...> He did not want to listen to complaints, got angry and went into a wild rage when he was interrupted from entertainment”.

Historians note some more remarkable features of the nature of Ivan the Terrible. For example, lack of physical courage. The reason for this Valishevsky calls the fright experienced by the tsar in childhood, after which "a nervous impressionability developed in him, thanks to which he trembled and lost his presence of mind at the slightest danger".

In addition, Grozny shared the superstitions of his contemporaries, was afraid of witchcraft and villainous magic. Therefore, according to the historian Robert Wipper in his book Ivan the Terrible (1922), all executions and trials of the era of Ivan IV can be divided into political and witchcraft. And if in the first case there was a rational grain in the decisions of the tsar, albeit based on feelings of anger and revenge, then in the second case, the tsar was simply not able to control his will.

Indeed, not only for Nikolai Karamzin, but also for modern researchers, "the character of Ivan, the hero of virtue in his youth and the violent bloodsucker in his years of courage and old age, is a mystery of the mind".