A Brief Biography of Ivan the Terrible

By Tim Lambert

Ivan the Terrible is remembered as a cruel tyrant although he also strengthened Russia. (When Ivan was born Russia was much smaller than it is now and much less powerful). Ivan was born on 25 August 1530. His father was Grand Prince Vasily III of Moscow.

However, the Grand Prince died in 1533. So Ivan IV, also known as Ivan the Terrible inherited the throne of Russia. However, he was only 3 years old and he did not obtain power until 1547. Until 1538 his mother ruled in his name. After her death the Russian nobles, the boyars fought for power and influence leaving Ivan with a lifelong dislike of them.

On 16 January 1547 Ivan was crowned Czar, a word derived from the Roman Caesar. Then in February 1547, Ivan married Anastasiya Romanova.

Ivan the Terrible expanded Russian territory. Ivan warred against one of its successors, the Kazan Khanate on the River Volga. He defeated Kazan in 1552 and subsequently conquered it. In 1554-56 Ivan conquered Astrakhan. However, in 1571 the Crimean Khan captured and burned Moscow but the next year he was decisively defeated by the Russians. In 1582 Ivan conquered the Khanate of Sibir (which gave its name to Siberia).

Meanwhile Ivan the Terrible degenerated into a tyrant. In 1565 he formed a private army called the Oprichnina. They were completely loyal to him and they killed anyone suspected of being the Czar’s enemy. In 1570 The Oprichniki sacked Novgorod because Ivan believed the Novgorodians were collaborating with his enemies the Poles. The Oprichniki massacred the inhabitants, killing thousands. The Metropolitan of Moscow denounced Ivan’s cruelty and as a result, he was strangled.

Ivan the Terrible also devised horrific methods of torturing and killing anyone he suspected of being an enemy. Ivan even killed his own son and heir by hitting him with an iron-tipped staff. Ivan the Terrible finally died on 18 March 1584.