Why is Ivan the Terrible so terrible?

Ivan the terrible was born in 1530 in Russia. He is known as the Terrible which is a translation from the Russian word ‘grozny’.  It does not have the same implications of evil that the word terrible has in common usage today. It is actually meant to mean ‘fear inspiring’ or strict.

Nonetheless Ivan did some pretty terrible things in his lifetime. He suffered a bad childhood full of neglect and abuse, and was orphaned at the age of 8. His childhood he spent torturing animals. At the age of 13, he had the head of the boyars, his political rival, killed by throwing him to the dogs.

Other terrible acts of his include the long wars he raged and his converting people to serfs. While he was a great politician and Russia flourished under his reign, he was cruel to his subjects and often paranoid.

In 1560 after the death of his wife, he became very upset, depressed and paranoid. He abdicated from his throne but was called back and reinstated, on the promise that he would have absolute authority over the land. To effect this authority, he made an army called the Oprichnina and with them he terrorized many of the areas under his rule. His army was very evil and would kill anyone even suspected of harbouring sentiments against Ivan.

In 1570 he organized the massacre of Novgorod where he and his Oprichniki went and killed the entire population there, at least 3000 people, merely because he suspected them of treason. Some accounts hold that the number was actually over 50,000.

Even in his personal life, Ivan committed cruel acts. While he loved his first wife, his later wives suffered horrible fates including being sent to convents, drowned and so on. He is recorded to have beaten his pregnant daughter-in-law so hard, merely for wearing an inappropriate dress, that she miscarried.

His eldest son, the most ideal successor to his throne and a boy whom he usually was affectionate towards, tried to defend his wife. But this enraged Ivan the Terrible so badly that he struck his son on the head with a cane. The wound led to the death of his eldest son, after which he was very upset, regretting his anger and getting worse.

There is some evidence to suggest that Ivan the Terrible had serious psychological issues and these were responsible for what he did to himself and others around him. He sudden fits of religiosity as well as strong bouts of weeping and head bashing in regret, all point towards strong mental disturbances. While he was a brilliant statesman his behavior in other areas left a lot to be desired. It is for all these massacres that Ivan is known as the Terrible.

Post Comment