Notes RUnotes

  Welcome, Guest                        Michael Report  

[Contact, Search] World History - Yahoo! - Help

 : H O M E :  



 I N D E XBook of Life  Index  directory B I B L E Apocalypse Book of Revelationsdirectory W E B S> Internets  directory J O U R N A L  > Journal Directory directory G A L L E R Y >photo gallerydirectory W M D  > XLXXII  ARMAGEDON  directory G A M M A > gamma index 

Privacy  [Public]  




Background Muscovite

This page is of notes, it is not the major work on Ivan IV, misknown as Ivan the Terrible. He was never called that during his lifetime. Please See Sixteenth century Muscovy pages. RU01



by Michael Johnathan McDonald

Ivan The Terrible

Ivan Vasilievich

When discussing Ivan the Terrible, what is the first things to consider?

When focusing on the period of Ivan IV, one must deflect one's attention away from the grand prince and evaluate first what the group, the Rus' people, were accomplishing at this time. Starting here, instead of focusing on the grand prince himself, cures the many pitfalls, especially the cult of Ivan -- the fascination with a complex character in Russian history. The accomplishments of incorporating Siberian strongmen, conquests of Tatar strongholds, incorporation of new ethnicities, groups and the management of them, thereof, we must focus not on one man but a group of people and ask, how did they do it? If we start here, we can show that a concerted effort was not just one man's brilliance, but a group with a motive, a spirit and a desire to accomplish, somewhat Herculean feats. How do a small group with interests in their own lands end up leaving them to risk everything on the battlefield to accomplish such an expansion that happened during the sixteenth century? If we only focus on Ivan the Terrible, and ask if he was indeed terrible, we take out the agency of the Slavic people and the groups who joined in their adventures.

The Sixteenth Century West of the Ural Mountains

The 16th century saw great European and Middle Eastern leaders such as Selim "the Grim", Francis I, Charles V, Henry VIII take to the battlefield and fight alongside their troops garnering hero status and risking their personal bodies for glory. In Russia,  Ivan IV was called a coward by Kurbskii, for his lack of fortitude on the battlefield, and in the chronicles Ivan's fortitude was also questioned. Instead of battling for Russia against foreigners out on the field of battle of the likes of the other 16th century Nietzsche supermen Ivan turned and battled his own people in a senseless brutal reign of terror. Ivan's life has fascinated historians for centuries and there remains no consensus about his motives. Ivan faced the same circumstances as the other world leaders of the 16th century. All were battling for new territory, carving up their claims for their states. Ivan's period saw no difference. Ivan came to power when Russia was experiencing new growth both territorially and physiologically. Ivan III was continuing the gathering of Russian lands through the concept of patrimony, and circumstances in 1453 Anatolian annexation by the Ottomans fashioned the Russian state as the last remaining Orthodox outpost in the world. Russia had a large plate, so to speak, to handle. In 1503 Moscow had secured a renewed treaty with Livonia as a tributary to Russia. They viewed the west from Moscow as their inheritance to the Baltic. In the east continual districts and provinces were continually falling to the Russians as the Islamic khanates began to disintegrate after Tamerlane had re-routed the silk-road, an international trade enterprise that kept the east militarily secured with various military people for hire. Ivan took to the throne when Russia saw success against its enemies and money was pouring into the coffers of the burgeoning state. A momentum of state building had begun and Ivan was born into the spoils.

As the atmosphere of state building surrounded the Russian realm,  a glorious coronation emphasizing the Great Emerging Russian State with the first title of tsar being anointed on Ivan IV, a great period of Russian expanded to Herculean heights. Ivan could have not felt unimportant to the gift he had been given. A realm not too long ago was subjected to suppression by a foreign enemy.



Why so much fuss?

Oprichnina was a seven-year period in which Ivan IV divided up the land (1565-72) into two main parts, formed a personal court, separate administration, a personal army, and conducted a notorious “reign of terror” designed to purge his enemies – but ended up affecting everyone in Muscovy. This represented something dramatically different and was not a reform. Some historians have discerned a purpose in the Oprichnina period that it was directed against the old boyars, or the Church, or Novgorod.  Russian historian Richard Hellie in the introduction to the English translation of Russian historian S. F. Platonov’s (1860-1933) book on Ivan IV, entitled Ivan the Terrible, described Russian historian S.M. Soloviev’s view of the Oprichnina period as Ivan IV struggling “to strengthen the new middle service class at the expense of the old boyar class.”[1] Richard Hellie in the same introduction explained his interpretation for the views of the best known nineteenth-century Russian historian, Vasily O. Kliuchevsky (1841-1911): “the Oprichnina was directed against men, not against the prevailing system, and consequently it was politically aimless.”[2]  It is hard to make sense of this chaotic period, when so many suffered, not just one group. Ivan’s psychological and physical problems might have been part of the cause. It was more likely a dramatic need of the tsar to escape from rulership, for which there was no precedence (although he apparently tried to abdicate). The social, political, and economic results were a genuine disaster. Ivan may have killed his son Ivan Ivanovich, leaving a feeble-minded son Feodor on the throne that died childless -- leading to a dynastic crisis which ultimately led to the unfortunate events of the Time of Troubles.


[1] Platonov, S. F., Ivan the Terrible, trans. & ed., Joseph L. Wieczynski (Gulf Breeze, Florida: Academic International Press, 1974), xv.

[2] Ibid, xx.


Land: of Oprichnina


• Khoimogory


• Sol’vychegodsic

Velikii Ustyug Solikamsk •

• Soligalich

• Kargopol’






• • Galich

• Staraya Poshekhon’e

Russa • Kostroma




Basic understanding of the word: Oprichnina

Generaic definition: divide, separate.

Usage as a term in period:  “ Widow’s mite.” Cavalrymen had been allowed rights where their wives wouldn’t suffer upon their husband's pre-mature deaths, so they would not starve. They were given land, with people on it, to survive after their husband’s deaths. The symbology that Ivan was a widow, creating new lands for himself, reflectedthis concept of the widow’s mite.


Basic understanding not contested about the Oprichnina.

1: Ivan divided the Russian lands into two main divisions, zemschina & oprichnina.

2: Ivan created two main divisions of courts, both with established boyars, and one with a mix of proto-boyars.

 What is disputed became a heated debate in Russian historiography.

Pervious Scholarly Theories of the Oprichnina include: isolated kingdom for Ivan to rule, a plan to destroy the boyars and aristocracy, an experiment in government, the first institutions providing servitude to a state, a revolt against the church, reorganizing the newly incorporated lands, fortifying the newly incorporated lands with leaders from the center of Russia, all whom knew how to rule, no reason at all, a plan to go after men, in particular, men of whom Ivan had grievances with, an attempt to abdicate.

Myth: Oprichnina  never was fully ended in 1572, despite so-called experts; it only ended after the tsar’s death. See my investigation, from E. Keenan, Harvard 1972.

Loyal members of the lower classes could be promoted, rewarded with new oprichnina land, and given the task of working against traitors.


Faults of Russian historiography

One of the main faults in Russian historiography stems from a question of was Ivan the Terrible, really "terrible?" Terrible is a general term and undefined as an ethical concept. What we believe is terrible, may not be what people considered terrible in the middle ages. Terrible never was a title or attribute given to Ivan Vasilievich in his lifetime. This affirmation became synonymous with legends by foreigners after his death of his alleged gruesome ways .


Things to consider: Ivan's grandfathers, and father, were establishing a Muscovite identity, with a dynastic line comprising of Riurik grand princes to consolidate power in the central region, of what would later become the focus of Russia's powerbase Moscow. Many regional clans showed little  loyalty to the central authorities, and offered their services to the regional strong men or neighboring Lords or kings. Loyalty went to the highest bidder. Under these conditions, Vasily O. Kliuchevsky saw the grand princes struggle morally and ethically to consolidate a medieval and a diverse group of people. Conditions of the middle ages sparks concerns among historians looking to place nationalism into the framework of Rus' countrymen. The term Muscovite, still a concept and not a far reaching recognition prior to Ivan IV, remained inconclusive. When Astrakhan and Kazan became satellite cities of Muscovy, it is there that word spreads of the group consolidating the northern lands west of the Urals. The imperialism, the expansion, the conquests of the east in the beginning of Ivan's reign take the word Muscovite and disseminate it along the river banks of the east, and the ears of Sultan to the south. It will be after these conquests, and the beginning of the Livonian war that groups allegedly decide to break away from this concept of beginning an ethnic identification of the Muscovite citizen. Again, this concept is quite knew, and of little use to the people who for centuries had no affiliation to any central authority, other than the Mongol-Tatar's. What concerned the groups in diverse cities and towns west of the Urals were economic in nature. In the middle ages, loyalty often came by way of financial dealings between local strongmen and regional lords or kings. Under this pretext, on can see Ivan's grandfathers and uncles take extreme consideration of the second largest city in the previous Orthodox-Kievan Rus' system -- Novgorod. This city's history of semi-autonomy, and limited freedom, considered itself a rebel of sorts. Identifying itself to one ethnic of social group did not fit its traditions. Nor did the Muscovite central authority eventually allow them too. 

Ivan III, then, Ivan IV, gave considerable concentration of subduing this trade city. In history, it is here the "reign of terror" reached a crescendo. This city is economically viable, close to trade with the west, influenced by westerners, and consists of semi-literate people, many people who are skilled workers as well as businessmen lived within its boarders. Novgorod had a history of semi-autonomy, and forcing the grand-prince to stay away from its city boarders -- in effort to kept out of its daily business. The Muscovite authorities wanted to end this semi-autonomy, and it is here that the break with peace occurs.  In the chronicles, Novgorodian people's spirits are left out of the narrative. This is because Muscovite scribes wrote the history. Often, some people will demand dignity, or death, and this is what happened to Novgorod more than once.




Pavlov & Perrie Review & Excerpts and commentary

Andrei Pavlov is Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Russian History, St Petersburg.

Maureen Perrie is Professor of Russian History, University of Birmingham. Her books include The Cult of ivan the Terrible in Stalin’s Russia (2001).
cover image Tsar Ivan lv Vasilyevich ‘the Terntle’ (2530—84), 1897. Oil on canvas by Victor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov (1848—1926). Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia/Bridgeman Art Library.

Central Question: Examining general approaches to Ivan’s reign as a whole [as a whole implies as a conclusive assessment, not a good idea]

Thesis: Ivan’s Religious views, personal cruelty and sadism reflect [determined] Ivan’s punishments on his people and rule in general. [terribly argued]

Examples of Evidence in Support of the Thesis: Secondary sources, Primary Sources without a critical eye [bad choices].

Chapter or Section Summaries:

Critique/Questions/Reflections: Inconclusive, non-discerning of all sources, Condescending tonality, perspective of surrounding cultures treated with noviceness, somewhat muddled, uses of non-updated material of Platonov's focus on Ivan the Terrible.

  • This book uses religion as the main culprit of Ivan's poor judgments. his stereotype against religion is immature at best, and seeks to take out the importance and ignore the church's importance in people's lives and the states they lived in, during the middle ages.

  • How do they know for certain, these things they say in the  book when they were written by third-party sources which used hearsay for recording the past?

Be careful of how this period of the Oprichnina is treated and who is to blame and who is not to blame in Pavlov’s and Perrie’s explanations of the Oprichnina.

"This is the first major re-assessment of Ivan the Terrible to be published in the West in the post-Soviet period. It breaks away from older stereotypes of the tsar — as a crazed tyrant’ and evil genius’ on the one hand, and as a great and wise statesman’, on the other — to provide a more balanced picture. It examines the ways in which Ivan’s policies contributed to the creation of Russia’s distinctive system of unlimited monarchical rule. The reign of Ivan the Terrible (1533—84) occurred at a key period in the development of Russian statehood, as the country emerged from Tatar domination and began to play an important role on the broader European stage."

Ivan is best remembered for his reign of terror, and the book pays due attention to the horrors of his executions, tortures and repressions, especially in the period of the oprichnina (1565—72), when he mysteriously divided his realm into two parts, one of which was under the direct control of the tsar and his oprichniki (bodyguard). This work argues that the often gruesome forms assumed by the terror reflected not only Ivan’s personal cruelty and sadism, but also his religious views about the divinely ordained right of the tsar to punish his treasonous subjects, just as sinners were punished in hell. Primarily chronological, the book focuses on three main aspects of Ivan’s power: the territorial expansion of the state; the mythology, rituals and symbols of monarchy; and the development of the autocratic system of rule.

In June 1566 was one of the largest and most representative assemblies of the sixteenth century. Several hundred men took part in its sessions, including not only members of the clergy, boyars and nobles, but also merchants, who were involved for the first time in the work of an Assembly of the Land.  Some historians have been puzzled by the fact that such a large and representative Assembly should have been convened during the oprichniria period. Their uncertainty springs from the widespread view that Assemblies of the Land were the highest-level estate-representative institutions; similar to the parliaments of western Europe.  In more recent historiography this view has been increasingly questioned. The fullest critique can be found in the works of the German historian Hans-Joachim Torke. Explaining why Assemblies of the Land in sixteenth- and seventeenth century Russia cannot be considered to be estate - representative institutions, Torke argued that Russia did not have politicized estates of the western type, and that the Russian estates were characterized by the absence of political rights and institutions which would have enabled them to obtain a degree of independence from the power of the ruler, influence the formation of government policy and impose some limitation on the power of the monarch.

The appearance of the Assemblies of the Land in the middle of the sixteenth century coincided with the development of the rights of the estates and their institutions of self- government, and there was a real possibility that Russia would evolve in the direction of an estate-representative monarchy: but the further development of ‘parliamentarism’ in Russia was very different to that in western Europe. The main reason for this was the interference of the state in the development of the estate system. As we have seen, Ivan Groznyi’s oprichnina policy was designed to suppress the political independence of the estates and to consolidate autocracy a very different e of state system to the estate- representative monarchies of western Europe. (page 131)

Tsar Ivan did not want to strengthen the nobility (or any other estate for that matter), seeing this as threatening to limit his power. The entire course of the oprichrrirra policy, and of its land policy in particular, led not to the strengthening but to the weakening of the nobility as a social estate. The significance of the introduction of the oprichnina, therefore, was not only the tsar’s aspiration to free himself from the traditional tutelage of the boyars and the higher clergy. To an even greater extent, the oprichnina was directed against the estates as a whole. It represented an idiosyncratic reaction by the autocratic tsar against the development of estate representative institutions, and was an attempt to halt any independent activity on the part of the estates and to push them in the direction of service to the state. In order to implement these aims the tsar chose to introduce a state of emergency and to divide the embryonic noble estate, one part of which was granted a special privileged status at the expense of the rights and privileges of the rest of the nobility. Political cases, which had become one of the priorities of domestic policy, were removed from the traditional state institutions (the boyar duma and the chancelleries) and transferred to the jurisdiction of the tsar and his personal servitors, the oprichniki. (page 141)

There was another, ideological side to it. In introducing the oprichnina. surrounding himself with devoted and loyal servitors’, Ivan aimed to create a kind of ideal model of the social order, whose guiding principle was to be the complete subordination of his subjects to the power and will of the tsar. (151)

This passage is puzzling because there is no proof for this analysis in prime sources, so the question remains ― how do you know?

Ivan sincerely believed that only he, as an Orthodox sovereign placed on the throne by God Himself, had the right (by the grace of the Almighty) to guide the destiny of his realm. He regarded any insubordination to his royal will as a crime against God, deserving harsh punishment. (151)

This statement can be less a spiritual implication and a more in-depth observation to all societies using religion at this time. Most felt the same way -- the king was God's representative on Earth. So what made Ivan special here? A better question would be, what made Ivan's grandfather more special or his son Fedor any less special? In Orthodoxy the state and religion were married, they worked as one concept. The statement above appears an indictment of religion in general, and less an objective understanding of the middle ages and the role of religion.


General Statements, may be myths:

Ivan Groznyi did not want to be dependant in any way either on the boyars or on the merchants (page 87, Pavlov & Perrie)

Finally, was the oprichnina directed against the independence of the Church? Although in the years of the oprichnin some fairly significant and dramatic conflicts occurred between the secular and spiritual authorities, these clashes did not take the form of a conflict between Church and state for power and political predominance The ‘insubordinate’ Church leaders spoke out in the 1560s and 1570s not against the existing order, nor against the autocratic monarchy in general, but only against the methods which Ivan Groznyi had adopted in order to consolidate the autocracy, and against the atrocities of the oprichnina. At least until the time of Patriarch Nikon (in the ‘6505—1660s) the Russian Church never claimed political pre-eminence and remained dependent on the Muscovite sovereigns.

Thus we cannot see either the princely boyar aristocracy, or the remnants of the appanages, or ‘mutinous’ Novgorod, or the Church, as mighty anti-centralizing forces which Ivan IV inevitably had to fight in the interests of preserving the unity and integrity of the state. The oprichnina cannot be explained and justified on these grounds. V.0. Klyuchevskii and S.B. Veselovskji, who did not see any great purpose in the oprichnina, and considered that in the last resort it simply amounted to the extermination of troublesome individuals, and did not change the social and political structure of the country as a whole. (page 123)

The essence of the oprichnina conflict lay not in a contest between ‘centralizing’ and ‘anti-centralizing’ forces, but in a disagreement between the tsar and his former associates concerning the way in which centralization should be implemented. The nub of this quarrel may be found the famous correspondence between Ivan and Kurbskii. Tsar Ivan insisted on the unquestioning subordination of all his subjects from the most eminent boyar to the humblest peasant to the will of the autocratic monarch Kurbskji thought that the tsar ought not to rule the country autocratically, without the advice of ‘men who are wise. . . and (page 123)


1 Pavlov, Andrei & Maureen Perrie, Ivan The Terrible: Profiles in Power (London:  Pearson Education Limited, 2003)

2 Ibid,.

3 Ibid,.
4 Ibid,.
5 Ibid,.
6 Ibid,.
7 Ibid,.
8 Ibid,.

9 Ibid,.
10 Ibid,.

11 Ibid,.



Klyuchevskii drew attention to one of the most important functions of the oprichnina corps. It was from the ranks of the oprichniki that the tsar recruited the punitive apparatus for dealing with his political opponents. It was not just the duty but also the privilege of the opricliniki to take part in the investigation and prosecution of ‘state criminals’. Imbued with extraordinary powers, the oprichniki frequently abused them; not only could they persecute ‘enemies of the state’ with impunity, but they could also settle scores with their enemies.

The role of the oprichnina, however, was not limited to that of a political police force. There was another, ideological side to it. In introducing the
oprichnina. surrounding himself with devoted and loyal servitors’, Ivan aimed to create a kind of ideal model of the social order, whose guiding principle was to be the complete subordination of his subjects to the power and will of the tsar. Ivan sincerely believed that only he, as an Orthodox sovereign placed on the throne by God Himself, had the right (by the grace of the Almighty) to guide the destiny of his realm. He regarded any insubordination to his royal will as a crime against God, deserving harsh punishment. For Ivan the ideal social circler in many ways was that of a monastery, with all the inmates living according to the same rules, and subject to the will of a single leader. Ivan compared his power to that of a monastic Fathei Superior (an abbot), who was not only the superintendent of his monks, hut also their spiritual guide and their mentor both in worldly affairs and in matters of faith.

Of great interest in this regard are the account’, of Taube and Kruse, who describe the way in which life in the oprichniria resembled a mon astir brotherhood. The bead of this brotherhood the abbot was the tsar himself, its cellarer (the abbot’s assistant) was Prince Afanasii Ivanovich Vyazeniskim and the sacristan was the notorious Malyuta Skuratov. The members of the ‘brotherhood’ wore coarse nionastic robes and carried long monastic staves. Early in the niorning the tsar, holding a lantern, would climb the bell tower, where he and the ‘sacristan’ would summon the ‘brethren’ to a church service. ‘Brothers’ who failed to attend prayers would have a penance imposed (in them by the tsar abbot. The service lasted from four till seven in the morning and then continued, after a short break, until ten. ‘1 he tsar himself sang in the choir and prayed assiduously alongside his son’,. From the church everyone went to the refectory. While the ‘brothers’ ate, the ‘abbot’ stood calmly beside them and read from edifying books. Fond left over from the meal was distrib imted to beggars. After the evening meal, at nine, the tsar rested for a while, then at midnight he and the ‘brothers’ again went to the bell tower and the church for the night-time service.


Notes per chapter:


Ivan the Terrible: Profiles in Power

Book’s purpose: Main argument to reassess Ivan’s career – not all bad not all good – a balanced view.

Ch. 1, Theme:  tracing the past theories on Ivan.

Tough beginning; may have left resentment; acted out in later life? Death surrounds family. Father died when only three years-old, and his mother died when he was eight years-old. First wife died prematurely. Did this really affect him? Ivan seen as the founder of autocratic monarchy. Stereotypes in modern literature: ‘crazy tyrant,’ evil genius.’ Historian divided in their assessment; greatest dispute – the period of oprichinina (1565-’72). Mysteriously divided realm into two parts and began a reign of terror.

Ivan acquired the title Tsar from his capture of Kazan: Song, Folklore text from 18th century onward.  American historian, Richard Hellie: argues Ivan was paranoid. and gives rational explanation, instead of others’ irrational and pathological.

Hellie and Crummy, appear to opt for psychiatric and medicalized approaches.

Hellie: Paranoid was a disorder of the middle age ( mjm highly doubtful, more like the entire history of humans).

Psychology/ psychoanalysis are not exact sciences’.

“until 1960s, dominant interpretation was Russian historiographer, S. F. Plantonov: argued that oprichnina, a policies to weaken aristocracy ( destroying landownership, hereditary ownership, distributing to small-scale military servitors. ( note this is incorrect assessment of his statements and feelings in his 1923 work, entitled, Ivan the Terrible. See my work to access what Platonov actually said.

1963: S..B. Veselovskii: brought back V.O Klyuchevskii’s ‘pathological’ theme.

Stalin didn’t like negative views (or parallels)  from texts about Ivan. Plantonov 1930 trumped-up, exile 1933.  Sources for Ivan’s reign are plentiful, but problematic. (mjm No comprehensive biographies). Many destroyed in the times of troubles ( 17th cent.).   

Ch. 2 Theme: Marriage as politics. How to rise to power in Muscovite politics.

Muscovite suspicion of Collateral heirs (p 28)

Ivan Groznyi: 25 August 1530, first child of Grand Prince Vasilli III and second wife Elena Glinskaya (d. 1538, gossip poisoned, favorite, Ovchina (military commander), killed, then Shuiskii clan gains power – claim). Vasilli first wife, Solomoniya Saburova, divorced, 1525. twenty-years married, failed to produce heir. She was forced to enter a convent; Anti-Josephite monk Vassian Patrikeev condemned the divorce, contrary to cannon law. Are boyars actually running the state? Threats for the throne: Grand prince Vasilii’s other brother, Prince Andrei Ivanovich of Staritsa (Yurii Ivanovich, other brother died first) feared his sister-in-law Elena, fled from Staritsa to Novgorod for support. Ovchina leads troops from Moscow against Novgorod. Promises Andrei that Elena means no harm, lied too, imprisoned, died there ( later wife and family). Note this is consolidating a certain clan. But why not kill young Ivan (IV)? He was the only one that continue the reign, and it was the Tsar ( leader) that gave power ultimately to the boyars (Aristocracy/nobles). Question? Who had the financial interest, or company that benefited the most from conspiracy. What was at stake for the clans involved?

Chief rivals from Lithuania who came to Moscow in 1480s, were the Bel’skii princes.

Shuiskii imprisoned Prince Ivan Bel’skii, Metropolitan Ioasaf interceded, freed.

Ch3.Theme: Topic expansion of realm, religious connotation.

Lithuanian prince doc. Annexed Kasan for wealth. Others arguments: Fight the infidel – linked to religious motifs. Archangel M. Cathedral, burial place for grand princes. Ivan received title of Tzar after conquest of Kazan. ‘ Third Rome’ image, New Jerusalem. Fashioned patriotic sense of empire. Kazan lands distributed new trade hubs, new church construction, influence of Christianity into realm.

Ch. 4: Theme: Domestic reforms linked to conquest. Argument: annexation led to legitimacy to centralize/ bureaucracy Rus’. Vast financial opportunity. Problems: must manage, what to do with the service-class? Ivan Peresvetov, Argument, Magnates infighting weakened realm, left open to Turkish conquests. He called for the ordinary warrior. Tries to reform the estate system.  This later would be Ivan’s lower-class merit system for servitors. Expl. Adashev, Sil’vestr – low ranks, but influential. Period of Reforms: late 1540s-‘50s: Add judicial system, 28, Feb. 1549. New money, guest merchant program, 1550 petition peasant can leave landowner for one year . Justice/moral issues. Was there a Chosen Council? Or just boyar duma/privy council?   Financial reforms, no tax exemption form Church lands (article 43), ‘Thousander Reform,’1556, code of service, mandate to keep land, Mestnichestvo, military leaders fighting for position on battlefield, issue precedence reform. Significance, all processes to form a single service class; ( Article 98) nobles, boyars given some importance in court and parallel power in some decision-making.

Ch 5, Theme: Changes in policies, new circle of men, more autocratic endeavors, new lands, Church recognition, remarriage. boyar revolt or myth, March 1553, ( interpolations in codes) seen as reason for revolt. March 1553, Ivan’s illness led to succession talk and suspicions.  Ivan Groznyi suspects Alecksei Adashev and Sil’vestr (tonsured) as chief conspirators’, events 1553. Result investigated no open insubordination: significance, led to boyar weakening after 1553 and sickness led to discourse on problems of the empire. Rostovskii Affair, signs of paranoia. Treaties Denmark, Sweden, 1550 new lands foreign policy victories. 1561, ecumenical church council of Constantinople recognized Tsar now. 21 Aug 1561 wife Kuchenei: significance former wife’s relatives retain inner circle power. Letters between defected Kurbskii & Ivan, subject Ivan’s authority. Were they real documents? Precedence: Absent trials, not liked by most Rus’ people, seen as autocratic symbol. Old judicial system gone.

Ch 6: Theme: Intelligence ploy, Consolidating power, massive realm reforms and personal reforms, and Ivan’s intelligence. Dividing the lands into two major realms, the migration of masses of people. Why? Plots, infighting of Moscow boyars, nobles, 3 , Dec 1564, Ivan feigns abdication, common people show support against the aristocracy, the result, the magnates capitulate to give Ivan more power. Oprichnina, Oprichiniki in absentia, zemshchina implemented. Zemshchina 100,000 roubles annual, jurisdiction boyar-duma, ordered to fulfill functions of gov., core military, admin. Justice ‘ in the old way.’ Surveillance by periodic reports, Ivan also decreed the loss of Precedence Policy. Relevance, limited archival records from 1560s-‘70s. Argument: German historian Hans-Joachim Torke, non-estate-representation, absence of political rights now, describes autocrat. Significance to dissuade loyalty by local roots, end boyar power, create one class.

Ch 7. Continue theme of Oprichnina. Move people around, separate assemblies, 1566 –only zemshchnia took part, new emergency taxes. Continued war against Lithuania.1567 New Oprichnina court; Ivan develops strong diplomatic and economic ties with England (Volga River trade posts), and escape plans. Princely landownership severely weakened. 300 petitioners by nobles, complaint against the Oprichniki; result three executed, most flogged, a sign of the coming widespread suppression. Ivan believes more and more plots to destroy him. Trumped charges against Filipp Kolychev, metropolitan. Cadasteral survey for tax assessment. Good economic planning. Oprichnina most important land resettlement in Muscovite history.

Ch 8. theme: Culmination of terror, suppression and absolute power. 1569, rumors of Novgorod élite plot, the entire city, suppression, killed women, children and let oprichniki loot the city. Myths, 30,000-20,000 killed, other historians, 2,000-3. & 10,000-5,000.  Stories of bizarre torture.  Izborsk treason, Lithuania troops took frontiers. Disorder creates unsecured borders, Moscow trials, Tzars immediate entourage.  Significance, Decisive blows against the boyars. Oprichnina magnates came completely dependant on the monarchy, confiscated monastic wealth. Ivan thinks promoting low classes to his inner circles or power creates more loyalty. They give no threat to the throne. 1570 Low-birth ( Provincial nobility) now formed Oprichnina. 1669-’70 culmination of terror. Significance: Oprichnina and zemshchnia deeply divided. Oprichnina court deeply divided. Zemshchnia magnates hated the aristocracy. Many traditional clan supporters tried, imprisoned, tonsured, killed. Many of folklore came from this period. Argument: Oprichnina was not fit for foreign battles.

Ch. 9




Heinrich Von Staden

Prime Source Documents

  • 1893 Discovery of the Heinrich Van Staden Documents.

Central Question: Oprichnina was a conflict in the balance of interests. When Ivan in 1558 began the Livonian War, aristocrats became disaffected, because of the thoughts of a long-protracted war. Anti― war sentiment ( possibly like today’s protests by pacifists -- who actually likes war). Who wanted war? People die?  Key people in government defected, destabilized the country and Military, created a need for resolve atmosphere of suspicion; Ivan quits, commoners protests, and ask him to return to protect them from the aristocracy; 100,000 indemnity agreed upon, private lands agreed upon, crack down on suspected traitors to Russia, creates instability; Oprichnina army attacks the commoners’ army, Ivan loses control of the Oprichnina, and further destabilizes the country – Ivan then after seven years abolishes the military factions of the Oprichnina, while keeping in place certain servitor laws to re-stabilize the country. 

Thesis: The oprichnina was conceived as a solution to the conflict.

between I van's views of his role in society and the aristocrats' views of theirs. The Oprichniki caused great misery in the country (Esper, 21)

Examples of Evidence in Support of the Thesis: A number [of the deceased grand princes] began the Oprichnina action, but were unable to accomplish anything (Esper, 17) It was also a period of great famine, when one man killed another for a crust of bread. (Esper, 29). He gave the Oprichniki the liberty to treat the zemskie people badly in every way (Esper, 31).

Chapter or Section Summaries:

Ivan divided Moscow into two sections taking the smaller section, but later in creases it in increments.

In accordance with their oath, the oprichniki were not permitted to say a single word to those in the zemshchnina, nor marry personas from the zemshchnina; and if a father or mother of a person in the oprichnina lived in the zemshchnina, that person was not allowed to go to them ever again.




Reflections: (web section)


Oprichnina drew out a need to protect Russia from massive foreign enemy plots, and wars which took away vital strategic trade ports. Coalitions between Protestants and Islam threatened to destroy Russia from many different fronts at the same time, in which it almost occurred unless Ivan took control of Russia centralized it and forced its citizens into military support for the fragmented country. What happened during the Oprichniki period is now legendary. “The Reign of Terror” is a direct corresponding aspect of this period in Russia. This is the main reason why Ivan remains relevant today. During his day, as Harvard’s Edward Keenan in the mid-seventies used to say, he was gossiped in Europe on the level of an Elvis Presley. His character remains the question for all, many in modern times, even thought they have all the sources we have still try to blame ancillary social factors for Ivan’s Oprichnina actions, such as Religion.



Andrei Pavlov a Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Russian History, St Petersburg and Maureen Perrie a Professor of Russian History, University of Birmingham co-authored a book called Ivan The Terrible: Profiles in Power  in which  their thesis Ivan’s Religious views, personal cruelty and sadism reflect [determined] Ivan’s punishments on his people and rule in general. This only represents a modern leftist approach to blaming the Church for an individuals own accountability for his actions. No where in all of these modern texts have I read an understanding by a scholar that people in the Middle Ages were religious and their lives reflected a religious demeanor. The thoughts of the Reformation had not reached Russia, they were mostly illiterate as a whole, and everyone, including the nomadic steppe tribes relied in social form on an adopted Religion. To operate in the Middle Ages was to be raised in some type of Religion, be it polytheistic, monotheistic, or variations of the two. Placing modern atheistic-western-thought, opposition to religious perspectives, into the mouths, the identities of the people of the Middle Ages, is immature, if not totally ineffectual. Religion and its affects on people in the Middle Ages was too complex for a general statement to be applied to the actions of one person. This type of historiography remains imbedded in world academia that has adopted a salient teleological reaction that one set of social forms, religion, created all immorality in history. Although Pavlov and Perrie claim a more balanced look at Ivan, this is not a positive rationalization of him or a deep and concerting effort and they miss many other factors that played into the question of why Ivan did what he did in this seven year period of the oprichniki.



Von Staden's Account


Thomas Esper, whose translation of Heinrich Von Staden, The Land and Government of Muscovy in which we will look at, also makes a general statement about Ivan’s character and a correlation to religion. Although, we have no biography from Ivan, how do we know Ivan believed or felt this way?


“Ivan believed that he was answerable to no one but God, and that the aristocrats were no less his subjects than the most humble peasants. The aristocrats, while recognizing the Tsar's supreme authority, insisted upon their special privileges and rights as a corporate group, believing that they, in some ill-defined manner, shared with Ivan the rule of Muscovy.” (Thomas Esper, xix)


However, Thomas Esper’s assessment is an anti-religious view. He blames Ivan from his own perspective and not how Ivan may have perceived his own actions. Many rulers needed to take controls of the church, which of course looks like the person is a hypocrite to a modern anti-religious scholar, or believing they are over God’s authority, this took place in many places in Europe and is a fashionable argument of the left to blame religion as a whole, for someone’s personal responsibility to upholding, at least, the anti-autocrats, ideals. Charles II, was one such case and he was very pious, he was also battling Protestant sympathizers in the top ecclesiastical positions in his empire, which of course were off-limits to a king’s jurisdiction. We can see Ivan IV in the same way. He didn’t destroy or even significantly weaken the church; he needed to do what was fit for the survival of the country, which was his prime objective. We need to reinvent how we look at history and not from a lefty-view point as the status-quo. Wars, although the people that fought them were religious, were always based upon economics, self aggrandizement, and political restructuring. Religion happened to be blamed because all peoples to some extent in the Middle Ages were affiliated with religious institutions, including Islam, Buddhist, and many other religions. And yes, Buddhists have a long history of militancy, and only a modern reinvention have fashioned their history as pacifists.  The Mongols, for the most part adopted Islam instead of joining the Orthodox religion. The Tartars was a Turkish colloquialism for Muslim nomadic steppe tribes, who had adopted the religion, and that joined the pax - coalition and were directly associated with the ranks of the other generic term the Mongols to form the famous steppe empire, Pax Mongolica. This war and conquest too came from the notion of economic dominance. The silk and spice trade went directly through the steppe planes of east. Controlling it meant controlling world trade. But back to the Oprichnina, before Staden’s published works we had Giles Fletcher’s polemic first hand account of Muscovy. Thomas Esper in his introduction continues his own views on what the Oprichnina was according to Staden:



During the seven years of its existence, the most independent and powerful aristocrats were either killed, financially ruined, or cowed; the last vestiges of separatist sentiment in Novgorod were destroyed; and the independence of the Church was attacked, though not much diminished. Thus, Ivan's policy was in one respect successful: his authority emerged unchallenged. But it can also be argued that the price paid for victory was inordinately high. The special forces of the oprichnina, as Staden clearly shows, slipped from Ivan's control and

ravaged the zemshchina – that part of Muscovy outside the oprichnina. This left the country a shambles, and accounted to a great extent for the burning of Moscow by the Crimean Tatars in 1571, and ultimately, for the loss of the Livonian war. “ (Thomas Esper, xv)


The Oprichnina actually didn’t dissolve until after Ivan’s death, and the historiography apparent with an end date of 1572 remains ensconced in world books. Parts of the Oprichnina were abolished such as the private armies, and some other legal specifications, but land servitude, political restructuring, and preferment remained intact until after Ivan’s death, meaning that the Oprichnina was still in fact in place for another twelve-years.


Oprichnina Roots begin with Ivan III (1462-1505) with his policy of “ gathering of the Russian Lands” around Moscow and involved subjugation of numerous princely houses to the authority of the grand prince. Kiev, Rus’ and Novgorod had once stylized semi-democratic, but limited, functionaries in their histories, which created a notion and a history of private ownership and private rights to lands of the aristocracy.


The Livonian war becomes the cause for the Oprichnina period and its so-called terror episodes. Many Russians lived in lands governed by a Lithuania – Poland monarch. Their loyalties have become questioned. Many dealt with economic ties and loyalties, as Ivan, did in fact, make point and law that only his preferred merchants, chosen of course, could conduct stately business in economics.


Commoners loved the Tsar for his protective concerns for them, especially against the Aristocracy, according to Fletcher, who saw any discontent in the society, surely brought it out in his work, took great lengths to point out the severity and ill treatment the aristocracy and nobles treated the commoner. However, there were times when the Tsar didn’t protect the commoner in the early stages of the oprichniki who if gave all rights to judgment over them, which of course created a backlash by the Metropolitan and boyars who all paid the price with death, torture and hideous punishments.


These aristocrats may or may not be associated with the government. Nobles were not the same terminology for the aristocrats that usually were associated prince’s houses.  Staden views a boyar only as a person of prominence. However, nobles had high positions in local districts which gave them ample power and opportunity and somewhat local autonomy. Therefore, it becomes reasonable to understand why the commoners were the ones that first formed a delegation to A. Sloboda to ask Ivan for support and to return to the throne. The conditions agree too were a sum of 100,000 rubles, and the set up of private land with a private army.


Now, we will look at what the Oprichnina and how possibly outside factors caused the Tsar to split the country into two parts and begin a tour of suppression. Staden may have been one of the masterminds about the plot relativity revealed in history of a coalition between the Muslims and the up-Start Protestants, and Catholic remnant northern princes in Europe..


To build an anti-Russian coalition composed of the German Order of Knights, Sweden, and Poland. (The German Order was the successor of the Livonian Order, but its land holdings were insignificant and were all in western Germany.) These European forces would together attack Ivan IV from the north by sea, while the Tatars would invade from across the steppe land in the south. The purpose of this concerted effort was to force the Russians out of Livonia and to restore that region to the

German Order. Heinrich von Staden was very much involved in those plans. In 1578 he was sent to the Master of the German Order (and later to the Polish and the Swedish courts) on behalf of Count Georg Hans. He

evidently carried with him a proposal for an invasion of I I northern Russia by sea. (Thomas Esper, xi)


Protestant, pre-cursors to the modern day Liberals,  planned to ally with Islam against Orthodox Christianity and was a major reality and theme of the Middle Ages. Many cases throughout Europe have been written about this, and here is one case of the Northern Princes' argument ( the other being Southern Europe with France's aid to Muslim terrorists against the Catholic Church, mainly Italy and Spain) of a documents by German traveler to Russia in the 16th century who had been able to get close to the tsar, plot and promote an invasion with Islam, and later eventually become a vial source of history for this period. The plan is to attack Orthodox Russia, takes its lands and subjugates its peoples. This was not a religious war, but a war for the control of key strategic trade zones.

"Between 1578 and 1582, Count Georg Hans sought to build an anti-Russian coalition composed of the German Order of Knights, Sweden, and Poland. These European forces would together attack Ivan IV from the north by sea, while the Tatars [Turkish Muslim] would invade from across the steppe land in the south."  (Esper xi)


When the Russians took the river Neve, a tributary river to the Gulf of Finland, in the 13th century, Russians gained a strategic trade outpost and causeway to trade with and into the Hanseatic League. With the Livonian War, Russia had to move its sea operations to the Northern Dvina, a far north port frozen over during the wintertime, and a long roundabout journey to trade with England and other European countries. Before the Mongols took over Kievean Rus’ trade had began to diminish for the Russians, which was a key economic survival hood for their society. This clearly was part of the reason for the easy success of the Mongols, as Russian armies were not well equipped by the lack of trade. How did Ivan deal with this aspect to see his Muscovy falling to pieces as the push by the Poland-Lithuanian and Tartar coalitions were to wage war and take the little vital trade cites and causeways that Russian had remaining. People of Russia were not into the political understand of what was going on around them, and when they didn’t want to fight the Livonian war, for many reasons we can assume, such as the harshness of a protracted war, we see a need by the government to deal with the realties of basic survival.


Complicated scheming on both sides for these land control policies plays out in Ivan’s ultimate decision to ‘ right’ his countrymen. “A lieutenant of the King of Poland, Aleksandr Polubenski, from Livonia, set out with eight hundred Poles disguised as oprichniki. With him, however, were three hundred harguebusiers form among his people and generously provided them with clothes and money. “ (Esper 18) The oprichniki had a specific black uniform and dress-code which made them stand-out as the authority of Ivan. With the defections of envious princely clans to the enemies side and foreign scheming, Ivan had to set out and search for conspirators, traitors and force his people to submit loyalty to Russia.



A lieutenant of the King of Poland, Aleksandr Polubenski, from Livonia, set out with eight hundred Poles disguised as oprichniki. With him, however, were three boyars' [Actually anyone of prominence to Staden, a mis-understanding by him] who had deserted the Grand Prince: Mark Sarykhozin, his brother Anisim, and Timofei Teterin, who had been a harquebusier captain with the Grand Prince in Russia. Teterin feared the displeasure of the Grand Prince, and took vows in a monastery and came before the King [of Poland] hooded [like a monk]. The lieutenant then went to Izborsk [a fortified town near Pskov] and said to the guard at the gate, "Open up, I come from the oprichnina!" The gate was opened immediately. The Poles thus surprised Izborsk. They held it not longer than fourteen days, and surrendered it again to the Russian oprichniki. The Poles [who surrendered] were favored with estates as peasants. Those who wanted to keep Izborsk were killed. In Livonia, the Russians at Fellin, Tarvast [Mustla], and Marienburg [Aluksne], wanted to surrender to the Poles. The Grand Prince learned of this and had all the

chief clerks and authorities in these cities and castles be-headed. The heads were sent in sacks to Moscow as evidence. The Grand Prince thereupon sent an order to all frontier posts and cities: no one claiming to be from the oprichnina should be admitted. (Esper 31-32)



This picture doesn’t describe a madman. There is a cause and effect of his doing. What turned out as a possible sound decision for unifying the forces for military, as we shall see, certain aspects of the Oprichnina took on an aspect outside of Ivan’s control. Staden clearly saw that the Oprichniki took the law and matters into their own hands and “ tortured” Russia.



The oprichniki ransacked the entire countryside and

all the cities and villages of the zemshchina, although


Then the Grand Prince began to wipe out all the chief

people of the oprichnina. Prince AfanasiiViazemskiidied

in chains in the town of Gorodets. Aleksei [Basmanov]

and his son [Fedor], with whom the Grand Prince indulged

in lewdness, were killed. Maliuta Skuratov was

shot near Weissenstein [Paide] in Livonia. He was the

pick of the bunch, and according to the Grand Prince's

order, he was remembered in church. Prince Mikhail,

the son of the Grand Prince's brother-in-law from the

Circassian land,41was chopped to death by the harquebusiers

with axes or halberds. Prince Vasilii Temkin was

drowned. Ivan Saburov was murdered. Peter Seissewas

hanged from his own court gate opposite the bedroom.

Prince Andrei Ovtsyn was hanged in the Arbatskaya

street of the oprichnina. A living sheep was hung next

to him. The marshal Bulat wanted to marry his sister

to the Grand Prince. He was killed and his sister was J

raped by five hundred harquebusiers. The captain of the

harquebusiers, Kuraka Unkovskii, was killed and stuck

under the ice. In the previous year [name unclear] was

eaten by dogs at the Karinskii guard post of Aleksandrova

Sloboda. Grigorii Griaznoi was killed and his son


the Grand Prince had not given them permission to do

that. They drew up instructions themselves, as though

the Grand Prince had ordered them to kill this or that

merchant or noble-if he was thought to have moneyalong

with his wife and children, and to take his money

and property to the Grand Prince's Treasury. In the

zemshchina, they thus committed many murders and

assassinations, which are beyond description. Many who

did not want to murder came to a place where they

thought there was money, and seized the people and

tortured them so long and so severely that they got,.~ll

the cash and everything they wanted. The commonerSin

the oprichnina, the townsmen and peasants and all their

servants, and the menials and maids brought suits against

the zemskie people to get their money. I will not say

what the servants, maids, and boys of the [oprichnina]

princes and nobles permitted themselves. In the letter of

the law everything is legal.

When the oprichniki had tortured Russia-the entire

zemshchina-according to their will and pleasure so that

even the Grand Prince realized it was enough […](Esper 33-34)


There is more than one version in Staden at the ideas that came to him to split the country into two parts. Above, the mention of the scheming created the need to isolate one part of the Russian society and demarcate them as zemshchina, allowing them their own boyar duma and some autonomy and elections, but to remain isolated from the Oprichnina’s lands and people. This way Ivan had less to concern himself with as to who was on which side of the loyalty-line. To achieve this type of cleansing he needed secrecy. To represent the point more clearly, we look at a passage from Staden about the coalition plans to invade Russia.



I humbly request that your Imperial Roman Majesty keep this account, consider the project well, and carry it out-so that this good opportunity may not be lost. But I beg that my report not be copied and become generally known! The reason is this: the Grand Prince [ Ivan IV] spares no expense to learn what is going on in other kingdoms and lands, and this is done with the utmost secrecy. He probably has connections, through merchants, with imperial, royal, and princely courts. The merchants are well supplied with money for bribery, which the Grand Prince wants used cautiously to protect him against unpleasant surprises. If he should learn of this project, he could fortify the seacoast I describe by building blockhouses at the river mouths and garrisoning them. (Esper 4, Staden, the Petition)


Augsburg Confession issued in 1530 gave the German lands the rights to Protestantism. To them, Orthodoxy and Catholicism were now the enemies of Christianity. The four-part documents uncovered in the late 19th century show that three copies were distributed with this petition plan to various European influential’s and leaders. Historians had no access to this data when writing upon the reasons for the Oprichnina. To them Ivan was basically a madman, and this historiography played right into the theme of barbarian autocracy in the age of increasing liberalism in Northern and parts of Southern Europe. By Staden’s own admittance he is a spy and sometimes a double agent for the Protestants.



I, Heinrich von Staden, shall continue to serve you truly and nobly. Your Imperial Roman Majesty may perhaps learn from my report how I maintained myself in the service of the Grand Prince, who is the hereditary foe of all Christians, and an unspeakable tyrant. It is much more fitting that I serve your Imperial Roman Majesty, under whom my parents peacefully passed their days. I feel myself duty bound and obliged to serve you obediently in every way, chief of all Christians, in order that your leadership be not weakened and suppressed but extended. In order to be more trusted, I have signed this with my own hand: your Imperial Roman Majesty's most humble and obedient servant, Heinrich Von Staden. (Esper 5, Staden, the Petition)



The seven-year period of the Oprichniki had a purpose.



From Edward Keenan, we understand Ivan was physical sick. Staden states he saw the Tsar mount and dismount his horse, which goes to show the Tsar was at least physically functional to manually get around. “ The Grand Prince climbed onto this to mount  [ a scaffold-like square table, Staden ] and dismount his horse. (Esper 50,) The Primary Chronicle, according to Keenan had stated Ivan was carried because he was too sick, and that he was already seated on a chair when dignitaries came and took council with the Muscovy government. However, more investigation needs to be done on this aspect of Ivan’s physical life.


1 Heinrich Von Staden, The Land and Government of Muscovy, trans., ed., Thomas Esper ( Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1967). Heinrich Von Staden documents, four-parts, three copies existed (Lithuania, Sweden, Livonia:  ca. 1580)
Here are notes and thoughts in my continuing research.

Page limit: ?
Subsections topics ?: What do you want covered and how much space should be devoted for this? I would love to have topics be positioned such as “ three pages” or “ one paragraph” or “ one page.”

Style for each subsection ?:
An argument, or review (analysis): Argument I gather means I approve or disprove an argument of my author and support my evidence. A review I gather is just he said this and this means that, and this was how he dealt with it (analysis) all in a historical context.

If I go with an argument, depending on page limit or subsection ( page limit?), I will need to pick and chose my author(s) arguments. What I mean I cannot argue everything on Ivan, it would be a book. If I take an argument by the author, I can fill in my new understanding, the lessons, and lectures, texts we have read and incorporate them into the argument. I would probably go about chronologically as my author approaches his argument. But then again I do not think I can cover the entire period.

If I review then I can add or retell the historical views of the authors and their arguments. Something like Hallie did in the opening of my author’s edition. I feel less qualified because I have never read their works, and can only exhibit their views, by re-wording them from another author’s point of view. This is an extremely hard project because it makes me seem as if I have understood the entire historiography of Ivan. This is my first exposure to any Russian history.

If you chose I do both, please dedicate page limits for each subsection.

Argument to Subsections,

My understanding of topics for arguments:
Platonov: ( each section takes a considerable amount of space)
Introduction chapter:
History of Ivan’s historiography. But more on what he adopts for his use in text,
Methodologies used
Ivan’s younger years:
Boyar abuse, Ivan’s mother disobeys Ivan’s father. What is the psychological affects of a mother that betrays a father in a young son’s mind?
Good wife,
Development of things,
Positive Ivan and forming of relationships.
The very educated and literate Ivan
Ivan’s middle years, guba reformy, institutions, politics, the beginning of separation.
Personal crisis:
Illness, Vladimir conspiracy,

Chosen Council: personal relationships
Loss of wife,
Disputes, become personal after initial war success.
Foreign policy and wars. ) I have 7 pages already on this, very complex, but necessary to Platonov’s coward/psychology argument.
Reforms, Ivan’s literacy and statesmen.
Ivan’s later middle years:
Ivan’s character
An absence of discussion on intricate details according to foreigners.
Platonov’s only area of unrationality of Ivan’s life.
Ivan was never insane.
Ivan separating from his own people begins
Platonov had a difficult time with this subject. He wanted to see good of Ivan, but threw up his hands and quite this section. There was no rationality.

Ivan’s later years:
Rationality returns to Ivan
Impact after the Oprichnina
Decentralization on Moscow
Migration, ( very complex, about 6 pages on this)
Impact on reforms,
Disaster, not a unified central state, but a scramble to found frontier border outposts, and populate the new vast areas.

Influence on Ivan of foreigners and separation from his own people ( he stops in mid-thought) I guess this was not a priority book project.

! Since I did this outline in memory, there could be a few things I have left out.

Arguments/Themes woven into Narrative

Platonov’s grand themes: The Tsar’s two bodies
#1)Personal body, Character: Ivan was a “coward” ( Kurbsky, then supporting evidence of his military exploits) , so this affected him immensely – (could psychologically being accused of cowardice be more damning than being accused of insanity?) and a possible cause why he separates himself from the Russian people and later surrounds himself with foreigners. Other sub-themes apply here as well, are covered, and Platonov takes notice of previous historians, but doesn’t go into detail. By interlinking his two methodologies, he snares himself in a trap trying to show Ivan as one big success. The dividing up of the lands are symbolic of the divide in his person.

One must remember that personal character is mainly judged on one’s happiness, their so-called mental health. Ivan was sane, but clearly disturbed, according to Platonov. There was no evidence of Ivan’s happiness? He is the model of the struggling artist, the struggling human being in a violent and terrifying world, where he is persecuted from everyone, and from all sides.

#2) The profession body, Statesman, the publicly projected Ivan. Here Platonov agrees that Ivan was a great statesman, literate, and made most of the political moves. His supports for this are endless calculations on Ivan’s personal achievements ( not the boyars and Ivan) and the institutions that created the burgeoning Russian state, are, of course, attributed to his brilliant education. Ivan remains a great figure and statesmen in the end, but only according to his professional body, his public works.

What would be Platonov’s argument?
First, it was his duty, according to the rational school to show a generic super-figure in Russian history as a model for a successful and great leader. His school was promoting of the monarchy, the great rational leader! What he did was to attempt this; however the finishing project did not have the desired affects. In this way we can assume, Platonov was honest, to himself, and to his fellowmen and his career. Honesty may not have been a part of the Soviet era, in which later he would be accused by the Party and exhaled to the lower Volga, where he died suffering. I highly doubt he was hiding archival material ( the charge brought against him), unless, of course, someone wanted to destroy something he thought scared.

Did he prove an argument?
He possibly tried and started to prove Ivan as one person, one identity, one happy and successful person, but he failed because he ended up not tying Ivan’s two bodies together, as one man. He decided to leave Ivan in parts. He believed in the negative scientific evidence, and he believed Kurbsky wholeheartedly negative assessment, still with a critical eye, that skewed Ivan as a despot, immoral, unhappy, and a character emotionally troubled. He found no trouble depicting Ivan as a raging success in diplomacy, and statesmanship. He could never justify Ivan’s personal character as a model for the great statesman for any generation to uphold. (He was not Peter the Great – that was not Platonov?)

• He will end his text not combing the “ tsar’s two bodies” together to form one working theory of Ivan as a single identity. Ivan remained in the end a composite, a fractured identity, and a separated figure with two bodies.

Platonov/ Eisenstein symbology
Ivan begins his life as a whole man, with his personal character, and his professional character as one identity (Whole? better words here), but at the end, Ivan is separated from himself, as well from people by his actions. Ivan begins his life when Muscovy is triumphing, and his life and his actions, he take away this triumph, and leave Russia in a much different place. The historical argument is how positive or less negative one concludes.

Personal feeling
I may argue, if the paper is an argument. ( it will take space to do this)
Ivan didn’t rule alone, but he did make a strive to be an autocrat for a short period. This I contend is linked to his personal body ( a lot of material here). I will need to illustrate Platonov’s arguments for this and contrast his professional body. If I show this, then it will definitely link to Keenan’s or your vision that Ivan wanted to get out. Platonov doesn’t illustrate this point, but it definitely describes Ivan’s personal and professional dilemma. At times, or maybe whole, I do not believe Ivan wanted this job. I think this is a big personal issue with primogeniture for all countries. Ivan is not the first leader to be born into rulership of who personally didn’t want he job. Was there a real apparatus for him to abdicate? I also, in the primogeniture argument, do not think Ivan was mentally capable to handle this extremely stressful position, as a real or symbolic leader of Russia. I wonder personally how many times Ivan day-dreamed that he was a peasant with no stressful responsibilities. I can see Ivan’s dissention into hysteria and persecution as a personal backlash to this dilemma. If someone cannot get out of a situation, they can and usually turn to fight the situation, the very thing that causes them they pain. They do this anyway they can and disregard the consequences. The Oprichnina was not a vision for a better Russia, it was a personal conviction that one person was trapped inside a dilemma that they didn’t know how to get out. If drugs, alcohol or other substances played a role, these were only methods to deaden the senses and to escape the overwhelming stress of the dilemma. Does this mean Ivan is abdicated from his actions? No. Maybe to Stalin and other autocrats in history that tried to justify their actions, but was the Oprichnina necessary? I understand the argument that people need nudging, that someone needs to lead them, but this concept was exposed as false with the west’s emergence from kingship. I believe it was totally Russian geography that played the deepest role in their history. Then again, I’m not sure, or have seen arguments that have one grand theory as to why some places evolved form kingship to forms of representations or democracies. That is a philosophy question, and something I cannot answer at this time.

Well, I know my views may change as I continue to delve into this complex subject. I also believe Eisenstein’s montage method in his film perfectly described Ivan. See the movie companion about his unique method (this was my conclusion). These historical facts were not correct, but as a whole, the theme was correct. I cannot justify, rightly or wrongly, that Ivan’s move to the Oprichnina was anything but an autocratic move, and Eisenstein presented this accurately. Eisenstein may have had his team scour Platonov’s chosen council argument to draw upon Kurbsky, as Ivan’s young friend. Or he could have assumed it by the detailed and emotional correspondence between the two important sixteenth century Russian figures.

Ivan’s character assessment with Kurbsky’s History of the Grand Prince of Moscow and the correspondence.

One considerable problem I’m having is one of the Platonov’s major themes of Ivan as a “coward.” He refers to Kurbsky for the quotation, but also sees the chronicle assessments of his military retreats from facing formable enemies. I can understand why Soviets would not want this assessment of Ivan out into the public when World War II broke out. The one thing that concerns me is that Ivan’s autopsy was not available to Platonov. If we compare other 16th century world leaders such as Selim "the Grim", Francis I, Charles V, Henry VIII all who took to the battlefield and fought alongside their troops garnering hero status and risking their personal bodies for glory how does this reflect on Kurbsky’s argument and Platonov’s reasoning? If Ivan didn’t face his enemies personally on the battlefield, could it have been because of his bone disease? Platonov would have not known about this dilemma? Still Platonov makes a point that Ivan refused to face enemies in Battle, at least after 1562 when Ivan personally took an army to the city of Polotsk, took a strategic fortress that protected Vil'na, the Livonian capital and was seen as a hero. When Livonia regrouped under Bathory, he refused to face them in battle, but retreated to the forest when he was heading the army personally. This is a big theme with Platonov, because later Ivan refused to fight the khan’s forces that burnt Moscow 1571, and to make matters worse Platonov speaks on how Ivan sends his so-called friends periodically to the front lines to fight the wars for him. I’m trying to figure out Ivan’s courage in relation to Platonov’s assessment and Ivan’s real physical nature of his scoliosis. Not facing the armies could be prudent in that he didn’t want to lose his army, his own life, but how does this lack of self-esteem issue affect his psychology? How does it affect the people seeing a leader that was constantly retreating in the later part of his life? I do not know what to make of this “coward” argument Platonov stresses ( at least I see it. I’m not sure anyone else does. I doubt Keenan would care?)? The stress caused Ivan to distance himself away from his own people. Why would a leader do this? I just do not think he was mentally strong enough for this job, and I blame primogeniture, and no precedence for abdication. I have no facts, but what is presented, but if Ivan was being called a coward behind his back this is more physiologically damaging, in my personal opinion, than being called insane or other derogatory names. I’m not sure people didn’t see the Oprchniki as a cowardly move, indicating Ivan couldn’t solve his struggles and problems with the boyars in a statesmen like fashion. If Ivan was being called a coward, other than Kurbsky’s reference, than this explains why he surrounded himself with new people, and even foreigners as Platonov describes which was Ivan’s personal preference toward the end of his book. Maybe historians do not like the word “coward” because it connotes a simplistic adjective, and they prefer more complex terms as ‘paranoia’, or ‘persecution mania.’ It was Ivan’s, according to Platonov, sole decision to go against Livonia, and it was his personal responsibility that became the disaster. When he is running into the forests, what is more cowardly than not fighting like a man? People, at least narratives I’ve read, respect people who fight to the death in face of enemies than respecting the option of retreat, and in Ivan’s case more than once in major military circumstances, he did this, at least in Platonov’s book. I’m not sure the people looked upon him as some great leader. This is my view, but Platonov doesn’t go this far, but I question myself, if he is trying to argue Ivan as a great model of world leaders, then why mention his cowardliness? He would have had every reason to leave it out. This is why I argue he looks at this period honestly, but his schooling on rationality made him give an objective positive look to Ivan in which his professional body exemplified positive qualities. Unfortunately, Platonov was too honest for the Soviets.

This coward theme is loosely played-out throughout the book, there is not one section that goes into detail that I can point you too. I just picked up this theme myself. This is why I argue Platonov parallels two distinct methodologies in arguing of Ivan’s person(s). One can also see this duel persona demonstrated in part II of Eisenstein’s movie. First, Ivan, the flashback, as a young kid is teased by the boyars, as if he is a coward with no power, then Eisenstein makes a point to show how Ivan lashes back and orders one of them destroyed. Who destroys a person for teasing? Is Eisenstein demonstrating by this montage Ivan’s parallel of his young life to his adult life? The Oprichnia was also a backlash to some sort of teasing, a sort of notion that people didn’t see Ivan as a reputable leader and possibly ineffectual. Surely the illness episode demonstrated this in the movie? Ivan had to go to knew people to get a new outlook and get people who didn’t know his character. In the end, not the movie, the Oprichnina also leaves Ivan and goes on rampages. This is a symbolic reflection on the separation of his two bodies - his character, in my opinion. It is as if no-one respected Ivan in the end, except for his office (professional body) which was the highest in the land, something to envy or stand proud in Russian legacy.

There are many aspects in Platonov’s book that do not deal with this theme, but are also complex and can take up considerable space. The fallout of the Oprichnina, the decentralization of Moscow, the migration, the settling the “Wild Field” and taxes and institutions all make up the positive Ivan but are complex in structure for Russia proper, but then there is the west and the complex political fallout too. If I write on these themes alone I have too leave out Ivan’s personal character, as it is not part of any Platonov argument. Also, the many areas in his middle life also show secular projects not dealing with Ivan’s character.

I do not want to end up writing a book, and I do not think I can do justice to focus on all the topics and themes of this book. Or contend with all the argument in historiography − some, yes, and maybe incorporation, but not as a whole. I do not know the paper length and I do want to wait for the last minuet to turn in my paper. This will help me refine my arguments or review subject content and most notably my prose. I do not have $160 dollars to schedule someone to go over my paper. The school doesn’t provide this. They do provide assessments on arguments, but I been told no prose assessment. Most of the people I know are students and do not have the time to spare. The more time I have the more I believe I can get it as close to perfect of my ability possible. You stated not a ‘rough’ draft but something finished. Please allow me as much time as possible?

So what I’m demonstrating by these topics is that I have too many topics and need to chose a limited number, and helping to clarify with an outline including space for each/or part will help me write a better paper. You are more than welcome to have my full “personal” prose accomplishments that probably will bulge to over 50 pages by the end of this term. I plan on trying to keep something of my own for later references if I have to deal with teaching or discussing 16th century Russia in detail. However, I understand that page limit is necessary for undergraduates. My concern is having too little space and a lot to contend with. Also it would hard for me to edit such a lengthy paper.

For example, I could easily fill up seven pages on just the settling and development of servitor lands and the ‘wild field’ argument. 7 pages expand to 15 double spaced: what was the thinking behind it, what was the immediate and future impact, show what was the reasoning, or the pro-and-cons…etc…How did it represent a unified state, or how it represented decentralization?

I could focus on Ivan’s early years, character development, the states accomplishments, or the middle years and the struggles, the reforms, the wars and decisions…

The Oprichnina, which in Platonov is scarily absent in breadth.

Historiography on Ivan would be a review for me, but I cannot argue all the points everyone mentioned in all the texts we have read. This would take up considerable amount of space. I can however, just write what was argued without placing my opinion alongside it – what I mean is everyone.

So maybe you have the ideas on how I can approach this. I have not started approaching Eisenstein or the Oprichnia period in my personal writings. Keenan wouldn’t be interested in the movie companion’s arguments. My section on the “chosen council” already exceeds 15 pages double-spaced. To Keenan this would be a mute argument. It is only on that subject in Platonov’s work. If it wasn’t real, he sure made it seem so in his work. It is by no means in finished form, it is just raw prose. What I also tried to communicate is that whatever part I focus on I’m no doubt willing to be able to incorporate major lessons covered this semester into the text.


Placing Keenan into the text.
R.O. Crummy, The Silence of Muscovy, claims that Keenan regards all foreign and domestic sources as unreliable (163). This cannot possibly be true?

“The chronicle account here is quite unadorned and, in my view, reliable;“ (Keenan, Privy Domain, pdf, p.10)
also, Muscovite court chronicle 1560s. “Documentary” (Keenan, Privy Domain, pdf, p.11)

The Silence of Muscovy
Russia, as Monolithic (157), two points, one everyone writing was silent on who really ran Russia, and second, boyar fighting. I already figured point two because it happens in other countries at different times in history. Putting out public proclamations in the name of the king keeps the blame factor off the councilmen, so the public cannot blame them if a bad piece of advice or decision making results from any such policy. This was almost standard in later middle ages in Europe. Point one, I believe, comes from the anti-statis Novgorodian tradition? The northern Monasteries’ developed intellectual decent? One thing I cannot understand if a chronicle places Ivan in a bad light, then what does this say about “intellectual decent”? How do we understand that the government took controls over the intellectual formulations of the public works? One doesn’t want to put a tsar in a bad light if one is propping up this position to the public to form a façade of autocracy?

Tsar and Circle Rule
What is the difference between symbiotic relationships, and Monolithic relationships? The idea that Imperial and Soviet Russia needed to look back to Ivan IV to rationalize their rule I cannot justify that. Things change and relationships to the ruler and the ruled change over time. Is there a precedence dictating that one administration must follow the next? I believe that would be a constitutional government. Russia was not like that?

If I use Keenan don’t I take the entire body of Platonov’s argument out? What is left to his argument? I cannot use the chosen council or other Kurbsky sources and this was a major part of Platonov’s character assessment, and also assessment on general things. If I visually redact areas of the book that do not relate to the above, then what can I argue?

Marriage is Politics
Keenan and you make it easy to understand. But how do we understand this in the sense of the Oprcihnina as Keenan argued it? He rationalize it in the context of wealth and politics/marriage? Politics at this stage in Russia now became heated for the money aspect. I cannot help but believe that the incorporation of the new territories brought in new wealth to Russia and there was a scramble how to delineate this new wealth. Tax reforms, military reforms, land reforms all play into the financial windfall of this rise of Muscovy period. The new wealth allowed Muscovy to introduce new concepts of statehood. My concept comes from a western point of view. Before WWII in America, this country could be said not to be wealthy? Its army was only ranked 17th in the world and economic crisis plague certain decades. After WWII, America became extremely rich with new imperialism ( that is economic) sectors throughout the world. From thenceforth, groups from all over America sprang up wanting to have a piece of this new found wealth. I cannot disprove that Russia’s new found wealth took a major turn in politics. Getting close to the tsar, even before Ivan IV, was probably seen as the number one objective because it meant contracts, appointments and wealth. In America after WWII, extreme social unrest developed. Most identifiable social groups ( not classes) wanted to have a piece of this financial pie. In Russia, the ruling apparatus dealt with this issue as well. New boyars, and new foreign contacts all wanting to do business, all played a vital part on a small group of clan-cavalry leaders trying to achieve the unachievable. When Russia was expanding, they became feared by foreigners, and contact sprung up with merchants from far-off lands wanted to make contact, people saw new strange people passing through their lands, and a population boom exploded with migration and new incorporated people. So a small group now has a large job. It had to have been a Herculean effort? There is no way Ivan could have managed this alone. I’ve noted in my Europeans studies that once France and Spain began to become wealthy by the 16th century and they started employing “favorites” that were like acting rulers who made many decisions and left the most important decisions to the monarch. The Monarch allowed this because he couldn’t do it all by himself. This was practical as most rulers couldn’t handle the vast territories developing, including colonialism in distant regions. Russia’s incorporation of the east can only be seen as colonialism in the context that they became overwhelmed with new people, new economies and new managing problems. Exceptions like micromanager Charles II cannot be used as a comparison. He can be one exception. He sat at a desk every day, year-by-year, and penned letters to all the officials in his vast region dictating all policy all by himself. I cannot envision Ivan IV to be this type of ruler. Many 16th century Europeans rulers , although called monarchs, did not manage or make all the decisions for their states by themselves. Another case in point is the concept of an absolute ruler didn’t develop in Europe until the 17th century. Most monarch courts had their advisors which helped in the process of the monarchal decree. The Monarchal decree, as Keenan explains it, and I already understood, was the focus of responsibility is solely on the monarch that had special powers so the populous couldn’t complain as much. The populous could exact complaints on an advisor with more ease than on the monarch who was the symbol of absolute authority, and protected under this idea. On advisors and problem Daniel Rowland, “The Problems of Advice in Muscovite Tales about the Times of Troubles” was a good argument. Smuta tales have this bad-advisor theme appear over and over (269). This is why the official voice of the ruler was used, and this was not endemic to Russia by any notion. I’m sure this topic was not discussed adamantly in the aristocratic circles throughout the middle ages. The solution was to issue decrees from the monarch because he or she was the most protected under criticism.

Here is what I’m trying to understand about the Oprichnina. If Ivan semi-retired, I understand the primogeniture reason for not being able to abdicate, why did he need to form a personal army? Who was he scared of? This is where the psychological aspects of Ivan’s character come into play. How does Keenan address this? He doesn’t address the strife between relatives in the old court and the new service people, who were armed. This is where the foreign accounts and Kurbsky play such an intricate role for many including Eisenstein, Stalin and many historians who argue a state or no state under autocracy. The argument concerns the later rulers needed to look back in Russian time for precedence. Stalin justifies the personal army as a necessary function of the role of an autocrat. That’s obvious. Keenan stresses the Marriage is Politics theme here and stresses the necessity of Ivan to create a privy state for his temporary retirement. This is not a justification for an attempt to take over the reins of Russian ruler ship? I just cannot get around that this was an autocratic move. I believe Stalin saw it this way too. That is where the precedence lays for future rulers to look back on and say this was a ruler without the boyars or councilmen? I cannot see that it was a meeting and the boyars agreed? The Oprichnina was an enigma. When Ivan abolished the Oprichniki he returned to rule with the boyars, although keeping some aspects created under this period. In this chronological circumstance, there was no autocracy which developed. Many boyars remained in power well after Ivan was gone. In Marxism, the case that states move through a teleological procession is not justified in a historical context. England moved through different stages back and forth from variable representation to monarchy then back and forth for a number of centuries. People’s rights were given then taken away. There was no logical procession. I cannot see a linear development of oligarchy to autocracy in Russia. Addressing the Oprichnina as an enigma develops the line of understanding of a temporary break with tradition and a new precedence that future leaders can look back too and argue justifications for their policies. Clearly, this is a change, a breaking point, of which has caused considerable attention. Where do we draw the line between proto-autocracy and traditional oligarchy? Where can I find the rationalization argument by Keenan? I’m still reading the folkways material. I do not think Keenan wants to go into the “personal body” of Ivan’s argument?

Russian government
When Keenan is discussing marriage equal politics, I cannot help to think he is stressing the relationships were the most important things to Russian government. It is in this context that Russia managed a new vast empire which must have taken considerable Herculean efforts to keep it all together. We cannot ignore, even if it was not directly under Ivan’s decisions, that Russia expanded to such an extent that even today we can see the results in Russian Federation territory to the east. I’m really trying to understand how a small group of people fighting with each other happen to make this huge territorial leap. There had to be some sort of cooperation on the intimate level. By this I mean, they must have understood ritual fighting cannot get in the way of the larger picture. I see the boyars and inner circle officials fighting in the morning then meeting in the afternoon and conducting themselves in a profession or pleasant manner to deal with the large issues of the day. I can only rectify that relationships meant deep things to the leading officials of Russia and that disputes had to be temporarily placed on hold just to conduct official business. This must have been a unique balancing act. Government was uniquely personal in this regards. It would be hard for an outsider, such as the contemporary foreigner who wrote on Russia, to see the real picture of Russian politics. Keenan’s marriage and politics discussion really helps understanding this regard. A regard to personal relationships in government were not duly expressed to outsiders. It would have been more practical to issue a picture of a façade government to all outsiders to keep these inner secrets of the real 16th century Russian government.

Platonov’s arguments rest on Ivan being able to manage a complex and intellectual administration and this includes an early solid education. He justifies this in two ways. First, he had to be literate in order to respond to Kurbsky, and a few other personal writing alluded too. Second, Ivan needs to be literate in order to manage the 1550s guba reformy. If we take away the literary claim, then we take away most of the textual argument of Platonov. Personally, I find it hard for a ruler not to be illiterate. There are exceptions such as Charlemagne who was considered intelligence but illiterate. There is also a lack of a paper trial of land leases, government contracts, and evidence of an elaborate bureaucracy. We need to question why? A literate society or at least a literate government needs to keep paperwork, and usually this would fall into the “plenty” category. That would possibly mean that a little portion would have fallen into the scope of historians who would have made an issue of it. However, I do not see this in Platonov’s argument – only speculation. What is the general evidence of this?

As far as prose, I have read many translated letters from non-court/scholar individuals in the 1550-60s in France that have the exact same ‘verbose’ style and misquoting Bible passages as the Kurbsky-Ivan correspondence. This doesn’t mean anything but this comparison was my first impression upon reading these. I cannot argue the literary argument because I’m not qualified, but in order to make a case for Platonov’s view including the above two points I have to take for granted the literate assessment.

My views are still developing but by next week I would like to have a focus sheet for my paper that I can follow. I do not believe I’m qualified to cover everything.



Here are notes and thoughts in my continuing research.



Copyright © 1999 - 2007, Michael Johnathan McDonald All Rights reserved.








Direct corrections and technical inquiries to
Please direct news submissions to Here


Copyright © 1999 - 2013 Michael Johnathan McDonald