Ivan the Terrible
Ivan IV, or also known as Ivan the Terrible, gained huge amounts of land during his reign and created a centrally controlled Russia. He had a complex personality. He was intelligent but brutal and sadistic. He watched as prisoners were boiled, burned and fried. He destroyed villages, towns and even cities. Thousands were slaughtered, leaving others to wonder if Russia would survive this era. To understand why Ivan IV was such a vicious ruler, let’s take a look at his tragic childhood which contributed to his infamous behaviour. His father, Grand Prince Vasily III had waited for years to have a son who can extend the family’s reign. His second wife, Elena Glinskaya, successfully bore him two sons. Ivan was born on August 25, 1530. Two years later, his younger brother Yuri was born.
In 1533, Vasily noticed a small sore on his leg which turned into a pus-filled boil which grew and stank horribly. His doctors used a common cure of the time where they bled Vasily and poured vodka on the boil. They succeeded, but he was weakened and soon enough developed blood poisoning. In his last remaining moments, he wished for Ivan to become the grand prince of Russia. However, Ivan was only three at the time and he was obviously not ready to rule.
So, his father assigned a council of advisors who were called boyars (noblemen) to run the country and look after Ivan. After the death of his father, that year, his mother, Elena, ruled Russia as Regent until her sudden death on April 3, 1538. Ivan believed that his mother was poisoned. Her death was the beginning of a power struggle.
A rivalry between the Shuiskys and the Belsky families escalated into a bloody feud. Armed men roamed the palace, seeking out enemies and frequently bursting into Ivan's room, where they shoved him aside and took whatever they wanted. Murders, beatings, verbal and physical abuse became commonplace in the palace. He spent his childhood in terror and fear.