Early Russian History. Key Issues. Гончарова Л.Ю. - 21 стр.



The whole Muscovite outlook on life was quite remote from this new Western
Europe, despite certain superficial similarities between Ivan IV and Francis I of
France. Ivan faced the same problems with his nobility that Western rulers
confronted. But there was no ideological system in Russia and the social life seemed
lifeless and immoveable. The feudal lords, the smaller territorial princes, and their
heirs had to be overthrown. For the sake of national unity it had to be done by
whatever means might be necessary - in England, France or Russia.
A Renaissance Tyrant on the Russian Throne
Ivan IV is a sinister and arresting figure in the history of the Russian Middle
Ages. The surname of "Groznyi" (Dread or Terrible) by which he is known is fully
deserved. Boundless suspicion, insatiable cruelty, and extreme depravity were
perhaps his outstanding characteristics. He was a cruel tyrant, who never knew the
meaning of moderation; he drank too much, laughed too loudly and hated and loved
too fiercely. And he never forgot anything. However, Ivan was definitely smart and
despite his cruelty, his reign is a great one in Russian annals.
Troubled Adolescence
Ivan was only 3 years old when his father died. His uncle Yuri challenged his
rights to the throne, was arrested and imprisoned in a dungeon. There he was left to
starve. Ivan's mother, Jelena Glinsky, assumed power and was regent for five years.
She had Ivan's other uncle killed, but a short time afterwards she suddenly died,
almost surely poisoned. A week later her confidant, Prince Ivan Obolensky, was
arrested and beaten to death by his jailers. While his mother had been indifferent
toward Ivan, Obolensky's sister, Agrafena, had been his beloved nurse. Now she was
sent to a convent.
Not yet 8 years old, Ivan was an intelligent, sensitive boy and an insatiable
reader. Without Agrafena to look after him, Ivan's loneliness deepened. The boyars
alternately neglected or molested him; Ivan and his deaf-mute brother Yuri often
went about hungry and threadbare. No one cared about his health or well being and
Ivan became a beggar in his own palace. A rivalry between the Shuisky and the
Belsky families escalated into a bloody feud. Armed men roamed the palace, seeking
out enemies and frequently bursting into Ivan's quarters, where they shoved the
Grand Prince aside, overturned the furniture and took whatever they wanted.
Murders, beatings, verbal and physical abuse became commonplace in the palace.
Unable to strike out at his tormentors, Ivan took out his frustrations on defenceless
animals; he tore feathers off birds, pierced their eyes and slit open their bodies.
The ruthless Shuiskys gradually gained more power. In 1539 the Shuiskys led a
raid on the palace, rounding up a number of Ivan's remaining confidants. They had
the loyal Fyodor Mishurin skinned alive and left on public view in a Moscow square.
On December 29, 1543, 13-year-old Ivan suddenly ordered the arrest of Prince
Andrew Shuisky, who was reputed to be a cruel and corrupt person. He was thrown