Ivan Grozny: The Terror of Russia | Family, Impact & Legacy

Ivan Grozny: The Terror of Russia

Ivan Grozny

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If you're questioning yourself, what makes Russia so unique, here is the answer – people. You may have heard about Ivan Grozny, better known as Ivan the Terrible. He is remembered for his brutal reign and inhuman tactics for maintaining control of Russia through fear. As a result of his reign, he became one of the most controversial figures in the history of Russia.

Early life

Taking into account that Ivan's nickname was Terrible, as you may guess, he didn't have a normal childhood which had influenced his entire life. His father, Vasili III, died from blood poisoning when Ivan was only 3 years old. After that, Ivan became the Grand Prince of Moscow, and his mother, Elena Glinskaya, was his regent. She ruled in Ivan's name for 5 years until her death. Allegedly she was poisoned.


After the loss of both parents, Ivan and his younger brother were left alone among power-hungry feuding nobles whose main goal was to take control over the young prince. Thus, it was difficult for Ivan and his brother to grow in conditions with no control over their lives. Moreover, due to the nobles' disrespectful attitude, Ivan grew up with deep hatred for them. At the age of 16, Ivan was crowned and became the first Tsar of All the Russians.

Facts about Ivan Grozny

  • Full Name:  Ivan IV Vasilyevich
  • Born: August 25, 1530 in Kolomenskoye, Grand Duchy of Moscow
  • Died: March 28, 1584 in Moscow, Russia
  • Children: 3 daughters and 4 sons. Only two survived to adulthood: Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich (1554-1581) and Tsar Feodor I (1557-1598)

Wives and Children

You probably won't be surprised to learn that Ivan supposedly had eight wives, as it was common for royalty to marry again after the spouse passed away. But due to his reputation, you may question yourself, " Was this man capable of love?" The answer is yes!

He did truly love his first wife, Anastasia Romanova. They've lived together for 13 years till her death. Ivan and Anastasia had six children, but four of them died at a very young age. Anastasia's death made him more cruel, vindictive, and paranoid as he believed that the boyars mistakenly poisoned his wife trying to kill him. As an act of revenge, Ivan ordered the torture and executions of some boyars. After that, people started to call him Ivan the Terrible. Regarding his other wives, it isn't very likely whether Ivan loved them. Some of them were sent to the nunnery. Others were allegedly murdered.

Ivan Grozny and his story

Ivan wasn't a perfect father at all. He was cruel to his children as he was to all others. These tense relationships resulted in an accident when his daughter-in-law, who was married to Ivan's son Ivan, had a miscarriage after being beaten for an immodest dress. But, unfortunately, it's not the end of the story. After Ivan found out that his father beat his wife, he went to the Tsar to handle this situation. But the Tsar was adamant and cruel as always. At the end of the fight, Ivan the Terrible struck his son on the head with the scepter. A few days later, his son died.


After the death of Ivan's first wife, he had deep depression and became more violent to other people. His paranoia has increased as he was sure that the boyars were aimed to kill him. Over his reign, Ivan Grozny destroyed thousands of boyars' families, which later became a reason for his moniker "Terrible."


Achievements and Impact

No one can argue that Ivan the Terrible was a great leader who laid the foundations for the later Russian Empire. But what exactly made Ivan the Terrible such a significant figure in the history of Russia?

Here are some of Ivan's major accomplishments:

  • a tax reform;
  • a new law code;
  • centralization and unification of the state administration;
  • an obligation to landowners of serve in the military;
  • the standing army equipped with firearms; expansion of Russia;
  • establishment of the printing press.

But sometimes Ivan's great plans weren't successful at all. The Oprichnina and the Livonian war are great examples of unrealistic ambitions.

Old church in Russia

Another essential part of Ivan's life is a religion that vastly influenced him. He viewed himself as a God representative on Earth. Hence, Ivan tortured people according to a religious concept like boiling or freezing water which corresponds to the torments of Hell.

Interesting to know:

  • Ivan had his first rival executed at the age of 13.
  • When he was 16 in 1547 he became the Tsar of all Russia.
  • Ivan was a lonely kid who was neglected by his family.
  • He became Grand Prince of Moscow at the age of 3.

Death and Legacy

Ivan Grozny died from a stroke at the age of 53. Though many years later, his body was examined, and scientists found out a lot of information about his physical features, including the presenсe of mercury in the body. It became the ground to think that he was poisoned. But it's also possible that he used ointment, where mercury was one of the main ingredients for his joints.

Ivan Grozny legacy

Ivan Grozny undoubtedly turned Russia into a powerful country, but at the same time, he was the reason for Russia's great downfall. Ivan the Terrible won plenty of wars, but eventually, he couldn't quench his thirst for war. And it led to the exhaustion and devastation of the country and the people. Ivan Grozny was also a popular character in Russian and Bulgarian folklore and appeared as a major character in classical Russian literature, operas, and films.

But the best way to get acquainted with this controversial figure is to take a tour to Russia and delve into this authentic atmosphere.

It's really hard to guess what Russia would be today if not for Ivan the Terrible. On the one hand, he took so many lives and ruined so many families, but on the other hand, he gave Russia solid ground to become a great empire. And to sum it up, it's always about the people who define history, whether they make the worst mistakes or exhibit the most incredible accomplishments. Our responsibility is to also take it into account. Thus, take the opportunity and explore this magnificent country.