Ivan the Terrible

Ruler

Born: 25 August 1530
Died: 28 March 1584
Birthplace: Kolomenskoye, Russia
Best known as:

The first czar of Russia, 1547-84

Name at birth: Ivan Chetvyorty Vasilyevich

Ivan the Terrible -- Ivan IV -- was the first Russian ruler to adopt the title czar (caesar), and one of history's great bad guys, known for making Russia a world power while being a brutal, paranoid tyrant. His father died when he was three, and his mother died when he was eight, so Ivan grew up as a neglected prince until 1547, when he was crowned -- at the age of 17. Within a few years, his armies had defeated the invasive Tartars (Ivan commissioned the building of St. Basil's Cathedral in celebration), and Ivan earned the nickname Grozny. It's been translated as "terrible," but its meaning was closer to "awesome" or "fearsome." Ivan's wife, Anastasia Romanovna, died in 1560, and they say he went nuts after that -- he suspected she'd been poisoned, and Ivan ended up creating a secret police force that terrorized the citizenry and punished those he considered disloyal. In the plus column, Ivan IV expanded Russian territory and brought it up to speed with Europe in terms of foreign trade and political status. In the minus column, Ivan IV terrorized, tortured and killed so many people -- including his own son and heir -- he's now remembered as one of history's craziest rulers. He left his kingdom to his son Feodor, who was considered unfit and went on to prove it, plunging Russia into political chaos that lasted until Peter the Great came along a century later.

Extra credit:

One of the many stories about Ivan the Terrible's cruelty is that he blinded the architect of St. Basil's Cathedral, just so the guy couldn't then build any structure equally beautiful.

Copyright © 1998-2014 by Who2?, LLC. All rights reserved.

More on Ivan the Terrible from Fact Monster:

  • Ivan IV - Ivan IV Ivan IV or Ivan the Terrible,1530–84, grand duke of Moscow (1533–84), the first ...
  • Ivan the Terrible - Ivan the Terrible: Ivan the Terrible: see Ivan IV.
  • The World's Most Notorious Despots - The World's Most Notorious Despots by Borgna Brunner The Me Millennium Infoplease's top ten ...
  • 1500–1599 (A.D.) World History - 1500–1599 (A.D.) World History Michelangelo's David (1504) Tasha Vincent Martin Luther ...
  • Feodor I - Feodor I Feodor I (Feodor Ivanovich), 1557–98, czar of Russia (1584–98), son of Ivan IV ...

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.