|Ivan IV, the Terrible|
Ivan ascended the throne at the age of three. When Ivan was just three years old his father died from a boil and inflammation on his leg which developed into blood poisoning. Ivan was proclaimed the Grand Prince of Moscow at his father's request. At first, his mother Elena Glinskaya acted as a regent, but she died of what many believe to be assassination by poison when Ivan was only eight years old. According to his own letters, Ivan and his younger brother Yuri often felt neglected and offended by the mighty boyars from the Shuisky and Belsky families. He was fortunate to survive his minority, as boyar families struggled to reassert their authority. In 1547 he became the first ruler to take formally the title Czar of all Russians, and he moved quickly thereafter to extend the authority and to destroy boyar independence.
Ivan followed the expansionist trail blazed by his father Vasili III. His conquest of Kazan (1552) and Astrakhan (1556) brought the entire Volga River and the shore of the Caspian Sea under Muscovite control, while expansion to the east brought a tenuous hold over western Siberia. In the West the protracted Livonian War (1558 - 1583), fought in an attempt to gain the Baltic providences of Lithuania, won no long-term gains. For twenty-four years the Livonian War dragged on, damaging the Russian economy and military and failing to gain any territory for Russia. In the 1560s, Russia was devastated by the combination of drought and famine, Polish-Lithuanian raids, Tatar invasions, and the sea-trading blockade carried out by the Swedes, Poles and the Hanseatic League. The price of grain increased by a factor of ten. Contact with the West was obtained, however, through the English merchants of the Muscovy Company, who carried out extensive trade from there White Sea outposts after initial contact in 1553.
|Battle of Kazan|
Cenralization of Government
Instead of usin the boyar council (Duma), Ivan relied on a select council of lower-ranking men and created a consultative assembly (zemski sobor), which, though little used, was designated to provide the government with information from a relatively large cross section of appointed advisers. He also created administrative offices (prikazy) to provide bureaucratic support for the expanding empire. Local councils (zemstva) were created to enforce government decisions and collect taxes.
|Ivan IV showing his treasure to English ambassador Jerome Horsey|
Ivan lost confidence in most of his intimate advisers after 1560. His belief that his wife had been murdered triggered a deep depression marked by growing suspicion of a treasonous conspiracy against him. In 1564 he abruptly renounced the throne and withdrew from Moscow. He agreed to resume his authority only on the conditions that many of the leading boyars be executed and that he be granted a vast royal estate (oprichnina) that he could rule without reference to regular administrative structure.
|The oprichniki, faithful servants to their tsar|
|Tsar Ivan IV admires his sixth wife Vasilisa Melentyeva|
|"Ivan the Terrible And His Son Ivan, 16 November 1581" by Ilya Repin, 1885|
|Ivan's death during the chess play|
|Famous St basil cathedral in Moscow, Built on the order of Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the capture of Kazan and Astrakhan|