John IV Vasilievich is one of the Russian sovereigns, whose rule and life are estimated, perhaps, the most controversially both abroad and in our country. His name is associated with many extremely harsh assessments and categorical judgments. However, are they valid? What if, in this case, we are dealing with a deeply rooted malicious slander, and all the “odiousness” of the tsar, who went down in history under the name of Terrible, is mostly fiction?
In order to understand this issue, first of all, it is necessary to decide on two key points: the list of charges brought against Ivan Vasilyevich, and the sources from which they came. Let’s start with the first point: Grozny is credited with pathological cruelty, which led to the fact that his reign was marked by a huge number of executions and extrajudicial reprisals, as well as other manifestations of tyranny. Well, what do you want from this barbarian: he even killed his own son!
This is followed by the device by John IV of the notorious oprichnina, allegedly destructive for Russia. Everyone knows about it, but few people can clearly explain the meaning and essence of this phenomenon. Even Grozny was an aggressor: he took and attacked the innocent civilized Livonians, began to mercilessly destroy them, and seize the lands. The Tatars again oppressed them, destroyed their khanates … Well, and as an added weight to all this comes a heap of completely absurd accusations like polygamy, pathological suspicion and almost insanity. Which of these can be considered true?
Almost nothing. The practice of “slandering the sovereign” went back to the time of the sovereign himself.
According to the available and trustworthy chronicle sources, the “huge” number of those sentenced to the scaffold at Grozny is in reality reduced to 4-5 thousand people. A lot too? For comparison: Henry VIII, who ruled in Britain at about the same time, hanged his subjects in tens of thousands, including children caught in vagrancy. Elizabeth, who succeeded him on the throne, executed one hundred thousand Britons. By the way, the same Henryk had more wives than John Vasilyevich, but, unlike our sovereign, he chopped off their heads, excuse me, like chickens. In Russia, under Grozny, they were sentenced to death exclusively for the most serious crimes such as murder, arson of a residential building along with the inhabitants, high treason. For theft, as in “enlightened Europe”, no one was hanged.
Aggression? The Livonian War was the beginning of the struggle for the return of Russian lands in the Baltic and was ultimately ended by the descendants of Grozny, albeit centuries later. Astrakhan and Kazan Khanates? Well, so there was nothing Russian people in full and slavery to steal, to burn our cities and villages. They asked for it themselves. During the reign of John IV, the territory of the Russian State has exactly doubled. And, by the way, he was the first who began to be titled tsar – quite deservedly and by right.
Oprichnina? In fact, it was a natural process of establishing a centralized state power, curbing the unrestrained freemen of large feudal lords. The countries that followed this path later became empires (Russia, France, Germany). Another option is Rzeczpospolita with its puppet kings, endless tycoon wars and three partitions in a hundred years. Kinks? Surely there were. But in the end, Poland became part of Russia, and not vice versa.
Grozny did not kill his son – on this score there is a lot of fundamental research, which I will not retell. Poisoning with a compound of mercury, the so-called mercury mercury, brought the tsarevich and subsequently his crowned father to the grave. And, by the way, they were not the only ones in the Kremlin (so the conspiracies and assassination attempts did not seem to Grozny at all). From this moment it is worthwhile to move on to a conversation about where all those horrible things came from that subsequently spoke and wrote about John Vasilievich for centuries. We will confine ourselves to three specific sources.
The first and, perhaps, the main detractor of Grozny is Prince Andrei Kurbsky. This person can be characterized very briefly: Vlasov of the 16th century. Kurbsky fled to the enemy voluntarily, after which he went with foreign invaders to his homeland, which he betrayed to fire and sword. However, much more this Judas was noted in the ideological war. We can say that he is the progenitor of all Soviet and Russian “dissidents” – masters from behind a cordon to pour mud on their country for nourishing grubs. Can you believe this? Judge for yourself.
It is also extremely difficult to consider as objective the writings of a certain Heinrich von Staden, who pretended to be a “oprichnik” and almost a “close tsar”. In Russia, this character really lived and even was in the tsarist service, for which he was granted lands and ranks. But in the end he did something that was taken away from him and kicked out of the country. After that, Staden turned into ardent Russophobes, not only becoming a denouncer of the “atrocities of Grozny”, but also starting to run around the European royal courts with plans to “conquer Russia.” In a word, he became embittered and took revenge as best he could. By the way, he was never a guardsman: it is documented.
The third “expert” on Grozny is the Jesuit Antonio Possevin. The personality is the most colorful. I arrived in Russia with a “special assignment” from the papal throne, which consisted in preparing the ground, if not for the Catholicization of our country, then at least for the entry of the Russian Orthodox Church into union with Rome. In fact, he is a professional intelligence officer. Possevin did not succeed in his activities, and primarily thanks to Ioann Vasilievich, who was harder than flint in matters of faith. It was he who launched the “horror story” regarding the “murdered prince”. And also many other bloody and dirty myths about John Vasilievich. The rest of the foreign authors, sparing no pains to paint the “horrors of the reign of Grozny,” have never been to Russia at all.
“Ivan the Terrible, nicknamed Vasilievich for his cruelty …” Do you think this is a historical anecdote? Nothing of the kind – that is how it was printed in the well-respected French dictionary Larousse. This alone fully testifies to both the “deep knowledge of the issue” and the degree of “objectivity” of all those who tried and are trying to “persuade” the Russian tsar. John the Terrible was terrible and hated by the West because it was under him that Russia from a provincial principality, the former provinces of the Golden Horde, began to turn into a powerful, and, most importantly, an independent kingdom, and embarked on the path of creating an empire. Hence the whole wave of lies, which, alas, took root in the homeland of one of the most controversial, but truly great rulers of Russia.