Evaluation of Ivan the Terrible

Ivan the Terrible (1533-84) began his rule in 1547 at a young age and during the first half of his reign he and his administration made great strides toward reform in the Muscovite lands. In 1564, however, his health starts to decline and so does his power to rule. He separated his administration into people who he could trust, and it is possible that he became mentally paranoid, and a second administration run by boyar elite and nobles. This double administration was called oprichnina and it was also a time of killing anyone Ivan felt he couldn’t trust.

I agree with Crummey’s analysis that Ivan III created reforms to help the good of the people but then his personality changed which disrupted this reformation and ultimately made a failure of the oprichnina. But even in the beginning of his rule, I think he was a bit deceptive with his motivations for certain reforms. His government attempted to strengthen the army, something seen as good for the people, but Crummey argues that it was also to “strengthen the upper echelons of the service nobility”1 . Another reform aimed to grow the central administration, which kept elaborate records and thus “considerable increased its control over the country and its resources”2 . From this reading, it seems that he had hidden motivations as to why he put these reforms in place: to increase his power and control over the region. This sounds like he was trying to deceive the people, but in reality these reforms did indeed aide the population, and I don’t think this deception is integrally connected to his paranoid “reforms” later on.

How did his reforms ultimately influence the Muscovite government in the long run?

What was his “Reign of Terror” and who was it directed towards? Why did he target these people?

Worked Cited

Kaiser, Daniel H. and Gary Marker. Reinterpreting Russian History: Readings, 860-1860s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

  1. KM 159 []
  2. KM 159 []

4 thoughts on “Evaluation of Ivan the Terrible

  1. It seems like Ivan the Terrible’s “Reign of Terror” was especially directed towards the boyars and anyone who began to disagree with him later on. During this time, the boyar class has dramatically increased in size and holds more power than ever before. Ivan becomes very troubled, as he catches some boyars planning to flee to Lithuania and believes that a group of boyars were responsible for the death of his wife. These instances show that perhaps Ivan feels he is losing power and must begin this “Reign of Terror” to feel secure once again.

  2. The paranoia of Ivan in the latter stages of his reign seem to be driven by the idea that the boyars were going to overthrow him. His construction of a dual government with officials that he appointed seems very similar to the nobles of the sword, and nobles of the robe in France. One was a hereditary title which always had power and influence, and the nobles of the robe which gained favor from the leader. A majority of the moves Ivan made were designed to weaken the power and influence of the boyars. As an autocrat, he wants to consolidate power and the historical nobility stood in his way. However, his rage eventually spread throughout to anyone who stood against him, as in Novgorod, and I think true insanity replaced the already slightly insane paranoia.

  3. This was a very well written over of Ivan the Terrible, and really helps us to understand his reign. I agree with the above comments that Ivan felt threatened by the boyars,and so many of his political actions were against them in order to bring them down. It’s interesting to look at the role paranoia played during the reign of Ivan the Terrible and how it negatively affected it.

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