Ivan the Power Hungry

Ivan’s rule was centered around the pursuit of power for self preservation. After seeing so many of those close to him dying, whether it was the suspicious death of his mother, or the tragic death of his beloved wife, death had surrounded Ivan from a young age. Many of the actions he took were strengthening the central government in Moscow by directly enhancing his own power and giving billets in local government to his supporters, but he also gave power out to loyal servants, “oprichniki” to do his bidding. These oprichniki acted in unrestricted violence to do whatever Ivan told them. Their violence towards boyars, churchmen, and normal citizens were truly terrible.

In the account of a foreigner, Heinrich von Staden, working as an oprichniki he described some truly sadistic punishments that were directly ordered by Ivan. His bloody and merciless path to find who was against him cost many innocent people their lives. (Kaiser 153) However, this is the account of a foreigner who used these stories to try and convince the German Emperor to invade Muscovy. The actual twisted nature of Ivan can not be accurately found in these accounts.

However, the boyars were not simply useless to Ivan, he did strengthen the boyars who supported him, again showing how he was seeking power to protect himself. It was quite natural for leaders during this time to consolidate power and kill people who opposed them. The Western idea of Ivan and “the Terrible” can quite possibly have been distorted by the report of von Staden. While the tragic events in Ivan’s youth and young adult life could certainly have done some mental damage, most of his actions seem rational to strengthen the state, but more importantly, his own safety.

Did the actions Ivan take accidentally strengthen the state, or was it a conscious action to protect Muscovy?


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” ((KM 159)) . Another reform aimed to grow the central administration, which kept elaborate records and thus “considerable increased its control over the country and its resources” ((KM 159)) . 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.

The Third Rome: Autocratic State in Moscow

Monday 28, 2015

After almost two centuries of Mongol rule and influence, the Moscow Empire compiles many of the old Kiev appendages into one Muscovite State.  Unlike the governance in Novgorod, in the Muscovite state, the Grand Prince becomes a lord, with all land belonging to him.  In fact when property was sold the deed read, “I have sold the land of the sovereign and of my possession,” (Kaiser & Marker, 103).  This feudal society is known as an autocracy, the Grand Prince having all the power as the head of state.  What unfolds after 1453 (the fall of Constantinople to the Turks) is an additional power and prestige bestowed upon Russia with the world declaration of it being the “New Israel” or “The Third Rome,” (Kaiser & Marker, 104).

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Constantinople became the center of Orthodoxy under the Greek Empire’s control.  Rus’ always viewed this area, especially the Byzantine Empire as the source of Orthodoxy, so much so that the Muscovite prices Ivan III and Vasilii III regarded themselves as the descendants of the Greek tsars (Kaiser & Marker, 104).  Thus with the fall of Constantinople, the Grand Prince of Moscow adopts another important role, a pope-like figure almost, as the Tsar, or Head of the Orthodoxy.

A monk named Filofei declared Moscow as the Third Rome and emphasized it’s importance as the center for Orthodoxy for the entire world.  The Turks, who took over Constantinople were regarded as “Godless infidels” and it was up to the Tsars of Russia to create a place of salvation for the world, (Kaiser & Marker, 104).  In the Filofei excerpts, the monk emphasizes the importance of this new capital of Orthodoxy, but also yields the Grand Prince of not abusing this power and that the Tsar is a servant for God.  Filofei by declaring the Muscovite State as the new Rome also states, “And there will not be a fourth. No one will replace your Christian tsardom,” implying not only Russia’s new position in the world, but also indefinitely expanding the autocracy of the Tsar, (Filofei, 1).

With this in mind:

By comparing the two documents we read for Monday’s class, which form of governance holds more power?  The Tsar, who is a representative of Orthodoxy for the world?  Or does the Church have more power over the Tsar?

After reading the new law codes of Moscow and their strict punishments, in what ways in religion a unifier for the new Moscow Empire?

Do you think there could be possible problems that arise from the Tsar being aligned with the Church?  Does this give him ultimate power?

Works Cited

Filofei. Moscow The Third Rome (Excerpts). Harrington. Community UK. http://community.dur.ac.uk/a.k.harrington/3rdrome.html

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