Ivan the Terrible is a key figure in Russian history. To understand him you need to separate man and myth, and there are many myths because all we know about Ivan is based on very limited evidence. And to strip the myths away you need to see Ivan not as an evil monster, but rather as an erratic Renaissance Eurasian prince.
Part One (episode 75) the myths about Ivan are outlined, and then the narrative of his life and times are told, including some of the stranger stories. Part Two (episode 76) covers the puzzles of Ivan IV’s power, violence, mind, repentance, death and legacy. Check them out at Spotify.
These episodes are part of my series on the ‘Black Legend of Russian History’. The series helps the listener understand how Russian history has been obscured by some Russophobic myths, and retells the story of Russian history backwards to present it more fairly and in all its complex fascination. You can listen to the first episode, (episode 65, The Black Legend of Russian History) here, and watch my video version on my YouTube channel, @theburningarchive.
I also have written a number of posts or essays on Ivan the Terrible over the years, and these are now published in my new book, From the Burning Archive: Essays and Fragments, 2015-2022. You can buy it here, and I would be very grateful for your support since I have left the employ of government and am now making my living by the pen and microphone.
The literature on Ivan IV is enormous. In this episode I have drawn on the following sources (Amazon affiliate links included if you want to pursue your own research):
- Isabel de Madariaga, Ivan the Terrible (2006)
- Mark B. Smith, The Russia Anxiety (2020)
- Sergei Bogatyrev, ‘Ivan IV’ in Cambridge History of Russia: volume 1, from early Rus to 1689 (2015)
- Antonio Possevino (1533-1611), Moscovia (tr 1977)
- Ivan IV Letters to Andrei Kurbskii, in Medieval Russia’s epics, chronicles and tales, edited Serge Zenkovsky (1974)
- Andrei Pavlov & Maureen Perrie, Ivan the Terrible: profiles in power (2003)
- Robert Payne & Nikita Romanoff, Ivan the Terrible (1975)
- Reinterpreting Russian History: Readings, 860-1860s eds. D. Kaiser & G. Marker (1994)
I am also now releasing video versions on the podcast on my YouTube channel @theburningarchive. These feature the audio, some slide outlines of the content, and public domain images of the relevant history. There is a playlist of my series on the ‘Black Legend of Russian History’.
Image: Ilya Repin, Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on 16 November 1581, Tretyakov Gallery