tsar ivan the terrible
tsar ivan the terrible
Ivan the Terrible, Sergei Eisenstein

The most famous of all Muscovites was Ivan IV, known as Ivan the Terrible. During his long rule (1533-1584), Ivan IV expanded the Russian lands and made Russian culture more religious than it had ever been. He eliminated rival centers of power like the democratic city of Novgorod in the North and dealt a decisive blow to the Mongols in his victory at Kazan in 1552.

As the head of a religious civilization, Ivan the Terrible had every aspect of domestic activity ritualized through semimonastic rules of conduct, preserved in a book called the Domostroi. The consequence of this radical monasticization of society was the virtual elimination of secular culture in the course of the sixteenth century.

“Ivan started as an angel. Ivan the Terrible was the fallen angel. He started as a very wise Tsar and ended as a devil. And Eisenstein wanted to follow this evolution from angel to the devil. The first image he discovered for this subject was Ivan in the Cathedral. And the background this is the Last Judgement and Ivan’s staying on his knees asking God to forgive him. And God keeps silence when Ivan asked him ‘have I right to kill people for the great Russia?’ and because silence is the answer, Ivan is trying to kill the God,” explains film historian Naum Kleinman.

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