Ivan the Terrible as a religious type: A study of the background, genesis and development of the theocratic idea of the first Russian Tsar, and his attempts to establish ``free autocracy'' in Russia

Alexander Leonidovich Dvorkin, Fordham University

Abstract

Ivan IV, the Terrible, the first Russian Tsar, (1533-1584) is shown to be not an isolated phenomenon, but one of the monarchs of the European commonwealth who were establishing their absolute authority of their respective nation-states. What was perceived as a clash between the policies of the Tsar during the Chosen Council and those during the Oprichnina is demonstrated to be a change of methods of the establishment by Ivan of the ideal theocratic autocracy in Russia. The bloodshed and atrocities of the Tsar came from his refusal to see the incompatibility of the old forms with the new content which he tried to inject into them; he rather thought he was returning to an older and neglected Tradition. A man of fervent, if formalistic and ritualistic religiosity, he saw his mission as established by God. In effect, Ivan created his own religious system based upon duty and obedience--without freedom and love. The Tsar alone being the incarnation of the Divine will had complete freedom of action. Any limitation of this freedom meant an offense to God Himself and thus caused His wrath against the Tsar, his realm and his people. Trying to fit his life into this religious system, Ivan created many legends about his own life and the actions of his contemporaries.^ The present study re-examines the chronicles of the time and the writings of Ivan himself, placing them in the context in which they were created. The author discusses the psychological and intellectual atmosphere in which the crucial decisions were undertaken and shows their real motives and goals. This is especially applied to the Oprichnina, which is proven to be an exemplary state within a state, organized according to the model of Western Military Monastic Orders, rather than a system of economic measures, a political police force, or just a senseless and blind act of persecution of everybody and everything.^ Ivan the Terrible is shown to conclude the development of Russia in the Byzantine tradition and to inaugurate in it, on a large scale, Western cultural and ideological influences, which culminated during the reign of Peter the Great. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.) ^

Subject Area

Religious history|Medieval history|Political science

Recommended Citation

Dvorkin, Alexander Leonidovich, "Ivan the Terrible as a religious type: A study of the background, genesis and development of the theocratic idea of the first Russian Tsar, and his attempts to establish ``free autocracy'' in Russia" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8910754.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8910754

Share

COinS