Ivan the terrible punished Novgorod



Ivan the terrible punished Novgorod


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Ivan the terrible punished Novgorod


The ferocious acts of cruelty perpetrated by Ivan IV earned him the nickname, “Ivan the Terrible.” The excerpt below from Medieval Russia: A Source Book, 900-1700, edited by Basil Dmytryshyn, describes Ivan’s devastation of Novgorod and the massacre of tens of thousands of its inhabitants.  The selection graphically shows that Ivan’s nickname was appropriate.  These barbarous actions sparked by Ivan’s unfounded suspicion that city leaders had shifted their allegiance to Poland.  As you read the excerpt, try to think of reasons why Ivan Behaved in such a manner.

On Monday the 2nd of January, in the year [1570], . . . the illustrious Tsar and Grand Prince Ivan Vasilevich, lord of All Russia, sent an advance guard of the army in forced march toward Great Novgorod . . ..
When these great troops had arrived before Great Novgorod, . . . they established a great camp in the environs of the city, surrounded by strong posts with fortifications of every kind.  They erected sentinel towers near the posts and decreed that the inhabitants of the city be closely watched in order that not one human being could escape from the city.
And other princes and nobles of the Tsar from the same advance guard rode in all directions in the area around Great Novgorod and sealed all the monasteries and moneyboxes of the Church.  They captured the abbots, the . . . clergy, the deacons, and the elders from the monasteries and took them, perhaps 500 or more persons, to Great Novgorod.  They were brought to the place of execution where they were to wait until the arrival of the Tsar.
And other nobles of the Tsar . . . seized the priests and deacons of all the churches in Novgorod and also brought them to the execution site.  Every ten prisoners were assigned a police officer.  And the officers received order to keep the prisoners in iron chains and to beat them mercilessly from morning until evening . . . until ransom was obtained . . ..
By order of the monarch, other nobles . . . arrested all the administrative officials and all the important merchants of Great Novgorod and up with all their wealth, and their wives and children were ordered closely watched until the arrival of the sovereign.
On January 6th of the same year, 1570, . . . the illustrious Tsar and Grand Prince Ivan Vasilevich, lord of All Russia, arrived in Great Novgorod.  He was accompanied by his son, the rightful heir to the throne, Prince Ivan Ivanovich, and an uncountable host.
On . . . the day after his arrival, the illustrious Tsar and Grand Prince Ivan Vasilevich, lord of All Russia, gave the order that the abbots, clergy, and monks who had previously been brought to the place of execution should be beaten to death with clubs . . . .
The Tsar ordered his steward . . . together with several boyars, to go into the Church of St. Sophia and to confiscate the treasures in the vestry as well as costly sacred vessels, the holy miraculous ikons . . .,  and paintings by Greek artists.  In addition, the Tsar decreed that all holy church treasures, the holy, divine, costly, and wondrous ikons, and the chasubles used in celebrating mass, and the bells in all of Great Novgorod’s churches be confiscated.
Thereupon, the Tsar . . . and his son . . . held court in the suburbs . . . where he had encamped upon his arrival.  The Tsar commanded the powerful boyars, the important merchants, the administrative officials, and the citizens of every rank be brought before him, together with their wives and children.  The Tsar ordered the they be tortured in his presence in various spiteful, horrible, and inhuman ways . . .. He ordered that each man should be tied to a sled, be dragged to the Volkhov bridge . . . , and be thrown into the Volkholv River from the bridge.  The Tsar ordered that their wives and children be brought to the Volkholv Bridge where a high platform had been erected.   He commanded that they be chained on the arms and legs, and that the children be tied to their mothers and be thrown into the waters of the Volkholv River . . .. In [this] horrible manner they were submerged without mercy in the depths of the river, and abandoned to a terrible and bitter death.
Because of our sins, this unspeakable shedding of Christian blood, caused by the excessive anger of the Tsar, continued uninterrupted each day for five weeks or more.  And every day perhaps a thousand human beings of all ages were thrown into the water and drowned; . . . and if perchance only five or six hundred were thrown into the water, the day in question was considered an easy day, one deserving of thanks.

Reading Review

  • Why did Ivan’s troops build sentinel towers around their camp?W
  • What in the excerpt suggest that Ivan used the destruction of Novgorod as a way to swell the coffers of his treasury?
  • Why, in your opinion, did Ivan behave this way?


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Ivan the terrible punished Novgorod