Ivan the Terrible Was Also a Jerk to His Family
Ivan the Terrible’s oprichnina augured the absolute monarchy that marked Russia for centuries to come. With a special police force, the Oprichniki, Ivan kicked off a wave of brutal persecutions that targeted the boyars, and spread from there in ever greater ripples that soon covered all his lands. His most infamous atrocity occurred in Novgorod. In 1570, when that city defied him, he marched on it in the dead of winter, seized it, then indulged in an orgy of violent depravity. He started off with the clergy, whom he rounded up and ordered flogged from dawn until dusk, for days on end, until they each paid a 20 ruble fine. Hundreds died, and afterwards, he ordered the survivors executed. The population fared no better: he ordered the torture of leading citizens along with their families.
Men were executed, and women and children were bound and thrown into a river. There, they were trapped under the ice as soldiers patrolled the area on foot, with hooks and spears to push down any who surfaced. By the time Ivan was finally sated, over 60,000 had perished. Ivan was a violent jerk even to his own family. In 1581, he assaulted his pregnant daughter-in-law because he thought her clothes were too skimpy, and caused her to miscarry. When his son and heir angrily berated him for the brutal attack on his wife, Ivan the Terrible smashed his head in with his scepter. The result was a fatal wound from which the Tsar’s son died a few days later. He followed him three years later, and died from a stroke while playing chess.