Ivan IV Vasiljevich the Terrible was Grand Prince (since 1533), the first Russian Tsar (since 1547), the son of Vasili III. He conquered Kazan Khan (1552) and Astrakhan Khan (1556). He introduced "the oprichnina" in 1565 - a hand-picked group of terrorists who raped and killed anyone Iran did not like. His home policy was accompanied with dreadful repressions and stong enslaving of peasants. Beyond Russia, he took part in the Livonian War (1558-1583) and established commercial connections with England. Crucially, he joined Siberia to the Russian State. Yet was he sane as well as successful? This profile argues that Ivan the Terrible was a shrewd statesman who understood that loyalty to church and boyars needed to be displaced by rigid devotion to himself and centralised power in order to bring about the ultimate growth and stability of the modern Russian empire. His private and public lives were bloody in the extreme but his rule was ultimately a success for Russia.
Maureen Perrie is Professor of History at the University of Birmingham.Andrei Pavlov is a senior research fellow in the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg.