- Mar 3, 2001
Tales of the Rus: Chapter III, "The Terror of the Opritjina"
- The Middle Years of the Reign of Ivan IV, "The Benevolent" (1533-1584) -
Summary: A blowhard waxes eloquent
The Reign of Terror"....During the 1540'ies and 50'ies, the young Tsar had perfected the sport of evenhanded disingeniousness. Portraying himself as the father of the nation, the saviour of Russia from the muslim hordes, and, in accordance with tradition, as the true successor to the Roman (Byzantine) Empire, he had put up a kind public face, that of the benevolent Tsar. The business of ruling Russia had not changed, however, and was as brutal as ever: The main difference being that the Tsar had instituted a select noble council, the so-called Chosen Council, to deal with most of the less savoury aspects of government and to keep the traditional aristocracy in check. This worked well.... Too well. While the Council loyally obeyed the Tsar's every demand, it was inevitable that friction would arise as the Tsar's demands seldom were backed up by the economic means to see them carried through... This led to either displeasing the Tsar, a terminal mistake, or seeking funds elsewhere, at times destroying local economies.
By the late 50'ies, the survivors of the Chosen Council, as always short on money, hit upon a new scheme for financing the Tsar's edicts: Foreign investment. Official sources are single-minded in describing the negotiations that ensued as traitorous, an attempt to sell out Russian interests to foreigners such as the vile Barnusian family of Portugal, and having designs upon the imperial throne through a careful suborning the army and nobility. While this may well have been the case, and is certainly supported by the signed confessions under duress made by the surviving chosen, the modern reader has some cause to question the official version. The primitive methods of torture of the time, unlike those of the glorious security service today, often had people confessing to any and all things the were accused of, and, seen with a modern eye, it is clear that no matter what else they may have done, the Chosen Council had committed one fatal mistake: The army is always the domain of the Tsar, there are no exceptions.
Whatever the reason, by 1560 the Tsar had had enough and had prepared to retake the authority granted to the council. In a night raid on the CHosen HQ, the surviving chosen and their servants were taken into custody and put to the question. Of their travails, little is known, but they must undoubtedly have suffered most terribly before they were finally put to death in 1562. This, however, was just the beginning.
Concerned that corruption had reached even his most trusted servants, the Tsar unleashed the full fury of imperial power on his subjects in an attempt to cleanse Russia of traitors. He established a secret police, the Opritjina, and turned them loose on the people, to separate the wheat from the chaff. During the next decade untold tens of thousands of nobles, merchants, artisans, and farmers were put to the question and found guilty and precious few were found to be innocent. No village was left untouched, no stone unturned: The reckoning with the traitors was on hand. To fund the persecution, the Tsar imposed a new progressive tax reform. As a direct result of these two momentous events, it is fair to say that Russia was suffering a political crisis of unknown dimensions and that the country was on the edge of chaos.
It is noteworthy, however, that even during such troubled times, the Tsar remained full control of the army, even launching a campaign against Crimea in the mid sixties that saw Orthodox Kaffa and Kerch saved from the infidel. When angry Crimean tribesmen managed to sack parts of Moscow in retaliation in a few years later, it was observed that the Tsar was curiously lucky in their choice of targets, as they burned down several mansions belonging to his chief opponents while leaving the imperial palaces untouched, possibly due to the significant presence of the imperial guard. Even further, it was noted that the Tsar, rather than launch a new war against Crimea, cracked down hard on several noble families charged with the defense of Moscow since the year previous.
By the mid seventies Russia was at peace again, with all interior opposition to the Tsar's rule gone - or buried. Following a brief power struggle within the Opritjina, which severely reduced the heady power it had gained during the Terror, the survivors were brought in line and their reins tightened... Russia was at peace and stable, and everybody praised Tsar Ivan IV the Benevolent for bringing peace to troubled Russia.... It seemed safest that way.
Thus, the Swedish invasion came as a pleasant diversion, though, as it turned out, it was an omen of worse things to come." - an excerpt from an illegal copy of "The Rise of Russia, chapter 3: Ivan IV, the Terrible", by Boef Stroganoff, published 2210 [SemiConscious House ltd]
Note: All legal copies of the book were destroyed as a standard measure when the author was arrested on charges of defaming the character of an ancestor of the Tsar, defaming the institution of the empire, and contradicting official history. He was, of course, found to be guilty in short order. Due to his enthusiastic denunciations of several accomplishes and evidencing true contrition, the court was lenient and allowed Boef Stroganoff to volunteer for the colonisation of red Mars.
1576: The Armenian AffairA diplomatic communique: Tsar Ivan IV, The Benevolent, of Russia has noted the horrible forced conversion of the Christians of Armenia. Thousands of Armenians fled the terror to Russian Georgia where the Tsar has his southern bambi hunting grounds (a vigorous man for his age, is the Tsar), and, as the Tsar so fondly noticed as he was burning down a local village delinquent in tax payments (always one to take his pleasure as the opportunity arises, is the Tsar), when people flee to Russia, their suffering must be indescribable. He would like an explanation from the Sultan for this foul practise.
It is one thing that the Sultan is a blight upon the earth, a heathen, blasphemer, and tool of Satan, but, hey, these things happen in the best of families, just like syphilis. The Sultan should not try actively spreading his affliction, though. That is inconsiderate of the common good.
1577: The Portuguese PoltroonsA diplomatic communique: If the Portuguese Trading Company does not VERY SOON reduce their predatory trading practises OR finds some way to placate the Tsar, they are going to be driven out of Russia with extreme prejudice. They harm the trade balance, fondle the women without showing proper respect, and underbid the honest hardworking Russian merchants with superior decadent western products. The situation is INTOLERABLE.