Learn all about the first Tsar of Russia with this book review of Ivan the Terrible by Yuri Tsivian.
Ivan the Terrible book review
Ivan IV Vasilyevich, better known as Ivan the Terrible, is one of the most important figures in Russian history. Born to parents Vasili III and Elena Glinskaya (Serbian princess of Hungarian and Mongol descent), he was crowned the grand prince of Moscow at age three and the first Tsar of Russia at 16. He reigned from 1547 to 1584. By the end of his life, the Russian empire spanned from the Caspian sea in the south and Western Siberia in the east.
His life, complex personality, and absolute power have inspired many works of art, including paintings, opera, sculptures, films, and books. He was such an astonishing character that even original art about him inspired other works in many languages including English.
That is the case with the book Ivan the Terrible by Yuri Tsivian, which was inspired by the movie of the same name.
What is Ivan the Terrible by Yuri Tsivian about?
Ivan the Terrible, by Yuri Tsivian, is a profound analysis of the widely known film of the same name by Soviet director Serguei Eisenstein. This was one of the first color films made in the Soviet Union, the former name of the modern-day Russian state.
The film uniquely represents some of the Tsar’s most important milestones. Starting with his coronation, his wedding to Anastasia Romanovna, and his declaration of war to the Kazan—for which he had St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow constructed in commemoration.
In his project, Tsivian goes beyond what the viewer can see and hear for themselves. He also analyzes the influences and aesthetic beliefs Eisenstein used to make the film.
The author thoroughly researched the director’s unpublished material and diaries to guide the viewers through understanding Eisenstein’s vision.
With a vast knowledge of the artistic, literary, and intellectual references that inspired the director, Tsivian provides clear explanations of even the most esoteric ideas.
His book also includes reproductions of Eisenstein’s drawings and illustrations ranging from Renaissance engraving to Symbolist paintings.
The author recommends watching the film first before reading the book. Watching each particular scene and then reading about it in the book will make the viewer better prepared to understand much more about it, he says.
Who is Yuri Tsivian?
Yuri Tsivian combined his studies on film history in Latvia and Russia with semiotics under the guidance of Yuri Lotman. He also earned a Ph.D. in film studies from the Institute of Theater, Music, and Cinema in Leningrad.
He has over a hundred publications, including Dialogues with the Screen, which he wrote in collaboration with Yuri Lotman, Silent Witnesses, Russian Films, and Early Cinema in Russia and its Cultural Reception.
Tsivian has also developed two new fields in film study: carpalistics, which studies the uses of gestures in theatre, and cenemetrics, which uses digital tools to compare the uses of gestures in theatre, literature, visual art, and film.
Depictions of Ivan the Terrible in various media
Ivan the Terrible‘s life has been depicted in multiple media, including books and films. He also inspired different art forms, such as opera scores and paintings. Here are various media you can find on Ivan the Terrible.
Tsar (2009 film)
It’s set during the era of the Oprichnina between 1566 and 1569. The film is divided into four parts. In “The Prayer of the Tsar,” Hugumen Philip arrives in Moscow and agrees to become Metropolitan of Moscow. He urges the Tsar to show mercy to his enemies after witnessing the horrors committed by the Oprichniki. In the second part, Metropolitan Philip’s nephew goes to battle against Poland and Lithuania for access to trade routes through the Baltic sea. Governor Polotsk surrenders when the Lithuanian and Polish forces arrive at the town. When Phillip refuses to give his blessing, he is exiled to a monastery where he’s treated like a prisoner. In the film’s third part, Heinrich von Staden builds a torture camp for prisoners. Phillip refuses one more time to bless the Tsar, who orders Skiratov to strangle him to death. The final scene shows the Tsar waiting for the beginning of his torture while asking, “Where are my people”?
Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan (1581 painting)
Russian realist artist Ilya Repin painted the grieving Tsar on November 16, 1581. Ivan the Terrible had beaten his pregnant daughter-in-law for wearing immodest clothing. When her husband Ivan went to her defense, the Tsar struck a fatal blow to his son Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich’s head in a fit of rage. The painting shows a crying Tsar full of remorse and cradling his dying son. With his first son’s death, the Tsar ensured the end of the Rurik Dynasty.
The Tsar’s Bride (1965 film)
Based on Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera. In 1572, Grigori Gryaznoy was madly in love with Marfa, who was betrothed to Ivan. At the same time, Ivan IV was also looking for a bride.
Russka (1991 novel)
This novel follows 1800 years of Russian history, focusing on the families Bobrovs, Romanovs, Suvorins, Popovs, and Karpenkos. Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the Great, Peter the Great, and the Bolsheviks are some of the characters included in the narrative.
The Death of Ivan the Terrible (Historical drama)
Stalin decided that the strongest leaders should be praised. This encouraged Aleksey Tolstoy to publish a stage version of the Tsar’s life in the year 1866.
Ivan the Terrible (Score)
Composed by Sergei Prokofiev for Sergei Eisenstein’s film. The main subjects of the first tale are the early years of the Tsar’s reign, his attempts to control the boyars, his wedding, the conquest of Kazan, the death of his first wife, Anastasia Romanovna, the Oprichniki formation, and his abdication. The second tale describes Prince Kurbskiy’s defection to Poland-Lithuania, the Metropolitan of Moscow, his disagreement with the Tsar, his triumph over domestic enemies, and the murder of his son.
The March of Muscovy (1966 book)
Harold Lamb recounts the growth of the Russian Empire from 1400 to 1648. In his books, he recounts the events from the Muscovite Civil War in the 1400s, the formation of the oprichnina, the Crimean raids, the conquest of Siberia, and more.
Grozny (2020 TV series)
This series explores the life of the Russian Czar and the tyrannical actions that led him to be known as the Terrible. Starting with his first years as Czar, when he conquered the khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan, expanding the Russian territory.
Portrait of Ivan the Terrible (1897)
Painted by Viktor Vasnetsov in a Romanticism style. It’s now exhibited in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
Listen to audiobooks about historical figures on Speechify
In the Speechify app, thousands of audiobooks are available for streaming from your computer or portable devices.
Visit Speechify and start enjoying the biographies of the most remarkable figures of all time.
What is Ivan the Terrible’s full name?
Ivan the Terrible’s full name was Ivan Vasilyevich. His Russian byname was Ivan Grozny.
What are some of the negative effects of Ivan the Terrible’s rule?
Many of Ivan the Terrible’s political decisions during his reign had negative effects. For example, when he got rid of the “Chosen Council,” he triggered the Livonian War. As a consequence, Russia lost Livonia and Ingria.
The formation of the oprichnina caused resentment among the boyars, who conspired against him multiple times.
In 1553, Ivan established the first printing press. However, this caused anger among the traditional scribes.
Ivan’s reign was also marked by the Massacre of Novgorod and the Tatars burning Moscow.
His paranoia was heightened after his wife Anastasia Romanovna died, possibly to poisoning, and one of his advisors, Prince Andrei Kurbsky, defected to Lithuania.
In the 1571-72 war between Russia and Crimea, his Oprichnina and oprichniki were unsuccessful and were abolished afterwards.
His standing army known as the Streltsky would later be involved in many uprisings and revolts.
After the Tsar murdered his first son, his youngest, Feodor Ivanovich, inherited the throne. Feodor’s childless death ended the Rurikid dynasty and marked the beginning of the Time of Troubles.
How many wives did Ivan the Terrible have?
He had six confirmed marriages to Anastasia Romanovna, Maria Temryukovna, Marfa Sobakina, Anna Koltovskaya, Anna Vasilchikova, and Maria Nagaya.
What did Ivan the Terrible do to his father?
The father of Ivan the Terrible died when Ivan was three years old.