Ivan the Terrible

The Russian city of Oryol inaugurated the country’s first ever monument to Ivan the Terrible, a 16th-century tyrant whose rehabilitation has been lobbied for by officials despite protests from historians and locals.

Tsar Ivan IV ruled Russia from 1547 to 1584 and earned the moniker “Terrible” due to his brutal policy of oprichnina, which included the creation of a secret police that spread mass terror and executed thousands of people.

The governor of Russia’s Oryol region nonetheless backed the monument, saying during its inauguration on Friday that Ivan the Terrible “was a defender of our land, a tsar who expanded its frontiers”.

The monument was also backed by Russia’s culture minister, who has argued that Ivan the Terrible’s brutal rule is a myth and that his name was tarnished by western travellers who slandered him in their writings.

However, historian Vladislav Nazarov, who specialises in that period, said Ivan the Terrible’s rule precipitated a socioeconomic and political crisis that two decades later led to Russia’s first civil war. “This statue appears as yet another symbol dividing Russian society into those favouring Joseph Stalin-like ”strongman” rule and others decrying repression and authoritarianism”.

Photo by Alexander Ryumin

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