IVAN THE TER­RI­BLE (1530- 1584)

DNA Magazine - - FEATURE -

Crowned the first Tsar of all the Rus­sias when aged just 17 in 1547, Ivan The Ter­ri­ble was mar­ried seven times and sired eight chil­dren. Pop­u­lar mythol­ogy cred­its him as also hav­ing a thing for beau­ti­ful, cross-dress­ing young men.

Leg­end has it that one of his most for­mi­da­ble po­lice chiefs, Feodor Bas­manov, rose to power in Ivan’s court by per­form­ing se­duc­tive dances for the em­peror.

Ivan stabbed a mem­ber of his court to death for taunt­ing Bas­manov about his re­la­tion­ship with the Tsar. Ivan also had Bas­manov killed… af­ter forc­ing him to kill his own fa­ther. Ter­ri­ble!

Cen­turies later the story of Bas­manov’s court­ing of the king was in­cor­po­rated into the plot of the 1862 novel Prince Sere­brenni by AK Tol­stoy. In it, Bas­manov is de­picted as a shrewd po­lit­i­cal schemer and an ef­fem­i­nate ho­mo­sex­ual who wore silks and make-up and shared the Tsar’s bed – some­thing that was con­sid­ered a para­dox by read­ers of that time.

English poet, Ge­orge Turberville, who vis­ited Moscow in 1568 dur­ing Ivan’s reign, recorded that, while the Rus­sian man “has a de­cent spouse, he prefers his sodomite friend to her”.

Dur­ing Ivan’s reign, Rus­sia ab­sorbed many of the Mus­lim khanates that were left be­hind in Siberia and Cen­tral Asia af­ter the frag­men­ta­tion of the Mon­gol Empire, con­tribut­ing to the re­li­gious di­ver­sity that ex­ists in Rus­sia to­day.

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