IVAN THE TERRIBLE (1530- 1584)
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.