The art of analyzing a book for the purpose of historical inquiry is an art often not addressed until graduate school, and even then, its process is often assumed by the instructor. “Four Birds, One Stone” presents goals and options for utilizing Charles Halperin’s Ivan the Terrible in the undergraduate and graduate classroom in order to teach students how to understand an author’s methodology, how to identify source types and their uses, how to evaluate an author’s argumentation, and how to recognize the organization of material, in addition to guiding students through the book’s historical content. The article provides major arguments and themes presented in Ivan the Terrible, and also suggests ways that chapters can be utilized to help students grapple with content relating to the tsar and to Muscovy. Halperin’s book supplies opportunities to introduce students to problems of historiography and other elements of historical interpretation, and this article calls attention to some of those topics. This article aims to provide instructors with ideas not only for exploring the use of Halperin’s book for instruction at both undergraduate and graduate levels, but to also consider how to better enable student engagement with the text of any secondary source.
Halperin’s extensively researched, methodically logical and thought out, and clearly written, if perforce selective study of Ivan iv and his reign scrupulously devotes attention to the reliability of the available sources. The author’s leitmotif here is that diplomatic papers and chronicles, as well as polemical literature, à la the disputed Ivan iv-Kurbskii epistolary exchange, as well as the History attributed to the latter and also foreigners’ reports, can simultaneously be authentic, authorial works and factually unreliable. Halperin flags in such sources numerous statements which stand either uncorroborated by other sources, some surely not credible, such as the young Ivan as a “monster in training,” or contradicted by them, for example, that oprichnina members were totally separated from the rest of Russian society. Halperin also modifies Michael Cherniavsky’s “Renaissance Prince” paradigm for Ivan iv with an emphasis on the explosive social tensions seen for this era and the dynamics of the domestic terror which the tsar unleashed, as well as his personal religious sensitivities and political ideology. Herein Halperin perceptively grasps the anomaly of Ivan’s repudiating the lasting, state-strengthening reforms of the 1550s. This reviewer takes partial responsibility for where Halperin was misled by the ‘Kurbskii’ History regarding Trans-Volgan hermitages.
This essay focuses upon the limitations to Ivan iv’s biography set by the extant sources. Due to these limitations, some important episodes of the tsar’s life, including his participation in the administrative reforms carried out during his reign, remain unknown. Moreover, these lacunae cannot be filled in with mere logical conjectures. However, the situation is not totally hopeless. For instance, Ivan’s major concerns during the oprichnina can be revealed with the help of the marginal notes in the Royal Archive’s inventory which fixed the tsar’s uses of the documents. Apart from careful reexamination of the available sources, hopes for further insights into Ivan’s biography and reign are pinned on the applying of the emic approach, history of concepts and historical comparison.
This paper discusses the comparative aspect of Charles Halperin’s biography of Ivan the Terrible. In his book, Halperin reassesses Michael Cherniavsky’s view of Ivan the Terrible as a Renaissance prince by noting that Cherniavsky overestimated the importance of Moscow-the Third Rome theory and used unreliable later sources. In Russian scholarship, according to Halperin, comparative works on Ivan iv have been marred with nationalism. One should also add here the negative impact of vulgar Marxism on Soviet comparative studies of Ivan iv. Nevertheless, a comparative approach to Ivan the Terrible is still viable because, as Halperin astutely notes, the first Russian tsar “resembled his contemporaries among foreign rulers more than he did his Muscovite predecessors or successors.” In this article I apply Halperin’s comparative methodology to Ivan iv the Terrible and Philip ii the Prudent of Spain. What Ivan and Philip had in common was not Renaissance ideas but intensive religious beliefs. The paper examines the foreign and domestic policies of both monarchs, as well as their contemporary visual representations from the perspectives of their religious views. Ivan’s and Philip’s preoccupation with their countryside residences, Aleksandrovskaia Sloboda and the Escorial respectively, is also discussed in the context of the rulers’ intensive religiosity. Despite their different confessions, Ivan iv and Philip ii were driven by aspirations for what they saw as original, simple, correct Christianity.
Though Nikolai Karamzin has been credited with developing the ‘Two Ivans’ paradigm, which emphasizes Anastasiia’s death as the clear, unequivocal dividing line between the good Ivan and the evil Groznyi, he did not invent it. He derived the notion from the only major Russian text about Ivan the Terrible that is still unpublished.
This essay takes issue with Charles Halperin’s assertion, in his book on Ivan the Terrible, that the state terror imposed by the tsar in the period of the oprichnina bore no relation to the concept of carnival employed by Mikhail Bakhtin. The reviewer argues that, on the contrary, Ivan’s behaviour was heavily influenced by aspects of the “comic world” of early Rus’ identified by D.S. Likhachev and A.M. Panchenko as the Muscovite equivalent of the Western European “carnivalesque”. She examines the deposition and ritual humiliation of Metropolitan Filipp of Moscow and Archbishops Pimen and Leonid of Novgorod, and the murder of the boyar I.P. Fedorov-Cheliadnin, and shows that these had much in common with forms of popular culture. Similarly, the oprichniki themselves in some respects resembled mummers, and their monastery at Aleksandrovskaia Sloboda was carnivalesque. The oprichnina terror displayed some of the gruesome rituals of retribution found in popular uprisings of the period: this suggests that the tsar had internalized much of the imagery of popular culture; and his appropriation of its idioms may have helped to gain popular support for his public executions.
It is not possible to understand Ivan iv and his policies, Charles Halperin emphasizes, without taking into account Muscovite political, economic, social, and cultural history. To explain the mass terror that characterized the oprichnina, Halperin delves particularly into social history and finds the roots of the terror in the establishment and enlargement of the gentry, which entailed a high degree of social mobility. Without any mechanisms for releasing the anxiety produced by social mobility, social pressures mounted until the establishment of the oprichnina provided an opportunity for the gentry to release their frustrations in unrestrained violence. An inquiry into a wider range of social and economic developments reveals that the gentry had to deal with stress arising from multiple sources, more disturbing and persistent than social mobility. It also indicates that the gentry did have mechanisms at their disposal to express and alleviate their anxieties. This inquiry does not confirm or reject Halperin’s conclusion that gentry oprichniki, contravening Ivan’s intent, were responsible for unleashing mass terror. It does suggest that to discover the roots of the gentry’s actions it may be necessary to consider a wider range of factors in Muscovy’s complex, dynamic social and economic history.
The early modern Russian government and Russian Orthodox Church identified as one of their main duties the ransoming of Russian Christians from Muslim Tatar captors. The process of ransoming could be an involved one with negotiations being carried on by different agents and by the potential ransomees themselves. Different amounts of ransom were paid on a sliding scale depending upon the ransomee’s social status, gender, and age. One of our main sources for the justification of this practice was the Stoglav (100 Chapters) Church Council in 1551, which discussed the issue of ransom in some detail. The Law Code (Ulozhenie) of 1649 specifies the conditions and amounts to be paid to redeem captives. Church writers justified the ransoming of Christian captives of the Muslim Tatars by citing Scripture, and they also specified that the government should pay the ransom out of its own treasury.
Nine of the ten articles in this Forum critique and/or expand upon themes, conclusions, or interpretations in Charles J. Halperin’s Ivan the Terrible: Free to Reward and Free to Punish (2019), albeit in greatly varying proportion. The tenth addresses how to teach from the book. The quality of the articles speaks for itself. The range of the themes addressed speaks to the scope of Ivan’s reign. All the contributions to the Forum constitute valuable contributions to scholarship on Ivan, but to further discussion the remarks below concentrate on areas of disagreement. Much research remains to be done, but it is doubtful that historians will ever fully understand Ivan the Terrible and his reign. Ivan will always remain “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” and consensus among historians will forever remain an elusive dream.