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Ivan the Terrible Paperback – September 25, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 526 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition Thus edition (September 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300119739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300119732
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #313,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. De Madariaga accomplishes a lot in this significant biography of the 16th-century Russian czar, contextualizing his life without minimizing his brutality. From a compendious knowledge of both primary and secondary sources, de Madariaga shows how Ivan increased his power in an attempt to assert his authority in a vast land still ruled by local princes. He also expanded Russian control to new areas, particularly western Siberia. She doesn't neglect his abuses of power. But the needs of ruling an enormous, divided country don't explain that brutality—both in extracting money from the peasantry to pay for his lengthy wars and in the capricious violence he inflicted on those he suspected of treason. Here de Madariaga admits the role of psychopathology. Nor does the author (Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great), a professor emeritus of Russian studies at the University of London, neglect other aspects of Ivan's reign. She deftly describes the active role that religion, magic and astrology played in Ivan's life and court. In fact, Ivan's belief that violence was necessary to purify himself and his people drove many of his actions, she argues. The book is written for scholars and students, but general readers willing to plow through the dry prose will be amply rewarded with what is likely to become the definitive work on Ivan for some time. Illus., maps not seen by PW. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The authoritative historians of Ivan IV have been Russian scholars, and de Madariaga explains that her biography assesses the persuasiveness of their differing interpretations of his personality and the significance of his reign. Though possessing this academic purpose, de Madariaga embeds it in a narrative of Ivan's life (1530-84) that will be of interest to general readers. Enthroned when a boy, Ivan inherited a complicated set of titles and a government dominated by landowning magnates, the boyars. His decimation of the boyars, often performed personally and with imaginative sadism, endowed Ivan with his fearsome reputation; some historians, notably in the Soviet period, considered Ivan's bloodbaths as a ghastly but modernizing passage to a centralized Russian state. More realistically, de Madariaga describes the victims of Ivan's capricious wrath in the context of his superstitions and paranoia about treason. Regarding Ivan as more rational--though hardly humanitarian in foreign affairs, de Madariaga evenly relates his diplomacy and near-continual warfare. Considering him as basically a historical horror, de Madariaga's expertly presented Ivan the Terrible measures up to the moniker. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Freborg on December 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Engaging and comprehensive history of Russian Tsar Ivan IV (Terrible). The prose is very dense, and at times the information flow feels almost overwhelming - sometimes making me feel as if I should be taking notes :-) Scholarly and well done work about an extremely intriging individual and period in Russia. For a general audience, perhaps a more narrative prose style would be more accessible -- but an excellent work.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
There are some people that you can read about again and again: Henry VIII; Mary, Queen of Scots; Elizabeth I; Richard III; Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart. Ivan the Terrible is one of these fascinating characters.

Author Isabel de Madariaga has written an energetic new biography of Ivan IV. All your favorite Ivan stories are here: how he snapped after the death of his first wife, how he created the group that evolved into the KGB, how he killed his own son. But wait, there's more!

De Madariaga raises a question I haven't read anywhere else - that Ivan may have been influenced by the tale of Vlad Tepes Dracul, a Wallachian ruler who inspired the tale of Dracula. She details how Ivan very likely was familiar with the story. In fact, she finds evidence that Ivan would have read (or had heard - we don't actually know if he was literate) a version of Vlad the Impaler that excused his cruelty as being for the sake of his subjects.

In any case, Ivan certainly was terrible, although he was called that not for his behavior, but for his position as ruler of all of Russia. "Terrible" in this case meant "awe-inspiring" rather than cruel. As it happened though, the name fits no matter how you look at it.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Barmaley on October 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
De Madariaga presents the reader with an intriguing interpretation of the life of Ivan IV. The material found in this book isn't going to turn the historical community on its head (there is no new archival research here), but this is nevertheless a very thoroughly researched undertaking.

The author does an admirable job of trying to establish the facts surrounding an individual who not only lived in a time when written records were generally scarce, but who actively attempted to obscure the truth and rewrite history in the Chronicles. What the reader is left with is what is generally a balanced assessment of Ivan IV. This is, to say the least, quite an accomplishment, given the centuries of exaggerations, lies, and ideological embellishment, that stretches from the contemporary European propaganda to Russian Imperial historians to their Soviet successors. Thus, we not only see the man who arrests, tortures, kills and destroys, but a person intensely devoted to the Orthodox faith (as insanely paradoxical as they come). Moreover, what de Madariaga continually does is remind the reader of the context of Ivan's world and his peers; in many ways, despite what period writings may say or our modern value systems may despise, Ivan fit in quite well with the rulers of his day.

Nevertheless, as is most evident in the concluding chapter, de Madariaga is not an Ivan apologist. Ultimately, she finds Ivan to have been a disaster in every sense of the word. He may have significantly expanded Russian lands, but at the price of the wholesale destruction of his original dominion.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By C. Baker VINE VOICE on March 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This biography of the 16th century Russian Tsar Ivan IV, or Ivan the Terrible is a certainly a well thought out and deep exploration of the life and reign of this eccentric and terrible autocrat.

That said, it is a very academic treatment and the organization and prose make it an extremely difficult read for the layperson. I have read a lot of Russian history, including very academic works, and I found this biography a real chore to read and understand. Unless you have a very good background in Russian history, I would not recommend this biography.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Steven M. Anthony on January 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Don't pick up this volume with the hope of entertaining reading. Only buy this book if you are doing serious research on Ivan or Russia in the time of the first Tsar. While I stuck with it to the finish (I almost never quit a book), it was far more challenging than I bargained for. The author throws around Russian names and terms like her readers are graduate level students in Russian history. I was looking for something in the vein of Peter the Great and ended up with a college textbook.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 14, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This work is a thorough history of Russia during the mid-16th century. The author presents a balanced view of the source material, emphasizing what is known, why it is known, and what is not known, about a critical formative period of Russia. That said, it is not a book for a beginner. It presupposes an understanding of Russian history and institutions, as well as some knowledge of the Russian language.
One addition that would have been helpful would have been a set of "family trees" for the main princely and boyar families. The numerous Bel'skys, Shuiskys, not to mention the ubiquitous Iur'ev-Zakhar'ins (the later Romanovs) become very confusing. In addition, the author frequently refers to individuals by their initials, where the full name and patronymic would have been helpful.
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