Why did Tsar Ivan the Terrible kill his son?


The death of Tsarevich Ivan is one of the most mysterious pages in Russian history. In foreign sources, several versions of the untimely death of the heir to Tsar Ivan the Terrible are mentioned at once. At the same time, the tsar’s chronicles are silent about the events that have taken place.

Why did Ivan IV kill his son and what happened to the heir’s family?

To date, researchers identify 3 most likely reasons for the conflict between Ivan the Terrible and his son. According to Russian historians of the 18th-19th centuries, Ivan the Terrible

The 27-year-old prince took an active part in the government of the state, accompanied his father on military campaigns and gained incredible popularity both among the common people and among the boyars.

A young talented heir, against the background of a cruel and suspicious king, seemed to people a ray of hope for a better, prosperous life

As the Russian historian Nikolai Mikhailovich Karamzin writes in his History of the Russian State, the tsar’s last straw was the demand of the heir to send military aid to the besieged Pskov by the Poles, while Ivan the Terrible was inclined towards an armistice with the enemy.

Noticing that his son’s decision aroused stormy approval among the boyars, the tsar flew into a rage, accused the heir of treason and dealt him a fatal blow.

The most widespread version is the version of the Pope’s representative Antonio Possevino, a contemporary of the events who was at that time in Moscow. He

She came from the Sheremetyev family — a surname that the tsar publicly declared traitors. For some unknown reason, the king went up to his daughter-in-law’s chambers and found her in her underwear.

Furious that he was being greeted in an inappropriate manner, he began to beat the pregnant woman with a staff. Tsarevich Ivan hurried to the screams of his wife. He tried to intercede for his wife and was hit in the temple.

As a rule, historians do not focus on the fact that the king visited the apartments of his daughter-in-law without an invitation. There is nothing surprising in the fact that the woman was in light home clothes.


Perhaps the 50-year-old tsar visited the apartments of his daughter-in-law for a reason, but in a fit of passion. In this case, the consequences of the autocrat’s act look even more unattractive. Wanting to save state prestige, the chroniclers simply did not write such details.

Elena, beaten by the tsar, lost her child. 5 days after the conflict, her husband, Tsarevich Ivan, died of his wounds. The woman was tonsured into a nun. She subsequently lived near Moscow and died in 1587 at the age of 34.

All 3 versions are bad for the king’s reputation. Ivan the Terrible’s desire to get closer to his daughter-in-law sounds like a medieval melodrama, and it is not surprising that historians did not write about this.

If the autocrat killed the heir because of a possible boyar conspiracy, then to whom was he going to transfer power after his death? And why then did he spare the rest of the sons?

In any case, the murder of Tsarevich Ivan became a black page in Russian history. The charismatic successor was supposed to unite the nobility and the people, and without him the country plunged into the abyss of strife, crises and clarifications for 20 years as to who should sit on the throne.