History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Ivan's rule was full of contradiction, success and failure. Was his rule bloody? How many Russian people were killed by him?

share|improve this question
up vote 5 down vote accepted

According to this site: http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/2042196 Ivan the Terrible killed at least 60,000 people during his reign, but only publicly admitted to 3,750 people. Doing further research at this (http://www.guidetorussia.com/ivan-the-terrible.asp) website shows that the 60,000 killed was during a single event, so there was quite possibly many more people killed.

However, this website seems to be the most comprehensive and reliable, and claims that a total of anywhere from 60,000 to 220,000 people could have been killed, depending on the source.

Significant Events/Groups of People that led to people dying

1. Novgorod Massacre: at least 15,000 killed (the low figure is from Kurbsky)./ The massacre at Veliky Vovgorod, where Ivan the Terrible approximately 18,000 people

2. When Ivan the Terrible took control over the city of Pskov, he was responsible for 60,000 deaths.

3. The Oprichnina, an organization founded by Ivan the Terrible, was probably responsible for at least 40,000 deaths (although this number is debatable).

share|improve this answer
Oprichnik is a single member of the guard. The organization itself was called "Oprichina" – DVK Dec 11 '12 at 15:02
I think you mislabelled Kurbsky. – Felix Goldberg Dec 11 '12 at 15:12
@FelixGoldberg I'm not really an expert on the topic, just a Reliable Source. Could you elaborate? – Reliable Source Dec 11 '12 at 22:21
@ReliableSource: Not much of an expert myself, by basically Kurbsky was a grand nobleman who was for a while one of Ivan's foremost generals. Then they had a quarrel and Kurbsky fled abroad, becoming Russia's first recorded dissident. They a famous exchange of letters during the latter period. But I do not recall ever hearing of Kurbsky being complicit in crimes or anything. Maybe I missed something? What was your source? – Felix Goldberg Dec 11 '12 at 22:47
@ReliableSource: Oh, I get it. The necrometrics lists Kurbsky. But the context indicates that he was a chonicler in this instance, not a perpetrator. Meshes well with my recollections. So I suggest an edit. – Felix Goldberg Dec 11 '12 at 22:49

No one will give you the exact number. Some historians, for example, tells about 200,000 or even 700,000 killed in Novgorod, but at that time the entire population of the city was about 40,000.

Historian Ruslan G. Skrynnikov (1931-2009) in his books «Начало опричнины» (1966), «Опричный террор» (1969), «Иван Грозный» (1975) gives the number of 3,000-4,000 repressed.

share|improve this answer
Note, though, that Skrynnikov is known as a revisionist (nothing wrong with it, he is a legitimate historian, just providing some context). – Felix Goldberg Dec 11 '12 at 15:14
@FelixGoldberg I just want to show that there is no consensus on this issue. A lot of propaganda, a lot of weak researches. Contemporaries of Ivan the Terrible left different versions too. – spyder Dec 11 '12 at 15:27
Fair point, I did not touch Skrynnikov's figures in my edit, as you can see. – Felix Goldberg Dec 11 '12 at 15:51
Novgorod was the nam not for the city only, but for the great area belonging to it. So, if the population of the city inside the city walls was only 40 th, there is no contradiction in these numbers. According to what I have read, he really killed majority of population there. – Gangnus Dec 26 '12 at 22:11
@spyder 1. I had not said that I believe in these numbers. I have said that these numbers are not contradictory. 2. Your numbers have a bit narrow span - I would say rather 5.5-9 mil. 3. Yes, most of specialists insist that the population of Russia during Ivan The Terrible years became about 1/5 smaller, simultaneously with huge increasing of the territory. They only can't decide what was the main reason of mass deaths - epidemies, killings and enslaving by Tartars, or killings by tsar. And this problem cannot be solved here. – Gangnus Dec 27 '12 at 16:56

According to data table http://hist1.narod.ru/Science/Russia/Crisis.htm#_edn7 for one community in NW Rissia, the main reason of population decrease in the catastrophe of 1570-1571 were taxes ( together with road works 50 cases of an owner disappearing/death), oprichnina as direct reason - 11%, hunger - 20, epydemies - 11.

So, minimally 2/3 cases of owners death/disappearing were due to the Czar politics. Even if we are not counting hunger into it.

In such safe (out of war zones) areas the total losts was about 1/3.

The areas in center and further to the south had more than 50% losts.

But people who remained got wages larger about 2 times.

So, the time of Ivan the Terrible was extremely bloody. What is the measure of his own guilt - is another question and I am afraid, out of the scope of this site - it hasn't one answer.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.