Russia: From the Kievan Rus’ to Ivan the Terrible

The Kievan Rus’ was an early Slavic (or possibly Viking) state, focused on commerce and ruled by Grand Princes. Vladimir I converted Kiev to Christianity in the 11th century. In 1240 the Mongols took control of Rus’, and under their light rule Moscow developed into a major centre of power.

In the 14th century Muscovite prince Dmitri Don overthrew the Mongols and strengthened Moscow’s rule. Later, Ivan the Great declared full independence and unified the state, declaring himself Tsar.

Ivan IV, ‘the Terrible’, who reigned from 1533 to 1584, was originally cooperative and reforming, but later used secret police to spy on his people, conducting ‘purges’ and ‘civil massacre’ — destroying whole towns.

The inclination to this kind of civil surveillance and punitive behaviour seems to have persisted at least into 20th-century Soviet society.

I graduated in English language and literature with Latin subsidiary. I write poetry, act, and have worked in reference and educational publishing for decades. I was commissioned in 1994 to write The Ladybird Book of Kings and Queens, did extensive editing and writing for Harraps 20th-century History series, and was one of the contributors to Helicon's Book of the Millennium, a 4-volume children's world history book.