January 16, 1547: Ivan IV Vasilyevich (“Ivan the Terrible”) is crowned Tsar of All the Russias.

Ivan IV was the son of Vasili III, Grand Prince of Moscow, a title he acquired upon his father’s death when he was just three years old. Ivan’s mother served as regent for five years until her own death, and eight-year-old Ivan and his younger brother were left in the care (or rather custody) of the boyars, who mostly neglected the boys and fought among themselves for power (one of the families may have even had a hand in Ivan’s mother’s mysterious death). In 1547, the sixteen-year-old Grand Prince had himself crowned “Tsar of All the Russias”, marking the beginning of the Tsardom of Russia, which lasted until 1721, when it was succeeded by the Russian Empire. The tsar was no mere duke - he was an autocrat granted “by the Grace of God” power equal to the emperors of Rome and Byzantium, as was only fitting for a state whose rulers saw it as the “Third Rome”. Ivan was crowned at the Cathedral of the Dormition in Moscow with the symbolically significant “Golden Cap” - Monomakh’s Cap. 

Although granted the sobriquet “Terrible” by English-speakers, Ivan’s Russian nickname, “grozny" means something closer to "fearsome" or "formidable". 

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    The Germanic form of the word also is the source of Finnish keisari, Estonian keisar. The transferred sense of “person...
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