When a greater variety of representatives were
present, the term zemskii sobor or assembly of the land was applied to the
group. This group did not really have any political power as a legislative
body. However, it was a way for Ivan's administration to gather support
amongst a wide range of people.
Ivan felt that he needed the support of the people and of the church
to accomplish his reforms. Consequently, one of his early and important
reforms involved changes in the church. With Ivan's blessing, the Stoglav
Council made many revisions in church policy ranging from ways of worship
to church court to monastic life to Christianity for the average person.
All of these new policies were documented in a book called Stoglav.
Ivan was a pious person himself and he saw the necessity of bringing the
church on board with the various changes that he intended to make.
Initiating some reasonable changes in the church set a positive tone for
his other reforms.
One of the chief aims of Ivan's early reforms was to make the
government more efficient and less corrupt. The reforms initially targeted
local governments that had worked under a system known as kormlenie. This
system involved a locally appointed governor who had the right to collect
taxes and made his own personal fortune by doing so. Unfortunately, the
system was corrupt and much hardship and legal battles resulted from it.
Ivan's reforms changed the way that local governments were organized by
making them work on the principal of self-government. The central
government would appoint local administration such as census takers and tax
collectors who would be paid by the central government by the taxes that
were fairly collected.
Additionally, Ivan wanted to make the army stronger for the coming
changes in his foreign policy. The process began by centralizing a large
number of military men in the Moscow area. On October 3, 1550, a decree
was issued that settled one thousand potential warriors on land near Moscow
where they could be easily called up for service by the tsar. The tsar's
personal guards were also chosen from this select group. Another
change for the military was how an army would be recruited. The army was
drawn from what was called the service landholders. The reforms stated
that "for every 135 acres of good, arable land one man on horseback, in
full armor, must be provided, with a second horse for long campaigns."
Other landholders were also obligated to provide a peasant using the same
equation. These measures standardized the number of men available for
military service and guaranteed a standing army.
All of these reforms required a better system of managing Russia's
treasury. A careful census of the population and land was conducted in the
1550s in which all land had to be registered. A complicated system of
gathering taxes from the self-governed units began. Ultimately, the
majority of the money ended up in Moscow being managed by the newly titled
Taxation Secretaries and Taxation Chancelleries who oversaw what came in
and what went out.
Ivan's reforms ultimately helped strengthen and support Ivan's
government by standardizing the system of both civilian and military life.
The increase in revenue that passed into and through the central government
also allowed Ivan to pursue his foreign policy. He had the money through
taxation and the means through a stronger military to begin to expand his
borders. Ivan engaged in two primary military maneuvers at this time - one
successful, one a foreign policy nightmare.
The successful campaign was one that expanded Russia's power and
influence to the east against the Tatars. In 1545, Russia began an attack
to take over the Tatar held regions of Kazan and Astrakhan. Various
factions in that region (non-Tatars) asked for protection from Russia in
1546. Ivan saw this as the time to strike and he personally led a campaign
into the region in the winter of 1547-48. This engagement did not
prove entirely successful due to poor weather conditions. Ivan and his
army did reach Kazan but could not take the city or hold it due to the lack
of supplies. Ivan was forced to retreat for the time being. He would
not have to wait long for a better opportunity to take the region. Ivan
found a weakness when the ruler of Kazan, Safa-Girei, died leaving a two
year old son as ruler. Although Ivan did not succeed in taking the city at
the time, his forces constructed a fort at a strategic location known as
Sviyazhsk. Hence, Ivan established a Russian outpost in Kazan's
With a Russian fort in the territory, many of the inhabitants pledged
their allegiance to Russia and made it easier for Ivan and his army to
advance on Kazan. After a vicious and bloody siege, Ivan's army was
victorious over Kazan on October 4, 1552. The rest of the region including
Astrakhan came under Ivan's control in the course of the next few years.
By 1557, Ivan's Muscovy had gone from a country to an empire. Ivan was now
in control of a vast region that included people from different ethnic
Although Ivan was much engaged with his reforms and achievements, his
personal life was also presenting both moments of joy and anger. During
this time, Ivan had three children with his wife, Anastasiya. Their first
two children were girls neither of whom lived very long, Anna (1549-50) and
Maria (1551-1554). However, their son, Dmitri, was born in 1552.
Shortly after Dmitri was born Ivan became very ill. He and others believed
that he would die. Consequently, he was concerned about preserving his
power for his infant son. This raised a serious political problem. Ivan
wanted the boyars to commit to Dmitri as their future king which some did.
Others raised concerns about who would be in charge until Dmitri was old
enough to take the throne. Many feared that the already too powerful
Romanov family would be the obvious choice. Finally, a third group
considered the possibility of both Ivan and Dmitri dying in which case the
crown would shift to Ivan's cousin, Vladimir Andreevich of Staritsa. He
was not considered really capable of being a good ruler by himself,
however, his mother was a powerful and ambitious woman. The Staritsas were
forced by Ivan to swear their allegiance to Dmitri and the situation
Fortunately for Ivan, he recovered from his illness and the decision
never had to be made. Ivan and Anastasia also had three additional
children including two more sons. They were Ivan (1554-1582), Eudoxia
(1556-1558), and Feodor (1557-1598). Although Ivan hoped to never face
another such crisis, the issues that surfaced would bother Ivan later in
life. First, he continued to by displeased with his cousin and his mother.
Secondly, Ivan became increasingly paranoid about controlling and
maintaining his position. This paranoia seemed to ferment for several
years finally displaying itself in a much uglier way later in Ivan's life.
After Ivan's successes against Kazan and Astrakhan, he felt that he
was ready to push the western boundary of Russia and so engaged in a
foreign policy that involved pursuing Livonia through warfare. Ivan was
looking for a way to access the west more easily in order to trade with
western and central Europe. Essentially, Ivan needed a seaport to access
the Baltic which would allow him to engage in shipping almost all year
unlike Russia's current port on the White Sea which was difficult at
best. The battle for Livonia would rage on and off for 25 years and
contribute much to Ivan's reputation as terrible. Nevertheless, when he
began his campaign, he had his nation's best interest in mind.
Ivan's advisor and, by this time, director of foreign policy, Adashev
opened negotiations with the Livonian Order which did not go well. In May
of 1559, Russia gave Livonian six months to agree to be a protectorate of
Russia. Livonia turned to the most powerful state in the region at the
time, Polish for assistance against Russia. Hence, Russia's attempt to
strong-arm a small and relatively weak country backfired and Russia soon
found itself embroiled in a fight with a much more powerful nation.
Adashev and Sylvester both advised Ivan to back down from the fight which
he refused to do in the spring of 1560. Both Adashev and Sylvester were
disgraced and forced to leave their positions of power in Moscow. Ivan
found himself at the beginning of a long and tiresome conflict.
Russia's army started well in the battle for Livonia. Ivan's troops
managed to advance to the center of Livonia and occupy an important fort.
However, Ivan's success here caused the region to panic and search for
stronger allies. Part of Livonia appealed to Sweden for protection and the
rest came under Polish control. The war with Poland, who was very strong
at the time, went well for a few years, but by 1563, Ivan's troops suffered
a serious defeat…