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One of the longest reigns in Russian history, the rule of Ivan IV was a period of ambitious political, military and cultural projects. The ruling family sought to utilise all the material and human resources of the realm to strengthen its political power and to integrate territories with diverse cultural and economic traditions into a single state. These aims did not always complement each other. As a result of integration the Muscovite state became increasingly complex, both socially and politically. This, in turn, put the dynasty under pressure from various forces operating in the centre, in the provinces and on the international arena. As the leader of the dynasty, Ivan responded decisively to the challenges of integration, though his reaction was often erratic and inconsistent.
Safeguarding the royal family
Ivan Vasil’evich, the future Ivan IV ‘the Terrible’ (Groznyi), was born into the family of Grand Prince Vasilii III of Moscow, the head of the ruling branch of the Riurikid dynasty, on 25 August 1530. Ivan’s mother was Elena Glinskaia, the niece of Prince Mikhail L’vovich Glinskii, who came to serve Vasilii III from Lithuania in 1508. Ivan IV nominally became grand prince at the age of three after the death of his father in December 1533. Soon Elena noticeably increased her political activities and freed herself from the tutelage of her relatives and the regents appointed by Vasilii III. Courtiers began to refer to Elena as sovereign (gosudarynia) alongside the nominal ruler, Ivan.
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© Cambridge University Press 2015.