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Russian Personalities

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Ivan the Terrible and his wives

bride show

Bride show


On October 28, 1571, Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) married Marfa Sobakina. The marriage was short-lived. 15 days later the girl died. It was not the first marriage of the terrible tsar. How many wives did he have and who they were? Let’s see.
Marfa Sobakina
Ivan the Terrible arranged the bride show to choose his third wife: two thousand most beautiful girls were brought to Alexandrovskaya Sloboda. First, the tsar selected 24 beauties, then – 12. The “contest” was a serious one: the girls were examined by doctors. Marfa Sobakina was the most beautiful and the healthiest. On June 26, 1571 the tsar announced the engagement. At that time, Ivan the Terrible relied on Malyuta Skuratova. It was he who advised to choose the bride. Because of the marriage Malyuta became related to the royal family. At the wedding, his wife and daughter were Marfa’s bridesmaids and Malyuta and his son-in-law Boris Godunov were groomsmen. However, the bride almost immediately fell ill. Two weeks later Marfa died. The reasons for her death are unknown, although there are many versions: poisoning, a mysterious potion, witchcraft…

Marfa Sobakina

Marfa Sobakina


Anastasia Zakharyina-Yurieva
To find a wife, a seventeen-year-old tsar arranged the bride show and chose Anastasia among a huge number of contenders. According to historians Anastasia was the only wife, whom Ivan really loved and was happy with. She gave birth to six children, but most of them died in infancy. The Tsaritsa died in 1560. According to one version she died from the disease and childbirth, according to another – she was poisoned. It was difficult for the tsar to cope with the loss of his wife and children, who died due to absurd accidents. It is possible that these events had influenced Ivan’s character.
Anastasia Zakharyina-Yurieva

Anastasia Zakharyina-Yurieva


Maria Cherkasskaya
In 1560, Ivan the Terrible sent his ambassadors to find a new bride at the Circassian princes. As a result, Maria Temrjukovna (before baptism – Princess Kuchenei), sixteen-year-old daughter of Kabardian Prince, was chosen. Ivan the Terrible always chose beautiful women, but historians say that Maria had a remarkable, special beauty. At first she did not know a word in Russian, however, after some time she learned the language.
She could turn Ivan against undesirable people. She also loved to watch the executions; it gave her a strange pleasure. The girl was illiterate, vindictive and cunning. So their family life was difficult. But Ivan the Terrible had the harem, and his wife had lovers.
One day, Maria fell ill with pneumonia and died. The tsar believed she was poisoned.
Maria Cherkasskaya

Maria Cherkasskaya


Anna Koltovskaya
After the death of the wife, Ivan became even more suspicious and believed that somebody wanted to overthrow him. So the next wife was chosen not at once. Eighteen-year-old Anna Koltovskaya became his fourth wife. The church was against the fourth marriage and tsar simply ordered a priest to marry them.
Anna was loved by the tsar and folk, but Boyars (nobles) hated her because of her struggle with Oprichnina. So they decided to get rid of her and advised the tsar to send Anna to a monastery. She became schema-nun Darya and was imprisoned in an underground cell. After the death of Ivan they wanted to release Anna, but she decided to stay there and died in August 1626.
Anna Koltovskaya

Anna Koltovskaya


Maria Dolgorukaya
According to the canons of the Orthodox Church, he no longer had the right to marry someone. However, princess Maria Dolgorukaya became his fifth wife. In November 1573 Ivan and Maria had a love affair. The feelings were so strong that the lovers were secretly married. But on their wedding night it became clear that the chosen one was not a virgin. Shocked tsar ordered to tie her to the horses’ tails. Horses were hit and rushed in different directions. It’s not difficult to imagine what happened next.

Anna Vasilchikova
Once Ivan visited Prince Peter Vasilchikov and saw his seventeen-year-old daughter Anna. The tsar, without thinking twice, offered to send a girl to his palace. The father was against it, but Ivan IV just sent matchmakers the next day. So Anna became his wife. This marriage was not recognized by the church. Family life lasted three months. Then the healthy before girl suddenly died. It was announced that it was a “breast disease”. But the body was secretly taken from the palace at night and was sent to a Suzdal Nunnery for burial.

Anna Vasilchikova

Anna Vasilchikova


Vasilisa Melentyeva
Vasilisa was a wife of Nikita Melentyev, Tsar’s patrial. One day the tsar, wishing to give special attention to Nikita, came to visit him. It was Vasilisa’s beauty that attracted aging Ivan IV. Soon after her husband became ill and died, a few days later Vasilisa appeared in the palace. Surprisingly, Ivan was ready to fulfill her every wish. All women who could become Vasilisa’s rivals were sent away from the palace. She stopped orgies, festivals and executions. Vasilisa wanted to become a queen, and had achieved her goal: the tsar married her. They lived together for two years. But one day, Ivan came in her bedroom and saw his wife with her lover. Though he loved Vasilisa, he ordered to dig a hole on the edge of Aleksandrovskaya Sloboda. Two persons were buried, and the priest did not even know whom he had buried. There was Ivan Kolychev in one coffin, and in another – Vasilisa Melentyeva, according to legend, she was buried alive.
Vasilisa Melentyeva

Vasilisa Melentyeva


Maria Fyodorovna Nagaya
Maria Nagaya became Tsar’s last wife. She begged her father not to give her to the tsar, who was already more than 50 years old. Ivan was seriously ill, looked decrepit and half-mad. At first, the tsar was pleased with his new wife, as Maria was very beautiful, but quickly he was fed up with her bouts of sadness. Ivan was thinking about how to get rid of his wife and even began to look for a new one. But on March 18, 1584, he suddenly died while playing chess.
Maria Nagaya

Maria Nagaya


Ivan IV

Ivan IV by George Stuart