2020, vol. 8, no. 2. Salomon Arel M.

2020, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 386-390

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22378/2313-6197.2020-8-2.386-390


M. Salomon Arel
Marianopolis College
Westmount, Quebec, Canada

Abstract: In Ivan the Terrible: Free to Reward and Free to Punish, Charles Halperin brings together his many years of research, study, and reflection on Ivan IV, a ruler who presided over important and lasting reforms in Russia in the mid-sixteenth century and led the conquest of the Volga khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan. Ivan is known for much more, however, as his reign also involved large-scale, often savage attacks on his own subjects, carried out through the mechanism of the variously defined and understood oprichnina. Historians have been prolific in their work on this most (in)famous of Russian tsars. This book is an important addition to the voluminous and still growing historiography on Ivan. As much a study of Muscovite society, economy, politics, and culture in Ivan’s time as of the tsar himself, it situates him firmly in the Muscovy that had evolved in the century leading to his accession to the throne, a century of expansion and profound change affecting all segments and aspects of society. For Halperin, the attendant and deepening social tensions and malaise provide the context for understanding Ivan as a complex ruler and human being who was challenged by his times and responsibilities. They also, as Halperin persuasively argues, help explain the complicity of so many Muscovites alongside the ruler in the unleashing of “mass terror”, which, in this book, is seen not as the product of Ivan’s sick mind or thirst for unlimited power, but as an expression of “social pathology” run rampant, beyond the intentions of a tsar whose actions prepared the soil for such violence.

Keywords: Ivan IV, Ivan the Terrible, Muscovy, oprichnina, autocracy

For citation: Salomon Arel M. Review of the Book: Ch.J. Halperin. Ivan the Terrible: Free to Reward and Free to Punish. Zolotoordynskoe obozrenie=Golden Horde Review. 2020, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 386–390. DOI: 10.22378/2313-6197.2020-8-2.386-390


  1. Halperin Ch.J. Ivan the Terrible: Free to Reward and Free to Punish. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019. 378 p.

About the author: Maria Salomon Arel – Professor of History, Department of History, Marianopolis College (4873 Westmount Ave., Westmount, Quebec, H3Y 1X9, Canada).
E-mail: m.salomon@marianopolis.edu

Received  February 5, 2020   Accepted for publication  May 27, 2020
Published  Online June 29, 2020