12 Times Ivan the Terrible Did Something Really Regrettable

Ivan IV Vasilyevich, also known as Ivan the Terrible, was the first tsar of Russia and reigned from 1547 to 1584. His name translates more technically to "Ivan the Fearsome" or "Ivan the Awesome," but considering his actions, "terrible" is pretty darn accurate. The list of crazy and horrific things that Ivan the Terrible did could span all of Russia, but here are a few of his most egregious mistakes. From inappropriate dating behavior to violent overreactions, these are Ivan's most unfortunate decisions.


  • When He Killed His Son

    When He Killed His Son
    Photo: I. Repin / via Wikimedia

    When Ivan the Terrible beat his son Ivan's wife until she miscarried (an unequivocally terrible act), his son confronted him. Then, his father did something really, really terrible. In his anger, he struck his son on the head with a pointed staff, killing him. As famously depicted in Repkin's Ivan the Terrible Killing His Son, this was probably a moment of instant regret.

  • When He Constantly Banged His Head Into Things

    When he was young, Ivan was known to bang his head against the floor in front of religious idols, forming a callous on his head. However, he really kept it going, and continued to use this as a coping mechanism throughout his life. There are reports of him slamming his head on the floor upon the deaths of his wives, his murder of his son, and other fairly stressful moments.

  • When He Rewarded His Architect by Blinding Him

    When the beautiful St. Basil's Cathedral was completed in 1560, it completely lived up to Ivan's expectations. However, legend has it that Ivan then gouged out his architect's eyes in order to ensure that he would never design anything as beautiful as the cathedral again.

  • When He Killed People in Super Theatrical Ways

    Ivan Fedorov was a member of Tsar Ivan VI's court, until he was accused of involvement in a plot to overthrow the tsar. Ivan the Terrible knew that Fedorov had to die, but he went with a very imaginative route. In 1568, he forced Fedorov to don the royal robes and sit upon the Tsar's throne with the royal scepter. He then bowed to Fedorov and said, "since I have the power to seat you I can also unseat you." He then proceeded to stab Fedorov several times.

    Ivan really liked embracing his creative side, and this murder was not the only example. During the 1570 Massacre of Novgorod, Ivan decided to sew the Archbishop of Novgorod into a bear skin, and then let dogs hunt and kill him.