A Short History of Russia eBook

Mary Platt Parmele
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 209 pages of information about A Short History of Russia.

  And the orthodox Tsar will speak—­
  He will speak—­the terrible Ivan,
  Ha! thou art Yermak, the Hetman of the Don,
  I pardon thee and thy band,
  I pardon thee for thy trusty service—­
  And I give to the Cossack the glorious and gentle
      Don as an inheritance.”

The two Ivans had created a new code of laws, and now there was an ample prison-house for its transgressors!  The penal code was frightful.  An insolvent debtor was tied up half naked in a public place and beaten three hours a day for thirty or forty days, and then, if no one came to his rescue, with his wife and his children he was sold as a slave.  But Siberia was to be the prison-house of a more serious class of offenders for whom this punishment would be insufficient.  It was to serve as a vast penal colony for crimes against the state.  Since the beginning of the nineteenth century it is said one million political exiles have been sent there, and they continue to go at the rate of twenty thousand a year; showing how useful a present was made by the robber Yermak to the “Orthodox Tsar”!

This reign, like that of Louis XI. of France, which it much resembled, enlarged the privileges of the people in order to aid Ivan in his conflict with his nobility.  For this purpose a Sobor, or States-General, was summoned by him, and met at long intervals thereafter until the time of Peter the First.

Of the two sons left to Ivan by his wife Anastasia, only one now remained.  In a paroxysm of rage he had struck the Tsarevitch with his iron staff.  He did not intend to kill him, but the blow was mortal.  Great and fierce was the sorrow of the Tsar when he found he had slain his beloved son—­the one thing he loved upon earth, and there remained to inherit the fruit of his labors and his crimes only another child (Feodor) enfeebled in body and mind, and an infant (Dmitri), the son of his seventh wife.  His death, hastened by grief, took place three years later, in 1584.



Occasionally there arises a man in history who, without distinction of birth or other advantages, is strong enough by sheer ability to grasp the opportunity, vault into power, and then stem the tide of events.  Such a man was Godwin, father of Harold, last Saxon King; in England; and such a man was Boris Godunof, a boyar, who had so faithfully served the terrible Ivan that he leaned upon him and at last confided to him the supervision of his feeble son Feodor, when he should succeed him.  The plans of this ambitious usurper were probably laid from the time of the tragic death of Ivan’s son, the Tsarevitch.  He brought about the marriage of his beautiful sister Irene with Feodor, and from the hour of Ivan’s death was virtual ruler.  Dmitri, the infant son of the late Tsar, aged five years, was prudently placed

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A Short History of Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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