Note: This is the first academic paper of many that will be posted to this blog. Please check out our Brief Update for more info. Fair warning, this is not a short read. Enjoy!
One of the most peculiar episodes of sixteenth-century Russian history revolved around a Christianized Tatar prince, Simeon Bekbulatovich. His brief reign as Grand Prince of All Rus’ from 1575 to 1576, during an abdication by Ivan IV, was seen as controversial at the time and has only become more contentious over the centuries. The significance of Bekbulatovich’s time as Grand Prince, Ivan’s rationale for Simeon’s elevation, and the merits of that decision remain up for debate. This paper undertakes a historiographical analysis of the perspectives of various historians on the Bekbulatovich affair, from the initial sixteenth-century accounts through those of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. I explore the contemporaneous evidence from Bekbulatovich’s reign, including writings by foreigners in Muscovy at the time who discussed the issue with Ivan IV. An assortment of historical views on Bekbulatovich, from those of early scholars like Soloviev and Kluchevsky to those of more modern historians including B.A. Uspenskij, Charles Halperin, Ruslan Skrynnikov, Donald Ostrowski, and Isabel de Madariaga, are presented and analyzed. I argue that the defining aspect of the controversy over Bekbulatovich’s rule was Ivan’s attempt to reestablish an oprichnina-like system to further cement his own autocratic power.
Simeon Bekbulatovich, born Saín Bulat, was a Tatar prince who played the starring role in an incredibly bizarre saga that scholars still debate to this day. Saín was a Chinggisid, descended directly from the great Khan’s eldest son, Jochi. His great grandfather, Akhmat, was also an important Tatar leader as the last khan of the Great Horde. Saín grew up a Muslim and reigned as Khan of Kasimov, a dependency of Ivan IV’s Muscovy, but converted to Orthodoxy by mid-1573 and was christened as Simeon Bekbulatovich. His impressive career included commanding the most important regiments for Ivan’s army, both before and after his conversion, reigning as Grand Prince of Tver, and living as a monk at the end of his days after Ivan’s death. What Simeon is most well-known for, however, is a different title he held only briefly from 1575 to 1576: Grand Prince of All Rus’. For that short time period, Simeon was granted the highest throne in the Russian land while Ivan abdicated to live as a simple boyar. All was not what it seemed though, and historians have puzzled over Ivan’s rationale for elevating Simeon for the past four centuries.
Since Simeon Bekbulatovich’s elevation to the throne as Grand Prince of All Rus’, chroniclers and historians have debated Ivan’s decision, its merits, and his potential rationales. This sometimes-contentious historical analysis began only a few years after Ivan IV’s death in 1584 and has continued unabated ever since. Early chroniclers had a wide range of ideas to explain the strange circumstances that prevailed from 1575 to 1576; some thought the elevation was so that Ivan could expunge his debts, others assumed it was to clear the way for an assault on the church and monasteries, some believed Ivan was simply testing the loyalty and resolve of his subjects, yet others alleged it was to head off a challenge to the throne from Ivan’s son. The debate has evolved over time, but has not subsided, as scholars in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries have all weighed in and given myriad perspectives on this singular controversy. This paper will primarily focus on the arguments espoused by certain scholars during these time periods, as well as including the agreed-upon facts and the few contemporaneous sources we have from the late sixteenth century. Ideas about Simeon Bekbulatovich’s accession as Grand Prince of All Rus’ will be discussed in mostly chronological order, starting with the classic sources, moving through the twentieth century, and concentrating most specifically on the modern interpretations of scholars B.A. Uspenskij, Isabel de Madariaga, Donald Ostrowski, Ruslan Skrynnikov, Charles Halperin, and Maureen Perrie and Andrei Pavlov. The modern interpretations generally fall into three main camps: the largely symbolic approach of Uspenskij and Halperin, the Livonian War interpretation of de Madariaga, and the idea of a reassertion of autocracy shared by Ostrowski, Skrynnikov, and Perrie and Pavlov.
Based on textual dating and analysis, scholars have largely pinpointed the dates of Simeon’s reign as Grand Prince of All Rus’. According to scholar Jack M. Culpepper, Simeon’s elevation likely occurred sometime between September 17 and October 30, 1575 based on the fact that Ivan IV signed a decree using all of his titles on the former date and petitioned Simeon as a subject on the latter date. Most scholars believe that the period of Simeon’s rule ended no later than September 2, 1576, as Ivan IV was issuing documents under the Simeon’s former title of Grand Prince of All Rus’ on that date. During Simeon’s time on the throne, he truly acted as Grand Prince with respect to his duties, issuing at least nine documents of which records remain. He issued immunity and obedience charters, entry charters, decrees, and kormlenie grants, all of which were the usual prerogative of the Grand Prince. There were likely more of these sorts of documents issued by Simeon as Grand Prince, but relatively few have survived. Unfortunately, this limits the ability of scholars to gain a complete understanding of this period, as there is no way to know which documents did not survive and the importance of those nonexistent sources. Still, based on what we know, not only did Simeon act as Grand Prince during this era, Ivan acted, at least outwardly, as a servile boyar of his master. He traveled simply in a sledge, lived near Moscow, and wore none of the garments associated with the position he had abandoned. Yet the image Ivan portrayed externally often belied the actual power dynamics at play between the former Grand Prince and his newly chosen successor.
There is a surviving letter, sent by Ivan to Simeon on October 30, 1575, that showcases the complex relationship between the two men and their positions in Russian politics as well as Ivan’s superficially submissive role. Ivan petitioned the Grand Prince as any boyar would, referring to himself and his children in the diminutive form (Ivanets instead of Ivan, for example), using flowery and flattering language, and beseeching his ‘Lord’ to mercifully aid him in the granting of his requests. What were these requests? This is where the contradictions begin to appear between Ivan’s supposed abdication of the Grand Princely throne and his actual retention of much of the power that came with it. In this letter, Ivan requests his choice of boyars and other figures to add to his new court, including taking servitors from the court of Simeon himself. This was odd, but not as bizarre as the requests that followed; Ivan specifically asked for permission to get rid of any courtiers with whom he was displeased, yet wanted assurances from Simeon that the Grand Prince would not take any of Ivan’s court members, even if those men wished to join Simeon’s court. Ivan also requested Simeon’s aid in “not sequestering the private estates of the people who come to us, as was done previously in the case of appanage princes”. Ivan’s petition clearly put him in a familiar position of authority over his supposed superior, as he was essentially making requests that, were he himself to receive them as Grand Prince, he would laugh out of the room. Of course, all of these requests were granted by Simeon.
His unusual petition was not the only extant evidence that Ivan was still the dominant player in Russian politics, even as he stepped aside for a new Grand Prince. Conversations that Ivan had with various ambassadors and envoys, particularly from England, shed light on the relationship between Ivan and Simeon and the nature of the latter’s position. Ivan spoke candidly multiple times with the English interpreter, Daniel Sylvester, for that nation’s mercantile Russia Company. Sylvester’s contemporaneous writings showcase Ivan’s attitude towards the succession, the details therein, and his purported reasoning for the decision. For now, we will focus on the factual statements given by Ivan with respect to Simeon’s accession and will return to Ivan’s motivations in time. According to Sylvester, Ivan stated that he had “reserved in our custodye all the treasure of the lande withe sufficient trayne and place for their and our relyefe”, essentially that he had kept for himself the state treasury for the future relief of himself and his subjects. This statement makes it seem as though Ivan was planning for a return to the throne when he saw fit. In another conversation with Sylvester, Ivan was even more clear, stating:
“For althoughe we manifested to thyne aparaunce to have enthronysed an other in th’emperyall dignitye and therevnto have enthrowled bothe vs and others yet not so muche and not the same not so farr resyned, but that at our pleasure wee can take the dignitye vnto us againe and will yet do thear in as God shall instructe vs, for that the same ys not confirmed vnto him by order of coronacion ne he by assent elected, but for our pleasure.”
To translate into modern English, Ivan is claiming that he placed Simeon on the Grand Princely throne solely by his own hand and can thus take back the honor and title anytime he so wishes. He makes this clear in the final line, as he says that Simeon was not crowned by the clergy nor elected by assent of the people, the two primary ways to legitimately accede to a throne. Ivan retained several of his titles, including his title as Tsar of both Kazan and Astrakhan, as well as Prince of Moscow, Pskov, and Rostov. Ivan’s retention of titles and his series of statements to Sylvester make a strong case that Ivan was only temporarily abdicating, and in name only, so that he could carry out some mysterious purpose.
The outsiders who wrote about the enthronement of Simeon Bekbulatovich, particularly the Englishman Daniel Sylvester and the Holy Roman Empire’s ambassador Daniel Printz von Buchau, agreed on Ivan’s motives and rationale for his abdication. Printz wrote to his Emperor, Maximilian II, stating that Simeon was elevated as Ivan feared assassination plots and “because of the deceit of his subjects”. Sylvester echoes this sentiment in his summaries of conversations with Ivan. The Englishman has Ivan saying that, with respect to his abdication, “The occasion whereof is the perverse and evill dealinge of our subjects who mourmour and repine at us, for gettinge loyaull obedience they practice againste our person”. This is basically the same reasoning laid out by Printz, which is that Ivan was angry with and fearful of the treachery and deceit of his subjects, specifically the boyar aristocracy. The reasoning is very similar to the generally accepted scholarly theories behind Ivan’s creation of the oprichnina in 1565, namely that he was unhappy with the power of the boyars and wished to consolidate his own power and security at their expense.
Despite the superficial agreement between the contemporaneous sources, there are some factors which may undermine the ability for historians to accept them at face value. First, we must understand the biases and motivations of Printz and Sylvester themselves. Both were ‘civilized’ Europeans in a Muscovy that was just opening to the West and held positions of privilege as ambassadors – either formal as in the case of Printz or informal as with Sylvester – which could have given them a sense that Muscovy was ‘backward’ and inferior to their homelands. As cultural outsiders interacting with the notoriously secretive and closed Muscovite court, they may not have completely understood the meaning or context of their interactions with the Tsar. Another factor which may play a role in contextualizing the sources was Ivan’s penchant for theatricality and hyperbole, common royal qualities of the era. Ivan may have been playing up the danger he felt in his situation to give the foreign envoys a false impression, gain an upper hand in bargaining, sow disinformation, or simply to play a joke – a favorite of the Tsar’s. Even with these demerits, the sources hold up fairly well to scrutiny and have been relied upon by scholars analyzing the Bekbulatovich episode from their initial production through the current day.
Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Understandings
Until more recent times, the era of Grand Prince Simeon Bekbulatovich was woefully understudied and often dismissed as relatively unimportant or inconsequential in comparison with other aspects of Ivan IV’s reign as Tsar. Scholars frequently came up with interesting theories as to why Ivan would make such a seemingly impulsive and rash decision, only to reverse it less than a year later. The influential nineteenth-century Russian historian Sergei Soloviev believed that the entire Bekbulatovich episode revolved around Ivan’s unhappiness with and lack of confidence in his chosen leader of the zemshchina, Prince Ivan Mstislavsky. Soloviev states that “Although the tsar did not want to be involved in the zemshchina government, still it was necessary to place at its head someone who was by title and origin superior to the princes and boyars, yet at the same time had nothing in common with them; in other words, someone reliable”. Soloviev says that this decision also aided Ivan in setting up what was effectively a new version of the oprichnina, this time avoiding the use of that hated term by replacing it with ‘court’. The executions, threats, and denunciations were more targeted and measured in this new oprichnina, but still reflected Ivan’s intense paranoia over his life and titles.
Another revered Russian scholar of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Vasily Kluchevsky, had a slightly different opinion than did Soloviev. Kluchevsky diminished the importance of Simeon, calling the whole affair a version of “political masquerading” intended to give Ivan a safe haven away from his enemies. In this interpretation, Simeon’s position was not truly that of Grand Prince of All Rus’; indeed, he was actually a more minor player. Kluchevsky supports his position by bringing up the case of another Tatar, Khan Ediger Simeon, who was taken prisoner at Kazan and then given leadership of the zemshchina during the oprichnina period with a similar title as that of Bekbulatovich years later. Kluchevsky states that “if we translate these titles into modern Russian values, they probably amount to no more than that Ivan appointed the two Simeons presidents of the Council of Provincial Boyars”. This theory makes Bekbulatovich out to be nothing more than a powerful boyar, and most definitely not the actual Grand Prince of All Rus’. It also describes the reasoning of Ivan in establishing his new personal domain as “forming a political sanctuary whither the Tsar might take refuge from his rebellious boyars”. This somewhat dovetails with both Soloviev’s approach and the evidence seen in the sixteenth-century writings discussed earlier, as Kluchevsky finds that Ivan was indeed concerned about treasonous elites and wanted to establish a safe zone for himself.
Moving deeper into the twentieth century, important work on the subject of Simeon Bekbulatovich’s reign was done by Jack M. Culpepper. Culpepper’s major contribution to future scholarship on the topic was his solidification of the dates of Simeon’s rule as Grand Prince of All Rus’ by analyzing documentary evidence from the time. This evidence was discussed earlier, but other insights gleaned from Culpepper’s seminal 1965 Slavic Review article in which he dated Simeon’s enthronement are also useful in better understanding this bizarre event. Culpepper relates the abdication of Ivan IV and his succession by Bekbulatovich to a series of executions of significant church and political leaders carried out in Moscow in the fall of 1575. These executions were only discussed in detail in an early seventeenth-century source, the Piskarevskii letopisets, which states:
“… the Tsar disgraced many individuals, ordering the execution within the Kremlin and in his presence, on the square near the Uspensky Cathedral, of the following: the boyar Prince Petr Kurakin, Protasii Iur’ev, the archbishop of Novgorod, the protopope of the Arkhangel’sky Cathedral, Ivan Buturlin, Nikita Borozdin, the archimandrite of the Chudov Monastery, and many others. Their heads were thrown before the residences of Prince Ivan Mstislavsky, the metropolitan, Ivan Sheremetev, Andrei Shchelkalov, and others.”
The prominence of the executed men was significant, as their ranks included well-known boyars, high ecclesiastical figures, and bureaucratic administrators. These were not the scattershot killings of the oprichnina, but instead were clearly targeted at the Tsar’s enemies, real or perceived. The purposeful nature of the executions was reinforced by the act of intimidation carried out by throwing the severed heads into the courtyards of Ivan’s opponents. We may notice that one of these rivals, Prince Ivan Mstislavsky, is also mentioned as the man needing replacement as head of the zemshchina in Soloviev’s theory of the case. Culpepper compares the account of these executions to the accounts of Printz and Sylvester that were related earlier, finding support for an idea that Ivan found serious treason in the ranks of his boyars and then abdicated in favor of Simeon to protect himself. Culpepper discusses the ongoing negotiations between Ivan and Queen Elizabeth I of England for a mutual asylum arrangement for the two monarchs, stating that the arrangement for a safe refuge became more crucial around the time of Simeon’s enthronement. Ivan needed a reciprocal deal; he could not simply accept a deal in which he would be granted asylum but Elizabeth would not, as it would lower his and his kingdom’s standing in the eyes of the diplomatic world. Altogether, Culpepper believes that the indigenous source, the Piskarevskii letopisets, confirms the foreign accounts of Printz and Sylvester, “indicat[ing] that a definite causal relationship existed between the suspected assassination conspiracy and the installation of Simeon Bekbulatovich”.
The story of Simeon Bekbulatovich’s rise and enthronement as the Grand Prince of All Rus’ has only grown as a topic of historical scholarship since the beginning of the twenty-first century. Over the past two decades, noteworthy work has been done on the subject, yet the debate over Ivan IV’s motives for abdicating has never been fiercer. Historians across the world have written on the Bekbulatovich episode and have come to widely varying conclusions as to Grand Prince Simeon’s importance and Ivan’s rationale for elevating him. The theories espoused over the past twenty years fall into three major categories: the symbolic approach, one focusing on the Livonian War, and the idea of a retrenchment of Ivan’s autocratic power. The scholars who take the first approach include B.A. Uspenskij and Charles Halperin, who differ in some respects but generally agree that the Bekbulatovich episode was primarily symbolic in nature. The major scholar interpreting Ivan’s temporary abdication as relating principally to the conduct of the Livonian War is Isabel de Madariaga. Finally, the last theory – promulgated in slightly variant details by Maureen Perrie and Andrei Pavlov, Donald Ostrowski, and Ruslan Skrynnikov – interprets Simeon’s elevation as a revitalization of the personal autocracy of the oprichnina era.
The primary proponents of the symbolic school – B.A. Uspenskij and Charles Halperin – see the elevation of Simeon Bekbulatovich as a figurative gesture by Tsar Ivan IV, but differ in their specific interpretations of the episode. Uspenskij, who specializes in linguistics and cultural history, sees the elevation and subsequent deposition of Bekbulatovich as part of a series of symbolic efforts by Ivan to augment his own power and legitimacy by knocking down a pretender-Tsar. He relates the Bekbulatovich affair to Ivan’s creation and destruction as Tsar of a would-be usurper, the boyar equerry I.P. Fedorov, in 1567. He views these episodes as similar in that Ivan play-acted as inferior in both circumstances without actually giving up the true power of his position as Tsar, eventually returning in glory to his official title. In the case of Simeon Bekbulatovich, Ivan took the masquerade farther, crowning Simeon semi-officially, “hand[ing] over to him all his royal ceremonial and all the royal insignia, himself assuming the name of Ivan of Moscow and playing the role of a simple boyar”. In both this case and that of the unfortunate Fedorov, Ivan chose to elevate (and then depose) a man who either was or would become the leader of the zemshchina – in Uspenskij’s eyes this was “no mere coincidence,” as Ivan was asserting that only his rule and the appanage he controlled were legitimate.
For Uspenskij, the choice of a Chinggisid – Simeon Bekbulatovich – was especially symbolically meaningful given the former Tatar rule over the Muscovite land and the fact that those rulers called themselves Tsars when they wielded power in Russia. These Tatar rulers were seen by their Russian subjects as false Tsars and pretenders at the time, one of the factors driving the resistance on the Ugra that ended Tatar dominance over Muscovy. In an act of political masquerade, a fairly common royal activity of this era, Ivan placed someone directly descended from the last Khan of the Great Horde onto the throne. Uspenskij states that in the case of Simeon:
“The role of travesty, pretender-Tsar is played by one who would formerly have possessed the right to call himself Tsar and to rule over the Russian state; such a Tsar is now revealed to be a false Tsar, a Tsar in outward appearance only—and by the same token, the previous Tatar Khans are also seen as false Tsars, not true ones.”
This symbolic action, for Uspenskij, was the final victory against the ‘Tatar Yoke’: the semiotic triumph. The political unmasking of Bekbulatovich by the first Muscovite leader to officially take on the title of Tsar was not an accident; the combination of Ivan’s literal conquest of Kazan and Astrakhan with his figurative overthrow of a Chinggisid pretender-Tsar was the ultimate end of Tatar domination of the Muscovite mindset.
Charles Halperin analyzed the Bekbulatovich saga most recently of any of the historians included herein; his Ivan the Terrible: Free to Reward & Free to Punish was published in 2019. Like Uspenskij, Halperin interprets Ivan’s 1575 abdication in favor of Simeon as a chiefly symbolic affair. He states that Ivan’s actions here were somewhat confused, particularly with respect to what duties, titles, and responsibilities he actually ceded to Bekbulatovich. According to Halperin, “Ivan did not give Simeon any independent authority,” continuing to issue important documents under his own mandate, retaining the title of ‘Tsar’, taking servitors and subsidies from Simeon’s court, and telling foreign envoys that Bekbulatovich was a mere puppet. Still, upon retaking his titles from Simeon, Ivan both validated the acts that Bekbulatovich undertook while he was the nominal power in the land and reissued the documents Ivan dispensed as ‘Prince of Moscow’. To Halperin, this means that all of the acts of both Simeon as Grand Prince of All Rus’ and Ivan as Prince of Moscow were valid when initially completed, at least in a pro forma way; this lends credence to the claim that this abdication had real-world impacts that lasted beyond the year of Simeon’s rule. The author also delves into evidence that confirms to him that Ivan was the true power during this time, namely that of the resolution of precedence cases. In sixteenth-century Muscovy, the precedence system (mestnichestvo) was a critical aspect of elite society and power relations within it; there were often cases between various boyars or families that required the ruler to decide which litigant had the best claim on precedence in a given situation. Given that Simeon was the supposed ruler of Muscovy at this time, he should have been the man to rule on these complex matters, yet it was Ivan who took control of a major precedence case in 1576. He had the Muscovite state secretary, Andrei Shchelkalov, deliver the important documentation directly to his court and not to Simeon. Shchelkalov obviously obeyed this command from his true sovereign, referring to himself as Ivan’s ‘slave’ even though he was officially a courtier of Simeon’s. Ivan’s decision to take on this case and his ability to control the government response to it shows that he was the real power in Muscovy and that Simeon was a figurehead in comparison.
Halperin also discusses why he understands the Bekbulatovich saga as primarily symbolic in nature, as well as why he does not see it as an extension of the oprichnina that Ivan instituted earlier in his reign. With respect to comparisons to the oprichnina, which other scholars – as discussed below – find persuasive, Halperin makes some compelling arguments as to why such a view could be erroneous. He states that Ivan’s use of executions as a tool of state power declined in his later years, focusing more on targeted killings versus the broad-based terror used during the oprichnina. He does not believe that the partial overlap between personnel in the oprichnina and Ivan’s new appanage proves any continuity – policy-based or symbolic – between the two, and gives some solid examples for this. For instance, Ivan’s new “servitors did not take an oath to renounce their families outside the appanage,” “did not wear black clothes, ride black horse with dogs’ heads and brooms, or constitute a pseudo-monastic brotherhood.” Halperin sees symbolism and play-acting as the key to understanding the Bekbulatovich episode as well as Ivan’s wider reign. A clear case of this satirical acting comes from the petition Ivan sent to Simeon, which was discussed earlier. Halperin finds this petition to be “vintage Ivan, a masquerade played out in all seriousness” that mirrored other famed writings of the Tsar, including the preface to his testament and his letter to the Kirillo-Beloozero Monastery. Ivan’s play-acting as a simple, lowly boyar was flawless, showcasing his theatricality and complete understanding of the cultural politics of sixteenth-century Muscovite society. This role-playing only went as far as the paper it was written on, as he knew that it would be impossible for Simeon to deny the requests of his ‘humble servant’; Ivan was correct on this front, as he received everything he asked for from the supposed man in charge. Halperin sees this theatrical posing as the major motivation behind the entire Bekbulatovich saga and relates it to Ivan’s personality and the common activities of other contemporary royals. In the words of Halperin: “Ivan played a joke on himself by abdicating to Simeon, even if no one laughed. He lampooned his own pretensions as Tsar of All Rus’. Ivan was never more serious than when he was joking.” Halperin’s conception of the elevation and deposition of Simeon is similar to Uspenskij’s in that they both believe that the episode was primarily symbolic in nature, but they assign different underlying motives to the Tsar; Uspenskij claims Ivan was trying to figuratively end the ‘Tatar Yoke’, while Halperin believes it was all essentially a royal parody for Ivan’s own amusement.
A very different theory, focused less on the representational aspect, is laid out by Isabel de Madariaga in her 2005 book Ivan the Terrible. She devoted an entire chapter to the Bekbulatovich affair and discusses it as a political and foreign policy move intended both to reestablish the division of the land and boyars under the oprichnina and to focus Ivan on international matters to the west. De Madariaga believes Simeon’s elevation to be important and grounds Ivan’s rationale far more in the realm of the literal than the figurative. She discusses much of the contemporaneous evidence detailed earlier, but interprets it differently than some other historians, namely Culpepper, Ostrowski, and Skrynnikov. One example of this variant understanding revolves around the Kremlin executions that surrounded the time of Simeon’s elevation in late 1575. De Madariaga sees Ivan’s executions of these high-status men as an instance of him “suffering from one of the periodic fits of panic which led to outbursts of sadism” and seemingly dismisses the symbolism of the heads of the deceased being thrown into the courtyards of other magnates. She also denigrates the theories of Ruslan Skrynnikov, which will be detailed later in this paper, by stating that his arguments are circular, unconvincing, and far-fetched. As we will see, this line of argument is not particularly compelling.
With regards to Ivan IV’s motivations for enthroning Simeon Bekbulatovich as Grand Prince of All Rus’, de Madariaga takes the position that there was one driving force, manifest in the revitalization of the then-defunct oprichnina system. She discusses Ivan’s recreation, in a way, of the oprichnina, but emphasizes the differences between the prior setup and the new system. Ivan did not use the hated term oprichnina, instead favoring dvor, or ‘court’; this was to distinguish the new division of land from the old and avoid bringing up memories of the horrors of the late 1560s. He also did not set up a new oprichniki guard, although Ivan did create a new regiment to protect his appanage. The biggest difference, and the one most pertinent to de Madariaga’s ideas about Simeon Bekbulatovich, was that the new division of lands did not correspond geographically to the territory of the former oprichnina. The core of Ivan’s new appanage “lay in the north, around Novgorod and Pskov, and the route to the White Sea, and his favourite residence now became Staritsa”. Ivan’s purposeful choice of this geographic area to rule over is crucial to understanding his motivations in abdicating in favor of Simeon Bekbulatovich. The crux of de Madariaga’s theory when it comes to Ivan’s motivations revolves around his new territory’s proximity to two important foreign policy theaters: Livonia and Poland-Lithuania. De Madariaga argues that “Ivan was in fact concentrating his energies and his forces with the intention of reviving the Livonian war and bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion”, and that he wished to influence, if not decide, the issue of succession to the united Polish-Lithuanian crown. She defends this theory with some convincing evidence, starting with a simple, undisputed fact: Ivan, upon his abdication, remained in charge of international affairs and retained the title ‘Tsar’ when dealing with foreign diplomats.
Ivan’s focus on gaining control over Livonia led to his deep involvement in the Polish-Lithuanian succession, which was in turmoil after the failure of the French noble Henri of Anjou to successfully take the offered crown. The interests of the various powers in Eastern and Central Europe clashed and intersected in the succession, as Ivan’s Russia contended with the Holy Roman Empire, the Ottoman Turks, and Western Europeans like the French for influence in Poland-Lithuania. This intricate web of diplomatic intrigue was further complicated by the thorny internal politics of the joint Polish-Lithuanian realm; nobles of varying religions, political ties, and ethnicities had completely different preferences when it came to the elected monarch of their nation. In our discussion of the succession, we will be focusing on the Russian side of the story, as only it pertains to the elevation of Grand Prince Simeon Bekbulatovich. Ivan IV was concerned with the succession of his western neighbor, but also seemed aloof and apart from the intense negotiations going on between the Polish and Lithuanians on one side and the candidates for the throne on the other. He refused to send official envoys and ambassadors, as all of the other contenders did, and critically for the Polish and Lithuanians, rejected their general terms of accession. These terms included lowering of any other title held by the new king beneath that granted by Poland-Lithuania, protecting the relative freedom of religion, and continuing the elective, non-hereditary aspect of the monarchy. Ivan also wanted to ensure that, were he to take the crown of Poland-Lithuania, the Livonian territories would be annexed to Russia, giving his birth nation the elusive seaport on the Baltic it so badly desired. These conditions were generally not acceptable to the Polish and Lithuanians and Ivan’s reticence to get directly involved with the succession and advocate more strongly for his position relegated him to being a fringe contender. He discussed supporting the Holy Roman Empire’s candidate for the throne with imperial envoys and tentatively agreed on an alliance, which included a plan for attacking the Ottomans, tacit support of the German candidate for Poland-Lithuania, a marriage union for Ivan, and Russian control of Livonia. The elected monarchy, however, eventually went to a Transylvanian prince, Stephen Bathory, who would be a thorn in Ivan’s side for the rest of his days.
Ivan’s failure to get a preferred candidate on the throne of Poland-Lithuania reinforced his focus on the war in Livonia and only increased his drive to add an outlet to the Baltic to his extensive domains. He did not much respect the new King of Poland-Lithuania, Bathory, regarding him as weak and potentially unable to fight for Livonia if Ivan were to attack. Ivan was deeply involved with the Livonian War, both before and after the period of Simeon’s reign as Grand Prince, and the new appanage which he now controlled was in geographic proximity to the potential war front. Abdicating his responsibilities as Grand Prince allowed Ivan to focus exclusively on military preparations and an assault on Livonia. He clearly wished to continue the fight and win it outright, but did not actually make his move until 1577, a year after he took back his full titles from Simeon. Why would this be the case if the entire purpose of the Bekbulatovich affair was to attack Livonia? De Madariaga offers a potential answer: Ivan was indeed preparing for a resumption of the Livonian War, but had to follow up on his Holy Roman Empire alliance discussions with an attack on Ottoman Europe, specifically the Crimean Tatars. Over the next year, the potential alliance with the Germans collapsed as the reigning Emperor died and his replacement had no intention of working with Ivan. This delay both made an attack on Crimea much more difficult and impacted Ivan’s plans for Livonia. The attack on the Tatars was a dud, as no battles were joined and little occurred. In Livonia, Ivan sparred with the Swedish, but avoided attacking Polish-Lithuanian lands; he still anticipated winning these areas without a fight as he was relying on the German alliance. As this never came through, Ivan was forced to wait until 1577 to campaign for the Livonian lands he most coveted. This allowed Bathory to consolidate his rule and prepare for a defense of his territories, which was successful after a series of betrayals and setbacks made Ivan’s forces unable to complete their plan. As Bathory made diplomatic overtures to his other neighbors and settled disputes, Ivan became more politically isolated in Europe, a condition which remained through his death in 1584. De Madariaga’s theory of Simeon’s enthronement and reign is one deeply intertwined with Ivan’s foreign policy, particularly when it comes to his western neighbors: Poland-Lithuania and Livonia.
Maureen Perrie and Andrei Pavlov discuss Simeon’s accession to the Grand Princely throne in a short section of their book on the reign of Ivan IV, seeing it as a bizarre period that mimicked and extended the oprichnina in that it set up a separate ‘court’ and divided the land and boyars. They do not believe that Simeon’s time as Grand Prince was a ‘masquerade’, as Kluchevsky stated, since the Grand Prince behaved as a ruler by issuing formal documents and decrees. Pavlov and Perrie find the ideas of Uspenskij, detailed earlier, persuasive from a symbolic perspective, but they focus mainly on the concrete and real-world effects and interpretations of the Bekbulatovich saga. They see this period as an extension of the oprichnina that had only ended a few years before Simeon’s elevation to the throne for several reasons. First, according to the authors, “the territory of Russia and the service class were again divided into two sectors: the zemshchina and the ‘sovereign’s appanage’ or ‘court’.” The land division included a return to the resettlement and deportation policies of the oprichnina period – these policies applied for a wide variety of reasons, including a ramping up for the continuation of the Livonian War. This territorial separation was not the only one that occurred during Simeon’s reign; the personnel of the state and the court were divided as well. There is ample evidence for this split in the contemporary sources, especially Ivan’s letters and the elite service records. Perrie and Pavlov also see the executions carried out shortly after Simeon’s elevation as a new ‘purge’ meant to solidify Ivan’s autocratic hold on the state and his new appanage, as well as a return to the oprichnina policy of state terror. They perceive further similarities to the oprichnina in Ivan’s new court acting as his personal bodyguard, the creation of a parallel bureaucracy, and Ivan’s privileging of the new appanage over the zemshchina – including in raising funds from it. Given the arguments they present, Maureen Perrie and Andrei Pavlov find “every reason to speak of the oprichnina and post-oprichnina governments together as a single period”, inclusive of the Bekbulatovich era.
Going into more depth on this general theory are Donald Ostrowski and Ruslan Skrynnikov, who both take a similar, but not entirely overlapping stance on Ivan’s motivations. Ostrowski, writing in the journal Russian History in 2012, details the length and breadth of Simeon Bekbulatovich’s career, from his time as Khan of Kasimov, through his enthronement as Grand Prince and subsequent move to Tver, to his life as a monk at the end of his days. Bekbulatovich was truly a man of staggering accomplishment and would likely be best remembered for his successes as a commander of troops if not for the curious episode of his elevation to Grand Prince. In his article, Ostrowski attempts to rebut other academic theories of the Bekbulatovich era, including those of Uspenskij and de Madariaga, before detailing his own ideas regarding Ivan’s aims in abdicating. He believes Uspenskij is mistaken in his belief that, in abdicating, Ivan was attempting to demonstrate how the Tatars were not valid monarchs and that his own power was granted by God. Ostrowski believes this argument is not supportable and reads too much into the available evidence. With respect to de Madariaga, he dismisses her focus on Ivan’s Livonian goals by mentioning that “although Ivan moved out of the Kremlin while Simeon was on the throne of all Rus’, he remained living in Moscow in the Arbat, and he did not conduct any campaigns against Livonia until June 1577”.
Ostrowski’s own interpretation of the evidence is best summed up by the author himself: “Ivan IV placed Simeon on the grand princely throne of Rus’ as a legal maneuver to allow him to go after certain individuals in the ruling elite who he thought were plotting against him”. This understanding tracks very well with the evidence from Ivan’s own time, especially the testimonies of Printz and Sylvester. Fundamentally, Ivan’s elevation of Simeon, a reliable and loyal man, gave him someone who, on his own authority, would be able to sanction Ivan’s undermining of his perceived enemies in the boyar aristocracy. As Tsar, Ivan’s actions could be obstructed by the boyar duma and top church figures, as a basic system of consensus politics operated in Russia in this era. His autocratic tendencies were significantly hampered by this check on his absolute power, so he finagled a way to gain a freer hand with his enemies; as an appanage prince, he was entirely under the personal jurisdiction of the Grand Prince, allowing him to ‘abdicate’ in favor of a man in whom he had complete confidence. Why would Ivan be so concerned with undermining his perceived rivals in the aristocracy and church at this specific time? Ostrowski explains this by relating a report from Daniel Printz, the German ambassador discussed earlier, which told of a potential plot to usurp Ivan’s throne and replace him with the Crimean Khan. This scheme makes sense to Ostrowski, given his work on steppe history, as Ivan’s holding of the title of ‘Tsar’ would be illegitimate in a steppe-type political system due to his non-Chinggisid genealogy. The Crimean Khan was a Chinggisid and would therefore be an acceptable replacement for Ivan in the steppe political system if the Muscovite elite wished to retain a ‘Tsar’ as ruler. Ostrowski believes that this plot may have been related to the executions described by Culpepper as surrounding Simeon’s enthronement. In Ostrowski’s telling, Ivan’s elevation of Bekbulatovich, a Chinggisid himself, would have been a way for Ivan to disrupt “that plot until such time as Ivan could eliminate the coup plotters”. By elevating his own Chinggisid – Bekbulatovich – as a puppet ruler, Ivan could affect a coup de main over the purported plotters and their use of a Chingissid to lend charisma and legitimacy to their coup. Simeon’s time as the former Khan of Kasimov as well as his new marriage into the prominent Mstislavsky family would cement his legitimacy as Grand Prince for at least enough time for Ivan to reassert his autocratic power.
There is a question, however, that complicates things for Ostrowski’s theory of this boyar plot: why and to whom would elevating a Chinggisid to the position of Tsar matter? For an answer to this pertinent inquiry, we turn to the work of Omeljan Pritsak, the eminent historian of medieval Russia, in Slavic Review in 1967. Pritsak explains that “In the system to which for three hundred years the great principality of Moscow (Vladimir) belonged, the only possessor of the charisma for rulership was the dynasty of Chinggis Khan.” Although Ivan IV was the most powerful of the Muscovite successors to the Golden Horde, he still was not a Chinggisid and therefore was referred to as a lesser title (khan) than that of khagan, which a Chinggisid leader would earn. Replacing Ivan, a non-Chinggisid, with a pliant descendant of the Great Khan would allow the coup plotters to demonstrate a higher degree of ruling charisma with their candidate to the throne, while still retaining the power behind the title. This all assumes that the treacherous boyar plotters would want to appropriate the steppe political system that was used by its neighbors in Central Asia, its predecessors in the Golden Horde, and its newly conquered territories in Kazan and Astrakhan. The Chinggisid background of the supposed candidate to replace Ivan would have mattered to these steppe peoples, who were a growing part of the Muscovite state, but would it have mattered to anyone else? In Pritsak’s telling, it may have mattered to the rulers of other contemporary states as well. With the implausibility of the invented genealogical history of the Muscovite dynasty – connecting them to Caesar Augustus – and the slow transfer of the power of the Orthodox Church establishment from the fallen Constantinople to the rising Moscow, the nascent Muscovite state needed another identifiable form of legitimacy to solidify its reputation among the more recognized European states. The solution was to utilize the charisma of an already-established state apparatus, that of the Khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan, the successors of the Chingissid legacy. Ivan’s armies conquered and incorporated these territories in 1552 and 1556, respectively, and Ivan took on the titles of ‘Tsar of Kazan’ and ‘Tsar of Astrakhan’. This means that usurping Ivan’s titles – especially his new, steppe-inflected ones – in a bid to replace him in a coup would require a degree of legitimacy that could only be provided by a Chinggisid candidate. Ivan’s selection of Simeon to fill his place for a time could have been a move to preempt a coup based around the theory of Chinggisid ruling charisma.
Ivan’s trust of Simeon was a recurring theme, and Bekbulatovich’s move to the seat of Tver after his year as Grand Prince of All Rus’ was part and parcel of this. Ivan wanted Simeon, one of his best military commanders, to be located near the front with Livonia which he would reactivate shortly after retaking his overall throne. Tver is strategically located near the frontier and could be used as a rear operating base to conduct the war in Livonia. Tver would be the first line of defense in the case of an invasion of Russian territory, and could be used aggressively as a staging point for troops and a supply depot. Supporting this theory of Simeon’s move to Tver is the evidence of Bekbulatovich’s command of the main Muscovite army regiments over the next few years in the conflict in Livonia. This move and Simeon’s continued command of important regiments shows Ivan’s confidence in him to take on critical jobs for the future of Russia. Ostrowski does an excellent job of tying together the loose strands of disparate evidence to create a compelling and rational basis for Ivan’s enthronement of Simeon Bekbulatovich.
The final historian that has had a major impact on the scholarship surrounding the Simeon Bekbulatovich affair is Ruslan Skrynnikov, who has delved deeply into the issue twice, once in the 1970s and again in 2015. We will be discussing the ideas proposed in his 2015 book, which echo his thoughts proposed decades ago but expand on them significantly. Skrynnikov has a similar understanding of the elevation of Simeon to Grand Prince of All Rus’ as does Ostrowski, but focuses more on Ivan’s drive to reassert his power over the boyars he believed were conspiring against him through institution of a new version of the oprichnina. Skrynnikov believes that the prologue to the installation of Simeon Bekbulatovich as Grand Prince was the fall of Ivan’s government into accusations and conspiracies, largely beginning with Novgorod and spreading through the entire state apparatus, including the boyar aristocracy. The Novgorodian problem revolved around Ivan’s German physician and astrologer, Elijah Bomel, who was often seen as suspicious and shifty by many Russians, as well as Leonid, the Archbishop of Novgorod. Bomel was arrested for attempting to flee Russia with large amounts of gold and letters written in Latin and Greek in the wake of a rash of executions carried out against prominent political leaders. Ivan’s mistrust kicked in with the attempted defection of one of his most intimate advisors – evocative of Prince Andrei Kurbsky’s defection preceding the oprichnina – and he ordered the torture of Bomel to gain information on other plotters. Leonid was also rounded up around this time, as he was viewed as a conspirator alongside Bomel, and he confessed to a multitude of crimes, including supporting witchcraft in Novgorod. Indeed, several women thought to be witches were burned in that city in 1575, supporting Skrynnikov’s thinking. Bomel, when he saw that he would never get out of his tortuous ordeal alive, began spilling details of a wide variety of conspiracies and plots, implicating nearly all of the Tsar’s favorites and trusted boyar advisors, even those he was not specifically told to testify against. This confession, whether all of the information was accurate or not, inflamed Ivan’s deep paranoia and led him to believe that he was very unsafe in his political position.
This new plot against Ivan, according to Skrynnikov, drove the Tsar to find a way to crack down on those who were against him. It thus piqued his interest in reestablishing the oprichnina in all but name, as that system was effective in granting Ivan the absolute power that he needed to thwart the conspiracy against his rule. As the elites who survived the oprichnina period hated and feared it, Ivan knew that he would be unable to simply restart the system anew. He would need a cleverer way of bypassing the objections of the boyars and the church and investing himself with the authority necessary to defeat the schemers he felt he was surrounded by. Enter Simeon Bekbulatovich. Skrynnikov compares Simeon’s investiture as Grand Prince to the creation of the oprichnina ten years earlier in 1565, arguing that Ivan “obtained the necessary authority [for the state of emergency] from a person whom he himself placed above the Duma and the entire zemshchina: Simeon Bekbulatovich”. As Simeon himself would not have the authority to decide important matters without the assent of the boyars and other elites, Ivan had to legally maneuver to put himself in a position where Bekbulatovich could in essence grant him carte blanche.
Ivan retained much of his power and influence behind the scenes, as the petition to Simeon discussed earlier attests. Many factors in Simeon’s advancement evince the true power behind the Grand Prince. The unofficial nature of Ivan’s elevation of Simeon only served to cement his influence over the Tatar, as Ivan’s arbitrary individual decision to enthrone Simeon could always be reversed just as capriciously. Ivan also remained close at hand, setting up his new court just across the river from Moscow proper in the fortified Arbat district. The Tsar retained many of his titles, as referenced above, passing only Grand Prince of All Rus’ to Simeon. Bekbulatovich’s new authorities did not extend to foreign policy or management of the treasury, functions of critical importance to anyone attempting to control the state. This division of titles, responsibilities, land, and power is eerily similar to that of the oprichnina period, with Simeon ruling over the new zemshchina, lending further credence to Skrynnikov’s theory. Another aspect of Simeon’s era as Grand Prince that is reminiscent of the oprichnina was the resumption of the persecution of Ivan’s enemies. Skrynnikov relates a series of executions of roughly forty people, ranging from boyars and prelates to regular commoners, which occurred in the direct lead-up to Ivan’s abdication and installation of Simeon in Moscow. Many of these executions were detailed by Culpepper, but Skrynnikov adds some extra context. He states that Ivan himself was observing these and future executions, that the location for the killings differed from that used during the oprichnina, and that the executions fell short of the excesses of earlier years, being far more directly targeted at powerful conspirators. These killings greatly diminished the power of the aristocracy who held sway in the post-oprichnina period and those who were not killed were threatened with death for further bad behavior. Around this time, Ivan deepened his commitment to the English, reopening asylum negotiations as his fear over coups became more palpable. Ivan made greater preparations for eventual departure than even Culpepper discussed in his article; Skrynnikov states that “Ivan moved the state treasury to Novgorod”, “dispatched his own valuables to Vologda”, and commissioned “many ships and barges that had been built with the aid of English craftsmen on the Northern Dvina”. All of these were concrete preparations to flee from Russia, an eventuality that did not come to pass. The new oprichnina practices, preparations to evacuate to England, and creation of a new court structure all are evidence of Ivan’s real fear and its influence on his policies. Skrynnikov makes a compelling case that the installation of Simeon Bekbulatovich as Grand Prince of All Rus’ was a reestablishment, under different auspices, of the oprichnina in order for Ivan to consolidate his autocracy, reduce boyar power, and eliminate his rivals.
The saga of Simeon Bekbulatovich’s year as Grand Prince of All Rus’ is complicated, opaque, and shrouded in mystery. A wide variety of historians have debated this issue for hundreds of years, and there is no end in sight. From the primary sources of Sylvester and Printz to the classical interpretations of Soloviev and Kluchevsky, early historians wildly varied on Ivan’s motivations and the significance of Simeon’s reign. That disagreement continues today, with modern scholars like Uspenskij, Halperin, Perrie, de Madariaga, Ostrowski, and Skrynnikov all weighing in. These historians generally fall into three major interpretive camps: the symbolic approach exemplified by Uspenskij and Halperin, the Livonian War theory of de Madariaga, and the retrenchment of autocracy propounded by Perrie and Pavlov, Ostrowski, and Skrynnikov. All of the academics listed agree on the historical validity of the contemporaneous sources, albeit with some basic caveats on source availability, bias, and motives. They also agree that Ivan’s abdication in favor of Simeon did have real-world consequences, regardless of the primary purposes of the Tsar. Besides those areas of basic agreement, the historiography falls into two approaches towards Ivan’s rationale: figurative and literal. B.A. Uspenskij and Charles Halperin focus heavily on the representational aspects of the abdication, while Maureen Perrie and Andrei Pavlov, Isabel de Madariaga, Donald Ostrowski, and Ruslan Skrynnikov emphasize the practical motivations Ivan may have had. All of the latter scholars see the Bekbulatovich saga as – one way or another – establishing a new version of the oprichnina for a short period of time. Where these authors disagree is on the rationale behind the creation of Ivan’s new appanage; de Madariaga sees its purpose as directed towards continuation of the Livonian War while the others see it more as a way for Ivan to increase his own safety and disrupt coup plots.
From reviewing all of these sources, it is clear that Simeon’s year on the throne was indeed important, but decisive evidence of Ivan’s motives remains elusive. The most convincing explanations to this author come from the three accounts of Perrie and Pavlov, Ostrowski, and Skrynnikov, who all agree on the basic idea that Ivan elevated Simeon as a tactic to reestablish the oprichnina, regain his power over the boyars, and cement autocracy. These historians also generally assert that Ivan was credibly afraid of a plot against his rule, which has substantial backing in the evidentiary record, including Ivan’s targeted executions, the confessions of fleeing elites, and the poor reception of the oprichnina within Muscovite society. The level of evidence and agreement on these specific aspects of the historical problem speaks volumes in understanding why Ivan enthroned Bekbulatovich. This does not mean that the more symbolic explanations espoused by Uspenskij and Halperin are inaccurate; the idea that the Bekbulatovich episode was at least partially a representational act is reasonable and quite probable. Where these scholars fall short, however, is in dismissing the practical circumstances surrounding the abdication which are convincing in their evidentiary backing.
For this historian, the most likely explanation for the enthronement of Simeon Bekbulatovich is that Ivan was justifiably fearful of treachery, wished to consolidate his hold on autocratic power, and was interested in proving the indispensable nature of his person and, more broadly, his dynasty – all with a fair bit of royal theatricality thrown in for good measure. Still, historians will never discover a ‘magic bullet’ which resolves all of the questions over why Ivan IV chose to abdicate in favor of a Christianized Tatar khan, but this may be for the best. Historiographical conflicts, especially over thorny issues this difficult to resolve, are fascinating problems for scholars to delve into, theorize about, and disagree over; episodes like that of Grand Prince Simeon Bekbulatovich advance the profession as well as our knowledge of the past.
Culpepper, Jack M. “The Kremlin Executions of 1575 and the Enthronement of Simeon Bekbulatovich.” Slavic Review 24, no. 3 (1965): 503-506. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2492270 .
de Madariaga, Isabel. Ivan the Terrible. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005: 298-316. PDF.
Halperin, Charles J. Ivan the Terrible: Free to Reward & Free to Punish. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019.
Kluchevsky, V.O. A History of Russia. Translated by C.J. Hogarth, vol. 2, Russell & Russell, 1960.
Ostrowski, Donald. “Simeon Bekbulatovich’s Remarkable Career as Tatar Khan, Grand Prince of Rus’, and Monastic Elder.” Russian History 39, no. 3 (2012): 269-299. DOI: 10.1163/18763316-03903001
Pavlov, Andrei, and Maureen Perrie. Ivan the Terrible. Hoboken: Routledge, 2014: 89-92. PDF.
Pritsak, Omeljan. “Moscow, the Golden Horde, and the Kazan Khanate from a Polycultural Point of View.” Slavic Review 26, no. 4 (1967): 577-583. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2492610 .
Skrynnikov, R.G. Reign of Terror: Ivan IV. Leiden: Brill, 2015: 451-472. PDF.
Soloviev, Sergei M. History of Russia From Earliest Times. Translated by Anthony L.H. Rhinelander, vol. 10, Academic International Press, 1995.
Uspenskij, B.A. “Tsar and Pretender: Samozvanchestvo or Royal Imposture in Russia as a Cultural-Historical Phenomenon.” In Tsar and God: and Other Essays in Russian Cultural Semiotics, edited by Marcus C. Levitt, 113-152. Academic Studies Press, 2012.
The man born as Saín Bulat will be referred to as such when discussing his pre-conversion days, while his Christianized name, Simeon Bekbulatovich, will be used to refer to his life as a Christian.
 Omeljan Pritsak, “Moscow, the Golden Horde, and the Kazan Khanate from a Polycultural Point of View,” Slavic Review 26, no. 4 (1967): 578-579.
 Donald Ostrowski, “Simeon Bekbulatovich’s Remarkable Career as Tatar Khan, Grand Prince of Rus’, and Monastic Elder,” Russian History 39, no. 3 (2012): 280.
 Jack M. Culpepper, “The Kremlin Executions of 1575 and the Enthronement of Simeon Bekbulatovich.” Slavic Review 24, no. 3 (1965): 503.
 Ostrowski, “Simeon Bekbulatovich’s Remarkable Career”, 272.
 Ostrowski, 276-277.
 Ostrowski, 274.
 Ostrowski, 273.
 Ostrowski, 274.
 Ostrowski, 273.
 Ostrowski, 273.
 Charles J. Halperin, Ivan the Terrible: Free to Reward & Free to Punish (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), 247.
 Halperin, 247.
 Sergei M. Soloviev, History of Russia From Earliest Times, trans. Anthony L.H. Rhinelander, vol. 10 (Academic International Press, 1995), 138.
 V.O. Kluchevsky, A History of Russia, trans. C.J. Hogarth, vol. 2 (Russell & Russell, 1960), 81.
 Kluchevsky, 81.
 Kluchevsky, 81-82.
 Culpepper, “The Kremlin Executions of 1575”, 503.
 Culpepper, 506.
 B.A. Uspenskij, “Tsar and Pretender: Samozvanchestvo or Royal Imposture in Russia as a Cultural-Historical Phenomenon,” in Tsar and God: and Other Essays in Russian Cultural Semiotics, ed. Marcus C. Levitt (Academic Studies Press, 2012), 124.
 Uspenskij, 124.
 Uspenskij, 124.
 Uspenskij, 125.
 Uspenskij, 125.
 Halperin, Ivan the Terrible, 245.
 Halperin, 245.
 Halperin, 245-246.
 Halperin, 247.
 Halperin 247.
 Halperin, 246.
 Halperin, 247.
 Isabel de Madariaga, Ivan the Terrible (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 301.
 De Madariaga, 302.
 De Madariaga, 302.
 Andrei Pavlov and Maureen Perrie, Ivan the Terrible (Hoboken: Routledge, 2014), 91.
 Pavlov, 91-92.
 Pavlov 92.
 Ostrowski, “Simeon Bekbulatovich’s Remarkable Career”, 290-291.
 Ostrowski, 269.
 Ostrowski, 293-294.
 Ostrowski, 294.
 Pritsak, “Moscow, the Golden Horde, and the Kazan Khanate”, 578.
 Pritsak, 582-583.
 Pritsak, 582-583.
 R.G. Skrynnikov, Reign of Terror: Ivan IV (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 454.
 Skrynnikov, 464.