January 25 in Russian history

1547: Ivan IV becomes the tsar of Russia. While the term 'tsar' has been known for quite a while, Ivan IV was the first Russian ruler to be crowned as the "tsar of all Russia". He became a Grand Prince at the age of three, in 1533, and was crowned at the age of 16. The new title, tsar, had to be acknowledged by other monarchs. Patriarch of Constantinople sent his blessings in 1561, while other monarchs for a long time continued to call the Moscow rulers 'the Grand Princes'. During the first half of his reign, he was heavily influenced by his wife, Anastasia Yurieva (or Koshkina, Zakharieva, Romanova -- it's a long story :)) and a priest named Sylvester. The tsar wanted to devote all his life to serving the people and Sylvester organized a whole circle of nobility who wanted to assist the tsar in improving the life of Russians. Ivan IV updated and re-wrote the sudebnik (the law code), gave self-government to many districts and allowed to elect the local administration and judges, summoned the first Zemsky Sobor, the first Russian parliament. He put an end to the attacks of the last Tatars by seizing their capital Kazan and adjoined huge territories along Volga and Kama rivers to Russia. He had some conflicts with Sylvester and the nobility, who wanted to limit the autocratic power of the tsar, but all went well till 1560, when Ivan's wife died. It was a shock which changed him forever. In 1560, he sends Sylvester and other members of his circle into exile. In 1564, he leaves Moscow, stays in a monastery and sends a letter to Moscow, saying that he had left the capital because the boyars were plotting against him. The people asked him to come back and he agreed at last. He divided the country into "zemshchina" and "oprichnina". The first part was governed by the boyars' Duma, and the second belonged to the tsar exclusively. Oprichnina included the lands which belonged earlier to the most powerful boyars and by taking these lands under his hand Ivan attempted to minimize their influence. In practice, oprichnina turned into a removal and even elimination of many people. His guard, called oprichniki used the power given to them by the tsar to rob and to kill (mostly in aristocratic houses) and enjoyed sadistic orgies. After these atrocities he got his name Grozny, or the Terrible (this translation is not perfect, though). It is important to note, though, that the total number of his victims is estimated to be from 4,000 to 7,000 people, that is, much fewer than many other European monarchs managed to kill. He achieved his goals: the nobility lost their influence almost completely. His death in 1584 became the beginning of a long period of unrest, called the Times of Trouble.

1701: School of mathematical and navigational sciences was founded in Moscow. It was a logical step for Peter I, who wanted to turn Russia into a sea power. Children in the age from 12 to 17 from all social classes could enter the school. In 1715, the elder students moved to St.Petersburg and became the base for the Academy of Sea Guard, now called the St.Petersburg Naval Institute. Among famous graduates of the School were the admirals Kornilov, Nakhimov, Senyavin, Ushakov, Essen, Kuznetsov, Gorshkov and others, explorers Chirikov, Chelyuskin, Laptev, Lisyansky, Kruzenshtern, Nevelsky, Vrangel, etc. Many other graduates became famous in other, non-navy professions: composer Rimsky-Korsakov, writers Stanyukovich and Sobolev, painters Vereshchagin and Bogolyubov, the author of a dictionary of Russian language Dal, constructor of the first aeroplane (well, it was almost an aeroplane) Mozhaisky.

1938: Birthday of Vladimir Vysotsky, a unique poet and singer of the Soviet times. I am afraid that I will not be able to describe the huge role he played in our life in the USSR, so I will simply refer you to web pages. Read about Vysotsky at Wikipedia. Read and listen his verses and songs at the official site. Read the verses here.

1991: My home city got back its original name -- Samara. Since 1935 it was known as Kyibyshev, after the name of Valerian Kuibyshev, a Soviet politician and a Red Army commander. The city was founded in 1586. During the WWII, it was a secondary capital of USSR. The government stayed in Moscow, but many ministeries, foreign embassies, etc., were relocated to Kuibyshev. For many years, Kuibyshev has been an important centre of aerospace industry. A large share of Soviet and Russian spaceships and carriers were built here.

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