Ivan IV Vasilyevich -- otherwise known as Ivan Grozny or "Ivan the Terrible" -- formally assumed the title of tsar on this date in 1547. The 17-year-old had technically become Russia's ruler at the age of three when his father Ivan III died, but a series of regents conducted the nation's affairs until the young Vasilyevich asserted his authority over the boyars, the Slavic feudal aristocracy. During the period of his regency, Ivan was often beaten and molested by the two families of boyars -- the Shuiskys and Belskys -- who fought one another for the power to rule in his stead. By his teenage years, Ivan was known as a prolific drinker and a torturer of small animals. In 1543, Ivan ordered the arrest of one of the boyars, a prince named Andrew Shuisky who was then, according to legend, tossed into a pit with starving dogs. Ivan was a renowned rapist and an avid reader of books about history and religion. He beat up farmers and purged his sins while banging his head against the altar. As a result of his bizarre confessional style, he developed a callus on his forehead.
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