RUSSIA...Dmitry on the Blood

Russia's flag
Europe » Russia » Centre » Uglich
April 25th 2020
Published: April 25th 2020
Edit Blog Post

Russia's first Tsar, Ivan the Terrible had 7 wives...3 died resulting in his remarriage following their demise and 3 were sent to a monastery.

G. Manaev in an Article "The madness of 3 Russian Tsars, and the truth behind it" says 3 wives that died were poisoned, presumably by his enemies or the royal families, who wanted to promote daughters to be tsar's brides.

Ivan the Terrible had 8 children of which 4 were sons.

The first son Dmitri died in infancy...the second son Ivan was purportedly killed by his father in 1581...the third son Feodor succeeded him as Tsar and the fourth son another Dmitri was killed in dubious circumstances in 1591 at age 8 years following his father's death.

The deaths of the killed sons Ivan and Dmitri are steeped in infamy and intrigue.

Gotta love Russian history...histories that blow my mind.


Cruising the Volga...a working river lined with cities, towns, villages, residences, factories, churches, forests and ever present colour.

Russians caught in a work and play.

Sunsets closing towards rest to renew for the next day...time to wonder.

Music, song, portraits, landscapes, still life in metal, wood, stone and paint...architecture and frescoes...ancient to modern...memories, perceptions and images of the past and present that is the social, political and imaginative preservation of history on show.

Which gets me to thinking that records of the past and present are often biased or skewed.

Excites me when I find this bias and skew in Russia.

History is written by the victor it is said...records of wars, conquests, deeds of men and women for future consumption inspiring monuments and texts how events are recorded for posterity.

Wendy Elliott in the Armenian Weekly could not say it better, "It is the conquerors who have the power to publish the books, control the media, and decide which facts are taught to our children, and which facts are to be ignored or erased. Whether we call it spin or propaganda or even “alternative facts,” the result is the same. The official history of any country reflects those in power in a good light, and either downplays or eliminates facts that would tarnish that image. Over the generations, we come to believe that version as the truth. But we should not believe everything we think."

Then there are those in present times who claim Fake News is distorting their place in history...pressing their own bias to consume the national perception and resultant remembrance.

Which brings me to the Tsarevichs Ivan & on. This is fascinating.

Ivan kills Ivan and history is rewritten

Ivan the Terrible the Grand Prince of Moscow from age 3...attained tsardom at age 16 uniting Russia...ruling from 1547 to 1584, with a year off described as a 'pretended abdication' in 1576.

He had a previous abdication in 1564 complaining of treachery of the aristocrats and clergy...accepting pleas to return on condition he was granted absolute power.

He adopted the concept of "Rule by Divine Right" so in effect he could do no wrong.

Yet how to explain his deeds, massacres of perceived opponents and losses in some major wars?

Who am I to question?

His second son Ivan (his successor due to the infant death of the first Dimitri) had three wives. The young Ivan's first and second wives were both "Go ye to a nunnery" on account of their apparent inability to have children. The decision to do so (presumably his father's) was somewhat vindicated when his third wife Yelena Sheremeteva fell pregnant.

On 16 November, 1581 Tsar Ivan accused the pregnant Yelena of supposedly wearing immodest clothing and he began to beat her.

Hearing her screams, Yelena's husband Tsarevich Ivan hurried to her defence, shouting at his father, "You sent my first wife to a convent for no reason, you did the same with my second, and now you strike the third, causing the death of the son she holds in her womb."

She did have a miscarriage, some days later.

What right has a son to berate his father who is ruling by divine right? Talk about lack of respect!!!

The argument resulted in Tsar Ivan striking his son Ivan in the head with his pointed staff (some texts say it was with his sceptre), killing him.

Some texts have the beating of Yelena and the killing of Ivan as contemporaneous to his interception during the beating and others have the beating one day and the killing the next.

After the killing of Ivan, Yelena was sent to Novodechy Convent but unlike her two predecessors, she was not exiled far away from Moscow, but placed in a convent near the court, where she retained her status as a member of the imperial family.

The killing or its aftermath is depicted in the famous painting by Ilya Repin, painted 300 years later between 1883-1885...titled "Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan" or "Ivan the Terrible killing his son".

Repin said he was inspired to do the painting following the assassination of Alexander II in 1881, the music of Rimsky-Korsakov and bullfighting he had attended.

He had a number of model subjects which may explain why it took two years to complete.

It portrays not the violence of the killing but Tsar Ivan exhibiting grief and despair...holding a bloodied Ivan in his arms.

Earlier versions showed the sceptre that delivered the fatal blow but it was not in the final version.

Other texts state that Boris Godinov, (Ivan's third son Feodor's wife's brother) intervened and was hit in the head by Ivan's sceptre.

Boris Gudinov figures in my next story as he became Regent for Feodor I who succeeded Ivan as Tsar and became Tsar himself from 1598 - 1605.

Repin painted a second version in 1909

Ilya Repin 1909
titled "Infanticide" with similar postures but different background furnishings.

The 1885 painting is described as one Russia's most important artworks...and the most controversial.

Alexander III objected to it being displayed finding it offensive to display the first Tsar of Russia as a murderer...forbidding its display for a time until relenting to pressure from the Tretyakov Gallery.

In 2013 an open letter was sent to the Russian Minister of Culture by Orthodox Christian activists seeking it be removed from public display claiming the painting was offensive to Russians as it presented an untrue, distorted view of history.

The director of the Tretyakov Gallery objected.

The painting has been vandalised twice, firstly in 2013 and then in 2018.

The reports of these are excellent examples of the skew of Ivan the Terrible's legacy.

The 2013 Vandalism

On 16 January 1913, Abram Balachov attacked the 1885 painting with a knife, making three parallel slashes over the faces of Ivan and his son.

The director of the Tretyakov Gallery resigned.

The curator of the Tretyakov Gallery was so distressed he threw himself under a train.

Repin returned to Moscow from
1913 damage to painting1913 damage to painting1913 damage to painting

Photo Credit to Wikipedia
Finland to restore the work, stating the slashing was a result of a conspiracy against classical styles by modernism.

In 2016, the first monument to Ivan the Great was unveiled in Oryol, about 200 miles south-west of Moscow, to mark 450 years since he founded the town.

At the time, Oryol’s governor, said Ivan’s bad reputation was partly down to a foreign plot.

“He was a great Russian tsar, the first real tsar. People present him as a tyrant and psychological deviant. But if you take European leaders of his period, they were many times more bloodthirsty, but in Europe they have monuments, and nobody minds.”

The 1918 vandalism

Wikipaedia reports, "The painting was attacked again on 25 May 2018 when an inebriated visitor to the gallery smashed the security glass around the painting because he believed it to be historically inaccurate. He used one of the metal security poles used to hold the rope to keep visitors at a distance."

Yet the Australian Guardian newspaper reports on 27 May 2018 from Russian agencies:

"Ivan the Terrible is regarded as one of the cruellest rulers in Russia’s long history: a
1918 damage to painting1918 damage to painting1918 damage to painting

Photo Credit to Wikipedia
bloodthirsty and paranoid tyrant who killed his own son. But the figure of the 16th-century tsar has recently undergone something of a rehabilitation in modern Russia with some nationalists arguing that the painting in question was actually part of a foreign smear campaign.

The State Tretyakov gallery in central Moscow said a man attacked the canvas just before closing time on Friday .

It said he got past a group of gallery staff, picked up one of the metal security poles used to keep the public away from the painting and struck its protective glass covering several times.

“As a result of the blows the thick glass ... was smashed,” the gallery said. “Serious damage was done to the painting. The canvas was pierced in three places in the central part of the work which depicts the figure of the tsarevich .”

The frame was also badly damaged, the gallery said, but that “by a happy coincidence” the most precious elements of the painting – the depiction of the faces and hands of the tsar and his son – were not damaged.

The attacker was detained and faces being charged with damaging a cultural artefact. Russian news agencies cited police sources saying he was a 37-year-old man from the city of Voronezh about 286 miles (460km) from Moscow. He faces up to three years in prison and a 3m ruble fine (£33,000), according to the RIA Novosti agency.

In the interior ministry’s video, the man says he recognised the seriousness of his crime. “I came to look at the painting,” the man reportedly told police. “I wanted to leave, but then dropped into the buffet and drank 100g of vodka. I don’t drink vodka and became overwhelmed by something.”

Some Russian media cited him as saying he had attacked the painting because he thought the depiction was inaccurate. Russian nationalists who object to the painting and dispute the veracity of the scene have previously demanded the gallery remove it from display, which the Tretyakov has refused to do.

The Tretyakov gallery said it was convening a special commission of leading Russian experts to plan and oversee its restoration."

Putin corrects the record

The Guardian reports:

"Battles over historical narratives in Russia have become increasingly heated under Vladimir Putin as the Kremlin pushes a more positive, patriotic view of Russian history.

Though these controversies have focused largely on Stalin’s legacy and the Second World War, Ivan the Terrible has not been exempt.

In 2017, Putin weighed in on history’s understanding of Ivan.

“Many researchers think that he didn’t kill anyone at all,” Putin said, “and that this was concocted by a Papal emissary who came to Russia for negotiations and wanted to turn Orthodox Russia into Catholic Russia ... But after Ivan refused and told him to get lost, several legends began to spring up. They began to label him ‘Ivan the Terrible’.”

I guess Ivan the Terrible was a 'nice guy' after all...preconceptions corrected...intentions misunderstood!!!

Dimity on the Blood

After disembarking from the Viking Ingvar...a 1770 Catherine the Great coin in my pocket purchased from inside the bonnet of a car...down a path to a small church in a grove of trees by the river...stepping on the grass.


Is that blood on my shoes?

After the death of Ivan the Terrible his third then older surviving son Feodor I became Tsar at age 27.

His wife's brother Boris Gudenov became defacto Regent as Feodor was of "feeble mind and body".

Ivan had a younger surviving son, the 3 year old Dimitri (Dmitry), the child of Ivan's seventh marriage.

Under Russian Orthodox Church law only three wives were allowed so Dimitri was probably illegitimate under Canon Law, but word was Boris regarded him a threat...having a potential claim to the throne as Feodor was childless.

So Dimitri and his mother were exiled to Uglich on the Volga, about 240 kms or 155 miles north of Moscow.

On 15 May 1591, Dmitri aged 8 years was found stabbed to death in mysterious circumstances...on the spot where I am standing.

Accident or Murder?

History has a number of theories as to what happened.

1. Dmitri was killed by the order of Boris Godunov, the assassins making it look like an accident (this version was supported by the prominent 19th-century historians Nikolai Karamzin, Sergei Soloviev, Vasily Klyuchevsky and others).

2. Dmitri stabbed himself in the throat during an epileptic seizure, while playing with a knife (this version was supported by historians Mikhail Pogodin, Sergei Platonov, V. K. Klein, Ruslan Skrynnikov and others).

3. The official investigation, done at that time, asserted that the Tsarevich's seizure came while he was playing a svaika game or with a knife (v tychku) and thus holding the knife by the blade, turned toward himself. With the knife in that position, the version of self-inflicted wound on the neck while falling forward during seizure appears more likely.

4. There is also a version of Dmitri's fate, which found support with some earlier historians, such as Konstantin Bestuzhev-Ryumin, Ivan Belyaev and others. They considered it possible that Godunov's people had tried to assassinate Dmitri, but killed somebody else instead and he managed to escape.

This scenario explains the appearance of impostors, sponsored by the Polish nobility (see False Dmitry I, II, III). Most modern Russian historians, however, consider the version of Dmitri's survival improbable, since it is hardly possible that the boy's appearance was unknown to his assassins. Also, it is well known that many Polish nobles who supported False Dmitry I did not believe he was the actual Dmitri.

The Aftermath of Dmitri's death

Wikipaedia reports that the death of the Tsarevich roused a violent riot in Uglich, instigated
Tsaravich DimitriTsaravich DimitriTsaravich Dimitri

Church of Dmitry on the Blood
by the loud claims of Dmitri's mother Maria Nagaya (Tsar Ivan's widow) and her brother Mikhail that Dmitri was murdered.

Hearing this, enraged citizens lynched fifteen of Dmitri's supposed "assassins", including the local representative of the Moscow government (dyak) and one of Dmitri's playmates.

The subsequent official investigation, led by Vasily Shuisky, after a thorough examination of witnesses, concluded the Tsarevich had died from a self-inflicted stab wound to the throat.

Following the official investigation, Maria Nagaya was "Go ye to a nunnery" and exiled to a remote convent.

However, when the political circumstances changed, Shuisky retracted his earlier claim of accidental death and asserted that Dmitry was murdered on Godunov's orders.

On 3 June 1606, Dmitri's remains were transferred from Uglich to Moscow and his cult soon developed.

In the calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church, he is venerated as a "Saint Pious Tsarevitch", with feast days of 19 October, 15 May and 3 June.

In the 20th century, it is said the majority of Russian and Soviet historians have given more credit to the conclusions of the first official investigation report under Shuisky, which ruled Dmitri's death to be an accident,
Tsaravich DmitriTsaravich DmitriTsaravich Dmitri

Church of Dmitry on the Blood
notwithstanding his later retraction.

And what does this dancer think?

Thank you for asking...I prefer the murder I wipe what clearly looks like blood...from my shoes.

Church of Tsarevich Dmitry on the Blood

A small chapel was built on the site following Dmitri's death which was destroyed by the Poles in 1611,

A replacement wooden church was built in 1630 and next to it the larger St Michael the Archangel church.

Legend says that on the anniversary each year of Dmitri's death, blood came out of the earth.

This was seen by Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich in 1654, who presented a cross as an icon as a it must be true.

In 1692 the existing Church of Tsarevich Dmitry on the Blood was built on the site in the fashion of the outer walls with white trimmings and turquoise domes.

The church is filled with amazing frescoes, those on the western wall depicting the events of 1591...but to this dancer's eyes they appear to depict elements of riots with mobs killing with rocks or are mythological in style.

The bell that was rung as a rallying cry following the death is the most treasured item.

It was purportedly whipped as if it was a person and exiled for a time before being returned to cheering crowds.

We head off to lunch with locals Vladimir & Maria...consuming three vodka shots as we sit to eat...admiring their exquisite religious carvings and cloisonne jewellery.

Legends of Uglich spinning around us...its city emblem the 8 year old constantly looking down.

Is that blood I see...still on my shoes?

Relax & Enjoy,

Dancing Dave

Additional photos below
Photos: 105, Displayed: 33


25th April 2020

Violent times...
These were violent times. I knew Ivan the Terrible had his name for a good reason, but I had no idea he was THAT cruel. It is interesting that nowadays there are attempts to re-write history - alternative facts...
26th April 2020

Violent times...
Thanks for reading and commenting Katha. I hope my blogs enrich your own travels in Russia which on any viewing is a fascinating country.
26th April 2020

A Dubious History
This is certainly an interesting look at a bloody and confusing incident relating to Ivan the Terrible and his son(s) death. If the first was an accident it would be bad enough, but if deliberate, then it seems horrific as is the killing of the young Dimitri. Russia's current leader may want to "change" history to put a better spin on the incident and to 'save face' for his country, but I don't think it would change people's minds or impressions, and the name "Ivan the Terrible" will endure regardless. So is the creation of fake history more acceptable than the creation of fake news?
26th April 2020

A Dubious History
Great comment Sylvia. Putin's comment suggests political self interest from a Papal emissary who came to Russia for negotiations and wanted to turn Orthodox Russia into Catholic Russia as leading several legends to spring up resulting in the label ‘Ivan the Terrible’. Kinda hard for Putin to suggest Ivan did not kill anyone though when we know he killed his son and ordered the execution and massacre of countless others. Ivan's legacy includes the Massacre at Novgorod whereby his Oprichnina or private army purged and executed inhabitants and torched the fields at will thus decimating a city that rivalled Moscow, purging the Church and also the Livonian War against Poland, Lithuania & Sweden just to name a few. Then it is said his reign led to 'The Time of Troubles'. The name 'Ivan the Terrible' may thus have sprung from his stated paranoia if not from many deeds!!! Gotta love History...but sometimes the sources may have various self-interested dissenters before the written record is allowed to rest!!!
28th April 2020

Rule by Divine Right
Russian history is filled with violence and banishment. Are you enjoying Russian music? Putin. Now that's a Russian character. History, investigations and lies. Who knows. We must all understand history.
28th April 2020

Rule by Divine Right
My excursions into Russian history, MJ, stem from places we visit and histories that oozed from its walls. Yet from my investigations it strikes me there is an overwhelming pursuit of power interrupted by high infant & adult mortality rates due to health issues and death by violence...local politics and the prevalence of women being banished to nunneries. But music & singing is alive and well...some of the most beautiful & passionate we have heard anywhere.
28th April 2020

No blood on the Dancing One's shoes....
Interesting story to say the least....leads one to question history in general as you are most correct in that the victors tell the tales. By the way.....Ivan was a complete nut job......The Dangerous One
28th April 2020

Blood on the Dancing One's shoes....
Slight edit on the title Dangerous One 'cos history is also the record of the observer. In these uncertain times I dwell on the history and the images in my panoramas and wonder when the virus will abate so we can return to Russia and embrace the culture and re-consume. Cause & effect...if & when...time will tell. How will history evolve while we are waiting?
4th May 2020

I always love a good murder mystery!
Hi Dave& Denise, Trust you are fine & dandy & tolerating this life “on hold”? At least that’s how I feel now. Tomorrow- well I may just murder someone! Thanks again for more history & great photos. I always love a good murder mystery! Uglich was great & just reeked of history. A sedate little town now. I look forward to your next instalment with a twist of course. Mary
4th May 2020

I always love a good murder mystery!
Another great comment Mary, on what was truly a trip with many highlights. Uglich was definitely a jewel of the Golden Ring. Alas possibly the last of my panorama slideshows of the magnificent rivers of NW Russia as we approach Moscow. Gotta say I am enjoying the ride.
11th May 2020

is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, so said W. Churchill... Take a look at it's history and you might agree. Though patricide, fratricide, filicide and everything else pertaining to killing one or more of your own family members is a common thread within all royal/aristocratic families throughout the world. So not much of a enigma there.
12th May 2020

Filicide...killing ones son or daughter. It has a ring to it that is missing from my blog...thanks Ralf. The Russian is детоубийство "detoubiystvo"...kinda got a ring to that too! From my Russian blogs there is ample evidence of high infant mortality in royal children of the tsars, so understandable that Ivan the Terrible may have been in anguish that infanticide or filicide by his hand was also part of the equation.
11th June 2020

Battles over Historical Narratives
We as travelers are constantly on the frontlines of discovering the truth about traveler narratives and fake news about destinations. That's why it is so important to get out there and see these places for ourselves. Enjoyed the walk through Russia's multi-layered history. Although I think that your three vodka shots are necessary for complete understanding.
14th June 2020

Battles over Historical Narratives
Hope this means you have recovered from the New York pandemic blues Tommy. I have been saying since our Russian foray that the USA/China power plays must not forget that there is a third major power and that is Russia. Then yesterday I read news that some are pressing Russia return from the cold from its shooting down MH17 and annexing Crimea to be reinstated into the G8 to adjust the power balance. If so, how will history evolve and be written as a result? Would certainly be interesting!
25th June 2020

The Czar (Eisenstein and Lungin)
Anybody even mildly interested in either the personality of Ivan IV or the tumultuous times of his reign might want to check out "The Tsar", a 2009 movie by Pavel Lungin. While it is not quite your average easy watching (not at all), the acting is great and the atmosphere of madness and paranoia is tangible. Also, a passing comment on fillicides, fratricides, and, especially, uxoricides - people, let's give poor terrible Ivan some slack. It's 16th century we're taking about here, about two centuries before the first convicts came ashore at Botany Bay, and roughly about the time of Henry the VIII's reign, give or take a couple of decades. Something tells me some of Henry's wives would've taken that nunnery trip any day, given the chance. Incidentally, by the time Ivan was born, someone named Cristoforo Colombo had not only completed several overseas runs, but also joined the choir invisible, blissfully unaware that just some 500 years later his statues would be less than welcome on the very continent that he sailed the ocean blue to. Our perception of history is as much - if not more - about us today as it is about the historical figures who are long gone, along with their warts, uxoricides, and all.
28th June 2020

The Czar (Eisenstein and Lungin)
Great to hear from a Russian perspective again. Thanks for reading and commenting. I look forward to checking out the film. As to Ivan the Terrible's 's legacy it is hard to disagree with the governor of Oryol who on unveiling the first monument to Ivan the Great said “He was a great Russian tsar, the first real tsar. People present him as a tyrant and psychological deviant. But if you take European leaders of his period, they were many times more bloodthirsty, but in Europe they have monuments, and nobody minds.” My blog was posted before the statues of Columbus and others were attacked during the current 'Black Lives Matter' movement. History is again being challenged to be rewritten! I have recently been reading some history of Moscow in anticipation of my blogs of the magnificent city...mind boggling! Gotta love Russian history...from any angle.
25th August 2020

Nice picture
That's a really nice picture. There are so many interesting towns and cities in Russia. We know a guy in Finland who has been to every country in the world. In the last couple of years he has been travelling extensively in Russia with the aim of visiting every single Russian oblast. He has published so many interesting pictures on FaceBook from his adventures in Russia. He is almost finished with that project by the way. He has only one oblast left to visit and that it is a difficult one as he needs special permission to go there. /Ake
26th August 2020

Nice picture
I loved the dawns and the nuances of light and life on the rivers in NW Russia as we cruised along. Uglich was a highlight as this pic profess. I really want to visit the other oblasts of the Golden Ring yet that would be potentially a feast of opulence but plenty of raw life as well. Your Finn friend must have a determination unsurpassed. I cannot imagine how many oblasts there could be in Russia...would not surprise me if it is more than the number of countries in the World. What a mission!!!

Tot: 0.184s; Tpl: 0.025s; cc: 17; qc: 36; dbt: 0.0712s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.3mb