Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Letter to a Fellow Russian from a Former Member of Ivan the Terrible's Infamous Oprichniki

Dear fellow Russian,

I am here to tell you about the life of a soldier in Ivan IV's infamous oprichniki, Ivan's loyal army who swore allegiance to Ivan by stating the oath of the oprichniki, " I swear to be loyal to the tsar and to his empire, to the young tsarevich and the tsarina, and to reveal everything  know or can find out about any enterprise directed against them by any person or persons I swear to deny my family and forget my mother and father." Unfortunately, I cannot reveal my identity to you due to the horrible things I have done while I served in the oprichniki.

We were told that the task of the oprichiniki was to protect the tsar and get rid of corruption in Russia. In result, we were treated like knights, even gaining the ability to call Ivan, our "brother".
One of the benefits to becoming part of the oprichniki was gaining the lands and estates of the boyars that were captured for corruption and betrayal of the tsar. In order to gain this ability, we had to go through numerous interviews to make sure that we were not affiliated with any of the boyars (Russian nobles) that Tsar Ivan IV hated or was suspicious of.

Once we were inducted into the oprichniki after we were cleared from suspicion, we swore our loyalty to the tsar. It was pretty tedious. Given a black horse and black robes with a wolf head dangling from the saddle, we were the bodyguards of Ivan. Every day we woke up early in the morning and attended church service with Ivan. After, we were given a hearty breakfast while Ivan sang at the table. We were told that Ivan was our "brother". We lived life like monks. Although we were very privileged, we did not live an extravagant lifestyle full of riches. Instead, we exploited our privileges by robbing others, participating in killing as many people as we liked, and hosting wild sexual activities. We were taught that whatever we did would benefit Ivan IV for the sake of the uniformity of Russia. We were blinded by this rule and slaughtered and tortured many people, even massacring a town at one point.

Ivan IV really enjoyed torturing people who he thought was going against his rule. Impalement by chain hook was a common one. Ivan had many torturing techniques and he always seemed to come up with new ones such as cooking people alive, beating them, torturing the genitals, poisoning etc. At the time, I did not realize what we were doing was inhumane. We were constantly reminded that we were there to "sniff out the opposition to Ivan". I particularly remember one torture when Ivan ordered us to send dogs to eat a prisoner. I enjoyed it. Ivan's torturing techniques and his growing enthusiasm for killing led the other orpinichki to follow and develop the same hobbies Ivan had. Due to this, we had no remorse for killing thousands in the town of Novgorod when suspicion aroused that the town committed treason and treachery towards Russia. Killing and torturing others had become a lifestyle. However, none of us realized it because we all thought it was "good" due to Ivan saturating what we were doing by treating us like knights and monks.

When Moscow was sacked by the Crimean Tatars in 1571, the oprichniki failed the defend Moscow. As a result, many people in Moscow were killed and the oprichniki were disbanded. Taking time out of the oprichniki gave me time to reflect on myself. I realized that the oprichniki weren't any good. Ivan was using us as his excuse for killing whoever he felt like killing. Through these killings and torture techniques that we committed, I started to forget that killing was bad. Ivan's oprichniki program turned us into savages who didn't mind killing. Ivan was so used to killing, he struck his son's pregnant wife with a staff, causing a miscarriage. Ivan's own son Ivan Ivanovich tried to intervene, but the two created a heated argument, causing Ivan IV to strike his son in the head with his staff. Ivan instantly regretted his decision and prayed for a miracle to happen to his dying son. Unfortunately, Ivanovich died a couple days later. Ivan IV's habits of physically torturing others had led into his family, infecting him just like the violence infected the minds of many men who simply joined Ivan's oprichniki to serve as loyal soldiers.

Fellow Russian, do not be blinded by your ruler's intentions to do cruel things on the innocent citizens of the country. Your ruler may share his wealth and privileged lifestyle in order to bait others into doing his deeds. The privileged lifestyle that the oprichniki offered was exploited by many. As a result, the oprichniki was disbanded due to its disruptive behavior. Do not commit such foolish acts during your life.


A former oprichniki

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