Ivan Vasilyevich, better known as Ivan the Terrible, was the first tsar of Russia. Crowned in 1547, he ruled Russia until his death in 1584. During his long reign, Ivan created a large empire, made various reforms of government and society, and consolidated power under a strong centralized state. However, legends grew up about Ivan's extreme cruelty and the reign of terror his large force of personal bodyguards waged against the Russian aristocracy.
tsar Russian ruler
aristocracy privileged upper classes of ociety; nobles or the nobility
Ivan's reputation had a great impact on Russian poetry, music, art, and legend. The character of Ivan appears in a number of legends, and his life and deeds have inspired poems, operas, and films. Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov wrote an opera called Ivan the Terrible. Russian director Sergei Eisenstein made a famous film, Ivan the Terrible, with music by Sergei Prokofiev.