Ivan the Terrible, Part 2

The Caustic look at Ivan the Terrible continues with the Massacre of Novgorod, swollen cods, and the Time of Troubles, plus news and pop culture, and our thoughts on where Ivan falls on the Caustic Soda Evilometer!

Music: “Evil Man Blues” by Lil Johnson





10 Responses

  1. Definitely a mix of Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsey Bolton in there. Has George RR Martin ever explained where he’s got his inspiration from, outside of the British Isles? There’s gotta be a lot of mediaeval influence in there.

  2. I have a small problem with the evilometer, as it has no paranoid amelioration factor.

    Jo comes at you with a hammer, to kill you. You shoot him. Not good, but understandable
    Jo comes at you with a soda, you think its a hammer. You shoot him. Not good, but based on your mistake, not your evil. Still, I guess its worst than that the genuinely killerJo version – its worse for Jo, at any rate.
    Ivan kills thousands of people because he thinks they conspire against him, he kills their families, because he thinks evil-conspiring is in the genes….

    Ok, so this is not good, not good at all. Perhaps it is bad enough to be evil, but can it be 100% evil, a 10/10 if (for whatever reason) Ivan truly believes, and manages to convince himself, that he is protecting himself, and protecting god’s plan (and it is not his fault that he believes in this ridiculous non-existent being) ??

    Ok, so dead is dead, and 100,000 dead is 100,000 dead, and the dead would presumably not sympathise with Ivan’s psychiatric problems. But does it make a difference what Ivan’s motivation is? If not, I reckon there are a couple of hundred thousand dead Japanese that would want a little chat with you about nukes.

    In other words, why does the evilometer not take account of motivation, but only end results?

    Anon Steve

    1. I think there’s a difference between motivation and justification. If circumstances truly dictated someone’s actions, then that is a mitigating factor, for sure. But there are plenty of things in Ivan’s actions which point towards evil rather than mistaken. Killing and torturing of animals (who can’t possibly be a threat), raping and killing of peasant women, beating his son to death for disagreeing with him, driving peasants out into the winter to starve and die of exposure (even after all the clergy and boyars and businessmen – the true potential threats to his rule – have been purged) etc…

      Also, shouldn’t method be considered? Even if you legitimately think someone is a traitor and threat to your rule (whether it’s a paranoid delusion or not), is it necessary to sew them up in a bear skin and have them savaged to death by hunting dogs or sit them on a barrel of gunpowder and blow them up or turn them into a “Russian Pinata”? That is not the sign of a paranoid ruler doing what he needs to consolidate power, that is a sadist taking unnatural glee in the most creative executions he could come up with….

      Evil. 10/10. No question.

      1. Certainly I do not see “justification”, and I am no Ivan-apologist. I’m just wondering if a paranoid religoius nut, with an upbringing like his, can score 10/10. Possibly there is a problem with the word “evil”, in the evilometer, as I think evil is a construct we use to make deeper consideration unecessary. But given we can only play the cards we are dealt (ie we start with an evilometer) then I think we can’t ignore the impact of the experienced evil, upon the evil person/actions we are talking about. Clearly, Ivan, too, could only play the cards he was dealt. Obviously the logical conclusion is that nobody is ever responsible for their actions, their experience was. But putting that aside so that we can still play within the rules, I just think Ivan has to fall short of 10/10. To have a perfect score would suggest that someone with a completey benign background, and with no paranoid delusion that the enemies were out to get him, someone brought up in the 20thC West, middle class and priveleged, that person could not score higher by doing exactly the same things. It is that idea that I contest, when I reject 10/10. If I did what Ivan did, I think I would have to be “more evil”.

        1. I think where we differ, is that we typically heavily weight the evil-ometer towards results / actions, and have a tendency to dismiss the “cards” that Evil Dudes and Dames were dealt. I guess I’m personally of the opinion that there are plenty of examples of folks who grew up in horrible households, getting terribly abused until the age of 13, who didn’t go on to torture and rape and murder. That’s also why we tend to not weigh historical context too heavily. Just because the Borgias lived in an era in which political murders were relatively commonplace, that doesn’t make their actions any less evil, because even in that context, they were particularly prolific in their atrocities….

          I can see where you’re coming from, but I just don’t give potential mitigating factors as much legitimacy as I think you do.

          1. I agree that Ivan was, indeed, terrible and overly vicious in his actions, but I think you raise an interesting point, Kevin, in that it’s very hard for (modern day) us not to judge people by modern standards. When we look at the Borgias, political murder was the norm, so really we shouldn’t regard them as especially evil for murdering people for political reasons, but if we look at how prolific and how nasty the actions were, then we can see some evil. Wiping out villages was an occasional event in old timey Russia, but freezing some poor pleb to death wasn’t, or at least was completely unnecessary, unless it’s a very calculated scare tactic, and even then it makes little sense. Was Elizabeth I evil because she had her cousin (Mary, Queen of Scots) killed, given she (Mary) was a ruling monarch? Maybe, but she had damn good reason to want to be rid of her (threat to her own throne, and she was (to some degree) conspiring to overthrow Elizabeth), and she got rid of her by the rules, such as they were, and relatively cleanly (public beheading), so arguably not. I think the historical context needs to be considered, but it’s still pretty easy from the Evil Dudes & Dames you’ve picked so far to see why they’re considered evil, over and above what was common in their day. Can’t wait for the Ghengis Khan episode! (Talk to dancarlin.com!) 🙂
            For my opinion though, I think we might be thinking about this a bit too much.
            Great episode, guys.

  3. I wonder if Ivan murdered his enemies families as a sort of horrible example to others or if he was just a firm believer in the anti batman policy.
    Do you think he looked into the eyes of some little orphaned child and his first though was “This kid is going to spend the rest of his life training to get revenge on me!”
    Certain Ivan is both superstitious and cowardly.
    And nothing is more dangerous than Russian Batman