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Royal Recreation: Ivan the Terrible Goes Hunting

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Ivan the Terrible loved hunting but between 1548 and 1564 he seems not to have indulged his favorite pastime. An anonymous English account written 1556-1558 says that Ivan had given hunting up for religious reasons. Three Russian texts written between 1550 and 1563, an entry in the Nikon Chronicle for 1556-1557 which praises Ivan for abstaining from hunting to become a true pastor of his flock, the Domostroi, a book of household management, and two vitae in the Stepennaia kniga tsarskogo rodosloviia (Book of Degrees of Imperial Genealogy), contain diatribes against the cruelty and immorality of hunting. These texts echo a minority anti-hunting tradition in medieval and early modern Europe. As in Europe hunting continued unabated, but in Muscovy it is possible that the anti-hunting animus of these texts inspired at least one temporary convert, Ivan the Terrible himself.

Affiliations: 1: Russian and East European Institute, Indiana University


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