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Truth and Fiction in A. I. Sulakadzev’s Chronograph of the Marriages of Tsar Ivan Vasil’evich*

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Few sources have exerted more influence on the biography of Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) than the so-called Chronograph of the Marriages of Tsar Ivan Vasil’evich, but the source has not to date been properly studied, except to note that it is a likely forgery of the notorious bibliophile and manuscript forger Alexander Ivanovich Sulakadzev. This article offers the first dedicated treatment of the Chronograph’s contents, comparing the information in it about the number, identity, and biographies of Ivan’s wives with what we know about them from other, unquestionably authentic sources of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The article provides ample proof that the Chronograph is a forgery, but also isolates and discusses some of the unique pieces of information in it, including the names of some of Ivan’s brides and the dates of his marriages – parsing out fact from likely fiction. It also discusses the possible sources for the information in the Chronograph, including links to the Istoriia gosudarstva Rossiiskogo [The History of the Russian State] by Nikolai M. Karazmin. The article’s conclusions will be of interest to biographers of Ivan IV, women’s historians, textual scholars, and specialists on the history of Russian literary culture in the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries.

Affiliations: 1: Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA, USA,


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