With what army Ivan the terrible began the Livonian war

History 23/03/20 which the army of Ivan the terrible began the Livonian war

a 25-year Livonian war (1558-1583) was covered the entire Mature period of the reign of Ivan the terrible. All the advantages and disadvantages of the policy of the king, the contradictions within the state and external factors was reflected in the Russian army.


By the XVI century Livonia has entered a period of turmoil: social and political divisions in the order lands has increased to a critical limit. Of course, reacted to it the neighbors of the Order – Sweden, Denmark and Russia, which did not differ peaceful disposition. Section dying Livonia seemed not far off.

One of the predecessors of Ivan the terrible, Grand Prince Ivan III in the early sixteenth century, concluded with the Livonian order, the agreement under which the Livonians in exchange for peace every year paid tribute to Pskov. Ivan tightened the conditions of contract, banning of Livonia to go to military-political alliances with third countries. However, in 1558, the Order signed a vassal Treaty with the Kingdom of Poland, which was one of the reasons for declaring the Russian Tsar war.

Ivan IV chose to invade a good time. Fragmented and weakened Livonian order could not offer Moscow a serious resistance, but of the neighboring powers, activity has not yet been shown. The main hope of the Livonians is a network of fortified castles, formed a strong defensive line, capable of a long time to bind the enemy forces. What the Russian army approached the Livonian war?

the Structure

having Received the Imperial crown, Ivan IV began to solution of problems of national defense. The main external threats for Moscow continued to be the Kazan and the Crimean khanate, which was repeatedly subjected to Russian land to ruin. One of the innovations in the Russian army was infantry, armed with firearms and translated on a permanent basis.

on the whole the Russian army was quite colorful. It consisted of archers, policemen Cossacks, gunners, boyars ‘ children, attendants, guardsmen and provincial nobility, periodically invites for your stay in Moscow as the Tsar’s Praetorian guard.

he Divided the army into desyatni (not to be confused with the ten), who were reduced into regiments, they, in turn, United to rati on 7 regiments each. Desata itself was divided into smaller units, hundreds and tens.

Battle formations in the Russian army was as follows. The core was a Large regiment – the main striking force of the army, which outnumbered the rest of the shelves , ertaul – horse of the regiment used in the exploration, guard regiment, and regiments of the Right and Left hands.

Gathering shortly before the upcoming campaign in Novgorod 40-thousand army, the king was confident in the upcoming success. Moreover, the seemingly impregnable medieval castles could hardly protect their owners from the rapidly developed and improved in the Russian army artillery.

the Archers

After the successful experience of the use of archers against the khanate of Kazan who fell in 1552, Ivan IV a special place in the Livonian war took this formidable force. British Medievalist David Nicole claimed that archers troops of Ivan IV, armed with rifles and cannons, was the first army in the history of Russia.

rifle army created, according to the chronicler, “in 1550 of the elected Riflemen in the amount of three thousand” received uniforms and weapons: matchlock muskets (arquebuses), swords and hammers – long stemmed axe with a Crescent blade that could cut, chop, or use as a stand for musket. Powder and lead issued to archers from the Treasury, and the bullets they cast themselves.

the English Ambassador Giles Fletcher in 1558 noted and other weapons of Riflemen pistols and swords (probably swords). About guns Fletcher noted that “the finish of the barrel was very rough work; despite the great weight of the gun, the bullet was nsix months”.

the archers were living in their own homes with a garden and a kitchen garden in their spare time, they could do crafts and even trade, which, according to some historians, to draw them closer with the Ottoman Janissaries.

Home life not conducive to effective transformation of the archers in the infantry, although at the time of the capture of Kazan and in the beginning of the Livonian war, they were at the forefront of attacking and showed good combat skills. Chronicles say that the archers so skillfully had full control of his musket that could kill birds in flight.

the Guardsmen

the Guardsmen were trusted bodyguards of the king, but the weak link of the Russian army. Trained to repressive measures against their populations mired in violence and corruption, they were unable to fight effectively.

Intoxicated by the initial success in the Livonian war in the future, the guardsmen lowered to his insistence, moreover, the ranks of the oprichnina troops was marked by a high percentage of desertion. However, in the forefront of fighting “sovereign people” never existed. In case of special need they acted as a trusted Royal envoys, carried out security, investigative, intelligence and punitive functions.

once in 1571 the Crimean Khan Devlet Giray burned Moscow, his anger Ivan the terrible turned to the guardsmen. Forgotten how to fight and learned only the habit of plunder, for the most part they just didn’t come to the Assembly points. In the end, the main leaders of the guardsmen were executed, others exiled to remote settlements.

the Cavalry

the Main strength of the Russian army of the Livonian war should be considered as the local cavalry, which consisted of natives of noble landowning class. Although the government demanded uniformity of uniforms and weapons of the nobility, each rider based on their own financial capabilities. At least the sword, helmet and armor could afford to almost everyone.

More affluent were armed with arquebus with a smooth andeven if a rifled barrel, those who were poorer, stocked pistols. As firearms often misfire, manorial cavalry was armed with bows. In the melee, was commonly used sauna – Polearms with a straight or a curved blade as the tip.

the Most affluent nobles did not fail to reflect its condition on the decoration of weapons: the scabbard of the swords were covered with Moroccan leather and decorated with plates of precious stones, the hilt of the swords and the butts of arquebuses and pistols inlaid with mother of pearl and ivory, and the armor, helmets and Bracers were covered with graceful notch.

Such equipment often cost a fortune. So, armed cavalryman, second half of the XVI century, according to contemporaries, had cost him 7-8 rubles. For comparison, in the years 1557-1558 a small village worth a total of 12 rubles.

Despite all this luxury, the cavalry was an effective strength of the army of Ivan the terrible. It is that time called the Golden age of Russian noble cavalry. Important role here was played by the success of horse breeding. The landed gentry often traveled to the Nogai breed of horse low in the withers, but very hardy and undemanding in food animals.

the Saddle of the Russian rider had the front bow forward and back – back that was typical saddles of nomadic warriors. This allowed the rider to deploy quickly and effectively use the bow and the sword and the short stirrups favored the application of the smashing blows of the sword. The spear was the main weapon of the noble cavalry.

During the Livonian war Ivan IV used quite successfully and Cossack cavalry. Armed with swords, daggers, lances, maces, bows and crossbows, she was more mobile and maneuverable the local cavalry.


a Well-established musket in the army of Ivan the terrible was a versatile weapon used by the infantry, and cavalry, and artillery. There was heavy satiny food, used for firing from behind walls, and squeaked savenye, which had a leather band for comfortable wearing behind.

During the reign of Ivan IV also increased the role of guns. British Ambassador Fletcher wrote: “No Christian sovereign the Emperor has so many guns like it, as evidenced by their large number in the Palace the Armoury chamber in the Kremlin. All cast in bronze and very beautiful.”

the Gunners were receiving a considerable salary, although their profession was considered an ignoble thing. Archers, like other bars often refused to serve as gunners, and very soon the job became hereditary. Russian gunners had shown dedication. During the fighting at Venden (1578) in the course of the Livonian war, not being able to withdraw their guns from the battlefield, they were to enemy fire, and then hanged himself on the ropes attached to the barrels of their guns.


the Greatest success of the Russian army during the Livonian war was accompanied by the capture of fortresses. This was possible thanks to military engineering, and effective use of artillery. Among the salient features of the sieges of the fortresses, it is worth noting the attack barriers in a wide front, individual units, and the transfer of the center of gravity in the assault on the artillery and minimized engineering training.

During the Livonian war in the whole was declared by a new system build combat formations. Old, based on the principle of specialized regiments, with a strictly fixed place gave way to linear, which is consistent with the specifics of the use of firearms.

the Artillery began to place the intervals on the flanks and in front of the battle formation, forces are distributed evenly across the front. The interaction between the individual units was achieved by coordination between the wings and the centre.

the Basis of order of battle remained the infantry, arrayed in several rows. Their number is determined by the firing rate of the weapon and its capabilitiesd to ensure the continuity of volley fire. However, the striking force of the Russian army was the cavalry, which often decided the outcome of the battle in open terrain.

an Ambiguous result

First years of the Livonian war were fought with a noticeable superiority of the Russian army. In a matter of months, the troops, led by Governor Daniel Adasheva Alexei Basmanov and Ivan Buturlin, went to the Baltic sea. In July 1558 Peter Shuisky captured Dorpat, and by fall Russian forces conquered two dozen fortresses, including voluntarily passed under the authority of Moscow Tsar.

Strengthening of Moscow called the concern of European monarchs. Thus, the Lithuanian Prince Sigismund II with obvious anxiety reported by English Queen Elizabeth: “Moscow, the Emperor every day increases his power by purchasing goods that are brought to Narva, for here, among other things, brought the weapon, still he does not know… come to military experts, through which he acquires the means to win everything.”

soon, However, the Russian army began to lose the winning pace: increasingly it is handed over already reclaimed the city and more and more thought about the truce. Not the last role was played by lack of an overall strategy, as well as the contradictions prevailing in the ruling elite. Moreover, from the South of Russia was seriously concerned by the Crimean Khan, and the government was forced to burst on two fronts.

the Problems don’t end there: against Russia are former allies Sweden and Denmark, Britain refuses to be an ally of Moscow, and Poland and Lithuania merged into a Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth for a joint struggle with the Russian invaders. By the beginning of 1570-ies of the Russian forces almost runs out and begins the struggle for survival.

At the end of the war, Ivan the terrible is not only not annexed new land, but was forced to give up the fortress, which had for Russia is of strategic importance. Our country was on the brink of ruin. Popular unrest and discontent of the boyars will soon lead to dramatic events – Smutamu time.

nevertheless, begun by Ivan the Terrible’s military reforms laid the foundations of Russian regular army, which acquired its finished look in the era of Peter the great, becoming one of the most powerful forces in Europe.

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