November 01, 2005

Alexandrovo Sloboda

Today, Alexandrova is a two hour ride from Moscow by commuter train. That two hours does not exactly fly by; through the window, all you see is forest and the occasional little village. But if you listen hard to the rattle of the wheels, you can begin to understand what a remote place Alexandrova Sloboda must have been more than four hundred years ago, in the 16th century, when the fate of Russia was being decided here.

At first, this was just a village that sat amidst the favorite hunting grounds of Grand Prince Vasily III – it was he who ordered a palace built on the banks of the Seraya River. Time passed, and Vasily’s son, Ivan IV, ascended the throne of the Muscovite Principality. The boy became Grand Prince at the age of three. At that time, no one foresaw that he would become a bloody tyrant and the first Tsar of Russia, Ivan the Terrible.

We do not know how often the young Ivan visited the village. In any event, it is well known that he loved to hunt and he undoubtedly spent time there. Probably his anxious and troubled soul felt safe and secure in this place, nestled amidst dense forest. From his youngest years, Ivan lacked safety and security. As a child, he had lost his father at age three and his mother at eight.  As a small boy, he was forced to sit for hours as foreign ambassadors were received and pronounce words he could not understand. As a depraved adolescent, with no one in charge of his upbringing, he was surrounded by people trying to ingratiate themselves with him and not daring to stop him when he threw cats from the roof. At the age of thirteen, he ordered his first execution.

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