April 30, 2020

TBT: A Terrible Defection


TBT: A Terrible Defection
Fragment from an image showing Kurbsky at the taking of Novgorod.

On this day in 1564, one of Terrible's most trusted confidantes defected to Lithuania.

Andrey Kurbsky had been one of Ivan the Terrible's ablest and most loyal generals, winning battles in Kazan and Udmurtia and Dorpat. But when Ivan failed to renew his commission, Kurbsky defected to the enemy, Lithuania, eventually saying he feared that the Russian state was descending into absolutism.

What happened next is most interesting, because for the next 15 years Andrey and Terrible engaged in an exchange of letters (in Russian here) that is a treasure trove of information on court life in Russia at the time.

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