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Prince Silver by Alexey Tolstoy--Summary:Ivan the Terrible, oprichnik, Prince Silver

Prince Silver is the main character of the historical novel 'Prince Silver' written by A.K. Tolstoy. In this novel, the author describes the epoch of Tsar Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) in Russia. It was a time of troubles for ancient Russia. There were progressive strides in the internal and foreign policy of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, but he used such bloody methods to achieve his designs, that people remember him as the tsar whose cruelty exceeded all bounds. He was guilty of ordering the deaths of thousands of innocent people, and he destroyed and burnt down such major cities as Novgorod, Torzhok, Tver, and many others. To keep people in awe of himself, Ivan the Terrible organized a special army, which was called the 'oprichnina'. Oprichniki (soldiers of the oprichnina) robbed and burnt down villages, killed peasants, exterminated Russian people. Under the circumstances, Russia grew poorer, the population starved, and enemies attacked the state from all parts of the world. Not many people dared to contradict Ivan the Terrible, as everybody dreaded the ferocious tsar. Prince Silver (an invented character in this historical setting) was one of the few people who wasn't afraid to criticize Ivan the Terrible and called for the tsar to abolish the oprichnina. However, the destiny of Prince Silver was tragic. After a long war, Prince Silver returned to his motherland and couldn't recognize it. Armed people, who called themselves 'oprichniki', tried to burn down Russian villages and kill peasants right before Prince Silver's eyes. He couldn't tolerate it and his armed force defeated a detachment of oprichniki. Prince Silver could pay for this deed with his life, because oprichniki acted by tsar's order. But fortunately, Ivan the Terrible forgave him. Having arrived in Moscow, Prince Silver learnt awful news. His beloved girl, Elena, married his friend, boyar Druzhina Mikhailovich Morozov, who was very rich. Life forced her to do it. She became an orphan and nobody could defend her. Elena was beautiful and many young men sought her hand in marriage, but nobody was so obtrusive as Prince Afanasy Vyazemsky. He showered Elena with gifts of jewels and clothing, which she gave him back. She didn't love him and refused even to meet or speak with him. Prince Vyazemsky, having lost his last hope, got the tsar's permission to marry her against her will. Druzhina Mikhailovich Morozov, an old boyar, felt sorry for Elena and offered her to marry him. Elena in despair accepted his proposal, but she didn't love him, she loved Prince Silver who was in the war defending Russia. Tsar Ivan the Terrible was infuriated with the act of Druzhina Mikhailovich, because he wanted Elena to marry his favorite oprichnik Prince Afanasy Vyazemsky, who helped him to kill innocent people. The Tsar decided to take vengeance on boyar Morozov and permitted Prince Vyazemsky to rob Morozov's house and steal his young wife Elena. Prince Silver, Druzhina Mikhailovich and his servants bravely defended the house, but Elena was stolen. On the way she succeeded to run away from Prince Vyazemsky and hide in the mill. Druzhina Mikhailovich couldn't endure the offence. He came to the tsar's palace, and began to blame Ivan the Terrible for inhuman cruelty, extermination of Russian people and weakening of the state. The Tsar was beside himself with rage. He ordered Druzhina Mikhailovich to be executed in Red Square, along with hundreds of other innocent people. Prince Silver also was condemned to death, but he was then forgiven, owing to his heroic feats in battle. Under the command of Prince Silver, the Russian army with fortitude defeated the Tatar Army. Ivan the Terrible offered Prince Silver to join a detachment of oprichniki. Prince Silver hated the oprichnina and refused to accept this offer. He volunteered to defend the frontier of Russia and was later killed in the battle by the Tatars. His beloved Elena took the veil after her husband's death. The character of Prince Silver deserved the people's love owing to his kind heart, honesty, selfless love to his motherland, courage and constant readiness to defend his country and people. The tale, although sad, is a reminder to all to stand against the powers that be when they knowingly do wrong, and to stand tall for what is right, just as Prince Silver did. (Summary by Natasha Kutuzova)