Did the Russian State... Part XIII by Nils Johann (A Bloody Trail of Death and Destruction?)
"I am a Christian and do not eat meat during Lent", said Ivan to him. "But you drink human blood," the saint replied.”
Body-count competitions are rather tedious. To manipulate statistics is not hard, and to make them with fragmentary sources, that have been 'scrubbed by the sands of time' is profoundly suspicious. It is however done, and the results are used as “facts”, to hammer in one or another point. Both Ivan and Henry killed challengers to their regime. Real, or maybe imagined challengers, but that is beyond the point. Doing so keeps others 'in line'. Crummey makes a number out of foreigners being shaken by the sight of the executions. No doubt they would have been as shaken by witnessing the 'drawing and quartering' of an English Abbot, as by the impaling of a Russian Prince. Being foreign would have had less to do with it. Impaling might sound gruesome, but is it worse than starving to death in an English gibbet?
Another example in this manner, from Russia, is the punishment of Novgorod, exacted by the Oprichniki of Ivan. Skrynnikov had the surviving prayer-lists of Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, that listed 1505 names of wealthy citizens killed. He assessed 2-3 thousand killed in total. This number could surely as well be inflated by Ivan's many campaigns.
Our two rulers might have been slick, brutal bullies. Merciless, but must they not also have been charismatic and cocksure? Most likely good orators. With a life full of surprises, and uncertainty, doubt, and fear? They grew into their position of power. They surely were remarkable, to be able to sustain themselves, develop their realms in what was, by no doubt hostile political environments. We can of course meet the stories as those mentioned above with moral outrage, over the 'bestiality' of such persons, and try to spin a moral tale out of their deeds. But if this was their way, the simple question that should be posed is; When those who succeeded, all waged war in this manner, and ruled by murdering their opposition and killing who resisted them, can we then judge such men as Ivan and Henry for surviving?