458 years ago, Ivan the Terrible invaded Old Livonia and almost exterminated a people

458 years ago, Ivan the Terrible invaded Old Livonia and almost exterminated a people

The Zaporozhian Cossacks fought on the side of the Livonians against the Russian-Mongolian alliance.


Livonian war started today 458 years ago, on January 22nd 1558, when Ivan IV, the Terrible’s forces crossed the borders of Old Livonia. Pretext was unpaid taxes for few hundred years (!) by city of Tartu. The actual reason was to conquer these areas by the Baltic sea. This however did not happen – Ivan IV was able to conquer large part of these areas for some time but at the conclusion of the war at 1580 the Northern Estonia came under Sweden and Southern Estonia under Poland. Also, Ivan the Terrible lost in 1573 his closest adviser Maljuta Skuratov (one of the most odious leaders of the Oprichnina) during the siege of Paide.

For Estonia the events 458 years ago marked the beginning of probably the most grievous period in its history. It is estimated that only 10-25% of the population survived the 60 year war period (the war of 1600-1620 between Sweden and Poland was continuation of Livonian war). Most churches, manors, towns and other buildings/settlements were burned to the ground. Exact information is lacking because no survey (if there even was one) data has survived. And due to this extremely long and grievous war there are very little written information about middle ages in Estonia. Only exception being the city archives of Tallinn (Ivan the Terrible did not manage to capture Tallinn despite two serious sieges) and few smaller private archives. So this war destroyed large part of our written history up to this point and only few fragments of it have survived.

(translation of Valdo’s original post below)