Anastasia Romanovna

Anastasia Romanovna Zakharyina-Yurieva (1530 – 7 August 1560) was the first spouse of the Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible and the first Russian Tsaritsa. She was the mother of Feodor I, the last lineal[1] Rurikid Tsar of Russia and the great-aunt of Michael I of Russia, the first Tsar of the Romanov dynasty. Her parents were Boyar Roman Yurievich Zakharyin, Okolnichi, who died on 16 February 1543, who gave his name to the Romanov dynasty of Russian monarchs, and Uliana Ivanovna, who died in 1579.

Anastasia Romanovna
1000 Anastsia Romanovna.jpg
Statue of Anastasia Romanovna.
Tsaritsa consort of All Russia
Tenure3 February 1547 – 7 August 1560
Died7 August 1560 (aged 29–30)
SpouseIvan IV of Russia
IssueTsarevna Anna Ivanovna
Tsarevna Maria Ivanovna
Tsarevich Dmitri Ivanovich
Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich
Tsarevna Eudoxia Ivanovna
Feodor I
Romanovna Zakharyina-Yurieva
FatherRoman Yurievich Zakharyin-Yuriev
MotherUliana Ivanovna
ReligionEastern Orthodox

Early life and ancestryEdit

Anastasia was the second daughter of the boyar Roman Yurievich Zakharyin-Yuriev, who served as Okolnichy under the reign of Grand Prince Vasily III. The house of Zakharyin-Yuriev was a minor branch of a noble house, that had already been at court, so it's possible that Ivan met Anastasia before the bride show, though no records of that exist. One of her uncles had been one of Ivan's guardians during the regency of his mother Grand Princess Elena Glinskaya, who held all the real power. Anastasia's father was descended from boyar Feodor nicknamed "Koshka" ("Cat"), the fourth son of boyar Andrei Kobyla.[2] The origins of her mother Uliana Ivanovna are unknown. Anastasia had at least 3 older siblings - brothers Daniel and Nikita and sister Anna. Both girls spent most of their childhood and early youth with their mother and had a traditional upbringing of the noblewomen of their rank. Roman Yurievich Zakharyin-Yuriev died on 16 February 1543.


She was selected as the best bride for Ivan from a large number of suitable mates, brought to the Kremlin specifically for the selection process. All the noble families throughout Russia were given an invitation to present their eligible daughters for this purpose (it is said that there were between 500 and 1500 girls to choose from). Anastasia and Ivan's marriage took place on 3 February 1547 at the Cathedral of the Annunciation. She gave birth to a total of six children: Anna, Maria, Dmitry, Ivan, Eudoxia, and Feodor.

It is widely believed that Anastasia had a moderating influence on Ivan's volatile character. Sir Jerome Horsey, an agent for the Russia Company and envoy for the English court, wrote in his memoirs about Anastasia and Ivan IV: "He being young and riotous, she ruled him with admirable affability and wisdom”.[3] In the summer of 1560 Anastasia fell ill to a lingering illness and died on 7 August. In consequence to these events, Ivan suffered a severe emotional collapse suspecting that his wife had been a victim of malicious actions and had been poisoned by the Boyars. Although he had no evidence of such crimes, he had a number of them tortured and executed. He had already had a strong dislike for the Boyars due to their abusive actions toward him during his childhood. In response to her death, he developed a corps of fearsome black-clad men who terrorized on his behalf. They were known as the oprichniki.[2]

Further examination of the bone remains of Anastasia in the late 20th century by archaeologists and forensics experts have been able to provide evidence that could actually sustain her husband's claim.[4] The high levels of mercury in her hair could be symptomatic of poisoning. While mercury was also used as a cure, leading to some debates around the issue, the found levels of mercury were too high according to the experts and thus the poisoning version remains the most accepted one.


  • Tsarevna Anna Ivanovna of Russia (10 August 1548 - 20 July 1550)
  • Tsarevna Maria Ivanovna of Russia (17 March 1551 - ?); died young.
  • Tsarevich Dmitry Ivanovich of Russia (October 1552 - 26 June 1553)
  • Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich of Russia (28 March 1554 - 19 November 1581); heir of Ivan IV, murdered by his father.
  • Tsarevna Eudoxia Ivanovna of Russia (26 February 1556 - June 1558)
  • Tsar Feodor I of Russia (31 May 1557 - 6 January 1598); Ivan IV's successor.


Through her marriage to Ivan IV, Anastasia became the link between two main ruling dynasties in Russian history, the Rurik dynasty and the Romanov dynasty.

Anastasia's brother Nikita Romanovich was the father of Feodor Romanov, the first to take the surname Romanov in honour of his grandfather, father of a tsaritsa.[5] In other words, Feodor Romanov was the first cousin of the last Rurikid tsar, Feodor I. This connection with the derelict dynasty facilitated the election of Feodor's son Mikhail Romanov to the throne after the Time of Troubles.[6]

On 20 August 2010, the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia, established the Imperial Order of the Holy Great Martyr Anastasia for women. The Order was established in honor of the Holy Great Martyr Saint Anastasia and in memory of Tsaritsa Anastasia Romanovna. The Order of the Holy Great Martyr Anastasia is granted to women, who have distinguished themselves in the areas of charity, culture, medicine, education, science, and other endeavors useful to the nation and society, and who now continue their noble deeds under the patronage of the Head of the Russian Imperial House.[7]

In popular cultureEdit

Anastasia is one of the main characters in the ballet Ivan the Terrible by choreographer Yuri Grigorovich with the music by Sergei Prokofiev, which premiered on February 20, 1975, at the Bolshoi Theatre, starring Yuri Vladimirov as Ivan IV and Natalia Bessmertnova as Anastasia. The ballet's plot includes the meeting and marriage of Anastasia and Ivan, her poisoning by boyars, and Ivan's fall into darkness and madness after the loss of Anastasia.[8] Ballet had several revivals.


  Media related to Anastasia Romanovna at Wikimedia Commons

  1. ^ Vasily IV is often named to be the last Rurikid Tsar of Russia, however he was member of House of Shuysky, cadet branch of Rurik dynasty, so it makes Feodor I the last full-fledged Rurikid Tsar of Russia.
  2. ^ a b Sebag Montefiore, Simon. The Romanovs: 1613 to 1918 (2016).
  3. ^ "Russia at the Close of the Sixteenth Century" by Giles Fletcher, p.157 -
  4. ^ "Наука: открытия и исследования, космос и авиация, генетика и древние тайны, новое о человеке и природе". Archived from the original on 22 March 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
  5. ^ "Romanov dynasty | Definition, History, Significance, & Facts".
  6. ^ De Madariaga, Isabel (2006). Ivan the Terrible: First Tsar of Russia. Yale: Yale University Press. pp. 131–132. ISBN 0-300-11973-9.
  7. ^ "Russian Imperial House - the Head of the House of Romanoff has established for women the Imperial Order of St. Anastasia in Honor of the First Tsaritsa of the Romanoff Family, Anastasia Romanovna".
  8. ^ "Repertoire".
Russian royalty
Title last held by
Elena Glinskaya
as Grand Princess of Muscovy
Tsaritsa of Russia
Title next held by
Maria Temryukovna