During his reign, Ivan the Terrible expanded Russia's influence and completely changed its political system. Throughout the time he ruled as “Tsar and grand prince of all Russia,” he controlled the state by instilling a sense of fear and terror within the population, especially the hereditary nobility. This was achieved through extensive military campaigns, and archaeologists think that they have now unearthed an extensive arsenal that may have been intended for use during this reign of terror.
The cache of weapons was discovered during the building of a new road near Zvenigorod, a town on the outskirts of Moscow, and is thought to date to the reign of Ivan the Terrible between 1547 and 1584. The arsenal contains an incredible array of military equipment – from helmets still in their leather boxes to sabres, arrows, and even camp tents and billy cans.
During the period in which they were kept in what was then an underground storeroom, the region was one that the Tsar had ordered to be “brought to heel” through military might provided by an elite officer corps handpicked by Ivan. The archaeologists think that this storeroom might have belonged to one of these officers.
Two of the helmets discovered in the cache display remarkable preservation. Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Science
“This gives us a much better idea how a Russian noble would have prepared for setting out on a military campaign – each nobleman would have had his own arsenal in readiness,” explains Dr. Asya Engovatova, from the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in a statement. “This excavation enables us to 'see' for the first time the preparations made by the noblemen who made up the officer corps elite of the Russian army at the time of the flowering of Muscovy as a Russian state.”
The most impressive items recovered are the spiked helmets, almost undamaged by rust and still found in their leather storage boxes lined with material. The headgear was typically worn by Russian knights and would originally have been covered in gold and silver. The find is a rare discovery, according to the Institute, especially for the surrounding regions of Moscow. If it wasn’t for the excavation of the storeroom, which was found in the basement of one of around 60 houses at the site, it would have been destroyed during the construction of a new highway.
The researchers think the only reason that the cache of 16th-century military equipment has managed to survive to today is because the house that they were stored under probably burnt to the ground before the weapons and armor could be put to use in battle.