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Basic Information

An Oprichnik is a member of the secret police and death squads in service of Tsar Ivan the Terrible.

Fun facts about the Oprichniks

  • Oprichniks dressed in black monastic habits, and rode black horses.
  • The symbols of the Oprichniki are the broom, and the head of a dog. (Symbolizing that traitors would be hounded and swept aside.)
  • The Oprichniki numbered 6,000 total, with 300 assigned to the personal bodyguard of the Tsar.
  • From 1565 to 1572, the Oprichniks carried out the orders of the Tsar, torturing and executing his enemies.
  • Execution methods included Impalement and Death by Burning.
  • At the Novgorod incident, they killed 1,500 of the families of the Boyars - a type of Russian Noble.
  • Maria Temrjukovna, the Tsar's wife, is sometimes credited with the idea of creating the Oprichniks.
  • Malyuta Skuratov (proper name Grigory Lukyanovich Skuratov-Belskiy) was the terrifying leader of the order. On one of his missions her personally strangled Philip II, Metropolitan of Moscow.

An object lesson in the abuse of power, the Oprichnina only made Russia's economic and political climates more dire, and were disbanded in disgrace. The era when the Oprichniks were used to sew terror, root out treason, and rob power from the Boyars is known as the Oprichnina. After Ivan disbanded these policies in 1572, it became illegal to even say the word "Oprichnina", doing so was punishable by death.


Game and Story Use

  • Historically, the Oprichniki only operated in Russia, in a handful of years in the mid-to-late 16th Century, but they could certainly be ported to other settings and eras.
    • Perhaps the Tsar sends an elite squad of Oprichniks on a mission to where-ever the PCs are, to steal their MacGuffin or assassinate an enemy of the state.
    • In 7th Sea, if your plot (or the PCs action) destabilizes the nation of Usura (which is based largely on Russia), the government might institute policies similar to Oprichnina. Or they might be worked into the campaign's back story, and, though officially disbanded, they remain in the shadows as a secret society - 7th Sea's kinda fond of secret societies, after all.
    • They could serve as inspiration for a monastic order meets gestapo organization in any fantasy world.
  • The faceless nature of black costumes and black horses, combined with barbarous methods and actions, their vast numbers, the fact that they failed, and the weird "dog and broom" symbolism seems to add up to one word: Mooks.
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