Feodor Basmanov

Posted on October 24, 2010


A favorite of Ivan the Terrible, the Russian nobleman Feodor Basmanov was almost certainly a sometime lover of the tsar as well, according to three accounts from the time along with numerous later references. Which wouldn’t be surprising because the Muscovites for several centuries up until the 1700s had a reputation for being quite accepting of homosexuality, which shocked those visiting Russia from other parts of Europe.

Supposedly a beautiful man, Basmanov, along with his father and his brother were courtiers with considerable influence in the inarguably brutal court of Ivan. Feodor Basmanov was described as beautiful and in some accounts, effeminate, but he was also a warrior and gained some of his influence through his fighting the Crimean Tartar Khan’s forces.

Basmanov became one of the most important oprichniks, a group of elite armed guards who protected important part of Ivan’s holdings. Basmanov was held the important post of being table carver – responsible for making sure the tsar’s food wasn’t poisoned.

After some six years, in 1570 Basmanov and his father fell out of favor and were imprisoned. Basmanov seems to have been forced to kill his father and then was exiled for doing so, after which he was either himself executed or died, still in his mid-twenties.

An account of Basmanov and Ivan appears at Zoe Paleologa’s blog, here, and on glbtq.com, here. He also plays a crucial role in Sergei Eisenstein’s film Ivan the Terrible (on IMDB, here); the clip at the top of this entry shows Basmanov dancing in drag, something he was rumored to have done though there is no real primary evidence for it.