Ivan IV’s unsuccessful campaign

  • 23.09.2021
  • Project

The history of the first and unsuccessful campaign of Tsar Ivan the Terrible to Kazan is shrouded in secrets and riddles for many centuries. Scientists reflect on the event that took place on February 4, 1548, near the village of Rabotki, Nizhny Novgorod region, which stopped the offensive of the Russian army.

The DIVO Oryol Scuba Diving Club and scientists from the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, within the framework of the 1XPEDITION project, studied the Volga water area and coastline for almost two weeks in September to shed light on this story. And it seems that this work will be the first step towards the discovery of a global scale.

Ivan IV's unsuccessful campaign
Surroundings of the place of work

The uniqueness of the place

The village of Work was chosen as the site of the expedition, not by chance. This year divers of the DIVO club found the place of the Sudbischenskaya battle in the Orel region. This battle took place during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. This extraordinary personality of our history left behind a lot of riddles. One of them was shared by experts in the artillery of the Ivan the Terrible era. This is a legend about an event that took place near the village of Rabotki, Nizhny Novgorod region. This place stores answers to questions not only about the mysterious incident of February 4, 1548 (the time of the tsar’s first campaign on Kazan), but also unique knowledge about the artillery of the XVI century, which is extremely scarce today.

According to historical data, the Kazan Khanate has been waging an intense struggle since the XV century as the “state of all Russia”. Moscow tried to establish control over Kazan, but the efforts were in vain. In 1535, Safa-Giray, who hated Russia, took the khan’s throne. The confrontation of the “neighbors” seriously intensified before the war.

In December 1547, the young tsar Ivan IV, after a long preparation, went on his first campaign to Kazan. According to Oleg Radyush, an archaeologist, researcher at the Department of Archeology of the epoch of the Great Migration of Peoples and the Early Middle Ages of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the tsar’s army went overland, and heavy artillery – on the ice of the Volga. Sixty kilometers east of Nizhny Novgorod, in the area of Rabotka, on February 4, 1548, the tsar’s campaign against Kazan suddenly stopped.

— There was a very unpleasant incident in the area of the modern village of Rabotki. The flood that started early led to the fact that the ice cracked, and the artillery outfit went to the bottom of the river,” Radyush said.

Ivan IV's unsuccessful campaign
A place on the Volga, where, according to descriptions, artillery of Ivan the Terrible sunk. On the right is the village of Rabotka.

Because of this incident, many people died. The Russian army lost the most necessary part of its artillery. It took several years to restore it.

To date, scientists are asking various questions about the event that took place on the Volga on a mysteriously warm day in February, trying to find out the exact place, where the artillery outfit sank. After all, some historians do believe that the campaign was stopped. Why? Because of a sudden thaw and the inability to continue along the Volga, and not because of a sunken wagon train.


Sixteen people took part in the expedition as part of the 1XPEDITION project. Divers and specialists of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences for 12 days with the help of side-view sonar and underwater metal detectors examined about 80 hectares of the bottom of the Volga River. The depth of the dive ranged from 8 to 12 meters, which was facilitated by difficult conditions of poor visibility and strong currents.

Ivan IV's unsuccessful campaign
Sergey Kulikov and Andrei Petrov

As the head of “DIVO” Sergey Kulikov said, during the expedition, the participants were so keen on solving the mysteries of history that they did not we noticed how time passed quickly: the search continued from early morning and ended only with darkness.

— We carried out work both in the rain and under the scorching sun, the weather changed several times a day. I didn’t even want to rest, the main thing was the search,” Kulikov said.

Divers are no stranger to working in this mode. – We have been traveling along the Volga for many years, “we passed it from Tver to Kazan,” Kulikov stressed.

Among the finds, fans, history in the area of the village of Work at the bottom of the Volga — a large number of metal household items from the beginning of the XX century to our days, but the most important find is an artillery shell, possibly from the time of Ivan the Terrible.

Ivan IV's unsuccessful campaign
Artillery shell

— There were a lot of finds. It’s just metal, old tools, household items, the most intriguing thing is the core. Of course, I would like to find guns, but it is clear that not every expedition ends with a sensational find. We did not expect that this expedition would bring us at least one priceless find, but there is a result, and this is already a success—” Kulikov said.

The uniqueness of the found core is that it makes it possible to confirm the legend of the sunken artillery outfit of Grozny in the vicinity of the village Work and help localize the exact location. An interesting find of the expedition within the framework of the 1XPEDITION project has been handed over to IA RAS specialists for further study.

The search continues

According to Radyush, such expeditions will continue: “it is difficult to overestimate their significance for history and archeology.” At the same time, the subsequent activities of divers and archaeologists will take place using more modern technology and geophysical methods.

Ivan IV's unsuccessful campaign
Search process

– Ancient communication routes, ancient cities that remain underwater, ships that have sunk and their cargoes – all this leaves its traces and is well preserved underwater and gives important scientific results. Therefore, it is of great interest to us to cooperate with divers in the exploration and study of various objects. A huge number of ancient secrets are hidden at the bottom of the sea, river, lake,” the scientist said.

He emphasized that the discovery of the remnants of Grozny’s outfit, taking into account the avarice of knowledge about artillery of the XVI century, will be a grand discovery for the scientific community for at least decades.

– The uniqueness of these guns is that they have practically not been preserved. The only one of them is represented in Moscow, in the Kremlin. And the artillery of the reign of Father the Terrible has not been preserved at all. If we could find at least one such gun, it would become a global sensation,” Radyush summed up.