The bell-ringers proclaim young Ivan IV’s accession to the throne.
The boyars are disgruntled by the fact, each claiming to have the ancestry at least as noble as the tsar’s.
At the bride show Ivan is to select one of the Boyar daughters as his wife and Tsarina in the future. Eventually, he chooses Anastasia.
Prince Kurbsky is in despair: he is in love with Anastasia, and now he’s losing her for ever.
The alarm bell tolls. The bell-ringers signal a foreign invasion. Ivan leads Russian regiments into the battle side by side with Kurbsky.
Death mows down the soldiers, but the harbingers of victory portend defeat for the invaders. Russian regiments force the enemy back. The battle is won!
Anastasia is anxiously awaiting Ivan’s return.
The Russian warriors return victorious and joyously meet their loved ones. Ivan and Anastasia are reunited again. Russian people rejoice in their country’s triumph over the enemy.
However, grim news begin to spread all over the country: the tsar has suddenly fallen ill. Anastasia is appalled; the boyars are growing active, each of them aspiring to the throne. Yet furious is the Tsar, who has unexpectedly recovered from his sickness, and merciless will he be with the treacherous boyars.
Ivan and Anastasia are enjoying mutual happiness.
The boyars are planning a conspiracy and Kurbsky is engaged in it. A poisoned chalice is brought in, and Anastasia falls their first victim. Kurbsky beholds the agonizing Tsarina in horror. The terrified boyars scatter.
The bell-ringers knell Tsarina’s death and the treachery of the boyars. The tumultuous nation stands on the verge of revolt.
Ivan mourns at Anastasia’s coffin. His imagination conjures up an image of his beloved.
Kurbsky has nothing to do but flee the country, dreading the tsar’s revenge. The boyars are expecting vengeance, too.
People dressed in monastic garb appear: these are the Oprichniki the tsar decided to surround himself with. He entrusts them with exterminating treason and crushing the power of the boyars. The boyars are seized and massacred by the Oprichniki. Ivan the Terrible personally takes reprisal against them.
Dark are Ivan’s thoughts — the thoughts of a man who lost his love, of a tsar surrounded by enemies. Haunted by phantoms, Ivan writhes at the thought that he has given up humanity in his struggle and has doomed himself to a life of loneliness. Frantically does Ivan the Terrible seek a way out of the labyrinth of contradictions set up by history.