1. Historians say that the first tsar was born in a storm, and so got his nickname.
2. According to another historical well-known version, tsar had a sharp temper, annoyed at the slightest pretext. Temper and ruthlessness extended not only to his enemies. He was also cruel with his “own people” and Russian nobility – boyars.
Do you remember the Soviet film “Ivan the Terrible” (“Иван Грозный”) directed by genius Eisenstein. There is some scene when Ivan (in a brilliant performance of Nikolay Konstantinovich Cherkasov) who was betrayed by his boyars and lost his beloved wife Anastasia said tremulously: “I will be Grozny” (“Грозным буду!”). Actually this episode hardly happened in the real life, but also it reflects the basic idea of tsar`s power in Russia – absolute and uncompromising. People get the ruler whom they deserve.
Now back to the meaning of the word Grozny. If we turn to the medieval sources we can understand that nickname Grozny was given to the ruler by his people, so not aristocracy in the person of boyars whom tsar mercilessly destroyed. But it doesn`t mean that medieval people didn`t love their ruler. In Russian Grozny means thunderstorm, i.e. fore-grace “pred-blagodat`”. After a storm rain comes. So it is not bad, it just happens. The greatest Russian language lexicogrophers Vladimir Ivanovich Dal defines Grozny specifically in archaic usage and as an epithet for tsars: «courageous, magnificent, magisterial, and keeping enemies in fear, but people in obedience«. Yes, we know about the difficult (cruel) temper of the first Russian tsar and we know about his sometimes unpleasant politic to his aristocracy but Ivan was just simply a child of his troublesome Age. And not so terrible Age, is it?