Why was the Russian emperor called czar?: Information Roundup
Czar, like Kaiser, is merely a corruption of Caesar, the title assumed by the Roman emperors as a mark of honor to Julius Caesar, who in a sense was the first emperor of Rome. Although the title was used in Russia in the fifteenth century, it was not an official title until Ivan IV ("Ivan the Terrible") formally adopted it when became ruler of Russia in 1547. The Gothic spelling was Kaisar, the source of German Kaiser. Since most of our early knowledge of Russia came by way of Germany it is likely that czar was influenced by German. At any rate, the spelling czar does not conform with Slavic usage and it should really be spelled tsar or tzar, the Russian form, although czar, a Romanized spelling of the Russian, has been established by long English usage. During the Middle Ages the title was assumed by various Slavonic rulers and it was ascribed even to the [page 87] Mongol princes in Russia. In fact tsar may have a touch of Tartar in it. During the sixth and seventh centuries the rulers of the Avars bore the title chagan, from khaqan, an Old Turkish word meaning "lord" or "prince." From this source comes khan, the title assumed by Turkish, Tartar and Mongol princes and rulers. Genghis Khan and his successors in the capacity of supreme ruler of the Turks, Tartars, Mongols and Chinese bore the title "the Great Khan." Cham is an obsolete form of khan. Dr. Samuel Johnson was called "the Great Cham of Literature." Russia was long governed by the Tartars after it was conquered by them in the time of Genghis Khan. Victor Hugo wrote that "from the khan comes the knez, from the knez the tsar, from the tsar the czar." The rulers of Serbia, before that kingdom became part of Yugoslavia after the First World War, were called czar, and the title was applied to the king of Bulgaria until the Second World War. Czar as an official title was abolished in Russia by Peter the Great, who assumed the title of "Autocrat and Emperor of All the Russias," but czar continued to be a popular title of the emperor. The wife of the czar was called czarina, a daughter czarevna, and a son czarevitch, although the crown prince had the differentiated title cesarevitch and his wife cesarevna. Nicholas II, who was shot at Ekaterinburg in 1917, was the last czar of Russia. In Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor the Host of the Garter Inn says to Sir John Falstaff: "Thou'rt an emperor, a Caesar, Keisar, and Pheezar." Czar, now popularly applied to various federal administrators with large powers, was first used in American politics as a nickname for Thomas Brackett Reed in allusion to his arbitrary interpretation of the rules of the House of Representatives while Speaker. Kaiser is a German form of Caesar just as czar is the Russian form of the same Roman name and title. This title was applied to the Holy Roman emperors, the rulers of Austria-Hungary and to Frederick III and William II of Germany, although the title was always used more freely in English than in German. Kaiser William II was a grandson of Queen Victoria of England, who, as ruler of India, in 1876 assumed the title Kaiser-i-Hind, or Qaisar-i-Hind, "Emperor of Hindustan."