The haircloth is a monk's clothing sewn from coarse wool with woven horsehair. It was worn on a naked body to remind of humility and patience.
According to the legend, the haircloth belonged to Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible. It was brought from Alexandrovskaya Sloboda (Alexandrov), where in 1564–1576 "oprichnina sovereign's court" was placed. Formed by the beginning of the 1560s, the religious and political views of Ivan IV had an impact on all the following years of his rule and, above all, were manifested in the Oprichnina policy. "Oprichnina" went down in history as a time of numerous repressions, death of many famous in Russia of the XVI century people, ruining of Novgorod and Pskov, bloody demolitions of Klin, Tver and Torzhok. Along with the protracted Livonian War, the “Oprichnina” became the cause of the deep economic crisis that broke out towards the end of the reign of Ivan IV.
In December 1564, Ivan IV left Moscow with his family, taking with him "his entire treasury." The tsar was accompanied by his closest people and their families and troops. A few weeks later, the royal "train" arrived in Alexandrovskaya sloboda, the ancient patrimony of the Moscow grand dukes. From there, Ivan IV sent two letters to the capital. In the first, he announced his refusal of the throne and said that he had “laid his wrath” on the boyars and clergy who did not allow to execute the traitors, and on the “children of the boyars” (serving landowners) for their disservice. In the second, addressing the Moscow citizens, tsar added that there was no “anger on them and disgraces”. Only after the delivery of a petition of the clergy and duma, Ivan IV graciously agreed to return to the throne, but demanded to give him the right without advice with the duma to punish "disobedient" boyars and "establish for him the Oprichnina in his own state." Boyar Duma was forced to agree.
The name "oprichnina" comes from the word "oprich" meaning "except". This was the name of the land that was given for life to the widow of the Grand Duke. Sovereign separated for himself such land from the entire territory of the state. The country was divided into "oprichnina" and "zemshchina". The oprichnina of Ivan IV included all the palace lands, northern regions of the country with rich cities, lands of the center of the country and borderlands. Noblemen who were loyal to the tsar and entered the oprichnina’s army were settled on oprichnina lands. Because of it original local landowners had to move to other parts of the country, losing their tribal patrimonies.
Informal capital of oprichnina lands became Aleksandrovskaya sloboda, that was turned into a fortress. It housed the "oprichnina sovereign's court" – a military "fraternity", headed by the tsar himself, and a printing court, in there oprichnina orders and the Boyar Duma functioned. In there also foreign embassies were received.
Lands that were not included in oprichnina remained under the control of local “zemstvo” rulers. Zemsky Prikazes and the Boyar Duma were continuing to deal with current affairs of the state. "Big matters" were reported to the tsar. The tsar maintained the position of the highest authority in court cases and in matters of international relations.
The growth of the territory of tsar’s oprichnina lands and large-scale resettlement of service landowners contradicted interests of a significant part of the nobility and caused obvious damage to their lives and property. During the oprichnina mass disgraces and executions happened. They touched prominent boyars and governors, their families, clerks and service people. During the oprichnina, such traits of Ivan’s IV character as suspicion and cruelty were most clearly manifested. In 1568, Metropolitan Philip publicly accused the tsar of shedding innocent blood, after which he was removed from the throne of Metropolitan, condemned by the court of the church hierarchs and was imprisoned in a monastery prison, where he died.
1568-1570 years were the culmination of the Oprichnina’s terror. In December 1569, Ivan IV undertook a campaign against Novgorod, accusing its inhabitants of wanting to go under the rule of Lithuania. Along the way, demolitions were held in Klin, Tver and Torzhok. Cruel executions took place in Moscow in the summer of 1570.
The result of the oprichnina policy was the reduction in combat effectiveness of the Russian army. In 1571 the oprichnina army could not repel the raid of the Crimean Tatars on Moscow. For the first time in several decades, Crimeans, led by Khan Devlet-Giray, approached Moscow, demolished unprotected suburbs, set fire to the city, and captured many prisoners. Next year, in 1572, Ivan the Terrible abolished the oprichnina policy and forbade the mention of this word. The consolidation of military, financial and administrative management of the country began.