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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Wanted: Ivan the Terrible's Library

Murderer. Maniac. Crazed, ruthless ruler. Say what you like about Ivan the Terrible, but say this, too: book lover.


The medieval Russian tsar who is an archetype for tyrannical despots everywhere was obsessive when it came to books. He collected thousands of them, apparently. Some of the first Russian books ever printed, and Hebrew, Byzantine and Egyptian texts, too, mostly religious, but also historical in nature.


Ivan the Terrible reigned in Russia between 1547 and 1584, and before he died, he stuffed the library into storage trunks and hid it. After centuries of searching -- Peter the Great and the Vatican have been among those who hunted for the books -- no one has found them.


But German Sterligov, former businessman and Russian history buff, thinks he can find the books, and has launched a major search to unearth what he calls a global historical treasure. His, he says, is the first methodical approach to finding the library. And he doesn't use the word "if."


"One day," Sterligov said, "we will point to it with our fingers. I have a good feeling about this."


Scholars know the books exist from the diaries of scribes Ivan the Terrible hired to translate the books into Russian. No one, not even the translators, ever saw the collection in its entirety.


The collection is described as taking up three huge halls filled with the trunks with the contents including many one-of-a-kind books never seen by historians.


Sterligov, 29, the founder of the first post-Soviet bourse, hopes to rely on the experience of past, unsuccessful searches to make his easier. His search, he said, will be absolutely thorough and modern. This is not a compass-and-shovel operation, he said.


"We are people living at the end of the 20th century," he said. "We are not going to stop at shovels."


Sterligov's modern shovel is a 10-gigabyte data base of information from previous searches and a psycho-physical portrait of Ivan the Terrible. And he has modern X-ray equipment for those hard to reach places.


"There are a lot of new technological methods that allow you to look in places without having to blow them up or dig them out," said Boris Rybak of InfoMOST, a consulting agency assisting Sterligov's effort.


Whether they blow things up or not, Sterligov and his team will likely go nowhere near the very place you would think they would start -- the Kremlin.


"There wasn't a centimeter of the Kremlin that Stalin's special services hadn't checked out," Rybak said.


Sterligov's search is being supported by, and the ranks of his investigators are being drawn from, three organizations -- the Moscow Nobles' Assembly, The Interregion and Interbranch Union of Working People and the Fund for the Support of Personal Creativity.


Yes, Sterligov has seen the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark," but doesn't yet envision himself a Russian Indiana Jones.


"When we find the library I'll be able to call myself Indiana Jones," he said.