Birthday: February 7, 1693
Empresses & Queens
Died At Age: 47
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: Anna Ivanovna Romanova
Born Country: Russia
Born in: Moscow, Russia
Famous as: Empress of Russia
Spouse/Ex-: Duke of Courland, Frederick William
father: Ivan V of Russia
mother: Praskovia Saltykova
siblings: Maria Ivanovna, Tsarevna Catherine Ivanovna of Russia, Tsarevna Feodosia Ivanovna, Tsarevna Praskovya Ivanovna of Russia
children: Peter III of Russia
Died on: October 28, 1740
place of death: Moscow
Cause of Death: Chronic Kidney Disease
City: Moscow, Russia
Anna of Russia was the daughter of Tsar Ivan V and reigned as Empress of Russia from 1730 to 1740. She previously served as the regent of the duchy of Courland following the death of her husband Frederick William, Duke of Courland, a couple months after their marriage. Even though her uncle Peter the Great's teenaged grandson Tsar Peter II had succeeded Frederick William, after Tsar Peter II’s sudden death, Anna was offered the throne by the Supreme Privy Council which wanted to keep her a figurehead ruler. Ironically, she quickly dissolved the council and was heavily influenced by her German lover, Duke Ernst Johann von Biron. While she continued many of the reformative initiatives undertaken by her uncle, her reign is often referred to as a dark era in Russian history because of her personal flaws and the excessive foreign influence in her government.
Childhood & Early Life
Anna of Russia was born as Anna Ioannovna on February 7, 1693, in Moscow, Tsardom of Russia, to Tsar Ivan V and Praskovia Saltykova. Her father, who was mentally unstable, ruled together with his younger half-brother Peter the Great, who took care of most of the administration until Ivan's death in 1696, when he became the sole ruler.
Anna was the fourth of five daughters of her parents and had one surviving older sister, Catherine, and one younger sister, Praskovia. Her mother was a nobleman's daughter and a pious woman who, despite having an eccentric husband, led a chaste and virtuous life, and raised her daughters with stern discipline and morals.
Anna received a formal education that included learning French and German, as well as religious texts and folklores. She became very stubborn as she grew older, lacked manners and had a grim demeanor, for which she had earned the nickname "Iv-anna the Terrible".
She moved from Moscow to St. Petersburg with the rest of her family after her uncle Peter the Great made it the center of operations. The grandeur of the high society was a welcome change for her due to its stark contrast to the austere life prescribed by her mother.
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Marriage & Personal Life
Anna of Russia was 17 years old when Peter the Great arranged her marriage to Frederick William, Duke of Courland, the nephew of the Prussian King, in 1710. The wedding, held in the still unfinished Menshikov Palace on October 31, 1710, was a grand affair celebrated with lavish jewelries and display of fireworks, topped off with a 200,000 roubles dowry from her uncle.
Her uncle had also arranged the wedding of a dwarf couple during the festivities which, according to some, was conceived as a parody of the main wedding. Duke Frederick, who is said to have drunk heavily during the next few weeks in St. Petersburg, died on the road while heading to Courland, presumably due to cold or the effect of alcohol.
Widowed months after her marriage, Anna returned to St. Petersburg, and in 1717, was sent back to Mitau (now Jelgava), the capital of Courland (now western Latvia), by Peter the Great. She was eager to remarry, and had sent hundreds of letters expressing her desire, but her uncle rejected every suitor until she eventually gave up the idea altogether.
Peter the Great had sent Russian representative, Peter Bestuzhev-Ryumin, to advise Anna in administration, as well as to serve as her companion. Russia controlled the affairs of the duchy through the agent, and she was allowed little allowances for herself.
In 1726, after Bestuzhev-Rumin was recalled following the death of her uncle, Anna began a relationship with impoverished German duke, Ernst Johann von Biron, who had entered her service in 1718. It has been rumored that the two also shared a son, who was officially raised in Biron's household as one of his children with his wife.
Anna of Russia suddenly became the favorite candidate for the Russian throne after Peter the Great's 14-year-old grandson, Tsar Peter II, became severely ill. Closer in line to the throne were Peter the Great's daughters, but they were born out of wedlock, and Anna's older sister Catherine was separated from her husband, which was considered disgraceful.
The fact that Anna did not have a husband or an heir seemed preferable to the Supreme Privy Council, which wanted to have direct control over the new ruler. In January 1730, they presented Anna with a document of 'Conditions' which sought to limit her authority, and she signed it on 18 January 1730, 12 days before Peter II died of smallpox.
She arrived at the Russian capital following an endorsement ceremony at her capital Jelgava, and after the nobles swore fealty to her, she dissolved the Privy Council on February 20, 1730. With support from a rival group of nobles, as well as her sister Catherine, she repudiated the 'Conditions' on March 7, 1730, and assumed absolute autocracy.
Anna of Russia continued the major architectural constructions started by Peter the Great, and also resumed his attempt at westernizing Russian culture. She fulfilled her uncle's vision of making St. Petersburg a port city by completing the construction of a canal and undertaking naval expansions.
She continued funding the Russian Academy of Science, which taught subjects including mathematics, astronomy, botany, as well as arts during Anna's time, to match the level of education with Western countries. The institution conducted the Bering Sea Expedition to determine if America and Asia were previously connected and studied Siberia, but their findings were often tarnished by the views of the government or the church.
She brought back the Secret Office of Investigation to seek out supposed plots against the government and reportedly subjected nearly twenty thousand people to painful and gross punishments. She also introduced the Cadet Corps in 1731 to rigorously train young boys for the military, a program which was subsequently improved by later rulers.
During her reign, Russia was briefly involved in the War of the Polish Succession in 1733-35, followed by the Russo-Turkish War (1735–1739), which continued for more than three years and cost Russia greatly with little return, but also showed the capability of Russian troops against the Ottoman forces.
Her reign is usually described as 'The Age of Biron' (Bironovschina) due to the strong influence of her lover Duke Biron, which resulted in Germans occupying more government offices. She also repealed the primogeniture law and introduced other decrees that primarily benefited the nobles.
Death & Succession
Anna of Russia developed an ulcer on her kidneys that greatly affected her health, prompting her to name as her successor Ivan VI, the grandchild of her sister Catherine, with Biron serving as regent. However, after her slow and painful death on October 17, 1740 due to a kidney stone, Elizabeth Petrovna, the daughter of Peter the Great, seized power and locked the infant heir in the dungeon.
Anna of Russia, who was known for her cruelty and crude sense of humor, often mistreated her subjects, humiliated disabled people, and was as much abhorred as her lover Biron. Most remarkably, she had forced Prince Mikhail Alekseevich Golitsyn, a noble whom she had made a court jester, to marry her unattractive maid and spend the night in an ice palace in winter.