Anna of Russia

Anna of Russia
Empress and Autocrat of All the Russias
Reign 30 January 1730 – 28 October 1740
(&1000000000000001000000010 years, &10000000000000272000000272 days)
Coronation 28 April 1730
Predecessor Peter II
Successor Ivan VI
Spouse Frederick William, Duke of Courland
Full name
Anna Ivanovna Romanova
House House of Romanov
Father Ivan V of Russia
Mother Praskovia Saltykova
Born 7 February 1693(1693-02-07)
Died 28 October 1740(1740-10-28) (aged 47)
Burial Peter and Paul Cathedral
Religion Eastern Orthodox
Ministers Cabinet of Empress Anna Ivanovna, painting by Valery Jacobi[1]

Anna of Russia or Anna Ivanovna (Russian: Анна Ивановна) (7 February [O.S. 28 January] 1693, Moscow – 28 October [O.S. 17 October] 1740) reigned as Duchess of Courland from 1711 to 1730 and as Empress of Russia from 1730 to 1740.


Accession to the throne

Imperial Monogram

Anna was the daughter of Ivan V of Russia, as well as the niece of Peter the Great. The latter married her to Frederick William, Duke of Courland in November 1710, but on the return trip from Saint Petersburg in January 1711, her husband died. Anna proceeded to rule Courland (now western Latvia) from 1711 to 1730, with the Russian resident, Peter Bestuzhev, as her adviser (and sometimes lover). She never remarried after the death of her husband, but was reputed by her enemies to have indulged in a love affair with Ernst Johann von Biron for many years.

On the death of Peter II, Emperor of Russia, the Russian Supreme Privy Council under Prince Dmitri Galitzine made Anna Empress in 1730. They had hoped that she would feel indebted to the nobles for her unexpected fortune and remain a figurehead at best, and malleable at worst. In the hope of establishing a constitutional monarchy in Russia, they convinced her to sign articles that limited her power. However, these proved a minor inconvenience to her, and soon she established herself as an autocratic ruler, using her popularity with the imperial guards and lesser nobility.

Policies of her reign

As one of her first acts to consolidate this power she restored the security police [2], which she used to intimidate and terrorize those who opposed her and her policies. Although she did not move the capital back to Moscow, she spent most of her time at that city in the company of her foolish and ignorant maids. Anna loved cruel jokes. She had fire bells rung throughout St Petersburg just to see the panic. She had prince Nikita Volkonski feed her dog with cream, his wife fed lettuce to her rabbit with her teeth. Volkonski would be forced to 'marry' prince Galitzine, they had to dress as birds, sit in a straw basket outside Anna's bedroom and squark. Finding delight in humiliating old nobility, she arranged the marriage of old Prince Galitzine, who had incurred her displeasure by marrying an Italian Catholic, with one of her maids (after the death of his first wife), an elderly Kalmyk called Avdotaya Ivanovna. The couple were presented with a fleet of carriages, each carrying a member of one of the empires races, each pulled by a different farm animal. The couple had to ride an elephant. Anna dressed them as clowns, and had them spend their wedding night naked in a specially constructed ice palace during the exceptionally harsh winter of 1739–40.[3] This palace was 80 feet long, 30 feet high and 23 feet deep. It even had a stove. It cost 30,000 roubles and came with a bed, clock, Cupid, elephant, dolphins, cannon trees and plants: all were made of ice. The dolphins squirted naptha and the elephant squirted water. Somehow the couple survived their wedding night.[4]

Having a distrust of Russian nobles, Anna kept them from powerful positions, instead giving those to Baltic Germans. She raised to the throne of Courland one Ernst Johann von Biron, who gained her particular favour and had considerable influence over her policies. He would exile 30,000 people to Siberia, mainly Old Believers.[5] His archrival, the anti-German cabinet minister Artemy Petrovich Volynsky, was executed several months before Anna's death. Biron was sufficiently prudent not to meddle with foreign affairs or with the army, and these departments were in the able hands of two other foreigners, who thoroughly identified themselves with Russia, Andrey Osterman and Burkhardt Munnich.

Crude court entertainments of Empress Anna (an 1872 painting) by Valery Jacobi

They allied the country with Charles VI, (Holy Roman Emperor from 1711 to 1740), and committed Russia during the War of the Polish Succession (1733–1735). Afterwards, they made Augustus III the king of Poland at the expense of Stanisław Leszczyński and other candidates. In 1736 Anna declared war on the Ottoman Empire, but Charles made a separate peace with the Porte, forcing Russia to follow suit and to give up all recently captured territories with the exception of Azov. This war marks the beginning of that systematic struggle on the part of Russia to drive to the South which was brought to fruition by Catherine II. Anna's reign saw the beginnings of Russian territorial expansion into Central Asia.

On the other hand, Anna gave many privileges to the nobility. In 1730 she repealed the primogeniture law of Peter the Great so estates could be subdivided again. From 1731, landlords were responsible for their serfs' taxes and their economic bondage was tightened. In 1736, the age when they had to start service was raised from 15 to 20, service was now for 25 years not life and families with more than one son could keep one to manage the estate.[6] Some nobles managed to start service as young as eight so they could retire at 33. Serfs now needed the landlords' permission before getting work elsewhere. Landlords could now move serfs from place to place.[7]

Death and succession

Anna was famed for her big cheek, "which, as shown in her portraits", Carlyle says, "was comparable to a Westphalian ham". As her health declined she declared her grandnephew, Ivan VI, should succeed her, and appointed Biron as regent. This was an attempt to secure the line of her father, Ivan V, and exclude descendants of Peter the Great from inheriting the throne.

Anna died at the age of 47 of kidney disease. Ivan VI was only a one-year-old baby at the time and his mother, Anna Leopoldovna, was detested for her German counselors and relations. As a consequence, shortly after Anna's death Elizabeth Petrovna, Peter I's legitimized daughter, managed to gain the favor of the populace, locked Ivan VI in a dungeon and exiled his mother.


See also

  • Tsars of Russia family tree

External links


  1. ^ In Jacobi's ironic and critical historical pastiche, the thoroughly Frenchified ministers, their weaknesses symbolized by crutches and a rolling invalid's chair, are dominated by the absent presence of the Empress, through her empty seat at table and her shadowed portrait looming on the wall; at right a courtier behind the screen eavesdrops on the proceedings.
  2. ^ Geoffrey Regan, Royal Blunders, page 73
  3. ^ Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasure of Royal Scandals, p.39. Penguin Books, New York. ISBN 0739420259.
  4. ^ Geoffrey Regan, Royal Blunders, page 74
  5. ^ Nicholas Riasanovsky, The History of Russia, page 245
  6. ^ Richard Pipes, Russia under the old regime, page 133
  7. ^ Nicholas Riasanovsky, The History of Russia, page 250
Anna of Russia
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Peter II
Empress of Russia
29 January 1730– 28 October 1740
Succeeded by
Ivan VI

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