Anna of Russia

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H.I.M. Anna Ivanovna, Empress and Autocrat of all the Russias, Duchess of Courland

Anna Ivanovna (In Russian: Анна Ивановна) (February 7,1693 - October 28,1740) reigned as Duchess of Courland from 1711 to 1730 and as Empress of Russia from 1730 to 1740.

Ascension to the throne

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 from surfeit. Anna continued ruling as Duchess of Courland (now western Latvia) from 1711 to 1730, with the Russian resident, Peter Bestuzhev, as her adviser. She never remarried after the death of her husband, but was reputed by her enemies to indulge in a love affair with Count Biron for many years.


On the death of Peter II, Emperor of Russia, the Russian Supreme Privy Council under Prince Dmitry 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

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Wedding at the House of Ice (1878).

As one of her first acts to consolidate this power she restored the security police, which she used to intimidate and terrorize those who opposed her and her policies. Although she didn't move the capital back to Moscow, she spent most of her time at that city in the company of her foolish and ignorant maids. Finding delight in humiliating old nobility, she arranged the marriage of old Prince Galitzine with one of her maids, dressed as clowns, in a specially constructed house of ice, where the bride caught a cold and died within several days.

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 Biren, who gained her particular favour and had considerable influence over her policies. His archrival, the anti-German cabinet minister Artemy Petrovich Volynsky, was executed several months before Anna's death. Biren 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.


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The crown of Anna Ivanovna

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 Stanislaw Leszczynski and other candidates. In 1736 Anna declared war on Turkey, 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 cover her natural and legitimate southern boundaries which was brought to fruition by Catherine the Great. Anna's reign saw the beginnings of Russian territorial expansion into Central Asia.

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 grand nephew, Ivan VI, should succeed her. 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 counsellors and relations. As a consequence, shortly after Anna's death Elizabeth Petrovna, Peter I's legitimatized daughter, managed to gain favor of populace and exiled Anna Leopoldovna while locking Ivan VI in a dungeon.


Preceded by:
Friedrich Wilhelm
Duchess of Courland
1711–1730
Succeeded by:
Ferdinand
Preceded by:
Peter II
Empress of Russia
January 29, 1730October 28, 1740
Succeeded by:
Ivan VI

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