1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Anne, Empress of Russia

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ANNE (1693-1740), empress of Russia, second daughter of Tsar Ivan V., Peter the Great’s imbecile brother, and Praskovia Saltuikova. Her girlhood was passed at Ismailovo near Moscow, with her mother, an ignorant, bigoted tsaritsa of the old school, who neglected and even hated her daughters. Peter acted as a second father to the Ivanovs, as Praskovia and her family were called. In 1710 he married Anne to Frederick William, duke of Courland, who died of surfeit on his journey home from St Petersburg. The reluctant young widow was ordered to proceed on her way to Mittau to take over the government of Courland, with the Russian resident, Count Peter Bestuzhev, as her adviser. He was subsequently her lover, till supplanted by Biren (q.v.). Anne’s residence at Mittau was embittered by the utter inadequacy of her revenue, which she keenly felt. It was therefore with joy that she at once accepted the Russian crown, as the next heir, after the death of Peter II. (January 30, 1730), when it was offered to her by the members of the supreme privy council, even going so far as to subscribe previously nine articles which would have reduced her from an absolute to a very limited monarch. On the 26th of February she made her public entry into Moscow under strict surveillance. On the 8th of March a coup d’état, engineered by a party of her personal friends, overthrew the supreme privy council and she was hailed as autocrat. Her government, on the whole, was prudent, beneficial and even glorious; but it was undoubtedly severe and became at last universally unpopular. This was due in the main to the outrageous insolence of her all-powerful favourite Biren, who hated the Russian nobility and trampled upon them mercilessly. Fortunately, Biren was sufficiently prudent not to meddle with foreign affairs or with the army, and these departments in the able hands of two other foreigners, who thoroughly identified themselves with Russia, Andrei Osterman (q.v.) and Burkhardt Münnich (q.v.) did great things in the reign of Anne. The chief political events of the period were the War of the Polish Succession and the second[1] Crimean War. The former was caused by the reappearance of Stanislaus Leszczynski as a candidate for the Polish throne after the death of Augustus II. (February 1, 1733). The interests of Russia would not permit her to recognize a candidate dependent directly on France and indirectly upon Sweden and Turkey, all three powers being at that time opposed to Russia’s “system.” She accordingly united with Austria to support the candidature of the late king’s son, Augustus of Saxony. So far as Russia was concerned, the War of the Polish Succession was quickly over. Much more important was the Crimean War of 1736-39. This war marks the beginning of that systematic struggle on the part of Russia to recover her natural and legitimate southern boundaries. It lasted four years and a half, and cost her a hundred thousand men and millions of roubles; and though invariably successful, she had to be content with the acquisition of a single city (Azov) with a small district at the mouth of the Don. Yet more had been gained than was immediately apparent. In the first place, this was the only war hitherto waged by Russia against Turkey which had not ended in crushing disaster. Münnich had at least dissipated the illusion of Ottoman invincibility, and taught the Russian soldier that 100,000 janissaries and spahis were no match, in a fair field, for half that number of grenadiers and hussars. In the second place the Tatar hordes had been well nigh exterminated. In the third place Russia’s signal and unexpected successes in the Steppe had immensely increased her prestige on the continent. “This court begins to have a great deal to say in the affairs of Europe,” remarked the English minister, Sir Claudius Rondeau, a year later.

The last days of Anne were absorbed by the endeavour to strengthen the position of the heir to the throne, the baby cesarevich Ivan, afterwards Ivan VI., the son of the empress’s niece, Anna Leopoldovna, against the superior claims of her cousin the cesarevna Elizabeth. The empress herself died three months later (28th of October 1740). Her last act was to appoint Biren regent during the infancy of her great-nephew.

Anne was a grim, sullen woman, frankly sensual, but as well-meaning as ignorance and vindictiveness would allow her to be. But she had much natural good sense, was a true friend and, in her more cheerful moments, an amiable companion. Lady Rondeau’s portrait of the empress shows her to the best advantage. She is described as a large woman, towering above all the cavaliers of her court, but very well shaped for her size, easy and graceful in her person, of a majestic bearing, but with an awfulness in her countenance which revolted those who disliked her.

See R. Nisbet Bain, The Pupils of Peter the Great (London, 1897); Letters from a lady who resided some years in Russia (i.e. Lady Rondeau) (London, 1775); Christoph Hermann Manstein, Mémoires sur la Russie (Amsterdam, 1771; English edition, London, 1856); Gerhard Anton von Haiem, Lebensschreibung des Feldm. B. C. Grafen von Münnich (Oldenburg, 1803); Claudius Rondeau, Diplomatic Despatches from Russia, 1728-1739 (St Petersburg, 1889-1892). (R. N. B.)

  1. Vasily Golitsuin’s expedition under the regency of Sophia was the first Crimean War (1687-89).