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Anna I of Russia (Ivanovna)

From: Russia
Fields: Government and Politics
Key Words/Phrases: Tsarina, Empress of Russia
Anna Ivanovna (Anna I), a daughter of Ivan V and a niece of Peter the Great, ruled Russia from 1730 to 1740. She was the most autocratic of Peter's successors. Her ascendancy to the Russian throne was supported by the Russian aristocracy. She was 37 years old at the time, a widow of a German duke and childless. The Privy Council members chose Anna Ivanovna over Elizabeth, a teenage daughter of Peter the Great, who was another contender to the throne. They imposed on Anna a constitution modeled after Sweden's which restored some of their previously lost privileges and freed them from compulsory service. She agreed not to marry again, gave up the royal right to declare war and to levy taxes, and allowed the Privy Council to name her successor. After coming to power, Anna enlisted support of opponents of the court aristocracy and rescinded all prior concessions.

Under Tsarina Anna Ivanovna power of the government shifted from the Privy Council to the ministers she brought from Kurland, the so-called German party, dominated by Baron Ostermann, an excellent administrator, Munnich, the builder of the Ladoga Canal, and Anna's favorite, Ernst Johann Biron. The German party was strongly disliked by the Russians, especially Biron, who used his position for personal aggrandizement. Opposition to the ruling government, however, was punished with torture, death and exile.

Tsarina Anna Ivanovna rejuvenated the Russian army and established the cadet corps. She intervened in the War of the Polish Succession and, in alliance with Austria, warred against the Turks (1736-39). She also supported Russia's emerging interest in ballet. The first public performance of the Russian ballet took place in 1735 and was staged for Tsarina Anna by Jean-Baptiste Lande, the dance master of the Military Academy. Noting the Russians' love and talent for dance, Lande founded three years later, "Her Majesty's Dancing School" with twelve children of palace servants as students. Soon after, ballet presentations became fashionable. Opera was also introduced to Russia during Anna Ivanovna's reign, when an Italian composer Francesco Araja was invited to come to St. Petersburg to be director of the new opera company.

Contributed by Danuta Bois, 1997.

1. History of Russia Fifth Edition by Walther Kirchner, Barnes and Noble College Outline Series, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1972
2. Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia
3. Land of the Firebird. The Beauty of Old Russia by Susanne Massie, Simon and Schuster, 1980
4. Lost Heroines: Little-Known Women Who Changed Their World by Rebecca Bartholomew, Uintah Springs Press, 1996


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