She was the second daughter of Tsar Ivan V Alekseevich and his wife, Praskov'ia Fedorovna
Saltykova. Her father, the half- brother of Peter I,
who had shared the throne with him died when she was three. She married
Friedrich-Whilhelm, Duke of Courland, in 1710. Unfortunately the groom died a
few months later and the couple were just starting for his capital at Mitau.
She remained at St. Petersburg until 1717, when Peter decided to send her to
Mitau as a surogate to enhance the Russian influence. In 1730 her fortunes
suddenly took a favorable turn.
Peter II died on 18 January of 1730. This threw the
Supreme Privy Council into a frenzy to find a successor. According to the most
recent decree on the question, promulgated by Peter I in 1722, the choice of
successor was up to the Tsar himself. But the boy, Peter II, had died with
either fathering or selecting an heir. None of the female children of Peter I
seemed suitable, especially since the objective of the magnates who composed
the Privy Council was to retain their own control of affairs. The Golitsyn
faction finally proposed to crown Anna, thinking her weak enough to control. A
set of "conditions" was hastily drawn up and sent to her to sign.
These 'conditions' amounted to the ruler's aquiescence in continued effective
power resting in the hands of the small number of magnates who composed the
Council. Their interests were opposed by the gentry, the middle level service
class. The opposition got word to Anna, who didn't like the idea of being a
figurehead anyway. She was encouraged, therefore, to tear up the articles,
which she did on 25 February. Taking charge as an autocrat, she quickly
abolished the Privy Council and assigned government power back to the Senate.
She later created a Cabinet of Ministers, which gradually took over practical
Anna did not involve herself directly as an autocrat, but effectivelly served
as the personification of autocracy, that enabled her government to continue
traditional Russian rule in her name. During the following ten years it became
apparent the the state military apparatus no longer needed the lifetime service
of the entire noble class. Thus decrees were issued reducing service to 25
years and also assigning some elements of the nobility to the civil service.
During Anna's reign domestic policy and economic development continued in the
tradition set by Peter I. There was a continual development, also, of western
In foreign affairs Anna or her minister, Count Andree Osterman, were quite
successful in maintaining the Petrine policy of alliance with the Hapsburg
Empire at the expense of France. In 1733 Russia opposed the election of the
French candidate, Stanislas Leszczynski, to the Polish throne. Marshal Munnich
led the Russian forces to besiege Danzig and place the Russian candidate,
Frederich Augustus, elector of Saxony, on the throne. In the following War of
the Polish Succession Russian troops were found for the first time as far west
as the Rhine. Russian objectives were achieved, even though the Austrian ones
were not. Russia also managed to place another favorite on the Ducal throne of
Courland, thus keeping that key area out of French and Swedish sphere of
influence. Russian success against the Tatars and Ottoman Empire was even
greater. Although Marshal Munnich's first campaign to gain entrance to Crimea
in 1736 ultimately had to withdraw in the face of the hot weather, the Russian
army did capture Kinburn and Azov to the west and east. In the immediately
following years Russian arms took Ochakov, Khotin and Yassy. They overran all
of Moldavia. In the subsequent peace signed in Belgrade Russia confirmed at
least some of its gains.
Just prior to her death Anna declared her grand nephew,
Ivan VI, her heir. She was trying to secure the succession in line of her
father, Ivan V, and exclude the descendents of Peter I. But Ivan VI was a one
year old baby and his mother, Anna Leopol'dovna had little influence or
political backing. It was no great task for the energetic Elizabeth Petrovna,
Peter I's illegitimate daughter, to secure the allegience of the guards
regiments and exile Anna while locking her baby in a dungeon.