Anna of Russia Biography

Anna of Russia, the daughter of Tsar Ivan V, reigned as Empress of Russia from 1730 to 1740. Initially serving as the regent of the duchy of Courland, Anna was unexpectedly offered the throne after the sudden death of Tsar Peter II. Despite being intended as a figurehead ruler, Anna dissolved the Supreme Privy Council and became heavily influenced by her German lover, Duke Ernst Johann von Biron. While she continued some of her uncle’s reformative initiatives, her reign is often seen as a dark era in Russian history due to her personal flaws and excessive foreign influence in her government.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Anna Ioannovna, Anna Ivanovna
  • Died At Age: 47
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Duke of Courland, Frederick William
    • Father: Ivan V of Russia
    • Mother: Praskovia Saltykova
    • Siblings: Maria Ivanovna, Tsarevna Catherine Ivanovna of Russia, Tsarevna Feodosia Ivanovna, Tsarevna Praskovya Ivanovna of Russia
    • Children: Peter III of Russia
  • Born Country: Russia
  • Died on: October 28, 1740
  • Place of Death: Saint Petersburg, Russia
  • Cause of Death: Kidney Stones
  • City: Moscow, Russia

Childhood & Early Life

Anna of Russia was born as Anna Ioannovna on February 7, 1693, in Moscow, Tsardom of Russia, to Tsar Ivan V and Praskovia Saltykova. Her father ruled together with his younger half-brother Peter the Great until his death in 1696. Anna was the fourth of five daughters and had one surviving older sister, Catherine, and one younger sister, Praskovia. Her mother raised her daughters with stern discipline and morals.

Anna received a formal education that included learning French and German, as well as religious texts and folklores. She developed a stubborn and grim demeanor as she grew older, earning her the nickname “Iv-anna the Terrible”. She moved from Moscow to St. Petersburg with her family, where she experienced a stark contrast to the austere life prescribed by her mother.

Marriage & Personal Life

At the age of 17, Anna was arranged to marry Frederick William, Duke of Courland, by Peter the Great. The wedding was a grand affair, but Duke Frederick died shortly after the marriage. Anna returned to St. Petersburg and was sent to Mitau, the capital of Courland, by Peter the Great. She desired to remarry but was rejected by her uncle. She formed a relationship with German duke Ernst Johann von Biron and it has been rumored that they had a son together.


Anna became the favorite candidate for the Russian throne after the illness of Tsar Peter II. She was closer in line to the throne than Peter the Great’s daughters, who were born out of wedlock. Anna did not have a husband or an heir, which made her preferable to the Supreme Privy Council. She signed a document of ‘Conditions’ that sought to limit her authority and became the ruler after Peter II’s death.


During her reign, Anna continued the major architectural constructions started by Peter the Great and attempted to westernize Russian culture. She funded the Russian Academy of Science and introduced the Cadet Corps to train young boys for the military. Russia was involved in wars during her reign, including the War of the Polish Succession and the Russo-Turkish War.

Death & Succession

Anna’s health declined due to an ulcer on her kidneys. She named Ivan VI, the grandchild of her sister Catherine, as her successor with Biron serving as regent. However, Elizabeth Petrovna, the daughter of Peter the Great, seized power after Anna’s death and imprisoned the infant heir.


Anna of Russia was known for her cruelty and crude sense of humor. She mistreated her subjects and humiliated disabled people. She forced Prince Mikhail Alekseevich Golitsyn, a noble whom she had made a court jester, to marry her unattractive maid and spend the night in an ice palace in winter.

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