History has served up its fair share of unruly leaders. Over the course of noted history, there has been no end to the reigns of tyranny that have taken place and while things are nothing like how they used to be now, we can look back at past eras as a warning of what might be. Such is the case with Anna Ioannovna. A widowed Russian noble, Anna Ioannovna was chosen to lead the throne after the death of Peter II in 1730. While others believed they could use her weakness in order to pass their own laws, Ioannovna soon showed her true strength, controlling the nation in a way that had never been seen before.
When the then-Emperor, Peter II died in 1730, those in power searched for a replacement. As he was only 14 years old when he was in charge, Peter had left behind no offspring and therefore, didn’t have any clear kin to succeed him at the head of the country. The Supreme Privy Council, an elite group comprised of aristocrats, searched high and low to find a suitable replacement, giving the role to Anna, who they decided they would use as their personal puppet. When she entered into power, Anna was given a huge number of documents to sign, essentially increasing the amount of power the Supreme Privy Council would have on the country. Anna was not allowed to marry, spend government money, tax the people or make war or peace.
On the other side of things, however, the nobility in the country feared the move the aristocrats had made. Protesting their new conditions, the nobility pressured Anna to override the documents she had signed and rule with her own unmitigated power. A week later, Anna shredded the documents before the eyes of the Supreme Privy Council, following her own path into power.
Having got off on a rocky foot, Anna was highly protective of her new position as Empress. From the off, she revived the Secret Search Chancellery, a secret police force that had full authority to torture or kill any opponents to Anna’s reign. Leaving official documentation to her lover, Anna focused on keeping her people and the nations around her under her own control.
Focused on things other than pressing state matters, the Empress was known to often abandon her post, leaving for hunting parties for days at a time. At the same time, Biron, her lover, was divvying up important government positions to Baltic Germans, a move which upset a huge number of the Russian people.
When it came to matters of war, however, Anna was all in. Under her reign, military power grew a huge amount, building up a great deal of firepower against the Ottoman empire. The Turkish-controlled area of Crimea was soon under Russian power and thanks to Anna’s cold influence, the nation gained a great deal more ground in later years.
Entertainment was a vital part of Anna’s court and she put a great deal of time and attention into ensuring that she got exactly what she wanted. Her court was a menagerie of fortune tellers, dwarves and entertainers and gambling was at an all time high under her influence. While her taste was questionable, the Empress always made sure her staff gave her exactly what she wanted.
Marriages were very much Anna’s remit and over the course of her life, she arranged many an elaborate affair. In one famous instance, she constructed an ice palace to honor the marriage of one of her jesters and his fiancee. The ceremony was a lavish affair and at the end, the newlyweds were strong armed into consummating their union atop an ice bed, in front of the crowd of guests.
Bizarre, colorful and feared, Anna Ioannovna was a Russian ruler unlike any other. Just 10 years after she had taken the throne, she died at the hand of health issues. Despite this, Anna went down in history, remembered for the very strange and brutal reign she enacted.