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Supreme Secret Council Supreme Secret Council

19 January

On January 19, 1730, the Supreme Secret Council approved Princess Anna Ioannovna, the niece of Peter the Great, as the new Russian Empress. Though her rights were limited by the special “Conditions” document, which literally delegated all power to the Secret Council, Anna, though having spent nineteen years in exile, managed to fight them off and seize absolute power.

Brought up by peasant nannies, Anna knew more about magic and miracles than she did about history and geography, despite her mother’s efforts to make an educated girl out of her. When Anna moved to Saint Petersburg, she changed her lifestyle drastically, as she attended all the balls and celebrations at the palace, was courteous with Peter and his wife Catherine. Peter the Great, in his desire to expand his influence in the Baltic region, made Anna marry the Duke of Kurland, part of modern Latvia. However, after the marriage in 1710, the Duke died on the way to Kurland, failing Peter’s mission. Peter still forced Anna to stay in Kurland, which she did for 19 years, alone, abandoned and forgotten by the royal family. She was so poor she even had to ask Peter for money to pay her servants.

When Peter II, the grandson of Peter the Great, died on January 19, 1730, there was no heir left to the throne. The Supreme Secret Counsel ,which consisted of prominent political figures, decided to pick Anna, who had lived abroad and therefore was the most harmless and easiest to control out of all possible candidates, unlike Peter the Great’s daughter Elizaveta, who had been raised at the court and was aware of all the court scheming.

The nobility, however, was greatly displeased by the choice, as they realized that with Anna as Empress, the Secret Counsel would take power and lead the country to anarchy.

The Counsel sent ambassadors to Anna to provide her with the “Conditions”. According to these rules, true power was allocated to the Secret Counsel, including the right to proclaim wars. To become an empress, Anna had to sign this list. The ambassadors told Anna that the nobility approved the “Conditions”, but the opposition managed to send Anna a letter with the description of the real situation in it. Anna thought that she should accept the Counsel’s offer – if there was opposition, it gave an opportunity to reinstate as absolute monarch. Anna signed the “Conditions” and, in February, 1730, moved to Russia.

When she arrived on February 25, 1730, a delegation of nobles came to the palace, where the Secret Counsel was having a session. They insisted on the Empress’s audience, and requested Anna to call the Nobility Counsel, as the nobility were going to develop the principles of Anna’s government. Anna, against the will of the Counsel, signed the petition and said, that the session of the Nobility Assembly would take place immediately. She ordered the nobles not to leave the room until they made all necessary decisions. The Assembly proclaimed Anna absolute sovereign and did away with the Secret Counsel, while Anna ordered the “Conditions” with her signature be brought to her. She tore the paper into pieces, asserting herself as absolute monarch.