|Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible)
Wikipedia (April 2011):
- "Ivan oversaw numerous changes in the transition from a
medieval nation state to an empire and emerging regional power, and
became the first Tsar of a new and more powerful nation... At the
core of this political revolution stands the newly adopted title
of Tsar. By being crowned Tsar, Ivan was sending a message to the world
and to Russia: he was now the one and only supreme ruler, and his will
was not to be questioned."
- Historic sources present disparate accounts of Ivan's
complex personality: he was described as intelligent and devout, yet
given to rages and prone to episodic outbreaks of mental illness. One
notable outburst may have resulted in the death of his groomed and
chosen heir Ivan Ivanovich, which led to the passing of the Tsardom to
the younger son: the weak and possibly mentally retarded Feodor I of
- In 1581, Ivan beat his pregnant daughter-in-law for wearing
immodest clothing, and this may have caused a miscarriage. His son,
also named Ivan, upon learning of this, engaged in a heated argument
with his father, which resulted in Ivan striking his son in the head
with his pointed staff, causing his son's (accidental) death."
- "Ivan had made overtures to Queen Elizabeth I of England
several times toward the end of his reign, inquiring about the
possibility of fleeing Moscow and being granted asylum in her realm;
this also has been interpreted by some as another possible sign of his
deteriorating mental health."
- "His contemporaries called him 'Ivan Groznyi' the name,
which, although usually translated as 'Terrible', actually means
something closer to 'Great' and carries connotations of might, power
and strictness rather than horror or cruelty... Perhaps a translation
closer to the intended sense would be Ivan the Fearsome, or Ivan the
Wikipedia (April 2011):
of Alexis' daughters from his first marriage, Sophia Alekseyevna, led a
rebellion of the Streltsy (Russia's elite military corps). In the
subsequent conflict, some of Peter's relatives and friends were
murdered, including Matveev, and Peter witnessed some of these acts of
political violence. The Streltsy uprising of
April–May 1682 made it possible for Sophia, the Miloslavskys (the clan
of Ivan), and their allies, to insist that Peter and Ivan [Ivan
V] be proclaimed joint Tsars, with Ivan being acclaimed as the
senior of the two. Sophia acted as regent during the minority of the
two sovereigns and exercised all power. Peculiarly, a large hole was
cut in the back of the dual-seated throne used by Ivan and Peter.
Sophia would sit behind the throne and listen as Peter conversed with
nobles, also feeding him information and giving him responses to
questions and problems. This throne can be seen in the Kremlin museum
in Moscow. For seven years, she ruled as an autocrat."
- "In 1697, he traveled incognito to Europe on an
18-month journey with a large Russian delegation–the so-called "Grand
Embassy"—to seek the aid of the European monarchs."
- "In England he met with King William III, visited Greenwich
and Oxford... He also travelled to the fledgling city of Manchester to
learn the techniques of city building he would later use to great
effect at Saint Petersburg."
- "Peter founded the city of Saint Petersburg (Germanically
named after Saint Peter the Apostle) ... in 1703. He forbade the
building of stone edifices outside Saint Petersburg - which he intended
to become Russia's capital - so that all stonemasons could
participate in the construction of the new city."
- "During Peter's reign the Russian Orthodox Church was
reformed. The traditional leader of the Church was the Patriarch of
Moscow. In 1700, when the office fell vacant, Peter had refused to name
a replacement, allowing the Patriarch's Coadjutor (or deputy) to
discharge the duties of the office. Twenty-one years later, in 1721,
Peter ... erected the Holy Synod, a council of ten clergymen, to
take the place of the Patriarch and Coadjutor. Peter also implemented a
law that stipulated that no Russian man could join a monastery before
the age of 50."
- "Peter implemented social modernization in an absolute manner by
requiring courtiers, state officials, and the military to shave their
beards and adopt modern clothing styles... Boyars who sought to retain
their beards were required to pay an annual beard tax of one hundred
- "Peter decided that all of the children of the nobility
should have some early education, especially in the areas of sciences.
Therefore, on 28 February 1714, he issued a decree on compulsory
education, which dictated that all Russian 10- to 15-year-old children
of the nobility, government clerks, and even lesser ranked officials,
must learn basic mathematics and geometry, and should be tested on it
at the end of their studies."
- "All of Peter's male children had died—the eldest son,
Alexei, had been tortured and killed on Peter's orders in 1718 because
he had disobeyed his father and opposed official policies."
Wikipedia (April 2011):
- "Elizabeth, the second-oldest surviving daughter of Peter
the Great and Catherine I of Russia... Out of the twelve children of
Peter and Catherine (five sons and seven daughters), only two
daughters, Anna and Elizabeth survived... Her father had tried to also
find a brilliant match for Elizabeth with the French Royal court when
he paid a visit there. It was Peter's intention to marry his second
daughter to the young French King Louis XV, but the Bourbons declined
the offer... At the time of Peter's death, no marriage plan had
- "She was commonly known as the leading beauty of the Russian Empire."
- "... 1741, Elizabeth seized power with the help of the
Preobrazhensky Regiment. ... the troops marched to the Winter Palace
where they arrested the infant Emperor, his parents and their own
lieutenant-colonel, Count von Munnich. It was a daring coup and passed
without bloodshed. Elizabeth had vowed that if she became Empress
that she would not sign a single death sentence, an unusual promise
that she - notably - kept to throughout her life... Generally, she was
one of the best loved Russian monarchs, because she
did not allow Germans in the government and not one person was executed
during her reign."
- "She also spent exorbitant sums of money on the grandiose
baroque projects of her favourite architect, Bartolomeo Rastrelli,
particularly in Peterhof and Tsarskoye Selo. The Winter Palace and the Smolny Cathedral remain the chief monuments of her reign in Saint Petersburg."
- "As an unmarried and childless Empress, it was imperative
for Elizabeth to find a legitimate heir to secure the Romanov dynasty.
She chose her nephew, Peter of Holstein-Gottorp [See Catherine II
- "Under the reign of Elizabeth, the francophile Russian
court was one of the most splendid in all Europe. Foreigners were
amazed at the sheer luxury of the sumptuous balls and masquerades. The
Empress prided herself on her skills as a dancer and wore the most
exquisite dresses. She issued decrees governing the styles of dresses
and decorations worn by courtiers. Nobody was allowed to have the
same hairstyle as the Empress and Elizabeth owned fifteen thousand ball
gowns, several thousand pairs of shoes as well as an unlimited number
of silk stockings. In spite of her love of court, Elizabeth was
|Catherine II (Catherine the Great)
Wikipedia (April 2011):
- "Born in Stettin, Pomerania, Prussia on 2 May [O.S. 21 April] 1729 as Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg."
- "Catherine's father ... held the rank of a Prussian
[German] general ... Catherine did have some (very remote) Russian
ancestry, and two of her first cousins became Kings of Sweden: Gustav
III and Charles XIII. In accordance with the custom then prevailing in
the ruling dynasties of Germany, she received her education chiefly
from a French governess and from tutors."
- The choice of Sophia [Catherine II] "as wife of her second
cousin, the prospective tsar - Peter of Holstein-Gottorp - resulted
from some amount of diplomatic management in which Count Lestocq,
Peter's aunt [the ruling Russian Empress Elizabeth - above] and Frederick II of Prussia took part. Lestocq and Frederick wanted to strengthen the friendship between Prussia and Russia.
- "After the death of the Empress Elizabeth on 5 January
1762, Peter, the Grand Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, succeeded to the
throne as Peter III of Russia, and his wife, Grand Duchess Catherine
became Empress Consort of Russia. The imperial couple moved into the
new Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg."
- "In July 1762, barely six months after becoming the Tsar,
Peter committed the political error of retiring with his Holstein-born
courtiers and relatives to Oranienbaum, leaving his wife in Saint
Petersburg. On 8 and 9 July the Leib Guard revolted, deposed Peter from
power, and proclaimed Catherine the Empress of Russia. The bloodless
coup succeeded ... But eight days after the coup, on 17 July 1762
- just six months after his accession to the throne - Peter
III died at Ropsha, at the hands of Alexei Orlov (younger brother to
Gregory Orlov, then a court favorite and a participant in the coup).
Historians find no evidence for Catherine's complicity in the supposed
- "Under her direct auspices the Russian Empire expanded,
improved its administration, and continued to modernize along Western
European lines. Catherine's rule re-vitalized Russia, which grew
stronger than ever and became recognized as one of the great powers of
Europe. She had successes in foreign policy and oversaw sometimes
brutal reprisals in the wake of rebellion."
- "Catherine's patronage furthered the evolution of the arts
in Russia more than that of any Russian sovereign before or after her.
Catherine had a reputation as a patron of the arts, literature and
education. The Hermitage Museum, which now occupies the whole Winter
Palace, began as Catherine's personal collection."
- "After the French Revolution of 1789, Catherine rejected many
principles of the Enlightenment that she had once viewed favorably."
- "Catherine, throughout her long reign, took many lovers,
often elevating them to high positions for as long as they held her
interest, and then pensioning them off with large estates and gifts of
serfs ... The last of her lovers, Prince Zubov, was 40 years her
junior. Her sexual independence led to many of the legends about her."