It actually means the Age of Biron, and it’s fitting today because today is the anniversary of the birth of Empress Anna of Russia.
Anna was born to Ivan V and Praskovia Saltykova in 1693. Her mother, a very stern woman did most of the primary rearing of the young child who would become Empress of All the Russias. Anna was destined for the nunnery according to her mother, and grew UP confined to a royal cult of domesticity.
Her upbringing was known to not allow for development of personality and caused her to have cruel tendencies later in life. She did learn French, German, dancing, religion, and Russian folklore.
Referred to as obstinate and having a mean streak, her mother referred to her as Ivan the Terrible.
Her uncle, Czar Peter the Great ordered her family to move to St. Petersburg which allowed Anna to finally have a life, blossom some, and enjoy the grandeur of the Russian Court.
And its raunchiness as well!
The Russian Court was historically immoral; version and perversion ran rampant.
Ever the politician, Peter the Great arranged a marriage for the Grand Duchess and endowed her with 200,000 rubles, or a big pile of cash.
The wedding was a big do, and immediately after the ceremony was performed two dwarfs jumped out of pies parodying their vows.
Just a few weeks into the marriage, and on the road to Courtland her ancestral home, her husband, Duke Frederick, died.
Word is that he caught a chill and died or got drunk and froze to death or got drunk caught, a chill, and died.
Either way, the boy was a drinker, and Anna kept on heading home where she ruled the tiny Duchy of Courtland (part of Western Latvia) with an iron fist.
She had some help from a Russian Advisor, Peter Bestuzhev, who BTW was also her “occasional lover”.
Hmmm, what’s the Russian term for Booty Call?
When Uncle Pete back in the big city died, the Russian Supreme Privy Council under the direction of Prince Dimitri, named Anna Empress of All the Russias.
Their plan, you see, was to make her feel indebted to the nobles for her unexpected fortune. Hoping she would remain a figurehead at best, and manageable at worst, they wanted to establish a Constitutional Monarchy in Russia which had been ruled by an Autocrat since day one.
They convinced her to sign laws that limited her power. Unbeknownst to her, the points written were designed to completely limit her power. She could not start war, call for peace, create new taxes, or promote individuals to high ranks. She could not punish nobility without trial, could not grant estates or villages, could not promote anyone – either foreigners or Russians – to court office, and she could not spend the revenue generated by the state.
She simply didn’t get what was going on, and the changes seemed a minor inconvenience to her.
With the rest of the nobility freaking out about the changes, Anna was presented with a petition by eight hundred noblemen at the foot of the Kremlin urging her that Russia could only be ruled in an autocratic style to continue carrying out Peter’s political, social, and economic advances.
Her reign is referred to as “Bironovschina”, the Age of Biron. Ya see, Anna had a boyfriend. He was German, and his name was Biron.
Her courts were made UP of mostly foreigners, the majority of whom were German. Most historians argue that Biron had a strong influence on Anna’s somestic and foreign policies and at times in essence ruled Russia by himself.
The girl was smitten.
She was attracted to his charm and appreciated his companionship – it was a welcome relief after her tragic marriage and sketchy love affair back in Courtland.
Anna never remarried; as empress of Russia she enjoyed the power she held over all men and viewed marriage as unnecessary. Plus, she was getting some on the side.
Biron, outside of the domestic relationship, was cruel, terroristic, and just plain evil. Anna’s rule is often avoided in Russian history simply because of its unfavorable consequences during the decade.
Many often refer to it as the “dark era.”
Her people felt a Russian autocrat could not afford to be weak of character – and Anna truly was,
Anna’s rule reeks of questionable recurring evil instances towards subjects and situations. There were continued issues with serfdom, taxation, political dishonesty, and a reign marked by constant fear.
When Anna died at age 47 from an enormous kidney stone, she named her nephew heir and his mother regent. Both German, the child was locked in a dungeon, the mother banished. Biron was run out of town.
For 22 years his name was never mentioned. He was invited back to the Russian Court by Peter III, the lunatic son of Catherine the Great.
Anna was not discussed.