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IVAN VI

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V15, Page 91 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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IVAN VI. (1740-1764), emperor of Russia, was the son of Prince Antony Ulrich of Brunswick, and the princess Anna Leopoldovna of Mecklenburg, and great-nephew of the empress Anne, who adopted him and declared him her successor on the 5th of October 1740, when he was only eight weeks old. On the death of Anne (October 17th) he was proclaimed emperor, and on the following day Ernest Johann Biren, duke of Courland, was appointed regent. On the fall of Biren (November 8th), the regency passed to the baby tsar's mother, though the government was in the hands of the capable vice-chancellor, Andrei Osterman. A little more than twelve months later, a coup d'etat placed the tsesarevna Elizabeth on the throne (December 6, 1741), and Ivan and his family were imprisoned in the fortress of Dunamunde (Ust Dvinsk) (December 13, 1742) after a preliminary detention at Riga, from whence the new empress had at first decided to send them home to Brunswick. In June 1744 they were transferred to Kholmogory on the White Sea, where Ivan, isolated from his family, and seeing nobody but his gaoler, remained for the next twelve years. Rumours of his confinement at Kholmogory having leaked out, he was secretly transferred to the fortress of Schlusselburg (1756), where he was still more rigorously guarded, the very commandant of the fortress not knowing who " a certain arrestant " committed to his care really was. On the accession of Peter III. the condition of the unfortunate prisoner seemed about to be ameliorated, for the kind-hearted emperor visited and sympathized with him; but Peter himself was overthrown a few weeks later. In the instructions sent to Ivan's guardian, Prince Churmtyev, the latter was ordered to chain up his charge, and even scourge him should he become refractory. On the accession of Catherine still more stringent orders were sent to the officer in charge of " the nameless one." If any attempt were made from outside to release him, the prisoner was to be put to death; in no circumstances was he to be delivered alive into any one's hands, even if his deliverers produced,the empress's own sign-manual authorizing his release. By this time, twenty years of solitary confinement had disturbed Ivan's mental equilibrium, though he does not seem to have been actually insane. Nevertheless, despite the mystery surrounding him, he was well aware of his imperial origin,and always called himself gosudar(sovereign). Though instructions had been given to keep him ignorant, he had been taught his letters and could read his Bible. Nor could his residence at Schlusselburg remain concealed for ever, and its discovery was the cause of his ruin. A sub-lieutenant of the garrison, Vasily Mirovich, found out all about him, and formed a plan for freeing and proclaiming him emperor. At midnight on the 5th of July 1764, Mirovich won over some of the garrison, arrested the commandant, Berednikov, and demanded the delivery of Ivan, who there and then was murdered by his gaolers in obedience to the secret instructions already in their possession. See R. Nisbet Bain, The Pupils of Peter the Great (London, 1897) ; M. Semevsky, Ivan VI. Antonovich (Rus.) (St Petersburg, 1866); A. Bruckner, The Emperor Ivan VI. and his Family (Rus.) (Moscow, 1874) ; V. A. Bilbasov, Geschichte Catherine II. (vol. ii., Berlin, 1891-1893). (R. N. B.)
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