Anna was Peter the Great's niece and a daughter of Tzar Ivan V, half brother and nominal co-ruler of Peter I. She was given, at the age of 17, in marriage to the Duke of Kurlandia. Her husband, Friederich-Wilhelm of Kurland, died after two months of marriage in 1711, leaving her as reigning duchess.
After the death of emperor Peter II Alekseevich there were no direct male heirs of the Romanovs, so again there was the question of who would be the next ruler. The Russian Privy Council offered Anna the Russian crown in 1730, ignoring succession rights of Peter's daughter Elizabeth, on the conditions of restriction of Anna's future power in favor of the Council.
But unrest ensued and soon after coronation she broke the agreement and, with support of the Guards, became an absolute ruler. Having become a full autocratic Empress, she dissolved the Supreme Privy Council.
Anna was of a cheerful disposition and had many fools around. She loved festivities and merry-making and her court was considered by many to be the most splendid in Europe. She had patience and common-sense but preferred to sign official documents unread and leave the ruling to two Germans, Field Marshall Muennich and Count Ostermann. However, these were soon eclipsed by the Empress's lover, Ernst Buehren, or Biron, whom she brought to Russia.
Empress Anna Ivanovna was not well educated nor a well-mannered lady. She had rough voice and rough manners, was not neat and had the taste of a man. She preferred horseback riding and shooting to ruling the country. She had a taste for guns and enjoyed shooting through windows at birds in her garden. Lazy and easily bored, she surrounded herself with gossiping women, dwarfs and hunchbacks.
The Senate, first established by Peter the Great, took on a greater role in the government. The economy of the country became weaker and weaker because of wars, including an unsuccessful one with Turkey. The result of another war was that Moldavia became part of Russia. In general, the army and navy were not taken well care of.
During her reign, which lasted from 1730-1740, Russian peasants suffered from oppression and often tried to flee the country. Members of high society were not altogether satisfied with her rule, either. Several cruel political trials shook society and several Russian dukes were prosecuted and exiled to Siberia.
The empress Anna Ivanovna did not leave any children and approaching death, she passed the throne to a two-month-old infant, Ivan V.