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The Reign of Peter III (December 25, 1761 - June 28, 1762)
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The Reign of Peter II (1727-1730)

In May, 1727 Catherine I died. According to her will Peter II was assigned to her successor on the throne, and High Secret Counsel was assigned to the collective regent till Peter's II coming of age. This politic combination was worked out and accomplished by Menshikov, who reckoned on marring his daughter to the young emperor and thus to became a real ruler during the reign of Peter's successors.

Peter II was an unbalanced, inconstant boy; he didn't show the interest to anything, except hunting, and seemed to be perfect for manipulating by ingenious favourite. First time after Peter's II enthroning things went according to Menshikov's plan: he managed to keep Tsar-boy under his control, made him and his daughter Maria engaged, obtained new privileges, among which there was a title of Generalissimos, appropriate only for members of the royal family.

However, in summer 1727, when, because of his illness, his activity grew less, the young emperor changed his attitude, avoided his former mentor and didn't conceal that he had new favourits - the Dolgorukys, father and son. It turned out that in the time of need Menshikov didn't have devoted supporters, and his own protégé, vice-chancellor A.I. Osterman, organized the plot against him. In September 1727 Menshikov was arrested and together with his family exiled to Siberian town Beresov, where he died soon. The reaches of Menshikov's family were confiscated; part of it was spent on the preparation of the coronation of Peter II in Moscow, where the court had moved.

Menshikov's fall led to changes in High Secret Counsel: two Dolgorukys became its members - talented diplomat Vasiliy Lukich and Aleksey Grigorievich, rather common person, who obtained his weight due to his son's relationship with the emperor. The Dolgorukys decided to marry Peter II to Ivan's sister Catherine Dolgorukaya. The wedding was to be on January 19. But on January 18, 1730, at night, the young emperor died at the age of 15. At a desperate attempt to hold the power, Dolgorukys tried to use the forged will of Peter II according to which Catherine Dolgorukaya would be the empress, but High Secret Counsel stopped them.

At the extraordinary session of the Counsel on the day of death of Peter II D.M. Golitsin took the initiative. That was he who suggested the candidacy of Curlandia dower duchess Anna Ivanovna for the reigning but not ruling sovereign. This choice answered the plans of Counsel to restrict the power of the monarch and to make the weakest candidate for the throne agree with it. After all the members of Counsel accepted the plan, V.L. Dolgoruky was sent to Mitava, bringing to Anna the text of 'conditions' to be accepted before her enthroning.

The 'conditions', presented to the would-be empress included the following: if there was no the agreement of Counsel, she couldn't declare a war or sign peace, approve the budget or introduce new taxes, give ranks higher than Colonel, grant land to anybody, assign to court officials, execute the nobles, deprive them of honour and property without the trial. Apart from it, she had to come to Russia alone, without her favourite - Count E.I. Biron. The suggestions of Counsel led to establishment of oligarchic rule - the empress was to preserve Counsel of 8 members and transfer the Army and the Guards under its control.

Having received Anna Ivanovna's agreement, on February 2 Counsel declared the news to the extended session with the higher officials of the Government. Nevertheless, the participants of the session didn't trust the secretly worked out project of the state reformation, and protested against it. Then Counsel allowed the nobles to take part in the discussion and express their considerations. By the middle of February seven alternative projects were worked out, which showed on the one hand, the agreement with the idea of restriction of the monarch power, and on the other hand, dissatisfaction with the aristocratic dictatorship presented by High Secret Counsel. The nobility demanded for themselves the wide representation in higher establishments and satisfaction of the needs of the estate.

The threat of failure of Counsel plan appeared from the other direction, too. While the problems with the nobles were being settled down, the supporters of the traditional form of absolutism, and the first - Ph. Prokopovich and A.I. Osterman, developed their activity. Skillfully playing on the public opinion, secretly sending detailed reports and advice to Anna, by the time of her arrival in Moscow (February 15) they prepared the ground for restoring the autocracy. The weakness of the constitutional movement in 1730, disagreement between the nobles and Counsel, growing opposition had made it possible for Anna to control the situation. Supported by the Guards and the growing number of her adherents, on February 5 at the reception in Kremlin Palace she torn the 'conditions' at public and declared herself the ruling empress. Counsel was dissolved and repressed.

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