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Ernst Johann Biron was born in 1690 and died in 1772. He was the Duke of Courland, the politician of Empress Anna Ioannovna and her favorite, and later - the regent of the Russian Empire.
In fact, his surname sounded like Buren or Biren, but he adopted the French version of Biron. At the age of 28, Biron came to the court of Anna in Courland, and in 1730 he moved to Russia as chief chamberlain.
The duke became famous for having a huge influence on the empress, being her favorite, it is believed that the state policy of that time was determined by him. There was even a term - "Bironovism". The dominance of foreigners, the exploitation of the people and the plunder of the country are considered to be characteristic features of this period.
Now historians come to the conclusion that although the period of the reign of Anna Ioannovna and Biron, although it was relatively unsuccessful for the country, it is still not worthwhile to assess it straightforwardly. It is not surprising that there are many myths and legends around the person of Biron, which we will consider.
Myths about Biron Ernst Johann
Russia did not need Biron at all. It's hard to say what Russia needed after years. Probably, the country did not need either Biron or Anna Ioannovna, it would be better if the power belonged to the Privy Council. This would allow Russia to meet the second quarter of the 18th century with a constitutional monarchy. However, history turned so that a split in the ruling circles pushed Anna to dissolve the Privy Council and establish an absolute monarchy. Russia at that time itself thereby made its choice.
Under Biron, the country was generally in stagnation, he did nothing good for Russia. Despite the fact that both the duke and Anna Ioannovna came to power largely by accident, they did a lot of good. Of course, the lack of education hindered them in many ways. Biron did not graduate from the university, and the empress never really studied anywhere. A negative phenomenon can be called the restoration of the Preobrazhensky order established by Peter the Great, which became a symbol like the NKVD under Stalin. Over the 10 years of Anna's reign, 20 thousand people were exiled to Siberia, and 1000 were executed altogether. Now such figures seem to us merciful, but for the contemporaries of Catherine and Elizabeth, it looked like terror. It was believed that Biron allowed foreign ministers Minich and Osterman to rule the state, although they were actually nominated by Peter I. Although the Duke of Courland and disliked Russians, he did his best not to interfere with their rituals. It was Biron who introduced the Cabinet of Ministers of Bestuzhev-Ryumin to the defiance of Osterman, against the will of Minich supported Prince Shakhovsky in Ukraine. The repressions were largely caused by the empress herself and those to whom she owed her unlimited power. Historians usually agree that rumors about the horrors of "Bironovism" are exaggerated.
Biron was at one time Anna's groom. It was such an insulting nickname that the duke received for his love of horses, although, of course, he was not a groom. In 1718, Biron entered the office of the then duchess. Even more, it was Biron who became the founder of the domestic horse breeding. And his love for horses turned out to be a great benefit for the state. During the time of Anna Ioannovna, several stud farms were founded, the foundations of the famous Russian breeds were laid. In those days, the horse was the only possible means of transportation and an important tool in agriculture. So it is Biron who can be considered the founder of the domestic automotive industry and agricultural engineering.
Biron had a child with Anna Ioannovna. This story is very mysterious, like everything connected with the illegitimate offspring of the rulers. Historians are inclined to think that this was most likely the case. Biron had a younger son, who was recorded as the child of his wife. Even at birth, the boy was enrolled in the Preobrazhensky regiment, and at the age of nine, Karl was awarded the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called, which was received only by children of the crowned separately. This indirectly confirms the theory of the child's relationship with the empress. She tried never to be separated from the boy. The boy slept in her room until Anna's last days. Contemporaries noted a distant outward resemblance between the Empress and Karl Ernst. After Biron's exile to Courland, his son practically disappeared from the political and historical map - having quietly married the Duchess of Poninsky, Karl Ernst died quietly in 1801.
Biron's wife was ugly and hunchbacked. This myth was generated by Prince Dolgoruky, the enemy of Biron. Pyotr Dolgoruky wrote: “Anna Ioannovna chose one of her maids of honor, Benigna Gottlieb, as his wife. She was stupid, ugly, of very poor health and completely incapable of marriage. The latter circumstance especially influenced the choice of the duchess ...”. However, the facts show otherwise. There are a great many of the Duke's affectionate letters to his wife. Biron gave gifts to his wife, they had children. Contemporaries admired her figure, and how would she then become a maid of honor with a hump on her back? Diplomats' wives admired her waist and bust. Benigna's appearance was spoiled by pockmarks on her face, but she diligently masked them with powder. When her husband fell into disgrace, she immediately followed him into exile.
Biron was a Freemason. There is no evidence of this, as well as of the role of Freemasons in the social and political life of the country at that time.
Biron was intolerant of the church. Domestic policy during this period was quite tolerant, it was during this period that the first Buddhists appeared in Russia, they were even officially allowed to build temples. In fact, everything was allowed, as long as there was no confusion.
Biron was the only favorite of Anna Ioannovna. Even before Biron, Anna had another favorite - Peter Mikhailovich Bestuzhev-Ryumin. The merit of Biron was that he was able to switch places with him, after which his predecessor fell into disgrace. After Biron, the empress had no other favorites. Pyotr Mikhailovich became famous for giving Russia a son - the future chancellor.
Biron promoted everything German in Russia. Naturally, any person, having come to power, strives to create his own team and work with those he knows well. It is not surprising that under Anna Ioannovna the German party increased. However, the number of Germans was hardly greater than under Peter. And under Elizabeth, the number of Germans decreased, but not significantly. And Biron was still not a full-fledged German, since he was a German-Kurland. It would be reasonable to assume that the skills of managing Russia should not be correlated with nationality, especially since the Germans have always personified the order, which we have always lacked.
Biron was a bribe-taker and embezzler. This myth also belongs to the duke's ill-wishers and would-be historians. Biron allegedly ruined the state by stealing millions of rubles. They also said that with the help of his client Schemberg, the Duke exploited Russian crafts and mining plants. But it was not possible to find any documents on this matter. However, there is credible evidence that Biron rejected large monetary gifts from himself, which were common at the time. The biggest gift from the empress was 5 million rubles, given to the politician on the occasion of the conclusion of peace with Turkey. However, Biron received only 100 thousand from this amount.
The entire era of Anna Ioannovna's reign passed under the sign of Biron. For psychological reasons, the role of the favorite is exaggerated. It is beneficial for many to show that it is not the Empress, Peter's niece, that is to blame for the problems of the state, but the foreigner Biron. In fact, there are very few documents testifying to the role of Biron in state policy. Do not forget about the power and capabilities of Minich and Osterman. One of them, in fact, ran the army, and the other - external affairs.
Biron's career ended with the death of Anna Ioannovna. By the will of the late Empress, Biron became regent under the young heir, John Antonovich. During this period, the duke developed an unprecedented state activity, which was distinguished by a humane attitude towards the people. Subsequently, as a result of the conspiracy of the heir's parents, Biron was sentenced to death, but pardoned and sent to hard labor. The accession to the throne of Elizabeth allowed the disgraced favorite to move to Yaroslavl, Peter III returned his orders and insignia, and Catherine restored Biron to the Courland throne. Biron died at 82, passing the throne to his son.