From Documents in Russian History
The "Conditions" of Anna Ivanovna's Accession to the Throne, 1730
The sudden death of the young Peter II in early 1730 threw Russia into a serious succession crisis. With no remaining male heirs to the Romanov line, the ruling elites dominated by the Dolgorukii and Golitsyn families, turned to Anna Ivanovna, daughter of the feeble-minded Ivan V and niece of Peter the Great, as an acceptably weak and innocuous candidate for the throne. To insure their continuing domination under the new ruler, the elites, working through the institution of the Supreme Privy Council created by Catherine I, required Anna to sign a document stipulating a number of significant restrictions on her power as a monarch. But when Anna arrived in Moscow and news of the "conditions" of her accession to the throne became known, a storm of protest broke out among the nobility who feared the power of the Supreme Privy Council. In the constitutional crisis that ensured a number of projects and proposals were put forward. Ultimately, however, Anna, relying on the support of the nobility and guards regiments, opted to repudiate the previously signed conditions and restore to Russia the principle of unimpeded autocratic rule. In retrospect, some historians have interpreted Anna's "conditions"as a precedent for constitutionalism in Russia. The text of Anna's conditions follows:
We hereby give a most binding promise that my main concern and effort shall be not only to maintain but to spread, as far as possible and in every way, our Orthodox faith of the Greek Confession. Moreover, after accepting the Russian crown, I will not enter into wedlock so long as I live; nor will I designate a successor, either in my lifetime or after. We also promise that, since the safety and welfare of every state depends upon good counsel, we will always maintain the Supreme Privy Council as it is at present established with its membership of eight persons. Without the consent of this Supreme Privy Council:
- We will not start a war with anybody.
- We will not conclude peace.
- We will not burden our faithful subjects with new taxes.
- We will not promote anybody to high rank--above the rank of colonel--either in the civil or military service, be it on land or sea, nor will we assign any important affair to anybody; the guards and other important regiments are to remain under the control of the Supreme Privy Council.
- We will not deprive members of the nobility [shliakhetstvo] of life, possessions, or honor without a court of law.
- We will not grant any patrimonies [votchiny] or villages.
- We will not promote anyone, whether Russian or foreign, to an office at court without the advice of the Supreme Privy Council.
- We will not spend any revenues of state.
And [we also promise] to maintain an unalterably favorable disposition toward all our faithful subjects. Should I not carry out or fail to live up to any part of this promise, I shall be deprived of the Russian crown.
Translation by Daniel Field