Ernst Johann Biron was born in 1690, and died in 1772. He was the Duke of Courland, a political figure of Empress Anna Ioannovna and her favorite, and later – regent of the Russian Empire.
Actually, his name sounded like Buren or Biren, but he was adopted a French version of Biron. At 28, Biron came to the court of Anna in Courland, and in 1730 moved to Russia as an ober-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 – “bironovshchina.” Characteristic features of this period are considered dominance of foreigners, exploitation of the people and looting of the country.
Now historians come to the fact that although the period of the reign of Anna Ioannovna and Biron, although it was relatively unsuccessful for the country, it is still not worth to evaluate it straightforwardly. It is not surprising that around the person of Biron goes a lot of myths and legends, which we will consider.
Russia Biron was not needed at all.
It’s hard to say what Russia needed after the lapse of 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, the story turned out that a split in the ruling circles prompted Anna to dissolve the Privy Council and establish an absolute monarchy. Russia at that time itself thus made its choice.
Under Biron, the country was in stagnation, it did nothing good for Russia.
Despite the fact that both the Duke and Anna Ioannovna came to power in many ways accidentally, they did a good deal. Of course, the lack of education in many ways prevented them. Biron did not finish university, and the empress in general never really studied anywhere. A negative phenomenon is the restoration of the Order of Transfiguration established by Peter the Great, which became a symbol similar to the NKVD under Stalin. During the 10 years of Anna’s reign, 20 thousand people were exiled to Siberia, and 1,000 were completely exterminated. This now seems to us such figures merciful, but for the contemporaries of Catherine and Elizabeth it looked like terror. It was believed that Biron allowed the administration of the state by foreign ministers Minich and Osterman, although those, in fact, were put forward by Peter I. Although the Duke of Courland disliked Russians, he did his best not to interfere with their rites. It was Biron who introduced Bestuzhev-Ryumin Cabinet into Osterman Peak, against the will of Minich, supported Prince Shakhovsky in Ukraine. Repressions in many ways were caused by the empress herself and those to whom she was obliged by her unlimited power. Historians usually agree on the opinion that rumors about the horrors of the “bironovshchina” are exaggerated.
Biron at one time was Anna’s groom.
It was this 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 of horses turned to the state of great benefit. During the times of Anna Ioannovna, several stud farms were founded, laid down by the beginning of the famous Russian breeds. In those days, the horse was the only possible means of transportation and a significant tool in agriculture. So it is Biron who can be considered the founder of the domestic automotive industry and agricultural machinery.
Biron had a child from Anna Ioannovna.
This story is very mysterious, like everything related to the illegitimate offspring of the rulers. Historians tend to think that it probably was. 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, Charles was awarded the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called, which was received only by the children of the crowned ones.This indirectly confirms the theory of the kinship of the child with the empress. She tried never to be separated from the boy. The boy slept in her room until the last days of Anna. Contemporaries also noted the outwardly similar resemblance between the Empress and Karl Ernst. After Biron’s exile in Courland, his son practically disappeared from the political and historical map – quietly marrying the Duchess of Ponin, Karl Ernst quietly died in 1801.
Biron’s wife was ugly and hunchbacked.
This myth was originated by Prince Dolgoruky, an opponent of Biron. Pyotr Dolgoruky wrote: “Anna Ioannovna chose one of her maids of honor, Benigna Gottlieb, for her, she was stupid, ugly, very weak, and completely incapable of marital life.” The latter circumstance particularly affected the choice of the duchess … ” However, the facts indicate another. There is a huge number of gentle letters of the Duke to his wife. Biron gave his wife gifts, they had children. Contemporaries admired her figure, and how would she then become a maid of honor with a hump on her back? Wives of diplomats admired her waist and bust. Spoiled Appearance Benigna pockmarked face, but she carefully concealed them with powder. When her husband fell into disgrace, she immediately followed him into exile.
Biron was a Mason.
There is no evidence of this, nor about the role of Masons in the socio-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, so 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 swap places with him, after which his predecessor fell into disgrace. After Biron, the Empress did not have any other favorites. Pyotr Mikhailovich was famous for giving Russia a son – the future chancellor.
Biron promoted everything German in Russia.
Naturally, any person, having come to power, seeks 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 insignificantly. Yes, and a full-fledged German Biron was still not, as he was a German-Kurland. It would be reasonable to assume that the management skills of Russia should not be correlated with nationality, the more Germans always personified an order that we always lacked.
Biron was a bribe-taker and a public embezzler.
This myth also belongs to the Duke’s ill-wishers and grief-historians. Allegedly, Biron ruined the state by stealing millions of rubles. They also said that with the help of his client, Shemberg, the duke exploited Russian crafts and mining plants. Here are just no documents on this occasion so to find and failed. However, there is reliable evidence that Biron rejected large sums of money, which at that time were common. The biggest gift from the Empress was 5 million rubles, granted a policy on the occasion of the conclusion of peace with Turkey. However, Biron received from this amount only 100 thousand.
The whole era of Anna Ioannovna’s rule was held under the sign of Biron.
For psychological reasons, the role of the favorite is exaggerated. It is advantageous for many to show that the Empress, Peter’s niece, is not to blame for the state’s problems, but the foreigner Biron. In fact, very few documents testify to the role of Biron in the policy of the state. Do not forget about the power and capabilities of Minich and Osterman. One of them, in fact, ruled 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 with 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, however he was pardoned and sent to penal servitude. The accession to the throne of Elizabeth allowed to relocate to the disgraced favorite in Yaroslavl, Peter III returned to him the orders and insignia, and Catherine restored Biron to the Courland throne. Biron died at 82, transferring the throne to his son.