Peter II of Russia
|Emperor of Russia|
|Reign||18 May 1727 – 30 January 1730|
|Coronation||25 February 1728|
|Born||23 October 1715|
|Died||30 January 1730 (aged 14)|
|Father||Alexei Petrovich, Tsarevich of Russia|
|Mother||Princess Charlotte Christine of Brunswick-Lüneburg|
Peter II Alexeyevich (Russian: Пётр II Алексеевич, Pyotr II Alekseyevich) (23 October [O.S. 12 October] 1715 – 30 January [O.S. 19 January] 1730) reigned as Emperor of Russia from 1727 until his death. He was the only son of Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich (son of Peter the Great by his first wife, Eudoxia Lopukhina) and of Charlotte Christine of Brunswick-Lüneburg.
Peter was born in Saint Petersburg on 23 (O.S. 12) October 1715. His mother died when he was only ten days old. His father, Prince Alexis, accused of treason by his own father, Peter the Great, died in prison in 1718. So three-year-old Peter and his four-year-old sister, Natalia, were orphaned. Their grandfather showed no interest in their upbringing and education: the Tsar had disliked their father and even their grandmother, his own first wife, and young Peter in particular reminded him of his only son Alexis, whom the Tsar suspected of treachery. Therefore, from his childhood, the orphaned Peter was kept in the strictest seclusion. His earliest governesses were the wives of a tailor and a vintner from the Dutch settlement, while a sailor named Norman taught him the rudiments of navigation. When he grew older, however, Peter was placed under the care of a Hungarian noble, Janos (Ivan) Zeikin (Zékány), who seems to have been a conscientious teacher.
Peter the Great died in 1725 and was succeeded by his second wife, Catherine I, a woman of low birth. The powerful minister Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov, who had aided in Catherine's accession, replaced the boy’s teachers with the vice-chancellor, Count Ostermann. The program of education that Ostermann compiled included history, geography, mathematics, and foreign languages, but the overall education of the future emperor remained shallow and left much to be desired. Peter himself did not display much interest in science; his favorite occupations were hunting and feasting.
During the reign of Catherine I, young Peter was ignored; but by the time she died in 1727, it had become clear to those in power that the only male-line grandson of Peter the Great could not be kept from his inheritance much longer. The majority of the nation and three-quarters of the nobility were on his side, while his uncle, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI (Peter's uncle on his mother's side), persistently urged Peter's claims through the imperial ambassador at Saint Petersburg. Through the efforts of Menshikov, Peter was named Catherine's heir apparent, even though Catherine had two daughters of her own. The Empress also gave her consent to the betrothal of Peter to Menshikov’s daughter Maria.
After Catherine's death and the proclamation of Peter II as emperor, Menshikov took the young autocrat into his own house on Vasilievsky Island and had full control over all of his actions. For a few months in the summer of 1727, "Not even Peter the Great was so feared or so obeyed" according to the Saxon ambassador. Menshikov became arrogant and domineering. He issued orders to the Emperor himself and then removed a silver plate that Peter had just given as a gift to his sister Natalya. To which the Emperor replied, "We shall see who is emperor, you or I." Soon, however, Menshikov became sick, and his opponents took advantage of his illness. Under the influence of Ostermann and the Dolgorukovs, Peter – long sick of Menshikov’s wardship – stripped him of his rank and exiled him to Siberia. He also announced the dissolution of his engagement with Menshikov’s daughter.
The senate, the privy council and the guards took the oath of allegiance forthwith. At this time, German mathematician Christian Goldbach was appointed tutor to the young Peter II to take over for the one appointed by Menshikov.
Peter II was quick-witted, but apparently a stubborn and wayward boy, much like his grandfather. Despite these similarities, the emperor had no desire to learn to rule, unlike Peter the Great. His young age meant that he could not adequately manage public affairs, and he almost never appeared at the Supreme Privy Council. This led to frustration among his subjects and the royal administration – officials did not dare to assume responsibility for important decisions. The Russian fleet was abandoned, but Peter II showed no interest in the matter. Peter tightened serfdom by banning serfs from volunteering for military service and thus escaping serfdom.
With the fall of Menshikov and related court intrigues, the Emperor’s main favorites became Prince Aleksey Dolgorukov and his son Ivan, who maintained great influence over his decisions. According to contemporaries, Ivan Dolgorukov lived a reckless and profligate lifestyle, leading Peter II to spend much time feasting, playing cards and enjoying the company of women. He soon became addicted to alcohol.
The coronation of Peter II took place in Moscow on 9 January 1728, with the Emperor and a huge entourage. Still, he was disengaged from the affairs of state. Foreign witnesses proclaimed that “All of Russia is in terrible disorder ... money is not paid to anyone. God knows what will happen with finances. Everyone steals, as much as he can.” Moving the court and several other institutions from St. Petersburg back to Moscow was painful for the new capital, as well as the nobility forced to move with it, as Peter the Great had put much effort into developing St. Petersburg into a large and lively city at the time.
Peter II returned to St. Petersburg from time to time, but continued an aimless life full of entertainment and distraction. He gradually fell under the ultimate influence of the Dolgorukovs – Peter II became smitten with the 18-year-old beauty Ekaterina Alekseyevna Dolgorukova. The family schemed to tie themselves to the imperial bloodline, and persuaded Peter to marry Ekaterina. However, it soon became clear that the young monarch had no interest in his bride, perhaps influenced by his aunt Elizabeth Petrovna, who did not like Ekaterina. The wedding went forward regardless, set to take place on 19/30 January 1730.
“Peter II has not reached the age when a person's personality has already shaped,” Russian historian Nikolay Kostomarov wrote. “While contemporaries praised his natural intelligence and good heart, they only hoped for that good to happen in the future. However, his behavior did not give chances to hope that he would be a good ruler. He hated learning and thinking about national affairs. He was totally engrossed in amusements, and was kept under someone else's influence.”
In late December 1729, Peter II fell dangerously ill. His condition deteriorated sharply after the frosty Epiphany Day in January 1730, when he participated in a feast. He was then rushed into the palace, standing at the back of his sleigh. The next day, doctors diagnosed him with smallpox. The Dolgorukovs attempted to get the emperor to sign a testament naming Ekaterina as his heir, but they were not allowed into the dying emperor’s quarters: Peter II was already unconscious. In his delirium, he ordered horses so that he could go see his recently deceased sister Natalya. A few minutes later, he died.
Emperor Peter II died as dawn broke on 30 January 1730 – the day he had planned to marry Ekaterina Dolgorukova. He is buried in the Cathedral of the Archangel located at the Moscow Kremlin and was the only post-Petrine Russian monarch given that honor; along with Ivan VI (who was murdered and buried in the fortress of Shlisselburg), he is the only post-Petrine monarch not buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Peter II of Russia.|
- Konstantin Arseniev (1839) (in Russian) The reign of Peter II (Царствование Петра II) at Runivers.ru in DjVu and PDF formats
- on YouTube – Historical reconstruction "The Romanovs". StarMedia. Babich-Design(Russia, 2013)
- http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/akiado/ssash/2004/00000049/f0020003/art00005. Missing or empty
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- Nicholas Riasanovsky, The History of Russia, page 250
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Peter II.". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
| Emperor of Russia
18 May 1727– 29 January 1730