Birthday anniversary of the Russian Emperor Peter III

21 February 1728

10 (21) February, 1728 in the capital of the Duchy of Holstein, Kiel, was born Karl Peter Ulrich Holstein-Gottorp - future Russian Emperor Peter III Fedorovich.

His father was the ruler of the Duchy, Karl Friedrich, and his mother - daughter of Peter I, Anna Petrovna. In his father's line, Karl Peter Ulrich was the great-nephew of the Swedish King Charles XII, and was declared heir to the Swedish throne. At the age of 11 the Crown Prince was orphaned after his parents died, and was brought up in the house of great-uncle, Adolf Frederick, the future King of Sweden. Prince’s educators paid little attention to his education and often severely punished the boy.

In 1742, the Russian Empress Elizabeth Petrovna proclaimed Karl Peter Ulrich heir to the Russian throne as the only male descendant of Peter I. At her request, he was taken to St. Petersburg, where he converted to Orthodoxy under the name of Grand Duke Peter Fedorovich. Academician J. Staehelin was appointed his teacher and mentor. In 1745, Peter married Catherine Alexeevna (née Princess Sophia Augusta Frederica of Anhalt-Zerbst) - the future Empress Catherine II. After the wedding, Peter and Catherine were given in their possession Oranienbaum and Lyubertsy.

After the death of Elizabeth, December 25, 1761 (January 5, 1762) Peter Fedorovich was proclaimed Emperor of Russia and ascended the throne under the name of Peter III. One of his first steps was the conclusion of peace with Prussia, which eliminated all of Russia's successes in the Seven Years’ War. During his short reign, Peter III issued a large number of decrees and other legal acts. Among the most important initiatives of the new emperor was the abolition of the Secret Investigation Office, the main body of political investigation and trial in Russia. Along with the elimination of the office was forbidden the "Word and Deed of Sovereign" (institution of informants), and many statesmen were allowed to return from exile – B. Munnich, E. Biron, I. Lestocq and others. Under Peter III began the process of secularization of church lands, the persecution of Old Believers was brought to a stop, and an attempt to introduce religious freedom was made.

The most important document of the reign of Peter III was the Manifesto of February 18 (March 1), 1762 on "Granting of Liberty and Freedom to the Russian Nobility" ("Manifesto on Freedoms of the Nobility"). Under this statute, the nobles were exempt from compulsory military or civilian service, could retire and travel abroad. The manifesto had been the basis for the exclusive privileged position of the nobility in the Russian Empire for a long time.

Inconsistent and contradictory internal and external policy of Peter as well as personal hostility to the Emperor of many high-ranking government and military officials, was the basis for the preparation of a palace coup. The most active role in the conspiracy against the emperor played Guard officers, among who were the famous brothers Gregory, Alexei and Fyodor Orlov. In addition, the conspiracy was joined by many high-ranking officials – N. Panin, M. Volkonsky, K. Razumovsky and others. June 28 (July 9), 1762, Catherine Alexeevna came from Peterhof to St. Petersburg, where she was proclaimed Empress. Soon the Guard, the Senate and the Synod swore allegiance to her. Learning of this, Peter first moved to Kronstadt, and then arrived to Oranienbaum, where he signed the abdication. Accompanied by guards led by Alexei Orlov the former emperor was taken to Ropsha.

6 (17) July 1762, in Ropsha, Peter Fedorovich died under mysterious circumstances. The official version was a disease, but many of his contemporaries and scholars insist on the violent death. Initially, Peter Fedorovich was buried in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. After the death of Catherine II in 1796, and the accession to the throne of their son, Paul I Petrovich, the remains of Peter III were transferred to the Peter and Paul Fortress and buried along with the burial of Catherine.

The mysterious death of Peter Fedorovich caused several movements of impostors posing as the rescued Emperor, the most famous of which was Emelyan Pugachev.


Lit.: Вернадский Г. В. Манифест Петра III о вольности дворянской и законодательная комиссия. Б.м., 1914; Кричевцев М. В. Кабинет Елизаветы Петровны и Петра III. Новосибирск, 1993; Курукин И. В. Эпоха «дворских бурь»: Очерки политической истории послепетровской России. 1725-1762 гг. Рязань, 2003; Мыльников А. С. Искушение чудом: «русский принц», его прототипы и двойники-самозванцы. Л., 1991; Он же. «Он не был похож на государя…»: Пётр III: Повествование в документах и версиях. СПб., 2001; Переворот 1762 г. Сочинения и переписка участников и современников. М., 1908; Штелин Я. Я. Записки Штелина о Петре третьем, императоре всероссийском. СПб., 1894.


Based on the Presidential Library’s materials:

Краткое описание болезни и кончины ея величества государыни императрицы Елисаветы Петровны, вечной славы достойныя памяти, и благополучнаго на престол возшествия его величества государя императора Петра Третияго. СПб., 1762;

Письма и записки императрицы Елизаветы Петровны к великому князю Петру Федоровичу, великой княгине Екатерине Алексеевне, кабинет-секретарю Ивану Антоновичу Черкасову, С.В. Бутурлиной и разным близким к государыне лицам, 1741-1761 г. СПб., 1867;

Русские портреты XVIII и XIX столетий. Т. 2, вып. 1. СПб., 1906. Изобр. № 2: Портрет императора Петра III;

Соловьёв Д. Борьба за престол (Пётр III и Екатерина II). М., 1912;

Фирсов Н. Н. Пётр III и Екатерина II. Первые годы ее царствования: опыт характеристик: с портр. Пг.; М., 1915;

Щебальский П. К. Политическая система Петра III: с прил. док. М., 1870;

Яворский Ф. Пётр III, его дурачества, любовные похождения и кончина. Лондон, 1903.