Elisabeth was the second daughter in the family after Ann born in 1708. As any princess she was taught music, dance, how to dress up, palace etiquette. By the age of eight she could already read. Peter planned to marry his daughters with European sovereigns so a great attention was paid to the teaching of foreign languages. By the age of 16 Elisabeth spoke fluently French, German and Italian. Among the candidates for her fiancées were the king of France Louis XV and a duke of Holstein-Gottorp Karl-August. However the first one preferred another bride, and the second one died shortly before the wedding. After than Elisabeth received many proposals of marriage but none of them had not led to the wedding.
After the death of her mother in 1727, Elisabeth lived mostly away from the court. However in 1741, incited by the French and Sweden diplomats, she decided to make a palace revolution. On November 25 (December 6), 1741, supported with the Guards, she stripped of power the baby-emperor John VI and his mother, regent Anna Leopoldovna.
Having come to power the empress declared the return to Peter the Great reforms as a main principle of the state policy. She abolished the state institutions that had appeared after her father’s death (such as the Cabinet of Ministers), reestablished the role of the Senate, Collegiums, the General magistrate, eliminated the domestic customs. In 1754 under the order of the empress there was created the Law systematization commission in order to develop a new code of laws. The Commission developed the reforms projects for the church lands secularization, nobles’ privileges legalization, etc.
During the reign of Elisabeth the moratorium for death penalty was in effect though formally it was not abolished.
Among the important events in the field of science and art that marked the age of Elisabeth were the Moscow University foundation in 1755 on the initiative of M. V. Lomonosov and I. I. Shuvalov, the foundation of gymnasiums in Moscow and Kazan as well as the Academy of arts. In 1756 under the empress’ decree the first professional Russian theater was established. Palaces and churches designed on the empress’ order by the architect F.B. Rastrelli adorned St.-Petersburg and its suburbs.
Continuing her father traditions in the external politics the empress succeeded to strengthen the authority of Russia among European countries. During the war with Sweden in 1741 – 1743 Russia not only held Peter’s winnings but also annexed to its territory a part of Finland. Russian participation in the Seven Years’ war of 1756-1763 against Prussia, which tried to break status quo in the Central Europe, brought fame to the Russian arms.
On December 25, 1761 (January 5, 1762) Elisabeth died. The empress was buried in the Peter and Paul cathedral in St.-Petersburg, emperor family burial vault.
Lit.: Вейдемейер А. Царствование Елисаветы Петровны. Сочинение А. Вейдемейера, служащее продолжением Обзора главнейших происшествий в России, с кончины Петра Великаго… . СПб., 1834. Ч. 1, ч. 2; Гельбиг Г. фон. Русские избранники / Пер. В. А. Бильбасова. М., 1999; Иоанна-Елизавета Ангальт-Цербстская. Известия, писанные княгиней Иоанной-Елизаветой Ангальт-Цербстской, матерью императрицы Екатерины, о прибытии её с дочерью в Россию и о торжествах по случаю присоединения к православию и бракосочетания последней. 1744-1745 годы // Сборник Российского исторического общества, 1871. Т. 7. С. 7-67; К истории воцарения императрицы Елизаветы Петровны / Сообщ. П. Ильинский // Русская старина, 1893. Т. 78. № 4. С. 213-215.
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