The Secret Prisoner
and Her Children
This story begins long before Anna Leopol’dovna was born in 1718, and of course that much earlier than her son Ivan Antonovich’s birth in August 1740. We must immerse ourselves in the military and political events which were shaking Europe during 1700–1721, the years of the Northern War.
In 1711–1712, Peter the Great’s Russian army, in alliance with the Saxons and Danes, had entered the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in Northern Germany. Thus, the Northern War, which Russia, Saxonia, Poland, and Denmark had begun against Sweden in the regions near Riga and Narva, had reached the borders of Germany. The allies’ aim was the Swedish crown’s possessions in German Pomerania. By 1716, only the town of Wismar located on the Mecklenburg shore of the Baltic remained in Swedish hands. The allied forces laid siege to Wismar, and a Russian corps commanded by General Anikita Repnin was dispatched to assist them.
By that time Tsar Peter and Charles Leopold, Duke of Mecklenburg, had established rather friendly relations. Having ascended the throne in 1713, the duke considered friendship with the great tsar, the victor of Poltava, advantageous. First, Peter had promised his aid in returning to Mecklenburg the town of Wismar; second, the presence of Russian forces in the duke’s domain suited Charles Leopold just fine, for his relations with the local nobility were strained, and he was hoping that with the help of the Russian club he would be able to subdue the noble-born freethinkers who were discontent with his tyrannical ways.