The future empress Anna was born in Moscow as the daughter of Tsar Ivan V and Praskovia Saltykova. Her father was the elder half-brother of Peter the Great, who was his co-ruler as he was considered mentally disabled. She had four other sisters, of which only two others survived to adulthood. Anna was the second surviving daughter. After her father’s death in 1696, Peter succeeded her father as sole ruler.
Anna’s education consisted of languages, religion, folklore, music and dancing. She and her family were eventually ordered to move to St. Petersburg and Anna flourished at court. In 1710 her marriage to Frederick William, Duke of Courland was arranged. She was just 17 years old. It was a great feast. They spent a few weeks in Russia before returning to Courland. Tragedy struck on the way back when Frederick William died suddenly. Anna proceeded to the capital of Courland, which now lies in Latvia, and personally ruled it for almost twenty years, as regent. She never remarried, but instead, there were rumours of a relationship with Ernst Johann von Biron.
In 1730 her native land suffered a succession crisis with the death of Tsar Peter II, a grandson of Peter the Great. Possible candidates for the throne were her elder sister Catherine, herself, her younger sister Paskovya and the two surviving daughters of Peter the Great, Anna and Elizabeth. It could be said that the daughters of Ivan, the elder brother, should have a superior right.
Eventually, the Russian Supreme Privy Council selected Anna to be the new Empress of Russia. This ignored the rights of her elder sister, Catherine, who was even present in Russia at the time. The reasons for choosing Anna were clear, she was a childless widow and as such, had no foreign husband who could pose a threat and she had experience in government. Catherine was separated from her husband, Karl Leopold, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, which in itself was a scandal and his very existence could raise problems. They also had a daughter, Anna Leopoldovna, which provided for a sure succession, which at the time they would rather not have had.
Anna was convinced to sign a declaration of conditions, which stated she had to govern according to their counsel, she was not permitted to start a war, call for peace or create new taxes. She dutifully signed the conditions while still in Courland, but promptly repudiated them upon her arrival in Russia. She was to be an absolute monarch.