Elizabeth Petrovna, empress of Russia, daughter of Peter the Great and Catharine I., born in 1709, died Jan. 5, 1762. After the death of her parents, her nephew, Peter II. (1727-'30), son of Alexis, and her cousin Anna Ivanovna (1730-'40), daughter of the elder brother of Peter the Great, successively occupied the throne of Russia, for which she showed little desire, the pleasures of love, as she used to say, being her supreme good. Anna appointed Ivan, son of Anthony Ulrich, duke of Brunswick, a child but a few months old, heir to the crown under the tutelage of his mother Anna, and the regency of Biron, the favorite of the empress. Thus Elizabeth was for a third time excluded from the throne of her father, but even her freedom was now menaced by the jealousy of the mother of the infant czar, who wished to get rid both of the regent and the princess, and advised the latter to take the veil. Under these circumstances her surgeon and favorite, Lestocq, brought about a conspiracy, which being seconded by the favor of the national Russian party, and the intrigues of the ambassador of Louis XV., terminated in a military insurrection, the overthrow of Anna and Ivan, and the proclamation of Elizabeth as empress (December, 1741). Anna and her husband, as well as many other victims, were punished by confinement, and the young prince was imprisoned in the fortress of Schlusselburg, which he never again left; while the successive favorites of Elizabeth, like herself destitute of character and talent, ruled the court and Russia. Her vanity equalled her gross sensuality; but, though sometimes exceedingly cruel and barbarous, she often showed humanity, and even generosity.
Subsequently some abler Russians obtained the management of affairs, among them Rumiantzeff, Bestuzheff, and Vo-rontzoff. Peter, son of her deceased elder sister Anna, duchess of Holstein-Gottorp, was appointed heir to the throne. A war with Sweden was successfully conducted, and terminated in the peace of Abo (1743). A plot against her was detected, and the parties implicated were severely punished. An army sent to assist the empress Maria Theresa against Frederick the Great contributed to the conclusion of the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748). Influenced by Shuvaloff and Bestuzheff against Prussia, and mortified by a sarcasm of the witty Prussian king, Elizabeth allied herself against him with Austria and France in the seven years' war; and her armies, under Apraxin, Fermor, Soltikoff, and Buturlin, contributed not a little to the distresses of the almost isolated Prussian monarch. They won the battles of Gross-Jagerndorf and Kunersdorf, took Col-berg, and even occupied Berlin. The death of the empress not only freed Frederick from a dangerous enemy, but also promised to give him in her successor, Peter III., an ardent supporter. The licentious disorder in her court lasted till her death.
Razumovski, originally an obscure Cossack, successively her servant, chamberlain, and field marshal, finally became her secret husband, and is regarded as the father of three of her children. The founding of the university of Moscow and of the academy of fine arts at St. Petersburg are among her greatest merits. She patronized the fine arts, and carried on a correspondence with Voltaire, furnishing him with materials for the history of her father.