Ivan, the great-grandson of Czar Ivan V, was born on 13 August 1740 and adopted on 27 October as her heir by Empress Anna Ivanovna (1693-1740), his great-aunt, who had no natural heirs.
His father was Anton Ulrich, Duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1714-74), and Anna Ivanovna's nephew. She died the following day, and the baby Ivan became Czar of all the Russians. Russia was effectively ruled by his mother, Anna Leopoldovna, as regent for a few months, but a palace conspiracy the next year placed Elizabeth Petrovna (daughter of Peter the Great) on the throne instead.
Ivan and his parents were exiled to Riga, Rannenborg Castle, and Kholmogory, during which time three more children were born, but Ivan was separated from his parents in 1744. His mother died in 1746.
From the age of four he was kept incommunicado and in virtual solitary confinement until his death. In 1756 Ivan was moved to the Schlüsselburg Fortress, where his imprisonment was so secret that not even his jailers knew who he was. His confinement affected his mental health but did not drive him completely insane. He was assassinated by his guards in 1764 during an abortive rescue attempt.
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