Coming from a poor noble family, Ivan Shuvalov soon lost his father - Ivan Shuvalov Sr., who served in the Guard. She brought up Shuvalov Jr. mother - Tatiana Rodionovna. The boy's childhood took place in the estate of his grandfather in Smolensk Province, as well as in Moscow. Even then, in his early years, Ivan showed a great interest in reading, self-education. Unlike many peers who were interested in secular entertainment, young Ivan Shuvalov was attracted to books. He read a lot, taught foreign languages. Acquaintance with the French literature of that time made him one of the most advanced people in his views.
How was Shuvalov at court? Thanks to the patronage. His cousins in 1740, 1750, occupied a very serious position in the state hierarchy of the Russian Empire. Alexander Shuvalov (1710-1771), even before Elizabeth Petrovna came to power, was in charge of her palace economy, received the rank of lieutenant-general in 1744, and in 1746, in general, headed the Office of secret investigative files. Pyotr Ivanovich Shuvalov (1711-1762), who served as a clerk and cadet at the crown prince Elizabeth Petrovna, took an active part in the 1741 coup of the year, for which he was promoted to major general and became a senator. Both brothers provided full support to their youngest relative, Ivan Shuvalov. In 1742, the 15-year-old boy began his service at the court of Empress Elizaveta Petrovna as a camera-page. So there was his personal acquaintance with the empress. Then even his cousins Alexander and Peter could not imagine that after some few years the younger Shuvalov would even surpass them, experienced courtiers, in the scale of his influence on the policy of the empress. So far, they only thought that they had securely attached the young man to the court service, and in time he would be able to make a career. But the patrons of the young Shuvalov were wrong - Ivan Ivanovich was least interested in the formal career.
In the 1749 year, 22-year-old Ivan Shuvalov was promoted to Junkers. By this time, from a well-read lad, he had become an educated and prominent young man. In addition to exquisite manners, his external data was bribed in Shuvalov - he was very tall, under two meters, an athletic young man, but without that “rough” appearance that was present in many burly guards officers. Empress Elizaveta Petrovna herself, who is known to be very loving to the male sex, "laid eyes on him" herself. Young attractiveness of Ivan Shuvalov, his tactfulness, good manners and excellent education fascinated the Empress. Ivan turned into one of her favorite chamber junkers and quickly became the favorite of the empress.
By this time, Adjutant General Alexander Shuvalov and his brother Peter were elevated to the count's dignity. But Ivan Shuvalov refused to count the title. In general, he was a very modest man. Ivan Shuvalov did not want to take the count title or other honors. In 1751, he received the position of chamberlain and was no longer going to receive any high posts and titles. He refused not only the title of count, but also the position of senator, as well as the estates proposed by Elizabeth with ten thousand souls of serfs.
At the same time, indifferent to the ranks and wealth, Ivan Shuvalov was able to quickly concentrate in his hands a tremendous influence on the political life of the country. In a certain period, entire directions of the foreign and domestic policies of the Russian Empire were under the control of Ivan Shuvalov. If before it was “moved” by the brothers Alexander and Peter, now the youngest Ivan helped his high-ranking relatives in gaining ranks and positions. Empress Elizabeth Petrovna brought Ivan Shuvalov as close as possible to her. He was the only one of the courtiers who had the opportunity to give a personal report to the empress, he also announced her will to the Senate, governors, and government officials.
I must say that Russia at that time was very lucky with the empress's favorite. Unlike many other courtiers, Ivan Shuvalov was a truly worthy man. His enlightenment immediately reflected on the domestic and foreign policy of the Russian Empire, which in the 1750-ies Ivan Shuvalov had the most serious impact. Since childhood, who knew French very well and admired the writings of French writers and philosophers, Ivan Shuvalov actively promoted the rapprochement of the Russian Empire with France. In France, Shuvalov, apparently, saw the standard of an enlightened monarchy and wanted Russia to come as close as possible in terms of development to this leading European country at that time.
Unfortunately, the political projects of Ivan Ivanovich Shuvalov are still poorly studied. However, it is known that he was a very progressive man for his time and position of convictions. In an effort to promote education, Shuvalov insisted on the need for large-scale liberal-type political reforms. In particular, he advocated the abolition of corporal punishment for nobles and the limitation of their term of service, for streamlining the legal status of underprivileged estates, considered it necessary to develop and put into practice the foundations of a universal education system, he sought to create orphanages and guardianship councils. Apparently, Ivan Shuvalov was also a supporter of the gradual restriction of autocratic power, advocating an increase in the number of senators and the adoption of "fundamental laws" that could limit the ability of the monarch.
Being an intellectual man, Ivan Shuvalov perfectly understood the need for the development of science, culture and art. Using his enormous influence on the empress and the almost unlimited financial possibilities that were opened to him thanks to the position of the favorite, Shuvalov turned into the 1750-ies in the main patron of science and art in Russia. It was he who provided comprehensive support to Mikhail Lomonosov in his endeavors. In 1755, Moscow University was founded with the direct participation of Shuvalov.
12 (23) January 1755, Elizaveta Petrovna signed a decree establishing the Imperial Moscow University.
Date of creation of the first university in the country fell on Tatiana Day. And it was not by chance. Ivan Shuvalov honored his mother Tatyana Rodionovna so much. It was Ivan Ivanovich Shuvalov who was appointed the first curator of the university, having the opportunity to influence his organizational policy and engage in the selection of faculty. Subsequently, many historians accused Shuvalov of claiming that he had appropriated all the true merits of Lomonosov for the creation of a university. However, it is not so simple. Indeed, without the support of Shuvalov, who had an influence on the Empress, Lomonosov would most likely not have been able to push through the project of opening the Moscow University. Rather, Shuvalov played an even more important role in the creation of the university, resolving many important organizational and political issues. In Soviet times, the merits of Shuvalov in the creation of Moscow University were relegated to the background.
For political reasons, it was beneficial to represent the sole initiator of the creation of the university of a native of the people of Mikhail Lomonosov, and not the royal leader and chamberlain Ivan Shuvalov. They preferred not to talk about the merits of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna herself. For a long time, Mikhail Lomonosov was considered the only initiator of the creation of the university, although it is clear to any more or less knowledgeable person that with all due respect to Lomonosov, if he did not enlist the support of Shuvalov and then the empress, there would simply be no Moscow University. It was only in 1990-s that they again started talking about the role of Shuvalov in the creation of the main higher education institution in the country, they even established an award named after Shuvalov, and named one of the new buildings of Moscow State University in honor of the royal chamberlain. Monument to Ivan Shuvalov was installed at the building of the Fundamental Library of Moscow State University.
In the 1757 year, also with the enormous participation of Shuvalov, the Imperial Academy of Arts was opened. Originally it was even placed in the famous mansion of Ivan Shuvalov on the corner of Italian street and Malaya Sadovaya. In 1758, the first classes started at the academy. At first, the state did not seek to allocate large sums of money to finance the academy. Only 6 thousand rubles a year were issued for the needs of the newly opened educational institution, which was sorely lacking. The situation was corrected by Ivan Shuvalov himself, who began to supply the academy from his own funds. He invited and paid for the arrival of famous art teachers from France and Germany, organized the first intake of students, and most importantly, he donated his collection of paintings to the Academy. For six years, from 1757 to 1763, Ivan Shuvalov served as president of the Imperial Academy of Arts. In the 1757 year, Shuvalov nevertheless received the rank of lieutenant-general, although he was not directly associated with the army and military service.
A difficult period in the life of the favorite Elizaveta Petrovna began after the death of the Empress. In 1762, Catherine (Princess of Anhalt-Zerbst) overthrew her husband Peter II, after which she reigned on the Russian throne for many decades. Following the overthrow of Peter, Catherine embarked on the "cleansing" of the court circles from the favorites of Elizaveta Petrovna. Naturally, the closest ally of Elizabeth Ivan Shuvalov came under attack. He was sent to a long "link" abroad. Ivan Shuvalov settled in France and, thanks to his fame and manners, quickly entered the circle of the French Empress Marie Antoinette. For a foreigner, it was a tremendous success, of which, of course, the new empress Catherine II also learned.
Being a clever and prudent woman, Catherine II quickly realized that Ivan Shuvalov could be perfectly used for lobbying Russian interests abroad, primarily in France. So Ivan Shuvalov turned into a prominent diplomat, carrying out instructions that were strategically important for the Russian Empire. Although formally Shuvalov was abroad "on treatment", in fact, he was almost fourteen years old, from 1763 to 1777, led diplomatic work. The attitude of Catherine II to the former favorite of the late Elizabeth has changed. In 1773, Shuvalov was promoted to real secret advisers, and in 1777, he returned to the Russian Empire. By this time, 50-year-old Shuvalov no longer took an active part in the political life of the country, although in 1778, he received the title of Chief Chamberlain of the imperial court. In the same year, he was again appointed curator of the Imperial Moscow University - Catherine understood that no one could cope better with Ivan Shuvalov.
Not participating in active political life, Shuvalov, however, tried to take part in the cultural life of the country. The most important cultural figures of Yekaterininskaya Russia - Dashkova, Fonvizin, Derzhavin - were entered in the mansion of the patron of arts. To the best of his financial capabilities, which, despite the well-known disinterestedness of Ivan Ivanovich Shuvalov, were nevertheless very significant, he tried to help cultural and scientific figures, artists, poets. He helped a lot of them very much - not only with money, but also with his intercession, using the remnants of the former influence on court life. So, it is known that he covered Mikhail Kheraskov, Yakov Knyazhnin, helped Nikolay Novikov with the creation of a philanthropic institution - hospitals and schools for orphans from poor families. Although Catherine II did not support this idea, Ivan Shuvalov himself undertook to finance an orphanage in order to divert the empress's possible anger towards herself. But here, too, he got away with everything - to Ivan Shuvalov, fate was generally very favorable. Well treated to Ivan Shuvalov and Tsarevich Pavel Petrovich. It is interesting that Shuvalov, supporting financially scientists, artists, poets, preferred not to interfere in their scientific and creative activities, tried to give them complete freedom of expression.
An outstanding Russian statesman and philanthropist, Ivan Shuvalov lived a relatively long life by the standards. He survived Elizabeth Petrovna and Catherine II, having died 15 (26) November 1797 at the age of 70 years - already during the reign of Emperor Paul I. Unfortunately, the contribution of Ivan Ivanovich Shuvalov to the political and cultural development of the Russian state is still not sufficiently appreciated, therefore this prominent statesman often undeservedly fails.