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[1725 A.D.]

Russians will love Peter until he himself loses the national ideal, and for the sake of this love they will forgive him all that a heavy burden has laid upon his memory.d


From the sixteenth to the seventeeth centuries a national spirit dominated entirely. Moreover, Russian sovereigns had, for many years, perceived that the people were behind other nations who had sprung into being as late as themselves or who were inferior either in origin or in physical or intellectual faculties. To remedy this tardy growth they conceived it necessary to put themselves into direct contact with the west in order to borrow its light and imitate its progress. The best way of accomplishing this was, they thought, to get as many foreigners as possible into the country to train the young; to give the state new institutions, and remodel the old on western principles. Ivan Vasilievitch had already drawn a crowd of foreigners, and particularly Germans; had even tried to put his army on a European footing. The successors of the Romanov branch followed zealously in this path, but no prince felt more strongly than Peter I the necessity of letting Russia take a foremost place in Europe. His quick impetuous nature detested slow and incomplete measures. To him, to sow without reaping, or prune without tasting the fruits, was labour provoking all his repugnance.

The impetus he gave Russia is that in which she still continues. Everywhere in the public and social life of this people is to be noticed the impulse he gave. It is an accomplished fact that no human power can annul; so all inquiry to find out if this impetus was necessary and favourable to Russia would be inopportune and sterile. There is, however, no doubt that in Peter's haste in his work of reform he did not sufficiently consider national things both great and good; that he introduced a crowd of foreign innovations, some mediocre, some positively bad, without pausing to think whether they were suitable to the climate, the established order of things, or if they would fit in harmoniously with Russian nationality.j

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At the death of Peter the Great two powerful parties were arrayed against each other, one supporting his youthful grandson Alexievitch, and the other advancing the claims of Catherine, the Livonian. The Galitzins, the Dolgoruki, Repnins, and all Old Russia wished to crown Peter's son, Alexis; but those who owed their elevation to Peter I, or had been involved in the suit against his son, as well as the members of the tribunal that had condemned the czarevitch, felt that their only hope of safety lay in raising Catherine to the throne. This party, counting among its numbers the most capable and enlightened men, still held the highest authority in the administration and in the army, and its adversaries felt that a compromise was the most that they could expect. Dmitri Galitzin proposed to proclaim Peter II, but only under the guardianship of the widowed empress.

Tolstoi combated this proposition by showing that it was the surest method of arming parties against each other, of furnishing hostile factions a pretext for inc ting the people to rebellion against the regent. He demonstrated that in the absence of the testamentary disposition she had the best right to succeed Peter I; furthermore, she had been solemnly crowned, had received the oath of allegiance from her subjects, had been initiated into all the state secrets, and had learned from her husband the art of reigning. The officers and regiments of the guards declared energetically in favour of the heroine of Pruth, and it was finally decided that she should reign alone, with an authority as absolute as that of her dead husband. This was a greater novelty in Russia than the regency of Sophia; Catherine was not only a woman, but a foreigner, a captive, and a second wife, scarcely to be considered as a wife at all. Many were the protests against a decision which excluded from the throne the grandson of Peter the Great, and certain of the raskolniks submitted to the torture. rather than swear allegiance to a woman.

Menshikov, one of Catherine's earlier lovers, now became all-powerful. He stopped the suit for mal-administration that the late czar had commenced against him, and obtained for himself Baturin, the former capital of Mazeppa, which was equivalent to the principality of Úkraine. His despotic and evil character rendered him odious to his companions and discord everywhere


[1726-1727 A.D.] broke out among the "eaglets" of Peter the Great. Iagushinski publicly lamented on the tomb of the czar, and Tolstoi was later exiled to Siberia. Catherine, however, restrained the ambition of her favourite and refused to sacrifice her other councillors to him.

Catherine's rule, which was a continuation of that of Peter the Great, gave the lie to the pessimistic predictions that had announced the abandonment of St. Petersburg and the fleet, and the return to Moscow. The greater part of the plans for reform entertained by the czar were put in execution. The Academy of Sciences was inaugurated in 1726, the publication of the Gazette was carefully supervised, the order of Alexander Nevski, originated by Peter, was founded, the Danish captain Béhring was placed at the head of the Kamchatka scientific expedition, Chasirov, recalled from exile, was commanded to write the history of Peter the Great, and Anna Petrovna was solemnly married to the duke of Holstein, to whom she had been affianced by her father. On the other hand the senate and the holy synod lost their title of Directors, and the affairs of state were given into the hands of the secret high council which sat under the presidency of the empress and was composed of Menshikov, the admiral Apraxin, the chancellor Golovkin, Tolstoi, Dmitri Galitzin, and the vice-chancellor Ostermann.

On her deathbed Catherine designated as her successor Peter Alexievitch, the grandson of her husband, and in default of Peter her two daughters Anna of Holstein and Elizabeth. Pending the majority of the youthful emperor the regency was to be conducted by a council composed of Anna and Êlizabeth, the duke of Holstein, Menshikov, Apraxin, Golovkin, Ostermann, and others; but Menshikov after the first sitting took the duties of regent upon himself.

PETER II (1727-1730 A.D.)

The empress died on the 17th of May, 1727, and on the following day the nobility and clergy assembled in the palace to be present at the reading of the will by which Peter was made emperor of all the Russias. Menshikov had taken measures to retain his high position and even to increase his power under the new reign. With the design of removing all those who might be detrimental to him he banished Apraxin from court, sent Iagushinski to Ukraine and despatched Makarov on a mission to the mines of Siberia. Menshikov had further obtained Catherine's consent to the betrothal of his daughter to the young prince. He gave his own palace as a residence for the emperor and surrounded him with men on whose devotion he could count. He assumed the title of generalissimo and signed his letters to his sovereign "your father." He caused the members of his own family to be inscribed in the almanac beside those of the imperial house, and had his daughters mentioned in the public prayers; he also planned to obtain the hand of Peter's sister, Natalia Alexievna, for his son in addition to marrying his daughter to the emperor.

Peter II soon began to chafe under the rule of the generalissimo. Menshikov had appointed Ostermann to be his tutor, but the young prince hated study and preferred to spend his days hunting with his favourite, Ivan Dolgoruki. The adroit Ostermann excused himself to the prince for the disagreeable nature of his pedagogic duties, and contrived to cast all the blame on Menshikov. The emperor one day sent a present of 9,000 ducats to his sister Natalia, and Menshikov insolently confiscated them with the remark that the "emperor was too young to know the proper use of money." Peter

[1728 A.D.]

II rebelled at this and it was with difficulty that the prince appeased him. The generalissimo had another enemy in the person of Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great and aunt of Peter II. She was seventeen years old at the time, gay, careless, and lively, with a bright complexion and blue eyes; her laughter drove the insupportable tutor from his office.

An illness which overtook Menshikov and kept him absent for a time from court prepared his downfall; Peter II accustomed himself to the idea of getting rid of him. When the prince returned and began again to oppose the young ruler's wishes the latter left Menshikov's house, caused all the crown furniture to be removed from it to the imperial palace, treated his affianced wife with marked coldness, and finally gave orders to the guards that they were to obey no commands save those given by their colonels. This was the prelude to an overwhelming disgrace; in September, 1727, Menshikov was arrested, stripped of all his dignities and decorations, and banished to his own lands.

The Dolgorukis profited by the revolution they had caused. They fell, however, into Menshikov's error and oppressed the prince with the same officious care. Like Menshikov they banished all who gave them offence, even Ostermann for whom Peter began to feel affection, and the old czarina, Eudoxia Lapukhin, who had been liberated from the prison in Ladoga. Advancing as a pretext certain placards in which the services of Menshikov were extolled, they exiled the latter to Berezov, in Siberia, where he died in 1729. Taking no lesson by his example they imposed on the prince a new bride, Catherine Dolgoruki, sister of his favourite, Ivan. Their administration bore all the character of a reaction against the reforms instituted by Peter the Great.

In 1728, when the young emperor went to Moscow for his coronation, he was warmly received by the people. Ostermann, however, and all the other faithful servants of the "giant czar" were chagrined at the return of the court to Moscow and its indifference to European affairs in general. In order to gain more complete possession of their master the Dolgoruki encouraged his taste for dissipation and took him away on hunting expeditions that lasted weeks at a time. Peter would certainly have grown as weary of them as he had of Menshikov: and to the complaints of his aunt Elizabeth that she was left without money he had already replied: "It is not my fault: they do not execute my orders; but I shall find means to break my chains." The crisis came about in a different manner from what had been expected; the young emperor caught cold while attending the ceremony of the benediction of the waters, and died of small-pox at the age of fourteen years and four months. The two reigns of Catherine and Peter II, which lasted in all about five years, were peaceful.

In 1726 Russia had concluded an alliance with the court of Vienna and in 1727 it became involved in the war of the Quadruple Alliance. Despite the efforts of Campredon and Kurakin the failure of the project of marriage between Louis XV and Elizabeth had brought about coolness between France and Russia. The most remarkable episode of the foreign relations was the attempt of Maurice of Saxony, illegitimate son of King Augustus, to obtain possession of the duchy of Courland. The offer of his hand had been accepted by the widowed Anna Ivanovna, and he had been elected at Mittau by the deputies of the nobility. Disregarding the protestations of Prussia, Russia, and the Polish diet, he levied a body of troops with the money raised by the sale of the jewels belonging to an abbess of Quedlinburg, a certain French actress, his mother Aurora of Königsmark, and Adrienne Lecouvreur, and set

[1730 A.D.] about putting his duchy in a state of defence. His father disavowed him and Cardinal Fleury did not venture to support him even indirectly. Menshikov, restored to greater liberty since the death of Catherine I, himself laid claims to the duchy. He despatched Lacy at the head of eight thousand men to drive out the Saxon adventurer. The future victor of Fontenoy could get together no more than 247, and was obliged to swim across an arm of the sea in his retreat. His election was annulled, his father publicly reviled him as a galopin, or rascal, and Courland came once more under Russian influence. During the reign of Peter II a treaty was signed with Prussia by virtue of which the two powers pledged themselves to sustain, on the death of Augustus II, the candidate they might choose for Poland. The emperor Charles VI and the "sergeant king" sounded Russia as to the eventual dismemberment of the Polish Republic. This was not the first time that the question of partition

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was brought forward. In Asia, Iagushinski concluded on the Bura a treaty of commerce with the Celestial Empire in the name of Peter II, by the terms of which Russian caravans could journey to Pekin every three years and could carry on their trade toll-free. Russia was also to have the privilege of keeping four priests and six young men in Pekin to learn Chinese. Kiakhta on the Russian territory and Maimatchin on the Chinese were to be the authorised depots.f


The death of Peter II was universally regretted in Russia. During his reign, the empire enjoyed tranquillity at home and peace abroad; and he discovered such excellent qualities for government that the people looked forward to enjoying under his rule a period of freedom and prosperity such as they had never before experienced. There is no doubt, however, that if he had survived his own good intentions would have been perverted by those advisers who had obtained so strong a hold upon his mind. His predilection for Moscow had already produced serious injury to the maritime affairs of St. Petersburg: the fleet and the army suffered severely by his continued absence from the capital; and had he lived to complete the change by which he meditated Russia must have ultimately lost, by the neglect of her great station on the Neva, the national consequence she had maintained amongst the states of Europe during the two previous reigns. It was evident, also, that he would gradually have discouraged the residence of foreigners in his dominions; and that the old families were acquiring such power at court that they would finally have succeeded in restoring those national usages which had been set aside by Peter the Great. If the people, therefore, were deprived on the one hand of the temporary advantages of a tranquil reign, Russia on the other was preserved from the risk of permanent evils.

Disappointed in their expectations of an alliance with the emperor, the Dalgoruki did not wholly relinquish their hopes of securing some advantage by their position. The young Dalgoruki, impatient of delay, forged a testa

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