Commander Rezanov
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§ Biography


Nickolai Petrovich Rezanov was born in an impoverished nobiliary family on the 28th of March, 1764 in St. Petersburg. A bit later his father received a new assignment of the chairman of the Province Court Civil Chamber in Irkutsk. At that time it was the capital of Eastern Siberia which covered the territory from the Yenissei river up to the Pacific ocean. He received a good home education. Thanks to his good natural linguistic abilities at the age of 14 he knew five European languages.

N.P.Rezanov's portrait. The unknown artist. The beginning of XIX century.

Nickolai joined the artillery military service in 1778, the house-hold troops of the Izmailovski regiment. He was responsible for the protection of Catherine the Great during her trip to the Crimea in 1780, but then he dropped the military service and joined the Pskov civil court. Then Rezanov became the chief of the count N. Chernyshov’s office. His promotion witnesses not only about his business-like qualities of the young man, but also about somebody’s powerful support. Such “two steps jumps” on the scale of ranks were improbable for ordinary officials not from noblemen or from provincial nobility. Those who started the service from the lowest 14th class in “The Tables of Ranks” could hardly achieve the assessor post and up to collegial assessor (a rank giving the right of hereditary nobility).

Service at the court yard

Derzhavin Gavriil Romanovich. Artist V.Borovikovsky, 1811. In 1791 after G. R. Derzhavin had been assigned the secretary for the report on “Senate Memorias” (documents introduced by the Senate for approving) at the court of Catherine the Second. N. P. Rezanov was transferred to work for his service as the Chief of the office. This position helped him open the doors into the cabinets and the houses of the most high-ranking noblemen. Sometimes he had to do the personal commissions of the Empress, that made the young man’s career being propmoted. Later he joined the staff of a new favorite of the Empress P. A. Zubov, who was afraid of being replaced by this young handsome man. That is why he got rid of Rezanov under a plausible excuse and sent him to Irkutsk to inspect the activity of the merchant G. I. Shelikhov’s company, who claimed him the monopolistic right for a fur trade on the Pacific coast of Russia.

Acquaintance with “Coulomb Rossky”, marriage

G.I.Shelikhov In 1794 under the assignment of Zubov Rezanov went to Irkutsk with spiritual mission of the archimandrite (monastic rank). There he got acquainted with “Coulomb Rossky”, the founder of the first Russian settlements in America, G. I. Shelikhov. Shelikhov proposed his elder daughter Ann to Rezanov as a wife to consolidate his status. On the 24th of January in 1795 at the age of thirty Rezanov married Ann who was fifteen years old. So he got the right to participate in the family’s affairs. This marriage seemed to be the marriage in love (metropolitan beautiful man with a great education and secular manners could strike the heart of the girl from the far solitary province), and the mutually beneficial relations: not very rich groom became a real co-owner of the huge capital, and the bride from merchant’ family and her children received the ancestral coat of arms and all the privileges of the titled Russian nobility. Since that Rezanov’s destiny was intimately connected with Russian America.

The Russian-American company

Half a year later after the daughter’s wedding G. I. Shelikhov died suddenly at the age of forty seven and his capital was shared between the successors. Nickolai Petrovich being one of them and very influential, supported by St. Petersburg, did his best to create a powerful unified Russian company on the Pacific ocean territory.

In 1797 Rezanov became the secretary, then ober-secretary of the Senate. He composed “the Regulations of Prices” and carried out the rules of land taxation in St. Petersburg and Moscow. For that activity he was awarded with the Order of Saint Anna of the 2nd class and this subsidy of 2 thousand roubles per year. And soon the Emperor Paul I , having replaced Catherine II who died in 1796 , signed the decree about creation of the main Unified Russian-American campany (RAC) office on the basis of the Shelikhov’s companies and other Siberian merchants, which was transferred from Irkutsk to St. Petersburg. N. I. Rezanov was appointed the authorized correspondent (representative) of the RAC. Thus he became both the nobleman and businessman and besides had the position of the ober-secretary in the Governing Senate till 1799.

Ideas about travel

Count N.P.Rumjantsev In 1802 Nickolai Rezanov gave a note to the tsar through the mediation of Minister of Commerce, the count Nickolai Petrovich Rumyantzev, where he showed disadvantages of the delivering provision and building materials to the new Russian possessions and suggested their delivery by sea, by the direct round-the-world way from Europe to America.

Till the end of 1802, when the plans of the voyage round the world were elaborated, included “establishing of sea way communication” with Russian possessions in America, the number of the RAC’s shareholders increased from 17 to 400. And there were also members of the Imperial family among them. Alexander I himself became a shareholder of “Russian America”; he definitely distinguished N. P. Rezanov among businessmen of Empire and heaped honors on him.

Children, the wife’s death

The first child of Rezanov Peter (1801-?) Was born on the 18th of July in 1801, his daughter Olga (1802-1828) was born on the 6th of October in 1802. Anna died twelve days later after their daughter’s birth. Rezanov wrote about his wife: “Eight years of marriage let me taste all the happiness of the life but her death poisoned the rest of it”.

The beginning of travelling

After his wife’s death Rezanov thought of retirement and his children education but met an obstacle. The Emperor offered the widower to take part in the first round-the-world navigation. In 1802 Nickolai was appointed the ambassador in Japan and the leader of the First Russian round-the-world expedition (1803-1806) on the “Nadezhda” and the “Neva”. Many different commissions of the economical, political, scientific nature were given to him during the preparation of the expedition, but the main purposes were: to establish relations with Japan and to inspect Russian America (Alaska).

On the 10th of July in 1803 a month before the departure Rezanov was awarded with the order of St. Anna of the I class and the title of her Majesty court’s chamberlain.

The first Russian round-the-world expedition began on the 7th of August (the 26th of July in old chronology) in 1803. It consisted of the “Nadezhda”, with Kruzenshtern who was laid the responsibilities for general and naval guidance and the ““Neva” under the command of U. F. Lisyansky.

Japan, Alaska

At the end of September in 1804 Russian ships left for Nagasaki. A six-month mission of his Excellency in Japan wasn’t crowned with success, and Rezanov left Petropavlovsk-Kamchatksky for Alaska. He sent the “Nadezhda” under the command of Kruzenshtern to Canton and then to Kronstadt, Nickolai Petrovich was on the trade brig the “Mary” board headed for Sitkha. The “Mary” dropped anchor in the bay of Novoarhangelsk on the 26th of August in 1805. There on the island Sitkh Rezanov got acquainted with the governor of “Russian America” a merchant A. A. Baranov.

The lack of the most necessary things , and food in particular, had a bad effect on the Russian colony. Rezanov saw all the Baranov’ useless efforts to solve the problem and bought the “Juno” to support his compatriots at a newly arrived American businessman. Rezanov’s further political plans were connected with the trip of the “Juno” to a Spanish fort San Francisco for establishment of trade relations with the Spaniards. Fortunately, he managed to convert his plans into reality.

California, the family of the commandant

The “Juno” left for California on the 26th of February in 1806 under the command of the lieutenant N. A. Khvostov and a month later reached the bay of San Francisco.

Concepsion de Arguello (Conchita)Rezanov became a close friend to the commandant Presidio’s family (of a fortress) in San Francisco. Perfectly educated and well-mannered commander and the holder of a Maltese Big Cross of St. Ioann of Jerusalem, N. P. Rezanov fascinated the daughter of the commandant of San Francisco beautiful Concepsion de Arguello (Conchita). They fell in love with each other and their love was destined to become a legend.


The betrothal was held. The date of the wedding was not determined because the groom had to return to St. Petersburg and ask his Emperor to petition for the marriage permission before the Rome Pope. Nickolai Petrovich promised Conchita and her parents to return in 2 years’ time and find the family happiness. Concepsion de Arguello (Conchita)

Returning to Alaska

On the 11th of June (the 8th of May) in 1806 the overloaded the “Juno” left a hospitable Spanish land and the notable fianc? followed with his eyes the disappearing California coasts on the deck of the “Juno”. He saw them for the last time, and it was not desined for him to meet Conchita again.


The failure of Rezanov’s mission seemed to have buried hopes for the establishment of trade relations between Russia and Japan for a long time. However N. P. Rezanov didn’t think so. On the 8th of August in 1806 Rezanov gave a secret instruction to Khvostov prescribing Khvostov and Davydov to undertake the navigation to the Southern Sakhalin, and also to the islands Urup and Simushir. During this navigation the “Juno” and the “Avos” should “enter the bay of Aniva” to exterminate all the Japanese ships there and to capture Japanese people capable for work and those who were not able for work should go to Hokhaido. They were said “That they aren’t allowed to visit Sakhalin as a Russian possession except for a trade”.

Returning to Russia

Nikolay Rezanov's confidential instructions to Grigory Baranov (russian) N. P. Rezanov left America in July, 1806. A way of Russian travelers rescued by the “Juno” from famine went from Novoarkhangelsk to Okhotsk with a succession of unpleasant adventures. They reached Okhotsk in October. The prudence required waiting here until the autumn impassability of roads, but Rezanov didn’t want to listen to anybody. They departed on horses. The frosts and snow were on their way, Rezanov caught a cold in Yakutsk and was treated during ten days there.


“Patriotism has made me exhaust all my forces, — he wrote in his farewell letter, he hoped that people would understand and estimate him properly; — I floated over the seas, as a duck; suffered from famine, cold, insult and from heart wounds most of all”. His life was going away very quickly. On a cold day on his way to Krasnoyarsk Nickolai Petrovich fell off the horse and hit his head. On the 1st of March in 1807 N. P. Rezanov died at the age of 42 in Krasnoyarsk. In the memory book of the Voskressensky cathedral there is written down: “Confessed and joined. Buried near the cathedral church”.

Materials in the topic

Translated by Marina Poludina