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Павел I

§ Russia

Paul I

The first years after his birth Paul grew under supervision of the Empress Elizaveta Petrovna, his parents weren’t almost allowed to visit him and he actually didn’t know parents caress. In 1761 N. I. Panin was appointed a tutor to him. The supporter of Education, he became sincerely attached to Grand Duke and tried to train him to be an ideal monarch. Paul received a good education and was considered by his contemporaries to be a clever, aspiring to knowledge, romantic boy with an open mind, who sincerely believed in ideals of fairness and justice. At first his relations with mother were close enough after her accession to the throne in 1762. But in due course their relationships were getting worse. Catherine was apprehensive of her son, because he had more legitimate rights for the throne, than she did. During several decades Paul’s name appeared in different political processes more than once, rumors about his accession were spread over the country, E. I Pugachev appealed to him as to his own “son”. The Empress had been trying to leave Grand Prince out of state affairs: she didn’t not permit to participate in discussion of state affairs, and he, in his turn, began to estimate the mother’s policy more and more critically. In 1773, Paul married the Princess Vilgelmine Giessen-Darmstadt (christened in orthodoxy Natalia Alekseevna) and grew fond of her, but she died during the delivery in 1776. In 1776 he married again the Princess Sofia Dorotee Wurtemberg christened in orthodoxy Maria Fedorovna. In 1781-82 spouses visited a number of European countries where Paul openly criticized his mother’s policy, and she got to know about this. After returning of the Grand couple to Russia the empress presented them the grange Gatchina, where “the small court” moved to and where Paul, who had inherited from his father a passion for all militaries in the Prussian manner, created a small army, conducting endless maneuvers and parades. He was tormented with his inactivity in political affairs, planned his future reign, and by that time his character became suspicious, nervous, bilious and despotic. The mother’s reign seemed to him too liberal, he believed that it was necessary to remove any displays of personal and public freedom by means of military discipline and police measures to avoid a revolution.

The Paul’s coming to power in November 1796 was followed by militarization of the court’s life and St.-Petersburg as a whole. A new emperor tried at once to cross out everything that had been created for 34 years of the reign of Catherine II and it became one of the major goals of his policy. In general it is possible to choose some interconnected directions in his internal policy — reorganization of government, class/state policy and military reform. In the state reform Paul considerably strengthened importance of the General public prosecutor of the Senate, having given him actually functions of the head of the government and joined them with functions of the Ministers of Internal Affairs, Justice and partly Finance. He restored some boards and committees which had been abolished before. At the same time the emperor was trying to substitute a joint principle of the government organization for a privately-owned one. In 1797 the Ministry of Apanages was established, which was to manage the estates of imperial family, and in 1800 the Ministry of Commerce was created. Paul dealt even more resolutely with the system of local authorities established by Catherine II: city self-government, social security, some lowest judicial institutions were partially abolished. At the same time some traditional leading bodies were restored in a number of national suburbs (Baltic, Ukraine) of the empire and this showed weakness of the new regime, fear not to keep in hands all country and aspiration to win popularity in the areas fraught with national-liberation movement. Paul’s important legislative act was a law about order of succession to the throne issued in 1797, which was working in Russia up to 1917.

In the field of class policy Paul undertook some steps to attack “the noble liberties”. An inspection for all officers registered in regiments was declared in 1797, and those absent were retired. Privileges for noblemen who hadn’t served were also seriously limited, and in 1800 the majority of them were ordered to be drafted to the army. Since 1799 the transition from a military service to a civil one has been allowed only by a sanction of the Senate. It was forbidden to the noblemen who weren’t on the state service to participate in noblemen elections and hold elective positions; regardless of Catherine’s legislation noblemen were inflicted corporal punishments. At the same time Paul tried to limit the inflow of people from other classes into the ranks of noblemen. His basic purpose was to turn Russian nobility into disciplined, absolutely serving class. The Paul’s policy in respect of peasantry was not consistent either. For four years of his reign he gave away about 600 thousand of serfs, and he sincerely believed, that it would be better for them to live under a landowner’s power. In 1796 there was an enslaving of peasants in the region of Don army and in Novorossia. In 1798 the interdiction on purchase peasants by people who did not belong to noble class owners, which had been issued by Peter III, was cancelled. At the same time, in 1797, it was forbidden to sell house-serfs and landless peasants by auction, and in 1798 — to sell Ukrainian landless peasants. In 1797 Paul issued the Manifest about the three-day corvee, which restricted exploitation of peasant labour by landowners and limited their owners’ rights.

In the army Paul was trying to bring in Prussian military orders and neglected the achievements of Russian military idea of previous decades. Training of soldiers was reduced basically to marching drills. The emperor believed that the army is a machine and the main thing in it was a mechanical coordination of regiments and performing the duties. The initiative and independence were considered to be harmful and inadmissible.

Paul’s aspiration to a petty regulation had an effect on his interference in daily life of citizens. So special decrees forbade the certain styles of clothes, hair dresses, dances, in which the emperor saw displays of free-thinking. The rigid censorship was put into force, the import of books from abroad was forbidden.

Having accessed to the throne Paul emphasized contrast with his mother and declared peaceful disposition and non-interference in European affairs. However, when in 1798 there was a threat of reconstruction of an independent Polish State by Napoleon, Russia actively participated in the organization of the anti-French coalition. In the same year Paul took up duties of the Master of the Maltese order challenging the French emperor who had captured the Malta. In 1798-1800 Russian armies successfully battled in Italy and Russian fleet — on the Mediterranean Sea which caused a certain anxiety of Austria and England. The relationships with these countries were finally deteriorated in the spring of 1800. In the same time rapprochement with France began and even a plan of a joint war campaign against India was discussed. Without waiting for signing of the appropriate agreement Paul had ordered to take the field to the Don Cossacks who were stopped only by Alexander I.

Paul’s policy in combination with his despotic character, unpredictability and simultaneously certain eccentricity of behavior displeased various social levels but in particular the nobility and army. Soon after his accession to the throne his opponents began to work out a plot against him. His senior son was also involved into this conspiracy. At the night of March, 11 in 1801 the conspirators (basically Guards officers) rushed into Paul’s apartments in the recently built Mikhailovsky Palace and demanded from the tsar to abdicate but he wouldn’t. When the emperor tried to object and even struck someone, one of the rebels began to oppress him with the scarf and another hit his temple with a massive snuffbox. It was declared to people that Paul had died from an apoplexy impact.

Translated by Lyudmila Tretiakova & Larisa Kuznetsova