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Tuesday, 29 September 2015
Emperor Paul I and the Order of Succession
Topic: Succession

Portrait of Emperor Paul I by Vladimir Borovikovsky
The following article was published today by the Presidential Library in St. Petersburg. The text has been further edited and revised by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia.

October 1, 1754 marks the 261st anniversary of birth of the Russian Emperor Paul I, who was born into the family of Grand Duke Peter Feodorovich and his wife, Grand Duchess Catherine Alexseyevna, the future Catherine the Great. The Presidential Library collection of electronic copies of materials, dedicated to Paul Petrovich, contain many rare books which characterize this figure as the most controversial among the heirs to the throne of the Romanovs.

The electronic copy of the collected works "Materials for the biography of Emperor Paul I” edited by E. Kasprovich, published in 1874 in Leipzig, includes in particular the following assessment of his activities, "The reign of Emperor Paul I appeared on the Russian horizon as a terrible meteor; his actions seemed even more striking considering the fact that his reign followed the age of Catherine II, full of prudence. Russia had already started to enjoy the statutes published by the Empress, when suddenly the rule of laws began to give way to self-will, respect for the long service, generating competition, disappeared; disparate punishments for lighter offences were applied contrary to patent of nobility; people without merit, without skills were granted the highest honours, new regulations contradicting each other were constantly released."

The very first law developed by Paul contained hidden but a real threat to the dynasty, indicating the inability of the monarch to think several moves ahead. Having inherited the throne after his mother's death in 1796, Paul, in order to prevent coups and intrigue in the future, decided to replace by his act the previous system introduced by Peter the Great. Paul promulgated it during his coronation on April 5th, 1797 at the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.

His Law on the order of succession to the throne excluded the possibility of dismissal of the legal heirs from the throne. Paul introduced a legal succession, as he put it in the act, "so there was no doubt who inherits the throne, in order to maintain the rights of families in the succession, without violating the natural rights, and to avoid difficulties in the transfer of power from generation to generation." The act also contained an important clause on the impossibility of accession to the throne of a person not belonging to the Orthodox Church. The law of Paul I, which defined the procedure for the transfer of supreme state power in Russia, was in effect until 1917.

However, it contained a significant flaw - the act provided for a preferential right to inherit the throne for the male members of the imperial family. With regard to the family of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II, this law deprived his daughters of the prospect of succession, while Tsesarevich Alexei was terminally ill with haemophilia (a hereditary disease inherited by the child from his mother Alexandra Feodorovna; Nicholas was fairly warned about it before the marriage, but his love for Alexandra outweighed everything). This fact motivated partly the difficult decision of Nicholas to renounce the throne of Russia in March 1917 and condemned Russia to a fratricidal civil war.

The attempts of the new emperor to reform the army and state apparatus "on the patterns" of the Prussian military system and the Prussian police state also proved unsuccessful. Paul’s reforms in this area caused resistance of the top management: repressions against the generals and officers were too brutal, which is confirmed by an electronic copy of "The orders of the Emperor Paul I of 1800-1801."  

Sometimes it happened that "in one day there were fired three full generals, three lieutenant-generals, 9 majors, 68 senior officers of the Guards regiments, 90 non-commissioned officers and 120 men of the Preobrazhensky Regiment! No one knew what for." Even the hero-generalissimo, who conquered the Alps, was unable to avoid the unjust persecution: among the orders of Paul there was also "a reprimand to Suvorov for unauthorized vacation of Colonel Baturin," and then the "exclusion from the service."

Introduction of the uncomfortable army uniform after the Prussian model caused a murmur among the military. Injured officers resigned in large numbers.

The policy of Paul I in combination with his despotic nature and unpredictability caused discontent among the court and in the army leading to another coup. On the night of March 25th, 1801 the Emperor was killed by conspirators in his new residence, the Mikhailovsky Palace in St. Petersburg. 
© Presidential Library / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 September, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:56 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 29 September 2015 6:02 AM EDT
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Saturday, 2 July 2011
Paper on Russian Succession Laws Presented
Topic: Succession


 Dr. Russell Martin and Her Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna

Dr. Russell Martin, Westminster College professor of history, presented at the Law and Government in Russian History and Society Conference May 26 at the German-Russian Institute in Moscow.

Martin's paper, "Law and Imperial Succession in Russia," explored the relationship between the Russian Imperial law of succession and the structure of the Romanov family in late Imperial times (18th-20th centuries), the topic of Martin's next book.

While in Moscow, Martin visited the Russian State Archives of Ancient Acts to research documents and archives related to the law of succession.

He also spent time in St. Petersburg, conducting research and attending the memorial service in observance of the first anniversary of the passing of Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna, mother of Her Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, heiress to the vacant Russian throne.

Following the memorial service, the Grand Duchess invested Martin with the Imperial Order of St. Anna, second class, for his work on behalf of the House of Romanov.

Martin's research was funded by the Watto faculty award, faculty development and departmental funds.

Martin, who has been with Westminster since 1996, earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a master's and Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Martin appeared on A&E Biography in a broadcast on Ivan the Terrible as an expert on the controversial ruler.  He is the co-founder of the Muscovite Biographical Database, a Russian-American computerized register based in Moscow of early modern Russian notables.  The Neville Island, Pa., native is not only fluent in Russian, but also reads Old Church Slavonic/Russian, French, German, Latin, and Polish.

Martin continues to translate from Russian to English the official Webpage of Her Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna. 

© Westminster College. 2 July, 2011


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 9 July 2011 3:10 PM EDT
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