Paul I of Russia

gigatos | February 21, 2022


Paul I Petrovich (September 20, 1754, Summer Palace of Elizabeth Petrovna, St. Petersburg – March 12, 1801, Mikhailovsky Castle, St. Petersburg) – the son of Catherine II and Peter III, Russian Emperor since 6 (17) November 1796, 72nd Grand Master of the Order of Malta from November 29 (10 December) 1798. Great-grandson of Peter I.

Birth of

Pavel Petrovich was born on September 20 (October 1), 1754 in Petersburg, in the Summer Palace of Elizabeth Petrovna (later this palace was demolished by order of Pavel, and Mikhailovsky Castle was built in its place, where Pavel was murdered on September 12 (the delivery was performed by the first in time court midwife of Dutch origin Adriana Shaar. Empress Elizaveta Petrovna, Grand Duke Peter Fyodorovich (Paul”s father), and the Shuvalov brothers were present at the birth. On the occasion of the birth of the successor of the dynasty the Empress Elizabeth issued a manifesto, the event was reflected in the odes written by the poets of the time. He was baptized on September 25 (October 6) by the confessor of the Empress Elizaveta Petrovna, archpriest Fyodor Dubyansky.

Because of the political struggle, Paul was essentially deprived of the love of those closest to him. Empress Elizaveta Petrovna ordered him to be surrounded by a staff of nannies and the best teachers she could think of, while his mother and father were effectively removed from the upbringing of their child. The name Paul was given to him at his baptism at the command of the empress.

Despite Paul”s outward resemblance to his father, rumors persisted at court that the child was conceived by Catherine by her first favorite, Sergei Saltykov, a famous handsome man of his time. These rumors were fueled by the fact that Paul was born ten years after the marriage of Peter and Catherine, when many believed that this union was infertile (Catherine sheds light on the 10-year childlessness of the marriage in her memoirs, in which she hints that her husband suffered from phimosis before his surgery).


Pavel”s first tutor was the diplomat Fyodor Bekhteyev, close to the Shuvalovs, who was obsessed with the spirit of regulations, precise orders, and military discipline comparable to the drill. He printed a small newspaper in which he reported on all, even the most insignificant deeds of the boy.

In 1760 Elizaveta Petrovna replaced the chief tutor, prescribing the basic parameters of training in her instructions. He was her choice, Nikita Ivanovich Panin. He was a 42-year-old man who had extensive knowledge and shared the ideas of the Enlightenment. During his diplomatic service in Sweden and Denmark, he came into close contact with the Masons, and did not exclude the possibility of introducing a constitutional monarchy in Russia on the Swedish model.

Nikita Panin outlined a very wide range of topics and subjects in which, in his opinion, the tsesarevich should have been proficient. Perhaps it was in accordance with his recommendations that a number of “subject teachers” were appointed. Among them were Metropolitan Platon (Law of God), Semyon Poroshin (natural history), Grange (dance), Vincenzo Manfredini (music) and others. Beginning as early as the reign of Elizabeth Petrovna, the classes did not cease either during the brief reign of Peter III or under Catherine II.

The atmosphere of Paul Petrovich”s upbringing was greatly influenced by his entourage. Among the guests who visited the Tsarevich were a number of educated people of the time, for example, the writer and composer Grigory Teplov. In contrast, communication with his peers was quite limited. Only children of the best families (the Kurakins, the Stroganoffs) were allowed to have personal contacts with Pavel. Prince Alexander Kurakin was especially close to him. One of Paul”s younger tutors, Semyon Poroshin, kept a diary (1764-1765), which would later become a valuable historical source for the history of the court and for studying the personality of the tsesarevich.

Catherine acquired for her son the extensive library of Academician Korff. The heir was taught history, geography, arithmetic, the Law of God, astronomy, foreign languages (French, German, Latin, Italian), the Russian language, drawing, fencing and dancing. There was nothing in the curriculum that had to do with military affairs, which did not prevent Paul”s enthusiasm for them. He was introduced to the works of the Enlighteners: Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu. Learning Pavel had good abilities, he had a good imagination, and at the same time he was restless and impatient, though fond of books. He was fluent in Latin, French, and German, loved mathematics, dancing, and military exercises. On the whole, the education of the tsesarevich was the best that could be obtained at that time.

Already in his younger years Paul began to be interested in the idea of chivalry. February 23 (March 6), 1765 Poroshin wrote: “I read to His Highness Vertotovu history of the Order of Maltese knights. Then he amused himself by tying the admiral”s flag to his cavalry and representing himself as a Knight of Malta.

On June 28 (July 9), 1762, Paul was proclaimed Tsesarevich and Grand Duke, lawful heir to the All-Russian throne. On October 5, 1773, having come of age, the Grand Duke, at his mother”s insistence, ceded his rights to the estates in the Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein, to which belonged the cities of Kiel, Apenrade, and Neumünster, to King Christian VII of Denmark, in exchange for the counties of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst in Northern Germany, which he renounced on December 14 the same year in favor of his relative, Duke Friedrich August, the Protestant Bishop of Lübeck.

Life in Gatchina

Paul married for the first time on September 29, 1773, the Grand Duchess Natalia Alekseevna, born Princess Wilhelmina of Hesse-Darmstadt, who died two and a half years later, on April 15, 1776, in childbirth. In the same year a new wife was found for Paul – Sophia Dorothea of Wurttemberg, who after her conversion to Orthodoxy became known as Maria Feodorovna. Frederick the Great personally arranged a meeting between Paul and his future wife in Berlin. Paul (whom they called “the ugliest man in the empire” behind his back) was captivated by the statuesque blonde with a pleasant face; the next day he wrote to his mother:

I have found my bride as I could only mentally wish for myself: she is not bad-looking, large, slender, shy, and responds intelligently and expeditiously. As for her heart, she has it very sensitive and gentle. She likes to be at home and enjoys reading or music.

The traditional stage, usually completing an education in eighteenth-century Europe, was a voyage abroad. A similar voyage was undertaken in 1781-1782 by the then young tsesarevich with his wife. They traveled incognito as Count and Countess of the North (du Nord), visited Italy, where they were granted an audience with the Pope, and France, where they were greatly impressed by the Prince of Conde”s estate. The couple spent two weeks with Maria Feodorovna”s parents at the country estate near Montbéliard. The journey of the cesarevitch lasted 428 days; he traveled 13,115 versts.

Paul”s increasingly strained relationship with his mother led to the fact that when Grigory Orlov died in 1783 the Gatchina estate, which had belonged to the deceased, was placed at the complete disposal of the heir to the throne. On leaving the capital for Gatchina, Paul developed customs which differed sharply from those in St Petersburg. In addition to Gatchina, he owned the Pavlovsk estate near Tsarskoye Selo and a cottage on Kamenny Island.

received 175000 rubles a year for himself and 75000 for his wife, not counting the money released for the staff of his court. Thus, from a material point of view, he was very decently furnished. If, nevertheless, he was always in desperate need of money, and to get it he even resorted to such shameful measures as making contract with the Empress”s suppliers, the reason was that he was cheekily robbed by his steward, and the poor relations of Maria Fyodorovna were robbing him, and he himself was going broke on useless constructions, spending mad money on his expensive and ridiculous toy – the Gatchina army.

It is customary to characterize the Gatchina troops negatively – as rude soldiers, trained only in Frunze and footwork. Extant exercise plans refute this popular stereotype. From 1793 to 1796 during the exercises the troops of Gatchina, under the command of Cesarevitch, practiced the methods of volley fire and bayonet fire. Practiced the interaction of different branches of the armed forces in boosting water obstacles, holding the offensive and the retreat, as well as repulsion of enemy marines landing on the shore. Troops were moving at night. Great importance was given to the actions of artillery. For Gatchina”s artillery in 1795-1796 were held specially separate exercises. The experience gained formed the basis of the military reforms and reforms of Paul. Despite the small number, by 1796 Gatchina troops were one of the most disciplined and well-trained units of the Russian army.

Already in Gatchina he carried out a policy to alleviate the hardships of the serf peasantry. Two days of corvée became the norm, peasants were allowed to engage in trades in their spare time, free schools, colleges (particularly for disabled children), and medical hospitals were opened.

Relationship with Catherine II

Immediately after his birth, Paul was removed from his mother. His mother Catherine could see him very rarely and only with the permission of the empress. When Paul was eight years old, his mother, supported by the Guard, carried out a coup, in the course of which Paul”s father died under uncertain circumstances.

When Catherine ascended the throne, the troops swore an oath not only to herself, but also to Paul Petrovich. There are reports that on the eve of her coronation Catherine gave a written undertaking to give the crown to Paul upon his coming of age, which she later destroyed. In fact she had no intention of giving up and sharing her full power neither in 1762 nor later, when Paul came of age. All those dissatisfied with Catherine and her rule pinned their hopes on Paul as the sole heir to the throne.

Indeed, Pavel Petrovich”s name was used by rebels and those dissatisfied with Catherine”s rule. Yemelyan Pugachev often mentioned his name. Holstein banners were seen in the ranks of the rebels. Pugachev said, that after defeating Catherine”s government “he doesn”t want to reign and he is only in favor of Pavel Petrovich”. He had a portrait of Paul. The impostor often referred to this portrait when making toasts. In 1771 the rebellious exiles in Kamchatka, led by Benevsky, swore an oath to Paul as emperor. During the plague riot in Moscow the name of Tsarevich Paul was also mentioned.

Paul was brought up as heir to the throne, but the older he grew, the further he was kept from state affairs. The enlightened empress and her son became complete strangers to each other. To Catherine, the cesarevitch was an unwanted son, born of a man she disliked for the sake of politics and state interests, who resembled little in appearance and in his views and preferences to his mother. Catherine could not but be annoyed by this. She used to call Paul”s troops at Gatchina “Catherine”s army” and did not prevent the spread of unpleasant rumours (that Peter III was not his father at all, but her lover Saltykov; that he was not her son at all, that she had been promised another child by Elizabeth”s order).

Catherine deliberately did not mark her son”s coming of age in any way. Paul himself could not bestow positions, awards, and ranks. People who enjoyed Paul”s favor often fell into disfavor and disgrace at court. The rupture between Paul and Catherine came in May 1783. It was then that his mother first invited her son to discuss foreign policy problems (the Polish question and the annexation of the Crimea). It cannot be ruled out that there was a frank exchange of views, which revealed the complete opposite of their views.

After the birth of Paul”s eldest son, named Alexander, Catherine considered passing the throne to her favorite grandson, bypassing her unloved son. Paul”s fears of such a development were reinforced by Alexander”s early marriage, after which, by tradition, the monarch was considered of age. From the letter of Catherine of August 14 (25), 1792 to her correspondent baron Grimm: “First my Alexander will get married, and then in due course he will be crowned with all kinds of ceremonies, solemnities and popular festivities. Paul demonstratively ignored the celebrations on the occasion of his son”s marriage.

On the eve of Catherine”s death, the court awaited the promulgation of the manifesto for Paul”s dismissal, his imprisonment in the Estonian castle of Lode, and the proclamation of Alexander as heir. It is widely believed that while Paul was awaiting his arrest, Catherine”s manifesto (will) was personally destroyed by his cabinet secretary Alexander Bezborodko, which allowed him to receive the highest rank of chancellor under the new emperor.

Domestic Policy

Emperor Paul I ascended the throne on November 6 (17), 1796 at the age of 42. On April 5 (16), 1797, on the first day of Easter, the coronation of the new emperor took place. It was the first coronation of the Emperor and the Empress in the history of the Russian Empire. After his accession to the throne, Paul decisively began to break the order established by his mother. Contemporaries had the impression that many decisions were made “out of spite” of her memory. With a deep aversion to revolutionary ideas, Paul, for example, returned freedom to the radicals Radishchev, Novikov, and Kosciuszko (87 people in all), and even allowed the latter to go to America.

Simultaneously with the burial of Catherine, the ashes of Peter III were transferred to the imperial tomb, the Peter and Paul Cathedral. At the funeral ceremony, the regalia were carried by Alexey Orlov and other participants in the czarevicide, while Paul himself performed the ceremony of coronation of the parents” remains. Fear of a new palace coup d”etat was the reason for the measures taken to weaken the position of the nobility on the whole and of the guards in particular.

Ф. P. Lubyanovsky recalled:

… it was impossible not to notice from the first step in the capital, as a shiver, and not only from the cold, like an epidemic, all equally infiltrated … this era already had its own names. They called it, where so required: solemnly and loudly, the rebirth; in friendly conversation, cautiously, in a half-voice, the kingdom of power, power and fear; in secret between four eyes, the eclipse from above.

On the day of his coronation, Paul I publicly read the new law on succession to the throne, which drew a line under a century of palace coups and women”s rule in Russia. Henceforth women were in effect barred from succession to the Russian throne, for there was a strict requirement for the crown to pass through the male line (from father to son). For the first time the rules of regency were established.

Paul managed to carry out a number of reforms aimed at further centralization of state power. In particular, the functions of the Senate were changed, some colleges, abolished by Catherine II, were restored. In 1798 was issued a decree on the establishment of the Department of water communications. 4 (15) December 1796 was established the State Treasury and the post of State Treasurer. Approved in September 1800, “The Decree of the Commerce Collegium”, merchants were entitled to elect 13 out of 23 of its members from their environment.

Like his parents, Paul was not known for his orthodox piety. The emperor had numerous extramarital affairs both before and during his family life, and his heir to the throne, Alexander, was conceived in the middle of Lent, which was an unprecedented event for the Russian state. Paul”s attitude toward the construction of the capital”s main temple, St. Isaac”s Cathedral, was indicative. The new emperor drastically reduced the cost of construction and used the marble that had been prepared to line the walls of the cathedral for his own residence, the Mikhailovsky Castle.

Paul saw the main task of the Church as strengthening the autocracy and preventing popular unrest. In 1797 the emperor issued a Manifesto in which he specified that “parish priests have the duty to warn their parishioners against false and harmful promulgations and to assure them of their masters” goodwill and obedience,” and he ordered the bishops to remove priests from parishes for “even suspicion of peasant inclination to sedition. The state salary to the parish priests was more than doubled, the practice of awarding the clergy with civil orders appeared. In 1798, the peasants were ordered to cultivate the land of the parish priests. In 1801 the emperor released the clergy from the obligation to monitor the regularity of confessions of the parishioners.

Under Paul, the state”s policy toward non-Orthodox confessions became as tolerant as possible. Thus, 18 (29) March 1797 issued a Manifesto on the freedom of worship in Poland for Catholics and Orthodox. A year later, on March 12 (23), 1798, Paul issued a decree authorizing the construction of the Old Believer churches in all the dioceses of the Russian state. In 1800, the regulations on Uniate churches were finally approved. Paul”s relations with the Roman throne were special, in which he saw as a political ally in the fight against revolutionary France. The Jesuit order was increasingly active in Russia. There was a project approved by the emperor by the Jesuit Gabriel Gruber, who called Paul “restorer and guardian angel of the Society of Jesus,” to unite the Orthodox Church with Catholicism.

Representatives of various sects and near-Christian doctrines felt relatively free under Paul. In St. Petersburg, for example, Kondraty Selivanov, founder of the Skoptzy sect, was active; according to one version, he was sent to the Obukhov Hospital only after the Emperor had talked to him personally. Masonic organizations were still banned in Russia, but all the earlier figures of the movement, punished by Catherine, were pardoned.

Panicked by the contagiousness of the example of the Great French Revolution, Paul in 1800 forbade the importation of foreign books and the sending of young men abroad for education. At the Riga customs alone, 552 volumes intended for importation into Russia were confiscated. Goethe, Schiller, Kant, Swift and other prominent authors fell into disfavor. All private (“free”) printing houses in the country were closed. Paul disapproved of French dress and words that reminded him of revolutionary France. At the same time he gave shelter in his estates to high-ranking French émigrés, including the Comte de Lille (the future King Louis XVIII of France), at whose disposal the entire Mitava palace was placed, and the last Prince Conde, who was to take up residence in the Gatchina Priory.

Strengthening of discipline under Paul I touched different aspects of public life, but primarily the army. One of his first decrees Paul approved new military regulations, then revised Peter”s naval charter, limited the term of service of recruits to 25 years. Instead of the rational “Potemkin” uniform, which canceled the wigs and buns, Paul introduced a uniform completely borrowed from Prussian samples. The new uniform had also a useful innovation – overcoats which replaced the old overcoats in 1797 and saved many Russian soldiers. Outside St. Petersburg the construction of barracks was unfolding. The army had fundamentally new units – engineering, courier, and cartographic.

Great attention was paid to the external side of military affairs (drill and drill). The slightest slip-up was punishable by dismissal, which created a nervous environment among officers. Political clubs among officers were banned. At the same time the soldiers were allowed to complain about the abuses of the commanders, and they were punished less frequently than before. For the first time in Europe, decorations were introduced for privates.

At the same time, a number of his innovations to improve the organization of the army (the introduction of divisions on a permanent staff, the centralization of troop control, etc.) had a positive effect and remained in the army after the death of the emperor.

December 16 (28 December) 1800 Paul I approved the “Manifesto on the full coat of arms of the All-Russian Empire,” which indicated:

In the original:


It was an attempt to approve the symbol of the double-headed eagle with the Maltese cross included, developed by Paul I in spite of his mother. The Manifesto is an exceptionally beautiful heraldic document. The original has a purple velvet binding and is kept in a rosewood chest.

However, this Manifesto was not issued, and after the death of Paul I, Alexander I decree of April 26 (May 8), 1801 ordered the use of the State Emblem “without the cross of St. John of Jerusalem.

Paul I can be considered the founder of service dog breeding in Russia – cynology. He ordered the Expedition of State Economy (by the decree of August 12 (23), 1797) to purchase merino sheep and Spanish breed dogs in Spain for the protection of domestic livestock.

Memoirs and history books often mention the tens and thousands exiled to Siberia during Pavlov”s time. In fact, in the documents the number of exiled does not exceed ten people. These people were exiled for military and criminal offenses: bribery, grand larceny and others. Many of the servicemen exiled by Paul to the countryside were returned to the capital a few months later, and, moreover, were promoted in rank.

The material embodiment of Paul”s strained relationship with his mother was the so-called war of the palaces. The chivalrous aspirations of the heir led to the militarization of the life of the “young court”. Without abandoning the basic principles of Classicism, Paul especially valued fortification elements such as turrets and a moat with a drawbridge, which reminded him of medieval castles. Not only the monumental Gatchina and Mikhailovsky castles were designed in this style, but also the more chamber-like “amusing” castles built on Paul”s orders – the Priory and Marientale castles.

On the occasion of the birth of her eldest grandson, Catherine gave her heir the Pavlovskaya Manor, where in time the Pavlovsky Palace was built in the Palladian style, which the empress herself preferred. The Kamennoostrovsky Palace was built for the young court in the capital, where Paul, however, visited relatively rarely. The main exponent of his architectural tastes was the Italian Vincenzo Brenna, a forerunner of romantic classicism. At the request of the heir apparent, he added military accents to the Pavlovsk residence: he designed the “toy” Marienthal Fortress and decorated the halls of the main palace with military motifs.

After his mother”s death, Emperor Paul ordered the demolition of the buildings that reminded him of the last years of her reign and of the intolerable time of the Zubov brothers” domination. Some pavilions of Tsarskoye Selo (such as the pergola in the Rosy Field) and the Pella Palace on the banks of the Neva, the largest palace and park ensemble in 18th century Russia (25 buildings in all), fell victim to the demolition. Catherine Palace in Lefortovo, the English Palace in Peterhof and the Tauride Palace in the capital were converted into barracks by order of Paul. Catherine-era buildings were demolished even in provincial towns (for example, the palace of Viceroy Melgunov in the main square of Yaroslavl was demolished).

Out of fear of a palace coup – like the one that had brought his father to his grave – Paul decided to seclude himself in a castle separated from the city by a moat. Work began on the construction of the Mikhailovsky Castle. In front of the entrance to the residence was placed a monument to Peter I with the inscription “Great-grandfather – great-grandson. Paul was proud of his descent from Peter the Great and sought in every way to emphasize it. Paul stayed at his new residence for only forty days (from February 1 until the night of March 11-12, 1801), the day before his assassination. At that time he ordered the beginning of a new large-scale construction project in the capital – the Kazan Cathedral on Nevsky Prospect. After Paul”s death foreign architects working for him (Brenna, Viollet, Rossi) lost their orders and left Russia.

Contrary to the widespread notion that during Paul”s reign everything was done at his personal whim, the emperor was consistent in “introducing the Russian nobility to the chivalric ethic and its attributes. It was during his reign that the General Armorial was drawn up and approved. He loved to “revive” faded noble families and invent for his cronies complex surnames (Romodanovsky-Lodyzhensky, Beloselsky-Belozersky, Argutinsky-Dolgorukov, Musin-Yuryev). Under him began the distribution of titles of princes, before almost never practiced, 26 people became earls. Nikolai Karamzin lamented that “during Paul”s reign the ranks and ribbons fell in dignity.

Apart from his childhood friends, the Kurakin brothers, Paul”s inner circle included his favorite man Ivan Kutaisov (a Turkish prisoner, personal barber and valet), Sergei Pleshcheev, who invariably accompanied him on all his travels, Alexei Arakcheev, the Gatchina commandant and “master of moustache,” Admiral Grigory Kushelev, Secretaries Obolyaninov and Donaurov. Some of the favorites (such as Fyodor Rostopchin) during the short reign of Paul several times managed to be in disgrace. The Emperor loved to arrange the family life of his entourage. For example, it was he who insisted on the disastrous marriage of Peter Bagration to the last Countess of Skavronskaya; they were married right in the Gatchina Palace.

Foreign Policy

At the dawn of Paul”s reign the main direction of foreign policy was the struggle against revolutionary France. In 1798, Russia entered the anti-French coalition with Great Britain, Austria, Turkey, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. At the insistence of the Allies as commander in chief of Russian troops was appointed the disgraced Alexander Suvorov. The Austrian troops were also transferred to his command.

Under the leadership of Suvorov Northern Italy was liberated from French domination. In September 1799 the Russian army made the famous crossing of the Alps. However, in October of the same year, Russia broke alliance with Austria because of nonperformance of allied obligations by the Austrians, and the Russian troops were withdrawn from Europe. A joint Anglo-Russian expedition to the Netherlands turned out to be a failure, for which Paul blamed the British allies.

In 1799, First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte concentrated in his hands the totality of power, after which he began to look for allies in foreign policy. The threat of a pan-European revolution had passed, and the prerequisites for rapprochement with Russia emerged. The concentration of world trade in British hands irritated many maritime powers. Then came the idea of a coalition of combined fleets of France, Russia, Denmark and Sweden, the implementation of which could deal a tangible blow to the British dominance at sea.

The decisive factor was the capture by the British fleet on September 5, 1800 of the strategically important island of Malta, which Paul I, as Grand Master of the Order of Malta considered a subordinate territory and a potential Mediterranean base for the Russian fleet. This was perceived by Paul as a personal insult. In response on November 22 (December 4) 1800 Paul I issued the decree of sequestration of all English vessels in all Russian ports (they numbered up to 300) and suspension of payment to all English merchants until their debt obligations in Russia were settled, with a ban on the sale of English goods in the empire. Diplomatic relations between the countries were interrupted. Just as his father”s private dynastic interest in Holstein almost brought Russia into the war with Denmark, so Paul, taking care of the interests of the Maltese knights, brought Russia to the brink of war with Britain, the strongest maritime power of the time.

The treaty of alliance between Russia, Prussia, Sweden and Denmark was drawn up 4-6 (18) December 1800. A policy of armed neutrality was proclaimed with regard to England. The British government gave permission to its navy to seize ships belonging to the countries of the hostile coalition. In response to these actions, Denmark occupied Hamburg and Prussia occupied Hanover. The Allied coalition imposed an embargo on the export of goods to England, especially grain, in the hope that a shortage of bread would bring the British to their knees. Many European ports were closed to British ships.

Preparations for a military-strategic alliance with Bonaparte began. Shortly before his assassination, Paul, together with Napoleon, began to prepare a military campaign to India to “disturb” the English possessions. At the same time he sent to Central Asia the army of the Don (22,500 men), whose task was to conquer Khiva and Bukhara. Such a grandiose undertaking had not been prepared in the slightest; Paul himself admitted that he had no maps of Central Asia, and at the same time demanded from the ataman Vasily Orlov:

Remember that you only care about the English, and peace with all those who will not help them; and so, passing them, assure them of Russia”s friendship and go from the Indus to Ganges, and there to the English. In passing assert Bukharia, so that the Chinese do not get it. Release so many thousands of our captives in Khiva. If you need infantry, then follow you, but not otherwise. But it would be better if you did it by yourselves.

In the historical literature the invasion of Central Asia is regarded as a gamble: “It is absolutely clear that everything was done offhand, without any prior, serious preparation, amateurishly and frankly frivolous. The detachment was recalled from the Astrakhan steppes immediately after Paul”s death, just as, after Catherine”s death, her successor first recalled the army under Valerian Zubov, which was on its way to conquer Persia, to Russia.

After Malta surrendered without a fight to the French in the summer of 1798, the Order of Malta was left without a grand master and without a seat. For help, the Knights of the Order turned to the Russian Emperor Paul I, who, sharing the chivalric ideals of honor and glory, had declared himself the protector of the oldest spiritual order the year before.

Paul I was elected Grand Master of the Order of Malta on December 16 (27), 1798, due to which to his imperial title were added words “… and Grand Master of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem”. The Order of Saint John of Jerusalem was established in Russia. The Russian Order of St. John of Jerusalem and the Order of Malta were partially integrated. An image of the Maltese cross appeared on the Russian coat of arms.

Three ancient Hospitaller relics – a fragment of the Holy Cross, the Philermos icon of the Mother of God, and the right hand of Saint John the Baptist – were taken to Gatchina and on 12 (23) October 1799, they were brought to the church in the Gatchina Palace. On December 9 of the same year, the relics were transferred from Gatchina to Saint Petersburg, where they were placed in the Great Court Church of the Winter Palace. To commemorate this event the Holy Synod established the annual celebration on 12 (24) October 1800 of “the Transfer from Malta to Gatchina of a part of the Holy Cross, the Philerma icon of the Mother of God and the right hand of St. John the Baptist”.

The Priory Palace was built for the knights in Gatchina, and they also had at their disposal the Vorontsov Palace, which housed the Malta Chapel. The emperor issued a decree accepting the island of Malta under Russian protection. In the calendar of the Academy of Sciences, by order of the emperor, the island of Malta was to be designated as “Province of the Russian Empire”. Paul I wanted to make the title of grandmaster hereditary and to annex Malta to Russia. The emperor planned to create a naval base on the island to secure the interests of the Russian Empire in the Mediterranean Sea and in the south of Europe.

After Paul”s murder, Alexander I, who ascended the throne, normalized relations with the British Empire and gave up the title of grandmaster. In 1801, on the instructions of Alexander I, the Maltese cross was removed from the coat of arms.

Conspiracy and Death

Contrary to the prevailing view, there was not one but several plots against the emperor during the reign of Paul I. During Paul”s reign three cases of alarm in the troops were recorded. Twice it occurred during the stay of the Emperor at Pavlovsk, once at the Winter Palace. After the coronation of Emperor Paul I a secret organization (the Canal Workshop) was founded in Smolensk. The purpose of its members was to assassinate Paul. The plot was uncovered, its participants were punished with exile or hard labor. The materials of the investigation of the conspiracy disappeared: “Paul ordered them to be destroyed.

The conspiracy of high-ranking dignitaries took shape in 1800. Paul I was assassinated by officers at the Mikhailovsky Castle in his bedchamber on the night of 12 (24) March 1801. De Ribas, vice-chancellor Nikita Petrovich Panin, commander of Izyum cavalry regiment Leontius Bennigsen, Count Nikolai Zubov, commanders of the Guard regiments: Semenovsky – Leontius Deperadovich, Cavalry guard – Fyodor Uvarov, Preobrazhensky – Peter Talysin participated in the plot. British Ambassador Whitworth, who was in love with Olga Zherebtsova (the sister of disgraced Zubov brothers), in whose house the conspirators gathered, also supported the discontented. It is believed that the conspiracy was subsidized by the British government, thus trying to avoid a war with Russia over Malta. The soul and organizer of the conspiracy was Peter Palen, the governor-general of St. Petersburg and head of the secret police.

The news of Paul”s death provoked barely restrained jubilation in the streets of both capitals. “The roar of the North”s husky voice is silenced, The formidable, fearful look is closed,” Derzhavin wrote in those days. According to Vigel”s recollections, the generals who delivered the news to Moscow on Palm Sunday, “all who met were as if greeted and welcomed with gazes.”

It is one of those memories that time can never extinguish: the mute, universal joy illuminated by the bright spring sun. When I returned home, I could not make any sense of it: acquaintances came and went incessantly, all talking at the same time, all embracing, as on Holy Sunday; not a word about the deceased, so as not to dim the heartfelt joy that burned in all eyes even for a moment; not a word about the past, all about the present and the future. This day, so longed for by all, seemed to the vestrymen and vestrywomen particularly prosperous: they were welcomed everywhere with open arms.

Apoplexy was declared the official cause of Paul”s death.

Orders and Medals




Paul”s first woman is usually considered to be his maid of honor Sofia Ushakov, who bore him a son Semyon. After his marriage his attention was attracted by her lively mind and agile cheerful character Catherine Nelidova, “an ugly little brunette. Her sincere and noble judgement met Paul”s chivalrous aspirations to a greater extent than the “German neatness and methodicality” of his wife, a housewife of Pavlovsk. In time Nelidova, having completely mastered the mind and heart of the heir, learned to rule him. She declared that “God himself ordained her” to guard Paul and to guide him for the common good. Their connection was moral rather than carnal, and religious and mystical motives predominate in their extant correspondence. When Maria Feodorovna realized the true nature of this connection, she concluded with her favorite “a true friendly alliance for the good of both their loved ones.

Kutaisov, Rostopchin and other detractors of the Empress in 1798 convinced Paul that he was entirely under the tutelage of his wife and her chamber-maid of honor, reigning in his name, and arranged to replace Nelidova new beloved – Anna Lopukhina. Nelidova”s closest friend, Countess N. A. Buxhoeveden, was exiled to the castle of Lode, where she was followed by the rejected favorite herself.

Lopukhina was somewhat depressed about her position at court and especially how it was flaunted: her name was given to ships (she was the first woman to receive the Order of Malta. N. K. Schilder considered their relationship purely platonic: like any knight, Paul needed a lady of the heart to whom he could worship. Nevertheless, in the Mikhailovsky Castle the bedroom of the Emperor was connected to Lopukhina”s chamber by a special staircase.


Paul I was married twice:

Out-of-wedlock children:

Paul”s father Emperor Peter III was the great-grandson of King Charles XI of Sweden and, accordingly, the grandnephew of King Charles XII, who lost the Battle of Poltava to Peter I in 1709. Thus, Paul I, like all the descendants of Peter III, was the heir at the same time of the Russian tsars and the Swedish kings.


Although the sons” involvement in the conspiracy was not proven, a study of Paul Petrovich”s reign in the first half of the 19th century was not encouraged. The materials compromising the conspirators were destroyed. “We do not even have a brief, factual overview of the Pavlovian period of Russian history: anecdote in this case has pushed back history,” lamented historian S. V. Shumigorsky in the early 20th century. The circumstances of the emperor”s death, however, were no great mystery.

The perception of Paul by his descendants is highly ambiguous. In pre-revolutionary and then Soviet historiography, such aspects of his rule as the absurdly trivial regulation of the lives of his subjects and the repression of the nobility for the most minor mistakes were highlighted. He gained a reputation as an autocrat, tyrant, and despot.

On the other hand, attempts were made (especially in the second half of the 20th century) to emphasize his chivalry and heightened sense of justice (“romantic on the throne,” “Russian Hamlet”), which was expressed in equal rejection of both court hypocrisy and noble lawlessness of the Catherine era and bloodthirsty Jacobinism. There is evidence that on the eve of the February Revolution the Orthodox Church was preparing materials for Paul”s canonization. Calls for Paul”s canonization were also made at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

In modern studies of the mechanism of formation of the historical memory of Russian society, it is emphasized that Paul I does not fit into any ideologically coherent image of Russian history.


On the territory of the Russian Empire to Emperor Paul I was established at least six monuments:

During the post-Soviet period, no fewer than two monuments to Emperor Paul I have been erected in the Russian Federation:

At the movies.


  1. Павел I
  2. Paul I of Russia
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