1902 Encyclopedia > Paul, Emperor of Russia

Paul
Emperor of Russia
(1754-1801)




PAUL (1754-1801), emperor of Russia, son of Peter III. and of Catherine, was born on the 2d of October 1754. During the early part of his life he was treated with great harshness by his mother, who had usurped the throne and did not allow him to take any part in the government. There is little doubt that she did not intend him to succeed, but her will was burnt by one of Paul's adherents. His days were spent in retirement, with the exception of a tour which he made in the west of Europe in the year 1780. He was twice married, first, in 1773, to Augusta, princess of Hesse Darmstadt, who died three years afterwards, leaving no issue; secondly, in 1776, to Dorothea Sophia, princess of Wiirtemberg, who was received into the Greek Church as Maria Feodorovna. Paul Petrovich ascended the throne on the death of his mother Catherine, 17th November 1796. One of his first acts was to cause the body of his father to be exhumed from the Nevski monastery and buried with the empress his wife in the Petropavlovski church among the rest of the czars. Orloff and the other persons implicated in Peter's assassination were compelled to follow the coffins, and afterwards banished the empire for ever. The chief ministers of the new emperor were Rostopchin and Arak-cheeff. Paul now gave signs of a benevolent disposition; among other acts of generosity he set at liberty Kosciusko, who had been detained a prisoner at St Petersburg. He, however, revived many obsolete imperial privileges which were offensive to the nobility, and became unpopular by introducing German regulations into the army. He altered the ovkaz (ukase) of Peter the Great which made the succession to the throne dependent upon the will of the reigning sovereign, and declared it inherent in the eldest son. In 1798 he was appointed grand-master of the order of the Knights of Malta. Alarmed at the progress of the French Republic, he joined Turkey, England, Austria, and Naples in a coalition against Bonaparte. To command the Russians, the veteran Suwaroff was summoned from his rural retreat, to which he had been banished in consequence of making some satirical verses on the new regulations which had been introduced by Paul. For the campaigns of the Russian general, the article RUSSIA may be consulted. It may suffice to say here that he, triumphant at first, was eventually compelled to retreat, and was recalled by Paul. He died in disgrace in the year 1800. Soon afterwards the capricious emperor completely changed his plans. Having been flattered by Bonaparte, he secretly made overtures to him and quarrelled with England, seizing English vessels and goods which hap-pened to be in the Bussian ports. Bonaparte now entered into an agreement with Paul, whereby they should simul-taneously invade the English possessions in India. But the coalition was broken up by the assassination of the Bussian emperor in the night of 23d to 24th March 1801, which Bonaparte had the meanness to declare in the Monitew had been planned by the English. The story of his death is well known: he was strangled in the Mikhailovski Palace by Zouboff, Pahlen, and other conspirators. Their original object appears to have been only to make him abdicate. An interesting account of the events immediately preceding the emperor's death has been given by General Sabloukoff, who was on duty that evening at the palace. The empress Maria survived till 1828.

The solution of the incongruities of the character of Paul seems to lie in the fact that he was more or less insane. Hence his outbursts of cruelty in such cases as those of the pastor Seidler and Kotzebue, alternating with generosity, as in his treatment of Kosciusko and other Poles. Englishmen are familiar with some of his mad pranks from the highly interesting travels of Edward Clarke, who suffered from the despot's caprice. Among other whimsicalities, Kotzebue tells us that he seriously proposed that the sovereigns of Europe should settle their differences by single combat. He had so imperilled the position of the country by his extravagance and eccentric policy that his death, however unjustifiable the means, seemed almost a necessity. All Russia breathed afresh when Alexander II. ascended the throne.

The only event of the reign of Paul of permanent importance to Russia was the annexation of Georgia in 1799.






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