Aleksey Arakcheyev

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Portrait of Arakcheyev from the Military Gallery of the Winter Palace, by George Dawe.

Count Alexey Andreyevich Arakcheyev or Arakcheev (Russian: граф Алексе́й Андре́евич Аракче́ев) (October 4 [O.S. September 23] 1769 – May 3 [O.S. April 21] 1834) was a Russian general and statesman under the reign of Alexander I.

He served under Paul I and Alexander I as army leader and artillery inspector respectively. He had a violent temper, but was otherwise a competent artillerist, and is known for his reforms of tzarist artillery known as the "System of 1805".[1] After the Tsar's death and Nicholas I's coronation, he lost all his powers and properties.

Early years[edit]

Count Arakcheyev was born on his father's estate in the Novgorod Governorate. He was educated in arithmetic by a priest, and though he shone at arithmetic, he never mastered writing and grammar [2]. In 1783, with the help of General Peter Ivanovich Melissino, Arakcheyev enrolled in the Shlyakhetny artillery school in Saint-Petersburg. By 1787 he had become a lieutenant instructor, and gave artillery and fortification lessons to Prince Nicholas Saltykov's sons. In 1791 he became the school's assistant director. [3]

In 1792 Saltykov recommended Arakcheyev to Pavel Petrovich, son of Catherine the Great and heir to the throne of Russia, who was in search for an artillery officer. Arakcheyev became chief artillery officer to the commandant of Gatchina [4].

Paul I's reign[edit]

Arakcheyev became noted for his ruthless manners and zealousness, and by 1794 he was Gatchina's artillery inspector and two years later, was also the infantry inspector under the Empress Catherine II.[5]

Catherine died in 1796 and Arakcheyev was at Tsar Paul's side during his accession.[6] On November 7, 1796, Arakcheyev was promoted from colonel to major-general and appointed as the commandant of Saint-Petersburg's garrison [7]. In April 1797, he was promoted to quartermaster-general, and received the title of baron from the Tsar. A year later, after an officer, Colonel Lehn, committed suicide, he was temporarily retired with the rank of lieutenant-general [8]. In 1799 he was reinstated as Inspector-general of the Artillery position and quartermaster-general and given the title of count [9]. He was disgraced and retired in 1800 after hiding misdeeds by his subordinates. His name had become synonymous with despotism, known in Russian as Arakcheyevshchina.[5]

Alexander I's reign[edit]

In May 1803, the new Tsar Alexander I restored his position as Inspector of the Artillery. During the first years he reorganized the artillery units, improved the officer training, and issued new regulations.[5]

After the lessons learned at the Battle of Austerlitz, where Russian artillery had performed poorly, Arakcheyev devised the "System of 1805".[10] Under this arrangement, 6- and 12-pounder guns were employed throughout the army, as well as 2-, 10-, and 18-pounder licornes. Under the new system, a single Russian division had as much artillery as an entire French corps.[1] A foot artillery battalion was composed of two light and two heavy companies.[1] A light foot artillery company consisted of four 10-pounder licornes, four light and four medium 6-pounder guns; a heavy artillery company had four light and four heavy 12-pounder guns and four 18- and two 2-pounder licornes. Six light 6-pounder guns and six 10-pounder licornes made a company of horse artillery.[1][11] Licornes were usually deployed on the flanks of the batteries.[1] All these guns used a screw elevating mechanism instead of the old system of wedges and had an improved sighting apparatus.[10]

Promoted in January 1808 to Minister of War and inspector-general of the entire infantry and artillery, he once more reorganized the army and the grading of the army staff. In 1808 he created a publication called the "artillery periodical". During the Finnish War of 1808-9, Alexander ordered the army to invade Sweden across the frozen Gulf of Bothnia; only Arakcheyev was willing to undertake this task. [12]By 1810, Arakcheyev had resigned from his Defense Minister's post and was sitting on the board of the Council of State as chairman in military science.[13]

During the Patriotic War of 1812, he oversaw recruitment and management of army supplies. He introduced several useful military reforms, which proved themselves during the wars of 1812-1814. Throughout his service, Arakcheyev was known for his meticulous following of the will of the tsar.

Starting in 1816, he organized military-agricultural colonies, an idea initially conceived by Alexander I. At first Arakcheyev tried to oppose them, but when he agreed, he did so with unrelenting rigor. The hardships of military service combined with the hardships of peasant life created terrifying conditions in those settlements.

The ruthlessness he exhibited in the military extended to his home. The women peasants in Arakcheyev's own Gruzino estate near Novgorod were required to produce one child each year. Arakcheyev even ordered the hanging of all cats, on account of his fondness for nightingales.

From 1815 to the tsar's death, Arakcheyev continued to be present around the emperor as member of the state council and an influential voice in the leader's entourage. During Alexander I's journeys abroad, Arakcheev would follow, giving his accord to every law passed.[5]. By 1823, he was 'at the height of his power' and was able to plot the downfall of his rival, Education Minister Prince Alexander Golitsyn, by enlisting the support of a firebrand priest, Archimandrite Photius, who accused Golitsyn of apostasy [14]. He also forced the resignation of Pyotr Mikhailovich Volkonsky [15]

Later years[edit]

After the death of Tsar Alexander I on December 1, 1825, and the coronation of Nicholas I, Arakcheyev lost all his positions in the government, such as member of the State Council and inspector of the army artillery and infantry. This led to his removal from the court and the exile to his estate of Gruzino near Novgorod. There he lived until his death in 1834, when he was interred in a local church. Furthermore, after Arakcheyev's death the tsar requisitioned his land and property due to the inability to find legal heirs.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Arakcheyev purchased the Gruzino estate near Novgorod in 1788 [16]. He was in his thirties when he married 18-year-old Anastasia Vasilievna Khomutova. She liked parties and dances; he did not, was intensely jealous of her, and gave the servants a list of addresses forbidden to her. In the second year of the marriage, she left him and they never met again. [17].

Arakcheyev also had a long-term mistress, Nastasia Fedorovna Minkina. During his absence from their estate, she bore a son who had red hair, blue eyes, and resembled neither her nor Arakcheyev.[18]. The boy was named Mikhail Shumsky, and grew to be a troublesome drunkard. Minkina was so tyrannical that she was murdered by resentful servants. Arakcheyev was grief-stricken and unable to function at court for some time. [19].

There was also an 'unofficial peasant wife' who bore him two illegitimate sons, sent to be educated in the Corps des Pages [20]

Temper and "Arakcheevshchina"[edit]

Arakcheyev is said[by whom?] to have executed two junior officers by having them buried up to their necks and leaving them to die of starvation and thirst. On another occasion he is said to have personally cut off another officer's head with his sword after a perceived infraction.[1] "Arakcheevshchina" (Russian: аракчеевщина), roughly translated as "the Arakcheev régime", became[when?] a derogatory term for a military state, denoting "the atmosphere of reactionary repression closing over Russian society".[21] Soviet authors routinely applied this label to characterize a régime of reactionary oppression. For instance, Joseph Stalin used the term "Arakcheevshchina" in 1950 to describe the situation fostered by Ivan Meshchaninov in the Soviet Institute of Language and Thought.

In Popular Culture[edit]

Arakcheyev features in Leo Tolstoy's novel War and Peace, when in 1809 Prince Andrei has an audience with him. Tolstoy portrays him as rude, abrupt, ungrammatical, with 'scowling brows, dull eyes and an overhanging red nose'.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Kinard, Jeff (2007). Artillery: An Illustrated History of Its Impact. Oxford: ABC-CLIO. pp. 159–160. ISBN 978-1-85109-556-8.
  2. ^ Michael Jenkins, Arakcheev, Faber and Faber, 1969, p30
  3. ^ Michael Jenkins, Arakcheev, Faber and Faber, 1969, p31-8
  4. ^ Michael Jenkins, Arakcheev, Faber and Faber, 1969, p39
  5. ^ a b c d e "ARAKCHEEV, ALEKSEY ANDREEVICH". Krugosvet. Archived from the original on 2006-06-24. Retrieved 2006-05-08.
  6. ^ Sebag Montefiore, Simon (2016). The Romanovs. United Kingdom: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 253-254.
  7. ^ Michael Jenkins, Arakcheev, Faber and Faber, 1969, p55
  8. ^ Michael Jenkins, Arakcheev, Faber and Faber, 1969, p69
  9. ^ Michael Jenkins, Arakcheev, Faber and Faber, 1969, p70
  10. ^ a b Rothenberg, Gunther Erich (1980). The art of warfare in the age of Napoleon. Indiana University Press. pp. 201–202. ISBN 978-0-253-20260-4.
  11. ^ Kiley, Kevin (2006). Artillery of the Napoleonic Wars. London: Greenhill Books. p. 157. ISBN 978-1-85367-583-6.
  12. ^ Michael Jenkins, Arakcheev, Faber and Faber, 1969, chapter 4
  13. ^ И.Н. Христофоров. "Аракчеев и "Аракчеевщина"". журнала "Воин России". Archived from the original on 2005-02-14. Retrieved 2006-05-08. (in Russian)
  14. ^ Michael Jenkins, Arakcheev, Faber and Faber, 1969, p222-230
  15. ^ Sebag Montefiore, The Romanovs, 2016, p 331
  16. ^ Michael Jenkins, Arakcheev, Faber and Faber, 1969, p55
  17. ^ Michael Jenkins, Arakcheev, Grand Vizier of the Russian Empire, Faber and Faber, 1969, pages 104-106
  18. ^ Michael Jenkins, Arakcheev, Grand Vizier of the Russian Empire, Faber and Faber, 1969, pages 93-5
  19. ^ Michael Jenkins, Arakcheev, Grand Vizier of the Russian Empire, Faber and Faber, 1969, chapter 8
  20. ^ Orlando Figes, Natasha's Dance, Penguin 2003, p105
  21. ^ Tosi, Alessandra. Waiting for Pushkin: Russian Fiction in the Reign of Alexander I (1801-1825). ISBN 90-420-1829-1. Page 28.

References[edit]

  • Dukes, Paul (1974) A History of Russia, McGraw-Hill Book Company. ISBN 0-07-018032-6
  • Jenkins, Michael (1969) Arakcheev: Grand Vizier of the Russian Empire, The Dial Press, Inc. ISBN 0-571-08222-X
Preceded by
Sergey Vyazmitinov
Minister of Land Forces
1808 – 1810
Succeeded by
Michael Barclay de Tolly