Last Years — Conclusion

  • Marc Raeff


By bringing to a successful conclusion the task of codifying and digesting Russian law, Speransky had accomplished the major goal and purpose of his administrative work. It was the fulfillment and crowning glory of his career. When in January 1833, at the Council of State, Nicholas I bestowed his own star and sash of the Order of St. Andrew, 1st class, upon Privy Councillor Speransky in reward for his labors on the code, the son of the priest of Cherkutino village could well feel that he had attained the pinnacle of bureaucratic success. From then on, until his death in 1839, Speransky continued as an active member of the government, a high ranking and respected official, but he contributed no fresh ideas or methods. He participated in practically all important government discussions and administrative reorganizations, but played no leading role; and his voice was not a decisive one.


Russian Society Moral Progress Intellectual Elite Young Official Respected Official 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    A more complete analysis of Speransky’s lectures to the Grand Duke is to be found in my article, “The Political Philosophy of Speranskij,” The American Slavic and East European Review, vol. XII, No. 1 (February 1953), pp. 14-18.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    F. P. Lubianovskii, “Vospominaniia F. P. Lubianovskogo,” Russkii Arkhiv, (1872), p. 486.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    For instance, A. Khomiakov’s disparaging opinion of Speransky, as cited from a letter of his to I. S. Aksakov (1859) by N. P. Barsukov, Zhizn’ i trudy M. P. Pogodina, XVI, p. 397.Google Scholar
  4. 1.
    N. Gastfreind, Tovarishchi Pushkina po Imperatorskomu Tsarskosel’skomu Litseiu, Vol. II, p. 39 (Letter to F. Matiushkin, 25 June 1821).Google Scholar
  5. 2.
    Thus Count Kankrin, the Minister of Finance, was telling a younger official who had been invited to Speransky’s house: “I would advise you to follow suit to the request of Mikhail Mikhailovich. You know it, my dear, that this is our most intelligent and interesting person, and you will be perfectly satisfied with his charming conversation. I shall also tell you that he is a clever man, and also a good-hearted one, and this is a rare combination.” I. A. Bychkov (ed.), “Dopolnitel’-nye zametki i materialy dlia ‘Zhizni M. M. Speranskogo’,” Russkaia Starino, 115 (Sept. 1903), p. 515.Google Scholar
  6. 1.
    I. A. Bychkov (ed.), “Neskol’ko dannykh k istorii knigi barona M. A. Korfa, ‘Zhizn’ grafa Speranskogo’ — iz bumag akad. A. F. Bychkova,” Russkaia Starina, 109 (1902), p. 150.Google Scholar
  7. 1.
    A. I. Turgenev, Pis’ma A. Tur geneva Bulgakovym (M. 1939), pp. 224–225, letter from Paris, dated 14 March (2 March) 1839 to A. la. Bulgakov.Google Scholar
  8. 2.
    K. N. Lebedev, “Iz zapisok senatora K. N. Lebedeva,” Russkii Arkhiv, (1910), No. 7, pp. 394–395.Google Scholar
  9. 1.
    Speransky’s stylistic talent as an explanation of his successful career is, in our opinion, greatly exaggerated by A. E. Nol’de in his (manuscript) biography of Speransky.Google Scholar
  10. 1.
    The Slavophiles, however, realized it, and shied away from bureaucratic government as much as possible. Speransky’s reliance on a bureaucracy in part explains why he was rather acidly criticized by the liberals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.Google Scholar
  11. 1.
    The French historian, Léonce Pingaud, put it rather neatly: “quant à lui [Speransky], il se présente à nous comme un Turgot moscovite, plus remarquable par ce qu’il a souhaité que par ce qu’il a réalisé. Il eût désiré l’abolition du servage et du tchine, c’est à dire le droit du peuple à Ia propriété, de Ia noblesse à l’indépendance.” Léonce Pingaud, Les Français en Russie et les Russes en France (L’Ancien Régime — l’émigration — les Invasions), Paris 1886, p. 261.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1957

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marc Raeff

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations