Disgrace and Exile

  • Marc Raeff


Official duties and administrative projects absorbed Speransky’s attention and energy so much that he seemed quite oblivious to his social and political isolation in St. Petersburg. He felt confident that as long as he retained the trust and esteem of the Emperor, his enemies and ill-wishers could do him no real harm. Quite true, indeed, as long as Alexander I trusted him, Speransky did not need to fear the jealousies or intrigues of courtiers and dignitaries. Unfortunately, Speransky made no allowance for the peculiarities of Alexander’s character, suspicious and ever-changing in his attachments. Nor did the State Secretary seem to be aware of the growing tensions and dissatisfactions in the country to which, for reasons of his own, the Emperor felt compelled to pay some attention. So that when the blow fell, it came as a complete and brutal surprise to the unsuspecting State Secretary. Yet, his fall from influence and power had been in the making for some time; in a way since Erfurt when, in the mind of Society, his name became indissolubly linked with the hated French alliance. The “campaign” against Speransky, frequently serving as a pretext to those who wished to change Alexander’s orientation, proceeded slowly and deviously. It originated in Moscow from where it was taken up by some circles in St. Petersburg, and finally the Emperor himself “se mit de Ia partie” sealing the fate of his assistant. Today it is almost impossible to unravel the intricate and confused skein of intrigue which culminated in Speransky’s exile. We can no more separate and analyse the motives and roles of all participants with any degree of certainty. As a matter of fact, probably not much would be gained even if it were possible to do so. Whatever the factual details and the psychological riddles which remain hidden from us, the general course of events is clear and we can get at the main considerations that dictated the actions of the personalities involved. The story of this resounding cause célèbre of Alexander’s reign was, perhaps, much simpler than most contemporaries and subsequent historians have thought.


Political Principle Governor General Privy Councillor Grand Duchy Administrative Project 
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© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1957

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  • Marc Raeff

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