Platon Zubov – The Minister of all Ministries: Favoritism in the Late 18th Century

Igor Kurukin

Abstract


The author studies the role and activities of Platon Zubov, the last favourite of Catherine II, drawing upon documents in the files of the Russian State Archive of Ancient Documents. In 1789 the guard captain became one of the empress’s closest confidants. The long title of the last favourite of Catherine, the Great Platon Zubov demonstrates his multiple duties: ‘His Serene Highness, General Feldzeugmeister, General Director of Fortifications, Captain-General of the Black Sea and Azov Sea Fleet, Black Sea Cossack Corps, Yekaterinoslav, Voznesensk, and Taurida Governor-General, Member of the Military Division, Honorable Benefactor of the Imperial Foundling Hospital and Honorable Amateur of the Academy of Fine Arts’. The tasks Zubov performed by special warrant of the empress and his correspondence with the officials were well in compliance with the work of the office of secretaries-of-state of the empress. His office’s documents, established in 1792, are similar to those compiled by other secretaries-of-state of the time: A. A. Bezborodko, G. R. Derzhavin, D. P. Troshchinsky, and A. M. Gribovsky. More frequently than not, the work of a favourite consisted in providing contact between the empress and her commanders and diplomats. This he could do, according to A.A. Prozorovsky, because of his ‘closeness to the highest throne’. Applying to the favourite helped to solve both major and minor issues that needed to be addressed promptly. Communication with the favourite made it possible to determine the empress’s reaction to issues which could not be discussed with her personally. Many other noblemen (e. g., N. V. Repnin, A. H. Samoylov, I. S. Baryatinsky) hoped to improve their poor finances with the help of Zubov and receive some material aid from the empress or to be otherwise permitted to remit their debts later.

The favourite’s main task, similar to that of other secretaries-of-state, was the reception of petitions of all the subjects of state. He received hundreds of petitions for awards, pardons, titles, leaves of absence, vacancies, payments, pensions and enrollment of children in schools. P. A. Zubov’s Registers of Civil Letters contain dozens of his letters where he asks for patronage for certain people or gives orders soliciting ‘to provide villages’, or a vacancy, or to aid the applicant.

His powers should not otherwise be overestimated. The decentralization of the administrative system after the 1775 reform, and the increased role of the General Procurator and the emergence of the institution of secretaries-ofstate as a means of communication between the monarch and the authorities and petitioners diminished the importance of the favourite as a ruling position. This may be considered a general European tendency, as in the 18th century the first ministers came to the foreground while favourites (both men and women) made part of the court (though the latter and the former are quite often interconnected) and their status in the new system was different as compared to the favourites or ministers of the 17th century.

The case of G. A. Potemkin is an exception rather than a rule, which was due to the personality and unparalleled trust granted to him by Catherine the Great. The empress meant for the new favourite to become a new Potemkin. However, Zubov failed to reach his status. He did not have the talent nor was he able to get the necessary experience because of his inability to leave the court. Obviously, he was not the person to instigate and implement serious actions. That is why Catherine the Great’s legal initiatives (Charter for the State Peasants, Instructions for the Proper Treatment of Affairs, Nakaz to the Senate) failed as they never became more than drafts, to say nothing of the abdication in favour of her grandson Alexander even if this plan existed at all. Thus we see the decline of favouritism as an informal mechanism of superior rule.


Keywords


Platon Zubov; favoritism; Catherine the Great; Russian 18th century history; institution of power; mechanisms of rule

References


Ageeva, O. G. (2008). Imperatorskij dvor Rossii, 1700–1796 gody′ [Russia’s Imperial Court, 1700–1796]. 380 p. Moscow, Nauka.

Agrancev, I. (2005). Aleksandr Menshikov: Czarevich bez trona [Aleksandr Menshikov: A Tsarevich without a Throne]. 352 p. Saint Petersburg, Neva.

Andriajnen, S. V. (2007). P. I. Shuvalov i ego proekty′ gosudarstvenny′h preobrazovanij v 1744–1761 gg. [P. I. Shuvalov and His State Reform Projects between 1744 and 1761] (Dissertation abstract). 29 p. Saint-Petersburg, SPbGU.

Arhiv knyazya Voronczova [The Archive of Prince Vorontsov]. (1876). (Bk. 9). 558 p. Moscow, Tip. Gracheva i K.

Bespyaty′h, Yu. N. (2005). Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov: Mify′ i real′nost′ [Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov: Myths and Reality]. 240 p. Saint Petersburg, Istoricheskaya illyustraciya.

Bolotina, N. Yu. (2006a). Knyaz′ Potemkin: Geroj e′pohi Ekateriny′ Velikoj [G. A. Potemkin: On the Issue of Favouritism in Russia]. 528 p. Moscow, Veche.

Bolotina, N. Yu. (2006b). Favoritizm [Favouritism]. In Pihoya, R. G. (Ed.). Istoriya gosudarstvennogo upravleniya v Rossii. 439 p. Moscow, RAGS.

Bolotina, N. Yu. (2007). G. A. Potemkin: k voprosu ob institute favoritizma v Rossii [Prince Potemkin: A Hero of Catherine the Great’s Epoch]. In Rossijskaya gosudarstvennost′: istoriya i sovremennost′ (pp. 230–263). Moscow, RAGS.

Brockliss, L. W. B. (1999). Concluding remarks: The Anatomy of the Minister-Favorite. In Elliott, J. H. & Brocliss, L. W. B. (Eds.). The World of the Favorite (pp. 271–302). New Haven, Yale University Press.

Bumagi imperatricy′ Ekateriny′ II [Papers of Empress Catherine II]. (1885). In Sbornik RIO. (Vol. 42). 482 p. Saint Petersburg.

Dela Pol′shi [Poland’s Affairs]. (1885). In Sbornik RIO. (Vol. 47). 505 p. Saint Petersburg.

Departament favoritov [The Department of Favourites]. (1990). Moscow, IKPA.

Derzhavin, G. R. (1984). Izbrannaya proza [Selected Prose]. 400 p. Moscow, Sovetskaya Rossiya.

Dimov, V. A. (2002). Potemkin v zhizni: Chelovek-mif vosemnadczatogo veka [Potemkin in Life: The Mythical Man of the Eighteenth Century]. 558 p. Moscow, Klassika.

Druzhinina, E. I. (1959). Severnoe Prichernomor′e v 1775–1800 gg. [Northern Black Sea Region in 1775–1800]. 277 p. Moscow, AN SSSR.

E′nciklopediya rossijskoj monarhii: Chleny′ imperatorskogo dvora. Pridvorny′e. Favority′ i favoritki. Vremenshhiki [An Encyclopaedia of Russian Monarchy: Members of the Royal Court. The Suite. Favourites]. (2002). 351 p. Yekaterinburg, U-Faktoriya.

Eliseeva, O. I. (1997). Perepiska Ekateriny′ II i G. A. Potemkina perioda Vtoroj russko-tureczkoj vojny′ 1787–1791 gg.: Istochnikovedcheskoe issledovanie [Catherine II and G.A. Potemkin’s Correspondence of the 2nd Russo-Turkish War of 1787-1791 (A Source Study)]. 155 p. Moscow, Vostok.

Eliseeva, O. I. (2000). Geopoliticheskie proekty′ G. A. Potemkina [G. A. Potemkin’s Geopolitical Projects]. 341 p. Saint Petersburg.

Eliseeva, O. I. (2005). Grigorij Potemkin [Grigory Potemkin]. 665 p. Moscow, Molodaya gvardiya.

Filosofskij vek: Al′manah. Vy′p. 8. I. I. Shuvalov (1727–1797) – prosveshhennaya lichnost′ v rossijskoj istorii [The Age of Philosophy: An Almanac. Issue 8: I. I. Shuvalov (1727–1797)]. (1998). 351 p. Saint Petersburg.

Golicy′n, F. N. (1996). Zapiski [Notes]. In Zolotoj vek Ekateriny′ Velikoj. 328 p. Moscow, MGU.

Grigorovich, N. I. (1881). Kanczler knyaz′ Aleksandr Andreevich Bezborodko v svyazi s soby′tiyami ego vremeni [Chancellor Aleksandr Andreevich Bezborodko on the Events of His Time]. In Sbornik RIO. (Vol. 29). 736 p. Saint Petersburg.

Hoteenkov, V. F. (1998). Pervy′j ministr narodnogo prosveshheniya Rossijskoj imperii Petr Vasil′evich Zavadovskij [The First Minister of Popular Enlightenment of the Russian Empire Petr Vasilyevich Zavadovsky]. 465 p. Moscow, Centr val′dorfskoj pedagogiki.

Hrapoviczkij, A. V., Gribovskij, A. M. & Dama, R. (2008). Ekaterina II: Iskusstvo upravlyat′ [Catherine II: The Art of Ruling]. 650 p. Moscow, Fond Sergeya Dubova.

Ismagulova, T. D. (2006). Brat′ya Kurakiny′ i brat′ya Zubovy′ v czarstvovanie Ekateriny′ II i Pavla I [The Brothers Kurakin and Brothers Zubov during the Rule of Catherine and Paul I]. In Kurakinskie chteniya (pp. 222–231). Moscow.

Istoriya Evropy′ [A History of Europe] (in 8 vols.). (1994). (Vol. 4, pp. 395–400). Moscow, Nauka.

Istoriya gosudarevoj svity′: XVIII vek [The History of the Emperor’s Retinue]. (2011). 640 p. Moscow, Kuchkovo pole.

Istoriya SSSR s drevnejshih vremen do nashih dnej [The History of the USSR from the Old Times to Modernity] (in 12 vols.). (1967). (Vol. 3). 747 p. Moscow, Nauka.

Jena, D. (2001). Potemkin: Favorit und Feldmarschall Katharinas der Grossen. 368 s. München, Langen-Müller.

Kabanov, V. V. (1997). Orlovy′: Istoricheskaya hronika [The Orlovs: A Historical Chronicle]. 127 p. Moscow, Plyus.

Kalyazina, I. V. (2005). Aleksandr Menshikov –stroitel′ Rossii [Aleksandr Menshikov: The Builder of Russia] (in 2 parts). (Part 1). 247 p. Saint Petersburg, Liki Rossii.

Kamer-fur′erskij ceremonial′ny′j zhurnal 1789 goda [Chamber Fourrier Ceremonial Magazine of 1789]. (1888). 594 p. Saint Petersburg, Tipografiya departamenta udelov.

Kamer-fur′erskij ceremonial′ny′j zhurnal 1790 goda [Chamber Fourrier Ceremonial Magazine of 1790]. (1889). 784 p. Saint Petersburg, Tipografiya departamenta udelov.

Kamer-fur′erskij ceremonial′ny′j zhurnal 1791 goda [Chamber Fourrier Ceremonial Magazine of 1791]. (1890). 784 p. Saint Petersburg, Tipografiya departamenta udelov.

Kamer-fur′erskij ceremonial′ny′j zhurnal 1792 goda [Chamber Fourrier Ceremonial Magazine of 1792]. (1892). 744 p. Saint Petersburg, Tipografiya departamenta udelov.

Kamer-fur′erskij ceremonial′ny′j zhurnal 1793 goda [Chamber Fourrier Ceremonial Magazine of 1793]. (1892). 939 p. Saint Petersburg, Tipografiya departamenta udelov.

Kamer-fur′erskij ceremonial′ny′j zhurnal 1795 goda [Chamber Fourrier Ceremonial Magazine of 1795]. (1894). 1023 p. Saint Petersburg, Tipografiya departamenta udelov.

Kamer-fur′erskij ceremonial′ny′j zhurnal 1796 goda [Chamber Fourrier Ceremonial Magazine of 1796]. (1896). 892 p. Saint Petersburg, Tipografiya departamenta udelov.

Kislyagina, L. G. (1991). Kancelyariya stats-sekretarej pri Ekaterine II [The Chancellery of State Secretaries under Catherine II]. In Gosudarstvenny′e uchrezhdeniya Rossii XVI–XVIII vv. (pp. 168–191). Moscow, MGU.

Krasil′shhik, A. I. (2004). K voprosu o social′no-politicheskih funkciyah instituta favoritizma (vremya czarstvovaniya Ekateriny′ II) [On the Social and Political Functions of Favouritism (During the Reign of Catherine II)]. In Narod i vlast′: Istoricheskie istochniki i metody′ issledovaniya: Materialy′ XVI nauchnoj konferencii (30–31 yanvarya 2004 g.) (pp. 220–223). Moscow, RGGU.

Kudryashov, K. V. (1925). Platon Zubov: Poslednij favorit Ekateriny′ II [Platon Zubov: The Last Favourite of Catherine II]. 95 p. Moscow, Brokgauz-Efron.

Kurukin, I. V. (2006). Biron [Biron]. 426 p. Moscow, Molodaya gvardiya.

Kurukin, I. V. (2014). Favorit v Rossii XVIII veka: chelovek i mehanizm [Favourites in 18th Century Russia: Men and Mechanisms]. In Vestnik istorii, literatury′, iskusstva (Vol. 9, pp. 181–195). Moscow, Sobranie, Nauka.

Levenshtejn, O. G. (2008). G. R. Derzhavin: gosudarstvennaya deyatel′nost′ (1784–1796 gg.) [G. R. Derzhavin: State Activity (1784–1796)]. 131 p. Kazan, KazGU.

Lopatin, V. S. (1992). Potemkin i Suvorov [Potemkin and Suvorov]. 287 p. Moscow, Nauka.

Lopatin, V. S. (1997). Ekaterina II i G. A. Potemkin. Lichnaya perepiska 1769–1791 gg. [Catherine II and G. A. Potemkin. Personal Correspondence of 1769–1791]. 989 p. Moscow, Nauka.

Lopatin, V. S. (2004). Svetlejshij knyaz′ Potemkin: Portrety′. Vospominaniya [His Serene Highness Prince Potemkin: Portraits. Memoirs]. 475 p. Moscow, OLMA-PRESS.

Madariaga, I. de. (2002). Rossiya v e′pohu Ekateriny′ Velikoj [Russia during the Reign of Catherine the Great]. 903 p. Moscow, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie.

Man′ko, A. V. (2007). Velikih posol′skih del oberegatel′: Politicheskaya biografiya knyazya V. V. Golicy′na [The Protector of the Great Ambassadorial Affairs: The Political Biography of Prince V. V. Golitsyn]. 206 p. Moscow, Agraf.

Memuary′ knyazya Adama Chartorizhskogo i ego perepiska s imperatorom Aleksan-drom I [Memoirs of Prince Adam Czartoryski and His Correspondence with Emperor Alexander I] (in 2 vols.). (1912). (Vol. 1). 368 p. Moscow, K. F. Nekrasov.

Mnenie po delu kapitana Shemyakina [An Opinion of Captain Shemyakin’s Case]. (1872). In Sochineniya Derzhavina (in 9 vols.). (Vol. 7, pp. 207–215). Saint Petersburg, Imperatorskaya Akademiya nauk.

Ocherki russkoj kul′tury′ XVIII v. [Essays on 18th Century Russian Culture] (in 4 parts). (1987). (Part 2, pp. 81–82, 84, 94–100). Moscow, MGU.

Omel′chenko, O. A. (2004). Vlast′ i zakon v Rossii XVIII veka: Issledovaniya i ocherki [Power and Law in 18th Century Russia] (pp. 341–351). Moscow, MGIU.

Parhomenko, E. O. (2005). Modeli favoritizma v Rossii XVIII v. [Models of Favouritism in 18th Century Russia]. In Sbornik materialov po itogam nauchno-issledovatel′skoj deyatel′nosti molody′h ucheny′h v oblasti gumanitarny′h, estestvenny′h i tehnicheskih nauk v 2004 g. (pp. 25–29). Moscow, Prometej.

Pavlenko, N. I. (2005). Menshikov: Poluderzhavny′j vlastelin [Menshikov: The Ruler of Half a Country]. 361 p. Moscow, Molodaya gvardiya.

Pery′shkin, M. Yu. (2004). Institut stats-sekretarej pri Ekaterine II (1762–1796 gg.) [The Institution of State Secretaries under Catherine II (1762–1796)]. (Dissertation abstract). 24 p. Moscow, RAGS.

Pis′ma grafa F. V. Rostopchina k grafu S. R. Voroncovu [Count F. V. Rostopchin’s Letters to Count S. R. Vorontsov]. (1876). In Arhiv knyazya Voroncova (in 40 bks). (Bk. 8, pp. 37–457). Moscow, Tipografiya Gracheva i K.

Pis′ma grafa P. V. Zavadovskogo k brat′yam grafam Voroncovy′m [Letters of Prince P. V. Zavadovsky to Counts Brothers Vorontsov]. (1877). In Arhiv knyazya Voroncova (in 40 bks). (Bk. 12, pp. 1–312). Moscow, Tipografiya Gracheva i K.

Pis′ma knyazya A. A. Bezborodko [Letters of Prince A. A. Bezborodko]. (1879). In Arhiv knyazya Voroncova (in 40 bks). (Bk. 13, pp. 1–420). Moscow, Tipografiya Gracheva i K.

Pisarenko, K. A. (2003). Povsednevnaya zhizn′ russkogo dvora v czarstvovanie Elizavety′

Petrovny′ [Everyday Life of the Russian Court during the Reign of Elizaveta Petrovna]. 873 p. Moscow, Molodaya gvardiya.

Politicheskaya istoriya: Rossiya – SSSR – Rossijskaya Federaciya [Political History: Russia – USSR – The Russian Federation] (in 2 vols.). (1996). (Vol. 1). 653 p. Moscow, Terra.

Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossijskoj imperii. Sobranie pervoe [The Complete Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire (Collection 1)] (in 50 vols.). (1830). (Vol. 23, no. 17300, 17343, 17455, 17468, 17490). Saint Petersburg.

Polushkin, L. P. (2007). Brat′ya Orlovy′. 1762–1820 [Brothers Orlov. 1762–1820]. 510 p. Moscow, Centrpoligraf.

Prilozhenie k kamer-fur′erskomu zhurnalu 1796 goda [An Appendix to the Chamber Fourrier Magazine of 1796]. (1897). 144 p. Saint Petersburg, Tipografiya departamenta udelov.

Pule, M. F. de. (1869). Poslednij korol′ pol′skij v Grodne i Litva v ishode XVIII veka [The Last Polish King in Grodno and Lithuania in the Late 18th Century]. In Osmnadczaty′j vek: Istoricheskij sbornik, izdavaemy′j P. Bartenevy′m (in 4 vols.). (Vol. 4, pp. 97–206). Moscow, Tipografiya T. Ris.

Rahmatullin, M. A. (1997). Nepokolebimaya Ekaterina [The Firm Catherine], Otechestvennaja istorija, 1, pp. 13–26.

Rogozhin, N. M. (1999). Artamon Matveev [Artamon Andreev], Mezhdunarodnaya zhizn′, 9, pp. 88–98.

Rossijskij gosudarstvenny′j arhiv drevnih aktov [The Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts]. F. 5. Op. 1; F. 10. Op. 3; F. 11. Op. 1; F. 14. Op. 1; F. 16. Op. 1; F. 20. Op. 1; F. 193. Op. 1; F. 1239. Op. 3.

Safonov, M. M. (1997). General al′kova? Platon Zubov: vozvy′shenie iz nichtozhestva [A General of the Alcove? Platon Zubov: Rising from Misery], Rodina, 9, pp. 63–68.

Safonov, M. M. (2001). Zaveshhanie Ekateriny′ II [The Testament of Catherine II].311 p. Saint Petersburg, Lita.

Saharov, V. I. (2003). Graf I. I. Shuvalov kak osnovatel′ Pazheskogo korpusa: K 200-letiyu korpusa [Count I. I. Shuvalov as the Founder of the Page Corps: On the 200th Anniversary of the Corps]. In Hozyaeva i gosti usad′by′ Vyazemy′: Materialy′ X Golicy′nskih chtenij (25–26 yanvarya 2003 goda) (pp. 177–181).

Savin, A. (1990). Favority′ Ekateriny′ II [Favourites of Catherine II]. 112 p. Stavropol, Stavropol′skoe knizhnoe izdatel′stvo.

Sbornik biografij kavalergardov [A Collection of Biographies of Horse Guardsmen] (in4 vols.). (1904). (Vol. 2). 491 p. Saint Petersburg, E′kspediciya zagotovleniya gosudarstvenny′h bumag.

Scott, H. M. (1996). The Rise of the First Minister in Eighteenth Century Europe. In History and biography. Essays in honour of Derek Beales (pp. 21–52). Cambridge, Cambridge university press.

Sebag-Montefiore, S. (2003). Potemkin [Potemkin]. 558 p. Moscow, VAGRIUS.

Shenkman, G. S. (2000). Generalissimus Menshikov [Generalissimo Menshikov]. 171 p. Saint Petersburg, Lita.

Shlyapnikova, E. A. (1997). Gosudarstvennaya deyatel′nost′ G. A. Potemkina [State Activity of G. A. Potemkin]. 174 p. Lipetsk.

Shunin, A. A. (2004). Reforma mednoj monety′ v Rossii po proektu knyazya Platona Zubova (1796–1797 gg.) [Copper Coin Reform in Russia Authored by Prince Platon Zubov (1796–1797)]. (Dissertation abstract). 23 p. Nizhny Novgorod.

Shunin, A. A. (2005). «Daby′ postavit′ gosudarstvo v blagom i spasitel′nom sostoyanii»: Monetnaya reforma po proektu knyazya P. A. Zubova (1796–1797 gg.) [“For the State’s Benefit and Sustainability”: A Monetary Reform Authored by Prince P. A. Zubov (1796–1797)]. 189 p. Nizhny Novgorod, NGU.

Sivenceva, I. V. (2001). Knigi favorita Ekateriny′ II A. D. Lanskogo v biblioteke Impe-ratorskogo Aleksandrovskogo liceya [Books of Catherine II’s Favourite A. D. Lanskoy in the Library of the Imperial Alexander Lyceum]. In Ural′skij sbornik. Istoriya. Kul′tura. Religiya (pp. 152–164). Yekaterinburg, UrGU.

Sizenko, A. G. (1998). G. A. Potemkin – osnovatel′ Chernomorskogo flota [G.A. Potemkin – the Founder of the Black Sea Fleet]. Novorossijsk.

Valishevskij, K. (1989). Vokrug trona [Around the Throne]. 488 p. Moscow, IKPA.

Volod′kov, O. P. (1996). Favoritizm v Rossii XVIII v. [Favouritism in 18th Century Russia]. In Vy′dayushhiesya gosudarstvenny′e deyateli Rossii XVIII–XX vv. (pp. 47–64). Omsk, OmGU.

Zagorovskij, E. A. (1929). Deyatel′nost′ P. A. Zubova po upravleniyu stepnoj Ukrainoj [P. A. Zubov’s Activity in Ruling Steppe Ukraine]. In Visnik Odes′koi komisii krae′znavstva pri Ukrains′koj akademii nauk. (Part 4–5, pp. 44–58). Odessa.

Yuht, A. I. (1994). Russkie den′gi ot Petra Velikogo do Aleksandra I [Russian Money from Peter the Great to Alexander I]. 338 p. Moscow, Finansy′ i statistika.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2015.3.119

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


ISSN 2311-911X (Print)
ISSN 2310-757X (Online)

 

BASE Search eLibrary WorldCat