Jacob von Staehlin, 18th century Court Historiographer and Teacher

Francine-Dominique Liechtenhan


The article outlines the life of Jacob von Staehlin, member of the St. Petersburg (Russian) Academy of Sciences, who lived under several Russian monarchs beginning with Anna Ioannovna, and died in St. Petersburg in 1785. Being a typical man of the Age of Enlightenment, Staehlin had many talents
and, during his service in the Russian Academy and at the court, showed his worth in different positions: as a master of fireworks, author of panegyric poems, educator of Prince Pyotr Fyodorovich (future Emperor Peter III), editor of the Sankt-Peterburgskie Vedomosti, permanent secretary of St. Petersburg Academy, founder of the Academy of Fine Arts, member and, later, secretary of the Free Economic Society. A writer, author of numerous articles on Russia in the foreign press, art historian, numismatist, teacher, memoirist, one of
the first ideologists of what is now called the method of oral history – that is an incomplete list of interests of the main character of this article. However, relying on sources that are little-known in Russia, the author reconstructs the
historical portrait of “another” Staehlin, a man of a difficult nature, acrimonious, ambitious, and inclined to intrigues. The researcher outlines both the portraits of Staehlin-scientist and Staehlin-courtier, analyzing the pedagogical principles
that he applied while training the heir to the throne, his mordant characteristics of some Academy fellows, his administrative cares, his attempts to become the official historiographer of the Imperial Court of Russia. The author pays particular attention to the history of creation and publication of “Anecdotes” about Peter the Great which formed, alongside with other similar works, a stereotype image of the first Russian Emperor and his time.


Jacob von Staehlin; Peter the Great; Elizabeth of Russia; Tsesarevich Peter; Academy of Sciences; Voltaire; Enlightenment; panegyric; anecdotes.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2013.1.015


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