Written by Vladimir Moss



     Tsar Paul I has in general had a bad press from historians who usually, without any good reason, call him “mad”. Certainly, he was eccentric, impulsive and at times domineering in relation to the nobility, who hated him and eventually killed him. Nevertheless, the thoroughly dissolute nobility needed some reining in after being indulged so much by Catherine the Great and her predecessors[1]; and it was Tsar Paul who began the slow process of restoring the links of the monarchy with the people’s faith, Orthodoxy, and thereby restoring its autocratic but non-absolutist character. For, contrary to the generally held view, the Orthodox Autocracy is not a form of absolutism. Indeed, as D.A. Khomiakov writes, “the tsar is ‘the denial of absolutism’ precisely because it is bound by the confines of the people’s understanding and world-view, which serve as that framework within which the power can and must consider itself to be free.”[2]

     St. John Maximovich writes that the Tsarevich Paul, “was very different in his character and convictions from the Empress Catherine. Catherine II preferred to remove her son from the inheritance and make her eldest grandson, Alexander Pavlovich, her heir… At the end of 1796 Catherine II finally decided to appoint Alexander as her heir, passing Paul by, but she suddenly and unexpectedly died. The heir, Tsarevich Paul Petrovich, ascended the throne…”[3] 

     “On ascending the throne of All-Russia,” he wrote, “and entering in accordance with duty into various parts of the state administration, at the very beginning of the inspection We saw that the state economy, in spite of the changes in income made at various times, had been subjected to extreme discomforts from the continuation over many years of unceasing warfare and other circumstances. Expenses exceeded income. The deficit was increasing from year to year, multiplying the internal and external debts; in order to make up a part of this deficit, large sums were borrowed, which brought great harm and disorder with them.”[4]

     The tsar had been educated by Metropolitan Platon of Moscow, and shared his teacher’s devotion to pre-Petrine Russia. And so at his coronation, before putting on the purple, he was vested in the dalmatic, one of the royal vestments of the Byzantine emperors. Thus the rite moved a significant step away from the symbolism of the First Rome, which had been the model of Peter, and back to the symbolism of the New Rome of Constantinople, the Mother-State of Holy Rus’.

     Then, writes Protopriest Lev Lebedev, “he himself read out a new Statute [Uchrezhdenie] on the Imperial Family which he had composed together with [the Tsaritsa] Maria Fyodorovna. By this law he abolished Peter I’s decree of 1722 on the right of the Russian Autocrat to appoint the Heir to the Throne according to his will and revived the Basic Act of 1613. From now on and forever (!) a strict order of succession was established according to which the eldest son became his father’s heir, and in the case of childlessness – his elder brother. The law also foresaw various other cases, determining the principles of the succession to the Throne in accordance with the ancient, pre-Petrine (!) Russian customs and certain important new rules (for example, a Member of the Imperial Family wanting to preserve his rights to the succession must enter only into an equal by blood marriage with a member of a royal or ruling house, that is, who is not lower than himself by blood). Paul I’s new law once and for all cut off the danger in Russia of those ‘revolution’-coups which had taken place in the eighteenth century. And it meant that the power of the nobility over the Russian Tsars was ending; now they could be independent of the nobility’s desires and sympathies. The autocracy was restored in Russia! Deeply wounded and ‘offended’, the nobility immediately, from the moment of the proclamation of the law ‘On the Imperial Family’, entered into opposition to Paul I. The Tsar had to suffer the first and most powerful blow of the opposition. This battle between the Autocrat and the nobility was decisive, it determined the future destiny of the whole state. It also revealed who was who in Great Russia. All the historians who hate Paul I are not able to diminish the significance of the Law of 1797, they recognise that it was exceptionally important and correct, but they remark that it was the only outstanding act of this Emperor (there were no others supposedly). But such an act would have been more than sufficient for the whole reign! For this act signified a radical counter-coup – or, following the expression of the time, counter-revolution - to that which Catherine II had accomplished.


     “However, the haters lie here, as in everything else! The law was not the only important act of his Majesty. On the same day of 1797 Paul I proclaimed a manifesto in which for the first time the serf-peasants were obliged to make an oath of allegiance to the Tsars and were called, not ‘slaves’, but ‘beloved subjects’, that is, they were recognized as citizens of the State! There is more! Paul I issued a decree forbidding landowners to force serfs to work corvée for more than three days in the week: the other three days the peasants were to work for themselves, and on Sundays – rest and celebrate ‘the day of the Lord’, like all Christians.[5] Under the threat of severe penalties it was confirmed that masters were forbidden to sell families of peasants one by one. It was forbidden to subject serfs older than seventy to physical punishments. (And at the same time it was permitted to apply physical punishments to noblemen who had been condemned for criminal acts.) All this was nothing other than the beginning of the liberation of the Russian peasants from serfdom! In noble circles of the time it was called a ‘revolution from above’, and for the first time they said of about their Emperor: ‘He is mad!’ Let us recall that this word was used in relation to the ‘peasant’ politics of Paul I. He even received a special ‘Note’ from one assembly of nobles, in which it was said that ‘the Russian people has not matured sufficiently for the removal of physical punishments’.”[6]

     “We know of a case when the Tsar came to the defence of some peasants whose landowner was about to sell them severally, without their families and land, so as to make use of the peasants’ property. The peasants refused to obey, and the landowner informed the governor of the rebellion. But the governor did not fail to carry out his duty and quickly worked out what was happening. On receiving news about what was happening, Tsar Paul declared the deal invalid, ordered that the peasants be left in their places, and that the landowner be severely censured in his name. The landowner’s conscience began to speak to him: he gathered the village commune and asked the peasants for forgiveness. Later he set off for St. Petersburg and asked for an audience with his Majesty. ‘Well, what did you sort out with your peasants, my lord? What did they say?’ inquired the Emperor of the guilty man. ‘They said to me, your Majesty: God will forgive…’ ‘Well, since God and they have forgiven you, I also forgive you. But remember from now on that they are not your slaves, but my subjects just as you are. You have just been entrusted with looking after them, and you are responsible for them before me, as I am for Russia before God…’ concluded the Sovereign.”[7]

     The Tsar also acted to humble the pride of the Guards regiments which, together with the nobility, had acted in the role of king-makers in the eighteenth century. “He forbade the assigning of noblemen’s children, babies, into the guards (which had been done before him to increase ‘the number of years served’). The officers of the guards were forbidden to drive in four- or six-horse carriages, to hide their hands in winter in fur muffs, or to wear civilian clothing in public. No exception was made for them by comparison with other army officers. At lectures and inspections the Guards were asked about rules and codes with all strictness. How much, then and later, did they speak (and they still write now!) about the ‘cane discipline’ and the amazing cruelties in the army under Paul I, the nightmarish punishments which were simply means of mocking the military…. Even among the historians who hate Paul I we find the admission that the strictnesses of the Emperor related only to the officers (from the nobility), while with regard to the soldiers he was most concerned about their food and upkeep, manifesting a truly paternal attentiveness. By that time the ordinary members of the Guards had long been not nobles, but peasants. And the soldierly mass of the Guards of Paul I very much loved him and were devoted to him. Officers were severely punished for excessive cruelty to soldiers… On the fateful night of the murder of Paul I the Guards soldiers rushed to support him. The Preobrazhensky regiment refused to shout ‘hurrah!’ to Alexander Pavlovich as to the new Emperor, since they were not sure whether his Majesty Paul I was truly dead. Two soldiers of the regiment demanded that their commanders give them exact proof of the death of the former Emperor. These soldiers were not only not punished, but were sent as an ‘embassy’ of the Preobrazhensky to the grave of Paul I. On their return the regiment gave the oath of allegiance to Alexander I. That was the real situation of the Russian soldier of Paul’s times, and not their fictitious ‘rightlessness’!”[8]

     “The Emperor Paul’s love for justice and care for the simple people was expressed also in the accessibility with which he made his subjects happy, establishing the famous box in the Winter palace whose key was possessed by him personally and into which the first courtier and the last member of the simple people could cast their letters with petitions for the Tsar’s immediate defence or mercy. The Tsar himself emptied the box every day and read the petitions, leaving not a single one of them unanswered.

     “There was probably no sphere in the State which did not feel the influence of the industrious Monarch. Thus he ordered the minting of silver rubles to struggle against the deflation in the value of money. The Sovereign himself sacrificed a part of the court’s silver on this important work. He said that he himself would eat on tin ‘until the ruble recovers its rate’. And the regulation on medical institutions worked out by the Emperor Paul could be used in Russia even in our day.”[9]

     “Paul I gave hierarchs in the Synod the right themselves to choose a candidate for the post of over-procurator, took great care for the material situation of the clergy, and the widows and orphans of priests, and forbade physical punishments for priests before they had been defrocked.”[10]

     He also increased the lands of hierarchical houses and the pay of the parish clergy, and freed the clergy from being pressed into army service. The power of bishops was extended to all Church institutions and to all diocesan servers.[11] He opened many seminaries, increased the income of the theological academies by five times, and greatly broadened the curriculum.[12]

     In general, as K.A. Papmehl writes, “Paul proved to be much more generous and responsive to the Church’s financial needs than his mother. Although this may to some – perhaps a considerable – extent be attributed to his general tendency to reverse her policies, it was probably due, in at least equal measure, to his different attitude toward the Church based, as it undoubtedly was, on sincere Christian belief…. One symptom of this different attitude was that, unlike his predecessor – or, indeed, successor, Paul dealt with the Synod not through the Ober-Prokurator, but through the senior ecclesiastical member: first Gavriil and later Amvrosii.”[13]

     “One of the Tsar’s contemporaries, N.A. Sablukov, who had the good fortune, thanks to his service at the Royal Court, to know the Emperor personally, remembered the Emperor Paul in his memoirs as ‘a deeply religious man, filled with a true piety and the fear of God…. He was a magnanimous man, ready to forgive offences and recognize his mistakes. He highly prized righteousness, hated lies and deceit, cared for justice and was merciless in his persecution of all kinds of abuses, in particular usury and bribery.’

     “The well-known researcher of Paul, Shabelsky-Bork, writes: ‘While he was Tsarevich and Heir, Paul would often spend the whole night in prayer. A little carpet is preserved in Gatchina; on it he used to pray, and it is worn through by his knees.’ The above-mentioned N.A. Sablukov recounts, in agreement with this: ‘Right to the present day they show the places on which Paul was accustomed to kneel, immersed in prayer and often drenched in tears. The parquet is worn through in these places. The room of the officer sentry in which I used to sit during my service in Gatchina was next to Paul’s private study, and I often heard the Emperor’s sighs when he was standing at prayer.’

     “The historical records of those years have preserved a description of the following event: ‘A watchman had a strange and wonderful vision when he was standing outside the summer palace… The Archangel Michael stood before the watchman suddenly, in the light of heavenly glory, and the watchman was stupefied and in trembling from this vision… And the Archangel ordered that a cathedral should be raised in his honour there and that this command should be passed on to the Emperor Paul immediately. The special event went up the chain of command, of course, and Paul Petrovich was told about everything. But Paul Petrovich replied: “I already know”: he had seen everything beforehand, and the appearance to the watchman was a kind of repetition…’ From this story we can draw the conclusion that Tsar Paul was counted worthy also of revelations from the heavenly world…”[14]

     Although Tsar Paul was traditional and conservative in his views, this did not prevent from acknowledging sound views and good practice from less traditional sources. Thus he accepted Voltaire’s arguments against torture. As Simon Sebag Montefiore writes: “During the latter half of the 18th century Prussia, Sweden, France, Austria and Tuscany all abolished judicial torture. In 1801, under Tsar Paul, Russia decreed that ‘the very name of torture, bringing shame and reproach on mankind, should be forever erased from the public memory.’”[15]

     We should also not forget here the salutary influence of Tsar Paul’s wife, Empress Maria Fyodorovna, who was very popular among the people. A.V. Buganov writes: “While it was the inveterate desire of the enserfed peasants throughout Russia to be liberated, in the villages of Maria Fyodorovna the complete opposite was observed: tradesmen and free men generally were assigned to the number of her peasants. The empress took care that they had enough, and founded village charitable-educational institutions. She often put on feasts for her peasants in her park, where in her presence the young people sang songs and had round dances. The summit of Maria Fyodorovna’s activity and the crown of her charitable work was her educational system, which was known as ‘the institutions of Empress Maria’. These included shelters and children’s homes and educational institutions, especially for women.”[16]


The Annexation of Georgia

     Tsar Paul’s love for the Church found expression in two important events that took plac in the year 1800: the annexation of Georgia and the reunion of some of the Old Ritualists with the Orthodox Church on a “One Faith” (Yedinoverie) basis. The former strengthened the security of the Orthodox world against the external foe, and the latter - its internal unity.

     The Georgians had first appealed for Russian protection in 1587. Since then, they had suffered almost continual invasions from the Persians and the Turks, leading to many martyrdoms, of which the most famous was that of Queen Ketevan in 1624. One king, Rostom, even adopted Islam and persecuted Orthodoxy. In fact, from 1634 until the crowning of King Wakhtang in 1701, all the sovereigns of Georgia were Muslim. The eighteenth century saw only a small improvement, and in 1762 King Teimuraz II travelled to Russia for help. In 1783, in the treaty of Georgievsk, protection was formally offered to King Heraclius II of Kartli-Kakhetia by Catherine II.


     “The last, most heavy trial for the Church of Iberia,” writes P. Ioseliani, “was the irruption of Mahomed-Khan into the weakened state of Georgia, in the year 1795. In the month of September of that year the Persian army took the city of Tiflis, seized almost all the valuable property of the royal house, and reduced the palace and the whole of the city into a heap of ashes and of ruins. The whole of Georgia, thus left at the mercy of the ruthless enemies of the name of Christ, witnessed the profanation of everything holy, and the most abominable deeds and practices carried on in the temples of God. Neither youth nor old age could bring those cruel persecutors to pity; the churches were filled with troops of murderers and children were killed at their mothers’ breasts. They took the Archbishop of Tiflis, Dositheus, who had not come out of the Synod of Sion, made him kneel down before an image of [the most holy Mother of God], and, without mercy on his old age, threw him from a balcony into the river Kur; then they plundered his house, and set fire to it. The pastors of the Church, unable to hide the treasures and other valuable property of the Church, fell a sacrifice to the ferocity of their foes. Many images of saints renowned in those days perished for ever; as, for instance, among others, the image of [the most holy Mother of God] of the Church of Metekh, and that of the Synod of Sion. The enemy, having rifled churches, destroyed images, and profaned the tombs of saints, revelled in the blood of Christians; and the inhuman Mahomed-Khan put an end to these horrors only when there remained not a living soul in Tiflis.

     “King George XIII, who ascended the throne of Georgia (A.D. 1797-1800) only to see his subjects overwhelmed and rendered powerless by their incessant and hopeless struggles with unavoidable dangers from enemies of the faith and of the people, found the resources of the kingdom exhausted by the constant armaments necessary for its own protection; before his eyes lay the ruins of the city, villages plundered and laid waste, churches, monasteries, and hermitages demolished, troubles within the family, and without it the sword, fire, and inevitable ruin, not only of the Church, but also of the people, yea, even of the very name of the people. In the fear of God, and trusting to His providence, he made over Orthodox Georgia in a decided manner to the Tzar of Russia, his co-religionist; and thus obtained for her peace and quiet. It pleased God, through this king, to heal the deep wounds of an Orthodox kingdom.

     “Feeling that his end was drawing near, he, with the consent of all ranks and of the people, requested the Emperor Paul I to take Georgia into his subjection for ever (A.D. 1800). The Emperor Alexander I, when he mounted the throne, promised to protect the Georgian people of the same faith with himself, which had thus given itself over the people of Georgia (A.D. 1801) he proclaimed the following:- ‘One and the same honour, and humanity laid upon us the sacred duty, after hearing the prayers of sufferers, to grant them justice and equity in exchange for their affliction, security for their persons and for their property, and to give to all alike the protection of the law.’”[17]

     What we have called “Georgia” was in fact the kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti in Eastern Georgia. There was another kingdom on the Black Sea Coast, Mingrelia, which was taken under Russian protection in 1803. And then there was another independent Georgian kingdom in the West, Imeretia. There, “in 1809, King Solomon II of Imeretia, now allied to the Ottomans, fought Russian troops until in 1810, with Solomon surrounded, [Tsar] Alexander deposed him and annexed the kingdom.”[18]

     More details on how this annexation took place are recounted in the Life of Hieroschemamonk Hilarion the Georgian of Mount Athos. After the annexation of the eastern kingdom, the Russians “initiated correspondence with the Imeretian king concerning the uniting of his nation with Russia. King Solomon II sought the counsel of his country’s foremost nobles, and in 1804, due to pressure from Russia, he was left with little choice but to set forth the following: since the king did not have an heir to the throne, Imeretia would retain her independence until his death, remaining in brotherly relations with Russia as between two realms of the same faith. The Russian army had free passage across Imeretian territory to the Turkish border, and the Imeretian army was required to render them aid. The relations of the two countries were to be upheld in those sacred terms which are proper to God’s anointed rulers and Christian peoples united in an indivisible union of soul – eternally and unwaveringly. But after the king’s death the legislation of the Russian Empire would be introduced. The resolution was then sent to the Governor-General of the Caucasus in Tbilisi for forwarding to Tsar Alexander I.

     “Despite the general approval of the resolution by the king’s subjects, one nobleman, Prince Zurab Tsereteli, began plotting how he could seize the Imeretian throne for himself. He first attempted to erode the friendly relations between the two monarchs by slandering each to the other. Unable to sow discord, he began a communication with the Russian governor-general of the Caucasus, Alexander Tormasov. Depicting the royal suite in the darkest colors to the governor-general, after repeated intrigues he finally succeeded in his designs. Eventually, the report reached the tsar. He, believing the slander, ordered Tormasov to lure Solomon II to Tbilisi and escort him to Russia, where he would remain a virtual prisoner.

     “Not able to believe that others could be so base, treacherous and ignoble, the king fell into the trap set by Tormasov and Prince Zurab. Fr. Ise [the future Hieroschemamonk Hilarion] had initially warned the king of Prince Zurab’s disloyalty. However, upon learning of his wife’s repose he returned to Kutaisi and was unable to further counsel the king 

     “King Solomon II and his entire retinue were eventually coaxed all the way to Tbilisi. There they were put under house arrest; the plan being to send the king to live out his days in a palace in St. Petersburg. Preferring exile to imprisonment, the king and his noblemen conceived a plan of escape and fled across the border to Turkey. There, with Fr. Ise and his retinue, he lived out the remainder of his life. After great deprivations and aborted attempts to reclaim the Imeretian Kingdom from Russia, King Solomon II reposed at Trebizond on February 19, 1815, in his forty-first year…

     “After the king’s death, Fr. Ise intended to set out for Imeretia (then annexed to Russia) no matter what the consequences. He informed all the courtiers, who numbered about six hundred men, and suggested that they follow his example. Many of them accepted his decision joyfully, but fear of the tsar’s wrath hampered this plan. Fr. Ise reassured everyone, promising to take upon himself the task of mediating before the tsar. He immediately wrote out a petition in the name of all the princes and other members of the retinue, and sent it to the tsar. The sovereign graciously received their petition, restored them to their former ranks, and returned their estates…”[19]


The Yedinoverie

     Although the Old Ritualists were not allowed to have open churches in the eighteenth century, the numbers of those executed or tortured by the authoritieswas not large – and certainly smaller than the numbers of those who immolated themselves in the burnings. As long as they did not seek to make converts, they were in general left alone. Some emigrated to the Urals, Siberia, Lithuania and Courland; but the Empress Elizabeth invited those who had gone abroad to return to Russia.

     “In 1761,” writes S.A. Zenkovsky, “when Peter III came to power, he almost immediately issued a decree forbidding any kind of persecution of the Old Ritualists, which was confirmed in 1762, 1764 and 1784 by Catherine II. She asked the Old Ritualists living abroad to return to the homeland, and tens of thousands of them responded to her appeal, returned to Russia and settled in the Middle and Lower Volga regions and in New Russia, where they were immediately offered large plots of land. The ‘schismatics’ office’ that controlled Old Ritualist affairs was closed, the Old Ritualists received civil rights, and the monasteries of Irgiz on the Lower Volga were opened and became important centres of the Old Ritualist popovtsi.

     “At the end of the century large Old Ritualist centres were formed in Moscow – the Rogozhsky (popovtsi) and Preobrazhensky (bespopovtsi), and the Korolevsky in Petersburg. In many cities and village districts there were Old Ritualist (popovtsi) churches or chapels in which priests who had come over from the ‘dominant’ church to Old Ritualism served. To speak of executions or tortures of the Old Ritualists… since 1761 would simply be a distortion of the truth…”[20] 

     It is against this background that we should view the movement that began among some Old Ritualist communities towards union with the Orthodox on the basis of yedinoverie, or “One Faith” – that is, agreement on dogmas and the acceptance of the authority of the Orthodox hierarchy, together with retention of the pre-Nikonian rites. “The essence of the yedinoverie,” writes Archbishop Nikon (Rklitsky), consisted in the fact that the ‘one-faithers’, while having amongst themselves the priesthood and the fullness of the sacraments, did not at the same time lose their beloved rites, with which they were accustomed to pray to God and to please Him. The first person who had the idea of the yedinoverie was none other than Patriarch Nikon himself. After his Church reforms he allowed the first and most important leader of the Church disturbance that then arose, Gregory Neronov, to carry out Divine services according to the old printed service books and books of needs, and blessed for him ‘to increase the alleluias’ during his presence in the Dormition cathedral. In this way Patriarch Nikon returned the first schismatic to the Church. Moreover, already after the correction of the Divine service books, Patriarch Nikon published books of the Hours in which the controversial passages were printed in the old way. It is evident that Patriarch Nikon treated this necessary Church reform very rationally and clearly understood that after the danger of the Russian Orthodox Church being torn away from Ecumenical Orthodoxy had been averted by the accomplished Church reform, the old books and rites could be freely allowed for those who attached particular significance to them without at the same time violating the dogmas of the faith.

     “It is also known that in the best Russian monasteries of the second half of the 17th century they looked upon the old and new books in the same way and carried out Church services with the ones and the others. There are also indications that in the 18th century, too, the Church took a condescending attitude towards the Church rite practice of the Old Ritualists, and her attention was mainly directed at the dogmas of the faith, and not at rites and books. The strict measures taken by the government, and the formal, bureaucratic attitude of the Synodal administration, together with the striving to achieve unity in rites by means of force put an end to this rapprochement and deepened the schism… There is no doubt that the main reasons [for the gradual mutual alienation of the ruling clergy and the Old Ritualists] were not so much religious and ecclesiastical, as political, including the influence of foreign States striving to weaken and disrupt the inner unity of the Russian people…”[21]


The Murder of Tsar Puul

     Shortly after the French revolution, when the Empress Catherine saw the effect that the ideas of the Enlightenment had had in generating the revolution, she backed away from her former support of them. “Yesterday I remembered,” she wrote to Grimm in 1794, “that you told me more than once: this century is the century of preparations. I will add that these preparations consisted in preparing dirt and dirty people of various kinds, who produce, have produced and will produce endless misfortunes and an infinite number of unfortunate people.”

     “The next year,” writes Ivanov, “she categorically declared that the Encyclopédie had only two aims: the one – to annihilate the Christian religion, and the other – royal power. ‘I will calmly wait for the right moment when you will see how right is my opinion concerning the philosophers and their hangers-on that they participated in the revolution…, for Helvétius and D’Alambert both admitted to the deceased Prussian king that this book had only two aims: the first – to annihilate the Christian religion, and the second – to annihilate royal power. They spoke about this already in 1777.”[22]

     In his estimate of Masonry and French influence, if in little else, Tsar Paul was in agreement with his mother. Well-known Masons were required to sign that they would not open lodges (the rumour that Paul himself became a Mason is false[23]), and the great General Suvorov was sent to Vienna to join Austria and Britain in fighting the French.[24] But the French continued to advance through Europe, and when, in 1797, Napoleon threatened the island of Malta, the knights of the Order of the Maltese Cross, who had ruled the island since the 16th century, appealed to the protection of Tsar Paul. Paul accepted the responsibility, and in gratitude the Maltese offered that he become their Grand Master. Paul accepted because it was anti-French and anti-revolutionary.[25]

     In 1798 Napoleon seized Malta. Paul then entered into an alliance union with Prussia, Austria and England against France. A Russian fleet entered the Mediterranean, and in 1799 a Russian army under Suvorov entered Northern Italy, liberating the territory from the French. However, in 1800, writes Lebedev, “England seized the island of Malta, taking it away from the French and not returning it to the Maltese Order. Paul I sent Suvorov with his armies back to Russia and demanded that Prussia take decisive measures against England (the seizure of Hanover), threatening to break relations and take Hanover, the homeland of the English monarchs, with Russian forces. But at the same time there began direct relations between Paul and Napoleon. They began in an unusual manner. Paul challenged Napoleon to a duel so as to decide State quarrels by means of a personal contest, without shedding the innocent blood of soldiers. Bonaparte declined from the duel, but had a high opinion of Paul I’s suggestion, and as a sign of respect released his Russian prisoners without any conditions, providing them with all that they needed at France’s expense. Paul I saw that with the establishment of Napoleon in power, an end had been put to the revolution in France.[26] Therefore he concluded a union with Napoleon against England (with the aim of taking Malta away from her and punishing her for her cunning), and united Russia to the ‘continental blockade’ that Napoleon had constructed against England, undermining her mercantile-financial might.[27] Moreover, in counsel with Napoleon, Paul I decided [on January 12, 1801] to send a big Cossack corps to India – the most valuable colony of the English.[28] To this day his Majesty’s order has been deemed ‘mad’ and ‘irrational’. But those who say this conceal the fact that the plan for this Russian expedition against India did not at all belong to Paul I: it arose under Catherine II and was seriously considered by her (Paul I only put it into action).

     “Russia’s break with England and the allies signified for them a catastrophe and in any case an irreparable blow to the British pocket, and also to the pocket of the major Russian land-owners and traders (English trade in Russia had been very strong for a long time!). From the secret masonic centres of England and Germany an order was delivered to the Russian Masons to remove the Emperor and as quickly as possible!

     “Long disturbed by Paul I’s attitude, the Russian nobles were quick to respond to the Masonic summons. Even before this,… in 1798 the Russian Masons had succeeded in sowing dissension in the Royal Family. They slanderously accused the Tsaritsa Maria Fyodorovna of supposedly trying to rule her husband and instead of him. At the same time he was ‘set up with’ the beauty Lopukhina, the daughter of a very powerful Mason, and a faithful plotter. But the affair was foiled through the nobility of the Emperor. Learning that Lopukhina loved Prince Gagarin, Paul I arranged their marriage, since he was just good friends with Lopukhina. The Masons had to save the situation in such a way that Prince Gagarin himself began to help his own wife come closer to Paul I. She settled in the Mikhailov palace and became a very valuable agent of the plotters. From the autumn of 1800 the plot rapidly acquired a systematic character. Count N.P. Panin (the college of foreign affairs) was drawn into it, as was General Count Peter Alexeyevich von der Pahlen, the governor of Petersburg and a very close advisor of the Tsar, General Bennigsen (also a German), Admiral Ribas (a native of the island of Malta), the brothers Plato, Nicholas and Valerian Zubov and their sister, in marriage Princes Zherbtsova, the senators Orlov, Chicherin, Tatarinov, Tolstoy, Torschinsky, Generals Golitsyn, Depreradovich, Obolyaninov, Talysin, Mansurov, Uvarov, Argamakov, the officers Colonel Tolbanov, Skaryatin, a certain Prince Yashvil, Lieutenant Marin and very many others (amongst them even General M.I. Kutuzov, one of the prominent Masons of those years). At the head of the conspiracy stood the English consul in Petersburg, Sir Charles Whitford. According to certain data, England paid the plotters two million rubles in gold through him. 

     “The most important plotters were the Mason-Illuminati, who acted according to the principle of their founder Weishaupt: ‘slander, slander – something will stick!’ Floods of slanderous inventions poured onto the head of the Emperor Paul I. Their aim was to ‘prove’ that he was mad, mentally ill and therefore in the interests of the people (!) and dynasty (!) he could not remain in power. The slander was strengthened by the fact that the Emperor’s orders either were not carried out, or were distorted to an absurd degree, or in his name instructions of a crazy character were given out. Von Pahlen was especially successful in this. He began to insinuate to Paul I that his son Alexander Pavlovich (and also Constantine), with the support of the Empress, wanted to cast him from the throne. And when Paul I was upset by these communications, it was insinuated to his sons and Alexander and Constantine that the Emperor by virtue of a paranoid illness was intending to imprison them together with their mother for good, while he was supposedly intending to place the young Prince Eugene of Wurtemburg, who had then arrived in Russia, on the throne. Noble society was frightened by the fact that Paul I in a fit of madness [supposedly] wanted to execute some, imprison others and still others send to Siberia. Pahlen was the person closest to the Tsar and they could not fail to believe him! While he, as he later confessed, was trying to deceive everyone, including Great Prince Alexander. At first the latter was told that they were talking about removing his father the Emperor from power (because of his ‘illness’), in order that Alexander should become regent-ruler. Count N.P. Panin sincerely believed precisely in this outcome of the affair, as did many other opponents of Paul I who had not lost the last trace of humanity. At first Alexander did not at all agree with the plot, and prepared to suffer everything from his father to the end. But Panin, and then Pahlen convinced him that the coup was necessary for the salvation of the Fatherland! Alexander several times demanded an oath from the plotters that they would not allow any violence to his father and would preserve his life. These oaths were given, but they lied intentionally, as Pahlen later boasted, only in order to ‘calm the conscience’ of Alexander.[29] They convinced Constantine Pavlovich in approximately the same way. The coup was marked for the end of March, 1801. Before this Ribas died, and Panin landed up in exile, from which he did not manage to return. The whole leadership of the plot passed to Pahlen, who from the beginning wanted to kill the Emperor. Many people faithful to his Majesty knew about this, and tried to warn him. Napoleon also heard about all this through his own channels, and hastened to inform Paul I in time…. On March 7, 1801 Paul I asked Pahlen directly about the plot. He confirmed its existence and said that he himself was standing at the head of the plotters, since only in this way could he know what was going on and prevent it all at the necessary moment… This time, too, Pahlen succeeded in deceiving the Tsar, but he felt that it would not do that for long, and that he himself ‘was hanging by a thread’. He had to hurry, the more so in that many officials, generals and especially all the soldiers were devoted to Paul I. Besides, the Jesuits, who were at war with the Illuminati, knew everything about the plot in advance. In the afternoon of March 11, in the Tsar’s reception-room, Pater Gruber appeared with a full and accurate list of the plotters and data on the details. But they managed not to admit the Jesuit to an audience with Paul I. Palen told Alexander that his father had already prepared a decree about his and the whole Royal Family’s incarceration in the Schlisselburg fortress, and that for that reason it was necessary to act without delay. Detachments of units loyal to Paul I were removed from the Mikhailov castle, where he lived. On March 11, 1801 the father invited his sons Alexander and Constantine and personally asked them whether they had any part in the conspiracy, and, having received a negative reply, considered it necessary that they should swear as it were for a second time to their faithfulness to him as to their Tsar. The sons swore, deceptively… On the night of the 11th to 12th of March, 1801, an English ship entered the Neva with the aim of taking the conspirators on board in case they failed. Before that Charles Whitford had been exiled from Russia. Zherebtsova-Zubova was sent to him in England so as to prepare a place for the conspirators there if it proved necessary to flee. On the night of the 12th March up to 60 young officers who had been punished for misdemeanours were assembled at Palen’s house and literally pumped with spirits. One of them drunkenly remarked that it would be good for Russia if all the members of the Royal Family were slaughtered at once! The rest rejected such an idea with horror, but it spoke volumes! After much drinking they all moved by night across Mars field to the Mikhailov castle. There the brave officers were scared to death by some crows which suddenly took wing at night in an enormous flock and raised a mighty cry. As became clear later, some of the young officers did not even know where they were being led and why! But the majority knew. One by one (and frightening each other), they managed to enter in two groups into Paul I’s bedroom, having killed one faithful guard, a chamber-hussar at the doors (the second ran for the sentry). Paul I, hearing the noise of a fight, tried to run through a secret door, but a tapestry, ‘The School in Athens’, a gift from the murdered king and queen of France, fell on top of him. The plotters caught the Tsar. Bennigsen declared to him that they were arresting him and that he had to abdicate from the throne, otherwise they could not vouch for the consequences. The greatly disturbed Paul I did not reply. He rushed to a room where a gun was kept, trying to break out of the ring of his murderers, but they formed a solid wall around him, breathing in the face of the Emperor, reeking of wine and spitefulness. Where had the courtier nobles disappeared! ‘What have I done to you?’ asked Paul I. ‘You have tormented us for four years!’ was the reply. The drunken Nicholas Zubov took hold of the Emperor by the hand, but the latter struck the scoundrel on the hand and repulsed him. Zubov took a swing and hit the Tsar on the left temple with a golden snuff-box given by Catherine II, wounding his temple-bone and eyes. Covered with blood, Paul I fell to the ground. The brutalized plotters hurled themselves at him, trampled on him, beat him, suffocated him. Special zeal was displayed by the Zubovs, Skoriatin, Yashvil, Argamakov and, as people think, Pahlen (although there are reasons for thinking that he took no personal part in the fight). At this point the sentries made up of Semenovtsy soldiers faithful to Alexander appeared (the soldiers had not been initiated into the plot). Bennigsen and Pahlen came out to them and said that the Tsar had died from an attack of apoplexy and now his son Alexander was on the throne. Pahlen rushed into Alexander’s rooms. On hearing of the death of his father, Alexander sobbed. ‘Where is your oath? You promised not to touch my father!’ he cried. ‘Enough of crying! They’re going to lift all of us on their bayonets! Please go out to the people!’ shouted Pahlen. Alexander, still weeping, went out and began to say something to the effect that he would rule the state well… The sentries in perplexity were silent. The soldiers could not act against the Heir-Tsarevich, but they could also not understand what had happened. But the simple Russian people, then and later and even now (!) understood well. To this day (since 1801) believing people who are being oppressed by the powerful of this world in Petersburg (and recently also in Leningrad) order pannikhidas for ‘the murdered Paul’, asking for his intercession. And they receive what they ask for!...

     “And so the plot of the Russian nobles against the Emperor they did not like succeeded. Paul I was killed with the clear connivance of his sons. The eldest of them, Alexander, became the Tsar of Russia. In the first hours and days nobody yet suspected how all this would influence the destiny of the country in the future and the personal destiny and consciousness of Alexander I himself. All the plotters had an evil end. Some were removed by Alexander I, others were punished by the Lord Himself. The main regicide Pahlen was quickly removed from all affairs and sent into exile on his estate. There he for a long time went mad, becoming completely irresponsible. Nicholas Zubov and Bennigsen also went mad (Zubov began to eat his own excreta). Having falsely accused Paul I of being mentally ill, they themselves became truly mentally ill! God is not mocked. ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’, He said. The joy of the Russian nobility was not especially long-lived. Alexander I and then Nicholas I were nevertheless sons of their father! Both they and the Emperors who followed them no longer allowed the nobility to rule them. Immediately the Russian nobility understood this, that is, that they no longer had any power over the Autocracy, they began to strive for the annihilation of the Autocracy in Russia altogether, which they succeeded in doing, finally, in February, 1917 – true, to their own destruction!.. Such was the zig-zag of Russian history, beginning with Catherine I and ending with Nicholas II.

     “The reign of Emperor Paul Petrovich predetermined the following reigns in the most important thing. As we have seen, this Tsar ‘turned his face’ towards the Russian Orthodox Church, strengthened the foundations of the Autocracy and tried to make it truly of the people. Personally this cost him his life. But thereby the later foundations were laid for the State life of Russia in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries: ‘Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality!’ Or, in its military expression – ‘For the Faith, the Tsar and the Fatherland!’”[30]

     Tsar Paul knew the circumstances and even the exact date of his death beforehand. It was told him by a monk named Abel, who had foretold the date of the Tsar’s mother, Catherine the Great. “The prophecy of the clairvoyant monk Abel was completely fulfilled. He personally foretold to the Emperor Paul: ‘Your reign will be short, and I, the sinner, see your savage end. On the feast of St. Sophronius of Jerusalem you will receive a martyric death from unfaithful servants. You will be suffocated in your bedchamber by evildoers whom you warm on your royal breast… They will bury you on Holy Saturday… But they, these evildoers, in trying to justify their great sin of regicide, will proclaim that you are mad, and will blacken your good memory.… But the Russian people with their sensitive soul will understand and esteem you, and they will bring their sorrows to your grave, asking for your intercession and the softening of the hearts of the unrighteous and cruel.’ This part of the prophecy of Abel was also fulfilled. When Paul was killed, for many years the people came to his grave to pray, and he is considered by many to be an uncanonised saint.”[31]


February 5/18, 2019.

Martyr-Prince Alfred of England.


[1]The evidence is all too vividly described in Sebastian Sebag Montefiore’s The Romanovs (London: Vintage, 2011).

[2] Khomiakov, Pravoslavie, samoderzhavie, narodnost’ (Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality),Minsk, 1997, p. 103.

[3] St. John Maximovich, Proiskhozhdenie Zakona o Prestolonasledovanii v Rossii (The Origin of the Law on the Succession to the Throne in Russia), Shanghai, 1936, Podolsk, 1994.

[4] Tsar Paul, in V.F. Ivanov, Russkaia Intelligentsia i Masonstvo: ot Petra I do nashikh dnej (The Russian Intelligentsia and Masonry from Peter I to our days), Harbin, 1934, Moscow, 1997, p. 211.

[5] The decree said: “The Law of God given to us in the ten commandments teaches us to devote the seventh day to God; which is why on this day, which is glorified by the triumph of the Faith, and on which we have been counted worthy to receive the sacred anointing and royal crowning on our Forefathers’ Throne, we consider it our duty before the Creator and Giver of all good things to confirm the exact and constant fulfillment of this law throughout our Empire, commanding each and every one to observe it, so that no one should have any excuse to dare to force his peasants to work on Sundays….”

[6] Lebedev, Velikorossia (Great Russia), St. Petersburg, 1999, pp. 239-240.

[7] “Svyatoj Tsar-Muchenik Pavel”, Svecha Pokaiania, N 4, February, 2000, p. 18.

[8]  Lebedev, op. cit., pp. 240, 241.

[9] “Svyatoj Tsar-Muchenik Pavel”, op. cit.

[10] Lebedev, Velikorossia, p. 242. A.P. Dobroklonsky writes: “At the beginning of the [19th] century the over-procurator Yakovlev planned to place [the consistories] in a position more independent of the bishops and presented to the sovereign a report about establishing in them a special post of procurator subject only to the over-procurator; but the realization of this report was hindered by Metropolitan Ambrose Podobedov of St. Petersburg, who presented a report on his part that in such a case the canonical authority of the bishops would be shaken and they would become dependent on secular officials” (Rukovodstvo po istorii russkoj tserkvi (Handbook on the History of the Russian Church), Moscow, 2001, p. 534).

[11] Fr. Alexis Nikolin, Tserkov’ i Gosudarstvo (The Church and the State), Moscow, 1997, p. 106.

[12] Yu. A. Sorokin, “Pavel I i ‘vol’nie kamenschiki’” (Paul I and the ‘Freemasons’), Voprosy Istorii, 11, 2005, p. 30.

[13] Papmehl, Metropolitan Platon of Moscow, Newtonville: Oriental Research Partners, 1983, p. 78.

[14] “Svyatoj Tsar-Muchenik Pavel”, op. cit. And after his death he himself appeared to people from the other world. See

[15] Montefiore, Titans of History, London: Quercus, 2012, p. 276.

[16] Buganov, “Lichnosti i sobytia istorii v pamiati russkikh krestian XIX – nachala XX veka” (Personalities and historical events in the memory of the Russian peasants of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries), Voprosy Istorii (Questions of History), December, 2005, p. 120.

[17] Ioseliani, A Short History of the Georgian Church, Jordanville, 1983, pp. 190-193.

[18] Montefiore, The Romanovs, p. 299, note.

[19] “Tower of Virtue: The Life and Ascetic Labors of St. Hilarion the Georgian of Mount Athos”, The Orthodox Word, vol. 39, NN 3-4 (230-231), May-August, 2003, pp. 117-118.

[20] Zenkovsky, “Staroobriadchestvo, Tserkov’ i Gosudarstvo” (Old Ritualism, the Church and the State), Russkoe Vozrozhdenie (Russian Regeneration), 1987- I, pp. 92-93.

[21] Rklitsky, Zhizneopisanie Blazhennejshago Antonia, Mitropolitan Kievskago i Galitskago (Life of his Beatitude Anthony, Metropolitan of Kiev and Galich),volume 3, New York, 1957, pp. 164-165.

[22] Ivanov, op. cit., p. 211.

[23] Sorokin, op. cit. The Maltese Order that he headed was a Roman Catholic, not a Masonic institution.

[24] Suvorov’s extraordinarily successful career was based, according to Lebedev, “on Orthodox spirituality. He taught the soldiers prayer and life according to the commandments of God better than any preacher, so that at times it was difficult to say what Suvorov taught his soldiers more – to be a warrior or to be a real Orthodox Christian!” (Velikorossia, p. 234).

[25] Sorokin, op. cit., pp. 33-34. Not too much should be of the fact that the Tsar was sympathetic, or at least not antipathetic, towards Catholicism, which, as Nikolin points out, “was to a large extent linked with fear of the French revolution, which had been cruel to believing Catholics, monks and clergy. This relationship is attested by such facts as his offering the Pope of Rome to settle in Russia, his cooperation with the establishment of the Jesuit order in Russia, and his support for the establishment of a Roman Catholic chapel in St. Petersburg. At the same time attention should be drawn to Paul I’s ukaz of March 18, 1797, which protected the consciences of peasants whom landowners were trying to detach forcibly from Orthodoxy into the unia or convert to Catholicism.” (Nikolin, op. cit., p. 106). “On October 12, 1799 the holy things of the Order were triumphantly brought to Gatchina: the right hand of St. John the Baptist, a particle of the Cross of the Lord and the icon of the Filerma Odigitria icon of the Mother of God. Only a spiritually blind man, on learning this fact, would not see the Providence of God in the fact that the Tsar became Master of the Maltese Order. October 12 was introduced into the number of festal days by the Church, and a special service to this feast was composed…” (“Svyatoj Tsar-Muchenik Pavel”, op. cit.).

[26] This was, of course, a great mistake. Napoleon was a child of the revolution and the instrument of the spread of its ideas throughout Europe. (V.M.)

[27] Another mistake, for it did precisely the opposite, weakening the continental economies and allowing England, with her superior navy, to seize the colonies of her rivals around the world. (V.M.)

[28] They had crossed the Volga on March 18 when they heard of the death of the Tsar…

[29] Alan Palmer writes: “One of the older conspirators, more sober than the others, pertinently asked the question which Alexander had always ignored: what would happen if the Tsar offered resistance? ‘Gentlemen,’ Pahlen replied calmly, ‘you cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs’. It was an ominous remark, difficult to reconcile with his assurance to Alexander” (Alexander I, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1974, p. 44). Lenin later quoted it... (V.M.)

[30] Lebedev, Velikorossia, pp. 245-249.

[31] “Monk Abel ‘the Prophet’ of Valaam”, The Orthodox Word, vol. 36, N 1, January-February, 2000.

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