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The Enigmatic Tsar and His Empire

Russia under Alexander I. 1801–1825

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Edited By Jan Kusber, Alexander Kaplunovskiy and Benjamin Conrad

In many ways Russia under Alexander I was an epoch of exploration and revision of empire and state-building. The authors of this volume explore the Alexandrine-era Russia not from the traditional vantage point of the emperor and his inner circle but from the point of view of experts and elites. These «men on the spot» drafted «maps» of the empire and its collective subjects and constructed social, political, and economic imaginaries of the empire. All these revisions and projects did not necessarily lead to an immediate and consistent (re)organization of the political, social, and cultural structures of imperial space. The Alexandrine Russia may be interpreted much more as a «laboratory» in which different potential scenarios for modernization were designed, discussed, and tested—but also rejected and forgotten.

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“Un bon systême de finances doit être regardé comme l’ame qui vivifie l’État.” European Experts and Russia’s State Finances under Paul I and Alexander I (Benjamin Conrad)

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Benjamin Conrad

“Un bon systême de finances doit être regardé comme l’ame qui vivifie l’État.” European Experts and Russia’s State Finances under Paul I and Alexander I

While searching for material on the government of Paul I and Alexander I that has not yet been considered by researchers in St. Petersburg’s Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennyi Istoricheskii Arkhiv (Russian State Archive for History), it is always worth trying to order sources that contain the amendment “na francuzskom iazyke” (in French) in the description. Striking is the low number of Russian scholars consulting these sources for their research, as recorded in the archive’s user list. This also appears to be the case for an 1809 memorandum that formed the basis of Mikhail Speransky’s financial plan, which was in action from 1810 to 1812 and dominated Russian finance policy. Up until his banishment in 1812, Speransky was considered Emperor Alexander’s most important advisor, as well as the person responsible for all of Russia’s finances. And yet, instead of being written by himself, the memorandum lists Friedrich Würst, Ludwig Heinrich von Jakob, and Mikhail Andreevich Balug’ianskii, who formed a special committee of finances founded by Speransky, as its authors. The 1809 memorandum opened with the sentence, “Un bon systême [sic] de finances doit être regardé comme l’ame [sic] qui vivifie l’État.”1 This quote shows once again that a state without money cannot fulfil its tasks as it should. Therefore, a main research focus must be on...

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