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Prophets, oprichniks and spies: How did the fate of foreign adventurers who ended up in Russia
Prophets, oprichniks and spies: How did the fate of foreign adventurers who ended up in Russia
How did the fate of foreign adventurers who ended up in Russia

Adventurers at all times were the embodiment of pragmatism and at the same time a stormy imagination, prudence and gambling, shamelessness and ability to inspire confidence. Moreover, many of them went down in history not so much because of some real achievements, but because of the originality of their nature. In this review, a story about foreign adventurers who, by the will of fate, ended up in Russia.

Johann Taube and Elert Kruse: diplomats, everyday life writers, guardsmen

To a large extent, modern people owe their knowledge of Ivan the Terrible to two German nobles captured by the Russians during the Livonian War. Enterprising immigrants from Livonia turned the blow of fate to their advantage. Very soon Kruse and Taube became the Tsar's confidants and diplomats, actively weaving international intrigues. After living in Muscovy for several years, they went over to the side of the Commonwealth and subsequently repeatedly incited monarchs and influential politicians to war with John IV.

In 1572, shortly after their escape, Taube and Kruse compiled a letter in which they depicted the atrocities of the reign of Ivan the Terrible. This document, addressed either to the Master of the Order of the Swordsmen Kettler, or, as some scholars believe, to Hetman Khodkevich, NM Karamzin used when creating the "History of the Russian State".

V. Vladimirov. "The execution of the boyars during the reign of Ivan the Terrible."

According to today's historians, the German nobles did not lie, heartbreakingly describing the arbitrariness of the oprichnina and savage executions. However, the role of indignant witnesses, which Taube and Kruse assigned themselves, hardly suited them: after all, they themselves served as guardsmen and, no doubt, participated in many of what they told about.

Marina and Jerzy Mnisheki: wife and father-in-law of two False Dmitry

Before Catherine I, Marina Mnishek was the only woman in Russia who was crowned king, and she became the only Russian queen who did not accept Orthodoxy. Ten days of triumph and eight years of ordeal fell to the lot of the "haughty Pole". A three-year-old son was hanged before her eyes. According to legend, she cursed the Romanov family, promising that none of them would die a natural death.

Marina Mnishek and False Dmitry I

Behind the back of a young girl, besotted with ambitious dreams, stood a man much more experienced and pragmatic. The real adventurer in this story was Marina's father, the Sandomierz governor Jerzy Mniszek. It was he who, fervently supporting the first of the False Dmitrys, obtained permission from the Polish king Sigismund III to recruit troops for a campaign against Muscovy. He, having broken the word given to Vasily Shuisky after the overthrow of False Dmitry I, almost forced his daughter to marry the "Tushino thief", False Dmitry II. In 1609-1619, Mnishek took part in the siege of Moscow and the decisive battle of Klushino, which led to the Polish-Lithuanian occupation of the Russian capital.

Shimon Bogush. "Portrait of Jerzy Mniszek"

Jerzy Mniszek, who studied in his youth at the Königsberg and Leipzig Universities, was better educated than most of his contemporaries. He composed plays and philosophical treatises. And yet, in addition to vanity and excitement, he was guided by the usual greed. Each of the contenders for the hand of Marina and the Russian throne promised the governor power, money and land, and the Mnishek family, despite their high position, was overpowered by creditors.

Age of Enlightenment, Age of Adventurers

The 18th century was especially fruitful for adventurers of all stripes. Some of these seekers of luck were surrounded by myths both during life and after death.

Count Saint-Germain, who to this day is regarded by many as a great mystic and magician, visited Russia in the early 1760s. Perhaps he did not possess the gift of immortality, as he claimed, but, without a doubt, he was a versatile talented person. Saint-Germain compiled a recipe for a strengthening drink for the Russian soldiers. He amazed the nobles, unmistakably guessing events from their past, and dedicated his drawings and musical compositions for harp and violin to the ladies. He was friends with the Orlov brothers and, according to some reports, contributed to the accession of Catherine II to the throne.

Count Saint-Germain

If Saint-Germain did not influence Russian history, then he influenced Russian literature for sure: the plot of The Queen of Spades was suggested to Pushkin by the grandson of Princess Golitsyna, who in her youth met in Paris with the mysterious Count, who named her three cherished cards.

Giacomo Casanova, known to descendants primarily as a collector of love victories, also did not shy away from mysticism and insisted that he had the secret of obtaining a philosopher's stone. However, in the 1760s, he traveled to European capitals trying to sell the idea of ​​a state lottery to some monarch. Catherine II, with whom Casanova met in 1765, rejected the offer, as well as the project for a new calendar.

Jules Marie Auguste Leroy. "Casanova kisses the hand of Catherine the Great."

Alessandro Cagliostro, aka Giuseppe Balsamo, tried to imitate Saint-Germain, but he could not match the original with neither ability nor grace of manners. One way or another, in St. Petersburg, where Cagliostro arrived in 1779, calling himself Count Phoenix, he invited his new friend Potemkin to triple the gold he had - and he fulfilled his promise, taking for himself a third of what he received for his labors. Soon, Catherine II was angered by the too close friendship of her favorite Potemkin with Cagliostro's wife Lorenza. The Empress expelled the guests from Russia, and although she had reason to consider the "Count Phoenix" a comrade in misfortune, she brought him out under the name Califalkgerston in her play "The Deceiver."

Count Cagliostro

Baroness von Krudener, confidante of Alexander I

An Ostsee noblewoman, granddaughter of the commander Minich, Barbara Juliana von Krudener was born in Riga and spent her youth traveling around Europe. At the age of about forty, she turned to literature, and after that - to a mystical religion. From her youth, she loved to make an effect, she exaltedly prophesied, finding admirers and followers.

In 1815, von Kruedener met Alexander I, whom she extolled as a "god-bearer." The emperor, dejected by the flight of Napoleon from the island of Elba, found consolation in conversations with the prophetess. Under her influence, if not at her insistence, he decided to conclude a Holy Alliance with Prussia and Austria.

The friendship between the emperor and the baroness lasted for several years and was cut short by the fact that Alexander doubted the purity of the confidante's thoughts. According to the historian Tarle, the emperor was alarmed when "the holy spirit got into the habit of transmitting to him, through the baroness," orders about some credits on the cash desk of the board of trustees."

Baroness von Krudener in 1820

Karolina Sobanskaya, "Odessa Cleopatra"

The image of Marina Mnishek in Pushkin's tragedy Boris Godunov is inspired by the Polish beauty Karolina Sobanska, whom the poet was so fascinated with that he wondered if he should convert to Catholicism. Another great poet, her compatriot Adam Mickiewicz, also burned out of passion for Carolina. She herself, quite likely, flirted with both poets only because she was instructed to follow them.

Carolina Sobanskaya. Drawing by A.S. Pushkin

For many years Sobansk, together with her lover Count de Witt, the head of military settlements in the Novorossiysk Territory, supplied information to the Third Department of the Imperial Chancellery, which was in charge of political investigation. The Odessa salon of the beautiful gentry was a trap for the unreliable, and her direct fault is both in the disclosure of the plans of the Southern Society of the Decembrists, and in the suppression of the Polish uprising of 1830.

It remains unclear what prompted Sobanska to this foul-smelling craft.Selfishness, attachment to de Witt? Perhaps, but it is also possible that Carolina was attracted by the very art of intrigue, the game itself, albeit dirty, - after all, the passion for the game in one way or another brings all adventurers together.

And even after centuries, Casanova's personality is of great interest. Many are interested in the question who the famous lover really was, and how many women did he conquer.

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