December 27 in Russian history


On the next day after the Decembrists' revolt, Mikhail Andreyevich Miloradovich, the general-governor of St.Petersburg, lethally wounded during the revolt, died at his home.

Miloradovich was born on 13 October, 1771 in a family of emigrants from Herzegovina. He spent four years at the University of Königsberg, two years in Göttingen and then in Strasbourg and Metz. He participated in the Russo-Swedish war of 1788-1790. In 1796 he was promoted to captain, in 1797 — to colonel, in 1798 — to general-major. In 1798 he entered Austria with his regiment, in the next year he fought in Italy. He participated in the Italian and the Swiss campaigns of the army of Alexander Suvorov. He fought in the battle of Austerlitz. In the Russo-Turkish war of 1806-1812 the army he commanded liberated Bucarest. Finally, in 1810 he was appointed the governor of Kiev. During the 1812 war against Napoleon, he fought in the famous battle of Borodino, where he commanded the right wing of the First army. During the battle of Maloyaroslavets, he withstood the initial attack of the French army and protected the rearguard. In 1813, he was the first officer who was granted the privilege to carry the monogram of the emperor Alexander I on his epaulette. In 1813 he received the title of the count of the Russian empire.

On 31 August 1818 he became the general-governor of St.Petersburg and a member of the State Council. He was responsible for the security and emergency situations in the city and was the head of the city police. He also began improving the city prisons, trying to alleviate the situation of the prisoners, he organized an anti-alcohol campaign, reducing the number of taverns in St.Petersburg. He prepared a project of the abolition of serfdom and saved Alexander Pushkin from exile. He personally commanded the teams of firemen during the fires and led the rescue teams during the flood in 1824.

Miloradovich was also known to the citizens of St.Petersburg as womanizer and a gambler who had lots of debts. His love affairs with actresses gave food for the rumors. A popular anecdote tells that when Alexander I wished to support the general, he presented him a book with 20,000 rubles inside and said: "This book should interest you, general." When Alexander asked later if Miloradovich liked the book, the general replied: "Oh, yes! I am longing to read the second volume."

On 31 November 1825 (19 November Old Style), emperor Alexander I died in Taganrog. His formal successor, grand knyaz Constantine, depressed by the attempt of revolt in 1801 and the murder of his father, Pavel, abdicated the throne. In his will, Alexander named his next brother, Nikolay, his successor. The will was stored in the sealed envelope and its content became known only after his death and even Nikolay did not know that he was to inherit the throne.

So, after the death of Alexander, Nikolay gathered the people he trusted to discuss the plan of actions. However, Miloradovich refused to support him and claimed that he will only swear the allegiance to Constantine, the legal heir of Alexander I. Miloradovich controlled about 60,000 armed men and Nikolay, probably, felt quite uneasy. Miloradovich proposed to swear allegiance to Constantine, saying that if Constantine abdicates, it will be possible to swear again to Nikolay. Nikolay agreed and on 9 December they swore their allegiance to Constantine. So, Nikolay and Constantine abdicated in favor of each other and the interregnum began. Constantine was furious. When Nikolay asked him to abdicate formally, he sent a letter full of insults. The general public did not understand why Constantine refuses to come to Moscow and spread the rumors hinting that he was arrested or even murdered. Foreign newspapers published articles reminding that Peter III and Pavel I were assassinated.

At this moment, the Decembrists decide it's time to act. They planned to bring the armed soldiers to the Senate square, seize the Winter Palace and the fortress of St.Peter and St.Paul and to arrest the royal family. Most of them agreed to assassinat Nikolay and other members of the family, including Constantine. On 26 December, 3,000 soldiers and officers came to the Senate square. They were opposed by about 12,000 people who supported Nikolay. Probably, Miloradovich blamed himself for these events and he decided to quench the revolt himself. He came to the Senate square and attempted to convince the rebels to leave the square. At this moment he was lethally wounded: Peter Kakhovsky shot him in the back and, probably, Yevgeny Obolensky stabbed him with the bayonet, also in the back. During the mutiny that folowed, 1,271 man was killed. About 900 of them were idlers, who were trampled down in the stampede.

Alexander Gerzen, another famous theorist of revolution, wrote later that before his death, Miloradovich said: "There's a young man, son of my old comrade, and I think I saw him among the rebels. Tell the emperor that the dying Miloradovich asked to spare him." I don't know who exactly was this young man, but probably, Nikolay did spare him — only five leaders of the plot were executed: Pestel, Bestuzhev-Ryumin, Ryleyev, Muravyov-Apostol and Kakhovsky, the murderer of Miloradovich.

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