“Not a mutiny, but the experience of a political revolution”


Scene from the film “The Decembrists” in 1926

Alas! Wherever I cast my eyes –
Scourges everywhere, glands everywhere,
The laws are a disastrous shame,
Weak tears were captive;
Unrighteous government everywhere
In the thickened haze of prejudice
Vossela – slavery formidable genius
And fame is a fatal passion.
<…>; and today learn, O kings:
No punishment, no reward
No dungeon deck, no altar –
Wrong fences for you.
Bend down the first head
Under the canopy of the reliable law,
And become the eternal guardian of the throne
Liberty and peace of the peoples.
(“Liberty”. A. Pushkin)

The history of the first opposition to the autocracy in Russia. Well, finally, we got to the very uprising of the Decembrists. However, as you know, only cats will be born quickly, and even then after three months. And reading the materials related to those distant events, one involuntarily arises an interesting thought about how far some people outrun others in their spiritual development, and … how much is missing even the most … developed. After all, both the Decembrists and those who later tried them served in the same regiments. They danced at balls with the same ladies (and they frankly hit some of them!), In the same salons, drank “Madame Clicquot”, and … at the same time, some thought that everything was going as it should, while others saw , and it is clear that Russia needs renovation, and the sooner the better!


Petersburg … a city where houses followed history with the eyes of their windows. Including the history of the Decembrists. Here are just a few of the houses associated with their names. For example, this one. The Decembrist Ilya Andreevich Dolgorukov lived here. Corner of Ekaterininsky prospect and Nikolskaya street, Benois house. Rimsky-Korsakov Avenue, 37

This idea so captured the minds of the conspirators that they scheduled a speech for the summer of 1826. But, as it happens very often in history, HIS MAJESTY CHANCE intervened in their plans. Suddenly, either Emperor Alexander died or disappeared, and it was necessary to urgently decide what to do. And everything happened as A.S. Pushkin later described in the tenth, burnt, chapter of “Eugene Onegin”:

They are famous for their sharp ornate,
Members of this family gathered
At the restless Nikita,
At the cautious Ilya,
And in a reasoning free
On the management of the people
They appreciated words above
Reason of sharpened bayonets,
But the Robespierre legacy
They were not embarrassed because
What to an enlightened mind
It is given to choose both the goal and the means …
And the wrong swarm of Russian truths
Already circling over the Neva.

HA Bestuzhev wrote later in his memoirs that since the situation was out of the ordinary, it was decided to use it for good, so the time remaining from the company exercises was now completely absorbed in preparing for the soldiers’ performance and talking about the future with company commanders. Well, on the eve of December 14, the discussion of the performance took place at the apartment of K. F. Ryleev. The disputes were long, the discussions were heated, but nevertheless the conspirators were able to agree that they needed to gather troops loyal to them on Senate Square in order to prevent the senators from taking the oath, and then force them to sign the “Manifesto to the Russian people”, which was prepared by the Northern Society … The manifesto announced the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy, the abolition of serfdom and a significant reduction in army service soldiers. “Manifesto” announced the convocation of the Great Council to decide on the choice of the form of government in Russia and the adoption of a constitution. The “Manifesto” was to be delivered to the Senate by K. F. Ryleev and I. I. Pushchin. Prince S.P. Trubetskoy was appointed dictator, evaluating his experience as a military leader.


House of Prince Trubetskov on the street. Galernaya, 3

AI Yakubovich, together with his soldiers, had to attend to the seizure of the Winter Palace and the arrest of the royal family in the dark. Although Ryleev insisted on the murder of Nikolai, hoping to bring confusion in the ranks of his supporters in this way, the conspirators decided to refuse regicide. They even planned to seize the Peter and Paul Fortress in order to gain a foothold there. It is interesting that even after many years, many Decembrists considered a successful outcome of the uprising very possible. If only … not an unfortunate coincidence!


Admiralteyskaya embankment, 4. House of Laval. The last meeting of the Decembrists before the uprising took place here!

However, the future tsar did not doze either. Firstly, he had already been warned of the impending criminal acts by the chief of the General Staff I. I. Dibich and … the Decembrist Y. I. Rostovtsev, who considered it incompatible with his noble honor to oppose the monarch. And, by the way, it would be necessary to kill others in science for treason, but … the conspirators did not even think about doing this. And secondly, being warned, Nikolai managed to mentally prepare for confrontation with them, and the upcoming events did not come as a complete surprise to him, and this is always very important. Although anxiously watched the position of the guard – the stronghold of the throne.


Portrait of Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich (first quarter of the 19th century). Golike V.A. (1802-1848)

Realizing how important it is to get ahead of the enemy in deciding the issue of legitimizing his own power, Nikolai Pavlovich already at seven o’clock in the morning swore in all members of the Senate and the Holy Synod, after which they left the Senate building. Yakubovich, in turn, refused to lead troops to the Winter Palace, citing his fear of reprisals against the imperial family, that is, in fact, his involuntary participation in the regicide. Therefore, the first of the rebellious regiments, the Moscow Life Guards, came to the square only at about 11 o’clock in the morning, when all the senators had long since departed. Then the governor-general of St. Petersburg M.A.Miloradovich drove up to the rebels with exhortations, and S.P. Obolensky, fearing that he would persuade them, hit him sideways with a bayonet, and P.G. Kakhovsky shot him with a pistol. Decembrist V.I.Steingel later recalled:

“One of the members of the secret society, Prince Obolensky, seeing that such a speech could work, coming out of the square, urged the count to drive away, otherwise he threatened danger. Noticing that the count was not paying attention to him, he stabbed him with a bayonet in the side. At this time, the count made a volt-face, and Kakhovsky fired a fatal bullet at him from a pistol … When they took him off his horse at the barracks and brought him into … the apartment … he had the last consolation to read the handwritten note of his new sovereign with a statement regret – and at 4 o’clock in the afternoon it no longer existed. “


Barracks of the Life Guards Cavalry Regiment. Konnogvardeisky Boulevard, 6

Subsequently, Kakhovsky, already in prison, bitterly regretted what he had done, and Trubetskoy recalled Miloradovich as a person, “who in this case acted impartially and loved the Fatherland“. Strange, isn’t it? Was it really incomprehensible to him that any “love” recedes into the background when it comes to decisive action? But … being a nobleman both by birth and by upbringing, he apparently believed that way.


Konnogvardeisky Boulevard, 6 – from the side of the Kryukov Canal

Both the Metropolitan and the youngest of the Grand Dukes Mikhail Romanov came to exhort the rebels, and all was unsuccessful. However, the “revolutionaries” were getting together too slowly. So, the Life Guards Grenadier Regiment and the Life Guards Marine crew came to the square only at one o’clock in the afternoon. In total, about 3 thousand soldiers and sailors gathered at the monument to Peter the Great, commanded by 30 Decembrist officers.


Pestel P.I. lived in this house in 1813-1814. Fontanka, Mizuev’s house. Nab. Fontanka, 26

Meanwhile, people gathered around the square, which the police began to actively disperse, as soon as the square was cordoned off by troops loyal to the government. The most interesting thing is that the “dictator” Trubetskoy at that very time was in the General Staff building, that is, next to the Senate Square, and saw through the window what was happening there, but did not dare to go out to his comrades. NA Bestuzhev later tried to justify him, explaining that the bravery of a soldier and the bravery of a conspirator are different things. Regardless of what you think, Trubetskoy then clearly lost heart and thereby brought confusion and disorganization into the ranks of the conspirators at the most crucial moment.


But this beautiful church is also associated with the Decembrists, although not directly. At the end of the 18th – beginning of the 20th centuries. she owned two neighboring apartment buildings facing Nevsky Prospect: 40 and 42. M.M.Speransky lived in house 42 from 1823, and A.I. Turgenev, P. A. Vyazemsky, A. Mitskevich and others, in 1823-1825. – Decembrist G.S. Batenkov, and in 1854-1873. – F. I. Tyutchev

As a result, it all boiled down to the fact that the soldiers, in a 10-degree frost, snow, sharp east wind, stood in only uniforms, loudly shouting “Hurray!” and together they repulsed the attacks of the Horse Guards, while refusing to surrender and rejecting the promised pardon. None of the officers, in fact, commanded and did not dare to take decisive action.


Nicholas I on Senate Square on December 14, 1825. Vasilich G. The devastation of 1825. – St. Petersburg, type. North, 1908

Meanwhile, having become sovereign, Nicholas I was able to put nine thousand infantry troops, three thousand cavalrymen and, most importantly, cannons and artillerymen against the rebels. The cavalry attacked the rebels several times, but the infantry lined up in squares repulsed these attacks with rifle fire. It is interesting that the people immediately took the side of the “rebels”: they tried to cheer them up, and some even threw stones and logs at the soldiers of government troops and even at the imperial retinue.


St. Petersburg. Senate Square on December 14, 1825. Kohlman’s drawing from Count Benckendorff’s office in Falla. Karl Kollmann (1786-1846). State Historical Museum

Meanwhile, the short winter day began to give way to twilight, and the king, fearing that in the darkness the excitement would be transmitted to the rabble, ordered to open fire on the rebels from guns. They fired buckshot, and cannonballs were shot at those descending onto the ice of the Neva. Panic began, people began to scatter in all directions, the horse guards rushed in pursuit.

By nightfall, the uprising was completely defeated. And Nicholas I fortified himself in his Winter Palace, surrounding himself with troops loyal to the throne and several artillery batteries

The dramatic events on Senate Square immediately became a state secret. Which, however, has since become a very real tradition of confrontation between the authorities and the people. It was concealed as the death toll – it was announced that there were no more than 200 people killed, although in reality there were something about 1300 (of which 903 were for some reason not soldiers, but “rabble”). In the official documents of that time, the Decembrists were called “intruders”, “traitors”, “a bunch of rebels”, “a handful of young madmen”, whose goal is “bring on Russia all the disasters of anarchy“. Well, the “rabble” that threw stones and logs at the emperor and his retinue on the square was described as people of “disgusting appearance in tailcoats”. Yes, and there was something on the square at all “some drunken soldiers and some people from the rabble, also drunk“. It is a pity that then there was no accusation of receiving grants from the US State Department (Nikolai himself was convinced that people in America eat human meat!), Otherwise it would be quite possible to draw on such an argument to reproach them that they were all bought for money … “foreign enemies who want the destruction of Russia.”


House of N.I. Chicherin at 15 Nevsky Prospekt, where Küchelbecker V.K. lived in the spring of 1825.It is interesting that in December 1825, being on Senate Square with the rebels, he went to the Guards carriage, where his brother Mikhail served, and to the barracks of the Moscow Life Guards regiment to inform about the beginning of the uprising; and also tried to shoot at the brother of the emperor, Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich, although the sailor Safon Dorofeev prevented him, and then decided to shoot General A.L. Voinov, but his pistol misfired both times. Apparently, the general was not destined to die! View from the Bolshaya Morskaya …

All 30 years of the reign of Nicholas I, everything connected with the Decembrists was strictly prohibited. All investigative materials in their case were classified. Their performance was viewed as a riot. Although already during interrogation, the Decembrist G.S. Batenkov told the tsar:

“The assassination attempt on December 14 is not a mutiny, but an experience of a political revolution.”


Emperor Nicholas the First. Egor Botmon (1810-1891). State Hermitage

Well, how our Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin, who, as you know, regretted that he was not among the Decembrists, and said so directly to the tsar, reacted to all this? It is known that he wrote encouraging verses to the Decembrists. But … and the tsar-priest, who so cruelly reprimanded people close to him, also … did not offend with verses. And he wrote the following about him:

No, I’m not a flatterer when I’m king.
I compose a free praise:
I boldly express my feelings, I speak the language of my heart.
I just loved it:
He cheerfully, honestly rules us;
He suddenly revived Russia.
War, hopes, labors.

PS The author and the administration of the site express their gratitude to Anton Bazhin for the photographs of the houses of the Decembrists taken.

To be continued…

Recommended For You

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *