Aleksey Arakcheyev

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Historical figures

Dawe's portrait of Arkacheev from the Military Gallery of the Winter Palace.
Dawe's portrait of Arkacheev from the Military Gallery of the Winter Palace.

Count Alexey Andreyevich Arakcheyev (Russian: граф Алексей Андреевич Аракчеев; October 4, 1769- May 3, 1834) was a Russian general and statesman under the reign of Alexander I.

As he grew up, he was Peter Ivanovich Melissino's pupil and rapidly started teaching arithmetic and geometry. His military career started when he was sought after by Paul I as an artillery officer.

He served under Paul I and Alexander I as army leader and artillery inspector respectively. After the Tsar's death and Nicholas I's coronation, he lost all his powers and properties.

Early years

Count Arakcheev was born on his father's estate in the Novgorod gubernia. His school formation consisted in studying arithmetic under a podyachiy (dyak), a knowledgeable and schooled man. Arakcheev's father moved with the family to Saint-Petersburg for his son to be educated in a military artillery school. Later Alexey had to continue his education at home since the military school was too expensive. Alexey's father brought Melissino as a teacher for Alexey. Later Melissino gave artillery and fortification lessons to Prince Nicholas Saltykov's sons and Alexey Arakcheyev earned some money assisting Melissino in teaching the sons arithmetic and geometry.

When Pavel Petrovich, heir to the throne of Russia, was in search for an artillery officer, Saltykov recommended Arakcheev as a man that had learned military discipline. Arakcheyev was thereafter appointed officer to the commandant of Gatchina and later became the chief of the ground forces of the heir.

Paul I's reign

From 1790 and onward Arakcheyev was rapidly promoted in the army and in September 1792, Melissino recommended him as a senior adjutant to the inspector of artillery under Pavel Petrovich. By 1794, he was Gatchina's artillery inspector and two years later, was also the infantry inspector under the Empress Catherine II. All his ascensions in the army were attributed to his ruthless manners and his zealousness.

After Paul I's coronation, on November 7, 1796, Arakcheyev was appointed as the commandant of Saint-Petersburg's garrison and received other army functions during the months of November and December. In April 1797, he was promoted to general-quartermaster and thus leader of the army, and at the same time he received the title of baron from the Tsar. A year later, after some troops mutinied and an officer committed suicide, he was demoted to lieutenant-general. In 1799 he was brought back to his former Inspector of the Artillery position, reinstated to his general-quartermaster's functions and given the title of count. He finally would serve as the War Minister, the Head of the War Department of the State Council of Imperial Russia, and the head of the Imperial Chancellery. He was disgraceful in leading the army by hiding misdeeds that were done by his army officers and thus, was stripped of his army functions, later to be reinstated by the next emperor. His name became synonymous with military voluntarism and despotism, known in Russian as Arakcheyevshchina.

Alexander I's reign

In May 1803, his services were asked by the new Tsar Alexander I, regaining his position as the Inspector of the Artillery. During the first years he reorganized the artillery units, improved the officer training and amended new regulations. During the campaign of 1805 against France, Arakcheyev worked on supplying the army with enough artillery ammunition. Promoted in January 1808 to Defense Minister to the Tsar and the inspector-general of the entire infantry and artillery, he once more reorganized the army and the grading of the army staff. In 1808 he created a publication called the "artillery periodical". By 1810, Arakcheev resigned from his Defense Minister's post and was sitting on the board of the Council of State as chairman in military science.

During the Patriotic War of 1812, he oversaw recruitment and management of army supplies. He introduced several useful military reforms, which proved themselves during the wars of 1812-1814. Throughout his service, Arakcheyev was known for his meticulous following of the will of the tsar.

Aleksey Arakcheyev
I am the friend of the tsar and complaints about me can be made only to God.
Aleksey Arakcheyev

Starting in 1816, he organized military-agricultural colonies, an idea initially conceived by Alexander I. At first Arakcheyev tried to oppose them, but when he agreed, he did so with unrelenting rigor. The hardships of military service combined with the hardships of peasant life created terrifying conditions in those settlements.

The ruthlessness he exhibited in the military, extended to his home. The women peasants in Arakcheyev's own Gruzino estate near Novgorod were required to produce one child each year. Arakcheyev even ordered the hanging of all cats, on account of his fondness for nightingales.

From 1815 to the Tsar's death, Arakcheyev continued to be present around the emperor as member of the state council and an influential voice in the leader's entourage. During Tsar Alexander I's journeys abroad, Arakcheev would follow and for every law passed, he was giving his accord to it.

Later years

After the death of Tsar Alexander I on December 1, 1825 and the coronation of Nicholas I, Arakcheyev lost all his positions in the government such as member of the State Council, and inspector of the army artillery and infantry. This led to his removal from the court and the exile to his native town in Novgorod there he lived until his death in 1834 where he was interred in Andreevsky Cathedral. Furthermore, after Arakcheyev's death the Tsar requisitioned his land and property due to the inability to find Arakcheyev's legal heirs.

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