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Author: by Lyubov MANKOVA, Cand. Sc. (Philol.)
Soon after Peter I's death early in 1725 an "Academy of Sciences and Art Curiosities" was opened in the then Russian capital, St. Petersburg. An institution that was a dear brainchild of the later emperor. Right from its foundation date up to the enthronement of Empress Elisabeth (Yelizaveta Petrovna) in 1741 the Academy changed four presidents, all of them foreigners: Laurentius Blumentrost, Count Hermann Kaiserling, Count Johann Korfand Cyril Brewern. In 1746 the empress appointed a fifth president, an ethnic Russian. That was Kirill Razumovsky, eighteen years of age at the time.
Peter the Great was fond of saying: "Better any new business to begin and end with God rather than mend an old one, all bungled up." Such was his stand in reforming Russian science and education. That is why the emperor chose to institute a new body, a scientific and a scholastic center, all in one.
This is how Peter I commented on his election to the Paris Academic des Sciences on 18 February 1721: "We would wish nothing else but persevere in our diligence to bring the sciences into the best of efflorescence and show ourselves a worthy member of your company." On the 22nd of January 1724 Peter endorsed a report on the setup of a new science institution filed by the Leib (court) Medic Laurentius Blumentrost. This plan was based on ideas that the Russian emperor aired in his missive to the German thinker Christian Wolf in 1720. The latter wrote in his epistle to Laurentius Blumentrost (11 January 1721) that His Majesty intended to institute an Academy of Sciences and related bodies attached to it for "high-born persons to study essential sciences and at the same time ... he wanted to foster arts and crafts, of which he had written to me several weeks since..." According to the master plan, "the Academy of Sciences and Art Curiosities" was to run a university and a gymnasium (grammar school). Every academician (academy member) was to draw up a manual for students and deliver a daily hourlong lecture on the subject he taught. Every professor was to coach one or two students that could replace him with time. Peter I amended this clause by recommending that two other persons should be added as would-be professors, and of Slavic descent at that, to make it more convenient for the instruction of native Russians.
But Peter the Great did not live to see his plans realized. Upon his death (January 1725) his spouse who succeeded to the Russian throne, Empress Catherine I, said she was resolved to implement the plans of the late-lamented emperor and set up a Science Academy. Russian diplomats and envoys at European courts and the press were apprised of that. The foreign savants and scholars that Peter I had invited could come to St. Petersburg in the latter half of
1725 for a gala reception which took place on the fifteenth of August the same year in the Summer Garden. The Academy was inaugurated on December 25, 1725, with Catherine attending the inauguration ceremony.
Its first president, Laurentius Blumentrost, framed the Academy's statutes and begged Her Majesty to peruse this document and amend it, where necessary; thereupon the statutes could be promulgated. These draft statutes, however, were not endorsed for some reason. Meanwhile Catherine I passed away in 1727, and her successor, Peter II, and his court moved to Moscow. President Blumentrost went thither too, while the Academy had to fend for itself, mismanaged by the men left in charge. Short of funds (misappropriated for the most part), the Academy did not pay salaries to its members who found themselves under the thumb of Secretary J. Schuhmacher. It was in dire straits. All the money still available in the budget went to pay the services of printers, artists and engravers.
Foreign members of the Academy, who ruled the roost there, were responsible for those retrograde conditions. They couldn't care less about Russian science and people who would carry it on. To cap it all, science and savants enjoyed but little respect, to put it mildly, in the Russia of those days. There were but few educated people, and it seemed unthinkable that a savant could be of Russian stock. One looked askance even at the great Russian scholar and scientist Mikhail Lomonosov. Ignorant, benighted people fear and hate whatever is beyond their ken. That's in the scheme of things. With some court favorite or minion as president, none from among high-placed officials would dare cavil at the Academy; but when the president was away, scriveners and clerks of every stripe would throw their weight about to make the scientific fraternity lie low. There came quibbles and threats, even reprisals.
Yelizaveta Petrovna's accession to the throne in 1741 meant an end to misrule on the part of foreigners ensconced in the Academy. Now that "the Russian party" took over, Lomonosov proceeded boldly against them; he said for all to hear he desired to see "the Russian Academy made up of Russia's sons". True, in the first years of Elisabeth's reign nothing was done to pull the Academy out of a hole. Things even took a turn for the worse-no president, no savants to speak of. The best professors fled Russia. Those who remained worked at cross-purposes. The university and the grammar school were in name only, on paper. It became obvious: the academy should be headed by a Russian savant. Yet Mikhail Lomonosov was not eligible because of his short, virulent temper. An even-tempered man was needed for the job.
That man was found. Count Kirill Razumovsky. In 1745 he came back to Russia from Western Europe where he
spent two years improving his mind in various schools. The young ambitious man brought home many a certificate of merit from foreign professors and academy members. Besides, he was related to Empress Elisabeth in a way: his older brother, Alexei, was a "significant other" to her.
Kirill Razumovsky was born on March 18, 1728, at Lemeshi, a hamlet in the Ukraine. His ancestors were of Cossack stock (Ukrainian registered Cossacks). The Razumovsky brothers were humble, "low-born" men; cowherds in their early youth, they made their way to top honors and power. The older brother, Alexei, hankered for learning even when a small child, which his father did not like at all and would beat him up quite often. Finally Alexei ran away and settled at a sacristan's. Failing to get a good education, Alexei wanted his younger brother, Kirill, to do that. So he summoned Kirill to St. Petersburg for a bit of initial schooling. Thereupon he sent Kirill to alien parts to make up for the time lost and become wise in learning for the honor and benefit of his native country.
And so early in March 1743 Kirill Grigoryevich Razumovsky, under the assumed name of Ivan Ivanovich Obidovsky, set out for Konigsberg where he met C. Flottwehl, a theologian and a future honorary member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. From there he proceeded to Danzig where he was in for good news-from now on he was "gentleman of Her Majesty's bedchamber". Simultaneously, Kirill received a message outlining a course of his education. Before taking up French, he was to concentrate with much diligence on German and Latin; besides, he had to brush up on his Russian, to make it "pure" in style and idiom. Also, the young man had to delve into history and geography. Fencing could sleep for a while. He was not to indulge overmuch in music and dancing. Such were the instructions.
Acting as his cicerone in foreign parts was Grigory Teplow, a man of versatile talents all bent on scholarly career (while in Russia he had earned a junior scientific assistant's degree at about the same time as Lomonosov).
An eminent botanist and man of letters, he was then elected to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences as honorary member. Teplow gained absolute influence over the young grandee and managed all his affairs.
While in Berlin Kirill Razumovsky had such illustrious men for tutors as Leonard Euler, the German mathematician, physicist and specialist in mechanics; and F. Strube-de-Pirmont, the jurist. Both were already full members of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Completing his course in Berlin, the young Razumovsky attended lectures at Gottingen and Strasbourg.
His two-year sojourn abroad changed the youth beyond recognition. As Empress Catherine II wrote much later in her memoirs, "he was amiable and good-looking, had good manners and was much superior to his brother in mind..."
A year after his return home, on May 21, 1746, the eighteen-year-old Kirill Razumovsky was appointed president of the Academy of Sciences. Signing this ukase of hers, Yelizaveta Petrovna demonstrated her desire to change the lackluster situation in science. As a foremost grandee and Her Majesty's minion, the new president pulled a good deal of weight. The Russian public hailed this appointment with much enthusiasm. Vassily Trediakovsky, the celebrated poet of the day, saluted the youthful president in the hope that due to His Grace "will the Academy have risen from its sick-bed in the sound health of its members."
Razumovsky's inaugural is remarkable in many ways-for one, he was the first to describe the Academy as a scientific community designed to work for Russia's good and glory "... One thing I find it imperative," he said, "and this is to encourage you, my good sirs, to join hands with me in making the best of what we have at our disposal for the benefit and glory of our extensive state. This is the first and paramount goal of your scientific community... You ought to know, besides, that nothing can be loftier than the glory predicated on the good of all of society. Pray the good use spreading throughout the length and breadth of the Russian state is but glory.."
First of all, the new president looked into the cases of academic litigation at the Senate and asked each and all to give a written deposition. Yet the 18-year-old gentlemen found it pretty hard to sort things out and get to the truth. He did his best to remedy the situation, but his orders were often sabotaged. What was needed was a complete overhaul. And so Razumovsky turned to this task at hand.
On July 24, 1747, Elisabeth signed "Regulations of Her Majesty's Academy of Sciences and Arts". This document defined the organizational structure of the institution and
duties of its members. In fact, that was the first statute of a scientific society. This one was divided into an Academy proper and a University. Academy members, the academicians, were to focus on research exclusively, while professors-on teaching and lecturing. Three classes were set up within the Academy: the first comprising astronomers and geographers, the second-botanists, chemists and biologists, and the third-physicists and mathematicians. As to history and literature, this was to be the domain of the University. Chosen as official languages were Latin and Russian, with "French and German not to be ever used". Razumovsky solicited an academic budget of 53,298 rubles.
There were to be 10 members of the Academy (attached to each, a junior scientific assistant) and ten honorary members working on an extramural basis. Only Russians could qualify as junior scientific assistants. The young count reared a galaxy of Russian academicians, the savants, scientists and writers. Those were Mikhail Lomonosov and Vassily Trediakovsky in the first place. Also, we might as well mention S. Krasheninnikov, traveler and geographer; I. Popov, an astronomer; S. Kotelnikov, a mathematician; S. Rumovsky, astronomer; M. Sofronov, a mathematician; A. Krasilnikov, an astronomer and land-surveyor. There were professional men of letters among them too, such as G. Kozitsky and J. Taubert. The holdover foreigners-J. Schuhmacher and J. Taubert for one-were much disgruntled, they did not want Russian scientists around. "I made a big mistake by admitting Lomonosov to professorship," Schuhmacher complained.
In keeping with the statutes, Academy members were to present outlines of their research work in the beginning of every year. Accordingly, they acquainted their president with the latest works of foreign savants. Razumovsky had some of them translated into Russian when he found those publications worthy of interest. Besides, academicians were to fill government orders where specialist knowledge was required.
The president ordered that the University should pick the best thirty students for an advanced course at the Academy. To enlist students in the University and Grammar School, he summoned promising pupils from theological schools of St. Petersburg, Moscow and Novgorod in spite of resistance on the part of the clergy. The university rector, F. Miller, was dismissed, with Stepan Krasheninnikov appointed in his stead.
An important sideline of the Academy's activities in those days was the publication of foreign belles lettres in Russian translations. Since the number of such books rose greatly, another printing-house was set up-it came to be known as a "new" printing- office (the "old" print-shop was handling scholarly publications by and large). A ukase on the publishing of fiction was issued in January 1748.
And eight years after that, under Razumovsky's patronage, the first Russian magazine was off the press; its jolly title read as follows: Monthly Writings for Use and Amusement.
In 1759 Count Razumovsky reshuffled the Academy's managerial board and appointed new members- J. Taubert (historian), J. Stelin and M. Lomonosov.
Mikhail Lomonosov appealed to the count as a talented standout and a broad mind. He, Razumovsky, liked his blunt, forthright ways which no convention, be it of the beau monde or of the academic routine, could restrain. The president upheld initiatives proposed by the Russian man of genius and endorsed his practical suggestions for improving the Academy's performance. In 1748 Count Razumovsky presented to Elisabeth an ode written by Lomonosov on the occasion of her enthronement and solicited a reward for the poet (Lomonosov was an eminent poet of the day too) to the tune of 2,000 rubles, a princely sum in those days. Lomonosov was also granted lodgings for his use and recommended for a collegiate councillor's title. Razumovsky, eager to encourage the great Russian scientist in his pursuits, ordered to upgrade the academic laboratory to make it "commodious" for conducting chemical experiments. The count commissioned Lomonosov to draw up a Great Atlas of the Russian Empire. Besides, the savant drafted new statutes for the University and the Grammar School which he was entrusted to run at his discretion.
Thanks to Count Razumovsky's efforts, Her Majesty's Academy scored signal achievements in natural and exact sciences, it became quite on a par with the best European academies. Russian scientists realized the behest of Peter the Great: "Academicians should earn trust and honor for us in Europe, and prove in deed they are working for science as well, and show it is high time to cease taking us for barbarians neglecting science."
In 1750 Razumovsky was elected hetman (chief) of Small Russia (Ukraine), and asked Empress Elisabeth to relieve him of presidential duties at the Academy But Elisabeth did not gratify his solicitation. Now resident in the Ukraine, the count visited St. Petersburg every now and then for personal supervision of the Academy.
As Ukrainian hetman, Kirill Razumovsky aimed to open a university at Baturin, his residence, but this plan failed to materialize. He accomplished many good things for the Ukrainians by relieving them from hard serf labor, and lifting sundry levies and duties that ruined the people. Free trade was permitted between Russia and the Ukraine, and Russian and Ukrainian clerks became equal in their rights. The hetman eliminated custom barriers as well as tobacco and other duties that hampered the growth of industries; he restricted the distillation (wine-making) business that ravaged the forests; reinstituted local and town courts closed by Hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky back in the 17th century; showed good care for Ukrainian culture.
In 1768 the new empress, Catherine II, appointed Kirill Razumovsky member of the State Council.
The first Russian president of the Academy of Sciences and the last hetman of Small Russia, Field-Marshal Kirill Grigoryevich Razumovsky died on the third of January 1803 at Baturin, a town where he was laid to rest.
This statesman was a good family man who raised ten children (six sons and four daughters), some of whom contributed to Russian glory. They got an excellent education. One of his sons, Alexei Kirillovich Razumovsky, became Public Education Minister under Emperor Alexander I (who reigned in 1801 to 1825). Alexei Razumovsky was fond of natural sciences, botany in particular, and collected a rich library on these sciences. The botanical gardens that he planted at Gorenki near Moscow was considered one of the wonders of the day. His greenhouses and rare plant collections were known far and wide, in Europe too. Some of the species are named after Razumovsky, Jr., to this day.
As Education Minister, Alexei Razumovsky devoted particular attention to public schools. He did a remarkable lot for improving the teaching methods and banned corporal punishments. He tabled a package of proposals aimed at restricting the harmful effect of foreigners on the education of the Russian younger set, an influence that sapped the national spirit. All subjects at boarding schools, he suggested, should be taught only in Russian, and all private tutors from among aliens should present references from school principals. Alexander I upheld and endorsed these proposals.
In August 1810 Alexander I signed an edict on the institution of His Majesty's Lyceum at Tsarskoye Selo near St. Petersburg; this school for the flower of Russian youth was opened on October 19, 1811. Among the students enrolled in its first class was the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin... Alexei Razumovsky gave great care and attention to this institution, his dear brainchild. He sponsored other projects as well, such as the first department of Slavonic studies at Moscow University, opened in 1811; the University of Kazan, inaugurated in 1814; several scholarly and literary societies (the Moscow Society of Russian Antiquities; the Society of Russian Letters at Kazan University, among others).
Another son, Grigory Kirillovich Razumovsky, became a prominent scientist known for his many works on geology and mineralogy; he was elected member of the Stockholm, Turin and Munich Academies of Sciences. A mineral he discovered in Silesia is named after him, Razoumowskiu.
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