Alexander Danilovich Menshikov
(1673-1729) – an outstanding Russian state and military leader, favorite and associate of Peter the Great.
Alexander Danilovich Menshikov was born on November 6, 1673 in a family that does not have a notable position. Alexander’s father was, as the contemporaries testify, any court groom, or an ordinary peasant. He even gave his son to the doctrine of a pie shop in Moscow.
In 1686 Menshikov became the servant of F. Lefort, soon Peter I. I. Danilovich was a member of the Great Embassy; distinguished himself with bravery in the battles of the Northern War. Since 1719, A.D. Menshikov was appointed head of the Military Collegium. Alexander Danilovich’s duties also included guardianship of the children of Peter I when he was outside the country.
Menshikov was an influential person and under Catherine I – headed by the Privy Council, had the right to report personally to the Empress. After her death, I wanted to regent with a young Peter II, but the disease prevented him from realizing his plans – Menshikov lost influence over Peter Alekseevich. In 1727 Menshikov was sent into exile. Alexander Danilovich died on November 12, 1729.
Menshikov was an illiterate man.
Anyway, the contemporaries of Alexander Danilovich claimed that Menshikov could not read and write throughout his life. This version is supported by many documents, and to be more precise, the absence of documents written by AD Menshikov personally.
It remains to be surprised how such a poorly educated person could speak several foreign languages at once. Yes, and in the “Journal” (diary) of Alexander Danilovich, there are quite a few notes and notes related to the fact that Menshikov got acquainted with the contents of any papers. In addition, the prince had a huge library at that time. Her inventory survived to our time.
Interest is also the fact that in 1714 Alexander Danilovich Menshikov was the first Russian to become a member of a foreign academy: the Royal Society of London. The reason for accepting into its composition A.D. Menshikov was the dissemination of “good books and sciences.” Isaac Newton himself called the prince a man of “the greatest enlightenment”, which also refutes the generally accepted opinion about the illiteracy of Menshikov.
Menshikov made his way to the nobles purely by chance.
In many respects the beginning of Alexander Danilovich’s career was helped by the event of 1686, when Menshikov was taken in the service of Franz Lefort – at the time indicated already influential under Peter the Great. He was in the service of the Menshikov and was noticed by Peter I.
Menshikov – orderly man of Peter I.
Immediately after Peter I noted the young Menshikov, he appoints him as his orderly. Presumably (there are no exact data on this matter), Alexander Danilovich participated in the struggle of Peter I with Sophia (1689), as well as in the Azov campaigns. The name of A.D. Menshikov for the first time meets in official papers (in the correspondence of Peter I) only in 1694.
Menshikov joined the Grand Embassy.
In 1697, he was among the members of the Grand Embassy went outside the Russian Empire. He was considered a volunteer who wanted to learn the ship’s business. Together with Peter I, Alexander Danilovich, having worked in the Dutch shipyards, fully mastered the specialty of the ship’s carpenter, and later, in England, he learned the artillery and fortification.
Menshikov sought to always be near the king.
Alexander Danilovich personally participated in suppressing the uprising of the streltsy. Menshikov even bragged about his active participation in this matter – after all, he personally cut off the heads of 20 streltsam. After returning from the Grand Embassy, Menshikov tried to help the tsar to put into practice any of his undertakings.
From the very beginning of the Northern War Menshikov showed himself well.
The year of the beginning of the Northern War is 1700, and already in 1702 Menshikov was appointed commandant of the newly conquered fortress of Noteburg. Alexander Danilovich fully supported Peter I in his efforts to create his own Russian fleet. In this regard, Menshikov, has developed an active activity in the organization of the Olonets shipyard. For the manifestation of courage and initiative in the battles, Alexander Danilovich was awarded the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called. At the beginning of the XVIII century, this order was the highest award in the Russian Empire.
Peter I trusted A.D. Menshikov most responsible assignments.
Among them was the management of the acquired territories, as well as the construction of St. Petersburg, which since 1703 became the capital of the Russian Empire. Over the years, the king was so used to Menshikov that he could no longer manage without Alexander Danilovich, who became for him an indispensable friend. In addition, it was Menshikov who first saw the captured Russian servant Marta Savronskaya, who later became Empress Catherine I. She also promoted Alexander Danilovich on his career ladder.
Menshikov had a passion for the acquisition of new wealth.
Peter I in every possible way encouraged the activities of his favorite. Alexander Danilovich received more and more new ranks, gifts, awards, which came to him, however, not only from the Russian tsar, but from the first persons of other countries. For example, the Polish King Augustus presented DA. Menshikov Order of the White Eagle.
Menshikov was awarded and military laurels.
Alexander Danilovich really deserved them. For example, on October 18, 1706, thanks to the energetic actions taken by Menshikov, Russian and Polish troops defeated the Swedes at the Battle of Kalisz. Alexander Danilovich in the peak of the battle took a direct part in it and was even slightly injured. Peter I granted his friend and favorite a diamond-studded cane and a personal coat of arms.
Another feat of Menshikov refers to 1708, when on August 30 he again personally rushed into battle; by forces of the trusted army provided Russia with a victory near the village of Dobroe, and on September 28 of the same year Menshikov distinguished himself in the battle at the village of Lesnoy.
In the absence of Peter I during the betrayal of Mazepa Menshikov, taking the initiative in his hands, in fact became the head of the entire Russian army and seized the city of Baturin, left a traitor.
During the Battle of Poltava under Menshikov, three horses were killed.
June 27, 1709, the cavalry of Alexander Danilovich defeated the cavalry of the Swedes, on this day, indeed, under Menshikov, three horses were killed. Menshikov pursued the Swedes at the head of the Russian troops. For showing bravery in the Battle of Poltava, Alexander Danilovich Menshikov was awarded the rank of Field Marshal, his position under the tsar became so strong that no intrigues against Menshikov did not shake the faith in him from the side of Peter I. In these years Menshikov was the second most important person in the state – him Peter I trusted all matters when he left the borders of the Russian Empire.
Menshikov is the commander-in-chief of the Russian troops in Pomerania.
It was on Alexander Danilovich that the choice of Peter I fell for the implementation of this post. Menshikov with all responsibility justified the choice of the king. In 1713 the Swedish garrisons of the fortresses of Stettin and Tonningen were forced to surrender under the pressure of the allied Russian Empire troops.
Menshikov is a good diplomat.
But in diplomacy Alexander Danilovich did not succeed. So Menshikov did not have good relations with his allies in Russia. After the incident with the fortress of Stettin, when A.D. Menshikov had to hand it over to Denmark, but for a high price he gave it to Prussia (which, naturally, aroused the discontent of the Danish king), Peter I no longer trusted his favorite for important diplomatic negotiations.
Siege of Stettin was the last military action of A.D. Menshikov.
The reason for this was not the loss of Menshikov’s military skills, but serious health problems. Alexander Danilovich increased attacks of lung disease, which did not allow Menshikov to stay for a long time in the conditions of camp life. Since 1713 he lived permanently in his palace on the Vasilievsky Island in St. Petersburg. His main task was to manage the St. Petersburg province – Menshikov was appointed its head. His duties included the management of construction, economy, the solution of military and civil issues. Alexander Danilovich took part in meetings of the senate, always remembered the affairs of the fleet – Menshikov personally was present at the descent of each new ship to the water. And in 1719 the prince became also the head of the Military Collegium.
Menshikov is the guardian of the royal children.
During the absence of Peter I, he was responsible for the royal children; Menshikov visited the palace every day for several hours, after which, in great detail, he informed the tsar in letters to the tsar about his children. Alexander Danilovich took a very active part in deciding the fate of Peter I, the eldest son, Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich. The latter openly expressed dissatisfaction with his father’s reforms. Alexei even planned to seize power, for this purpose he composed a conspiracy. Menshikov was a member of the investigative commission on the “case” of the Tsarevich, conducted interrogations and even personally attended the torture. It’s amazing that Menshikov was listed first among those who signed Alexei’s death sentence.
Menshikov had many enemies.
They in every way harmed the name of Alexander Danilovich. The most diverse denunciations with charges of embezzlement, fraud, etc. filled the capital. In many cases they were, in principle, truthful, but Peter I shut their eyes to them, because he believed that even if his favorite in something similar is to blame, Menshikov has already redeemed himself with his services. Supported Menshikova and Catherine, and other people close to the court. However, Alexander Danilovich’s passion for new awards, harassment of new awards did their job: the cold attitude and irritability on the part of the tsar were frequent.
Under Catherine I Menshikov’s position was strengthened.
After all, it was Alexander Danilovich who stood at the head of the guard, which enabled Catherine to rule the country. Menshikov became the head of the Privy Council, which, however, he also was created. He could enter without hindrance to Catherine I for a report. And the empress, in turn, did not forget to thank Menshikov. She granted him the city of Baturin – the one that Alexander Danilovich literally begged from Peter I, but without success … Catherine I forgot about all the debts of Menshikov.
Daughter of Menshikov Maria was engaged to Peter II.
In order to achieve this goal, it was necessary for Alexander Nikolaevich that Peter Alekseevich (the son of Tsarevich Alexei) should come to the throne. True, this could well have been prevented by those dignitaries who at one time signed the death sentence to the son of Peter I, but in addition, Menshikov himself was also afraid of absolute power. Through the efforts of Alexander Danilovich, all these people were exiled in 1727 with the loss of all their ranks – Menshikov agreed on this with Catherine I. The Empress herself died on May 6, 1797. On May 23 of the same year, the daughter of AD Menshikov (she was 16 years old) with Peter Alekseevich (who at that time was only 12 years old) is engaged to an engagement.
Menshikov is the generalissimo.
Since the death of Catherine I, Alexander Danilovich dreamed of regency over the underage Peter. However, this was not realized. Menshikov only succeeded in obtaining the rank of generalissimo and compiling an extensive biography for further accomplishments, but the illness seriously hampered Menshikov’s plans. Alexander Danilovich lost influence over Peter Alekseevich, who received a long-time foe Menshikov – Dolgoruky. He managed to get a decree from Peter about Menshikov’s exile.
Menshikov was exiled to Berezov.
But not immediately.First came out a decree linking Alexander Danilovich to Rannenburg (1727), which was accompanied by the deprivation of Menshikov of all ranks and acquired property. Menshikov was interrogated here, accusing him of treason. But no recognition was received. In April 1728, a former favorite was sent to the far Siberian city of Berezov. Fate presented Menshikov with two serious blows: his faithful wife died on the way to exile, and the eldest daughter (from smallpox) died in the very Berezovo.
The Siberian exile did not break Menshikov’s spirit.
Contemporaries spoke of the courageous acceptance by Alexander Danilovich of the conditions that fate had given him. He quietly changed expensive outfits for simple clothes. Menshikov told one officer (incidentally, he did not recognize his former boss) that he was destined to return to the state in which he spent his childhood. November 12, 1729, Alexander Danilovich Menshikov died, leaving a huge contribution to the history of Russia.