Biographies Russian Statesmen Count Mikhail Speransky

Count Mikhail Speransky

Count Mikhail Speransky, father of Russian liberalism and creator of the first project for a constitution under Alexander I
Born: 1772, Cherkutino (Vladimir Province)
Died: 1839, St Petersburg

Mikhail Speransky was born on 1 January 1772 in the village of Cherkutino in Vladimir Province in the family of a priest called Mikhail Tretyakov. He studied at the religious seminaries in Vladimir and St Petersburg, where he acquired the surname of Speransky, from the Latin verb “to hope” (sperare).

In 1792, Metropolitan Gabriel recommended Speransky to Prince Alexei Kurakin, who employed him as his secretary. He remained with Kurakin when the latter was appointed general procurator by Paul I in 1796.

Under Alexander I, Speransky was transferred to the Ministry of the Interior. When the minister of the interior fell ill, he asked Speransky to deliver his reports to the tsar. Alexander took a liking to Speransky and, in 1808, invited him to draw up a liberal constitution based on West European models, envisaging a state council and parliament (duma).

Unfortunately, Speransky never succeeded in implementing his planned constitution. Unable to win over the aristocracy and court circles, Alexander sacrificed Speransky to appease the opposition. Speransky was accused of plotting with Napoleon and exiled to Perm in 1812.

Through the intercession of Count Alexei Arakcheyev, Speransky was appointed governor of Penza in 1816 and governor-general of Siberia in 1819. In 1821, he was returned to St Petersburg and made a member of the State Council.

After the Decembrist Revolt of 1825, Speransky sat on the special court of investigation and passed the sentences. The rest of his life was spent compiling the Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire, for which he was awarded the Order of St Andrew and the title of count by Tsar Nicholas I.

Mikhail Speransky caught a cold and died in St Petersburg on 11 February 1839. He was buried at the Tikhvin Cemetery in the St Alexander Nevsky Monastery beneath a tombstone designed by Alexander Brullov.

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