Interesting long letter signed by the Russian diplomatis and author, Prince Nikolay Alexeyevich Orlov (1827–1885), dated St Petersburg, 1/3 March 1862, to Monsieur Belevalette in Paris, discussing reforms in Russia between 1861 to 1862.
"R. 19 March 1862 at 1h St Petersburg 1/13 March 1862
R. 5 May 1862
My dear Belevalette,
These few lines for which I am taking the time on a xxx of affairs as [illegible] as frustrating, are intended in the foremost to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 20 February with the documents attached to it. On receipt of the former, I had gone to speak of your matter with the only individual of the railway administration that I knew here, Prince Dmitri Obolensky (, one of the Secretaries of State attached to the person and administration of the Grand Admiral, the Grand Duke Constantine (Constantine Nikolaevich 1827-1892). He had just resigned from his post at the Management Board! My good faith was of no use, especially since I did not greatly understand what I could do in your favour, with the only documents that you had sent to me, these documents, having, according to our habits and customs, only a quite relative moral value. But since you deem them important, and not knowing what I was to do, all the more so since you make me wait for the next appearance in Petersburg in your person, I put your documents into a sealed letter, and placed them in the box with all my family documents. Since I am leaving for the interior tomorrow, and will be absent for 5 weeks, my wife will have the keys to the office, and she will be responsible for giving your package, either to you, or to whomever you name in writing, in the case that someone asks for it in my absence. Sorry that I could not do more to be of service to you.
I have no answer to all the information that you are giving me on industrial subjects, but I am gathering and taking note of it in order to take advantage of it in time and place. Why do I no longer hear talk of neither the brick machine nor the concrete man, who had sent me some samples as well as a printed xxx, who did not do it, which greatly bothered me, since I had avowed to speak of it to Mr Troinitzki, the Assistant to the Ministry of the Interior, and since I had to cement to the best of my ability?
You will know from the newspapers that we have lived in a state of considerable moral turmoil all this winter, a healthy turmoil in more than one respect. Aside from some intemperance of language in the xxx, due to the game of political tact that we had the opportunity to acquire under the Regime of Lead of the past 35 years, the Nobility has succeeded in positively fixing the tortures of the problem to be resolved, and has supported the next solution by the vote with a significant majority. In my opinion, much has been gained, and the horizon begins to appear much brighter for you, since the government is preparing to make concessions and administrative and legal reforms based on local self-government, that is, by admitting in principle that all the interests of each locality, (province), have the right to govern themselves, that is, by the xxx of the taxpayers, in the person of a council they have themselves elected. In a word, it is administrative decentralisation, and the creation of electoral colleges, on a very broad basis, since each commune and each municipality will have the right to be represented at the voters’ assembly by deputies chosen by way of Universal Suffrage, independently of the generality of land owners, nobles by name, who if in fact have possessed a property xxx will be voters, independently of the right to xxx that they xxx like xxx of the general assembly of landowners of each province, which must replace the current triennial committees of the Nobility alone. You see that for a first step, and this is a giant one, made in 2 months, without any other turmoil than an effort of moral energy that is rather conservative in its xxx, despite the great words that have been uttered.
I speak about it with much more complacency since having actively taken part in the xxx works of the Government of Petersburg, which are above all distinguished and by the languor of views and by the moderation of language, as well as by the legal precision of the conclusions, I had to and could study in depth what was said and done before my eyes and with my immediate participation. This winter from 1861-62 will be missing from the greats of civilisation and from my country’s moral and political progress. The jealous ones have disappeared, and now by the grace of God!
You tell me that you have not had news of your xxx or 89 roubles xxx. However, I paid them to Mr Gütt… and Co. on 17 January V. dr. 1862, on presentation of your ticket to [o…], that I currently hold in my possession.
If Mr Gxx decides to send my order at the start of sailing, I would implore him to address it to these same Mr Gxx and Eiexx Vassili Ostroff, 10th line, No 1/41, of whom I am the tenant, and who are wholesalers and bankers in Petersburg. Furthermore, the boats arriving from overseas have all their stations opposite the house, which is at the edge of thexxx, this will much diminish my fees.
With this, goodbye and farewell. If I come to Paris this summer I will advise you. Please continue to send me your news.
A thousand greetings and a warm handshake.
All my love to Mr Belaclette Junior, the future Marshal of France.
He first adopted a military career, and was seriously wounded in the Crimean War. Subsequently, he entered the diplomatic service, and represented Russia successively at Brussels (1860–1870), Paris (1870–1882) and Berlin (1882–1885). As a publicist he stood in the forefront of reform. His articles on corporal punishment, which appeared in Russkaya Starina in 1881, brought about its abolition. He also advocated tolerance towards the dissenters.
The Emancipation Reform of 1861 in Russia was the first and most important of liberal reforms passed during the reign (1855-1881) of Emperor Alexander II of Russia. The reform effectively abolished serfdom throughout the Russian Empire.
The 1861 Emancipation Manifesto proclaimed the emancipation of the serfs on private estates and of the domestic (household) serfs. By this edict more than 23 million people received their liberty. Serfs gained the full rights of free citizens, including rights to marry without having to gain consent, to own property and to own a business. The Manifesto prescribed that peasants would be able to buy the land from the landlords. Household serfs were the least affected: they gained only their freedom and no land.
The serfs were emancipated in 1861, following a speech given by Tsar Alexander II on 30th March 1856. State owned serfs, i.e., the serfs living on Imperial lands, were emancipated later in 1866.
Size: 20.5 x 13 cm approx