The French Revolution in Russian Intellectual Life: 1865-1905
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In this sense, it is understandable that the Russian government identified Dmitrii Golitsyn in as one of the pioneers of Russian-American relations. He initiated and explored contacts with representatives of the United States almost thirty years before the first official American diplomatic legation was established in Russia, namely in In the end, the Dutch Republic turned out to be the big loser of this venture. He was believed to have done what he could for the Dutch and assured his friends that his diplomatic activities had always an amelioration of the situation of the Dutch in mind.
Soon, your newspapers will be full with reports about my actions. I hope to God that they will not be fruitless. In the following year, other diplomatic duties awaited Golitsyn in The Hague. Pavel and his wife, travelling under the name of the Comte et Comtesse du Nord, travelled from France to the Dutch Republic. Many of his friends were Dutch patriots who were inspired by the American independence and generally anti-British and pro-French.
It was clear that more than Empress Catherine, Golitsyn saw the League of Armed Neutrality or at least initially his own proposal of Armed Mediation as an opening that could involve the American representation in naval politics, which in its turn could be perceived as a step to the Russian acceptance of the American independence.
In this sense, his diplomatic manoeuvring was an essentially anti-British and pro-French move, very much in line with the sentiments of the Dutch patriots, who were similarly partial to the American cause. Yet, these sentiments were not shared at the Imperial court in Saint Petersburg. Moreover, in it became clear that Golitsyn had been in contact with the American ambassador to the Dutch Republic John Adams.
His carelessness cost him dearly. At the end of , Golitsyn received the news that he would be recalled from The Hague and re-assigned to a new diplomatic mission in Turin. As a sign of gratitude for his diplomatic service in The Hague, he received the Imperial Order of St. Golitsyn was disappointed and mulled his options. He was hesitant and unwilling to give up his Dutch network and friendships.
Going to Turin would remove him further from the Academy in Brussels and the Hollandsche Maatschappij in Haarlem; two institutions he maintained good contacts with and were important for his scientific output. After consulting his brother Petr, Golitsyn decided to leave diplomatic service and stayed in The Hague. This decision is illustrative of how for Golitsyn, his Dutch network and the intellectual freedom it brought prevailed over the restraints of Russian diplomatic service.
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Golitsyn created his own laboratory in The Hague, started experimenting with natural electricity and published on mineralogy with the famous Dutch physician Petrus Camper. Between and , Golitsyn also regularly corresponded with Christiaan van der Aa and other members of the Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen in Haarlem. After the French invasion of the Dutch Republic in , Prince Golitsyn resettled in Braunschweig also known as Brunswick in Saxony, and spent the last years of his life immersed in different aspects of the natural sciences.
He became a foreign member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm , of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin , a member of the prestigious Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina in , a member of the London Royal Academy in and President of the Jena Mineralogical Society from until his death in In , he wrote a defense of Comte de Buffon, whose scientific work had been attacked and discredited after the French Revolution. In his book, Golitsyn also returned to the issue of serfdom.
Thirty years after he addressed this topic in his letters to his cousin, he devoted a chapter to it in his book:. Unhampered by diplomatic duties and strengthened by the many years in The Hague, Golitsyn showed his true colours. Gone was the selective transplantation of Western ideas, in which he took the Russian context into account. He gave an account of despotism in which he explicitly subscribed the words of Hume that he had filtered out of the Russian context three decades before:.
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Unlike most of his fellow countrymen, in the aftermath of the French Revolution and the Great Terror that shook the Western European and Russian elite to its core, Golitsyn still adhered to his earlier views, seeking to explain in his books how basically good ideas were distorted by the wrong crowd. All these men were well travelled in Europe, and some of them, like Karamzin, were initially even enthusiastic about the French revolutionary experiment, but all of them followed their Empress in her reactionary streak in the early s.
Staying true to his ideas, he was a beacon against the new Russian conservatism. It was indeed somewhat exceptional that Golitsyn still defended the ideas of the Enlightenment in the s. Maybe not as selectively and catered to autocracy as in the mids, but thoughtful, and well-considered, until the end of his life. Was this because he had lived outside Russia for so long?
In Russia, reform could easily be replaced by reaction. Even under the enlightened Catherine, all elements of an autocratic society were firmly in place. The facile switch of many members of the Russian elite to increasingly anti-European, patriotic and reactionary views after the French Revolution and even more so later on, in , illustrates this.
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For Golitsyn, this was different. The Prince had only spent the first part of his life in Russia. As a diplomat, he was of excellent service to Empress Catherine and did groundbreaking work brokering the League of Armed Neutrality. As a scientist in The Hague, he established much appreciated contacts with academies and individual scientists like Martinus van Marum, Jan van Swinden and Petrus Camper. He started and ended his family life in The Hague. Yet the cultural, diplomatic and scientific layers in which he expressed his liberal views also suffered from the contrasting Russian and Western European contexts.
Despite the reforms and the Nakaz experiment, Russia did not manage to internalise the ideas of the Enlightenment. His reappointment and withdrawal from state service was a logical consequence. And lastly, also on the scientific level, the contrasting contexts became ever more apparent. In this sense, Golitsyn did not abandon his views. His three decades in The Hague made his ideas on politics and society diverge from those of his compatriots in Russia.
Despite the obligations of Russian diplomatic service, he compartmentalised his European ideas on a cultural, diplomatic and intellectual level. And he did not compromise. Thirty years after his letters on the abolition of serfdom, he reiterated his position in an even stronger manner in his defense of the physiocrats. Also on the diplomatic level, he did not compromise, but left state service instead. John Strickland. Historical Dictionary of Lithuania.
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