Alexander Palace Forum

Discussions about Russian History => Imperial Russian History => Topic started by: Phil_tomaselli on January 11, 2007, 08:56:48 AM

Title: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Phil_tomaselli on January 11, 2007, 08:56:48 AM
This is a subject that has interested me for a long time.  I estimate that there were some 10,000 British subjects throughout the Empire in 1914, about 4,000 in St Petersburg, 700 in Moscow and the rest scattered through the north (mainly timber merchants), the Urals (mining engineers) and the Caucasus (heavily involved in oil).  There was an English Shop in St P that sold marmalade, shortbread and other English goods, an English Club that offered to support the families of men who volunteered to return to Britain to fight, and English churches in St P and Moscow.

There were extended families of Carrs, Gibsons and Hills that had been there for scores (if not hundreds) of years but which maintained their Englishness by sending their wives abroad to give birth and their sons to British Public Schools.  Donald Swann the singer/entertainer from the 1950's and 1960's was from a family that went to Russia in the late 18th century.

After the revolution most of them fled, the sensible ones in 1917, the remainder coming out in 1918 and 1919 as part of a trade off with HMG to allow out Russians from Britain.  A few dozen (mainly those who were British only by virtue of possessing a British passport) stayed on and were looked after by charity from Britain.  They even had their own dacha outside Leningrad.  Unfortunately they seem to have disappeared during the siege.

Is anyone here related to any of these families?  The White Russian diaspora is one people seem to be aware of, but the tribulations of these British subjects seems to have been largely forgotten.  Presumably there were also large numbers of Frenchmen and not a few Americans also caught up in the wreck of the revolution about who we also hear little. 

Phil Tomaselli
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Georgiy on January 24, 2007, 04:51:03 AM
A very interesting topic! I don't know anything about it, but I found the House by the Dvina, and its sequel interesting reads, about a girl whose mother was Scottish, and father Russian, growing up in Archangelsk before the revolution, and how she got out of Russia after the revolution. She wrote that the assasination of the Tsar affected people quite deeply when they heard the news.
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: lexi4 on January 24, 2007, 07:23:09 PM
Good topic. I hope we learn more. How many Brittish do you think actually got out of Russia, Phil?
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Phil_tomaselli on January 25, 2007, 03:40:20 PM
As many as wanted to, as far as I can see Lexi though the last probably came out in 1920.  The Bolsheviks had a major clamp down on letting Britons out, but we British retaliated by by holding hundreds (possibly thousands) of Russian emigres who wanted to return home in Britain.  The passport control system designed to keep German agents out of Britain worked just as well in keeping people in when necessary.............

There were discussions in Scandinavia between the Russians and British in 1919 which eventually came to an agreement whereby people were allowed in and out.  The Finns set up a camp at Terioki to quarantine refugees (as a protection against Typhus).   Many of the later refugees were half starved and brough out no assets.  The Guildhall Archive in London has records of the relief committee which suggest that some were still dependent on charity as late as 1930.

The few who remained in Russia were mainly people who. to all intents and purposes, were genuinely Russian but who happened to be legally British.  In Petrograd/Leningrad there can't have been more than a couple of hundred and Lady Muriel Paget (who organised the Anglo-Russian Hospital 1914-17) ran the relief committee in the 1930's.

I have, somewhere, an article I wrote a couple of years ago on British subjects in Russia.  Once I can find it I'll post bits of it.   


Phil T
   
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Phil_tomaselli on January 25, 2007, 03:44:01 PM
In fact here is a very brief excerpt:

"The British community was essentially middle-class, though some more interesting professions were represented.  A glimpse at the St Petersburg consulate register of births from 1856 to 1912 includes, amongst the fathers’ professions: merchant, accountant, jockey, ringmaster, cotton mill manager, clerk, weaving manager, banker, iron moulder, cotton carder, mechanic, electrical engineer, mining engineer, foreman printer, resident manager of Kodak Ltd and technical brewer."

Phil T
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: lexi4 on January 25, 2007, 06:12:54 PM
Thank you Phil. I am surprsied there were so many Britons living in Russia. Did most go there seeking opportunity? What do you think caused them to leave England and move to Russia?
I find that curious.
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: hikaru on March 28, 2007, 11:23:36 PM
There is a book: British in Petersburg.
Unfortunately , I have no this book at my disposal.
This book was published in Petersburg around 2003.
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: ChristineM on March 29, 2007, 04:11:16 AM
The first recorded account of a Scot visiting Russia was in the 12/13th century when a man, David Aberdonis (David from Aberdeen), visited the Prince of Muskovy on a diplomatic mission on behalf of the King of Denmark.

A Baker's dozen - thirteen Scottish doctors were personal physicians to Russian Emperors dating from Peter the Great, but in no particular order - from off the top of my head -

James Wyllie (first doctor and apothecary in Russia) from Kincardineshire.   He was personal physician to three emperors and President of the Medico-Chirurgy Society.   He founded No.1 Medical Hospital in St Petersburg.   A statue to his memory still stands in the hospital grounds.
Thomas Dinsdale (vaccinated Catherine the Great and her family against smallpox)
Matthew Guthrie
James Maudzey (personal physician to Catherine the Great)
Alexander Crighton (from Edinburgh;  personal physician to Alexander I)
James Guthrie (from Fife)
Matthew Halliday (from Lochbroom, Dumfriesshire)
James Rogerson (from Dumfriesshire - very personal physician to Catherine the Great.   He examined prospective paramours for the Empress.   He was with her when she died)

I am missing six others.   I would have to dig into my researches to names them and give further details.

Ekaterina Dashkova (born Vorontsova - Catherine the Great's closest friend and a woman of great intellectual and academic brilliance, she played a major part in the coup d'etat which brought Catherine to the throne) stayed in Scotland for about three years along with her son who decided to pursue medical studies at Edinburgh University, she travelled to Scotland to stay with him, visiting London and touring the Highland and Islands of Scotland.


Engineers -

CHARLES BAIRD - the greatest of them all.   He hailed from Stirlingshire at worked at the Carron Iron Works.   Catherine the Great had tried to recruit James Watt (although not the inventor of the steam engine, his reworking of the early steam engine, became the basis for the design of the modern steam engine.) from the University of Glasgow, but he would not break his contract.   He sent who he thought was the greatest talent - Charles Baird.

Baird built the first Russian steamship - with a brick chimney for a funnel.   The 'Elizaveta' plied between St Petersburg and Kronstadt and made Baird his fortune.   Eventually Baird owned his own wharf on the Neva.   He founded the Baird works in St Petersburg and Kolpino.   These great 'zavods' moved from the Baird family to become the Putilov works and today are better known as the Kirov Works.

Bairds foundaries produced all the iron works for a wellknown series of bridges in St Petersburg - the first iron bridges in the city.   They were designed by another Scot, William Hastie (Vasilli Geste in Russian) of whom more, later.   All the metal work, the disciples, and the structure of the dome, which decorate the roof of St Isaac's Cathedral were cast by Scottish and Russian workers at Baird's works.   Likewise the angel on top of the Alexander column in Palace Square as well as the garniture which once surrounded its pediment.

tsaria

 


Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: ChristineM on March 29, 2007, 05:23:51 AM
Another engineer from Carron Ironworks who travelled to Russia with Charles Baird, was Charles Gascoine (Karl Karlovich Gaskoin).   Although not as well known as Baird, Gascoine left his imprint on Russia.   He designed the new Mint and established the first presses in the Fortress of Peter and Paul - the engineering work was carried out by Baird.   He invented a new gun, named the Gasconade in his honour.   He created a new unit of measure based on the inch (the distance between the top and knuckle of the thumb) called, I think, a dyum.

Gascoine was made Head of Mines and a State Councillor.   At Kronstadt, along with Charles Baird he created the first dry dock.   

Like Baird, Gascoine lived out the rest of his life and died in Russia.

Matthew Clark - a son of one of the Carron workers who emigrated to Russia with Gascoine -

I will have to dig into my researches for more details on this man.   However, his work is admired the world over.   For this was the man who, under the direction of architect Vasilli Stasov oversaw the rebuilding, in record time, of the Winter Palace after the disastrous fire of 1837.   

There is so much more Scottish involvement - soldiers, sailors, architects, teachers, governesses, nannies, gardeners, artists, entrepreneurs who influenced the face and the shape of Imperial Russia.   However, I don't know if there is any particular interest in this subject and these are thumbnail biographies of very remarkable talented, ambitious and brave men and women.

tsaria
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: hikaru on March 29, 2007, 07:34:29 AM
A lot of British people lived in Petersburg in 18th century.
There is ever English Embankment in St. Petersburg with Anglicane Church.
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Tania+ on March 29, 2007, 01:34:25 PM
Thank you Tsaria.
You are a great historian. Thankfully, because of your ken, we all can enjoy the fruits of your labour, and your fine research!
It is more than a delight to find someone as yourself, so knowledgeable, not only in depth on Russian history, past and present,
but on many other countries. You are Premier I think to that of Russian History ! You are the best ! Thanks again.

Tatiana+
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: susannah on November 03, 2007, 03:31:02 PM

Hi Phi!

I was thrilled to discover this website and your entry in particular.  Yes, I too am fascinated by the topic and (along with my late mother) have been for almost as long as I can remember!  Even as a child, I was spellbound by my great-aunt's recollections of how her grandmother (my great, great grandma) went to live in Russia and by the old photographs (three of which I now have) she used to show me,

Great, great grandmama was an English widow who re-married a railway engineer ("The Transiberian" was part of family lore).  Leaving behind her son (my great-grandpa who was in his late teens), she, along with her husband and their two children, set off for St. Petersburgin in the 1870s.  I recall seeing a photo of the elegant facade of the town house where they lived, photos of the children at different stages,  a photo of their handsome son-in-law (a count according to family lore, again!) and several photos of great,great grandma in her coffin, surrounded by potted palms! Letters were frequent until The Revolution of 1917, after which nothing more was heard from those still in touch.  Do I have distant Russian cousins, I ask myself? Who knows!

When I visited St. Petersburg, over fifteen years ago now, I immediately took to the hauntingly beautiful city (resplendent in its golden, Autumn glory) and its people, but kept wondering where exactly my ancestors would have llived and worked and what the routine of their daily lives would have been.  Did they venture there by train in the first place, how long did the journey take them and did they ever
return home to visit family and friends in Britain?

Is there some way of finding out more, Phil?  Would there be consular records and if so, how does one find them?  Was there a British cemetery in St. Petersburg, and if so, did it survive the events of history?  Were there many British railway engineers and if so, what and where was their working environment?  Would they have been part of a British clique or would they have integrated with Russian people?  How would their children have been educated?  So many questions......................... I look forward to your comments.





Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Mike on November 04, 2007, 06:58:10 AM
What was your ancestors' surname?
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: susannah on November 11, 2007, 01:48:26 PM
What was your ancestors' surname?

My ancestors' surname was HUNT.
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Mike on November 12, 2007, 04:38:06 AM
I've checked the Petersburg address book for the year 1913 - sorry, no Hunts there.
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: susannah on November 12, 2007, 08:15:43 AM
I've checked the Petersburg address book for the year 1913 - sorry, no Hunts there.


Thank you so much for your kindness, Mike. At least it gives me a date to work around. The older generation of Hunts must have died before 1913 and if their daughter married a Russian, she would  have a different name. What is the Petersburg address book? I'm intrigued........
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Mike on November 12, 2007, 09:54:31 AM
The address book named "Ves' Peterburg" (All of Petersburg) was published yearly and looks like modern Yellow/White Pages, complete with ads. I have CDs with scanned books for some years, incl. 1913.
The absense of a person from this directory doesn't necessarily mean that he/she didn't live there at that time. Those considered temporary residents, esp. foreigners, were often omitted.
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: susannah on November 13, 2007, 09:18:30 AM
Thank you again, Mike, for sending such a speedy reply and for increasing my awareness of  resources available to aid my quest. Susannah
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: DaveB on December 01, 2007, 02:10:42 PM
This is my first posting as a Newbie member of this forum.
I am interested in the activities of my British ancestors in Russia most specifically the WILSON family of St Petersburg.  JAMES WILSON (1750-1821) was a blacksmith who moved from Scotland with his wife and children in 1784.  He was one of the craftsmen who accompanied Charles Cameron.  JOHN WILSON (~1760-~1830) moved his family from Scotland in about 1786.  He was probably one of the metal workers who accompanied Charles Gascoigne.  Over the next 100 years Wilson descendants were quite prominent in St Petersburg, often inter-marrying with citizens of other countries and sometimes with Russian Nobility.  I have collected quite a bit of WILSON information over the past 10 years or so and I would be happy to share what I have found so far.  I am still desperate to find new references to the WILSON family and I hope that forum members will pass along any bits of information which they might discover. I would also be happy to correspond with others who may be working on the British "factory" in Russia.
Dave Burnett, Alberta, Canada
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Mike on December 02, 2007, 04:06:13 AM
As of 1913, fifteen Wilsons were listed in the Petersburg address directory, among them a senator, an US embassy secretary, a high-ranking police official, a navy lieutenant and the publisher of a horse-breeding magazine.
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: DaveB on December 02, 2007, 01:45:45 PM
Thanks Mike!  Another valuable piece of the puzzle.  I am told that the WILSON name does not survive in modern St Petersburg so maybe they were all sent packing during the revolution.
My GG Grandmother Sophia Eleanor Wilson (1815-1876) moved with her children from St Petersburg to England shortly after the death of her husband John Collett in 1850.
Sophia's youngest sister Elizabeth Anna Wilson (b:January 13, 1818) married Alexis Count Vassiliev and apparently died in Moscow in about 1877. Perhaps someone might have information regarding that branch of the family.
 
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Nadya_Arapov on April 10, 2008, 01:51:50 PM
As many as wanted to, as far as I can see Lexi though the last probably came out in 1920. 

What an interesting topic! There were a few who remained behind in Russia long after 1920. According to Harvey Pitcher’s book “When Miss Emmie Was In Russia,” at least one governess, Mary Fellows, remained in Russia until her death in 1941. She was found living there by FitzRoy MacLean, a military attaché, in 1937. At the time of her meeting with Mr. MacLean, Mary was still employed as a governess. She had arrived in Russia in 1911. Her own original family, the one she served, was living in 1937 in Tblisi in one room of what used to be their house. Miss Fellows was still with them acting as governess to the son of her former pupil. Loyalty kept her in Russia. “Still very English in her ways – when the Soviet officials tried to persuade her to change her nationality, she just told them not to be so silly…” I would agree with Mr. Pitcher’s contention that there were probably a few others like her who chose to remain in Russia.
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Constantinople on April 21, 2010, 06:17:18 AM
That would make a fascinating movie.
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Kalafrana on April 23, 2010, 09:35:11 AM
If you can track it down, 'Home on the Neva' by Herbert Swann (father of Donald) is an interesting read. As I remember, he was born about 1890, trained as a doctor, was an army doctor in WW1, then met his wife (who was some kind of nomad from the steppes) during the Civil War, left Russia and settled down in London to practise medicine.

Ann
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Posco on November 22, 2010, 08:57:38 PM
I am not sure if this topic is still active but if it is, I would be most great-full for any information on my forebears who although were English, came to New Zealand in 1858 after having been born in Russia. Like many posters to this forum, it has always been a mystery as to what they were doing there.

My great grandfather, William Champion Hide was born in St. Petersburg on 26 September 1885 only a few years before his parents left for New Zealand via England in 1857. We have a certified copy of his baptismal certificate from the Church of the British Factory in St Petersburg. His father, William Richard Hide was also born in St. Petersburg on 30 July, 1829 and he married Agnes Champion in St. Petersburg on 12 June 1853.

It appears they traveled to New Zealand as a result of a long association with George Glenny, also residing in St Petersburg who had been communicating with his nephews who had already come out to New Zealand to look at the possibilities of the new country.  The Hides (Hydes) joined the Glennys in a farming venture on their arrival in New Zealand. The family history is largely known from the time they arrived in New Zealand but it is the time before then that is unknown.

The only clue we have as to what they may have been doing in Russia is a statement by my grand-father that they had something to do with the Russian Mint but what, no-one knows. After coming to new Zealand, the family name changed from Hide to Hyde.

if anyone has records of British subjects in St Ptersburgh or may have family connections with any of the above mentioned  names, I would be most interested. I am sure as one poster has already suggested, a fascinating film could be made on this subject.
Jeff
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: JamesAPrattIII on November 29, 2011, 07:24:32 PM
The book "Operation Kronstadt' does have a little on the Petrograd british community during the WW I period and the living conditions there during the 1918-19 period. Besides being a rather good spy book. i understand at the start of WW I then St Petersburg also had a 50,000 person German community and Moscow had a 22,000 person German community. I can also say there was a good sized French community in St Petersburg as well. Besides being allies for many years the French had invested rather heavily in Russia pre WW I and were the biggest losers when the Bolos seized power. i hope this is of some help.
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Rodent on February 17, 2012, 11:01:18 AM
I am writing a new book about the history of the British in Russia from the 16th century to 1920 and would be happy to hear from anyone who has any information that isn't already on the web sites or who simply wants to discuss the topic.
Thanks
Rod Heather
PS  If anyone is interested, my other books are 'The Iron Tsar' - a biography of the Welsh entrepreneur in Hughesovka (Donetsk) and 'Russia from Red to Black' which is more auto-biographical about working in Russia 20 years ago for the UK Foreign Office.
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: RuthKnight on March 15, 2013, 01:15:24 PM
This might be a long shot as this post hasn't been posted in for a while but could anyone recommend any books on this subject; I'm doing a dissertation at university on this topic and would like some secondary reading to get me going! Also, anyone familiar with this topic's historiography?
Thank you!
Ruth
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: sascha on July 21, 2013, 04:31:18 PM
Ruth,

this item is endless, too much is still unknown about (our) British subjects in Imperial Russia.

There are many books with stories about individuals.

But more general:

1) By the bank of the Neva by Anthony Cross, Cambridge 1997

2) St. Petersburg and the British by Anthony Cross, London 2008.

How is your German?:

Britische Migration nach Russland im 19. Jahrhundert , Wiesbaden 2005.

You will see however that besides more general but useful information you will find stories of just a certain class of British persons/families.

So stories of many ordinary British people are still missing. Like mine, with the name Hide.

I`m therefore looking forward to the publication Rodent, reply 26, is preparing. He gave me more details.

I hope this will help you a little bit.

Keep us informed.

sascha
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: IanJ on September 07, 2016, 12:15:11 PM
Charles Gascoigne, mentioned in one of the posts on this forum, was the baptismal name of Charles Baird.  According to Scottish church records, he had his name formally altered in 1792.
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: sascha on September 07, 2016, 05:27:00 PM
Hi,

interesting information.

One can wonder why he changed his name. May be not very easy to pronounce for russians and the french style sounds good.

I came him across several times however not usefull for my family research.

Thanks anyhow,

sascha
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: Превед on September 08, 2016, 02:59:05 AM
Charles Gascoigne, mentioned in one of the posts on this forum, was the baptismal name of Charles Baird.  According to Scottish church records, he had his name formally altered in 1792.

One can wonder why he changed his name. May be not very easy to pronounce for russians and the french style sounds good.

According to Wikipedia, the Scottish-Russian engineer and steam boat pioneer Charles Baird was born Gascoigne Baird. His first name was in honour of the owners of his parents tenant farm, the Gascoigne family, whose son, Charles Gascoigne, the industrialist of Carron Ironworks, he accompanied to Russia. He possibly changed his name to avoid confusion with his patron.

I don't think Russians would have huge problems with the name Gascoigne. In Russian it's written (phonetically) as Гаскойн (Gaskoyn) and is quite close to goskoy (several meanings apparantly, one being a grammatical case form of the female name Goska) and Goskino, the acronym of the USSR State Committee for Cinematography.
Title: Re: British subjects in Imperial Russia
Post by: IanJ on September 12, 2016, 07:50:07 AM
I made this amendment to Charles Baird's entry in Wikipedia because this forum is not the only place where Charles Gascoigne appears as if he was a different individual, and hoped it might prevent more of those errors. 

I came across the information while checking what was known about the Baird family, because of my academic interest in one of the Handyside family, who were closely related, and found that both the Bairds and the Handysides were quite significant families in nineteenth century Britain as well as in Russia. 

Charles's father was Nicol Baird, who became Surveyor (Chief Engineer) of the Forth and Clyde Navigation. 

Charles Baird persuaded at least three of his sister Margaret's sons (William, Andrew and James Handyside) to join him in St. Petersburg. The first two became famous engineers in Russia and Britain.  James, whose grand-daughter is the focus of my interest, was a medical doctor. 

Two other Handyside brothers, Nicol and Robert, founded the Anchor Line, a shipping company based in Glasgow.  This ran regular sailings to Russia, amongst other places throughout the world, and one of the brothers became the Russian Consul in Scotland.