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Topic: British subjects in Imperial Russia  (Read 15341 times)
« on: January 11, 2007, 07:56:48 AM »
Phil_tomaselli Offline
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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
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« on: January 24, 2007, 03:51:03 AM »
Georgiy Offline
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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.
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« on: January 24, 2007, 06:23:09 PM »
lexi4 Offline
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Good topic. I hope we learn more. How many Brittish do you think actually got out of Russia, Phil?
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Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely, in a pretty and well preserved body; but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "Wow ---- What a ride!!!"
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« on: January 25, 2007, 02:40:20 PM »
Phil_tomaselli Offline
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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
   
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« on: January 25, 2007, 02:44:01 PM »
Phil_tomaselli Offline
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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 fathersí 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
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« on: January 25, 2007, 05:12:54 PM »
lexi4 Offline
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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.
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Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely, in a pretty and well preserved body; but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "Wow ---- What a ride!!!"
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« on: March 28, 2007, 09:23:36 PM »
hikaru Offline
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There is a book: British in Petersburg.
Unfortunately , I have no this book at my disposal.
This book was published in Petersburg around 2003.
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Reply #7
« on: March 29, 2007, 02:11:16 AM »
ChristineM Offline
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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

 


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« on: March 29, 2007, 03:23:51 AM »
ChristineM Offline
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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
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Reply #9
« on: March 29, 2007, 05:34:29 AM »
hikaru Offline
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A lot of British people lived in Petersburg in 18th century.
There is ever English Embankment in St. Petersburg with Anglicane Church.
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« on: March 29, 2007, 11:34:25 AM »
Tania+ Offline
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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+
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TatianaA

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« on: November 03, 2007, 01:31:02 PM »
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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.





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« on: November 04, 2007, 05:58:10 AM »
Mike Offline
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What was your ancestors' surname?
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Reply #13
« on: November 11, 2007, 12:48:26 PM »
susannah Offline
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What was your ancestors' surname?

My ancestors' surname was HUNT.
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Reply #14
« on: November 12, 2007, 03:38:06 AM »
Mike Offline
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I've checked the Petersburg address book for the year 1913 - sorry, no Hunts there.
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