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Posted on Feb 20, 2017

Baltic Germans Diplomats in Imperial Russia

Gornischeff_Moscow_webFeliks Gornischeff, recipient of a 2016 AABS Dissertation grant, tells us about his research in Moscow archives for his dissertation on Baltic German diplomats in the service of Imperial Russia during the Napoleonic Wars.

My research concentrates on the role of Baltic German diplomats in the service and diplomacy of the Russian empire during the reign of Alexander I. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Baltic Germans played an important role in Imperial Russia. After the incorporation of the Baltic provinces into the Russian empire, many Baltic Germans noblemen were appointed to positions in the Russian military and civil service. While many aspects of Baltic German service have already been researched, but their role in diplomacy has been left at the background.

In my research, I am exploring the work of two diplomats – count Gustav Ernst von Stackelberg (1766-1850) and count Christoph Heinrich von Lieven (1774-1839), who served in Prussia in 1806-1809/1810 and 1810-1812 respectively. As the wider focus of my dissertation deals with the Napoleonic Wars, my main aim is to examine the role of Baltic German diplomats in Russo-Prussian relations during this complex period, when both Russia and Prussia were at war with France. But one cannot avoid other powers, such as Sweden, Great Britain or Austria, in this historical period.

With the AABS dissertation grant I was able to visit the Archive of Foreign Policy of the Russian Empire (AVPRI) in Moscow, where most of the diplomatic archival sources are located. I was able to find correspondence of both Stackelberg and Lieven, but also other documents related to my topic. Without these papers, the base of my research material would not be complete. The archival material I was able to find in Moscow gives a detailed overview of the wider tasks given to both Stackelberg and Lieven by the foreign ministers, as well as by also Alexander I. Many unanswered questions, like the role of Stackelberg during the Lauenburg crisis of 1806, negotiations of the Russo-Prussian treaty of 1806, and in Russo-Prussian diplomacy in the context of the Finnish War, along with Lieven’s role during the years of deterioration of Franco-Russian relations, have been given new light.