On March 29, 1728, the future Little Russian hetman and president of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, Kirill Razumovsky, was born. The story of his life became a clear proof of how great heights in the Russian Empire could be achieved under certain circumstances by a native of a simple Little Russian family.

Brother of the Favorite

Kirill Razumovsky was born in a poor family of a registered Cossack. According to the memoirs of contemporaries, as a child he herded oxen, and could have done this all his life, if not for his older brother Alexei, who was famous for his beautiful voice and got into the Court Choir in St. Petersburg. The Little Russian singer was noticed by Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, who appointed him manager of her estates, made him a favorite, and, according to some sources, even secretly married him.

Despite the dizzying social take-off, Alexei did not forget about his relatives and friends, providing them with all kinds of help. He was especially disposed to his younger brother Kirill, whom in 1743 he sent to study in Europe under the supervision of the young scientist Grigory Teplov.

Kirill was educated in Königsberg (present-day Kaliningrad), Berlin, Göttingen and Strasbourg. While the young man was studying, the Empress conferred on him at the same time as his brother the title of count.

"The boy turned out to be capable and for two years of "staggering" at various educational institutions managed to grab some knowledge," said Andrei Bogdanov, a leading researcher at the IRI RAS, in an interview with RT.

  • Portrait of Empress Elisabeth Petrovna by Virgilius Eriksen, 1757
  • © Wikimedia Commons

During his stay in Europe, Razumovsky Jr. fully felt his belonging to the upper strata of society. The young man, who until recently herded oxen in a Little Russian village, was warmly received at court by King Frederick II of Prussia.

"Kirill Razumovsky returned to Russia as a European-style educated man who speaks foreign languages well," Vitaly Zakharov, a professor at MPGU, told RT.

According to historians, Razumovsky was very good-looking and witty, thanks to which he attracted the attention of court ladies and became popular in St. Petersburg society. But Alexei Razumovsky saw a brighter future for his brother than the status of one of the many courtiers. On the initiative of Alexei, after Kirill's return to Russia, the court began discussing the idea of appointing him hetman of Little Russia. However, Elizaveta Petrovna was in no hurry to make this decision. Cyril led a social life, and in 1746 received a high appointment in the capital, where he was under the supervision of his brother and the Empress. Razumovsky Jr. was appointed president of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.

According to experts, the first time after being appointed to a high position, Razumovsky was much more interested in secular entertainment than in his direct duties. As a wife to Kirill, the Empress chose her relative Catherine Naryshkina. Her dowry included estates near Moscow, 40,<> souls of serfs, and houses in the capital. After his marriage, Kirill Razumovsky became one of the richest men in the empire.

  • - André le Brun, bust of Cyril Razumovsky by André le Brun, 1766
  • © Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

"Inthe eighteenth century, everything related to the Enlightenment was in vogue. Following it, Razumovsky benefited scientists, helped educational institutions, erected architectural monuments, "said Andrei Bogdanov.

At the head of Malorossiya

In 1750, the Empress decided to appoint Razumovsky The Younger as Hetman of Little Russia. This position had been vacant since 1734. For 26 years, Little Russia was led by a collegial "hetman government".

Kirill arrived in Glukhov, where the Cossacks elected him as their hetman. Elizaveta Petrovna subordinated to him the Zaporozhye Army, which had previously had its own governing bodies.

Razumovsky's mentor Teplov was appointed head of the Hetman's chancellery. According to historians, the burden of all the main administrative work in Little Russia fell on him, while the hetman gave balls, distributed ranks to cossack sergeants and estates to his relatives. However, at the same time, Razumovsky managed to take care of the development of Little Russia and the interests of its population. He abolished a number of onerous taxes, eliminated internal customs, reduced the call of Cossacks for the construction of fortifications and organized free trade of Little Russia with other regions of the empire. Also, the hetman carried out a judicial reform and introduced a number of restrictions on the sale of alcohol. Razumovsky increased the salary of the Zaporozhye army and improved its supply of artillery.

"Razumovsky tried to achieve for himself a certain autonomy in making administrative decisions, but the Empress limited his aspirations in this area," said Vitaly Zakharov.

In the late 1750s, Razumovsky established friendly relations with Catherine, the wife of the heir to the throne Peter and the future Empress.

In parallel with the hetmanate, Kirill Razumovsky continued to lead the Academy of Sciences, in which he supported the initiatives of Mikhail Lomonosov.

At the end of 1761, Razumovsky was summoned to St. Petersburg in connection with a sharp deterioration in the health of Elizabeth Petrovna. According to biographers, the hetman did not depart from the head of the Empress in her last days.

  • Portrait of Catherine II, painting by Johann Baptista Lampi the Elder, 1780s
  • © Wikimedia Commons

Emperor Peter III left Razumovsky in the service and officially confirmed all the charters of the former tsarina. However, relations between them soon soured. The new ruler introduced Prussian orders in the army and forced his dignitaries to conduct drills in military units. This also affected Razumovsky. The hetman, who had previously had no idea about the military system, constantly made mistakes, because of which, despite all his efforts, he became the object of public reprimands and ridicule from the emperor.

According to historians, these humiliations, as well as good personal relations with the emperor's wife, pushed Kirill Razumovsky to participate in the preparation of the conspiracy of 1762, as a result of which Catherine II ascended the throne. But the new empress praised his role in preparing her rise to power. Razumovsky became a senator and adjutant general of the empress. In the future, he carried out important secret assignments of the Empress - he participated in the preparation of new states for the army, considered complaints and applications of nobles, drafted regulations and conducted investigations on especially important cases.

In 1763, due to strained relations with Catherine's favorite Grigory Orlov, Razumovsky left the court and returned to Malorossiya, where he initiated an administrative-territorial reform and began to create regular military units. This caused strong discontent among the Cossacks and even led to riots. In addition, Razumovsky began to express ideas regarding the transformation of the hetmanate into a hereditary position.

Razumovsky's personal ambitions and his problems in relations with the Cossacks, combined with information about the corruption reigning among the Little Russian elders, caused great irritation in Catherine II. Razumovsky said that he was remorseful for the actions that led to the emergence of problems in Little Russia, asked for his resignation and Catherine forgave him. However, after some time, the Empress decided to liquidate the institution of the hetmanate, a general imperial administrative system was introduced on the territory of Little Russia, providing for the division into provinces.

  • Baturinsky Palace of Kirill Razumovsky
  • © Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.5 / K.S.Pawlak

Razumovsky officially received the rank of Field Marshal General, a lifetime salary and a number of new estates, becoming one of the nobles closest to the Empress. Remaining formally the president of the Academy of Sciences, he soon actually withdrew from its management. Since 1776, Razumovsky spent a lot of time in Little Russia, developing agriculture in his estates. By the end of the century, Razumovsky's health had deteriorated greatly. The former hetman died on January 21, 1803 in the Little Russian city of Baturyn.

"The life path of Kirill Razumovsky is an amazing example of one of the rapid elevations of the personality from the very bottom of the social ladder to the highest layer of Russian society. From a cattle herding country boy to the characteristics of the Empress. From the age of 22 he was the Hetman of Little Russia, from the age of 34 he was a Field Marshal General. Deservedly? The negative answer is obvious, "said Pavel Krotov, a professor at St Petersburg University, in an interview with RT.

  • Portrait of the Hetman of Malorossiya Kirill Razumovsky, attributed to Pompeo Buttoni
  • © Wikimedia Commons

According to Vitaly Zakharov, Razumovsky was a kind and capable person, but fate rewarded him not on merit.

"Kirill Razumovsky is a pampered fate, who achieved everything only thanks to a lucky coincidence for him. But at the same time, to the best of his ability, he tried to take care of the development of Malorossiya entrusted to him in management, and at the Academy he made some decisions that contributed to the development of domestic science, "Zakharov summed up.