Count Nikolai Pavlovich Ignatiev

Count Nikolai Pavlovich Ignatiev

Ignatiev, Nikolai Pavlovich, Count, 1832-1908, Russian diplomat. He was sent to China as an envoy in 1859. There he played the Chinese against the British and French and secured the Ussuri region for Russia through the Treaty of Beijing (1860). As ambassador to Constantinople (1864-1877), he promoted nationalist and Pan-Slav (see Pan-Slavism) aspirations in the Balkans and helped instigate the anti-Turkish rebellion in Bulgaria. His diplomacy led to the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, at the close of which he negotiated the Treaty of San Stefano, which greatly expanded Russian influence in the Balkans. Shortly afterward, his influence waned and he retired. He served briefly as minister of the interior (1881-82).
Count Nikolai Pavlovich Ignatiev (Николай Павлович Игнатьев) (17 January Old Style (29 January on Western calendar) 1832 – 20 June Old Style (3 July on Western calendar) 1908) was a Russian statesman and diplomat. During his career he was sometimes at odds with another Corps of Pages alumnus, Count Pyotr Shuvalov.


Early life

Nikolai Pavlovich Ignatiev was born in St Petersburg. His father, Captain Pavel Ignatiev, had been taken into favour by Tsar Nicholas I, owing to his fidelity on the occasion of the Decembrist revolt in 1825, and Grand Duke Alexander (later Tsar Alexander II) stood sponsor at the boy's baptism. After graduating from the Corps of Pages, at the age of seventeen he became an officer of the Russian Guards. He was appointed military attaché in London in charge of intelligence but was expelled by Britain after a failed operation.

Diplomatic career and involvement in the Great Game

Ignatiev's diplomatic career began at the Congress of Paris in 1856, after the Crimean War, where he took an active part as military attaché in the negotiations regarding the demarcation of the Russo-Ottoman frontier on the lower Danube.

Two years later he was sent with a small escort on a dangerous mission to the Central Asian states of Khiva and Bukhara. The khan of Khiva laid a plan for detaining him as a hostage, but he eluded the danger and returned safely, after concluding a treaty of friendship with the emir of Bukhara.

His next diplomatic exploit was in the Far East, as plenipotentiary to the court of Peking (Beijing). When the Qing Chinese government was terrified by the advance of the Anglo-French expedition of 1860 and the burning of the Summer Palace in the Second Opium War, he worked on their fears so dexterously that, in the Convention of Peking, he obtained for Russia Outer Manchuria – not only the left bank of the Amur, the original object of the mission, but also a large extent of territory and seacoast south of that river that would become the Russian Maritime Province.

The Balkans

Ignatiev's success was supposed to prove his capacity for dealing with "Orientals" and paved his way to the post of ambassador at Constantinople (Istanbul), which he occupied from 1864 to 1877. Here his chief aim was to liberate from Ottoman domination and bring under the influence of Russia the Christian nationalities in general and the Bulgarians in particular. His restless activity in this field, mostly of a semiofficial and secret character, culminated in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, at the close of which he negotiated with the Ottoman plenipotentiaries the Treaty of San Stefano. As the war which he had done so much to bring about did not eventually secure for Russia advantages commensurate with the sacrifices involved, he fell into disfavour with Alexander II in part due to efforts of Count Pyotr Shuvalov, and retired from active service. Soon thereafter Treaty of San Stefano was revised through the Treaty of Berlin, 1878, signed on Russia behalf by Count Pyotr Shuvalov. Despite that Count Ignatiev remained widely popular in Bulgaria and even was considered by some for the Bulgarian throne, which eventually was granted to Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, his personal enemy.

Later life

In the meantime Count Ignatiev served as Governor of Nizhny Novgorod, where he was credited with the expansion of the Makariev Fair. Shortly after the accession of Alexander III in 1881, he was appointed Minister of the Interior on the understanding that he would carry out a nationalist, reactionary policy. After a period of intense, violent, destructive anti-Jewish rioting, known as pogroms, which some accused Ignatiev of fomenting, he issued the infamous "May Laws" in May 1882. Pogroms received state-sponsorship from local authorities, and typically police were involved in them as well. He retired from office in June 1882. Explanations include that he was suspected of dishonesty or extortion, or that the tsar feared he intended to introduce constitutional government by reviving the Zemsky Sobor (parliament). After that time he exercised no important influence in public affairs.

Ignatiev's son, Count Paul Ignatieff, served as the last Minister of Education under Tsar Nicholas II. His grandson George Ignatieff became a Canadian diplomat, and his great-grandson Michael Ignatieff a prominent academic and Canadian politician.

Nicholas Ignatiev in popular media



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