Alexander Danilowitsch Menshikov

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Alexander Danilowitsch Menshikov (unknown artist of the 18th century).

Menshikov's signature:Signature Alexander Danilowitsch Menshikov.PNG

Prince Alexander Danilovich Menshikov ( Russian Александр Данилович Меншиков , scientific. Transliteration Aleksandr Danilovic Menšikov * 6 . Jul / 16th November  1673 greg. In Moscow , † November 12 jul. / 23. November  1729 greg. In Berjosow , Tobolsk ) was a Russian statesman , generalissimo of the Russian army and a confidante of Tsar Peter I and his wife, the later Katharina I. , Imperial Prince (1707), Duke of Cosel .


Menshikov came from a very humble background. His father is said to have been a Belarusian farmer. He was also referred to as a "former pie seller ". With about nine years he served as a Page in the home of the Swiss officer Le Fort in the German suburb in Moscow . There he met the tsar, who was roughly the same age, in 1689. A friendship developed between the two that lasted until Peter's death. Menshikov first became Peter's boy.

As a sergeant in the Preobrazhensk Guard Regiment , he took part in the campaign against Azov in 1696 and then accompanied the Tsar on his journey to Holland and England.

In the Northern War he distinguished himself several times. Peter owed him, among other things, the conquest of Shlisselburg , of which he was appointed commander in 1702.

In the same year he was appointed Count by Emperor Leopold I in 1702 and Prince of Germany in 1706. After he had defeated the Swedes at Kalisz on October 29, 1706 , Peter raised him to the rank of Russian prince and duke of Ingermanland . After the Battle of Poltava in 1709, he forced most of the Swedish army under the Swedish Count Lewenhaupt to surrender at Perevolochna and was made field marshal on the battlefield. In the same year the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I, allied with Peter the Great, awarded him the Order of the Black Eagle . In 1710 he took Riga , then moved into Pomerania and Holstein and in 1713 conquered Stettin . In 1714 he was elected a member of the Royal Society . In 1718 he became President of the War College.

After Marienburg in Livonia was taken in 1702, Menshikov came into the possession of a girl named Marta Skavronskaya . Allegedly he had bought it from Marshal Sheremetev , who had received it as spoils of war. He took the 19-year-old farmer's daughter to Tsar Peter, who made her his lover, in 1707 - she had converted to the Orthodox faith and had adopted the name Ekaterina Alexejewa - his secret wife and in 1712 officially made his wife.

As the first governor general , he also directed the construction of Saint Petersburg .

After Peter's death in 1725, Menshikov helped to ensure that Yekaterina Alexejewa could ascend the throne as Tsarina Catherine I. Now he reached the highest peak of his power; Katharina left the government to him. He brought about the engagement of his daughter to the Tsarevich Peter II - thus his power seemed secure in the long run.

Menshikov exiled in Beryosov , painting by Vasily Surikov

However, soon after Katharina's death in 1727, Menshikov was overthrown. He was charged with high treason, complicity in the death of Prince Alexei and other crimes and banished with his family to Beryosov in Siberia. His fortune fell to the crown.

Menshikov died in exile two years later.

His two remaining children were called back from exile by Tsarina Anna . His son, Prince Alexander Alexandrowitsch (* 1713) became a guard officer , received his father's goods back, distinguished himself in the Turkish and Swedish wars and died as a general en chief on November 27th July. / December 8th 1764 greg. . His great-grandson Alexander Sergeevich Menshikov was the Russian commander in chief in the Crimean War .


Menshikov's loyalty to the tsar was beyond doubt. He had proven often enough that he was always ready to risk his head for Peter.
Even as children, the two were inseparable. Menshikov was always at Peter's side and even slept with him. Peter called him "my child of the heart". Perhaps the young people also had a homoerotic relationship for a while. There were rumors about it at the Tsar's court.

The two experienced the celebrations, feasts and debauchery of Peter's youth together. This bond remained for 30 years. In later years the Menshikov Palace was available for lavish parties and important receptions in Saint Petersburg .

For Peter, however, Menshikov was by no means just a hard-drinking companion, he was also a clever advisor and capable administrator. Like Peter, he used the stays abroad for hard work and intensive studies. Peter said of him: "He is clever, a gifted administrator, and if he sinned, he made it up to you". - So the Tsar gave him the overall supervision of the education of his son Alexei .

On the other hand, Menshikov had apparently used his offices to shamelessly enrich himself; and Peter, who usually cracked down on abuse of office, let him get away with it. The personal bond between the two was probably not the only decisive factor. Perhaps characteristic is Peter's statement to Menshikov's accuser, Vasily Dolgorukov , who was later also exiled and executed :

“All steal, name me one honest governor! Menshikov is one of the greatest thieves, no question about it, but one thing distinguishes him from the others: He is also one of the most industrious; he works for ten. - Throwing out is easy, and so is execution. But who is left for me then? Talentless, incompetent thieves! "

In this way Menshikov was able to hold onto his position, although he was charged with the worst bribery and embezzlement in 1714, 1719 and 1723. It was proven that he had embezzled one million rubles - an immense sum (it was roughly equivalent to the annual expenditure for building up the Russian fleet!)

Menshikov could rely on the unbreakable friendship and intercession of Katharina , who never forgot to whom she owed her rise from maid to tsarina.

Individual evidence

  1. Leopold von Zedlitz-Neukirch , Neues Preußisches Adelslexikon , Volume 2, p. 71 ff.
  2. entry to Menzicoff, Alexander Danilovich (1673 - 1729) in the archives of the Royal Society , London

Web links

Commons : Alexander Danilowitsch Menshikov  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files