March 29 1812: Downfall of Speranksy

On March 29, 1812, Tsar Alexander I removed Mikhail Mikhailovich Speransky from his post as State Secretary, a position that had made him one of the most powerful men in Russia. Speransky had advocated many reforms that would have moved Russia towards a more representative constitutional monarchy if they had been carried out. His reforming zeal had made him many enemies in the Russian nobility. In particular, many nobles detested him for introducing qualifying exams for senior civil service posts which harmed many a noble's career prospects. They also feared that he intended to free Russian serfs [1]. Opposition to Speransky culminated in 1812 with allegations of treason being made against him. He was also accused of being in secret contact with the French, which he was with the full knowledge of the Tsar. The unpopularity of Speransky was now a major problem. The Tsar understood that since war with France was almost inevitable he had to have the nobles on his side. Speransky had to be replaced. Adam Zamoyski [2] describes the last encounter between the Tsar and Speranksy: 
         On the evening of 29 March 1812 Speranksy was summoned to an audience with the the Tsar in the Winter Palace. There were no witnesses to the two-hour interview, but those waiting in the antechamber could see that something was wrong when the Minister emerged from the Tsar's study. Moments later the door opened again and Alexander himself appeared, with tears pouring down his cheeks, and embraced Speransky, bidding him a theatrical farewell. Speransky drove home where he found Balashov [Minister of Police], waiting for him. He was bundled into a police kibitka and driven off through the night to exile in Nizhni Novgorod.

        His post as State Secretary was given to Aleksander Semonovic Shishkov, a retired admiral and a particular hater of everything pertaining to France and her culture. 

1. Adam Zamoyski, Moscow 1812: Napoleon`s Fatal March (New York: Harper Perennial, 2004), at 112
2. Zamoyski, at 113 

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