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Foreign languages and noble sociability: documents from Russian Masonic lodges


Freemasonry in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Russia

At an early point in the long spiritual odyssey that he makes in War and Peace, Tolstoy’s Pierre Bezukhov, during a wait for fresh horses at a post-station on the road between Moscow and St Petersburg, encounters an elderly man who introduces him to freemasonry. Downcast by his failure to find a faith or set of beliefs that might give purpose to his life and provide a reliable foundation for the choices human beings have to make, Pierre is attracted by the moral certainty that this man, Iosif Bazdeev, derives from his belief in an all-powerful, eternal being. Reflecting rapturously on what Bazdeev has said to him, Pierre comes to believe that freemasonry might furnish the means to realise the utopian vision of a ‘brotherhood of all people, united in the aim of mutual support along the path of virtue’.[1] On his return to St Petersburg, he allows himself to be initiated into the Brotherhood at a lodge to which he is taken by a Polish count to whom Bazdeev had recommended him.

Freemasonry had been introduced into Russia in the mid-eighteenth century, mostly from British and German sources in the first instance. For most of the age of Catherine II (the Great) it was allowed to flourish. It attracted men who were close to or trusted by Catherine, as well as men of letters, for example Aleksandr Bibikov (1729-74), who commanded the forces that put down the Pugachov Revolt in 1774, Catherine’s cabinet secretary Aleksandr Khrapovitsky (1749-1801) and, especially, Ivan Elagin (1725-94), who was director of the imperial theatres from 1766-79. Among men of letters it was associated in particular, in the 1770s and 1780s, with Nikolai Novikov (1744-1818), Nikolai Novikovwho through his satirical journalism and ceaseless activity as publisher, editor, educator and philanthropist played a major role in the creation of a reading public in Russia and in the introduction of the Enlightenment there.[2] (Tolstoy, who took pains to ensure that War and Peace was historically accurate, explicitly linked his Bazdeev to Novikov.[3]) Catherine herself, however, did not approve of freemasonry, which she considered at best eccentric. As the poet Gavrila Derzhavin (1743-1816) flatteringly observed, she did not visit Masonic lodges[4]; indeed she poked fun at masonry in three comedies that she wrote in 1785-86.[5] Then, following the outbreak of the French Revolution, she ceased to tolerate it. In 1792 Novikov was arrested and sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. Lodges continued to be inactive during the brief reign of Catherine’s son Paul (1796-1801).

However, in the Alexandrine age (1801-25) freemasonry underwent a strong revival. (It was in this period, in the winter of 1806-07 to be precise, that Bezukhov attended his Masonic initiation in War and Peace.) Despite the resistance of some conservative nationalists, such as Fiodor Rostopchin, who harboured a suspicion of freemasons as carriers of seditious alien ideas,[6] the authorities formally permitted lodges to operate from 1810. Numerous lodges sprang up or were invigorated during Alexander’s reign, for instance The Lodge of United Friends, The Palestine Lodge, The Three Virtues, The Elizabeth and Virtue, The Alexander and Beneficence and two Grand Lodges into which the Russian directorial body split in 1814, namely the Grand Provincial Lodge and the Grand Lodge of Astraea. Among the men who frequented these lodges there were many aristocrats, such as the Princes Ilia Dolgorukov (1797-1848), Sergei Trubetskoy (1790-1860) and Sergei Volkonsky (1788-65), and men who were to become major literati, such as Piotr Chaadaev (1794-1856), author of the so-called ‘philosophical letters’, and Aleksandr Griboedov (1795-1829), author of the powerful satirical play Woe from Wit. (There were one or two female lodges in the Baltic territories but in general women were formally excluded from Masonic activity, although some women in high society were inevitably implicated in it as a result of their husbands’ membership of lodges.[7]) Despite the prevailing reactionary climate in Russia in the post-Napoleonic period, Alexander I continued to tolerate this Masonic activity until 1822, when finally an edict was passed banning the lodges and secret societies in general. Nicholas I reiterated the prohibition in 1826, following the Decembrist Revolt, the mutiny of army officers that took place as he was acceding to the throne.[8]

For idealistic Russians of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, freemasonry was a source of spiritual comfort, enlightened ideas and humanistic values. As the government was aware, a Masonic lodge was capable of developing either into a politically benign force which encouraged self-improvement and philanthropy or into a seedbed for revolutionary ideas. On the one hand, lodges fostered a belief in the possibility of self-perfection and insisted on a high standard of personal conduct. Masons also performed charitable deeds, visiting prisons, promoting education and aiding the poor. On the other hand, their social concern was bound eventually to lead to reflection on the causes of social problems and to consideration of all sorts of ways of removing political obstacles to the solution of those problems. Moreover, lodges’ elaborate rituals, ceremonies and degrees of initiation helped members to develop habits that would also hold political conspirators in good stead. The function of Russian Masonic lodges as an effective preparatory school for prospective republicans is surely demonstrated by the fact that a large number of those officers who in 1825 would become ‘Decembrists’ – for example, Nikita Muraviov (1795-1843), Sergei Muraviov-Apostol (1796-1826), Pavel Pestel (1793-1826), the poet Kondratii Ryleev (1795-1826) and the above-mentioned Trubetskoy – had been members of one or more of them in the post-Napoleonic period.[9]

In this essay, we shall deal first with the function of Masonic lodges as sites of sociability and cultural exchange where Russians could acquire experience of western civilisation. Then we shall examine linguistic usage in this cosmopolitan social environment. Finally, we shall dwell on the documents that we have selected as illustrations of linguistic practice in early nineteenth-century Russia.

Cosmopolitan sociability in Masonic lodges

Membership of Masonic lodges, both in Russia and abroad, enabled Russian noblemen to socialise with foreigners of various origins and to build networks.[10] Already in the eighteenth century numerous Russians, many of whom subsequently became eminent, are known to have belonged to or visited lodges across Europe. For example, we find Princes Gavriil Gagarin (1745-1808) and Aleksandr Kurakin (1752-1818) in lodges situated in Stockholm, one of the Vorontsovs (it is not clear which) in Warsaw, Mikhail Kutuzov (1745-1813, who would become commander-in-chief of the Russian army during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812) in Ratisbon, the dramatist Vladimir Lukin (1737-94) and others in Berlin, Andrei Bolotov (1738-1833, the agriculturalist and writer) and Aleksandr Suvorov (1729 or 1730-1800, the future generalissimo of Russia’s ground and naval forces) in Königsberg, Vasilii Nikitin (1737-1809) and others in Oxford,[11] Vasilii Lanskoy (1754-1831, cousin of one of Catherine’s favourites and a future Russian Minister of the Interior) in Naples and Sergei Pleshcheev (1752-1802, a future writer and vice-admiral) and Aleksei Spiridov (1753-1828, also a future admiral) in Livorno.[12]

Gagarin coat of arms Elagin coat of arms Golitsyn coat of arms

Evidently many eighteenth-century Russian nobles also joined or visited lodges in France. To give just a few examples, we find Piotr Dubrovsky (1754-1816), Prince Dmitrii Golitsyn (1771-1844) and Stepan Kolychov (1746-1805) in lodges in Paris, Count Dmitrii Gurev (1751-1825), Nikolai Muraviov (1768-1840), Semion Naryshkin (1710-75) and Gustav Stackelberg (1766-1850) in Strasbourg (where various members of the Golitsyn family were also active) and Dmitrii Doktorov (1759-1816) and others in Montpellier.[13] Some Russians became prominent in French freemasonry. For example, the Francophile Count Aleksandr Stroganov (1733-1811), a future president of the Russian Imperial Academy of Arts and Director of the Imperial Library, represented a lodge based in Besançon, The Perfect Equality (La Parfaite Egalité), and all the lodges of the Franche-Comté region at the founding meeting of The Grand Orient of France (Grand Orient de France) in 1773. Aleksandr StroganovHe subsequently occupied leading positions in that organisation. Stroganov was also one of the founders of The Lodge of United Friends (Les Amis Réunis) in Paris and a member of another well-known Parisian lodge, The Nine Sisters (Les Neuf Soeurs), whose other members included Voltaire (1694-1778), the Count de Mirabeau (1749-91), Benjamin Franklin (1706-90), several prominent scientists and artists[14] and Gilbert Romme (1750-95), a future tutor to Stroganov’s son Pavel and a participant in and eventual victim of the French Revolution.[15]

The participation of so many Russians in French Masonic lodges may be explained by several factors. Some (for example, Dubrovsky, Kolychov) had been sent to France on diplomatic postings. Others went to France to attend educational institutions (for instance, Muraviov, Stackelberg, and Boris and Dmitrii Golitsyn, sons of Princess Natalia Petrovna Golitsyna (1741 or 1744-1837), the prototype of the old countess in Pushkin’s tale ‘The Queen of Spades’). Again, France was an important destination in the itineraries chosen by Russian travellers. Russian soldiers also came into contact with western Masons, and French Masons in particular, during the last phase of the Napoleonic Wars and in the period after the war when Russian troops were stationed in France.[16] Lastly, of course, the frequent appearance of Russian noblemen in Masonic lodges was also a consequence of their growing familiarity with the French language.

Many Russians who had moved in Masonic circles abroad subsequently took part in the Masonic movement in their homeland. Here too they could socialise with foreigners, since most Russian lodges in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had numerous foreign members. Indeed freemasonry was a cosmopolitan movement (and also a movement that was accessible to men of different faiths and from various social classes and backgrounds). ‘All members of the society are Brothers’, we read in a text used by Russian freemasons in the period in which Novikov was active, ‘and neither languages, nor clothes, nor opinions, nor distinctions, nor fortune, nor wealth make for the slightest distinction among them’.[17] (Readers of War and Peace will be struck by the fact that the lodge that Bezukhov visits has a Swiss tutor and Italian priest among its members and that the man who sponsors Pierre’s initiation is a Pole.) There were some Russian lodges which consisted exclusively of foreigners, such as the Gathering of Foreigners (La Réunion des Etrangers) in Moscow in the 1770s and The Perfect Union (La Parfaite Union) in St Petersburg.[18] More often, though, Russian members and non-Russian members (‘non-Russian’ either in the sense that they were subjects of foreign states or in the sense that they were subjects of the Russian Empire who were not of Russian ethnic origin) mingled freely in Russian lodges. In St Petersburg during the reign of Catherine, for example, we find lodges made up in the following ways:

  • The Apollo (Apollon): 8 Russian and 25 non-Russian members;
  • The Bellone (Bellone): 34 Russian and 6 non-Russian members;
  • Charity at the Pelican (Mildtätigkeit zum Pelikan): 20 Russian and 181 non-Russian members;
  • The Nine Muses (Les Neuf Muses): 69 Russian and 25 non-Russian members;
  • The Provincial Grand Lodge of England (Grande Loge Provinciale d’Angleterre): 24 Russian and 8 non-Russian members;
  • Sworn to Secrecy (Zur Verschwiegenheit): 43 Russian and 205 non-Russian members.

Lodges in Moscow were of similarly mixed composition. In both St Petersburg and Moscow, it should be noted, the non-Russians were of various nationalities, and Frenchmen were generally in a minority among them, as the following figures relating to the reign of Catherine show:

  • The Apollo (Apollon), St Petersburg: 5 Frenchmen out of 25 non-Russian members;
  • Charity at the Pelican (Mildtätigkeit zum Pelikan), St Petersburg: 7 Frenchmen out of 181 non-Russian members;[19]
  • Clio (essentially a Russian lodge), Moscow: 5 or 6 Frenchmen out of 11 or 12 non-Russian members;
  • Sworn to Secrecy (Zur Verschwiegenheit), St Petersburg: 9 Frenchmen out of 205 non-Russian members.
  • The Three Banners (Zu Drei Fahnen; a mainly non-Russian lodge), Moscow: 12 Frenchmen out of 50 non-Russian members.

The Masonic lodges that sprang up in Russia in the late eighteenth century, then, were for the most part cosmopolitan institutions, although one nationality or another might in general have been predominant in any particular lodge. This cosmopolitanism continued to characterise lodges in the Alexandrine age. While practice did of course vary from one lodge to another, freemasonry therefore still tended in the early nineteenth century to offer Russians rich opportunities for transnational sociability and cultural exchange, bringing them together with Frenchmen, Germans and men of other nationalities. Naturally, lodges were also sites of multilingualism.

Language use in Russian Masonic lodges

For Russians participating in or communicating with Masonic lodges outside Russia, French, as the European lingua franca, may have been the most frequently used language. It was the language, for example, in which Elagin and Kurakin conducted or drafted correspondence with the Swedish Grand Lodge when in the late 1770s they were discussing the possibility of Russian freemasons joining the Swedish system. It was also the language used in a Swedish licence authorising the establishment of a directory in St Petersburg in 1780.[20] Thus francophonie was a useful tool for Russians when they practised this form of sociability in a foreign setting or with foreign partners, no less than when they practised other forms of sociability such as attendance at balls and salons or visits to the theatre and institutions of learning. That is not to deny, of course, that German was also a useful medium for Russian freemasons who were living in or visiting German-speaking countries or who wished to maintain links with freemasons in those countries.

Within Russian lodges too bilingualism and multilingualism were important assets for Russian freemasons. The increasing importance of Germans in Russian official and social circles in the eighteenth century, the presence of a German community inside Russia, the status of German lodges in the international Masonic movement and the relative geographical proximity of the German world to Russia – all these factors ensured that German was much used in Russia in the Masonic social domain, as in other domains. In any case, not all Russian Masons had French, or at least a sufficient command of it for full participation in Masonic activity. In the Alexandrine age certain lodges (for example, Peter’s Truth (Pierre à la vérité, Peter zur Wahrheit or Петра к Истине) and The Three Virtues (Trois Vertus or Трех Добродетелей) recorded the minutes of their meetings in German.[21] The German orientation of Peter’s Truth prompted Russian members of the lodge in 1815 to form a separate lodge, The Chosen Michael (Избранного Михаила) because Russian Masons, its director Fiodor Tolstoy (1783-1873) explained, had difficulty understanding German.[22]

From an early stage in the history of Russian freemasonry French too was a working language in which members of Russian lodges or visitors to them might make speeches, write documents such as rules and regulations, charters, constitutions and descriptions of rituals, make minutes of meetings, conduct correspondence, compile membership lists and sing hymns. We know, for example, that as early as 1760 Baron de Tschudy (1724-69), a prominent French freemason who became secretary to the francophile Ivan Shuvalov (1727-97), a favourite of the Empress Elizabeth, made a speech in French at one of the St Petersburg lodges.[23] In the Alexandrine age, with which we are chiefly concerned here, French was the working language in the Lodge of United Friends, which had been founded in St Petersburg in 1802 in accordance with the French system of freemasonry, and in the Palestine Lodge founded there in 1809. The latter lodge did not adopt Russian as its second working language until 1813, under pressure from its Russian members. Although the war against Napoleon had the effect of stimulating an increase in the number of translations of Masonic ceremonials into Russian, French continued to be much used in lodges in the years immediately after the end of the wars. The Orpheus Lodge (Орфея), founded late in 1818, for example, used French for speeches, rules, minutes and books of ritual and The Three Virtues Lodge produced minutes in French as well as Russian. When in 1818 a freemason from Berlin was instructed to collect information on Russian lodges the answers to the questions that had been formulated for him in German were provided in French.[24]

The Lodge of Alexander and the Triple Salvation and the languages used in it

The documents that we publish in this sub-section of our corpus were produced by the Moscow Lodge of Alexander and the Triple Salvation (Alexandre au Tripple Salut; referred to in Russian texts as Александра Тройственного Спасения). This lodge was founded some time before June 1817[25] in order to celebrate a visit to Moscow by Alexander I and it survived until 1822. It was a sizeable lodge (215 people were known to have belonged to it in the course of its existence) and it had the sort of heterogeneous membership that we have found in many other lodges, being divided into French, German and Russian sections.[26] Approximately a quarter of its members belonged to well-known Russian noble families such as the Bibikovs, Demidovs, Fonvizins, Golenishchev-Kutuzovs, Golitsyns, Lobanov-Rostovskys and Shakhovskoys. Many of these Russian members were very rich. Prince Aleksandr Lobanov-Rostovsky (1788-1866), for example, possessed more than 2,000 serfs and Pavel Masiukov (1793-1864) more than 4,000.Alexander I (The number of serfs a person owned, rather than a monetary sum, was commonly perceived as the clearest and most prestigious indicator of wealth in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Russia.) Some members of the lodge also played a role in the academic world. For instance, Pavel Golenishchev-Kutuzov (1767-1829) had been a tutor at Moscow University from 1798 to 1803 and subsequently held numerous posts in educational administration in Moscow and the Moscow region. Mikhail Malov (1790-1849), at the time of his participation in the lodge, was a lecturer at Moscow University and would later become a professor there. Matvei Mudrov (1776-1831) was Dean of the Medical Faculty of the Moscow branch of the Medical and Surgical Academy. Other members would take part in the Decembrist movement, namely Mikhail Fonvizin (1787-1854), nephew of the well-known playwright of the age of Catherine, and the poet Vasilii Davydov (1793-1855).

Most importantly for our purpose here, many Russian members of the Lodge of Alexander and the Triple Salvation were much travelled and functionally bilingual or multilingual men of cosmopolitan outlook and international social connections. Lobanov-Rostovsky had been educated in a French boarding school run by the abbé Nicolle (1758-1835) in St Petersburg and would subsequently publish a number of works in French in Paris.[27] Mudrov had studied in Berlin, Göttingen, Vienna and Paris, where he spent four years. Prince Fiodor Shakhovskoy (1796-1829) was educated at the Jacquinot French boarding school in Moscow. One of the cousins of Dmitrii Bibikov (1792-1870), who in the reign of Nicholas I would become governor of several provinces and Minister of the Interior, was married to a descendant of an illustrious Alsatian aristocratic family, the Ribeaupierres. The Russian members of this lodge, then, were men whose social, cultural and linguistic worlds were international, and the lodge itself replicated in Moscow that international world in which they moved.

The majority of the lodge’s members, however, were of German origin, in most cases probably from the Baltic regions that had come under Russian control during the eighteenth century.[28] The possibly Germanic (or Baltic Germanic) contingent included the following: the head of the French section of the lodge, a chemist named Josef Bauer; the head of the German section, a pharmacist named Benjamin Auerbach (1769-1846); the doctors Franz Gottlieb Blümer (1771-1849) and August Burmeister (?); Heinrich Gustav Bongard (1786-1839), a German doctor who would later become a Professor of Botany at St Petersburg University and an Associate Member of the Academy of Sciences; the pastor Robert Johann Walter; a former provincial police chief, Heinrich Weiss (?); and the civil servants Paul Wilhelm von Pomian Pesarovius (1776-1847), who had been the first editor of the philanthropic newspaper The Russian Invalid (Русский инвалид), and Georg von Reinecke (?), who was an honorary member of the lodge. There were also foreigners of various other origins in this lodge: a Swedish teacher, Karl Vodarg (?), Domenico Bertalozzi from Florence and a factory owner John Clarkson and an engineer Thomas Priestley (?), who were no doubt British.

The texts used by The Alexander and the Triple Salvation that we publish here illustrate the continuing use of French in the Russian Masonic movement in the late Alexandrine age, even in a lodge in which there were many German members, and more generally the continuing multilingualism of that social environment. The first document, entitled ‘Grade of Apprentice. First Symbolic Grade of the Rectified Rite’ (« Grade d’Apprenti. Premier Grade Symbolique du Rit rectifié ») explains the ritual of the initiation of an apprentice and the functions of the various persons involved in this ritual. Evidently French was used in this lodge not only for formal documents describing rites and rituals but also as the language in which to conduct them, since the text contains speeches to be made at the initiation of men wishing to become Entered Apprentices (pp. 8-9 of the original document), the standard questions to be put by the freemason receiving the apprentice and the answers to be given by the apprentice himself (e.g. pp. 10-11). Documents 2 and 3 simply illustrate the multilingual character of the activity of Russian lodges. Document 2 is a Masonic hymn to the Emperor composed in German. Document 3, a short poem entitled ‘Portrait of a Freemason’ and given in a Latin version as well as a French version, reminds us that Latin too was used in Russian lodges, though not for documents of a statutory nature or for everyday verbal communication.

Vladislav Rjéoutski and Derek Offord
February 2013

*Image credits

Portrait (1797) of Nikolai Novikov by Dmitrii Levitsky: image courtesy of Olga's Gallery,
Gagarin family coat of arms: image purchased from Cliparto Ltd and used under Standard Royalty Free License
Elagin family coat of arms: image purchased from Cliparto Ltd and used under Standard Royalty Free License
Golitsyn family coat of arms: image purchased from Cliparto Ltd and used under Standard Royalty Free License
Portrait (1804) of Count Aleksandr Stroganov by Jean-Laurent Mosnier: image courtesy of Olga's Gallery,
Portrait (1824) of Alexander I by George Dawe: image is used from, courtesy of The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

[1] Война и мир, vol. II, part 2, chapters 1-4, in L. N. Tolstoi, Полное собрание сочинений [Complete Works], 90 vols (Moscow and Leningrad: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo, 1928-58), vol. X, pp. 64-83. The quotation is taken from War and Peace, translated by Anthony Briggs (London: Penguin, 2005), p. 382. Tolstoy devotes four chapters to Pierre’s encounter with Masons.

[2] On Novikov see especially W. Gareth Jones, Nikolay Novikov, Enlightener of Russia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).

[3] Tolstoi, Полное собрание сочинений, vol. X, p. 72. Bazdeev was modelled on a real historical individual, Osip [i.e. Iosif] Pozdeev (1746-1820): seeПоздеев (accessed on 28.01.2013).

[4] «К духам — в собранье не въезжаешь, / Не ходишь с трона на Восток» (‘You don't travel to a meeting of the spirits / You don't walk from your throne to the Orient [i.e. to a Masonic lodge]’). The lines are from Derzhavin’s ode ‘Felitsa’ (Фелица), in which he sang Catherine’s praises in a light-hearted tone that was new for the ode.

[5] The Deceiver (Обманщик), The Deluded (Обольщенный) and The Siberian Shaman (Шаман Сибирский).

[6] In 1812, on the eve of Napoleon’s occupation of Moscow, Rostopchin ordered the arrest of dozens of Frenchmen resident in Moscow, later justifying his action by the accusation that some of them had belonged to a ‘sect of illuminati’, that they had been trying to organise Masonic lodges and that they were known to have been plotting against the government (B. L. Modzalevskii, Август Иванович Семен [Avgust Ivanovich Semen] (St Petersburg: R. Golike i A. Vil’berg, 1903), p. 5. Auguste Semen was a Frenchman arrested by Rostopchin; he later became a prominent Russian publisher.

[7] See N. Kotchetkova, « Les femmes dans la franc-maçonnerie russe du XVIIIe et du début du XIXe siècles », in Breuillard and Ivanova (eds), La franc-maçonnerie et la culture russe [Freemasonry and Russian Culture], Slavica Occitania, 24 (Toulouse: University of Toulouse Le Mirail, 2007), pp. 273-306.

[8] There is a large literature on the history of Russian freemasonry. The first major study of the subject was made by the pre-revolutionary scholar Aleksandr Pypin: see A. N. Pypin, Русское масонство: XVIII и первая четверть XIX в. [Russian Freemasonry: The Eighteenth and the First Quarter of the Nineteenth Century] (Petrograd: Izdatel΄stvo ‘Ogni’, 1916). Other important studies include Е. V. Vernadskii, Русское масонство в царствование Екатерины II [Russian Freemasonry in the Reign of Catherine II] (Petrograd: Tipografiia AO [Aktsionernoe obshchestvo] Tipografskogo dela, 1917); Tatiana Bakounine, Répertoire biographique des francs-maçons russes, XVIIIe – XIXe siècles [Biographical Catalogue of Russian Freemasons, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries] (Paris: Institut d'études slaves, 1967). Recent scholarship includes the following monographs: D. Smith, Working the Rough Stone. Freemasonry and Society in Eighteenth-Century Russia (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1999); A. I. Serkov, Русское масонство. 1731—2000 гг. Энциклопедический словарь [Russian Freemasonry. 1731-2000. An Encyclopaedic Dictionary] (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2001); Breuillard and Ivanova (eds), La franc-maçonnerie et la culture russe, op. cit.; Rafaella Faggionato, A Rosicrucian Utopia in Eighteenth-Century Russia: The Masonic Circle of N. I. Novikov (Dordrecht: Springer, 2005).

[9] For a corrective to the view that freemasonry was in general a liberal or potentially revolutionary phenomenon in Russia, see David Saunders, Russia in the Age of Reaction and Reform 1801-1881 (London and New York: Longman, 1991), p. 94, and the article he cites by Lauren G. Leighton, ‘Freemasonry in Russia: The Grand Lodge of Astraea (1815-1822)’, The Slavonic and East European Review, vol. 60, no. 2, 1982, pp. 244-61.

[10] On Masonic sociability, see, e.g., P.-Y. Beaurepaire, L’Autre et le Frère. L’Étranger et la Franc-maçonnerie en France au xviiie siècle [The Other and the Brother. The Foreigner and Freemasonry in Eighteenth-Century France] (Paris: Honoré Champion, Les dix-huitièmes siècles 23, 1998), and idem, L’Espace des francs-maçons. Une sociabilité européenne au XVIIIe siècle [The Freemasons’ Space. A European Sociability in the Eighteenth Century] (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, Histoire, 2003).

[11] Other Russians mentioned by Serkov (Русское масонствo, op. cit.) are N. I. Korsakov and P. I. Suvorov. Nikitin had been sent to England as an ‘inspector’, i.e. to exercise supervision over the small number of Russians studying at Oxford and Cambridge. There is a biographical entry on him at (accessed on 4.12.2012). Princess Dashkova met him when she visited Oxford in 1770.

[12] See Serkov, Русское масонство, pp. 990-95.

[13] Ibid. Other Russians mentioned by Serkov as visiting or belonging to lodges in France include Princes A. P. and F. S. Golitsyn, Prince V. P. Khovansky, A. Mashkov, A. Mokronovsky, P. F. Paskevich and A. P. Shcherbinin in Paris, Count G. I. Chernyshov and Princes D. V. and B. V. Golitsyn in Strasbourg (presumably the former is the same Golitsyn whom we have found in Paris) and Prince I. F. Nesvitsky and D. M. Tarakanov in Montpellier.

[14] i.e. the astronomer Jérôme Lalande (1732-1807), the physiologist and materialist philosopher Pierre Jean Georges Cabanis (1757-1808), the naturalist Bernard Germain de Lacépède (1756-1825), the poet and translator Jacques Delille (1738-1813), the painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805) and the neo-classical sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828).

[15] A. Stroev, « Gilbert Romme et la loge des Neuf Sœurs (juillet 1779) » [‘Gilbert Romme and Lodge of the Nine Sisters’], in Les Archives de l’Est et la France des Lumières [The Archives of the East and Enlightenment France], ed. Georges Dulac, Sergueï Karp, et al. (Ferney: Centre international d’étude du XVIIIe siècle, 2007), vol. II, pp. 656-63. On this lodge see also Louis Amiable, Une loge maçonnique d'avant 1789, la loge des Neuf Sœurs [A Masonic Lodge from before 1789, the Lodge of the Nine Sisters] (Paris: Les Editions Maçonniques de France, 1989).

[16] V. S. Brachov, Масоны в России: от Петра I до наших дней [Freemasons in Russia: From Peter I to Our Own Day] (St Petersburg: Stomma, 2000), chapter 9. There is an electronic edition of this book at (accessed on 29.01.2013). Brachov refers to A. I. Mikhailovskii-Danilevskii, «Из мемуаров русского масона» [‘From the memoirs of a Russian freemason’], in Масонство и русская культура [Freemasonry and Russian Culture], compiled by V. I. Novikov (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1998), p. 321.

[17] Quoted by Pypin, Русское масонство, p. 247.

[18] On the latter lodge, see A. G. Cross, ‘British Freemasons in Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great’, Oxford Slavonic Papers, New Series, vol. 4 (Oxford, 1971), pp. 43-72.

[19] All the numbers given here are based on the information provided in Serkov, Русское масонство, op. cit. For a more detailed analysis, see V. Rjéoutski, « Les Français dans la franc-maçonnerie russe au siècle des Lumières : hypothèses et pistes de recherche » [‘The French in Russian freemasonry in the Age of Enlightenment: hypotheses and avenues for investigation’], in Breuillard and Ivanova (eds), La franc-maçonnerie et la culture russe, pp. 91-136.

[20] Pypin, Русское масонство, pp. 154-55, 158.

[21] Ibid., pp. 415, 524-25.

[22] Brachov, Масоны в России. Brachov uses «Воспоминания Т.П.Пассек» [‘The Memoirs of T. P. Passek’], which were published in Русская старина [Russian Antiquity], 1878, vol. 21, pp. 210-11.

[23] « Discours prononcé à la Loge S. T. à Pétersbourg, le premier mars 1760, vieux style, à un travail d’apprenti » [‘Speech made at the S. T. Lodge in St Petersburg on 1 March 1760, Old Style, at an Apprentice’s Labour’], in [Baron de Tschudy], L’Étoile flamboyante, ou la Société des francs-maçons considérée sous tous les aspects [The Blazing Star, or the Society of Freemasons considered from All Points of View], 2 vols (Frankfurt: A. Boudet, 1766); further editions in 1810 and 1979 (Paris: Gutenberg reprint), vol. 2, pp. 41-47.

[24] Pypin, Русское масонство, pp. 384 ff., 413-14, 420, 429, 531. Brachov, Масоны в России, chapter 9.

[25] According to Serkov, Русское масонство, p. 1022. Pypin gives the date of its foundation as August 1817 (see Pypin, Русское масонство, p. 528).

[26] The information we use here is from Serkov, Русское масонство (pp. 1022-25), who lists members of this lodge, and from biographical articles on those members.

[27] e.g. Catalogue des cartes géographiques, topographiques et marines de la bibliothèque du prince Alexandre Labanoff de Rostoff [Catalogue of Geographical, Topographical and Marine Maps from the Library of Prince Alexander Labanov of Rostov] (Paris: [publisher unknown], 1823); Répertoire des lettres, instructions et autres pièces de Marie Stuart [Catalogue of Letters, Instructions and Other Pieces by Mary Stuart] 1839 (Paris: Merlin, [no date]); Notice sur la collection des portraits de Marie Stuart appartenant au prince A. Lobanoff [Notice of the Collection of Portraits of Mary Stuart belonging to Prince A. Lobanov] (St Petersburg: impr. de E. Pratz, 1856; 2nd edn, St Petersburg, impr. de E. Pratz, 1860), etc.

[28] In most cases there is little or no information available on the origin of the people we list here. We transcribe their names from Russian and in some cases the original spelling is unknown.


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Author of Introduction: 
Vladislav Rjéoutski and Derek Offord

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