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Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov: Encyclopedia Arctica 15: Biographies
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov

EA-Biography
(Hector Chevigny)

NIKOLAI PETROVICH REZANOV

Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov, (1764-1807), Russian courtier, designer
of the Russian American Company. Few figures of historical significance
have been so much the victim of faulty scholarship and the vagaries of
romantic writers. The title of "Counts," usually credited to him, stems
from inaccurate translating of the title page to von Longsdorff's Travels .
G. Atherton, without giving authority, has called him, "One of the ten
barons of Holy Russia," a statement embalmed in the Britannica . The mass
of documents in the Bancroft collection at Berkeley, California, often used
as source material, are faulty translations of the Russian sources. General
ignorance of the Russian system of titled and untitled nobility and of rank
has further contributed to the confusion. Rezanov's rank, granted him in
1803, was that of high chamberlain.
Rezanov was one of the determinants in the history of the Pacific; his
plans envisaged control of the American west coast and even of Hawaii by
Imperial Russia, and, although his death and other factors curbed his schemes,
the impulse they directly gave to the possession of Alaska and the Aleutians
by the United States places him in a position of primary significance.
His family belonged to the untitled nobility, a class of ancient lineage,
but that usually had neither wealth nor land. The family coat-of-arms was
designed in 1556. His father, Pyotr Gavrilovich, was an attorney who, at one
time, was president of the Equity Court in Irkutsk under the unusually honest

EA-Biog. Chevigny: Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov

and upright Governor-General Chicherin. At his son's birth he seems to
have been registrar in the Imperial Senate in St. Petersburg, where Rezanov
was born, June 8, 1764. The record mentions no brothers or sisters. At
this time, Empress Catherine II, the Great, having become enamoured of
French learning and culture, French almost superseded Russian in intellectual
circles, and it was the fashion to sneer at the native culture. Rezanov re–
ceived his entire primary education at the hands of French tutors who swarmed
to Russia in answer to the demand. Rezanov acquired facility also in German
and English, and had some knowledge of Spanish. He was proficient in music,
fancying the violin. His subsequent history would seem to show, and the
family influence to make probable, that he prepared for a legal career.
His contemporaries, obviously subjectively, have described his bearing as
either pleasant and gracious, or cold and arrogant. He was tall, and good
looking, but he had a constitutional weakness in later life which, in the
light of modern knowledge, would seem to indicate gastric ulcers.
At fourteen he began the military service demanded of his class. At
eighteen he entered the Imperial Guard, choosing the Izmailovski regiment,
in which he rose to a captaincy. He then resigned to enter Civil Service,
his first post apparently being that of Assessor to the court at Pskov.
December 1791, he received the appointment which really began his career.
Gabriel Derzhavine was named by the Empress director of her Bureau of Petitions;
Rezanov was made secretary to Derzhavine.
Two friendships in Rezanov's life show his intellectual convictions
as well as the fact that, unlike others exposed to the French influence, he
did not come to feel like a man without a country. One was Nikolai, later
Count, Rumiantzov, great exponent of Russianism in literature, who founded
the Rumiantzov Library, Russia's first great public collection, which, a

EA-Biog. Chevigny: Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov

century later, became the nucleus of the Lenin National Library. The other
friendship was with Derzhavine, Russia's greatest poet of that day, and
powerful protester against the engulfing French literary influence.
The simple basis of tsarist rule was petition, followed by granting
or refusal be decree. The Bureau of Petitions was, therefore, the empire's
nerve center. Greatly complicating the situation, however, the aging
Catherine had chosen as her last lover the 23-year-old army corporal, Plato
Zoubov, and the newly elevated Prince Zoubov proceeded to control the granting
of decrees to his own enrichment. Among Zoubov's relatives were the Shelekhovs
of Irkutsk, merchants deeply concerned with the fur trade on the Aleutian
Islands. The tea trade with China, on which rested a large part of the
economy of Siberia, was carried on through the medium of these furs. Grigorii
Shelekhov (q.v.) had planted a permanent colony on Kodiak Island, in the twin
hopes of enriching himself and holding the country for Russia. Catherine had
never extended her sway over the North Pacific, despite the discoveries and
claims of the Bering Expeditions, and the fact that Russian fur hunters had
ventured as far as the Alaska Peninsula. Her view was that Siberia itself
was too unsettled to allow her to expand to foreign shores; in 1769, by
decree, she deliberately renounced "all possessions in America." Shelekhov
came to St. Petersburg with a plea to her to reconsider this decision and to
grant him, in return for his patriotic service in founding a colony, a monopoly
of the fur trade, a sibsidy, and naval protection. These were refused, but
one concession was given, the privilege of exclusively occupying such other
sites as he might colonize, which made further expansion attractive to the
Golikov-Shelekhov company.
The extent to which Rezanov was involved in these important intrigues
cannot now be unravelled with dependable accuracy, for the records have been

EA-Biog. Chevigny: Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov

destroyed; but that it must have been considerable is shown by the fact
he journeyed to Irkutsk in 1793 and to Okhotsk to superintend the trans–
portation of missionary priests and serfs whom Shelekhov had secured for
his colony. His involvement became complete on his betrot hal and marriage
to Shelekhov's daughter, Anna. The dowry, of shares in the family company,
tied up his fortunes with the fate of trade in the Pacific. Perhaps this
was his entire motivation for what would otherwise have been something of
a misalliance for his class; as will be shown, however, Rezanov perceived
in the Pacific what the merchants saw and the St. Petersburg court missed.
Russia's front doors, the Baltic and the Dardanelles, were guarded by
her enemies but there existed an altogether unguarded back door. The whole
west coast of America down to Spanish California, which began at San Fran–
cisco, lay untouched. Japan was a hermit kingdom, trading only with the
Dutch, and awaiting reopening by others who might persuade her. Over the
incredibly rich Hawaiian Islands ruled a king who desired contact with the
world. Ships of many countries, however, were coming with increasing fre–
quency in search of the furs by which tea was bought of the Chinese. They
could enter Canton — but the Russians could not, for by ancient treaty
Russians could trade only along the Siberian border. This situation had
to be remedied, Japan opened, Russian colonies posted along America, even
California penetrated, Hawaii cultivated. It was a gigantic dream but a
possible one — if Russia acted quickly.
There was little hope of interesting Catherine in any of this. She
was German, not Russian, and her eyes were on Europe. Hope centered in her
grandson, Alexander, with whom Rezanov was acquainted. The belief was that
Catherine had written a will disinheriting her strange and unstable son,
Paul, in favor of Alexander. But on her death in 1796 [: ] the will could not

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be found. It was a blow to have Paul become tsar. He hated merchants,
declared their activities in the Pacific were at the price of the natives'
blood, more than once threatened to recall them home by decree. Business
initiative throughout Russia was paralyzed, for his decisions were arbi–
trary and unpredictable. The death of Shelekhov further complicated matters,
but his brilliant widow, Natalya, effected a reorganization, and in Peters–
burg Rezanov patiently cultivated the erratic tsar.
Obviously, Rezanov studied such models as the British East India and
Hudson's Bay companies in the formation of his plans for the great corpora–
tion to supersede the Golikov-Shelekhov company. He called it the Russian–
American Company, and it was to be a commercial instrument for imperial
expansion. It was to have a charter and be governed by elaborate by-laws.
It was to have exclusive monopoly of trade from Kamchatka to the American
mainland and southward to an unnamed degree. It could maintain a navy, troops,
have juridicial powers within its territory, make limited treaties. It
would colonize and develop as well as exploit. Its charter was to be
renewable each twenty years and, upon the completed development of its
territory, all was to revert to the government. The destruction of the
records of the Russian-American Company, on its dissolution in 1863, accounts
for our loww of precise information of the manner in which Rezanov, in 1799,
finally secured the consent of mad Tsar Paul to the formation of the company.
That it was a masterstroke of diplomacy and a surprise to all is unquestion–
able. It is perhaps significant that the approval was granted on Rezanov's
birthday, June eighth. His success is particularly noteworthy in view of
the fact that he had been identified with some, notably Zoubov, for whom
Paul cherished an especially bitter hatred. Zoubov had been one of Catherine's
lovers, and one of Paul's first acts had been to dishonor and disgrace him.

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At the same time Paul granted powers in the Company's charter, he was also
persuaded to ennoble Shelekov's widow, and agreed to the stipulation that
only a Shelekhov relative occupy the chairmanship of the company's board
of directors.
Still there was uncertainty. Paul could revoke the charter as easily
as he had granted it. The air did not clear until March 1801, with Paul's
assassination, and the ascension of Alexander. Alexander not only confirmed
the charter, he and members of his imperial family bought stock. Rezanov
he appointed to the post of High Procurator in the Senate.
Events now moved swiftly. A Russian naval officer, Adam Krusenstern,
while at Canton, had observed the sale by British and Yankee shipmasters of
furs taken along the northern islands, and he had written a letter to the
government setting forth his views on the advantage of negotiating the old
Chinese treaty anew to allow Russians to trade at Canton, too. Krusenstern
was summoned to court, ordered to purchase two of the finest frigates for
sale in Europe. The vessels were bought, and renamed the Nadeshda and the Neva .
It would seem, from the facts, that at first Rezanov had harbored no special
intention of accompanying the cruise on which the vessels were to be sent.
However, his wife, Anna, died in 1802 in bearing her second child, a girl;
fifteen months earlier she had borne her first child, a boy, Pyotr. It seems
to have been Rezanov's old friend, Count Rumiantzov, now Chancellor of the
Empire, who urged him to head the mission that would go with the ships.
Every day some new facet was added to the schemes about the frigates.
They would make a world tour, carrying Russian colors around the world
for the first time. The peace of Amiens, an interlude in the wars with
Napoleon, made this possible. On the way, the vessels would call at many
ports, making friends with the local governments. The trade routes that
the Company hopes would some day be theirs, would form the course to be followed.

EA-Biog. Chevigny: Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov

As a brilliant climax the tour would end at Japan where Rezanov, as.ambassa–
dor plenipotentiary from the.Tsar, would persuade the Mikado to agree to
trade with Russia. A mission, traveling by land, would meanwhile proceed
under Count Golovkin to the court of the Chinese Emperor to effect the
needed new arrangement there.
It is not clear whether, after Japan, Rezanov was to keep going to in–
spect the Russian colonies on Kodiak and at Sitka or whether that came as a
later decision. That, however, this was probably his intention is shown by
his addition, to the already overburdened. Nadeshda , of a library with which he
intended to found an institution.of higher learning on Kodiak Island. Besides
books for the library, there were included as gifts, priceless works of
painting, bookbinding, and miniature boat-building. In the holds, too, were
300,000 rubles" worth of gifts from the Tsar to the Mikado. Many of the
plans were seemingly made without consulting Krusenstern. Accompanying
Rezanov would be a diplomatic suite of six, scientists such as Tilesius and
Horner, and six Japanese who had been shipwrecked in Siberia and had been
brought overland for personal delivery to their [: ] homeland. On the
eve of departure, a great banquet was given Rezanov, attended by the Tsar"s
privy council and distinguished representatives of the Admiralty, at which
Rezanov was toasted as "the Russian Columbus." They sailed August 7, 1803.
Krusenstern had to stop at Copenbagen to lighten the ship by removing some
of her stores. But Rezanov took on another passenger, a young German
scientist who was also a physician, named Georg Heinrich von Langsdorff,
who importuned so earnestly for the privilege of accompanying the expedition
that he was accepted.
Foreign governments everywhere had amiably given the vessels freedom-of-
call; stops were made at numerous ports. [: ] At Hawaii, a year out of Petersburg,

EA-Biog. Chevigny: Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov

learning that the Russian colony at Sitka had been destroyed by savages,
Rezanov sent Captain Lisianski and the Neva to the assistance of Baran vo ov
(q.v.), the colonial governor, and proceeded with only the Nadeshda to
Kamchatka to get ready for the Japanese mission. There had been wrangling
for precedence during the voyage. At Kamchatka, Count Fyodor Tolstoi and
others of Rezanov's suite quite to return overland to Petersburg, and Rezanov
commandeered officers resident at Petropavlovsk to complete his entourage.
They entered Nagasaki Harbor October 8, 1804.
The Russians were entirely confident of success. Anchoring in Nagasaki
coincided with the observance of Alexander's coronation; there was much fest–
ing, drinking, and speechmaking. Perhaps Rezanov counted unduly on his merited
reputation for persuading and cajoling. In the fact of the facts of his dis–
astrous failure to secure any thing of what he desired, it is forgotten, or
seldom observed, that his visit caused much internal dissension in Japan. A
minority rebelled against the tight cloture of the country by the Shoguns.
The rift was to continue, and contribute eventually to the downfall of the
Shogunate. The mission had influence in another direction; Perry, forty-five
years later, could study the cuases of Rezanov's failure and avoid his mistakes.
Curiously, Rezanov's mistakes boil down to undue democracy in his approach.
He aroused the contempt of the Japanese by his agreement to see each delegation
of officials that came aboard the. Nadeshda , however insignificant they were,
and his patience with their interminable questionings. He would have been
ordered away from the beginning, but for the document, which he carried, that
had been granted Laxman in 1793, permitting one Russian vessel to visit Japan.
Grudging permission was finally given Rezanov and his suite to live ashore,
but the residence turned out to be virtually a cage in which they could be
stared at by all the curious, and there was a maddening wait of months before

EA-Biog. Chevigny: Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov

permission came for them to see an official of a calibre who could discuss
their demands. Rezanov's health suffered. He whiled away the time compiling
a Russian-Japanese dictionary. At length the interview with the Shogun was
had, but under humiliating circumstances, and the answer was a flat No to
everything. Japan's laws forbidding foreign intercourse were said to be
irrevocable. The Tsar's gifts could not be accepted, for if they were, the
Nikado would have to be equally generous, and for that Japan was too poor.
Inasmuch as no Japanese could leave the empire to visit other lands, it was
out of the question that an embassy could be sent to Petersburg to consider
these questions further. The final interview the Russians concluded with
pointed directions for leaving Nagasaki Harbor safely.
The futile mission had taken six months. Rezanov returned to Petropavlovsk
on Kamchatka in April 1805, sent the Nadeshda home, and prepared to go on to
America to inspect the colonies. He retained as entourage, his valet-de-
chambre, and Dr. von Langsdorff, who agreed to function as personal physician
and observing scientist. Rezanov burned with rage at his humiliation by the
Japanese, and meditated means of reprisal. In a letter to the Tsar he expressed
his intention of sending a punitive force against Japan, perhaps, thereby, hoping
to receive permission for it when he should be through with his American tour.
He believed there were vessels at the colonies which could be armed for the
purpose. He found other disturbing news. The Napoleonic wars had broken out
afresh. Russia was deeply involved in the often-changing alliances and counter–
alliances. It was a question whether Russia and Spain were enemies or the
reverse — information of importance if a man of his station encountered foreign
vessels. Sitka, he also heard, had been retaken with the. Neva's help, but
conditions in the colonies were bad. Morale was low, good men hard to get
for Company service, equipment deficient, and the value of Company shares,
because of a small catch of furs for some years, had hit a new low.

EA-Biog. Chevigny: Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov

With two naval officers, Khvostov and Davidov, navigating, he sailed on
the wretched Company brig, Maria , in May 1805. He visited the Pribilofs, Una–
laska, and Kodiak. In June he reached Sitka and met the great Baranov.
The enormous discrepancy between Rezanov's dreams and the reality, the
extent to which Shelekhov had lied to the world, was born in on him on that
journey. Everywhere was poverty, misery, and want. Everyone greeted him with
complaints and grievances. For as long as four years on end there had been
neither ships nor supplies from Russia. At Kodiak the absurdity of his thought
of founding a university was evident. The priests whom once, twelve years
before, he had convoyed across Siberia, told him that the Company had fulfilled
none of its promises to support and aid them [: ] in their work. But they had
done little for themselves, either, and Rezanov upbraided them, comparing them
unfavorably with their Roman brethren under similar circumstances.
Everywhere, in his journeys about the Pacific, Rezanov had heard the name
of Baranov. It was clear that he alone had kept the colonial enterprise
together during the previous sixteen years. His determination alone had made
the retaking of Sitka possible. It is [: ] probable that Rezanov came to
America partly with the intention of investigating Baranov and, if necessary,
deposing him as governor. Instead, and although Baranov declared his wish for
relief, Rezanov urged that rank be asked for Baranov in order that the lowborn
man might have the official class wherewith to defend himself against the
insults of people of higher station sent to assist him.
Quarters were temporary, danger constant, supplies low. The winter was
spent in privation and hardship. On all sides the warlike Tlingits threatened
another massacre and everyone was heavily armed. During that winter of 1805-06,
the Tsar's Chamberlain had a taste of the kind of tragedy with which the colony
had become familiar. At Yakutat, where the serfs he had once convoyed, together

EA-Biog. [: ] hevigny: Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov

with the priests, had formed a colony, there was another massacre with few
survivors.
Nevertheless, Rezanov did not forget his wish to revenge himself on
Japan. He ordered the construction of a warship to be begun, and bought, of
Captain John deWolfe, of Bristol, [: R ] .I., the schooner Juno , intending her for
the same purpose. Her supplies, too, were needed for sustenance. Outwardly,
to the world, he expressed satisfaction with every detail of colonial expansion.
One factor in his earlier dreams had been confirmed by his observations,
that foreign ports had to be opened to permit adequate food supplies to come
to the colonies. Canton and San Francisco were closed. Count Golovkin had
not been success f ul in his mission either. Only Hawaii was friendly. That
was of value but it would be simpler if the Spanish in California, with their
abundance of food, would trade. In February, events spurred Rezanov to another
attempt at a diplomatic mission. Scurvy swept the Sitka garrison. He deter–
mined to visit San Francisco.
He ran the risk of possible cap ut tu re and knew it. The status of things
between Spain and Russia was unknown. But he had his credentials, which had
given him entr e é e to every port as the Tsar's envoy extraordinary, and he
depended on it now to gain him entrance into the Golden Gate, and to see
him through at least the opening negotiations with the Spanish. He sailed
on the Juno in March, taking Langsdorff, Khvostov, and Davidov.
Their crew consisted of the least able garrison members of the beleaguered
post at Sitka. On the way Rezanov paused to try finding the Columbia River,
using Vancouver's charts. His plan for expansion down the mainland called for
the planting of a post at that place. The entrance to Gray's Harbor was inves–
tigated as possibly the Columbia's mouth, but Langsdorff, on landing, discovered

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this not to be the case. The conditions of the crew, however, made proceeding
to a sure supply of fresh food imperative and there were no further delays
before their entrance into the Golden Gate, March 22, 1806.
Here begins what is usually considered the story of Nikolai Rezanov.
San Francisco, then called Yerba Buena, consisted of little more than a sleepy
presidio of some thirty-five soldiers and their families there to guard the
Franciscans at the mission, but the Russians did not know this and approached
with the utmost caution, and elaborate plans in the event anything went wrong.
They were surprised to see no vessel anywhere, not even a skiff. At length
soldiers appeared, disappearing again, then Spanish officers and Franciscans.
Rezanov did not repeat his mistake with the Japanese. He sent his entourage
ashore even though none knew Spanish. Langsdorff solved the difficulty by
establishing communication with Father Jos e é Uria in Latin.
The commander of the presidio, Jos e é Arguello, and the military governor,
Jos e é Arillaga, proved to be absent in Monterey, but Lieutenant Luis Arguello,
the commander's son, and the priests invited the Russians ashore with the
utmost cordiality. Strangers came seldom, and these sounded exciting, par–
ticularly to Lieutenant Arguello's sister, the sixteen-year-old naria de la
Concepcion. A dance was given for the visitors that night, and the cordiality
continued until the Commandante and the Governor arrived, in a hurry, on being
told of the nature and calibre of their visitor.
What happened thereafter has, on one side, a comic-opera quality and, on
the other, the grander aspect of the Faustian legend. On the comic-opera side,
Arillaga proved to know no more about the international situation than Rezanov
and both men countered for hours on their first conversations to learn what
the other man did not know. Arillaga understood French which made conversation
easier. He was a simple man in an obscure provincial post, no match for

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Rezanov's persuasiveness, but he was also stubborn, and faced with strict laws
regarding foreign intercourse which better governors than he had regretted
breaking. Clearly, the question of permanent trade with the Russian colonies
was beyond his power to decide, he could only recommend, but he was puzzled
by Reanov's insistence on at least one cargo of food. Rezanov, naturally,
would not admit the dire want of his people in the north, for it was evident
that the Spaniards live in a good deal of fear about the meaning of the Russian
activities in the North Pacific. As both a hindrance and a help, the Franciscans
intrigues in Rezanov's favor. On a visit to their mission he had made them several
rich presentations from among the returned gifts from the Tsar to the Mikado,
mostly items for church use, and they eagerly became converts to the doctrine
that Spanish California would find its salvation in trade with the Russians.
Rezanov had other allies, less embarrassing. As he wrote to Count
Rumiantsov, "we play petticoat politics." The women importuned the Governor
to have the cargo of cloth and other stuffs aboard the Juno which had come
well loaded down with trade goods. Poor Arillaga would have liked to get
rid of his visitor, and tried to send him on his way by darkly hinting he
expected news of war to come from Mexico City, but Rezanov circumvented him
by pointing out that if he would give his word not to arrest him while he
thought there was peace, he would not, in conscience, have to arrest him later.
Meanwhile, a passion of great intensity sprang up between Rezanov and
Concepcion, the commandante's daughter. Langsdorff has left us a description
of her appearance, and he concludes it with the observation that her type "occurs
but seldom." After only six weeks, Rezanov asked for her hand. That the
courtship had not seemed a serious one, is shown by the reaction of surprise
on the part of the family. Apparently no one butRezanov and Concepcion dreamed

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that more than a mild flirtation, if that, had taken place. The girl was
rushed off to confession to the priests at the mission who, however, counseled
calm. It soon became evident to both the father and the Governor that Rezenov
was not a suitor who could peremptorily be ordered off the premises. If there
was, indeed, peace between the two nations, Rezanov's rank and standing might
make of a complete refusal and unpleasant diplomatic incident. There were,
however, difficulties in the way, too. Rezanov was Orthodox by faith; although
the provincial of the Franciscans had authority to act in a bishop's capacity
in many matters, his authority here was questionable. Rezanov desired immediate
marriage, advancing as his reason that he had to return soon to St. Petersburg,
and wished to take his bride with him. The difficulties were decided by stipu–
lating that he must secure the dispensation of the Vatican and the political
permission of the King of Spain. Farther than this Rezanov could not budge them.
The betrothal, however, took place, and some of the gifts made by Rezanov to
his betrothed on that occasion are still in the possession of descendants of
the Arguello family in Los Angeles.
It has been alleged by some writers that Rezanov did not intend to return
for his bride, that it was all an expedient to gain one cargo of food — for
which, in the subsequent expressions of friendship, he easily got permission.
Quite aside from the consideration that Rezanov would scarcely have run this kind
of risk for so little, there is also the rather plain fact that, had he lived, his
failure to fulfill his promises would have been cause for much trouble for him.
The record indicates little doubt of how seriously he was emotionally involved.
Langsdorff makes this clear. In his letters to Rumiantzov, Rezanov takes a
certain light tone about it, but it is not to be expected that he would become
heavily romantic in correspondence of official standing. It is also equally
certain that he viewed his marriage in an almost dynastic light. He writes

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of the poor condition of defense in which he found California, pointing out
how simple it would have been to take it during various European crises. He
looked on the position of the California Spanish, isolated from Mexico City,
with interest, and seemingly foresaw an amalgamation of the Spanish with the
Russians, perhaps symbolized by his own marriage. He even meditated the bringing
of Chinese coolies into California to solve the labor problem.
In June 1806, after only two months among the Spanish, he departed with
a well-fed crew, his new dreams of empire, and his ship's hold stuffed with
food for the Sitka garrison. This time he did not tarry to explore. He reached
Sitka, burried to complete preparations for returning home. He did, however,
pause to put through his plans for reprisals on Japan. It is ironical that
this, in the long run, was his undoing. [: ] He sent the
Juno on ahead, to have her armed at Okhotsk, then crossed the Pacific himself
in the Avoss , a vessel that had been constructed at Sitka to help him attack
Japan. She was a tub and slow. He reached Petropavlovsk in September. Already
it was late to start the long and dangerous crossing of Siberia on horseback.
He hoped to find, at Petropavlovsk, letters approving his sending of a
force against Japan, but other news received there told him why official
Petersburg was not paying much attention to events in the Pacific. The Russians
had sustained crushing defeats at Napolean's hands, and Europe was engaged in
a gigantic effort to expel the Corsican. There was, however, peace between
Spain and Russia. He had to reach Petersburg while that was still a fact in
order to secure his precious permission promptly for his marriage. He decided
to order the Japanese expedition and trust to luck. The officers, Khvostov and
Davidov were dubious about it, but he made his orders to proceed imperative.
Von Langsdorff refused to accompany him further. The physician was dis–
gruntled at what he considered slighting treatment at the hands of the chamberlain

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at San Francisco, and furthermore he had been warned to beware of Siberia
during the rainy season. With only his valet left of the original group
with whom he had left Petersburg three years before, a company of Cossacks,
and a file of horses, Rezanov set out to cross the Stanovoi Mountains.
He was ill when, five months later and after a journey that had justified
all the gloomy predictions, he arrived in Irkutsk. If, as has been surmised,
he had had a gastric hemorrhage, the end is not surprising. He remained abed
only briefly, again refused to listen to advice not to proceed further until
conditions were better. Again he mounted horse. Between Irkutsk and Krasnoy–
arsk he suddenly pitched headlong as he and the Cossacks were going at break–
neck speed. As he fell, a flying hoof struck him in the skull. Weeks later,
as he lay in the house of Councillor Keller in Krasnoyarsk, he died. Langs–
dorff, who followed more leisurely and lived to tell about it, wrote, "His
stone was in the shape of an altar. There was no inscription on it."
Much nonsense has been written about the time at which Concepcion Arguello
was told of her betrothed's death. Sir George Simpson helped perpetuate the
fiction that she did not hear for forty years. There is reason to believe that
Rezanov's valet returned to San Francisco with the news, bringing back the
girl's gifts to Rezanov as he did so. The gifts are certainly again in pos–
session of the family. Too, in 1812 the Russians established Fort Ross in
California, and one of their first visitors was Concepcion's brother. Kuskov,
who headed Fort Ross, certainly knew of Rezanov's death. But Concepcion's
reaction is well known. She went into seclusion, emerging to become an unofficial
nun who did private works of charity. She refused all offers of marriage, in–
cluding another from a foreigner, a Yankee shipmaster. In 1851, on the estab–
lishment of the Dominican convent at Monterey, she became the first native-born
California Spaniard to take a nun's vows. She was then sixty.

EA-Biog. Chevigny: Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov

Rezanov represents one of the great might-have-beens in history. It
is rather certain that, had he lived and effected his marriage, the history
of California would have been quite different, and its eventual taking by
the United States a different kind of thing then it was. Certainly there
was never again anyone in Petersburg with his energy, his initiative, or
his grasp of the problems in the Pacific from Russia's standpoint.
The Russian-American Company existed sixty years, seeing two renewals
of its charter, but on the death of Baranov in 1819, officialdom ruled it,
and it became progressively less and less what its organizer had intended
it to be, an instrument in commercial hands for imperial expansion.
In 1858, after the Crimean War which showed the vulnerability of Russian
America to British attack, the plan was laid to sell the country to the
United States rather than let it fall into British hands, as seemed inevitable.
Yet it was not for seventy years that another man, namely Captain William
Mitchell, saw what Rezanov saw and paraphrased one of his remarks when he
said, that they who control Alaska, control the Pacific.

EA-Biog. Chevigny: Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Langsdorff, G.H. Von. Bemerkungen auf Eine Reise um Die Welt (Notes on a
journey round the world), Frankfort, 1812.

Tikhmenyev, P. Istoricheskoye Obozrenye obrazovanya Rossiisko-Amerikanskoi
Kompanii
(Historical review of the formation of the Russian-American
Company), St. Petersburg, 1863.

Krusenstren, A.J. Voyage Autour du Monde, Nadeshda et Neva, Paris, 1820.

Lisianski, U., Voyage around the world, London, 1814.

Politovski, N. Kratkoye Istoricheskoye Obozrenye Obrazovanya I deistvya
Rossiisko-Amerikansko Kompani
(Short Historical review of the
formation and proceedings of the Russian-American Company),
St. Petersburg, 1861.

Grot, Y. Derzhavine , St. Petersburg, 1880.

Shemelin, F. Zhurnal Pervavo puteshestvya Rosskikh vokrug zemnavo share
(Journal of the first voyage of the Russians around the globe),
St. Petersburg, 1816.

Encyclopedic articles in Russian on Rezanov exist in Entsik l opedicheski Slovar,
St. Petersburg, 1899; Slovar Russkikh Svetskikh Pisatelei , Moscow, 1845.

Few important primary sources on Rezanov exist in English, an exception being
D'Wolf, J., Voyage to the North Pacific and a journey through Siberia ,
Cambridge, 1861.

The National Archives, Washington, D.C., contain all documents taken from Sitka
in 1867.

Yarmolinski, A., has contributed secondarily but importantly with "Some
Rambling Notes on the Russian Columbus," Bull . N. Y. Publ.Lib.,
Sept., 1927.

Chevigny, H. Lost Empire , is the only full-length English work on Rezanov
(Macmillan, 1937).

Hector Chevigny
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