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Count A. G. Razumovsky

Count Alexei Grigorievich Razumovsky (Russian: Алексей Григорьевич Разумовский, Ukrainian: Олексій Григорович Розумовський, Olexii Hryhorovych Rozumovskyi; 1709–1771), was a Ukrainian Cossack who rose to become lover and, probably, a secret spouse of the Russian Empress Elizaveta Petrovna.

Early life

Oleksiy Rozum was born on March 17, 1709 (NS: March 28) on the farm Lemeshi near Chernihiv in the family of a registered Ukrainian Cossack, Hryhory Rozum. In his youth he was a shepherd; then he was taught to read and write by the rural sexton. Having a fine voice he sang in the choir at the village church. In 1731, Colonel Vyshnevsky, one of empress Anna Ivanovna’s courtiers, while passing through the village on his way back to the Russian capital from a mission to Hungary, was wonder-struck with his vocal ability, and took him to St. Petersburg where he joined the choir of the Ukrainian palace chapel.

The beauty and talent of Razumovsky captivated Elizabeth Petrovna who took him to the imperial court in 1732. Upon deportation of Elizabeth’s minion Aleksey Shubin, Razumovsky replaced him as tsesarevna's favorite. After losing his voice, he was accepted in the post of the court bandura player, and then the manager of one of her mansions. He received the rank of the hof-quartermeister; and actually supervised Elizabeth's court. During the period of Anna Leopoldovna’s reign he was made a Kamer-Junker.

Night Emperor

Razumovsky played an important role in the palace revolution on November 25–26 (NS December 6–7) in 1741, which brought about Elizabeth Petrovna's accession to the throne. On November 30 (NS: December 11) he was accepted in the valid chamberlains as a general-lieutenant. On the coronation day (April 25 (NS: May 6) 1742) he was made a hofmarshal. Other honours bestowed on him included Order of Saint Andrew and St. Alexander Nevsky, as well as numerous estates in Moscow and elsewhere.

Razumovsky's residences included the Anichkov Palace (above) and the Znamenka estate near Strelna

It has been speculated that he secretly married Elizabeth Petrovna in a rural church of Perovo (now a part of Moscow) in the autumn 1742. Two years later In 1744 he received the comital title (reichsgraf, рейхграф in Russian) from the Holy Roman emperor Charles VII; and he was made count in Russia the same year. In 1745 he became the captain-lieutenant of the life-guards, and in 1748 he became the lieutenant-colonel of life-guards. On September 5 (NS: September 16) 1756 he received the rank of Field Marshal.

During Elizabeth Petrovna's reign he kept an exclusive position at court (though in his last years he was rivalled by the younger Ivan Shuvalov); in 1744 the empress even visited his native village and made acquaintance with all his family. Razumovsky's apartments in the Summer Palace directly adjoined to Elizabeth's apartments, and he had constant access to her. Under his influence the court had a passion for music and singing.

Razumovsky was not interested in politics, although he quite often supported chancellor Aleksei Petrovich Bestuzhev-Ryumin. On his advice the office of Ukrainian hetman was restored; and his younger brother Kirill Razumovsky was made a hetman and president of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Later Years and Posterity

Princess Tarakanova, in the Petropavlovsk Fortress at the Time of the Flood (1864, Tretyakov Gallery).

Before her death the empress made her successor Peter III promise not to offend her former favorites. In 1762 he submitted his resignation and moved from the Winter Palace to Anichkov Palace presented to him by Elizabeth. After Catherine II's accession to the throne he refused the title of highness that was offered to him. On the Empress' request he destroyed all documents about his marriage with Elizabeth. He died on July 6 (NS July 17) 1771 in St.Petersburg and was buried in the Annunciation Cathedral of the Alexandro-Nevskaya Lavra.

The question of Razumovsky and Elizabeth Petrovna's posterity remains open. About their postulated children there are many legends. The most known pretenders to this rank are two princesses Tarakanova, one of which (August) became a nun under name Dosifeya and was buried in the Romanov family crypt, and another (Elizabeth Tarakanova) who was arrested in Livorno by Aleksei Grigoryevich Orlov and delivered to Russia in February 1775.

The second Princess Tarakanova was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress where she died from tuberculosis. The legend of her being drowned during the severe flooding 1777 served as the plot for a painting by artist Konstantin Flavitsky (1864, Tretyakov Gallery).

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