Manuscript copy of 27 letters addressed to Tsar Alexander I (27 May-2 December 1812).
60 folio pages in black ink on 15 double sheets of lined wove paper. Copy made in the second half of the 19th century. In French with several notes in Russian.
Placed in a folder bearing the inscription: "Papiers Rostopchine / Unpublished / and may be published / Given formerly to X*** by the Countess Lydia Rostopchine" and contained in a gilt-edged insert closed by a ribbon (lined with modern paper). Weakened fold and small tears without missing on the first letter.
Exciting correspondence from the governor of Moscow to Tsar Alexander I during the Russian campaign, which sheds light on his role in the burning of the Russian capital and his controversial policy in Moscow.
Count Fedor Rostopchin (1763-1826), father of the future Countess of Segur, began his career close to Empress Catherine II. He was very close to Paul I and served as Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1799 to 1801. After a ten-year break, he was recalled by Alexander I and returned to politics as Governor General of Moscow from 1812 to 1814, i.e. at the time of the invasion of the country by Napoleonic troops. Fedor Rostopchin was an unusual personality, known for his controversial decisions in Moscow. After the war, he spent the rest of his life justifying himself to society, trying to rid himself of the image of the "Moscow arsonist". The period of his governance in Moscow remains mysterious and very poorly studied until now.
The archive presented at the auction is the only old original document in private hands that takes us back to the origins of the Moscow fire story. These copies come from the family papers of Countess Lydia Rostopchina (1838-1915), granddaughter of the Count. She had spent many years in France and settled there permanently around 1865. She returned to Russia several times to study the archives, from which she drew material for several lectures, as well as the edition of the unpublished works of Count Rostopchine (1894) and her book Les Rostopchine, chroniques de famille, published in French in 1909. Count Rostopchin's letters to the Tsar remained largely unpublished for a long time before they were published in 1903 in the Carnet historique et littéraire, probably from this copy.
The first publication of these letters took place in 1892 in Russia in the historical journal "Russian Archives". The editor of this publication states: "We are printing these letters from an autograph copy provided to us by Count Andrey Fedorovich Rostopchin. We have never had the French originals of his noble father's letters which are kept in the Rostopchin family. He also indicates that the letters are in French and that the newspaper publishes the original text accompanied by a Russian translation. This allows us to say that all official publications came from handwritten copies from the Rostopchin family. "The Russian archives also tell us that Andrei Rostopchin was planning to publish a separate book on this correspondence, but the publication was suspended due to a lawsuit over the poor translation of the original texts. At the same time, the French publisher refused to publish the documents of Count Andrei Rostopchin, asking for exclusive rights for any publication.
The presented copy of this correspondence was probably the basis for the French publication of 1903 and remains the only existing copy in private hands.
The letters that Fedor Rostoshin addressed during this period to the tsar constitute a historical document of the highest order. It shows the course of the Russian campaign as seen from Moscow from the time the governor took office until the time when he undertook to repair the war damage. We follow the approach of the French troops, their arrival at the gates of the city, the evacuation of the city without a fight, the occupation by the French, the burning, the departure of the occupants, and the return of the governor to the ravaged city.
The letters show Rostopchin's personality and his historical decisions, such as the trial of Verestchagin: "I dare to propose to Your Majesty a way that will reconcile justice with your clemency. It is to send me a decree for which this Verestchagin will have to be taken to the gallows to be hanged, but there will only be marked and sent to Siberia, to forced labour in the mines. I will put much apparatus into this execution, and it will not be known that he is pardoned from death until I pronounce." (July 4, 1812). History teaches us