No GNW (or “Peter goes South”)

I'm with @alexmilman on the whole expansion issue, Russian expansion should mainly focus on making the core territories safe. I would say that Kazakhstan, Siberia, Northern Caucasus, and the Black Sea coast would be the smart region to expand into, as it protects the core Russian territories and give a good frontier for surplus population. Poland-Lithuania serves as a good buffer from ending up in any European mess and Poland is dysfunctional enough to not be a threat, but stable enough that no mess spill over into Russia. Of course, an Ottoman collapse would always be welcomed as it would give Russia access to the Mediterranean but honestly the main markets for Russian goods are Western Europe.

I would say that Catherina the Great did one good thing, inviting Western settlers (mainly farmers) is an effective way to transfer technology and knowhow, but the "mistake" she made was not creating a way for this technology and knowledge to be transferred to the native Russians, as Russian serfdom and religious difference from the Westerners weaken horizontal transfer. If we look at Scandinavia and Germany, we can see similar settlers was used to build up a domestic expertise.
Back to home
63. Back to home

And when the wolves were fed and the sheep were intact, the question arose: how to feed the sheep?”
F. Krivin (IIRC)

“An official is a catalyst that accelerates the transformation of any case into an unsolvable problem.”
There are three types of intoxication: alcohol, drugs and power. The latter is incurable.”
M. Mamchin

“I [in Russia] am robbed in the same way as others, but this is a good sign, and shows that there is something to steal.”
Catherine II

“A person who served in the Commissariat for three years can be executed without a trial”

In Russia the Peace of Lubeck had been properly celebrated even if there was some grumbling about making a peace without any territorial gains, it was, quite understandably, done in the very low voices because Prince Fyodor Yuryevich Romodanovsky was still alive and quite active in performing his duties and his Preobrazensky Prikaz was still functioning and was not even renamed.

And the Prince himself was the only person at Peter’s court who never bothered to dress the Western style or to adopt the Western habits in his household. [1]

The official reasons for celebration were military glory (on the land and the sea), freedom from the Sound Dues, the contributions and, last but not least, the Amber Room: plan to install it in a remote Petergof was abandoned and replaced with installation in a newly-constructed Big Kremlin Palace where it could be seen by a much greater audience, both domestic and foreign.

The awards of all kinds had been showered upon the relevant military personages with the main question being how to reward Sheremetev who already had the highest military rank possible, all top state awards (plus those of Sweden, PLC and Prussia), more wealth than some German princes and majestic estates near Moscow.

The decision was to build for him a brand new and really great palace in Moscow on a hill just across the Neglinka River from the Kremlin.


The celebrations had been continued to incorporate a birth of the second daughter of Cesarevich Alexey named Catherine and the cheerful news that “the dear brother” is on his way to becoming a father. The relations between the two ruling families already had been quite convoluted in the terms of “who is who to whom” and were going to become even more so.

But even before the war was over Peter had quite a few issues to address and administrative reform was one of them. His initial plan (Regional Reform of 1708) created 8 huge gubernias but, with the exception of one of Moscow (where he was exercising a close control over its governor-general ), this proved to be impractical because their governors, who held both civic and military power over the huge territories tended to imagine themselves semi-independent rulers ripping off the state, ignoring government’s directives and making the laws of their own.

Case of Prince Gagarin. About the most notorious of them, Prince Matvey Gagarin, governor of Siberia, Hanoverian resident in Moscow wrote: “Gagarin, while in Russia, gave mediocre (not ceremonial - ed.) lunch, at which more than 50 fish dishes were served, in various ways and in vegetable oil made. This nobleman ate on silver, lived magnificently and behaved like a prince, especially when he was governor of Siberia. He took me to his office and showed me an icon that was decorated with precious diamonds, and the jewelers there assured me that this shrine cost the prince 130,000 rubles.”
It should be said that various accusations have been made to Matvey Petrovich during his career more than once. Back in those years, when he and his brother were alone in Nerchinsk and the second in Yakutsk, the Gagarin brothers were suspected of abuses in trade with China, which was monopolized at that time. The brothers allegedly included in the trade caravans their relatives and acquaintances who received preferences, in other words - did not pay duties. When Gagarin became Siberian governor, he was able to organize, in fact, private trade with China under state supervision. Gagarin had illegal fees from peasants, spending the treasury on personal needs, bribes, corruption in the distribution of rights to beer and wine trade, extortion from merchants, appropriation of goods, underestimation of true figures of fees from Siberia and much more. The total amount of arrears exceeded 300 thousand rubles.
For a while he was getting away with this because he also built the forts, schools and churches, improved the roads, helped the missionaries, etc. Plus, he never forgot to reward his protectors. In 1711, slightly less than 160 kg of silver were sent to Moscow from Nerchinsk, in 1712 - about 80 kg. Having calculated foresight, he made gifts not only to the tsar, but also to Menshikov, from whom he later tried to seek protection. Porcelain from China, precious stones, fabrics - everything went to the capital. Small wonder that the first inspector who was sent to Siberia and came with a report about Gagarin’s misdeeds was himself accused of corruption and executed. A proverbial last straw was information that Gagarin raised his own regiment, started his own production of gunpowder (not that this was a bad thing per se but this production was under strict government’s control), makes his own artillery (the same as with gunpowder) and basically closes the road to Siberia. This led to suspicion of an attempt of separatism and this time the whole commission had been created to investigate the situation with Ivan Dmitruev-Mamonov being in charge [2]. Gagarin was arrested and at the moment is under investigation; he already returned 200,000 but refuses to acknowledge his guilt (probably does not trust Peter’s promises to pardon him and return confiscated property of he confesses).

Regional reform of 1713. As started being his habit, Peter outlined a general framework (make gubernias smaller and their heads less powerful) and put to the task a commission with Cesarevich Alexey as its Chairman to iron down the “details”. By the new administrative reform the country was divided into 40 governorships (gubernias) and The Land of the Host of Don Cossacks, which had its own self rule [3]. Few gubernias could be united into general-governorship and each gubernia was divided into the uezds (counties).
Governor-general was appointed directly by the emperor and had a full power over the military and civilian administration while the governors had just a civilian authority and were answerable to the Senate.
Each governorship and uezd had its own organ of a noble self-rule, a Noble Assembly (Дворянское Собрание), with the elected leader (Предводитель Дворянства) who was supposed to act as its liaison to the corresponding level of administration.
Nobility of each uezd was every 3 years electing “captain-ispravnik” (to be approved by a governor), who was responsible for maintaining order in the uezd, collecting taxes from peasants, conducting a preliminary investigation and carrying out noble guardianship.

Opening new windows. [4] With the dust of the Big Foolish War settled and foundations of the Baltic Mafia being established, there was a good time for Peter to start doing what he actually did not like to do, thinking about the details.
The port of St-Petersburg was firmly established as one of the main ports on the Baltic coast and kept expanding beyond the initial city limits in both directions toward the Finnish and Livonian border as a set of the smaller port cities allowing to handle a growing volume of traffic going on the top of the routine flows through Riga [5] and Revel.

However, there was also the North with, so far, Archangelsk being its sole window and, even if admittedly a big one, being restricted by a navigation season. Obviously, eventually the attention had been paid to a potential site for an additional “window”, Kola Ostrog, which had a disadvantage of being rather remote and off the land and river routes but also an advantage of being ice free. A research party came with a proposal to attend to the disconnect issue by one of two ways:
  • Provide a waterway from the Kola Gulf to the Kandalaksha Gulf on the White Sea by connecting the Kola River through the set of the small lakes to the big Imantra Lake and from it down the Niva River to Kandalaksha Gulf. There would be a need to deepen the upper flow of the Kola river and then make the short canals connecting it to the lakes Kolozero, Permusozero and Imantra (with few small lakes in between).
  • To build a trakt (a good road with the postal stations along it, well-maintained bridges, etc.) along approximately the same route.
Peter choose a “compromise solution” by opting for both. 😉

What to do with the navy? It became quite clear that a strong Baltic fleet capable of acting, if needed, on its own is necessary but by the end of the BFW its size seriously exceeded both the reasonable needs and ability to maintain it in Kronstadt so it was decided to move a surplus both North and South.

The “shallow waters fleet” was partially transferred to Archangelsk by Neva, Ladoga Lake and portaging. Some of the bigger ships, especially those built in Archangelsk, sailed back to Archangelsk and Kola Ostrog along the Norwegian coast. Expansion of the Kola Ostrog down the Kola River with the new fortifications and a port was going on simultaneously with the connection projects. The new city was supposed to be primarily a naval base with some merchant facilities while Archangelsk would remain primary a merchant port.

The biggest ships of the line and some frigates, after the thorough repairs and cleaning, sailed out of the Baltic all the way to the Mediterranean and then to the Black Sea to the new naval base in Sevastopol. This expedition had been preceded by a complicated diplomatic exercise guaranteeing a friendly reception (supplies, needed repairs, hirings) in Britain, then on Sicily and, last but not least, a free passage by the Ottomans (of course, they were at peace and there was a treaty but sometimes none of the above mattered; rather fortunately, the Russian openly indifferent position toward the Hapsburgs prevented the French from giving the Sultan some creative ideas).

The oldest ships had been decommissioned.

Novorossiya. Settlement on the newly-acquired lands was going full speed with a considerable number of the immigrants being attracted by the generous conditions. Besides the Christian Ottoman subjects (as per peace treaty), there were immigrants from the various parts of Germany and even from these islands off the European shores (😉) where not everybody was absolutely happy with the issues of succession or even simply with their own situation. Few Scotts with the coal mining experience were going to be extremely useful in a near future…

[1] Him getting older did not change his general approach to the investigative methods: conversation with a suspect had been starting only after he or she was put on a rack and received beating with a knout (“Prince-Caesar”, while being generally conservative, was quite modern in his views regarding the genders equality, at least in the cases related to the suspicion of lese majeste or high treason). If a suspect was eventually found not guilty and released, there was no grudge. To be fair, the process was starting with application of the same “preliminaries” to a denouncer and proceeding only if he/she confirmed the claim after the beating.
[2] Now, this was a very heavy artillery. Dmitriev-Mamonov was a husband of Tsarevna Praskovia Ioannovna (daughter of Ivan V and Peter’s niece) and he himself was a major of the Life-Guards and commander of Semionovsky Regiment.
[3] Of course, the top leadership of the Host had been appointed by the government.
[4] Actually, the term “window to Europe” as applicable to St-Petersburg had been presumably coined by an Italian traveller after Peter’s death and, while being congratulatory, brings an obvious question of why the people (unless they are burglars) were supposed to get in through the window and not a door. But the term stuck so the windows they will be. 😉
[5] Riga represented a certain problem about which even Charles could do little: the city was still operating under the medieval corporate rules which were preventing those who were not members if the city guilds (aka, whose families were not established city burghers for few generations) form having the business establishments of any kind within the city walls. Of course, Charles allowed the settlements outside the city jurisdiction but the port was still controlled by the guilds making transactions cumbersome and expansion too far above the existing limits close to impossible.
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  • Provide a waterway from the Kola Gulf to the Kandalaksha Gulf on the White Sea by connecting the Kola River through the set of the small lakes to the big Imantra Lake and from it down the Niva River to Kandalaksha Gulf. There would be a need to deepen the upper flow of the Kola river and then make the short canals connecting it to the lakes Kolozero, Permusozero and Imantra (with few small lakes in between).
  • To build a trakt (a good road with the postal stations along it, well-maintained bridges, etc.) along approximately the same route.

I thoroughly enjoy this TL so I hate to nitpick, but wouldn't a waterway that far north be frozen for much of the year, perhaps even longer than the iced-in season at Archangelsk?

I fear it won't be easy to create Murmansk without railways.
I thoroughly enjoy this TL so I hate to nitpick, but wouldn't a waterway that far north be frozen for much of the year, perhaps even longer than the iced-in season at Archangelsk?

Waterways leading to Archangelsk and St. Petersburg are freezing for winter as well and the same goes for the big part of the Russian rivers both in Europe and Siberia.
I fear it won't be easy to create Murmansk without railways.
Actually, the frozen rivers and lakes had been the most reliable roads in Russia since at least the XIII century when the Mongols used them in their winter campaign. 😜

Winter commercial traffic by the frozen rivers and winter roads (snow leveling the potholes) was just as intensive, and may be even more so, as the summer traffic by the same rivers and roads and this was applicable all the way to at least mid-XIX. Of course, this would not work for the modern Murmansk because nomenclature of the cargo changed substantially since the XVIII century but pretty much all exports/imports of the XVIII century could be carried (and had been carried at least part of the route) both by the small barges and by sledges.

But, anyway, a land road is still an alternative and Kola Ostrog is predominantly a naval base not the main commercial port.
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Waterways leading to Archangelsk and St. Petersburg are freezing for winter as well and the same goes for the big part of the Russian rivers both in Europe and Siberia.

Of course, but Archangelsk already exists, so I assume the goal is to do better by taking advantage of the ocean conditions around modern Murmansk.

But, anyway, a land road is still an alternative and Kola Ostrog is predominantly a naval base not the main commercial port.

An ice free naval base certainly makes sense. Perhaps it could be supplied by sea from Archangelsk during the open season, rather than going through the expense of building a canal system.
Of course, but Archangelsk already exists, so I assume the goal is to do better by taking advantage of the ocean conditions around modern Murmansk.
Well, contrary to a popular perception, being ice free is not a solution of all problems: AFAIK, there can be were strong winds during the winter months. 😜

However, its forward position relative to Archangelsk provide some advantages in discovering and intercepting potential enemy (whoever it can be) or for sailing somewhere in the Western direction.

For example, following seemingly popular trend in the modern Russian alt-history, an emperor/empress may sent a couple ships with an order to destroy the British fleet, burn London to the ground and hung whoever is at that time the British PM (a standard package). You can’t deny that a route from Kola is shorter than from Archangelsk allowing the expedition, if it sails out early in the morning, to be back in time for the supper. 😂😂😂😂

An ice free naval base certainly makes sense. Perhaps it could be supplied by sea from Archangelsk during the open season, rather than going through the expense of building a canal system.
Ah, but we are still taking about alt-Peter who is not absolutely different from the real one. He loves canals and most of his OTL projects were either pure fantasies or immediate failure or proved to be failures with few years and had to be replaced with the new ones (like Ladoga canal which had to be replaced with a new one passing just few meters away from the old). This specific system is a relatively small potato because the digging stretches are relatively short and, taking into an account that communication by the existing canals was done by the small barges (depth of some of the canals was 1-1.5 meters) it is not unrealistic. So, for 5-6 months in a year the traffic can be by the ice, this is not a big deal. The problem is during the thawing and freezing months when the ice is unreliable.

There has to be some connection besides a naval route from Archangelsk because without it the port is dangerously isolated. The “tract” is also an option: it is not like we are talking about a modern highway. It is actually a dirt road which is maintained in a reasonably descent shape in the terms of bridges, mile marks, roadside inns, taverns and post stations along it. Intensive traffic contributed to the appearance of dwellings and settlements along the tract. Below is a painting of one of the most important trakts made in the late XIX.

So establishing one would not be either too expensive or too complicated task.
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Provide a waterway from the Kola Gulf to the Kandalaksha Gulf on the White Sea by connecting the Kola River through the set of the small lakes to the big Imantra Lake and from it down the Niva River to Kandalaksha Gulf. There would be a need to deepen the upper flow of the Kola river and then make the short canals connecting it to the lakes Kolozero, Permusozero and Imantra (with few small lakes in between).
Would the earlier extensive exploration of Kandalaksha Gulf lead to earlier discovery of silver there (IOTL in Elisabeth reign (1740ies))?
Would the earlier extensive exploration of Kandalaksha Gulf lead to earlier discovery of silver there (IOTL in Elisabeth reign (1740ies))?
I did not know about this but now, when you discovered it, why not? 😂

I was actually planning the earlier discoveries of the different things in a different area.
Digging starts
64. Digging starts
«…если не нам, то потомкам нашим зело полезен будет» [1]
Peter I

“- … just order your astronomers to discover one more planet.
But the planets can’t be discovered by an order…
- Really? I see that you are too lenient to your scientists. Don’t worry, I’ll order mine to discover one
V. Bakhnov “History of Ogogondia”

A big country may survive either being completely decentralized or being fully centralized”
A rather questionable, even if popular, view

Dig deeper, drop further”
Russian proverb in Google translation

Coal in Russia.
According to numerous sources, the Cossacks of Don found the "black stone" in the ravines and pits long before the Peter's time. It cannot be said to have been widely used in everyday life - in the old days, "steppe knights" heated furnaces with a dried dung and firewood, but in the Wild Field poor with the wood "burnant stone" was a real find. Especially in the newly emerging industry. In particular, in forges and Bakhmut saltworks.
It is rather hard to tell who brought the coal of Don (again) to Peter’s attention. By one version, Nikita Vepreysky, an official of the saltfields of the city of Bakhmut, and Captain Semyon Chirkov, found "stone" as an energy carrier for the needs of the local saltworks back in 1711 [2]. In their report to the emperor, they wrote that on the coal mined in the vicinity of Fox Bayrak (Лисий Байрак), Bakhmut craftsmen cook salt and make various forgings, and residents of nearby settlements use mineral to heat their homes.

Peter, who just finished the Ottoman War and was suffering from his never-ending legislative itch, issued Ukaz “About the search for coal and ores on the Don and Voronezh gubernia” which resulted in sending representative of the research department of Berg Collegium, Hrigory Kapustin, to the area for serious research. He returned with a very optimistic report (and not very good samples because he seemingly did not have any experience with the coal) so there was, for a while a paper war between Kapustin and scientific department of Berg Collegium regarding practicality of the discovery [3] with Kapustin playing one of the favorite Russian trump cards of the period: blaming the “foreigners” for not getting the right results. The finger-pointing took some time but then Peter got a report from Vepreysky that the his saltfields workers hit the jackpot: “Working people dug this coal in the mountain as fifteen fathoms are long, ten fathoms in the height..., this coal went deep into the mountain, and how deep it is, about it is unknown ..., above this coal - a great mountain in the height of the sazen [4] ten or more and it is impossible to dig this coal by such small people soon…”
This report attracted (again) Peter’s attention [5] and he decided to get practical. Unfortunately, there was an obstacle standing between his decision and its implementation: a complete absence of the coal mining specialists in the Russian Empire. When being informed about this problem, Peter made one more historic pronouncement: “you see a problem, I see a potential” [6] and ordered vice-admiral Thomas Gordon [7] (the Scots on the Russian service left quite a trace in many areas) to invite the Scottish miners: “We need urgently that you got from England or Scotland two skillful people who know how to find stone coal by the signs from above the ground.”


Production started in 1713 with very modest 100 puds (1.6 ton) in the first year but in the next year a mine in a new settlement near Fox Bayrak, Lisichanck, produced 13142 poods and 39 pounds of coal. During the first ten years of his work, he gave out 2.2 million poods of coal. This was a state-owned mine but its success triggered the private interest. The Cossacks of Don, who had the monopolistic rights both to the land of Don region and to all its mineral wealth, suddenly displayed a significant interest to the issues non-military and quite a few of their officers turned themselves into the mine-owners and industrialists.
A significant difference from “Demidov Empire” in Ural was that a considerable percentage of the mine workers were salaried labor: the Don area simply did not have enough serfs. In less than a decade the volume of the extracted coal (and earned money) grew to such a degree that it became simply impossible for the leadership of the Don Host to keep considering it as just a folly of few cossacks and they appealed to the Emperor asking for transfer the newly found huge coal deposits into the property of the Host. Special inspectors had been appointed to guarantee that the mine owners are not hiding their income and paid to the Host 2 kopeks from each extracted poud of anthracite. With the growing coal market leadership of the Host even opened few mines owned by the Host itself. By 1725 there were 47 mines which were producing 1.2M pouds annually bringing into the Host’s Treasury 24,000 rubles. With the Cossacks themselves not being too eager to work in the mines, the area saw a great influx of the workers from the neighboring Russian governorships. Quite a few of them had been the escaping serfs who preferred the hard conditions in the mines to their status. Principle “there is no extradition from the Don” was not officially abolished and, anyway, the government was too interested in coal production to enforce the extradition (just as in some other high priority industries).

What happens to the compass?
The Kursk Magnetic Anomaly (KMA) was first discovered in 1711 [8] by the Russian astronomer and academic Pyotr Inokhodtsev while preparing the maps of the General Land Survey(Russian: Генеральное межевание) at the behest of the Russian government. While determining the geographical location of the cities of the central part of European Russia, he found a strong anomaly of the field of terrestrial magnetism in the area of Belgorod and Kursk. An assumption had been made that the reason are huge deposits of the iron ore and the next year the iron was discovered. The first mine became operational in 1715 [9] and the ore was sent to the Lipetsk Iron Manufacture founded in 1703 for the needs of Voronezh Wharf . Taking into an account that the local forests had been already seriously depleted, it was ordered to start switching to the Don’s coal.

Then the Hell broke loose, especially when it was found that in some places you don’t even need a mine to get the ore, just blast the rock. There was no single Demodov-style empire, the government had been giving licenses to the numerous companies (and getting its …er… “fair share” from the production).

Being understandably inspired by all these discoveries, Peter decided that it will be a good idea to increase staff of the Berg Collegium by hiring, due to a shortage of the qualified Russians, the foreign specialists with a practical experience. Two Scots recommended by admiral Gordon proved to be very useful so he ordered his trade an diplomatic representatives abroad to look for all types of the specialists in mining and metallurgy and especially those experienced in finding the metals. One thing was clear: the relatively small enterprises had been easier to manipulate than a huge empire of Nikita Demidov who got used to the notion that he is controlling the iron market.

Table of Ranks and the Law of Unintended Consequences
With the economic development going on, international situation being under control and the structural administrative reform implemented, Peter decided that it is time to start digging deeper into the Russian system of administration. Of course, he already renamed prikazes into collegiums, introduced new names of the official positions in the army, navy, court and civic service, ordered all official paperwork to be conducted on a special paper but something fundamental was seemingly missing. And, after giving this subject a long [10] and hard though, he figured the missing part: this was a regulation defining who is equal to whom in the various branches of the state service, who is entitled to which addressing and what are the related perks. Defining these things was critically important for having a government working as a clock mechanism and, as a byproduct, this will kill whatever was left put of the pretenses of the old aristocracy, the members of which from now on are going to have meaning based exclusively on their position within the ranking system, aka their individual service to the throne and not merits of their ancestors [11]. From now on service in the military, in the civil service, and at the imperial court will be the basis of an aristocrat's standing in society.

Product of his thinking process, Table of Ranks, divided ranks in 14 grades, with all nobles regardless of birth or wealth (at least in theory) beginning at the bottom of the table and rising through their service (sluzhba) to the tsar. While all grades were open by merit (ha-ha), promotion required qualification for the next rank, and grades 1 through 5 required the personal approval of the tsar himself. Which meant that sooner rather than later there is going to be an educated class of the bureaucrats and if nobility is not eager enough to join it, the vacancies are going to be filled from elsewhere: achieving a certain level in the table automatically granted a certain level of nobility. A civil servant promoted to the 14th grade gained personal nobility (dvoryanstvo), and holding an office in the 8th grade endowed the office holder with hereditary nobility. Even the clergy got its place in the table with the the allowance for the special addressing.

Of course, the well-connected nobles and aristocrats immediately found a loophole and starting “placing” their sons into the service immediately after their birth so, starting as the rank soldiers, they’ll reach a non-com or a lower officer rank by the time they became teenagers: after all, absence of the faults in their “service” could be counted as a merit and there was also an understanding that promotion by a length of the service is also legitimate. But even this well-connected group represented a minority and the loophole was not allowing to jump immediately to the high rank of the service except for the extremely rare cases of a direct imperial interference. It was simpler with the court positions which much more depended upon the ruler’s personal whim but in the civic administration the loophole practically did not work because while a cornet or praporschik ignorant of his duties was OK (whatever was necessarily to know could be easily learned from an old non-com in a short time), a low level bureaucrat who is marginally literate and does not know the “system” is of no interest to anybody and, anyway, a landed nobility was not eager to put their children into such positions and the privileged openings like those in a diplomatic service had been limited.

So the law of unintended consequences was going to produce in a near future the results not quite identical to those expected by Peter. On one hand, the Table of Ranks was conductive to creating a class of the educated bureaucrats serving the state but OTOH soon enough this class became powerful and numerous enough to turn itself into the “state”. Of course, it was still up to a monarch to appoint the ministers and high-ranking civic officials and up to these officials to issue the orders , stomp their feet and shout at the subordinates. This was expected. What the top level of the appointees could not do is to control the paperwork which had been growing in a volume and complexity and in which any initiative inconvenient for the bureaucrats could be drowned either forever or for such a ling time that it was losing its meaning. How a former general appointed as a governor or a minister or a head of department could figure out the intricacies of a paper flow? He simply had to rely upon his professional subordinates to keep service running. As much later in OTL Nicholas I (Russian “last absolute monarch”) acknowledged, “Russian Empire is ruled by the head clerks” .

And one more consequence is that most of these “rulers of Russia” were not only not the aristocrats but not even the members of a hereditary or landed nobility. Pretty much the same process was going on in the military: members of the landed nobility and aristocracy (except those with the powerful connections) tended to serve a prescribed minimum and then go to their estates leaving the space for those who had nowhere else to go and to succeed by his service. More and more officers, even in the high positions, had been from the landless low nobility or even getting their personal nobility by the merits of their service. Of course, many of those reaching the high ranks had been getting the lands (and the serfs) as an award for their service but how many officers made it to the general’s rank?

Gradually but steadily the nobility (as a class of the land owners) had been losing its positions within the empire while the bureaucratic machine kept growing in size and complexity….

Well, this was not going to happen overnight and in a meantime Peter could keep himself busy inventing uniforms for the the officials ofvvarious Collegiums: surely, their place of service and rank must be recognizable on sight…. This was one of these things the clockworks states are being built upon. And, not to be forgotten, uniforms those in the court service were a special case…

[1] “ It [coal] will be useful if not to us then to our descendants" A “historic sentence” presumably uttered by Peter I in 1696 when during the Azov campaign he was presented with a piece of coal and explained that it produces a high temperature when burns. Rather typically, after making this statement Peter happily forgot about that issue for more than a decade.
[2] In OTL in 1721 with the whole sequence of the discovery-related event moving a decade ahead of the schedule and the mining almost two centuries.
[3] War between the departments, what’s new?
[4] Sazen (сажень) = 2.16 meters
[5] No new “historic statement” recorded this time
[6] Actually, it was said by Vincent ‘Vinnie’ Antonelli in “My blue heaven” but Peter could say it much earlier. 😜
[7] Also ahead of the schedule.
[8] See [7]
[9] In OTL, due to much more developed science and considerable advances in geology, this process took decades of the through investigations, scientific research, presentations in the Geographic Society and many other absolutely necessary activities. In the early XVIII the people were pretty much like “the cat which walked through the walls”: they simply did not know that the things must not be done without a proper scientific backup and, to start with, did not have enough scientists to arrange for a proper process. 😜
[10] Applicable to Peter, this means “more than 15 minutes”
[11] Of course, as often happens with the great people, Peter, in his pursuit of a perfect clockwork state was suffering from a certain naiveté in the area of a human nature and as similar trifles. Still, as the later history demonstrated, the plan was surprisingly successful in a long run.
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[2] Now, this was a very heavy artillery. Dmitriev-Mamonov was a husband of Tsarevna Praskovia Ioannovna (daughter of Ivan V and Peter’s niece) and he himself was a major of the Life-Guards and commander of Semionovsky Regiment.
By the way, what was the fate of Anna? Her marriage to Courland TTL is not of the same profit as OTL, except for proxy ties to further entangle Prussia into Baltic mafia (by virtue of marriages, the Kettlers were almost de-facto cadet branch of Hohenzollerns).
And isn't it a bit too early for Dmitriev-Mamonov to marry Praskovia (IOTL it's around 1717-1719) but if we're racing ahead of schedule...
By the way, what was the fate of Anna? Her marriage to Courland TTL is not of the same profit as OTL, except for proxy ties to further entangle Prussia into Baltic mafia (by virtue of marriages, the Kettlers were almost de-facto cadet branch of Hohenzollerns).
And isn't it a bit too early for Dmitriev-Mamonov to marry Praskovia (IOTL it's around 1717-1719) but if we're racing ahead of schedule...
Did not have time for Anne, yet: she is not a big deal. Maybe the Duke of Mecklenburg.
I did not say that D-M is already married, just that he is a VIP. Have no idea when exactly he got lucky and, again, he appeared just to disappear.
65. Commerce….

Credit - engine of trade”

“Is a separate hell boiler designed specifically for me considered my private property, and can I get a loan secured by this boiler?”

Reasonable question

“- Hello, I would like to take alcohol on credit. - Judging by the complexion, you have a good credit history.

The doctor gets acquainted with the results of the tests. Patient: - Well, doctor? - You can take out a loan. - I have no means to repay it. - And you won't have to.”

Money and how to get them
For quite a while Peter tended to solve most of his problems by concentrating as many resources as he could in government’s hands: strict fiscal policy, increased state taxes and mandatory labor, forced private investments into the state projects, etc. But when the LNW and Ottoman War had been over it became increasingly obvious that these methods tend to kill rather than encourage the private initiative. And it also became obvious that the private commerce can’t function without the money: the Russian “entrepreneurs”, even united into the companies, did not have enough cash. And, due to the shortage of a capital, the Russian merchants were extremely reluctant to get engaged into anything besides purely local trade with a low risk and fast return. The first call came when, after the peace with the Ottomans, there was an attempt to create a company for fur trading on their territory. The idea was proposed by few foreign merchants and sponsored by the government but found zero traction among the Russians who kept inventing all types of the reasons for not joining arguing that the Greek and Armenian Ottoman subjects trading on the Russian territory are too well-established for the Russians to be competitive on their soil, that the furs are going to be destroyed by a sea travel (but seemingly the Greeks and Armenians had a magic word 😂), etc. all the way to finally acknowledging that they do not have immediately available capital and can’t borrow at a reasonable rate.

So the obvious question was how to provide credits for the private trade and manufacturing businesses. So far, the government had been addressing the issue by a practice of doing individual crediting for the selected winners [1] either pointed out by Peter personally or approved by the Senate based upon application from the Commerce and Manufacture Collegium. After it was split in two separate entities, the Berg Collegium got a separate right to credit (with the Senate approval) the commercial enterprises. The government’s credits had been of 3 types: (1) completely free (gifts), (2) with a zero percent but for a certain period, (3) to be returned with the interest. The debt could be covered by cash and/or goods. The credits could be given to the individuals and the companies but the first two types were usually available only to those whom Peter knew personally [2]. Another category of the receivers were those who had been getting already failed state-owned enterprises. Size of a typical loan varied between 5,000 and 45,000 rubles.

An alternative was to use the usurers who usually were, as “the first job”, merchants or manufacturers. This source of a credit was much more available for the lower level consumers, from the nobles and all the way down to the peasant, but mostly had been used for the non-commercial purposes like paying off the debts, buying the necessities, etc. In other words, this was not a commercial credit used for the business purposes.

Private commercial credit, of course, existed but mostly in a form of the merchants lending capital to another merchants on the conditions which depended upon the individual prestige and a character of operation. The loan itself could be either in cash or in the merchandise and quite often involved a high interest either in a form directly included in a borrowed sum [4]. Or return of a loan included a certain percentage of the expected profit. The lender’s interest was in a range of 10-12% annually for the long-term loans and for the short-term ones 4-5% monthly. Taking into an account that an average profit from the trade operations was 12-15%, it is easy to figure out that interest on the loans was consuming most of it. These transactions had been official documents registered in the special offices subordinated to the Justice Collegium and located in all major trading cities.

Traditionally, the credit required some guarantors or a property as a collateral but by the early 1700s it was gradually replaced by the western-style letters of exchange (“вексель”). The foreign merchants, quite understandably, had been a part of this framework. In 1704 in Moscow 55 foreign merchants provided the Russian merchants with 107 loans totaling 58,632 rubles while 366 Russian merchants gave 805 loans totaling 79,277 rubles.

Russian laws had been producing an extra confusion. The foreign merchants had been mostly interested in the raw materials and their supply was a seasonal issue. A simple pre-paid contract was forbidden so the money had been “lended” in the end of a year and the goods purchased during the winter months and transported using the cheapest way of transportation, the sledges, to the port cities allowing to “pay off the debt” by summer.

Russian specifics was that the creditors belonged to all social groups including the top level figures like Menshikov or Makarov, President of the Commerce Collegium.

Of course, this system could not substitute the real commercial institutions and the first attempt to create a western-style bank had been made in mid-XVII in Pskov by Ordyn-Naschokin (after which he was speedily transferred to Moscow and assigned to the diplomatic service). Peter’s first approach to the problem was to create “Monetary Office” which had a right to loan money at 8% annually with the jewels as a collateral. Then collateral types were expanded to include the land property (within 2 decades over 100,000 noble estates had been used as the
This obviously did not work for the commercial purposes so in 1715 two first state-owned banks had been opened in Moscow:
  • Nobility Bank- initial capital 750,000 rubles. Provided loans in the range of 500 - 10,000 rubles at 6% annual for 1-3 years (later extended first to 4 and then 8 years lowering rate down to 4%).​
  • Merchant Bank - initial capital 500,000 rubles was lending money for 6 months - 1 year at 6% annually.​
The problem for both these banks was that the debtors, especially the high-ranking ones, simply were not repaying their loans. In 3 decades they will be closed and replaced with the new one, State Commercial Bank, with the branches in 12 cities and strict guarantees regarding return of the lended money.

The first private commercial bank was open in 1717 [5] and number of various forms of the private credit institutions kept growing.

Trade goes South

Peace of Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca provided the Russian merchants with the same right of trade within the Ottoman Empire as those of their Western counterparts. Now, the problem was to figure out what this trade should involve and how to conduct it because the Russians did not have any merchant fleet on the Black Sea and zero experience in commercial dealings with the Ottomans. The traditional trade was conducted by the Greek and Armenian Ottoman subjects who had been selling and purchasing the goods on Russian territory and the Russian merchants got used to this framework and rather reluctant to take risks related to the naval trade.

The good news were that, together with the Crimea Russia “inherited” quite a few Greek and Armenian merchants who now became the happy Russian subjects. More of those immigrated into Russia using conditions of the treaty. These people owned ships (which now could sail under the Russian flag), knew the markets and had necessary connections.



In 1715, goods worth 337 thousand rubles in silver were imported to Istanbul and Rumelia, and 190 thousand rubles in silver to the southern ports of Russia. In 1718, goods worth 1,532 thousand rubles were exported from the southern ports of Russia to the same destinations and imported for 1,517 thousand rubles. The total income from customs duties collected on the territory of Novorossiysk Krai only in 1718 amounted to 95,616 rubles. Over time, the positive balance for Russia in trade with Turkey kept increasing.

The main items of Russian exports to the Ottoman possessions were industrial products: "iron in business", copper boards, wire, steel, cast iron, boilers, anchors, nails, saws, axes, horseshoes, etc. Iron and iron products accounted for a third to a quarter of the value of all Russian exports to Turkey.

The second important export article remained wheat. Russia exported an average of 180 thousand quarters of wheat to Istanbul, Soloniks, Smyrna (with a total export of 403 thousand quarters per year). Purchases of Russian bread were under the control of the maritime and customs departments of the Port and were encouraged to eliminate food difficulties in the Ottoman capital and other cities.

The Ottoman exports included horses, cattle, pigs, leather, wool, wine, tobacco, olive oil, raisins, almonds, dates, ink nuts, honey, wax, raw and spinned silk, silk and cotton materials, carpets, Turkish saffianos, kermes, frankincense, opium, saffron, bay leaf. A significant part of Turkish exports consisted of re-export goods from India, Iran, and some Arab possessions.

The Russian authorities encouraged the construction of a merchant fleet on the Black Sea. The consequence of this was a gradual increase in the number of vessels under the Russian flag (from 12-14% in 1715 to 31-32% in 1720 , and then the number of Russian merchant ships had exceeded the number of Turkish ones). At the end of the XVIII century, more than 550 ships provided Russian-Turkish trade. Teams of Russian merchant ships in the south were most often recruited from among Orthodox subjects of the Sultan, as well as from among immigrants (mainly Greeks) who settled in Russia after the Russian-Turkish war.

Rather surprisingly, the most pissed off side were the French.


Of course, France was successfully bypassing the Brits and the Dutch as the main Ottoman trade partner but nomenclature of its exports and imports had very little in common with the Russian-Ottoman trade. The French had been mostly importing the raw materials for its textile industry and exporting woolens, silk and the luxury items. So the logic behind the hostility was probably mostly along the lines “this is our backyard”. The only …er… mitigating factor was obvious Russian coldness toward the Hapsburgs. This consideration helped to maintain with the French ambassador, Jean Louis d'Usson, Marquis de Bonnac, reasonably neutral and sometimes even relatively good relations [6] instead of the openly hostile ones. Which proved to be quite handy when the former ships of the Baltic fleet appeared at the Straits with the intention to sail to their new Black Sea base.

[1] Who usually had the right connections.
[2] I wonder what types of the credits Menshikov, Shafirov and Co had been getting for the numerous companies these had been starting… Any guesses? 😉
[3] Probably a subset of the first category.
[4] In a loan document a sum “officially lended” actually included the interest, to avoid usury-related restrictions. So the debtor was actually getting “officially lended” amount minus intended interest.
[5] 100 years ahead of the OTL schedule. 😜
[6] Depending upon how bad were the Russian-Hapsburg relations at any specific moment.
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The Ottoman exports included horses, cattle, pigs, leather, wool, wine, tobacco, olive oil, raisins, almonds, dates, ink nuts, honey, wax, raw and spinned silk, silk and cotton materials, carpets, Turkish saffianos, kermes, frankincense, opium, saffron, bay leaf.
*LifeofBoris intensifies*
66. Problems…

A moron or a scoundrel? Find out”
Nicholas I
I’m employing the well-paid specialists who … can get proof of anything… “
A & B Strugatsky
We don’t need those who are clever, we need those who are loyal”
A & B Strugatsky​

The Treaty of Lubeck was the last major diplomatic coup of Prince Vasily Golitsyn. In 1715 he died at the age of 72. This death created a huge problem. As a head of the Collegium of the Foreign Affairs he was also Chancellor of the Russian Empire [1] and his vice-Chancellor and now successor was Gavriil Golovkin, a person of extremely mediocre mental capacities and even lesser competence in anything but the court intrigues appointed to this position because of the family relations (was linked to Naryshkin family) and personal loyalty to Peter [2]. He could do what he was told and with a passage of years learned some routine but it was just that and nothing more except that with an elevation into the top position of the imperial administration he, rather unfortunately, became ambitious well beyond his abilities and imagined himself to be a true driving force of the Russian foreign policy.


On the top of everything else, he was in a permanent conflict with, now promoted to vice-Chancelor, Peter Shafirov,

and with another leading figure of the Russian diplomacy (and not only), Peter Tolstoy, who in 1714 had been made a senator.

Small wonder that immediately after promotion Golovkin started looking for a competent backup and found it in a person of Andrew Osterman, who was already became noticed after successful implementation of some diplomatic missions. Osterman was a really interesting and dangerous figure. On one hand, unlike many of his colleagues, he was a workaholic with a good memory for the details which allowed him to be very useful to his boss and projected (not without a reason) image of a very competent person. However, this had been balanced by an extremely mediocre (except in the area of intrigues) brain incapable of generating any original (and productive) ideas [3] and extremely high self-assessment.

The first issue which Golovkin was facing as a Chancellor had been Pragmatic Sanction of the Emperor Charles VI who wanted Russia to join the list of its guarantors. So far Peter’s (and Golitsyn’s) position was that Russia can make a non-comital agreement providing in exchange for acknowledgement of Peter’s imperial title and certain provisions regarding Prussia, Mecklenburg and the Polish succession. Golovkin, being too lazy and too incompetent, trusted his protege, Osterman, with writing a detailed opinion on the subject hinting that a closer alliance with the Hapsburgs could be beneficial for Russia [4].

“Caesar is able, most probably, to keep all other powers from attacking Russia... And Russia, in addition to the general benefit described above, there will also be this particulation that Caesar, … as the Chief Justice of the Empire will be helpful in Mecklenburg’s affairs. There is little danger from such an alliance, because there will be no war from France for such an alliance, but moreover, seeing Russia in good harmony with Caesar, France will be looking for Russian friendship even more. England in a long or short time has to return from its close obligations with France on its natural interests to Caesar of Rome. The King of Prussia will be forced to hold the Russian friendship. Sweden wants this alliance with Caesar itself. Poland is not only be kept from any nasty things, but … is going to be in a full agreement with Russia.” [5]

A future alliance was seen along the following lines [6]:
  • Friendship and harmony of monarchs and their heirs;
  • An alliance agreement is concluded for 30 years, the parties are not going to attack anyone, but help each other in case of aggression against one of the parties;
  • When attacking one of the parties, an ally tries to solve the matter by peace within 4 months, and if this fails, exposes 15-20,000 people (1/3 of whom is cavalry). The body can be increased to 30,000 people if desired;
  • Assistance is provided until the end of the war; troops are held with the money of the one who sent them and have their own artillery: the party to whom assistance is provided provides troops with food, fodder and apartments
To say that Peter was not quite happy with these proposal would be an understatement and when he found out that Golovkin (or rather Osterman by his order) had preliminary discussion with the imperial ambassador he was definitely opposite to happy because not only the Chancellor was trying to conduct a foreign policy over his head but that policy was going contrary to his current one. It would link Russia to Hapsburgs’ European troubles including a very likely war against the Ottomans with whom Russia just made a profitable peace, it would put Russia under obligation not to attack anyone for at least 30 years (not that Peter presently had any definite plans as of now, but nonetheless, and does “anyone” also include someone in Asia? ). Presently, it did not look like Russia needed any military help from Austria so why would it want to provide a military help to it at its own expense?

Osterman’s discussion regarding the Emperor’s potential usefulness looked, in Peter’s opinion, humiliating for Russia: Sweden and Prussia already had been Russian allies and if Prussia was planning any surprises in the future (which would be extremely unlikely after the BFW), it was already demonstrated how this is going to end. Sweden, as far as Peter knew, just wanted normal relations with the HRE without any binding alliances. The Mecklenburg’s imperial execution was a silly escapade of Charles VI because nobody was going to enforce it and the Duke’s subjects already understood all wrongfulness of their ways. Poland as a source of the “nasty things”? Did you fell from the Moon? Britain may ally itself with whoever it wants: it is going to remain the greatest customer of the Russian and Swedish goods and surely does not look for a war with any member if the Baltic Mafia. France is not going to be at war with Russia with or without Austrian alliance simply because it is too far away. So the whole schema assumes that the Russian Empire is somehow inferior militarily and politically and can’t survive without Austrian protection… Which part of his anatomy was Golovking using for thinking????? [7]

Of course, Golovkin immediately passed the buck blaming everything on his subordinate. Peter recommended Osterman to the attention of Preobrazensky Prikaz recently renamed, to sound “civilized”, into Secret Chancellery and after producing confession in all imaginable sins [8] Osterman was …. made a governor of Orenburg gubernia [9] . Which left Peter with a need to figure out what to do with Golovkin: unlike outsider Osterman, he was a member of the inner circle and a proven loyalist and doing something too drastic to him over a single (if a very serious) lapse would be excessive. In this specific case a simple solution would be, instead of removing person from the chair, remove the chair from under him. Ukaz on that subject was saying:

It came to our attention that the present position of the Chancellor makes Collegium of the Foreign Affairs a supreme one over all other collegiums but the Chancellor, being too busy with the foreign affairs, is neglecting his duties of a general oversight of those collegiums. To remedy the problem, we remove Collegium of the Foreign Affairs from the Chancellor’s jurisdiction leaving to him oversight of all collegiums dealing with the domestic affairs and presidency of the Senate. Collegium of the Foreign Affairs, Military Collegium and Admiralty Collegium from now on are being responsible directly to the Emperor. “

All these developments left Peter with the obvious question: who should be a new head of the Russian foreign policy?

Based upon the seniority (position of vice-chancellor) and diplomatic experience the first candidate had to be Shafirov but there were couple big “but’s”:
1. Peter made him a baron in 1710 but he could not provide him with an aristocratic pedigree, which was important for the head of the Foreign Ministry: regardless his position of the vice-chancellor, the foreign ambassadors did not consider him as their socially equal. Not that Peter himself was fully indifferent to these issues. Shafirov was going to remain second-in-command.
2. As a member of the Menshikov clique he was known as one of the biggest swindlers in Russia and by that time Peter began to get tired of the habits of his favorite and of his never-ending attempts to grab more power than Peter saw fit. Making his client a head of the Russian diplomacy could be considered as Menshikov’s further promotion and make him even less controllable.

Peter Tolstoy had a reasonably aristocratic pedigree (even if not from the top level), was an experienced diplomat, had been demonstrably intelligent and lacked the unnecessary scruples.

1. He also was too closely associated with Menshikov and his “affairs”
2. Most of his diplomatic experience was with the Ottomans and for the Western affairs he may not be subtle enough.
3. Peter had different plans for him. “Prince-Caesar” Fyodor Romodanovsky was in his seventies and his health was noticeably failing and Tolstoy looked as a good replacement for what was now called Secret Chancellory. Of course, this appointment may not happen immediately but Tolstoy understood its importance (and related power) and was willing to wait.

So the suitable choice was Prince Vasily Lukich Dolgoruki. Reasonably young (in his forties), well-educated, widely travelled (France, Poland, Denmark), already with a considerable diplomatic experience (last appointment - ambassador in Denmark), private councilor and a member of the top Russian aristocracy. For the domestic purposes made sense in maintaining a balance between the two top aristocratic families, Golitsyns and Dolgoruki [10].


Later, the Spanish ambassador in Russia, James Francis (Jacobo Francisco) Fitz-James Stuart, 2nd Duke of Berwick, 2nd Duke of Liria and Xérica, will describe him as following:
He spoke many languages very well and it was pleasant to spend time talking to him, but together with this he loved bribes very much, had neither honor nor conscience and was able to do anything out of self-interest.” (well, except for the linguistic skills and ability to maintain a pleasant conversation, this could be said about most of Peter’s entourage 😉).

However, he understood well Peter’s political system and stuck to it.
[1] This was one of the byproducts of Peter’s rather superficial copying of the Swedish administrative structure. Formally, Chancellor was a highest administrative position of the Russian Empire, which was supposed to mean a head of all branches of the civic administration but in its practical application meant predominant concentration upon the foreign affairs. Which would make position of a President of the Collegium of the Foreign Affairs meaningless so, to solve this problem, Peter combined two positions instead of making Chancellor something of a Prime Minister responsible for oversight of all collegiums.
[2] Following the old wisdom “trust but control”, Peter wanted a loyalist as Golitsyn’s deputy. Initially, the purpose was to make sure that Prince Vasily really abandoned his old loyalties and then it would be simply awkward to remove Golovkin from his position without an obvious fault: a person who does nothing rarely makes mistakes.
[3] In OTL he grasped an idea of the Austrian alliance and stuck to it disregarding all obvious problems and disadvantages of this affiliations. On the domestic issues he was seemingly incapable of producing anything beyond the generalities and navigated his way by “getting sick” during each and every domestic crisis. To be fair, he was seemingly instrumental in a better organization of the Russian navy and was not corrupt.
[4] Benefit for Russia were a vague notion but, taking into an account that at this time a title of the count or prince was usually (not always, Sheremetev already was the Russian count) received from the HRE on Peter’s application, he could expect some personal benefits. 😉
[5] From Osterman’s real document (slightly modified to fit this TL)
[6] OTL Alliance of Vienna, 1726
[7] The “Great naval zagib”, which followed is not reproduced by two reasons: (a) it can’t be adequately translated into English and (b) even if such a translation was possible, I have no desire to be banned for publishing unbelievably rude obscenities. Let’s just put it this way: “Peter demonstrated extreme irritation with his usual eloquence.” This would be fitting for his imperial dignity. 😜
[8] Prince Romodanovsky had true professionals on his employ.
[9] The capable people had been too rare to be executed just for the bad judgement.
[10] Michael Golitsyn, promoted to the fieldmarshal after the BFW, was considered the second top figure in the army after Sheremetev and his potential successor as a top military commander in the case of war and as a President of the Military Collegium (this was a predominantly administrative position in which he may or may not be interested).
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A future alliance was seen along the following
[6] OTL Alliance of Vienna, 1726

Now i understand distaste for alliance with Austria beside otl events. It basically takes Russia, country at periphery of European politics at the time and puts it prematurely in conflict with multiple great and rising European powers while constraining it's own ambition, add to this everything Russia achieved in this TL and it makes even less sense.