73. Dispensing Indispensable
“There are no irreplaceable ones, but there are unique ones.”
“And the irreplaceable ones were replaced. And the unique ones were surpassed.”
“There are useful people, but there are no necessary ones”
“There are no irreplaceable people; in politics, as in other activities, habit and skill do most of the work”
Marquis Louis-Antoine Caraccioli
Just Juel (admittedly, not the most trustworthy source) wrote about Menshikov: “In fact, Menshikov is the most arrogant person imaginable, he maintains a large court, has countless wealth and large wide outstretched estates, … despises everyone and enjoys the greatest favor of his sovereign. His level of mind is very mediocre and in any case does not correspond to the many important positions entrusted to him. Menshikov speaks decent German, so it is easy to understand him, and he himself understands what he is told, but he can neither read nor write a letter, he can sign his name but in a way, which no one is able to disassemble if he does not know what it is in advanc
Talented and energetic, Alexander Menshikov did not stop at anything to meet the needs that arose as a result of Peter’s activities; his quick, decisive actions were quite consistent with the boiling energy of the Tsar; deprived of any, even elementary education (he could barely sign his name), he made up for this deficiency with natural ingenuity. For these talents Peter valued him very high and showered with all types of the awards. Menshikov become on of the richest people in Russia (probably, the richest), had all Russian state awards and a number of the foreign ones. Was elevated to the rank of a full general regardless rather questionable performance during the Ottoman War and became a governor-general of Moscow.
However, Meshnikov was driven not so much by the clear understanding of the principles motivating the Tsar, but rather by his own selfish motives, and these latter gave his whole figure a special color. Unprecedentedly enriched by Peter, he became a virtuoso of theft. Peter reprimanded his favorite, beat him with a cane, threatened, and everything was in vain. Alexander Menshikov surrounded himself with a gang of official predators who enriched themselves and their patron at the expense of the treasury. Of these, Moscow Vice-Governor Korsakov and two senators, Prince Volkonsky and Opukhtin, were publicly carved with a whip. Menshikov was saved from the massacre by Peter's long-standing friendship. Governor-general of Siberia, Prince Gagarin ended up being hanged but Menshikov, whom he kept in the bribes of all types, got away untouched.
In 1714 Menshikov became one of the defendants in the case of abuses under various contracts and was fined about one and a half million rubles. In 1717, the so-called “Pochep case” began, related to Menshikov's accusation of illegally seizing estates of the Polish nobility and his Russian neighbors, and turning Ukrainian Cossacks into the serfs, which became the subject of proceedings in the Senate and special commissions and undermined his trust from the tsar. Peter I deprived him of several estates, tobacco monopoly, and imposed a fine but still left him in his position of Governor-general of the capital and tended to overlook the enormous expenses of Moscow’s “upgrading”: while managing to pave only 1.000 meters of the Moscow River embankment, Menshikov found time and money to build his own summer palace in Oranienbaum, near Peter’s summer residence in Peterhof.
Probably things could keep going this way “forever” because Peter valued Menshikov’s ability to act on implementation of Tsar’s wishes instead of procrastinating, waiting for the decrees and attempts to avoid the individual responsibility, which were modus operandi of most of his subordinates. That, an unquestionable ability to be entertaining, kept saving Menshikov for years. But a feeling that he is above the law was gradually making its impact and he started loosing a touch with a reality.
The first, seemingly insignificant, case was his attempt to replace Sheremetev as a head of the Military Collegium. He was arguing that the fieldmarshal is getting old and it should be difficult for him to perform all administrative duties related to this position. This did not work out because, besides having a deep respect to his fieldmarshal, Peter did not see any reason to complain about the Collegium’s operations (and, while there were no doubts regarding personal honesty of Sheremetev and his deputy, general Veyde, Peter had a serious suspicion that Menshikov would try to convert this Collegium into one more cash cow). Neither did Peter acquiescent to Menshikov’s pleas to make him a fieldmarshal: such a promotion would be undeserved and definitely offensive to more prominent generals starting with Michael Golitsyn.
However, the squabble with the Young Court was a completely different kettle of fish because, besides the domestic implications, it could produce a completely undesirable international impact and, in the worst case scenario, destroy the whole Baltic System on which Peter worked so hard. Of course, Menshikov was ordered to behave appropriately but his good behavior did not stretch to controlling his private conversations and, in his capacity of governor-general he was not above the pinpricks creating the minor problems with the supplies for the Young Court. Not always serious enough for the Cesarevna Elena to complain to Peter but still annoying and she did not like to be annoyed. There was no need to go directly to Peter when the issues could be brought up in a friendly chat with Empress Maria who would pass information to her husband with some comments of her own. As the old wisdom says, “the hen pecks grain by grain - the whole yard is in chicken manure”.
Then there were problems with the fulfilling requests from the State Control Collegium and Justice Collegium (of which Alexey had oversight): minor abuses of their staff, supply problems, access to the guarded documentation, etc. Each accident was blamed upon the stupid or excessively zealous subordinates and resolved but all this meant waste of the time and effort.
Then came serious things.
Of course, Sheremetev used to be friendly with Menshikov but when governor-general started making his own rules and regulation for the garrison of Moscow bypassing the Military Collegium and ignored request for explanation, this had
to be reported to the Emperor and Peter was not amused. Menshikov was severely rebuked and warned that he may lose his position if he continues to behave this way. There was an usual scene of repentance, blaming of everybody else for the misunderstanding and assurance that this was done only out if the eagerness to serve. Peter even issued an order to the Collegium to review the new practices and adopts the useful ones. However, Menshikov’s attempt to use the whole episode for a new attempt to get an appointment as a President of the Military Collegium had been severely rebuked with an unambiguous explanation that he is not on the list of possible candidates. But Peter took notice of the fact that Menshikov is trying to promote his own popularity among the garrison and especially among the Guards
. Of course, this could be Menshikov’s usual modus operandi and a sincere attempt to make some improvements but OTOH this also could be something much more sinister than his usual insubordination and excessive eagerness.
The second option got a serious traction when a new head of the Secret Chancellery, Peter Tolstoy, reported Menshikov’s drunken statement regarding the Guards. Added to the recent “misunderstanding” with the Military Collegium, this started looking much closer to some kind of a conspiracy and the routine drinking parties in Menshikov’s residence could be not only
about drinking .
All these complaints coming in parallel with the ongoing “Pochep case” investigation, report from the Collegium of Foreign Affairs that the tensions between the Young Court and Menshikov are known to Charles XII and circulating rumors that Menshikov laid his hands upon some stuff from the Kremlin Armory  made Menshikov’s situation quite bad. What made it hopeless was Peter’s changed attitude to the imperial administration. Of course, during the first years of his rule he need to break many things and to do even more things from the scratch. For this stage he needed people with the initiative who could achieve the needed results disregarding the cost. Now this stage was over and he needed the people capable and willing to operate within the system
that he created, following the rules and laws and counting money
. Menshikov with his insatiable greed and inability to follow the rules became not just a bad example, he became a liability domestically and even internationally.
However, Peter still had a lot of warm feelings toward him and was unwilling to disregard his important services of the past. The official (and only) newspaper, «Московские Ведомости» informed the public that, due to the ill health, governor-general of Moscow, Prince Aleksander Danilovich Menshikov, general of cavalry and cavalier, asked to be relieved of his duties and, after receiving permission, left Moscow and goes to his estate in Baturin. It was not
reported that Menshikov had to return to the Treasury 500,000 rubles. However, his palaces and estates were not confiscated and there were no other usual byproducts of the disfavor. He was just removed from power.
Now, Peter had to find a suitable figure for a new governor-general. A person has to be aristocratic, rich enough not to be easily corruptible, obedient and competent enough to execute Peter’s orders and not suffering from having his own ideas. The lucky candidate was Prince Ivan Yurievich Trubetskoy, the last Russian boyarin.
Aristocratic, rich, married to Naryshkina (but also connected to the other branch of the family), spent few years in Sweden as an ambassador . “Prince Trubetskoy was [the largest brute ; no one respected him; ignorant in military art,] very simple and vain, however, a kind man; he stuttered.” A reasonably good guarantee for an absence of the surprises and presentable behavior.
 This may look like a paranoia but Peter was
paranoid. During his reign the the people had been executed based upon seemingly crazy accusations. In 1697 Tsykler and two other noblemen had been quartered (IIRC after being broken on a wheel) because two Tsykler’s subordinates reported that he wanted to set on fire the house in which Peter resided. Not to forget the whole “Alexey’s conspiracy”: a circle of the “conspirators” included even a person who simply borrowed him some money.
 Peter Tolstoy was a subtle person and under him Secret Chancellery was not limiting its activities to just looking for the existing conspiracies.
 In OTL after being captured at Narva. While being there (with his wife) was accepted at the Swedish court and managed to get a bastard son from baroness von Wrede whom he recognized under surname “Betskoy”.