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Scottish Influence in Russian History
Chapter I


THE FIRST SCOT IN RUSSIA. SCOTS IN POLAND. THE ENGLISH ‘SOCIETY FOR THE DISCOVERY OF UNKNOWN LANDS’ COME TO RUSSIA. THE EMBASSIES OF IVAN THE TERRIBLE TO ENGLAND, AND HIS DESIRES. THE POLICY OF HIS SUCCESSORS.

He would be a bold man who would state who was the first Scot who went to Russia. The statement, however, has been ventured on by Dr. J. Hamel in his book England and Russia, [Translated into English by John Studdy Leigh, F.R.G.S., in 1854. It is very difficult to follow, but still remains the best book on the subject.] and he says that ‘Master David,’ a Scot, Herald to the King of Denmark, was envoy from his master, King John, to the Grand Prince Vassili Ivanovitch, of Muscovy, in 1495. His name is commonly given as ‘Geraldus,’ the russification of his office of ‘Herald,’ but it seems to have been Kocken, Kocker, or perhaps Cock. He was probably sent to Russia with the Danish embassy in 1492, to induce the Grand Prince to seize Sweden and its dependency, Finland, in return for which the King of Denmark promised to assist Russia against Lithuania, and he returned thither the next year. He again returned in 1505 with a letter addressed to the Grand Prince, but found that the Prince had died in October; so he either remained, or was forced to remain until 1507, when new envoys had reached the new Grand Prince from Denmark, and returned with them. He seems to have been a man of mark and a trusty messenger, and he is mentioned in the letter of alliance sent by the new Tsar, Ivan Vassilievitch, to ‘our brother John, King of Dacia (Denmark?) Sweden and Norway’ dated at Moscow.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Scottish merchants spread in hordes all over Prussia and Poland [A book on ‘Scots in Poland,’ edited by Miss Beatrice Basker-ville, is promised by the Scottish History Society.] as traders, but few as yet seem, unless by chance, to have gone further East.

In the reign of Ivan Vassilievitch the English spirit of adventure which had formed ‘The Society for the Discovery of Unknown Lands’ first thought of Russia as a field for exploration. A Russian Company was formed (it employed many people with curiously Scottish-sounding names like Logan, Gordon, Brighouse, etc.) which traded at Rose Island, Kholmogory on the White Sea, and later had an ‘English house’ in the Varvarka at Moscow; but the real settlement of the Scots in Russia, which was involuntary, and yet left a great mark on the history of Russia, was quite distinct from this body.

Ivan the Terrible had some definite idea that the way Russia had been cut off from the rest of Europe by the Tartar invasion and long subjugation had done harm. No Russian till his father’s time (the Danish embassy) had been allowed to leave Russia, and it was only fear of internecine war that made him seek that friendship with England that is so curious in history. One of his ambassadors was wrecked on the coast of Scotland, Ossip Gregorievitch Nepeja, who with a suite of sixteen persons had been sent in 1556 as envoy to Philip and Mary in the ‘Edward Bonaventure.’ It was near Pitsligo Bay the wreck took place, and all the Tsar's presents were lost, with the English captain, Richard Chancellor, his son and seven Russians of the ambassador’s suite. Robert Best, interpreter to the embassy, escaped with the ambassador. The unfortunate refugees left Edinburgh, whither they had had a ‘Talmatsch’' (tolmach) or ‘speachman’ (i.e. interpreter) sent to them from London, on 14th February, 1557, with but a few trifles saved from their wreck, to begin their embassy so long hindered. This embassy was followed by others to Queen Elizabeth, who sent Randolph, Jenkinson, and Daniel Silvester to Russia; and by his ambassadors, Pissemski and Andrei Gregorievitch Savin, while he granted privileges to the English, the Tsar showed two curious definite desires. First, in the event of his long-suffering subjects putting an end to his reign, that he wished a safe residence in England; and, secondly, that he wished for an English wife, the Queen if possible, and afterwards (though he had just married his seventh wife, Maria Feodorovna Nagoi) the Queen’s kinswoman, Lady Mary Hastings, as his bride.[This appears to have been suggested to the Tsar by his physician, Dr. Bomel (educated at Cambridge), whom he so cruelly put to death. The idea was again suggested by one Aegidius Crow.]

Queen Elizabeth, as her habit was, promised much but did little. To the Tsar’s remonstrance about the ‘bad conduct’ of her subjects, she replied that the wrongdoers were probably Scots, who had strayed over the Russian border from Poland or Sweden, and so beyond her jurisdiction. She sent a physician, Dr. Robert Jacob, who favoured the English match; and the result was that a Russian ambassador, Feodor Andreevitch Pissemski, was sent to London. He returned with an English ambassador, Sir Jerome Bowes, who was well received, and succeeded (through the help of Jerome Horsey, an English agent) in getting exclusive privileges for the English merchants when the Tsar suddenly died, leaving the Tsardom to his son, the mild and feeble Feodor Ivanovitch, and the power in the hands of the latter’s able and rather unscrupulous brother-in-law, Boris Feodorovitch Godounoff.

He rose rapidly, and was named ‘Prince Protector,’ and proved himself the friend of foreign ways. Bowes, who had been maltreated on Ivan’s death, was allowed to return home. Sir Jerome Horsey went back to Russia as ambassador in 1585, and wrote an admirable account of his travels; so did Giles Fletcher. [Captain Thomas Ogilvy, burgess of Dundee, was denounced for not appearing before the Privy Council of Scotland, 29th Dec., 1595), to answer to a charge of having intromitted with the goods of a Danzig ship, the property of the Duke of Florence. Among the cargo was a barrel of books, ‘all of ane historie anent the descriptioun of the cuntreis of Polonia, Moscovia, Prussia & utheris adjacent, to the noumer of xxxix.’- Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, vol. v. p.251.]

The English house in the Varvarka prospered exceedingly in spite of double dealing on every side and ‘interloping’ Englishmen. The Tsar died in 1598, and Boris Godounoff was elected to succeed him. In 1600 he sent an ambassador, Gregory Ivanovitch Mikulin, to Queen Elizabeth to cement the friendly understanding. It is interesting to find that he was visited in London by the Scottish ambassador (whose master, James VI., became King of England as James I. on Elizabeth's death, three years later), the Earl of Bothwell. He tried to arrange another ‘English match’ for the new Tsarevitch, Feodor Borissovitch, On Queen Elizabeth’s death James I. dispatched another mission to Russia, and obtained benefits for the merchants, but these were vitiated by the Tsar Boris’s death and the Time of the Troubles. The first Romanoff Tsar did, however, find the English of use. They lent him money when he was bankrupt, and it was owing to the intercession of the ambassador of James I. and VI., John Merrick, who went to Moscow in 1614, that Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, in 1617, gave up Novgorod, Roussa and Ladoga to Russia, while retaining the maritime conquests in the Baltic. This was a great gain to Russia, yet the English merchants did not receive privileges of sufficient value, owing to the opposition of the Russian traders. They continued, however, to have some success until the news of the execution of their King, Charles I., reached the Tsar Aleksei Michaelovitch, when that stalwart supporter of Royalty forbade them to exercise trade in his realm except at Kholmogory on the White Sea, and banished them from the rest of his dominions. He repaid his obligations to the Stuarts also by sending aid to King Charles II. during his long pauperstricken exile in Holland.


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