His Majesty Paul Petrovich was born on September 20 (old style), 1754 in St. Petersburg. His royal parents were Emperor Peter III Feodorovich and Empress Catherine II Alexeyevna.For many years the memory of Emperor Paul the First has been defamed. Only recently did the truth about him became known, which reveals the image of a genuinely devout and wise monarch who devoted his life to the good of Russia.Emperor Paul’s coronation took place in Moscow on the first day of Holy Easter Week, April 5, 1797. After the coronation, the emperor promulgated a new law he had written about the succession to the throne. Upon announcing it from his throne at the Cathedral of the Assumption, the Czar went through the r
oyal gates to the altar and put the scroll into a silver shrine on the credence table, to be preserved there forever.Abiding strictly by the Commandments of the Lord, His Majesty Paul I took good care of his subjects. On the very day of his coronation he published a manifesto on serfs and landlords, which was a starting point for easing serfdom’s rules. For the first time in the history of Russia, peasants could be sworn in as witnesses. A special peasantry department was set up, the state peasants received plots of land,
Daily, even before dawn, at 5 o’clock in the morning the emperor was already on his feet. And he made everyone work according to his example. He would appear anywhere unexpectedly, no matter how bad or frosty the weather was, forging the military power of the Russian army. He mercilessly fired negligent officers, and in a short time the Russian army achieved a high level of military expertise which covered Russian military with legendary glory. The Russian fleet, decayed and plundered at the end of Catherine’s reign, was practically rebuilt and re-equipped under Paul’s supervision. These military reforms resulted in remarkable victories by Alexander Souvorov and Fyodor Ushakov. Russia has regained its international prestige and magnitude.and all peasants were granted the right to appeal court decisions. For that century, it was truly the imperial “golden document” that the people had long been dreaming of. Essentially, the foundation for half of the reform of 1861, which liberated the peasantry, was laid by Paul the First.The emperor gave special attention to soldiers. They were provided with warmer winter uniforms, better food and better salary. Prior to Paul’s reign, discipline was lacking in the army. The civil administration was no better than the military in terms of embezzlement and abuses. Strict measures were in order, and they were taken by the emperor. Paul forbade army officers to come to military exercises in their six- or four-horse driven carriages and wrap their hands in fur muffs. He also forbade the practice of enrolling infants into the army for “seniority.”Emperor Paul became the first of several Russian Czars-Peacemakers. His ideas were further developed by his son Alexander I who founded the Holy Alliance with Prussia and Austria in 1815, and by Alexander III whose policies made Russia a true guarantor of peace and stability in all Europe, and by Nicholas II whose Hague initiatives lead to creation of the League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations.Emperor Paul’s love for justice and his concern about the common people were also seen in the fact that he granted his subjects direct access to him by placing a famous box outside the Winter Palace, the key to which was in his personal possession and into which anyone – from the highest dignitaries to the lowliest commoner – could place requests for direct royal protection or mercy. The Czar himself took the requests out of the box every day and read them, and not one of them remained unresolved.
There were reforms carried out in civil management as well: the number of administrative regions was reduced, and the administrative staff was improved. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the reign of Emperor Paul I pushed Russia fifty years ahead, and all of his measures were continued in subsequent years by reigning monarchs.
There probably was no sphere in state affairs which was not influenced by the industrious emperor. For instance, to combat devaluation of the currency, the minting of silver rubles was ordered. The Czar himself sacrificed part of the palace silver for this important cause. He said that he would eat his meals with tin plates and cutlery “until the ruble reaches its proper conversion rate.” And the law on medical establishments developed by Paul I applies in Russia even in our time.
Emperor Paul I was solicitous toward the Orthodox clergy. His goal was for the clergy to have “an appearance and condition appropriate to the importance of their office.” Decorations were established to motivate the clergy to more zealous service. Clergymen received awards, and on the personal initiative of the Czar, the awarding of a special pectoral cross was once again instituted. The Synod Cross bore the letter “P”, the initial of the emperor Paul Petrovich, on its reverse side until the revolution. Under his rule several seminaries were established, as well as religious academies in St. Petersburg and Kazan.
The foundation for unity of faith was laid under His Majesty Paul Petrovich. Thousands of former schismatics, “Old Believers,” left their sects, submitted to the lawful Orthodox clergy, and participated in the Russian Orthodox Church.
A contemporary of the Czar, N. A. Sablukov, who, thanks to his service at the imperial court, was fortunate to know the emperor personally, remembered him as “a deeply religious person, full of true devoutness and fear of God.” “He was a magnanimous person, ready to forgive offenses and to admit his own mistakes,” Sablukov writes in his memoirs. “He highly valued truthfulness, hated deception and falsehood, was concerned about justice, and mercilessly punished abuses, especially bribery and corruption” (“The Assassination of 1801”, Essays of N. A. Sablukov, Saint Petersburg, 1907).
The 18th century was a time when “revolutionary free-thinkers” and atheists were rising up to push European nations into the abyss of bloody revolutions starting with the French revolution. The main obstacles blocking their way were Orthodoxy and imperial Russia, headed by truly devout monarchs. “Everything low and unclean and sinful that can be found in the human soul was brought up to oppose the Czar and Russia. All of this rose up with all its power in a struggle against the Imperial Crown, which is decorated with a cross, for the service of the Czar is the bearing of a cross.” (Prelate Ioann Maximovich, Words. San-Francisco, 1994).
Emperor Paul the First loved his people and wanted Russia to develop in its own way. He started reforms that revoked privileges obtained by the aristocracy under previous czars. He cared more about the good of the peasantry and common people. The highest circles of His Majesty’s government saw that their privileges were in danger and began to prepare a plot for his removal.
Paul I was distinguished by a noble character and a truly Christian belief. He dreamed of bringing peace to Europe and restoring thrones and altars ruined by the French revolution. The struggle against revolution was a religious matter for him; he was fighting for the Christian faith and divinely appointed monarchial authority. But he turned out to be alone against his secret enemies; he was surrounded by treachery, betrayal and deceit… A plot was formed, headed by high government officials and embittered military officers dreaming of unrestricted freedom. They began to distort the Emperor’s orders beyond recognition. The conspirators used all sorts of tricks to turn public opinion in the capitol against the Czar. The salon of Mrs. Zherebtzova, the sister of the three Zubovy brothers, who would later become assassins, became the headquarters of the plot, and behind her stood a “friend,” English ambassador Sir Charles Whitworth. Lopukhin testifies that Zherebtzova allegedly distributed 2 million gold pounds to the participants of the assassination. A treaty with Napoleon for a campaign in India, which would have undermined Britain’s position of power, served as the Czar’s death warrant. The traitors did not conceal that England’s interests were dearer to them than the interests of Russia.
In the early hours of March 12 (old style), 1801, His Majesty Paul Petrovich was brutally martyred.
After Paul’s death, the people indeed did not forget their imperial benefactor; candles were always burning on his grave, fresh flowers were brought, and the common people would bring their petitions to him, asking for heavenly intercession. A church was built in the Mikhailovski palace on the site of the Czar’s bedchamber, where he was martyred, with the sacred altar set on the place where the regicide itself was committed.
Prince N. D. Zhevakhov wrote in his memoirs: “The relationship of Emperor Paul I to the Church was such that only the revolution of 1917 prevented his canonization. However, in the mind of the Russian people Emperor Paul has been cited among saints for a long time already. Reported wondrous signs before the revolution not only attracted crowds of the faithful to the SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, but also prompted the parish clergy to publish an entire book of the signs and divine wonders that were poured out onto the faithful through the intercessions of the righteous emperor Paul I” (Prince N. D. Zhevakhov, Reminiscences, Moscow 1993, V.2, p.273).
The Russian Orthodox Church should appraise the life and work of the righteous emperor Paul Petrovich and complete the process of his canonization as one of the martyrs glorified in Russia, which was interrupted by the anti-religious revolution.
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