понедельник, 22 февраля 2010 г.

DUKE DE RICHELIEU – THE GOVERNOR OF ODESSA


The city of Odessa came about on the southern fringe of the endless Russian Empire when the 18th century was already on its way out. The history of the city overlooking the Black Sea has since been determined not by the events happening in this country or even in Europe, A monument to Duke Richelieu in Odessabut, rather by the people who at various times managed it along with the entire southern Russian region. And Duke de Richelieu was by far and without a doubt the most prominent of them all…

Osip Deribas is traditionally seen as the founder of the city of Odessa but, much as he did to make the city happening, it was still Duke de Richelieu who made this Southern Palmyra one of the best known cities in the world.

In 1803 Duke de Richelieu turned 37. The scion of the legendary French family, he had received excellent education at an exclusive college named after his famous great-grandfather. At 21 he was already a senior officer in a Hussar regiment and a familiar face at the Versailles. The Great French Revolution turned his life all around and forcing the young Duke to seek a better lot abroad. Leaving behind a family estate and a plain looking hunchback wife, Rosalie Sabine, he had married six years before, Richelieu moved to Russia. There, by a whim of fate, he found himself storming the Turkish fortress Izmail. By a similar whim of fate he survived the carnage and slightly wounded, was awarded a golden sword for valor. Looking through the list of Izmail heroes, Empress Catherine II caught sight of the legendary name, had its owner ushered in and charmed by the young French officer allowed him to attend exclusive soirees she was regularly holding in her palace. Catherine also saw de Richelieu as someone who she believed would save France. With a handsome sum of money given him by the Russian Empress, the Duke joined the royalist army of Prince de Conde to fight the Republicans. Two years later the war was lost. The Russian money did not help the royalists. Disappointed as she was, Catherine still allowed de Richelieu to continue his service in the Russian army.

Fate then gave him another chance to assert himself when a fellow officer, Alexander Romanov ascended the Russian throne. Alexander I was quick to appreciate the Frenchman’s vision and statesmanship, just like his lack of interest in a military career and finally appointed him governor of a small town in the south. On March 3 of 1803 Armand Emmanuel du Plessis Duke de Richelieu arrived at Odessa…

What he saw there exceeded his worst expectations. The town was a grim assemblage of stucco huts nestled on both sides of a muddy road. The half-built carcasses of several churches started by the town’s founders offered an equally dismal sight… Whether de Richelieu was scared off by all that we’ll never know but on the next day he demanded a detailed report from the local authorities about the town was getting on. A powder factory only five people worked at was the biggest enterprise you could find there and it was owned by retired French Capitan Monsieur Pichon. There were several other such tiny factories there with a total workforce of 140 people. Everyone else subsisted on summertime jobs at the local port, small-time vending and juts stealing. The whole town looked more like a pirate island surrounded by endless expanses of virgin steppe lands stretching forever…

The new governor’s main priority was to enlist the country’s best specialists to give Odessa a much-needed facelift. More and more merchant ships were now eager to call at the local port and getting home they spread the word about the new southern city and his governor. In 1813 Governor Richelieu wrote: “Odessa and New Russia have made headway so big and so fact that no other city anywhere can boast of.” Never a bragger, the Duke was by no means exaggerating his success. According to early-19th century statistics, the commercial turnover of all Black and Azov seaports had grown 30-fold in a matter of just 17 years and customs duties increased a heft ten-fold. “When I arrived here in 1803 I took a whole six weeks to get a dozen of simple chairs which I had to order from another place,” Richelieu wrote in his memoir. “In 1813 we sent out a huge sum’s worth of furniture to Constantinople whose quality was fully commensurate with what they do in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Pray tell me of any other country that could boast the same performance!”

Coming to Odessa in 1818, three years after Duke de Richelieu had returned to France, Emperor Alexander I was so impressed by what he saw that he immediately awarded the ex-governor, who was now serving as French Prime Minister, Russia’s top award — St. Andrew’s cross. The Golden Age of Odessa impressed several generations of Russian historians most of whom attribute the city’s unprecedented success to the economic and political genius of Duke de Richelieu. This, in a nutshell, is the life story of a high-born French aristocrat who, by a whim of Fate, made a Russian city one of the most beautiful in the entire world…

Source:The Voice of Russia

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Yuri комментирует...

Russian? )))