Artemy Volynsky

Volynsky addressing the ministers of Empress Anna

Artemy Petrovich Volynsky (Russian: Арте́мий Петро́вич Волы́нский; 1689–1740) was a Russian statesman and diplomat. His career started as a soldier but was rapidly upgraded to ambassador to Safavid Iran, and later as Governor of Astrakhan during the reign of Peter the Great (r. 1682–1725). He was later accused of corruption and stripped of nearly all his powers, before Catherine I of Russia sent him to govern the vast Governorate of Kazan. Anna of Russia appointed Volynsky one of her three chief ministers in 1738. After beating the noted poet Vasily Trediakovsky, Volynsky was arrested on charges of conspiracy and misconduct. Volynsky's archenemy Ernst Johann von Biron had him sentenced to death and beheaded on June 27, 1740.

Military youth

Artemy Volynsky was a male-line descendant of Prince Bobrok. His father was one of the dignitaries at the court of Feodor III, and also a voivod in Kazan.[1] He entered a dragoon regiment in 1704 and rose to the rank of captain, by 1711; then, exchanging the military service for diplomacy, he was attached to the suite of Vice-Chancellor Peter Shafirov. He was present during the Pruth Campaign and shared Shafirov's captivity in the Seven Towers in Constantinople.[2]

Minister for Peter the Great

In 1715, by orders of Peter the Great he was sent to Isfahan, Persia (which he reached in March 1717) as the new Russian ambassador.[3][4] During his travelling he was supposed to redirect the silk trade route in Persia to Russia with the Armenians' help. During his stay in Isfahan, Volynsky signed a treaty with the Shah Husayn giving commercial advantages over a country torn by revolts.[5]

In 1718 Peter made him one of his six adjutant generals, and governor of Astrakhan. In this post Volynsky displayed distinguished administrative and financial talents. In 1722 he married Alexandra Naryshkina, Peter's cousin.[6] The same year he was accused of peculation and other offences to the emperor, who caned him severely and deprived him of his plenipotentiary powers, despite his undeniable services in Persia, but for which Peter could never have emerged so triumphantly from the difficult Persian war of 1722-1723.[2]

Governor of Kazan

Catherine I made Volynsky governor of Kazan for a short time, and he held the same post for two years (1728–1730) under Peter II. But his incurable corruption and unbridled temper so discredited the government that he was deprived of the post shortly after the accession of Anne. From 1730 to 1736 Volynsky served in the army under Munnich. In 1737 he was appointed the second Russian plenipotentiary at the abortive congress of Nemirov held for the conclusion of peace with the Porte.[2]

Condemned under Anne

St Sampson's Cathedral, the burial place of Artemy Volynsky

In 1738 he was introduced into the Russian cabinet by Biron as a counterpoise against Andrei Osterman.[6] Volynsky, however, now thought himself strong enough to attempt to supersede Biron himself, and openly opposed the favorite in the State Council in the debates as to the indemnity due to Poland for the violations of her territory during the War of the Polish Succession, Biron advising that a liberal indemnity should be given, whereas Volynsky objected to any indemnity at all.[2]

Biron thereupon forced Anne to order an inquiry into Volynsky's past career, with the result that he was tried before a tribunal of Biron's men. The charges faced were that he, as a minister, and Andrey Khrushchyov (1691—1740), as an assistant minister, tried to dethrone Queen Anna for Peter the Great's daughter, Elizabeth.[7] He was arrested on June 23, 1740 and thus condemned to be broken on the wheel and then beheaded.[2] On the scaffold, by the clemency of the empress, his punishment was mitigated to the severing of his right hand followed by decapitation on June 27, 1740.[7] The sentence was executed exactly 31 years after the Battle of Poltava. Volynsky had by his side architect Pyotr Yeropkin and Andrey Khrushchyov.[8]

A tombstone in their honour was erected in 1741 by order of Elizabeth of Russia over their burial place beside St. Sampson Cathedral. That was the only thing that was visible over their grave until 1885 when a monument was placed as they were seen as national heroes because they opposed German ideas, as represented by Biron.[8] This point of view would have been quite amazing to their contemporaries and reflects more the concerns of the next century than of Biron's and Volynsky's time.

The charge of conspiracy appears to have been untrue. Volynsky was tortured twice but even under torture he refused to admit to conspiracy, while admitting the ancillary charge of taking bribes (of which no Russian official of the time was innocent). Volynsky's draft of a General Project of Internal Affairs of the State contained many suggestions for reforms of administration but avoided altogether the subject of imperial succession and prerogatives.[9]


  1. "Волынский Артемий Петрович". Retrieved 2006-07-20.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Public Domain One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Volynsky, Artemy". Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 206–207.
  3. Savory, Roger (2007). Iran Under the Safavids. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 246. ISBN 978-0521042512. In 171 5, the Tsar sent the 28-year-old Artemii Petrovich Volynsky as ambassador to Shah Sultan Husayn (...)
  4. Rayfield, Donald (2013). Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia. Reaktion Books. p. 225. ISBN 978-1780230702. In 1719 Volynsky, Russian ambassador to Iran, negotiated with (...)
  5. Bain, Robert. (2005) The First Romanovs, Kessinger Publishing. 444 pages. ISBN 1-4179-7076-6.
  6. 1 2 Pushkin, Aleksandr Sergeevich. (1999) Tales of the Late, Ivan Petrovich Belkin, the Queen of Spades, the Captain's Daughter, Peter the Great'S, Blackamoor, Oxford University Press. 336 pages. ISBN 0-19-283954-3.
  7. 1 2 Pushkin, Alexandr Sergeyevitch. (1968) The Complete Prose Tales of Pushkin, W. W. Norton & Company. 504 pages. ISBN 0-393-00465-1.
  8. 1 2 "Monument to Biron's Enemies". The State Monument Museum. Retrieved 2006-07-19.
  9. Igor Kurukin, Biron, 2006.
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