Борис Бурда
Author: Boris Burda
Journalist, writer, bard. Winner of the "Diamond Owl" intellectual game "What? Where? When?"
Liberal ArtsNomina
7 minutes for reading

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Alexei Razumovsky, originally from Chernihiv region, is the secret husband of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna Romanova

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Alexei Razumovsky, originally from Chernihiv region, is the secret husband of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna Romanova
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Count Alexei Grigorievich Razumovsky (1709–1771) was born in the village of Lemeshi, Chernihiv province. Dnipro smallholder Cossack, elevated to the dignity of a count, favorite and secret husband of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna. The elder brother of the hetman of the Zaporizhian Army Kirill Razumovsky, the first owner of the Anichkov Palace, Field-Marshal General of the Russian Imperial Army.




Unequal marriage — is it good or bad? We perfectly understand what attracts precisely unevenness — people who are just like me, homes are tired of us. Whether a different upbringing will manifest itself — do not hesitate to doubt it. But whether you limit yourself to a slight smile, explain, as is customary here, or immediately hit the kumpol with a frying pan — it is completely unclear, and it is extremely risky to predict.

It is especially ticklish when a couple is from different rungs of the social ladder, and they shout from top to bottom about a crow that has flown into high mansions, and from bottom to top, from the offended crow, its “kra” is pouring about bloodsuckers and exploiters who will wait for repression. Some say that this cannot be avoided and asp doesn’t blossom with oranges. I beg you — it’s just more convenient for them…

There is nothing surprising if the Anglo-Saxon groom in the house of the Russian bride will torment everyone with a search for a cork from the basin, completely not understanding why a mixer is needed at all. But usually already on the second day, he finds something to press on and what to pull on, and even rejoices that the water immediately has the temperature that he likes, and nothing needs to be mixed right in the sink.

Even in the case when our young lady, who married a Jordanian or Saudi, finds a jug of water in the toilet instead of a roll of paper, she will survive it without the slightest problem — either buy a roll of paper, or learn how to use a jug, and that’s it. They say it’s even better…

In fact, with a certain amount of tolerance and tact, people who grew up in very different conditions coexisted perfectly, which, as Krylov said, we hear a lot of examples in history. The belief that, say, the daughter of a king and the son of a farmer will not get along in any way is absolutely not based on anything. And what is it going to be stated — is refuted in general completely.




In 1709, in the village of Lemeshi, Chernihiv province, a son Alexei was born to the registered Cossack Gregory. Gregory was a drinker, but self-respecting. He drinks a glass and knocks himself on the head, “Oh, what is the head, what is the mind?” This nickname was given to him — Gregory Rozum.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Alexei Razumovsky, originally from Chernihiv region, is the secret husband of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna Romanova
S. Vasylkivsky. Cossack’s hut

But it was not enough for his son Alexei to have such nickname, he really wanted to have this very “rozum” in his head, for which he began to read books. This, unfortunately, angered the father to the core, “This is not a Cossack’s business, fight and pave the land, but let the Germans read books!” Why only Germans?

Gregory did not respect books so much, that one day, when he saw his son with a book in his hands, he simply rushed at him with an axe — just like that, in a simple, Cossack way! I, they say, gave birth to you, I will kill you — it took Gogol even more than a hundred years to think of such a thing, but this one immediately figured it out!

And he would have hacked him to death, probably, if Alexei had not fled to the neighboring village of Chemer, would not have fallen at the feet of the deacon of the church in this village and had not prayed, “Intercede, shelter me, for the love of the book, my own father wants to bring a fierce death.” The deacon went to meet him — there was a lack of singers in the church, and the young Alexei Rozum had such a beautiful bass that the girls in the village could not hear enough!




Indeed, they did not have long to enjoy a beautiful voice. Colonel Fyodor Vishnevsky passed through Chemer on an important matter — to purchase Tokay wine personally for imperial consumption (as recently as 1726, it took 10% of the entire budget of the Russian Empire).

But Vishnevsky had one more small assignment — to find singers for the imperial chapel. He listened to Alexei and said, “It’s over, boy, your life in your native Ukraine, pack your things, dress warmly, get into the stroller — and go to St. Petersburg! You will be a court chorister.”

There were no objections — who will refuse? Yes, and you don’t refuse much when they demand from the capital — anyways, you will go without objection, but only in chains and under escort, and who needs it? Princesses are girls that are no worse than in Chemer, they also want to hear a good bass.

Contemporaries recalled that everyone paid attention to the spectacular chorister. Hot brunette, with a black thick beard, tall, broad-shouldered, handsome. And what a voice! So the ladies noticed him — including such, that if he had been told this thing in his native Chemer, he would have laughed.




The daughter of Peter the Great, princess Elizabeth, was beautiful and charming, moreover, eager for love and kind to the stronger sex. Well, how was it possible to start your victories over men’s hearts personally with your own nephew, Tsar Peter II, who was still small, thirteen!? By the way, the boy fell in love in earnest and spoke quite seriously about the marriage with his own aunt.

Then there was her affair with Alexander Buturlin, with whom she rode a sleigh, and looked after the garden, and in general, you never know what else happened. I didn’t hold a candle to them, persons of this rank have special people for this. In general, the angry Petro II sent Buturlin as far as he could — in this particular case, to Ukraine. He did not know that a substitute would come to him from there…

Then she had Chief Chamberlain Semen Naryshkin, “whatever he is, but he is relatives”, — Peter the Great’s mother, as everyone knows, is also Naryshkina, so everyone between their relatives and friends almost married him — they say, one less contender for the throne.

But then, Elizabeth, who did not know how to love in the half way, found herself a guardsman, Sergeant Shubin, a tall, handsome and strong man, and Naryshkin disappeared, as if he had not even existed. Elizabeth was a match for Shubin. When the Chinese ambassador first came to St. Petersburg, he was asked which of the women at the palace ball was the most beautiful of all, and he literally did not think for a second about the answer, “Elizabeth, who else!”

But under Anna Ioannovna, poor Shubin even got involved in some kind of conspiracy in favor of Elizabeth, and as a result ended up in Siberian penal servitude. When Elizabeth sat down on the throne and pardoned him, they searched for him there for several years, but they found him completely degraded and married to an ugly Kamchadal woman. Immediately, as they brought him, they forcibly married him in order to stop an unnecessary romance.




However, the returning Shubin had no chance — long before that, Elizabeth had begged Anna Ioannovna for a handsome chorister for her chapel, and he began to make a career, and also an official one, at the small, almost toy court of the princess. This is in addition to the other career…

True, he soon lost his voice, but he did not lose heart, he became a bandura player — and Ukrainian bandura players were in vogue at that time. Later, Elizabeth entrusted him to manage one of her estates, and then her entire court, having achieved for him a full-fledged court rank of chamber junker.

Elizabeth’s life has become — nowhere more than pleasant! There is enough money, dear friend at your side, live for yourself and rejoice. She herself would not stick her nose into politics of her own free will. State affairs were disgusting to her, she was engaged in them, even when she was the queen, from under pressure. Decrees were laying on the table unsigned, sometimes for months. But who was bothered about it when she did not reign?

Certainly not Alexei Razumovsky, whom Oleksiy Rozum turned into in St. Petersburg — he generally got all perks there. He did not have any moral worries — everything happened according to the inclination of the heart, and obviously mutual. He ate deliciously, drank sweetly, slept in good company, and did not quarrel with anyone, did not boast, did not become arrogant — it was not his style.


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Such a serene life ended when Anna Ioannovna died, accustomed to the idea that Elizabeth did not claim the throne. Anna Leopoldovna, who replaced her, the regent under the young Ivan VI, made mistake after mistake, and the atmosphere became more and more tense.

For those who wanted a coup, Elizabeth was the ideal candidate for the throne, but whether she wanted it was not important. Moreover, just in case, she could be exiled without noise to a remote monastery, or even simpler. And if you refuse those who offer the throne, they can just get angry and slam you as an unwanted witness. And few will refuse to reign…

The guards came from the barracks, she exclaimed, “Do you know whose daughter I am? Follow me guys!” — and an almost bloodless coup, it seems that not even a single one was killed, took place in an instant. None of the previous camarilla was executed, they were only exiled — during the night of the bloodless coup, Elizabeth took an oath to the icon: being the queen, she would not execute anyone, and she kept her word.

Razumovsky did not take an active part in all these events — even on the night of November 24-25, 1741, when a palace coup took place that brought Elizabeth to power, he remained to look after order in her house on the Tsaritsyn meadow. He was a bad conspirator.




To strengthen the throne, it would be good for Elizabeth to choose a spouse suitable for her position — but love won over state considerations. Approximately a year after the accession, Elizabeth traveled with Razumovsky to the village of Perovo near Moscow (now it is a Moscow region), stopped by the church there and married him. Very few historians dispute this.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Alexei Razumovsky, originally from Chernihiv region, is the secret husband of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna Romanova
Znamenskaya Church in Perovo — here they got married

For me personally, it is quite convincing that Elizabeth presented the Perovo church with luxurious ritual fabrics for worship, sewn by her personally, and she soon bought Perovo itself and presented it to Razumovsky. From the correspondence of foreign ambassadors it is clear that they were waiting for Elizabeth’s announcement of marriage — but she did not have enough determination.

Ranks and titles simply rain down on Razumovsky: during the coronation of Elizabeth, he served as Ober-Schenk, on the same day he received the rank of Ober-Jägermeister, and in 1744 he became a count, not only Russian, but also separately a count of the Holy Roman Empire. Charles the Seventh did not refuse the ruler, on whom in Europe a lot of things then depended.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Alexei Razumovsky, originally from Chernihiv region, is the secret husband of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna Romanova
Diploma of Elizabeth to Razumovsky for count dignity

Razumovsky also moved along the military line. Four years after the marriage, he was a general-lieutenant of the main Life Campanian company of the Guards in the country, two years later — a lieutenant colonel of the life-guards cavalry regiment, and in 1756 — a general field marshal! Just keep in mind that this field marshadid not sniff gunpowder, did not participate in wars, did not command troops.




Only two things are noticeable, in which Razumovsky was not afraid to disturb his powerful wife with persistent requests. The first is help to clerics, and the second is continuous requests for various favors to his native land, Ukraine.

These requests were successful. Ukraine was granted great benefits — from the confirmation of the ancient advantages of the city of Kyiv to the free import of bread from Poland. Moreover, the withdrawal of military regiments from there was carried out, because then the wait was burdensome. But the main thing is the restoration of the hetmanship in Ukraine, that is, an attribute of an independent state.

As a hetman was prudently appointed a man who could hardly harm Elizabeth and Alexei Grigorievich — his own brother, Kirill Razumovsky, who, unlike Alexei, was a determined and active person. So Alexei Grigorievich became not only the spouse of the queen, but also the hetman’s brother, the closest relative of the two sovereigns.

And Razumovsky’s love for Ukraine was also passed on to Elizabeth — she visited it personally two years after their wedding. Elizabeth was especially delighted with Kyiv. After examining it, she uttered the phrase recorded by the chroniclers, “God, love me in your kingdom of heaven, as I love this people, well-behaved and gentle!” Now if you tell it — not everyone will believe …




The hearts of kings are fickle, and Elizabeth was a loving woman. She also had other favorites: Roman and Mikhail Vorontsov, and Sievers, and Voichinsky, and Musin-Pushkin, and a serious person Ivan Shuvalov — a clever man, a patron of education (he founded Moscow University on the name day of his mother Tatyana, therefore students are celebrate Tatyana’s day).

How did this affect Alexei Grigorievich? In any way! He, being a reasonable person, did not show his jealousy. Maybe he just loved her so much that he obeyed her will even in such unpleasant details. Otherwise, anger would have accumulated and splashed out. But no one remembered this.

Catherine the Great wrote amazing words about their family in her memoirs, “I don’t know another family that would be so loved by everyone.” By the way, here is another argument for the fact that Elizabeth and Razumovsky were married — Catherine did not even doubt that they were a family.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Alexei Razumovsky, originally from Chernihiv region, is the secret husband of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna Romanova
Elizabeth and Razumovsky in a painting by Leonid Pasternak

Troubles overtook many hearted friends of the monarchs. Gregory Orlov died, having gone mad, the sympathy of Elizabeth I, the Count of Essex, laid down his head on the scaffold, the Marquis of Monaldeschi, his lady of the heart, Queen Christina, personally ordered to kill — who would love the queens after that!? And for Razumovsky everything  was like water off a duck’s back, not the slightest hint of any trouble. Learn!




Elizabeth did not forget him even before her death. When she was dying, according to her desire, three people remained near her bed — Peter III, Catherine II and Razumovsky. Almost the last request in her life was a strict order to the heir, “Never offend Razumovsky in any way!”

So, when he even asked to retire after the death of his beloved Elizabeth, Peter III did not let him go, “It will offend you, but I swore not to do this,” the emperor objected. And only after a second request did he say, “Now I see that you really want this.” And let him go.

After the death of his beloved, he left the royal palace and settled in the Anichkov Palace, which was presented to him, where he was often visited by Peter III, who came with pleasure to smoke a pipe in the hospitable house of Razumovsky and take part in holidays and banquets.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Alexei Razumovsky, originally from Chernihiv region, is the secret husband of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna Romanova
Anichkov Palace — a gift from Elizabeth Razumovsky

Of course, Alexei Grigorievich did not take any part in the coup that threw Peter III off the throne and elevated Catherine II to it. But he swore allegiance to Catherine, moreover, at her coronation in Moscow, it was he who carried her crown. It was noticeable that the empress showed special respect for him and treated him not as a subject, but rather as a relative.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Alexei Razumovsky, originally from Chernihiv region, is the secret husband of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna Romanova
Coronation of Catherine




No less love than Razumovsky with Elizabeth was Catherine II and Grigory Orlov. But Orlov, of course, was “a lower chimney and thinner smoke”. The unofficial title of “night emperor” was not enough for him. He even inspired a petition for the Empress to choose her husband.

And now Chancellor Vorontsov goes personally to Razumovsky and asks him the question, was he the lawful spouse of Elizabeth? If he was and has evidence of that, he is ordered to grant him the title of His Imperial Highness. So, although he is not a king, but the legitimate husband of the queen…

If you believe Vorontsov (and why not to believe him, he has no interest in lying), Razumovsky went to the dresser, took out an ebony chest bound with silver, opened this chest, took out papers wrapped in pink satin, reverently read, kissed these papers, raised his eyes moist with tears to the images, crossed himself and… threw the papers into the fireplace!

And only after that he said to Vorontsov, “I was nothing more than a faithful servant of Her Majesty the late Empress. If there had ever been that, what you are talking about, believe me, Count, I would not have had the vanity to admit an incident that darkens the unforgettable memory of the monarch, my benefactor. Now you see: I don’t have any documents.” But he did not answer the question.




Catherine, I think, was only delighted with this — she should not have married Orlov for very many reasons. And she said to Vorontsov, “We understand each other. There was no secret marriage, if only to lull a fearful conscience. The venerable old man warned me, but I expected this from the selflessness characteristic of a Little Russian.“

So Razumovsky lived his life happily and safely, enjoying the great respect of Catherine. She treated him like a relative, not like a subject; she came out to meet him when he came to the palace, moved a chair for him and escorted him to the door.

The biographer of Alexei Grigorievich wrote, “He shunned the pride, hated deceit and, having no education, but gifted by nature with a thorough mind, he was affectionate, condescending, friendly in dealing with the younger, loved to intercede for the unfortunate ones and enjoyed common love of others.” I will add only one thing: he never forgot to do something for his homeland.

In 1771, Razumovsky left this world, and almost everyone mourned for him. The good life of a happy person is a well-deserved reward for good qualities. Do not just listen to the story, but take an example from an intelligent person! More precisely, from two sensible people — for Elizabeth, this meeting also brought nothing but happiness. Class barriers, of course, are high — but you can jump over them!

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Alexei Razumovsky, originally from Chernihiv region, is the secret husband of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna Romanova
Razumovsky’s tombstone


All illustrations from open sources

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