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 Nikolai Yusupov

Born:   1750
Deceased:   1831

Prince Yusupov, the richest Russian of 18th century


25o years ago an heir was born to the family of Boris Yusupov, Moscow Prince-Governor; the boy got the name of Nikolai and was doomed to become the richest man in Russia. His estates and domains would be found in every Russian province, so that when he was asked about mansions the young prince had to refer to the steward, who always carried a notebook with a list of Yusupov’s estates.

In childhood little Nikolai (1750 - 1831) learned that he had to serve in Life Guards, thus, at the age of 20 he joined the army ranked first lieutenant, but left service for no apparent reason.

Nikolai Borisovich made a successful politic career: he was the Regions Department minister charged of imperial and princely estates and palaces, imperial theatres director, the Hermitage and Kremlin Armory Chamber first director, head of all Russian china- and glass-producing plants and member of the council of the state. Besides, as the director of imperial theatres he first numbered rows and chairs (earlier people used to sit down wherever they wanted).

For some time Yusupov served as an ambassador in Italy, where he acquired rare books by classical authors mainly for his estate in Arkhangelskoye under Moscow, which he bought from the widow of prince Golitsin in 1810. Yusupov, possessing unfold wealth (realties in 15 provinces, silk- and cloth-manufacturing factories, a nitre plant, over 21 thousand peasants), rebuilt the estate into a wonderful architectural ensemble. Fortunately, the war of 1812 didn’t damage the estate famous for rich collections of paintings and a library. In Italy he managed to convince the Roman Pope to give his permission for full copying and transportation to St. Petersburg of Raphael’s loggias now kept in the Hermitage.

As a young man, the prince devoted much of his time to studies, spoke five languages fluently, so that many European scientists he got acquainted with while traveling around Europe were amazed by his erudition.

Yusupov was a friend of Pushkin, the best Russian poet, and famous French thinkers – e.g. Beaumarchais wrote a rhapsodical poem dedicated to him. In Europe Yusupov was received at courts of all contemporary monarchs : Friedrich II in Berlin, Joseph II in Wien and Napoléon Bonaparte in Paris. Abroad the prince bought scuplture works and paintings created by the best artists and brought them to the Hermitage or his estate later called Moscow Versailles. In his estate he collected a unique library of rarest books, they still can be found there.

Yusupov acted as a chief marshal at three coronation ceremonies of Russian emperors – Pavel I, Alexander I and Nikolai I.

Prince Yusupov died in 1831 in his favourite estate of Arhangelskoye under Moscow, but it wasn’t old age that caused his death but cholera raging in the Moscow Region that time. Yusupov as a prince could be buried at Novodevichiy Cemetery in Moscow or Alexandro-Nevskaya Monastery in St. Petersburg, the traditional burial place for Russian monarchs, but his will said he wanted to lie next to his mother in a small estate situated not far from the capital.




Olga Pletneva


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