English Prisoners Housed at the Imperial Moscow University.



(From Chapter 15 of “Memoirs, Thoughts, and Realizations by a Smolensk Nobleman who has Lived through his Century.” Russkaya Starina, Vol. 85, Part I of 1896. Page 6.)



…In the summer of 1854 some English prisoners from the steamship Tiger were placed in the university building. A few students became friendly with them and they passed the time rather pleasantly. For a long time no one paid any attention, but then the authorities suddenly became alarmed. It ultimately came to one of these students being summoned to the chief of the Moscow Educational Region[*] himself.


“Is it true that you are being friendly with the Englishmen?” asked the general.


“Yes, your excellency. We sometimes see each other in the garden,” answered the student.


“How is it you’re not ashamed to be friends with enemies of the Fatherland?”


The student replied that since they were now prisoners, he could not possibly count them as enemies.


“Absolutely incorrect!” Vladimir Ivanovich burst out excitedly. “In fact, you, young man, don’t understand that they ARE our Fatherland’s enemies!”


On one other occasion these English prisoners caused Vladimir Ivanovich to openly express his irritation. Whether from boredom or because the sandwiches given them for breakfast really were bad, they got it into their heads to set them aside for several days and then nail them to the wall in the outline of some sort of figure. This wordless protest was brought to the regional chief’s attention. The general was indignant. He put on his parade uniform and sped to the university building. Upon entering and stopping at the door, he straight away started thundering forth in the most energetic Russian. He castigated the Englishmen for their ingratitude and lambasted them for eating Russian bread that had been given them gratis.

[*]Note by M.C. - It was typical of Nicholas I’s Russia that a military officer occupied this civilian post. In this case, it was Lieutanant General and General-Adjutant Vladimir Ivanovich Nazimov.  He had become an officer in 1821 in the Life-Guards Preobrazhenskii Regiment and was the holder of quite a few awards and decorations, as well as having received several monetary gifts over the years as signs of the tsar’s favor.


Translated by Mark Conrad, 2004.