(From Russkaya Starina, “Attestatsii starago vremeni.” Vol. 122, 1905 Part 2, pages 445-47.)

Attestations From Long Ago.

(Provincial habits in the past.)

In conjuction with their low level of education in the past, provincial officials were not distinguished by especially high morals. One need not speak of distant regions since even in provincial capitals closer to the center graft and extortion were normal occurrences. Even governors did not shrink from making a profit at the expense of the inhabitants and the treasury. Old timers in Saratov remember, for example, Pan--zev, a provincial chief at the beginning of the 1800's, who arrived in Saratov almost penniless and in a short time prospered into a solid capitalist. This governor chose a site for his dacha in the place called “Dubrava” [“Oak Grove”], nowadays Great and Little Sergievskaya streets with their adjoining neighborhoods between the Babushkin and Monastery precincts, which at the time was a leafy wooded grove of ancient trees. The town voluntarily gave the site to him, free of charge of course. His Excellency “sent out the call” and drew merchants and rich townspeople from all sides to donate wood, gravel, bricks, and iron for the construction of the “beloved” and “kind” governor's dacha. Pan--zev laid out not just a dacha, but a huge two-storied stone house occupying an entire block. When two years later the first boys' high school [gimnaziya] was being opened in Saratov at his instigation, Pan--zev “offered” his dacha for the school. Since there were still no suitable buildings at that time, His Excellency came to be paid 60 thousand roubles… In the same way he then built another “dacha” and “donated” it to the Maria Institute for 120 thousand roubles, and from the money thus acquired he bought a large estate nearby and became a Saratov landowner.

It is not to be wondered at, of course, that with such a man as governor the officials were the same. “As the priest, so the parish.” Actual State Councilor Prince Aleksei Borisovich Golitsyn, appointed governor of Saratov in 1826, was a true nobleman and a man of honor. He was upright and strict, so it was with horror that he saw surrounding him subordinates wallowing in graft and ignorance. A culling out was begun.

The bureaucracy's personnel must have been so bad that Golitsyn did not shrink from giving poor evaluations even to persons in the highest positions of authority. In the beginning of 1829 he submitted to the Senate personal service records in which were rather curious “attestations” in the column under the heading “Qualified for continued state service and recommended for higher rank.” (Saratov Academic Archival Commission, 1829, No. 1672.)

Regarding Vice-Governor Collegiate Councilor Syrnev: “abilities very good, but it was hardly his intent to use them for the good of the service during the past year of 1828.” Chairman of the Criminal Court Shusherin was “neither capable nor qualified.” And councilor of the same court Ivanov “proves himself to be undependable in service with greatly limited ability and an obstinate character, and is therefore not attested.”

Prince Golitsyn accurately, though discretely, described the talents and characters of higher ranking officials. Thus, in his opinion senior councilor of the treasury 8th Class Kriskii “had ability but in a very limited sense, which of course has been sharpened in his dealing with the affairs of the salt operations at Lake Yelton.” Regarding Merkulovskii, another councilor of the treasury: “no ability, a heavy drinker, often not sober.” The deputy from the nobility of the Vol'sk district, Titular Councilor Yakovlev, was given this recommendation: “After his father died there was almost nothing left of the family estate, but being a hard-working official, in the course of several years he was able to acquire a great number of serfs, some in his own name and some in his wife's. But since his ability is very limited, he is not recommended for anything.”

Concerning smaller fish, the governor did not hold back and wrote the naked truth. For example, the secretary of the Serdobsk town magistracy, Collegiate Registrar Tarkhov, was called: “a sneak, tell-tale, and scoundrel, and in fact he was suspended from duty not long ago.” A precinct warden [kvartal'nyi nadziratel'] in the town of Balashov, Lieutenant Zubovich, was “a scoundrel and under investigation.” The Petrovsk district attorney [uezdnyi stryapchii], Berovskii, was “without ability, an idle and shallow fellow.” Yachmirskii, the Serdobsk attorney, was “a natural sneak,” while the Atkarsk attorney, Frolov, was “not fit for anything.” And so on, all in this vein. Of all the officials only one--provincial treasurer Sharapov--was “a fine old man,” although “without any abilities.” Indeed, almost word for word like Gogel's characters from Dead Souls!

However, the official overseeing the civil service, Master of Heraldry Zvantsev, found such attestations to be improper and not composed in accordance with existing regulations, although one must think that it was more a matter of not following the usual custom of covering up officials' faults. Zvantsev “considered it his duty to report” this to the head of the Ministry of Justice, Prince A.A. Dolgorukov, for appropriate investigation with Golitsyn. But Dolgorukov did not find it necessary to get involved in this affair, ordering Zvantsov that if “personal service records from whatever agency or place are delivered in an incorrect format, then report this to the Senate so action may be taken in accordance with laws and regulations.”

Unfortunately, from subsequent correspondence it cannot be seen what happened to the Saratov governor because he told the truth…

                                                                                                                                                 P. Yudin.

[Translator’ note: “Pan--zev” is Actual State Councilor Aleksei Davidovich Panchulidzev. He was first vice-governor (11 May 1791) and then governor (30 March 1808) of Saratov Province. He was removed from office on 26 November 1826 on suspicion of wrong doing but was found not guilty by an investigative court. He lived in retirement in Saratov Province until his death in 1832.] 


Translated by Mark Conrad, 2005.