Military Review

Patron in Chuik

Vasily Vasilyevich Vargin is a person of little-known to a wide circle of readers. Nevertheless, not only the first domestic millionaire and monopolist, but also the richest Russian merchant of the 19th century, a man who had a great influence on the legendary Maly Theater, is hidden under the family brand BBB. An indefatigable worker and a disinterested donor, he left an invisible but huge mark in stories Moscow and all of Russia. He was given the highest characteristics of Nikolai Gogol, Alexander Tatishchev and other eminent compatriots, but in the memoir literature, and even more so in the modern press his name pops up infrequently. And for good reason ...

The life of this unique character of Russian history began in the suburb of the Vladik monastery in the ancient city of Serpukhov, which lies a hundred miles from Moscow. His grandfather, a simple besfamilny peasant Vasily Alekseevich, served as a clerk with the owner of the canvas fabrication factory. In his spare time, he managed to trade in warm mittens - with varigi, which were knitted by the women of his family. This business went so well over time that Vasily got rich and from the peasant class he passed into the merchant class. Above the last name, he did not think for a long time, becoming himself Vargin. By that time, when Vasily Vasilyevich was born (13 in January 1791), his family was already considered well-to-do, and his father and his three brothers were well-known in the district as merchants with canvas and mittens.

In early childhood, the future millionaire was absolutely indifferent to commerce. His parish deacon taught him literacy, Vasily avidly read spiritual books and dreamed of going to a monastery and becoming a monk. However, the father saw the future of his son in a different light. Gradually, the boy was brought closer to family affairs, he was introduced to the basics of trade. As a teenager, he independently traveled to Moscow with various assignments. Among his brothers, young Vasily stood out beyond his years with a clever mind, quickness and vigor in business, and honesty in making deals.

At the beginning of the 19th century, a committee was set up in Moscow to prepare uniforms for the army. In the 1807 year, sixteen-year-old Vasily was incredibly lucky, he managed to take the first contract for the supply of canvas. The favorable combination of circumstances and, of course, the commercial talent of Basil allowed him to successfully complete the assigned task. He earned the trust of the government and high military commanders, and also aroused the interest of Alexander Tatishchev, who had just been appointed to the post of general-krigs commissar, that is, in charge of clothing and money allowance for troops. Soon the young Vargin was handed over all government contracts for the supply of canvas. From that very moment, Vasily's affairs abruptly went uphill, trade began to grow and flourish. According to Vargin, the patron saint, Count Tatishchev, his products were sold at such staggeringly low prices, which "none of the other suppliers, including the best and most experienced merchants and industrialists in trade, could agree to."

According to experts, there is only one good reason why Vasily Vargin at such a young age managed to get a contract for the supply of canvas for the army. The Russian-Austro-French war began in 1805. Of course, the conduct of hostilities demanded an increase in the supply of uniforms for the soldiers. But in those years government orders were paid poorly, little and with various legal delays. Cunning merchants amused themselves from such “honor”. Many of them even recommended the young Vargin at the "top", simply speaking, having transferred all the arrows to him. If they knew how this would end ...

Soon the Patriotic War of 1812 began. The offensive of Napoleon's troops forced to increase the number of the army, and therefore, the production and supply of leather, cloth and many other things needed by Russian soldiers. This was not an easy task, because as the enemy seized the country, many factories and factories shut down, and trade and industry became deeply stagnant.

Vargin spun like a squirrel in a wheel, helping in the procurement of things. According to the same Tatischev, Vasily "overcame all the difficulties and, thanks again to his low prices, saved the treasury many millions in these difficult years." The young merchant was characterized by him as “a true patriot who rendered his motherland tremendous services, acting as a citizen sharing a common misfortune”. In fairness it should be noted that the opinions of researchers and, more interestingly, contemporaries, in this matter are extremely ambiguous. Some of them considered Vargin to be a completely disinterested person, a slightly eccentric merchant, while others saw Tatishchev’s shadow behind him, believing that the merchant provided the official with financial support. They noted that the increase in the supply of Vasily Vargin to the Russian army leads to an increase in the career of Alexander Ivanovich. However, it is well known that the relationship between Vargin and Tatischev did not even remotely resemble friendship, the gulf between the natives of the serfs and the hereditary nobleman was too huge.

There are papers in which Vargin and a certain merchant from St. Petersburg by the name of Little Animals sign that they will deliver the necessary amount of cloth for the army. Evil tongues said that the St. Petersburg merchant was attracted only so that Vasily’s monopoly wouldn’t catch the eye. Later it was established that the "competition" was far-fetched, the Zverkova company supplied the same Varginsky cloth.

The main problem of Vasiliy’s enterprise in those years was that he did not have any production capacities or opportunities to create them. All the profits Vargin, like his father, invested in the construction of tenement houses (that is, for rent) in Moscow. Purchasing manufactory in wartime conditions at old prices was becoming more difficult, and orders of the military department were constantly growing. The general supplier of the current army even had to go into debt, but later, a Cossack detachment was handed over to Vasily Vasilyevich to fight uncompromising partners. Attorneys traveled around the country and carried out orders and purchases on his behalf by ordinary notes and verbal collusion, without resorting to bureaucratic formalities.

In defense of the merchant it can be noted that in historical documents Vargin is always mentioned as an absolutely honest person. Proposals from various merchants for the supply of materials for the army during the war years received a lot. But only he could reduce prices. To take advantage of the situation during the paralysis of the authorities, Vasily considered it extremely unworthy of business. On the contrary, it is well known that he did not speculate with his goods, never demanded an inflated cost for them, and sometimes even carried out supplies to the detriment of himself by donating capital. By the way, only by approximate calculations, the profit missed by Vargin over the period of the war exceeds thirty million rubles. To a large extent, thanks to his efforts, about six hundred and fifty thousand people were put into operation.

During the years of the Patriotic War, a slightly touching story of how Vasily Vasilyevich once appeared, having learned that his transport with ammunition, which was traveling along the Western Dvina and costing about half a million rubles, could fall into the hands of the enemy, ordered him to be drowned. And the transport was really flooded.

After the war, Vasily Vargin was awarded a number of honorary awards, including the diamond “For Diligence” medal decorated with diamonds. In addition, brothers Boris and Vasily Vargin were awarded the title of hereditary honorary citizen. When the Russian troops occupied Paris, the young merchant went to see the famous city. The capital of France made an unforgettable impression on the young man. According to the memoirs of contemporaries from Europe, he returned with the firm intention to create in Moscow, something like the Palais Royal Square, located opposite the north wing of the Louvre and Comedie Francaise or the French Theater.

In 1814, famous artist Nikolai Argunov painted portraits of the brothers Vargin, which are now kept in the State Russian Museum.

Returning to the capital of Russia, Vargin handed the reins of the enterprise into the hands of his brothers, and he himself became fascinated with the construction of new buildings or, as he himself said, “godly” affairs. The most famous of its buildings was the house on Petrovskaya (Theater Square), which later housed the Small Theater. Burnt down after the fire, Moscow rebuilt, the main architect of the city was Giuseppe Beauvais. According to his project, Neglinka, flowing through Theater Square, turned out to be superfluous, spoiling the natural beauty of the capital. It was decided to shackle it, which they did in 1819. The pipes were laid in the river, the canal was filled up and houses were built up. After approval of the plan for the arrangement of the square, Vasily Vargin completely bought out the local areas: first two at the site of the current Maly Theater, and then three more, where today is the Central Department Store. House Vargin built a luxurious, with an open gallery for different shops and a huge, for that time, concert hall. After the architectural ensemble of Petrovskaya Square was completed in 1824, Vargin was offered to rent the building to the imperial troupe for dramatic performances. The merchant agreed, and also invested a lot of money to redesign the premises for the theater, which indicates that this was not a planned move in advance. Two months later, the architect Bove and Vasily Vasilyevich presented the residents of the city the “New Moscow Maly Theater in Vargin’s house on Petrovskaya Square”. October 14 1824 year, it passed the first performance. A few years later, the leadership of the imperial theaters finally took over the building, having bought it from Vargin for one hundred fifty eight thousand rubles. And in the 1838 year, the Board of Trustees issued a decree on the allocation of about seven hundred thousand rubles for ... "building the Maly Theater", although it was not only fourteen years old as it was built, but it gave performances a long time ago.

In the former office of Vasily Vasilyevich and Boris Vasilyevich Varginov, consisting of two households on Pyatnitskaya street, the beginning writer L.N. Tolstoy after he retired. Today it houses the branch of the museum of Leo Tolstoy.

After 1815, at the request of the Commissariat, the young merchant continued to supply his goods to the state. Their prices were the lowest among all entrepreneurs. At the same time, Vasily Vasilyevich not only did not go bankrupt, but, on the contrary, managed to significantly enrich himself. By the 1820 year, the state of his family exceeded fifteen million rubles - an enormous sum for those times. Soon Vargin already had his own factories for the production of linen in Kostroma, Vyazemy, Pereslavl. In Moscow, he worked as a cutting and kivernaya factory, and the offices were in all major provinces of Russia. Basil himself was nicknamed Vargin-second, his name became a household name, denoting the high quality of goods and the purity of transactions. As before, most of the money was spent on building houses in Belokamennaya. Among them were lucrative buildings for different segments of the population. He also was the owner of a magnificent collection of diamonds, lived next to the Governor-General himself, contained a church choir. Unfortunately, the success of the merchant spawned a considerable number of envious people and enemies.

The trade emblem of Varginov is a helmet of Mercury located above the BB monogram. Behind the monogram there are elements of merchandise merchandise, and below it are Vasily Vasilyevich rewards. The medals follow from left to right: for 1812 a year - silver on the Andreev ribbon, "For zeal" and a class merchant medal for 1812 a year - bronze on the Anninskaya ribbon. The estate medal was awarded to merchants who donated more than ten parts of their fortunes to the military.

In 1827, Tatishchev was removed from the post of minister of war. In his place was appointed Prince Alexander Chernyshev, a year earlier, who deserved the emperor’s praise for his special zeal during the interrogations of the Decembrists. Tatishcheva, this supporter of cane discipline, hated fiercely, and therefore everything and everyone relating to Alexander Ivanovich fell into the field of his revenge. He openly called Vargina a "monopolist", promising to separate them from all affairs for deliveries without collateral and contracts. This violation did take place, but it was done because of extreme urgency and with the permission of the authorities. Soon in Moscow, a commission was created under the leadership of Lieutenant-General Volkov, officially engaged in managing contracts, and unofficially monitoring and investigating the cases of the Varginovs.

October 7 The War Ministry suddenly demanded that Vasily Vasilyevich, before 1 November 1827, fulfilled all the obligations on him. In twenty-three days, he needed to put eight million things on, while paying 1 600 000 with money and providing things without money for an extra amount of 900 000. In the event of non-compliance with the order, he was threatened with selling all the pledges for the reimbursement of direct debt. Vargin tried to protest the decision, stating to the commission that the agreement with the treasury did not at all envisage putting things out at such impossibly short terms, and also that the calculation carried out by representatives of the Commissariat was incorrect.

The text of Vargin’s letter to the commission remained in which, among other things, he said that “in actions that insult his diligence and justice, with extreme constraint on cases, he has nothing left to say; however, his actions, deeds and intentions are so constant, so much marked by feats of zeal and honor to the Fatherland, that they speak for themselves before the whole world and do not need a refutation of ignorance, plexus and malicious intent, for he sacrificed everything for everyone. He can bravely attribute to himself the honor that not one of the most well-known dealers and contractors — with all the wealth and all the rewards received from the governments — delivered more benefits than Vargins to the treasury. ”

The commission allowed Vasily to send a petition to the Sovereign, which he already carried out on October 12. In his report, he asked "not mercy, but a fair trial," that is, an impartial review of his relationship with the treasury. He also indicated that his deliberate ruin would entail the bankruptcy of many people with whom he works. The petition was considered, and Vargin was extended by four months, that is, until March 1828. However, the conditions became even more difficult, he had to get money for only half of the things, the rest half remained as his debt to the country. And with each new calculation of the Commissariat, the amount of Vargin’s supposed debts always came out different, and the difference between the amounts reached several million. After the merchant's secondary appeal, he was somewhat relieved of the terms of the contract, namely, he was allowed to deliver only the most necessary things for the troops to 1 March, the rest was stretched to July 1. It seemed to Vargin that the persecution stopped, in his own words, he "came to life and quickly moved the supply." Vasily Vasilyevich’s gloomy forebodings began to dissipate, his eroded public confidence was slowly recovering. However, these were the last bright days of his life. Indulgence was made only for the sake of appearance, and secret persecution continued around.

The ministry did not at all conceal its intentions, the instructions from 19 of November 1827 of the year explicitly stated that "it is high time for the government, even with large donations, to get rid of this monopolist." The commission was tasked with securing recognition from Vargin that he, in alliance with the former Commissariat officials, robbed the treasury by conducting his business with public money. After a thorough investigation, General Volkov considered it his duty to depict the matter in its true form and gave the best feedback about the merchant. His report, filed in November 1827, reports the evidence of Vargin's disinterestedness, and denies any possibility of his participation in the abuses of officials. Volkov also pointed out that Vargin had never been and never will be the scammer, so necessary for the ministry. “Of course, it’s not a long time to ruin him,” continued the lieutenant-general, “but will the treasury win when he takes away his fortune and gives an opportunity to other suppliers, who always kept higher prices?” The commission invited all suppliers that had volunteered to put things (boots and canvases) at prices announced by Vargin, but they all decisively refused. Let the one who says that prices may be lower than last year’s, come to us and open ways for lowering, or call people, for such a reduction of consonants: the commission will accept this and that with appreciation and willingness ... In short, to this of time, we did not see anything in other suppliers, except for anger and envy of Vargin, because he prevents them from using high prices ... ”

The position of the commission was indeed extremely difficult. On the one hand, she was obliged to find new contracts, on the other, all traders greatly overestimated the cost of goods. By a special, highest order, two audits were conducted throughout the Commissariat Department. Both showed that all the things supplied by Vasily Vargin match the quality of the samples, all the money sums are in order, there is no shortage anywhere.

However, the facts did not convince the Minister of War, who had long condemned the merchant to death. The enemies of Vargin tried to do everything possible and impossible, in order to prove his uselessness. Suppliers were given benefits, made concessions on the quality of goods, Moscow Mayor Kumanin even paid up his money to those who decided to take contracts ... However, it was all in vain, things did not go well. Meanwhile, Vasily Vasilyevich quickly fulfilled his agreement conditions, in one month from 12 December 1827 to 12 in January 1828, he delivered five hundred fifty thousand pairs of boots, six million yards of canvas and other canvases. The members of the commission were amazed to see the notice that “the goods are received from Vargin successfully, and even hastily.” In addition, it was useful in the current situation, because the troops were deployed in the Turkish campaign. Soon the commission was even more amazed, having received “from above” a paper with a severe reprimand for “not informing the ministry about anything other than the health of Vargin”.

In 1830, a new commission was drafted, candidates for which were selected more carefully. It was headed by a certain Adjutant General Strekalov, ready to go on any forgery. The activities of the second commission led to the fact that Vargin was arrested under the foundation of the retention of government money in the same year, 1830, taken to St. Petersburg and imprisoned in the Alekseevsky district of the Peter and Paul Fortress, and all his houses together with his property were taken into custody . Later, experts proved that the bulk of the papers against Vargin were falsified, and the trader himself had no chance to resist the conspiracy. The merchant and his family were completely devastated and doomed to poverty. Unable to withstand the fallen disasters, ten days after Basil's mother died. Three months later, his father passed away.
Thirteen months later, Vargin was released and sent to Vyborg, where he lived barely making ends meet. In the spring of 1832, after a series of petitions, he was finally allowed to move to his native Serpukhov. And when some estates were returned to Vasily Vasilyevich in 1835, the tireless merchant began again to revive trade and rebuild his frustrated economy. However, he had to do this only to pay non-existent debts to the treasury. Vargin settled in his own house on Pyatnitskaya and managed to put in order an apartment house on Tverskaya Street. He turned it into one of the best hotels in Moscow with shops, confectionery, pharmacy and studio of photographers. In 1845, Fyodor Tyutchev lived in the furnished rooms of the hotel, and the Decembrist Valeryan Golitsyn, a member of the Northern Society who had returned from exile, settled in 1853.

24 November 1855 year in the house Vargina opened a candy store. The hosts were Frenchman Adolp Sioux and his spouse. The name of the enterprise was modest - “A.Siu and K”, but the Bolshevik factory subsequently grew from this small shop. And in the 1913 year, to the tercentenary of the house of the Romanovs, the factory for the first time produced the most popular “Jubilee” cookies.

In 1842, state control recognized that many sums were not paid to Vasily Vargin’s enterprise, even taking into account all the debts piled on it. Chernyshev kept this statement for about five years, and then declared that, by the highest decree, he was not told to allow any settlements with Vargin. And the merchant continued to pay imaginary debts. Only many years later, after Alexander Ivanovich resigned from the post of head of the military ministry, Vargin decided to file a petition with Alexander II to review his business, especially insisting on checking the remaining debts of one million rubles. He achieved his own, the newly conducted investigation showed that the merchant owed nothing to the state treasury, on the contrary, the treasury owed him a certain amount. When Vasily Vasilyevich was told that the government forgives him everything, he replied: “If they do not forgive me, they should ask for forgiveness from me.” However, the final withdrawal of the charges did not happen. Over the years, the state has rehabilitated itself, writing off its debts to Vargin. The old man could quietly live out his age without worrying about the payment of money, but a few months later the merchant died. January 9 Vasily Vargin’s 1859 had a “nervous blow”, he was buried among the rest of his family at the Donskoy Monastery cemetery in Moscow. His complete rehabilitation took place only a century and a half after all the relevant documents were found and studied.

According to the memoirs of contemporaries, after the imprisonment of Vargin in the fortress, he had greatly changed, he looked broken and tired of the life of a man. The abrupt transition from fame and prosperity to humiliation and poverty turned him into a gloomy, irritable old man. Fearlessness in the conduct of affairs was replaced by the indecisiveness of a pounded man waiting for the next blow of fate.

The state of Vasily Vasilyevich was estimated by his contemporaries at eighteen million rubles. He did not have his own family and children, and nephews stayed away from the hermit of a disgraced relative who lived in recent years. After his death, all relatives were incredibly disappointed. Vargin did not leave his will, the personal box office was empty. The hotel passed to the heirs, among whom was the wife of the professor of chemistry Nikolay Lyaskovsky Maria and her brother N.I. Vargin, a member of the Society of Agriculture. A rare collection of diamonds from thirty stones was never found. Many of them were with proper names, for example, “Blue Wave” - 79 carat or “Black eyes” - 67 carat. Such stones have no analogues, there are only a few of them all over the world. Where all his enormous fortune has disappeared, so remains the secret of the century and to this day still haunting numerous treasure-hunters and historians. Since Vargin did not trust the banks, the main version is the assumption that the treasures are still kept in a secret room in the building of the Maly Theater.

Such a sad, ungrateful and, unfortunately, quite typical for Russia fate of an outstanding personality. His contemporaries have slandered him, and his descendants have consigned to oblivion. Only the noble and proportional building of the Maly Theater, which survived all the wars, revolutions and government, remains a monument to the eminent patron and merchant, his only treasure bequeathed to his descendants.

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  1. lars
    lars 20 June 2013 15: 41
    Thank! We do not know many worthy people of the Fatherland, and we won’t even know about many.
  2. Ruslan_F38
    Ruslan_F38 20 June 2013 21: 05
    Current businessmen should learn from Vargin.
  3. datur
    datur 20 June 2013 22: 53
    yeah !! That would be the current one to learn from him !!!
    1. OPTR
      OPTR 26 June 2013 00: 19
      It seems they learned. The lesson about what happens to those who deliver quickly and at a normal price is learned.