Military Review

Military agents of Alexander I at the court of Napoleon

Military agents of Alexander I at the court of NapoleonAt present, when it comes to domestic military intelligence, it appears mainly in the twentieth century. Meanwhile her historical the roots are much deeper. Unfortunately, the functioning of intelligence on the eve of and during the war of 1812 relates to little-studied topics in Russian military history.

For the first time, the centralized command structure of the Russian military intelligence was established two years before the invasion of Napoleon’s troops in Russia. This happened in 1810 on the initiative of the then Minister of War Mikhail Bogdanovich Barclay de Tolly and with the approval of Emperor Alexander I. In the summer of 1810, the general Alexander Alexander I put forward a program to organize intelligence abroad and received permission to send military to the Russian embassies agents. " The responsibilities of the “military agents” included recruiting agents, gathering intelligence information abroad, analyzing it, and developing recommendations for the Russian leadership.


Why did the initiative of Barclay de Tolly find full support from the Russian autocrat? According to historians, for the first time the thought of the usefulness of acquiring paid informants visited Alexander I himself back in September, 1808, during the latter’s trip to negotiations with Napoleon in Erfurt. In one of the September days, when the Russian monarch was weary and rested in the drawing room of Princess Thurn-i-Taxis, tired of talking with the emperor Napoleon, the French foreign minister Talleyrand entered it. After the very first words of greeting, he addressed Alexander I with an unexpected question: “Sovereign, why did you come to Erfurt? You have to save Europe, and you will succeed in it only if you resist Napoleon. ” Alexander I was literally stunned and at first thought it was a provocation. However, the minister immediately shared with the Russian tsar secret information about the plans of the French emperor.

It was from this conversation that one of the most valuable informants in the entire history of the Russian special services began - His Highness the Most High Prince and sovereign Duke of Benevento, the great chamberlain of the imperial court, the vice elector of the French empire, commander of the Legion of Honor Prince Charles-Maurice Talley-Perigord.

After leaving Erfurt, Alexander I established regular secret correspondence with Talleyrand, relying heavily on information received from him. The king greatly valued this contact, protected it from accidental decryption, resorting to the strictest observance of the rules of conspiracy. So, to encrypt the source of information, he used several pseudonyms: Anna Ivanovna, Handsome Leander, Cousin Henry, Legal Counsel.

Talleyrand’s desire to provide the Russian Tsar with “informational support” was primarily explained by the very complex and sometimes scandalous relations between Napoleon and his foreign minister. As an example, one of Napoleon’s attacks on Talleyrand, which he publicly made in the presence of dozens of courtiers in the Tuileries in January 1809, can be cited. According to eyewitnesses, the French emperor, literally, with clenched fists, ran up to Talleyrand, throwing offensive accusations in his face. “You are a thief, a bastard, a dishonest person! - frantically shouted at the entire hall Napoleon. - You do not believe in God, you have betrayed your whole life, there is nothing sacred for you, you would have sold your own father! I showered you with blessings, and meanwhile you are capable of everything against me ... Why have I not hung you up on the lattice of the carousel square yet? But there is, there is still enough time for that! ”

In addition, Talleyrand considered it unattainable aspiration of the French emperor to create a world empire through wars of conquest and foresaw the inevitability of his fall. At the same time, in this case, there was not only an element of personal insult to Napoleon and disbelief in his policies, but also the most vulgar mercantile interest. In particular, the information about the French army Handsome Leander always passed on for a large reward. “The main quality of money is their quantity,” a reliable informant cynically argued. And the information of the French minister was quite expensive for the Russian treasury.

The messages of Talleyrand to the Russian Tsar were becoming more detailed and ... more disturbing. At the beginning of 1810, Alexander I sent Count Carl Vasilyevich Nesselrode, future minister of foreign affairs in the government of Nicholas I, as adviser to the Russian embassy on financial issues. However, in Paris he was in fact a political resident of the Russian Tsar and an intermediary between him and Talleyrand, with whom maintained a confidential relationship.

The value of Talleyrand’s reports increased many times when the French Foreign Minister began to use his friend in the dark, his friend, the Minister of Police Fouche. From him, Handsome Leander received the most reliable and secret information about the internal political situation in France, fermentation in the provinces, the balance of political forces.

In December 1810, Nesselrode sent Alexander I a series of messages that confirmed the worst fears of Russian diplomacy: Napoleon was indeed preparing for an attack on Russia. Talleyrand even called a specific date - April 1812 of the year - and recommended Alexander I to "strengthen the defense, since the war is already on the threshold of the Russian state."


Created by Secretary of War Barclay de Tolly, in anticipation of the war with Napoleon, the first special intelligence body of Russia in 1810 – 1811 was called the Expedition of Secret Affairs under the Ministry of Ground Forces. At the beginning of 1812, the expedition was reorganized into the Office of the Special at the Minister of War. The office worked under the strictest secrecy and submitted only to Barclay de Tolly. In the memoirs of contemporaries, it is not mentioned.

The first head of military intelligence 29 September 1810, was appointed Colonel Alexei Vasilyevich Voeikov. He was born December 9 1778. Graduated with honors from the Moscow university board. He has been in military service since 1793. He was an orderly for Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov during the Swiss campaign. Member of the Russian-Turkish and Russian-Swedish wars. Then, before the appointment of the director of the expedition, - major-square. In the period of the Patriotic War - the commander of the brigade of the 27 Infantry Division. From November 1812 of the year - Major General. Participant of the foreign campaign 1813 – 1814's.

In March, 1812, Voeikov, as a director, was now replaced by Special Office of the Colonel Arseny Andreyevich Zakrevsky. He was born on September 13 1786. From a noble family of Polish descent. Graduated with honors from the Grodno (Shklov) cadet corps. He served as a regimental adjutant, the head of the office of the regimental commander. He distinguished himself in the battle of Austerlitz (November 1805): during the battle, he rescued the regimental commander from captivity by offering him his horse instead of the killed one. In December, 1811 was appointed adjutant to Barclay de Tolly with enrollment in the Preobrazhensky Life Guard Regiment. At the beginning of 1812, he was promoted to colonel, and then appointed head of military intelligence.

Since the beginning of the Patriotic War, Count Zakrevsky was in the Army. Distinguished in the battles of Vitebsk and Smolensk, as well as in the Battle of Borodino. Then, up to 1823, he was the duty general of the General Staff. From 1823 to 1828 year - the commander of the Separate Finnish corps and the Finnish governor-general. In April, 1828 was appointed Minister of the Interior. In 1829, he was promoted to General of Infantry. In August, 1830 was elevated to the count of the Grand Duchy of Finland dignity. From 1848 to 1859, the year was Moscow Governor-General, a member of the State Council.

The Russian military intelligence conducted its activity in several directions at once: strategic intelligence (collecting secret political and military information abroad); tactical reconnaissance (collection of information about enemy troops in the territory of neighboring states, which was very important on the eve of the war); counterintelligence (detection and neutralization of the secret services of France and its allies); military intelligence. Thus, for the first time, the extraction of secret military-political information abroad was put on a regular, professional basis. It should be emphasized that all the information obtained through military intelligence on the eve of 1812, was very carefully reviewed by Emperor Alexander I and allowed him to take the necessary measures to prepare for the upcoming war.

Creating the first special centralized intelligence agency, Barclay de Tolly understood that he needed permanent representatives - "foreign military agents" - in the Russian embassies of several European countries. They were supposed to obtain intelligence information "about the number of troops, about the device, about armament and their spirit, about the state of fortresses and reserves, the abilities and virtues of the best generals, as well as about the well-being, character and spirit of the people, about the locations and works of the land, about internal sources of power or means to continue the war "(from the report of Barclay de Tolly to Alexander I). These military agents were supposed to be at diplomatic missions under the guise of civilian officials and employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Embassies and missions, where the heads were “ambassadors of military generals' ranks,” officers were sent for reconnaissance as adjutants to such ambassadors-generals.


The Minister carefully selected military agents who were to travel to the capitals of a number of European countries to work in the Russian embassies. In the future, enriched by the experience of diplomatic and intelligence activities and returning to their homeland, these officers successfully promoted, made a career.

One of the first artillery lieutenant Pavel Grabbe was in the list of Barclay de Tolly. In September, 1810, he arrived in Munich, where he was modestly “the rank of clerical servant” in the Russian mission.

The grandson of a Swedish nobleman who had already transferred to the Russian service in the 18th century, Count Pavel Khristoforovich Grabbe was born in the year 1789. After successfully completing the First Cadet Corps in St. Petersburg in 1805, he began serving as a second lieutenant in the 2 artillery regiment. Despite his rather young age, in the same year he took part in a campaign in Austria, then he fought at Golymin and Preussisch-Eylau. In August, 1808 was transferred to service in the 27 artillery brigade and soon became a lieutenant. And two years later he was destined to go on reconnaissance in Bavaria.

During the Patriotic War, Pavel Grabbe was an adjutant of Barclay de Tolly, who commanded the Western Army 1. In the future, Earl Grabbe made a brilliant career - he rose to the rank of ataman of the Don Cossacks. In 1866, he was given the rank of cavalry general. From 1866 to 1875, the year was a member of the State Council of the Russian Empire.

Colonel Robert Ye. Renny was sent as an adjutant to the Russian ambassador to Lieutenant-General Christopher Andreyevich Liven.

A descendant of immigrants from Scotland who moved to Russia, Robert Renny was born 12 on April 1768 in Riga. He graduated from the Riga Lyceum. In military service since 1786. In the rank of ensign as part of the Yelets Infantry Regiment during the Polish campaign 1794, he fought with the Confederates in Kurland. For bravery, he was promoted to captain. Participated in the expedition to Holland. He distinguished himself in the battle of Preussisch-Eylau, for which he was awarded the Order of Saint Vladimir of the 4th degree with a bow. In 1808, he was promoted to colonel. For valuable intelligence information, regularly sent to the Russian command while working in Berlin, Renny was awarded the Order of St. Anne II degree. During the Patriotic War 1812 of the year - Quartermaster General of the 3-th Western Army. In 1813, he was promoted to the rank of Major General.

Among the first to work in the Russian military intelligence was brought Colonel Fyodor Vasilyevich Teil van Seraskerken. Dutchman Baron Theil van Seraskerken was born in 1771 year. In 1803, from the captains of the Dutch service he was accepted into the Russian army by the same rank. Enrolled in the retinue of His Imperial Majesty on the quartermaster part. In 1805, he took part in an expedition to Corfu Island. Then he fought with the French in Prussia in the Cossack detachment of General Platov. During the war with the Swedes fought at Idelsalmi, was wounded. In 1810, he was assigned to reconnaissance work in Vienna as an adjutant to the Russian envoy, Lieutenant-General Shuvalov, with the assignment: to organize reconnaissance work and obtain the necessary information about the movement, number of Napoleon's troops and their weapons.
From May 1814, Major General Teil van Seraskerken worked in Russian diplomatic missions at the Neapolitan court and at the Vatican, and also served as envoy in Washington and Rio de Janeiro.

In this small essay, I would also like to tell you about Lieutenant Colonel Pyotr Andreyevich Chuykevich, an employee of the central military intelligence apparatus. He was born in 1783 year. Occurred from the nobility of the Poltava province. After graduating from the Land gentry cadet corps in 1804, he served as a platoon commander of the Kronstadt garrison regiment, and also served in the suite of His Imperial Majesty in the quartermaster unit. Participant in military campaigns against the French (1807) and the Turks (1807 – 1809). Since 1810, she is an analyst at the Central Office of the Expedition of Secret Affairs. In fact, he was the deputy director of military intelligence. A military writer and one of the most educated officers of the Russian army, Chuykevich was engaged in the compilation and analysis of all incoming intelligence information. In addition, his duties included sending agents abroad, preparing analytical notes, sending out routes for movement to military units on the western border.

In early January, 1812, Chuykevich compiled a dislocation map of Napoleon's forces, which was constantly updated. On this map, the Minister of War and Emperor Alexander I followed the movements of the French corps. In April, 1812, Pyotr Chuykevich, formulated in writing the final recommendations for waging war against Napoleon: he suggested retreating into the interior of the country and delaying hostilities due to the numerical superiority of the enemy army.

From 1821 to 1829, Pyotr Chuikevich was "on special instructions" on reconnaissance work in Laibach (Ljubljana). From 1823 year - Major General.

In addition to the above officers, other military intelligence officers actively acted abroad on the eve of the Patriotic War. So, the military agent in Saxony (Dresden), where the Russian embassy was headed by Lieutenant-General Vasily Vasilyevich Khanykov, became the major of the Kharkov Dragoon regiment Viktor Antonovich Predel, who was descended from the Austrian nobles. In 1811 – 1812, he made a number of trips around Europe to collect information about the transfer of French troops to Russian borders. During the period of World War II he commanded a partisan detachment. In 1831, he was sent to Galicia and promoted to major general.

The adjutant under the Russian envoy to Spain, Major General Nikolai Repnin, from 1810, was a fairly young officer, Lieutenant Pavel Brozin. Before being sent to work abroad, he was an active participant in 1805 – 1809 military campaigns. Perfectly manifested itself during the Patriotic War 1812 year. In 1817, he was promoted to major general.

In 1811, Robert Rennie, as adjutant to the ambassador in Berlin, was replaced by Lieutenant Gregory Orlov. He was born in 1790 year. In military service since 1805. Campaigner with the French 1807 of the year. During World War II, 1812 was seconded to Barclay de Tolly. He participated in many battles, received several wounds, lost his leg near Borodino. Awarded the Order of St. Vladimir IV degree with a bow. “Fired for Wounds” with the rank of colonel in 1818.


Nevertheless, the most successful and active Russian intelligence officer of the prewar period in question can be considered Colonel Alexander Ivanovich Chernyshev. From 1809 to 1812, he performed important diplomatic missions in France and in Sweden, was "adjutant of Alexander I under Napoleon" (personal representative of the Russian emperor in Napoleon's military headquarters during the fighting of the French army against Austria and Prussia). From 1810, Chernyshev was constantly at the court of the French emperor. It was from him that the most important and valuable information came to Paris from the Center.

The Most High Prince Alexander Chernyshev was born on December 30 1785 in the family of a senator, a lieutenant-general, the ruler of Kostroma governorship, who was a representative of an old noble family known from the end of the 15th century. According to the custom that existed at that time, Alexander was born from military service as a sergeant in the Life Guards Horse Regiment. He received a home education under the leadership of Abbot Perrin. From 1801 of the year - the camera page, then produced in the cornets of the Cavalry Guard Regiment. In June, 1804 was appointed adjutant to the regimental commander, Adjutant General Fedor Petrovich Uvarov. In November, 1806 was made to headquarters. For the bravery shown in a number of battles, he was awarded a golden sword with the inscription “For Bravery”, the Order of St. George IV degree and the Cross of St. Vladimir IV degree with a bow. In February, 1808, a combat officer, Alexander Chernyshev, was sent to Paris.

The name Chernyshev at that time often appeared in the gossip sections and local gossip sections of Parisian newspapers. A tall handsome man with unruly curly hair, an excellent storyteller and wit, he invariably became the soul of any society, especially where there were beautiful ladies. In the grand salons, the idea of ​​the envoy of the Russian tsar as a ruler and a successful conqueror of women's hearts was invariably prevalent.

But it was only a theatrical mask. The reputation of the frivolous rake served as an excellent cover for the clever and intelligent royal envoy, who always managed to obtain important information about Napoleon’s political and military plans on the eve of the French-Russian military conflict of 1812.

Arriving at the intelligence work in Paris, Chernyshev quickly gained confidence in the emperor of France, established good relations with many of Napoleon’s confidants. In a short time, the Russian colonel managed to acquire informers in the government and military spheres of the French capital, to establish and expand the network of valuable agents.

Thus, Agent Michel, who was a member of a small group of French officials who, once every two weeks personally, Napoleon had a secret summary of the number and location of French troops, gave Chernyshev a copy of this document to St. Petersburg. It happened that a copy of the report lay on the table of a Russian military agent before the original came to Napoleon.

The Russian emperor highly appreciated his representative in France and the information he transmitted. Once, on the fields of one of Chernyshev’s reports, he even wrote: “Why I don’t have more ministers like this young man.” Colonel Chernyshev was at that time only the 26 year.

During the Patriotic War, Alexander Chernyshev was the commander of a partisan detachment. The experience of intelligence work in Paris and professional intelligence sense were very useful to him in organizing the partisan movement in the areas occupied by Napoleon's troops. In November 1812 of the year “for successful actions on the assignments assigned to him and prudent execution of a valiant expedition” Chernyshev was promoted to major general and granted to adjutant general. From 1827, the cavalry general. In 1832 – 1852, he was Minister of War. From 1848 to 1856, he served as Chairman of the Council of State.

In general, the Russian military intelligence on the eve and during the Patriotic War 1812, was able to adequately resist the French.
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must to register.

I have an account? Sign in

  1. Prometey
    Prometey 16 August 2013 09: 56
    The only thing I don’t understand is whether Petersburg knew about Napoleon’s intention to attack Russia? And the concentration of the French coalition on the western border was spoiled or did not attach importance?
  2. omsbon
    omsbon 16 August 2013 11: 07
    Always admired the colonel Alexander Ivanovich Chernyshev - an amazing person!
  3. Mikhail3
    Mikhail3 16 August 2013 17: 02
    Interesting article. It seems to be about the Special Expedition, but almost not a word about the operation itself. Of course, only a deaf person has never heard of "Napoleon's intention". Just a Napoleonic army - it was indescribably cool. In a modern way, something similar to an entire army with the training and experience of a good special forces. Moreover, our army is even smaller in number. Nobody could stop Napoleon from crossing the border ...
    A special expedition began the "stop" of Napoleon ten years before he came to us, and the merits of these people are simply indescribable ... and are not described by anyone. The main thing that always struck me in this whole story is the continuity of stupidity. A fantastic reconnaissance operation was carried out. How did it happen that by the beginning of the 20th century, Russian army intelligence came to a state of simply miserable? Yearning...
    1. SIT
      SIT 17 August 2013 00: 50
      Quote: Mikhail3
      Nobody could stop Napoleon from crossing the border ... A special expedition began a "stop" of Napoleon ten years before he came to us,

      10 years earlier, under Paul 1m, an alliance with Napoleon was being prepared for a campaign in India with the aim of driving the British out of there. At the same time, an alliance was concluded between the fleets of Russia, Sweden, Prussia and Denmark and declared armed neutrality against Britain. European ports slammed for the British. These were the response of Paul I to the British capture of Malta, which Paul planned to use as the naval base of the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean. After the assassination of Paul, the new heir to the throne, Alexander the 1st, turned all this away and entered into an alliance with Britain, which thus substituted Russia under the attack of the Napoleonic army. It really was the success of foreign strategic intelligence, but only British. That is why the first to be reported on the murder of Paul I was the English ambassador Wilworth. Then the Anglo-Saxon politicians turned the same thing into the 1st world and 2nd world, solving their problems with the blood of Russian soldiers. And in our time, the first to whom the EBN reported on the collapse of the USSR was George W. Bush. Not a damn thing has changed for 200 years ...
  4. Mikhail3
    Mikhail3 19 August 2013 10: 02
    Interesting article. It seems to be about the Special Expedition, but almost not a word about the operation itself. Of course, only a deaf person has never heard of "Napoleon's intention". Just a Napoleonic army - it was indescribably cool. In a modern way, something similar to an entire army with the training and experience of a good special forces. Moreover, our army is even smaller in number. Nobody could stop Napoleon from crossing the border ...
    A special expedition began the "stop" of Napoleon ten years before he came to us, and the merits of these people are simply indescribable ... and are not described by anyone. The main thing that always struck me in this whole story is the continuity of stupidity. A fantastic reconnaissance operation was carried out. How did it happen that by the beginning of the 20th century, Russian army intelligence came to a state of simply miserable? Yearning...