The Lord of the "State of the Sun": as a Slovak nobleman fled from Kamchatka prison and became king of Madagascar

World story knows many adventurers who proclaim themselves who are spiritual mentors and teachers of humanity, who are the heirs of royal thrones, and who are actually kings or emperors. In the New time many of them were actively manifested in the countries, as they would say now, of the “third world”, which were distinguished by weakness of the state system or the lack of it at all and were a tasty morsel for all sorts of adventures and political experiments.

By the way, not all adventurers cared only about the content of their own wallet or the realization of political ambitions and the complex of the ruler. Some were obsessed with quite respectable ideas of social justice, tried to create "ideal states", for which they could be described not so much as adventurers, but as social experimenters - albeit unlucky, with a certain degree of perplexity.

17 July 1785, one Moritz Benevsky declared himself emperor of Madagascar. How many strange creatures in the world, but this thirty-nine-year-old nobleman of Slovak descent still had certain reasons for that, and not a few. This person is also interesting to us because a significant part of his life’s journey was somehow connected with Russia. Although for a long time the very name of this person in the Russian Empire was forbidden - and there were some reasons for that.

Nikolai Grigorievich Smirnov, a good Russian writer and playwright of the first third of the twentieth century, was one of the first in the domestic literature who was popularized by Nikolai Grigorievich Smirnov, who published in one breath the historical novel “The State of the Sun”. Moritz Benevsky is displayed in him as Augustus Bespoysk, but his image is so well guessed by an assumed name.

Austro-Hungarian hussar and Polish rebel

Moritz, or Mauricius, Benevsky, was born in the Slovak town of Vrbov in the family of the colonel of the Austro-Hungarian army Samuel Beneevsky in the distant 1746 year. As was customary at that time in the nobility environment, Moritz began his military service quite early. At least in the 17 years he was already a hussar captain and participated in the Seven Years War. However, after returning from military service, Moritz plunged into hereditary litigation with his relatives. The latter achieved the intercession of the highest authorities of Austria-Hungary and the young officer was forced to flee to Poland, fleeing from possible criminal prosecution.

The Lord of the "State of the Sun": as a Slovak nobleman fled from Kamchatka prison and became king of Madagascar

In Poland, at that time torn by political contradictions, Benevsky joined the Bar Confederation - a rebel organization created by the Polish gentry on the initiative of the Kraków bishop and opposed the division of Poland and the subordination of its part to the Russian Empire. The ideology of the Confederates was based on a deep hatred of the Russian state, Orthodoxy and even Greek Catholics, based on the concept of “Sarmatianism” that was widespread in Poland at that time - the origin of the Polish gentry from the freedom-loving Sarmatians and its superiority over “hereditary slaves”.

The Bar Confederation raised an uprising against the Russian Empire, Russian troops were moved against it. By the way, Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov was promoted to major general for the defeat of the Polish insurgents. However, in many respects it is the Bar Confederation that we “owe” to the fact that the lands of Galicia, when dividing Poland, were cut off from the rest of the Russian world and fell under the authority of the Austro-Hungarian crown. The division of Poland into several parts was also largely due to the rebel war. Russian troops managed to defeat the Bar Confederation, capturing a significant number of Polish gentry and European volunteers and mercenaries who fought on their side.

Among the captured Confederates was Slovak Moritz Benevsky. He was from the genus 22 year. The Russian authorities, having pityed the young officer, released him under a promise to return home and no longer take part in the uprising. However, Benevsky chose to return to the ranks of the Confederates, was re-captured and, without any condescension, was transferred to, first to Kiev, then to Kazan. From Kazan, Benevsky, along with another Confederate - the Swedish major Adolf Vinblan, fled and soon found himself in St. Petersburg, where he decided to take a Dutch ship and leave hospitable Russia. However, the captain of the Dutch ship didn’t touch Beneevsky’s promise to pay the fare after arriving at any European port, and he safely handed over the stowaways to the Russian military authorities.

Kamchatka escape

From the Peter and Paul Fortress 4 in December, 1769 of the Year by Benevsky and his “accomplice”, Winblan, was sent by sleigh ... to the distant Siberia to Kamchatka. In the second half of the 18th century, Kamchatka was the place of exile for politically unreliable. In fact, it was the land of the jails, where a few soldiers and officers of the imperial army served and prisoners were placed. In 1770, Moritz Benevsky was taken to the Bolsheretsk prison in Kamchatka and released from custody. It didn’t make sense to keep a prisoner under guard - it was virtually impossible to escape from the peninsula at that time: only jails and hills, to try to escape more expensive than to lead a more or less tolerable existence in exile.

By that time, Kamchatka had just started to settle down by Russian colonists. Bolsheretsky prison, where Benevsky was placed, in particular, was founded in 1703 year - some 67 years before the hero of our article was transferred there. By 1773, according to travelers, in Bolsheretsk prison was 41 a dwelling house, a church, several state institutions and the fortifications itself. The fortress was uncomplicated - = earthen bank with a dug palisade. In principle, there was no one to defend here, except for the poorly armed and small aborigines of Kamchatka, the Itelmens, who, however, in 1707 had already attempted to destroy the fortress.

The exiled Moritz Benevsky was placed with the same exile Peter Khrushchov. This former lieutenant of the Life Guards of the Izmailovo Regiment was accused of insulting the imperial Majesty and had already “drawn a sentence” on Kamchatka for nine years. Of course, Khrushchev did not want to live on Kamchatka, and therefore he had long been preparing an escape plan from the peninsula. Since the only possible escape route was the sea route, Khrushchev planned to hijack a ship that could land at a local bay.

Benevsky, who became friends with a retired lieutenant, corrected his plan very ingeniously. He concluded that simply hijacking the ship would have been insane, since the chase would immediately follow — most likely a successful one, followed by the execution of the fugitives. Therefore, Benevsky suggested first raising a rebellion in prison, neutralizing the garrison guarding it, and only then calmly preparing the ship for departure. This seemed much more reasonable, especially if one considers that radio communications did not exist at that time and it would not have been possible to report from distant Kamchatka about the uprising of the exiles.

Having thus developed an escape plan, the conspirators began to select a team of like-minded people. In parallel, they looked to the other inhabitants of the prison. Captain Nilov, who served as the commandant and was responsible for guarding prisoners, was an alcoholic and paid little attention to the security problems of the prison. Benevsky spread rumors that he and Khrushchev were in favor of Tsarevich Pavel Petrovich, for which they were placed in a prison. This had an effect on the inhabitants of the fortress and the number of conspirators increased to fifty people. Priest Ustyuzhaninov with his son, clerk Sudeikin, Cossack Ryumin, navigator Maxim Churin and other interesting people joined Benevsky and Khrushchov.
Naturally, no less remarkable convict Joasap Baturin was on the side of Benevsky. Back in 1748, this dragoon second lieutenant attempted to overthrow Elizabeth Petrovna with the aim of asserting on the throne Peter Fedorovich - the future emperor Peter III. However, twenty years spent after the unsuccessful coup in the Shlisselburg fortress did not “understand” the second lieutenant and Baturin wrote a letter to the new Empress Catherine, in which he reminded that it was Catherine who was guilty of the murder of Peter III. For this, an elderly rebel was on Kamchatka.

The captain Ippolit Stepanov wrote Catherine a letter in which he demanded a national discussion of the new legislation, after which he continued to “discuss” it in the Kamchatka prison. Alexander Turchaninov was once a camera-lackey, but he had the courage to doubt Elizabeth Petrovna’s rights to the imperial throne, calling her the illegitimate daughter of Peter I and the rootless Martha Skavronskaya. With his tongue cut off and his nostrils torn out, the former cameraman was in Kamchatka, bearing a grudge against the Russian throne to death.

Thirty-three sailors — the Hypericum — settled in the prison after their ship smashed against the rocks, and the owner ordered them to go to sea again. Apparently, these “sea wolves” work for pennies and the exploitation of the owner were also tired that, being free people, joined the convicts - conspirators.

In the meantime, unknown well-wishers still told Captain Nilov that his charges were preparing an escape. However, the latter were already on the alert and, disarming the soldiers sent by the commandant, killed Nilov. The office and the commandant’s premises were seized, after which Moritz Benevsky was proclaimed ruler of Kamchatka. The escape of Benevsky was the first and only mass escape of exiles from Siberian places of detention in the entire history of the tsarist prison.

By the way, before sailing from the Kamchatka harbor, Ippolit Stepanov, who already had, as we remember, the experience of writing political letters to the empress, compiled and sent the “Announcement” to the Russian senate, which, among other things, said: “In Russia, only one chiefs they have the right to make people miserable, but they no longer have the right to help the poor person. The Russian people tolerate a single tyranny. ”

Odyssey of the Slovak Pan

Began preparing to sail. At the same time, almost none of the rebels was aware of the true plans of the self-proclaimed "Chief of Kamchatka". 12 April 1771 was built 11 ferries, which are loaded with food, weapons, tools, money, after which the rebels sailed to Chekavinskaya harbor, where 12 May went to sea on the captured galliot "Saint Peter". The voyage continued for almost the entire summer, with a monthly stop on one of the islands of the Ryukyu archipelago, where the local aborigines met the travelers quite hospitably, without denying them food and water.

16 August the ship arrived in Taiwan (then the island was called Formosa and was inhabited by native tribes of Indonesian origin). Initially, Benevsky even wondered if he should not settle on its shore — at least he sent a group of his comrades to the shore, in search of water and food. Sailors came upon a village that turned out to be a trading post for Chinese pirates. The latter attacked the exiles and killed three people, among them - Lieutenant Panov, sailor Popov and hunter Loginov. In response, Captain Benevsky, in a token of vengeance, demolished the coastal village from the cannons, and the ship sailed further, mooring on 23 on September 1771, in the port of Macau.

Since 1553, the Portuguese have settled in Macau, who erected their factory here, which has gradually grown into one of the most important outposts of the Portuguese empire in the eastern seas. By the time of Beneevsky’s voyage in Macau, the Portuguese governor’s headquarters was stationed, a significant number of merchant ships of various European and Asian countries were constantly in the port.

Using his natural adventurous inclinations, Benevsky paid a visit to the governor of Macau, posing as a Polish scientist who made the scientific voyage and at his own expense paid for a long voyage. The governor believed and gave the ship crew a decent reception, promising all possible assistance. Meanwhile, the crew of the ship, who was in the dark about Beneevsky's future plans, began to resent a long stop in the port of Macau. The satellites of Benevskoy were especially worried about the tropical climate, which they endured with difficulty and which cost the lives of fifteen Russians who died from various diseases during the “Saint Peter” stop in this Portuguese trading post.
Beneevsky’s plans to make concessions to the crew were not included. With the help of the governor, the captain arrested two particularly active "rioters", among whom was his old friend Vinblanc, after which he sold the ship "Saint Peter" and with the loyal part of the crew he reached Canton, where two previously ordered French vessels were waiting. By the way, France at that historical period was in rather tense relations with the Russian Empire, so Benevsky could not worry about the possible problems with him as a political fugitive. 7 July 1772, the Kamchatka fugitives reached the shores of France and reached land in the city of Port Louis. If 70 man escaped from Kamchatka prison, only 37 men and 3 women could get to France. The rest of them died and died on the way, some remained in Macau.

The French authorities accepted Benevsky with great honors, admiring his courage and offered to enter the French naval service. Moreover, France needed the brave mariners, intending to intensify the conquest of overseas territories. A political refugee from distant Russia began to visit frequently the reception offices of French political and military leaders, and he went out to the foreign minister and naval minister himself.

Benevskiy was invited to lead an expedition to the island of Madagascar, of which the former Austro-Hungarian captain, and now the French naval commander, of course, did not refuse. Of the Kamchatka exiles who arrived with him to France, only 11 people agreed with their captain to go on a long journey - clerk Chuloshnikov, sailors Potolov and Andreyanov, Andreyanov’s wife, seven prison workers and priest’s son Ivan Ustyuzhanin. In addition to them, of course, the French government provided Benevsky with an impressive team of French sailors and naval officers. Other Russian satellites of Benevsky part went home, some settled in France, entering the French military service.

King of Madagascar

In February, 1774, the crew of Benevsky, consisting of an 21 officer and 237 sailors, landed on the Madagascar coast. It should be noted that the arrival of European colonizers made a significant impression on the natives. It should be noted that Madagascar is inhabited by Malagasy tribes, linguistically and genetically, the majority of them are related to the people of Indonesia, Malaysia and other island territories of Southeast Asia. Their culture and life are very different from the way of life of the Negroid tribes of the African continent, including the fact that there is a certain respect for the sea and those who come to the island by sea - in the myths and legends of the islanders there is a historical memory of their overseas origins.


The Slovak nobleman managed to convince the native leaders that he was a descendant of one of the Malagasy queens, who miraculously resurrected and arrived on the island to “reign and rule” with their “tribesmen”. Apparently, the story of the former hussar officer was so convincing that the native elders were not impressed even by the obvious racial differences of Moritz Benevsky from the average resident of Madagascar. Either the natives, which, most likely, simply sought to streamline their own lives and saw in the appearance of a white signer possessing the knowledge and valuable goods of a “sign of fate”. By the way, after a certain time after the trip of Benevsky to the Madagascar natives of the Merin tribe who lived in the interior of the island, they still managed to create a fairly centralized kingdom of Imerin, which for a long time resisted France’s attempts to finally conquer this blessed island.

Benevsky was elected the supreme ruler, the Ampansacaba, and the French began to lay the city of Louisburg as the future capital of the French possession in Madagascar. At the same time, Benevsky set about creating his own armed forces from among the representatives of the native tribes. Beneevsky’s European satellites began teaching local warriors the basics of modern martial art.

Nevertheless, tropical diseases seriously reduced the number of Europeans who arrived with Benevsky, in addition to this, denunciations went to Paris from the French colonies of Mauritius and Reunion that were envying the unexpected success of the Benevsk governor’s offices. Benevsky was accused of being too ambitious, recalling to him that he preferred to call himself King of Madagascar, and not just the governor of the French colony. This behavior of the French did not suit, and they stopped funding the new colony and its leader. As a result, Benevsky was forced to return to Paris, where, however, he was met with honors, received the title of count and military rank of brigadier general.

During the War of the Bavarian Succession, Benevsky returned to Austria-Hungary, reconciled with the Vienna throne that had persecuted him before, and actively manifested himself on the battlefield. He also proposed to the Austro-Hungarian emperor to colonize Madagascar, but did not find understanding. In 1779, Mr. Benevsky returned to France, where he met Benjamin Franklin and decided to side with the American fighters for independence. Moreover, Benjamin Franklin was inspired by personal sympathy, including on the basis of a joint interest in chess (Benevsky was an avid chess player). Benevsky’s plans included the formation of the “American Legion” from among volunteers recruited in Europe - Poles, Austrians, Hungarians, French, whom he intended to bring to the North American coast to participate in the national liberation struggle against English domination.

Ultimately, the former Madagascar king, the governor, even gathered three hundred Austrian and Polish hussars ready to fight for American independence, but the ship with the volunteers was deployed by the British in Portsmouth. However, Benevsky himself made his way to the United States, where he established contacts with the American wrestlers independence.

He managed to visit America, then return to Europe. Proclaiming himself emperor of Madagascar, Benevsky decided to enlist the support of new American friends and make another attempt to win power on the island. The American sponsors of Benevsky, in their turn, pursued several other goals - they were striving for the commercial development of Madagascar and were planning to gradually take the island away from the French crown, which laid eyes on it.

October 25 1785, the BeneVensky on the American ship, went to sea and after a certain time reached Madagascar. As you can see, the desire to become the sole ruler of this distant tropical island did not leave the Slovak wanderer and seduced him more than a possible military or political career in France, Austria-Hungary or the young United States. In Madagascar, Benevsky founded the city of Mauricia (or Mauritania), named, as might be expected, in honor of the self-proclaimed king, and created a detachment of natives, ordering him to expel the French colonial authorities from the island. The latter, in turn, sent an armed detachment of colonial troops against yesterday's ally, and now the self-styled emperor and rival. 23 May 1786 of the year in battle with the French punitive squad Moritz Benevsky was killed. Ironically, he was the only one of his associates who died in this battle, and at the very beginning of the battle. So, at the age of forty, the life of this amazing man, more like an adventure novel, ended.

However, it should be noted that Ivan Ustyuzhaninov managed to escape in a miraculous way. This priest's son, who accompanied Benevsky from the very beginning of his wanderings, was considered by the Malagas to be the “crown prince” of the Madagascar throne, and after the defeat of the uprising he was arrested by French authorities, exiled to Russia, where he asked for Kamchatka, but was exiled to Irkutsk. In Zerentuy, Ustyuzhaninov was fortunate enough to live to a great old age and, in old age, pass on his notebook with reminiscences of wanderings to the exiled Decembrist Alexander Lutsky, through whose descendants some details of the adventurous journey of Benevskiy and his colleagues — from Kamchatka spear to Madagaskar Karkat — to the later time came to Madagascar.

"State of the Sun"

As it should be supposed, Moritz Benevsky pulled to Madagascar not only the thirst for power and the desire to realize their ambitions. Influenced by the popular at the time of socially utopian works, Benevsky was convinced that he would be able to create an ideal society on a distant southern island, resembling the utopia of Thomas More or Tommaso Campanella. Indeed, in Madagascar, as it seemed, all necessary conditions existed for this, including the amazing nature, which seemed magical and quite unlike even the nature of other tropical islands seen by European navigators.

It should be noted here that Madagascar has long attracted the attention of not only European monarchs who have heard about the wealth of the island, but also all sorts of “happiness seekers” who were inspired by the idea of ​​building an ideal society on a distant island. The climate of Madagascar, the "innocence" of the civilization of the natives living on it, the convenient geographical position, the remoteness of the aggressive European powers seemed to support the creation of an "island utopia" on its territory.

The last concept is as old as the world - even the ancient Greeks wrote about a certain island of Taprobana, where the “golden age” reigns. Why precisely island? Most likely, isolation from the rest of the world by maritime borders was considered the most reliable guarantee of the existence of a society of social justice, free from the influence of the materialistic and rigid “big world”. In any case, not only Benevsky thought about finding an island that lives in the “golden age”.

In the New Age, social-utopian ideas became especially widespread, including in France. According to some information, it was in Madagascar that at the end of the 17th century, the French filibuster captain Misson and lieutenant Carracioli created the legendary “Republic of Libertalia”, which was based on the principles of social equality and unified the filibusters of various nationalities and religions - from French and Portuguese to Arabs and African Africans from African to Portuguese, to Arabs and African peoples from African to Portuguese, from Arabs to Africa. . Libertalia was a unique experiment in creating a pirate society of social equality, the story itself is so amazing that it casts doubt on the plausibility. It is likely that Benevsky heard a lot about Libertalia and was eager to more successfully repeat the social experiment of his French predecessors. But the "State of the Sun" of the Slovak adventurer did not manage to survive for a long time in Madagascar.
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  1. +2
    23 July 2014 09: 46
    I read this novel about Benevsky as a child ... Indeed, incredible adventures, and very useful for schoolchildren. It encourages the study of geography, history, military affairs.
  2. +4
    23 July 2014 09: 47
    how the Austro-Hungarian hussar and the Polish rebel fled from the Kamchatka prison and became the king of Madagascar .. More precisely, it will be .. And then the Barskaya Confederation - a confederation created by the call of the Krakow Bishop Caetan Soltyk of the Roman Catholic nobility of the Commonwealth in Bar fortress in Podolia in 1768 in XNUMX a counterweight to Slutskaya, Torunskaya and Radomskaya against the advisers of King Ponyatovsky, who wanted to limit the power of magnates and stop the most odious persecution of dissidents. In fact, the lordly confederates opposed the king himself.Benevsky joined the Bara Confederation - a rebel organization created by the Polish gentry at the initiative of the Bishop of Krakow and opposed the partition of Poland and the subordination of its part of the Russian Empire... Why put a shadow on the fence, and the partition of Poland was then, after the defeat of the Confederates .. and initially did not think about the partition of Poland in Russia .. And so the story is quite famous ..
  3. +1
    23 July 2014 18: 53
    This is the first time I read about Benevsky. Amazing person!
    Thank you for the article.
  4. 0
    23 July 2014 20: 26
    As it should be assumed, Moritsa Benevsky attracted to Madagascar not only a thirst for power and a desire to realize her ambitions. Influenced by the popular at that time socio-utopian works, Benevsky was convinced that on the far southern island he would be able to create an ideal society that resembles the utopia of Thomas More or Tommaso Campanella. Nonsense ... The author does not write about the social structure of the Benevsky state, or he deliberately keeps silent. But Libertalia left its mark in history, there is evidence that Sweden once negotiated twice and even tried to make Libertalia its colony, and under Peter I Russia equipped an expedition there that ended in failure, while the preparation of the second expedition was interrupted due to Peter's death.
    1. 0
      23 July 2014 20: 36
      "Nonsense ... About the social structure of Benevsky's state, the author does not write, or deliberately keeps silent" - I wonder what could be the purpose of the "deliberate silence"? If you know anything about the social structure of Benevsky's state, share, at least a link to the sources ... The author will be grateful)))
      1. 0
        23 July 2014 22: 48
        what could be the purpose of "deliberate silence"? So the romantic image of the hero of this article, as a socialist utopian, was created in Soviet times by the writer Smirnov, the book, if I’m not mistaken, was called "City of the Sun" .. where Benevsky is presented in the halo of a fighter against tsarism .. a kind of socialist-utopian .. But back to the article ..Benevsky is fighting on the side of the Bar Confederation .. the Conservative Confederation, which opposed the liberal reforms of King S. Ponyatovsky, a utopian socialist on the side of the Conservatives? It's funny ... the French offered Benevsky lead an expedition to the island of Madagascar, from which the former Austro-Hungarian captain (incidentally, there was no accuracy of Austria-Hungary as a state in the 18th century, the Austrian empire was ..), and now the French naval commander, of course, did not refuse.A little bit wrong, it was Benevsky who suggested the French conquer Formosa (Taiwan), but the French proposed Madagascar. Probably in order to build a fair state under the auspices of the French crown? And the French king also financed .. The king is a Utopian socialist .. More ..Having proclaimed himself emperor of Madagascar, Benevsky decided to enlist the support of new American friends and make a second attempt to gain power on the island.A bit wrong .. Benevsky went to the British, with whom he had just fought. In London, he carried off his plans to John de Magellan, a descendant of the famous seafarer. They set up an Anglo-American trading company (the war between England and the North American colonies had just ended). In 1785, as a representative of this campaign, Benevsky sailed to Madagascar. Benevsky's life is a life worthy of a century of great adventurers such as Cagliostro, Casanova or Saint-Germain ... And Benevsky is just a great adventurer ... Benevsky may have heard a lot about Libertalia, but he was not eager to more successfully repeat the social experiment of his French predecessors. Nobody would have allowed him, neither the French king, nor his trade company partners. Social structure ... it simply was not ... Benevsky lived in Madagascar for a year and a half and on October 10, 1776, he was proclaimed by the tribes of the north-eastern part of the island as the Great King. He was supposed to break tribal foundations, traditions, no ... By the way, when examining Benevsky's body, a portfolio with interesting documents was found with him, namely with a letter, signed by the Austrian emperor Joseph II, authorizing Benevsky to conquer Madagascar under the auspices of Austria. the portfolio, in addition, turned out to be a letter addressed to de Magellan, dated March 28, 1784, by which ampansacabe Benyovsky appointed Magellan as his European commissioner to negotiate with governments, societies and individuals about trade, resettlement and supplies for the Madagascar state; another letter, dated August 1785 in the camp at Ankuru, signed by the "grace of God" of Mauritius-Augustus and with the help of Chancellor Graterol, elevated the gentleman of Gensky to the rank of state secretary and governor of Madagascar. It is difficult to say where the mystification turned into reality.
        1. 0
          24 July 2014 00: 32
          It is clear that Benevsky's story can hardly be free of speculation, and that is why it will always, to one degree or another, be presented in some kind of artistic treatment. Because there are very few reliable sources regarding the activities of this person, and as for his policy on the island, it is even more so a "dark story." On the other hand, it is quite admissible that he could be interested in socio-utopian ideas, especially since at the end of the 18th century they were widespread in an “advanced” environment. At the very least, it is worth more to assume that he knew about them than did not know. Still, he was an educated guy. Although, of course, he was not a socialist leader.

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