The New International Encyclopædia/Paul I., Petrovitch
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Paul I., Petrovitch
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PAUL I., Petrovitch (1754-1801). Emperor of Russia from 1706 to 1801. He was the son of Peter III. and Catharine the Great. He underwent a vigorous training at the hands of his mother, and this served to harden and warp a nature which was by no means devoid of generous impulses. The memory of his father's violent death made him suspicious of all who surrounded him, and as prince or emperor prevented him from gathering a party around him. During his mother's lifetime he was allowed no share in the government, and with the exception of a journey abroad (1781-82) passed his time in brooding idleness on his estates at Gatchina. Catharine died November 17, 1796, while seriously contemplating the exclusion of Paul from the succession to the throne in favor of his son Alexander. Paul's reign began with fair promise, but speedily degenerated into an oppressive despotism which weighed alike on the Court, the army, and the intellectual life of the nation. The system of police espionage was developed to a hitherto unparalleled degree, and swift punishment was visited on those unfortunate enough to arouse the slightest suspicion in the Emperor's diseased imagination. Reluctant at first to enter the struggle against France, he finally joined the Second European Coalition against the French Republic in 1798, and in 1799 the Russian armies under Suvaroff (q.v.) gained a series of notable victories over the French and drove them out of Northern Italy. Bonaparte's astute diplomacy, however, succeeded in breeding dissension between the Russian Emperor and his allies. Paul's discontent was intensified by the conduct of England in refusing him possession of the island of Malta, to which as grand master of the Knights of Malta, an office assumed in 1798, he laid claim. His opposition to England finally developed into open hostility, and led in 1800-01 to the formation of the Northern Maritime League by Russia, Sweden, and Denmark against Great Britain. At home, meanwhile, Paul's despotism had become unendurable, and a conspiracy was formed by some of the highest officials about the Court to bring about the Emperor's abdication in favor of his son Alexander. The leaders of the conspiracy were Count Pahlen, Count Panin, Prince Suboff, General Bennigsen, and General Uvaroff. On the night of March 23, 1801, the Imperial palace was surrounded by the troops of Count Pahlen while the conspirators, some thirty in number, broke into Paul's chamber and at the sword's point demanded that he sign the act of abdication. No certain knowledge exists of what then occurred, but it would seem that the Emperor, crazed with fear, attempted resistance, that a scuffle ensued, and that in the struggle Paul was strangled with his own scarf. Of Paul's ten children. Alexander and Nicholas ruled over Russia, while Constantine was a prominent figure during the reign of the latter. Consult: Kobeko, Der Cäsarewitsch Paul, 1754-96 (Berlin, 1886); Brenemann, Aus den Tagen Kaiser Pauls (Leipzig, 1886).