1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tolstoy, Petr Andreevich, Count

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19451161911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 26 — Tolstoy, Petr Andreevich, CountRobert Nisbet Bain

TOLSTOY, PETR ANDREEVICH, Count (1645-1729), Russian statesman, was the son of the okolmnichy Andrei Vasilevich Tolstoy. He served in 1682 as chamberlain at the court of Theodore III. Miscalculating the strength of the tsarevna Sophia (q.v.) he became one of her most energetic supporters, but contrived to join the other, and winning, side just before the final catastrophe. For a long time Peter kept his latest recruit at arm's length; but when, in 1697, Tolstoy volunteered to go to Venice to learn Italian and ship-building, Peter could not resist the subtle flattery implied in such a proposal from a middle-aged Muscovite noble. In November 1701 Tolstoy was appointed the first regularly accredited Russian ambassador to the Porte, and more than justified the confidence of the most exacting of masters; though his peculiar expedients (e.g. the procuring of the strangulation of a grand vizier and the removal by poison of an inconvenient private secretary) savoured more of the Italian than of the Russian Renaissance. Even before Poltava, Tolstoy had the greatest difficulty in preventing the Turks from aiding the Swedes, and when Charles XII. took refuge on Turkish soil he instantly demanded his extradition. This was a diplomatic blunder, as it only irritated the already alarmed Turks; and on the 10th of October 1710 Tolstoy was thrown into the Seven Towers, a proceeding tantamount to a declaration of war against Russia. On his release from " this Turkish hell," in 1714, he returned to Russia, was created a senator, and closely associated himself with the omnipotent favourite, Menshikov. In 1717 his position during Peter's reign was secured once for all by his successful mission to Naples to bring back the unfortunate tsarevich Alexius, whom he may be said to have literally hunted to death. For this he earned the undying hatred of the majority of the Russian people; but Peter naturally regarded it as an inestimable service and loaded Tolstoy with honours and riches, appointing him, moreover, the head of the secret chancellery, or official torture chamber, a post for which Tolstoy was by nature emi- nently fitted. He materially assisted Menshikov to raise the empress consort to the throne on the decease of Peter (1725), and the new sovereign made him a count and one of the six members of the newly instituted supreme privy council. Tolstoy was well aware that the elevation of the grand duke Peter, son of the tsarevich Alexius, would put an end to his own career and en- danger his whole family, so that when Menshikov, during the last days of Catherine I., declared in favour of Peter II., Tolstoy endeavoured to form a party of his own whose object it was to promote the accession of Catherine's second daughter, the tsarevna Elizabeth. But Menshikov was too strong and too quick for his ancient colleague. On the very day of the empress's death (May 11, 1727), Tolstoy, now in his eighty-second year, was banished to the Solovetsk monastery in the White Sea, where he died two years later. He is the author of a sketch of the impressions made upon him by western Europe during his tour in the years 1607–1698 and also of a detailed description of the Black Sea.

See N. A. Popov, "Count P. A.Tolstoy" (Russ.) in Old and New Russia (Petersburg, 1875); and "From the Life of P.A.Tolstoy" (Russ.) in Russian Reporter (Petersburg, 1860); R. N. Bain, Pupils of Peter the Great (London, 1897); and The First Romanovs (London, 1905).