Count Aleksey Andreyevich Arakcheyev, 1769-1834

Count Aleksey Andreyevich Arakcheyev was a controversial Russian general and minister of war under Alexander I who was responsible for a successful reform of the artillery but who was seen as a negative influence on the Tsar.

Arakcheyev's name is sometimes given as Alexei Andreevich Arakcheev.

Arakcheyev was born in 1769 into a minor noble family from the Tver province. He joined the Artillery and Engineer Cadet Corps, graduating in October 1787. He then served as an instructor at the corps, before becoming a senior adjutant to the director of the corps from 1790-92. In 1792 he was promoted to captain and became commander of the Gatchina Artillery. This was part of the Grand Duke Paul's private army, and Arakcheyev gained the confidence of Grand Duke, gaining promotion to major, then colonel and finally to infantry inspector at Gatachina.

In November 1796 the Grand Duke became Tsar Paul I. Arakcheyev was promoted to major general and was given command of a battalion in the prestigious Life Guard Preobrazhensk Regiment. He was then appointed commandant of St Petersburg. In April 1797 he was made a baron, and became quartermaster general of the Russian Army.

Paul I was notoriously unpredictable. In March 1798 Arakcheyev was dismissed from the service with the rank of lieutenant general. He spent the next year out of favour, before being restored in January 1799. This time he was commander of the Life Guard Artillery and inspector of the Artillery. In May 1799 he was created a count of the Russian Empire, but in the autumn he fell again, this time because of his part in a financial fraud committed by his brother. This time the fall from grace was more permanent, and Arakcheyev wasn't restored to favour until after the murder of Tsar Paul and the succession of his son as Alexander I.

In 1803 Arakcheyev was re-appointed inspector of artillery. He helped reform the Russian artillery, introducing the much improved 'System of 1805', which standardized guns and equipment. He was promoted to General of Artillery in July 1808, and in 1808 was made Minister of War and General Inspector of the Infantry and Artillery. He was thus a key figure during the Swedish War of 1808-1809, although the key fighting was led by Prince Peter Bagration.

By 1812 Arakcheyev had been replaced as Minister of War by Barclay de Tolly. He accompanied the First Western Army during the early stages of the French invasion, but left at about the same time as Tsar Alexander. Arakcheyev returned to St Petersburg, before rejoining the army in December 1812.

During the German and French campaigns of 1813 and 1814 Arakcheyev was head of the Imperial Field Chancellery. In April 1814 Alexander promoted him to Field Marshal, but Arakcheyev turned down the promotion on the grounds that he didn't command any troops.

In 1815 Arakcheyev began to play major role in Alexander's government, running the State Council and Cabinet of Ministers when the Tsar was absent dealing with foreign affairs. He was effectively the Tsar's deputy and some saw him as the real power. One of his key policies was the creation of a system of military colonies, which eventually contained around 400,000 men.

Arakcheyev was hugely unpopular during this period. Alexander's successor Nicholas I dismissed him from all of his posts and he returned to Gruzino, where he died on 4 June 1835.

Clausewitz describes him as of 'great energy and cunning', but 'the conduct of war being a thing quite strange to him, he mixed himself up in it very little'.

Napoleonic Home Page | Books on the Napoleonic Wars | Subject Index: Napoleonic Wars

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (12 May 2014), Count Aleksey Andreyevich Arakcheyev, 1769-1834 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_arakcheyev.html

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us -  Subscribe in a reader - Join our Google Group - Cookies