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Afanasy Ordin-Nashchokin

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Afanasy Ordin-Nashchokin

Afanasy Ordin-Nashchokin

Afanasy Lavrentievich Ordin-Naschokin (Russian: Афанасий Лаврентьевич Ордин-Нащокин) (1605–1680) was one of the most important Russian statesmen of the 17th century. His career represented a landmark in Russian history, as he was the first junior noble to attain the boyar title and highest offices of state not as a result of family connections but due to his personal capabilities and achievements. In many things he anticipated Peter the Great. He was considered to be incorruptible, thus standing, morally as well as intellectually, far above most of his peers.

Early life and career

Afanasy Ordin-Naschokin was the son of a poor official from Pskov, who saw to it that his son was taught Latin, German and mathematics. Ordin-Naschokin began his public career in 1642 as one of the officials involved in determining the new Russo-Swedish frontier after the peace of Stolbovo. By that time, he had gained a reputation in Russia as having a thorough understanding of "German ways and things". He was one of the first Russians who diligently collected foreign books; it was said that as many as sixty-nine Latin works were sent to him at one time from abroad.

Ordin-Naschokin attracted the attention of the young Tsar Alexis because of his resourcefulness during the Pskov rebellion of 1650, which he succeeded in bringing under control through his personal efforts. At the beginning of the Russo-Swedish War (1656-1658), Ordin was appointed to a high command, in which he displayed strong capabilities.

Diplomatic missions

In 1657 Ordin-Naschokin was appointed minister plenipotentiary to treat with the Swedes on the Narva River. He was regarded as the only Russian statesman of the day with sufficient foresight to grasp the fact that the Baltic seaboard, or even a part of it, was worth more to Russia than ten times the same amount of territory in Lithuania, and, despite opposition from a number of his colleagues, in December 1658 he succeeded in concluding a three-year Treaty of Valiesari whereby the Russians were left in possession of all their conquests in Livonia.

In 1660 Ordin-Naschokin was sent as plenipotentiary to a second congress, to convert the truce of 1658 into a permanent peace. He advised that the truce with Sweden should be prolonged and Charles II of England was invited to mediate a northern peace. Finally he laid stress upon the importance of Livonia for the development of Russian trade. On being overruled he retired from the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Kardis.

Ordin-Naschokin was the chief plenipotentiary at the abortive congress of Durovicha, which met in 1664, to end the Russo-Polish War (1654-1667). He negotiated the Truce of Niemieża and it was due in no small measure to his abilities and his tenacity of purpose that Russia succeeded in concluding with Poland the advantageous Truce of Andrusovo (1667). On his return to Russia he was created a boyar of the first class and entrusted with the direction of the Foreign Office, with the title of Guardian of the great Tsarish Seal and Director of the great Imperial Offices. He was, in fact, the first Russian chancellor.

Later life and achievements

Afanasy Ordin-Nashchokin sets a postal system in Russia. The stamp of Russia, 2011

It was Ordin-Naschokin who first abolished the onerous system of tolls on exports and imports, and brought together Russian merchants with the aim of promoting direct commercial relations between Sweden and Russia. He also initiated a postal system between Russia, Courland and Poland, and introduced gazettes and bills of exchange into Russia. He is also associated with the building of the first Russian merchant-vessels on the Dvina and Volga.

During his career Ordin-Naschokin had to constantly struggle with narrow routine and personal jealousy on the part of many of the boyars and clerks of the council. He was last employed in the negotiations for confirming the truce of Andrusovo (September 1669 - March 1670). In January 1671 he attended upon the tsar on the occasion of his second marriage; but in February 1671 he was dismissed, and withdrew to the Krypetsky monastery near his native Pskov. There Ordin-Naschokin took the tonsure under the name of Antony, and occupied himself with good works until his death in 1680.

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