Vasily Maklakov

Vasily Alekseyevich Maklakov (Russian: Васи́лий Алексе́евич Маклако́в; May 22 [O.S. May 10] 1869, Moscow – July 15, 1957, Baden, Switzerland) was a Russian student activist, a trial lawyer and liberal parliamentary deputy, an orator, and one of the leaders of the Constitutional Democratic Party, notable for his advocacy of a constitutional Russian state. He served as deputy in the (radical) Second, and conservative Third and Fourth State Duma (Russian Empire). According to Stephen F. Williams Maklakov is an inviting lens to which to view at the last years of Tsarism.

Maklakov in 1917 as ambassador to France.

In February 1917 Maklakov was appointed as commissar in the Provisional Committee of the State Duma. In October 1917 he was sent to Paris as ambassador, but when he arrived the Russian Provisional Government no longer existed he organized the Russian émigrés.

Imperial RussiaEdit

The former Gagarin mansion, then the fifth Gymnasium
Plevako's apartment building

Vasily or Basil was the son of Alexey Nikolaevich Maklakov (1837-May 1895), a Moscow ophthalmology professor, the inventor of ocular tonometry, a member of the zemstvo and the Moscow City Duma.[1] His mother came from a noble and wealthy family, spoke three foreign languages, and played the piano. She had seven children and died when he was 11 years old. Vasily had a full-time governess, and he and his siblings learned to speak French fluently.[2] He was interested in organic chemistry and bought a Bunsen burner. He studied mathematics, physics after leaving the 5th Moscow Gymnasium in 1887. He was impressed by French political life and influenced by count Mirabeau. During a visit to the famous World's fair in Paris with his father, French students took him to election meetings and introduced him to candidates.[3]

Back home, Maklakov published an account of the "Paris Student Association" in Russkiye Vedomosti. Like Lenin and Ayn Rand he was influenced by the death of Nikolay Chernyshevsky, a victim of injustice. In 1890, he raised money for the poor with concerts; he was arrested for his participation in the student movement and expelled from the university "for political unreliability". He spent five days in the Butyrka prison? Then he went back to Paris with his stepmother, the author of children books; there he met with the anarchists and geographers Léon Metchnikoff and Reclus. Back home, Vasily organized a student economic commission and held his first political speech. He met with Leo Tolstoy, and began to appear in newspapers, mainly because of the Russian famine of 1891–1892.[4] In 1894 he joined the army in Rostow as a volunteer.

After his father had a talk about his son with the Director of Police Pyotr Durnovo, the trustee P.A. Kapnist suggested Vasily to change faculty and study history.[5] Maklakov was seen as "a man of outstanding intelligence". After the ban was lifted he graduated under Paul Vinogradoff, an eminent scholar and researcher of classical antiquity at Imperial Moscow University. Maklakov was offered to stay to prepare for the professorship but this was opposed. He then decided to choose for advocacy and graduated from law faculty.[6] His thesis was dedicated to "The impact of dependent land ownership on civil legal capacity at the end of the Carolingian period". After the death of their father, the brothers inherited Dergaykovo-estate near New Jerusalem Monastery.


Fyodor Plevako

In 1896 he entered the bar and became a member of the Moscow Law Society. It seems he became the assistant of the Polish lawyer Alexander Robertovich Lednicki and collaborated with Fedor Nikiforovich Plevako (1842-1909) a distinguished attorney at law and judicial speaker.[7] Maklakov and his brother and sister Maria moved to Zubovsky Boulevard, not far from Leo Tolstoy in Khamovniki District.[8] Together they walked or went to the baths on which Maklakov has an interesting account. At Yasnaya Polyana, outside Moscow they discussed the fate of the Doukhobors.[9] At the novelist's urging, he defended a "Bezpopovtsy" in the Kaluga Governorate accused of blasphemy; later he defended a "Tolstoyan", who was accused of storing prohibited works of Tolstoy; this case ended with an extremely lenient sentence.[10] Plevako, a real state adviser, owned a Jugendstil apartment building at Novinskiy Boulevard. Maklakov, divorced, lived there too;[11][12] they both were friendly with Anton Chekhov visiting Moscow in May 1903. Chekhov's intention to spend the summer at the Maklakov estate at Voskresensk did not materialize, but Maklakov signed Chekhov's will. He owned several hunting-dogs and a dacha in Zvenigorod according to Chekhov.

Between 1901 and 1905 Maklakov was defending several political demonstrations, but also profitable commercial cases involving major Russian enterprises.[13] He was deeply interested in the rule of law. In 1904 he was the secretary and archivist of the opposition circle Beseda.[14][15] Then he participated in the Union of Liberation, a moderate reform group of around 23 men. They saw as their task to fight the autocracy and introduce a constitutional system in Russia. They imagined the future of Russia only in the development of the existing system, an organic evolution, not in coups. The members had a zemstvo background, representing the landowning class and intelligentsia.

The October ManifestoEdit

Sergei Witte in 1905

During the First Russian Revolution, the Tsar asked his cousin Grand Duke Nicholas to assume the role of dictator, but the Grand Duke threatened to shoot himself if the Tsar refused to endorse Sergei Witte's memorandum.[16] After a ten-day general strike in October Nicholas II had no choice but to take a number of steps in the constitutional liberal direction.[17] In the October Manifesto Witte advocated the creation of an elected parliament. This took the form of establishing the State Duma, and the multi-party system. On 20 October 1905 Witte was appointed as the first Chairman of the Russian Council of Ministers (effectively Prime Minister) but the Kadets refused to join his cabinet. The Kadets doubted that Witte could deliver on the promises made by the Tsar in the October Manifesto, knowing the Tsar's staunch opposition to reform.[18] On 9 November 1906, the cabinet issued a decree enabling Russia's 90 million peasants to start a complex process of transforming their property rights.[19] On 24 November by Imperial decree provisional regulations on the censorship of magazines and newspaper was released.[20] After an armed uprising in December 1905 the reactionary Pyotr Durnovo was appointed as Minister of Interior on 1 January 1906, a decision that was heavily criticized. The real ruler of the country was Dmitri Trepov. In the Russian Constitution of 1906 the Tsar gave up autocracy. In July, regretting his ‘moment of weakness’, he dissolved the First Duma. The ministers remained responsible solely to Nicholas II, not to the Duma.

As deputy in the State DumaEdit

At the end of 1905 he joined the Freemasons when the right to form unions and private meetings was established under Nicholas II of Russia and thus the limitations on Freemasonry were lifted. [21] Maklakov played an active part in the organization of the Constitutional Democratic Party (KD or Kadets), the first open political party serving on its central committee in October 1905.[22] He promoted a coalition cabinet like Stolypin; Milyukov and Dmitri Trepov didn't. Maklakov was elected by the Muscovites in the Arbat District to the Second Duma in February 1907, but he was more a lawyer than a deputy.[23] He attracted attention with a brilliant speech about military field courts, dealing with Sergei Konstantinovich Gershelman, advocated the abolition of the death penalty, and insisted on the inviolability of the individual. He was strongly opposed the signing of the Vyborg Manifesto written by Pavel Milyukov. He tended toward conservatism, regretted the dissolution of the Union of Liberation, argued for a shift to the right, and opposing alliances with revolutionaries. He hated long political meetings and did not like party discipline;[24] He argued that as a political party the KD must prepare itself for government participation and as a consequence must be prepared to defend the rights of whatever sort of government if it wanted to be regarded as a serious political force and not concentrate on defending the rights of the people but also those of the state.[25]

After the Coup of June 1907, considered by Maklakov as a day that would go down in infamy, Stolypin and the Tsar changed the electoral law and gave greater electoral value to the votes of landowners and owners of city properties, and less value to the votes of the peasantry.[26] In summer 1908 Maklakov traveled to Siberia because of the construction of the Amur Railway? Early 1909 he inherited Plevako's law practice.[27] In May 1909 he delivered a lecture about the legal history of Russia in the 19th century and Russia of the second half of the 90s of the XIX century.[28] In 1912 the influence of Kadets the Duma had shrunk.

A high point of his legal career was the defence of Menahem Mendel Beilis, a Russian Jew wrongly accused of ritual murder of a 13-year-old Ukrainian child. Beilis was tried twice; the evidence against him was very weak. Alexander Tager wrote that "the whole country was against the process, except for the extreme right and that the ritual murder of which he was accused was a fiction of the Black Hundreds. Maklakov "hit the nail on the head" and in October 1913 Beilis was acquitted and immediately released. His acquittal "a clear defeat for the authorities and a victory for liberal and radical public opinion" greatly calmed public opinion, for no innocent man was convicted.[29] The actual killers of the child were professional criminals. Maklakov, who had published articles claiming that the jury's verdict had saved the court's good name. Later it turned out that five of the jurors, including the foreman, were members of the Union of the Russian People.

World War I
Portrait of Vasily Maklakov, by Leonid Pasternak (1916)

In 1914 he joined the All-Russian Zemstvo Union which supported sick and wounded soldiers. Maklakov grew hostile to the government under Ivan Goremykin as the Eastern Front (World War I) went on. Russia hoped that the war would last until Christmas, but after a year the situation had become disastrous. In the big cities there was a shortage of food and high prices and the Russian people blamed all on "dark forces" or spies for and collaborators with Germany. His younger brother Nikolay Maklakov, a staunch monarchist, who served as Russia's Interior Minister was forced to resign. In September Maklakov published a sensational article, "A Tragic Situation" describing Russia as a vehicle with no brakes, driven along a narrow mountain path by a "mad chauffeur, who can't drive"; an allegory with a reference to the Tsar.[30][31] At the end of 1915 he actively supported the Progressive Bloc, a coalition of liberal parties that called for sweeping reforms, with the aim of inducing the Tsar to cooperate with the Fourth Duma.[32] The most conservative of their leaders, Maklakov was anxious to preserve the party's unity, which appeared fragile in the face of his many ideological clashes with Milyukov, reputed for his intransigent liberal individualism.[33] Milyukov suggested Maklakov to join the Octobrists.[34]

Early November 1916 Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich of Russia, Prince Lvov, and general Mikhail Alekseyev attempted to persuade the emperor Nicholas II to send away the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Rasputin's steadfast patron, either to the Livadia Palace in Yalta or to Britain.[35] On 3 November Maklakov held a powerful speech the government of Boris Shturmer.[36][37] He was visited soon by Yusupov, but refused to get involved in a conspiracy, although later that month he decided to give him legal advise.[38] Maklakov approved the murder of Grigory Rasputin and even served as a sort of "legal adviser" to one of its perpetrators, Felix Yusupov, but he categorically refused to participate in the plot. One of the five participants in the assassination, Vladimir Purishkevich, claimed that it was Maklakov who supplied Prince Felix Yusupov with a dumbbell or truncheon and poison to murder Grigori Rasputin [3][4].[39][40][41] On the day of the murder (30 December 1916) Maklakov left for Moscow.[42] but went back the next day. In 1923 Maklakov wrote that he supplied Yusupov with harmless aspirin. Also Lazovert stated later he did not use poison, but a harmless powder.[43][44] The extent of his involvement in the murder of the "mad monk" is a matter of keen debate.

On 26 February 1917 Nikolai Pokrovsky reported about his negotiations with the Bloc (led by Maklakov) at the session of the Council of Ministers in the Mariinsky Palace. The Bloc spoke for the resignation of the government by Nikolai Golitsyn. On 27 February Vasily was appointed as one of the 24 commissars the Provisional Committee of the State Duma. On 28 February Nikolay was arrested having tried to prevent a revolution together with Alexander Protopopov (on 8 February). Following the February Revolution, Vasily Maklakov supported Lavr Kornilov against Kerensky and aspired to take the office of Minister of Justice in the Provisional Government. After the post went to Alexander Kerensky, Maklakov was put in charge of the government's "legal commission". When he was elected in the Moscow City Duma on 8 July, he lived on 32 Novinsky Blvd. He was elected in the Constituent Assembly on 25 November, but never took the seat.[45]


Vasily Maklakov by Yury Artsybushev

In October 1917, Maklakov was appointed to replace Alexander Izvolsky as Ambassador to France. When he arrived in Paris, Maklakov learned of the Bolshevik takeover (October Revolution) and he represented a no longer existent government. In December was put out of charge by Trotsky but nevertheless continued to occupy the splendid mansion of the Russian embassy for seven years.[46] Hôtel d'Estrées served as the informal headquarters of the White émigré, the anti-Bolsheviks. Diplomatic relations between the USSR with the UK and France were established on 2 February and 28 October 1924.

Throughout this period, French authorities considered Maklakov "an ambassador who had not yet been accredited".[47] There was considerable ambiguity in this position. For example, he once received a letter from Premier Clemenceau addressed to "Son Excellence Monsieur Maklakoff, Ambassade de Russie", with the lightly erased letters "ur" at the end of "Ambassade".[48] Maklakov lightly compared himself to "a magazine that one puts on a seat to show that it is occupied".[49]

In Paris he met with Nikolay Sokolev who had investigated the cases of the Execution of the Romanov family but held no longer legal authority. The Sokolov dossier was marked ‘secret’ and secured inside the military procurator's archive until 1991.[50] His sister Maria organized a gymnasium, funded by Henri Deterding.[51] In September 1920, Maklakov visited the Crimea to meet Pyotr Wrangel and other leaders of the White Army. This was his last visit to Russia; Maklakov and Peter Struve managed to get Wrangel officially recognized by France, but not everybody was charmed by Wrangel's personality.[52] For ten years he corresponded with Vasily Shulgin, a member of the White Movement who escaped to Serbia.[53][54] He assumed control of a network of offices Russes that certified marriages and births of Russian émigrés throughout France and performed other work normally undertaken by Russian consulates.

It was through Maklakov that the widow of Count Sergei Witte was able to obtain the memoirs of her late husband, which were of a destructive nature, stored in the safe of a bank in Bayonne. His secret memoirs completed in 1912, were published in translation in 1921. The debate between Milyukov and Maklakov began in 1912 on the question of absenteeism and with Maklakov's criticism of the Constitutional Democratic Party. Maklakov supported Stolypin who had tried to form a "coalition cabinet", but Milyukov did not trust the Tsar and his Manifesto and refused to cooperate. Could the revolutions of 1917 have been prevented if the Kadets had adopted a less radical stance, particularly in 1905-1906?[55]

The German Gestapo arrested Maklakov in April 1942 as he had not registered; he then spent 2–3 months in jail without trial.[56] He was forced to leave Paris and moved in at the historian baron Boris Nolde. Throughout World War II, he kept in touch with the French Resistance. In February 1945, Maklakov and several surviving members of the Provisional Government visited the Soviet embassy to express their pride and gratitude for the war effort of the Russian people. The visit was controversial among the émigré community, particularly after émigrés learned that Maklakov and others had drunk a toast "to the motherland, to the Red Army, to Stalin".[57] In 1929 and again in 1945 he corresponded with Mark Aldanov, the literary consultant of the Chekhov Publishing House (which published mainly works by emigrant authors). Some had joined the Union of Russian Patriots.

Despite encroaching deafness, Maklakov remained at the helm of the Russian Emigration Office (eventually subsumed into the structure of Charles de Gaulle's government) until his death at the age of 88. His front-rank reputation and talent for mediation allowed Maklakov (rather than better-known but controversial men like Kerensky and Milyukov) to manoeuvre between the many warring factions that made up the Russian émigré community and to represent their interests in dealing with the French government. For years Maklakov was assisted by his sister Maria who was able to decipher his handwriting and did the typing in Rue Peguy (5th arrondissement of Paris). He died in a Swiss spa.[58]


In his memoirs, "From the Past", first published in 1954, Maklakov discusses the causes of events in Russia, which he witnessed and participated in, touches upon such issues that have not lost their relevance today such as the essence of democracy, the functions of a democratic state, the relationship between the state and the individual, the coordination of the interests of the majority in society and minorities. He expressed his hope for its further evolution", for "its synthesis with the rest of the world".[59] He was not entirely satisfied with Western democracies: they could not prevent world wars, nor the emergence of totalitarian regimes, nor ensure equal rights for all.

"If our planet does not perish sooner from cosmic causes, then a peaceful community of people on it can only be built on the principles of equal for all, that is, fair rights. Not on the deceptive victory of the strongest, not on self-denial or self-sacrifice to others, but on justice. The future is hidden from us; no one can guarantee that justice will prevail in the world. But for human nature, peace is possible only on these principles.[60]

Maklakov spent most of his career attempting to reform the (legal) system in Russia unsuccessfully. He wrote several books on the history of social thought and the Russian liberal movement. In Soviet times Maklakov (and the Kadets) were seen as "bourgeois" and "not studied".[61]

In 1926 and with the help of Nikolai Golovin Maklakov took control of the Okhrana archives from 1883 to 1917 stored at the Paris embassy.[62] His personal archive was transferred to Hoover Institution (Stanford University) after his death.[63][64][65] In 1959 Georgy Adamovich published a biography on Maklakov.


  • "Tolstoy as a public figure" (1912)
  • Memories. Leader of the Moscow Cadets on Russian politics. 1880-1917
  • "State Power and Public Life at the Decline of Old Russia," (1936)
  • "The First State Duma. Memories of a Contemporary," completed in 1939 and even typed, but did not go on sale.
  • The First State Duma: Contemporary Reminiscenses. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1964.
  • "The Second State Duma" (1940) or (1944, 1946)?
  • Court speeches, Duma speeches, and public lectures. 1904-1926 (with a foreword by M.A. Aldanov) - Paris. 1949
  • "Soviet Power and Emigration"
  • From the past. Contemporary notes. Chekhov Publishing House. New York 1954
  • Politician, Lawyer, Man (1959).[5]


  • Dedkov, N.I. (2005) The conservative liberalism of Vasilii Maklakov. ISBN 978-5-88735-134-6
  • Hamza, Gabor, Some Remarks on the Educational Background and Political Career of Alexander Fjodorovits Kerensky in (Tzarist) Russia. Polgari Szemle 11 (2015) 394–397. pp.
  • Hamza, Gabor, Survey on the oeuvre of Vasilij Aleksejevic Maklakov (1869-1957), the Statesman, Diplomat and Scholar of Classical Antiquity. Jogelmeleti Szemle 2016/4.
  • Kröner, A.W.(1998) "The Debate Between Miliukov and Maklakov on the Chances for Russian Liberalism." [s.n.].
  • Kröner, Anthony (2021) Vasilii Maklakov: A Russian liberal between autocracy and revolution 1869-1957
  • Smith, Douglas (2016). Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-71123-8.
  • Williams, Stephen F. (2017) The Reformer: How One Liberal Fought to Preempt the Russian Revolution

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Famous ophthalmologist A. N. Maklakov
  2. ^ Pavel Krasheninnikov on Maklakov's Memories.[1]
  3. ^ Maklakov Memoirs, Chapter IV
  4. ^ Maklakov Memoirs, Chapter 7
  5. ^ Maklakov Memoirs, Chapter 5
  6. ^ Maklakov Memoirs, Chapter 9
  7. ^ Cyberleninka
  8. ^ Stephen F. Williams The Reformer: How One Liberal Fought to Preempt the Russian Revolution
  9. ^ Maklakov Memoirs, Chapter 10
  10. ^ Maklakov Memoirs, Chapter 11
  11. ^ Kröner, p. 54
  12. ^ Maklakov Memoirs, Chapter 11
  13. ^ Stephen F. Williams The Reformer: How One Liberal Fought to Preempt the Russian Revolution
  14. ^ Kröner, p. 40, 65
  15. ^ Maklakov Memoirs, Chapter 12
  16. ^ Scenarios of Power, From Alexander II to the Abdication of Nicholas II, by Richard Wortman, pg. 398
  17. ^ "История России в портретах. В 2-х тт. Т.1. с.285-308 Сергей Витте".
  18. ^ Figes, p. 194–5
  19. ^ Williams, S (2006) Liberal Reform under an Illiberal Regime: The Creation of Private Property in Russia in 1906-1915 - Introduction
  20. ^ "1905 :: Электронное периодическое издание Открытый текст".
  21. ^ "Маклаков, Василий Алексеевич".
  22. ^ Maklakov Memoirs, Chapter 13
  23. ^ Stephen F. Williams The Reformer: How One Liberal Fought to Preempt the Russian Revolution
  24. ^ Kröner, Anthony (2021) Vasilii Maklakov. A Russian liberal, between autocracy and revolution 1869-1957, p. 3, 106, 109, 114
  25. ^ Kröner, A.W. (1998) "The Debate Between Miliukov and Maklakov on the Chances for Russian Liberalism", p. 107
  26. ^ The 12 Apostles of Russian Law: Lawyers who changed law, state and society by Pavel Krasheninnikov
  27. ^ Maklakov Memoirs, Chapter 10
  28. ^ "Ф. Н. Плевако".
  29. ^ "В. А. Маклаков УБИЙСТВО А. ЮЩИНСКОГО 1914 Бейлис Речь на суде 25.10.1913 LDN-knigi".
  30. ^ Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy: Russian Revolution, 1891-1924, page 276
  31. ^ Douglas Smith (2016) Rasputin, p. 484
  32. ^ Brittanica
  33. ^ The Twilight of Imperial Russia. Oxford University Press US, 1974. ISBN 0-19-519787-9. Page 169; Simmons, Ernest J. Two Types of Russian Liberalism: Maklakov and Miliukov, in Continuity and Change in Russian and Soviet Thought. Harvard University Press, 1955, 129–43.
  34. ^ Kröner, Anthony (2021) Vasilii Maklakov. A Russian liberal, between autocracy and revolution 1869-1957, p. 115
  35. ^ A. Kerensky (1965) Russia and History's turning point, p. 150.
  36. ^ D. Smith, p. 571-572
  37. ^ Kröner, Anthony (2021) Vasilii Maklakov. A Russian liberal, between autocracy and revolution 1869-1957, p. 132
  38. ^ M. Nelipa 110-115
  39. ^ Pourichkévitch, V. (1924) Comment j'ai tué Raspoutine, Preface.
  40. ^ The Rasputin File by Edvard Radzinsky
  41. ^ The Russian Revolution and Civil War 1917-1921: An Annotated Bibliography by Jonathan Smele [2]
  42. ^ Maklakov Memoirs, Chapter XIV
  43. ^ D. Smith, p. 594-595
  44. ^ The 12 Apostles of Russian Law: Lawyers who changed law, state and society by Pavel Krasheninnikov
  45. ^ The 12 Apostles of Russian Law: Lawyers who changed law, state and society by Pavel Krasheninnikov
  46. ^ "Василий Алексеевич Маклаков (1869–1957). "ХОТЯ ЭТО И ПОДЛОЕ ПРАВИТЕЛЬСТВО, НО ЭТО ВСЕ-ТАКИ РУССКОЕ ПРАВИТЕЛЬСТВО…". Роковая Фемида. Драматические судьбы знаменитых российских юристов. Александр Григорьевич Звягинцев".
  47. ^ Hassell, James E. Russian Refugees in France and the United States Between the World Wars. DIANE, 1991. Page 25.
  48. ^ Quoted from Hassell, page 33.
  49. ^ Hassell, page 25.
  50. ^ M. Nelipa, p. 110
  51. ^ Kröner, Anthony (2021) Vasilii Maklakov. A Russian liberal, between autocracy and revolution 1869-1957, p. 176
  52. ^ Kröner, Anthony (2021) Vasilii Maklakov. A Russian liberal, between autocracy and revolution 1869-1957, p. 166
  53. ^ "Письмо. В.А. Маклаков — В.В. Шульгину. Paris, le 2 Июня 1924".
  54. ^ "Спор о России : В. А. Маклаков - В. В. Шульгин. Переписка, 1919-1939".
  55. ^ Kröner, A.W. (1998) "The Debate Between Miliukov and Maklakov on the Chances for Russian Liberalism", p. 2, 57, 95-100
  56. ^ Kröner, Anthony (2021) Vasilii Maklakov. A Russian liberal, between autocracy and revolution 1869-1957, p. 189
  57. ^ Boyd, Brian. Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years. Princeton University Press, 1991. Page 84.
  58. ^ "Братья (Маклаковы). Генрих Иоффе. Слово\Word, №86".
  59. ^ Cyberleninka
  60. ^ Cyberleninka
  61. ^ Cyberleninka
  62. ^ Kröner, Anthony (2021) Vasilii Maklakov. A Russian liberal, between autocracy and revolution 1869-1957, p. 182
  63. ^ Hoover, history
  64. ^ Hoover, Okhrana records
  65. ^ Register of the Vasilii Maklakov papers