The Scotsmen of Russia


Scottish-Russian Relationships

In Russian history the Scottish at different times have played key roles , they have served in the Russian army and helped reform it. The history of the Russian-Scottish relationship has been a long one, the timing in which it started has yet to be reliably determined. It’s something that scholars and scientists have debated for ages. . What is known is that the Danish King, Christian the first sent Peter Davidson to Moscow in 1495. He arrived in Russia on a ship filled with “copper … and four excellent craftsmen from Scotland, who had experience in casting pipe and fittings.” That is how the first Scots arrived in Russia in the XV century. But the Scots were not perceived as anything special or unusual in Russia, during the 16th century . The Scots had already been serving quite successfully as mercenaries in the Russian army. In the 18th century a Scotsman by the name of Ogilvy, was a favorite of Peter I would take his Russian military career to unimaginable heights. He rose to the rank of Field Marshal Lieutenant, then became a chief of the Russian army, and even worked on reforming it. It was Ogilvy who was the first to start the staffing of the Russian army.

Jimmy-LingetaJimmy Linget – Led a Detachment of Scottish Mercenaries

In the XVI century Russia challenged with Sweden over disputed territory, thus a war began. The first Scots in the Russian army were Scottish prisoners. Jerome Horsey wrote in his Russian notes that he personally made ​​sure that the Scots prisoners were transferred to Moscow, and persuaded the king that the Scots were not the enemies of Russia, the enemies were the Livonians, Poles and Swedes. Horsey defined the Scots of that time – a “nation of wandering adventurers, mercenaries, in the military service, ready to serve any Christian emperor, for maintenance and salary.” Thankfully the king listened to Horsey. From that time on, the Scots began to serve in the Russian army. The first officially enlisted Scot in Russian service was Jimmy Linget. What we know about him is that in the 16th century, he led a detachment of Scottish mercenaries in the service of the Russian Czar. If you believe Horsey, the Scottish squad fought “successfully along side twelve thousand Russians with their short bows and arrows.” For the Scotsman it was all about the firearms . “The Crimean Tatars, who had never heard guns and pistols were scared to death by firing and screaming cavalry, which they has never seen before.” The king, of course, was pleased with this performance, but showed no mercy to them – Scots began to complain of wanting land where ready to start a new life and have a family.  Jimmy Linget along many of the Scots remained in Russia never to return to Scotland again. See more here.


Mikhail Lermontov had Scottish Roots

Let’s not forget that one of the Russian classics – Mikhail Lermontov himself had Scottish roots. His ancestor, George Lermont arrived in Russia from Lithuania at the beginning of the 17th century. In Moscow, George became Yuri Andreyevich. It was at this time George Lermont became a pioneer of Russian branch of Lermontov. Fascinating as well, Lermontov was also a blood relative of George Gordon Byron. Hence the poet and his fatalism tendency to romanticism. Incidentally, one of Lermontov’s more distant Scottish ancestors, was also a poet – Thomas the Rhymer. He was labeled a visionary, he predicted the death of the king, which was a very accurate forecast, for which he received the nickname of “honest.” According to the legend, when it came time for Thomas to die two white deer came for him and took the kingdom of fairies, but he said that he would return to earth again and again to be a poet. See more here.

alexander-leslie_1-t     Alexander    Leslie – A Famous Scottish Warlord

Scottish military were comfortable for the Russian army because, as a rule, have good connections in other countries. During a war, it was often more productive to hire the service of several thousand mercenaries than to arrange the full mobilization of the country living peasant labor. Who will feed the people? In the first third of the XVII century in the Russian army is one Alexander Leslie, Senior Colonel, – the son of the famous Scottish warlord. His voyage for the army, 5,000 soldiers ended with success. He signed a contract with the German and British colonel in Russia sending 5000 mercenaries. At the same time one of the four regiments were recruited from some Englishmen and Scots. In the 1631-1632 years this regiment took part in the siege of Smolensk and in the capture Dorogobuzh. In 1654, with the rank of general, Alexander Leslie participated in the capture of Smolensk and the siege of Riga.


James Bruce – Commander of Russian Artillery

One the most famous and most mysterious Russian Scotman is – James Bruce. He was one of the closest associates of Peter I, he was a Field Marshal in 1726. He participated in the Crimean War of 1687 to 1689 and in the Azov during 1695 and 1696. He ran the campaign for Peter and was the commander of the Russian artillery in the battle of Poltava in 1709. He was also awarded the order of St. Andrew. He participated in the laying out of St. Petersburg on May 16, 1703. He signed the Treaty of Nystad. In 1721, Bruce received the title of count of the Russian Empire. On August 30, 1725 he was awarded the order of St. Alexander Nevsky. In 1706, Bruce was transferred to Moscow civil typography. The most famous of its publication was the reference and astrological “Bruce calendar” (1709-1715). Bruce was one of the most educated people of Russia, he was a naturalist and astronomer, and owned the largest library in St. Petersburg (approx. 1,500 volumes), almost exclusively scientific, technical and reference content. He never formally studied, but was very successful in his own self-education. His contribution to the history of Russia is difficult to overestimate. He created the Russian-Dutch and Dutch-English dictionary, the first Russian textbook on geometry, “Map of lands from Moscow to Asia Minor”. In 1702 he opened the first Russian observatory at the Navigation School (was its director) in the Sukharev Tower. The most popular rumor ascribed to Bruce’s glory was that he was a warlock and sorcerer. See more here and here.


Barclay de Tolly – Of Scottish Origins 

Barclay de Tolly was a descendant of an ancient Scottish family. The first time he distinguished himself was during the assault on Ochakova he saved the wounded Prince of Anhalt. Prince not forgetting his adjutant promoted him to the service of Russia. ON April 19, 1790 at the Battle of Kernikoski prince was mortally wounded and died at the arms of Barclay. The War of 1812 was the most brightest page in the military biography of Barclay de Tolly. Gaining knowledge the strategy of Napoleon – he was able to defeat the enemy in a pitched battle at the border and force Napoleon back to France- Barclay begins to retreat to connect dispersed Russian forces and prevent the French marshals break them in pieces. His actions are subjected to increasing criticism of the generals, his resignation began requiring nobility. As a result, the commander of the Emperor appoints Kutuzov. Idea to leave Moscow also expressed Barclay first, but then his words are not heard. See more here and here. I must also add here that this isn’t an exhaustive list of Scots in Russia, there are many more.




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