Nesselrode, Karl Robert

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(17701862), Russian foreign minister equivalent, 18141856; chancellor, 18451856.

A baptized Anglican son of a Catholic West-phalian in Russia's diplomatic service, a Berlin gymnasium graduate, and briefly in the Russian navy and army, Karl Nesselrode began his diplomatic career in 1801. Posted in Stuttgart, Berlin, and the Hague and attracted to the conservative equilibrium ideas of Friedrich von Gentz even more than Metternich was, Nesselrode became an advocate of the Third Coalition, yet assisted in the drawing up the Treaty of Tilsit (1807) and served in Paris. He played a major role in the forging of the 18131814 coalitions and the first Treaty of Paris (1814) and became Alexander I's chief plenipotentiary at Vienna (18141815). Sharing the direction of Russia's foreign affairs from 1814 to 1822 with the more liberal state secretary for foreign affairs, Ioannes Capodistrias, Nesselrode participated in the Congresses of Aix-la-Chapelle (1818), Laibach (1821), and Verona (1822). His European approach to the Eastern Question won over Alexander and led to the compromises after the Greek Rebellion of 1821.

Nesselrode's wide knowledge, clarity, complete loyalty to the crown, and earlier briefings of Nicholas I before 1825 led to retention by the latter in 1826. Though Nicholas often directed policy himself, Nesselrode remained the single most influential Russian in external affairs. He shepherded the London Protocol (with Britain, 1826) and the Convention of Akkerman (with Turkey, 1827), convinced Nicholas I to accept the moderate Treaty of Adrianople (with Turkey, 1829), and helped dissuade Nicholas from trying to depose Louis-Philippe of France (1830). Partially behind the defensive Russo-Turkish Treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi (1833), he promoted the Conventions of Münchengrätz and Berlin (1833), which associated Austria and Prussia with a status quo policy regarding the Ottoman Empire.

Nesselrode subsequently helped prevent rising tensions with Britain from turning violent in 1838 by blocking a scheme to send warships into the Black Sea and removing Russia's belligerently anti-British envoy to Tehran. Promoting compromises with Britain during the entire Eastern crisis of 18381841, Nesselrode blocked support of Serbian independence in 18421843 and limited the damage from Nicholas's indescretions during his 1844 visit to England. Fearful of liberalization in Central Europe, Nesselrode supported the full restoration of monarchial power and the status quo there in 1848 and 1850 against both popular and Prussian expansionist aspirations.

During the Eastern Crisis of 18521853, Russia's nationalists achieved the upper hand. Nessel-rode alerted the emperor about the dangers of undue pressure on the Ottomans but abetted the deceptions perpetrated by Russian's mission in Istanbul and his own ministry's Asiatic Department. Although he was one of the best "spin doctors" of his era, his eighteenth-century logic, devotion to the 1815 settlement, and impeccable French prose could not prevail over the determination of Nicholas and the nationalists to risk war with Britain and France and have their way with Turkey regarding the Holy Places and Russia's claimed protectorate over the Ottoman Orthodox. Nor could he convince Austria to back Russia, but in the course of the Crimean War he continuously promoted a compromise and helped convince Alexander II to end hostilities in 1856.

See also: alexander i; crimean war; nicholas i; vienna, congress of


Grimsted, Patricia Kennedy. (1969). The Foreign Ministers of Alexander I. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Ingle, Harold N. (1976). Nesselrode and the Russian Rapprochement with Britain, 18361844. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Walker, Charles E. (1973). "The Role of Karl Nesselrode in the Formulation and Implementation of Russian Foreign Policy, 18501956." Ph.D. diss., University of West Virginia, Morgantown.

David M. Goldfrank