Nicholas Karlovich De Giers - Encyclopedia

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NICHOLAS KARLOVICH DE GIERS (1820-1895), Russian statesman, was born on the 21st of May 1820. Like his predecessor, Prince Gorchakov, he was educated at the lyceum of Tsarskoye Selo, near St Petersburg, but his career was much less rapid, because he had no influential protectors, and was handicapped by being a Protestant of Teutonic origin. At the age of eighteen he entered the service of the Eastern department of the ministry of foreign affairs, and spent more than twenty years in subordinate posts, chiefly in south-eastern Europe, until he was promoted in 1863 to the post of minister plenipotentiary in Persia. Here he remained for six years, and, after serving as a minister in Switzerland and Sweden, he was appointed in 1875 director of the Eastern department and assistant minister for foreign affairs under Prince Gorchakov, whose niece he had married. No sooner had he entered on his new duties than his great capacity for arduous work was put to a severe test. Besides events in central Asia, to which he had to devote much attention, the Herzegovinian insurrection had broken out, and he could perceive from secret official papers that the incident had far-reaching ramifications unknown to the general public. Soon this became apparent to all the world. While the Austrian officials in Dalmatia, with hardly a pretence of concealment, were assisting the insurgents, Russian volunteers were flocking to Servia with the connivance of the Russian and Austrian governments, and General Ignatiev, as ambassador in 3 The names are vocalized to suggest the fanciful interpretations "victim" and "protection withheld." 4 As the account of this has been lost and the narrative is concerned not with the plain of Jezreel but rather with Shechem, it has been inferred that the episode implies the existence of a distinct story wherein Gideon's pursuit is such an act of vengeance.

Constantinople, was urging his government to take advantage of the palpable weakness of Turkey for bringing about a radical solution of the Eastern question. Prince Gorchakov did not want a radical solution involving a great European war, but he was too fond of ephemeral popularity to stem the current of popular excitement. Alexander II., personally averse from war, was not insensible to the patriotic enthusiasm, and halted between two opinions. M. de Giers was one of the few who gauged the situation accurately. As an official and a man of non-Russian extraction he had to be extremely reticent, but to his intimate friends he condemned severely the ignorance and light-hearted recklessness of those around him. The event justified his sombre previsions, but did not cure the recklessness of the so-called patriots. They wished to defy Europe in order to maintain intact the treaty of San Stefano, and again M. de Giers found himself in an unpopular minority. He had to remain in the background, but all the influence he possessed was thrown into the scale of peace. His views, energetically supported by Count Shuvalov, finally prevailed, and the European congress assembled at Berlin. He was not present at the congress, and consequently escaped the popular odium for the concessions which Russia had to make to Great Britain and Austria. From that time he was practically minister of foreign affairs, for Prince Gorchakov was no longer capable of continued intellectual exertion, and lived mostly abroad. On the death of Alexander II. in 1881 it was generally expected that M. de Giers would be dismissed as deficient in Russian nationalist feeling, for Alexander III. was credited with strong anti-German Slavophil tendencies. In reality the young tsar had no intention of embarking on wild political adventures, and was fully determined not to let his hand be forced by men less cautious than himself. What he wanted was a minister of foreign affairs who would be at once vigilant and prudent, active and obedient, and who would relieve him from the trouble and worry of routine work while allowing him to control the main lines, and occasionally the details, of the national policy. M. de Giers was exactly what he wanted, and accordingly the tsar not only appointed him minister of foreign affairs on the retirement of Prince Gorchakov in 1882, but retained him to the end of his reign in 1894. In accordance with the desire of his august master, M. de Giers followed systematically a pacific policy. Accepting as a fait accompli the existence of the triple alliance, created by Bismarck for the purpose of resisting any aggressive action on the part of Russia and France, he sought to establish more friendly relations with the cabinets of Berlin, Vienna and Rome. To the advances of the French government he at first turned a deaf ear, but when the rapprochement between the two countries was effected with little or no co-operation on his part, he utilized it for restraining France and promoting Russian interests. He died on the 26th of January 1895, soon after the accession of Nicholas II. (D. M. W.)

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