About project
 New Materials
 The Soul of
 Questions and

Русская версия

The Trubetskoy Family
from the time of Peter the Great
to the present day

Vladimir Trubetskoy
Vladimir Trubetskoy

Coat of arms
Coat of arms of
Princes Troubetzkoy

      Vladimir Petrovich Trubetskoy, a Professor at Versailles University, lives in Paris, though in his heart he considers himself to be a citizen of Petersburg. He is a scientist and a specialist in the study of literature. He has both professional and personal links to St. Petersburg. Vladimir Petrovich often comes to Petersburg, especially during the "white nights," his favourite time of the year. He is a descendant of an old noble family. He knows the genealogy of the Trubetskoys very well. The names of some of them have stayed in Petersburg's history, so this fact is one of the subjects of our talk. We met with Vladimir Petrovich not far from the Peter-and-Paul Fortress, because its history is connected with the name of his remote ancestor.

      - Speaking about the Trubetskoys in St. Petersburg, the Trubetskoy Bastion of the Peter-and-Paul fortress immediately comes to mind. Was it really built by one of your ancestors?

      Yes, Yuri Yurievich Trubetskoy is my true ancestor. He and his elder brother, Ivan Yurievich, were associates of Peter I.

Prince Youri Yourevich Troubetzkoy

Ivan Yourevich Betzkoy

      The Trubetskoys are the descendants of the Lithuanian grand duke Gedimin. They lived in both Poland and Russia. Here, in Russia, the family found itself under threat of extinction, so at the end of the 17th century the last representative of the Russian branch of Trubetskoys asked the other Trubetskoys to come back from Poland. Therefore, the two brothers, Ivan Yurievich and Yuri Yurievich, came to Russia. Together with Peter I, they served in the Preobrazhensky regiment and became friends with the tsar. Ivan Yurievich rose to the rank of field marshal. He was the last Russian boyar, who used that title more than fifty years longer than boyars existed in Russia as a public institution. Ivan Yurievich had a daughter and an illegitimate son, Ivan Betskoy, who became president of the Academy of Arts and an associate of Catherine II.

      Yuri Yurievich was a serviceman, a captain in the Preobrazhensky regiment. Peter I ordered him to head the construction of a bastion at the Peter-and-Paul fortress. In honour of Yuri Trubetskoy, the bastion was given his name. Yuri Yurievich was not an architect. He merely supervised the construction of the bastion as Peter's assistant.

      In June 1718, Peter I ordered city councils to be established in every city. A year later, a new order appeared. He wanted a city council to be established in St. Petersburg. Incidentally, the Central City Council that headed all the existing city councils was situated in St. Petersburg as well. Peter I sent an order to the Senate saying, "The brigadier, Mr. Trubetskoy, is made chief president over the city councils of St. Petersburg and other cities." Some time later, the tsar saw that nothing had been done, and so he wrote a new strict order to Prince Yuri Trubetskoy (chief president of the Central City Council) stating, "A long time ago, you were ordered to establish the city council and the guilds in both Petersburg and Moscow as an example for other cities. You are still doing nothing. You must fulfill the two given tasks within 5 or 6 months. If you don't establish the city council and the guilds, you and your friend, Isayev, will be severely punished." After that, the city council was established at last. It was not yet independent at that time. Its office belonged to the office of the Central City Council headed by Prince Yuri Trubetskoy.

      Yuri Yurievich became a general, a senator and a secret adviser. He died in 1739. He had five sons, and all the Trubetskoys descend from them. As for myself, I descend from his second son. One of the sons of Yuri Yurievich, namely Nikita Yurievich, was general procurator of the Senate during Elizaveta Petrovna's government. Just like his father, he was a captain in the Preobrazhensky regiment. He was among Peter III's friends. As soon as Catherine II mounted the throne, Nikita Yurievich lost all his privileges. He sent in his resignation and left for Moscow, where he founded the famous Neskuchny garden. Most of the Trubetskoys moved to Moscow. Very few of them stayed in Petersburg. Therefore, they are usually spoken about as a Muscovite family.

Prince Sergei Petrovich


      Speaking of the Trubetskoys who lived in St. Petersburg, we can recollect the story of Sergei Trubetskoy, a Decembrist and inspirer of the armed uprising in 1825. Sergei Trubetskoy was a great great-grandson of Yuri Yurievich and a grandson of Nikita Yurievich. For his participation in the uprising, Sergei Trubetskoy was exiled to a Siberian colony. His wife, Catherine, was a daughter of count Laval. She lived in a private house in the English embankment with a facade decorated with sculptures of lions. Catherine left for Siberia to be with her husband.

      - There was a Paolo Trubetskoy as well. He was a sculptor and the creator of the questionable monument to Alexander III that is located in Petersburg. The monument is situated in the yard of the Marble Palace. Is Paolo Trubetskoy one of your relatives?

Prince Paolo Troubetzkoy, in his studio

Prince Paolo Troubetzkoy,
by Serov

Princess Olga Nikolaievna Troubetzkoy

      He is a distant relative. Paolo's father, Piotr Petrovich Trubetskoy, was a brother of the grandfather of my own grandfather, Nikolai Petrovich. Piotr Petrovich was a talented person. He took part in the Caucasian war. He married in Russia, and later he left his wife and went to Italy. There he married for the second time. That was a real scandal at that time. He was accused of being a polygamist, so he could not come back to Russia. Paolo was one of his three sons. He lived in Italy, but at the end of the 19th century, when the accusation of polygamy was forgotten, he came to Russia. He created the famous monument to Alexander III. The monument looked strange, so the left-wing intelligentsia called it "a swine to the swine." Despite this, the Dowager Empress, Maria Feodorovna, liked the monument. The horseman reminded her of a warrior on the back of his mighty horse. As you know, the monument to Alexander III was placed in Znamenskaya Square, which is now called Uprising Square. Today, the monument is situated in the yard of the Marble Palace.
Paolo lived in Petersburg for some years and then, before the beginning of World War I, he returned to Italy. He died in 1939. His villa and his father's villa still exist in Italy.

      - How did the life of the Trubetskoy family turn out after the revolution?

      When the civil war began, members of the Trubetskoy family that had not been arrested by the Bolsheviks went to the south of the country, to the Caucasus. At first, my grandfather left for Pyatigorsk and later, he went to Armavir. He took the side of the Whites and participated in the civil war as a supplier of food products. His uncle, Grigory Nikolaevich, was one of Denikin's ministers. Yevgeny Trubetskoy, a philosopher and a student of Vladimir Soloviev, was also Denikin's government minister. Many of the Trubetskoys left Russia. Two evacuations took place at that time: in Novorossisk in 1920, and in the Crimea in 1921. My grandfather went from Novorossisk to France, because he knew that country very well, could speak French fluently and thought that he still had a bank account there. That was a mistake, because by that time Lenin had declared that Russia would not recognize any debts left by the imperial government. Russian accounts abroad were blocked. Those Russian people that went abroad lost everything they had. All of them were sure that the forced emigration would not last very long, and soon they would be back in Russia. My father graduated from an agricultural college in order to obtain a winegrower's profession. He was planning to develop his estate after his return to Russia. My grandfather had a big piece of property near Herson, with good black earth where grapes could be grown. But our family's life turned out another way. Up to 1950, we had no national status. Later, we became French citizens.
Some of the Trubetskoys stayed in Russia, and almost all of them were subjected to repression. I have many relatives in Moscow and no relatives at all in St. Petersburg.

      - Please say some words about your links to Russia and St. Petersburg. As far as I know, you have a lot of important meetings
with people when you visit the city.

      I graduated from a high school specializing in literature. My focus now is mainly in comparative literature. I worked at Lille University for many years. Since 1995 I've been a professor at Versailles University. I teach literary criticism. You can study literature only if you know languages. I know Russian, French, English, ancient Greek and Latin. Russian literature is my area of expertise. I first visited Russia in 1965, on my way to China. That was a real shock for me. Until that visit, Russian was my family's language only. It was spoken at home. Suddenly, I found myself in a situation where everybody could speak Russian. In Russia, I liked everything including the nature, the people and the cuisine. From that time on, I began studying Russian with greater interest. I read Russian books and tried to understand the country. The overall accessibility of Russian culture is very important to me. Russian culture includes French, German and other cultures as well. Being Russian, we strive for mutual understanding between different cultures. We also want to reduce the distance between science and culture.

front pages of the Genealogy Book of the descendants of
Prince Nikolai Petovich Troubetzkoy (1828-1900).

      Next year, I'll be the director of a new educational institution. This will be an Institute of Arts, Science, Culture and Multimedia belonging to Versailles University. Our teaching programs will draw science and art together. Students specializing in science or art will attend many lectures together. All of them will thoroughly study modern multimedia and computer technology. We will collaborate with the Palace at Versailles. Its director, Mr. Hubert Astier, is chairman of the Council of Development at our institute. He knows St. Petersburg extremely well and Petrodvorets in particular. Versailles and Petrodvorets have mutually friendly relations.
We are planning to send the students to St. Petersburg for their training period. I would like them to study art at the Hermitage, the Russian Museum and Petrodvorets. When I was in Petersburg, I spoke to Mr. Piotrovsky, Director of the Hermitage, and Mr. Gusev, Director of the Russian Museum. We discussed our possible collaboration in the future. We are planning to invite Russian students to Versailles.

      - Will Versailles University participate in the celebrations of St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary?

      My friends and colleagues from Versailles have a great interest in St. Petersburg. Versailles University has friendly relations with your National Technical University. Of course, Versailles University is planning to take part in the celebrations of your city's jubilee. The nature of our participation is being discussed. For example, in the next year we are planning to hold an academic conference devoted to Petersburg. Versailles University, together with the Paris University named after Denis Diderot will participate in this conference. We have a historical and geographical program of studies of European cities of the 18th century, so the conference is going to be held within this program's framework. The 18th century was a period when London and Berlin were rebuilt, and St. Petersburg was built. Several cities in Germany, including Stuttgart, were built during the same period. Our program gives a special place to St. Petersburg. For example, it includes the broad and very interesting topic "St. Petersburg and the Baltic region." I'd like a specialist from Russia to take part in the discussion.

      - What sites in St. Petersburg do you like most of all? In your opinion, where can the city's soul be felt the most?

      I like the centre of the city. I also like Colomna, the district of the Mariinsky Theatre, and Turgenev Square. Speaking about the soul of St. Petersburg, I recall the words said by Moisey Kagan, a specialist in world culture, that a city's soul is felt not only in its architecture and monuments. It is the harmony that embraces the architecture, sculpture, music and literature.

Interview by
Natalya Odintsova

Go top