Vasily Maklakov
Vasily Alekseyevich Maklakov (Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

: Василий Алексеевич Маклаков, , Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 - July 15, 1957, Baden
Baden, Switzerland
Baden is a municipality in the Swiss canton of Aargau, on the west bank of the river Limmat, located in the Limmat Valley , northwest of Zürich. It is the seat of the district of Baden...

) was a Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n trial lawyer and liberal parliamentary orator, one of the leaders of the Constitutional Democratic Party
Constitutional Democratic party
The Constitutional Democratic Party was a liberal political party in the Russian Empire. Party members were called Kadets, from the abbreviation K-D of the party name...

 and Russian Freemasonry
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodge...

, notable for his advocacy of a constitutional Russian state. His brother Nikolay Maklakov served as Russia's Interior Minister in 1912-15.

Imperial Russia

Maklakov was the son of a Moscow ophthalmology
Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine that deals with the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eye. An ophthalmologist is a specialist in medical and surgical eye problems...

 professor. He studied with Sir Paul Vinogradoff
Paul Vinogradoff
Sir Paul Vinogradoff  November 1854, Kostroma, Russia– 19 December 1925, Paris, France) was a highly reputable Anglo-Russian historian-medievalist.-Career:...

 towards Ph.D. in History at Moscow University; his thesis was dedicated to the political institutions of ancient Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

. The student was impressed by French political life during a visit to Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 in 1889 and spent most of his career attempting to establish a similar system in Russia.

Entering the bar in 1895, Maklakov expressed his admiration for the teachings of Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

 and, at the novelist's urging, undertook the defence of the Tolstoyan
The Tolstoyan movement is a social movement based on the philosophical and religious views of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy . Tolstoy's views were formed by rigorous study of the ministry of Jesus, particularly the Sermon on the Mount....

s persecuted by the government. He later authored a book about Tolstoy. Maklakov gradually made a name for himself as a brilliant orator with "a profound veneration for legal form". A high point of his legal career was the defence of Menahem Mendel Beilis
Menahem Mendel Beilis
Menahem Mendel Beilis, 1874 – July 7, 1934, was a Ukrainian Jew accused of ritual murder in Kiev in the Russian Empire in a notorious 1913 trial, known as the "Beilis trial" or "Beilis affair". The process sparked international criticism of the antisemitic policies of the Russian Empire...

, a Jew wrongfully accused of ritual murder of an Orthodox child in 1913.

Maklakov joined a moderate reform group
Union of Liberation
The Union of Liberation was a liberal political group founded in St. Petersburg, Russia in January 1904. Its goal was originally the replacement of the absolutism of the Tsar with a constitutional monarchy...

 in 1904 and played an active part in the organization of the Constitutional Democratic Party
Constitutional Democratic party
The Constitutional Democratic Party was a liberal political party in the Russian Empire. Party members were called Kadets, from the abbreviation K-D of the party name...

 two years later, serving on its central committee. The most conservative of the Kadet leaders, Maklakov was anxious to preserve the party's unity, which appeared fragile in the face of his many ideological clashes with Paul Miliukov, reputed for his intransigent liberal individualism.

Maklakov was elected by the Muscovites to the Second State Duma in 1907 and served in the subsequent Dumas until the Revolution of 1917. In such memorable addresses as that delivered on the Yevno Azef affair, he tended toward conservatism, opposing alliances with revolutionaries. But he grew hostile to the government as the years passed and actively supported the Progressive Bloc
Progressive Bloc
The Progressive Bloc is an electoral alliance in the Dominican Republic. The alliance is led by the Dominican Liberation Party and gained an absolute majority in the 16 May 2006 legislative election.-Electoral strength:...

, a coalition of liberal parties in the fourth Duma that called for sweeping reforms.

In 1915 Maklakov published his most famous article, describing Russia as a vehicle with no brakes, driven along a narrow mountain path by a "mad chauffeur", a reference to either the Tsar or Grigory Rasputin. The extent of his involvement in the murder of the "mad monk" is a matter of keen debate. The mastermind of the assassination, Vladimir Purishkevich
Vladimir Purishkevich
Vladimir Mitrofanovich Purishkevich , was a Russian politician before the Bolshevik revolution, noted for his monarchist and antisemitic views...

, claimed that it was Maklakov who supplied Prince Felix Yusupov
Felix Yusupov
Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov, Count Sumarokov-Elston , was best known for participating in the murder of Grigori Rasputin, the faith healer who was said to have influenced decisions of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsaritsa Alexandra Feodorovna.-Biography:...

 with poison to murder Rasputin.

Following the February Revolution
February Revolution
The February Revolution of 1917 was the first of two revolutions in Russia in 1917. Centered around the then capital Petrograd in March . Its immediate result was the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire...

 of 1917, Maklakov aspired to take the office of Minister of Justice in the Provisional Government
Russian Provisional Government
The Russian Provisional Government was the short-lived administrative body which sought to govern Russia immediately following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II . On September 14, the State Duma of the Russian Empire was officially dissolved by the newly created Directorate, and the country was...

. After the post went to another professional lawyer, Alexander Kerensky
Alexander Kerensky
Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky was a major political leader before and during the Russian Revolutions of 1917.Kerensky served as the second Prime Minister of the Russian Provisional Government until Vladimir Lenin was elected by the All-Russian Congress of Soviets following the October Revolution...

, Maklakov was put in charge of the government's "legal commission". He was heavily involved in the preparation of the elections of the Constituent Assembly
Russian Constituent Assembly
The All Russian Constituent Assembly was a constitutional body convened in Russia after the October Revolution of 1917. It is generally reckoned as the first democratically elected legislative body of any kind in Russian history. It met for 13 hours, from 4 p.m...

, of which he was later elected a member.


In October 1917, Maklakov was appointed to replace Alexander Izvolsky as Ambassador to France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. When he arrived in Paris, Maklakov learned about the takeover by the Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

s. Regardless, he continued to occupy the splendid mansion of the Russian embassy for seven years, until France found it necessary to recognize the Bolshevik government. Among other things, he took hold of the Okhrana archives stored at the embassy and arranged their transfer to the Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

. During this term, he was viewed by French authorities "as an ambassador who had not yet been accredited". There was considerable ambiguity in this position. For instance, once he received a letter from Premier Clemenceau
Georges Clemenceau
Georges Benjamin Clemenceau was a French statesman, physician and journalist. He served as the Prime Minister of France from 1906 to 1909, and again from 1917 to 1920. For nearly the final year of World War I he led France, and was one of the major voices behind the Treaty of Versailles at the...

 addressed to "Son Excellence Monsieur Maklakoff, Ambassade de Russie", with the lightly erased letters "ur" at the end of "Ambassade". Once he compared himself to "a magazine that one puts on a seat to show that it is occupied".

In September 1920 Maklakov visited the Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 to meet Pyotr Wrangel and other White Russian
White movement
The White movement and its military arm the White Army - known as the White Guard or the Whites - was a loose confederation of Anti-Communist forces.The movement comprised one of the politico-military Russian forces who fought...

 leaders. This was his last visit to Russia. Later 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 the consulates. Despite encroaching deafness, Maklakov remained at the helm of the Russian Emigration Office (eventually subsumed into the structure of Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

's government) until his death at the age of 88. His front-rank reputation and talent for mediation allowed Maklakov (rather than the better known but controversial figures like Kerensky and Miliukov) 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. He also wrote several books on the history of social thought and the Russian liberal movement.

In April 1941, Maklakov was arrested by the Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 and spent several months in jail without trial. Throughout World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, he kept in touch with the French Resistance
French Resistance
The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

movement. 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 move created quite a stir among the emigrants, especially after it transpired that Maklakov and others had drunk a toast "to the motherland, to the Red Army, to Stalin".
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