Karl Nesselrode

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Nessel’rode, Karl Vasil’evich


Born Dec. 2 (13), 1780, in Lisbon; died Mar. 11 (23), 1862, in St. Petersburg. Count; Russian minister of foreign affairs (1816–56).

The son of a Russian diplomat, Nessel’rode began his diplomatic career in 1801. From the beginning of the Patriotic War of 1812 he was attached to the army. He participated in the Congress of Vienna in 1814—15 and the congresses in Aachen, Troppau-Laibach, and Verona (1818–22). Nessel’rode served as director of the foreign collegium from 1816. He became a member of the State Council in 1821, vice-chancellor in 1828, and chancellor in 1845. Of average diplomatic ability, he was able to direct Russian foreign policy for 40 years only because he was an obedient executor of the tsar’s will and adhered to an Austria-Prussian orientation. He considered Russia’s main mission the struggle against the revolutionary movement in the West.

When Nicholas I ascended the throne, Nessel’rode, in spite of his own convictions, followed a policy of rapprochement with Great Britain and France. With the worsening of Russo-French relations, he sought to resurrect the Holy Alliance. Having underestimated Austro-Russian antagonisms and overestimated Anglo-French antagonisms, Nessel’rode did not understand the policy of Great Britain and France, who were pushing Russia into a conflict with Turkey. As a result, Russia found itself isolated at the beginning of the Crimean War of 1853–56. In addition, Russia’s defeat in the war exposed the total inadequacy of Nicholas’ and Nessel’rode’s diplomacy. Nessel’rode was forced into retirement after the conclusion of the Treaty of Paris of 1856.


“Zapiski grafa K. V. Nessel’rode.” Russkii vestnik, 1865, vol. 59, no. 10.


Ocherk istorii ministerstva inostrannykh del: 1802–1902. St. Petersburg, 1902.
Istoriia diplomatii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1959.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.