Ukase 26.626. of 1817 concerning the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
Source: Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Volume 34 page 29 - The British Library Ref: SN142 (1817)
Translation © British Association of the Russian Grand Priory of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
Translated by : Tatiana Azzopardi - Russian Translator - Malta.

Ukase 26.626 - January 20th, 1817.
- The Deliberation of the Ministry's Committee confirmed by His Highness.-
- About the prohibition to the persons presently decorated with the Order of St. John of Jerusalem NOT to wear the decoration.

"The presentation of the Report by the General of Artillery Count Araktcheev to the Chief of Staff of His Highness, the Emperor, Chief of the Special Corps of the Internal Guards, General Aide-de-Camp Count Komarovsky, was held under great attention by the audience. The subject concerned the permission, to be giving to his Aide-de-Camp Cornet Lasarev so that he could be decorated with the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

Cornet Lasarev, Aide-de-camp of Count Komarovsky's Imperial Guards Hussars regiment, received the dimploma (with the help of the envoy, Duke Serra Capriola) about rewarding him with the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Cornet Lasarev requested Graph Komarovsky to obtain on his behalf the permission from His Highness to be decorated with the Order. Two of Lasarev's brothers, who presently were registered on service with the Colleague of the Foreign Affairs, were also rewarded with the same Order.

General-Aide-de-Camp Count Komarovsky presented the matter for the consideration of the Chief of the Headquarters and asked to get for Cornet Lasarev, His Highness' permission to be decorated with the mentioned above Order.

Cornet Lasarev, on being asked about the occasion and how he got the diploma regarding the bestowing on him the Order, answered, that the Order was giving to him after he proved the origin of his ancient noble birth in accordance with the rules of the Grand Russian Priory.

The Committee stated, that though Cornet Lasarev was rewarded , with the Order in accordance with the rules of the Grand Russian Priory, the stated Order was not in existence any more in Russia, and therefore, the permission could not be giving to Cornet Lasarev and the other mentioned persons, who were presently nominated to be decorated with the same Order.

The General of the Artillery Count Arakcheev, at the time of signing the document, made the Statement, that His Highness the Emperor had made up His mind concerning the memories, and confirmed the Statement made by the Committee.

The Committee reached the conclusion as well to inform the Military General - Governor of St. Petersburg about the Statement for further execution. Count Arakcheev ordered the Military Minister that he should also inform the Chief of the Headquarters about the Statement.

Various arguments have been forwarded about the deliberation. The two main theses are (a) The Order in Russia no longer existed, and (b) the Roman Catholic Order by then a separate Order was not recognised in Russia.

The weight of historical evidence cannot support the former interpretation. The decorations under discussion that could not be worn, were being awarded by the Roman Catholic Order, not by the (non-Catholic) Russian Grand Priory.
The background to this decision is that in 1817, the Roman Catholic Order of Malta began awarding its decorations through the Duke of Serracapriola. One of these was awarded to an Ensign Lazarev, who following standing procedure, requested authorization from the government to wear it. The Council of Ministers, set up a committee to examine it. The committee recommended that Lazarev's request be denied, which was done in a Ministerial Decision issued on 20 January 1817. Those being awarded the decoration via the Duke of Serracapriola were being made members of the Roman Catholic Order, no longer recognised in Russian (unlike the domestic Russian Grand Priory). What it was that had ceased to exist in Russia, was the "stated Order," that is the Sovereign Order of Malta, rather than the Order understood as the Russian Grand Priories.

Count Aleksyei Andreevitch Araktcheev had a full understanding of the Russian Grand Priory, and in fact he was a Knight Commander of the Order. On the 8th January 1799, he was presented to a Commandery of the Order by Paul I - see Almanach de la Cour pour l'Annie 1811, À St Petersbourg de l'Imprierie de l'Acadèmie Imp: des Sciences, page 453. He would have been more than aware of the differences between the Roman Order, and the domestic Russian Grand Priory.

The one time Professor of Law at St Petersburg University, and Adviser to the Foreign Office of Nicholas II, Baron Michel de Taube wrote concerning this episode; "The Emperor interdicted the reception of insignia from Italy of the Order and their wear in Russia without a previous authorisation of Tsar. This measure was taken by the Cabinet of ministers and sanctioned by the Emperor on the request of military chiefs of three junior officers Lazareff, who had received one after another, directly from Italy, crosses of Malta and were suspected to have obtained them thanks to sizable amounts being poured into the treasury of the Grand Magistracy" - Free translation, L'Empereur Paul I de Russie, Grand Maître de l'Ordre de Malte, et son Grand Prieuré Russe, Paris 1955, page 42.

The fact remains that no decree for the extinction of the Russian Grand Priory has ever been issued. In 1810/11, Ukases were passed only to the effect that the Order's temporalities be seized. There was never any edict issued that abolished the Order, or to curtail Hereditary Commanderies to the incumbents of the time. Specifically the Ukase of 1810 24.134 stated "We will do our best to let the Order continue its activities" .
In terms of the Russian Priory, the Convention of 4th-5th January 1797 between Emperor Paul I and the Grand Master of the Order Ferdinand von Hompesch which founded the Grand Priory of Russia, was an international contractual Act, and its terms were 'for ever'. Also, no Imperial Ukase was ever issued abrogating Paul I's Proclamation which created a Russian Order of St. John, which was not only promugated in his name, but "in that of our successors for ever" (See last paragraph ).

Because the Ukases of 1810 and 1811 provide no comfort for those who claim the Russian tradition of the Order was brought to an end under Alexander I, it appears superficially that the only item at which to clutch is the Deliberation of 1817.
Whilst Emperor Alexander I through his disinterest had neglected his duties as Protector, the Order in Russia was maintained by its Commanders and Knights. For example, the prohibition to Lazareff was that he could not wear his decoration because of Government policy, never-the-less, he was still a Knight of the Roman Catholic Order. Whilst the non-Catholic Russian Grand Priory certainly existed throughout Alexander's reign it was deprived of support by the establishment, and was subsumed into the State machinery and under the control of the Government. The lack of moral support seems to have shifted, either in Alexander's reign with a softening of attitude, or more certainly in the reign of succeeding Emperors.

Certainly the Deliberation of 1817, is not an Act of Suppression, it is a deliberation not to allow a member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta to wear his decoration. The reason given is that his Priory no longer existed in Russia.

Created 22nd January 1999

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