In late November 1803, two ships crossed the equator and, to the jubilation of those aboard, set a course for the distant shores of Brazil. The passing of the line, recorded one of the voyagers, “is sufficiently interesting to all Europeans to be noted in their journals; how much more remarkable then was it to Russians, since ours were the first vessels of that nation that had ever navigated these waters, that had ever visited the southern division of the globe.… A feeling of national pride was awakened in every breast,” he added, “and even we, who were foreigners, joined in the exultation, since we shared in the honor of laying the foundation for an active commerce, which might be in the end of the greatest importance to the Russian nation.”1

The ships were the Nadezhda and the Neva, outbound from Kronshtadt on the first Russian circumnavigation of the globe. With their sailing began a new chapter in the history of Russian imperial expansion, a chapter that would bring the tsarist empire into direct and continuous contact with Latin America. From the outset, Brazil occupied a pivotal role in Russian approaches to the New World and, accordingly, was the first Latin American nation to establish formal diplomatic relations with the tsarist court.

The history of the inception of Russo-Brazilian ties embraces more than a bilateral relationship between two states. It obliges one to view Brazil as a functional component of the much broader process of Russian expansion and thus as both an object and vehicle of tsarist policy. Indeed, by the nineteenth century, tsarist statesmen had begun to contemplate the Western Hemisphere as an anchor of Russian dominion throughout the northern Pacific basin. The northwest coast of America was to be occupied as far south as Alta California, while existing Russian colonies in Alaska, the Aleutians and Kamchatka were to be reinforced with strategically located settlements in Hawaii, on Sakhalin Island and at the estuary of the Amur River. The immediate objective of this grandiose scheme was to open the Chinese market to Russian trade, thereby laying a viable basis for the economic development of the Russian Far East.2

While the northern Pacific basin clearly dominated the attention of those guiding Russia’s eastward expansion, tsarist geopolitical perspectives extended to more southerly latitudes as well. Tsar Peter the Great (1682-1725) envisioned direct trade ties with the Pacific coast ports of Spanish America, while later in the century G. I. Shelikhov actually requested authorization of Catherine the Great (1762–1796) to trade with the Spanish American colonies.3 Similarly, in the early nineteenth century Count N. P. Rumiantsev, tsarist minister of commerce and foreign affairs, later chancellor of the empire, sought to promote Russian trade with both the East and West Indies.4

The voyage of the Nadezhda and Neva thus represented a Russian opening to the Pacific which was to include in its scope the American possessions of Spain and Portugal. Decisive impetus for this enterprise came from the Nadezhda’s captain and joint commander of the expedition, I. F. Kruzenshtern, an officer of the imperial Russian navy and experienced mariner who, in the course of advanced training several years before, had himself visited the East and West Indies.5 In Kruzenshtern’s view, Russian trade suffered intolerably at the hands of foreign middlemen. The creation of a Pacific fleet, he believed, would eliminate the need to pay exhorbitant prices for Chinese and East Indian goods to Danish, English and Swedish carriers. Moreover, lower overhead would allow Russia to become the principal supplier of Far Eastern luxury goods to the lucrative north German market. In time, Kruzenshtern held, the Russian-American Company could not fail to become of such importance “that the smaller East Indian Companies of Europe would not be able to stand in competition with it.”6

South America figured prominently in Kruzenshtern’s plan for maritime communications between European Russia and the circum-Pacific colonies. Brazil was envisioned as a key source of stores for ships sailing around Cape Horn and in actual practice became a regular stopping place for Russian vessels en route to the Pacific.7 Ships bound for Kamchatka via the Horn, Kruzenshtern noted, could sail straight to the Society Islands in the southwestern Pacific, where they could without difficulty replenish provisions consumed in the three-month voyage from Brazil. Ships sailing directly to the northwest coast of America, on the other hand, could most advantageously put into one of the Chilean ports, where they would find not only an abundance of shipboard provisions, but also the maize and wheat so sorely needed in the colonies. “The run from Chile to Kodiak,” observed Kruzenshtern, “is not too great; those who deem it so may touch at the Sandwich Islands, which do not He much out of the way.”8

The Kruzenshtern expedition of 1803-1806 in fact set the pattern of Russian maritime expansion during the early nineteenth century and served as a model for subsequent voyages to the New World. In the reign of Tsar Alexander I (1801-1825), twenty-five ships of the imperial flag sailed from European Russia on official missions to the far side of the globe. Thirteen were warships of the imperial Russian navy; eight belonged to the Russian-American Company. All but two put into Brazilian ports, several on both the outbound and return voyages. Thirteen also entered Spanish American waters.9

In addition to these state-sponsored voyages, other vessels of Russian registry visited Latin American ports at this time. Unfortunately, available evidence is scanty, and little of a conclusive nature can be said about them.10 Some apparently were chartered by the Russian-American Company for voyages to the colonies.11 Others, bearing such names as Hercules, Volga, Schastlivii, Natalia Petrovna, Velikii Kniaz’ and Aleksandr, belonged to private merchants who sought commercial advantage in the turmoil of Latin American independence. These ships frequented primarily the South Atlantic ports of Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo and Buenos Aires, although there is some evidence of direct traffic as well between the Baltic and the Caribbean.12

Russia thus began to probe and explore the Western Hemisphere in search of viable imperial relationships. As foreseen by a perceptive Spanish Jesuit in the 1760s, this approach to America would proceed “along obscure paths of more or less prudent conjecture, blindly groping in the dark, testing many different directions until at last achieving the desired objective.”13 Events ultimately defined that objective as a modest presence in the former Spanish and Portuguese territories of the New World.

The stimulus for Russian maritime expansion and resultant involvement in Latin America derived in large part from the changing socio-economic configuration of post-Petrine Russia. Underlying economic motives are apparent from the outset and become increasingly important with the attainment of Russian maritime power. At the same time, the economic sources of tsarist New World interest responded to decisive changes in Russian society resulting from the inexorable process of modernization set in motion by Peter the Great.

Expanding steadily throughout the second half of the eighteenth century, Russian foreign trade rested on an active exchange of foodstuffs, raw materials, semi-finished products and a variety of manufactured goods. Bread, flour, lard, flax, hemp, canvas, pig iron and forest products were exported, primarily to Great Britain and the maritime states of continental Europe, while silks, woolens, raw and processed cotton, dyes, sugar, tea, coffee and metal implements were imported to meet the growing demands of Russia’s domestic market. Between 25 and 30 percent of total annual imports comprised colonial goods, a large portion of which originated in Latin America.14

Primary colonial imports from America included cotton, sugar and dyestuffs. Together with varying quantities of coffee, cacao, tapioca, spirits and medicinals, these goods were supplied to the Russian market directly, as well as indirectly via the great commercial marts of England and the Baltic.15 The significance of New World commodities in Russian foreign trade in the early 1800s is suggested by Table I. These are, of course, generic classifications and as such permit only a partial view of Russian commercial links with the New World. In addition, there were numerous articles of relatively minor commercial significance not included here.

A varied selection of products reached the Russian market from Brazil, including cacao, tapioca, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, pepper, rum and tropical woods. Brazilian sugar was available to Russian consumers in white, refined and brown powder, as well as in loaves. Cotton of varying grades was imported from Pernambuco, Maranhão, Bahia, Pará and Rio de Janeiro, together with coffee, indigo and numerous other commodities.16 At the same time, large quantities of Brazilian fiber were shipped via Portugal to the cotton mills of Manchester and Birmingham, a principal source of cotton dry goods imported into Russia.17

The growing importation of colonial produce into tsarist Russia in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries at once attested to and resulted from important changes in the size, composition and distribution of the Russian population.18 As a consequence of rapid urbanization, the emergence of an urban bourgeoisie in key population centers spawned a life style markedly distinct from that which prevailed throughout the limitless countryside, a life style progressively attuned to the cultural, political and socio-economic pulsations of Western Europe. Augmented private wealth among the merchants and petty bourgeoisie, coupled with a pronounced Europeanization of the Russian nobility, gave rise to new demands for a variety of nonessential goods, which, in the main, proved to be of colonial origin.19

So great was the value attached to luxury articles by the affluent and socially dominant that some actually came to be regarded as items of prime necessity. Such, for example, was the case of sugar. With the general spread of its use, wrote a Russian contemporary, “this product became one of the principal articles of trade in all the European states and for many of them it acquired a fundamental importance with respect to their policies, finances and diverse interests of trade, agriculture and manufacturing.”20 Sugar, affirmed the tsarist minister of commerce in 1806, “has become for us an indispensable article of consumption.” Together with cotton, another essential commodity, it drained eight million rubles from the country annually.21

Russia’s adherence to the continental blockade by the Treaty of Tilsit in July 1807 severely disrupted the domestic and foreign affairs of the empire. Within a year government officials and private citizens alike were searching for palliatives to the mounting economic dislocations occasioned by the new alliance with Napoleonic France. Both expressed concern over dwindling colonial imports and soon began to contemplate the overseas territories of Spain and Portugal as possible sources of commercial relief. As early as January 1808, for example, the respected Politicheskii, statisticheskii i geograficheskii zhurnal called attention to the untapped wealth of Portuguese America. “Brazil’s position for trade,” the journal declared, “is so extraordinarily felicitous that it is as if nature had meant it to be a universai trading place.”22 Other organs of the Russian periodical press likewise began to publish articles on Portuguese America,23 and, in early July 1808, the influential Sanktpeterburgskie kommercheskie vedomosti informed its readers of the opening of Brazilian ports to direct foreign trade.24

What may have been the first serious Russian attempt to establish direct trade relations with Brazil came in the spring of 1808, when a leading St. Petersburg merchant by the name of Kremer proposed the dispatch of two ships to South America. In the existing conditions of blockade, Kremer argued, England was no longer able to supply Spanish and Portuguese America with such basic goods as iron, linen, cordage, canvas and sailcloth, traditionally of Russian manufacture, and that consequently Russia found itself in a position to benefit from an otherwise intolerable state of affairs. Vessels engaging in this trade, he emphasized, would return to Russia laden with the sorely needed colonial products of the New World.25

The tsarist court approved Kremer’s proposal and two vessels, the Prinzessin and the Östergotland, were outfitted for the voyage. The actual outcome of this venture is not known and remains to be documented.26 It is significant, however, that such an undertaking should have been proposed at this time and, further, that it should have received the tsar’s official endorsement. Kremer, as other Russian contemporaries, was prepared to go to great lengths to surmount the hardships imposed on Russian commerce by the continental system. In the increasingly difficult circumstances of the day, he viewed the prospect of profit in Latin America, especially Brazil, with rising interest.

Kremer was not alone in his estimations of the benefits to be derived from the establishment of direct trade ties with the New World, nor did the impetus for such trade come solely from the Russian side. Barely three months after the opening of Brazilian ports to foreign shipping, the Portuguese minister of foreign affairs, Rodrigo de Souza Coutinho (Conde de Linhares), instructed his chargé d’affaires in St. Petersburg, Rodrigo Navarro de Andrade, to advise him in all possible detail on the feasibility of promoting direct trade relations between Brazil and the Russian empire.27

Anticipating Linhares’ request, Andrade had already filed a lengthy dispatch on the subject of Russo-Brazilian trade. The principal Russian ports on the Baltic where merchants of the New World could expect to carry on a lucrative trade, he wrote, were St. Petersburg and Riga. In the capital, Portuguese merchants could consign ships and cargoes of Brazilian goods to the reputable trading firm of Dionizio Pedro Lopes, while in Riga they were commended to Wenceslao Teodora Gama, a Portuguese merchant long established in that city. Andrade also considered Archangel a viable outlet for the produce of Brazil.28

At the same time, Andrade cautioned, there were serious obstacles to the promotion of direct commercial intercourse. The great distance separating the two countries obliged ships trafficking between them to make at least one intermediary stop to replenish depleted stores. The political situation in Europe made it impossible, however, for vessels of Portuguese registry to call at British or continental ports. It was both necessary and prudent, therefore, that these ships put into Madeira or the Azores before proceeding on to northern Europe, for should the French unexpectedly occupy Zealand, Brazilian cargoes consigned to Riga and St. Petersburg would not get past Helsingör. Even with these precautions, Andrade added, hard intelligence on developments in the Baltic could not be secured, since events were moving too precipitously to state anything with certainty.29

Like the Russian, Kremer, and despite the manifest obstacles, Dionizio Pedro Lopes, too, saw an attractive source of profit in the establishment of direct trade relations between Russia and Brazil. In early January 1809, Lopes drafted an open letter on the advantages of such trade for circulation among the merchants of Brazil.30 “The memorable events which have occurred in Europe,” he wrote, “facilitate and make of the greatest importance and interest direct trade between the States of Brazil and the Russian Empire. Almost all the products of Brazil have a ready outlet in Russia,” he declared, “and many of the goods produced and manufactured in this Empire can very advantageously be exported to Brazil.”31

Lopes announced his readiness to provide merchants located in Brazil with the necessary credit “to initiate and promote their commercial speculations” in St. Petersburg. For those consigning shipments of Brazilian commodities directly to his firm, credit would be established on the basis of proceeds received from the sale of such shipments. To those wishing to purchase Russian goods for sale on the Brazilian market, he would advance credit at an annual rate of six percent. “As my firm is the only Portuguese establishment in this capital,” Lopes concluded, “I am confident that my compatriots will place their commissions and orders with me, it being well known in all the centers of Europe, and above all in those of Portugal, that I have always executed the very important commissions entrusted to me with honor, zeal and dispatch.”32

Indeed, the import-export house of Dionizio Lopes figured among the first ten commercial establishments of the Russian capital, realizing in the year 1807 alone a total turnover of more than 1.3 million rubles.33 Now, in the general crisis of Napoleonic Europe, Lopes sought to conserve and even expand his fortune. Undertaking a fourteen-month journey to Brazil for the specific purpose of promoting trade between Russia and Portuguese America, he returned to St. Petersburg in the winter of 1812. He carried his promotional efforts to the press, particularly the widely-read Portuguese-language monthly, Correio Braziliense, published in London. A frequent contributor, he reported exchange quotations, market conditions, changing trade regulations and the movement of commercial shipping through Russia’s Baltic ports.34

If by 1809 private entrepreneurs had begun actively to seek the establishment of direct trade ties between Russia and Portuguese America, the Russian and Portuguese governments, too, were showing interest in the promotion of such trade. At the beginning of January 1808, scarcely two months after the Portuguese court had sailed for South America, Count Rumiantsev hastened to assure Andrade that the transfer of the royal family to Brazil, far from weakening Russo-Portuguese ties, would, “given the advantages of direct trade between the two countries,” in fact strengthen those ties.35 At a subsequent meeting in February, Rumiantsev informed the Portuguese chargé d’affaires that the Russo-Portuguese trade agreement of 179836 would remain unaltered and that Portuguese vessels sailing from the islands and ports of the overseas dominions could continue to call at Russian ports despite recent events in Europe.37 As yet unaware of the carta régia published in Rio de Janeiro two or three weeks before, Rumiantsev expressed the hope that in the event “any ship of the Russian-American Company should call at a Brazilian port prior to the issuance of new regulations governing foreign shipping,” it would, in reciprocity, “be well received and permitted to take on a cargo of colonial goods.”38

Rumiantsev did not make this remark unwittingly, for he almost certainly had in mind the 300-ton sloop Diana, which had departed Kronshtadt the previous month of July for Russian America.39 The Diana, in turn, had been preceded by the Russian-American Company ship Neva, which, on its second voyage to the New World, had called at Salvador da Bahia in early 1807.40 As Rumiantsev no doubt anticipated, in January 1808 the Diana put into the island of Santa Catarina, where, in addition to taking on fresh provisions and a cargo of unrefined sugar, it gathered detailed intelligence on the island’s potential for trade.41

Favorably impressed by Rumiantsev’s cordiality, the Portuguese chargé d’affaires inquired of his home government if he might not profitably initiate formal conversations with the Russian minister of commerce and foreign affairs on the expansion of trade between the two countries. A reduction of duties on Brazilian coffee and raw cotton imported into Russia, he suggested, might be met with a reciprocal lowering of duties on Russian linens, oakum and cordage. Article IX of the Russo-Portuguese trade agreement, he observed, provided for such alteration of the original treaty.42

In the spring of 1809, Andrade again spoke with Count Rumiantsev and learned that, while ships of neutral or Portuguese registry sailing from ports of the Portuguese overseas empire could continue to frequent Russian ports, vessels sailing directly from Portugal would no longer be permitted to do so.43 Andrade vigorously protested the now official Russian stand on Portuguese shipping, roundly decrying its inequity and the prejudicial effects which it would have on Portuguese merchants previously authorized to consign cargoes to Russia. Rumiantsev nonetheless remained firm, explaining that in the existing circumstances the Russian government was obliged to adopt trade policies which in normal times would seem unjust.44

Reiterating these points in subsequent discussions with Andrade, Rumiantsev emphasized that Portuguese ships sailing from Brazil or any other of the Portuguese overseas dominions would be welcome in Russian ports and accorded all the rights and privileges stipulated in existing Russo-Portuguese treaties.45 In return for these assurances, he requested a formal declaration from the Portuguese side guaranteeing reciprocal treatment for any Russian vessels, which, sailing “from ports in the Empire or from its possessions in the northwest of America,” might put into Brazilian ports or elsewhere in the Portuguese colonies.46

Early in 1810, Count Rumiantsev took the matter of Russo-Portuguese commerce before the council of state, where he outlined both immediate and future benefits to be derived from direct trade with Brazil. An expansion of such ties, encouraged by a mutual reduction of import duties, he argued, would benefit Russian manufacturing interests, while access to this new source of raw materials would stimulate the growth of the empire’s light processing industries. In the longer run, it would undermine British interests in the area, as well as stimulate the growth of Russian trade and navigation.47 The council of state concurred and by mid-May of 1810 the tsarist government had officially sanctioned alterations in the Russo-Portuguese commercial accord of 1798 designed to promote the desired expansion of Russian trade with Brazil.48

Tsarist interest in increased trade with the Portuguese overseas empire was reflected in the subsequent establishment of key diplomatic and consular posts within that empire. On July 28, 1811, the tsar named his then ambassador to the United States, Count F. P. Pahlen, Russian envoy to Brazil.49 He advised the new envoy that it was trade alone that had held Russian interest in that distant country.

… the latest treaty signed in Rio de Janeiro with Great Britain further attests to its importance. In sharing this trade with the English, Russia will certainly acquire a good market, but Brazil, too, will discover great advantages. As a tributary of English trade, she receives not only the products of English industry, but also secondhand merchandise from northern Europe. In exchange, she can sell only a small part of the products of her soil, whereas Russia, supplying her own merchandise at a better price, has need of all the local products of the Portuguese colonies.50

It appeared, the tsar noted, that the Portuguese themselves appreciated the advantages of such trade, for despite his interdiction of commerce with mainland Portugal, they had continued to cultivate Russian favor and had even sent a minister to St. Petersburg from Rio de Janeiro.51 In this state of affairs, he instructed Pahlen, “it is fitting that you cultivate the Portuguese minister’s inclination to institute direct trade with Russia, assuring him of my complete concurrence in this matter.”

The confluence of Russian economic and political objectives was also clear in the tsar’s instructions. “It is desirable,” he wrote Pahlen,

… that the court of Brazil not let the yoke which England has imposed on it through her treaties of alliance and commerce weigh too heavily. You will seek with as much circumspection as dexterity, if not to destroy [England’s] political influence, at least to weaken her commercial influence by making clear that in both respects Russia offers fewer inconveniences and many more advantages.52

Alexander further instructed his envoy to impress upon the Portuguese court the preferability of residence in Rio de Janeiro, as opposed to Lisbon. In Portugal, he observed the very existence of the court was constantly exposed to the vicissitudes of power politics, whereas in Brazil, surrounded by the wealth of that vast territory, “it could at once guarantee its independence and attain a place among the great powers.53

Pahlen was to be accompanied to South America by P. I. Poletica and F. Ivanov, counsellor and secretary respectively of the Russian legation in Washington.54 So important had Brazil become in tsarist thinking that the court of St. Petersburg was moved to transfer in toto the embassy staff—its first with experience in the New World—from Washington to Rio de Janeiro. At the same time, the tsar established a consulate-general in the Brazilian capital, to which he appointed M. I. Labenskii, a career diplomat and previous Russian consul-general in Paris.55 Labenskii was replaced a short time later by Georg Heinrich von Langsdorff, who was to occupy this post for the next sixteen years.56

In addition to the embassy and consulate-general in Rio de Janeiro, the tsarist government also opened a consulate in Funchal, on the island of Madeira, to which post it appointed the then director of the consular division of the ministry of foreign affairs, F. F. Borel. The tsar was guided in his decision to establish this new consulate by a desire “to expand more and more the commercial relations of his Empire with the States under the domination of his Royal Highness the Prince Regent of Portugal.” Included in Borel’s jurisdiction were the Azores, the Cape Verde Islands and the captaincy-general of Pernambuco.57 Upon his arrival in Funchal, Borel in turn named vice-consuls in Pernambuco and on the island of São Miguel, in the Azores.58

The appointment of Langsdorff as consul-general in Brazil was especially significant and responded in clear measure to the practical interests of trade and imperial expansion. A scholar and a traveller, a man of varied accomplishments, fluent in the Portuguese language, he was the ideal agent of those interests.59 Notwithstanding his total dedication to science, Langsdorff was fully cognizant of the economic imperatives which he served. Our vast empire, he wrote soon after his arrival in Brazil, “offers a thousand interesting objects that our subjects could export more advantageously than those nations who now traffic in our products at great profit.”60 In subsequent correspondence he specified those goods of Russian origin which could profitably be exported to Brazil,61 and in 1814 actually explored these matters directly with the Brazilian merchant community.62 That same year, Langsdorff reported with apparent satisfaction the arrival in Brazil of the first Russian merchant vessels to enter South American waters.63

The years 1815-1818 mark a transition in tsarist New World objectives from the pursuit of broad commercial and geo-political advantage throughout the Western Hemisphere to the defense of a modest presence in Alta California and Brazil—the first as a source of essential foodstuffs for the colonies, the second as a key link in the chain of maritime communications between European Russia and Russian America. This shift to a less ambitious policy in Latin America reflected a sober reevaluation of attainable objectives. On the one hand, the restoration of Ferdinand VII to the Spanish throne involved the major European powers in Iberian colonial affairs and thus restricted Russia’s options for independent action in the New World.64 On the other, the experiences of Russian mariners quickly revealed the absence of real advantage in direct trade ties with much of colonial Latin America. While Russian ships had on occasion effected modestly profitable transactions along the west coast of South America, the singularity of those transactions only underscored the marginality of such ties to the overriding object of tsarist concern in the New World—Russian America.65

Moreover, the original impetus for the creation of an independent merchant marine capable of competing with the British greatly diminished with the lifting of the continental blockade. Despite earlier pleas for the liberation of Russian trade from control by foreign middlemen, Russian imports and exports once again moved largely in foreign bottoms.66 Indeed, direct trade ties with the sources of prized colonial goods ceased by and large to be an issue.

By 1817, Russo-Portuguese relations were showing clear signs of strain. For some time João VI had looked to Russia as a partial counterweight to British preeminence in Brazil.67 The Russian and Portuguese courts had signed an extension of the 1798 Russo-Portuguese trade treaty in March 1815 and thereby opened the way “to establish and consolidate on a permanent basis direct commercial ties between their respective subjects, possessions and states.”68 The stresses and dislocations experienced during the period of continental blockade, however, moved the tsar in 1816 to abandon bilateral trade agreements in favor of a uniform regime of protective tariffs severely restricting the importation of luxury goods. The Tariff Act of 1816 Struck at the very basis of developing Russo-Brazilian trade relations and was the source of obvious annoyance to the court of Rio de Janeiro.69

Portuguese displeasure over Russian policy led to a further deterioration of relations between the two empires in the first months of 1817. Tensions shifted from St. Petersburg to Rio de Janeiro, where the new Russian envoy, P. F. Balk-Polev, encountered artificial obstacles to the normal dispatch of his responsibilities.70 The ostensible cause of the difficulty was certain “irregularities in the official and private comportment” of the Russian diplomat,71 who, according to the Spanish ambassador, “is rather strange in some things and has not always been right in the disputes he has had [with the Portuguese court].”72 Some contemporary observers, however, saw in this incident an attempt by the court of Rio de Janeiro to deflect Russian protestations over its intervention in the Banda Oriental.73

A purely domestic dispute between Balk-Polev and his landlord provided the occasion for a punitive response to tsarist intransigence.74 Incensed by the allegedly offensive demeanor of workers hired to make repairs in his residence, Balk had protested to the Portuguese foreign ministry, at the time under the direction of the cantankerous Conde da Barca.75 Rather than seek to ameliorate the difficulty, the count seems deliberately to have aggravated matters by advising Balk to settle on his landlord’s terms or abandon the premises. Given the lack of suitable diplomatic residences in the Brazilian capital, failure to comply was tantamount to expulsion.76

Matters were further complicated when, in the spring of 1817, the tsar elevated Balk-Polev to the rank of ambassador extraordinary, a move undoubtedly designed to placate an annoyed João VI. The Portuguese foreign ministry, however, failed to take cognizance of the Russian envoy’s new status, and it was only through the intervention of Balk’s Dutch and Spanish colleagues that João finally agreed to receive his credentials.77 Balk met with the Portuguese king in private audience in the latter part of May, at which time he protested with apparent vehemence the treatment accorded him in Rio de Janeiro. Two days later, he was informed that in consequence of the disrespect shown the king, and until such time as the tsar should rectify the affront, he would no longer be admitted to court. In a personal letter to Alexander, João decried Balk’s comportment and assured the tsar that only their royal friendship had dissuaded him from more decisive steps.78 Balk, for his part, requested his passports and promptly departed for Europe.79

Pozzo di Borgo, the tsar’s senior diplomat on the European continent, viewed this incident as especially vexatious, given the tumultuous state of affairs in America. “We do not have a single individual of common sense anywhere in the New World,” he lamented.80 While Balk-Polev had apparently been the victim of Portuguese resentment toward the Russian court, he had nonetheless failed to avoid a situation prejudicial to tsarist interests. Would it not be possible, Pozzo inquired, to name a diplomat of stature to an ambassadorial post in the New World? At present, he reflected, “we are helpless in this great theater.”81

The tsarist government did, of course, enjoy the not inconsiderable services of Langsdorff, who, in his capacity as consul-general, accomplished more than any single individual to promote and maintain Russian ties with Portuguese America. Having achieved a position of prominence in the local milieu,82 Langsdorff returned to St. Petersburg in the spring of 1821 to organize a major expedition to Brazil to undertake “scientific discovery, geographic, statistical and other research, the study of previously unknown products of trade, and the collection of specimens from every realm of nature.”83 In proposing this expedition, Langsdorff pointed to the numerous foreign scholars then working in Brazil and stressed the importance “that Russia not fall behind the other powers.”84

The tsar authorized the expedition and promptly allocated funds for its implementation.85 Langsdorff returned to Brazil in March 1822 and by September of that year had assembled “perhaps the largest and best equipped expedition of its kind.”86 Participants included the celebrated artists Johann Moritz Rugendas, Amadey Adriane Taunay and Hercules Florance, French zoologist Édouard Charles Ménétries, German botanist Ludwig Riedel, and Russian astronomer N. G. Rubtsov.

The labors of the expedition were divided in several stages. The first two years were spent studying the province of Rio de Janeiro. From May 1824 to March 1825, the expedition conducted an extensive investigation of Minas Gerais, while in September 1825 Langsdorff and his colleagues began a prolonged study of São Paulo and Mato Grosso, including a ten-month sojourn in the area of Cuiabá; finally, in December 1827, the expedition set out in two separate groups to explore the Arinos, Guaporé and other tributaries of the Amazon, reaching Belem do Pará one year later devastated by illness and the extreme rigors of a hostile clime.87

Itself of inherent interest, the Russian scientific expedition to Brazil evidences as well the more immediate objectives of tsarist New World policy. If on the one hand it pursued scientific knowledge, on the other it sought to expand the material bases of Russo-Brazilian relations. As already noted, one of the explicit objectives of the Langsdorff expedition was to investigate previously unknown articles of trade and Langsdorff himself devoted much effort to the promotion of commercial ties between the two empires.

The actual development of Russo-Brazilian commercial ties, however, proved uneven, with direct bilateral trade declining noticeably after 1816. The tsar’s decision to regulate Russian foreign commerce through a uniform regime of protective tariffs greatly prejudiced Portuguese trade with Russian ports, the bulk of which “fell into the hands of the wealthiest or most industrialized nations.”88 Whereas prior to 1816 an average of eighteen to twenty Portuguese merchant vessels had entered the port of Kronshtadt (St. Petersburg) each year, only eight arrived in 1817, three in 1818 and two in 1819. In all probability, lamented the Portuguese chargé d’affaires, “this small figure will diminish still further once the accounts of the Portuguese and Russian merchants who deal in this trade are liquidated.”89 The gravity of the situation was highlighted in the fall of 1821 when the formerly prosperous firm of Dionizio Pedro Lopes failed.90

This says little, of course, about the actual flow of goods between the Russian and Portuguese empires, which in point of fact appears to have grown. What occurred, as the Portuguese envoy correctly saw, was that an increasing portion of this trade moved in foreign bottoms. In addition, goods were frequently transshipped, thus making it extremely difficult to determine the true extent of commerical intercourse. Moreover, even direct trade carried in Russian and Portuguese vessels fluctuated markedly, as, for example, in 1821 when Luso-Brazilian goods imported into Russia increased by 285 percent while Russian exports to Portugal and Brazil rose 100 percent.91

The essence of Russian interests in Brazil comes into sharper focus with the declaration of Brazilian independence in September 1822. That act immediately complicated the normal conduct of tsarist affairs in the country, for Tsar Alexander I reaffirmed his loyalty to the legitimate Portuguese monarch, João VI. Alexander’s minister plenipotentiary, Baron F. V. Tuyll van Serooskerken, had left Rio de Janeiro in May 1821, following Dom João’s departure for Portugal.92 After that date, tsarist ambassadorial representation to the Portuguese court resided in Lisbon, while Brazilian envoys ceased to be received in St. Petersburg and were met with outward hostility by Russian diplomats in other capitals. Indeed, of all the major powers, Russia proved to be the most intransigent in its official support of Portuguese crown rights in Brazil.

Despite official tsarist censure of Brazilian independence, the Russian consulate in Rio de Janeiro continued to function as before, Langsdorff and his vice-consul, P. P. Kielchen, remaining on correct, even amiable terms with the new Brazilian government. Emperor Pedro I, for his part, provided material support to meet the mounting costs of the Russian scientific expedition, as well as to underwrite Langsdorff’s own personal ventures in farming and immigrant colonization.93 Initially, this largess was facilitated by Dom Pedro’s minister of state, José Bonifácio de Andrade e Silva, a scholar and scientist in his own right with whom Langsdorff enjoyed a special bond of mutual understanding. Even after José Bonifácio’s removal from office in 1823, however, the Russian consul-general continued to receive benefices from the Brazilian court far in excess of the deference normally accorded diplomatic representatives of foreign governments. In part this is explained by Langsdorff’s dynamic personality, in part by the political and economic imperatives of the moment.

Tsarist patronage of the Langsdorff expedition likewise ran counter to the legitimist position affirmed by the court of St. Petersburg, for it constituted a commitment to the pursuit of Russian imperial interests in a country whose juridical existence the tsar chose to deny. Moreover, Alexander I was fully apprised of the situation in Brazil at the time he authorized the expedition—an ambitious undertaking of several years duration which presupposed continuing tsarist representation on its behalf.

Langsdorff, for his part, must certainly have foreseen the impending crisis by the time he sailed for Europe in 1820 and without a doubt comprehended the political implications of Dom João’s return to Portugal in the spring of 1821, news of which reached St. Petersburg precisely at the time when he was discussing the proposed expedition with tsarist officials.94 As early as March 1821, Tuyll had reported that Brazil would soon break its ties with Portugal. Efforts by the Portuguese court to return Brazil to “its former state of colonial dependency,” in his view, would lead to its prompt separation from the metropolis.95

Langsdorff’s official response to the declaration of Brazilian independence further reveals the contradictory nature of tsarist policy toward this contested colony. Returning to his Mandioca estate in December 1822, he addressed a note to José Bonifácio requesting that the minister of state communicate his compliments to the emperor, as well as his deep regrets at having missed “so great an event for Brazil, which without a doubt will bring this immense Empire to the highest level of perfection, contentment and prosperity.”96 This initial endorsement of Brazil’s new political status, however, was artfully qualified in conformity with the tsar’s public stance on the colonial question. “The great interest which H. M. the Emperor my master has always had in the welfare of the House of Bragança,” Langsdorff wrote, and “the interest of all in the preservation of a legitimate and magnanimous Sovereign, are for me sufficient guarantee that [the tsar] will look favorably upon this grand event.”97

Langsdorff implied that the tsar would celebrate the independent development of Brazil, whose economy, once freed of its colonial fetters, promised certain advantages to Russian commercial interests. As a firm defender of the principle of autocratic legitimacy, however, he could not openly endorse a revolutionary change in the structure of the Portuguese empire. Indeed, Alexander subsequently advised the Portuguese envoy to St. Petersburg that the matter of Brazil was of the utmost importance, “above all for the principle…It is my opinion,” he asserted, “that the King should never under any circumstances recognize the independence. His Majesty can grant Brazil whatever concessions He may deem appropriate, provided that this country remain subject to His Crown and joined to the Portuguese Monarchy under one and the same Sovereign.”98

The tsar remained immutably committed to this position until his death in mid-November 1825. As in Russia’s previous dealings with colonial Latin America, however, adherence to principle in matters of diplomacy related only tangentially to the pursuit of basic imperial interests in the New World. Thus, when the Portuguese crown petitioned the tsarist government in the summer of 1824 to close Russian ports to Brazilian ships, the court of St. Petersburg agreed only to take the request under consideration and in actual fact continued to traffic with vessels of Brazilian registry.99 In Brazil, meanwhile, Langsdorff and Kielchen oversaw the continued movement of Russian ships through the port of Rio de Janeiro, acting vigorously to secure privileged treatment for those ships while in Brazilian waters.100

The accession to the throne of Tsar Nicholas I in December 1825 produced no essential change in Russian policy toward Brazil. Nicholas adhered strictly to the policy line established by his predecessor, refusing even to recognize the ceremonial tide “Emperor of Brazil,” which João VI had bestowed upon himself when at the close of 1825 he formally endorsed Brazilian independence.101 It was another three years before Russia at last followed the lead of the other powers and reestablished full diplomatic relations with Rio de Janeiro. In October 1828, as Langsdorff, delirious with tropical fever, made his way painfully toward Santarém at the juncture of the Tapajos and Amazon Rivers, the tsar appointed F. F. Borel ambassador to the Brazilian court.102 Throughout the remainder of the century Russian interests in Latin America continued to center on Brazil, described suggestively by one tsarist diplomat as “the largest, most accessible and productive part of South America’s Atlantic seaboard.”103


G. H. von Langsdorff, Voyages and Travels in Various Parts of the World, during the Years 1803, 1804, 1805, 1806, and 1807, 2 vols. (London, 1813-1814), I, 23-24.


S. B. Okun, Rossiisko-amerikanskaia kompaniia (M.-L., 1939), pp. 49-50. [Moscow, Leningrad and St. Petersburg have been abbreviated throughout the footnotes as M., L., and SPb., respectively.]


”Zapiska G. I. Shelikhova  privilegiiakh ego kompanii,” in: A. I. Andreev, ed., Russkie otkrytiia v Tikhom okeane i Severnoi Amerike v XVIII-XIX vekakh (M.-L., 1944), p. 84.


Count M. P. Rumiantsev to Tsar Alexander I, March 4, 1803, in: Vneshniaia politika Rossii XIX i nachala XX veka (hereafter cited as VPR), first series (1801-1815), 8 vols. (M., 1960-1972), I, 386.


I. F. Kruzenshtern, Puteshestvie vokrug sveta v 1803, 4, 5 i 1806 godakh, 3 vols. (SPb., 1809-1812), I, xviii-xix.


A. J. von Krusenstern, Voyage Round the World in the Years 1803, 1804, 1805 and 1806, 2 vols. (London, 1813), I, xxix.


Even in the case of vessels bound for the Cape of Good Hope, prevailing sea currents determined that on the outward passage the most convenient route lay along the eastern coast of South America. Ships returning to Europe via the Cape of Good Hope, on the other hand, rode the northerly currents prevailing off the west coast of subequatorial Africa.


Krusenstern, Voyage Round the World, I, 142-143.


N. Ivashintsov, Russkie krugosvetnye puteshestviia, s 1803 po 1849 god (SPb., 1872), pp. 1-87; V. S. Lupach, ed., Russkie moreplavateli (M., 1953), pp. 137-225, 235-266; N. N. Zubov, Otechestvennye moreplavateli-issledovateli morei i okeanov (M., 1954), pp. 142-196.


Records of such voyages are more difficult to uncover than those of official sailings inasmuch as they eluded deposit in state or ministerial archives. The problem is further complicated by the apparent fact that many, perhaps most of these ships were manned by non-Russian crews and, in some cases, were simply chartered from foreign shipmasters.


Zubov, Otechestvennye moreplavateli-issledovateli, p. 148.


Gaceta de Buenos Ayres (Dec. 6, 1820), p. 140; ibid. (April 11, 1821), p. 236; Ekkehard Völkl, Russland und Lateinamerika (Wiesbaden, 1968), p. 173. In the summer of 1816, the Spanish envoy in St. Petersburg advised his home government of “daily arrivals at Cronstadt of Anglo-American vessels direct from Havana.” See: Ignacio Pérez de Lema to Pedro Cevallos, Petersburgo, Aug. 15, 1816, Archivo Histórico Nacional (hereafter cited as AHN), Madrid, Estado, Rusia, Embajada de España, leg. 6125, caja 1. See, also: Langsdorff to Conde dos Arcos, Rio de Janeiro, March 28, 1818, Arquivo Nacional Tôrre do Tombo (hereafter cited as ANTT), Lisbon, Legação da Rússia em Portugal, caixa 2 (1815-1828); “Mappa das Embarcaçoens, que entraram e sahiram do porto do Rio-de-Janeiro no anno de 1819,” Correio Braziliense (September, 1820), p. 267.


P. Miguel Benavente, S. J., “Reflexiones sobre los establecimientos que podían hacer los rusos en las Californias” [1764], Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, Sección de Manuscritos, Mss. 3101, fol. 319.


See: S. O. Gulishambarov, Vsemirnaia torgovlia v XIX v. i uchastie v nei Rossii (SPb., 1898), pp. 20-55; P. A. Khromov, Ekonomicheskoe razvitie Rossii v XIX-XX vekakh, 1800-1917 (M., 1950), pp. 93-102; Evdokim Ziablovskii, Statisticheskoe opisanie Rossiiskoi imperii v nyneshnem eë sostoianii (SPb., 1808), Bk. 2, Pt. 5, 93-126; M. F. Zlotnikov, Kontinental’naia blokada i Rossiia (M.-L., 1966), pp. 9-48. The best statistical synthesis of Russian foreign trade in this period is found in Zlotnikov’s study of the continental blockade. A wholly accurate accounting of colonial goods absorbed by the Russian market during the early nineteenth-century is not possible. Despite marked improvements in the compilation of official statistics following the ministerial reforms of 1802, fundamental inadequacies persisted throughout most of the period under study. In addition to incomplete data, the researcher is faced with an annoying lack of uniformity in basic units of quantification. Imports, exports, total commercial turnovers and trade balances are given variously in metallic and paper values, and occasional measures of bulk are arbitrarily interspersed with monetary units. Figures for total weights and volumes of imported goods are incomplete and of only relative accuracy. In those instances where reasonably complete statistics have been compiled, monetary values are given in paper notes, thereby introducing the exceedingly complex factor of inflation.


N. N. Bolkhovitinov, Stanovlenie russko-amerikanskikh otnoshenii, 1775-1815 (M., 1966), pp. 191-196.


”Preço corrente das producções de Portugal e suas colônias em São Petersburgo,” Nov. 30, 1806, Arquivo Histórico do Itamaratí (hereafter cited as AHI), Rio de Janeiro, Legação em S. Petersburgo, Vol. 338/3/2 (ostensivos: 1808-1810).


François Crouzet, L’économie britannique et le blocus continental, 2 vols. (Paris, 1958), I, 144-145; Jorge de Macedo, O bloqueio continental. Economie. e guerra peninsular (Lisboa, 1962), pp. 43-45; Alan K. Manchester, British Preëminence in Brazil, Its Rise and Decline. A Study in European Expansionism (New York, 1964), pp. 47-53.


On socio-economic change in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Russia, see: Bertrand Gille, Histoire économique et social de la Russie du moyen-âge au vingtième siècle (Paris, 1949); V. M. Kabuzan, Izmeneniia v razmeshchenii naseleniia Rossii v XVIII-pervoi polovine XIX v. Po materialam revizii (M., 1971); P. I. Liashchenko, Istoriia narodnogo khoziaistva SSSR. Dokapitalisticheskie formatsii, 4th ed. (M., 1956); A. G. Rashin, Naselenie Rossii za 100 let (1811-1813). Statisticheskie ocherki (M., 1956); M. K. Rozhkova, ed., Ocherki ekonomicheskoi istorii Rossii pervoi poloviny XIX veka. Sbornik statei (M., 1959); and Ya. E. Vogarskii, Naselenie Rossii za 400 let (XVI-nachalo XX vv.) (M., 1973).


Gille, Histoire économique et sociale de la Russie, p. 125; Liashchenko, Istoriia narodnogo khoziaistva SSSR, p. 408; Khromov, Ekonomicheskoe razvitie Rossii, p. 100.


Grigorii Nebol’sin, Statisticheskoe obozrenie vneshnei torgovli Rossii, 2 vols. (SPb., 1850), I, 302.


Rumiantsev to Alexander I, circa Jan. 9, 1807, VPR, III, 459.


”Braziliia i eë zhiteli,” Politicheskii, statisticheskii i geograficheskii zhurnal, 1 (Jan. 1808), 52-53.


See, for example: “Izvestiia o torgovle Portugalii,” Sanktpeterburgskie kommercheskie vedomosti (July 11, 1807), pp. 110-112 and (July 18, 1807), p. 113; “Rio Yaneiro (Nyneshniaia rezidentsiia Printsa Brazil’skogo),” Vestnik Evropy (June 1808), pp. 185-188.


Sanktpeterburgskie kommercheskie vedomosti (July 2, 1808), p. 107.


Ivan Kremer to Rumiantsev, June 4, 1808, VPR, IV, 272-273.


VPR, IV, 618, n. 169.


Rodrigo Navarro de Andrade to Rodrigo de Souza Coutinho, São Petersburgs Jan. 18, 1809, AHI, Legação em S. Petersburgo, Vol. 338/3/2 (ostensivos: 1808-1810), copy.








Dionizio Pedro Lopes, open letter dated São Petersburgo, Jan. 1, 1809, AHI, Legação em St. Petersburgo, Vol. 338/3/2 (ostensivos: 1808-1810).




Andrade to Antonio de Araújo de Azevedo, São Petersburgo, March 17 (29), 1808, ANTT Legação de Portugal na Rússia, caixa 12 (1806-1811), fol. 7. The success of Lopes’ commercial establishment, as well as the reality of expanding Russo-Portuguese trade in the early nineteenth century, is strikingly reflected in the palatial residence Lopes built for himself on St. Petersburg’s Vasil’evskii Island. Completed in 1810, this impressive structure is today one of the architectural monuments of contemporary Leningrad. See: Pamiatniki arkhitektury Leningrada (L., 1971), pp. 370-371.


”Declaração do consul portuguez na Rússia,” Correio Braziliense (June 1812), pp. 697-698.


Andrade to Azevedo, S. Petersburgo, Jan. 14(26), 1808, ANTT, Legação de Portugal na Rússia, caixa 11 (1806-1811), fol. 2.


Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii, first series, 1649 to Dec. 12, 1825, 49 vols. (SPb., 1830), XXV, No. 18.779, 471-483.


Andrade to Azevedo, Súo Petersburgo, March 8, 1808, AHI, Legaçúo em S. Petersburgo, Vol. 338/3/2 (ostensivos: 1808-1810), copy. Implicit in Rumiantsev’s statement was a fundamental alteration of the terms of the existing agreement, namely that ships sailing from points along the Portuguese mainland would no longer be permitted to enter Russian ports. The change was formally decreed by Alexander I some fifteen months later.




Ivashintsov, Russkie krugosvetnye puteshestviia, pp. 18-22.


Ibid., pp. 16-17.


V. M. Golovnin, Puteshestvie rossiiskogo imperatorskogo shliupa Diany, iz Kronshtadta v Kamchatku, 2 vols. (SPb., 1819), I, 159-172.


Andrade to Azevedo, São Petersburgo, March 3, 1808, AHI, Legação em S. Petersburgo, Vol. 338/3/2 (ostensivos: 1808-1810).


Andrade to Souza Coutinho, São Petersburgo, May 7, 1809, AHI, Legação em S. Petersburgo, Vol. 338/3/2 (ostensivos: 1808-1810), copy.




Rumiantsev here referred to the Russo-Portuguese Treaty of Friendship, Navigation and Trade, concluded on Dec. 27, 1798, and the Russo-Portuguese Mutual Defense Treaty, concluded on Sept. 18, 1799, texts of which appear in Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii, first series, XXV, 471-483 and 784-788.


Rumiantsev to Andrade, St. Pétersbourg, Dec. 21, 1809 (Jan. 2, 1810), ANTT, Legação de Portugal na Rússia, caixa 12 (1806-1811).


Rumiantsev to Council of State, Jan. 31 (Feb. 12), 1810, VPR, V, 359-361.


Kommercheskie vedomosti (May 19, 1810), 77.


Bolkhovitinov, Stanovlenie russko-amerikanskikh otnoshenii, p. 429.


Alexander I to Count F. P. Pahlen, Aug. 22 (Sept. 3), 1811, VPR, VI, 156.




Ibid., p. 157.




Bolkhovitinov, Stanovlenie russko-amerikanskikh otnoshenii, p. 429.


B. N. Komissarov, “Arkhiv ekspeditsii G. I. Langsdorfa v Braziliiu (1821-1829),” in: I. R. Grigulevich et al., eds., Ot Aliaski do Ognennoi Zemli. Istoriia i etnografiia stran Ameriki (M., 1967), p. 275.


On Langsdorff’s diplomatic career, see R. H. Bartley, “Grigorii Ivanovich Langsdorf—predstavitel’ tsarskogo gosudarstva v Yuzhnoi Amerike (1813-1828),” Latinskaia Amerika, forthcoming.


Rumiantsev to João Paulo Bezerra, April 9(21), 1812, and Bezerra to Conde de Linhares, April 16(28), 1812, ANTT, Legação de Portugal na Rússia, caixa 13 (1812-1816).


F. F. Borel to Foreign Trade Department, Ministry of Finance, “Rapports de commerce avec la Russie,” April 1(13), 1813, VPR, VII, 154-159; Pahlen to Conde das Galvéas, Rio de Janeiro, May 13(25), 1813, VPR, VII, 217; Borel to Pahlen, Madeira, June 18(30), 1813, VPR, VII, 272-273; Pahlen to Galvéas, Rio de Janeiro, Aug. 18(30), 1813, VPR, VII, 362.


B. N. Komissarov, “Akademik G. I. Langsdorf i ego ekspeditsiia v Braziliiu v 1821-1829 gg.,” in: D. E. Bertel, comp., and L. A. Shur, ed., Materialy ekspeditsii akademika Grigoriia Ivanovicha Langsdorfa v Braziliiu v 1821-1829 gg. (L., 1973), p. 13.


Langsdorff to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 7(19), 1813, VPR, VII, 207.


Langsdorff to Min. of For. Affairs, Rio de Janeiro, July 24 (Aug. 5), 1813, VPR, VII, 333.


B. F. Sukhomlinov, “Ob ustanovlenii russko-brazil’skikh otnoshenii,” Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, 9(March–April 1965), 90.




See Russell Howard Bartley, “Russia and Latin American Independence, 1808-1826” (Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University, 1971), pp. 233-291.




L. Yu. Slëzkin, Rossiia i voina za nezavisimost’ v Ispanskoi Amerike (M., 1964), pp. 117-118.


Sukhomlinov, “Ob ustanovlenii russko-brazil’skikh otnoshenii,” pp. 91-92.


”Deklaratsiia o prodlenii sroka deistviia russko-portugal’skogo dogovora o druzhbe, torgovle i moreplavanii ot 16(27) dekabria 1798 g.,” SPb., June 10, 1812, VPR, VI, 420.


Antonio de Saldanha da Gama to Marquez de Aguiar, São Petersburgo, Feb. 17, 1816, AHI, Legação em S. Petersburgo, Vol. 338/3/4 (ostensivos: 1815-1820), copy. Portuguese patience was further tried by the cumbersome dispatch of tsarist diplomatic affairs under the joint direction of Counts Nesselrode and Capo d’Istria, neither of whom proved readily accessible to foreign diplomats resident in St. Petersburg. “I see no possibility of concluding any business what-so ever,” reported the Portuguese envoy in the winter of 1816, “so long as this state of uncertainty continues in the Department of Foreign Affairs; nor do I see a probability of change in this Department.” See Saldanha to Aguiar, São Petersburgo, Feb. 17, 1816, AHI, Legação em S. Petersburgo, Vol. 338/3/4 (ostensivos: 1815-1820).


Balk-Polev replaced Count Pahlen as head of the Russian legation in Rio de Janeiro in August 1816. See Aleksei Sverchkov to Aguiar, Río de Janeiro, Aug. 11, 1816, ANTT, Legação da Rússia em Portugal, caixa 2 (1815-1828).


Ricardo Piccirilli, Argentinos en Río de Janeiro, 1815—1820. Diplomacia. Monarquía. Independencia (Buenos Aires, 1969), p. 60.


Andrés Villalba to José García de León y Pizarro (hereafter cited as Pizarro), Río de Janeiro, April 28, 1817, Archivo General de Indias (hereafter cited as AGI), Seville, Estado, América en General, leg. 99. “It cannot be denied,” Villalba asserted in a later dispatch, “that [Balk-Polev] has talent; but, in honor of the truth, it is necessary to confess forthrightly that he is ill-suited to carry out such high responsibilities,” for he lacked the requisite “delicacy, prudence and levelheadedness.” All the other members of Rio’s diplomatic corps, Villalba added, shared this opinion of the Russian envoy. See Villalba to Pizarro, Río de Janeiro, June 19, 1817, AGI, Estado, América en General, leg. 99.


Correio Braziliense (Aug. 1817), p. 224.


Villalba to Pizarro, Río de Janeiro, April 28, 1817, AGI, Estado, América en General, leg. 99.


The Spanish envoy in Rio de Janeiro reported that all foreign legations in the Brazilian capital were treated with a minimum of deference by the Portuguese court and that the individual most responsible for mounting frictions was “the half-paralytic Conde da Barca.” See Villalba to Pizarro, Río de Janerio, April 28, 1817, June 20 and 23, 1817, AGI, Estado, América en General, leg. 99.


Villalba to Pizarro, Rio de Janeiro, April 28, 1817, AGI, Estado, América en General, leg. 99.




Villalba to Pizarro, Rio de Janeiro, May 24, 1817, AGI, Estado, América en General, leg. 99; João VI to Alexander I, Rio de Janeiro, May 24, 1817, AHI, Documentos Autógrafos de D. João VI, lata 169, maço 3, pasta 3, copy.


Balk-Polev was apparently reluctant to take this step, doing so largely at the insistence of the Spanish and Dutch envoys, who persuaded him that the gravity of the Portuguese affront left no alternative. See Villalba to Pizarro, Río de Janeiro, May 24, 1817, AGI, Estado, América en General, leg. 99.


Pozzo di Borgo to Nesselrode, Paris, Aug. 2, 1817, Sbornik Imperatorskogo russkogo istoricheskogo obshchestva (hereafter cited as Sbornik), 148 vols. (SPb., 1867-1916), CXIX, No. 153, 315.


Ibid. The tsar heeded Pozzo’s suggestion. In the fall of 1817, he named P. I. Poletica Russian ambassador to the United States, reassigning Baron F. V. Tuyll van Serooskerken from Washington to Rio de Janeiro to replace Balk-Polev.


See, for example, Alexander Caldcleugh, Travels in South America, During the Years 1819-20-21, 2 vols. (London, 1825), II, 184; James Henderson, A History of Brazil (London, 1821), p. 99; Auguste de Saint-Hilaire, Voyage dans les Provinces de Rio de Janeiro et de Minas Gerais, 2 vols. (Paris, 1830), I, 129-130; J. B. von Spix and C. F. P. von Martius, Travels in Brazil, in the Years 1817-1820, 2 vols. (London, 1824), I, 229.


Komissarov, “Akademik G. I. Langsdorf i ego ekspeditsiia,” p. 15.




Ibid., pp. 15-16. See, also, Luiz Antonio de Abreu e Lima to Silvestre Pinheiro Ferreira, S. Petersburgo, July 6(18), 1821, ANTT, Legação de Portugal na Rússia, caixa 15 (1821-1823).


Moema Parente Augel, “Um diário inédito de Ludwig Riedel, 1820-1823 (São Petersburgo-Bahia-Rio de Janeiro),” paper delivered at XLI International Congress of Americanists (Mexico City, Sept. 2-7, 1974), p. 16.


On the Langsdorff expedition, see, Komissarov, “Akademik G. I. Langsdorf i ego ekspeditsiia;” Roderick J. Barman, “The Forgotten Journey: Georg Heinrich Langsdorff and the Russian Imperial Scientific Expedition to Brazil, 1821-1829,” Terrae Incognitae, 3(1971), 67-96; G. G. Manizer, A expediçño do acadêmico G. I. Langsdorff ao Brasil (1821-1828) (São Paulo, 1967).


”Considérations sur le commerce de la Russie avec le Portugal,” St. Pétersbourg, Jan. 24 (Feb. 5), 1820, ANTT, Legaçáo de Portugal na Rússia, caixa 15 (1821-1823), fol. 3.




Abreu to Pinheiro Ferreira, S. Petersburgo, Nov. 24, 1821, ANTT, Legação de Portugal na Rússia, caixa 15 (1821-1823), fol. 1.


Visconde da Lapa to Thomaz Antonio de Villanova Portugal, S. Petersburgo, Feb. 28, 1821, ANTT, Legação de Portugal na Rússia, caixa 15 (1821-1823).


Sukhomlinov, “Ob ustanovlenii russko-brazil’skikh otnoshenii,” p. 95.


On Langsdorff’s experiments with immigrant colonization, see: R. H. Bartley, “Akademik G. I. Langsdorf i stanovlenie russko-brazil’skikh otnoshenii (1804-1828 gg.),” paper delivered at First All-Union Conference on Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Americanist Studies, Leningrad, Oct. 22-24, 1974.


Le Conservateur Impartial (St. Pétersbourg, 1821), 216.


Sukhomlinov, “Ob ustanovlenii russko-brazil’skikh otnoshenii,” p. 95.


Langsdorff to José Bonifácio de Andrade e Silva, Mandioca, Dec. 10, 1822, AHI, Representações Diplomáticas Estrangeiras no Brasil, Rússia, Vol. 289/1/13.




Abreu to Conde de Palmella, S. Petersburgo, Aug. 24, 1824, ANTT, Legação de Portugal na Rússia, caixa 16 (1824-1825), fol. 1.


Abreu to Palmella, S. Petersburgo, July 2, 1824, ANTT, Legação de Portugal na Rússia, caixa 16 (1824-1825), fol. 2.


See, for example, P. P. Kielchen to Visconde de Inhambupe, Rio de Janeiro, April 30, 1826, AHI, Representações Diplomáticas Estrangeiras no Brasil, Rússia, Vol. 289/1/13.


Rafael da Cruz Guerreiro to Conde de Porto Santo, S. Petersburgo, Dec. 9(21), 1825, ANTT, Legação de Portugal na Rússia, caixa 16 (1824-1825); Cruz Guerreiro to Porto Santo, S. Petersburgo, Jan. 11(23), Jan. 23 (Feb. 4), Feb. 6(18) and Feb. 17 (March 1), 1826, ANTT, Legação de Portugal na Rússia, caixa 17 (1826-1828).


Ocherk istorii Ministerstva inostrannykh del, 1802-1902 (SPb., 1902).


Fëdor Semënov, Yuzhnaia pri-atlanticheskaia Amerika (SPb., 1872), p. 1.

Author notes


The author is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Research for the present article was supported in part by grants from the Foreign Area Fellowship Program, the International Research and Exchanges Board, and the UWM Graduate School.