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Baron Modest Andreevich von Korff (1800–1876) was a classmate of Russian greatest poet Alexander Pushkin. He had made his career up very quickly and turned the State Secretary of the Russian Empire when he was just thirty-three. In 1843, he was appointed a member of the State Council of the Russian Empire. However, he had strong desire to be a minister. Russian high society believed von Korff would have been a minister on several occasions. He was a candidate to minister of justice in 1839, to minister of public education in 1849, and to minister of censorship in 1859.

Von Korff kept diaries from 1838 to 1852. Few of his diaries have been published in Russia during the last years. Von Korff’s diaries shed light on the backstage of the Russian bureaucracy and on the Emperor Nickolas I’s decision-making process.

The article deals with von Korff’s fi rst failure in his scramble to the ministerial offi ce. His lack of fortune seemingly was a result, on the one hand, of his position as the State Secretary, and, on the other hand, of his reputation as an arrogant man. Such view was held by Nickolas I and was very annoying for von Korff who considered himself shy. Von Korff did struggle with his ‘arrogance’ and turned to servanthood and timeserving.


Russian bureaucracy, 19th century, Modest von Korff, State Council of the Russian Empire, Minister of Justice

Anton O. Zakharov

Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow, Russia

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