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“The Prostitution of the Russian Flag”: Privateers in Russian Admiralty Courts, 1787–98

  • Julia Leikin

In 1794, the Russian Empire convened the first high admiralty court for appeals to review petitions of merchants and privateers embroiled in the second Russian–Ottoman war of Catherine II's reign (1787–91). The Commission for Archipelago Affairs, as this admiralty court was called, decided more than 170 cases on the basis of Russian maritime law and its interpretation of the law of nations concerning commercial navigation and privateers. A year into its work, the commission determined that one case sat at the center of most disputes that pitted merchants against Russian-flagged privateers: the affair of Lambros Katsonis. The commission's decisions for most of the cases on its docket rested on its determination of Katsonis's standing in the Russian Empire. Once decided, the outcome of the matter went on to define the distinction between Russian privateers and naval officers in Russian law: precedents that shaped Russian naval practices for the next 50 years.

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Research support for this article was generously provided by the IREX Individual Advanced Research Opportunities Fellowship, a British Institute at Ankara Study Grant, the Centre for East European Language Based Area Studies, and the British School in Athens. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies annual convention and at the annual meeting of the Study Group for Eighteenth-Century Russia. The author thanks Simon Dixon, Paul Keenan, Lucien Frary, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of this article.

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1. de Martens, Georg Friedrich, Essai concernant les Armateurs, les Prises et sur tout les Reprises (Gottingue: Jean Chretien Dieterich, 1795).

2. References and quotations in this article will be made to the 1801 English translation, de Martens, Georg Friedrich (trans. Horne, Thomas Hartwell), An Essay on Privateers, Captures, and Particularly on Recaptures, According to the Laws, Treaties, and Usages of the Maritime Powers of Europe (London: Sewell, Cornhill, and Hatchard, 1801), xi, xivxv .

3. Ibid., v–vi; Wheaton, Henry, A Digest of the Law of Maritime Captures and Prizes (New York: R. M'Dermut & D.D. Arden, 1815), iii . For an overview of the eighteenth century legal disputes surrounding privateering, see Neff, Stephen C., The Rights and Duties of Neutrals (New York: Juris, 2000); Kulsrud, Carl J., Maritime Neutrality to 1780: A History of the Main Principles Governing Neutrality and Belligerency to 1780 (Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1936); Helfman, Tara, “Commerce on Trial: Neutral Rights and Private Warfare in the Seven Years’ War,” COLLeGIUM: Studies across Disciplines in the Humanitites and Social Sciences 10 (2011): 1441 ; Pares, Richard, Colonial Blockade and Neutral Rights, 1739–1763 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1938); and de Madariaga, Isabel, Britain, Russia, and the Armed Neutrality of 1780 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962), 5795 .

4. Appendices 7 and 8 in Starkey, David J., British Privateering Enterprise in the Eighteenth Century (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1990), 322–23.

5. Kevin Arlyck, “Forged by War: The Federal Courts and Foreign Affairs in the Age of Revolution” (PhD diss., New York University, 2014), 286–326; Bourguignon, Henry J., The First Federal Court: The Federal Appellate Prize Court of the American Revolution, 1775–1787 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1977); Bourguignon, Sir William Scott, Lord Stowell: Judge of the High Court of Admiralty, 1798–1828 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 115–71.

6. Crowhurst, Patrick, The French War on Trade: Privateering 1793–1815 (Aldershot: Scolar, 1989), 129 ; and Winslow, Richard E. III, “Wealth and Honour”: Portsmouth During the Golden Age of Privateering, 1775–1815 (Portsmouth, NH: Portsmouth Marine Society, 1988), 2431 , 52–63, 131–40.

7. Bourguignon, Sir William Scott, Lord Stowell, 116 n. 2.

8. McCarthy, Matthew, Privateering, Piracy and British Policy in Spanish America 1810–1830 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2013), 2345 ; and Arlyck, Kevin, “Plaintiffs v. Privateers: Litigation and Foreign Affairs in the Federal Courts, 1816–1822,” Law and History Review 30 (2012): 245–78.

9. Butler, William Elliott, “On the Origins of International Legal Science in Russia,” Journal of the History of International Law 4 (2002): 141 ; and Mälksoo, Lauri, “The History of International Legal Theory in Russia: A Civilizational Dialogue with Europe,” European Journal of International Law 19 (2008): 211–32. In his recent book, Mälksoo argues that it was only in the Soviet period that Russia adopted a critical approach to the universalism of Western international law. See his Russian Approaches to International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 48 . Vladimir Grabar's comprehensive volume on international law in imperial Russia is an indispensable guide to Russian legal doctrine; however, it focuses on published texts of jurists and translation of Western scholarship rather than an insight into the practices of imperial Russian courts. Although the question of privateers appears several times throughout the text, there is no mention of the Commission of Archipelago Affairs. Grabar, Vladimir E. (trans. Butler, William Elliott), The History of International Law in Russia, 1647–1917: A Bio-Bibliographical Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990).

10. As my focus is on judicial institutions and admiralty jurisdiction rather than state-approved commerce raiding, I differentiate eighteenth-century Russian privateers from the seventeenth-century amphibious raiders on the northern shores of the Black Sea. Although these Cossack raids were often approved by the Muscovite state, their activities did not receive the legal approbation that admiralty courts provided for plunder taken by privateers. Peter the Great's Naval Statute of 1720 (Morskoi Ustav) briefly mentioned privateers, and there is some evidence to suggest that privateers may have been commissioned during the Great Northern War (1700–1721) (I thank Simon Franklin for bringing this to my attention). However, none of these were instructive to the Russian government in the late eighteenth century and they did not match the scale on which privateers were used in Catherine II's wars. For an elaboration of this argument, see Julia Leikin, “Prize Law, Maritime Neutrality, and the Law of Nations in Imperial Russia, 1768–1856” (PhD diss., University College London, 2016), 57–100.

11. The scholarship on privateering, particularly in England, is large. For an excellent discussion of the literature and its different themes, see Starkey, David J., “Voluntaries and Sea Robbers: A Review of the Academic Literature on Privateering, Corsairing, Buccaneering and Piracy,” The Mariner's Mirror 97 (2011): 127–47; Rodger, Nicholas A. M., “The Law and Language of Private Naval Warfare,” The Mariner's Mirror 100 (2014): 516 ; Rubin, Alfred P., The Law of Piracy (Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific Honolulu, 2006); and Heller-Roazen, Daniel, The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations (New York: Zone Books, 2009). For other historical contexts, see Lunsford, Virginia, Piracy and Privateering in the Golden Age Netherlands (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); Latimer, Jon, Buccaneers of the Caribbean: How Piracy Forged an Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009); and Greene, Molly, Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants: A Maritime History of the Mediterranean (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).

12. Martens, An Essay on Privateers, 1–35. For a contemporary evocation of this argument, see Rodger, N. A. M., “The New Atlantic: Naval Warfare in the Sixteenth Century,” in War at Sea in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. Hattendorf, John B. and Unger, Richard W. (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2003), 233–47. The ambiguities of the distinction in public and private warfare are discussed in Colás, Alejandro and Mabee, Bryan, eds. Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits and Empires: Private Violence in Historical Context (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010).

13. Verzijl, Jan Hendrik Willem, International Law in Historical Perspective: The Law of Maritime Prize (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1979), 152–71.

14. For a discussion of the debate over private property in imperial Russia, see Pravilova, Ekaterina, A Public Empire: Property and the Quest for the Common Good in Imperial Russia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 118 . As Pravilova shows, it is precisely at the end of Catherine II's reign at the turn of the nineteenth century when the distinction between state and private ownership was articulated in the Russian Empire. Also see Pipes, Richard, “Private Property Comes to Russia: The Reign of Catherine II,” in Cultures and Nations of Central and Eastern Europe: Essays in Honor of Roman Szporluk, ed. Gitelman, Zvi, Hajda, Lubomyr A., Himka, John-Paul, and Solchanyk, Roman (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 2000), 431–42.

15. The literature documenting Russian political and military ties with Greek and Slavic peoples of the Balkans is vast. This short list is intended to be representative rather than exhaustive. Leshchilovskaia, Inna I., Serbskii Narod i Rossiia v XVIII veke [The Serbian People and Russia in the Eighteenth Century] (St. Petersburg: Aleteia, 2006); Batalden, Stephen K., Catherine II's Greek Prelate: Eugenios Voulgaris in Russia, 1771–1806 (Boulder: East European Monographs, 1982); Pappas, Nicholas Charles, Greeks in Russian Military Service in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries (Thessaloniki: Institute for Balkan Studies, 1991); Prousis, Theophilus C., Russian Society and the Greek Revolution (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1994); Arsh, Grigorii L., Rossiia i bor'ba Gretsii za osvobozhdenie: ot Ekateriny II do Nikolaia I [Russia and Greece's War for Liberation: From Catherine II to Nicholas I] (Moscow: Indrik, 2013).

16. On this, see Venturi, Franco (trans. Lichfield, R. Burr), The End of the Old Regime in Europe, 1768–1776: The First Crisis (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 2373 ; Smilianskaia, Irina M., Smilianskaia, Elena B., and Velizhev, Mikhail B., Rossiia v Sredizemnomor'e [Russia in the Mediterranean] (Moscow: Indrik, 2011), 2984 ; Pappas, Greeks in Russian Military Service, 65–94.

17. See Irina M. Smilianskaia, “Politicheskaia intriga Ekateriny II v Egipte v voinu 1787–1791 gg: Konrad Tonus,” [Catherine II's Political Intrigue in Egypt in the 1787–1791 War: Konrad Tonus] in I. M. Smilianskaia, et al., Rossiia v Sredizemnomor'e, 729–44; Frumin, Mitia, “Why Did a Russian Privateer Present the Ottoman Governor of Acre with a Prized Ship?” in Seapower, Technology and Trade: Studies in Turkish Maritime History (Istanbul: Piri Reis University, 2012), 310–16.

18. Pappas, Greeks in Russian Military Service, 86–88. For a closer look at the career trajectory of Antonios Psaros, see Zakharova, Irina M., “Anton Konstantinovich Psaro,” Voprosy istorii 11 (2015): 1933 .

19. Dmitrii Mocenigo instructions to Captain Christodoulo Sapuntsoglu, January 25, 1787, Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Voenno-Morskogo Flota (hereafter RGAVMF) [Russian State Naval Archive] f. 150 op. 1 d. 90 ll. 41–43ob.; Peter Psoma's petition to Commission for Archipelago Affairs, July 1794, RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 31 ll. 2–3.

20. Manifestos to call Moldavian, Greek, Slovenian, and Serbian peoples to arms, February 19, 1788, Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Drevnikh Aktov (hereafter RGADA) [Russian State Archive for Ancient Acts] f. 15 op. 1 d. 226 ll. 1, 3, 5, 8.

21. On the relationship between routine administrative practices and sovereignty see Benton, Lauren, A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400–1900, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), ch. 3; Benton, Lauren and Straumann, Benjamin, “Acquiring Empire by Law: From Roman Doctrine to Early Modern European Practice,” Law and History Review 28 (2010): 138 ; on sovereignty as claims-making, see Sheehan, James, “The Problem of Sovereignty in European History,” American Historical Review 111 (2006): 115 .

22. Standard narratives of Russian foreign policy include Jelavich, Barbara, St. Petersburg and Moscow: Tsarist and Soviet Foreign Policy, 1814–1974 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1974); Jelavich, , Russia's Balkan Entanglements, 1806–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Anderson, Matthew S., The Eastern Question, 1774–1923 (London: Macmillan, 1966), 392–93. Soviet historiography has tended to downplay the importance of religious ties, highlighting instead the economic and strategic motivations in Russian policy. For examples of materialist conceptions of the problem see Druzhinina, Elena I., Kiuchuk-Kainardzhiiskii mir 1774 goda: ego podgotovka i zakliuchenie [The Peace of Kuchuk-Kainardzhi of 1774: Its Preparation and Ratification] (Moscow: Akademiia nauk, 1955); Druzhinina, , Severnoe prichernomorʹe v 1775–1800 gg. [The Northern Shores of the Black Sea, 1775–1800] (Moscow: Akademiia nauk, 1959).

23. This type of constructivist argument seen in recent scholarship is different from the Soviet Balkanists’ assertions of Russian support for national liberation movements. For an example of recent scholarship on indirect Russian influence on the construction of national identity, see Taki, Victor, “The Russian Protectorate in the Danubian Principalities,” in Russian–Ottoman Borderlands: The Eastern Question Reconsidered, ed. Frary, Lucien J. and Kozelsky, Mara (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), 3572 ; and Vasilis Molos, “Nationness in the Absence of a Nation: Narrating the Prehistory of the Greek National Movement” (PhD diss., New York University, 2014).

24. For a discussion of the importance of the ambiguous status of the North African corsairs to prize cases, see Benton, Lauren, “Legalities of the Sea in Gentili's Hispanica Advocatio,” in The Roman Foundations of the Law of Nations: Alberico Gentili and the Justice of Empire, ed. Kingsbury, Benedict and Straumann, Benjamin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 269–82. For a general discussion of the relationship of political affiliation and sovereignty to piracy, see Prange, Sebastian R., “A Trade of No Dishonor: Piracy, Commerce, and Community in the Western Indian Ocean, Twelfth to Sixteenth Century,” American Historical Review 116 (2011): 1269–93; Benton, A Search for Sovereignty, 120–37; and Heller-Roazen, The Enemy of All, 37–38.

25. Martens noted that the first sea-beggars armed with letters of marque from the rebelling Dutch provinces were punished as pirates, whereas privateers from the rebelling American colonies were soon treated as lawful enemies by Great Britain. Essay on Privateers, 25–26, 38–39.

26. Panin to Chernyshev, February 20, 1769, Sbornik Imperatorskago Russkago Istoricheskago Obshchestva (hereafter SIRIO) [Collection of the Imperial Russian Historical Society] 87 (1893): 334. A blank patent was drawn up, presumably based on Chernyshev's response—available in a published collection—but I have seen no manuscript or signed copies of this document in the archival collections pertaining to the 1768–74 war. The patent can be found in Materialy dlia istorii russkago flota (hereafter MIRF) [Materials for the History of the Russian Navy], 17 vols., ed. Veselago, Feodosii F. (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia morskago ministerstva, 1886), 11:385–86.

27. See Bromley, John S., Corsairs and Navies, 1660–1760 (London: Hambledon, 1987); Schnakenbourg, Eric, “A Challenge to State Authority: Controlling French Privateers’ Violence towards Neutrals in the late 17th and 18th Century,” Forum Navale 70 (2014): 1639 .

28. For a discussion of the French practices of privateering, see Halvard Leira and Benjamin de Carvalho, “Privateers of the North Sea: At Worlds End––French Privateers in Norwegian Waters,” in Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits, and Empires, 55–82.

29. Britain's ability to successfully regulate its privateers is the central position taken by David Starkey in British Privateering Enterprise in the Eighteenth Century, although now considerable evidence inveighs against this conclusion. I argue that although Russia's privateering practices were modeled on the British example, Russia could not have successfully regulated its privateers because of the fundamental contradiction between their motivation for privateering and the restrictions imposed by Russia on the vessels that they were entitled to capture. In essence, in the eighteenth century Britain's allowances on seaborne commerce raiding were more predatory than Russia's. Also see Schnakenbourg, “A Challenge to State Authority” on France's efforts to control the actions of privateers.

30. “Pravila dlia partikuliarnykh korsarov,” Polnoe Sobranie Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii (hereafter PSZ) [Complete Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire] ser. 1, no. 16,599, December 31, 1787.

31. On the provenance of the “Eastern Question,” see the introductory essay in Lucien J. Frary and Mara Kozelsky, eds., Russian–Ottoman Borderlands, 3–33; and Bitis, Alexander, Russia and the Eastern Question: Army, Government and Society, 1815–1833 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 114 . Anderson's The Eastern Question makes a case for the 1774 Russian–Ottoman peace treaty as the origins of the Eastern Question, whereas Smilianskaia sees the First Archipelago Expedition (1769–1774) as a concrete first step to Russian involvement in the Mediterranean and Balkan region. See I. M. Smilianskaia, et al., Rossiia v Sredizemnomor'e, 1–26.

32. For Russia's stance on neutral commerce see Madariaga, Britain, Russia, and the Armed Neutrality of 1780.

33. Leikin, “Prize Law,” 44–56.

34. Irregular naval forces in the 1768–74 Russian–Ottoman War generally did not receive any additional rewards beyond their salary. Those who were considered volunteers did not even collect that. This “oversight” was the subject of many petitions submitted to Catherine in the 1770s and 1780s, held in RGADA f. 10, op. 1 dd. 644, 645, 676.

35. On separate deals, see Eric Lohr, Russian Citizenship: From Empire to Soviet Union (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012), 2. For an account of British subjects in Russian service, see Cross, Anthony, By the Banks of the Neva: Chapters from the Lives and Careers of the British in Eighteenth-Century Russia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 183223 . Many British subjects in Russian service negotiated contracts that included a separate schedule for the allocation and distribution of prize money. See Leikin, “Prize Law,” 78–79.

36. I thank Elena Smilianskaia for bringing John Elphinstone's separate prize money terms to my attention. The contracts concluded with Bernardino Bernardini, Georgi Mikhali, and Matvey Rossi can be found in RGADA f. 21 op. 1 d. 86 ll. 187–87ob.

37. On the porosity and blurriness of the “public–private” distinction in questions of force, see essays in Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits and Empires. The legal case I describe was the historical moment when the distinction between the state navy and privateers was articulated. As a matter of historical fact, this distinction had very real implications.

38. Anderson, Matthew S., “Russia in the Mediterranean, 1788–1791: A Little-Known Chapter in the History of Naval Warfare and Privateering,” The Mariner's Mirror 45 (1959): 34 . Katsonis bragged to Potemkin that his activities prevented the Ottoman Empire from diverting forces from the archipelago to the Black Sea, choosing instead to send eighteen vessels after him, Katsonis to Potemkin, October 30, 1788, MIRF 13: 395.

39. Anderson, “Russia in the Mediterranean,” 25–26. Russia also made political overtures towards the bey of Egypt in the 1787 war, see Smilianskaia, “Politicheskaia intriga v Egipte”.

40. Samuel Gibbs to Aleksandr A. Bezborodko, August 11, 1789, MIRF 13: 569–70. For an overview of Lorenzi's career, see Liam Gauci and Mitia Frumin, “Nachal'nik eskadry Eia I. V. v Sredizemnom more: Materialy k biografii mal'tiiskogo korsara Gugl'el'mo Lorentsi” [Head of Her Imperial Majesty's Squadron in the Mediterranean Sea: Biographical Materials on the Maltese Corsair Guglielmo Lorenzi], in Le Siècle des Lumières V, ed. Karp, Sergei Ia. (Moscow: Nauka, 2015), 212–36.

41. Estimates of Katsonis's flotilla and crew in the 1789 campaign are given in Priakhin, Iurii D., Lambros Katsonis: lichnost’, zhizn’ i deiatel'nost’: arkhivnye dokumenty [Lambros Katsonis: Person, Life, and Activity: Archival Documents] (St. Petersburg: Petropolis, 2011), 139 . These two flotillas will be discussed subsequently. For a contemporary summary, see Tomara's, Vasilii memorandum in Arkhiv Grafov Mordvinovykh (hereafter AGM) [Archive of the Counts Mordvinov] 10 vols. ed. Bilbasov, Vasilii A. (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia I. N. Skorokhodova, 1901), 2:369–73. The organization and operations of the flotillas also discussed in Anderson, “Russia in the Mediterranean.” For an example unfavorable opinion of Katsonis in the Russian military and naval leadership, see Samuel Gibbs to A. A. Bezborodko, August 11, 1789, RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 97 ll. 194ob–201ob., and Grebenshchikova, Galina A., Rossiiskie flotilii v Sredizemnom more i morskaia politika Rossii pri Ekaterine II [Russian Flotillas in the Mediterranean Sea and Russia's Naval Politics under Catherine II] (St. Petersburg: Ostrov, 2014).

42. Pierre Frammery to Spiridon Varucca, November 28, 1788, RGADA f. 1261 op. 1 d. 715 l. 1.

43. The regular appellate-level court for the navy would be the Fourth Department of the Senate; however, from my cursory examination of the Fourth Department's cases during and after this war, it does not appear that any appeals ended up in front of the Senate. There were, however, many appeals to the Senate and other central governing bodies regarding prize matters in the nineteenth century.

44. Memorandum on membership of the commission, RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 99 l. 4.

45. Catherine II to A. N. Samoilov, RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 99 l. 3.

46. A. N. Samoilov to von Dessen, May 2, 1794 and Catherine II to A. N. Samoilov, April 7, 1794, RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 99 ll. 1ob, 3.

47. Even in Russia's absolutist system under which the autocrat's word was law, there were hierarchies in the force of law of different sources of law. See Omel'chenko, Oleg, Kodifikatsiia prava v Rossii v period absoliutnoi monarkhii [Codification of Laws in Russia in the Era of Absolutism] (Moscow: RIO VIUZI, 1989), 112 .

48. Wortman, Richard, Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 2:4072 ; Whittaker, Cynthia H., Russian Monarchy: Eighteenth-Century Rulers and Writers in Political Dialogue (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003), 102–18; de Madariaga, Isabel, Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), 151–83; and Dixon, Simon, Catherine the Great (New York: Ecco, 2009), 156–83.

49. The commission had a clear understanding of what it considered to be within its purview and what it felt fell outside of its jurisdiction. On several occasions, the commission claimed that it could not resolve a case because it fell outside of the scope of the commission's powers. See, for example, the commission's response to Anton Zena's request to be resettled and awarded land in Russia's south and a permanent position in the Black Sea fleet, RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 49, and the commission's response to Lieutenant Ivan Mustaki's efforts to reclaim his brother's effects from Venice, RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 68 l. 14–14ob.

50. Copies in French, Italian, and Greek are held in RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 109.

51. Many of the requests for payment and compensation from the state-owned flotilla headed by Lorenzi ended up in RGADA f. 10 op. 1 d. 676 and f. 21 op. 1 d. 86.

52. G. A. Grebenshchikova, Iu. D. Priakhin, and Matthew S. Anderson mention the commission in passing in their discussions of the privateers. See Grebenshchikova, Rossiiskie flotilii; Gertsos, Afanasii, Nikolopulous, Ioannis, and Priakhin, Iurii D., Radi ustanovleniia istiny [For Truth's Sake] (St. Petersburg: Gangut, 2013); Anderson, “Russia in the Mediterranean.” The Rules for Privateers, on which the commission based its decisions, received slightly more passing mention in legal literature, but little examination as to their interpretation. Dmitrii Kachenovskii, one of the first Russian jurists to write on prize law, was on the whole dismissive of Russia's privateering enterprise. See Katchenovsky, Dmitrii I. (trans. Pratt, Frederic Thomas), Prize Law Particularly with Reference to the Duties and Obligations of Belligerents and Neutrals, (London: Stevens, 1867), 11 , 68.

53. Zemlianichenko, Marina A., Livadiia doimperatorskaia: ot otvazhnogo korsara Katsonisa do pol'skogo aristokrata Pototskogo [Pre-Imperial Levadia: From the Brave Privateer Katsonis to the Polish Aristrocrat Pototcki] (Simferopol’: Biznes-Inform, 2010): 813 ; Shirokorad, Aleksandr B., Admiraly i korsary Ekateriny Velikoi: zvezdnyi chas russkogo flota [Admirals and Privateers of Catherine the Great: The Heroic Hour of the Russian Navy] (Moscow: Veche, 2006); Shirokorad, , Russkiie piraty [Russian Pirates] (Moscow: Vagrius, 2007); and Skritskii, Nikolai V., Korsary Rossii [Russian Privateers] (Moscow: Tsentrpoligraf, 2007).

54. There is no mention of prize courts in recent scholarship on imperial Russian foreign policy; however, late imperial Russian jurists and historians noted the roles of diplomats and consuls on prize commissions. See Aleksandrenko, Vasilii N., Russkie diplomaticheskie agenty v Londone v XVIII v. [Russian Diplomatic Agents in London in the 18th Century] (Warsaw: Tipografiia varshavskago uchenago okruga, 1897), 304–6.

55. The case of Major Lefteri Ziguri, RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 17 l. 280.

56. Compare, for example, with Georg Friedrich Martens's term particuliers translated as  “private individuals” in the 1801 English translation of An Essay on Privateers, 1–2. The Russian legislation that guided the comission used a cognate of the French, but most certainly without the liberal meaning. The problem of the individual and problematic emergence of a private sphere is well known in Russian historiography. For studies concerning this period, see Berest, Julia, The Emergence of Russian Liberalism: Alexander Kunitsyn in Context, 1783–1840 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); Offord, Derek, Portraits of Early Russian Liberals: A Study of the Thought of T. N. Granovsky, V. P. Botkin, P. V. Annenkov A. V. Druzhinin and K. D. Kavelin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985); Gooding, John, “The Liberalism of Michael Speransky,” Slavonic and East European Review 64 (1986): 401–44; Offord, Derek, Nineteenth-Century Russia: Opposition to Autocracy (Harrow: Longman, 1999); and Hamburg, Gary M., Boris Chicherin and Early Russian Liberalism, 1828–1866 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992). See Pravilova, A Public Empire, for an alternative reading of the public and private in Russia.

57. See note 14.

58. The full text of Article 22 reads: “Upon the arrival of Her Imperial Majesty's fleet in the Mediterranean, all privateers must present themselves to the commander of the fleet and be at his absolute disposal; and if he finds any need for them to be used in the service of Her Imperial Majesty, then the privateers must carry out this action, and for the entire time that the privateer is employed by the fleet he will receive from the treasury a commensurate salary, until he is once more released to carry out his search for the enemy. In addition to this they must carry on a correspondence with the aforementioned commander with every available opportunity, so as to inform him from time to time not only on his captures or activities, belonging to his duty, but also to report all information that he hears, or that is reported to him, or even that he procures from naval personnel and passengers aboard stopped or captured ships, about the intentions of the enemy, about his coasts and ports, about the number of enemy and merchant ships belonging to him, on places where they sail or cruise, in a word—anything that that can be used by the commander of the Russian fleet to make decisions.”

59. Elise Wirtschafter's study of the morality of public service among the elite is valuable to contextualizing the commission's reasoning. See The Play of Ideas in Russian Enlightenment Theater (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003), esp. ch. 4–5. On the service ethos and loyalty of the Russian military intelligentsia, see Keep, John, Soldiers of the Tsar: Army and Society in Russia, 1462–1874 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), 231–49; and Lupanova, Evgeniia M., Ofitserskii korpus russkogo flota: norma i deviatsiia povsednevnoi zhizni, 1768–1812 [The Officer Corps of the Russian Navy: Norms and Deviance in Everyday Life, 1768–1812] (St. Petersburg: Lema, 2011).

60. N. S. Mordvinov to Aleksandr S. Mordvinov, May 17, 1792, AGM 1:512–13. N. S. Mordvinov's dispute with Katsonis is tangential to this story; however, it was Mordvinov and several colleagues who staked Katsonis the funds and arranged for a patent to privateer in the Eastern Mediterranean during the 1787 war. See Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennyi Istoricheskii Arkhiv (hereafter RGIA) [Russian State History Archive] f. 994 op. 2 d. 26 ll. 56–58.

61. Zaborovskii's orders to Katsonis, March  20, 1789, AGM 1: 489–94.

62. Priakhin, Lambros Katsonis, 50–51, 59; and Grebenshchikova, Rossiiskie flotilii, 93.

63. Gibbs to Bezborodko, August 11, 1789, MIRF 13:567.

64. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 43 ll. 133ob–34.

65. “Zapiska o delakh flotilii v Arkhipelage” [On the Activities of the Flotillas in the Archipelago] AGM 2:369–73.

66. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 34 ll. 135–37.

67. Here, Katsonis refers to the arrival of Lieutenant-General Ivan Zaborovskii in Trieste in late 1788. On the eve of Zaborovskii's arrival, Katsonis had fallen out with another agent of the Russian government and landed in jail. Zaborovskii smoothed the situation over, paid Katsonis's debts, arranged for credit to fit out Katsonis's flotilla, and handed him the aforementioned instructions. Contrasting views of this incident are presented in Priakhin, Lambros Katsonis, ch. 2 and Grebenshchikova, Rossiiskie flotilii.

68. Katsonis to Zubov, April 1795, AGM 2: 441.

69. Ibid., 445–46. The last point refers to orders given to Katsonis. For a theory of the political connotations of this request, see Frumin, “Why Did a Russian Privateer Present the Ottoman Governor of Acre with a Prized Ship?”

70. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 34 ll. 190ob–91.

71. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 34 l. 283ob.

72. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 34 ll. 285–91.

73. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 34 l. 427.

74. Given the commission's controversial reasoning in its opinion in June 1795, it is odd that this rebuke had arrived more than 1 year later, on November 30, 1796. It is likely there is a gap in the historical record, but it does not detract from the controversy between the crown and the commission. It is also possible that Samoilov had fallen behind in his reviews for personal reasons because he was removed from his post as procurator general in December 1796.

75. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 34 ll. 682–93.

76. Füssel, Marian, “‘Féroces et Barbares?’ Cossacks, Kalmyks and Russian Irregular Warfare During the Seven Years’ War,” in The Seven Years’ War: Global Views, eds., Danley, Mark and Speelman, Patrick (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 243–61.

77. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 34 ll. 271–72ob. This document had been translated into Russian. Throughout the translator uses the word korser to describe Katsonis. This document supports the view that Ottoman Turkish did not recognize the legal distinction between pirate and privateer because the term appears in seemingly contradictory connotations, in which Katsonis is represented as both an illegitimate korser and as a korser approved by the Russian government. Other documents from the Porte in this period, however, suggest that the Ottoman Empire accepted European privateers as legitimate combatants. Also see Talbot, Michael, “Ottoman Seas and British Privateers,” in Well-Connected Domains: Towards an Entangled Ottoman History, ed. Firges, Pascal W., Graf, Tobias P., Roth, Christian, and Tulasoğlu, Gülay (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 5470 .

78. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 34 l. 273ob.

79. The implication here may have extended beyond whether the Russian government approved piracy against the Ottoman Empire. As many of Russian privateers had at one time been Ottoman reaya (tax-paying subjects), their predation on Ottoman commerce was tantamount to treason and punishable by execution. As Russian subjects, they may have been covered by prisoner-of-war agreements; however, as Ottoman traitors they were liable to execution. As Will Smiley shows, many captured privateers made whatever arguments they could to claim a foreign subjecthood. Their claims to be Russian officers may have been partially motivated by this legal protection. See Will Smiley  “‘When Peace Is Made, You Will Again Be Free,’: Islamic and Treaty Law, Black Sea Conflict, and the Emergence of ‘Prisoners of War’ in the Ottoman Empire, 1739–1830” (PhD diss., University of Cambridge, 2012), 170; Smiley, “‘After being so long Prisoners, they will not return to Slavery in Russia’: An Aegean Network of Violence between Empires and Identities,” The Journal of Ottoman Studies XLIV (2014): 225–26.

80. On the importance of state service for the nobility see Raeff, Marc, Origins of the Russian Intelligentsia: The Eighteenth-Century Nobility (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966), 14121 . Wirtschafter, Play of Ideas, 89–100, 115–46; Marasinova, Elena N., Vlast’ i lichnost: ocherki russkoi istorii XVIII veka [Power and Identity: A Study of Eighteenth-Century Russia] (Moscow: Nauka, 2008), 226–53. Marasinova's study also argues that even the process of correspondence was an essential component of duty, adding further weight to the commission's finding that Katsonis had neglected his duty.

81. Wirtschafter, Play of Ideas, 94–95. The service nobility was not averse to high rewards bestowed on the deserving; however, Russia's prize laws at the time paid state naval officers paltry sums. The language used in the nineteenth century prize laws equated prize money with honor, suggesting that there was some residual doubt about the moral legitimacy of this source of capital.

82. On the common good, see Wirtschafter, Play of Ideas, ch. 5; Whittaker, Russian Monarchy, 38–40; and Whittaker, , “The Reforming Tsar: The Redefinition of Autocratic Duty in Eighteenth-Century Russia,” Slavic Review 51 (1992): 7798 .

83. On the development of a legal position on the public good, see Pravilova, A Public Empire, 35–47.

84. Catherine II died in November 1796. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 34 l. 702.

85. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 24 ll. 70–72.

86. Lorenzi's claims for money owed to him by the treasury can be found in RGADA f. 31 op. 1 d. 86 ll. 64–94.

87. This was hopeful thinking on the part of the commission. Katsonis never settled his obligations, and both his original financiers—Nikolai S. Mordvinov and his comrades—and a contingent of Black Sea fleet officers who had previously been in his crew, sought private legal actions against him, neither of which was resolved in the plaintiffs’ favor. On Mordvinov's action, see RGIA f. 994 op. 2 d. 26 ll. 55–57, 65; on the Black Sea officers’ suit, see RGAVMF f. 168 op. 1 d. 156. Both are briefly discussed in Grebenshchikova, Rossiiskie flotillii.

88. Published in Appendix 137 and 138 in Priakhin, Lambros Katsonis, 421–26.

89. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 34 ll. 968–68ob.

90. Ibid., 969–70.

91. Catherine II to Aleksei G. Orlov, May 6 and August 11, 1769, SIRIO 1:15–25.

92. Many a French consul's letters of outrage can be seen in RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 135.

93. Gibbs to A. A. Bezborodko, August 11, 1789, RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 97 ll. 194ob–201ob. Part of this dispatch is published in MIRF 13:567–70.

94. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 30.

95. See RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 dd. 13, 21, 22, 23, 28, 42, 57, 87.

96. Many of the creditors’ claims can be found in AGM, 2:378–428.

97. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 85 l. 35.

98. S. P. Khmetevskii, “Appendix 8: Zhurnal S.P. Khmetevskogo [Journal of S. P. Khmetevskii],” in I. M. Smilianskaia, et al., Rossiia v Sredizemnomor'e, 586.

99. RGAVMF f. 150 op. 1 d. 85 ll.122–22ob.

100. In the practice of international law in the eighteenth century, there was a significant difference between the rights of war on land and at sea, a difference that was upheld by the Russian prize commission as well.

101. Davison, Roderic H., “‘Russian Skill and Turkish Imbecility’: The Treaty of Kuchuk Kainardji Reconsidered,” Slavic Review 35 (1976): 463–83.

102. Compare the Russian commission's decision with Martens’ attribution of different motives of state ships and privateers: “Glory and duty call an officer to fight the enemy whenever the interest of his sovereign is concerned, and honour is the best reward for his labours and his dangers; it is not so with the privateer. Indifferent to the fate of the war, and often of his country, he has no other inducement but the love of gain, no other recompense but his captures, and the prizes conferred by the state on his privileged piracies.” Martens, An Essay on Privateers, 23. On debates about the moral failings of privateers, see, for example, Crawford, Michael J., “The Privateering Debate in Revolutionary America,” The Northern Mariner XXI (2011): 219–34.

103. For a detailed discussion of the politics of abolishing privateering, see Lemnitzer, Jan Martin, Power, Law and the End of Privateering (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). Russian proposals to commission privateers in the Crimean War can be found in RGAVMF f. 410 op. 2 d. 369 ll. 5–5ob, 10, 45–45ob, 112–13ob.

104. RGIA f. 18 op. 5 d. 329.

105. Martens, Friedrich F., Sovremennoe mezhdunarodnoe pravo tsivilizovannykh narodov [Contemporary International Law of Civilized Nations] (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia ministerstva putei soobshcheniia, 1882).

106. On international law as a civilizing process, see Koskenniemi, Martti, The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law, 1870–1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). For Martens’ views of international law, see Pustogarov, Vladimir V (trans. Butler, William Elliott), Our Martens: F. F. Martens, International Lawyer and Architect of Peace (London: Simmonds & Hill, 2000); Mälksoo, Russian Approaches to International Law, 42–47. For a different reading of Martens, as a semiperipheral elite jurist who appropriated European legal norms to challenge the perception of Russia in Europe, see Lorca, Arnulf Becker, Mestizo International Law: A Global Intellectual History 1842–1933 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 121–27.

107. Anghie, Antony, Imperialism, Sovereignty, and the Making of International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004) offers a prominent example of this line of thought. For a useful discussion of the Third World Approach to International Law (TWAIL) movement, see Anne Orford, “The Past as Law or History? The Relevance of Imperialism for Modern International Law,” Institute for International Law and Justice Working Paper (History and Theory of International Law Series) no. 2 (June 2012).

Research support for this article was generously provided by the IREX Individual Advanced Research Opportunities Fellowship, a British Institute at Ankara Study Grant, the Centre for East European Language Based Area Studies, and the British School in Athens. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies annual convention and at the annual meeting of the Study Group for Eighteenth-Century Russia. The author thanks Simon Dixon, Paul Keenan, Lucien Frary, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of this article.

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