A 200-year-old document from the imperial archive entered the Yerevan Museum. What did Bonaparte write in his message, and how did the letter appear in Armenia?
One of the most important historical documents – the announcement of the abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte – is now in Armenia, in the archive of the Charents Museum of Literature and Art in Yerevan.
On March 31, 1814, the armies united against Napoleon and led by Alexander the First entered Paris. The defeated French emperor retired to the castle of Fontainebleau and watched the events from afar.
On April 6, having received an ultimatum demanding complete surrender, Bonaparte did not sleep all night and at dawn read out a short text written in haphazard handwriting, announcing his abdication.
Given the statement of Russia that the Emperor was the only obstacle to the establishment of peace in Europe and being faithful to his oath, Bonaparte on his own behalf and on behalf of his heirs renounced the French and Italian thrones.
“There is no personal sacrifice that I would not be willing to make in the interests of France,” Napoleon writes in the manuscript stored in Armenia.
In the archive, a typewritten receipt in Russian is attached to the document, which indicates the route of the document on its way to Armenia.
According to the researchers, this version of the abdication document has been stored for years in the Russian Imperial Archive. From there, it fell into the hands of General Astafyev. The Astafyev family would sell the document to Tbilisi manuscript connoisseur Prince Argutinsky. Then, the document would end up in the hands of collector and musician Vasily Korganov.
After the death of Korganov, his rich documentary archive was donated to the national library from where Napoleon’s letter and several other historical documents were eventually transferred to the Charents Museum of Literature and Art.
“As you know, signing an announcement of surrender, the head of a state sent out copies of his text to several rulers of his time. The document that is now in our museum was no exception, and I don’t think it is the only copy,” said Marina Musheghyan, senior researcher at the museum’s musical fund.
“A few years ago, a ‘brief’ study was conducted to verify the document’s authenticity. But a final, one 100% hasn’t been given,” said Musheghyan.
Philologist and translator Artsvi Bakhchinyan who has studied this document for about 20 years said: “A sample of the paper was examined. It was concluded that it is a duplicate, but since its original does not exist, it was given the status of the original.”
Bakhchinyan does not consider it strange that this copy of the statement on Napoleon’s abdication has reached Armenia after wandering around the world. Vasily Korganov has owned a large collection of manuscripts, but at some point, he has sold most of his collection to earn some money for living.
“There are people who like to buy and collect manuscripts, just as some people like to collect paintings. Having passed from hand to hand, this manuscript reached Korganov and then got here,” said Bakhchinyan.
Experts find it difficult to say who this copy of the abdication was addressed to since there are no addressees in the letter. There is also a variant that it is a draft copy.
But experts think that the fact that one of the copies of the text of the abdication of Napoleon is today in our country is somewhat symbolic. Numerous historical facts testify to Napoleon’s ties with Armenian figures.
“It is worth pointing out that after the conquest of Italy, dissolving all religious organizations and unions, Bonaparte made the only exception for the Mekhitarist Order, appreciating its scientific and academic nature,” said Bakhchinyan.
“We have been a nation that has always been in contact with the world, and we shouldn’t be surprised that our archives are home to manuscripts of Beethoven, Goethe, Balzac, Pushkin, and many other political and artistic figures,” Bakhchinyan noted.
According to Bakhchinyan, the values stored in the Armenian funds should be considered a national treasure that society should be aware of.